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The Morning Grumpy 5/3/12

All the news, views, and filtered excellence that’s fit to consume during your morning grumpy.

 

1. On Tuesday, Alan wrote a blog post about President Obama starting off the general election season on offense, rather than playing defense against Mitt Romney. I replied with the following comment:

Within weeks, the Republicans will put his ass right back on defense. They’ll attack him where he is strongest, it’s the Rove strategy.

The killing of Bin Laden will be discredited and conspiracy theories around it will make John Kerry’s Swift Boat fiasco seem tame.

Well, I appreciate a good opportunity to pat myself on the back. Within 24 hours of the release of that Obama2012 campaign video, the swiftboating of President Obama began.

On Tuesday night, Veterans for a Strong America, a political action group led by Joel Arends, a lawyer and veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, released an ad attacking Obama for exploiting the killing of Osama bin Laden.

I’m still a little unclear, is Obama a socialist terrorist hugger who is always apologizing for America or a football spiking braggart? Anyhow, Hannity, Limbaugh and the rest of the right wing media mafia will continue pounding this home until election day. Next up? How Mitt Romney actually saved General Motors and the American Auto Industry over the objections of the Obama Administration.

2. Keep buying those Apple products!

Apple currently keeps about two-thirds of its $97.6 billion in profits abroad.

While some of Apple’s monumental success is due to the undeniable popularity of its products, the Times reports that Apple “has devised corporate strategies that take advantage of gaps in the tax code.” This has ultimately saved the company (and thus cost the public) as much as $2.4 billion a year, according to a recent study by a former Treasury Department economist.

Apple fights for favorable tax policies in the United States with a formidable army of lobbyists. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Apple spent $2.3 million on lobbying last year and its lobbying expenditures have been steadily increasing over the past decade – in 2000, it only spent $360,000 on lobbying.

What a great American company.

3. 40 years of workers being left behind. AKA, the reason behind the Occupy movement.

From the article:

Particularly striking is the fact that for years leading up to the 1970s, productivity gains were broadly shared, as theory predicts. Then the linkage abruptly broke. What explains the shift?

Yeah, what could it have been?

“The continuing growth of the wage gap between high and middle earners is the result of various laissez-faire policies (acts of omission as well as commission) including globalization, deregulation, privatization, eroded unionization, and weakened labor standards,” he writes. “The gap between the very highest earners — the top 1 percent — and all other earners, including other high earners, reflects the escalation of CEO and other managers’ compensation and the growth of compensation in the financial sector.”

The article and the study it references note that this isn’t a global problem. It’s an American problem.

4. Here’s an article which eloquently supports a point I’ve been trying to make for at least a year. Why Facebook won’t matter in five years.

Facebook is the triumphant winner of social companies.  It will go public in a few weeks and probably hit $140 billion in market capitalization.  Yet, it loses money in mobile and has rather simple iPhone and iPad versions of its desktop experience.  It is just trying to figure out how to make money on the web – as it only had $3.7 billion in revenues in 2011 and its revenues actually decelerated in Q1 of this year relative to Q4 of last year.  It has no idea how it will make money in mobile.

Facebook was never meant to be a mobile company and they don’t have the core competencies required to become a mobile company. Now, they are about to become a public company, which means they will slowly curtail innovation and focus on shareholder return and risk mitigation. They will innovate, like most large public technology companies, through acquisitions. Even then, the street will judge those acquisitions on the short term and turn bearish on the stock if it becomes too reliant upon the strategy, which is why Mark Zuckerberg raced to acquire Instagram prior to Facebook’s IPO.

Will someone build a better social network? Probably not, but someone will invent a mobile or augmented reality technology that makes traditional social networks obsolete.

5. How would America be different if rational, realist adults were in charge, rather than emotional reactionaries?

#7. A normal relationship with Israel. Realists have long been skeptical of the “special relationship” with Israel, and they would have worked to transform it into a normal relationship. The United States would have remained committed to helping Israel were its survival ever threatened, but instead of acting like “Israel’s lawyer,” Washington would have used its leverage to prevent Israel from endlessly expanding settlements in the Occupied Territories. An even-handed U.S. approach would have taken swift advantage of the opportunity created by the 1993 Oslo Accords, and might well have achieved the elusive two-state solution that U.S. presidents have long sought. At a minimum, realists could hardly have done worse than the various “un-realists” who’ve mismanaged this relationship for the past 20 years.

Someday, we might return to a rational foreign policy, but not right now it seems.

 

Fact Of The Day: Homosexual behavior is found in at least 1,500 species of mammal, fish, reptile, bird, and even invertebrate. I hope those fish know that Rick Santorum believes they’re going to hell.

Quote Of The Day: “Death gives meaning to our lives. It gives importance and value to time. Time would become meaningless if there were too much of it.” – Ray Kurzweil

Video Of The Day: A Real Life Robinson Crusoe

Laugh Of The Day: “Grapes vs. Grapefruit” – Gary Gulman

Song Of The Day: “The Way I Walk” – The Cramps

Follow me on Twitter for the “incremental grumpy” @ChrisSmithAV

Email me links, tips, story ideas: chris@artvoice.com


  • Max Planck

    Chris – to add to your #1 and yet another ‘pat on the back.’ The GOP has trotted out none other than Donald Rumsfeld from the cob-webbed confines of the Hoover Institution to  argue that Obama’s call to take out Bin Laden was not a tough one;  
    http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0512/75826.html

    This claim from one who bungled and obfuscated opportunities to nail  Bin Laden and whose Iraq strategy is generally credited as a debacle.

