What Good is Apple?

This, for starters.

Kevin Williamson at NRO has a pitch-perfect assessment of the late Steve Jobs’ impact on technology and society. His conclusion is noteworthy:

I was down at the Occupy Wall Street protest today, and never has the divide between the iPhone world and the politics world been so clear: I saw a bunch of people very well-served by their computers and telephones (very often Apple products) but undeniably shortchanged by our government-run cartel education system. And the tragedy for them — and for us — is that they will spend their energy trying to expand the sphere of the ineffective, hidebound, rent-seeking, unproductive political world, giving the Barney Franks and Tom DeLays an even stronger whip hand over the Steve Jobses and Henry Fords. And they — and we — will be poorer for it.

And to the kids camped out down on Wall Street: Look at the phone in your hand. Look at the rat-infested subway. Visit the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue, then visit a housing project in the South Bronx. Which world do you want to live in?

We love our iPods and would love to have a Mac even more, but they are a tad pricey. Though here’s something to consider: if Microsoft hadn’t dumped Vista for Windows 7, we’d have bitten the bullet and migrated to Apple. A lot of other people apparently felt that way, which is the reason Microsoft rushed out Win7.

That’s why innovation and competition are good things. Even though we may have a humble HP running lowly Win7, I thank Steve Jobs for making our home PCs much better than they would be otherwise.

Because does anyone really think Windows would have improved all that much without Apple leading the way? Would Windows even exist if Apple hadn’t pioneered graphic user interfaces? Imagine still living in a world of MS-DOS. Scary, ain’t it?

News Team, Assemble!

Well then. Here’s something you don’t see every day:

Ohioan, 94, wakes up to blimp that landed in yard

I would say that I somehow missed this story amongst the breathless tales of traffic accidents, drug deals gone wrong, and can’t-live-without health tips from our local evening news. Which is, come to think of it, exactly why I missed this story.

I just don’t watch the local news that much for all of the above reasons. We live near Columbus, which you may recall is the state capital of Ohio (unless you went to public school, in which case the answer is “C”). It’s also where “The” Ohio State University is located.

Being so close to a hub of such vitally important activity, with the potential to affect every citizen of our fair state, you’d think the local news would devote more attention to the goings-on within. If they did, we’d have known about the football team’s shenanigans and the coach’s willfull neglect of same long before the NCAA and Sports Illustrated twigged to it.

Oh, wait a minute. You thought I was talking about goings-on in the statehouse? Silly you. Based on the time devoted by our local press, you could be forgiven for thinking the Buckeyes are more important.

Which is another reason why I don’t pay much attention to the local talking heads. They’ve had their noses so far up OSU’s butt for so long, if Jim Tressel ever came to a sudden stop he’d need surgery to remove all of the overpriced haircuts from his lower intestine.

Of course, the bloom’s off that rose now but I still like the imagery.

Though I tend to ignore the local blowhards, I’m a current events junkie because so much (too much) of what happens inside of our legislatures has a direct impact on our personal lives.

Take Ohio’s Senate Bill 5. Please (ba-dum-dum).This was, is, and will continue to be the subject of heated debate. It’s our own version of Wisconsin’s collective-bargaining reform, which you may recall was the cause of some consternation in Madison last winter. SB5 has made things pretty ugly here in Ohio, though not nearly as intensely.

That’s probably because Ohio allows us to challenge legislation we don’t like through referendums, so the unions figured they were better off taking this to the ballot box instead of making fools of themselves on the statehouse grounds (which they did anyway, but again not as badly as the Wisconsin goons).

My opinion on the law is probably self-evident: I’m for it. Not because I’m a Scrooge who thinks teachers should make minimum wage, or firemen should be relegated to bucket brigades, or cops should be reduced to bullet-in-the-pocket Barney Fifes. Although listening to the unions, it appears that’s what they believe is in store for their membership if SB5 stands.

We’ve reached a point of diminishing return, accelerated by a bad economy. Those who serve the public can no longer expect benefits that aren’t enjoyed by the people who fund their paychecks. The money’s just not there anymore. Out here in the private sector, most of us have suffered three years of pay freezes, if not outright cuts, while our health insurance premiums go up year after year.

