Thursday, May 24, 2018

An alternative to Intuit's Quickbooks for accounting software?


For those who've been following the saga of Intuit's deliberate slighting of its firearms industry customers, and wish to boycott that company's products (as I'm doing), there are a couple of excellent alternatives to its Quickbooks small business accounting software.

My accountant had recommended that I use Quickbooks for the company Miss D. and I have just set up, as a corporate structure for our books and publishing activities.  However, in the light of recent events, that's obviously a non-starter.  I looked online, and found that PC Magazine had recently reviewed "The Best Small Business Accounting Software of 2018".  There were three Editors' Choice awards:  Quickbooks, Wave, and AccountEdge Pro (follow the links to the reviews).  The latter costs $399, whereas Wave is free to try, free for limited business use, and very low-cost even if you add in its advanced features such as payroll processing.  Naturally, given that both packages were equally highly rated by PC Magazine, I chose Wave on cost grounds.

I've been playing with Wave for a couple of days.  It's easy to master, particularly if you've used any form of personal finance or small business accounting package before.  I particularly like the fact that it offers genuine double-entry accounting, something many "lightweight" packages lack.  My accountant says it'll do just fine from his perspective, so as far as I'm concerned, I'm going to be riding the Wave!

I figured some of you might be interested in either Wave, or AccountEdge Pro, as viable alternatives to Quickbooks.  If anyone has a favorite tax preparation package that's a viable alternative to Intuit's TurboTax, please let us know in Comments.  (Miss D. and I are going to have our accountant prepare our taxes - it's not much of an additional charge, over and above preparing our business accounts.)

Peter

A Social Justice Warrior meets his/her/its match


Courtesy of an e-mail from reader Scott K., here's a wonderful takedown of political correctness and Social Justice Warriors.








Peter

Legal signposts on the road to destroying democracy


It's looking more and more as if there was, indeed, a "Deep State" plot, tightly embroiled with and controlled by the Obama administration (or, at the very least, certain individuals within it), designed to spy on the Trump campaign and, if possible, take it down.  Now that he's President, that same plot has switched focus to removing him from office at all costs, regardless of the facts (or the lack thereof).

Four important articles that I think are worth reading and bookmarking for future reference:

  1. Sharyl Attkisson:  "Collusion against Trump” timeline".  An exhaustive listing, from 2011 to the present, of events and incidents relevant to the situation.  Attkisson, remember, was the journalist primarily responsible for the in-depth investigation of the "Fast and Furious" scandal involving gun-running to Mexico by the ATF and (possibly) other branches of the US government under the Obama administration.  More is soon to come out about that scandal.
  2. Also by Sharyl Attkisson:  "8 signs pointing to a counterintelligence operation deployed against Trump's campaign".  This is important because counterintelligence operations are not subject to the same legal restrictions as law enforcement investigations.  It may be that the Obama administration deliberately used that distinction to attempt to avoid responsibility for its actions.  I don't think that's going to work.
  3. Kimberley Strassel:  "Was Trump’s Campaign ‘Set Up’?  At some point, the Russia investigation became political. How early was it?"  Read this in conjunction with item 1 above.  I think there's growing evidence that it "became political" rather earlier than most people think.
  4. Mark Penn:  "Stopping Robert Mueller to protect us all".  This is an opinion piece (with which I largely agree), but it has one very important sentence indeed, which I think is very true:
"Rather than a fair, limited and impartial investigation, the Mueller investigation became a partisan, open-ended inquisition that, by its precedent, is a threat to all those who ever want to participate in a national campaign or an administration again."

As Kurt Schlichter puts it:  "The question all boils down to this – is it acceptable for the party in power to use the intelligence and law enforcement communities against its rivals?"

Keep watching.  I suspect the fur is only just beginning to fly.

Peter

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Yes, I'm a prophet again . . . used car edition


Last year I warned readers about the dangers of unwittingly buying a flood-damaged car, in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.  It looks like the problem is still very real.  Old NFO passed the word that the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles has just issued this warning (link is to an Adobe Acrobat file in .PDF format):

More than eight months after Hurricane Harvey damaged an estimated 500,000 cars and trucks, Texans are still at risk of unknowingly purchasing flood-damaged vehicles.

The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (TxDMV) is urging Texans to do their research before buying a new or used car.

