What really makes the iPhone work isn’t the hardware. Sure, the glass—designed by Corning in upstate New York and manufactured in China—is beautiful. But the transformative part of the phone is the software. The code behind the touch-screen was written here; the iOS operating system was written here; most of the apps that we use are written here. Thousands of companies, in fact, have been started here to write apps for Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android. Software remains a great American expertise, and it’s only becoming more important as processors shrink into ever more powerful forms. As Marc Andreessen argued in the Wall Street Journal this summer, “software is eating the world.” Computer code is transforming industry after industry, and writing code is something that Americans are very good at. It’s also something that requires creativity, which isn’t fostered in giant factories with guards guiding people through crowded doorways and a central kitchen that roasts three tons of pork and thirteen tons of rice a day.
So perhaps there’s a different insight from Apple for Obama. Yes, there are industries where manufacturing jobs can be brought back to America through proper tax incentives and training programs. But maybe he should have talked more about the things that he could do to keep software jobs here. He spoke of federal funding for university and scientific research. But a real pro-software agenda would also include reforming patent law to stop trolling (and perhaps eliminating software patents altogether); increasing H-1B visas for highly skilled coders; stopping Congress from defunding DARPA, whose research helped create Siri, the iPhone’s talking assistant; and opening up the unused, federally owned wireless spectrum.
Alex Isenstadt writing for Politico:
Boehner dismissed Democratic claims that House control is up for grabs and argued that the once-in-a-decade redistricting process has made the GOP’s hold on the majority ironclad.
Redistricting “gives us a very strong foundation for the decade,” Boehner said.
“I think it will be nearly impossible” for Democrats to win back the House in November, Boehner said. “I think our freshman members are doing a good job preparing themselves for the upcoming election. I would also note that redistricting across the country has helped those freshman members and others in tough seats who will now have better seats.
My belief is that the problems with our government, specifically the inability of the President and Congress to tackle any big issue in any substantive way – tax reform, entitlement reform, the debt and deficit, the military budget, education, energy, and the environment to name a few – is fundamentally structural. Specifically, it’s caused by heavily gerrymandered districts in the House, and the abuse of the filibuster in the Senate.
Gerrymandering in the House means almost all members are from safe districts and are easily reelected every 2 years. The House incumbency rate is consistently over 90%. If an incumbent from a safe district does face a challenge, it’s in the primary, so House members are encouraged to be responsible to primary voters rather than general election voters. This leads to an excess of ideological partisans in the House.
Redistricting is far worse in the modern age because computer software enables the drawing of district lines with extreme accuracy. Whereas legislators once laid maps of their states on the ground to draw districts by hand, it’s now possible to sit at a computer and bring up a wealth of demographic and voter behavior that makes creating safe districts a snap.
I don’t think our extreme partisan political culture will change until there’s redistricting reform, short of a national emergency. One positive sign is that California’s giving reform a try.
Republican venality unintentionally reinforces the conservative argument that government is corrupt. Democratic venality undermines the Democratic argument that Washington can be trusted to do good.
Liberalism has not expanded because it has not had a Martin Luther, a leader committed to stripping away the corruptions, complexities and indulgences that have grown up over the years.
If you’ll forgive some outside advice, President Obama might consider running for re-election as Luther. It’s not enough to pick a series of small squabbles and then win as the least ugly man in the room. He might run as someone who believes in government but sees how much it needs to be cleansed and purified.
Make the tax code simple. Make job training simple. Make Medicare simple. Every week choose a rent-seeker to hold up for ridicule and renunciation. Change the Congressional rules. Simplify the legal thickets that undermine responsibility.
If Democrats can’t restore Americans’ trust in government, it really doesn’t matter what problems they identify and what plans they propose. No one will believe in the instrument they rely on for solutions.
Google has removed the mystery from who its Google TV partners will be at CES with a full listing ahead of the show. Some using chips from Marvell and MediaTek, TVs from LG, Samsung, Sony, and Vizio will all run the Android-based TV OS. Vizio’s sets will be behind closed doors, but the rest should be public.
When Eric Schmidt said in early December that Google TV would be on a “majority” of new TVs by mid-2012, so many were quick to just dismiss him outright rather than reflect on what he might have meant. Eric Schmidt isn’t stupid and it’s probably a safe assumption that he spoke deliberately and based on concrete knowledge. Now it seems like that was indeed the case and a deluge of Google TVs are in fact on the way, for better or for worse. (My guess is the latter.)