Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A bit more about #metoo

First of all, a disclaimer. You don't owe your story to anyone. It might be too painful. Or damaging for some reason. Or you are just not in the mood for writing.

Still, I was amazed at the number of people who felt that their story is somehow not worthy because they were only harassed when other people were actually assaulted or raped, or because they were not traumatized, or because it happened  a long time ago, or less often than to someone else.

Whether or not you were traumatized is not the point. The point is that someone else did something that was wrong, and the fact that another someone else did something even worse to another person is not an excuse for them.

When a very drunk person drives his or her car into a yard of a daycare, chances are nobody will be traumatized either, at least if they didn't happen to hit anyone this time.

I don't think I was traumatized much.  Not by the adult neighbor who molested me (no violence at all, hand-to-vulva contact only) when I was about 5. Not by the teenage boy who attacked me from behind,  threw me in the snow and tried to rape me when I was 10. Not by the adult man who forced his way into my building after me, chased me into a corner, and tried to rape me when I was 15. This is not even the full list of rape attempts, not to mention harassment.

That was partly luck, partly violence, and partly me being a fairly insensitive person is some ways.  If the rape did not succeed and I have suffered no physical damage I tend to recover from the psychological damage in several weeks. Those several weeks feel like a constant adrenaline rush, which is fairly unpleasant for me, and fairly hazardous for people who piss me off during that time. But again, I got lucky, and nobody pissed me off enough during that time to cause any violence. After that, it's just another story to tell. I got better. No lasting harm done.

I am sure this makes the next victims of the same assholes feel so much better...

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Equality and facts

If somebody asked me 25 years ago what I think about Damore's manifesto's claims that women are on average somewhat less (or more) suited to software jobs than men, I would have said "bullshit". 15 years ago I might have said "I don't know". Now, surprisingly, it's more of "I don't care".

A cynic in me would also add "and if anyone knows, they are sure as hell not telling us". Because if anyone really managed to measure the "natural biological" distribution of men and women in Computer Science, and it turned out to be less than 50% women, they'd look at what happened to Damore, and think again. And if it turned out to be 50% or more women, they would expect similar harassment from the other side. The subject is just too sensitive to talk about in public, which is kind of sad.

I find it scary that this is so important to so many people, because to me this means that our whole concept of equality is too strongly based of the idea that any two groups (at least groups that we want to be equal in a situation where we want them to be equal) do in fact have equal abilities. And I think this is a perilous path. "Group A is equal to group B at task X" is a falsifiable factual statement. Giving people equal opportunities is a matter of values, morals and policy, and should not depend on falsifiable statements.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year!

Everyone is saying what they were doing in 2016. I wasn't doing anything, I don't admit to anything, and it was already broken when I got here. :D

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Happy Independence Day, Finland!

Good thing we got out of Russia when we did. Russia sucks. Lately more than usual.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Israel revisited

Back from the trip to Israel. Here are some observations (some of them just for myself, some could be useful for other tourists).

It was a somewhat overwhelmingly social holiday, but it was awesome to see everyone we managed to see, and in fact we didn't even manage to see everyone who was there. Next time, I guess, or maybe they'll visit me here in sunny Finland.

Not surprisingly, there were a lot of historical sites, good restaurants, and awesome beaches.

I wasn't sure if the early November was a bit too late in the year, but it wasn't. The temperature varied from 16 (Jerusalem) to 32 (Ein Bokek), and there was just one rainy day. The water was warm (25 or so) both in the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea.

November is off-season, most national parks close early, like at 3pm.

Jerusalem is full of tourists, and Tel Aviv and the Dead Sea have quite a few, but the national parks are almost empty apart from some school groups.

There are a lot of public toilets, almost all of them free. The ones in the restaurants are often unisex. Although pretty much anywhere I've been in Asia, from Turkey to Japan, they had more public toilets than pretty much anywhere in Europe.

The public transportation doesn't work from Friday sunset till Saturday sunset. If you are not in a religious area, some restaurants and convenience stores will be open.

The stores appear to stop selling beer by 11pm. Not sure if it's a law, company policy, or Tel Aviv city ordinance.

They are building and renovating a lot.