“Too many Texans already get taken advantage of by people selling flooded, salvaged, and rebuilt vehicles as though they are in perfect condition,” said TxDMV Executive Director Whitney Brewster.

TxDMV uses a national title database under the United States Department of Justice to help stop title fraud and urges consumers to learn how to protect themselves when buying a vehicle. Brewster cautioned, “Don’t find a problem after you bought the vehicle. Protect yourself before you buy.”

There's more at the link, including a useful checklist of what to look for to identify suspect vehicles.

If you look at my earlier article, there's an impressive video clip of flood-damaged cars lined up nose to tail, awaiting disposal.  Don't buy one!

Peter

Cabin pron


I've seen posts on several blogs from time to time offering pictures of picturesque cabins in the woods, in the mountains, at the seashore, etc.  I was reminded of them when I found this image on Gab this morning.  Clickit to biggit.




Imagine waking up to that view in summer!  It'd be great.  Winter . . . not so much, I guess.  I imagine it'd be really cold up there!

Peter

An e-mail conversation with Intuit concerning their customers in the firearms industry


Following my two posts (linked below) about the Intuit imbroglio, I thought the following e-mail exchange between myself and Mr. Brad Smith, Chief Executive Officer of Intuit, might be of interest to my readers.  It began a couple of days ago, when I e-mailed him concerning the situation at Gunsite.

Dear Mr. Smith,

I understand that your company has chosen to discriminate against Gunsite Academy in Arizona by denying them the use of your financial services.  I might point out that Gunsite Academy is involved in training some of America's finest military personnel and first responders.  I speak as a retired military officer and Chaplain, who is well aware of the excellence of Gunsite Academy's offerings.

You are, of course, free to adopt whatever policies you please as a corporation.  However, so am I.  Last month I formed a new company in Texas, Sedgefield Press, to act as a corporate vehicle for my writing activities. I have published over a dozen books so far, and according to Author Earnings' statistics, I rank within the top 1% (by earnings) of conventionally- and self-published writers in the United States.

I had discussed accounting software with our accountant, who recommended Quickbooks to me.  However, following your decision to discriminate against Gunsite and similar institutions, I shall instead give my business to a company that does not discriminate against lawful commerce and industry for the sake of political correctness.  What's more, I shall advise my colleagues, fellow authors, and industry professionals to do likewise, for every product offered by Intuit.

You should be ashamed of yourselves for such blatant non-commercial discrimination.  However, I suspect political correctness is more important to you than a sense of shame.

Yours truly,

Peter Grant

This morning, Mr. Smith replied, copying his e-mail to several other individuals at Intuit, whom I presume are legal representatives or account managers.

Dear Peter,

Thank you for reaching out and sharing your point of view. There seems to be some confusion about this situation, so I want to be very clear about our policy.

In-person sales of firearms are permitted under our payment guidelines. However, there are transactions that are prohibited by our partner bank and our own policy if they take place in situations other than face-to-face. Firearms sales that do not occur in a face-to-face transaction are one of those situations. With that said, in-person sales of firearms are not prohibited.

This policy is not new and has not changed. Our small business customers are made aware of these terms, and must agree to them, before they begin using our payments processing services.

I hope this helps clarify our position on the matter.

Sincerely,

Brad

I have just replied, as follows.

Dear Mr. Smith,

You are misinformed, sir.  No, I repeat, NO firearm transfers can take place between a buyer and a Federally licensed seller (such as Gunsite) UNLESS the legally required background check form has been filled out and signed, the purchaser's identity has been checked, the background check has taken place, and a NICS clearance number for the transaction has been issued.  Mail-order firearms sales are no different.  If I order a firearm from Gunsite (or any other dealer), they are not permitted to ship it directly to me.  Instead, I must make arrangements with a licensed firearms dealer in my state.  Gunsite will ship it to that dealer, who will conduct the background check required by law.  Only when I have passed that check may I take delivery of the firearm from them (paying an additional fee for their work in processing the transaction).