    They must think we’re either not paying attention or stupid.

    • Alan Bedenko

      My point was that Obama wasn’t playing perpetual defense, which is still true. I didn’t say they wouldn’t try to attack him as they did Kerry or anyone else, but that he’s been through that and worse, but still prevailed and didn’t let the wingnuts dictate the narrative. Obama is quite adept at that, unlike many other Democrats.

  • BufChester

    Two points on #3. 

    1. I think you could argue that the graph also represents many of the reasons for the Tea Party movement as well as OWC.

    2. It would be very interesting to see that same graph with a line added for CEO/Management wages. 

    • 1. I suppose that’s true. However, people in the Tea Party movement don’t assign blame to corporations or wealthy people, they blame the government for not allowing wealthy people to shit on them more.

  • To be clear, the point of #1 was not to refute what Alan wrote. It was simply an opportunity for me to be a self-congratulatory jerk, which I take at every opportunity.

  • You’ll criticize Apple for keeping about $64B in profits overseas, but your employer, Oracle, has about $20B stashed overseas for the exact same reason Apple does it. 

    Oracle has been right up front with Apple and Microsoft in lobbying for a repatriation tax holiday to get that money back into the country without paying the 35% tax. 

    If you’re going to rightly criticize Apple for how they do business, your employer deserves just as much scrutiny. 

    • Dan Conley

      I think we can make a blanket statement that most corporations are scumbags, can’t we? The point wasn’t that Apple is necessarily so much worse than others, but it’s so much more beloved: I’ve never waited six hours in line for the newest server rack.

      • I absolutely think we can, and we should. 

        Apple is the biggest, and certainly easier to point at and criticize, but they’re certainly not the biggest spending on lobbying.  From a percentage of revenue standpoint, Microsoft and Oracle spend way more on lobbying for favorable tax policies than Apple does. 

        I think if you’re going to point at Apple for how they do this, other corporations  deserve just as much criticism. 

      •  I didn’t mention my company because I very deliberately keep this work at Artvoice separate from my professional work, worlds colliding and all.

        The point, as Dan Conley notes, is that Apple is a beloved American institution making the most popular consumer product in history while maintaining a “hip and cool” aura about themselves. Problem is, they’re a bullying, closed source, anti-competitive company who seeks to deny the government their tax revenues and refuses to invest in the American workforce. And the point is to educate people on the consumer choices they’re making.

      • You could make the same claim about dozens of companies that do the same thing.  You could make the same bullying, closed source arguments against Microsoft, your employer, or dozens of other technology firms that started in Silicon Valley, yet have moved large chunks of their operations overseas strictly to game the tax system. 

        15 years ago, while Apple was finally starting to crawl off their deathbed, Microsoft was the top tech dog, and they were just as guilty of shifting profits overseas then as Apple is now. However, there was no outcry then to chastise anyone who bought a Microsoft product as being someone who supported a ‘bad company’. 

        There are hundreds of corporations that shift profits overseas. Apple shouldn’t really be faulted just because they happen to have the most profits TO shift overseas.

        I feel like it muddles the point that the tax system needs to be overhauled to close the loopholes that allow the behavior to happen. 

    • I edited your comments to remove the name of my employer, I’d prefer for that to remain private, or at least separate from my writing here. I apologize in advance if that upsets you.

      • No offense taken at all. I presumed it was common public knowledge, only reason I mentioned it in the manner I did. 

  • On #1, I don’t President Obama’s issue is being Swiftboated (per se), so much as he is trying to conjure an image that does not meet the basic trends of reality. GWB had a reputation as less than articulate for a reason – if he had ads of what an eloquent speaker he was, it wouldn’t pass a basic test. President Obama is a generally intellectual, anti-war, anti-intervention sort of guy. He made a good decision to order the SEAL raid. Chest-puffing and swagger and claims that he killed OBL don’t fit; I know its from Slate, but you get the idea: http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2012/05/barack_obama_s_decision_to_go_after_osama_bin_laden_how_the_president_overruled_his_advisers_in_ordering_the_assassination.html Obama got elected because was against Iraq from the begining, not against it before he was for it. That’s fine – he should keep it. The Mission Accomplished schtick is bad politics, and simply cover because we aren’t leaving another unpopular war (Afghanistan) any time soon. He should fry other fish.

    • EricSaldanha

      “And if we have Osama bin Laden in our sights and the Pakistani government is unable or unwilling to take them out, then I think that we have to act and we will take them out. We will kill bin Laden; we will crush Al Qaeda. That has to be our biggest national security priority.”

      – then candidate Barack Obama, 10/7/08

      During the 2008 campaign, Obama was anything but anti-war or anti-intervention regarding Afghanistan/Pakistan and the search for bin Laden. He said he’d find the guy and he did. The GOP is doing him an immense favor by reminding the populace which President finished the job and which party didn’t.