Roger L. Simon

It's Steve Jobs' world—we just live in it

Forget Barack Obama.  Forget Sarah Palin. Forget even Lindsay Lohan.  They may just be blips on the screen of history when compared to Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg.  These are the figures that are truly influencing our times.

The latest from Jobs’ Apple today, according to the WSJ,  is that the iPhone is ready to move beyond its AT&T-only platform and on to Verizon. The usually reliable AppleInsider goes further, suggesting the iPhone will be on T-Mobile and/or Sprint as well and will come in a variety of forms and sizes, the better to compete with Google’s Android.

In case you missed it, Apple is already the second biggest corporation in the world in terms of capitalization and is poised to pass Exxon as number one, possibly this winter with the iPad this year’s most coveted Xmas gift. The Silicon Valley company is sitting on some 50 billion in cash, pretty well positioned to do whatever it takes to maintain their technological/aesthetic edge.  That’s one helluva long way from two young guys in a garage, tinkering with a computer.  It’s close to the most extraordinary business story of all time.

This only proves that things can still be done well in California — just not by politicians. I wonder if this is for long. Consciously or unconsciously, the politicians seem to be doing everything in their power to get us all to leave.  The current election has the most atrocious list of candidates for key positions in recent memory.  Could you put together a worse collection than Jerry Brown, Barbara Boxer, Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina?  Well, maybe.  But not by much. And this in our most populous state with the eighth biggest economy in the world.  For shame.  I will, of course, be voting and rooting for Whitman and Fiorina, but with no special pleasure or expectation.  It’s just self-defense.

But speaking of the Silicon Valley, for all its innovation, most of its leadership remains mired in a fuddy-duddy liberalism that goes counter to their personal business interests.  But I suspect they are beginning to realize , at least quietly, what almost every one of us knows — Barack Obama was a huge mistake.  Despite showy nonsense like solar panels on the White House roof,  Obama is the most conventional ye olde liberal of our lifetimes, relying almost entirely on outdated labor union and identity politics for his support. He is a major threat to innovation, the very thing that is the lifeblood of California. Or used to be.

Well, it still is for now. Those of you who saw The Social Network over the weekend, as Lionel Chetwynd and I did for the next Poliwood, know Mark Zuckerberg moved out here just a few years ago to run Facebook because California was “where it was happening.”  He did the Gates thing and left Harvard, decamping for Palo Alto.  There is something in the air out here, something very American even though you would think it’s the least American place (cf. Berkeley, etc.).

But that air is thinning, and not from the smog.  It is in serious danger.  Those of you who dislike California, who laugh at all the “fruits and nuts” that rolled out to Left Coast, enjoy yourselves, but beware.  California has given an amazing amount to the United States and to the world. Our economy is not going to come back without it. It’s too much of what our country is. We lose it at our peril.