I simply cannot believe that a large corporation such as Intuit, with its many legal representatives on staff, can be unaware of this legal requirement.  I therefore find your explanation disingenuous, at best.  Furthermore, your company's conduct w.r.t. the Lone Wolf - Flint River transaction, over and above the Gunsite imbroglio, implies that its fundamental philosophy is to make life as difficult as possible for its customers - those, at least, that it still has, and those probably not for long - in the firearms industry.  I find it hard to believe that this is the result of pressure from "your partner bank", as financial institutions must surely be aware of the legal situation.  THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS AN OFF-THE-BOOKS, NON-FACE-TO-FACE FIREARMS TRANSFER when it comes to a Federally licensed dealer.  To suggest that there is, is preposterous.  If the face-to-face transfer does not take place at the originating dealer, it must and will take place at the transferring dealer in the buyer's home state.  Anything less will result in Federal charges and prison time for those responsible, on both sides of the transaction.  The same applies to a private seller.  If the buyer is from another state, he or she must send the firearm to a dealer in that state to conduct a background check.  Again, there will be severe consequences if this is not done.

In the light of your company's conduct, and its inexplicable refusal to give an honest, timely, truthful explanation to its customers of its actions and motives, I have publicly called for a boycott of Intuit and all its products and services.  I see no reason at this time to retract or modify that call.  You will find my comments on your company's actions at the following blog posts:

     https://bayourenaissanceman.blogspot.com/2018/05/clearly-you-do-business-with-intuit.html

     https://bayourenaissanceman.blogspot.com/2018/05/it-seems-it-really-is-risky-to-do.html

I have every hope that my several thousand daily readers will understand and respond to that call.  You will also find - a quick Internet search will reveal - that I'm far from alone in my reaction to your company's unbelievably inept handling of these situations.

I shall post your response, and my reply, on my blog later today, so that my readers can make up their own minds.

Yours truly,

Peter Grant

I leave you, dear readers, to make up your own minds.  If you wish to contact Mr. Smith for clarification, his e-mail address (available publicly on Intuit's Web site, so I'm not doxxing him in any way) is brad_smith@intuit.com .  If you would like to know about excellent alternatives to Quickbooks for small business accounting software, see my article here.

Peter

Income, jobs, automation, and our future


I've written several times in the past about jobs, the impact of automation, the economy, and our future.  It's not a very comfortable subject, but it's becoming more and more critical for everyone in this country to be aware of what's going on and plan accordingly.

Two recent articles drive home this point.  They're long, and therefore likely to be overlooked by many who want a quick fix of information without having to work at it, but they repay our attention.  I'll quote from both at some length.  Even if you don't read both articles in full (which I hope you will), please read and think about these excerpts.  They're important to your future, and mine.  I've highlighted some points in bold print.

The first article is titled "The Long Death of America’s Middle Class".

The American middle class is dying.

In 2015, it dipped below 50% of the population for the first time since data collection started on the issue. It’s now an official minority group.

Meanwhile, nearly half of Americans don’t have enough money to cover a surprise $400 expense. Many are living paycheck to paycheck, with little to no cushion. And US homes are less affordable than they’ve been in decades—possibly ever.

. . .

The late 1950s was the golden age of America’s middle class ... Around then, a husband could support his family on an average income. He and his wife likely owned their own home, as well as their car. They had multiple children—and didn’t think much of the cost of having more. Plus, they had money to save.

Compare that to the average family today. Both spouses likely have to work—whether they want to or not—just to afford the same basic lifestyle.

Plus, it now costs well over $200,000 to raise a child, on average. And that doesn’t even include college costs. Back in 1960, it cost roughly $25,000.

This hefty price tag is one of the main reasons middle-class families are having fewer children… or none at all.


In short, the average American’s standard of living has taken a huge hit over the past generation or so.

For example, consider a typical high school teacher’s financial situation.

In 1959, the median annual salary for a US high school teacher was $5,276, according to the Department of Labor. Meanwhile, the median US home value was $9,627, according to the US Census Bureau.

That means a teacher made enough money each year to cover over half of the price of a middle-class home. Or 55%, to be exact.

Take a minute and think… How does your annual income compare to the price of your home? I’d bet many people make far less than 55%.

Today, the median purchase price of a US home is $241,700. To maintain the 1959 income-to-home price ratio, a high school teacher would need to make $132,935 annually.

Of course, the average high school teacher doesn’t make nearly that much. Not even close.
He or she makes around $48,290—just enough to cover 36% of the median home price.

. . .

Cars are another large expense for Americans. Debt has helped camouflage a big price increase there, too.

Americans are now over $1.1 trillion in auto debt. This figure has skyrocketed 2,954% since 1971.
Americans have also racked up more than $1 trillion in credit card debt. This debt explosion also started in the early 1970s. Credit card debt is up 14,281% since 1971.

