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Last week, a contract totaling more than $378,000 was awarded to develop and manufacture signs for Civil War-era cemeteries, including “18 unique interpretive signs for Confederate lots.” The contract was awarded by Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
We sit by and watch the Barbarian, we tolerate him; in the long stretches of peace we are not afraid. We are tickled by his irreverence, his comic inversion of our old certitudes and our fixed creeds refreshes us; we laugh. But as we laugh we are watched by large and awful faces from beyond: and on these faces there is no smile.– (HT:Hilaire Belloc)
The fridge had been totally nuked. The Jihadist Warlord Abu Sakkar tore off the fig leaf of civilization and revealed the gibbering, demonic barbarian behind the thin veneer of every civilized human being. Hit the play button below if you have a pretty strong stomach and your co-workers won’t get too upset. This ain’t your typical rugby party stunt. While not quite The Donner Party; it’s close enough for post-modernism.
I’ve expressed my puzzlement and disappointment here before about how Apple, like so much of Silicon Valley, is reflexively liberal in its politics. So it is with some curiosity that I note the story out last week about how Apple CEO Tim Cook was trying to “get out ahead” on the story of his appearance before a Senate committee tomorrow in Washington where he will essentially be called unpatriotic—by both parties unfortunately—because Apple doesn’t engage in the sadomasochism of bringing home to America the roughly $100 billion in profits it has earned overseas—and is keeping there to avoid America’s punitively high corporate income tax rates.
From all appearances Cook is going to grovel and apologize. According to one story:
In an interview with The Washington Post, Cook says he plans to present specific proposals at the Senate hearing to overhaul the U.S. corporate tax system.
“If you look at it today, to repatriate cash to the U.S., you need to pay 35 percent of that cash. And that is a very high number,” Cook said in an interview Thursday. “We are not proposing that it be zero. I know many of our peers believe that. But I don’t view that. But I think it has to be reasonable.”
Cook also pointed out that if state and federal taxes are combined, Apple pays roughly $1 million per hour in taxes, possibly making Apple the largest corporate taxpayer in the country.
He shouldn’t be defensive. Rather, he should take a page from Intel from about 20 years ago. Back in the early 1990s, when California’s fiscal situation was similar to today (in other words, deeply under water), Gov. Pete Wilson proposed abolishing the sales tax on capital equipment purchases by manufacturers. While Nordstrom or Home Depot have to locate where consumers are, manufacturers can locate anywhere, and the sales tax on capital equipment was a huge disincentive to expanding or building new plants in CA. Intel figured this tax added as much as $60 million to the cost of a new plant.
Democrats naturally opposed abolishing the tax because “we need the revenue,” oblivious as always to incentive effects. So Intel’s tax manager appeared before the State Senate finance committee and explained the facts of life, as Intel was in the midst of deciding whether to build a new billion-dollar chip plant in California or New Mexico, which didn’t have a sales tax on capital equipment. As I recall, his point to the committee went something like this:
You’re not going to collect this sales tax on capital equipment from Intel. There are two ways you’re not going to collect this tax. You won’t collect this tax if we build our new plant in New Mexico. And you’re not going to collect this tax if we build our new plant in California. Get it?
Of course the Democrats didn’t get it at the hearing. Their economic illiteracy would be comical if it didn’t have such baleful consequences. Gov. Wilson stuck to his guns, and the tax was eventually abolished, I believe.
So I wish tomorrow morning that Tim Cook would look senators directly and say this:
There are two ways you’re not going to exact America’s highest-in-the-world corporate income tax on Apple. You’re not going to collect it if we keep the money overseas, as is our right under the tax code that you people wrote into law; and you’re not going to collect it if we bring the money home. Get it?
I can certainly imagine Steve Jobs putting is this way.
Now back to the IRS scandal.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the White House counsel was advised of the Inspector General’s audit findings weeks ago. Doug Ross has compiled a useful IRS scandal timeline into which this latest tidbit fits.
