Posts tagged ‘ID’

Officious Insanity in Alabama

I got a crazy inquiry from the state of Alabama today.  I can't reproduce it without redacting a lot of confidential numbers and such, but essentially they said that we had originally filed to pay unemployment taxes in Alabama in March of 2009, but our first payroll report was not until April of 2009.  I said, sure, once we knew we were going to start business in Alabama, I applied for all my Alabama registrations at one time to make sure they were in place for the start of operations (this includes corporate registration with the secretary of state, request for a taxpayer ID number,  eGov account, state sales tax, state lodging tax, state boat rental tax, County sales tax, county boat rental tax, unemployment tax, and employee tax withholding).  I am sure I am forgetting a few, and to make things more fun, every state is different.  Tennessee, for example, has an entirely different set of tax types for businesses that I still do not fully understand.

Anyway, apparently most of these registrations must be obtained in advance, before starting business.  BUT, at least in Alabama, I was told today it is ILLEGAL (yes, they used that word) to register for the unemployment tax system before your first payroll in the state.  Apparently, one must register in arrears.  Because of this, I was told my account has to be shut down and I have to be issued a new account number  (which of course means more paperwork for me making the switch at my payroll company).   All of this over 4 years later because I did not have any payroll in one month and had the naive notion that it was better to have all my government wastepaper in place before I started operations.  I got the strong impression that this was the results of bureaucrats searching hard for something to keep themselves busy.

Sigh.

Major Justification for GM Bailout Falls Apart

As GM was failing, I argued for the normal laws of bankruptcy to be allowed to work.  After all, valuable brands and manufacturing facilities were not just going to go *poof* -- someone would purchase them and employ them, and hopefully those someone's would to a better job than the previous owners and managers.

A big part of the "logic" for bailout and Presidential intervention in the auto companies was that auto purchases would halt if consumers were unsure whether their warranties would be honored and service would be available.

From an AP story, November 13, 2008

Advocates for the nation's automakers are warning that the collapse of the Big Three - or even just General Motors - could set off a catastrophic chain reaction in the economy, eliminating up to 3 million jobs and depriving governments of more than $150 billion in tax revenue.

Industry supporters are offering such grim predictions as Congress weighs whether to bail out the nation's largest automakers, which are struggling to survive the steepest economic slide in decades....

Automakers say bankruptcy protection is not an option because people would be reluctant to make long-term car and truck purchases from companies that might not last the life of their vehicles.

Well, it turns out that this was partially bogus.  The written warranties are still honored, but GM argues it left liability for any defects or design problems in the old shell company

General Motors Co (GM.N) is seeking to dismiss a lawsuit over a suspension problem on more than 400,000 Chevrolet Impalas from the 2007 and 2008 model years, saying it should not be responsible for repairs because the flaw predated its bankruptcy.

The lawsuit, filed on June 29 by Donna Trusky of Blakely, Pennsylvania, contended that her Impala suffered from faulty rear spindle rods, causing her rear tires to wear out after just 6,000 miles. [ID:nN1E7650CT]

Seeking class-action status and alleging breach of warranty, the lawsuit demands that GM fix the rods, saying that it had done so on Impala police vehicles.

But in a recent filing with the U.S. District Court in Detroit, GM noted that the cars were made by its predecessor General Motors Corp, now called Motors Liquidation Co or "Old GM," before its 2009 bankruptcy and federal bailout.

The current company, called "New GM," said it did not assume responsibility under the reorganization to fix the Impala problem, but only to make repairs "subject to conditions and limitations" in express written warranties. In essence, the automaker said, Trusky sued the wrong entity.

"New GM's warranty obligations for vehicles sold by Old GM are limited to the express terms and conditions in the Old GM written warranties on a going-forward basis," wrote Benjamin Jeffers, a lawyer for GM. "New GM did not assume responsibility for Old GM's design choices, conduct, or alleged breaches of liability under the warranty."

Of course, this happens all the time in bankruptcy  (and it is my experience, but I am not a legal expert) that GM may or may not succeed in this argument.  It is not always possible to leave liabilities behind in an old corporate shell, or else companies would reorganize every year.