Almost everyone speaks very good English, and a lot of people speak very good Russian as well, but most of the written stuff is written only in Hebrew, so unless you read Hebrew you will feel a bit lost while shopping for groceries. I generally asked some friendly local people for help, and they always helped.

The places we stayed at were Tel Aviv - Jerusalem - Ein Bokek - Haifa - Tel Aviv. Did day trips to Herodion, Sorek cave, Masada, Ein Gedi, Mamshit, Ein Avdat, Avdat, Beit Guvrin, Akko, Tel Megiddo, Beit She'an and Tsippori.

Here's place by place, with links to the pictures:

Tel Aviv: a big city with a lot of restaurants and the greatest beach ever. Lots of Bauhaus buildings but they didn't impress me. Some nice markets. Yafo old city. A very nice area in the old port.

Jerusalem: I am sure even a bad tourist guide will have more details than I can describe here. One thing that a bad tourist book might not mention: the Western Wall tunnels.

Herodion: Herod's palace. You can go up the mountain, and then down inside the mountain.

Haifa: many residential neighborhoods are on the mountain, which makes for pretty cool views on the city. The main tourist attraction is the Bahai shrine gardens. The area around Sderot Ben Gurion has a lot of nice cafes.

Akko: a very pretty Arab town reminiscent of a few medieval places in Southern Europe. An undeground tunnel, a pretty mosque, and the underground crusader city in the citadel. Don't miss the genuine crusader toilet seat.

Ein Bokek: a touristy place on the Dead Sea shore. There is nothing there, really, except some Russian tourists (not many, because it's out of season) and one decent restaurant, but the sea looks lovely at sunrise, and it's a good base for visiting a lot of sites. The biggest minus: the pool and the beach closed at 5pm. WTF is that?

Sorek (Soreq, Avshalom, whatever) cave: a little but beautiful cave with stalactites, beautifully lit. In a way you've seen one of them, you've seen all, but I still enjoyed it. Quite a way down from the parking lot. The tour was supposed to be guided and photography forbidden, but the guide didn't mind us wandering around and taking pictures without flash.

Masada: the famous fortress on a high hill. If your map app is showing you two entrances you really want to use the one from direction of the Dead Sea. This one has a cable car, the other ones doesn't.

Ein Gedi: we came there late and didn't see much besides the rock hyraxes. Loved watching the rock hyraxes though.

Mamshit and Avdat: old Nabatean towns. Very interesting. There are two more, but we didn't have time for that. If you have even less time, Avdat is the biggest of the four.

Ein Avdat, aka Avdat canyon, not to be confused with Avdat. A canyon right next to Avdat. Also a national park, with a separate ticket. The entrance about 4 kilometers north from Avdat (the only one Google Maps currently show) is the top entrance, from where you can look at the canyon from above, and are not allowed to go down (falling in is also forbidden). If you want to come in from below (that's where all the really nice pictures are taken) and climb up, use the entrance near Ben Gurion university (may the road signs be with you).

Beit Guvrin: that's a really big and great park, and when the park rangers tell you what to see in what order they really know what they are talking about. Bell caves (beautiful, unusual and easily accessible), Sidonian burial caves with paintings, the ruins of Maresha and much more.

Tel Megiddo: not really that much to see, except that you get to tell your friends that you've seen the real Armageddon site. If you do get up there, don't miss the Hellmouth, aka the water system. you can go down there. It's right on the way from Haifa to Beit She'an, so if you are going there you might as well.

Beit She'an: a huge and awesome Roman ruin. Don't miss.

Tsippori/Zippori: beautiful mosaics and lots of cactuses.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Running a React Native Android app on a real dev device

Just tried to make a small Android demo app using ReactNative. The really hard part was JavaScript, but I am certainly not going give out any advice on that. The next hardest part was running the damn thing on a Android device.

In principle their "hello world" app should be easy to run, just attach a device and run:

react-native init HelloFuckingWorld
cd HelloFuckingWorld
react-native run-android

Instead of your "hello world" you get a nasty red screen telling you that the app cannot connect to a server. You damn everyone to hell, especially the stupid app that wants to connect to some triply-fucked server just to print a "hello, world" on its screen.

