Home / General / Um, What?

Um, What?


Even for Matt Bai, this couldn’t possibly be more wrong. Apple was notably top-down, and its machines are notably uncustomizable. But, anyway, I’m sure that the real lesson of Steve Jobs is that Jon Hunstman will be the GOP candidate in 2012.

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  • rea

    Right now, Delmon Young has a better chance of being the Republican nominee than Jon Huntsman.

    • Murc

      Given the volatility of the Republican field (Herman Cain? Really? Really.) that ‘right now’ is doing a lot of work.

      • Njorl

        OK, Murc just used up the last “doing a lot of work”. We have to find something else.

        • dangermouse


        • mark f

          That’s a feature, not a bug.

  • Warren Terra

    I saw Bai had a piece about finding a political metaphor in Jobs’s life, and knew well enough not to click that link.

  • c u n d gulag

    Matt Bai suffers from Matt Taibbi envy.

    He tries to be as relevant, but has written some of the most politically deaf political pieces in NY Times history.

    He’s awful.

    • timb

      Did you know the key to success in politics is to analogous to Jobs saying

      It’s not the consumers’ job to know what they want.”

      After I realized that I was a consumer of policy (instead of a gadget), I suddenly realized that Matt Bai longs for a benevolent super genius to explain to voter that democracy is not about what we want; it’s up for the super genius to tell us what’s best for us.

      Part of Corey Robin’s book about the Reactionary Mind says that the reactionary wants to elect a sort of democratic feudalism, where the same elect will compete to rule the rest of us. Matt Bai would seem to have that reactionary mind.

      • c u n d gulag

        That also sounds like Tom Friedman and David Brooks, doesn’t it?

        Krugman and Kristoff – the lone hold-outs. The Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid in a NY Times world that’s devolving back to its roots as a conservative paper, way, way, back when.

      • Bill Murray

        you can be both a consumer of policy and a gadget. As a benevolent super genius, I will benevolently tell you that it’s best for you

        • c u n d gulag

          Someone’s a little full of himself this morning, eh? :-)

          • Bill Murray

            Well I do know what’s best for everyone, so that is a burden I must bear with graciousness and equanimity


            • timb

              Thank you. Since you are the Super Genius Bai envisions, I have stopped complaining.

              Such lovely piece of mind….

      • Njorl

        Well, Steve jobs was a charter member of Evil Geniuses for a Better Tomorrow.

      • mpowell

        You know, the idea that politicians should be thinking about what the voters need as much as what they claim to want has quite a lot of merit. After all, if you went by what people claim to want, you could never construct a coherent budget.

        The problem with Bai and his ilk is that he thinks that what the voters need is a nice hard f*cking. And that his rich friends should all get big tax cuts. It’s not the philosophy of governance by elites that is the problem. Governance by non-elites? Sorry, but that’s a non-starter. It’s governance by elites for elites that is the problem.

  • R. Porrofatto

    While Bai’s notion is laughable that “think different” was all about the Mac’s variety of user experience, how were Macs notably uncustomizable? Users who wanted to could change (or fuck up) pretty much every setting imaginable on them, and still can for the most part, and if you’re a geek like me, you could tweak the guts of the operating system even more. Of course, most users, PC or Mac, can’t be bothered to change a thing — so much for variety.

    Jobs also seems to have disagreed that Apple was notably “top-down,” although that’s the conventional wisdom in the current hagiography. (You can read or listen to him on this here.) Had Matt Bai done a little more research, he could have concocted a ridiculous political analogy for stuff like this: “We’re not just a tech company, even though we invent some of the highest technology products in the world. It’s the marriage of that plus the humanities and the liberal arts that distinguishes Apple.” (This is also something Jobs gets into during the above linked interview.)

    • Rob

      Yes Jobs didn’t think it was top down, he just thought everyone would want exactly what he did.

    • Furious Jorge

      Tweaking the guts of a Mac’s OS is certainly doable now, and has been since the release of OS X, but prior to that it was much harder to pop open the hood and tinker with things.

      • Yes and no. In a hardware sense, their later OS 9 desktops were the easiest machines to open and play with ever. In a software sense, that OS was both crashy and relied on loading one massive file per app rather than have it chopped into relevant bits, making customization harder because of both crashiness and the trouble involved in finding the resources to alter. But they had Applescript, which was an easy way to automate any task, the ultimate customization. It still exists and works and I’d be using it if the office wasn’t Windows-based.

        Graphically Apple has never wanted anybody to mess with their conventions.

        • Halloween Jack

          Even from a hardware standpoint, Apple has had something like this as an option for over a decade now. It’s true that Jobs had a thing for closed machines (he even wanted to take the hardware slots out of the Apple II, and probably would not have had a company within five years if he had), but he wasn’t the fanatic about it that he had a reputation for being; he just made it harder to do.

        • Jon H

          No, pre-Mac OS X you could seriously mess with the UI, using extensions like Kaleidoscope.

          And applications could be modified using ResEdit, a resource editor that could modify the resource fork of a file, which is where strings and images and sounds would be stored.

