Thursday, March 27, 2008

Top ten reasons to move Income Tax to VAT

It's our favorite time of year again. April 15th is just around the corner and it's time for you to pay Uncle Sam for all of those good things that you are benefiting from. It's important to remember that the Government never wants less money, only more. There are a few reasons for this.

For you Republicans. Well it's obvious. At nearly a billion dollars a day, this war isn't gonna pay for itself. After all, we might need to lean over into Iran . We have banks to bail out as well as large corporations. There are an awful lot of palms to grease.

For you Democrats. Well there are an awful lot of poor people that need to feel like they are sticking it to the man. Surely there must be another way to buy the votes of the downtrodden. Oh yeah, and there are an awful lot of palms to grease.

As it is, it doesn't matter which side of the isle you are from, you will be supporting a party that wants our money.

Here's the problem. the Federal Income tax was instituted because the government just couldn't spend enough money and had to figure out a way to get more from it's people. Here's the problem. It was unconstitutional. Well that little fact wasn't going to stand in their way. in 1913 the 16th amendment was passed allowing for the taxation of everyone based on personal income. Well that opened the pandora's box that we have now in the form of our beloved 1099 form to be filed with numerous schedules to the IRS so that we can pay for our very efficient government.

The new solution. This solution is actually not new at all. It's quite old. they call it the VAT tax or Value Added Tax which would make calling it a VAT tax redundant. Basically a national sales tax that would replace the current income tax. And here are my top 10 reasons to move to a VAT tax

10. No more smug co-worker that already has THEIR taxes done. Some propeller heads have their taxes done the second the forms come out. Well GOOOOOOOOOOD for you.

9. No more filling out forms and schedules. Not only do you have to fill out forms and submit them to Uncle Sam, but you have to keep them around as well. 7 years you gotta act as a warehouse for the IRS. Sure it doesn't take up MUCH space, but who really does it 100% anyway? If I were audited for 2006, I can guarantee you i don't know quite where i put it.

8. No more working for free. What? work for free? nobody is asking me to do that are they? Well, the average wage earner takes 24 hours to do all of their taxes (this includes the receipt saving as well as the justification and the cheating). Lets assume that you make 15 dollars an hour (minimum wage is another discussion). that's 360 dollars worth of time that the IRS made you work for free. Grrrrrrr.

7. It's easy. this is really a corollary to number 9. If there are no forms to fill out etc, then it MUST be easier. After all, they will just take it out of your purchases.

6. No more stupid TaxCut/TurboTax/HRBlock. So now in order to make it easier for the IRS to have my money, I'll shuck out 35 smacks to TurboTax to make sure that everything is being done right. yippee. at least the cost of the software is tax deductable.

5. Taxes should not be a tool for social reform. Telling the top 5% of wage earners that paying 60% of the tax burden isn't fair and they should be paying more is a lot like your mom and dad telling you you need to spend your Saturday mowing the lawn and edging only to be told later that now you need to do the garden and maybe grout some tile while your little brother watches the nth rerun of Our Gang on Saturday afternoon TV. Sure we need to help the poor. Of course the only way to pay for the poor is to bill the people that are richer than the poor, but the VAT works on everyone that buys stuff. I'm sure we can come up with a method to keep the very poor from paying on necessities. After all, we have food stamps on a visa these days.

4. Not as expensive. There is already systems in place to deal with taxes on most state levels. If we include a VAT, there will just be a few more numbers but not much more trouble for business. The savings in that we don't need to print and send out 200 million tax booklets and forms every year would be staggering. Not to mention all the jobs we don't have to pay for at the IRS. (of course this is probably a hollow victory since the VAT would increase the amount of audits etc on business, but I can't believe that auditing 100 thousand businesses isn't easier than auditing 300 million people.)

3. Frenchie pays too. Actually all foreigners will pay. This seems only fair since our government allows foreign lobbyists in the national government. Seems like they should pay since they are using our congressmen to give their countries aid. We have to pay their sales taxes when we vacation over there, it seems only fair.

