Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Almost Half-Way Done

We're only a few days away from the half-way point of tax season. I don't have to worry about filing any more fraudulent tax returns because we're not filing any tax returns. Period. The two busiest weeks of tax season were a complete bust and it has only gone downhill from there. I filed less than five returns all last week and exactly one return so far this week. Good thing I'm paid by the hour. At least I have lots of time to read random stuff on the internet that I can use to annoy anyone who still reads this thing.

I've used some of the slack time to get myself set up to do taxes on my own next year. I've already filed a couple returns under my own EFIN number; I'm hoping to find a half-dozen or so people with simple returns that haven't filed yet just to make sure everything is set up correctly in the software, etc. I should be able to find that many right here in the apartment complex. Maybe. I also need to set up a separate bank account and get set up to take credit cards. I probably won't do bank products (ERC's and RAL's) mostly because I don't want to do taxes for the kind of people who make use of those. I have moral objections to RAL's anyway (124% interest is usury by any meaningful definition of the word), and if I use a bank that offers both, I have to offer both. Easier to not mess with either and keep fees low enough that clients won't need to mortgage their house to pay them.

As Debbie already mentioned, we finally made it down to Uncle Walt's place to visit the animals and see the shows at Animal Kingdom. The one thing we both noticed was that if the grounds people don't get control of the bamboo, there won't be any room left for the people. In a couple places, it has gone seriously crazy. But we had fun if for no other reason than we got out of the ghetto for a few hours. The weather was perfect; warm and breezy with a skim of clouds to keep the sun off. In all, a good day. And now that we have our Florida Resident annual passes, we can skip down there anytime and hit any of the four main parks (no water parks) for nothing other than the cost of gas.

February 22, 2011: New Zealand's darkest day.

Nothing really to say. Maybe Atlas really did shrug....

Oil is dancing around in the high $90's while North Africa falls further into chaos. Gaddafi has decided to not go gently into that good night and is calling for the destruction of Libya's oil infrastructure while his Janissaries fire into the crowds and the military goes to war with itself. Mubarak is in exile and seems to be having medical problems. Whether those are the result of outside agency or the combination of stress and old age isn't clear. Given regional politics, we may never know. Not that it makes a big difference now; the military is in charge with the usual constitutional suspensions and dissolution of various political bodies. Only time will tell if the new boss will be just like the old boss, or if the military will play the same role it has played in Turkey. The former is the usual way of things. And don't forget about Bahrain, Tunisia, Yemen, Iran, House of Saud. We do live in interesting times.

The federal deficit for the current fiscal year is now expected to hit $1.65 Trillion. I can't imagine, from an economic perspective, why anyone would lend that kind of money to us; it's not like we will ever pay it back. Of course there are other reasons to loan money to people:

Leaked diplomatic cables vividly show China's willingness to translate its massive holdings of US debt into political influence on issues ranging from Taiwan's sovereignty to Washington's financial policy.

So China is James Spader and the United States is Robert Downey Jr. in Less Than Zero. Do the Chinese have us giving blow jobs yet?

Madoff is now claiming that banks and hedge funds were "complicit" in his Ponzi scheme. Well, duh. Everyone knew Madoff was up to something, but only a few suspected an old school pyramid scam. Most simply assumed he was getting information ahead of the market from inside sources. Few considered a Ponzi because no one thought it was possible to run one that big for that long. All were willing to take the returns he offered and not ask too many questions. Again, why is Madoff the only one in a prison cell?

Wal-Mart was on a tear when the financial world took a dump in 2008 and shoppers abandoned the malls and went in search of cheaper prices. Now they don't look so good:

The retailer reported its seventh consecutive quarterly decline in sales at U.S. stores open at least a year, posting a 1.8 percent drop that was much bigger than its worst forecast and showing how hard it is for a merchant that accounts for 10 percent of U.S. retail sales to overcome its own mistakes.

Seems like people are now moving even further down the retail food chain in search of cheaper prices. Too bad we can't buy stock in Goodwill Industries.

Home prices are still dropping. Federal regulators are still closing banks. Yale techno-weenies are shocked that expectations of a stock crash are rising even as the market does. The Yale Ivory Tower must not have windows.

Well, Debbie should be home soon and I have to dream up something for dinner. Later.

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