The unions may have to accept that the real benefit (besides a paycheck) that they’ll get from their jobs comes from personal satisfaction. I’ve always thought that was hugely important for teachers, cops, and firefighters; maybe not so much for Patty and Selma at the DMV.

There’s a great deal more to SB5, some of which I disagree with. But to expect the rest of us to fund benefit packages at a level we’ve never enjoyed is frankly obscene.

So what does any of this have to do with local news? Well, I just spent a couple hundred words describing a thorny issue that will affect everyone living in my state. My position and rationale should be quite clear to anyone who can read and understand English. Hopefully the underlying issues are equally clear.

Do you think the TV stations are talking about that? Think hard.

Ding! Time’s up.

The painfully small amount of attention they’ve devoted to this very big deal, in comparison to otherwise trivial events, is almost criminal. And when they do discuss it, it’s almost always about the “controversy” and little else. We all get why the unions are pissed. That’s extremely well understood. But a little more explanation of the actual issues, budget realities, and the consequences of our choices would be appreciated.

Keep it classy, San Diego…err, Columbus.

NOTE: This has been edited from a much larger, bloated, and meandering post. I’m no Hunter S. Thompson, thank goodness.

Downgrade This

As if on cue, Standard & Poor’s downgrades US debt. Yet another historic achievement for El Presidente. If you’re thinking about buying anything on credit, now would be a good time to lock in your rates.

It remains to be seen how far-reaching this will be. Supposedly Moody’s and the other big agencies aren’t budging, which I suppose would help. And while I think our problems are quite serious, this decision also smacks of politics.

Why’s that? Recall that S&P got burned pretty bad in the 2008 mortgage meltdown, by not downgrading clearly insolvent lenders until it was too late. Plus this quote from the linked story:

“S&P added that it expects that the upper income Bush-era tax cuts will continue, despite vows from Obama to end the breaks next year.

‘The majority of Republicans in Congress continue to resist any measure that would raise revenues,’ the firm said.”

So are they choosing sides? I wouldn’t put it past the Post to insert their own biases and flat-out make stuff up, but that would be pretty brazen. While there’s also more talk about cutting spending, you can bet that comment will be used to bludgeon the Republicans. I hope they’re prepared to fight back.

If they’re smart (always a question), they’ll use this fact to their advantage. We can’t soak the rich enough to balance our budget. Confiscate everything they make and it wouldn’t do it. And it would wreck the economy (how hard are you going to work if you know the Feds are going to take every dime?). That might make the social-justice crowd feel better, but the math is not on their side.

It also presumes that all government spending is somehow justified, and cannot be cut to the necessary degree. Therefore, we must fund it.

Sorry, I’m not buying it. And the way things are going, I may not be buying much of anything.

UPDATE: China weighs in. Among other things, our single biggest creditor demands “substantial cuts” to military spending. Surprise!

The Hollywood Economy

It’s like a movie set: looks impressive on the outside, until you peek behind the facade.

Right now, the facade ain’t looking too great either. Or my 401k, for that matter.

No sooner do I make a sweeping categorical statement about avoiding politics, that it once again becomes unavoidable.

Wall Street is not reacting to phony budget cuts, they’re reacting to the fact that these sorts of promises are never kept. And because they’re also good at math, they probably figured out the government-spending-as-compound-interest problem long before I stumbled onto it.

The Keynesian supports have finally been kicked out from under us, and we’re about to finish the reckoning that began in 2008. The fact that our betters did so much to postpone it will only make things worse. Too much of our economy was driven by debt, both Federal and individual. When you live beyond your means long enough, the inevitable withdrawals are painful.

In a sense, it’s a good thing that we have such a hard-left President. A great deal of our current problems have their origins in policies the left has pushed since the ’70s. After decades of quietly sabotaging the economy, it’s fitting that they should own it.

But enough of my blathering. Guys like Roger Kimball at PJ Media make me wonder why I even try blogging. An excerpt from his must-read piece:

“Alas, we threw caution to the winds and elected someone who resented this country, was suspicious of wealth, and whose reflexive commitment to left-wing nostrums would gravely damage the most productive economy the world has ever seen. Tens or hundreds of thousands of people will suffer because of our naïveté and Barack Obama’s malevolent stupidity.”

And finally, a timeless quote from Heinlein via Glenn Reynolds:

Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.

This is known as “bad luck.”