But the point is that the special treatment of GM was supposed to be to protect consumers, and that turns out to be BS.  The warranties were likely always going to be protected in any bankruptcy, as such consumer benefits nearly always are in chapter 11 (the fact that you still hold any frequent flyer miles is proof of this, as nearly every airline in the country has been through chapter 11 in the last couple of decades and none of them disavowed their frequent flyer miles, despite the fact that holders are the most unsecured of unsecured creditors).

 

I Am Sure We Will Be Seeing These Civil Rights Suits Any Day Now

I try not to get into the voting rules arguments between Republicans and Democrats because at their heart, most of these are totally political.  However, I am fascinated by the claim by Democrats that producing an ID to vote discriminates against blacks, presumably because obtaining such ID puts an undue asymmetric burden on African-Americans vs. whites.

This seems like a crock to me -- I am not sure why obtaining an ID is harder for blacks than whites, though I will observe that the highest profile black man in the country had trouble producing his birth certificate so maybe there is some racial thing here I don't understand.

But if we take the claim at face value, why aren't the TSA and airports being sued by the NAACP?  After all, there is an ID entry requirement and if that is discriminatory for voting, isn't it also discriminatory for flying.  Why isn't the DMV, or the highway department being sued of its ID requirement?  Ditto the federal government, which required ID to enter a federal building.

Update: James Taranto has similar thoughts.  He thought of several I missed, including requirements to show ID (part of the I-9 form) in order to get a job.

Lost Everything in My Feed Reader

Google is doing some sort of consolidation of Google apps accounts with other Google accounts.  Apparently, in the process I lost almost all of my Google accounts.  This means I lost all my feeds in Google Reader and I somehow have to rebuild the list, which likely will delay blogging for a while.

Update:  I got it transferred, but it was a Kluge and all my starred posts I was saving to blog on are gone.  I will try to see if those are recoverable, but my sense is that they are not.

Update #2: OK, I was wrong.  I got all my starred items.  What I did was go into the old Google Reader account (it exists with a special temp ID) and set up the sharing to make my starred items public.  I then sent myself a link to those items, which I could then add as a feed to my new feed reader account.  So now my old starred items show up as a feed in my new reader.  I am sure the temp account will go away at some point, but I figure a way to preserve them or else at least blog on them before they are lost.

The 1099 Landmine

The Senate will take a vote today to repeal the hugely onerous 1099 provision from the Obamacare legislation.   Good news, though Obama is opposed to the repeal as he feels (probably correctly) that it will open the floodgates to further repeals and amendments.  Which is pretty disingenuous, as one of the soothing memes he handed out when the legislation was being rushed through Congress was that there was plenty of time to amend and fix its rough edges.  How he needs to decide if he was lying about that, as Congress addresses a rough edge that had nothing to do with health care but created a huge and largely useless burden on businesses.  I know that this provision would really kneecap my business.

Meanwhile, small businesses are staring in horror toward 2013, when the 1099 mandate will hit more than 30 million of them. Currently businesses only have to tell the IRS the value of services they purchase from vendors and the like. Under the new rules, they'll have to report the value of goods and merchandise they purchase as well, adding vast accounting and paperwork costs.

Think about a midsized trucking company. The back office would have to collect hundreds of thousands of receipts from every gas station where its drivers filled up and figure out where it spent more than $600 that year. Then it would also need to match those payments to the stations' corporate parents.

Most Democrats now claim they were blindsided and didn't understand the implications of the 1099 provision"”which is typical of the slapdash, destructive way the bill was written and passed. As the critics claimed, most Members had no idea what they were voting on.

Democrats are trying to water down this repeal:

Yesterday the White House endorsed a competing proposal from Florida Democrat Bill Nelson that would increase the 1099 threshold to $5,000 and exempt businesses with fewer than 25 workers. Yet this is little more than a rearguard action in favor of the status quo; the Nelson amendment leaves the basic architecture unchanged while making the problem more complex.

Businesses would still have to track all purchases, not knowing in advance which contractors will exceed $5,000 at the end of the year. It also creates a marginal barrier to job creation"”for a smaller firm, hiring a 26th employee would be extremely costly. The Nelson amendment also includes new taxes on domestic oil production, as every Democratic bill now seems to do.

