Hacker News new | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login
How to Be Jason Bourne: Multiple Passports, Swiss Banking, and Crossing Borders (fourhourworkweek.com)
140 points by mattjaynes on Mar 5, 2009 | hide | past | web | favorite | 64 comments

This book sounds like it's entertaining, but laughably out of date. He's saying you should hide your money with AIG? The company that's losing money faster than the US government can bail it out? Then move to Iceland to escape the depression? Isn't Iceland the country that's been hit hardest, with the government now completely bankrupt?

AFAIK, the AIG he's talking about is a small (formerly) Swiss/international private bank (now owned by a company from Abu Dhabi). It's not the US insurance. (Google 'swiss AIG').

From the link in the article ( http://www.aigprivatebank.com/IndexF.cfm?New=1c=4 ) in the footer of that page:

Copyright © 2003 - 2008, AIG Private Bank - A Member of American International Group, Inc.

Edit; It looks like it has been sold to an Abu Dhabi holding company, probably since the book was written, but it was formerly owned by AIG. I'm not sure why their website says they're still owned by AIG. Strangely, for a bank he claims has multiple billionaire clients, it was sold for only $254 million.

"Edit; It looks like it has been sold to an Abu Dhabi holding company, probably since the book was written, but it was formerly owned by AIG. I'm not sure why their website says they're still owned by AIG. Strangely, for a bank he claims has multiple billionaire clients, it was sold for only $254 million."

Not really. Chase has ~800 billion in deposits. You don't see it being valued at $800 billion. That is because every deposit is a liability just like how cash is an asset and most of the cash is loaned out which turns it into more assets. In a well run bank, these assets and liabilities cancel each-other out very closely (wrt banking reserve requirements etc...) and don't factor directly into the value of the bank.

This is a very well informed community. Without coming off sounding like one of those guards from Slumdog Millionaire, may I ask, how do you guys know all this?

This has a pretty good layman's explanation as well as how banks are being affected by the current economic turmoil.


In my case, I am actually much more interested in econ. and business. CS is just something I do as well, thus my interest in banking regulation, accounting, and valuations techniques (though I am, by no means, an expert on any of those subjects...).

As it so happens, CS people are much better at computers than economists etc... though there are some excellent econ. blogs on the internet which I enjoy reading.

Its a matter of specialization. I just happen to have banks as on of the things I try to specialize in.

Thanks, that makes more sense now.

Yeah, those are definitely not the best ideas right now, but I would think that he uses AIG the same way we use kleenex to mean tissue. It's the concept there.

Same with Iceland, that may not be the country of choice anymore, but the concept remains the same.

Obviously not ideal, but not a reason to ditch the book. Strauss' writing is entertaining, so I'll probably pick it up for the enjoyment factor :)

    Same with Iceland, that may not be the country
    of choice anymore, but the concept remains the
One of the subtle things that's going on at the moment is that the safe banking centres are drying up. Switzerland and Luxembourg have been somewhat cleared out by needing bailouts, and Liechtenstein has been shown to be vulnerable to espionage. Iceland is a mess. Islands in the west pacific have been increasingly brought into aid umbrellas over recent decades. The British PM made reference to it in his recent address to both houses in the US.

This is all a serious matter in the west, because it's becoming easier for governments to steal people's money, and to construct justifications for it that make compelling headlines.

I want to echo that. I've been a fan of Strauss' writings for a long time now. I wasn't a fan of Marilyn Manson, but reading about the two years Strauss spent on tour with him was awesome. I never intended to become a PTA, but learning about his movement in the PTA circles as "Style" was awesome. His writing delivers genuine enjoyment.

PTA being...?

I wanted to make a funny remark, but Urban Dictionary is way better:


BTW I think the original term is PUA = Pick Up Artist:


Yeah, sorry, I did mean PUA for "Pickup Artist".

But since you already corrected it for me, I'll leave it. And give you my upvote, sir.

Neil Strauss is a writer. His last book was about his descent and experiences once he got into the world of pick up artists, guys who follow a system to pick up women.