A friend with substantial experience as a chief executive officer looks back on what we have learned to date about the IRS harassment of Obama administration political opponents. He raises the issue of executive responsibility:
Someone needs to call out Obama on the phony claim that he was precluded from being alerted in 2012 because of the investigation. They are hiding behind the existence of the investigation to justify his failure to act. His staff has an obligation to bring to his attention any improper and illegal activities and he has the authority and obligation to act upon hearing of them. Once alerted, and the activities halted, the investigation could proceed unhindered. If Obama’s logic prevailed, the mere initiation of an IG investigation gives you a hall pass to do anything you want until it leaks.
In this case, there is no evidence that the targeting activities were stopped once the IG office began its inquiries. They got the best of all worlds — unhindered political malfeasance in an election year and claims they were powerless to do anything about it. We, of course, know they didn’t want the activities to stop, which explains why they are taking the position that it was “out of their hands.”
UPDATE: My friend writes to specify that he was referring to the June 2012 alert given by the IG to senior Treasury department officials:
Upon hearing of such potential improper activity, the administration had an obligation both to alert his superior and to take immediate action to get it stopped. A simple memo could have been written to halt the activity immediately: “We are concerned improper targeting may be taking place. Please alert us if you are aware of any activity like this occurring. If you have initiated such activity, halt it immediately.”
By neglecting to take action to halt the activity immediately, the administration is guilty of suborning it. Any business executive that caught a whiff of something in his or her business such as bribery, insider trading, or out-of-compliance quality, and delayed halting it, would face legal sanctions.
On a related note, a reader points out the dog that didn’t bark in Doug Ross’s timeline: “One obvious omission from the table of events is a stopped the targeting event, which is one key….Congress does not ask the critical question.”
[Sarah Hawkes from the University of London's Institute of Global Health] says that when you look at recent data, men lose three times more years of healthy living than women because of tobacco, alcohol and unsafe driving.So the “health problems” that have to do with mean are personal behavioral choices. The focus on women is about pregnancy and childbirth, where health care is needed. In that view, what’s wrong concentrating on women? That focus is really about the next generation, which includes males and females.
“It’s cool to be a man that smokes and drinks — who drives a fast motorbike, or fast cars,” she says. “If you were really serious about saving lives, you would spend money tackling unhealthy gender norms” that promote these risky behaviors.
And par for the course, of course:
Cast your mind back about ten years or so to a series of speeches that got Bill Cosby in a lot of trouble, especially his 2004 speech to the NAACP Awards dinner. The Cos took aim at dysfunctions in the black community . . . and he was slammed for “blaming the victim” and taking focus away from white racism. Here’s an extended excerpt:
Ladies and gentlemen, I really have to ask you to seriously consider what you’ve heard, and now this is the end of the evening so to speak. I heard a prize fight manager say to his fellow who was losing badly, “David, listen to me. It’s not what’s he’s doing to you. It’s what you’re not doing. (laughter).
Ladies and gentlemen, these people set, they opened the doors, they gave us the right, and today, ladies and gentlemen, in our cities and public schools we have fifty percent drop out. In our own neighborhood, we have men in prison. No longer is a person embarrassed because they’re pregnant without a husband. (clapping) No longer is a boy considered an embarrassment if he tries to run away from being the father of the unmarried child.
Ladies and gentlemen, the lower economic and lower middle economic people are not holding their end in this deal. In the neighborhood that most of us grew up in, parenting is not going on. In the old days, you couldn’t hooky school because every drawn shade was an eye. And before your mother got off the bus and to the house, she knew exactly where you had gone, who had gone into the house, and where you got on whatever you had one and where you got it from. Parents don’t know that today.
I’m talking about these people who cry when their son is standing there in an orange suit. Where were you when he was two? Where were you when he was twelve? Where were you when he was eighteen, and how come you don’t know he had a pistol? And where is his father, and why don’t you know where he is? And why doesn’t the father show up to talk to this boy?
The Atlanticsummed up the backlash:
The playwright August Wilson commented, “A billionaire attacking poor people for being poor. Bill Cosby is a clown. What do you expect?” One of the gala’s hosts, Ted Shaw, the director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, called his comments “a harsh attack on poor black people in particular.” Dubbing Cosby an “Afristocrat in Winter,” the Georgetown University professor Michael Eric Dyson came out with a book, Is Bill Cosby Right? Or Has the Black Middle Class Lost Its Mind?, that took issue with Cosby’s bleak assessment of black progress and belittled his transformation from vanilla humorist to social critic and moral arbiter. “While Cosby took full advantage of the civil rights struggle,” argued Dyson, “he resolutely denied it a seat at his artistic table.”
