Apple CEO Tim Cook will testify before a Senate investigative committee in Washington today. He will be there to respond to accusations that Apple has been exploiting loopholes in the tax code to avoid paying taxes on billions of dollars in profits. He should admit it, out loud, for all the world to hear. And his follow-up statement should be, “So what?”

The reality here is that most, if not all of the big companies, and private individuals (yes you, Mitt Romney) use every loophole they can find to shelter their profits from the taxman. It’s not a secret, it’s just something people don’t like to say out loud because it tends to make folks stir in their seats a little bit.

But Apple is in a unique position. Apple is not “Wall Street.” Apple is not “Big Oil” or “Big Pharma” or “Big Fertilizer Maker,” or any of those other big things that people despise in public but use in private. Apple is an iconic American hero, and everybody loves Apple. Ok, not everybody, just everybody who wants to be cool.

Tim Cook might be the only CEO in the country who could stand before the US Senate and say,

“Yes, it’s true. We exploit loopholes to avoid paying taxes. So does everyone else, and you know it. You’ve known it for decades, and you’ve played along with a wink and a nod, even while hosting an occasional hearing like the one we’re sitting in today so you can posture and grimace and act tough. What we’re doing is legal under the current tax code. Congress writes and maintains the tax laws. If you don’t like what’s happening, then change the laws. But I’m fairly confident that you won’t change the laws, because if you try, then your re-election funds go dry.

There’s a great big pot of money out there, just outside your grasp. That money could be used to do a lot of good things in this country. If you want your piece of it, then grow a backbone, do your jobs, and change the laws. Apple will do it’s part when everyone else has to play by the same rules.”

It is said that, in the days before he died, Steve Jobs’ parting words to Tim Cook were something to the effect of “Just do the right thing.” Mr. Cook, here’s your chance.

Chief Justice John Roberts saves the Affordable Care Act? I really don’t think anybody saw that one coming.  Just when the media, political pundits, and much of America had the Supreme Court pegged as charting conspicuously to the right, Justice Roberts drops a flour bomb on the Fox News fanbase and provides a legal foothold for desperately needed reforms in our medical care and delivery ecosystem. Now, can we take full advantage of this historic opportunity?

The rational thing to do at this point would be for our leaders on both sides of the aisle to accept the ruling and move forward in a constructive manner to implement the law, and expand it in ways that make sense, to provide the greatest long-term benefit for the American people. I like to believe that there are some truly brilliant minds in Washington, and that collectively we are capable of crafting some comprehensive solutions. Unfortunately, there’s not a chance in hell that’s going to happen.

The GOP has already served notice that they will continue to do everything they can to undermine, underfund, and ultimately repeal the Affordable Care Act – not because it’s fundamentally a bad approach, only because it’s Obama’s approach.  It’s irrelevant whether the law is good or bad. Republican leadership has been startlingly transparent in the fact that their primary goal - whatever it takes - is to obstruct the Obama administration at every turn and then point fingers back at him for not accomplishing anything in his first term.  If it comes from Obama, or has the potential to put a star in the Democratic column, it must be defeated, period.

The Republicans are loathe to admit that many of the defining features of the law, including the insurance mandate, were originally conceived or strongly supported by Republicans. The insurance mandate in particular is merely an extension of a fundamentally Republican ideal – to lower taxes for all by broadening the base of those who pay into the system. For them to fight so vehemently against these kinds of reforms, it is truly just politics for the sake of politics, an ugly pastime where nobody wins and everybody loses. Legitimate opportunites are being squandered for momentary partisan gain, and the costs are compounding.

The oppose-everything strategy adopted by the GOP leadership is more than counterproductive, it is patently harmful to our sustainability and prosperity as a nation. If Republicans were to put half as much effort into working with Obama as they do working against him, I have no doubt that great things could be achieved, to the benefit of everyone. Yeah, not gonna happen.

(On a side note, I had a hunch the Supreme Court ruling would come down in support of the health care law. Given the ferocity and political overtones of Justice Scalia’s rant the other day over Obama’s immigration policy, it occurred to me that part of his anger and disgust could be rooted in another case – the Affordable Care Act. He had to have known at that time what the majority decision would be, and feeling betrayed by Roberts, he was lashing out.)

April 21st, wow. It’s been a while since I’ve posted here, and somehow the world (or at least my world) feels very different. So much has happened, it’s hard to know where to start, what to share, and what to say about it. Some good, some not-so-good, some happy, some not. In all, it’s been one of life’s perfect storms. To say that I’ve been overwhelmed of late would be an epic understatement.

