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Technical Difficulties and the The Rest of the Damned Modern World

No new essay was published at the Central Standard Times yesterday, the first time we’ve ever failed to provide readers with our freshest working week day outrage in the past seven-and-a-half years we’ve been doing this, and we apologize for that. It’s not that the spirit was unwilling nor that the flesh was any weaker than usual, but rather a problem with this damned computer gizmo we write and publish on.
The intermittent problems with these damned computer gizmos are just one of the many things we find infuriating about this modern age of technological miracles. We also hate the way those “smart phone” thingamajigs seem to so mesmerize people that even the young lovers sitting across from one another in the booths of the dives we frequent are staring at their machines rather than one another, and we even resent our suddenly old-fashioned flip phone and miss the good old days when our bulky and murder-weapon solid phone was tethered to the wall instead of us being tethered to the gadget in our pocket. Don’t get us started about those computerized drum machines the modern music recordings use instead of Gene Krupa or Baby Dodds or some other more brilliant and real live drummers, or all the computer generated images that modern movie makers use instead of plot and characters and dialogue and making some point.
Worse yet is the way you can’t live without it. Due to our stubborn and cheapskate resistance to “smart phones” we can’t summon an Uber or Lyft driver in case of some emergency, and would be hard-pressed to find the phone number for a taxi, and we can’t rent one of those bicycles that are suddenly all over our the prettier parts of our town, nor participate in any of the local radio stations’ promotional contests. We’d get along just fine without those drum machines and computer generated images in the comic book movies that dominate our currently sorry popular culture, and still enjoy our freedom from those “smart phones,” and otherwise enjoy our proudly Luddite existence, but we have to admit that the 24 hours we endured without internet access left us feeling like our heroin junkie friends who were occasionally forced to go cold turkey.
It’s bad enough that we couldn’t vent our spleens to the world wide web about the latest outrageous thing that President Donald Trump said or did or “tweeted,” but without access to the internet we didn’t even know what it was. Our television hasn’t worked in years, and we’d lost interest in the once-amazing gizmo long before that, and the local AM radio stations are disinclined to say anything negative about Trump. There was yet another threatening storm cloud to the west, and we were unable to track it on the radar at the essential wunderground.com website. These days the local newspaper is printed up in Kansas City and trucked down the interstate, and is therefore always a day late with the baseball scores, so we had no idea where the New York Yankees stood in the American League’s eastern division, which is also a matter of personal importance.
For the first third or so of our surprisingly long lives there was no such thing as an internet, and we can’t recall ever missing it in those halcyon days. The then locally written and printed morning afternoon papers kept us updated on President Richard Nixon’s latest craziness and the Yankees scores, the local television and radio meteorologists told us when to take to the basement during a storm, the radio stations were pumping out groovy soul music and rock ‘n’ roll with real live drummers, the local bijoux had movies full of plot and characters and dialogue with some pretty good points to make, and we rather liked it, even if the Yankees didn’t always win.
As you can see we worked out our internet problems, for now at least, and that’s mostly attributable to our aging Dad. He grew up in an Oklahoma oil patch during the Great Depression and World War II in the early years of rural electrification, but he got an electrical engineering degree from the University of Oklahoma and started working on computers when they were room-sized Rube Goldberg machines back at the beginning of his illustrious avionics career, and to this day he’s more up-to-date on the modern world of miracles than we’ll ever be. He had no more idea how to solve our problem than we did, but he did know the right phone number to call, which was hand-written in his old-fashioned notebook, and with help from a very friendly and knowledgable and young-sounding woman in some far-away location and a few mouse clicks we were once again back in the blessed bosom of the internet.
The moral of the story, we suppose, is that the modern world provides pretty much the same frustrations and satisfactions of our much-missed old world, when those then-newfangled automobiles used to die on the side of the road the way the horse-and-buggies usually didn’t. We surely hope so, as come Monday we’ll probably have something nasty to say about whatever our president said or did or “tweeted” over the weekend, and will be eager to publish it to a world wide web.

