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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.

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.

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?

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!

Typically, I’m not much of an activist. My support for causes that I believe in tends to be quiet and personal – I’ve never been one to shout from the rooftops and tell others how they should think, feel or act. This time around though, I’m stepping out of my box.

We’ve all read countless stories about how the insatiable greed of Wall Street financial institutions has led them to take ridiculous risks with OUR money, and deserve a large share of the blame for the global economic meltdown that continues to impact just about everyone I know. With our economic system on the verge of collapse, in an unprecedented move, the US taxpayers gave hundreds of billions of dollars to these “too-big-to-fail” banks (namely Citibank, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and JP Morgan Chase) in order to prop them up and keep our economy from imploding. These institutions survived only because the US taxpayers stepped in to save them.

One would think they’d be grateful, perhaps a little humble in the aftermath. But no. How do these mega-banks  show their appreciation? By screwing us, in every imaginable way, to restore their profits and feed the Wall Street beast. OUR money is not being used for loans to small business to get the economy rolling again, as intended. OUR money is not being reinvested in communities. OUR money is being hoarded to offset corporate losses and shore up their own balance sheets. OUR money is being used to pay lobbyists in Washington to go to battle against reforms that would protect us from another catastrophe.

These banks have also been very aggressive – more so than ever – in screwing consumers out of billions of dollars through predatory fees and deceptive banking practices. When Congress stepped in to try to put an end to such tactics, the banks used the time period leading up to the new rules’ effective date to pre-emptively raise interest rates and enact even more penal terms on their customers. The greed and arrogance is reprehensible. The biggest banks are now profitable once again, and, blind to the devastation that remains in the wake of their irresponsibility, have decided to reward themselves with billions of dollars in bonus pay.

Pissed yet? You should be. There is a very easy and effective solution. Move your money out of the “too-big-to-fail” banks, and into community-based banks and credit unions. The idea was spawned over the holidays by Arianna Huffington and Rob Johnson of the Huffington Post, which just happens to be the most widely-read blog on the planet (see the link in my blogroll to the left). This post explains the “how and why” and points out how it’s a better deal for consumers as well. Please, if you never click on another link in my blog again, click this one and read it. And, do us all a favor and forward this to everyone you know!

By putting our deposits in local banks and credit unions instead of the big four Wall Street banks, we give control of that money back to the people that live and work in our communities, where that money is most likely to be reinvested. It’s so simple, one has to wonder why we haven’t been doing this all along. I applaud the idea, and I am thrilled to see that it’s gaining a lot of traction, not only around the blogosphere, but in the real world as well. Even local and state governments are starting to transfer some of their cash into smaller, local banks, and that can make a real difference, real fast.

Wall Street does what it does because, so far, we’ve let them get away with it. We happily play victim to their perverse loyalties. Not me – not any more. We’re looking at refinancing our house in California, and we’ll be using a credit union this time around. By the way, did you know that credit unions are non-profit institutions? We’ve been customers for some time now, and we love it. With better interest rates on loans and savings deposits, and friendly service, I actually feel more like a valued client rather than a revenue target. And, every extra dollar they bring in is returned to their members (account holders) as dividends. Is that cool or what?

How about you? Are you angry enough to do something about it, or are you going to let Wall Street continue to have its way with you and your money?

Hell just froze over. In an epic upset, the Republicans have gained a Senate seat in Massachusetts, giving them a crucial 41st vote and the ability to kill health care reform, and every other attempt at progress the Obama administration makes.

It’s a sure bet that absolutely nothing will get accomplished in Congress between now and 2012. And in the meantime, healthcare costs will continue to skyrocket, with record profits lining the pockets of the insurance companies as more and more Americans fall victim to the greed that bleeds us dry.

The reform bill was never going to be perfect. In its current, anemic form, I’m not convinced it would have even helped as much as we’d hope. But now, I know without a doubt that nothing will get better anytime soon, and Joe Leiberman will continue to have folks from both sides of the aisle lining up to kiss his ass.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked that question in the past couple of weeks. As if I can explain it. I can’t even explain some of the dumb stuff that I do, so I’m completely unqualified to speak for Tiger.

He had it all. Dream job, dream gal, dream family, ungodly amounts of money, a loyal, adoring fan base and a squeaky-clean public image. But maybe it all came too easily, and he wasn’t content with that.

Maybe the prospect of skirting around with tramp du’jour (the current tally is 8, but it’s still early in the day) without getting caught offered him a bigger challenge. Maybe, growing up under his dad’s wing, he never got the chance to explore his urges and indulge some indiscretions. Maybe he’s just as clueless, ay! more so, than the common man when it comes to relationships.

Maybe its all-of-the-above.

Whatever his reasons, he’s created quite a mess, and I’m not sure he’s even begun to come to terms with it. And, as the saying goes, the bigger they are the harder they fall. When this all plays out, he’ll still have a career in golf and more money than he can spend, but the rest is gone. Not even the great Tiger Woods can pull out a win this time.

His ill-advised attemp to buy Elin back with a re-negotiated prenuptial agreement is perhaps the most humiliating gesture he could make. As if it weren’t bad enough to make a colossal fool of her, now he’s treating her like a whore. 

