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Friday, November 27, 2015

Starting Up A Startup

Get real...or get lost. That's what investors and venture capitalists say.

I've consulted with various startups in various industries over the years. Most prospective founders -- who never end up as my clients either for legal services or management services -- are daydreamers. 

They make the mistake of thinking that others will invest their own money, and assume the risk, that the founder himself will not do.

That is the height of stupidity, of arrogance, and of disrespect.

You should have at least $10,000-$25,000 of your own money to invest in your own venture. This is a modest amount and most people can get this amount from credit card balance transfers. This amount is needed to set up the legal structure for a business entity with a separate legal existence, open up a real bank account and have some funds to start development and so on. (This is also why I ask startups for a retainer, because the "real ones" actually come to the meeting with a real check, and leave having written and endorsed a real check.)

Everyone else is either full of nonsense, has no money, or is trying to get advice for free. Someone who claims he or she cannot raise and document having it and contributing it into the business (that is, into a segregated business account) is either a fool or a faker. The investor need not decide which is which; he will simply shake your hand politely, walk away, and toss whatever materials you've given him into the nearest waste basket.

If you cannot obtain and document that you've spent this on your own startup, it is reasonable for a prospective investor, lender or landlord to assume you have no friends who think your venture has potential, you have no money of your own -- which supports the inference that you are an absolute failure, loser or fraud  -- or you're simply too smug to spend your own money first. 

My advice to you is that if you don't have this minimum capital on hand, you (a) have no business starting a business, much less (b) asking for investments from anyone else. In fact, asking others to invest in you, when you are unwilling to invest in yourself, is a sign of disrespect and insults the intelligence of your targets. 

And when you insult the intelligence or integrity of others, you burn credibility and assume a risk of being remembered in the future for all the wrong reasons.

Eric Dixon is a New York-based lawyer and startup manager who has advised numerous young businesses on various matters.

Monday, November 23, 2015

So Lawyers Are The Most Messed-Up?

And in other breaking news, humans breathe a mixture of nitrogen and oxygen. Story at eleven.

There is a somewhat serious report out about the relatively higher prevalence of mental illness, anxiety-related disorders and the like afflicting the legal profession.  As someone with a combined quarter century of experience within the profession, let me decode for you what that means.

First, I write "somewhat serious" because although the issue is serious, the overall message for the general public -- ergo, the customers, that being, many of you as readers -- is what is really important. And that angle is totally ignored!

Second, let's understand something. Customers and clients are looking for solutions. Most often, people want a particular result. Who are we kidding? People want a certain outcome, and the smarter customers realize that they are going through a process involving an opponent, and are trying to achieve the best possible outcome in light of that opposition. It's because of those characteristics that the legal profession can be stressful. 

You see, the legal profession is all about managing an adversarial, contentious process whereby people are trying to assert, or defend, their rights, whether those rights are their civil rights, constitutional rights, privacy rights or property rights. (Most disputes involve those four. You undoubtedly will name others.)

The nature of the business of lawyers, the settlement of disputes, is not pleasant. Most people hate, and in fact cannot, handle their disputes. That's why lawyers are hired. Lawyers are the unarmored gladiators, the mercenaries for hire. 

In short, lawyers get paid to do what most people cannot or will not do for themselves. It can be unpleasant work,  grueling, tiring and exhausting -- and that's when you win. 

As for reputation and status, that is the thinking of the 1980s. It is questionable whether lawyers (or accountants) have the same professional patina they may have enjoyed a generation or two ago. There are undoubtedly those who are in the industry because of its perceived (or so they think) status, and likewise, countless others who despise lawyers for that status. All of that thinking is at least 20-30 years behind the times.

There are some red flags identified in the report. It identifies the prevalence of workplace bullies, the hegemony of white men in the "big firm" ownership structure, and so on. The bully problem is endemic in Western post-industrial society, as bad characters find increasingly fewer outlets for socially-acceptable aggression (or other traits) and therefore resort to exercising these emotions in arenas where there is less resistance.

Are there bullies and bad bosses? Absolutely. Are they more prevalent in the legal profession that in the general population? Not sure. 

Should customers care? No.  Not at all. Unless the bad behavior affects the work product and/or inflates the inefficiencies that get reflected in a higher bill -- which goes to the issue of whether a big organization, a big law firm, is the right solution provider for the customer.

Customers look for solutions, not for some sort of social reordering. Bad bosses are not the customer's problem, they are the employee's problem. But today's employee may be tomorrow's entrepreneur. 

And for every bad boss, for every bad co-worker, there is a corresponding business opportunity for a classy, competent and professional lawyer to capture business or capture that cubicle or windowed office. 

Competence and class still matter. 

What do you think? 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

When Free Speech, Isn't Free: How Forced Political Speech Subverts Freedom

You have the right to speech and expression.  Free speech and expression.

You also have the right not to speak -- sometimes a much more powerful statement is made with silence.

But what happens when your money is used, without your consent, to fund political campaigns?

And isn't your voice -- including your expression through deliberate non-participation -- diluted or silenced when you are compelled to speak (with your money) even when you don't want to?

There's a new Seattle, WA plan to give each voter $100 in vouchers (four vouchers in $25 denominations) which can be given out to select qualifying candidates for city offices, who can then redeem the vouchers for real cash for their campaigns. The money for these vouchers comes from tax receipts. 

New York City has had a similar plan for years, whereby it gives candidates for city office up to six times the amount of qualifying contributions. The difference in New York City is that the "matching funds" go straight to the candidate. 

This raises the question of whether the public is being forced to engage in political speech, because it is forced to fund it. And a system which issues vouchers is designed to encourage people to "spend" the vouchers, meaning to underwrite candidates to whom they would very likely not give a dollar of their own money.

The movement towards compelled political speech is in line with the cries, from self-styled good-government groups over the years, to address declining voter participation rates. Those rates have declined, largely because the denominator -- the number of people registered -- has increased as it has become increasingly easy to register. (Some would argue that it is way too easy, that it is an invitation to fraud, etc.)  Yet the constant is the numerator, the top number, representing people actually interested in civic affairs and motivated to vote pretty much on their own.

Some good-government groups are run by people who make a decent living creating and then publicizing the problem of "low voter participation" as a way to raise funds for their pet non-profits. (Hey! Who said there wasn't money in politics?!) But that should not be confused with the existence of a real problem, or the absence of one.

Some candidates will complain. But these will be the voices of unearned and frustrated ambition, complaining because government won't clear the path for them to realize -- with as little opposition as possible -- the outcome (i.e., winning) to which they believe they are entitled.

To them, I argue: You have the right to run for office, but not the right to take our money to do so, nor do you have the right to rig the system so you can do the second in order to achieve the first.

And the gentle inducements, meant to play on the guilt which is becoming so common in Western society today, and its associated, manufactured need to receive the approval of others (in turn inducing a mania of efforts to seek and "earn" it), all point to forced speech, forced expression, amounting to squeezing money out of us like toothpaste from the tube, to further the desired outcomes for a few self-promoters. 

When you are compelled to speak because you are paying for it, and the government is trying to induce you (the gentle form, feeling like persuasion when it is really a gentle-feeling form of coercion) to participate by making you feel that your own tax dollars will be wasted - because waste is a bad thing, didn't you know -- if you don't "speak" and use those special-purpose vouchers, is that free speech?

