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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Americans Abroad Anonymous

Let's take Pema Chodron's advice this morning and lighten up.  Just for today.

Because in the middle of all this FATCA nonsense it's very easy to forget just how damn funny it can be if you look at it a certain way.

I was highly amused this morning by Stephen Mopsick's latest post,  IRS, FATCA, NSA, And The International Banking Conspiracy.  His tongue-in-cheek take on Datagate:
No one in our government is thuggish enough to presume to read the content of a private e mail message but it’s good to know at least that a few people in the States have pen pals in the quaint, ethnic hamlets in the Swat Valley in Northern Pakistan.
And mark your calendars, everyone, because Stephen notes that the new IRS FATCA Portal to Mordor will be having it's grand opening in July.  This will be THE place to be with bells on for those Foreign Financial Institutions caught between a rock and a hard place.  Once registered these non-US banks will be on record (and on a list) as being perfectly willing to screw over their domestic customers (and in many cases, their fellow citizens) in order to be "FATCA Compliant".  (And isn't there something about that stamp of approval that just screams, "bend over and grab your ankles?")  I'm very much looking forward to seeing that list and I completely agree with Monsieur Mopsick - what an entertaining summer we have ahead of us.

This brilliant and very funny take on the 12 Steps was written by WhiteKat over at Isaac Brock.  My sincere thanks to her for allowing me to repost it here at the Flophouse.  I laughed so hard when I read it.

The 12 Steps of Americans Abroad Anonymous

1: We admitted we were powerless over America–that our lives had become unmanageable.
2: Came to believe that a Power (IRS) greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of IRS as we understood Him.
4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves and all our foreign bank accounts.
5: Admitted to IRS, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6: Were entirely ready to have IRS remove all these defects of character, along with our life savings.
7: Humbly asked IRS to remove our shortcomings, in addition to the contents of our "offshore" accounts.
8: Made a list of all homelanders we had harmed, and became willing to make amends (i.e pay for services we never use) to them all.
9: Made direct amends to such homelanders wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10: Continued to take personal inventory (i.e. FBARS) and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
11: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with IRS, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
12: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other Americans Abroad, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

To this I would add my take on the first paragraph of chapter 2 of the Big Book.  Not a joke like the 12 Steps above but a serious statement about who we are and how all this nonsense has nevertheless brought us together:

We are average Americans living normal lives.  The only difference between us and the homelanders is that we are doing these normal things outside of the U.S. Some of us have only one nationality, some are Accidental Americans who have just learned of their citizenship status, others are duals.  Some have already renounced, some are still thinking it over. Some of us grew up in the homeland, others are more recent emigrants.
All sections of the homeland and many of its occupations are represented, as well as many political, economic, social and religious backgrounds.  We are IT workers, managers, secretaries, missionaries, stay at home moms and dads, retirees, veterans, musicians, writers, Republicans, Democrats, Progressives, Conservatives,  small business owners and independent contractors.

We are people who normally would not mix. We live in many different countries.  Sheer distance and the cost of travel makes it hard for us to meet each other in person.  However, through email, websites, skype, and social media we have forged a strong connection.

But there exists among us a fellowship, a friendliness, and an understanding, which is indescribably wonderful.  And this is the silver lining in this catastrophe that keeps us going and gives us hope.


Blaze said...

We have indeed become an eclectic world-wide mish-mash of Friends Without Borders.

It seems the only border we have is the one which US tries to erect to keep us in.

Our network is not just a silver lining. It has been a sanity-saver for many of us. I'm so glad you are part of that network. Franco-American Flop House is always a respite as you so openly share your life and your concerns.

Christophe said...

Hi Victoria,

Interesting post from Monsieur Mopsick. From the way it's written, I think it's hard to know for sure what he thinks about the subject - and maybe it's because I am not a native speaker, but I feel a lot of sarcasm in his post.

Is his message "we should not worry about those programs because they're only flagging the people who receive email and phone calls from instable part of the world?". But how can they then be sure if they're not actually looking at the content of those communications.
Well, does that mean that the families of the troops deployed there are flagged as potential bad guys? And I've read there are a lot extremists in the UK, so yes, Europe needs to be very concerned about it.

I read an interesting article explaining how they're "connecting the dots", but can't find it right now. Will post later if I do.
I think all this surveillance is not that useful and will lead to a lot more false positives and innocent people being put on no-fly lists than bad guys. The real problem is this collateral damage: the next to impossibility to be removed from it, just like with foreign account issues, the official answer from the IRS is to ruin yourself with OVDI, even if you're innocent.

We also see another chorus he's been singing for a while about the banks being pressured by shareholders to sign up in fear of losing access to the US Market. My guess is that only the banks located in countries that have signed the version of the IGA where banks deal directly with the IRS will sign up. No other banks will sign up until their government have given the green light. This is unthinkable.

Yes, interesting summer ahead, but as someone posted on IBS, I don't like living in interesting times. I was much happier when I did not know about all that.

Blaze said...

@Chris: English is my native language and I had the exact same response as you.

Steven e-mailed me the link. I will post my reply to him at Sandbox.

Tim said...

My biggest concern about the NSA scandals is that they will distract attention from stopping FATCA.

bubblebustin said...

Yes, there are many of us together in this leaky lifeboat, with still many more who seek to chop more holes in it. Together we can hopefully bail enough water to keep us from quietly slipping under the surface before we reach dry land.

Re Mr Mopsick, when you don't know where you stand on a controversy, it's easy to parody both.

Victoria FERAUGE said...

@Blaze I think what we have here is a COMMUNITY. :-) Who would have imagined it just a year or two ago?

@Christophe, Oh definitely sarcasm. The problem of TMI (too much information) is very real. As they try to sort they are going to make mistakes.

@Bubblebustin, Then we just have to work harder to convince him. Maybe I could send him some chocolate from Brussels?

Anonymous said...

Victoria, you made my day. I am less alone trying to cope with impossible demands as a dual citizen living abroad. For the past three years I live with fears and angry. Very angry with myself for someday being proud of becoming an American by choice.

Unknown said...

Vive la "silver lining"!!!!

Victoria FERAUGE said...

@anonymous, You are NOT alone. Believe there are many many people in a real bad place right now. Alone we're screwed. Together maybe MAYBE we can change things.

@Lucy, Absolutely! Radical optimism is called for. :-)