The U.S. senate has called shenanigans on Apple’s clever tax strategy. While congress has been rather tolerant of other corporations who avoid taxes (such as GE), the senators have apparently decided to go after Apple.
In some ways, this situation is entertaining. After all, liberals who are against corporations are supposed to be all gooey about Apple, thus putting them into an emotional predicament. Also, conservatives who are supposed to not be fans of Apple’s alleged liberal leanings must be torn over going after a corporation on the issue of taxes. Someone more cynical than I might speculate that Apple’s main “crime” was failing to pay the most important tax of all, namely the congressional tax that is paid via lobbying.
The main attack on Apple is that the company was able to engage in some clever (or dubious) tactics that allowed them to avoid paying all the taxes that the company should have paid. Apple has pointed out that the company pays the most (billions) in taxes, but folks in the senate have claimed that Apple should still be paying more.
While I do have some concerns that the senate is unfairly singling out Apple while giving a free pass to companies that are infamous for not paying taxes, this situation does have some positive aspects to it. Perhaps most importantly, it is drawing attention to the dubious tactics employed by companies to avoid paying taxes. Of course, I suspect that little reform will come out of this in terms of the more outrageous offenders when it comes to dodging tax obligations.
Someone more cynical than I might note that the existing system is, in many ways, a protection racket run by congress. They create harsh tax laws and then allow tax breaks for those who pay the congress “tax.” Companies generally consider this an acceptable deal-the congress “tax” is still less than what they would have to pay if they were fully subject to the corporate tax rate set by congress. Naturally, it would be better if the tax laws were both fairer and simpler, but it seems unlikely that enough folks in Congress are willing to make such changes.
Somewhat ironically, during the 2012 campaign season the IRS decided to flag for review applications for tax-exempt status from groups whose names included “Tea Party” or “patriots.” Not surprisingly, this has created some furor. While an IRS spokesperson has claimed that the extra attention was not at the behest of the Obama administration and an apology has been issued, this matter certain deserves greater scrutiny.
As should come as no surprise, Republicans (and some Democrats) have already called for a congressional investigation and a review by the administration.
The obvious point of concern is that the IRS was involved in partisan politics. After all, groups with “Tea Party” and “patriot” in their names would generally tend to be anti-Obama (if not pro-Romney) and if they were singled out for special review, this would certainly suggest partisan motivation. What would be more damning would, of course, be evidence that the IRS denied tax-exempt status unfairly to groups with such names. As it stands, the IRS claims that none of the groups in question were rejected (at least not yet).
While such flagging for review would seem to be partisan, perhaps the motivation was not partisan. An alternative explanation is that the IRS folks involved in this were concerned that such groups might be more likely to have “problematic” applications because of the Tea Party’s view of taxes (that they are taxed enough already) and hence flagged them for more careful review on that basis. While such a motivation (if it actually existed) might be understandable, it would still be problematic in that it would still have the effect of targeting on partisan lines and the IRS should avoid even the appearance of being partisan.
It might also be the case that folks involved were concerned that such groups would be more likely to be involved in partisan politics, which is supposed to deny them tax-exempt status. However, if they only flagged “Tea Party” and “patriots” rather than any phrases or words that would be indicative of partisan politics, then they could be justly accused of focusing on conservative groups. This would, obviously enough, be unjust.
The IRS also endeavored to play the usual “rogue employee” gambit. In this case, the claim is that the targeting was the work of a few lower level revenue agents in Cincinnati rather than as a general policy taken by the IRS. If this can be proven, there would still be a problem-but obviously not as bad as having the IRS engaged in such behavior as a matter of general policy. If it can be proven that this matter reaches up the chain of command, it would be rather bad for the IRS and also for the Obama administration.
On a somewhat related note, there are also concerns that while the IRS flagged certain applications, the agency has been lax in enforcing the law forbidding tax-exempt 501(c)(4) groups from engaging in partisan politics. While these groups can collect anonymous money and spend it on advertising, they cannot endorse candidates or parties. They can, however, engage in political advertising, provided they at least make a token effort at creating the illusion that they are non-partisan. Thanks to the absurd Citizens United decision, corporations can spend unlimited money in federal elections and they have certainly been doing so, to the detriment of democracy in America.