If you're a Seattle taxpayer, aren't you being forced to speak? Aren't you being forced -- er, persuaded -- to give money to some candidate? And worse, it's probably a candidate who cannot or will not work hard enough to raise funds on his own -- that is, the candidate is probably someone with little to no support from neighbors, friends, and thus really has no business running for an elected public office?

And a graver question is this: Isn't your voice diluted when we increase the number of participating voters, and candidates, through this soft form of compulsion?

It's bad enough to drown out the voices and votes of the concerned, self-motivated voters with the voices of the unconcerned, the irresponsible and, in some cases, the outright corrupt who will buy and sell their vouchers. 

That's voter dilution. And that is the antithesis of the First Amendment protections against government encroachment on what the Supreme Court itself has often called a "core constitutional right."

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Injustice: When Sleeping Jurors Cost You Your Liberty

Trials are always a risk. Somewhat with a judge without a jury, in what is called a "bench trial." But much more with our "peers" -- that is, juries.

Juries make decisions as to guilt or innocence, and in some civil trials they determine not only whether someone is liable for a damage, but also the amount of liability and the defendant's share of liability (what in negligence cases is called "contributory negligence.")

There is, however, little to no quality control on jurors.

There is the jury selection process and a certain number of challenges you can use to strike (remove) potential jurors in the jury pool.  

But once selected, you're at the mercy of the selected jurors and you can only hope that juror misconduct is noticed, brought before the judge's attention and acted upon by that judge. 

This high-profile New York City corruption case has drawn reporters who are noticing some jurors sleeping and doodling.

Now, many of these cases are in fact boring from minute to minute. I sat in on part of one riveting criminal case for a time, and while there were brief and very interesting revelations, there were other parts that were excruciatingly boring.  Judges who are bright recognize this, and rarely hold a jury in the courtroom for longer than an hour at a time. (Another reason: bathroom breaks.)

I remember that particular trial, because there were enough interesting exchanges that the attentive reporter sitting next to me and I conferred and said to each other, essentially, "there's no way this guy gets convicted."  (Postscript: You know where this is going. The defendants got convicted and sentenced to eleven and five years, respectively. The reporter friend and I still wonder, years later, what trial the jury was watching.)

Now, there is one "check" on juror misconduct. A judge can always nullify (or put aside) a jury verdict of guilty (but note, not the reverse; if twelve Sleeping Beauties find you not guilty, then you're not guilty, no matter if you have two blood-stained hands, a smoking gun and a videotaped confession). 

As for the Sheldon Silver trial, once you put aside the salacious corruption details and the class envy which is being exploited, there are many other factors that would worry someone who is in fact innocent, or his lawyer. (Author's note: The Silver trial involves very serious allegations and what seems to be very formidable evidence. Nothing here should be read or implied to be defending Silver or criticizing the decision to prosecute him, and is based merely on press reports.)

The nature of any defendant today -- you're a business owner, you're a rich guy, you're a lawyer or, never mind the trial, just throw away the key, you're an elected public official -- means jurors who survive the voir dire (juror weeding out selection process) are often quite judgmental starting the trial, or fairly ignorant and ill-informed people. 

And those judgments can often mean an entirely innocent person enters the courtroom guilty on arrival.

The best advice? Stay out of trouble. Anything else becomes a crapshoot with increasingly difficult odds, and the odds are against you.

Eric Dixon is a New York investigative lawyer. 

Friday, October 30, 2015

My Choice: Ted Cruz 2016.

Senator Ted Cruz has a combination of superior academic intelligence, emotional intelligence (what Rush might call, "grace under pressure"), judgment (a different skill set altogether) and integrity.

He is my preference and choice for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

As one of the very few conservative-libertarian lawyers in the New York City metropolitan area, I urge my readers, clients, fellow activists and colleagues in the various industries I engage in (like the legal industry and blockchain technology industry) to strongly consider supporting Ted Cruz with their votes, their energy and, yes, their money.

Money counts in American elections. Here is a secure link for you to make a donation right now.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Bitcoin Regulation in New York and Elsewhere

Some thoughts on the recently-enacted "Bitlicense" in New York State. These comments are applicable to other jurisdictions.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Real Clear Voting: A Real Electronic Voting Solution

Do you want your vote to count?

Do you want your vote safe from the prying eyes -- and hands -- of corrupt election officials, political hacks and other miscreants?

If you're thinking that "electronic voting machines" were the solution, think again.

The blockchain voting apparatus is your solution for safe, secure and anonymous voting where every vote counts.

You've been told that electronic voting machines were supposed to stop political corruption, election fraud and hanging chads.

Think again.

The typical electronic voting machine is merely an electronic version of the old, manual (and highly reliable) switch/lever voting booth.  The electronic machine offers one improvement on the manual booth: it produces a record of each vote. But that's it. And even that feature has some huge risks.

The reason? Both the electronic and manual machines are utterly dependent on people to maintain them...and most dangerously, to retrieve and report their vote tallies. The current machines and systems require that we trust people to get their jobs right, to do their jobs, to pay attention, to be honest.

It is that human involvement which is the serious drawback -- no, the fatal flaw -- in electronic voting.  And really, do you trust election officials to get all those factors right?

You've been told that electronic voting is the cure-all. That's because no one wants to point the blame where it belongs.

Dishonest election officials. 

Avoiding real accountability requires the creation of a straw scapegoat to blame. Here, it's the machine. 

But a blockchain-based apparatus removes the role of people. It moves the collection of votes to a decentralized system totally removed and independent from an individual machine. It removes people from any involvement in the counting of votes, because the tallying occurs on a public ledger called the blockchain. 

One feature of blockchain technology: Every component block carries a record of the preceding blocks in the chain. This forms a historical record. With voting, it means there is a constant record of the running count. This forms a strong protection: To change the count, to affect the tally, one would have to change not only the targeted block, but also every other block which followed the targeted block. This is nearly impossible as well as impractical.  

The reason is that the blockchain works on a consensus among participating computers that requires those computers to solve a complex mathematical algorithm. This provides an element of security totally new and totally absent from the so-called "secure" electronic machines you were promised would solve election fraud.

The reason why this security exists is the absence of people from the process. People cannot affect the process. The process is controlled entirely by the network participants, each acting independently (hence the "decentralized" nature) to reach the mathematical consensus.

It is this people-free process which offers the impartiality that is critical in any election.

Eric Dixon is a New York-based attorney and the co-inventor of a patent-pending, blockchain-based voting system

Friday, September 25, 2015

Boehner Special Election: What Election Law Requires

Breaking: John Boehner, Speaker of the House, to resign effective end of October.

An open seat is to be filled in accordance with state law. Ohio's election law requires the Governor to issue a writ (or order) of election to direct a special election "when a vacancy...occurs." (See Ohio Rev. Code 3521.03). But the law does not require this be performed within a specified time frame.

This means observers will have to wait until Boehner officially vacates his seat for the process to begin, and for the Governor -- who is current presidential candidate John Kasich --to exercise his discretion.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Bitcoin Is A Commodity? How Digital Currency Will Be Treated

The question of how to define Bitcoin has troubled its inventors, developers and certainly regulators and lawyers. Here's the latest conclusion. Don't be surprised, but regulators who regulate commodities have opined that Bitcoin and other "digital currencies" are, in fact, commodities.

What a surprise!