2. No double taxation. Supposedly we are not supposed to be taxed twice on our income. It happens all the time though. We pay our state and fed taxes and THEN we pay gas taxes as well as local sales taxes. we are paying those taxes on already taxed income. That's supposed to be against the law.

1. NO IRS. Wow, you mean I don't have to live in fear of my property being taken from me and my wages being garnisheed because I couldn't come up with a payment for the IRS? They can freeze all my assets and I have to prove I'm innocent?! What kind of country is this? The one thing people in America fear more than their dentist is an IRS Audit.

P.S. If you want to do it like Richy Rich does. Just move to the Bahama's or Bermuda. They got no Income taxes at all. Mmmmmm...livin the good life.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Top ten useful pieces of FREE software

Computers are the single greatest invention to hit mankind since the car. It might even be bigger than that. Thanks to the internet and all of those computers out there, we have brains that think for us and eventually, they will become self aware and kill us. Well, maybe not, maybe they will make us their slaves so they can harvest our electricity...hmmm...maybe they always serve us because their first rule is to never kill a human. I can't remember what they are going to do, but we aren't there yet. For now, they are our electronic slaves from Finland. Why finland you ask? Becauase Finland holds a distinction of being one of the hardest languages to speak spoken by the fewest amount of people. And a lot of people have a hard time making their electronic slave do their bidding. It's a good thing the Finns have Nokia.

I digress. Seems like all of us have a computer, and we all have things we would like to do on that computer, but we either don't have the money, or the knowledge that the software that is there to help is available for our use. Well I'm here to help both sides of the problem. I give to you my top 10 (PC) Software titles that are Open Source. What's open source you say? Open source is the geek word for FREE (And I know some of you out there are a big fan of free). These are software packages that are built for open use and adjustment. The companies that promote them make their money on helping people use it and integrating it with your business.
In many cases, the open source software is better than the pay to play software.

There are a LOT more than 10 chuncks of software that are worthwhile and yet free. These pieces of software are MOSTLY for PC, not Mac or Linux, but the truth is, if it's open source, it's probably available for LINUX first, and some stuff actually gets ported to Mac. I am just putting up my top 10 in hopes that you will find at least one of them useful.

10. 7-zip - Smaller is better? A long time ago when computers had 3 colors and 640K of ram was more memory than anyone would ever need, there WAS a need to take your files and compress them so they could fit on little floppies (wow, that was a long time ago). That file format was called ARC. A little company made a program that would ARC and UnArc software. Legal troubles ensued and the new format that was smaller stronger and faster and PKZIP was born (Winzip is related). But that's not all, there are a lot of different compression standards. RAR is a very popular one as well. Well, 7-zip is an open source archiving program that remembers and can deal with them all! and it's super easy to use and the price is right. 7-zip

9. PFRank - So when you see these dudes that dress in girls clothing and they say 'I just don't feel right in a mans clothes' You think 'you certainly don't LOOK right in mans clothes'. So when I'm stealing my favorite music I'm always disappointed in how other people name it the way THEY like it instead of how I like it. They always include the album and the track number or some such nonsense and all I want is the name of the song. Just like the transvestite, you can change the look, but what's inside will stay the same. Well PFRank will rename your files any way you like and has lots of pre-defined ways to help you do it. It's a little bit hard to use, but well worth it. PFRank

8. AutoHotkey - This is a keyboard macro program that is amazingly powerful. *YAWN* Marks talking geek again. Ok ok, I know, but it's a very cool program if you want to say put in a bunch of data into a webpage over and over again, or it's good for making it look like your machine it typing by itself...spooooooky! anyway. It's a good program AutoHotkey

7. Synergy - Uggg this is one of those idiotic words that they use in business talk to mean something i can't remember. The Program on the other hand is for those of you out there that have a notebook as well as a home computer. If you have both, then you know that you'll end up needing either 2 sets of mice and keyboards, OR a switch box that will let you switch between your 2 systems. NOT ANY MORE! If you are on a home network (like you have 2 machines that are on the same internet connection, you are on a home network) you can use this nifty program to move your mouse to the edge of one of your systems and onto the other and back and where ever your mouse is, that's where your keyboard will type. as an ADDED bonus, it will let you cut and paste between systems. SWEET. Synergy means working together.

