It’s a vision thing

I was reading a Barron’s Online roundup of analyst likes and dislikes about the HP board selecting Meg Whitman as the new CEO to replace the disastrous Leo Apotheker (who lasted less than a year in the job) today and it got me to thinking about our nation’s situation and prospects. Analysts were concerned whether Meg Whitman, however capable she may be as an executive from her experience at eBay and at Hasbro (really!), had a vision for HP, a company far larger than eBay when Meg Whitman was still at the helm. Or particularly, a vision of hot HP can get its groove back.

It got me to thinking about companies that foundered after the founders left. HP certainly is a key example of a company that, when the founders were in control, was able to successfully navigate its way through many different challenges, whether the Depression (when it was founded) though WWII, the space age, and into the computing era. HP, a scientific instrument company at its start, became by the late eighties a significant player in the computing industry and a leader in calculators. The founders were able to guide the company through twists and turns, retaining their management principles along the way but being very flexible as reality in the original scientific marketplace evolved, ending up very much a consumer presence.

Southwest Airlines has managed to keep its ability to run cheaply (for the consumer) and profitably at the same time as it has aggressively expanded into markets that analysts would have thought impossible (La Guardia, Reagan, PHL) when its founder was still at the helm. The current management team retains the focus on low operating cost, high reliability, and focus on customers, but got away from considering itself as a second-tier airport company.

Everyone now wonders if Apple will succeed now that Steve Jobs is stepping down from the firm. It’s not a matter of whether the top people have the *same* vision as he did, but the same ability to keep their own vision evolving as smoothly as Steve Jobs kept his. Because change happens.

That all got me to thinking about our country and The Tea Party, who gripe and complain that We have lost the Founders’ Vision. A clique of largely better off, lighter colored, older, less happy people than the rest of us, for sure, for whom the problem is that we have deviated from the Founders’ original vision, as recorded in the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and on Sarah Palin’s palm in black sharpie.

How have we deviated? Well, it doesn’t really matter because the Tea Partiers are not, after all, all that familiar with the Founders or the two documents they talk about. I think the gut truth of the ‘deviation’ is that they don’t think the Founders would have countenanced a Kenyan Muslim President, and so they don’t either. Facts be damned. The rest–taxes and socialism and keeping government hands of Medicare–are just the window-dressing for their real gripe.

The nasty part of this is, for the other 75% of us, not just having to listen to talking heads on newstainment shows talk endlessly and breathlessly about Herb Cain (is Herb Caen spinning in his grave, by the way?) getting a victory over Rick Perry among a few thousand old cantankerous farts in Florida. One of these people *could* get elected, because the other thing we hear from newstainment is the refrain “it’s the economy, stupid.”

Which pretty much closes off any argument that more than half the country is smart enough to see that some short-term sacrifice might be necessary for long-term progress, I guess. So the fact that President Obama has done a grade C or D job in JOBS, means he is really, really unlikely to be re-elected, barring a miraculous 12-months ahead.

If only someone in the Tea Party would study some history, for real, and come to see that what made this country what it is, was never an unbending and strict adherence to what the Founders thought, it was having quite a few subsequent leaders who could think just as well or better than the Founders, and who could adapt the vision and the Founding Principles to new circumstances. The Industrial Revolution. Ending slavery. Trust-busting. New Deal. WWII. The Space Age.

It’s always the present; and things always change. I admire the Founders and the Constitution but it was written in a different society; one that was rural, separated from other countries so completely that today we can’t even imagine that kind of separation and difficulty of communication. The government-run monopoly Post Office, established in the Constitution (and now hated by Tea Partiers as a government waste), was the only means people had of communicating with anyone more than a few miles away.

If the vision for our country’s next era springs from the end of the eighteenth century with no accounting for our history since (ending slavery, taming corporate monopolies, becoming world leaders rather than isolationists) or for present advances in knowledge, we truly will dig a deep hole from coming generations. And don’t get me started if one of the candidates who claims to hear voices gets elected.


Mobile wars

In the rising battle among mobile phone handset camps, now meaningfully distilled to Apple’s iPhone line vs various Android manufacturers, a survey written up over at CNET shows that the iPhone tends to be the “stickier” handset. According to a new survey by UBS research, 31 percent of current Android users will contemplate a switch to the iPhone. But the survey was small and included only 51 actual Android users. Still, as a user of the original Google Nexus One, I can say I will definitely evaluate any new iPhones and carrier plans when I go about upgrading. Poor ATT service and expense was a key reason I didn’t go with the iPhone a year and a half ago, and that situation has obviously changed. Rumor has it that the iPhone will come to Sprint soon, and Sprint still offers a great all-inclusive plan. My remaining qualm about the iPhone is the same problem I experience with my iPod Touch which is the battery is irreplaceable. if Samsung can make an Android handset lighter and thinner than the iPhone (and they have) then Apple’s stated reason for the proprietary and irreplaceable battery is either obsolete, or at least probably not the full story. Apple knows the value of an ongoing revenue stream. And when I as a customer get value for my money, I am happy to go with that. I am a happy Macbook Pro user, and I know I get me several hundred dollars worth when I subscribe to the three-year support plan. But having to go back and pay a significant premium every 18 months or so for a battery? I don’t know…

Skin weather

When it hits the upper 80s as it did here today, I say it’s crazy hot. Hot enough that:
-I went to Starbucks in the afternoon to work in air conditioning. In August there were days when I wanted to pull out a space heater.
-We had turkey salad on Hawaiian sweet sandwich buns for a no-heat dinner. In August and July my specialties are casserole dishes for cold weather comfort.
-Shmoopy suggested we go out for Mitchell’s ice cream after dinner. Uh, well, we still eat ice cream when it’s cold in August and July actually.

In just four days the Folsom Street Fair weekend festivities start. Hot weather: great for those who want to show a lot of skin; bad for those who want to wear a lot of it.


I’m enjoying a Blue Bottle “iced, spiced” coffee at The SummitSF on Valencia this afternoon while doing some PHP and CSS work on business website. Definitely the way to work.