Ferriss sells hope about the better life, living a life that would normally be above your means. The secret agent life is part of that dream.

My impression was that "The Game" was credulous and a bit sleazy. Am I wrong? Is Strauss actually a good writer/reporter?

If you're asking about the quality of his writing, it's up to snuff. That said, having read his last book and excerpts from this one, it's probably not fair to try and compare him to a journalist.

Neil chases stories and ideas that are both a little crazy and secretly appealing to most men. Let's face it, all of us guys have wished at some point or other that they could seduce any women they wanted. In the same way, a lot of us have probably wondered what it would be like to live a spy lifestyle, or to have bank accounts in exclusive foreign countries. This is basically just the equivalent of a harlequin novel, but for guys.

Seriously, harlequin novels? That implies that books like these are both a dime-a-dozen and uncreative in addition to being fictional - nothing could be further from the truth. Strauss' writing is interesting precisely because it's about really crazy subjects that no one else writes about, or at least where the existing literature is aimed at very narrow audiences. I don't know about the "quality of writing"; this seems to be a quality you can define to mean just about anything. I agree that some of Strauss' plot devices are pretty lame and predictable - you'd probably not want to discuss his technique in a literature program. And like all supposedly "real" novels, there's probably a decent amount of distortions and exaggerations. But his books are engaging, and very much in the direction of "satisfy intellectual curiosity" that I love. No one is supposed to be manipulating social situations like the characters of "The Game", and yet it happens.

I found it eye-opening in a lot of ways, and it brings a host of new questions: what is "genuine" social interaction? How much of people's personality is learned and internalized behavior? How much of sexual attraction is? Should you try to change your personality for something that is supposedly better, and can it be done? In relation to dominance/submission in social situation (the implicit structure of command and leadership that automatically arises when a group of people meets), how much is genuine (or "natural" - what does "natural" even mean?) and to what degrees do natural leaders actively manipulate the people around them?

You shouldn't read books just for some supposed literary value, the real value comes from the questions you have when you're done.

My impression of "The Game" and perusing online forums where average guys who met their goals (usually dating one or two attractive women or beyond) was that those who succeeded in becoming successful at pick-up had accumulated enough experience (approaching, being rejected, follow-up encounters, escalating, taking the lead).

Similar to the old koan about how many businesses a successful entrepreneur most fail at before they succeed, I think after hundreds of encounters - you start to gain the benefits of experience. I've met and talked to a couple of these pick up artists - and they've pretty much told me they can analyze an interaction in real-time at a meta-level and know what they can do (or more likely, what their client should be doing).

There is one downside to all of the pickup techniques - it emphasizes that there is a method to the madness (and encourages subscription-based revenue - e.g. get the latest book/podcast etc.) - while from what I've observed, successful pick up artists could basically walk up to any woman (if they wanted) and say "I like peanut butter." and go from there.

Looks like it basically the technique just gives you an excuse for practising? And the practise makes the master?

Basically yes. To sum a lot of it up, PTAs basically believe that "closing" a girl is a lot like "closing a sale". It is something that can be taught, and that can develop into a sixth sense or instinct.

Aside from "canned acts/memorized responses" they also rely on something called Neurolinguistic programming, which is basically a way of phrasing questions to get a desired answer. Rather than ask "What don't you like about me?", they might ask something along the lines of "What about me intimidates you?" NLP allows the other person think they decided to sleep with you, not the other way around.

If you saw Magnolia (by Paul Thomas Anderson) then you'd recognize that Tom Cruise's character is loosely based off Ross Jefferies, the creator of "Speed Seduction", which was the first pick-up-routine to be based off NLP.

Yes, it is that "practice makes the master". It is more about social engineering applied in a different context. It is like any other skill. You learn enough about it until you understand the rules, then you practice it even more until you forget about those rules.

if you put in the 10,000 hours :) (alluding to Outliers by Gladwell)

Is Strauss actually a good writer/reporter?

My take on Strauss is that he's a prep school kid trying to play Hunter S. Thompson. His writing is good. His topics are slightly edgy but still pretty safe. They're also the things nerds fantasize about... being a casanova or rock star or james bond or hanging out with porn stars.

