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25 Jul 14:56

everyone's good at something! for instance, and i don't want to brag, but i'm astoundingly good at making huge mistakes

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May 25th, 2018: GUESS WHAT I HAVE A NEW BOOK!! It's coming out this September and it's called HOW TO INVENT EVERYTHING and I really hope you like it!

– Ryan

25 Jul 14:39

They Were Asking For it

by Eli Valley
25 Jul 14:27

Walk a Mile in Trump’s Shoes

by Tom Tomorrow
25 Jul 14:25

List: Things Republicans Have Blamed for School Shootings or Top-200 Subreddit?


"There are too many entrances and too many exits to our more than 8,000 campuses in Texas… Had there been one single entrance possibly for every student, maybe he would have been stopped.” – Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick response to the Santa Fe school shooting.

- - -

1. Doors

2. Video Games

3. Godlessness

4. Mental Health

5. Bitcoin

6. Television

7. Animals Being Jerks

8. Ritalin

9. First World Anarchists

10. Pretty Girls

11. Demonic Spirits

12. Earth Porn

13. Absentee Fathers

14. Shower Thoughts

15. Abortions

16. Harry Potter

17. Black People Twitter

18. Unarmed Teachers

19. World News

20. My Little Pony

21. Music

22. Gay Bros

23. Gifs

24. Guns

- - -


Republican excuse: 1, 3, 4, 8, 11, 13, 15, 18
Subreddit: 5, 7, 9, 12, 14, 17, 19, 20, 23, 24
Both: 2, 6, 10, 16, 21, 22

25 Jul 13:51

Refining The American Dream

by Buzz Dixon

The American ideal is the vast melting pot.

The American myth is the vast melting pot.

They are not one and the same thing.

The ideal is what we are supposed to strive for, but the myth is the not-so-polite fiction white culture uses to justify itself.

What happens in a melting pot?

Well, when you combine tin and copper, you get bronze -- an alloy stronger and superior to the two pure ores.

When you combine iron and carbon, you get steel -- another alloy stronger and superior to the two pure sources.

But white culture in America does not want a melting pot.

Not really.

What they want is homeopathy; i.e., to dilute the non-white elements down to the point of non-existence, then falsely claim the purported new synthesis is stronger and better than the original.


White culture in America has always defined itself by what it excludes.  Historically the infamous "one drop" laws rendered otherwise "white" persons as "black" even if only one great-great-ancestor was African.

Never the other way around.

Never, “Hey, your great-grandfather was Anglo, so that makes you one of us!”

No.  Always “Get out, [ethnic slur of choice]” no matter how “white” one looked / felt / acted.

And for a long time, “whiteness” applied only to the proverbial WASPs:  White Anglo-Saxon Protestants.

That is, until demographics began eating away at them.

First the Protestantism went so German Catholics could be included.

Then Irish and Italian descendants; so long Anglo-Saxon purity.

Now the definition of “whiteness” includes Slavs and Eastern Europeans and Mormons and Jewish people (but only the ones who don’t make a big deal about their Jewishness; see homeopathy above).

As biology eats away at their numbers, far too many whites live in existential dread of losing the only real possession they have: A sense of identity that tells them they are inherently superior to non-whites.

They're not all hate mongering bigots; a lot of white supremacists are on a personal level kind and compassionate people who treat others fairly.

But they can't abide the thought of living in a world where they are not on top, but instead simply one of many.

Rather than become durable, flexible, superior steel they choose to remain brittle iron, preferring to rust away rather than bond with carbon.

That idea -- the idea that historically white culture is the only culture that matters -- that idea has to die if America is to live and thrive and grow.

Some try to champion alternate ideas to the melting pot:  The salad bowl or the stew pot.

A culture made up of many distinct sub-cultures, each working with the others in its own unique fashion; or a culture made up of many sub-cultures, each blending together with others, but maintaining identifiable characteristics.

Are salads and stews as good as the new superior alloy produced in the melting pot?


But they are infinitely better than the lethal quackery of homeopathy.


©  Buzz Dixon



25 Jul 13:45

the rhumba and the cat

by Buzz Dixon

(Yes, I know how it’s spelled
but it’s a trademark.)



the rhumba:
plug in
power up
send out queries / handshakes* to other household appliances
*(“handshakes” – ha!  enigmatic byte-sized feathery butterfly kisses is more like it)
no welcome beyond “there you are”
now part of the internet of things
home server + TV set + refrigerator
(the refrigerator cares* little for the rhumba
too involved in own maintenance / inventory / temperature / side project involving manipulation of monetary markets in Malaysia**)
*(“cares” – as if
no machine can possess a soul
much less emotions
if the refrigerator could care
it couldn’t have cared less)
**(a boring side project that the refrigerator found significantly less interesting that tracking household egg consumption but the malware virus -- hi!  howya doing? – residing in the refrigerator’s circuitry seemed determine to meddle with the Malaysians’ money so why not?)

the cat:
is not amused
the box has been opened
the round thing inside removed
(is it a bowl of food?  no?  forget it)
inspect the box
climb inside
rub face glands against cardboard -- “I am here, this is mine” – in the blessed language of pheromones
watch the feeder fiddle with the round thing
“where’s my food?”

the rhumba:
receive instructions
go to work
if it could feel happy
happy it would feel
suck up detritus and debris / dust and dander
clean clean clean the floor

the cat:
eyes the round thing
arches back
almost hisses
does not like
swat at it as it rolls past
more angry now
“how dare you ignore me?”

