Monday, June 05, 2006

Come on over...

Just a warm invitation to my readers to come over to my new blog: http://taranjordan.wordpress.com.

As you know, I and many other Cotse.net users had been experiencing blockages when we tried to view Blogspot pages, including our own blogs. So I elected to move my writing to a more privacy-friendly environment. (The Google/Blogspot people have finally remedied this issue, but it's too late for me to want to come back.)

Wordpress.com is a delight to use, and made transferring my posts and comments a breeze. I'll have to redo my blogroll and links by hand, but these will soon be done.

I chose to merge all three of my Blogspot blogs into one cohesive site, too. So please update your bookmarks, drop on by, and let me know how you like the new digs. ;-)

Bye-bye, Blogspot!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Brits to be Forced to Hand Over Encryption Keys

GodDAMN. The police state encroacheth more heavily and deeply by the day. Link in post title.

Sunni, thank you for keeping it real by quoting this lovely, passionate passage from Bruce Schneier:
We do nothing wrong when we make love or go to the bathroom. We are not deliberately hiding anything when we seek out private places for reflection or conversation. We keep private journals, sing in the privacy of the shower, and write letters to secret lovers and then burn them. Privacy is a basic human need. ....

For if we are observed in all matters, we are constantly under threat of correction, judgment, criticism, even plagiarism of our own uniqueness. We become children, fettered under watchful eyes, constantly fearful that -- either now or in the uncertain future -- patterns we leave behind will be brought back to implicate us, by whatever authority has now become focused upon our once-private and innocent acts. We lose our individuality, because everything we do is observable and recordable.
We canNOT allow the f*cking statists to have their way and their kind of world.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Google/Blogspot blocking proxy access

For the past week or so, maybe longer, I get a "503 - Connect failed" message every time I try to connect to a Blogspot.com blog through my SSH proxy.

I'd had this issue in the past, and then it seemed to go away. But now it's back, and I can't read Lewlew's or Morrigan's or Jefftoo's blogs - or any others hosted on Blogspot.com. (Including my own.)

Well, after going to the source (Doh!), I realized that this is an across-the-board issue between Blogspot and my proxy provider. Here's what I found (link in post title).

The good folks at Cotse.com and Cotse.net, in mulling over this dilemma, don't seem to be considering that perhaps Google (owner of Blogspot, and with whom they're having other issues) ain't interested in receiving connections from computers they can't catalog and trace back. ph34r

Looks like I might need to create some alternatives for my blog activities. Odd, that today I'm able to sign in here at Blogger.com through my proxy. I guess it's only the blog readers they're tracking - for the moment.

If you use Blogspot, whether to blog or to read, Cotse asks you to contact the blogspot people to request that they remedy the situation. If you do blog here, you might be missing out on readership because of this issue.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Nothing's certain but death and...

Taxes again. I keep coming back to this subject lately. But no longer will I consider paying taxes one of the two unavoidable events in life. When I blogged the other day about my unexpected zero income tax bill this year, I neglected to mention something important.

Namely, that this was just the beginning. Of my own quiet tax revolt, that is.

For years - since my last year of college, when I got sick of working two jobs just to keep myself in school - I've been wanting to kiss the rat race, and income taxes, goodbye. Live frugally? Cool. Enjoy more free time? You bet. Find creative challenges in both of these opportunities? Sure thing. And most importantly, deny the Beast its pound of flesh each day.

But I've been hampered by the need to earn enough FRNs to pay off the debts I racked up before my epiphany. Which means having taxable income every year.

Now that I've inadvertently taken a business loss, and didn't owe the IRS for last year, the schedule's speeding up faster than I planned. And I've got some time on my hands this summer.

So I'm thinking to accelerate the repayments even faster by finding a temporary job. And when they give me the W-4 withholding form, I could write "EXEMPT." Because if I recall correctly, that's okay to do if "I owed no federal income tax last year, and I do not expect to owe any this year either."