This analysis is dead on -- our company generally cannot predict exactly how much we will purchase from a specific vendor in a year, so we would still have to collect tax ID's from every single vendor, not knowing which would cross the hurdle.

Disasterous New Government Reporting Requirement

I have blogged before about the absolute disaster that is the requirement (included in the health care bill) for businesses to submit 1099's for all goods and services purchases over $600.  We have hundreds of vendors who meet this criteria, and the process of filling out forms, collection tax ID's, etc. is insanely onerous.  Megan McArdle has more today.

Things I Am Tired of Hearing

Because I take cash deposits at a number of campgrounds around the country, we have accounts with 30+ different banks.  Every few weeks one of them asks for some outrageously intrusive piece of information or paperwork.  And I ask them, what is this for, and get told that it is "a new requirement of the federal government."  I appreciate the feds have put in all kinds of new bank account controls in a misguided attempt to do something about terrorism (side bet:  most of these have more to do with the drug war than terrorism).  But in most of these cases, either my 29 other banks are breaking the law, or my bank is misguided.  Or worse, BS'ing me by falsely blaming their own information acquisitiveness on the feds.

Today I had a tiny, tiny telephone company in southern New Mexico call me to say they needed my drivers license and a utility bill from a New Mexico resident to add a phone line.  This new phone line is 1) for my corporation and 2) about the 8th account with this same phone company.  Given the area they operate, I may be their largest customer in town.  I told her I thought the requirement that a corporate officer give up his drivers license to get an extra corporate phone line was absurd, and further if they wanted a personal utility bill in New Mexico they would be waiting forever.  After being kicked up to their supervisor, I was told that they would settle for proof of my corporations federal tax ID # and a copy of my lease for the campground in question proving I was the legal occupant.  When asked why -- I mean, do they really have a problem with people paying the phone bill for locations that are not theirs -- they said it was now required by the federal government.

Really?  this sounds like BS.  Again, my 30 other phone companies would probably like to know they are breaking the law.  But who knows, maybe the feds really care.  If I had to bet, this would again be chalked up to the war on terror, but if I really could get to the bottom of it, I would find its about the drug war -- one time somewhere a drug dealer set up a phone line in an assumed name in an abandoned building and now I have to get fingerprinted and have an FBI check to get a phone line (don't laugh at the latter, one still has to get fingerprinted for every liquor license as a holdover from 80 years ago when gangs ran speakeasy's).

Great Moments in Government Process Innovation

I have noticed recently that the TSA has created split lines at many airport security screening posts - one for experienced travelers and one for "casual" travelers - i.e. noobs.

I have no problem with the basic idea.  Long ago I began advocating special lines for public electronic devices (airport boarding pass machines, supermarket self-checkout, ATM's) for people with IQ's over 90 because I always seemed to get behind the person who had never even seen a keyboard in their life.

But the actual execution of this concept in airports is laughable.  In the last 4 airports I have been in, the split between passengers who know what they are doing and those who don't is only through the screener who checks ID.  Even the lamest travel noobs are generally able to cough up an ID and boarding pass without too much trouble (though I will say I always seem to get behind the guy traveling on some bizarre 1930's-era League of Nations passport that seems to take forever to process).  However, after this ID screening the two lines come back together and everyone is mixed again.  Just in time to hit the x-ray screening station, where inexperienced travelers can hold up the line for hours.

Government Speak

This is from the national ID card portion of the Democrat's immigration proposal:

Tough penalties will be put in place for fraud in procurement of a fraud-proof social security card.

Jim Harper has a thorough analysis of the proposal at the link.  My fear is the Republicans and Democrats will one day realize how similar they are on this issue and agree to an authoritarian compromise.

Immigration Law Updates

The most important news, I suppose, is that Arizona has made its new immigration law more palatable with a few changes.

The first concerns the phrase "lawful contact," which is contained in this controversial portion of the bill: "For any lawful contact made by a law enforcement official or a law enforcement agency"¦where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States, a reasonable attempt shall be made, when practicable, to determine the immigration status of the person"¦"  Although drafters of the law said the intent of "lawful contact" was to specify situations in which police have stopped someone because he or she was suspected of violating some other law "” like a traffic stop "” critics said it would allow cops to pick anyone out of a crowd and "demand their papers."