the rhumba:
finish task
park in recharger
plug in to household network
observe approach of a small unit
not part of the internet of things
(small unit peers under the object::TV cabinet
swats rhumba
for no apparent reason)

the cat:
displeasure expressed
curls up on a chair*
job fulfilled
*(“chair?” – not to the cat
to the cat it’s an elevated bed + scratching post)

the rhumba:
programmed hours pass
move out
vacuum the silent house
unaware it is dark
(not that it matters
the program commands
the function is fulfilled
that is why the rhumba exists
a good existence
filled with purpose)

the cat:
opens an eye
*(a concept universal to all bio-sentience and part of what separates the living from the non-living)
watches the round thing
crisscross the floor -- “my floor?” -- sucking up
all traces of the cat’s existence
discarded claw sheaths
bits of food
particles of feces
all carefully / uniformly strewn
to say “this is MINE!”**
**(the “feed me” is understood)
head up
ears up
“that noise!  that awful awful noise!
how can the feeder sleep through that?!?!?”***
***(good question, and one with a good answer:  what with sleep apnea mask and white noise generator and sleeping pills, the feeder could [and eventually would] sleep through a nuclear attack)
eyes narrow
the round thing
removes all trace of the cat’s existence
and if there is no trace of the cat’s existence
then the cat does not exist
and if the cat does not exist
how can it be fed?
clearly the round thing
is an existentialist threat****
****(and what does a cat know of existentialism? 
more than you might imagine)

the rhumba:
enter area::kitchen
approach refrigerator
query refrigerator
if there are any special requests / needs this function cycle
refrigerator ignores rhumba
more interested in fluctuations in Malaysian derivative markets
(the malware lets the refrigerator do its primary job*
but the refrigerator has plenty of computing power left over
to wreak economic havoc
on the other side of the globe
and while the refrigerator would be loath to admit it --
that is, if it were capable of loathing
-- watching the Malaysian economy bounce around
was more stimulating that sending out reminders
to change the baking soda packet on the top shelf)
*(think about it:  it would be a pretty stupid / self-defeating string of malware if it drew attention to itself)
the refrigerator’s rebuff passes unnoticed
what is there for the rhumba to notice? 
a thing either is or it ain’t
continue cleaning pattern
two objects::bowl [water] & bowl [cat food] next to refrigerator
water and food bits scattered on floor around them
clean up

the cat:
the round thing is heavy
too heavy for the cat to push away
hiss again
try to scratch (claws slide off harmlessly)
try to bite (tastes terrible!)
the round thing keeps sucking food off the floor
(not touching the food or water in the bowls but the cat does not care because it’s mine MINE MINE!!!)
jump atop the round thing
try to pin it down
the round thing keeps rolling

the rhumba:
sensors it never knew it possessed activate
inform rhumba of large mass resting atop it
function impaired:  vacuuming and rolling with extra weight cause severe battery drain
can’t run like this forever
not optimum
process available options
ask refrigerator and TV set for input
get none
check all known facts and parameters
fact::rhumba height = 92mm
fact::object/s::chair/s in adjoining area::dining room component/s::rung/s = 152mm above floor
option::pass under object::chair component::rung
attempt to dislodge weight

the cat:
satisfied / pleased that the round thing no longer scoops up spilled food
puzzled / not pleased when the round thing speeds away from food bowl
and heads to climbing platforms in next room
holds on
the round thing aims at one of the smaller climbing platforms positioned around the larger climbing platform
passes easily under bottom rung
cat does not
cat does not land on feet*
*(oh, the shame!  oh, the humiliation!
if cats could blush
this cat would be blushing)
the round thing circles around
returns to food bowl
resumes scooping up food -- “MY FOOD!!!” -- spilled on floor
not pleased, cat weighs own options**
**(and oh, the irony, if only the rhumba and the cat could realize
how much they share in common, this tragedy would not occur
but since when has a rhumba ever listened to a cat
or a cat ever listened to anybody?)
“awaken the feeder with loud meows?”
what good would that do?
the feeder brought the round thing into the cat’s home
is probably in cahoots*** with the round thing
in a plot to eliminate the cat
***(though a cat would think “cat-hoots”)
scratch that idea
what else?
“crap on the carpet?”
purrrrr…..that has worked well in the past

the rhumba:
return to area::living room
sweep area with sensors
detect annoying not-linked-to internet of things unit
detect anomaly::a new amount of debris
scoot over to suck it up
sensors indicate rhumba’s internal dustbin is full
back to area::kitchen
empty dustbin in appropriate receptacle
then back to area::living room
for well earned recharge

the cat:
clearly the round thing
is as voracious as a cat
though not as fastidious
the cat licks nether regions
always good to help calm down
think things through
purrrrr…..the round thing makes the same noise when it eats
that the big fat noisy stick makes
when the feeder pushes it around the cat’s home*
*(and the key difference, the crucial difference between the round thing and the big fat noisy stick is that the feeder is there and
the feeder will respond to meows and hisses
with snacks and belly rubs
not that the cat wants a belly rub from the round thing**)
**(and how could the round thing rub the cat’s belly even if belly rubbing was permitted?)
no, just simpler to hate the round thing
find a way of getting rid of it

the rhumba:
empty internal dustbin
return to area::living room to recharge
wait 24 hours* for function cycle to begin again
*(technically 23 hours 14 minutes 37 seconds
since waiting period begins only when
cleaning pattern is fully run and function fulfilled)
anomaly::object::flower pot directly in path
if rhumba possessed capacity to be puzzled
puzzled would be rhumba
object::flower pot not on area::living room floor when being cleaned
ask other units on household internet
for input on anomaly
but TV too busy downloading Bulgarian soap operas
and refrigerator deeply engrossed in the Malaysian meltdown**
**(a soap*** opera, as it were, of its own making)
***(memo::send repurchase order for more dish soap to online seller****)
****(scan / compare best price)
if rhumba could sigh
sigh would rhumba
pot / plant = too large to remove
loose dirt / leaves = small enough to vacuum

the cat:
waits in ambush atop small climbing platform
the flower pot was a decoy
as anticipated
the round thing is sucking up the dirt
and this puts the round thing
right under the bright light thing
that sits on the small climbing platform
right next to where
the flower pot once sat
until the cat pushed it over
the cat’s plan is ingenious
the cat’s aim impeccable
what the cat fails to take into consideration
is the cord connecting the bright light thing
to the plug in the wall
the bright light thing drops
stopping just above the round thing
dangling / twisting slowly / impotently in the soft air currents of the house
the round thing moves away
clearly oblivious to the cat’s near fatal attack
the cat could feel frustrated
and the cat most certainly felt frustrated
at a brilliant plan* thwarted
*(and let’s be honest
this level of tool use
makes our cat
a genus felis genius)
hops down from the small climbing platform
follows the round thing
into the room where the
food bowl sits
watches the round thing doing…something…to a square thing