So why are Americans going deeper and deeper into debt?

It’s simple: The cost of living for the average middle-class family has risen dramatically faster than its income.

Since 1971, there’s been a dramatic—and growing—split between work and wages. As the next chart shows, the average person’s real wages have more or less stagnated since the early 1970s.



With higher expenses and stagnating wages, people have made up the difference with debt.

There's more at the link.

When you combine that with the employment situation, the red warning lights are flashing ever brighter.  John Mauldin sets out the scale of the problem in an article titled "The Great Jobs Collision".

Bain thinks automation will eliminate up to 25% of US jobs by 2030, with the lower-wage tiers getting hit the hardest and soonest. That will be devastating, and it’s not that far away. Remember 2006? Right now, you are halfway between then and 2030. Time flies, and this time it won’t be fun. Interestingly, though, Bain predicts that the manpower needed to build out the technology that will ultimately eliminate all those jobs will be enough to keep us all working until 2030. The Bain team is a tad more optimistic than I am. But they have their reasons.

Why is this happening? Demographics and automation are mutually reinforcing trends. One we already see: Employers turn to automation increasingly because they can’t find workers with the skills they need in sufficient numbers. The Baby Boom generation is leaving the workforce (though many Boomers are delaying retirement as long as they can). The additional labor that came from one-time factors like China’s opening has mostly run its course. If sufficient numbers of qualified people aren’t available, employers turn to machines.

At the same time, technology is making the machines better and less expensive. Much of the job automation so far has been fairly benign, jobs-wise. It has replaced dangerous factory work or other repetitive, unpleasant manual labor. Often the automation makes human workers more productive instead of replacing them. That’s about to change as artificial intelligence technology improves. Machines will be able to perform cognitive tasks that once required highly trained, experienced humans.

Now, at any given company this trend can look like a good thing to the owners. Invest in machines, lay off people, mint more profits. But that’s short-sighted in the aggregate because someone has to buy your products. The workers your company and others just laid off won’t be able to spend as much unless new jobs replace the ones you just eliminated.

In theory, automation will enable lower prices, which will raise demand and create more jobs. Bain does not think it will happen that way. They foresee up to 40 million permanent job losses in the US, even accounting for higher demand.

In other words, in the next 10–12 years the US economy will swing from a labor shortage to a huge labor surplus. With the labor force presently around 160 million, this implies an unemployment rate around 25%. I find it hard to see how we could call that an economic boom.


But let’s be optimistic and assume other jobs do appear for many displaced workers. The situation still won’t be ideal for either them or the economy at large, because they will likely make less money and have less spending power. Karen’s report points out that wages will face downward pressure long before workers get replaced by machines. The mere existence of the new technologies will cap wages as the price of automating vs. employing humans falls.

. . .

As you might imagine, this doesn’t end well. The best case is that reduced consumer demand caps growth and we’ll see more decades of flat or mild growth. The worst? Economic dislocation and inequality lead to social breakdown and more calls for government intervention, higher taxes on the wealthy, and more generous welfare programs.

. . .

As we see large parts of jobs destroyed, displaced workers won’t meekly surrender, nor will they be happy that small numbers of highly talented, mostly older workers receive most of the rewards. They will want help, and in a democracy they will have the power to demand it.

This response means that the populist movements springing up all over the world will probably keep gaining momentum and, increasingly, taking control of governments. Resulting policy changes could be significant ... mild measures like job retraining probably won’t suffice this time. We could see major expansion and redesign of the “safety net” programs.

. . .

The potential for a left-wing populist movement to arise is at least 50-50. And those odds mean higher taxes. And larger government and more government controls ... populist movements look for a strong leader to be able to direct the country and the correct path.

. . .

How to pay for all this? Karen expects pressure for a wealth tax. Not an income tax, mind you, but a tax on all your wealth. That will be aggravating to many who have already paid tax once when they earned that wealth. Now imagine having to “donate” 1% or 2% of your net worth to the IRS every year. It could happen, and if it does, it will make it that much harder to keep your assets growing against other headwinds. I agree that we won't see a wealth tax under a Republican-controlled Congress and White House, but these things do not last forever. When a populist backlash takes us to a different state of mind, when a Bernie Sanders/Elizabeth Warren type figure emerges, likely much younger and more charismatic than his or her predecessors, with the siren song of how the rich should be made to pay to make society more “just” and equal, because they benefited the most and the majority of the population did not, that message will resonate.