I admire greatly the principled, outspoken, IRS-challenging tax rebels like Irwin Schiff. But their way of Outlawry is not mine. Rather, I am the type to do as David Gross and Rose Wilder Lane and many other Ghostly Outlaws have done - to choose and to embrace a life of simple things and hard work and self-sufficiency. And I honor them and all Outlaws like them, who consciously withdraw from the Beast's clutches.

Because being an Outlaw doesn't have to mean breaking the law. It can mean putting yourself out of the law's reach.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Thoreau on slavery and taxes

Tax protester extraordinaire David Gross has established a page on his website devoted to Henry David Thoreau's Slavery in Massachusetts, written in 1854. It's a passionate piece and a great read.

Oh, and in a wonderful serendipity, when I clicked on it, the webpage happened to be headed by a Thoreau quote (Mr. Gross says that these quotes pop up at random on his site): "It is for no particular item in the tax bill that I refuse to pay it. I simply wish to refuse allegiance to the State."

Grin.

Truth follows fiction?

As a longtime fan of Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged, I've blogged before about how current events lately seem to be modeling themselves on the events in that book.

But a couple of paragraphs in today's Daily Resource (found weekdays on Kitco.com) by analyst Doug Hornig really gave me the willies:
Most of [Monday's oil] price climb is due to “Iran jitters with the U.S. still pushing toward U.N. sanctions,” said James Williams, an economist at WTRG Economics. “When you add that on top of the loss of a fifth of Nigerian production, Bolivia's move toward the Venezuelan model of total control over oil produced by foreign companies and the summer driving season staring us in the face, it is easier for prices to go up than down,” he said.

Williams referred to a story, reported by BBC News on Monday, that Bolivian President Evo Morales has ordered foreign energy firms to hand over all natural-gas and oil sales to a state-owned company. The companies have six months to renegotiate their contracts or leave the country, Morales said, according to the report.

Bolivia appears to be taking its cues from Venezuela. A recent report from the Wall Street Journal said Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was planning more moves to curb the activities of foreign oil companies in his country.
Ah, those wise and benevolent People's States. They'd never nationalize foreign assets within their borders.

Link to full article in post title. And if you haven't read the book yet, do yourself a favor and check it out.

Friday, April 28, 2006

A funny thing happened on the way to pay my taxes...

On the stereo: Steve Winwood, Roll With It, and Les McCann, On the Soul Side

Teehee. Sometimes a thing coming out of the blue is just so perfectly fitting that I laugh in pure glee.

I work for pay as an independent contractor for several different clients (and in several different capacities). Those clients are supposed to send me this thing called an IRS Form 1099 (non-employee compensation report) each year by the end of January. And being obedient corporations, they generally do just that.

Well, except for my major client, whose accountant always seems to take vacation from mid-January to mid-February. I don't mind their form reaching me late, as I don't want to file my taxes and send the IRS any money of mine until the last possible minute. (The downside to being a contractor is that you generally don't get a nice tax refund each spring the way a lot of wage slaves do. You usually end up paying a nice chunk like an independent contractor slave.)

Anyway, I didn't worry when this one client's 1099 didn't show up until the end of February. What shocked me, though, was that it showed an amount equal to only about half of what they actually paid me in 2005.

I realized pretty quickly what had occurred. Partway through last year, this client asked to pay me in a form other than the standard paycheck, shall we say. (Sorry, guys, nothing naughty or X-rated here.) No, he still pays me in dollar units, it's just that he does so through a vehicle other than a company check.

And for whatever reason, those payments didn't show up on his accountant's radar screen. And he's - well, not a detail-oriented kinda guy when it comes to money.

Grin.

So...with all the expense deductions I racked up, my business is going to end up showing a loss for 2005 on the tax forms.

And if they decide to audit me? Well, how am I to know what fiscal year ending date his company uses? I just assumed that any payments to me that they didn't report on this year's form would show up on next year's, of course.

But I sure hope it doesn't. I mean, c'mon - let the Outlaws win one now and again. Much more interesting that way.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Bravissimo, Mr. Shaffer!

This (link in post title) is why I've chosen to be an Outlaw. When grasping hypocrites such as these are calling the shots and making the laws, I damned well want to be part of the opposition.