          OS X switched to the NeXT notion of applications being file packages, which made it much easier to tinker with an application’s resources. On the other hand, OS X has locked down the essentials of the UI fairly tightly.

          Some people go for UI “themes”, although mostly I think they look like ass. And they certainly aren’t important enough to me to use Windows or Linux. I suppose some people find it crucial to be able to have Salma Hayek in their window frames and menubar, so won’t use Mac OS X, but not I.

          • Third-party software and resource-fork editing are not much compared to what you could change from within a Windows box within the OS and without outside tools.

  • Leeds man

    …our choices were no longer dictated by the whims of huge companies…


  • Alex

    Apple’s model of maintaining sole control over production of its computers and strict control over content (witness the consolidation and level of Apple control over quality and software at its App Store) is more akin to big government than anything else.

    Getting an application approved for sale by Apple is not exactly an exercise in free market libertarianism.

    • dangermouse

      Big government – government + corporation = freedom eagles

      I mean that’s every version of free market libertarianism that I’ve ever heard.

    • Jon H

      “Getting an application approved for sale by Apple is not exactly an exercise in free market libertarianism.”

      Sure it is. It’s actually entirely libertarian. It’s not a public space. It’s Apple’s store. They choose what goes in there. You sign their contract, you abide by their contract. That’s VERY libertarian.

      • Strictly controlling access of products in the marketplace is VERY libertarian?

        Maybe you are attempting to be ironic?

  • BradP

    Apple is like the state because it has co-opted the creativity and demand for variety of a bottom-up market design into a top-down controlled profit and property system.

    Steve Jobs got that you could generate a creative, spontaneous, and individual led improvement of the product, while still creating huge restrictions on how the innovators were able to claim rewards and benefits of the creativity.\

    To say that the state and especially US politicians haven’t figured out how to do that is ludicrous.

    • Walt

      Woah, I agree with BradP. I would say this is in fact my main criticism of corporate America — that successful companies work exactly the way that BradP describes.

      • BradP

        Pretty much agreed. Corporate structure in the US is a reverse pyramid of privilege.

        If we don’t discuss government’s contribution to the status quo and ability to change the status quo, I would agree with most people on this board.

        • mpowell

          I guess the difference here is that most of us regard the absence of state power as an invitation to corporate like entities to further expand their powers. For me, there is no such thing as a minimal state which can restrict the coercive power of wealthy entities. It would be like a violation of the laws of physics. And deciding between a nominally democratic state and big corporations is a no-brainer as far as I’m concerned.

          • BradP

            I guess the difference here is that most of us regard the absence of state power as an invitation to corporate like entities to further expand their powers.

            Exactly, you see the state in that light, where I see the state in the exact opposite: a natural facilitator of centralized economic power.

            Liberals are very frustrating to me precisely because of this. For the last 100+ years liberals have whole-heartedly accepted the necessity of a centralized and coordinated corporate/government pairing as absolutely necessary for the social good.

            Perhaps you would consider it nuance, but when I hear liberals talk about the auto-bailouts, all I hear about is how the market can’t support the corporations needed to provide jobs, and therefore the government needs to come in and provide some support to keep the automakers going. Then those same people want to turn around and act as if corporations are some sort of overpowering force, in some sort of fight with government.

            I hear anger about impeccably credentialed technocrats like Ben Bernanke, Timothy Geithner, and many others. But those are never followed up by questions as to why these experts continuously screw up, but by questions of how evil the person is, and who would be better at the job.

            Liberals seem forever inclined to plant the seeds of their own disappointment. Constantly pushing for strong, authoritarian economic management by elites while simultaneously lamenting the inability of democratic oversight to protect the interests of those who aren’t so elite.

  • Joshua

    I love Apple’s products and think Steve Jobs was a genius, etc. etc.

    As per Gladwell’s “Outliers”, Jobs grew up in a unique place at a unique time and became a unique person. There’s a good chance that his leadership style will not be replicated in Apple’s boardroom, let alone Washington DC. Holy shit.

    As an aside, is this the start of a cartoon zombie Jobs myth where people substitute their own feelings for his, a la the Reagan of today who agrees with Grover Norquist on everything? That would be unfortunate.

    • JRoth

      Can I interest you in a WWSD? bracelet?

    • Jon H

      “As per Gladwell’s “Outliers”, Jobs grew up in a unique place at a unique time and became a unique person. ”

      Apparently one time in the 80s, he paid a sales call to a Fortune 50 company in Pittsburgh. Jobs opened his pitch with “I’ve always considered your company to be mediocre with technology.”

      Didn’t make the sale.

  • cpinva

    wow, really? mr. bai, our choices, with respect to apple products, were dictated by a huge corporation, apple. since they maintained a proprietary interest in their operating system (unlike IBM), you had no other options. and you pay a pretty penny for it, if you insist on apple products, and always have.

    frankly, i was never all that impressed with apple products, and certainly not it’s prices, controlled rigidly by apple.

    i suppose in that regard, steve jobs certainly understood the republican mentality.

    • Jon H

      “mr. bai, our choices, with respect to apple products, were dictated by a huge corporation, apple. ”

      Really? They put a gun to your head? There were no other options?

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