Here is an interesting administrative ruling from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission just issued Thursday, September 17th.  An online exchange of Bitcoin options contracts is now subject to registration and regulation as a swap execution facility and designated contract market under the Commodity Exchange Act.

Buried in a footnote of the CFTC ruling is a definition of bitcoin as a "digital representation of value that functions as a medium of exchange, a unit of account and/or a store of value." 

In regular font, the CFTC ruled that bitcoin was a commodity, relying on the expansive definition of the term in a 7th Circuit Court of Appeals case "all services, rights, and interests in which contracts for future delivery are presently or in the future dealt in." As such, the ruling means, at least for the moment, that bitcoin exchanges are subject to registration requirements of and regulation as commodity swap exchanges.

However, unlike some industry observers and legal experts, I believe that Bitcoin may also be defined by regulators as a security, and that Bitcoin may simultaneously be considered a security and commodity. The basis for this opinion is the likewise broad definition of "security" derived from the four-part test from the seminal security-definition case from the United States Supreme Court, United States v. W.J. Howey. The so-called Howey test found that "investment contracts" were any "contract, transaction or scheme whereby a person invests his money in a common enterprise and is led to expect profits solely from the efforts of the promoter or a third party."

In this commenter's view, one regulator's treatment of Bitcoin as a commodity does not mean, and surely does not preclude, any other regulator (or court) from determining that Bitcoin is also a security. The definition of commodity is broad, but so is the definition of security. So Bitcoin can be both a commodity and a security -- the terms are not mutually exclusive.

Among the first official attempts to define the nature of digital currency was the first introduced congressional bill on Bitcoin (H.R. 5777, 113th Cong., 2d. session, introduced by now-former Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) (and drafted entirely by yours truly!) sought to achieve "cryptocurrency protocol protection" from unfavorable and unfair tax treatment by having "virtual currency" be treated for tax purposes as currency, instead of property. The bill held that Bitcoin and other altcoins could be illiquid and hard to value, factors making its treatment as property as proposed by the IRS in its 2014 guidance (referenced in the congressional bill, and which helped prompt the bill's conception) unfair because its "basis" for calculating taxable value could end up increasing taxable value well over Bitcoin's real value which arguably should be discounted on account of both volatility and illiquidity. 

More to come on this issue....

Eric Dixon is a New York lawyer who develops blockchain technology applications, concepts and theories.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Matt Harvey, Negotiating And Leverage

Matt Harvey? Or Machiavelli Matt Harvey?

The emerging controversy over the star New York Mets baseball pitcher Matt Harvey demonstrates lessons valuable for those of us who negotiate, investigate or resolve disputes for a living. 

The controversy involves (for those of you who do not follow baseball), on the surface level, the health of a star pitcher continuing to perform, some 23 months after the "Tommy John" ligament replacement surgery on his right elbow, as he approaches a rather arbitrary number of 180 innings pitched.  The number of innings pitched, over a six-month period, is assumed to be a proxy for the point beyond which Harvey's risk of injury is unacceptable to Harvey. (The reason for why that is unacceptable, the risk versus future-financial-reward for Harvey, is quite relevant for different issues which I detail later.)

The real controversy involves stuff below the surface.

What is that, you ask?

Here's one. The team, the New York Mets -- and for what it's worth, all of their fans -- want to be able to have certainty about the availability of their pitcher, Harvey, for the season's "stretch run" and the playoffs for however long the Mets compete in them should they qualify. The frustration is not borne by fear, fear of not having a star pitcher available for the playoffs, for example, but rather out of an exasperation that after nearly two years of constant monitoring and coddling precisely to ensure Harvey's optimal performance at precisely this time, the pitcher himself is about to pull the plug on his season.

The player's attitude stands in stark contrast to that of some of his teammates, of whom one cried during a game after learning he was about to be traded. 

At this writing, it is highly uncertain that Harvey will choose to pitch in the 2015 playoffs unless he is held out of the rest of the regular season.

Going back to certainty, because its presence or absence is the element needed for the baseball team to be able to plan using its other resources (players) for the rest of the baseball season: Harvey's statements, both directly to the media and earlier, through his agent Scott Boras, have diminished that certainty in the immediate future -- the rest of the 2015 season. But they have also reduced that certainty for the future, perhaps for the rest of Harvey's career.

Why? Because raising this issue now, after the planning and caution I referenced earlier, is a strong indication that the pitcher's "story" has changed, or his priorities are now surfacing. 

Those of us who resolve disputes for a living welcome this development, because it is an information breakthrough. It may frustrate clients, but it is always helpful to know your adversary's real intentions. That is how you come to an agreement, that is where you find the middle ground.


This is where the pitcher, Matt Harvey, gets a clear E-1. Error on the pitcher.

It's the second point to take away from this story was alluded to earlier. The inability to plan, and especially after the monitoring and attempts at cooperation, leads to two theories (not conclusions). First, the Mets now know there is no ability to plan with or around Harvey...not this year, not for the future...and secondly, that is so because his honesty, his forthrightness, is now and must now (plus the future) be suspect. 

It is painfully obvious and the conclusion is inescapable that Harvey could have expressed this concern earlier, his concern about approaching the arbitrary 180 innings limit, just so the Mets could have reduced his workload, and accommodated Harvey.

Matt Harvey is not a young man anymore. He is 26, not 18. He could and should have been more forthright about his concerns much earlier, because that would have allowed his team to plan accordingly.

Matt Harvey denied his team, his employer, that opportunity to plan, and by doing so, he has comprised -- if not willingly damaged -- his team's ability to win. Read that again: that is a serious charge, but the behavior and implicit messages from Harvey (or his agent Scott Boras) warrant it.

Why he did it is actually irrelevant. Here's why. The cover story is health. But that is the front put up, the position concocted to knock down criticism -- how can you make me pitch when I'm concerned about injury? Just know it's a rhetorical trick. Many skilled judges and lawyers see through it (almost no jurors do, however). 

If Matt Harvey were a witness in court, he would now be considered damaged goods, someone whose credibility would be suspect. He might make a bad witness, might not even make it to the witness stand. 

So what is this really all about?

This is a negotiating ploy by Harvey's agent Scott Boras. Harvey wants a contract, wants more money, and feels he has proven his value. His recent performance indicates he is a top-level pitcher, so it is possible or arguable that he has nothing more to prove and hence has maximized his value and leverage right now, by throwing out the 180-inning bar as the excuse to take no more risk of injury if he is not compensated. And all this is within their rights. Boras also wants to maximize value for Matt Harvey. The Mets franchise, the fans, are irrelevant. 

Now, value maximization means the most dollars. 

Here's how this is going to unfold.

Any controversy which weakens the bond implicit between player and team -- and especially when the player is a once-in-a-generation star like Harvey -- is assumed to be an opportunity to be exploited. That means that it is assumed it can be patched up, and that means patched up with a lot of money. 

If my theory is correct, this controversy becomes very intentional, very much by design.

It also tells the New York Mets franchise and their fan base that Matt Harvey does not care about the team winning. That is the conclusion supported by the fact of Harvey not expressing his current "concern" earlier, much earlier, or at any point in the season, when the concern could have been accommodated in a way mutually beneficial to the team and player.

Instead, the Matt Harvey strategy is to deliberately weaken his employer, the team, in order to exploit a crisis. And to be sure, the attack from within would not only involve his playing or not playing. These actions require a response from the team, against which every other player will measure how they are treated. This is how corporate morale, team morale, can be affected and even destroyed by special treatment, by special privileges and by the allowance of double standards.