Cosby dutifully shut up after this. So it is with considerable irony that I note both Obamas, in commencement speeches over the weekend, gingerly revisited some of the themes Cosby endorsed. Here’s Michelle Obama at Bowie State on Saturday:
And as my husband has said often, please stand up and reject the slander that says a black child with a book is trying to act white. Reject that.
Actually I’m not sure how often her husband does say that, but I know that early on in Obama’s presidency I and many others suggested that if he really wanted to make a mark as president, he and Michelle would engage a sustained campaign, along the lines of Nancy Reagan’s “just say no” campaign, to affect the status of the black family in America. President Obama came close to Cosby territory in his commencement speech yesterdayat Morehouse College, Martin Luther King Jr’s alma mater. A lot of the speech was boilerplate liberal rot as you’d expect, but there was this:
We know that too many young men in our community continue to make bad choices. And I have to say, growing up, I made quite a few myself. Sometimes I wrote off my own failings as just another example of the world trying to keep a black man down. I had a tendency sometimes to make excuses for me not doing the right thing. . .
Nobody cares how tough your upbringing was. Nobody cares if you suffered some discrimination. And moreover, you have to remember that whatever you’ve gone through, it pales in comparison to the hardships previous generations endured — and they overcame them. And if they overcame them, you can overcome them, too.
You now hail from a lineage and legacy of immeasurably strong men — men who bore tremendous burdens and still laid the stones for the path on which we now walk. You wear the mantle of Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington, and Ralph Bunche and Langston Hughes, and George Washington Carver and Ralph Abernathy and Thurgood Marshall, and, yes, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
These men were many things to many people. And they knew full well the role that racism played in their lives. But when it came to their own accomplishments and sense of purpose, they had no time for excuses.
I wonder whether Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington are really taught well at Morehouse (or at any university these days), and I wish Obama would do more of this kind of thing. But this is a good start.
Glenn Kessler reviews 3 key statements by Lois G. Lerner, the IRS’s director of the exempt organizations division.
I don’t know why that is “surprising,” but the details are perhaps worth noting. For one thing, buying a house or moving to a better house is found unlikely to bring more happiness.
And dozens of studies show that people get more happiness from buying experiences than from buying material things. Experiential purchases — such as trips, concerts and special meals — are more deeply connected to our sense of self, making us who we are….Some meal you ate is more deeply connected to your sense of self than your home? I find that hard to believe. I think it’s more that the meal is over and done with, so the happiness was consumed on the spot and remembered. The house continues and you enjoy it sometimes but are burdened by it too. You have mixed feelings over a long period of time. It’s not a memory.
And experiences come with one more benefit: They tend to bring us closer to other people, whereas material things are more often enjoyed alone. (We tend to watch our new television alone on the couch, but we rarely head to a wonderful restaurant or jet off to Thailand solo.)That’s why you might want to bring loved ones into that house of yours. And why is there no mention of the nonwonderful restaurants and nonwonderful flights overseas?
So, doing things with other people makes a difference for happiness, and our research suggests that doing things for other people can provide an additional boost.That’s obvious and not about how you spend your money. Dropping dollars on restaurant meals and travel won’t necessarily get you better social connections.
In experiments we’ve conducted around the world, including in Canada, the United States, Uganda and South Africa, we find that people are happier if they spend money on others. And we’ve found that spending even just a few dollars on someone else provides more happiness than using the cash to treat yourself.This is why we love to pay taxes, no?
We hear a lot, these days, about how President Obama is not like Lyndon Johnson and thanks be to heaven for that small mercy. The point seems to be that the president doesn’t know how to arm twist, sweet talk, bribe, and emasculate both friend and enemy (of which he truly had neither) in order to further his agenda. Since many among the chattering class believe, still, in that agenda, his is generally regarded as an excellent presidency. Never mind that more than half a century after Johnson declared war on poverty … poverty is still winning.