You decide to follow the instructions on the red screen, and do adb reverse tcp:8081 tcp:8081. The damn adb answers error: closed and your app still doesn't connect to anything at all. You curse the sdk, the app and the device, and then find out (by googling) that this instruction is only meant for the devices with Android version 5.0 and above. ReactNative, incidentally, works from Android 4.1 up.

You put the cursed device aside and take a less cursed one, preferably one that is running 5.0+. Luckily the makers of ReactNative made it so that if you shake the device furiously the dev menu pops up, and the first item on it is reloading a JS bundle from a server. I actually went there with my browser to see what it loads from there, and now I am gonna be seeing nightmares for the rest of my life. 

The furious shaking is a nice touch. They sure know their audience.

You click the reload, and get the red screen of death again. Of course. You forgot to say adb reverse tcp:8081 tcp:8081 to the new device. You say it, and a number of unprintable words in addition to it. And wow, it actually loads! You have your "hello, world".

What's nice is that every time you change something in your JavaScript you just shake the device furiously again, click "Reload JS", get a red screen of death, swear, say  adb reverse tcp:8081 tcp:8081 again, wonder why the fucking thing keeps losing the socket connection, and finally get the new JavaScript loaded.

After you get everything running you try to write another app, for example one saying "goodbye, cruel JavaScript world". You do all of the above to it again. It doesn't work, JS bundle just doesn't load.

Yes, you have to find the old server process and kill it by hand. The new one is not gonna do anything useful until you do that. It's gonna look like everything is ok, but when you visit the url you see it still has the JS bundle for the previous app.


Monday, February 22, 2016

Old customs die hard

Conceptually, fighting for one's honor - for example fighting over an insult in a sausage kiosk line - is very close to trial by combat, and conscription in wartime is very close to human sacrifice, and yet fighting over insults appears to be close enough to many people hearts that it happens fairly often, and would happen a lot more if people did it every time they wanted to, and conscription in wartime is popular enough to be mandated by law in most countries, whereas the actual trial by combat and human sacrifice, as practiced by some cultures in the past, seem like a very silly idea.

With conscription and other forms of human sacrifice I can of course see the obvious practical difference in efficiency: when you sacrifice a young virgin or a considerable bunch of them to the cause of a military victory it might well be instrumental in bringing about that victory, but no matter how many virgins or more sexually experienced individuals you sacrifice to the gods of rain, it's not likely to result in any actual rain.

With fighting for one's honor (yes, I know, it's not a very common term for fighting over insults) it's more mystical though: what is the impulse that drives people to do it, and why doesn't it feel as silly as trial by combat? I totally have this impulse, and I still don't understand it. I don't actually do it, haven't done it as an adult anyway, but when I abstain from it it's for some practical "adult" reasons, such as that I don't consider it worth possible pain, injury, trouble with the law, and, in my most charitable moments, not worth the other person's pain or injury either. But I really should be abstaining from it because the whole concept is quite absurd and somehow implies that my honor is more worthy than that of the less physically able, and less worthy than that of the more physically able. Why doesn't it feel as silly as it actually is?

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Chungking Mansions

This time when I was planning a trip to Hong Kong I wanted a gritty ethnic experience, and decided to stay in the infamous Chungking Mansions. I had no idea how gritty and how ethnic that would turn out to be.

All my previous experiences of cheap Hong Kong hotels could be described as "small but livable" and I tend to assume that bad reputation of various places is overblown. Well, it wasn't.

I heard that the place was renovated, cleaned up, etc. All of this seems to refer only to fire alarms, sprinklers and security cameras, which is nice but not enough.

The building has 5 blocks, each of whom has two elevators: one goes only to he even floors, and one goes only to the odd floors.  The elevators are equipped with security cameras, and people who are waiting in line for an elevator get to see what the people currently in the elevator are doing there. This included, but was not limited to, checking their phones, and the cameras were conveniently located for all of us to see each others' security patterns and other passwords.

The true hell is the ground floor of the building, filled with all kinds of gentlemen from various countries trying to sell genuine fake watches and genuine fake SIM cards to everyone who walks by.

I had a reservation in a place called Peace Guest house. When I arrived there I showed the reservation to the guy at the reception, and he grabbed my phone and ran somewhere with it. I demanded it back, he said that it's OK, I said that it's most definitely not OK and ran after him. After consulting with a coworker he said that they have cancelled my reservation. I told him that that's not how reservations work, and he told me that he doesn't know or care what it says on, but my reservation is cancelled, they don't have any rooms left, and I should go elsewhere. I demanded some written proof that I was there and the guy said it was OK. I said it was most definitely not OK and told him to write it down. He said he couldn't write in English. I told him to write it in Chinese. He got scared at told me he cannot write anything at all without the permission from the big bosses on the Mainland.

Anyways, I found myself another hotel in the same building. It was fearsome to behold, but it had a working toilet, a working shower in the toilet a working internet and a bed that didn't do "bed kaput" every night, or indeed any night. The place even had a water boiler in the hall so one could even have tea. On the minus side, the place was overrun by little ants, and you could hear everything that you neighbors were doing. On the night that the restaurants downstairs served beans there was both the sound and the smell effect.

The security was fantastic, with the door code 987654, and the WIFI password abcd1234.

The most horrible thing were the restaurants downstairs. I usually like the food from the Indian subcontinent well enough; this was some evil cousin of the real Indian food, or maybe all the chefs were the people who were forcibly exiled from India and/or Pakistan for being a huge disgrace to the local food culture.

The most amazing thing was that at some point a couple of guys started to sell drugs outside the building.   I'd never seen that in Hong Kong before. I asked them if they would like to talk to the police about it, and they disappeared.

But hey, at least the location was good.

A new culture of sexual harassment

I've been following the public debate on whether or not the Middle Eastern and African immigrants have brought with them a new culture of sexual harassment, with some people saying that yes, they did, and other people saying that Finnish men have been harassing Finnish women since time immemorial.

Frankly, I don't see how those things are mutually exclusive.  Finnish men have been harassing women since time immemorial, and  Middle Eastern and African immigrants have brought with them a new culture of sexual harassment: more violent, more frequent and more persistent. My claim of "more violent" comes from the crime statistics; more frequent and more persistent are just personal experience.

Finnish men have, on a countless number of occasions, informed me that I have big tits (and appeared to expect me to treat this as new information), informed me that they have an erection (which can be a joyful occasion, but not when a total stranger tells you about it at the bus stop and expects you to do something about it other than laugh and point). When I was young they also offered me money for services (not programming of the web services, although I did try to offer that), but I got the impression that this is less common nowadays, even for young women. They have also occasionally tapped me on the butt in clubs, and on one memorable occasion one of them grabbed my breast and twisted it at Tietokilta's yearly party sometime in 1997 or thereabouts (I still regret not filing a police report; but the person in question apologized when he ran into me in a street 2 years later).

What Finnish have not usually done is following me around and demanding sex even after being told "no" numerous times. I also don't recall them demanding an explanation for a "no".  They haven't retorted to "I have a boyfriend" with "he doesn't have to know anything", or "how long have you been together? isn't two years enough?". They have certainly not continued on that with "but can you take me to your bed anyway?".

Of course none of that is new either. Middle Eastern and African immigrants were doing it in the 90s already.

None of this is meant as an excuse for the Finnish idiots who scream "tits!" like they've never seen any tits in real life before (even if they haven't), but it is more annoying to say "no" 20 times to the same guy than to say it once.

EDIT: Remembered another assault by a Finnish man. I was at a perfectly normal party talking to some perfectly normal people when a sociologist came from behind and bit me on the shoulder. The sociologist was encouraged to go home after that.

Keeping the king's peace

In the wake of the New Year's eve's sexual assaults Vienna's police chief Gerhard PĆ¼rstl advised women not to go out on the streets at night alone, and said that they should avoid suspicious looking areas. The story doesn't say which areas Vienna's police chief considers to be suspicious, although I would love to hear that.

To quote the Game of Thrones,  "If you cannot keep the king's peace, perhaps the City Watch should be commanded by someone who can". This is a fair point, and the Green party security spokesman said something along those lines, too.  Janos Slynt, the guy in the Game of Thrones to whom those words are addressed, answers something along the lines of "even Aegon the Dragon couldn't keep the king's peace with that budget", which is also a fair point.