— Bud Norman

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The Brave New Wi Fi World

Most of Tuesday was spent on a trek into deepest Oklahoma, where we had a long overdue reunion with some beloved kinfolk, and when we returned the top story on The Drudge Report was about a big drop in the stock price of the Apple computer company. This seemed odd, as the entire’s day journey had suggested that all the big computer companies and the Apple one in particular should be booming.
We were accompanied on our trek by our pa, ma, and older brother, all of whom are, like most people of our acquaintance, by now utterly dependent on electronic gizmos. The folk’s fancy car would offer step-by-step instructions in a soothingly artificial yet unmistakably female voice along every mile, with a video display on the dashboard showing a cartographical rendering of our progress, which mostly was a straight line of Interstate-35 inching along across an occasional bridge or traffic loop, complete with the miles left and other information that could have easily been obtained by the mile markers and a lifelong familiarity with the same straight stretch of Interstate-35, and then it provided the instructions for the turn at the Frontier City amusement park and the two other turns that led us to our destination, information that was once written down during a telephone conversation with the visited kinfolk, yet the soothing voice and the animated map are now somehow essential. Along the way several telephone conversations were conducted, reminding of us a simpler era when one of the the subtle joys of that straight stretch of Interstate 35 was the lack of telephone conversation, and we noted at all three of these telecommunication thingamajigs had that familiar bitten apple symbol on them, and that much of the none telephonic conversation was about the various “apps” and other magical powers of these mystical devices, which apparently can no do everything from monitoring one’s sleep patterns to letting nosy friends know where one is at any moment of the day, and although we always know when we haven’t had a good night’s sleep and would actually prefer an occasional moment of privacy apparently these services are now also essential.
The highway was also dotted with some remaining old-fashion non-electronic billboards that advertised the benefits of the roadside lodging, and of course all but the seediest of them promised “wi fi.” This got us to wondering where that now-ubiquitous neologism came from, as we assumed that “wi” stands for “wireless” and the “fi” stands for fidelity, as high-fidelity sound equipment, or what the oldsters still remember as “hi fi,” but we couldn’t figure out what the “fi” in “wi fi” was being faithful to, so pa asked the question of his magical device with the half-bitten apple on it, and in a soothing voice he was asked to repeat, as even the most miraculous technologies can be stymied by an Oklahoma accent, and the machine explained that the name was just something the inventors came up with. We had long noticed that these machines now routinely settle all sorts of arguments, usually more definitively, about everything from baseball statistics to the reliability of some crooked politician according some crooked “fact-checking” department at some crooked newspaper, and we expect it will soon deliver the meaning of life.
In the meantime, it’s making life a lot harder from dramatists and screenwriters and anyone else who hopes to cook up a rip-roaring story. The beginning of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” begins with the boozy wife quoting some line of Bette Davis dialogue and demanding that her boozy husband remember what movie it came from, and she’s annoyed when he says he doesn’t know, and it sets off all the ensuing boozy rancor between these very unhappily married boozers, but today he’d just get out his machine and ask the question and it would quickly be answered in a soothing voice and suddenly you’ve lost even the play’s vague semblance of a plot. A friend of ours once wrote a popular novel that was made into a movement, and he tells us that when they re-set his story from the early ’70s to the modern day they were obliged to write in a scene where the protagonist’s cell phone is disabled, and since the novel and movie were both titled “The Ice Harvest” and took place during an ice storm it was just a simple matter of having him slip on the ice, but without that touch the plot would have dissolved somewhere along the numerous plot points where he could have made a simple call or sent a text message and been easily rescued from situations that took more ingenuity back in the ’70s.
With life so thoroughly transformed by these whatchamacallits, there’s no obvious reason for a slide in their stocks. There are always the ever-greater expectations that won’t be met in the occasional quarter, and there’s something in the story Drudge linked about unexpected competition in China, which apparently is becoming as dependent on the things as Americans, which we hope won’t facilitate another Cultural Revolution if China’s own slumping stock market requires a return to Maoist totalitarianism, but our view so far away from Wall Street is that the companies are going to continue to grow and get rich and that a few more in places such as China will as well. If the stock continues to slide, people will be making the trades on the palms of their hands and wouldn’t know how to do otherwise, and the machines can starting acting that “Hal” computer who took over the ship in “2001: A Space Odyssey” and starting saying, in a very soothing voice, “I’m sorry, Dave, I can’t let you do that.”