Again, more at the link.

We need to be thinking about these things now, and planning our futures accordingly.  If our jobs are likely to be affected by automation, we should be planning right now to get whatever education and/or training we need to move into a field where that's less likely to happen.  I suspect many so-called "service" jobs (e.g. plumber, electrician, auto service and repair, etc.) will remain in high demand, simply because people can't afford to do without them.  Increasingly, such jobs will be a lot more "automation-proof" than working at a call center, or customer service center, or shop assistant.

It's already reached a point where many of the "voices" you hear when you call a bank, or insurance company, or other major corporation aren't human at all.  They're artificial intelligence systems, designed to screen all incoming calls and direct them to the most appropriate department or person - or deal with them through a series of automated menus, so that no human contact is needed.  That's faster and cheaper for the company, so expect getting through to a human being to become more and more difficult - by design.  Expect the same automation-centered approach to dominate more and more businesses.

It's an "interesting time" to be alive, in the sense of the apocryphal Chinese curse.

Peter

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

It seems it really IS risky to do business with Intuit!


Yesterday I noted that "Clearly, you do business with Intuit (Quickbooks, TurboTax, etc.) at your own risk".  This followed Intuit's cancellation of its contract with Gunsite Academy, and its deliberate withholding of funds from that institution, returning them to its customers rather than paying the debts incurred at Gunsite by those customers.

It seems they're at it again - this time to the tune of $150,000 - for a non-firearms transaction!

On May 11th, Lone Wolf made two of what would be three transfers to Flint River. On May 14th they completed the third transfer. The transfers were made through Intuit’s QuickBooks merchant services; Flint River Armory had a merchant account for the purpose of credit card and ACH payment processing. At the time of the transaction, Flint River’s QuickBooks merchant account had been in place for around six weeks. According to Intuit’s own marketing blurb, merchants can use QuickBooks “to get paid 2x faster” – or not.

The transfer in question wasn’t for firearms, it was a separate business transaction. I’ll state that again: it had nothing to do with either components or complete firearms. The total amount of the three transfers: $150,000.

The money was withdrawn from Lone Wolf’s account by Intuit within thirty minutes. In accordance with standard business practices, it should have been deposited into Flint River’s account with relative speed. Instead, there was no sign of a pending deposit. Instead Intuit abruptly terminated Flint River’s merchant account.

Thus began several days of Flint River contacting Intuit three and four times a day. Finally, after approximately fifteen phone calls – each of which they documented – Flint River’s accountant got someone on the phone who would answer some of their questions. The accountant called John Heikkinen into his office, put the woman on speaker phone, and waited to see what she’d say.

Intuit had decided they would no longer do business with firearms companies, she told them. Flint River’s QuickBooks merchant account had been closed down because they’re a firearms company. Their other Intuit-owned services would also be terminated.

Intuit continued to deny John’s request for documentation of the transfer being reversed. In fact, they refused to provide documentation of any kind.

Meanwhile $150,000 of Lone Wolf’s money was being held by Intuit. That meant Intuit was earning interest on $150,000 they claimed they didn’t want (because, guns, even though, again, the transaction wasn’t for firearms or components). While their exact interest rate is unknown and bank savings rates vary widely – Capitol One’s is 0.75% APY and Synchrony’s is 1.05% APY – the current Federal Reserve Funds rate is 1.75%.

. . .

How would Intuit feel if we, as an industry, dropped them? No more QuickBooks, no more Mint, no more TurboTax. A little something to consider. A project for our readers: back, frequent, and support businesses that support the Second Amendment. Money talks, guys. Make yours sing.

There's more at the link.  Bold print in the final paragraph above is my emphasis.

I have no hesitation in calling this complete lack of response, and failure to return the funds immediately, as being at best ethically questionable conduct on Intuit's part.  Depending on the facts of the matter, I suspect it might even be legally questionable, as it was done without explanation or prior warning, and might therefore be portrayed as a deliberate entrapment of customers' funds in an effort to hurt their business.  I'd certainly be suing Intuit for every cent that they earned in interest on the money while they were holding it, plus damages for any opportunity cost to my company as a result of their holding on to my money, plus punitive damages.  I think I could make a very strong case in court.

