Monthly Archives: March 2016

Film review – Steve Jobs

Main Cast

Michael Fassbender as Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Inc

Kate Winslet as Joanna Hoffman, marketing executive for Apple and NeXT and Jobs’ confidant in the film.

Seth Rogen as Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple and creator of the Apple II

Jeff Daniels as John Sculley, CEO of Apple from 1983 to 1993.

Katherine Waterston as Chrisann Brennan, Jobs’ former girlfriend and Lisa’s mother.

Michael Stuhlbarg as Andy Hertzfeld, a member of the original Mac team.

Makenzie Moss, Ripley Sobo, and Perla Haney-Jardine as Lisa Brennan-Jobs (at different ages), the daughter of Steve Jobs and Chrisann Brennan]

Director: Danny Boyle

Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin

Robert Henderson

The film is not about the entirety of Jobs’  life or even all of his adult life as a computer entrepreneur. It runs from the launch of the Apple Macintosh in 1984 to that of the  iMac in 1998. Consequently, it  misses arguably the most fruitful part of Jobs’  business  life which ended with his death  in 2011.

Running through the  film are two themes from outside of  the IT world. The first  is the impact of the knowledge that he (Jobs) was adopted at birth, rejected by his first would-be adopters after a few months and the adopted again.  Jobs’ inept handling of  human relations is attributed to this.   The second theme is a remnant of Jobs’ rather chaotic social life which in the film he runs on the same dysfunctional basis as his work. The remnant is his  one time girlfriend Chrisann Brennan (Katherine Waterston)  and their daughter Lisa whom Jobs tries not to acknowledge initially  as his child, but whom he  gradually accepts as his daughter.

Those are the circumstantial bare bones of the film.  The film’s distinction and energy comes from a remarkable turn by Michael Fassbender as Jobs. Fassbender  has a talent for portraying obsessive characters. He did it in magnificently in  Shame as a sex obsessive and he does it here with his portrayal of Jobs  as an unrestrained control freak with a adolescent grade  ego the size of Jupiter.  He is constantly bullying and appears to have  little if any moral  sense. When he does behave more reasonably it is invariably not because he feels guilty,  but either as a result of  Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet)  thrusting what he is doing wrong so firmly in his face that he cannot ignore it or because someone treads on his  personal territory , as when  he discovers that Andy Hertzfeld  (Michael Stuhlbarg)  has paid his daughter’s first semester fees after Jobs in a fit of temper told  her he will not pay them.  In short, Fassbender’s Jobs is very like a particularly fractious  teenager without any  adult brake on his bumptious behaviour.

Whether  Fassbender’s Jobs is a realistic portrayal  of the man is another matter. It is disputed by many who knew him  and certainly this filmic Jobs is a monstrously unsympathetic character, the sort of person who continually brings gratuitous stress into the lives of those around him.     Nor is he shown to be an  infallible  entrepreneurial wizard.  Jobs got many things  right with Apple, especially after his return to the company, but he also got a great deal wrong by relying on his judgement of what would appeal  to the public and taking little account of what his programmers and hardware engineers told him .

His worst mistake was  the original Apple Mac which he deliberately had made so that it could only take programs written for its operating system (which was incompatible with that of Microsoft),  could not readily  accommodate add-ons to improve functionality and, just to put the cherry on things, the AppleMac case could not be opened to repair or enhance except with special tools  which were not available to Apple Mc purchasers .   At the time it was launched I remember thinking it was a bonkers way of proceeding.  It was an act of supreme egotism on Job’s part because he wanted the system to be entirely self-contained, that is to be a system  he envisaged  and controlled.  With Jobs in this characterisation it was always his way or the highway.

The Wozniak character expresses his frustration at Jobs’ lack of technical knowhow most vividly when he says “What do you do? You don’t write code. You’re not an engineer.   You’re not a designer. You can’t put a hammer to a nail.  I built the circuit board. The graphical interface was stolen from Xerox Park, Jeff Raskin  was the leader of the Mac team before you threw him of his own project. Someone else designed the box.  So how come  ten times in a day I read  that Steve Jobs is a genius?  What do you do?”