Matt Harvey has a contract. Yet the suggestion by his agent Boras -- as to whom observers are entitled to assume speaks with the authority and permission of Harvey -- is that Harvey will withhold his services, not directly refusing but rather by using a hard-to-argue-with fear of injury excuse. But his prior history, his own prior statements, raise serious credibility questions that are value-damaging, credibility-damaging, relationship-damaging and constitute breaches of duty.

In business, in corporate America, a star employee often has an employment contract requiring duties such as the duties of care, of candor and of loyalty.  Harvey would be considered to be jeopardizing himself, at least his reputation, by giving support to claims that his words and actions are breaching them. And he is not a free agent, he is not without a contract in spring training or training camp, for example.

Others would use stronger terms, stronger words and stronger consequences. Diplomats and prosecutors have words to describe this: Sabotage. And treason. And...felony.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Tourist Trap Alert: New York City Using Bathroom Scam At Staten Island Ferry Terminal?

videoWho says the socialists don't know capitalism?

It seems the New York City Department of Transportation might be pulling a fast one of three card monte on hapless tourists taking a round trip ride on the Staten Island Ferry.

The video below (click the link) shows that each of the restrooms in the ferry terminal on the Staten Island side are closed.

Weak August Jobs Data: How To Read The Numbers

Legal cases and investigative jobs tend to heavily use and depend on statistical analysis. The closest many people get to this analysis is reliance on government data, so let's look at this morning's just released jobs data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Look at summary chart A first. This is summary information and is seasonally adjusted (meaning the government does not have the excuse of seasonal fluctuations yet, as with all data, reserves the right to correct the data later. This is very common.)

I advise people to look at any percentages by looking at the denominator. Employment statistics including the headline "unemployment rate" (of which the main rate reported by everyone is the "U-3" rate, and is down to 5.1%) involves the numerator (the top number in the fraction), but the denominator determines what the percentage is. The easiest way to affect the quotient (the result), to get the percentage you want, is to affect the calculation of the bottom number (denominator).  And what is the denominator? It's the labor force!  Reduce the labor force number, and you can get a lower unemployment rate, even when real employment may be declining (that is a separate issue entirely involving hours, wages and so on -- that gets to real income.) simply because the labor force denominator is getting smaller, either in real terms or in relative terms (such as when it grows less than the numerator).

Go eight lines down to the line item "Not in labor force."  Then look to your right for the first column (August 2014) and the next to last column (August 2015). Comparing these two columns' data will show a year over year change so you are getting the truest (we think) comparison whereas month to month comparisons (i.e., August 2015 versus July 2015) are always prone to seasonal fluctuations.

You'll see that the 12-month change (August 2015 vs. August 2014) shows the people not in the labor force is about two million greater than this time last year.

Then go to "civilian labor force" which is the second line. Look at the columns again. The increase year over year is barely one million.

This means the growth, seasonally adjusted, of the population not in the labor force is about double what the growth of the labor force is.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Blockchain Technology: Media Late To The Party

Talk about being behind the curve.

This recent New York Times article on how major financial institutions are exploring the technology underlying Bitcoin -- what's called blockchain technology -- is following the recent trend in the past few weeks of the financial media looking into the growing attention at a technology whose applications could change the way these institutions do business and how they keep their profit centers and margins. 

This may be the latest in a series of signs that while Bitcoin-as-currency stays relatively stable in a $220-260 price range, where it's been for about ten months now, the real value may lie in the technology and its uses. 

The article explores what the institutions are revealing as to what they're doing.

The real value and the real activity may be behind the scenes and avoiding both leaks to the news media and inquiries from either the media or competitors.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Ashley Madison, Bitcoin And The Blockchain Of Evidence

In an emerging story that shows the perils of being too clever by half, it seems some accountholders at the notorious hookup-on-the-side website Ashley Madison are being given a choice: Pay us in bitcoin, or face being outed as a user -- and implicitly, an adulterer -- of the site.

Aside from the threat to its recipient, bitcoin is giving its naysayers another reason to hate its existence. Yet this threat shows the promise of the blockchain technology which underlies bitcoin, and which arguably holds more value than that of bitcoin-as-medium-of-exchange.

The threat also helps illustrate the myth of anonymity.

Some bitcoin users believe that bitcoin is untraceable and therefore the perfect medium to engage in crime without the crime or its proceeds being traced. The professional bitcoin opponents who wish to monopolize the technology (by driving out others with claims of illegitimacy) adopt and repeat this argument for the nefarious and strategically competitive reasons. This does not make sense, however. Cash works just fine for that purpose -- go ask any veteran merchant in the illicit goods or service of your choosing. (Tip: Don't talk to anyone with the "street cred" of a criminal record. These are the idiots who get caught. I'll explain, keep reading. Go to the ones without a criminal record. They're the smart ones.)

The essence of bitcoin is the blockchain. That is a chain where each transaction can be stored in a block, and the blocks are arranged in a sequential, one-dimensional chain that grows in a linear fashion. But here's the key: The hash which comprises part of the "DNA" of each block contains a record of each and every preceding transaction. 

That means there's a record, a "footprint" or "fingerprint," of prior activity. That's evidence. That's a chain of evidence. And given the nature of bitcoin as a medium of exchange where transactions are verified (so there's no double-spending of a bitcoin) on a distributed public ledger relying on consensus among all participating network members (represented by individual computer nodes) to vote on the legitimacy of a transaction, you have a systemic protection against hacking, corruption or other malfeasance that can occur in any centralized system where information can be corrupted once anyone with access either gets in, or decides to go rogue.

This "trust issue" is both the core of the bitcoin solution (and the main tenet behind the blockchain technology's promise) 

I've had prosecutors and investigators ask me -- in all seriousness -- about bitcoin's anonymity, and they've literally not been joking; they've believed the myth of bitcoin's anonymity and bought into the lie that bitcoin is a criminal tool. 

The exact opposite is true. Bitcoin's blockchain basis gives you a historical, sequential record. That is a chain of evidence. 

Now, how good is that chain? There are limitations in any human system. But at a minimum you can trace the beginning transaction (the holdup of the schmuck with an Ashley Madison account) and the liquidating transaction (the getaway) and that gives investigators a good lead. No system is perfect, and I won't inadvertently help prospective criminals by revealing the holes in any human-based system. But here is one principle to hold constant: Any human-based system can be flawed, either in its design or in its implementation. Why? Because humans are imperfect, they make mistakes, and they are also susceptible to all sorts of impulses, temptations and distractions which compromise performance. 

So the entire issue of trust is based on one or more of a set of assumptions, in which one incorrect assumption, error, mistake or accident results in a "breakdown" where something goes awry. Trust makes you more vulnerable to human nature. Computer software makes you equally vulnerable; worse, its centralized design means that anyone with control over the information flow can corrupt your output.

Think about that the very next time you do a Google search, or make any transaction over the Internet.

Other Applications Of Blockchain Technology:  Here's one. See this article from June 2014. 