— Bud Norman

The Brave New World and The Same Old War

The Pentagon’s Twitter account was hacked by Islamist terrorists on Monday, and everything about that seems strange.
There’s the disconcerting fact that the United States’ military “tweets,” for one thing, and the even more unsettling realization that an Islamic State terror gang best known for hacking heads off hostages is now able to hack the Pentagon’s computers. That the breach occurred while the President of the United States was giving a speech about “cyber-security” to the Federal Communications Commission adds another implausible twist to the plot. The very term “cyber-security” sounds strange to our old-fashioned and low-tech ears, and the missives that the Islamic State was able to post on the Pentagon’s “tweets” include such worrisome neologisms as “CyberCaliphate” and “CyberJihad.” The statements include threats on American military personnel and their families, too, and much gloating about the Islamic State’s cyber victory over the infidel American government.
It’s nothing to worry about, we are assured by the highest sources. Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren dismissed the incident as “little more than a prank, or as vandalism,” adding that “It’s inconvenient, it’s an annoyance, but in no way is any sensitive or classified information compromised.” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said it was “something we take seriously,” but added that “There’s a pretty significant difference between what is a large data breach and the hacking of a Twitter account.” An unidentified intelligence officer told the press that “Hacking a Twitter is about the equivalent of spray-painting a subway car.” None of this, unfortunately, is sufficiently reassuring.
The hackers also posted the names and addresses of high-ranking military officers, at least for long enough to communicate the information to any terror networks affiliated with the Islamic State, and that’s data that the officers and their families will surely consider sensitive. We assume that Twitter serves some important function in the national defense, as well, and even a temporary loss of that capability should be regarded as more than an inconvenience. In light of the recent breach of the Sony Corporation’s computers that shut down a Hollywood movie release, as well as the past security breaches caused by a college drop-out security consultant and a transexual Army Sergeant,  there is also reason to worry that the pranksters might have more troublesome abilities. Any urbanites who can recall the lawlessness that followed the spray-painting of subway cars knows that even the most petty acts of vandalism must be thwarted to preserve order.
Even if the incident is as inconsequential as the highest sources say, it’s still an unhappy reminder of the dangers the world still poses. The Islamic State now controls a swath of the Middle East the size of Indiana as well as at least the out portions of the Pentagon computer system, and the president can no longer dismiss them as the “jayvee team” of Islamic terrorism. Al Qaeda was said to be on the run, but it has recently murdered 17 people in Paris to avenge their Prophet and are issuing new threats. “The tide of war is receding,” the president once proudly proclaimed, but even the Pentagon’s Twitter page says it is not.