Game over, Tiger. No playoff holes. You’re done. Don’t even bother signing the scorecard.

Ah yes, Black Friday cometh. But before we join the stampede to grab the latest gadgets and gizmos, there’s something I’d like to share with you – a little twist on our conventionally held notions of gift-giving.

So many of us get caught up in the “spirit” of the holidays. We peruse the door-buster ads in advance, rank the priorities, and map out the most efficient course to hit all the best sales. We have lists and more lists of whom to buy for, what to buy, and how much to spend. It’s the world’s largest scavenger hunt. For many, it’s become a seasonal tradition, cherished as much (if not more than) our Thanksgiving feast a day earlier, and I actually think that’s fine.

We’ll spend the coming month shopping, singing, baking, and decorating. We’ll attend a never-ending stream of school plays and holiday parties, planning and coordinating and burning every ounce of energy we’ve got until at last, Christmas Day arrives. Gifts are presented, packages ripped open with elation, and thank-yous exchanged. Another meal, a glass of wine, and then?

We need to follow through.

Huh?

We need to follow through on the gifts that we give. You see, the value of a gift is not in its price, but rather in its worth. And what makes a gift worth giving is the follow-through. I’ll give a couple of examples . . . If you give a kid a football, make the time to play catch. If you’re giving the Monopoly game, follow through by taking the time to play along. If you present your wife with some beautiful new jewelry, plan a night out where she can actually wear it. The gift isn’t the “thing,” the gift is you. Am I making sense here?

Without the follow-through, gifts quickly lose their value. Sometimes, a gift without the follow-through is worse than no gift at all.  We give anticipation, and set our loved ones up for a big let-down. In the end, nobody feels good about the gift. I’ve been guilty of this in the past. In fact, I’m a repeat offender.

It’s taken me 40-something years to figure this out, and with any luck I can make up for some lost ground, starting now. Here’s wishing everyone a wonderful season of giving. Cheers!

My Saturday began on Friday, strategizing with my wife about how we were going to conquer the events of the next day. By any measure, the itenerary was nuts – 3 soccer games, 2 parties, and a planned outing with my daughter’s volleyball team to watch the ASU-Stanford volleyball match – but not far from ordinary for a family with active kids. We could have taken our usual approach, to divide-and-conquer. That would have been a slam dunk. But with just enough time between events, we embraced the challenge to stick together and do it all as one big, happy family. We went over the start times and locations, factored in drive time and necessary stops, and plotted our course. 

Saturday morning, I was in charge of packing enough food and drink to get us through the day. What’s faster than fast-food? Easy, PBJ in the car! By 8am we were out the door.

Game 1: My son’s soccer team had been struggling against higher-caliber competition all season, and morale was sinking. This game was more evenly matched, and the boys played hard. As the game progressed, we could see some of the training and teamwork start to show through, and my son scored on a great offensive run. The game ended in a 3-2 loss, but some confidence had been restored, and we looked forward to the afternoon game.

Game 2: The final game of the season for my youngest daughter, and honestly, we were all glad to see it come to an end. She’s a great little talent and usually plays with heart and passion, but her enthusiasm was squashed this year by a coach who really just had no business leading a little girls team. He was loud, scolding and intimidating, and he’d lost the respect of the girls (and most of the parents) a long time ago.

I actually missed most of Game 2. My son wasn’t feeling well after his early game, and I had to make a run to the pharmacy. We’re still not sure what the underlying ailment was, but I had a feeling that dehydration was probably a factor.

Party #1: We wrapped the birthday gift in the car on way, and dropped our young soccer star off for a sleep-over party on the way to the next game.

Game 3: My son’s afternoon game was in serious doubt. He’d improved slightly in the past half hour, but wasn’t moving quickly and said he just wanted to go home. Knowing that he’s really good at acting miserable, I did my best high-wire act, suggesting that he at least come down to the field and make an appearance. If after warm-ups he wasn’t feeling any better, I told him we’d go home. As it turns out, I’d played the hand perfectly. Come game time, he was revved up again, and ended up scoring in that game as well. By the time it was over he was completely spent, but I could tell that pushing through was a great confidence-booster for him.

Party #2: We gathered with my older-daughter’s volleyball team for an end-of-season BBQ. Since I’ll be taking over as head coach for the upcoming season, I saw this as a unique opportunity to carry some momentum forward into the new season.

And finally, the big-girls game: Most of the girls had never played volleyball before this season, and it was great to see how far they’d come in just a couple of months. It’s one thing to teach the technical skills of how to pass, set, and hit, but how does one teach awareness, anticipation, and strategy? I seized this opportunity to drag the girls out to see ASU’s final home game, against #6-ranked Stanford. I was hoping the girls would benefit from seeing what it looks like when a team has all the pieces in place – positioning, movement, communication, focus and intensity. It’s possible that it was too much to comprehend. Volleyball is a very different game when played “above the net,” so they may have been confused by much of what they saw. Even so, it was a great night out, and a fun bonding experience. Our first practice under my supreme rule is tonight. It’ll be interesting to see how it goes.

So there it is, a busy day in the life of me. I came home exhausted, but I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. I’m really digging this family thing.