One of the fun things about authoring a blog is that I get to monitor my “stats.” I get to see how many people have dropped in each day, which posts were viewed most, whether any of the links were clicked, etc. I can also see whether they found me through an internet search. Who knew that tetherball was such a hot topic?! It’s all anonymous – I have no idea who my visitors are unless you choose to post a comment, so you don’t ever have to worry about your privacy when hanging out here. So anyway, one thing I can see is that even though I have not posted in a long time (a month is a really long time in the blogosphere), and even without the prodding via Facebook, I still get some folks checking in each day.

Thank you. It means a lot to me.

There’s a lot that I’d like to share with you, and I’ll get to it in bits and pieces, starting tonight. Thanks for hanging in there with me.

My son plays tournament soccer. Our team is not what’s typically referred to as a “club” team, where players’ families shell out $4-6K per year in various expenses, and the kids benefit from professional coaching and hardcore training. Our’s is a volunteer-driven subset of AYSO rec-league soccer that wants to play more competitively. We pay our own way to participate in these tournaments, and more often than not, play against club teams.

Suffice it to say that we’ve taken our lumps so far this year. It’s not that we lack the talent. What we lack is just about everything else. It’s been a struggle to get the boys to come together and play as a team, and it’s frustrating to watch. Instructions shouted in from the sidelines by the coach, and sometimes by the parents (not me . . . ever . . . honest!), often lead to a rather pathetic form of confused chaos on the field, which in turn leads to angst, defeat, and a predictable drop in morale. We’ve made such a habit of losing that, even when we’re in a position to win, we find a way to blow it. Clearly, something needs to change. I’ve long thought that the missing elements in our practice regimen were a bullhorn and a whip. There’s been talk lately about holding some “team-building” exercises – you know, the kind you hear about at corporate retreats, but without the expense account. More on that later.

This weekend was another of those big tournaments, with teams traveling in from all over Arizona, Southern California and even Vegas. And our first game went pretty much like all the others. We could have won. We should have won. We didn’t.

On the field again later that afternoon for the second game, something felt different. We were up against the team that was leading the tournament, yet the boys looked unusually composed. They looked coordinated. They were working together. They were effectively moving the ball and controlling the action. It was then that I realized how peaceful it was on the sidelines. I heard cheering. Just cheering. Absent was the constant barrage of “coaching” that used to drown out everything else. And also missing was the deer-in-the-headlights response that usually followed the coach’s shouted instructions. For the first time, the boys were directing their own play on the field, and we grown-ups were smart enough to let things unfold without interfering. It was truly a zen moment.

The boys played to a scoreless tie in that game, which was actually quite an accomplishment. And, best of all, the boys came off the field with their heads held high, knowing that they had played one of their best games together. We agreed to try the new aproach again for the third game, and guess what? Yep, they won. At the moment, I’m not thinking that a “team-builder” event is necessary. I think we just had one. Could it be that the problem had little to do with the kids?

Sometimes the best thing to do when coaching youth sports is to keep our mouths shut and let the kids play.

Sometimes I crack myself up, and this weekend was one of those times. Not because I’d made some witty remark or observation, quite the contrary. On this occasion, I unleashed my inner knucklehead.

For several weeks, my youngest daughter has been asking me if I could build a tetherball pole for her. Nothing fancy, just your typical portable model made from and old tire filled with concrete. We’ve all seen them. You roll it out onto the driveway to play, and roll it away when you’re done. It’s a pretty simple piece of engineering.

Determined not to let this turn into another treehouse episode, I said “Sure, no problem!” and made a mental note to follow through this time. Last week, I was at the tire shop for a rotation and balance, so I asked if I could have one of their throw-away tires for the project. “Of course,” he said. “I’ll bag one up and leave it in the back of your car.” Our project was officially underway.

On the way back from a soccer game Saturday afternoon, my son and I made a detour to Home Depot to pick up the remaining items – a section of pipe for the base, another section of pipe for the pole (removable for storage), some miscellaneous hardware and of course, concrete mix. The tire they gave me was pretty big, but I figured four bags of concrete would be about right.

Back home, we started right in. The first task was to cut a section of plywood to act as a “plug” for the underside of the tire. Once that was in place, we were ready to start mixing the mud. After hand-mixing and pouring all four bags of concrete, there was still room left in the tire, and the embedment of the pipe sleeve was less than I wanted. I needed two more bags of mix. We made a mad dash back to the hardware store, and were able to return before the concrete started to set. Those last two bags made all the difference. With the tire filled to perfection and the sleeve securely in place, there was just one last thing to do. As any kid will tell you, no concrete project is done until the handprints are made. Check.