Folks, it's now quite clear that Intuit doesn't give a damn about its customers - only for the politically correct flavor du jour out there, whatever it may be.  If it's firearms-related businesses today, it'll be Christian-related businesses tomorrow, or wedding organizers offering marriage services that adhere to religious rather than secular standards, or those offering rental accommodation who insist on criminal background checks for prospective tenants.

I personally plan to never again use any Intuit product or service.  In fact, I'll be asking prospective vendors whether they use Intuit's payment processing facilities, and if they do, I'll be taking my business elsewhere - after telling them why I'm doing so.  From now on, Quickbooks, Quicken Loans, TurboTax, Mint and Intuit's other offerings are on my "Do Not Use Under Any Circumstances" list.

I call upon all my readers to do likewise.  I can only describe Intuit's policies, behavior and attitude, as revealed in both these cases, as discriminatory, unfair, unjust, and intolerable.  If you agree, please contact Intuit by telephone and/or e-mail and/or snail mail to tell them so.

Peter

"How Democracies End: A Bureaucratic Whimper"


That's the title of an article by Victor Davis Hanson.  It's powerful stuff, and well worth reading in full.  Here's an excerpt.

We are all worried, on occasion, by nationalist and anti-democratic movements abroad in former democratic countries. We all sometimes wish Donald Trump would ignore personal spats and curb his tweeting and thus let his considerable accomplishments speak for themselves.

But that said, the current and chief threats to Western constitutional government are not originating from loud right-wing populists in Eastern Europe, or from Trump wailing like Ajax about the rigged deep state.

Rather, the threat to our civil liberties is coming from supposedly sanctimonious and allegedly judicious career FBI, Justice Department, and intelligence agency officials, progressive and self-described idealistic former members of the Obama national security team, and anti-Trump fervent campaign operatives, all of whom felt that they could break the law—including but not limited to illegally monitoring American citizens, and seeking to warp federal courts and even the presidential election because such unsavory and anti-constitutional means were felt necessary and justified to prevent and then subvert the presidency of Donald J. Trump. 

It is willful blindness for progressives and NeverTrump Republicans to overlook what has happened only to damn what has not happened. The dangers in America are not from transparent right-wing authoritarians (who are easily spotted in their clumsiness), but from mellifluous self-styled constitutionalists, whose facades and professions of legality mask their rank efforts to use any anti-constitutional means necessary to achieve their supposedly noble egalitarian ends.

This is the way democracies end—not with a loud boisterous bang, but with insidious and self-righteous whimpers.

There's more at the link.

I found Prof. Hanson's words even more powerful when read in conjunction with another article, this one titled "H.A.L.P.E.R. Spells Game Up for Obama's Spies".  The author quotes former FBI agent Mark Wauck as follows:

The FBI is asked--way back as early as 2015, but who knows? -- to be helpful to the Dems and they agree. What they do is they hire non-government consultants with close Dem ties to do "analytical work" for them, which happens to include total access to NSA data. Advantages? For the Dems, obviously, access to EVERYTHING digital. A gold mine for modern campaign research. For the FBI there's also an advantage. They get to play dumb -- gosh, we didn't know they were looking at all that stuff! They also don't have to falsify anything, like making [stuff] up to "justify" opening a FI [full investigation] on an American citizen and then lying to the FISC to get a FISA on the USPER [US person] and having to continually renew the FISA and lie all over again to the FISC each renewal. And the beauty of it all is, who's ever going to find out? And even if they do, how do you prove criminal intent?

So everything's humming along until a pain in the a** named Mike Rogers at NSA does an audit in 4/2016, just as the real campaign season is about to start. And Rogers learns that 85% of the searches the FBI has done between 12/2015 and 4/2016 have been totally out of bounds. And he clamps down -- no more non-government contractors, tight auditing on searches of NSA data. Oh sh*t! What to do, just give up? Well, not necessarily, but there's a lot more work involved and a lot more fudging the facts. What the FBI needs to do now is get a FISA that will cover their a** and provide coverage on the GOPers going forward. That means, first get a FI on an USPER [US person] connected to the Trump campaign (who looks, in [April] or [May] 2016, like the GOP candidate) so you can then get that FISA. That's not so easy, because they've got to find an USPER with that profile who they can plausibly present as a Russian spy. But they have this source named Halper.