About the author: Eric Dixon is a veteran New York corporate lawyer, investigator and strategic consultant to businesses, individuals, elected officials and several emerging bitcoin and blockchain industry companies. Mr. Dixon is the author of the first bitcoin protection bill to be submitted to the United States Congress. Mr. Dixon is the co-inventor to multiple blockchain-related systems which are the subject of patents pending before the United States Patent and Trademark Office. He can be reached at

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Moving The Docs?: Bridgegate Report Vanishes

Are Chris Christie's lawyers running Bridgegate interference on opposition researchers and the news media, now that:
       (a) he's running for President, and
       (b) one of his appointees (David Wildstein) has pleaded guilty to a connected felony and two others (Bridget Kelly, Bill Baroni) were indicted in May of this year?

The special website established by Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher in March 2014 to contain all of its Bridgegate-related investigative reports, exhibits, appendices and updates has apparently been taken down.
Don't fear. Here's a different link to the report. (WSJ) But the updates and appendices are not there. There's a lot of stuff not there, when you really sift through everything.  The errors and omissions in the report were roundly criticized by a few legal analysts including myself
And more... Here are the firm's memoranda summarizing all the interviews of numerous Christie Administration personnel. These are not the actual notes, however. 
Gibson, Dunn, you may recall, is the major international law firm which officially represents The Office of the Governor of the State of New Jersey. The Governor, Chris Christie, is now running for President.  Gibson, Dunn has billed the State of New Jersey -- i.e., the taxpayers -- at least $6.5 million and some reports peg the accumulated amount now in excess of $8 million. This amount was largely to produce its main Bridgegate report, issued in March 2014. 

Monday, July 6, 2015

Investigating The Port Authority

Behind the scenes of the various investigations into the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, certain appointees to the PANYNJ by Governors Cuomo of New York and Christie of New Jersey, and perhaps even cabinet officials of the Governors and the Governors themselves, is the possibility that various investigations by various agencies may be looking at a curious $2.875 million grant by the PANYNJ to a New Jersey city which has no apparent connection to the PANYNJ, its facilities or to the port (it has no access to any harbor or river).

The current investigations are reportedly looking into possible fraud -- possible criminal fraud -- in connection with sales of more than $1 billion in bonds by the PANYNJ. More than one year ago, I speculated on the extensive criminal penalties that could be in store for participants in the fraud. 

Some of my work back in 2012 for a client got the attention of the local media back then, and has been remembered by some of those reporters. That work is the genesis behind this Sunday report.

If you scroll down to the comments section you will see a reference to a different press report which has video of a press conference I did in early December 2012. 

This is the product of my investigative analyses and illustrates what I bring to the table.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

After Obergefell: Can You Be Forced To Marry?

This recent Supreme Court case may illustrate the prime characteristic of bad law: unintended consequences that can really go haywire.

The headline value of the Obergefell v. Hodges decision issued June 26th is that same sex couples may get married in any state and be recognized as a legal married unit.

But what exactly is a right to marriage?  And what is a "right"?

The classic meaning of a right is something which is inherent in one's existence and - and this is crucial - imposes no burden or duty on another.  

That means in simplest terms that anything which is a right is something which does not require a cost, obligation or action imposed on or by anyone else.

But the Supreme Court's declared right to marry is precisely that. This is so because a marriage involves more than one person. (Warning: Polygamy is coming.)  That means that marriage requires an act by another to trigger and fulfill the "right" of the first person. 

That is not a right. That is a contingent achievement, insofar as a person has successfully found another person who agrees to marry.

A marriage requires a unit. There may be a right to marry by a unit, of more than one person, but then the right is held and exercisable only by the couple. The individual cannot exercise the right without first achieving the membership in or admission to a couple. So how is there an individual right to marry when the ability to marry requires becoming a couple and finding a willing partner?

Nor can marriage be an entitlement. Not unless we wish to declare that some of us are obligated to get married.

That is because an entitlement by one person involves, and requires, an obligation to act by another. It involves a duty and a compulsion to act. 

This is how the right to marry can result in legal shotgun marriages where people are forced to couple up. This is not merely a return to the custom of arranged marriages in many societies; it is in effect a return to slavery where the owner could create and destroy familial relations through his entirely illegitimate property right.

The right to marry goes hand in hand with an imagined right to be fulfilled. We all have the right to try to achieve marriage, but we do not have the right, nor the guarantee, to achieve it.  This is what is meant by "the right of...the pursuit of happiness." You have the right to the pursuit, the chase, if you will. That requires no one else's cooperation, no compulsion, no coercion, just your own effort. 

We all want opportunities. But no one is simply entitled to have the outcome they want. Not even if we dress it up and play games with the meanings of words and call it a right. 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Obergefell And The Supreme Court's Warning To Finance, Business Communities

The Supreme Court rulings in two cases involving statutory interpretation of the Affordable Care Act and constitutional interpretation of the Equal Protection Clause's treatment of states' recognition of same sex marriage show contradictory reasoning. By so doing, the high court has raised troubling questions about a new era of legal uncertainty about how any plain language document, from laws to regulations to contracts, can and will be interpreted and enforced.

In an era where the legal establishment is increasingly openly hostile to and contemptuous of asset holders and business owners in general, what does this mean for the average homeowner, the average small business owner and even the regular investor?

Last week's momentous Supreme Court rulings hit many people in the finance and business communities hard in the gut, for reasons having nothing to do with partisan politics or one’s personal beliefs regarding same-sex marriage. The rulings sparked feelings, probably very hard to express, define or articulate, all owing to a sense that something is about to go very, very wrong.

That's because the decisions – King v. Burwell,[1] the ruling reaffirming the Affordable Care Act (the "ACA") released Thursday, and Obergefell v. Hodges,[2] the ruling extending same-sex marriage recognition nationally released Friday -- reaffirm the growing unpredictability of legal interpretations from the nation's highest court. That means that when the law becomes uncertain, when its enforcement becomes dependent on hope instead of the law, the power of the law diminishes and the power of its enforcers grows in inverse and perverse proportion.

The message is implied, and it is chilling.  It is, must be, that laws, and certainly the contracts that govern relations among honest people in commerce, are far more open to reinterpretation that they once would have been.

Whereas not too long ago contracts and statutes would have been interpreted, and enforced, according to the "four corners" of the document (that is, what's contained on the paper and nothing more), rulings from the Supreme Court invite a new level of sophistry from people determined to argue that words are to be accorded meanings that are something different, if not something completely opposite, from those intended by their writers.

Consider Chief Justice John Roberts’ majority opinion in King, where he criticizes the quality of the statutory drafting of the ACA.  He wrote, in relevant part:

“The Affordable Care Act contains more than a few examples of inartful drafting. (To cite just one, the Act creates three separate Section 1563s. See 124 Stat. 270, 911, 912.) Several features of the Act’s passage contributed to that unfortunate reality. Congress wrote key parts of the Act behind closed doors, rather than through “the traditional legislative process.” Cannan, A Legislative History of the Affordable Care Act: How Legislative Procedure Shapes Legislative History, 105 L. Lib. J. 131, 163 (2013). And Congress passed much of the Act using a complicated budgetary procedure known as “reconciliation,” which limited opportunities for debate and amendment, and bypassed the Senate’s normal 60-vote filibuster requirement. Id., at 159–167. As a result, the Act does not reflect the type of care and deliberation that one might expect of such significant legislation. Cf. Frankfurter, Some Reflections on the Reading of Statutes, 47 Colum. L. Rev. 527, 545 (1947) (describing a cartoon “in which a senator tells his colleagues ‘I admit this new bill is too complicated to understand. We’ll just have to pass it to find out what it means.’”).
King v. Burwell, pp. 14-15 (emphasis added in bold).