Jobs’ reply is a facile “I play the orchestra, and you’re a good musician. You sit right there and you’re the best in your row.” Fine if the tune Jobs is conducting is a hit with the public but quite often it was not.

This scene is one of the best in the film. The problem is that the real Wozniak denies ever confronting Jobs so directly: “Anybody who knows me will tell you I just don’t say negative things to people, and could not have said them, and didn’t.”

There is a very strong acting performance across the board. Steve Jobs is splendidly   cast and apart from Fassbender,  there is a dominant  turn  by Kate Winslet (does she ever give a poor performance?) as Jobs’  right hand woman and confidant  while  Seth Rogen as Steve Wozniak, Jeff Daniels as John Sculley,  Michael Stuhlbarg as Andy Hertzfeld, a member of the original Mac team are all very convincing because they are just the type of personalities with just the type of looks one would expect in such jobs.  Katherine Waterston as Chrisann Brennan is, Jobs’ former girlfriend and Lisa’s mother is by turns convincing  as a single mother justifiably  angry at Jobs’ failure to acknowledge his daughter denied  and pathetic inadequate  .

The screenplay is by Aaron Sorkin who wrote the screenplay for the  Social Network.  This is not anything like as good a film as the Social Network, which retained its taut energy and constantly  evolving storyline  throughout , whereas Steve Jobs  is much more dependent on Fassbender’s  bravura scenes which in general tone do begin to have a certain sameness towards the latter stages of the film. Nonetheless Steve Jobs has much of the Social Networks quick wittedness in its dialogue and the relationship between  Fassbender and Winslet is constantly sparky.

This film is not as good as it might have been but it will not bore you.

 

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Article 50 is a poisoned chalice – Don’t drink from it

Robert Henderson

Those who think that British Europhile politicians   will  play fair if Britain votes to leave the EU in June will be horribly disappointed. The public may think that if the British people have voted to leave the EU and that is an end of it regardless of the wishes of the Government.   Sadly, there is every reason to expect that Brexit will be anything but a clean break from the EU.

To begin with there has been no commitment by Cameron to stand down as PM if the vote goes against him.  Quite the opposite for he  has publicly stated several  times that  he will stay on and many  Tory MPs, including some of those in favour of leaving like Chris Grayling ,  have said that he must remain in No 10 whatever the outcome of the referendum .

If Cameron stays on as PM after a vote to leave Britain would be in the absurd position of having a man in charge of  Britain’s withdrawal who has shown his all too eager  commitment to the EU by the feebleness of   the demands he made during  his “renegotiation” and his regularly repeated statement before the conclusion of the “renegotiation”  that he was sure he would get new terms which would allow him to campaign for Britain to remain within the EU.   

A post-referendum   Cameron  government entrusted with negotiating Britain’s departure from the EU would mean that not only the  PM  but  the majority of his  cabinet and ministers below  cabinet  level  will  be  drawn from the same pro-EU personnel as he has today.  In those circumstances Cameron and his fellow Europhiles would almost certainly try to stitch Britain back into the EU with a deal such as that granted to  Norway and Switzerland. If that happened Britain could end up with the most important issue in the British  public’s mind –  free movement  of not only labour but free movement of anyone with the right to permanent residence in the EU – untouched .

But if Cameron leaves  of his own accord soon after a vote to leave Britain could still end up with a Europhile  Prime Minister and Cabinet.  Why? By  far the most likely person to succeed him  is Boris Johnson. If he  does become  PM there is every reason to believe that he will also do his level best to enmesh Britain back into  the EU.  Ever since Johnson  became the Telegraph’s  Brussels correspondent in the 1990s he has been deriding the EU, but until coming out as a supporter of voting to leave in the past week he has never advocated Britain’s withdrawal.  Johnson also gave a very strong hint  in the  Daily Telegraph article in which he announced his support for leaving the EU that his support for Britain leaving the EU was no more than  a ploy to persuade the EU to offer  more significant concessions than those offered to Cameron. Johnson has also been a regular advocate of the value of immigration.

