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iSad: Steve Jobs

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Put up for adoption at birth by a young unwed mother, college dropout, garage inventor, Buddhist capitalist, culture changer, genius, tyrant.

He never quite fit the profile of American entrepreneur, but his story could make people change their point of reference for bootstrap success from Horatio Alger to Steve Jobs. His death yesterday at the age of 56 is dominating the news and there is no consensus on where to place the modern Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, or P.T. Barnum, depending upon your point of view.

Jobs is being hailed by his legion of followers as a visionary who changed the way we live, work, and play. Others are saying his genius was in simplifying existing gadgets and making us want them. Yet another segment is looking at Jobs as the man who forever altered – and in some ways killed – a number of industries, including changing the way news is delivered and, in turn, the news industry itself.

One thing everyone can agree on: Jobs and Steve Wozniak changed the computer industry and started a worldwide revolution with the introduction of the Apple II personal computer. The little beige box that sat on a desktop soon came with a tethered contraption called the mouse, allowing users to move a cursor around the screen and select the programs they wanted. And the rest, as they say, is history.

His loyalists border on sycophants. In 1997, Apple’s annual revenues were $7.1 billion and falling. In Boston for the annual MacWorld convention that year, Jobs announced to jeers that he had accepted a $150 million cash infusion from the evil empire – in the eyes of Apple acolytes – Microsoft. That marked the turnaround, though, to where Apple is now generating $62.7 billion in annual revenues and is second only to Exxon in corporate value.

But did Jobs really invent? Or is his legacy a matter of myth more than reality? After all, there were computers before the Apple, he just made it more personal. Before the iPod, there were MP3 players, but Jobs convinced music labels that people would buy individual songs they liked for 99 cents rather than whole albums for $8 to $12. The Kindle and Nook were rudimentary tablets already on the market but the iPad took all the oxygen out of the room when it became available for two and three times the cost. Yet companies like The New York Times rushed to make their product iPad-friendly.

Jobs, and in turn Apple’s, impact on our culture was outsized. Is there anyone older than 25, and even many younger, who does not remember the famous “1984” Super Bowl commercial that compared the use of PCs to an Orwellian society and introduced the world to the Mac? That commercial not only changed the computer industry but the way we watch Super Bowls. Now everyone tries to one-up themselves and their competition in the commercials.

And how many people are aware that Jobs bought a little movie graphics division from Star Wars maker George Lucas and turned it into Pixar Animation Studios, producing industry-changing (there’s that word again) films such as Toy Story and Cars, that generated hundreds of million in revenues? When Disney bought Pixar, it not only made Jobs even wealthier, it made him the entertainment giant’s largest stockholder.

There are lingering questions about what will happen to the Apple brand now that Jobs is no longer available for a rescue, as he has been so many times in the past. Jobs’s presence was essential in each of Apple’s unveilings, from the iPod to the iPhone to the iPad.

There was some speculation that the cool reception given earlier this week to the iPhone 4S was as much due to Jobs’s absence as the lack of major changes in its appearance (there were significant upgrades on the technology side). That, many will say, was Jobs’s genius. Knowing what we wanted before we did then making the heart race and the kid in us say, “I have to have that.” There’s no app for that.

                                                                                                            --JACK SULLIVAN

BEACON HILL

Steve Tolman officially takes the state AFL-CIO presidency.

For the third year in a row, CommonWealth posts the financial disclosure forms from some 400 elected and appointed officials and in a review, finds there some people in the Legislature who aren’t having problems making ends meet.

A coalition of minority voting rights groups pushes a legislative redistricting committee to add six majority-minority House districts and one in the state Senate.

A bill designed to make life tougher for illegal immigrants who drive without licenses or try to qualify for public assistance isn’t going to solve the immigration problem, says the Cape Cod Times.

Money contained in a supplemental budget may forestall court closures, the Gloucester  Times reports.

The Bay State Banner profiles Rep. Vinny deMacedo of Plymouth

COUNTY

Former probate judge Michael Livingstone, who was hired by the Bristol County sheriff after he left the bench under a cloud in 2008, has resigned from his county post amid an investigation into unspecified charges by Bristol Sheriff Thomas Hodgson.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Joan Vennochi shows why she may be the most fearless and insightful chronicler of politics and power in Boston.