What's not a fair point is the idea that half of the population should stay inside after dark, or hire bodyguards. During my lifetime I've heard various police officers and politicians suggest that, and I always keep wondering what the hell are they thinking. Even apart from the lack of factual sense in it (because most sexual assaults happen inside, because men are attacked outside more often than women and any such protection measures should be first aimed at them, because in the situations like the New Year in Cologne the presence of men didn't help much - when there are 10 attackers it doesn't matter much whether there is 1 or 2 of you - because most women cannot afford to hire a bodyguard, and because if all the women could in fact afford to hire a bodyguard some of those bodyguards would turn out to be the people that they should be guarding themselves from), do those people actually realize what they are asking? They are not asking for some easy self-protection measure, they are asking for half of the population to either adhere to a curfew or hire bodyguards.

I can understand that sometimes the police fail, don't have enough resources, have to many criminals to attend to, etc. But when it's actually the case, it's time to arm the population. A gun is a lot cheaper than a bodyguard, and a lot easier to carry around with you.

I don't really think we are quite at that stage yet here in Finland, but if we ever get there, I'd expect the authorities either to put up and keep the peace in the streets, or shut up and start giving out licenses for concealed carrying. Mind you, I vastly prefer the former, but if the authorities can't do it, we need the latter, and not some stupid advice about staying home.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Happy Independence Day, Finland!

Good thing we got out of Russia when we did. Russia sucks. Lately more than usual.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The truth is sometimes stranger than a teenage boy's sarcasm

As I have mentioned before, our geography teacher (in the USSR) once gave us the following speech:

"Many people complain that we don't have enough trousers. Trousers, however, are not important. They, like all the other textiles, are light industry. What's really important is the heavy industry, like iron and coal, so that we can produce enough tanks and win in Afghanistan."

"I think trousers are a lot more useful than Afghanistan," said one kid who didn't have much sense of self-preservation. "Why did we invade Afghanistan anyway? Do they," he added hopefully, "maybe have trousers?"

Anyway, today I started reading Svetlana Alexievich's Zinc Boys - a collection of interviews with soldiers and civilian employees who were sent to Afghanistan in the eighties, and the family members of the ones who didn't make it back. And yes, it turns out that they did in fact have trousers, in a much greater variety than Russians at the time, and that people who were returning to the USSR were bringing with them lots of clothes and electronics (such as tape recorders and VCRs) that they couldn't get in the USSR. A couple of interviewees specifically mentioned the shortage of swimming trunks in the USSR at the time, and how they just had to bring them from Afghanistan.

I still suspect that it would have been more efficient to produce trousers instead of tanks under the circumstances.

Friday, September 04, 2015

What the hell are we doing?

The conversation about asylum seekers is getting more and more emotional on both sides, as the bodies are piling up. I am not much of a psychologist, but I suspect that part of what is making people scream so loudly is that it's getting quite clear that the old "nobody there is in real need of help anyway" and, on the other side, "we gotta help everyone who needs help" are not working anymore: there are obviously lots of people really in need of help, and we just as obviously cannot help them all. All that can be discussed at this point is numbers, which kind of takes all fun away from an ideological debate, and pisses off both sides.

But yes, lots of people are trying to get to the EU and apply for asylum. And no, for the most part we cannot help them where they are. In the places overrun by ISIS, for example, "helping them where they are" would, I am afraid, involve a summary execution of all the members of ISIS, which is rather expensive, and likely to produce a lot of innocent victims if done by carpet bombing.

I am looking at all this, and I am wondering: what the fuck are we doing? I don't even mean that we are taking too many, or too few: how are we going about it, and who gets selected?

Seriously, this makes no sense at all: we (Europe) build fences and do everything we can in order not to let asylum seekers into the EU. Then after some of them do get into the EU, we have to take the applications from all of those, and in the first country they arrive to (I can see how Italy and Greece might be a bit pissed off by this system, and we would be too if the eastern neighbor suddenly started producing refugees). Then the applications are considered, hopefully to the best of the officials' ability, and their ability is not all that good: it's hard to say who is a criminal, it's hard to say who is a terrorist, it's sometimes even hard to say who is who and who is from where. But then, after an application has been approved, we are not gonna kick the person out no matter what kind of criminal he or she has turned out to be.

