idolatry is not a compliment

I was not going to do a post on Steve Jobs or Apple until I saw this article – What Everyone Is Too Polite to Say About Steve Jobs

We mentioned much of the good Jobs did during his career earlier. His accomplishments were far-reaching and impossible to easily summarize.

[  ]…One thing he wasn’t, though, was perfect. Indeed there were things Jobs did while at Apple that were deeply disturbing. Rude, dismissive, hostile, spiteful: Apple employees—the ones not bound by confidentiality agreements—have had a different story to tell over the years about Jobs and the bullying, manipulation and fear that followed him around Apple. Jobs contributed to global problems, too. Apple’s success has been built literally on the backs of Chinese workers, many of them children and all of them enduring long shifts and the specter of brutal penalties for mistakes. And, for all his talk of enabling individual expression, Jobs imposed paranoid rules that centralized control of who could say what on his devices and in his company.

[  ]…But then Jobs never seemed comfortable with the idea of fully empowered workers or a truly free press. Inside Apple, there is a culture of fear and control around communication; Apple’s “Worldwide Loyalty Team” specializes in hunting down leakers, confiscating mobile phones and searching computers.

[  ]…Before he was deposed from Apple the first time around, Jobs already had a reputation internally for acting like a tyrant. Jobs regularly belittled people, swore at them, and pressured them until they reached their breaking point.

[  ]…There was a time when Jobs actively fought the idea of becoming a family man. He had his daughter Lisa out of wedlock at age 23 and, according to Fortune, spent two years denying paternity, even declaring in court papers “that he couldn’t be Lisa’s father because he was ‘sterile and infertile, and as a result thereof, did not have the physical capacity to procreate a child.'” Jobs eventually acknowledged paternity, met and married his wife, now widow, Laurene Powell, and had three more children. Lisa went to Harvard and is now a writer.

Steve Jobs created many beautiful objects. He made digital devices more elegant and easier to use. He made a lot of money for Apple Inc. after people wrote it off for dead. He will undoubtedly serve as a role model for generations of entrepreneurs and business leaders. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing depends on how honestly his life is appraised.

I think most people are probably aware that like every other electronics maker, Apple products were primarily made in China ( some parts may have come from other parts of Asia. And from Germany). The cost of just the new iPhone without the contract is between $650 to $850 without a mobile contract ( and they’re just little plastic bricks without a contract so your yearly cost could run up $1320 to over $4000 with a contract over two years). Apple has no choice but to outsource its manufacturing to China if it wants to compete in the global market? If you make that phone in the U.S. by one of those greedy American union anti-Christ anti-capitalist thuggish workers Apple will go bankrupt? The cost of labor for an iPhone is around $7.00. The carriers you can use include Verizon, At&T and Sprint – all American telecoms. Apple could make a fair profit if, let’s say just keeping 35% of its manufacturing in the U.S. Jobs and Apple choose not to do that. before I proceed I guess I should point out that Jobs was a Democrat. I mention this because of all the hosannas in comments sections on stories about Jobs singing the praises of capitalism as much as they praise the man. I do think Jobs was brilliant in his way and deserves credit for his life’s work. It is the idolatry that bothers me along with draping him in individuals fantasies about some pure market voodoo that Apple represents to some people.

Some related statistics on outsourcing – Corporate Myths about Shipping Jobs Overseas

and here, The high price of ‘free’ trade: NAFTA’s failure has cost the United States jobs across the nation and here, The Plight of American Manufacturing, Since 2001, the U.S. has lost 42,400 factories — and its technical edge. Yes free trade creates jobs. It also costs jobs. The net effect of our trade agreements has been a net loss of U.S. jobs. Just a funny aside, the right-wing libertarian Mises Institute says we cannot lose jobs because jobs are something that is created in the big bad world. In short workers are a commodity. They don’t mean that euphemistically, it is something they believe. You buy and sell workers on the world market just like pork bellies and coffee.