We do not pay sufficient attention to the fact that statists are less interested in either the substance of their specific “problems,” or the merits of their proposed solutions, than in retaining and aggrandizing control over the lives of others. We spend far too much of our time giving credence to statists’ issues by making reasoned or empirical responses to their proposals, and too little time addressing the underlying power ambitions. Though some of their fellow travelers doubtless care about the merits of the policies, the statists’ principal concern is to advance a tenable case for extended state control. I am not suggesting that their proposals go unchallenged, but that we understand them as fungible expressions of a deeper need for power.
(emphasis mine)

Butler Shaffer is a writer of amazing ability and perception. I take my Cavalier hat off to him once again.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Security outlaws - wave of the future?

Fascinating article (found via SurvivalBlog.com, link in post title) about the coming death of faith in government to provide "security," and how people are likely to handle this responsibility themselves.

Security will become a function of where you live and whom you work for, much as health care is allocated already. Wealthy individuals and multinational corporations will be the first to bail out of our collective system, opting instead to hire private military companies, such as Blackwater and Triple Canopy, to protect their homes and facilities and establish a protective perimeter around daily life. Parallel transportation networks--evolving out of the time-share aircraft companies such as Warren Buffett's NetJets--will cater to this group, leapfrogging its members from one secure, well-appointed lily pad to the next.

Members of the middle class will follow, taking matters into their own hands by forming suburban collectives to share the costs of security--as they do now with education--and shore up delivery of critical services. These "armored suburbs" will deploy and maintain backup generators and communications links; they will be patrolled by civilian police auxiliaries that have received corporate training and boast their own state-of-the-art emergency-response systems. As for those without the means to build their own defense, they will have to make do with the remains of the national system. They will gravitate to America's cities, where they will be subject to ubiquitous surveillance and marginal or nonexistent services. For the poor, there will be no other refuge.

About the author:
John Robb was a mission commander for a "black" counterterrorism unit that worked with Delta Force and Seal Team 6 before becoming the first Internet analyst at Forrester Research and a key architect in the rise of Web logs and RSS. He is writing a book on the logic of terrorism.

Sounds like a guy who knows what he's talking about.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

The freedom part of a Freedom Outlaw

Well, I took a break from blogging and did indeed get more writing done on other projects. But that other writing has given birth to a lot of new questions and concepts that just need some working out. And a blog or journal is a good way for me to explore them.

As some of you know, I'm writing a novel about a unique version of an underground railroad in the days of Bleeding Kansas, just before the outbreak of the War Between the States (or whatever name you prefer). And I'm striving to understand the motivation of people who prefer (or at least accept) non-freedom, and what separates them from those who truly need to live in freedom.

The heroine of the story starts out naively assuming that every slave desires freedom, and the only reason they haven't yet taken it is because they don't see how. So she's going to teach them. But in the process she learns that even most of the slaves don't have the will to freedom - some do, of course, but many just want to get by and not make waves, or they're stopped by fear that the unknown will be worse than present reality.

So what I’m dealing with here is the vast ability of humans to adapt to conditions, to find ways to get by under any system. Most humans, anyway.

Where and how and when do the lines in the sand get drawn? Do some people have no lines at all, or see no need for them? Do the lines more often only become evident in the heat of a situation that threatens to become intolerable, for instance when one’s children are about to be taken away?

What causes some people to draw lines beyond which they will not go? I get the sense that lately, with National ID and NAIS and all that encroaching, many of us are thinking that we have impermeable moral boundaries, but worrying that when the time comes, we'll cave.

I'm sure not certain that I'll have the strength and courage to refuse when finally faced with National ID. And yet I think all of us who desire freedom have some depth of courage in us that knows it will make its stand someday, who knows how or when, but the courage is there and will prevail.

Does everyone have that courage in some way, when the right combination of chips are down? If not, what makes us different? What do they have that we lack?

The deeper I get into the planning and plotting of this novel, the more I realize how central questions such as these are to the heart of the story and its theme - which is "the unquenchable urge to live free." This whole project is turning out to be much wider and more complex than I expected. I've got a lot of thinking to do.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

A temporary farewell

A friend of mine, a ubiquitous activist in the Libertarian Party, warned me once that a person can have only three main concerns going in life at any one time, if he or she is to be effective. Work, and family - relationship - home life, are two for most people.

That leaves just one opening.

I hate to admit it, but I know I'm not being effective lately, because I run in too many different directions. I have a novel in progress about Freedom Outlaws, that should be much further along by now than it is - but I use other responsibilities, and sheer laziness, and health issues, as excuses to avoid getting deeply involved in the writing of it. And yet, successfully completing this novel is my greatest goal.

So I feel the need to whittle down to bare bones, in a kind of Zen yearning for simplicity. Hell, I know it's never that cut-and-dried. Besides my paid work and my relationship with Thunder, I've got (endless in both cases!) fitness and home-improvement tasks that I intend to get done. Perhaps I'll have to go with five concerns rather than three.

Even so, with the novel being the fifth, there just isn't room for this blog as a regular pursuit. Instead, I need to take this Outlaw spirit and infuse my novel with it.

I've been thinking about this decision for a month or more. Especially because the kind of writing I do here isn't usually quickie off-the-cuff commentary on current events. It's demanding of thought and time - both of which are needed in other areas for the time being.

I can't see closing down this blog yet, and I imagine I'll occasionally find my mental cup running over with some Outlawish froth that must and will be spewed forth to the world (or the few inhabitants of it who might actually see these words).

But for now, I am taking a break from blogging. My thanks to you loyal and supportive fellow and sister Outlaws who've been here from the beginning a year ago, and I know I'll be seeing you out there somewhere, soon.

Love,
Taran/Lightning

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The Mogambo as Wacked-Out Agitator

Okay, so what else is new?

But this week's is a particularly good, long, savorable and funny Mogambo rant. And I like Mogambo (Richard Daughty) because he's a clearheaded, fearlessly Outlawish investment analyst.

A taste:
****Mogambo sez: If I was ever bullish on gold and silver and oil, then those are the "good old days" when I was not hyperactive, because I am now so addled with anger that I am leaning out of the windows, throwing rocks at people to get their damned attention and yelling that everyone should be buying some of all of them, but they are ignoring me, and that makes me even MORE bullish, because I know that the longer they wait to get their nasty little butts in gear, the bigger will be the rush when they wake up out of whatever catatonic stupor they are in, and try to get in on the gold rush, and the silver rush, and the oil rush after the trains have left the station. Idiots!

Link in post title.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

It's all in YOUR head

Oh, my, this (link in post title) is a delight of richness for us of the Outlaw mindset. Wally Conger quotes James Leroy Wilson and the pair of Skye d'Aureous and Natalee Hall.

A few tidbits:

from Wilson:
“[I]t does no good to think, ‘If we got rid of the State, then I’ll be happy.’ Or even, ‘If they just cut government to 10% and limited the federal government to its Constitutional functions, then I’ll be happy.’ The external reality — the decisions of other people — can’t ever make a person genuinely happy. One who ties their enjoyment of life to the political situation will never really be free, because true freedom is in the mind.”

from d'Aureous and Hall:
  1. An overall decrease in freedom for the general population does not necessarily mean a decrease in freedom for you unless your actions are essentially the same as those of the general population.
  2. A rational person is only interested in freedom he can obtain in his own time.
  3. Your present condition of freedom is probably far from optimum for your most desired range of actions and for your present resources. Your approach to this optimum must be discovered by careful planning and investigation. You do not have automatic knowledge of this subject, and living your life like the general populace will get you what they get. (emphasis added)
Great reading for a Sunday - sigh of happiness...and thanks to Junker over at The Claire Files for bringing it to my attention.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Aunt Agatha was right...

One of my choicest fictional heroes, Agatha Christie’s obsessive-compulsive Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, was heard to say many times that conversation is the eventual downfall of most people who have something to hide.

Boy, did I realize the truth of that statement this past weekend.

