Ringside Seat: App That

In the wake of a report from a Senate subcommittee showing that Apple avoids billions of dollars in taxes by routing a huge portion of its income through an Ireland-based subsidiary that has neither employees nor offices in Ireland, Apple CEO Tim Cook went before the Senate today to explain just why Apple does so well on April 15. The senators barely laid a glove on him. A number of them did, however, explain how much they love Apple's products, and one made a request for some tech support. "What I really wanted to ask is why the hell I have to keep updating the apps on my iPhone all the time?" asked John McCain. Though Cook had no trouble parrying the few tough questions that came his way, Rand Paul, in high dudgeon, rose to Apple's defense. "I'm offended by a $4 trillion government bullying, berating, and badgering one of America's greatest success stories," Paul huffed. "What we really need to do is to apologize to Apple."

In fairness, Apple is far from the worst tax-avoider in corporate America. It's not, for instance, General Electric, which between 2008 and 2011 made $19.6 billion in profits, yet somehow managed to get rebates from the American taxpayer totaling $3.7 billion. Apple is a money-making machine, with profit margins over 20 percent (a figure almost any firm in any industry would kill for) and cash reserves in the twelve figures. But more than that, Apple isn't just a profitable company or an iconic company; it has made itself into a marker of identity. No American corporation understands marketing better, and none has had Apple's success in convincing consumers that if you buy its products, you're making a statement about who you are. If you have an iPhone or an iPod or a MacBook, Apple wants you to imagine yourself a young, hip, creative, adventurous, thinking-outside-the-box kind of person. Even if in real life you're few (or none) of those things, we all would like to believe we are.

That's true even of United States senators.

So They Say

"There are empty spaces where there used to be living rooms, and bedrooms, and classrooms, and, in time, we’re going to need to refill those spaces with love and laughter and community. ... But if there is hope to hold on to, not just in Oklahoma but around the country, it’s the knowledge that the good people there and in Oklahoma are better prepared for this type of storm than most. And what they can be certain of is that Americans from every corner of this country will be right there with them, opening our homes, our hearts to those in need. Because we're a nation that stands with our fellow citizens as long as it takes. We've seen that spirit in Joplin, in Tuscaloosa; we saw that spirit in Boston and Breezy Point. And that’s what the people of Oklahoma are going to need from us right now."

President Barack Obama

Daily Meme: Raising Oklahoma

  • Vicious weather is a familiar pain to those in Tornado Alley, who suffer wind storms of great velocity and even greater devastation with a sort of spontaneous predictability. 
  • Even so, the tornado that evaporated Moore, Oklahoma, yesterday feels alien in its scope.
  • "A meteorologist for the local news station KFOR called the tornado 'the worst tornado in the history of the world.' That assessment is quite apt."
  • The nuclear bomb that liquidated Hiroshima was less powerful than the tornado that swept through the Oklahoma City suburbs.
  • Twenty-four deaths have been confirmed. Nine are children.
  • Even the already-buried were disturbed by the tornado: "The century-old Moore Cemetery was a ghostly wreck: women’s clothing and blankets clung to the branches of tilting trees and twisted sheets of metal ripped from nearby buildings or homes were strewn among the graves."
  • How do we pick up the pieces and knit Oklahoma back together again? Amy Davidson notes that "Obama is good at comfort in a disaster" (as evidenced once again in the above "So They Say"). But, she asks, "how good will the Administration be in organizing aid?"
  • The politics of the tornado have already twisted into a ideological mess. Both its Republican senators voted against Hurricane Sandy relief and a 2011 bill to give additional funding to cashstrapped FEMA. Senator James Inhofe says that tornado aid in his state is "totally different" from Hurricane Sandy aid. “Everyone was getting in and exploiting the tragedy that took place. That won’t happen in Oklahoma.”
  • The other Oklahoma senator, Tom Coburn, plans to stick by his guns and offset any disaster spending with budget cuts elsewhere. 
  • Sequestration cuts have already taken a toll on our ability to forecast weather disasters accurately. 
  • Regardless of how things play out at the national level, where the only certainty is that action will be fractious and slow, people in Oklahoma have no choice but to contend with the damage now. As 62-year-old computer programmer Patrick Duffy told Bloomberg, “There ain’t nothing left, nothing. This will all have to be scraped away."

What We're Writing

  • "Patty Murray may be the dullest, most unremarkable member of the United States Senate,"  Jamelle Bouie and Patrick Caldwell write in their profile of the chamber's fifth most powerful Democrat. "She's also the most important politician you've never heard of."
  • Liberals are blaming lobbyists for gutting Dodd-Frank reforms, but they should really be angry at Mark Wetjen, explains David Dayen . The Commodity Futures Trading Commission member has sided with Wall Street over and over, and is expected to soon become the commission's chair.

What We're Reading

  • There is a Michelle Bachman romance novel. That is all.
  • A recent poll from Yale shows that 70 percent of Americans think global warming should be a priority for our leaders.
  • Harrison Scott Key chews over the semantics and emotions of gun ownership.
  • We've got a new energy secretary! MIT physicist Ernest Moniz was sworn in today in ... the Energy Department cafeteria.
  • Aaron David Miller explains why presidents are never quite the Jed Bartlets we want them to be.
  • George Packer reports on Silicon Valley's slow slink into the political realm.
  • Obama will meet Chinese president Xi Jinping in California in attempts to simmer down their nations' intense rivalry.

Poll of the Day

In a vote for mayor of Los Angeles that could spell trouble for its energetic union movement, the electorate today will be much whiter and older than the city at large, suggests a University of Southern California/Los Angeles Times poll. While 44 percent of the city's 3.8 million are Latino, only 24 percent are expected to vote, with a similar preponderance in favor of those over 50. Those differences underscore "the longstanding, sharp disparities between the voters who choose the city's leaders and the far larger population they represent," writes The Los Angeles Times.