We left it overnight to cure, and went out to inspect it the next morning. I have to say it was a work of art – a quality project, just like we’d imagined, delivered on time and on budget. I was feeling good, and my daughter was brimming with joy and anticipation. So . . . what’s the problem? Well, the problem is that I failed to do a little simple math: Tire – 15 lbs. Six bags of concrete – 360 lbs. Twelve gallons of water to mix the concrete – 96 lbs. Steel pipe – 10 lbs. Grand total – 481 pounds! I can’t move the damn thing!

Like I said, it’s a piece of art.

Question: What could possibly be guts-ier than piloting a bobsled down a treacherous track at over 90mph while the whole world watches?

Answer: Not doing it.

What happened today at the Olympics will be talked about during NBC’s broadcast of the Games tonight, lamented on sports-talk radio tomorrow, and debated around water coolers for days to come. Dutch bobsled pilot Edwin van Calker has informed his coach and his team that after watching crash after crash, and crashing himself in practice, he does not have the confidence to pilot his team safely down the track, and pulled his team out of the competition.

It must have been a deeply personal and impossibly difficult decision to make, one that will likely define his legacy in the sport and among his countrymen. Many will be disappointed. Many will call him a coward. But standing at the starting gate of a track that has already killed one athlete during these Games, he’s thinking about his kids, and whether he’ll still be there for them five minutes from now. It’s like that opening scene from Top Gun, where the fighter pilot gets rattled in combat, loses his edge, and knows that he must turn in his wings.

He could have made a different choice. He could have followed the example of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, who faced a similar fear, but decided to go for it anyway. It is widely reported that, during a phone call to his father prior to his practice run, Kumaritashvili prophesied that he “would either win or die.” He was right. He never even saw the finish line.

So what are we to make of Mr. van Calker’s decision? Bravery or cowardice? Has he let down his team? His country? Which choice would you make?

Into Pandora? Let’s share.

I’m looking to expand my musical horizons. It seems I’ve become so entrapped in the music of my high school and college years, it’s hard to know where to turn for relief. I’ve mostly given up on local radio, and I’m too cheap to subscribe to a satellite service, so Pandora is my outlet of choice.

If you’ve created some cool stations on Pandora, please send me a link. I listen mostly at work, so I’ll favor stations with enough variety to keep things interesting, and enough energy to keep me awake without offending my neighbors.

Need more clues? Fine . . . no hip-hop/rap/gangsta noise. Country is tolerable in small doses. Acoustic rock and folk tunes are encouraged. Easy on the foul language (must be SFW). Other than that, it’s a big, wide world of music out there. Help me discover some new stuff. Surprise me. Impress me. Inspire me.

Sending a link to your favorite Pandora stations is easy. Simply open that station in Pandora, click on the “options” tab, and email it to me. Here’s the address, abstracted to deter the spammers: mn1architect (at) yahoo (dot) com.

I’m really looking forward to hearing from you. Cheers!

It took less than 24 hours for the Republican Party to capitalize on its new power to filibuster. With Scott Brown now sworn into office as the first Republican Senator from Massachusetts in a generation, breaking the Democratic super-majority, things are heating up fast.

First out of the gate: Richard Shelby, the Republican Senator from Alabama, wants $40 billion, and he’s threatening to bring Washington to a standstill until he gets it.

In a recent post, I predicted that we’ve yet to see the worst in Washington. With today’s news, it appears that not only was I right on the money, but the obstructionist behavior is more immediate, more blatant and more egregious than even I could have imagined. How is this not extortion? How can anyone who cares about our country, regardless of political affiliation, defend this conduct?

Maybe, just maybe, the Republicans have gone too far this time. Maybe the blind followers will wake up and see that the corruption in Washington is too big to ignore. Maybe regular folks from all over the nation will pause and say “You know, that’s not the way we want our government to operate.”

Maybe I’m dreaming, but it’s hard to imagine how bad things could get if we let this continue.

I want to send out a heartfelt, if belated, birthday wish to SkyDivingGranny, aka my mom.

SDG was diagnosed with lung cancer last fall, and things got pretty dicey over the holidays. But since then, she’s had a terrific turnaround, and is back as ornery as ever.

Needless to say, we’re very happy for the opportunity to say once again: Happy Birthday mom, we love you!

This looks like fun!

I gotta love Richard Branson. He’s having more fun with his money than anyone else on the planet. Wish I had the cash to play along.

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