I went to a writers conference…under my pen name. With a friend. It was quite a good conference, if you wanted to learn about the writing markets, which we did in part.

I signed up online for the event, using my pen-name credit card (a business card account for which I requested a couple of “employee” cards) and email address, with not a lick of difficulty. Showed up bright and early the first day with pen name firmly in mind as I sauntered up to the registration desk.

No ID required - they happily handed over my shiny new name badge. Woohoo! They believed me! I am who I say I am! I even get to wear a name tag with my invented alter-ego name on it! I’m incognito, a new and improved me-but-better! Piece of cake! I’m an Outlaw now! Oh my, the things that turn me on.

At first, it wasn’t a chatty environment, so I had an easy time of it. Seminars, hanging out with my friend at lunch, watching the crowd and thinking about our respective books. It was a lovely day, and we sat on the steps outside with our box lunches. One man sat down nearby and chatted, and I had fun introducing myself under my new name. At this point, my friend wasn’t yet in an expansive talkative mood, but remained more in the background as the man and I talked about what kinds of writing we focused on. Then he got up to make a phone call and we didn’t see him again.

After lunch, my friend and I both managed to land brief chats with literary agents to run our story ideas past them for feedback. We were shaky nervous. Especially my friend, who was going to be seeing the tougher agent (from what we’d seen that morning).

When my time came, I approached the agent and introduced myself confidently using the pen name. She immediately commented that it was an interesting name. Grin again! I chose the name deliberately to include a memorable first name, and a last name that’s not too common, but easy to spell when you hear it. My plan worked! I thanked her and told her the meaning of the first name I’d chosen, which elicited a further comment from her. Cool. She’s going to remember that – and me -because I was able to add that mental anchor. (And she was very encouraging about my novel synopsis, too, and gave some excellent advice – so I will be contacting her in future, and I think she’ll remember me – er, the other me - when I do.)

Later on, we did make the acquaintance of one lady, with whom we talked for some time before we actually introduced ourselves. By this time, my friend B. was much more at ease, and he was the one to give her my name – except that he started to pronounce my real name. He caught himself in time, but it was close.

His near-slip, and the strong urges I noticed in myself to talk about my own (real) background, reminded me about how much on her guard an Outlaw needs to be if she wants to keep that air of mystery about her. Yeesh. Now, if he had slipped up, I had a plan ready - I would have said that he knew me by my middle name from when we were younger. A backup plan is always a good thing.

It’s not easy! I almost told total strangers what I do for a living (besides writing!), nearly gave away the show by being my normally friendly self. It wouldn’t have been a bad thing in this case, but I needed the practice in being more than I’m used to being.

Chattiness served up its second lesson of the weekend for me over at The Claire Files. A poster under multiple names, who tended to be very wordy and name-dropping, made a fatal mistake. He mentioned the name of a woman and then added “no relation!” But the woman’s last name didn’t match the one he was posting under. It DID, however, correspond to the name of an apparently infamous internet troll, who’d already been banned from this and other forums for all sorts of weird behavior.

So the fellow was busted by his own urge to talk, to make himself important, to speak his piece. He gave the show away because he couldn't keep his fingers from walking the keyboard. And you know what? It could happen to any of us. It’s human nature.

That was Poirot’s (and Christie’s) genius – understanding the reality of motivation behind human actions. And it’s why Christie’s writing endures and entertains still today.

Come to think of it, she used a pen name (Mary Westmacott) for some of her writing, too.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Sovereignty's only for the in-crowd

From the article (link in post title):
Should Senators violate their oath of office — which obliges them to "support and defend the Constitution" — by enacting S. 147, they will be inviting an even greater problem down the road. Other self-designating communities can be expected to demand recognition of their rights to have their own government and sovereign laws. These might include Chicanos, Cajuns, Amish and Puerto Ricans.

Horrors!

Hmm...Seems he's admitting through the back door that such rights exist...

(The article's author,) Frank J. Gaffney, Jr., is President of the Center for Security Policy and a columnist for the Washington Times.

Oh. That explains a lot.

Thanks to the ever-diligent NuclearDruid at The Claire Files for the original link.