Bill Whalen: Politi-Cal

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A Christmas Present Steve Jobs Won’t Get — But Deserved

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To the adage that airplane crashes and celebrity deaths occur in groups of three, I’d like to add another category: questionable award choices.

By now, you’re probably sick and tired of the controversy regarding President Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize (liberals loved the choice; conservatives liked the acceptance speech). Here on the Stanford campus, the feeling is Toby Gerhart better deserved the Heisman Trophy than Alabama’s Mark Ingraham.

And now, for the Bay Area, let the debate begin over this year’s Time Magazine’s Person of the Year award, which went to Federal Reserve chair Ben Bernanke instead of someone closer to home.

The San Francisco Chronicle’s Carolyn Lochhead reports that Ess Eff’s own Nancy Pelosi was Time’s runner-up, for consolidating “more power than any other [House] Speaker in modern history.”

One wonders if former house Speaker Newt Gingrich, Time’s Person of the Year in 1995, would agree with that sentiment (“Without so much as a decent burial,” Time wrote, “he has killed the old order of American politics.”).

With all due respect, the good folks at Time should have looked about 45 miles to south, to Cupertino and the heart of Silicon Valley. There, they would have found a man arguably more deserving of Time’s award in 2009: Apple CEO Steve Jobs, master of the iPod and iPhone.

Here’s what Time could have written, in praising Jobs for fundamentally changing how the world networks information, places phone calls, and listens to music:

“Every time a seismic shift takes place in our economy, there are people who feel the vibrations long before the rest of us do, vibrations so strong they demand action — action that can seem rash, even stupid. Ferry owner Cornelius Vanderbilt jumped ship when he saw the railroads coming. Thomas Watson Jr., overwhelmed by his sense that computers would be everywhere even when they were nowhere, bet his father’s office-machine company on it: IBM.”

But wait a sec, that’s exactly what Time did write 10 years ago when it honored’s Jeff Bezos as Person of the Year, for being at the forefront of the then-nascent tech revolution.
Personally, I’d like to have seen a thoughtful Time essay about the Apple influence on American culture. 
Thanks to those little white ear buds and snappy devices, we becoming more better entertained and better informed . . . or more isolated in our own information universes — ironically, at a time when the world has never been better, more instantly connected?
Is the emergence of a new “apps economy” — just so much fun and games for 20something engineers, or this decade’s latest revolution in software design? — going to help lift California of its current doldrums?     

But that won’t happen — not for another year, at least (and if you’re betting on Person of the Year for 2010, my early frontrunner is “The Angry Voter”).  Time has made its choice, and we Californians will have to find different ways to spread holiday cheer.

Maybe it’s buying Mr. Jobs one of those “Lebowski” Man of the Year mirrors for his bathroom — available right now at!!



Written by Bill Whalen

December 17, 2009 at 7:09 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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