Friday, February 25, 2011

The Tao of Steve

I have mixed feelings about Steve Jobs.  In my quasi-academic opinion, the guy is a genius at marketing and a moron at management.  His ability to provide value to customers--and to extract said value for his company--is unquestionable.  However, he appears not to have cultivated a company that can run very well without him.  As evidence consider the fact that he is away on sick leave, but still calling all the major shots.

This becomes an even bigger issue as he gets older and sicker, and as Apple eventually begins to deal with the problem of who will replace the one true CEO?  At the company's annual shareholders' meeting, a group of shareholders proposed a measure that, according to the WSJ,
requested the board adopt and disclose a detailed succession planning policy that included the development of criteria for the CEO position, identification of internal candidates and the submission of an annual report to shareholders.
 Now, normally I don't have a high opinion of shareholder proposals because, frankly, shareholders are mostly idiots.  Just because you bought three shares of Apple doesn't mean you know anything about running a company.  My policy on stock holding is that you own the rights to proceeds from the firm's business, not the right to exert any kind of control over the business.  With limited liability comes limited rights.  Sorry, I'm on my soap box again.

Anyway, the proposal doesn't sound so bad to me, given Apple's circumstances.  But of course, the shareholders themselves voted it down.  What I can't understand is why the board would resist this.  My only thought is that they have bought into the Tao of Steve (it's a movie) and, like most Apple users I imagine, secretly wish that Steve Jobs would stick around until the next millenium.  The fact is, before too much longer he will have to step down, and it would be nice for Apple's stock price if the board had any clue how they would respond to that.

Again, I don't really like shareholder proposals, but it wouldn't be a bad idea for the board to communicate that they are thinking about these things.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

More About Unions

Unions just seem to be topic of the week.  Right here in good, old Indiana, the Democratic legislators have taken a cue from the whack jobs in Wisconsin and gone on vacation.  This issue here is a little trickier than in Wisconsin, which is just a bunch of whining.  The fight is over a "right-to-work" legislation that Republicans want to push through.  Democrats don't like it because it hurts unions.  Ok, so far no surprises.  The question for me is what this proposed law actually says.  I'll show you what I mean.  Here's how the Wall Street Journal wrote it:

At issue in Indiana is a so-called right-to-work bill that would give members of private-sector unions the right to opt out of unions and not pay dues.
The right to opt out of unions?  I like rights.  That sounds good.  Did they not have that right before?  Who denied them that right?  On the surface this looks like a good thing.  Then I read this from both the Indianapolis Star and that bastion of quality journalism, USA Today:
[The legislation] bars a union and company from negotiating a contract that requires non-union members to pay fees for representation.
Barring?  I don't like barring.  That sounds bad.  It seems to me that the Republicans are engaging in a major PR cover-up here, masquerading their strictly anti-union bill as an expansion of liberty.  Of course, the Democrats aren't any better, because they're just throwing a little hissy fit because the bill hurts unions.

I'm not the biggest fan of unions, but there's nothing inherently wrong with them, as long as they play by the same rules as everybody else.  If a business wants to (or has to out of necessity) contract with a union agreeing it won't hire non-union folks, so be it.  I think it's a stupid idea, but sometimes that's what you need to do in business.  Barring certain kinds of contracts is not the way to make the state more competitive economically.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Taxes Suck

I just filed my 2010 taxes.  The government sucks.  That's all.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

We're Back!

Ok, now that I've been enmeshed in school for a year and a half, I feel like I finally have enough of a handle on things to devote 10 minutes every couple days to discussing current events with the interwebs. As such, I'm bringing back The Money Speech. For those of you who have missed my flurry of questionably insightful comments, this is for you. For the rest, well, you probably didn't read my blog anyway, so we're all set. So, sit back and enjoy as I occasionally pepper your brain with disconnected thoughts on what's going on in the world today. Because, frankly, the world's too f*cked up these days not to comment on it. (This is a family blog)

To get us going, I will simply offer a rambling tirade about these protests in Wisconsin:

You know what Wisconsin public servants? Grow up. Right now. Seriously, I'm tired of this sh*t. You pay way less toward your health insurance than practically anyone in the private sector. You get a defined-payment pension which no one gets anymore because it's a fiscal disaster of an idea. "You mean we actually have to contribute something to our own retirement account? How unfair." Yes, time for you people to start acting like grownups and actually pay for some of your time past age 55!

Here's the bottom line, and this message is for all my friends who fall asleep at night dreaming blissfully about getting sick in Canada. If you want the government to provide something, get ready for the government to actually make decisions for you. You want them to provide schools? Get ready for education to become a matter of public opinion. You think teachers' benefits getting cut is bad? Take a trip down to Texas where voters have decided that the entirety of science can be learned from the first ten pages of Genesis. Another vocal group down there wants to teach children that America was founded by a poor black child from Mexico City.

Wait, why stop there? Now that the government is going to be more entwined with healthcare than ever before, we have Republicans redefining rape so that they will have to pay for fewer abortions. Isn't democracy awesome? But it's so great that we've put the government (a.k.a. idiot voters) in charge of all this.

Boy that felt good. I'm glad to be back.