Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Conversations with other expats

Whoops! I wrote this a few weeks ago and forgot to post it. Also, if you like this post, please share it on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and other sites.

Update: Apparently I did post this. Not sure how this software reported this as a "pending" post.

I've been in Germany all this week (note: 3rd week of August, 2012), first speaking at a conference and then visiting my father in Idstein, where I've been introducing my father to his granddaughter.

YAPC::Europe 2012. Frankfurt, Germany
Your author giving a keynote speech at YAPC::Europe 2012
Photo by Claudio Ramirez
One of the things I love about my profession is that I get to travel to conferences all over the world. At this conference, I was surprised to speak with several readers of my blog and I've learned a few things:
  • One reader is thinking about renouncing their US citizenship.
  • One reader is in the process of renouncing US citizenship.
  • Another reader is afraid to respond to my blog posts unless they can do so anonymously.
For those who wish to renounce their citizenship, it all boils down to one thing: the US is demanding they pay taxes but offering nothing in return. It's a common refrain I hear. Many Americans back home are unaware of the US witch hunt against expatriates so they don't understand why so many Americans are giving up their citizenship. The word "traitor" is frequently used by those who fail to understand that it's not a political argument, it's an economic one. Hell, we even have Congressman Tierney trying to bankrupt US expats (but let's not talk about the irony of Tierney's international tax fraud scandal).

privacy
Photo by Alan Cleaver
The anonymous comment issue really surprised me. I don't allow anonymous comments because I already have enough troubles fighting spam. People also complain about the captcha's used on this site to fight spam. Now a reader pointed out an interesting dilemma: they might want to chime in about their tax situation but are afraid of the US finding them.

If you wish to comment anonymously, one of your best options is to download the free Tor Browser Bundle. From their Web site:
The Tor software protects you by bouncing your communications around a distributed network of relays run by volunteers all around the world: it prevents somebody watching your Internet connection from learning what sites you visit, it prevents the sites you visit from learning your physical location, and it lets you access sites which are blocked.
Tor is somewhat controversial outside of "geek" circles because it's software that some people use to search for and distribute illegal content. Tor really offends a lot of people due to the high level of privacy it provides. However, human rights activists all over the world use it to communicate with each other and press for democracy. The US military uses Tor to protect its information. Journalists, law enforcement and business whistleblowers use Tor. Like anything, it has both good uses and bad, but unlike many other things, the good uses are really good and the bad uses are really bad.

If you use Tor, be sure to read through their Web site carefully so you can understand both how to use it and why. There are a few caveats you should understand that I'll omit here (caveat emptor!), but be aware that Tor is slow. Very slow. It has to encrypt and redistribute all of your internet traffic in such a way that you'll feel like you're on a dial-up modem.

It was nice to meet fellow expats and readers of my blog and discuss their situation. Not one of them at the German conference who talked about renouncing was happy about the situation. They felt like they were trapped and had no other way out. I can offer people a lot of advice about how to become an expat, but I've no advice to give here. It's a matter of your personal conscience and how bad US law is directly hurting you.
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