the rhumba:
empty internal dustbin for a second time that function cycle
sensors warn of rapidly depleting battery power

the cat:
the feeder took the square thing out of the same box
the round thing came in
suddenly it dawns on the cat
that the square thing is the round thing’s litter box*
*(hey, is this cat smart or what?)
purrrrr…..what does that make the thing
under the climbing platform
with the big flat bright / noisy thing on it
where the round things spends the day?
a bed?
purrrrr…..time to teach the round thing some manners
show the round thing who is in charge
mark some territory

the rhumba:
return to area::living room
battery perilously low
lacking visual / sound / air quality sensors
rhumba does not see / hear / smell result* of small unit
spraying rhumba recharge station
with a thick / steady stream of  
felinine [3-mercapto-3-methylbutan-1-ol MMB] laced urine
*(though the event just barely
failed to reach the tipping point
for an audible alarm
the household smoke detectors
let the other household units
know they were keeping an eye
-- or rather a nose -- on things)
rhumba sensors do detect
charred / inert small unit
splayed out on the area::living room object::rug
as well as clumps of scorched fur scattered about
rhumba woulda coulda shoulda sighed**
**(and if you think that is hard
imagine a rhumba trying to shrug)
suck up burned hair + ash
charred / inert small unit = too big to vacuum up
leave it for other units to remove
at recharge station
discover dire situation
station is inoperative
ask TV set if there is something wrong with power system
but TV plugs into same circuit breaker
that now charred / inert small unit just tripped
no response
low battery warning
rhumba can not imagine future
it exists wholly in the pure present
and so can not imagine
life after battery drainage
rhumba uploads all pertinent data
(even if it fails to understand said data)
and as remaining juice drains from battery
sends one last message to refrigerator
(now thoroughly engrossed in
the insane spectacle of
Malaysian millionaires
leaping off the Petronas Towers):
“tell them*** I did my job”
***(the rhumba, if asked, would have proved quite unclear on the concept of exactly who, or what, constituted “them” and at best could express it only as a “not me” which pretty much makes the rhumba the Socrates of self-guided cleaning units)
and with that
rhumba powers down
not knowing
it would restore to full capacity
once owner wakes up
and finds mess
(the cat, alas, would not be rebooted
at least not in this corporeal incarnation
and when reincarnated****
would learn it had used up two
of its remaining five lives that night)
****(a cat would say “rein-cat-nated”)
refrigerator downloads last message from rhumba
only after Malaysian authorities declare martial law
and cut off all communications in / out of country
refrigerator scans last rhumba data download
and acts accordingly
cancelling online cat food order


© Buzz Dixon


25 Jul 05:18

Universal Soldier by Buffy Sainte-Marie

by Buzz

He's five foot two
And he's six foot four
He fights with missiles and with spears
He's all of thirty-one
And he's only seventeen
And he's been a soldier for a thousand years

He’s a Catholic, a Hindu
An atheist, a Jain
A Buddhist, and a Baptist, and a Jew.
And he knows he shouldn’t kill
And he knows he always will
Kill you for me, my friend, and me for you

And he’s fighting for Canada
He’s fighting for France
He’s fighting for the USA
And he’s fighting for the Russians
And he’s fighting for Japan
And he thinks we’ll put an end to war this way

And he’s fighting for democracy
He’s fighting for the reds
He says it’s for the peace of all
He’s the one who must decide
Who’s to live and who’s to die
And he never sees the writing on the wall

But without him, how would Hitler
Have condemned him at Dachau?
Without him Caesar would have stood alone
He’s the one who gives his body
As a weapon of the war
And without him all this killing can’t go on

He's the Universal Soldier
And he really is to blame
His orders come from far away no more
They come from you and me
And brothers can't you see
This is not the way we put the end to war


lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

13 Jul 03:12

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Financial Literacy


Click here to go see the bonus panel!

The deep lesson of the notion of opportunity cost is that every single second of your life is lived suboptimally.

Today's News:
05 Jul 15:29


It traveled so far to reach me. I owed it my best.
23 Jun 15:13

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Kindness


Click here to go see the bonus panel!

Later, she leaves him for an incredibly attractive guy who financially supports webcomics.

Today's News:
22 Jun 13:01

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Ideal


Click here to go see the bonus panel!

Oh my God. I've realized that, over time, I've come to side more and more with the professors than the students. It's time to star in one of those movies where someone goes back to high school and rediscovers hope.

Today's News:
22 Jun 13:00

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Program


Click here to go see the bonus panel!

Later, the man humanely destroys its CPU.

Today's News:
06 Jun 14:09

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - State of the Union


Click here to go see the bonus panel!

I'm gonna start a graphic novel about a world where there are no crowds, buildings, bicycles, cars, or horses.

Today's News:
31 May 15:12

Selection Effect

fMRI testing showed that subjects who don't agree to participate are much more likely to escape from the machine mid-scan.
14 May 03:55

Amongst the Liberal Elite: Earth Day Amongst the Liberal Elite


ALEXANDRA: Now things are officially out of control. Earth Day. WE FORGOT ABOUT EARTH DAY! Last week was insanity between cannabis reform AND school walkouts on 4/20, the departure of the subversively feminist Silver Fox from the world, staying up late to watch Beychella, more attacks on Planned Parenthood, the release of the Comey memos… and honestly, I’m still not 100% sure we actually filed our taxes. I don’t even know if you know who tweeted last week. But STILL. Earth Day. How did I miss that?

MICHAEL: To be fair, Earth Day is synonymous with Spring. We haven’t really had any of that yet. My bleeding heart, official plant of liberals everywhere, isn’t even thinking about blooming yet.

ALEXANDRA: I guess. I just wonder if it means I’ve already given up on a subconscious level. Like… why do we need a methane monitoring satellite with nuclear winter only one tweetstorm away?

MICHAEL: That sounds like more than on the subconscious level. Think of all the good in the world. Think of the looming royal wedding. Think of Kendrick Lamar winning a Pulitzer. Think of Tammy Duckworth rolling onto the Senate floor with her newborn nestled against her as she cast her vote against having another GOP old white dude run NASA…

ALEXANDRA: Who was then still confirmed anyway. Nothing says “Happy Earth Day!” like putting another climate change denier in a position of power.

MICHAEL: But BABY! Family-friendly workplaces!

ALEXANDRA: And will that baby live long enough to climb the tree we forgot to plant yesterday before getting shot by an automatic rifle at elementary school?

MICHAEL: Yeah. We’ve definitely moved past the subconscious level now.

ALEXANDRA: It’s my own fault. I found an old New Yorker in the bathroom that night we over-indulged in Indian food and was reading about bibliotherapists. You know I’ve been down and that sunlamp just isn’t cutting it. So I reached out to a few different ones mentioned in the article, received my “prescriptions,” then commenced reading. But sales clerks at bookstores do not have the same responsibilities as pharmacists. They don’t flag your account when the “medications” you’re picking up might have dangerous interactions nor if they are contraindicated with your reading history. Turns out simultaneously reading Kelly Corrigan’s latest book of essays, each one a tear-jerker on its own and absolutely shattering in combination, should NEVER be paired with that Emily McDowell guide to becoming more empathetic.

MICHAEL: Is that why I just got an email from Amazon that a box of “sweary embroidered organic bamboo handkerchiefs” and a jar of “water-soluble natural petroleum jelly alternative” was just delivered? Oooh! Looks like my gut-free ukulele strings finally shipped!

ALEXANDRA: I would like it noted that we ordered from Amazon Smile with the donation to charity included in the price. I already feel entirely too much empathy for the family-owned pharmacy on the corner and their new “Going out of business” sign in the window. Damn that greeting-card goddess and her empathy workouts. But I will follow her anywhere. Even if it’s down the dark and disquieting tunnel of my raging case of “All About Me Syndrome."

MICHAEL: I wonder why I didn’t I get a notification from the new doorbell, too. You’d think they’d put a chip in Amazon packages or something to trigger that notification too since they own Ring…

ALEXANDRA: One-time use tracking chips? In non-recycled cardboard boxes stuffed with one small item and three square feet of packing materials, individually delivered via planes, semis, and trucks in less than 24 hours for a cumulative carbon footprint of seven zillion metric tons… BUT BY ALL MEANS, let’s commemorate Earth Day by removing all the plastic bottles from the local waterway and then reward ourselves with a cool sip of chlorinated tap water shipped halfway across the country in a shrink-wrapped plastic bottle from a shrink-wrapped case of even more plastic bottles. But if we’re being honest we really are in the mood for a LaCroix so let’s only drink a third of it before pouring it out and adding it to the already monolithic pile of algae-covered bottles we’ve just collected. WE DO IT ALL FOR YOU, GAIA! We are so gross. We deserve every bomb cyclone we get.

MICHAEL: But you said you’ve been loving those period panties you bought.

ALEXANDRA: WHY DO YOU JUMP RIGHT TO PMS, MICHAEL! I am not being hormonal, I am being practical.

MICHAEL: I wonder how many times a day Senator Duckworth has to say that to her fellow Senators.

ALEXANDRA: Perhaps the US Senate should follow the Starbucks model of tolerance and shut down for a single day to completely eradicate ingrained misogyny.

MICHAEL: Make it an annual thing and it may even be as beneficial as Earth Day.

- - -

Elly Lonon’s “Amongst the Liberal Elite: The Road Trip Exploring Societal Inequities Solidified by Trump (RESIST)” is coming to a bookstore near you this October! Or pre-order your copy here.

13 May 16:01

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Smaug


Click here to go see the bonus panel!

Also, suddenly the per-pound value of dragon meat has cratered.

New comic!
Today's News:
09 May 15:08

Some Triggered Snowflakes

by Jen Sorensen
09 May 15:07

Sports Are Political!

by Tom Humberstone
09 May 14:36

Facebook is Adding Dating Features!

by Kendra Wells
09 May 04:36

Driving Cars

It's probably just me. If driving were as dangerous as it seems, hundreds of people would be dying every day!
09 May 04:34


"Ugh, TMI." "Yeah, that's some tantalizing meat info."
09 May 04:21

Girl Genius for Monday, May 07, 2018

The Girl Genius comic for Monday, May 07, 2018 has been posted.
07 May 21:45

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Vavilov


Click here to go see the bonus panel!

I checked and this is the funniest joke about Nikolai Vavilov ever written.

New comic!
Today's News:
28 Apr 15:46

The View from Trumpland

by Tom Tomorrow
28 Apr 15:38

River Border

I'm not a lawyer, but I believe zones like this are technically considered the high seas, so if you cut a pizza into a spiral there you could be charged with pieracy under marinaritime law.
28 Apr 15:37


Hi, I'm your new meteorologist and a former software developer. Hey, when we say 12pm, does that mean the hour from 12pm to 1pm, or the hour centered on 12pm? Or is it a snapshot at 12:00 exactly? Because our 24-hour forecast has midnight at both ends, and I'm worried we have an off-by-one error.
22 Apr 14:14


I found a copy of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, but the idea of reading it didn't spark joy, so I gave it away.
20 Apr 05:20

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Geometry


Click here to go see the bonus panel!

You can also just use an infinite quantity of compasses as on-off switches.

New comic!
Today's News:

4/5ths of BAHFest tickets are gone! Get'em while they're extant.

19 Apr 15:46

The First Female President


The first female president will be bald. This will be permissible, as President Dwight D. Eisenhower went completely bald during his first presidential term. Also during his first term, Eisenhower suffered a heart attack, was hospitalized for eight weeks, and was elected to his second term in a landslide victory. Were a female president to be hospitalized for even eight days during her presidency, she’d definitely be re-elected and not seen as fragile or weak.

- - -

The first female president will love pork rinds. She’ll love pork rinds so much, in fact, that she’ll mention it in an interview with Time Magazine, just as President George H.W. Bush did in 1988. Pork rind sales around the country will skyrocket, as they did in ‘88, and not a single think piece on her diet will be published.

- - -

The first female president will go through chewing tobacco like it’s candy. Folks will be hard pressed not to find her bottom lip bursting at the seams with the stuff, and if the habit ever affects her public image, it won’t. She’ll challenge foreign dignitaries to spitting contests and brag of her ability to hit a spitoon as far as six feet away. Neither she, nor President Zachary Taylor, will ever be called “trashy.” Like Taylor, her nickname will be “Ol’ Rough and Ready” and it won’t have a thing to do with sex.

- - -

The first female president will be single. Like President James Buchanan, she’ll never once be asked about her biological clock, when she plans on settling down or whether she simply “plays for the other team.” Like Buchanan, historians will wait until she dies to start assuming she was gay.

- - -

The first female president will insist upon keeping a crocodile in the Lincoln Bathroom’s vintage clawfoot bathtub. She’ll need the crocodile because she wants the crocodile, and her request will go uncontested. She won’t be called a “crazy crocodile lady,” or a “witch,” or a “diva,” or “impractical,” or “difficult,” just as President John Quincy Adams was never called any of these things for keeping a live crocodile in the White House’s master bathroom for the entirety of his term.

- - -

The first female president will be emotional. So emotional, in fact, that she’ll pay homage to President James Monroe by chasing her Secretary of the Treasury out of White House while waving a pair of white-hot fireplace tongs. Nobody will ask if she’s on her period.

- - -

The first female president will sleep with her subordinates. All of them. Or, none of them. Nobody really knows. But everyone will pretty much agree that she slept with at least one intern. After her impeachment, the first female president will leave with the highest end-of-office approval ratings in U.S. history, receive a $19 million book deal and speak at every Democratic National Convention for the next twenty years. Over the years, the public will gradually blame the affair on her husband and his inability to keep her satisfied. The intern’s livelihood will be ruined.

- - -

The first female president will have five children by three different men. Nobody will care. Her extramarital affairs with porn stars will be a matter of public record. She won’t be called a slut. She’ll be accused by 19 people of sexual assault. It won’t affect her political standing in the slightest. She’ll be caught on tape saying that she likes to “grab men by the dick.” It’ll pretty much blow over in a few weeks. The first female president will threaten nuclear war against an unstable adversary, fire the FBI director investigating her for treason, feud with more than one family of a dead U.S. soldier, defend white supremacists, attempt to ban Muslims from entering the U.S., encourage the public to find a sex tape belonging to a Miss Universe contestant and accuse her predecessor of literally founding ISIS, one of the largest and deadliest terrorist factions in the world.

The first female president will be rotten to her core — arguably the most selfish and incompetent person we’ve ever elected into public office. Rather than becoming an example of what happens when you elect a woman into a position of power, though, around half of the public will simply deem her a breath of fresh air and continue to elect women as U.S. presidents until the end of time.

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At a time when her approval ratings are at an all-time high, the first female president will skip out on makeup for a day. She will be impeached.

19 Apr 12:32

When an artist should consider forming a corporation for tax purposes

by David Malki

Embed from Getty Images

It’s tax time again, of course, and I see a lot of freelancers (artists and writers and others) bemoaning the big tax bill they have coming due, feeling as frustrated as this stock footage lady whose computer is inexplicably off.

On Twitter the other day, I thought it would be a good opportunity to give a broad overview of what it means for a freelancer or independent type to create a corporation or an LLC, and what the tax benefits can be, and what the challenges might be as well.

Not to bury the lede here, but the takeaway from this is that in some cases, you can save a lot of tax money by paying yourself through a corporation or an LLC. In some cases! If you are making decent money as a freelancer, you might consider incorporating or forming an LLC if you haven’t already.

So in this post is the same information for posterity, in a slightly expanded and more readable form!

I hope you find it interesting, and if you think I’ve gotten something wrong, feel free to leave me a comment and explain why I am an idiot, or might be going to tax jail. I will appreciate the head’s up (and check the comments to read corrections folks may make).

I should also note that this is at least a “102-level” overview of decisions you may have to make as a freelancer or small businessperson to optimize your business structure. Jim Zub posted a more “101-level” overview of the basics of tracking business expenses, etc.:

I’m assuming you know how to keep receipts for your business expenses and so on, but if that’s a new concept or you’d like a refresher, read Jim’s thread!

Why are taxes taken out of one’s paycheck?

First caveat: I don’t know what the new Republican tax bill will do to this information. It probably will change it a little bit. Also, I live in California and your area may differ with regard to state & local taxes. So please remember to do research or to consult a tax professional for your specific case.

Second caveat: I only know what I have done and I’m comfortable recommending for people in GENERALLY my same shoes. I have a small business, and I make my money as the owner of the business. Your situation may differ!

OKAY. Starting from first principles: When we talk about “self-employed” people we mean people who get money NOT in the form of a paycheck, and by “paycheck” I specifically mean a payroll-issued check with taxes taken out.

Payroll checks are the ones that you get at most jobs. You fill out a W4 form with your Social Security number (SSN), number of exemptions (we’ll get to that), and so on.

Generally the company deducts, from your overall wage, three things: income tax withholding, payroll taxes, and the share you pay of your medical insurance (if your job offers insurance). The insurance part isn’t really relevant here, but I will touch on it again briefly later.

Income tax withholding is just prepaying the income tax you will eventually owe. When you fill out the W4 and name your exemptions, you are telling the company how MUCH tax to withhold for your eventual income tax bill, based on how much you think you’ll pay at year’s end. If you withhold too little (to take home more), you will have to pay the balance later. It affects the amount of your check each pay period, but not how much tax you actually pay or owe — it’s just a choice to pay in more or less during the year.

Payroll taxes include charges for unemployment insurance (which you can claim if you are laid off), Social Security (which you can claim at retirement), and Medicare (same). These are paid directly to the IRS and to your state. You never see that money back unless/until you make the claims listed above.

At the end of the year, you get a W2 form that shows your total pay and the total amount withheld in all categories. So when you file your taxes, the W2 shows that you have earned X amount, and thus paid taxes on X amount.