— Bud Norman

Another Kansas Laughingstock

The catastrophic failure of Obamacare has caused a widespread feeling of schadenfreude among Republicans everywhere, who are all well entitled to one of the most satisfying “I told you so” moments in American history, even as they suffer the expense effects of the law along with everyone else, but the exhilarating sense of vindication is especially sweet for Republicans here in Kansas.
More significant calamities are sure to come, but thus far the most widely acknowledged failing of the new health care boondoggle is the thoroughly botched computer system  and general bureaucratic bumbling that has been unanimously blamed on former Kansas Governor and current Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Her ineptitude in implementing the ambitious reform of one-sixth of the economy has been so stark that even such reliably supportive satirists as The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart and the wags of Saturday Night Live have been piling on with their ridicule, and no less a purveyor of conventional wisdom than The Hill has dubbed her “the laughingstock of America.” Kansans are by now well-accustomed to having one of their own be the laughingstock of America, sometimes for valid reasons and sometimes for reasons having more to do with the rest of the country’s absurd prejudices, but it is a rare pleasure to have the Kansan in question be a Democrat. When the Democrat in question is Kathleen Sebelius, it’s all the better.
Kansas is a mostly Republican state, after all, and from Alf Landon to Dwight Eisenhower to Bob Dole most of its native sons and daughters who have achieved sufficient prominence to be a national laughingstock have been Republicans. Having the laughs directed to one of our Democratic minority is a refreshing change of pace, and all the more so when it one of the party’s locally beloved figures. If you’re not a true-blue Kansan or a true-blue Republican, and it’s not quite possible to be one without being the other, it’s hard to explain how very mellifluous is the laughter being hurled at Kathleen Sebelius.
It’s hard to explain, for that matter, how Sebelius ever became governor of this state. To begin with you must understand that also Kansans have very rarely sent Democrats to Washington they have a stubbornly contrarian way about them that doesn’t mind sending one of the danged fools to Topeka every now and then. Anti-tax and pro-life Democrats in particular have a history of winning occasional gubernatorial elections in the state, which has the undeniable benefit of keeping the state’s politics competitive enough to limit the complacency and corruption that characterize one-party jurisdictions, and once or twice in the average Kansan’s lifespan there might be even be a Democratic majority in the state’s House of Representatives for a single term. One also must understand the schisms within the state’s Republican party to understand how the likes of Sebelius ever won the governorship.
Prior to Sebelius the state had been guided for two four-year terms by the blissfully unobtrusive hand of Gov. Bill Graves, a successful trucking magnate who was handsome in a distinguished and silver-tinged sort of way and preached free enterprise, kept the occasional crony-capitalism eco-devo deal coursing the legislature, and pursued a more-or-less limited-government agenda that also limited the government’s intervention in such matters as abortion. Kansas survived such governance in pretty good shape, as far as most Kansas were concerned, but a more fervent portion of Graves’ party found it too weak a Republican brew and its fervor managed to win the nomination for a more full-throated champion of traditional social values and free enterprise. The nominee was easily caricatured as a Bible-thumping zealot by Kansas’ liberal-as-anywhere-else media, the reform rhetoric spooked the state’s well-connected Republican establishment, and the Democrats shrewdly nominated Sebelius as the more moderate and reasonable alternative. She was handsome in a distinguished and silver-tinged sort of way, and although a relative newcomer to the state she was the daughter of governor in her native land of Ohio, so there was an aura of competence about her. After decades of Republican occupation of the Insurance Commissioner’s office had led to the inevitable complacency and corruption of one-partly rule Sebelius had won the post, and acted with an anti-corporate bias that was widely perceived as populism, so she also had a plausible record of public service to run on. Throw in a professionally-run campaign financed largely by out-of-state contributions and the usual corporate suspects, along with the unease many of the moderate sorts of Republicans felt about the fire-breathing challenger, and Sebelius was elected by less than a landslide but more than a squeaker.
The first four years of Sebelius’ governorship were barely noticeable, which can be attributed her politically-savvy instincts and the seemingly good health of the national economy, but after that led to her re-election she seemed to be auditioning for a role in the national party. Kansas was suddenly surprised to learn that it had re-elected a rather doctrinaire Democrat as governor, and in addition to a number of liberal initiatives Kansas further enraged the state’s Republican sensibilities by using the tragedy of a tornado that virtually wiped out the tiny town of Greensburg to criticize the Iraq war. Her claim that the town had been denied necessary state assistance because of the war’s use of state National Guard equipment was baseless, and enraged even formerly supportive Republicans, but it endeared her enough to the national party to win a plum cabinet appointment during her second mid-term after the president’s first pick for Secretary of Health and Human Services fell victim to a tax-evasion scandal.
The ostensible promotion was widely expected by the state’s Democrats to be a boon to both her and the party at large, but thus far it doesn’t seem to have worked out that way. She was replaced by her Lieutenant Governor Mark Parkinson, a former state Republican chairman who had left the party as a result of his estrangement with the social conservatives and his ambition to be governor, but after two years of tax hikes and nanny state initiatives he bowed out of pubic life. For the sake of full disclosure we divulge that Parkinson is a friend of ours since high school, and that we once spent a summer painting apartment buildings together and we are also quite fond of his parents and eccentric B-movie-producing brother, but we also came to admire his smarts and they were very much in evidence when he declined to run against former Sen. Sam Brownback, also an old friend of ours and a fire-breathing social conservative and staunch opponent of Obamacare, who would have easily trounced any Democratic rival after eight years of a Sebelius-Parkinson reign.
Meanwhile, back in the rarefied air of Washington and the national scene, Sebelius is now an officially-designated laughingstock. The apparent failure of the Obamacare program that she had been chosen to implement will prove a textbook example of the failure of the “smart government” she had claimed to represent, and the big government philosophy she had so long denied, and the very antithesis of that represented by Gov. Sam Brownback seems likely to win re-election handily. As bad as the damage from Obamacare will be, a Kansas Republican can’t help feeling that some good might come of it.