So now, in response to those critics, lawmakers have removed "lawful contact" from the bill and replaced it with "lawful stop, detention or arrest." In an explanatory note, lawmakers added that the change "stipulates that a lawful stop, detention or arrest must be in the enforcement of any other law or ordinance of a county, city or town or this state."

"It was the intent of the legislature for "˜lawful contact' to mean arrests and stops, but people on the left mischaracterized it," says Kris Kobach, the law professor and former Bush Justice Department official who helped draft the law.  "So that term is now defined."

The second change concerns the word "solely."  In a safeguard against racial profiling, the law contained the phrase, "The attorney general or county attorney shall not investigate complaints that are based solely on race, color or national origin."  Critics objected to that, too, arguing again that it would not prevent but instead lead to racial profiling.  So lawmakers have taken out the word "solely."

"There were misstatements by the opponents of the law that this was written to permit some consideration of race in the enforcement of this law," says Kobach, "and that's not the case at all."

It is hard for me to separate in my mind whether the problem I have with what remains is really with this law or with the individuals whom I know to be tasked with its enforcement.  Sheriff Joe Arpaio has a history of pulling over every Mexican he runs into with a broken tail light on his crime sweeps, so in actual practice, the requirement of there being some other crime involved doesn't do much to make me fear profiling any less.  But its hard for me to say that checking immigration status of people arrested or detained is unreasonable, so it may be I am just uncomfortable with the overzealous enforcements and Sheriff Joe's patented crime sweeps.  (I am still opposed to the socialist definition of property rights that conservatives have adopted in the law).

I thought Megan McArdle had an interesting point:

If the immigration problems in Arizona are really so serious that they merit deep intrusions upon the liberty of citizens who happen to resemble illegal immigrants, than they are serious enough to intrude on the liberty of everyone.  Don't make the cops check the status of anyone who they "reasonably suspect" is illegal; make them check the status of everyone, no matter how blond-haired, blue-eyes, and fluent in standard American english they may be.  If you forget your license at home, the police detain you, just like they detain anyone of mexican descent, while someone fetches it.  If you can't produce a birth certificate, passport, or similar, then you wait in the pokey until they can verify your legal status.  No police discretion.  No profiling.

We can illustrate McArdle's point with an example, where our sheriff's descended on a local business and zip-tied and detained anyone who looked Hispanic until they could produce proof of immigration status.  No Anglos at this location were treated the same way:

Deputies from the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office raided a Mesa landscaping company early Wednesday morning, arresting nearly three dozen people suspected of being in the country illegally.

The raid on offices of Artistic Land Management, on Main Street just west of Dobson Road, happened about 4:30 a.m., according to one worker who was handcuffed and detained before being released when he produced documentation that he was in the country legally"¦.

Juarez estimated about 35 workers were handcuffed with plastic zip-ties while deputies checked for documents. Those who could provide proof they were in the country legally were released, while others were put on buses and taken away.

This is something the bill supporters just don't want to deal with -- the ugly sight of all the brown skinned workers at a location separated out from their peers and zip-tied until they can produce the proper government papers.

Daniel Griswold of Cato offered what I thought was an excellent framework for thinking about immigration and immigration reform:

Requiring successful enforcement of the current immigration laws before they can be changed is a non sequitur. It's like saying, in 1932, that we can't repeal the nationwide prohibition on alcohol consumption until we've drastically reduced the number of moonshine stills and bootleggers. But Prohibition itself created the conditions for the rise of those underground enterprises, and the repeal of Prohibition was necessary before the government could "get control" of its unintended consequences.

Illegal immigration is the Prohibition debate of our day. By essentially barring the legal entry of low-skilled immigrant workers, our own government has created the conditions for an underground labor market, complete with smuggling and day-labor operations. As long as the government maintains this prohibition, illegal immigration will be widespread, and the cost of reducing it, in tax dollars and compromised civil liberties, will be enormous.

It turns out that after excoriating the Arizona law as being too intrusive, Democrats have responded with ... something even more intrusive.