"My take on Strauss is that he's a prep school kid trying to play Hunter S. Thompson."

+1 for nailing it. He's not nearly as insufferable as Tim Ferriss, but it certainly seems like he's in the same zip code sometimes.

Oh no the entire concept is sleazy and skeezy, but it's still a story about normal guys who have zero confidence and see the world as a system with rules. But it's wrapped in these stories of a rockstar life, living in Hollywood, pursuing starlets, and learning the ability to "make" women lust for you.

The story though is entertaining.

I'm not supporting the concept, but it's got an allure. To learn to be a Casanova, could - according to these people he talks about, and in a sense, him - be within the grasp of any guy. It's learning how to be more attractive without having to get in shape (though getting in shape is a major boost.)

It's probably not a book for everyone, but if you read it for entertainment and not knowledge, you'll enjoy it I think.

He's one of the best narrative non-fiction storytellers out there. Regardless of your thoughts on The Game's subject, the book was well-written. I've read a few of the autobiographies he co-wrote. Most were very well-done.

The only one I didn't care for was the Marilyn Manson one. It may have just been my distaste for the subject, but I felt like the whole thing came off as too whiny (not to mention boring) which is at least partially Neil's fault for not controlling the tone better.

Is this what "jumping the shark" means?

While I can totally relate to the adolescent fantasy of having super-fugitive skills and money stashed all over the world, it seems wasteful if folks take it too seriously.

If this guy had put all this effort and cleverness into a startup rather than paranoia, he would probably have made off quite nicely. Who knows, maybe he will with his book and that was the whole point.

It's funny to see this kinda stuff coming from Tim Ferriss though. Even though his stuff can be pretty cheesy - I love the usual emphasis on simplicity, experimenting, and outsourcing. While a post like this drives traffic, it seems counter to his "message".

Ferriss basically says "This stuff is too extreme for me to actually do, but it's freaking awesome to read about."

One of the things that makes Strauss's writing so fun is that he's willing to immerse himself into a culture so thoroughly. He has the ability to so thoroughly pass the guards of reason (like, I'm too poor to worry about this stuff!) for the sake of the story.

Ferriss basically says "This stuff is too extreme for me to actually do, but it's freaking awesome to read about."

This article certainly has interesting ideas, but I think the author is wildly overplaying the risks of the current economic situation, and is indulging in a bit too much fantasy. I mean, submarines? Really?

"I mean, submarines? Really?"

Yeah that's the point at which I would have declared the billionaire to be a complete fucking nutbar, and would decide to immediately stop trying to replicate his behavior.

Neither Strauss nor Ferriss impress me, and though Ferriss offers some humorous ideas in his book, I would say that most of it is entertainment and self-promotion.

"When Tarasov was through explaining everything, I couldn’t tell whether I was protecting myself from being scammed or actually being scammed myself."

Count me out!

Although from looking at the diagram he was referring to it looks pretty straight forward. Split up each type of asset into a separate LLC, all of them owned by a parent LLC that is controlled by a trust. (House is separate since it's more of a liability, the author still owed money on it and there is always a risk someone will trip and fall on your property). Nothing about this setup looks at all unusual or suspicious to me. So I'm either missing something obvious or I need to get in the business of hiding other people's assets.

Re: Money laundering

I once heard that some, if not many, of the Chinese all-you-can-eat-buffet restaurants are/were fronts for the Chinese mafia. Makes you wonder - as a lot of them go out of business in 6 months - 1 year.

Urban legend. A lot of all restaurants go out of business in six months to a year. It's a brutal industry.

I don't know much about Chinese Restaurants, but I do know a good bit about nightclubs, and virtually all of them (in major cities at least) launder organized crime money as a primary business.

On the subject of losing money, anecdotally, two of the coffee shops I frequent are owned by successful business owners (e.g. one of them owns multiple laundromats, other has a portfolio of rental apartments).