What is the sense of all of this? We are actively selecting the people who can get to Europe in something that doesn't deserve to be called a boat, and can afford to pay the smugglers. I totally think that both young men, and people who have money can be just as worthy of asylum as for example poor old women, but is there any point in actively selecting them, and in the process encouraging lots of people to a) risk their lives while crossing the seas on god-knows-what, and b) give their money to the people who provide that unseaworthy transportation?

Can't we, like, decide on how many we can take, handle the applications elsewhere, and then let the winners of that lottery arrive on a proper ferry with proper papers, while turning the users of Oh-Shit-The-Raft-Is-Leaking Sea Transportation away on arrival? People are not dumb (well, most aren't), and if rafting over the Mediterranean is not occasionally rewarded with a residence permit they are likely to stop doing it.

And please, can we send the seriously criminal ones back? On the Oh-Shit-The-Raft-Is-Leaking Sea Transportation, if needed. Yeah, the transportation might take a downward direction, quite literally. Yeah, they might be subjected to inhumane treatment there. They will probably have to take a number and stand in line for that along with half of the population, many of whom we have turned away to begin with, but anyway... Tough shit. They could've thought about it before robbing or raping somebody. No matter how many or how few refugees we decide to take, all the refugee places should be reserved for regular people trying to resettle and live a normal life, not for somebody wanted for terrorism in Iraq or armed robbery in Finland.

We can fight about the numbers later, but can we put some sense in the procedure first, and fast?

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Abu Hamza (a repost)

Abu Hamza just got a life sentence. In honor of this I decided to repost my own poem from 7 years ago. Turned out to be kind of prophetic.

I am Abu Hamza, a Muslim cleric
I used to preach in Finsbury Park mosque,
My sermons were a little bit barbaric
But I delivered them with mighty force.

I'm all for the equality of sexes
And polyandry I don't mind a bit.
I married one of my bigamic exes
So I could get a residence permit.

When I was young I used to be a bouncer,
But they decided that I was too dumb,
And it's more fun to be a doom announcer
So I became a radical imam.

Osama is my most-admired hero,
I tried to give a hand to Taleban,
I lost both hands and eye, but kept my beard,
And all the body parts that make a man.

In Britain I became a famous preacher,
My name is always mentioned in the news,
In my sermons the most important feature
Is killing of the kuffar and the Jews.

A Jew-free world would be a great improvement,
Behind all evil there is some Jew.
They also guide the planetary movement
And nowadays my bowel movements, too.

Please kill the unbelievers when you see them,
With bombs, or guns, or poison or a word,
For any reason or without a reason,
The unbelievers should be put to sword.

But then came the police, and then they told me
That murder is a thing I shouldn't preach.
How dare those kuffar to try to scold me?
I want respect for my freedom of speech.

The court convicted me of the incitement
As poor man, I never stood a chance,
I could not fight this horrible indictment
Though state gave million pounds for my defense.

And now the state has noticed I'm not poor
And is demanding back the million quid,
They froze my jail allowance to be sure,
And found some of the money that I hid.

My life is full of misery and anguish,
I'm serving seven years in Belmarsh,
In British prison I don't want to languish,
The kuffar justice is unduly harsh.

Americans want Brits to extradite me,
They'll put me in the Supermax for life.
One thought that really does not delight me:
I might become the Unabomber's wife.

I used to think that I was very clever
And lead my students to the life of crime,
But now I'll have to stay with them forever
And hear their bullshit all the time.

Americans! I really hope you will
Show mercy to a person whom you hate:
It sure is unusual and cruel
To put one in a cell with Richard Reid.

But in the meanwhile in the British prison
I realized that my nurse is a poof.
They surely had some ungodly reason
To let a guy like that under this roof.

He probably gets totally excited
Each time he wipes my handsome manly ass,
And as a Muslim I should be entitled
To have him fired or at least harassed.

Gay people are a vile abomination
But even though I spit and scream and curse
In this atrocious godless kuffar nation
They won't assign to me another nurse.