Sometimes I just love the Democrats.  After fomenting a near meltdown over the Arizona immigration law, with charges of nazism and cries of "show me you papers!" flying hither and yon, the Democrats introduce an immigration framework with what?

Improved papers, of course.

Yes, the Dems screwed the pooch and included a national ID card in their proposed legislation.  And a biometric one at that.   As someone characterized it, it's a "super Social Security card".  Remember when you were assured that your SS card/number was not for identification purposes and never would be.  Well Bunky, that was as true as most of the promises politicians make.

Democratic leaders have proposed requiring every worker in the nation to carry a national identification card with biometric information, such as a fingerprint, within the next six years, according to a draft of the measure.

As a final note, for years I have asked strong exclusionist conservatives how they square their opposition to immigration with their desire for freedom of contract and exchange.  After all, if commerce is free, do I not have the right to hire anyone I want for a job, no matter where that person was born.  Why do Conservatives want to require that all workers have government licenses before they can be hired?  It turns out that the ACLU makes the same point in response to the above proposal (from the link above, emphasis added):

"Creating a biometric national ID will not only be astronomically expensive, it will usher government into the very center of our lives. Every worker in America will need a government permission slip in order to work. And all of this will come with a new federal bureaucracy "” one that combines the worst elements of the DMV and the TSA," said Christopher Calabrese, ACLU legislative counsel.

Note to Conservatives-- when the ACLU, founded by Marxists and which to this day resists recognizing property rights, gets out ahead of you on the rights to free exchange and commerce, you are in trouble.

Update:  More from Brad Warbiany and Matt Welch

Libbertarian Disconnect

I don't know that I have ever seen a clearer example of the disconnect of thinking between libertarians and authoritarian political thinking than in this brief paragraph from Dahlia Lithwick.  She is writing about a court case reviewing whether it should be a crime to deny police your identification.  She writes, making fun of libertarians:

It would be easier to credit the Cato and ACLU arguments if we didn't already have to hand over our ID to borrow a library book, obtain a credit card, drive a car, rent videos, obtain medical treatment, or get onto a plane. So the stark question then becomes this: Why are you willing to tell everyone but the state who you are? It's a curious sort of privacy that must be protected from nobody except the government.

Really??  It is strange to her that we would treat privacy uniquely with the one and only organization in this country that can legally use force against us, legally take our money without our permission, and legally throw us in prison?  Is she really so blinded by a love for state authority that she can't tell the difference between a transaction at Blockbuster, which we can choose not to patronize if we don't like their terms of sale, and an interaction with police, where there is not even a hint of it being an arms-length, consensual, balanced interaction.

There is an largeand growing body of evidence that police take advantage of their power mismatch with citizens and abuse their power in multiple ways, large and small.  These abuses have likely always existed, but were covered up by police officers standing up for each other.  Only the advent of portable video cameras has started to really document what really goes on in these interactions.  Just read a few posts at this site to get a flavor.  And cops sure don't like when you ask them for their ID, as they hate anything that might impose accountability on them:

And in today's daily contempt-of-cop story, Ft. Lauderdale Police Officer Jeff Overcash did not appreciate a man asking him for his badge number, so he pulled out his handcuffs and arrested him.And it was all caught on video.

The video shows Brennan Hamilton walking up to Overcash in a calm manner with a pen and notepad in his hand. Overcash, who is leaning against his squad car with other cops, then pulls out his handcuffs and arrests Hamilton.

Overcash charged him with resisting arrest without violence and disorderly intoxication.

Alex Tabarrok makes a good point.   Based on these arguments, Lithwick must be A-OK with Arizona's new immigration laws, right?

Update:  It is interesting that while sneering at slippery slope arguments, she proves their merit.

The slippery-slope arguments"”that this leads to a police state in which people are harassed for doing nothing"”won't really fly, although I guarantee that you'll hear more and more of them in the coming weeks.

But in the immediately proceeding lines she wrote:

Is there something about stating your name or handing over a driver's license that differs from being patted down or frisked, which is already constitutional for Terry purposes?I, for one, would rather hand over my driver's license to a cop than be groped by one.

