Some Perspective on the Recent Onslaught of Apple Pessimism

Micheal Moritz of Sequoia Capital, writing about Apple in the context of all the recent pessimism:

Everyone knows the business will face stronger competition in the future. This is because almost every company in the world suffers from acute Apple envy. Apple has thrown several mainline industries, including music, movies, television, publishing, cameras and 35mm film, into convulsions. The entire Japanese consumer electronics sector, bereft of the software that helps distinguish Apple’s products, has been hopelessly outpaced, as have Finland’s Nokia and Canada’s RIM.

Others – chip suppliers, wireless carriers, specialised glassmakers, outsourced manufacturers and hundreds of thousands of app developers – watch every twitch with hopeless admiration and silent apprehension. Anyone with their wits about them has been galvanised into action by Apple’s success.

More importantly, Apple has set a lasting example for entrepreneurs and professionals worldwide. Millions of young engineers and programmers scrutinise every moment of a product announcement. Hip students in art and design schools are imbued with Apple’s sensibility. Marketers and advertisers try to mimic its creative approach. Manufacturing hands seek to unravel the mysteries of its supply chain. Old-time retailers wonder how it can possibly attract more than 120m visitors in a 12-week period, garnering sales per square foot twice those of Tiffany and four times those of Michael Kors, the luxury retailer of the moment.

It is difficult to think of a company of the past 50 years whose influence and ingenuity have been as profound or widespread as the one formerly known as Apple Computer, Inc.

Right now, there are brilliant students from all over the world sitting in classrooms at our top universities. They’re earning degrees in the fields of the future, like engineering and computer science. But once they finish school, once they earn that diploma, there’s a good chance they’ll have to leave our country. Think about that.

Intel was started with the help of an immigrant who studied here and then stayed here. Instagram was started with the help of an immigrant who studied here and then stayed here. Right now in one of those classrooms, there’s a student wrestling with how to turn their big idea—their Intel or Instagram—into a big business. We’re giving them all the skills they need to figure that out, but then we’re going to turn around and tell them to start that business and create those jobs in China or India or Mexico or someplace else? That’s not how you grow new industries in America. That’s how you give new industries to our competitors. That’s why we need comprehensive immigration reform.

damn straight

President Obama in Nevada today, laying out a four-part plan for comprehensive immigration reform
(via barackobama)

Republicans Admit They Owe Their House Majority to Gerrymandering

From a report issued by the Republican State Leadership Committee:

Farther down-ballot, aggregated numbers show voters pulled the lever for Republicans only 49 percent of the time in congressional races, suggesting that 2012 could have been a repeat of 2008, when voters gave control of the White House and both chambers of Congress to Democrats.

But, as we see today, that was not the case. Instead, Republicans enjoy a 33-seat margin in the U.S. House seated yesterday in the 113th Congress, having endured Democratic successes atop the ticket and over one million more votes cast for Democratic House candidates than Republicans. The only analogous election in recent political history in which this aberration has taken place was immediately after reapportionment in 1972, when Democrats held a 50 seat majority in the U.S. House of Representatives while losing the presidency and the popular congressional vote by 2.6 million votes.

(via Think Progress)

The last sentence makes an important truth clear: that Democrats have a long history of gerrymandering districts in their favor as well. Redistricting is a political process, and that is not bad thing per se.

What makes the current practice of redistricting more pernicious than it has been historically, however, is that the wealth of demographic behavior available combined with modern data mining techniques makes it possible to predict voter behavior with frightening accuracy. This data is integrated into software that allows state legislatures to draw districts that are extremely reliable in their partisan allegiance. Redistricting is no longer a bunch of men smoking cigars drawing clumsy lines on a giant map on the floor. In the same way that Google is able to find the link you’re searching for out of the enormity of the Internet, so is redistricting software able to find Republican or Democratic voters with equal precision.

The New Yorker wrote about this phenomenon 10 years ago, and I recommend anyone interested in the partisanship and paralysis in Washington take the time to read it.

Truer Words

Philip Greenspun on Windows 8:

Given how misguided the whole design of Windows 8 seems to be, why have tech journalists given it basically positive reviews? My theory is that journalists love anything new, different, and complicated. Windows 8 is all of those things.

Truer words have never been spoken. Applies just as much to the general zeitgeist among tech journalists that iOS has become “boring” as it does to Windows 8.

The Government’s Basic Structural Problems

Steve Co, writing for the New Yorker’s blog:

Media narratives of the fiscal-cliff negotiations and the upcoming debt-ceiling brinksmanship often seem premised on the idea that the American people have voted for a divided government and are demanding that President Obama and the Republican House split their difflllerences in a responsible bipartisan bargain, grand or otherwise. But what if the voters, properly understood, haven’t actually sent such a message?

Obama won the popular vote by a comfortable margin and secured a second term in the White House. That same day, more Americans voted for Democratic Senate candidates than Republicans; this led to the inauguration, last week, of a Senate led by Democrats. And a million more Americans voted for Democratic candidates for the House of Representatives than voted for Republican candidates. Yet the new House has a thirty-three-seat Republican majority.

There is one main reason for the electoral anomaly in the House: gerrymandering.

It’s more important to address the big structural problems in the government than it is to tackle any particular issue. Those structural problems are, in order of importance, gerrymandering in the House, the 60-vote requirement to impose cloture on a filibuster in the Senate, and the fundamental structure of the electoral college.

Gerrymandering is particularly important right now because it not only leads to party representation inconsistent with votes earned, as the above quote makes clear, but, more importantly, incentivizes House members to cater to the extreme wings of their party. House members from safe districts have much more to fear from a primary challenge from the fringe than they do from their general election opponent.