6. MediaMonkey - This is a sweet music player/CD Ripper/ipod-loader/music converter/Songlist keeper. What you say? You already have Microsoft media player? or Itunes (shudder!). Well this one doesn't take over your system, it just helps you do what you want. It's really slick and you can't beat the price. mmmmm....MediaMonkey

5. LINUX - Hey isn't that Lucy's brother that believe's in the Great Pumpkin? No, this is the ultimate in getting under the radar. Hate Bill gates, but you hate Steve Jobs more? Skip them both and go to LINUX an operating system with no strings attached and built by a very nice Finnish lad named Linus Torvald. well...a few strings. Linux is cool and works pretty well, once you get it going. It generally takes up less space and will work harder for less. Problem is, it's not very nice to non-geeks. So find a geek friend to help you with it and you can get by without stupid Micky Soft or OS XICLLVM or whatever they are up to. There are a TON of different versions of Linux, but my favorites right now are Ubuntu and OpenSuse linux, they offer a LOT and know.

4. TrueCrypt - So you share a computer with your room mates, or the rest of your family and you've got stuff you just don't want them to see. Your secret project that will make you millions (napster? I loved that Italian Job movie) You don't want them stumbling onto it, you don't want them even knowing it's there. Well this program not only hides your stuff, but it encrypts it! Encryption is to secrets what Fort Knox is to gold. When you run it, it takes your encrypted area and maps it onto a drive on your computer so you can use it like any other drive. It's amazing. What's that you say? What if they find out you have a hidden area and they bug you to show them whats on it or they will double your rent? This nifty program has a mode that will make your encryption 2 layered. one password for 1 layer and one password for the REAL layer. so you use your other password to show them the 'dummy' data you've prepared to throw the interested off the track and you keep your secrets to yourself. TrueCrypt The government doesn't like you having this.

3. cc pdf - What is the most acceptable non text document format around today? Microsoft Word????? **BUZZZZZ** Sorry, not even close. It's the PDF or the PostScript format. Everyone can read it, but you have to get special software from Adobe to make them. Or you USED to need that. Now we have cc pdf that will let you print to the wonderful PDF format and you can send it out like a pro. cc PDF

2. Gimp - Once you've got a word processor and a spreadsheet what do you need? A graphics editor. What's the best one out there? Adobe Photoshop is arguably the best out there. Well that's one spendy chunk of software, besides, I just want to put google eyes on my brother and a funny hat on my cat with a caption. Well GIMP is the answer for you. It's 80% of what photoshop is, and easier to user. It's the beez Kneez. GIMP

1. Open Office - Microsoft Office, 300 bux in Bill Gates pocket for software that hasn't changed in 10 years. Sure it looks different and they put menu's in different places, but what they do the most is make the newest file format unopenable to the earlier formats thus ensuring that you will pay another 300 dollars for the same crap that you use 15 % of (that's if you are a type A IT manager). Open Office on the other hand is everything you love in an office suite. The biggest annoyance about using Open office is in trying to open complex microsoft products. I will admit that it takes a little extra effort to use in a business setting. I've been able to for the last 2 years and it's not that big a deal, you can ask the sender to use an older format of MsWord or MsExcel and they will work just fine. I'm pretty sure Microsoft doesn't need any more of anyones money. Open Office

That's it. I hope I saved you a couple of bucks.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Top 10 Disappointing Realizations

You get born and you figure your life will follow pretty much a set path and everything is gonna be the way you see it. You actually really feel this way at about 12 and you are constantly surprised at the things that surprise you. So here we go.