The scenario of Cameron or Johnson deliberately subverting the intention of a referendum vote  to leave are all too plausible. There has been no public discussion let alone  agreement by leading  politicians over what the British government may or may not negotiate in the event of a vote to leave.   Nor has there been any suggestion by any British politician or party  that whatever the terms offered by the EU the British public will have the right to vote on them in a referendum.  Britain could be left  with  an agreement decided by the British Government and the EU which might do nothing of what  the British public most wants and  has voted for, namely, the return of sovereignty and  the control of Britain’s borders.

Then  there is Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.  Both Cameron and Johnson are committed to doing so within the terms of the Lisbon Treaty of  2009.  Far from a vote to leave in the referendum putting Britain in the position of a  sovereign nation engaging in a negotiation for a treaty with the EU  it traps  Britain into an extended period of negotiation whose outcome is dependent on the agreement or non-agreement of  the 27 other EU member states and the  EU Parliament.  Let me quote  the Article in  full:

Article 50

  1. Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.
  2. A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention. In the light of the guidelines provided by the European Council, the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union. That agreement shall be negotiated in accordance with Article 218(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. It shall be concluded on behalf of the Union by the Council, acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament.
  3. The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.
  4. For the purposes of paragraphs 2 and 3, the member of the European Council or of the Council representing the withdrawing Member State shall not participate in the discussions of the European Council or Council or in decisions concerning it.

A qualified majority shall be defined in accordance with Article 238(3)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

  1. If a State which has withdrawn from the Union asks to rejoin, its request shall be subject to the procedure referred to in Article 49. (

Article 50  means that Britain could spend two years negotiating and get no treaty because the Council of Ministers could veto it through Qualified Majority Voting (QMV) or the European Parliament reject it. Britain would then have the option of either asking for an extension (which could be indefinite because there is no limit mentioned in the Article) or leaving without a treaty.  There is also the further complication that if a treaty was agreed by the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament it would still have to be agreed by 27 EU member states,  either through Parliamentary vote or  in the case of a few including France, a referendum.  Moreover,  even if a treaty is agreed and accepted by all EU member states, this would leave  Britain up in the air for what could be a considerable time as each of the 27 members goes through the process of getting  the agreement of their Parliament or electorate.

The OUT camp must make it clear that  it would be both damaging and unnecessary for the UK to abide by this Treaty requirement. It  would allow the EU to inflict considerable damage on the UK both during the period prior to formally  leaving and afterwards if  the price of leaving with the EU’s agreement was  for  UK to sign up to various obligations, for example, to continue paying a large annual sum to the EU for ten years . It would also give  the Europhile UK political elite  ample opportunity to keep the UK attached to the EU in the manner that Norway and Switzerland are attached by arguing that it is the best deal Britain  can get.  If there was no second  referendum on the  terms  negotiated for Britain leaving the government of the day could simply pass the matter into law without the British voters having a say.

The Gordian knot of Article 50 can be cut simply repealing the European Communities Act and asserting the sovereignty of Parliament.   No major UK party could  object to this on principle because all three have, at one time or another,  declared that Parliament remains supreme and can repudiate anything the EU does if it so chooses.

If the stay-in camp argue that would be illegal because of the  treaty obligation, the OUT camp should simply emphasise  (1) that international law is no law because there is never any means of enforcing it within its jurisdiction is a state rejects it and (2) that treaties which do not allow for contracting parties to simply withdraw are profoundly undemocratic because they bind future governments. There is also the fact that the EU and its predecessor the EEC has constantly breached its own rules, spectacularly so in the case of the Eurozone.  Hence, for the EU treaties are anything but sacrosanct.

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