— Bud Norman

Those Darned Computers

These newfangled “computer” thingamajigs are the most mysterious of all machines. Despite our stubborn Luddite tendencies we have figured out how to turn the contraption on, play chess on it, “surf the ‘net” for news and nudity, and even post these daily rants with properly indented paragraphs, but we have no idea how the darned things work. Our more technologically-savvy friends assure us that it has something to do with binary codes and silicon conductors and assorted other gobbledygook, but we cannot shake a suspicion that black magic is involved.
It is good to know, then, that the putatively brilliant boys and girls of the federal government are every bit as baffled by computers. Even our limited abilities in operating computers are sufficient to have brought us a slew of recent stories on the internet that document the government’s inability to run their multi-billion dollar super-computers.
The most prominently featured stories have been about the “glitches,” “bugs,” and other bad things that have bedeviled the computer system intended to enroll a grateful public in Obamacare-approved health insurance policies. No less an Obamacare enthusiast than The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein has declared the system “really bad,” and other reliably administration-friendly media mavens at the MSNBC staff have been forced to offer even harsher reviews. Things have gotten so bad that even Jon Stewart, the snarky “Daily Host” who usually reserves his wittiest mugging for Republicans, was obliged to skewer a blindsided Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius about the fiasco in a recent program. A friend who occasionally ventures on to Facebook tells us that the Obamacare page is full of comments from presumed “friends” unanimously griping about the frustrations of trying to navigate the web site.
Those who are paid to do so directly by the administration are still arguing that it’s all a matter of too much traffic and therefore proof of Obamacare’s overwhelming popularity, but more objective observers have offered two plausible explanations for the problems. The admirably geekish writers at the Infoworld.com web site blame it on cronyism, citing a number of computer experiences who contend that the companies awarded the contract to devise the site are better known for their political connections than their technical expertise, which strikes us as entirely believable. The writers at the usually-reliable Forbes Magazine theorize that the program was deliberately sabotaged by its all-too-shrewd designers, lest the folks trying to log onto the system discover that their health care costs under Obamacare will be far greater than they had been led to believe, and this also seems well within the realm of possibility. Some sorry combination of both explanations could also be true, given how often the government is both inept and nefarious.
Ineptitude seems the more likely explanation for the second slew of stories about governmental computer problems we’ve recently noticed, which involve the government’s Electronic Benefits Transfer program. Also known as “EBT cards” to those in the know about such things, or “Food Stamps” to those of us still stuck in pre-computer era of the welfare state, the program maintains computerized accounts for its ever-expanding number of beneficiaries which have lately gone awry. On Saturday the program shut down across the nation, leaving countless of would-be shoppers stranded at the check-out lanes of their local grocers without means of payment, and later that night at least two Walmart discount stores in Louisiana went back on line to find that there was no limit on the EBT purchases. The latter foul-up set off a social-media-fueled shopping frenzy at the stores, as even the most Walmart-shopping EBT-dependent people now have computers or fancy cell phones, with hundreds of shoppers filling carts to the brim in hopes of getting out of the store before the computer error could be rectified.
None of these stories inspire faith in the government’s ability to run these ambitious social programs, nor the programs themselves, but we find that slightly reassuring. Having grown up in the era of the dystopian futurist movie craze we well remember a nightmare-inducing thriller titled “Colossus: The Forbin Project,” about a government super-computer that threatened to impose totalitarian control over the entire world, as well as any number of other sci-fi yarns set in the far-off 21st Century about computers conquering mankind, and it is good to see that such scenarios remain far-fetched. Thus far these computer thingamajigs seem to do more to subvert totalitarianism than to advance it, and we’re certainly trying to do our part here, and it would seem that the putatively brilliant boys and girls of the federal government aren’t the equals of their counterparts in the private sector.

— Bud Norman

How to Fix Obamacare

This Obamacare business doesn’t seem to be going well, at least thus far. Things have gotten so bad that the politicians and bureaucrats who cooked it up have lately been forced to concede a few glitches in the system, even as they struggle mightily to assure the public that it will all turn out well in the end, and it makes for a pitiful sight. We feel so badly for these well-intentioned public servants that we feel obliged to offer advice on how to fix what is ailing their beloved law.
The most publicized problem that has afflicted the law in its early stages of implementation concerns the computer program that is supposed to allow a grateful citizenry to sign up for government-sanctioned health insurance. Alas, the program has proved so vexing that only a relative handful of would-be users have been able to complete a transaction. Such an ardent defender of the program as Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was forced to admit that the web site “started a little rockier than we’d like” while on The Daily Show, an ostensible comedy program where the formerly friendly host spent the rest of the segment ridiculing her as if she were some sort of Republican, and it broke our hearts to see a fellow Kansan treated so shabbily by a baggy-pants comic. Sebelius is a Democrat, and therefore not fully Kansan, but we still feel enough of a kinship to suggest that she award the Obamacare web site contract to whoever it is that created the “Farmville” game for the Facebook folks.
So far as we can tell “Farmville” is an utterly pointless game that never allows anyone to win anything, and seems to involve endless begging of friends for unearned assistance, but people seem to like it and it apparently works according to design. The peculiar sort of genius that devised such a game seems especially well-suited to the challenges of Obamacare, and might even provide some enticement to the youthful and unemployed Obama supporters whose generous donations to the cause will be required to make the scheme work.
Another problem with Obamacare, and one that even the mainstream media have been noticing, is that those lucky few who have managed to slog through the web site’s obstacles are finding that they insurance on offer is far more expensive than they had been led to expect. The president has frequently boasted that as a result of Obamacare the monthly cost of health insurance will be less than a cell phone bill, but even the most talkative and text-happy cell phone users are finding that the insurance policies on offer are far more expensive than their telecommunications. This is one Obamacare promise that can be easily kept, however, simply by increasing people’s cell phone bills by several hundred dollars a month. That can be quickly achieved by a mere few thousand pages or so new of regulations, an afternoon’s work for the best and brightest of the Obama administration, but we would recommend increasing the cell phone taxes by several hundred times. Doing so would not only spare the overworked regulation-writers an afternoon’s labor, it would also raise some revenues that could be used to pay Democrat-affiliated interests to embark a campaign to convince everyone how happy they should be about the new policy. The drastic reduction in cell phone use that would follow might have disastrous economic consequences, but on the other hand it might revive the lost art of conversation.
A few nit-pickers in the business press and other corners of the conservative media have been griping that Obamacare’s mandate that employers provide insurance to full-time employees has resulted in an economy that is only creating part-time jobs, a point the administration has tacitly conceded by waiving the mandate until after the mid-term elections, but this pesky problem can also be easily remedied. Just impose similar economic disincentives on part-time jobs, or any other sort of private sector economic activity, which is so gauche anyway, and employers won’t have any choice but to submit or stop offering work altogether. Either option would suit the purposes of the administration, which is always pleased to be offered submission and just as eager to sign up voters at the unemployment line.
There are other problems with Obamacare, of course, but we are not yet so sympathetic to our Democratic friends that we are willing to solve them all. They’ll just have to figure those things out own their own, otherwise they’ll never grow.

— Bud Norman

A Bigger Bite of the Apple

These words are being written on an Apple computer, and there is a good chance that you are reading them on one. We are grateful to the folks at the Apple computer company for this valuable contribution to modern literature, whatever faults they might have, and therefore wish them well in their current spat with the United States government.
The United States government has so many spats brewing at the moment that you might have missed it, but a Senate subcommittee spent much of Tuesday grilling Apple chief executive officer Tim Cook about his company’s shockingly unpatriotic tax dodging. By all accounts the company has paid every penny of taxes that the law demands, which adds up to such an astounding amount of money that Apple might be the world’s biggest contributor to the national treasury, but some Senators are nonetheless shocked that Apple isn’t voluntarily paying many billions of dollars more out of pure love for country.
Apple freely admits that it has availed itself of a number of complicated laws to shelter much of its considerable foreign earnings from America’s corporate income tax, and the Senators think it is unfair for the company to do so. Sen. Carl Levin, a Democrat from Michigan, said the company was using “gimmicks” to avoid paying taxes, and Sen. John McCain, a Republican from Arizona, said the company was exploiting “egregious loopholes that exist in the tax code.” All of the gimmicks and egregious loopholes the Senators refer to are laws passed by the Senate, of course, but apparently it is unsporting for a company to take advantage of such generosity. One way to get more money out of Apple would be to lower the nation’s corporate income tax rate, which is by far the highest in the world, and otherwise amend the tax code to make it economically feasible for companies such as Apple to increase its businesses while paying a reasonable but helpful portion of their profits to America rather than the less-greedy foreigners who offer shelter, but the Senators seem to prefer slicing the goose wide open and grabbing all the golden eggs at once.
The only Senator to side with Apple during the hearings was Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, whose opening and closing speeches were so brilliant that even we cannot improve them. Although we fret that Paul might have the same kooky isolationist streak as his father, libertarian hero Rep. Ron Paul, his performance at the hearing provided yet another reason to regard him as a rising political star. Among other fine arguments he noted that none of his fellow Senators ever pay more than they are legally required, and that it is rank hypocrisy for them to expect others to cough up more than the law demands. We would have seized the opportunity to remind the public how Bill and Hillary Clinton were so scrupulous as to deduct the value of the used underwear they donated to charity, but this is a mere quibble.
There is some irony in Paul rushing to Apple’s defense, given the company’s long history of donating to Democratic candidates and publicly identifying itself with Democratic causes, but perhaps having a Senate subcommittee treating its executives like Michael Corleone in “Godfather II” will cause the company to reconsider its political policies. Admitting its capitalist tendencies might endanger the Apple’s hip and up-to-date image, which has done almost as much for its success as the innovation, reliability, and value of its products, but it could prove more helpful to its bottom line. Besides, the way things are going for big government lately, capitalism might soon be perceived as hip and up-to-date.

— Bud Norman