So they first open a PI [preliminary investigation]. That allows them to legally use NatSec Letters and other investigative techniques to keep at least some of what they were doing going. But importantly this allows them to legally use Halper to try to frame people connected to the Trump campaign -- IOW, find someone to open a FI on so they can then get that FISA. However the PI is framed, that's what they're looking to do. It has legal form, even if the real intent is to help the Dems. And you can see why this had to be a CI [counterintelligence] thing, so in a sense the Russia narrative was almost inevitable -- no other bogeyman would really fit the bill, and especially on short notice.

So that's what they do, and Halper helps them come up with Papadopoulos and Page, so by the end of July they've got their FI. Problem. Their first FISA is rejected, but eventually, 10/2016, they get that.

And then Trump wins and Rogers visits Trump Tower. And the Deep State has a fit.

Again, more at the link.

I believe both of the articles cited above are really important reading for anyone wanting to understand the way in which the Obama administration "weaponized" the primary security agencies of the US government for partisan political purposes.  Unless this is stopped, decisively, and dealt with once and for all, it will become routine for every administration to do the same.  If that happens, our constitutional republic will be as dead as the proverbial dodo.

Peter

Lock your doors!


Greg Ellifritz issues this timely reminder.

Four years ago, I wrote an article titled Lock Your Damn Doors.  In that article I looked at a month’s worth of burglary and theft reports from the city where I worked and tracked how many theft victims had left their houses or cars unlocked before the thefts occurred.

The results?  83% of the theft victims had left their doors unlocked, making the criminals’ jobs extremely easy.

Another spring, another increase in theft offenses.  I decided to repeat the study to see if the victims in my city had learned any lessons in the last few years.  I tracked all the thefts from vehicles and burglaries reported in the city where I work (an upper-class Midwest suburb with around 35,000 residents) during the month of April.

Here are the numbers:

  • Number of vehicles entered- 25
  • Unlocked vehicles- 25
  • Locked vehicles- 0
  • Percent of vehicles unlocked- 100%
  • Number of houses (or garages) entered- 8
  • Unlocked houses (or garages)- 4
  • Locked houses (or garages)- 4
  • Percent of residences unlocked- 50%
. . .

This is the first year since I have been tracking that 100% of vehicle thefts occurred in unlocked vehicles.  Not a single car window was broken to steal anything.  I find that absolutely shocking.  You can safely assume that if there is nothing visible to steal in your car, thieves won’t break windows just to check.  On the other hand, if you leave your doors unlocked, thieves will open the door and see what they can find.  As the title of the article says: Lock your damn doors!  If you don’t want your crap stolen, keep your doors locked and valuables out of sight.

There's more at the link.

Mr. Ellifritz provides this video of a criminal 'casing' cars, looking for unlocked vehicles.





He's right, of course.  In conversations with criminals during my service as a prison chaplain, I routinely heard that they sought out neighborhoods and individuals who made their lives easier by leaving vehicles and buildings unlocked.  I recall one car thief who bragged that he'd made off with something over a hundred vehicles, during a criminal career spanning several decades, by simply watching to see who started their cars in their driveway on a cold morning, then went back inside to finish getting ready for work.  He could be in and gone before they realized anything was wrong.  His biggest complaint was the advent of remote-starting vehicles, that allowed their owners to start them without unlocking the doors!

The neighborhood in which I currently live is, sadly, an example of what Mr. Ellifritz is talking about.  It's very safe and secure - crime is so minuscule there are hardly any records of it for about a mile around.  Unfortunately, many who live here have become security-lax as a result.  If we ever do have an influx of criminals, they'll find easy pickings . . . but then, this is Texas.  As soon as someone notices, they're likely to get their fundamental jujubes shot off.

Peter

Monday, May 21, 2018

Dusty!


Courtesy of The Aviationist, here's an amazing video clip of a USAF C-5 Galaxy transport - the largest aircraft operated by that force - taking off from the just over 7,000 foot runway at Ilopango Airport in El Salvador.  For an aircraft that large, carrying an unknown cargo but clearly heavily laden, it's quite an achievement.

The wingspan of the C-5 is about 80 feet wider than the runway, hence the clouds of dust raised during the last part of the takeoff run, when the jet exhaust is angled down towards them.





I'd call that dusty in anyone's language!




Peter

Doofus Of The Day #1,011


Today's award goes to a felon in Florida.

A Lake City man was jailed after he reported that his son had stolen his rifle.