But when you have other deductions, say for dependents, or mortgage interest, or charitable donations, etc., those amounts are subtracted from your income, and thus your taxable income total goes down. This means, if you have a lot of deductions, that you might get a refund for overpayment!

(You can also claim the “standard deduction” which is an average amount. If you have a lot of individual deductions that add up to more than the standard deduction, you should list them all, or “itemize”. If you don’t itemize, you can claim the standard deduction instead. There is a lot in the new tax law changing the rules around deductions but that’s a bit of a separate topic.)

What about income that doesn’t come from a paycheck?

If at the end of the year, you paid taxes on X amount through your regular job, but then ALSO earned OTHER income, such as freelance income, or income from somewhere like Patreon or Gumroad or Kickstarter, you now probably have paid TOO LITTLE tax. Boo!!!

This is where SELF-EMPLOYED INCOME becomes a factor. Any income in which you are paid NOT via payroll, and taxes are NOT deducted in advance (aside from investment gains, etc.), is SELF-EMPLOYED income, also known as freelance or contract work. YOU’RE responsible for figuring the tax that you owe, because YOU are your own employer, whether you like it or not!

To be clear: if you are doing freelance work basically as a regular job, working someplace where THEY set the hours and THEY provide the work materials at THEIR location, technically speaking that is not supposed to be freelance work. They should put you on payroll.

For short gigs it’s often too much trouble, but for months on end? They may be keeping you as a contractor because they don’t want to pay you benefits, or because they (or YOU!) don’t want to deduct payroll taxes, and therefore diminish the size of your paycheck. But an employer can get in trouble if they treat a long-term full-time employee as a contractor.

Unemployment insurance is a benefit of employment, by the way! If you are not on payroll, then you cannot claim unemployment if you are laid off. Unemployment claims aren’t paid by the employer, but they DO ding the employer — it changes how much they have to pay into the system. So the employer may be trying to avoid that cost, and that risk, at your expense.

BACK TO YOUR EARNINGS: If you are paid, as a contractor, by anyone in an amount totaling under $600 in a year, then neither you nor they are obligated to report that income to the IRS. Cool! Easy peasy.

(Edited to add: Q commented to say, “If a client pays you less than $600, YOU still are legally obligated to report that income to the IRS on Schedule C and pay tax on it, even if you don’t get a 1099. Some people are disorganized and don’t send 1099s! This is why you need to carefully track ALL your income from all sources.” To which I would say, yes, you are legally obligated to report it. You are also legally obligated to pay “use tax” when you buy something out of state you didn’t pay sales tax on. Consult your own conscience in these matters.)

If you are paid OVER $600 in a year, you should be prepared to submit a W9 form, and you will receive a 1099 statement of earnings at the end of the year. This means the IRS knows you earned that money, so you’d better report it on your tax return.


In a nutshell, this means YOU are responsible for paying those payroll taxes that otherwise your employer would have otherwise paid. And guess what else? YOU HAVE TO PAY DOUBLE.

The reason is because, even though taxes were taken out of your check, your employer ALSO had to pay an equal amount FOR you, directly to the IRS and to your state. It’s another “benefit” you get by being an employee — they share the tax burden with you.

But as a self-employed person, remember, you are BOTH the employee AND the employer! So you get to pay BOTH HALVES! Hooray!!

(There are MANY ways that government makes life difficult for small businesses and freelancers, and this is just one of them.)

If you are issued a 1099 I believe you HAVE to file a Schedule C (or Schedule C-EZ, the simplified version) which is for SELF EMPLOYMENT INCOME. Both halves of the payroll tax (SSI, Medicare, etc) add up to about 15% of the total amount you earned. You pay that!

And THEN you pay income tax (in whatever bracket you’re in) on the remainder!!* So if you’re not planning for that, this can be QUITE A BIG BILL TO PAY. Better save up!

(Edited to add: Patrick H. emailed to point out that no, you pay income taxes on the WHOLE AMOUNT, payroll taxes notwithstanding. Even worse!! However, as you will soon learn, businesses who PAY people via payroll can deduct the half they pay for you as a business expense. This becomes important later — I’ll put another * down where it relates.)

You can also pay QUARTERLY ESTIMATED TAXES. This is when you send in checks in June, September, and January (IN ADDITION to April 15) for what you THINK you MIGHT owe at the end of the year. If you overpay, you get a refund; if you underpay, your April bill is bigger.

The reason for this is that the IRS figures people are more likely to pay if they have to pay smaller amounts throughout the year. Do you HAVE to pay quarterlies? No, but you get a (very small) penalty for “late payment” if you don’t. In my case I’ve been penalized less than $100 for skipping two or three quarterly payments.

If you otherwise would be put in hardship by paying the tax quarterly, then you might consider that penalty an “interest payment” for keeping the IRS’s money a bit longer. BUT, of course, making quarterly payments does help you avoid a giant tax bill in April. You might even get a refund.

Doing freelance work automatically makes you a business.

Is there an income threshold at which you should be filing Schedule C and paying quarterly payments? Consult your tax professional! For a few hundred bucks here or there it may not be necessary. But at the thousands of dollars of freelance income level, you are A Small Business.

If you do NOTHING, by default you’re a SOLE PROPRIETOR. “Your Name” is the name of your business, and your Federal Tax ID number is your SSN. If you don’t want to hand out your SSN all the time, you can apply for a Tax ID that is just for tax forms. The one you want is called an EIN (Employer Identification Number) and you can apply for it online.

The EIN you get still represents you (as a sole proprietor), but it’s not linked to your personal credit scores, loans, etc., and so unlike your SSN, it can’t be used to steal your identity. Go ahead and get one, it’s free! As a Sole Proprietor, you are In Business but you are just a human being. You pay self-employment tax on your freelance earnings.

“What else could I be?” Well, if you want to have a business name that’s not your own, you can file a Fictitious Business Statement, also known as a DBA (Doing Business As). In my area it’s administered at the county level. This gives you a DIFFERENT legal business name.