While I am concerned about the claim that the IRS has engaged in partisan politics, I am also concerned that the law essentially allows the creation of tax-exempt fronts for money to be funneled into “non-partisan” political advertising for the left and the right. As might be imagined, to not even properly enforce such a toothless law would be a serious failure on the part of the IRS.
After the evil and senseless bombing in Boston, there was considerable speculation about the motives of the bombers. Not surprisingly, some folks blamed their preferred demons: some on the left leaped to conclusions involving right-wingers while those on the right leaped to conclusions involving Islam. As it turns out, the alleged murderers have a connection to Islam.
While some hold the view that there is a strong causal connection between being a Muslim and being a terrorist, the connection obviously cannot be that strong. After all, the vast majority of Muslims do not engage in terrorism. As such, beginning and ending the discussion of the motive for terror with Islam is not adequate.
When it comes to terrorist attacks against the United States, the stock explanation is that the terrorists are motivated by a hatred of our freedom. A common variation on that is that they hate democracy. Another explanation is that they simply hate the United States and other countries.
The explanation that terrorists are motivated by a hatred of our freedom (or democracy) does two main things. The first is that it casts the terrorists as enemies of freedom and democracy, thus presenting them as having evil motives. The second is that it casts the United States and its allies as being attacked because of their virtues. Crudely put, the bad guys are attacking us because they hate what is good.
The explanation that the terrorists simply hate the United States and its allies also does two main things. The first is that it casts the terrorists as simply being haters without any justification for their hate. The second is that it casts the United States and its allies as innocent targets. Crudely put, the haters are attacking us because they are haters.
In both of these approaches, the United States and its allies are presented as innocent victims who are being attacked for wicked or irrational reasons. What certainly helps support this narrative is that the terrorists engage in acts that are wicked and certainly seem irrational. After all, the people who are killed and injured are usually just random innocents who simply happen to be in the blast area at the time. Because of this, it is correct to condemn such terrorists as morally wicked on the grounds that they engage in indiscriminate violence. However, the fact that the direct victims of the terrorists are generally innocent victims of wicked deeds does not entail that the terrorists are motivated to attack innocent countries because they hate us, our freedom or our democracy.
One significant source of evidence regarding the motivation of terrorists is the statements terrorists make regarding their own reasons. In the case of the alleged Boston bomber, he claims that he was motivated by the United States’ wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the case of other terrorists, they have generally claimed they are motivated by the actions of the United States and its allies.
My point here is not to justify the actions of the terrorists. Rather, the point is that the terrorists do not claim to be motivated by the reasons that have been attributed to them. That is, they do not regard themselves as being driven to attack us because they hate our freedom or democracy. They do often claim to hate us, but for rather specific reasons involving our foreign policy. As such, these stock explanations seem to be in error.
It might be countered that the terrorists are lying about their motivations. That is, that they are really driven by a hatred of our freedom or democracy and are just claiming that they are motivated by our foreign policy and associated actions (like invading countries and assassinating people with drones) for some devious reason.
The obvious reply to this is that if terrorists were motivated by a hatred of freedom or democracy, they would presumably attack countries based on their degree of freedom or democracy. Also, a non-stupid terrorist would take into account the ease of attacking a country and what the country could and would do in response. Hitting the United States to strike against freedom or democracy would thus be a poor choice, given our capabilities and how we respond to such attacks (invasions, drone strikes and so on). To use an analogy, if someone hated athletes, it would not be very sensible to get into a fist fight with a professional mixed martial artist when one could go beat up a marathon runner (who is not also a martial artist).
It might be countered that the United States is the symbol for freedom and democracy, hence the terrorists want to attack the United States even though they know that this will result in retaliation of the sort that many other democratic states cannot or would not engage in.
While this is not impossible, the more plausible explanation is that the terrorists are motivated by their hatred of our foreign policy. After all, invasions, assassinations and such tend to motivate people to engage in violence far more so than some sort of hatred of freedom or democracy.
It might, of course, be wondered why the motivation of terrorists matter. What matters is not why they try to murder people at a marathon but that they try to do such things.