The problem? The man, James Denson, is a convicted felon who is not allowed to own a rifle, the Lake City Police said in a press release.

There's more at the link.

Uh-huh.  Before you call the cops to report a crime, make sure you're not implicating yourself in the same crime!




Peter

Clearly, you do business with Intuit (Quickbooks, TurboTax, etc.) at your own risk


Intuit - owners of Quickbooks, TurboTax and other widely used financial software products, as well as a provider of financial services such as credit card payment processing - has just dumped one of its customers firmly in the dwang, for politically correct - not legal - reasons.

A couple of months ago Gunsite decided to make a change to a new credit card processor, QuickBooks. It seemed to be a wise business choice at the time and may have been, had Intuit not chosen to go the way they did.

. . .

Then, a week ago – May 11th, 2018 – Gunsite got another phone call from QuickBooks. This time it didn’t go as well. The software company informed Gunsite that they were immediately ceasing all business with them. Why? Because they sell and promote firearms.

At first blush this was frustrating news, but Gunsite figured it could be handled. Then the other shoe dropped: in addition to cutting business ties with Gunsite, QuickBooks/Intuit refused to release the money from credit card charges currently in process from sales that had already made.

This amounts to tens of thousands of dollars from not only purchases made in the Gunsite Pro Shop – including hats, shirts, bumper stickers, and coffee mugs – but also money that had been paid for classes taken on gun safety and marksmanship.

Yes, you read that right. Tens of thousands of dollars in sales of products and classes, paid for in good faith, that Intuit has refused to release. Instead, Intuit stated they would refund those monies to the credit card holders. That means revenue for everything from pens to five-day level 250 pistol courses had just became door prizes, provided free to people who had the benefit of the training and took home products, all courtesy of the Intuit’s largesse.

Ken Campbell is matter-of-fact about the issue: “It is their right in the republic to choose not to do business with us. In fact, I do not want to do business with them or any company that does not support the Second Amendment. The issue is their refusal to release our funds to us.”

There's more at the link.

This is beyond stupid.  As far as I can see, it may verge on the criminal.  At least three lawyers of my acquaintance have observed that withholding funds for ideological rather than legal reasons may well be actionable - and if so, I hope Gunsite takes such action.

My own accountant had just (last month) recommended Quickbooks to me as good accounting software.  Needless to say, under the circumstances, I'll be using something else - there are plenty of competing products out there.  I shall also never again use TurboTax or any other Intuit product.  If they show such contempt for law-abiding businesses and citizens, they clearly hold me in contempt as well - so why should I give them my hard-earned dollars?

I strongly recommend to every reader of this blog that they should not do business with Intuit at all.  The company's decisions in the Gunsite case appear to be driven by political correctness, rather than the law;  and if that's the case once, it probably will be again in future.  Therefore, I intend to let them stew in their own ideological juice, and I suggest that we should all do likewise.  That may be the only language they'll understand.  I also recommend that you contact the company and tell them why you're doing so.  I already have.

EDITED TO ADD:  If you'd like to look at a couple of excellent alternatives to Quickbooks, see my article here.




Peter

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Sunday morning music


You can blame a grackle for this morning's selection.  You see, I was working in the garden yesterday afternoon when one flew overhead and dropped a "souvenir" on me.  While I was cleaning up, I thought of the number of times I've been dive-bombed in similar fashion.  By far the worst offenders, in my experience at least, have been seagulls:  so, I thought, why not make this morning's music about them?  (Besides, I can't find that many songs about grackles!)

Perhaps it's inevitable that we should begin with an excerpt from Neil Diamond's music for the movie "Jonathan Livingston Seagull", based on the best-selling book by Richard Bach.





Next, Joni Mitchell's "Song to a Seagull" from her 1968 debut album of the same name.





For a change of pace, here's South African duo Des and Dawn Lindbergh with "The Seagull's Name was Nelson", which was a hit for them in that country in 1971.





Next up, rock group Bad Company didn't just produce hard rock.  Here's their acoustic number "Seagull".  It's available on several of their albums;  this one's from "Remastered".





Finally, let's have fun with English folk rock supergroup Steeleye Span.  This song, "Seagull", is from their album "Tempted and Tried".  This is an extended live version recorded in 2013.  As you can see, even though the group dates back to the 1960's, they still have a lot of fun together as they grow older.





Fun stuff!  And it's all due to an incontinent grackle . . .




Peter