Brian Caulfield at Forbes is one of idolaters. Brian sees himself as a staunch defender of the free market. He is anti bail-out. Jobs was great because he and Brian believe in the dog-eat-dog model of capitalism. A he does not skip a beat when he himself points out that even Apple/Jobs had to reach out for help – Steve Jobs, Capitalist Tool

Jobs didn’t ask the government for bailout when Apple was on the brink of bankruptcy fifteen years ago (he went to Microsoft’s Bill Gates).

gates in turn helped Apple because keeping Apple afloat took the anti-monopoly pressure off Microsoft. Microsoft keep making Office for Mac for the same reason, even though I’ve read that Office for Mac is a break-even proposition. Brian goes so far as to ignore what he wrote in that paragraph and claim – citing a libertarian from another site that Apple paid for its mistakes while Wall Street did not. We can agree that Wall Street has become the holy grail of crony plutocracy. On the other hand Apple had some bad years, but were it not for the help from friends with deep pockets and its own agenda Apple might still exist today, but only as a little boutique electronics maker. It reminds me of when Bush 43 keep running businesses into the ground and his dad’s friends would run in with wheel barrels full of cash to keep him afloat. Not a gov’mint bail-out, but a bail-out all the same. The kind that most Americans would never get. Down here in the trenches where we still play by capitalist rules, you sink or swim, period. OK, except for getting a few dollars a day in food stamps.

I think Andrew Sorkin goes out of his way to lay out the facts about Steve Jobs philanthropy or lack there of and not be overly judgmental – The Mystery of Steve Jobs’s Public Giving

And, of course, it is very possible that Mr. Jobs, who has always preferred to remain private, has donated money anonymously or has drafted a plan to give away his wealth upon his death. (There has long been speculation that an anonymous $150 million donation to the Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of California, San Francisco may have come from Mr. Jobs.) His wife, Laurene Powell Jobs, sits on the boards of Teach for America and the New Schools Venture Fund, among others, and presumably donates money to those organizations, though neither she nor her husband are listed among its big donors.

[  ]…Mr. Jobs has clearly never craved money for money’s sake and has never been ostentatious with his wealth. He took a $1-a-year salary from Apple before stepping down as chief executive last week, though his stock options have made him billions of dollars. In a 1985 interview with Playboy magazine, he said of his riches, “You know, my main reaction to this money thing is that it’s humorous, all the attention to it, because it’s hardly the most insightful or valuable thing that’s happened to me.”

Which makes his lack of public giving all the more curious.

I’m hesitate to make a judgement because there is not enough information to go on. I find the argument that Jobs gave to the world through his “great” products almost comical. It might be better to just stick to the facts. Jobs did not think philanthropy was a priority and leave it at that.This is among the better of the Jobs left the world a better place because of his work and products columns – Apps and Other Innovations Steve Jobs Gave to Nonprofits. I could not discern if these apps were free or given at cost, but they do seem to have an important place in the world of nonprofit engagement.

I lost the link to one column that brought up the issue of what Jobs himself actually created. As far as I know of the hardware and software that saved Apple after that period where Jobs left Apple for a while – the iPod, the iPhone, the Macs that ran on Intel chips and of course the iPad were all created/invented by engineers. Those technologies in turn rested on the legacy inventions of electronics – the hard-drive, the microchip, the circuit board, the smart software, the TCP/IP protocol. In science there is a saying among even the most celebrated scientists that their work rests on the shoulders of giants. Generation after generation of science and thus technology rests on the research and inventions of those who came before. Jobs deserves credit for having a vision and bringing ideas from chalkboard to reality, but he and Apple are indebted to a lot of people. many of them we’ll never know. It is my understanding that all of Apples engineers were and are required to sign confidentiality agreements. Obviously anything they create becomes the intellectual property of Apple. That doesn’t mean the Jobs so many people are putting up on an impossibly high pedestal deserves the credit for the work of, who knows, hundreds, perhaps thousands of people.

Steve Wozniak was the engineer who invented the hardware, circuit board designs, and operating system for the first Apple computer.

Jobs was a human being. Because modern technology and the science behind it is driven by both practical needs and imagination, if we would not have had Jobs or Gates or whoever, we would have had someone else. If Darwin had not published his ideas about evolution, Alfred Russel Wallace would have. if not Russel than someone else. Historical momentum was leading up to humanity’s grasping the theory of biological creation. It seems a shame that so many people cannot be appreciative of what someone did without going overboard on the adulation.

U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin  warns against ignoring ‘occupy’ movement

“For more than a decade we’ve been told that endless tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy would result in millions jobs and a booming economy. That’s the same old trickle-down economics that has never worked before and it is not working now. For most Americans the only thing that has trickled down are wage cuts, upside-down mortgages, mass unemployment, personal bankruptcies and disappearing pensions,”

I don’t agree with some of the signs I’ve seen, but generally these people may turn out to be the real tea party.