While what they do obviously matters, why they do it also matters. While I obviously believe that terrorism of the sort that took place in Boston is evil, this does not entail that there are no legitimate grievances against the United States and its allies in regards to our foreign policies. To use an analogy, if Bob blows up Sam’s whole family because Sam killed Bob’s son, then Bob has acted wrongly. But this does not prove that Sam acted rightly in killing Bob’s son. In the case of the United States, the fact that we have been attacked by terrorists does not thus make our invasions or drone assassinations right. Now, it might turn out that our actions are right, but we cannot infer that they are just because terrorists do terrible things.
Sorting out what motivates terrorists is also rather useful in trying to prevent terrorism. If we assume they are motivated by their hatred of our freedom or democracy, then we would have to abandon our freedom or democracy to remove their motivation. This is obviously something that should not be done.
However, if some terrorists are motivated by specific aspects of our foreign policy (such as drone strikes that kill civilians), then it seems well worth considering whether we should change these policies. To use an analogy, if someone keeps trying to attack me because I am virtuous, then I obviously should not abandon my virtues just to stop these attacks. But if someone keeps trying to attack me because I keep provoking him, then I should consider whether or not I should be doing those things. It might turn out that I am in the right, but it might turn out that I am in the wrong. If I am in the wrong, then I should change. But if he is in the wrong, then I would be warranted in not changing (but I would need to be honest about why he is attacking me). For example, if he goes after me because I am stealing his newspaper and dumping leaves in his yard, then I should probably stop doing that. As another example, if he is going after me because I run past his house, then he should stop doing that.
The same would seem to apply to terrorists. If we are engaged in unjust actions that provoke people, then we should stop those actions. If, however, we are acting justly and this provokes people, then we should continue to the degree those actions are warranted and necessary. But we should be honest about why they area attacking us.
One of the many stock fallacious arguments against same sex-marriage is the slippery slope argument in which it is contended that allowing same sex-marriage will lead to allowing polygamous marriage (or at least bigamy). The mistake being made is, of course, that the link between the two is not actually made. Since the slippery slope fallacy is a fallacy, this is obviously a bad argument.
A non-fallacious argument that is also presented against same sex-marriage involves the contention that allowing same-sex marriage on the basis of a specific principle would require that, on the pain of inconsistency, we also accept polygamous marriage. This principle is typically some variant of the principle that a person should be able to marry any other person. Given that polygamous marriage is supposed to be bad, this would seem to entail that we should not allow same-sex marriage.
My first standard reply to this argument is that if different-sex marriage does not require us to accept polygamous marriage, then neither does accepting same-sex marriage. But, if accepting same-sex marriage entails that we have to accept polygamous marriage, the same would also apply to different-sex marriage. That this is so is shown by the following argument. If same-sex marriage is based on the principle that a person should be allowed to marry the person they wish to marry, then it would seem that different-sex marriage is based on the principle that a person should be allowed to marry the person of the opposite sex they wish to marry. By analogy, if allowing a person to marry any person they want to marry allows polygamous marriage, then allowing a person to marry a member of the opposite sex would also allow polygamous marriage-albeit only to a member of the opposite sex. But, if the slide to polygamy can be stopped in the case of different-sex marriage, then the same stopping mechanism can be used in the case of same-sex marriage.
In the case of different-sex marriage, there is generally an injunction against people marrying more than one person at a time. This same injunction would certainly seem to be applicable in the case of same-sex marriage. After all, there is nothing about accepting same-sex marriage that inherently requires accepting polygamous marriage.
In light of the above, the polygamy gambit against same-sex marriage would seem to fail. That is, the claim about the slide into polygamy that would supposedly result from legalizing same-sex marriage is unfounded.
There is, however, still an interesting question in regards to polygamy, namely the matter of whether or not it is wrong. After all, even if it could be shown that same-sex marriage would lead to polygamy, this would only be a problem is polygamy was actually wrong in some relevant way.
While polygamous marriage is not unheard of and there are also traditions of the practice, appealing to common practice or tradition to defend polygamy would obviously be fallacious. What is needed is a proper examination of the practice.
It is often the case that polygamy is condemned not directly because it is polygamy, but because of other factors associated with the specific sort of polygamy in question. For example, a culture that accepts polygamy might do so based on the view that women are inferior to men. In this case, it would not primarily be the polygamy that is problematic, but the way women are regarded and treated. As another example, polygamy might be practiced with under-aged and coerced brides (as has been seen in certain cults in the United States). In this case, the main concerns would seem to be with the coercion and age. In these and similar cases, the main point of concern would seem to not be that a man has many wives, but the treatment of the women. Thus, the moral problem with polygamy might not be a moral problem with the polygamy aspect, but the context of the polygamy.