This is a perfect illustration of the slippery slope, almost textbook.  Libertarians certainly opposed current pat down and frisking rules, but since these are legal, Lithwick uses their legality to creep the line a little further.  And then the legality of these ID checks will in turn be used to justify the legality of something else more intrusive.

Pondering Images

Via the South Bend Seven, comes this interesting post on images at Barbarian Blog.

The total number of pixels [on an HDTV screen]  is 1920 horizontally x 1080 vertically = 2,073,600 pixels. There are 256 possible intensities of red, green and blue for each pixel, so that's 2563 = 16,777,216 possible colors. To figure out how many possible images there are, we need to raise the second number to the power of the first, so 16,777,2162,073,600 = 1.5 * 101,4981,180 possible images. That's a pretty big number "“ it's almost a million and a half digits long. Printing it in 10 point Monaco would take over 2,700 pages of paper. Scientists estimate that there are 1080 atoms in the observable universe "“ a tiny number in comparison.

However big it may be, the fact that the number is finite is a surprising thing to realize. It means that every possible image has a unique ID number. So instead of asking me, "did you see that picture of MIA performing pregnant at the Grammys", you might ask, "did you see image number 1,394,239,...,572?" Obviously that is totally impractical and it would make you a huge nerd, but it's interesting that you could.
More in the same vein at the link.  I was surprised that the number of states a video screen could be in was so much larger than the molecules in the universe.

I Like the Way My District Does Voting

I have voted in a lot of different states, but the way we do it here in my current district seems to work well.  I got my ID checked against the voting record -- the lady may an explicit check to make sure the addresses matched.  Then I got a paper ballot and a black magic marker.  Next to each name is an arrow pointing to the name with a gap in it.  One fills in and completes the arrow pointing to the candidate one is voting for.  Then, when done, the voter takes the ballot to a machine that looks like a big shredder.  She/he feeds the ballot into the slot, and the ballot is automatically read and counted right there.  There is a LED readout on the front with a total ballot count that increments by one if the ballot is read correctly, providing a psychologically satisfying feeling that one's vote has been counted.  At the end of the day no further counting is required, and I presume they pull the vote counts out electronically or with some kind of summary report.  The ballots stay in a locked vault in the scanner and provide a paper trail if the count has to be checked later. 

By the way, no line at all.  Glad I didn't wait 2+ hours last weekend to vote early in order to avoid the lines.  One has to wonder at the decision-making ability of folks who waited hours to vote early to avoid lines that couldn't possibly be any longer on election day.  Good to see such folks out voting ;=)

Arizona Business Death Penalty Enacted

This Tuesday, Arizona's death penalty goes into effect for businesses that knowingly hire workers who have not been licensed to work by the US Government.  Employers must use the e-Verify system the Federal government has in place to confirm which human beings are allowed by the federal government to work in this country and which people businesses are not allowed to employ.  Businesses that don't face loss of their business license (in itself a bit of government permission to perform consensual commerce I should not have to obtain).

There are any number of ironies in this law:

  • The Arizona government has resisted applying the same tight standards to receipt of government benefits, meaning the state is more comfortable with immigrants seeking government handouts than gainful employment.
  • The state of Arizona resists asking for any sort of ID from voters.  This means that the official position of the state of Arizona is that it is less concerned about illegal immigrants voting and receiving benefits than it is about making sure these immigrants don't support themselves by working.  This is exactly the opposite of what a sane proposal would look like. (and here)
  • In the past, we have used Arizona drivers licenses to verify citizenship.  By implementing this law, the Arizona Government has said that an Arizona driver's license is not sufficient proof of citizenship.  Unable to maintain the integrity of their own system (e.g. the drivers license system) the state has effectively thrown up its hands and dumped the problem on employers
  • The e-verify system, which the law requires businesses use, currently disappears in 11 months.
  • The law requires that the e-Verify system be used for both current and new employees.  It is, however, illegal under federal law to use the e-Verify system on current employees.
  • In fact, the e-Verify system may only be used within 3 days of hire -- use it earlier or later, and one is violating the law.  In a particular bit of comedy, it is illegal to use the e-Verify system to vet people in the hiring process.  The government wants you to entirely complete the expensive hiring process before you find out the person is illegal to hire.
  • There are apparently no new penalties for hiring illegal immigrants at your house (since there is no business license to lose).  State legislators did not want to personally lose access to low-cost house cleaning and landscaping help.  We're legislators for God sakes -- we aren't supposed to pay the cost of our dumb laws!