The Lawrence Licensing Board continues its crackdown on bars and clubs, ordering them to shut down at 1 a.m. on Saturday mornings, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

Former federal prosecutor Jon Mitchell lambasted his opponent for New Bedford mayor, state Rep. Antonio Cabral, for his Beacon Hill ties while Cabral is embracing his insiderness as a quality voters want.

The Marshfield fire chief, repeatedly rebuffed by town officials in his bid to fund a new fire station, is now pushing Town Meeting to adopt the local option meals tax as a source of revenue to build one.

Foxborough Town Meeting won’t take up casino zoning this year.

Minority residents of sections of Dorchester and Mattapan fail to take advantage of an opportunity to send a minority lawmaker to City Hall.
 
NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

Harry Reid isn’t living in a tent in lower Manhattan, but he still has rich folk in his sights. Democrats in Washington float a 5.6 percent tax on income over $1 million to pay for the Obama jobs bill, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Police make arrests and use pepper spray on Occupy Wall Street protesters, the New York Daily News reports. Northeastern University students hold an Occupy Boston-style protest on campus, WBUR reports. NECN reports the Occupy Boston movement is gaining strength.

ELECTION 2012

George Will goes after Elizabeth Warren and serves up a stinging critique of liberalism.  Meanwhile, the Globe says the professor hadn’t done her homework when she dubbed Scott Brown “Wall Street’s favorite senator” in Tuesday night’s debate.

Sarah says no. The National Review asked some friends, foes, and pundits what the future holds for Sarah Palin and America as she knows it.  Sarah Palin author Joe McGinniss, writing in The Daily Beast, says we should give thanks to God the former governor of Alaska isn’t joining the presidential race. But don’t expect her to fade away.

Conservatives’ next line of attack on Mitt Romney: They’re upset he hired Doug Foy when he was governor. At least Romney has Chris Christie’s potential donors to console him.

The Globe profiles Eric Fehrnstrom, the strategy man behind Mitt Romney and Scott Brown -- and the CrazyKhazei Twitter kerfuffle.

Rick Perry banks $17 million in the third quarter. Can the cash save his suddenly-flagging campaign?

Marco Rubio says he’s not a vice presidential candidate.

Margery Eagan likes what she sees in state rep/long-shot Senate candidate Tom Conroy. Wayne Woodlief weighs in on Elizabeth Warren’s UMass Lowell debate performance.

The Newton Tab profiles Elizabeth Childs, the Brookline doctor who has decided to challenge US Rep. Barney Frank.

No regrets: Setti Warren talks about his failed run for the US Senate.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

All systems are “go,” reports the Globe, for relaunch of the long-stalled $2 billion NorthPoint development project on the Boston-Cambridge line.

Cell Signaling, a Beverly life sciences company, seeks tax breaks from the city and state in connection with the conversion of a vacant building into a research and development center, the Salem News reports.

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman talks about what’s needed to make America great again with WBUR’s Tom Ashbrook.

Nearly half of US households received some sort of government benefit in the first quarter of 2010, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Greater Boston looks at the family-friendly history of Friendly’s, the Massachusetts ice cream icon that closed 70 stores after declaring bankruptcy. The Brockton Enterprise talks to laid-off workers and customers who were caught off-guard by the sudden closings. Here is the Globe’s overview.

Banks used half of their $4 billion in stimulus money to repay their bailout debt.

The Springfield Republican hopes Friendly’s can recover from its current troubles.

Andrew Sullivan spotlights two critiques of film tax credits.

EDUCATION

The Whitman-Hanson Regional School Committee is eyeing adopting school choice as a way to increase revenues to ease its tight budget.

Quincy officials expressed concern over the district’s 8th grade math scores on the MCAS test, which, like the rest of the state, are below those of other grades.

The Berkshire Eagle says that bilingual education needs to be reconsidered.

HEALTH CARE

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts and Partners HealthCare agree to limit medical spending increases over the next three years, WBUR reports.

TRANSPORTATION

The MBTA board has signed off on a $51 million makeover for Orient Heights station on the Blue Line and approved a $29 million contract for a new Orange Line station at Assembly Square in Somerville.  Fortunately for the cash-strapped agency, all of the Assembly Square costs will be covered by federal, state, and private development interests; 80 percent of the Orient Heights work will be covered by the federal government.  

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Designer Graham Hill makes the case for having less stuff and occupying less room – on TED.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

A Level 3 sex offender is convicted of assault charges in connection with a 2009 incident in Dracut, the Lowell Sun reports.


 

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