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.


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, 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.