I have criticized the AZ Republic a lot, but they have pretty comprehensive coverage on this new law here and here.

Update:  Typical of the government, the e-Verify registration site is down right now.

Update #2:  It appears Arizona is taking a page from California's book.  California often passes regulations that it hopes businesses will follow nationally rather than go through the expense of creating different products or product packaging for California vs. the other states.  Arizona may be doing something of the same thing, since the terms of use for e-Verify require that if a business uses e-Verify, it must use if for all employees.  Therefore, a business that has any employees in Arizona is technically required to use this system for all employees nationwide.

Update #3:  By the way, I guess I have never made my interest in this issue clear.  We do not hire any illegal immigrants.  Since most of our positions require employees to live on site in their own RV, it is seldom an issue since the average illegal immigrant does not own an RV.  We have always done all of our I-9 homework, even though the government stopped auditing I-9's about 8 years ago.  We have in fact been asked about five times by foreigners to hire them under the table without having the licenses and papers they need from the US government -- all of them have been Canadian.

Seriously Useful Privacy Tool

Many free websites (like newspapers and forums) require an email address to sign up.  To make sure you give them a real one, they send you a password or activation code, usually within 60 seconds, by email.

Guerrilla Mail will issue you an email address that is good for 15 minutes.  You don't even have to leave the web site, just hit refresh and any emails you receive show up there on the screen and can even be replied to.  The only problem is that this will leave you with an impossible list of user ID's, but it is great for, say, forums where I only need to post one time (say with a customer support question).

Via this list, via Tom Kirkendall

Go Vote

There was some discussion at Reason's Hit and Run blog about whether it made sense for libertarians to vote.  Here is my take:  Even if you can't find any of the human beings on the ballot worth voting for, your state probably has a variety of propositions on the ballot.  Unlike a people vs. people races, where both choices can suck, propositions generally have a "right" answer.  On your ballot, someone is probably trying to raise taxes or restrict freedoms, or, if you are lucky, there is a proposition to limit government power in some way.  Whatever the case, it's worth it to vote on them.  I talked about my approach to propositions here.

Here was one eloquent response to the same idea:

Reason is an awesome blog and offers logical, well
articulated points of view. This is why I was so disappointed when I
saw so many staffers (including yourself) not voting in the upcoming
election. The idea that anyone's vote "doesn't count" is ridiculous and
slightly offensive. I will grant you that rarely, if ever, an election
of any sort is decided by a single vote, however in a country where
government is growing out of control on every level the limited
government folks need to show up, not so they can get their candidate
elected, or their issue passed or defeated, but to make their voice
heard. If even 5% voted consistently to limit government, one of the
two pro-government growth parties would have to take notice and at
least modify their platform a little to win those votes back, or risk
having a third player (heaven forbid) be considered as a potential
winner.

I am more frustrated than anyone at the intrusion of
government into nearly every aspect of our lives, and the continued
growth of said intrusion. However, I think it is critical that I show
up at the poles and vote for every limited government candidate, and
vote down every tax-spend-regulate proposition offered.

Update:  Done.  Very easy.  I know there was a lot of hoo-hah about showing ID's at the polls, but it felt pretty natural, especially since it is but one of about 20 transactions I make each week that requires an ID.  I cast votes for members of three different parties, which surely puts me in a minority.

More on Bureaucratic Hell Mono County

I have written a number of times about bureaucratic hellhole and most bureaucratic county Mono County, California.

Today, they confirmed by mail that my 11 campgrounds, all within 3 miles of each other and managed under a single contract as a single complex with the US Forest Service, now need to be registered separately with 11 tax ID's and 11 separate sales tax reports.  I must fill in the same detailed application 11 times, and each application has 3 pages plus 3 carbons for a total of 66 pages of information.  So, in order to collect exactly the same amount of tax that I have been collecting on exactly the same campgrounds for the last several years, Mono County needs 66 pages of paperwork, and apparently needs these same 66 pages filled out again each year.  Also, instead of filing a single consolidated sales tax report each quarter, I now must file 11 separate reports for a total of 44 a year. 

