Results tagged “freedom”

Here is a thing that happened.

February 21, 2014

We have very nice lawyers! The team over at Wilmer Hale have been very helpful to us, and it's been nothing but a pleasant experience for us.

As is typically the case for lawyers, we need to pay them from time to time. Recently, they had helped us with a Blue Sky filing. Appropriately, while remitting payment for that service, I had written "Blue Sky" in the memo field of our online payment service with Chase.

DO NOT, under any circumstances, write "Blue Sky" in the memo field of your online payments to your lawyer.

Today, after several hours on the phone, I found out that this had caused our payment to be flagged by the Treasury Department. Apparently, "Blue Sky" has some other meaning to people who hate freedom.

Eventually, we got this message:

The payee listed below has a similar name or address to a name or address on the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) list of Specially Designated Nationals. As a result, based on the information we have at this time, this payee has been rejected as an eligible bill payment payee.

This is clearly not literally true, as the memo field represented neither the payee's name nor address, but let's assume they were speaking broadly.

As a consequence, the payment was stopped, and our lawyers were essentially flagged as an entity which we can never pay through online bill payment again. Oddly, Chase suggested we simply send paper checks as payment to them in the future. Killing trees preserves our freedoms.

This whole experience, while I guess understandable in some "everything is terrible and everyone is stupid" sense, is fairly unsettling. I share it with you in hopes that you'll never run afoul of the Office of Foreign Assets Control, which is apparently a serious and terrifying institution.

In conclusion, I love my country and like our lawyers and hate our bank, like all good Americans. I just wish it were easier to do so without being stuck in an absurd and unaccountable situation with an unsatisfying resolution.


This is an interesting anecdote from Twitter about others who've possibly had issues with this phrase.

Also, there's a surprisingly interesting discussion on Hacker News about this post, with speculation about why this phrase may be problematic. I should be clear that I'm not criticizing the Treasury Department for imperfect solutions to a very tough challenge that they're facing, but am sharing this story in the hopes that it helps them improve, as I assume they're not interested in false positives, either. I also hope that Chase can develop a better process for handling these sorts of situations, as they'll likely only become more common.

Finally, I wanted to write about this so that there's a clear public explanation for the next time I'm coming through Customs when returning home to the United States. See? It was all just a harmless mixup.

Freedom From Choice

September 27, 2007

A.J. Jacobs, master of the year-long book stunt, spent a year trying to live by all the rules dictated in the Bible. As stunts go, it's not that interesting to me ("Hey, I grew a beard!"), but one of the lessons he mentioned learning in this Newsweek interview indicates he really did go in with an open mind:

We all talk about freedom of choice, but there’s something very attractive about freedom from choice. Religion provides structure, mooring, anchoring. Should you covet? No. Should you give 10 percent to the needy? Yes. It really structures your life. After my year I felt unmoored, overwhelmed by choice. I have adjusted, but I’m still overwhelmed by choice, as we all are in America.

There's an analogy here about why those who preach simplicity in the realm of technology sound so much like they're preaching religion, and why those who agree with them often take on a near-religious fervor, but I'll leave that as an exercise for the reader.

A Modest Declaration

January 23, 2003

So I got a copy of another extremist "manifesto" today, this one by a bunch of anti-American idiotarians who just don't seem to understand the basic principles that our great country was founded upon. What this piece of Berkeley leftist idiocy needs is a good fisking!

We hold these truths to be self-evident

They're already off to a bad start. Leaving aside the fact that this bunch of clowns doesn't even identify who the "we" is, their entire premise is based on the idea that their opinions are "truths" that are "self-evident". "Because I say so" isn't sufficient evidence for anything. Typical liberal tactics.

that all men are created equal,

More multiculturalist bullshit. The fact of the matter is, everyone is not the same. Some people are superior to others, and it's just a fact of life that the inferior people never seem to stop whining about.

that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,

Of course, this being a bunch that's half comprised of a bunch of godless atheists, they had to say "Creator", but we know what they mean. They're saying that everyone should have a bunch of special rights, just for being born.

that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

Well, laaa dee da. These people wouldn't know what to do with "Liberty" if they had it. And people are entitled to "the pursuit of Happiness"? Is there some new, stronger stuff that they're smoking in Berkeley these days? Because the reality is, life can suck sometimes and you're going to just have to deal with it. You may even be — gasp! — unhappy sometimes. And there's no government entitlement that will save you from it.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

This is the same logic that says that the FBI ought to ask terrorists for permission before they storm their hideouts. If you're an unlawful combatant, it doesn't matter that you didn't give "permission" to your government: They're gonna come kick your ass.

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it,

More socialist tripe. Wankers of the world, unite! This says, basically, "if we don't like the government, we're just gonna make a new one!" Why not just accept that your views are a distinct minority, and that they're unpopular, and that it might be worth your while to figure out why, exactly, no one agrees with you. Hint: It's not because you're a far more advanced human being than they are.

and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

That's right, wish it all away. If the Government isn't doing its part to make sure that you're all comfy and happy, you ought to just ignore it and pretend it doesn't exist at all. And we wonder why kids today don't have any respect for our institutions?

Seems to me that instead of trotting out all these Manifestos and Declarations, this bunch of impossible-to-please malcontents might want to ask themselves why they're having such trouble accepting a system that seems to be working just fine for everyone else. The job of any true patriot is to support our country, especially in such tumultuous times. Maybe if they spent less time deciding that everything is the fault of the government, and more time realizing that they are the problem and the reason that they're unhappy, they'd be able to start "pursuing the happiness" that they feel they're so entitled to.