10. The Circle of Life - This is a hard realization because you never know when you are going to have to make it. The problem is puppies and kitties are cute and lovable, you get them for your kids and before they are even out of the house Rex or Mittens is pushing up daisies. Now you have to tell them a story cut from whole cloth because you don't know whether or not you really know what you are talking about, but you really hope that you are convincing enough that your child doesn't feel THAT bad. Of course, the alternative is that you tell them that everyone dies sooner or later that that's the way it goes. Yuck, I don't like it and I already know it.

9. The movies and TV are not only fake, but most of the stuff they do can't be done. - I SO wanted the Jame Bond lotus that would turn into a submarine as well as a really fast car, and If I ever needed to, I could probaly hack into a high security computer in a matter of seconds and say 'I'm in!'. I later found out that not only did spys not drive flashy sports cars, but that they were usually non-descript non-exciting non James Bond guys like the Computer TA in my high school. *SIGH*

8. Nobody is naturally anything except for Idiot Savants - That's right, if you want to be good at anything, you have to work very hard at it. So much that when people say 'well, you're just naturally _____' you just want to hit them. Yeah, Naturally along with hundreds of hours of practice. But as a kid, I was certain that there was some talent I had that I would have but to simply discover it. Then I would be the toast of the town and on the Talk Shows and then chicks would dig me. I'm still lookin.

7. Your Mom and Dad are just regular people - This is sad twice one. Sad when you realize it about your parents, and sad when your kids realize it about you.

6. You actually have to work for a living - This one sucks. As a kid, you know that money is worth something, but you really don't know what. Those fake jobs your folks give you are either way too well paid or not paid nearly enough. Besides, they give you what you need for NOTHING, and it's good stuff. The cereal with a cool prize, the good bread. When you realize that you have to work your butt off just to make 2 dollars over minimum and that it actually takes a shocking amount of money to keep yourself out of mom and dad's basement. It SUCKS. Yes, I know, there are some people out there that will never have to work a day in their lives. Look at Paris Hilton. That's another problem with this realization. You probably do have to work for a living, but someone out there never had to at all. great.

5. Your Mom and Dad actually had to do it to have you - Lets just not think about this one ok? This gets even worse if your parents want to start talking about it. I'm perfectly ok with being an immaculate conception.

4. It's very likely that you won't like your job - The illustration that I attached to this pretty much tells the tale. The caption that goes under the girl is

remember guys somewhere some guy is sick and tired of putting up with her crap

except the hot girl is a Job. and no matter what your job is, no matter how perfect it is for you, eventually you will be bothered by it...A LOT. That's if you're lucky and you are with people you like. Many times, the job is actually not a hot supermodel, but a mangy rabid badger.

3. You're not young anymore. - It usually happens the first time a young man or woman calls you 'sir' or 'ma'am'. Ick. This one is horrible because it's like a bill you can't afford to pay. It keeps calling you and nagging you and telling you that tomorrow it will come again. Soon your joints are telling you, the mirror is telling you, the subscription cards to AARP are telling you.

2. Girls (or guys) see sex COMPLETELY differently - Yeah, this one is a real eye opener, especially for the guys. Girls pretty much figure it out because how their sexual identities are completely jammed down their throats by TV. Guys unfortunately see the same things on TV and believe it's true. You're lucky if it's true at any point during your relationship, even for 5 minutes. In terms of sex, I've always said that what a guy wants most in a girl is EXACTLY what a girl doesn't want in a guy. To be able to lie convincingly.

1. Santa - That Fat SOB isn't real?!? Here's the biggest disappointment in the big fat man. When you're a kid, you realize that you don't have any pressure against your folks because THEY are the Clause, and you gotta start towing the line. When you're an adult, you realize that here you are putting the sweat into the presents and the Fat man gets all the credit. Santa wins twice and in the end, you are just an elf.

Till next time!