Can you imagine the insanity if the whole state adopted this approach?  That McDonalds in California or Unocal would have to file thousands of reports a month instead of one?  This is what happens when you let bureaucrats run amok.

Great Moments in Labeling

This is pretty funny, as highlighted in Reason's Hit and Run:

Under the plan, any person seeking a new job would be required to obtain an updated "counterfeit-proof" Social Security card, equipped with a digitized photo and an electronic identification strip containing the person's legal status. To offset fears of government intrusion, the card would be clearly marked, "This is not a national ID card," [California Republican congressman David] Dreier said.

Gosh, what a great solution.  Think of the applications.  All Phillip Morris has to do is write "this is not a cigarette" on each Marlboro and poof: all that nasty regulation and litigation goes away.  I guess I would not need a liquor license to sell Budweiser's labeled "this is not beer".  Or maybe Pamela Anderson can get a T-shirt that says "these are real".  LOL.

By the way, for business owners, don't miss this gem later in the article:

Employers would have to check a prospective employee's legal status against a new employment eligibility database either by swiping the card or calling a hot line. Those who fail to do so, or knowingly hire an undocumented worker, would face fines of up to $50,000 and five years in prison for each occurrence.

Nothing like spending 5 years in the slam for having one of your managers forget to check the ID of someone they hired.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of State Sales Tax Systems

Note that this is the newest in my series of "real-world" small business issues.  Other posts in this series include Buying a Small Business and Working with the Department of Labor

One of the things I did not mention in my series on buying a small business was the notion of complexity.  Our business manages over 175 sites with 500 seasonal employees in 10 states.  I have friends who own businesses that have the same sales, and more profit, from working alone from their home.  As I often tell people, I love what I do, working in recreation and spending most of my time in National and State Parks, but it is overly complex for the money we make.

The one advantage of this is that, despite being a small business, I get to observe business practices in many parts of the country.  And one business-related practice that varies tremendously from state to state is sales taxes.  (By the way, before I bought this business, I was a strong Federalist.  Putting most regulatory power in the states slows government encroachment.  It also limits anti-business regulation, because states know that such unilateral regulation will just chase employment across state lines, as California has found out.  However, having to deal with 10 different tax and regulatory regimes every day is causing me to revisit Federalism a bit).

Anyway, based on this experience, I will dedicate the rest of this post to my observations of the good and bad of state sales tax systems.

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No ID to Vote

Its crazy that no one asked me for any sort of ID to vote today. They did not even hear my name right and I just pointed to my name on the list. Since I was voting just before the polls close, I could have been anyone and just looked at their list on the table to quickly spot some one who has not voted and used that name.

I understand the desire to get more people to vote, but we have really gone overboard the other way on election security. I do not think it is too much to ask for some sort of ID when you vote.

UPDATE:

I got a nice paper ballet - it's the kind where you use a black pen to fill in a blank next to your preference. It was easy to use, and the ballot boxes had a built in scanner so they were tallied as soon as I put it in the box. If it could not read what I filled in, it spits it back out and I fix it. As a result, a paper trail exists for each vote, but there is no hand tallying. What is wrong with this system? Why does everyone want an electronic machine with no paper trail?

Also, with a paper ballot, each polling location has near infinite capacity. All you need is tables and pens and some of those little privacy dividers. It costs like $5 to add another voting station. Never was any kind of long line at my voting location. I have not seen the stats, but I would be willing to bet that most of those locations they showed on TV with 5 hour long lines were using some type of machine. Since the machines cost a lot, you end up with too little capacity and long lines.

Buying a Company, Part 2

In the previous post on buying a company, I discussed what I have learned about finding and valuing a small company. In this post, I will discuss a second technique I used to find a seller, and then show how we conducted due diligence and selected the form of the deal (e.g. C vs. S Corporation, Asset vs. Equity purchase). In the next installment, we will get to the various legal documents and financing strategies.

Continue reading ‘Buying a Company, Part 2’ »