Are America’s Wealthiest Dodging Taxes?

A shocking new ProPublica analysis of American tax data reveals that the country’s 25 richest individuals are paying almost nothing in taxes. More at CBS.

Wealthy Americans can save a lot of money by cheating on their federal income taxes, but that’s nothing compared with how much money they’ve been saving by following the rules.

There is no ev­i­dence of il­le­gal­ity in the Pro­P­ub­lica story… Pro­P­ub­lica knows this, so its story tries to in­vent a scan­dal by cal­cu­lat­ing what it calls the “true tax rate” these fel­lows are pay­ing. This is a phony con­struct that ex­ists nowhere in the law…

The wealthy figures in the story would likely prefer that their taxes were not exposed, but this doesn’t damage them in any real way except for (possibly) slight embarrassment. However, ProPublica does show, in detail, why we should at least examine how taxes work for the rich. And that gives its investigation journalistic value.

What Was Said in Giuliani’s Ukraine Call?

Many remember the infamous Ukraine call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that led to the President’s first impeachment. Now audio has been released of an earlier call between Rudy Giuliani and Zelensky.

…that phone call by Trump actually looks worse in light of the new audio of a call between Trump ally Rudy Giuliani, US diplomat Kurt Volker and Andriy Yermak, a senior adviser to Zelensky, that came before Trump talked to Zelensky himself. In that call, the full audio of which was obtained by CNN, Giuliani is blunt about a) what he (and Trump) want from Ukraine and b) what Zelensky might get in return.

The call shows the extent of pressure Giuliani put on Ukraine to investigate the then-Democratic presidential nominee and his son, Hunter Biden, for unsubstantiated corruption claims — a matter that was central to former President Trump’s first impeachment. Several Democrats called for fresh investigations…

The 40-minute call undermines Trump’s claim that there was “no quid pro quo.” That phrase, Meyers said, was uttered so many times by the former president that “it almost started to sound like a religious mantra you would hear on the street from some weird cult member trying to convert you.”

Why Do Israel’s Critics Persist with the Apartheid Accusation?

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez stirred controversy when she called Israel an “apartheid” state during the recent escalation between Israel and Hamas, but she’s hardly the first. Here’s why Israel’s defenders think this accusation continues to circulate:

The false analogy that demonizes and mischaracterizes life in Israel is a propaganda talking point rather than a serious argument. However, the fact that it is divorced from reality hasn’t stopped those who promote it from being able to make it part of mainstream discourse about Israel.

Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez was clearly moved, again and understandably, by the lamentable — but in all wars, inevitable — loss of life. Her reaction, though, seemed born of emotion, not of facts and sound judgment… As to apartheid, the representative either has no idea what apartheid was or has a false image of Israeli law and society.

From labeling Israel “apartheid” to charging Israel with “ethnic cleansing” to accusing Israel of “murdering” children to stating Israeli airstrikes on terrorist weapon sites are “terrorism” – these members of Congress acted completely irresponsibly in their criticisms of Israel.

Do Cops Have a Place in Pride Events?

In the wake of the reckoning over policing following the murder of George Floyd, some LGBTQ Pride events are banning uniformed police officers from marching with them. More at CNN.

I get the community’s anger at the NYPD. What I have trouble with is taking that anger out on LGBTQ officers. At a time when the mantra is “representation matters,” preventing officers from showing pride in who they are while in uniform is absurd.

They are being asked to confront their complicity with an institution that does more harm than good to vulnerable communities. It is telling that some of these officers refuse to do so. We don’t need the police marching alongside us. We don’t need them at Pride providing security.

…when we say no cops, it’s not as if a queer police officer couldn’t come as a civilian. What we mean is that the police cannot take up space at a protest that, frankly, they themselves are responsible for. That means no floats, no seemingly well-meaning videos of uniformed cops dancing with queers, and certainly no rainbow-clad police cars honking alongside parade floats.

Should Women Be Drafted to the Army in the US?

The US Supreme Court has declined to hear a case that could have challenged the existing law which mandates that only men must register for the draft. The issue will instead be kicked to congress. More at Forbes.

Perhaps the more interesting question is whether there should be military registration at all… If we force anyone to register, we should force everyone to register, right? But is the system really necessary at all?

It’s safe to assume that even a court loaded with conservatives would find it hard to justify a system that obligates one sex while sparing the other. In time, the government will have to choose between making everyone register and making no one register.

Forty years is long enough. The Supreme Court should take the case and strike down this antiquated law. The Military Selective Service Act discriminates against men, by imposing obligations, burdens and penalties that only men face.

What Does the “Fastly” Outage Reveal about the Internet?

A technical outage at a little known company called Fastly led to huge internet outages around the world. Here’s what the event taught us about the inner workings and vulnerabilities of the internet.

…[we live”] in a world awash with incomprehensible technologies, yet oblivious to their workings until they go wrong. Engineers have labored hard to shield us from this complexity, which is far from a bad thing. We don’t want to have to open command-line terminals all the time or handle machine code. We like our friendly interfaces to our computers. But in the process, we do lose something.

Along with companies like Cloudflare and Akami, Fastly is one of the so-called “content delivery network” (CDN) giants that hold up vast swaths of the internet by letting sites store their data within their proprietary clouds. Storing data like this doesn’t only mean that content gets to your browser faster, but it also means that more people can access that content at once.

…because Fastly provides a layer of support between internet companies and customers trying to access the various online platforms it services, when it goes down, access to those platforms can be blocked entirely. Bad software updates are rare. But similar goofs have temporarily brought down parts of even larger online platforms, including Google (GOOGL) and Amazon, in the past.

Today’s Hot Issues

Are America’s Wealthiest Dodging Taxes? What Was Said in Giuliani’s Ukraine Call? Why Do Israel’s Critics Persist with the Apartheid Accusation? Do Cops Have a Place in Pride Events? Should Women Be Drafted to the Army in the US? What Does the “Fastly” Outage Reveal about the Internet?