My hunch is that they use the losses from the coffee shop to offset their profits at their other cash-flow businesses. Is this a common practice (if it is so)? I know Microsoft's Office and Operating System businesses effectively subsidize the rest of the company (Internet, etc.)

This has been posted here before but "My cofeehouse nightmare" is a good read http://www.slate.com/id/2132576/

I don't get it. Aren't you supposed to use profits to offset losses?

Wait...you mean cooking the books and making it seem like both businesses are doing just okay so they're taxed less...right?

Why would "cooking the books" be necessary? Structure the assets in holding companies properly and they should be able to do it legally.

How many independent coffee shops do you know take credit cards? I know a few but these shops I mentioned are cash only.

Unless you meant fake losses. I don't get it.

$10 profit - $8 loss = $2 - $.50 tax $1.50 net

$10 profit - no loss = $10 - $2.50 tax = $7.50 net + your gov has more money to help everyone out for example those homeless blocking the doorway to your coffee shop

I'd read it as a fictional novel, and for 10$, I feel like it is.

Wait, so this isn't a joke?

it's not. outside of the U.S. there are numerous situations that would require you to have a second passport - the one I hear the most are people who travel into Middle East countries but require them also to to Israel. You can basically branch off from that situation to other "real" situations.

A little recession, it seems, is all it takes for do good hackers to start entertaining the dark side. A pity.

I'd much rather learn how it works so I can identify, avoid, or fight. Which are all preferable to me then ignoring it. Criminals are hackers in their own right (never mind criminal hackers, but society hackers, they make society do things it was never intended to.) and I have to say reading about a good scam is almost as entertaining as reading about a good startup. One just has more practical value.

> One just has more practical value. Hmm, you're probably right, but as I am not (yet) thinking of creating a startup, it is debatable which one it is...

My own philosophy is that, if the feces doth impact the rotary blades, I'd rather minimize the damage as much as possible. Most might consider it paranoia; I consider it an ingrained distrust of about 90 percent of humanity. As they say, the best defense is a good offense.

I don't see anything particularly dark about the excerpt quoted. What are you criticizing in particular? Maybe I missed it.

There's a sample chapter that you can read.


If only it was that easy.

What does this have to do with Hacker News? Why are people voting this up?

Come on guys.

Why does your concept of hacking begin and end at writing code? This book describes a number of real-life hacks: social engineering, exploiting legal vulnerabilities, circumventing security devices, etc.

Considering how popular your remark is; it is safe to say that people around here think "Hacker News" is about cracking. I had thought it was about building things, silly me.

Sometimes hacking and cracking coexist. Examples include the reverse engineering of CSS (DVD encryption), figuring out how to jailbreak an iPhone, and even more questionable acts like writing a virus to innoculate systems against other viruses. These cracks required technical proficiency, real thought and good, old-fashioned effort.

Sometimes cracking is just mindless. I'm guessing most people here don't respect that. Had the book been a series of "...and then I paid this dude $N and he handed me a new passport", I don't think it would have hit the front page.

I've always considered "hacking" relating to making a system do something it wasn't intended to do. You have to know the system well enough and be creative enough to go beyond its perceived limitations. I get a kick out of being creative; others get a kick out of having power over something. In either case, the real thrill is feeling alive and not feeling like a mindless robot.

It is funny we're having this conversation, considering Jason Calacanis's open letter, "Why I hired a felon" relating to one of his employees at Mahalo: http://calacanis.com/2009/03/05/why-i-employed-a-felon/

I've always felt that 'cracking' was a form of hacking. [Stallman]{http://www.stallman.org/articles/on-hacking.html} among others, considers hacking to mean exploring the limits of what is possible, in a spirit of playful cleverness. This includes 'cracking' as well as FOSS, and startups and whatnot.

It can be, but it isn't always, and if you go by the numbers then most cracking is not hacking. Running a script does not include playful cleverness.

Stallman also considers clever use of chopsticks a 'hack'; mileage varies on that one.

"If you have to ask..."

But catch up here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cryptonomicon

We'll see you in Sealand.

i haven't been here long, but i'd have to agree with your sentiments.

This guy Ferriss is a crackpot.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact