Skip to content

Take that, you independent contractors!

I see that California AB5 has passed. I don’t view that as a good thing. Allow me to explain why.

It is important to note that there are indeed companies that use a person’s independent contractor status as a way of reducing cost. That, I submit, is not inherently wrong. It is, however, a problem if they paint independent contractor status as a panacea for all the things many people don’t like about being an employee. They gloss over the challenges of being an independent contractor. Many people are astonished at the sheer number and nature of challenges they face with such a status. So, it’s a problem. It’s also not the employers problem to solve unless they are clearly being misleading. As an employee, my employers made a big deal about my compensation package. They didn’t talk a lot about the realities of my tax obligations or the limitations of other parts of my compensation, other than (sometimes) in passing. It was not their problem. I was obligated to pay my taxes regardless of not receiving tax advice from my employee. Their obligation was limited to making sure I filled out the proper paperwork (my W-4) and sending me my W-2 every year. And so it is with independent contractors.

I’ve been an independent contractor. I like it because I like being my own boss. I like having my own business and the benefits is provides when I run it like a business. And that, from my observation, is the problem with many would-be independent contractors. They don’t treat their business like a business. What does that mean?

Here are what I think are the general rules for success as an employee.

  • Show up for work, on time, every workday
  • Dress appropriately for the job
  • Be ready to work when you arrive
  • Work hard your entire shift or until the job is done and your employer tells you to go home
  • If it is available, work the overtime you can
  • Do the above consistently, day in and day out

That’s it. Back when I was a manager of various parts of a hospital (I have managed Operating Rooms, Central Supply, PACU, and even the entirety of Surgical Services. I’ve also been the Chief Nursing Officer at a psych hospital, the only C-suite job I’ve ever had and the one I enjoyed more than any other). Employees always ask the new boss “what do you expect from us?” My answer is always some form of the above, usually “show up on time, dressed for work and ready to do your job. Do your job until it’s time to go home and then leave. Come back the next day and do it again.” Most of us accept that when we work for someone else. After all, we don’t want to be fired. It’s only when we start working for ourselves that we get stupid.

Let’s say I become an independent contractor or start some other kind of business. I want to be my own boss. It’s a problem if I don’t actually know what an effective boss or business owner does. Quite often, what I know is what I think a boss or business owner does.* Unfortunately, what I think and the reality are often not even remotely the same. I often won’t see the boss or owner getting into work early or staying late. I don’t see him taking the work home. I don’t see her changing major family plans at the last minute because something has come up that she, and only she, can handle. Likewise, I don’t see how the business owner sets up a single room of his house as an office, not just for the tax benefit but also as a way of helping support that mindset that says “when I enter this room, I am at work and must act like it.” Instead, what I see is a person who is seldom on the floor because other than making rounds, the demands of owning and/or running a business keep her tied to her desk – except when she is doing the myriad of other things only she can do. Or, what I see is a guy who stays after everyone else leaves because he’s greedy, when in reality he’s agonizing over how to make the thing work. Or, I see the owner of a home-based business as a person with lots of free time, rather than a person who must discipline himself to work when he wants to play and who has to insist that others respect his work hours even though he works at home in his boxers.

In other words, people often fail as independent contractors because they don’t understand that to be an independent contractor is to own your own business. Or, they don’t understand the implications of owning your own business and the level of commitment it requires.

Take my meager attempts at writing as an example. If I am to have any hope of success at this, I must treat it like a business. Regardless of how many hours per day or week I can dedicate to it, during those hours I must be either writing or doing the things that allow me to write, like research for a story. I could also include things like making the meetings for my writer’s group to increase my accountability and to gain the benefit of multiple sets of critical eyes. Things that do not contribute are not “writing work.” Hours spent combing over the folders and filing systems at Office Depot are not work. Carefully selecting cute screensavers is not writing work. Those are just ways of organizing paperclips instead of doing what I don’t feel like doing at the time.

It’s worth noting that there was a lot of union support for AB5. That should hardly be surprising. Unions have never been terribly enamored of independent contractors. Back when union membership was higher, there weren’t as many and so independent contractors were viewed as low payoff for scant return. Now, though, membership is down, unions in many places are struggling to remain relevant, and there are more independents. I’m not impressed by some supposed concern on the part of unions for the woes of the independent contractor. As incredibly necessary as they were at one time in the US (and may sometimes still be), unions have,in my opinion become the very thing they ostensibly oppose. To wit, they are large, powerful organizations that lie and manipulate in order to exploit workers for the benefit of union leadership and power.** Their support of AB5 is an example of that search for power. It’s not just politicians who are opposed to individual liberty.

*Note that we often see the same thing in the military. Some junior enlisted guy thinks he knows what Chiefs or officers do (especially officers as Chiefs are better at building leadership awareness in those who seem likely to make it to E-7 and above, whereas officers don’t always do a good job of mentoring enlisted folks into becoming mustangs). So, when he or she finishes the degree and then takes a commission as a brand new ensign, there comes that “holy s***” moment when the enormity of the job washes over the young officer.

**As a person who grew up in a union family, who married into a union family and who has been both a union member and manager in a collective bargaining environment, I have seen their good and their bad. As a general rule, I am no longer a fan. On the other hand, it’s kind of cool that I know all the words and chords to The Ballad of Joe Hill and to every song written by Woody Guthrie. 

See, I had this pork belly just lying around

and I had to do something with it. Eventually, a raw piece of pork belly became this

pork belly

which ultimately became pork belly ramen.

pork belly ramen

It wasn’t bad for a first effort.

18 years

18 years and I am still so angry I could eat nails. My version of “coming to peace” with those who would and have harmed my country, or assisted others in doing so, is to argue they should be wiped from the face of the earth, their water supply poisoned, and salt sown deeply into the ground. To that end, I would return to active duty.

It is possible I have some anger issues about 9/11. Yeah. I absolutely do.

I know there is a better way.

I also know this: When my kids were still kids, each of them, at some point, asked me in their childlike way some version of “how should I respond if I am physically attacked?” My answer remains the same. Violently. Sudden, decisive and overwhelming violence.

I really need to work on this, and yet… Never forget.

0230 and I can’t sleep,

so I’ll write, instead. Be warned, this is what my brain does this hour of the morning.

Recently, I mentioned an answer given by Tom Kratman to a question on Quora. The question was “what are the most important things for non-Americans to keep in mind when visiting the US?” In his answer, Kratman touches briefly on the implications of the US being what he considers an 18th (and in some ways 17th) century country. While I agreed (and still agree) with his answer, I want to look a little more at some things about the US. What follows was inspired not only by Tom Kratman’s words, but also by a conversation I had with a man for whom I have a great deal of respect.

Some people have suggested the US is a “warrior culture.” I disagree. Aside from the seeming lack of a coherent definition, and in spite of our relatively warlike nature (as opposed to some of our nominal allies), war is not really our thing. For my purposes, I will define a warrior culture as one in which the expectation is that most people (usually men) will possess both weapons and some degree of skill in their use. While the US has a fair number of weapons (including a lot of guns) in private hands, I see no real evidence of a general social expectation that people will be skilled or even trained in their use, especially in their martial use. Martial use, I submit, is the purpose to which a warrior expects to put his weapons. Most people I know who own weapons don’t really expect to put them to martial use.

Many, even most, of those folks I have encountered who say we are a warrior culture, also claim to “embrace the warrior ethos.” It is, in most cases, a claim I find rather dubious. My reading of history, and reading about warrior cultures, leads me to conclude that those who truly embrace this ethos have a common answer to a specific question. “How do you see yourself dying,” or “how do you expect to die” is typically answered with some version of “fighting” or “in combat.” More than one person has phrased that as “I expect to go out of this world the same way I came in: naked, screaming and covered in someone else’s blood.” It was common throughout history for warriors to expect to die in combat rather than peacefully in their sleep, even in cultures in which warriors were a distinct subculture. It was, in many cases, to be preferred. I don’t meet many people who give that sort of answer to the question of how they will die. Quite frankly, of those who do, many of them give every indication of being mere poseurs. With apologies to many of the people with whom I served, especially those who were certainly much more of the “high speed, low drag” sort than I (not all that high a bar), even most of them are not warriors, in spite of the hype of their various services and units (see The Legacy of Heorot and its description of all but one of the grendel hunters, Cadmann Weyland, as soldiers instead of warriors). It’s worth noting, I think, that in spite of the historical atrocity that was the movie 300, Sparta, which was certainly a warrior culture, was held at bay for a long time by Athens, which arguably was not.

If the above is accurate, and it may or may not be (obviously, I think it is), then if the US is not a warrior culture, what is it? Certainly, we are not a pacifistic  or peace culture. As it relates to the topic of this posting, we are, I submit, primarily a frontier culture. The frontier and our relatively recent experience with it, still exert a profound influence on the US. Many of the frontiersman, while they pushed westward in search of land and resources, wanted very much to be left alone (the tendency of some to take what were the lands of the native groups they encountered was, I submit, a reflection of something other than the frontier). Their response to not being left alone, or to being treated in a way they considered unjust, could be quite violent. This is what I see as a reasonable explanation of our relatively warlike nature. We are still a frontier people of the 17th and 18th centuries, with a corresponding tendency to define “unjust” or “not being left alone” rather broadly. We are, after all, largely descended from a people whose own frontier experience was not that far in the past (though further than ours) when they began to settle in what would become the US. Thus, we get things like this from Kipling, from which I’ll share the first twelve lines.

“My son,” said the Norman Baron, “I am dying, and you will be heir
To all the broad acres in England that William gave me for share
When he conquered the Saxon at Hastings, and a nice little handful it is.
But before you go over to rule it I want you to understand this:–

“The Saxon is not like us Normans. His manners are not so polite.
But he never means anything serious till he talks about justice and right.
When he stands like an ox in the furrow – with his sullen set eyes on your own,
And grumbles, ‘This isn’t fair dealing,’ my son, leave the Saxon alone.

“You can horsewhip your Gascony archers, or torture your Picardy spears;
But don’t try that game on the Saxon; you’ll have the whole brood round your ears.
From the richest old Thane in the county to the poorest chained serf in the field,
They’ll be at you and on you like hornets, and, if you are wise, you will yield.

I find it interesting that in spite of what some people in Hollywood might say, many of our movies, especially our action/adventure movies, reflect this frontier viewpoint. John Wayne westerns? Of course. And many of Clint Eastwood’s movies. And Die Hard. All the way up to John Wick. So many of them reflect the “everything was fine, then you had to go and piss him off” frontier attitude.*

In the gun community, we find the frontier culture, as opposed to a warrior culture, represented in a popular pro right to keep and bear arms quote (of unknown origin):

A Rifleman’s Prayer

Oh Lord, I would live my life in freedom, peace and happiness, enjoying the simple pleasures of hearth and home. I would die an old, old man in my own bed, preferably of sexual overexertion.

But if that is not to be, Lord, if monsters such as this should find their way to my little corner of the world on my watch, then help me to sweep those bastards from the ramparts, because doing that is good, and right, and just.

And if in this I should fall, let me be found atop a pile of brass, behind the wall I made of their corpses.

 

*As a side note, I submit almost every Bugs Bunny cartoon reflects this. For instance here,

and here,

and especially here

 

 

I hate bringing this up

Truly, I do. I just don’t see any way to avoid it. The necessity of doing so is a royal pain in the…fundament. Let me begin by noting that I was a member of the NRA for exactly one year. As it turns out, I’m not much of a joiner. Besides, I have, especially over the last 20 years or so, been profoundly unimpressed by its sometimes less than enthusiastic support for the right to keep and bear arms. I would much prefer an organization of its size, with a commensurate ability to motivate voters, which had more of a take no prisoners approach (think in terms of a “what would happen if GOA got with JPFO and they had a child” sort of organization). Still, the NRA remains the 800 pound gorilla in the room. Hopefully, they will get their internal issues taken care of so they can focus on what’s important.

With all that said, the city of San Francisco of all places (everyone should visit for the food, regardless of your opinion of its politics) seems determined to drive people like me (back) into the NRA fold. How might that be accomplished, you ask? Why, by engaging in this sort of oozing, putrescent, self-serving, virtue-signaling, political nonsense.

Old NFO recently noted that he doesn’t want interesting times, again. I quite agree. Sadly, there are people closer to me than the San Francisco Board of Supervisors who seem either oddly determined to bring them on, or foolishly convinced they can never occur. As evidence, I submit my current, favorite delightful little quisling, Beto O’Rourke and his asinine-bordering-on-betrayal-of-his-oath comments.

I don’t want to talk about this stuff. Do you know what I want to do? I want to tend my garden, raise a few chickens and rabbits, cook for family and friends and spend real time with them, learn to brew beer, play my guitar, ride my motorcycle, go to the range, actually finish a book and get paid for it, hunt, fish, camp and go to church. Instead, I find myself facing a seemingly increasing number of asshats who appear determined to force those of us who value the individual over the collective, and freedom over safety, into a corner where we decide we have no choice but to do the thing.

I don’t want to do the thing. I would very much appreciate not being forced to in any way participate in doing the thing, ever again.

Not a happy day at RM Ranch.

 

 

It’s important to do your part

Later this month, I will participate in three activities by which I hope to contribute to society in a meaningful way. To wit, I am scheduled to hunt feral hogs two times toward the end of September and to hunt whitetail deer when archery season opens (also at the very end of September).  It is a burden to be so socially conscious, but I shall do my best to bear up under the weight*…and to fill my freezer with yummy.

EDIT

OldNFO has noted that fall is at least supposed to be in the air. I note that my part of Texas is scheduled to stay near (though hopefully not reach) triple digits for several more weeks, so no long sleeve shirts or jackets anytime soon. OldNFO also notes that with fall comes football. While I’ve always enjoyed a good football game (“good” meaning two closely matched teams who play because they love the game), it has always suffered from a scheduling problem.

hunting season vs football

It’s a relative degree of “don’t care,” but as football seems to be increasingly less about kids having fun and more about…something else, it becomes easier and easier to make fall about me and being outdoors. That said, if you have kids playing football (or engaging in any other extracurricular activity), make sure you give them your enthusiastic support. This means that, among other things, you go to their games and events! You know, like a parent is supposed to do. If you’re a hunter, that’s not preferring football (or band, or debate, or…) over hunting. It’s putting your kids ahead of your pastime. The truth is, unless you are one of the relative few who absolutely depends on hunting to feed your family, it’s a pastime. So, go to your kid’s game. The game animals will still be there when your kids have moved out and are on their own.

*I am also tentatively scheduled to hunt deer, once more, when the general season opens, but I don’t know if I am capable of shouldering such a load of responsibility. One can only do what one can.

Not to state the obvious, but

I keep running into what I can only term stupid less-than-optimally-intelligent (hereinafter referred to as LTOI) questions. I’ve been told there are no stupid LTOI questions, only stupid LTOI people asking questions. My feeling is that in many cases both the question and the questioner are LTOI. But I digress.

One of the LTOI questions (presumably asked by LTOI people) I seem to encounter on a regular basis is some version of “why should the right to keep and bear arms include the right to own (insert hated gun type of choice)?” I’ve argued from the standpoint of freedom and Enlightenment principles until I am blue in the face, often to no avail. So, here, I wish to state what I see as the most fundamental reason the right to keep and bear arms, including the right to own those guns some might hate, is absolutely essential. Simply this: Should we ever again live in “interesting times,”* firearms are essential because they make it much easier to adorn lamp posts with piano wire and tyrants.

*shamelessly stolen from Old NFO, who may have borrowed it from a large country currently interested in a former British colony