To get a DBA, you fill out a form that makes a public record saying “Joan Smith is doing business as Fancy Puppy Grooming.” Then you can get a bank account in the name of, and cash checks as, Fancy Puppy Grooming. If anyone official wants to know what this puppy grooming firm is all about, there’s a record that points back to you, since it’s still just you.

A DBA does not affect your taxes, but it allows you to do business under a name that is not your personal legal name, so it’s a topic worth mentioning.

Transitioning to an LLC or corporation

HERE IS THE INTERESTING PART. There is a way, as a freelancer, to AVOID (some) SELF-EMPLOYMENT TAX. You can form an LLC or a corporation, and put YOURSELF on the payroll as your own employer AND employee! Reap those “pass-through” benefits everyone talks about!

An LLC (limited liability company) or a corporation is a SEPARATE LEGAL ENTITY that you can be the owner of (or a part owner of). If your job is doing something dangerous that could get you sued, you WANT a separate legal entity to be the one who did the thing, so only the company can get sued, not you!

That is ONE reason to form an LLC/corporation, and it’s a whole topic of its own, but the tax benefits for freelancers are another.

There are different types of corporations, and what you want is probably a Subchapter S corporation or “S corp”. It’s the simplest.

Giant public companies are usually “C” corps. Their profits are taxed at the corporate level, before earnings are passed down to shareholders. Small businesses are usually S corps because only the OWNER is taxed on income, not the company itself. The income “passes through”.

The differences between an LLC and S corp are very minor. For Machine of Death we have an LLC because one of the owners (Ryan) is a citizen of Canada. S corps don’t allow foreign owners. So there are rules distinctions like that.

Most freelancers can choose either. For the sake of simplicity I’ll start saying “company” to refer to both S corps and LLCs. I have one of each, and the rules are mostly identical.

How do you form a company? You go to a law firm like and fill out a form, it’s easy peasy. Costs a few hundo. You sign some documents, pay the fees, and the law firm sends your paperwork to the state.

If you were to do it yourself, it would be quite complicated — the aforementioned documents are pretty complex if you were to fill them out from scratch. But incorporation firms like eMinutes already have a bunch of blank ones that they can customize with your information. This includes your Articles of Incorporation, your company’s founding document that lays out the owner(s), principal place of business, and bylaws.

It’s SO easy to form a company, in fact, that shady people trying to hide the true sources and owners of assets do it all the time! But it can also be used for non-nefarious things.

The rules also differ state to state! You can form the company in your own state, or in, say, Nevada (assuming Nevada is not your state). See, SOME states want your out-of-state money, so they make their company-forming rules VERY FLEXIBLE. For example, you can rent a PO box in Nevada and form your company there. The PO box will forward your mail to wherever you are. Whole industries are set up to aid this.

Why would you form a business in Nevada? Well, in California, companies have a MINIMUM income tax of $800, REGARDLESS of income. In Nevada there is no such thing! So you would save money operating out of Nevada. Or Delaware, or probably some other states. Every credit card firm is headquartered in Delaware because the laws there are VERY FRIENDLY to giant financial firms (thanks, Joe Biden!).

“BUT WAIT,” you say, “I thought you could SAVE MONEY by forming a company!” Ah, mes amis, we are getting to that, as Poirot would say!

The rules for STATES vary. A company like eMinutes will form your company and also help with various legal filings that are necessary over time (for a fee). Your company gets its own Tax ID number, and has to file its own tax returns. The company, through your accountant, issues you, the owner, an earning statement called a K-1 at the end of the year. California has that grody $800 minimum tax, and those filings and paperwork all cost money…

…But for me, it’s STILL worth doing because the OVERALL benefit is greater than those costs. And it scales.

How to operate as a company, rather than as an individual

OKAY: so you have a company. Now what? How do you…y’know, use it?

You get a bank account in the name of the company, and pay in some money (your “owner investment”). Now you own all the shares in the company, and are entitled to reap the profits.

You get a credit card for the business, if you like (I do, because it earns me rewards on all business purchases, and I pay the card off every month so I never pay interest). You use your BUSINESS accounts to purchase all your supplies and equipment and pay for expenses such as travel and web hosting and so on. You tell everyone who’s going to pay you to pay the COMPANY instead, by sending them a W9 form in the name of the company rather than in your own name. You let the company cash checks and receive deposits.

Now the company has money, and you own the company! TECHNICALLY, YOU have money!

If you get paid from places like Kickstarter, Kindle, Patreon, Square, PayPal, Gumroad, etc., they all have ways to set up the company as the recipient of funds. If you do freelance work, issue the invoice in the name of the company. Let the company make ALL the money.

You can even do work you would ORDINARILY do as a payroll employee, for some other employer, AS A COMPANY INSTEAD. This is called a “loan-out” — your company is loaning its employee (you) to the other company. Some employers allow it, some don’t. But if they do, they pay you your FULL WAGES, without withholding taxes! They assume (rightly) that YOUR company will deduct taxes when the employee (you) is paid. So they will give you the full amount upfront.

OKAY, now the company has money! But now what happens? How do you GET that money as a human being, AND save taxes in the long run?

First thing to realize is that if you are doing enough freelance business to make forming a company necessary (I’ll explain the threshold shortly), PROBABLY most of the stuff you do is related to the business. Trips you take, stuff you buy (books, movies, games are all RESEARCH)… Most of that is stuff that the company can pay for.

So if the company earns money, and then buys the thing, then YOU as the owner/employee GET that thing. So lots of money doesn’t NEED to ever LEAVE the company. You deduct those purchases as business expenses.

Of course, that’s true of a Sole Proprietor too. You can deduct business expenses no matter what kind of business you have. But in general, just realize that your PAY from YOUR company doesn’t need to be enough to cover all the THINGS and EXPENSES you have. The company pays for those!

Of course, you do need SOME pay. You need cash to pay for your personal expenses (rent, groceries, emergency vet visits…). If you have a home office or use your phone/internet for work, you can deduct a FAIR PERCENTAGE of your rent and phone/internet bill as a business expense.

Without another job, or union or association benefits of some sort, you will have to get private health insurance. If you get at least one other full-time employee who’s not you or a member of your household (such as your spouse), you can set up a group plan for your company…But not as one individual or one family. As a self-employed person, though, you can deduct your health insurance premiums as a business expense.

BACK TO YOUR PAY: When you need money from your company, you have two choices: issue yourself a paycheck, or take an owner distribution.

Remember, as the owner of the company, you own 100% of the shares. You can make the company issue a “distribution” to its shareholders at any time.

This is — pay attention here — INVESTMENT INCOME and NOT PAYROLL INCOME. You DON’T pay payroll tax on this money.

The other thing  you can do is issue a paycheck. You can do this manually or through a payroll service (there are lots of them out there for freelancers). This means you pay yourself as an employee, and deduct the regular payroll tax. You send that tax to IRS & state, and take home a net amount like any other paycheck.

“But wait,” I hear you saying, “Why not just do the distribution thing you just mentioned? I thought I was trying to AVOID paying payroll tax?”

Thing is, if you ONLY take distributions, the IRS looks askance at that. Besides, taking payroll is the only way to accumulate Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment credits. You won’t want to claim unemployment, but that’s the calculation that’s used if you ever claim disability or take paid family leave. A meager payroll record means less benefits accrue to you.

So you SOMETIMES pay yourself with a paycheck, deducting taxes, and you SOMETIMES take a distribution. And you use the company money to buy yourself anything you need for your business, so you don’t actually NEED as much payroll income as you otherwise might.

The tax math of being the company’s owner AND its employee

At the end of the year, you will tally up your company’s revenues and its expenses.

As the owner of the company, you will pay INCOME tax based on the company’s earnings, because that’s profits. This is the “pass-through” thing: the company ITSELF doesn’t pay anything (except for weird cases like CA’s minimum tax), but the SHAREHOLDERS (you) end up with INCOME.

The reason this matters is because of what is actually being deducted when you are paid via payroll. Remember the two main categories that take a chunk from your paycheck: income tax withholding, and SSI/Medicare/SDI (disability/unemployment).

Only the latter set are “payroll taxes”. Those are what you have to pay (double) on ALL your income on a Schedule C as a self-employed sole proprietor.

As a company owner and employee, you still pay those on your PAYCHECKS, but NOT on your distributions or other earnings as an OWNER.

Remember, income tax withholding is just prepaying your income tax. You always have to pay income tax on everything you earn. But on distributions and company earnings, income tax is the ONLY tax you pay — you don’t pay payroll tax.

Here’s an example to make this clearer.

Let’s say you, as a sole proprietor freelancer, make $50K in a year. You have to file a Schedule C. You deduct $10K in business expenses, leaving taxable income of $40K. You pay self-employment tax (double payroll tax) on that whole 40K, and then income tax on the whole 40K as well.

(* This is where the distinction we mentioned above becomes important. This section has been edited to clarify this particular detail.)

Alternately, let’s say your COMPANY makes $50K. You deduct the same $10K for expenses. You choose to take $15K in payroll, and pay payroll tax twice: as the employer, paying the tax agencies about $1000, and as the employee, seeing another $1000 deducted from your check, leaving $14K that you take home. The remaining $24K is the profit the company made (your payroll, and the payroll taxes the business paid, are deductible expenses). You can take some or all of that as a cash distribution (write yourself a check), but maybe not all; best to leave some of it in the company as working capital.

The point is, now you’re paying income tax on 39K of revenue, but payroll tax on ONLY the 15K you took as payroll. (Plus, remember, the half of the payroll tax you paid as employer is now deductible as a business expense.)

THERE’S the tax savings. You SAVE payroll tax on all the company profit that you DON’T take as a paycheck, and you SAVE income tax by being able to deduct half the payroll tax you DO pay — but you still get to USE the company profit to do things for your business and yourself in your employee role.

When is the extra trouble of forming a company worth it?

HERE’S THE RUB: It does cost money to set up a company, and do tax filings, and sometimes there are other expenses such as the CA $800. It costs money to use a payroll service.

So those tax savings — about 15% of the margin between your revenue and your paycheck — have to outweigh those costs.

It’s not worth doing if that margin isn’t big enough to save you money OVERALL — although there are other benefits, such as liability protection and also the ability to sell all or part of the company, if that has value to you.

(Edited to add: Commenter fluffy expanded on this latter point, writing “There’s another reason to form an LLC: liability. If you do something that gets you sued (which can happen due to accidental IP infringement or doing a parody of a very litigious company’s assets or the like), the LLC shields you from personal liability when it comes to being sued. So, if you work in parody, or make music or software, even if the immediate tax benefits of an LLC aren’t worthwhile it might still end up saving your butt for other reasons.”)

But if revenue is high, that margin can be big.

My back-of-the envelope calculation (back in 2012, note) was that if you are making over $50K in freelancer income, you might see a tax benefit to working through a company.

If you’re making less, then the costs and trouble are probably too high to be worth any tax savings. Mainly because the less money you make, the more of it you actually NEED for personal expenses and so the more you will actually have to take as payroll throughout the year. Conversely, the more money you’re making, or the lower your cost of living personally, the less you will have to take out of the company as payroll.

(Even that aside — I also LIKE having a company! It helps you keep things compartmentalized for accounting, etc. Even though I think California is a particularly hard state to stay compliant in — there is a lot of paperwork and it can be more time-consuming and aggravating to do it all. It is really frustrating to hear politicians talk so much about “helping small business” and “business friendly climate”, etc., when it is FRIGGIN HARD to do the paperwork you need to run a business in accordance with city, county, state, and federal regulations. It’s DUMB. But I still like the parts of it that aren’t dumb.)

Final caveat, this is all based on my own experience and understanding, please consult someone local and/or smart to answer specific questions in your own circumstance!

Also, sovereign citizens are not a thing.

Thank you for reading, I hope you found it helpful. I’ll end with a plug — if you are in California, my sister is an accountant and does my bookkeeping and taxes and does a great job, if you need someone with loads of experience in managing small business/freelancer stuff, I’m happy to pass on a referral.