As our legal jurisprudence respects and relies on the precedential value of prior court opinions, you can just imagine the fear of the potential for abuse of the precedent this ruling, and this specific passage, carries for the future. Indeed, for Roberts further wrote:

“In this instance, the context and structure of the Act compel us to depart from what would otherwise be the most natural reading of the pertinent statutory phrase.
King v. Burwell, p. 20 (emphasis added in bold).

But then consider that the same Justice Roberts, evaluating Obergefell at the same time as King, reached the opposite conclusion. Consider from his dissent:

“Today, however, the Court takes the extraordinary step of ordering every State to license and recognize same-sex marriage. Many people will rejoice at this decision, and I begrudge none their celebration. But for those who believe in a government of laws, not of men, the majority’s approach is deeply disheartening.”
Obergefell v. Hodges, p. 2 (Roberts, C.J., dissenting)

Roberts continued:

“The majority’s decision is an act of will, not legal judgment. The right it announces has no basis in the Constitution or this Court’s precedent. The majority expressly disclaims judicial “caution” and omits even a pretense of humility, openly relying on its desire to remake society according to its own “new insight” into the “nature of injustice.” Ante, at 11, 23. As a result, the Court invalidates the marriage laws of more than half the States and orders the transformation of a social institution that has formed the basis of human society for millennia, for the Kalahari Bushmen and the Han Chinese, the Carthaginians and the Aztecs. Just who do we think we are? “It can be tempting for judges to confuse our own preferences with the requirements of the law. But as this Court has been reminded throughout our history, the Constitution “is made for people of fundamentally differing views.” Lochner v. New York,198 U. S. 45, 76 (1905) (Holmes, J., dissenting). Accordingly, “courts are not concerned with the wisdom or policy of legislation.” Id., at 69 (Harlan, J., dissenting). The majority today neglects that restrained conception of the judicial role.”
Obergefell v. Hodges, p. 3 (Roberts, C.J., dissenting)

Justice Roberts flips the coin, taking one side in King and another in Obergefell.  But such is the nature of decisions made arbitrarily. In so doing, he conveys the alarming implication that no lesser an authority than the Supreme Court shall decide questions of our law by first choosing the outcome, and then working backwards to reach the appropriate patina of legal legitimacy. This is the type of reason which provides ammunition to future would-be abusers of the government’s often-fearsome arsenal of powers.  

In reality, last week's decisions have implications going far beyond the “headline” subject matter of their decisions. They have far more impact on future legal jurisprudence. That is because our legal system is based on and often accords high respect to precedent, meaning prior court rulings.

So when the court rules that a law will be rewritten so it may "work," the finance community should be alarmed. Not because it agrees or doesn't agree with the Affordable Care Act. Rather, because now the confidence that one is obeying the law and can enforce legal rights has been greatly upset.

Think this is an overreaction? Consider that the legal profession is dominated -- run by -- activists who increasingly believe in "economic justice." Such phrases should alarm readers. Simple concepts require no adjectives to modify them, not unless the purpose is to convey the opposite meaning, and so it is with "economic justice." The reality is a legal establishment, now firmly ensconced in the judiciary and among regulators and prosecutors, which is not merely overtly hostile to business in general and "the rich" (read: anyone with assets) in particular, but believes it is now emboldened -- no, empowered -- to go after these sectors with an impunity borne by the delusion that their end justifies any means, and the confidence that their allies will allow them to act unimpeded and their targets have neither the will nor the power to resist. 

In such an environment where hostile actors now have the Supreme Court's green light to erase the plain language of laws, certainly those in contracts will be next.

How far are we from a legal system where the likelihood of getting a contract enforced depends, for all intents and purposes, on one's industry, political contributions or "most favored nation" status. In other words, when does your legal status depend on who you are?

The new sense of the nation being a nation of men, instead of a nation of laws, explains why the public proclamations commending Friday's ruling on same-sex marriage may be more obligatory than sincere, as it is accompanied by a new uncertainty for business. 

Indeed, it is as if the capitalist class consciousness has been raised, to recognize The Dawn Of The End Of Law. And the public celebrations on social media may well be masking a silent dread that dares not be spoken, not in these politically correct times where departure from a shifting, almost undefinable political correctness may mean being targeted with boycotts, or the loss of tenure, or one's contract, or one's job.

The questions now are how the capitalist class will respond. It -- those of us with assets, even if modest amounts -- is mobile, certainly more than the average citizen who is largely tethered to his job, his home, his community, more by immobility from fear of the loss of job, insurance and familiarity than anything else. 

Will this class simply retreat from public life, determined more than ever to make profits and showing its defiance through indifference?

Will the capitalist class publicly wink at the new trends, the new legal paradigm, while privately resolving to avoid any and all encounters with the legal system, the political system and those who would make economic threats at the slightest hint of unorthodoxy?

Legal certainty and the rule of law have always set America's economy apart from the rest of the world's. The new era of unpredictability, save for the predictable animus towards business and asset-holders, simply won't help encourage capital to come here, stay here or be invested here. 

Last week's Supreme Court ruling may make this nation more equal -- that is, more equal with the rest of the world. For Americans, that means several steps backwards. This hidden message is being felt, even if many still find it hard to believe, accept or articulate. 

[1] King v. Burwell, 576 U.S. _____ (2015), available at
[2] Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. ______ (2015), available at

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

BitLicense Now Official: New York's Bitcoin Regulation -- An Update

New York's Bitlicense is now officially effective today -- June 24, 2015 -- with the official publication of the regulation (see below) in the New York State Register's current edition just released. 

The final version has already been released, and with one change (companies won't have to run to state regulators to get approval for minor changes in their apps or code), it's the same as the second draft version released in late 2014.

I anticipate that companies seeking to comply will be engaged in quite a complex process, and quickly.

Eric Dixon, Esq. is available for consultation or comment to the news media at 917-696-2442.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Voter Fraud Alert: New Legislation Planned In New Jersey

Democratic state legislators in New Jersey plan to introduce on Monday a new bill called the "Democracy Act" in an effort to combat falling voter turnout. But one provision for automatic voter registration upon receiving a driver's license is an absolute green light for non-citizens getting licenses to vote. 

UPDATED: If you think that fears of immigrants voting, or that same-day voter registration might lead to fraud, are the province of tin-foil-hat-wearing nuts in some Republican-neocon-tea party fantasy, just read these comments and then consider the source: New Jersey State Senator Ronald Rice, a Democrat who represents Newark.
"What I do know from my experience with voter fraud, is that when you have same-day registration, in my city and county, they bus people in," Rice said. "They bus in the dead and they bus in immigrants."
Senator Rice has a valid point. But his comments and concerns illustrate another trend. Election law changes and changes to "make it easier to vote" don't necessarily tip the balance of elections between the parties. They can tip the balance of elections within parties; that means, primary elections. And in most of the nation, where incumbents have "safe" seats in the legislatures or in Congress, the real elections are primary elections.

Moreover, voter registration affects local elections the most. That's because "packing" the rolls affects small races the most. The effect of invalid registrations gets diluted -- theoretically -- over larger areas and larger populations. In addition, these invalid voters will get to register in political parties, giving them an additional chance to affect primary elections.

Those primary elections, incidentally, include the primaries for party county committee and state committee races. Those party office elections are critical. In some states, it's those party committees which set the rules for how presidential delegates are awarded in those states' presidential primaries (winner-take-all versus proportional-awarding-based-on-popular vote).

[Earlier coverage: Here's an earlier report from the Newark Star-Ledger, following up its original story on Sunday, and some Democratic state legislative committee press release. The legislation will be posted when available.]

Returning to the issue of automatic voter registration for new drivers, note that such new drivers would be violating the oath on the voter registration form that they are citizens, but (1) no one is seriously enforcing that, and (2) having a readily-identifiable non-citizen population which can just as readily be identified and prosecuted for, say, false statements against the government (see title 18, United States Code, section 1001) means some conniving government agents can exercise quite a bit of undue power over some easily-threatened people.

After all, the power to prosecute and deprive one of liberty is perhaps the second greatest and most fearsome government power there is. (The first one? The power to send you off to war and likely to die.)

How would that power be misused? Like to "convince" people to vote a certain way, or not vote; you get the point.

In conclusion, I suspect these bills will not achieve their stated objective. (They may achieve their real objective, one no one dares speak of, which is to goose turnout towards certain candidates.) These type of bills often produce little in the way of enhanced turnout. This is because they increase the numbers of voters who are registered. As a result, what do you get?

Lower voter turnout, that's what. That's because turnout -- as a percentage of all registered voters -- will fall when you increase the number of voters who are registered (the denominator), because it's very hard to spark the interest of additional voters beyond those currently concerned citizens (the numerator). Voters who care, already vote. 

And voters who don't care, will sometimes take some money from unscrupulous campaign operatives to vote this way, vote that way, or otherwise engage in some nefarious act. So maybe you'll have a few more "straw voters," if all you care about is goosing turnout numbers.

Do you think that is a good thing for democracy?

Eric Dixon is a New York corporate lawyer who runs his own practice. He has successfully represented political campaigns for presidential candidates, and for state and local candidates in New York and New Jersey.

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Meaning of Official Documents, When Race And Gender Change On The Fly

Today we learned that the head of a Spokane, Washington NAACP chapter had a birth certificate identifying her as white, but she nonetheless identified as African-American. 

The legal issue is not what race or gender these people are. It is the meaning and purpose of the government documents issued. 

These documents are identification documents. They are issued so that the authorities -- and increasingly, any merchant performing a transaction -- can identify or verify the identity of the person. Yet other documents like birth certificates are meant to convey and report information about a person at birth -- and that means if someone was born male, the certificate should always read male even if the person undergoes gender reassignment surgery years later. Because the person was a male at birth. And because government documents are supposed to report objective facts -- even if unwanted -- instead of someone's fantasy or desire.

This is why driver's licenses report descriptive information on a person's name, date of birth, race, approximate weight, hair and eye color. It is an attempt to make it easier to identify and verify someone presenting the document, on the basis of relatively objective (although obscurable) data.

If present-day identification is the question, then matters as to current gender and race are raised. This is where Caitlyn Jenner (formerly the 1976 Summer Olympics Men's Decathlon Gold Medalist known as Bruce) presents the question of fact as to what gender she currently is. This is entirely separate from the question of what gender she would previously have wanted to be, or what gender "she" in fact was when "he" actually competed in the 1976 Montreal Summer Olympic Games.

Some people circulated a petition -- quickly rejected -- to remove Jenner's Gold Medal on the grounds of gender fraud. Interestingly, current Olympians undergo rigorous drug and genetic testing to weed out athletes who may be "more male" from the female competitors. (See this 2012 Time piece explaining the practice.)

In short, government documents are intended and must be kept intended for data reporting purposes. Self-esteem or image issues are not grounds for the alteration of objective data. 

Chaos: Ten Things To Remember When The Rule of Law Ends

No legal blog is complete without addressing what you must do, when the Rule of Law ends. Call it The End of Law. No matter the jurisdiction, no matter the cause, the question and challenge are the same: What do you do?

Assuming your loved ones are safe and secure, immediate physical survival has been achieved, but not guaranteed for long. The breakdown of civic order and The Rule of Law means that every assumption you have about civilization must go out the window. The benefits of post-modern civilization, the presence and concern of law enforcement, fire departments and paramedics, quickly vanish as those first responders tend to securing the safety of themselves and their own families. In an Anything Goes world, everything changes. So here's a quick checklist of items and issues to remember.

First, immediate physical safety must be assured in order to have both immediate and prolonged survival. I'm talking about staying alive. Whether it's shelter from life-threatening natural disaster or man-made chaos, you need a barrier between you and the danger. 

Second, depending on the situation, you'll need transport to a safer (you hope) place if your immediate location is neither secure nor tenable long-term. This requires first answering whether you can get out of your present location. Do you have a vehicle, and if so, how much fuel do you have right now? Then you have to think of your destination, and assess your chances of actually getting there at all. Fleeing a somewhat secure location in the hope of an assuredly-safe replacement carries the downside of getting exposed to mortal dangers. Now is a good time to ask: Do you have weapons? Do you know how to use them? You will have to assess your resources, and the odds of success against the risk of perishing.

In the case of a total breakdown of civilization, the benefits and conveniences of location in civilization are cruelly reversed. Cities become high-risk zones from which escape may become impossible and in which access to anything else needed for long-term survival may be very difficult. While needed staples may be present, the problem is large hordes of competitors. You'll have two problems: Getting what you need, and fighting off attackers who may easily seek to kill you for a tin of sardines. Remember this if you're thinking of staying in an urban area, or leaving a safe countryside for "the city" in search of something you think you need.

Notice what I have yet to mention: food, water, medicine. Those are somewhat longer-term concerns. Your ability to do without them will vary based on environmental and personal health conditions, and indeed they will become primary concerns soon, but only after immediate safety and survival have been achieved. 

Water becomes the first non-immediate concern once your immediate safety is assured. Is the water safe? You may not have the option to boil it. Drinking non-potable water carries numerous risks, but so does the risk of dying from thirst. If you have bleach, you can use that to disinfect water. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends six drops of bleach per gallon of water. 

Once you can turn to food, when you can pursue it, and to the extent you even have a choice, prioritize food with respect to four considerations: protein, perishability, vitamins and portability. Dairy and refrigerated products will spoil very quickly if they haven't already gone bad. Fruits and vegetables can also rapidly spoil but I would take them for their nutrients. Given their bulk relative to their nutrition, I would consume them quickly rather than store them. Other items, like nuts, pack more nutrition (and protein) for their size, and are a much better bet to store and carry. 

Medicine may be the toughest item to secure. Pharmacies and doctors will not be available and it is likely that pharmacies and drugstores will be a favorite target of looters. There is sure to be a black market for these and any commodity. Just remember: In The Age Of The End of Law, there won't be any consumer watchdog to turn to for help. It will be the ultimate in caveat emptor -- buyer beware. 

Once you can worry about amassing these basic resources, the questions become where to get them, and how to get them. Can you acquire them within your safe location or must you find them outside? In The Age Of The End of Law, institutions like banks and conveniences like ATM and even electricity may be functionally obsolete. Money, credit cards and even Bitcoin may be totally worthless under such dystopian conditions. The electronic devices of the Information Era will become the newest antiques, useless except as paperweights once the power shuts off and stays off. You may be reduced quickly to bartering physical commodities to get what you need, assuming it's even offered. You may be scavenging for the basics without any assurance of their quality or safety. 

Beyond that, start thinking about getting candles, matches, batteries and clothes. Candles provide light and some minimal warmth. In a winter scenario you may be in darkness up to 15-16 hours a day even in the middle latitudes. Batteries will power flashlights and may be the last resort for power. Look for a transistor radio. Anything digital may not work. The older the product the more likely it will work (what a paradox). As for clothes, your emphasis should be on two things: mobility, and protection from the elements. You may be reduced to walking indefinitely and over rough terrain or dangerous ruins. The natural elements may be as varied as anything found on our planet.

Start looking for chemicals and substances with multiple uses. That jar of bleach may have been very inexpensive in the market a few weeks ago; now it may be an indispensable disinfectant. Iodine is similarly very useful. And salt is an excellent food preservative and solvent. 

Finally, surviving in The End of Law requires some extreme changes to your way of thinking. In fact, thinking may be a fatal flaw. You may not have time to think, only to act and react. Instinct, not necessarily intelligence, may be critical.

Understand your primary -- maybe your only -- objective is simple. Survival is simple: Just don't die. So your mindset is just as simple. Act quickly, decisively and methodically. Emotions will only impede and delay you. Either could be disastrous. Catastrophes require an enhanced emotional intelligence that not everyone has. And you know what? Many people die in emergencies, disasters, war zones and the like, because of horrible judgment or an incapacity to respond properly to mortal dangers. 

Meet the challenge, or meet your Maker.  Let go of any assumptions about the past, how things should be and anything beyond the immediate horizon.  Survival is a here and now proposition.  And the more equipped you are to make the right judgments and act on them, the better your chances.

Eric Dixon is a veteran New York lawyer who describes himself as being in the business of judgment. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Is A So-Called Nonprofit Group's Documents Public Records?

A client of mine is bringing a new and potentially groundbreaking lawsuit in state court in New Jersey, seeking production of certain documents from a nonprofit organization under the state's Open Public Records Act. 

More on that lawsuit, and an ongoing effort to reform the open-government laws in New Jersey, in this article from the Record of Hackensack, NJ. 

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Low Voter Turnout As A Good Thing

The accepted and common wisdom is that voter apathy, aka low voter turnout in elections, is really bad and bad for democracy and undermines our elections. Or whatever today's claim is.

These concerns are the stated reasons behind some "voting rights" litigation supposedly being funded by George Soros reported in today's New York Times. 

But here's where almost all of the commentary and "solutions" go wrong. And the party of the people talking doesn't matter; the Republicans are as equally clueless as the Democrats.

Right now, the most concerned citizens do vote. They vote regularly and consistently, in general elections but most particularly in primary elections. They are what is called in the business the "prime" voters or the "super primes." They're the ones campaigns concentrate fundraising and literature on. 

Who doesn't vote? The unconcerned, the uninformed (that being a function of being unconcerned), the indifferent and, often, the less intelligent.

There are few to no barriers to voting, beyond those of physical maladies where voters may be too sick to get out of their houses or medical facilities to vote. Here, increasing absentee or early voting is helping bring the ballots to the voters.

But all the effort on getting more voter turnout might either be a tired mantra by people who don't know what else to say -- having identified a problem but not a solution -- or an objective that is fraught with unintended consequences.

Do we as a society really want the uninformed, callously indifferent or malicious to be exercising their constitutional voting right as much, so they -- and not the informed, super prime voters of either party -- determine the outcome of elections? 

And before you think this is partisan, consider this: The same concerns hold true for so-called "closed" party primaries in states where you must register in advance of a party primary to "enroll" in that party. With primaries, do you want the weakest, least concerned voters outweighing the votes of the less numerous but much "more committed" party members?

These are among the questions to consider, on a policy basis, before accepting as an article of faith that declining voter turnout in elections is a "problem" and that increasing voter turnout is a desirable objective. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Bitlicense Goes Live: Final Form Released

The Bitcoin community has experienced its first D-Day.

New York regulators just released the final version of "BitLicense" earlier today. The Bitcoin and digital currency community will be divided into two camps on this.

First, if you view Bitcoin as a technology and are limited to developing the underlying technology (what's called blockchain technology), then you do not need to apply for and receive regulatory clearance with Bitlicense. As I remarked months ago, the revised regulation adopted this change in perhaps the most material and meaningful progress made during the entire review and comment process.

Second, if you are in the business of exchanging digital currencies for one another, or with conventional government issued currency, you are probably covered and need approval.

Third, if you are in the business of holding any customer assets or funds in the form of a digital currency, you are probably covered and also need approval.

Since Bitlicense has an expansive long-arm definition of the term "New York person" anyone in a covered activity will be affected even if they do not operate in New York.

As a result, businesses in these sectors need to make immediate plans to attempt to apply and comply, or clearly withdraw from any covered activity touching New York State.

While the foregoing is not intended to be legal advice, I do provide legal and compliance advice (for a fee to paying clients) and time is already ticking.

I do believe that young companies desiring to have access to and compete for business in the lucrative New York market may find it worthwhile to apply for the Bitlicense.

Monday, June 1, 2015

The One Reason Why You Must Stop Working For Anyone Else

In this third installment of an ongoing series, I explore what people face if they don't consider going off and starting their own business.

As the stick is a far more effective (if less desired) teacher than the carrot, I'll cut to the chase. You need to realize how limited, and likely how miserable, your entire life will be if you don't consider this option.

Of course, most people don't cross this bridge, and many people have no business trying. The economy needs employees, followers, loyal consumers. I'm just saying that the opinion leaders, the movers and shakers, turned their backs on the path followed by most everyone else. It depends on what you want.

If you want to control your life, to be able to decide what to do, when to do it and with whom to do it, you have to be some sort of entrepreneur. That does not mean being fabulously wealthy, unless you define wealth in a non-monetary sense, that being measured simply as the freedom from control by someone else. 

But here is the sticking point. To become and remain an employee, you must always be willing to be controlled. And as control requires dependence, because dependence enhances control, you will quickly end up in a quicksand where your life is Groundhog Day.

And that, my friends, is most often the best case scenario! 

Things can become much worse. Your agreeability to being controlled, exploited and mistreated is no guarantee of anything! Being controlled is necessary, but it is not sufficient. You will remain vulnerable to every risk an employee takes, of being harassed, demoted or fired, of having your career growth stunted or hit a dead-end. But your upside is, well, there is no upside.

It's all at the discretion of your employer. And in an age where there are more and more highly intelligent, highly educated, underpaid and desperate workers willing to run through walls (and cut corners, sadly), that control is likely to morph into attempts to manipulate, deceive and coerce you into unethical and even illegal behavior. 

So if you dread a future of being the subservient subject of another, subject to the whims and absolute depravity of another -- your boss, your husband even -- what do you do? 

And if you otherwise don't fear the above, what about dreading looking back at your mediocre, unremarkable life, when you had all sorts of potential and wasted it?

And what do you do now?

Your options never actually decline with age. What declines is the ability to get opportunities handed to you by others. It just becomes harder to get a "job" which is the illusion of the easy way to get experience.

Becoming a small business owner is not easy. But making it work will allow you the true freedom of being able to follow your dreams, your conscience and even the law. It is the only way to have real independence and true freedom from the control by another.