At least I can refuse the nursing service
And try to wipe my anus on my own.
Oh shit, my hooks are stuck, I'm getting nervous!
Oh God! Wrong move! Right hook stuck in the bone!

It is too late, but better late then never -
Oh dear Lord, my ass is ripped to shred -
Allah, please do me an enormous favor:
Insert some common sense into my head.

We, Joe III, don't feel like getting emails from our subjects

Decided to contact my House Representative, Joe Kennedy. Haven't even written the actual email yet, but decided to find the contact info anyway.

Found it. The first thing it says:

"Regrettably, I am unable to reply to any email from constituents outside of the district. Please enter your zip code to verify residency and go to the next step:"

Several questions:

1. Does the guy mean that he only accepts email from his own constituents (I thought the word "constituent" already implied that), that he only accepts email from his constituents who really reside in his district, or only from his constituents who happen to be in his district physically at the moment?

2. Considering that nobody has ever demanded a 9-digit zip code from me before, why do I have to supply it just in order to be given my representative's email address?

3. Has the guy ever heard of an ancient technique called lying?

Maybe I am overreacting, but somehow I get a feeling that addressing this guy with an expat issue will be like talking to a wall.

Friday, January 09, 2015

People, including expats, should know their heroes.

Charles Rangel, D-NY, one of the two cosponsors of the FATCA bill.

That's the man most concerned about Americans living and/or banking abroad and not paying taxes. Well, I am glad that for once a politician is legislating on something he is an expert on.

A few years ago the man got caught renting 4 adjacent rent-stabilized apartments in Manhattan. Those are meant to be primary residences, preferably for people of limited means. I don't know how he ever explained his burning need for having 4 primary residences.

At the same time he filed a homestead tax break on his house in DC. AFAIK these are also meant for primary residences.

In 2008 Rangel totally forgot to mention his rental income from an overseas villa to IRS. Oops. Got caught.

Another thing he forgot was to disclose half of his assets and a bit of his income to Congress.

Property taxes on a couple of his New Jersey properties also got forgotten. Shit happens, you know.

A bit later he happened to violate the House gift rules by accepting trips to the Caribbean.

The ethics trial of the House ethics committee found him guilty in 11 out of the 13 original charges.

And yes, all of the above happened just after, just before, and right during the time when he was cosponsoring the bill that would interfere with the banking of several million Americans so severely that many of them would be abandoned by their banks, just to make sure that they are not hiding something.

A question to New Yorkers: why is this ape still in Congress? Seriously, even among the candidates there must be somebody with more sense and fewer ethics violation.

Important information for Jews

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This website and its respective contents do not constitute an offer or invitation to purchase or subscribe for any securities or a solicitation of any offer to sell any securities to Jews. Any brokerage and investment advisory services described herein are not intended for Jews. Furthermore, any solicitation on this web site of banking services (including accepting and/or soliciting deposits), insurance services, mortgage and/or consumer lending services or credit card services is not intended for Jews..."

That's what I just got from my bank. No, the word is not "Jews", but it describes a population group to which I belong. The only reason I withheld the name of the bank is that many banks are displaying the same text, and they have not written it themselves. The word is "US persons", and the guilty parties in this case are the Senate and the House, with the special honorary mentions for  Max Baucus (D–Montana) and Charles Rangel (D–NY), the authors of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act of 2009.

(US persons is defined as all US citizens and permanent residents resident in the US, some US citizens resident abroad - they are not saying who, and whether this actually applies to me, and any entity organized or incorporated under the laws of the United States).

This particular law has raised the US citizenship renunciations by a factor of six, which should say something to our Congress, or would have if it weren't, as an old joke says, the opposite of progress.

I am certainly not planning to renounce mine. Seriously, I'd rather vote for Mr. Rangel with a very big cactus, applied anally. But the first thing that comes to mind is banning the population register from identifying me as a US person to anyone, and lying to all the Finnish (and other non-American) financial institutions that I ever deal with that I am not in fact a US person. Funny thing - so far I have always been in compliance with all the US tax laws. Will there be a day when I choose not to report an account just because doing so would "out" me as an American to the bank that holds the account, and cause them to close that account? If that day comes, I will totally do that without feeling guilty in the least.