Wednesday, February 07, 2024

The Death of Apple

I'm a long haul Apple user. Not just iPhone. I'm talking about desktops and laptops. I've been a Mac guy for decades and for the most part, I've been very pleased. Overall, however, I grieve for a once great company.

One of the reasons I've always liked the Mac is that I seldom have had to rely on what Apple loosely terms "Customer Support." Originally, Apple Customer Service Representatives were highly motivated, knowledgeable, helpful and accessible. They could solve almost any problem by phone, cheerfully and authoritatively. For all I know, they may still be. But I don't know, because Apple does its best to shield customers from reaching them.

And that's where Apple's Great Decline begins, because customer service is where the first tiny corporate cracks appear.

In its revolutionary retail stores, Apple staffed it Genius Bars with kids who were anything but. Due to slave labor in China, most "repairs" became cheap enough to be "solved" by simple replacement. Nobody knew -- or had to know -- what went wrong with your machine, because Apple would have had to train people to know stuff like that. It was much more expedient and fiscally sensible to just grab a new widget off the shelf and be done with it. Any dummy can do that. And they did. Until Apple phased them out. Poof.

For a while, Apple system upgrades were generally worthwhile, too, with each new version offering simpler, improved systems that performed more tasks. For years, Apple and Mac really were brands that made creativity more achievable through technology.

Then Steve Jobs died and it all started sinking fast.

The first noticeable sign was Apple's name change from "Apple Computer" to "Apple, Inc.", signaling its expansion into ancillary endeavors like phones, movie studios and automobiles. As such, the Mac OS sacrificed making things for buying things. It didn't take too long for desktops and laptops to decay into larger, heavier versions of iPhones, whose systems predictably merged into platforms with the same looks and feel, dumbed down for people to whom "thinking different" is difficult, because simply thinking is out of their realm. They just want to buy things with a point and click.

These days, if you want to solve a problem, it's actually more difficult because Apple has buried everything under the hood, preventing users access to solving their issues on their own machines. Apple does its best to prevent you from calling them on the phone, suggesting instead that you "interact with others in "our Apple Support Communities" online. It's a great place, populated with more people with even more problems and almost no solutions. To make matters worse, if you utter anything that the lords of Apple find unfavorable, your comment is removed for "inappropriate content." Phrases as mild as "but nobody at Apple will respond" just burn up in the ethosphere, never to be seen again.

Currently, Apple is anything but its founder's vision of making life simpler, elegant and more powerful. It wasn't tough to see it coming. That's why I keep a machine with ancient system software on it: If I'd upgraded when dictated to do so, I would have lost access to thousands of dollars worth of software with which it was incompatible. Apple's whim would have forced me to buy new hardware and software. Completely unacceptable corporate hubris.

All of which is to say, unpopular as it may seem, that Apple's days are numbered. It's actually following the "three generations of wealth" axiom: The first generation creates it; the second generation spends it; the third generation loses it." If you disagree, just look at the history of General Motors, IBM, RCA and dozens of twentieth century brands that are either defunct or have disappeared. They were once the biggest companies in the world. Huge, hardy and undefeatable. Nobody ever expected their demise, either. That's because while fortunes are always won and lost, human nature remains constant.

In the end, incompetence and greed always destroy great societies and powerful brands from within. Apple has built its mammoth, circular offices in Silicon Valley as a monument to itself, never realizing that Egyptian pharaohs built their own mausoleums, too.

Friday, December 15, 2023

Ego Defeats Communism

 As the globalist hysteria wanes around the world -- and don't kid yourself, at the time of this writing it really is waning -- one can't help wondering as to why the socialist, communist and globalist agenda are falling flat on their faces.  Though history teaches us that the world is an ever-changing vortex, not everything shifts in the wind. Some things never change.

And because they don't, changes are definitely on the way.

Forget about which political party you hate. Ignore any candidate you favor. Because at the end of the day, neither is really important.  I'll tell you what's really important: Getting a glimpse of what a non-capitalistic society really looks like.

Sure, we've all heard stories about the travails and travesties of Soviet communism.  Long lines at grocery stores. Miles of empty shelves. Years of waiting for mediocre goods and services. And the Chinese version isn't much better. The Chinese aren't exactly swimming in luxurious lifestyles, except if you complain about it, you disappear forever.  And let's not write off North Korea.  When it comes to starvation, you just can't beat 'em.

But that's not what's keeping western socieites from embracing communism.  You know what it is keeping them from embracing it? Good old-fashioned, reliable, ego. Think I'm wrong? Take a look at this lovely little illustration.

See that really dark blue? Those are exclusively western civilizations.  Every one of them is capitalist. See all those other countries?  They're not. Now total up the populations of those blue countries and you know what you get? That's right: a small minority of the world's population holding a disproportionate amount of wealth.  And I'm not talking about a little more than average.  I'm talking about a lot more than average.

At the moment, there are eight billion dopey humans inhabiting this planet and less than 12% of them are dark blue.  The other 88% are swimming in their own filth, trudging to and from their huts to scratch out their daily bread in some miserable landscape.

Yeah, that's where the globalists live.  That's how the globalists live.  Which means that if the World Economic Forum ever does achieve global domination, all those dark blue, Tesla-loving, vegan-bragging armchair socialists are going to take a huge hit in their standard of living. When they realize that a global redistribution of wealth would cut their $100,000 annual income down to an internationally equitable $4,000, their opinions start to change -- rapidly.

Not sure I'm right?  Then explain to me why those same armchair socialists have begun reversing their "sanctuary city" status while complaining about all those illegal immigrating "refugees" littering their streets and filling up their hotels. Apparently, those dark blue backyards aren't quite as far off from globalist destruction as those armchair socialists thought.  

Oh, there are lots of other reasons why socialism and communism will never win.  Some are human and some are just common sense. But all of them have one thing in common:  

History may be fluid, but human behavior never changes. 

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Spinning Taiwan

At the time of this writing, the world is in a mess.  More of a mess, I'd say, than at any time since the Korean War, for sure.  It isn't that there are lots of countries engaged in kinetic conflict.  But it's definitely at a point where a lot of places are in a lot of flux.  A whole range of pots of simmering on the stove, all seemingly about to boil over.

If you've been keeping up, you can list conflicts -- political, environmental and economic -- on just about every continent, with the possible exception of Antarctica, where penguins still worry about little more than the occasional orca.  Most of the world's conflicts are pretty generic, driven by stated and actual agenda, along with secret deals and ulterior motives.  

One thing you can count on, however, is that they all come wrapped in the patriotism of each country's national flag. Every faction is sure that God is on its side, justifying whatever it is they plan on doing to the other, so most of these conflicts run by the same playbook.

Well, almost all of them.  To me, the big exception is China and its plans for acquiring Taiwan. I suspect that one is not going to end the way most people think:

The first thing you have to realize is that the clock is running, at least until 2024. That's not a political statement; that's just the way things are. I don't know anyone who thinks the world has been normal since 2020, either here in the United States or anywhere else on the planet.  We've all been through a lot in a relatively short period of time. But realistically, an election in the USA could signal a return to traditional politics just as quickly, which means every country, from Russia to China to France to the United Kingdom has only a limited time to get their agenda completed -- or not.

China is not immune from this. It knows it has to move on the capture of Taiwan before the end of 2024, because that's the last time it can do so without firing a shot.  Here's how:

First, realize that at least four generations have long since forgotten why Taiwan even exists.  They have no recollection of Chiang Kai Shek, Chinese history and the fact that Taiwan is actually a free country that rejected communism outright.  So for most of the world, there is no moral imperative to save Taiwan or its free society. 

Second, those who do know their history can point to the repatriation of Hong Kong, which also occurred without warfare:  The British colony simply handed over the keys to the Chinese and that was that. So what's the big deal about Taiwan?

Third, and likely the most important, Taiwan, like Hong Kong, is really nothing more than a muscular ATM, dispensing cash to whomever owns it.  With the Chinese economy tanking, it needs as much revenue as it can muster, which means it has no intention of destroying Taiwan, but preserving its revenue-generating capacity. It's a gold mine and China wants that gold.

Fourth, the rest of the world that depends on Taiwan's manufacturing doesn't want any interruption of its supply chain.  So they really don't care who owns Taiwan, as long as the chips and semi-conductors keep flowing.  To them, a non-violent takeover is a win/win situation.

And the United States is going to let it happen with barely a yawn.

Of course, there's going to be a heavy spin effort blasted at the American public and the world at large in order to justify the conquest.  My bet is that instead of this being reported as a "hostile takeover," the Biden administration will sell this as "a long overdue reunification of the sovereign Chinese people."  In fact, I'd bet that someone, somewhere will nominate Secretary of State Anthony Blinken for a Nobel Peace Prize citing his part in "the glorious reunification considered unimaginable just a few short years ago."

Then everyone will get back to business.

Think people won't buy it?  Depends who you ask and how many of them are getting their fourth booster shot.

Friday, June 23, 2023

Where's the Beef?

One of the great advantages of being older is that you can draw on years of war stories: lessons you learned from personal experience rather than history books.  Don't get me wrong, history books are where I live most of the time, because I'm a confirmed believer in learning from other people's mistakes. But sometimes, there are mistakes made that simply don't appear in the history books. Sometimes, they occur for the first time ever, and if you're observant enough, you just might catch them as they happen. In fact, we're seeing one right now, in the case of imitation foods and they're inability to profitably sustain an ever-growing, ever-skeptical consumer population. 

Imitation food isn't itself that new.  Neither is the public's suspicion and rejection of it.  We've had everything from the "healthier alternatives" to disgusting facsimiles for almost a century (In fact, long ago, I wrote and recorded a song about it.  But that's another story).

More to the point, media such as Bloomberg, The Washington  Post, Forbes, The New York Times, The Guardian and all the other usual suspects are, as of this writing, reporting another aspect of the imitation food sector that has rarely been reported:

They're complete failures as investments.

As it turns out, legions of financial overlords (including Bill Gates, proponent of reckless vaccines and the doom of humanity in general) are hemorrhaging cash in an industry that's bleeding red ink.  The public, it seems, has no appetite for beef flavored sawdust.

But that's not the real story here. Here's what we're seeing that we've rarely, if ever, seen before:

A lot of companies bet big money on the gloom and doom that they thought would propel the imitation food business. In fact, if you look really, really closely at the entire sector, you'll see that the entire industry is based on whim, speculation and, well, fashion. I've been in conference rooms where new business are launched.  I've watched projections, assumptions and recasts of spreadsheets, and this I guarantee you:

Not one of these companies has ever had a business plan or a financially sound strategy.

On the contrary, all of these companies thought they could ride a wave of social justice propaganda that they themselves would supply, in effect creating a category which they would instantly dominate. These are not your fathers' or grandfathers' businessmen building real products people can use.  These are not your former giants of industry creating useful machines of iron and steel.  These are over-funded, lazy and ignorant adolescent  fashionistas raised on a few decades of overnight fortunes amassed from software, apps and tech.  

More typically, these types of enterprises are created with little or no discipline and absolutely no regard for the end user.  Whether it's technology or meatless patties, the usual attitude is "they'll eat what we feed them." The next step is to create a mirage of success by paying for wide distribution, creating the illusion of public acceptance. The third step is to set up straw man competitors to further the myth of consumer demand.  The fourth step, of course, is to manage consolidation of companies through cash buyouts and dump the stock for a hefty profit.

Does that sound smart to you?  Or really stupid? Well, in this case, it's beginning to look really stupid, Because like so many other undisciplined, failing non-businesses (Peleton comes to mind), these profit-at-any-cost hedge-funds are dying on this hill They're finding out the hard way that whether it's fake eggs, lab grown chicken or estrogen-loaded soy milk, you can't fool all of the people all of the time. 

Which has left Bill Gates and his hedge fund cronies with a very bad taste in their mouths.

Thursday, June 08, 2023

Newsom versus Trump, 2024

If you're wondering what the Democrats have up their sleeves for 2024, I'm going to speculate that their nominee is Gavin Newsom from California. Here's why:

1. Newsom is Nancy Pelosi's nephew. Her inter-married families have ruled California for the last 60+ years (Google "Brown-Pelosi-Getty-Newsom California" to learn that history). Now they're going for the brass ring. Nancy will use everything she has to put Newsom in contention for the presidency of the United States.

2. At this writing, the only Democrat in the field other than Joe Biden is Robert Kennedy Jr., who is, by all accounts, a flash in the pan. He entered the race way too early, and my guess is that by the later part of 2023, his one-note sonata will have run out of gas. Yes, the vaccines were bad. Yes, their purveyors are criminals. No, neither he nor anyone else is going to do anything about it. Other than that, RFK has no domestic or international agenda.

3. Joe Biden, by all acounts, is senile. Even the Democrats want him out, but shudder to imagine Kamala Harris in the White House, so they're content to hold that off.

4. Between Senile Joe and RFK, Newsom can and will be positioned as the "reasonable alternative" as the public will forget all the damage he's done to his home state. All of that won't matter, because the Dems will be left with no choice other than Newsom -- Pelosi will see to that. And just in case you were wondering if Newsom can attract less radcial Democrats, I humbly submit that Newsom is a white male, which never hurts.

This may explain why we're currently seeing Newsom taking shots at Ron DeSantis, not Trump. By doing so, Newsom is attempting to elevate himself to presidential levels. If this plays out as I think it will, we'll see Trump run against Newsom, with Newsom leveraging the Never-Trump faction against Trump's twin agenda of domestic/foreign accomplishments and Newsom's mismanagement of California.

There are some who believe the Trump has run out of steam. There are those who believe Newsom could really win. I imagine those are the same people who buy Bud Light at Target.

Sunday, April 30, 2023

The Lost Art of Initiative

I'm older. I get it. I can tell I'm older, because I'm acting my age, regaling in the camaraderie of others who drench themselves in the nostalgia of their youth and wonder how things ever got so messed up. In fact, the only thing that keeps me balanced is recalling how my parents looked at my generation and thought the same things.

Still, I'm just as tired of hearing young people whine about everything as you probably are. Mostly, it's their inability to meet potential life partners, but it seems that since the invention of the play date, kids have grown up expecting things to be served up to them. To most of them, swiping left or right can determine their Saturday night plans. Pointing and clicking not only lays a world of options at their feet, but enables expectations that are wholly unrealistic and somewhat depressing.

When the internet became real (I use 1998 as the date), it held a lot of promise about connectivity, open resources and the freedom of access to information. I was there. I recall the rush of excitement of not only global reach, but instant global reach, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. But the one thing nobody saw coming ended up crippling an entire generation of humanity:

The internet destroyed initiative.

It turns out that when you lay the world at people's feet, they start expecting you to, well, lay the entire world at their feet. When they're just a screen away from getting results, they begin to think that life is an instant set of search results. They stop asking questions. They stop wondering. It doesn't occur to them to object to anything. They cease developing their innate hunting skills in favor of leaning back and waiting for their next request to be fulfilled.

People often ask me why the world is in "such bad shape." I tell them the world isn't in bad shape at all. Everything we had before 1998 is still there. It's just that a generation lacks the initiative to get out there and hunt for real answers to real questions that suits their own real interests. If you settle for what Google tells you is the answer, you deserve what you get: an unfulfilled life.

Think I'm kidding? Take a look at some of the confused, irrational and downright impossible policies that are being proposed, passed and enforced by the people in charge of your local, state and Federal government. People who just a few short years ago had no problem defining what a woman is or understanding that you can't ban airplanes or diesel-powered ships and still get to Hawaii mostly grew up in the age of point and click.

This whole issue was brought to a head when I overheard some young guys bemoaning their frustrations with dating. Hey, let's face it: every generation moaned about meeting someone. But these young men use dating apps and dating websites and just about anything else that could charge a monthly fee, and none of them was meeting anyone. That's when I asked them about taking some initiative. "Are you going out there? Are you hunting for these women or just sitting around? Are you dressed like a winner or a loser? Even at the grocery store, you need to be on the lookout. You have no idea how many people fall in love in the produce section!"

While that piqued their interest, they responded lethargically: "Yeah, but where are we supposed to go?" At this point, my being helpful got charged with my own frustration: "Just be an interesting young man and if she's of interest to you, ask her along! To Museums! Art galleries! Parks! Theaters! Bars! Clubs! Grocery stores! Nature hikes! Just walking down the street! Say hello! Make conversation! For crying out loud, you want me to fuck her for you, too?"

It might be the most Old Dad thing I've ever yelled.

Sunday, April 02, 2023

Faux Authority

It's now gotten to the point where I've been around for a lot longer than i'd care to admit. For a time in my career, I was the youngest voice in the room. And then one day I realized the situation had flipped and I was now the Voice of Experience. That realization came as somewhat of a shock, but on balance, it was rewarding news, mainly because at that point, I could look back and know I was right about one of my most basic tenets:

Rejecting unauthorized authority.

Even as a kid -- and much to my parents' frustration -- I'd always questioned any kind of authority. It wasn't my thinking I was smarter than everyone. I'm not. It was more about questioning what and who qualified these authorities and granted them such power. As such, I never went through a typical rebellious phase. I was much worse. I went through a questioning phase. One that seemingly still hasn't ended.

At first it was relegated to simple observations, rooted in youthful resentment. I never liked being told what to do, but really disliked who was telling me to do it. I could understand the earned respect and authoritative voices of proven talents. What I couldn't tolerate was an ever-growing universe filled with posers and opportunists.

Among my first suspects were clergymen and teachers, whom I realized had no moral, intellectual or educational value that qualified them to dispense any kind of comment with any type of authority. Indeed, it seemed that the very reason they chose to become clergymen and teachers was their own inability to garner and earn the respect of their peers in their personal lives. By simply walking into their occupations, these clergymen and professors wrapped themselves in a built-in pre-supposition of respect and authority. They didn't have to earn authority -- it came with the job.

I found this model fascinating. And the more I looked around, the more poser authorities I found. Most were where you'd expect them to be: law enforcement, the judicial system, religion, financial advisors, psychologists -- even the crossing guards in front of the local grade schools. All imbued with a faux sense of authority granted to them by a diploma, firearm or some other badge proudly pinned to their egos as one who must be obeyed.

The more you look, the worse it gets.

Sadly, the permeation of disingenuous authority has led to a widespread acceptance of faux authority, and that's not good. Almost anyone can pose as an authority on almost any topic and pass as a knowledgable resource on whom others form their own opinions. In this age of non-accountability, few are held culpable when their claims are proven false, or worse yet, cause people serious mental and physical damage.

It's not hard to connect the dots from the empty promises of faux authority with stories about mentally unbalanced, violently frustrated people: These are people who have been told to obey their faux authorities' commands, and having obeyed, explode with rage when they discover no reward in having done so. Nothing incites quite as much rage as having discovered one's been played for a fool.

Faux authority has not only destabilized the gullible, it's also spawned the rise of fear porn, in which breaking news is nothing more than fallacious claims, usually baseless and fictional, but offered up by faux authorities on television, internet and social media. The most often-use formula of faux authorities is faux data sprinkled mixed with faux logic, in which cherry-picked data and combined with expert opinions to convincingly predict more doom and gloom.

For crying out loud, even the Daily Racing Form warns you that “past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results.”

Is there any chance of defeating faux authoritarianism? Of course, and it's far easier than you think: Think for yourself. Question authority at every juncture. You'll find your challenges will deflate faux authorities quickly and efficiently, while securing and enhancing your own authority over your own personal freedom.

But don't take my word for it. In fact, don't take anyone's word for it.