Let it be supposed that polygamy was occurring in a situation devoid of such other negative factors. That is, those involved were not coerced, underage, or mistreated. The question would then be this: what is it about having multiple spouses itself that is wrong, if anything?
It might, obviously enough, be countered that any polygamous nature would be defective. For example, it could be argued that polygamy, by its very nature, must involve an imbalance in marital power (usually the male over the females) or, at the very least, it would always result in some of the spouses being denied the full benefits of marriage (that is, a single man could not attend to the emotional and physical needs of multiple women).
Naturally, it can easily be pointed out that critics of “traditional” marriage have pointed to the traditional imbalance in power between men and women and women being denied the full benefits of marriage. As such, these defects could be defects in marriage rather than a defect specific to polygamy-a polygamous marriage might merely multiple the disparities.
It is worth noting that these defects seem to arise from polygamy of the traditional sort: a male possessing a harem of wives. As such it would seem worthwhile to consider various forms of non-traditional polygamy, especially one involving multiple spouses of different sexes. Naturally, there could be different-sex polygamy of this sort (the marriage holds between the different sexes but not between the same sexes) or same-sex polygamy or bi-sexual polygamy. The notion of an extended marriage (with co-wives and co-husbands) was considered in science fiction by Robert Heinlein and he seemed to regard it as a potentially healthy and effective system of marriage. Of course, the fictional consideration of this matter could, at best, be considered a thought experiment. However, Heinlein did note the advantages for children (which he seemed to be regarded as of great importance in the context of marriage) in terms of the number of parents available to provide care and support.
Obviously enough, we have no real evidence of how a polygamous marriage between free and equal spouses would actually work-we just have our unfree and unequal world to draw upon for examples. However, it should, perhaps, not be dismissed out of hand or regarded as inherently defective.
In response to the obvious question, I would not want multiple wives. I failed with one wife and have no desire to multiply my failure.
While the failure of the Exxon pipeline has resulted in a significant spill in Arkansas, the media coverage of the incident has been rather limited. Part of this is due to the nature of the media, but part of this is due to Exxon stepping in and imposing “Corporate Law” in the area. To be specific, Exxon seems to be employing the local sheriffs as their own private security force to keep reporters out of the area. While I am not a constitutional scholar, I would contend that this is a clear violation of the freedom of the press.
Naturally, I would understand it if the sheriffs were being employed to keep people from blundering into the contaminated zones-after all, being exposed to the spill would not be good for a person’s health. However, Exxon is directing its sheriffs to keep reporters away from areas in which there is no actual danger-other than the danger of Exxon and its associates being exposed to press coverage. As usual, I would infer that if they are engaging in such heavy handed and seemingly unconstitutional tactics, then what they are trying to conceal must be very bad indeed. There is also the obvious problem with an oil company using the sheriffs to do their bidding.
Another important point of concern is that the FAA has imposed a no-fly zone over the area of the spill and has apparently put Exxon in charge of this. Obviously, the folks at Exxon are not going to say that they have had their FAA impose the no-fly zone to prevent the press from taking pictures from the air. After all, a corporation imposing a no-fly zone over such an area simply to exclude the press would presumably be illegal. Instead, the claim is that the area must be kept clear to allow a helicopter to fly about without interference.
Now, if there was a significant air operation in the area so that the airspace was crowded, then the imposition of a non-fly zone would make sense. However, this is not the case and there is no reason why other aircraft should be excluded from the area-other than keeping people from seeing what is actually occurring in the area.
To some folks, this might seem to be the sort of thing that could only happen in a third world country with a weak government. After all, the United States government is supposed to have sovereignty in Arkansas and not Exxon. But, this sort of situation does not surprise me in the least. It merely reminded me of a cartoon I saw years ago in college on the wall in the petroleum engineering department. I don’t recall the whole cartoon, but I remember the main point was “no one screws with the oil companies.” That seems to be as true now as it was then.
It must be inferred that the folks in Exxon think that what they are doing is a good idea and that the consequences of acting in this manner will be better for them than allowing the media the access they are entitled to under the constitution. Or perhaps getting their own way is simply a matter of habit-they are just openly showing who is really in charge here.
For full disclosure, I must note that I own Exxon stock. As such, the profit loving part of my soul is pleased by this show of dominance over the government. I know that I can count on Exxon to have the power to do what it takes to keep the oil and money flowing. However, the part of my soul that loves the rule of law, freedom of the press and ethical behavior is appalled by this.
I do believe that a company can be ethical and still make a profit-Exxon could handle this situation both effectively and with moral correctness. In fact, they would actually benefit from doing so. But, the habits that arise from owning a chunk of the government are no doubt hard to break.
One interesting thing about the arguments against allowing same-sex marriage is that they are so often fallacious or based on false premises. As a philosopher, I would certainly accept a good argument against same sex-marriage. However, I am still waiting for such an argument. Well, other than the good arguments against marriage in general.
One argument that gets trotted out is the procreation argument. The gist of this argument is that the purpose of marriage is procreation, same-sex couples cannot procreate naturally, therefore same-sex marriage should not be allowed. This is, obviously enough, a bad argument against same-sex marriage.
First, the purpose of marriage does not seem to be procreation. Obviously, marriage is neither a sufficient nor necessary condition for procreation. It might be replied that marriage exists to provide children with a healthy environment. However, since the people who are actually experts on the health of children support same-sex marriage, this approach would fail. Also, obviously enough people are not tested for their suitability as parents before they are allowed to get married, nor are they compelled to divorce if they prove to be unsuitable parents. Naturally, I would support the principle that people who would be awful parents should not have children-but this would not deny same-sex couples the right to marry or have kids simple on the grounds they are same-sex couples.
Second, there is the matter of consistency. If it is claimed that same-sex couples should not be allowed to marry because they cannot procreate naturally, then it would follow that different-sex couples who either cannot or chose not to procreate naturally should not be allowed to marry. If we accepted the procreation principle, couples would need to be tested for fertility before being allowed to marry and would need to produce offspring in a specified amount of time or have the marriage nullified. This is, of course, absurd and something that we surely would not impose on different-sex couples. As such, the procreation principle should be rejected.
Today, I must confess that some of my beliefs have been conclusively proven to be false.
First, I saw on the news this morning that Donald Trump’s team of crack investigators finally turned up Obama’s real birth certificate. It turns out he was born in Kenya and that his real name isn’t even “Obama” but “Osama.” I am sorry to doubt you, Mr. Trump. I should have known that a man of such class could not be wrong.
Second, I learned today that same-sex marriage would destroy children. It turns out that the pediatricians misplaced a decimal point when doing their calculations. Dr. Alex Zippydeu had the following to say: “We were totally wrong. Same-sex couples would make their kids totally gay-just like straight parents make their kids totally straight. Plus, allowing same-sex marriage would cause the sun to go nova. Obviously, that would be bad for the the children. Fortunately we caught this mistake in time and have come out against same-sex marriage.” Because of this new science, I have to repudiate my book For Better or Worse Reasoning and I will be writing Same Sex Marriage Will Kill Us All!
Third, I walked in on a secret meeting of university faculty. They were worshiping a statue of Karl Marx. Turns out that those
who warned us that all academics are at least pink (if not red) were dead on. I had assumed that since faculty liked getting paid and were always buying Apple stuff that they liked capitalism. But I turned out to be totally wrong, comrades.
Fourth, it turns out that we do not need taxes. There is a town, Real Town, in real America whose citizens pay no taxes and accept no money from the state. The mayor of the town, Mayor McCheese, had this to say: “Of course we don’t do that tax thing. Here in Real Town the roads pave themselves, fires put themselves out, there is no crime and everyone is born with a college degree. If we paid taxes, it would break the magic spell that makes all this possible.”
Finally, I noticed that the earth is flat and the sun rotates around it! After all, I was running on flat ground this morning and the sun clearly rose.
This concise work is aimed at presenting a logical assessment of the stock arguments against same-sex marriage. While my position is in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage, I have made every effort to present a fair and rational assessment of the stock arguments against it. The work itself is divided into distinct sections. The first section provides some background material regarding arguments. The second section focuses on the common fallacious arguments used to argue against same-sex marriage. The third section examines standard moral arguments against same-sex marriage and this is followed by a brief look at the procreation argument. The work closes, appropriately enough, with a few modest proposals regarding marriage.