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Technology

Today, I am guest teaching at Palm Desert High School.  Palm Desert High School has some unique programs, not unlike Palm Desert Charter Middle School.  The Middle School, which is geographically located in reasonable proximity to the high school, has, in my opinion, some of the most unique programs.  While I was guest teaching a math class in Palm Desert Middle School, a number of students brought in flags that are used in Marching Band.  When I asked about the club, they told me that it was a class.  Where I taught before, you can’t find a high school with such a class.

While at Palm Desert High School yesterday, I ran into a student who shouldn’t be here based on geography.  He said he came for baseball.  He makes the trip for baseball.  I had noticed the baseball field outside of my classroom yesterday.  I remarked to myself that it was amazingly manicured.  At the end of the day, when I left, there was a baseball practice underway.  This practice had to be underway before the end of the day as the students were already in uniform.

A November baseball practice.

It dawned on me how different this school and it’s middle school are from the average school and yet how much of it is the same.  The students are still required to do the work of the curriculum, yet there are these extras.  I am inside a class of computer science students.  It has been said that this field is dominated by men in the workplace.  Out of a class of 24 students, there are 2 girls.  The previous class had 21 students and only 2 girls.  In truth, if a tech company was looking for the best candidate for a job without regard to race, gender, or anything other than the qualifications of the individual that might make them a “rock star” in their industry, the numbers are skewed in favor of the males.

The entire class quickly finishes their assignment of what they are required to do and moves on to what they want to do. I should probably be a little scared about this, but, they are using school machines through wired into the school network, so they are precluded from doing any damage as a result of juvenile mischief…I hope.

I really wish that their work that they did everyday had a relevance to their interests or their lives.  Some of their conversations about the “gaming” that they are involved in certainly lend themselves to the creativity necessary to come up with the next big thing.  I guess it is hard to gauge this when you are a guest teacher and a little out of your field.  Still the energy is palpable and you want to catch the energy.  This should be the true art of teaching.

FBI Failure

Why the FBI as an institution continues to be undermined by the president.

It is not surprising that the FBI failed to find any evidence to support the claims made by women who have known Brett Kavanaugh.  It is also not surprising the Donald Trump supported the FBI investigation.  Donald Trump has long been attacking institutions that have dared to stand in his way.  He took an issue that the FBI was investigating to the director of the FBI and said, “let the Michael Flynn thing go.”  The director at the time, James Comey refused and then documented the conversation and then not long after he was fired.  The message is, that if you don’t follow my rules, you will be fired.  If you stand in my way, I will ruin you.  Intimidation instead of Integrity.

Donald Trump owns the FBI.  He knows that his new director needs a job.  He leads by intimidation.  He loves dictators who act in the very same way.  This is not freedom.  This is a dictatorship…with a willing populus who continues to defend him as the hero.

The Problem with Kavanaugh’s Defense

College drinking…in the 1980s.  I am very familiar with the practice.  I attended college from 1980 through 1985.  Please note the time period.  College was a time for exploring your independence…making your own decisions…some good…some not so good.  For many of us…me included…I had to make my own decisions about alcohol.  What to drink, when and with who.

In the quest to “belong” in a new environment…sometimes you follow the crowd.  Here, you go to parties.  You pledge fraternities and sororities.  You look up to and take advice from people who are barely older than you are and in some respects a lot less mature simply because they have been there and know the ropes.  Sadly, their motives are often in question.  Some people will ply you with alcohol in order to get some crazy behavior and have fun at your expense.  We’ve seen the tragic consequences of this behavior recently with the situation at Penn State and others around the country.  Still others have a more sinister desire…the desire to find a person and victimize them for sex.  Alcohol goes a long way to that end by itself but is often enhanced with drugs that immobilize a person beyond the point of just making “bad decisions”.

I’ve just watched a person that I have admired for years prosecuted for drugging women for the purpose of taking advantage of them for sex and subsequently going to prison for this crime.  He planned it out and carried it out.  A lot of these women had their memories blurred by the very same drug.  Often, alcohol by itself can cause blackouts.  If so, this makes it impossible for you to believe a person’s testimony when they admit to drinking and being drunk and then denying that they were at a certain place at a certain time…because alcohol affects your memory.  Remember that his denial is that he doesn’t remember…even if he never said that because he has admitted to drinking in high school and college.  He could have very well done it and doesn’t remember.

I feel for the victims of these crimes.  I feel for the person, Brett Kavanaugh right now and the person that he proports to be.  He lived through that time called college and it doesn’t matter whether it is Trenton State College or Princeton…they all had parties.  Academics don’t make a person a better person.  We are all susceptible to bad decisions.  Learning in college is not all academic.  We are responsible for actions even in learning our lessons.

I don’t drink like a used to.  I am sure that no one continues to live like they lived in college.  I am aware of my behaviors good and bad in college…some even when I was drunk.  It’s the behaviors that I can’t remember that are the scariest.  If there’s anybody I’ve offended, it is still my responsibility.  If witnesses can be gathered and believed, it should be done…particularly if I am getting a high profile job…government or otherwise.  It is a long time ago for me.  It is a long time ago form Judge Kavanaugh.

It will take an experienced nonpartisan organization like the FBI to get to the truth or as close to the truth as possible.  If there are witnesses…they should be found.  If they are credible…the FBI will know.  It’s time to stop believing the accusers because they say so and it’s time to stop believing Mr. Kavanagh because of who he says he is and partisan politicians say that he is….  We have an entire Bureau dedication to investigations at the federal level.  Get this away from congress now!!!

Cross Country

I drove my car across the country.  The car was a 2005 Satrun Vue 6 cylinder.  I was pretty confident in its ability to make the trip.  I drove the same car in the 4 cylinder version just two years ago and it had more miles on it than this one did…but…as luck would have it…it just didn’t make it.

Farewell Satrun Vue.  You have served myself and my family well.  Fond memories…even as your were towed off into the sunset.

Challenged to follow the facts…am I committing treason?

I do know that in an exchange that followed, I felt that I was being accused of treason because I didn’t follow the facts.

Ah Facebook, the place where we share…probably far too much…and lose far more…

An old acquaintance from my school days posted a question that prompted a rather curt response from my brother.  My brother and his friend were older than me, so I always accorded them the respect that the additional 365 days or so they spent alive may have earned them.  Particularly in the area of history and politics as they seemed to know far more than me when we played RISK in my basement.  Those 365 days shouldn’t really make a difference now, yet somehow…I don’t know.  I do know that in an exchange that followed, I felt that I was being accused of treason because I didn’t follow the facts.  I will respond here by reprinting the post that has me concerned…but will conceal the name.

So are the people from your “hick town” unintelligent?
If they are “chirping” about things they don’t understand, is that your understanding, or do you have facts to support your statement.
He is a legitimately elected president, whether or not you are conservative or liberal. If you don’t like it, get over it. Undermining his presidency is treason.
I didn’t engage in attempts to delegitimize Obama’s presidency(despite the fact that I identified as a Democrat for many years) I supported it. Maybe “Hope and Change” was real. Obviously it wasn’t. The midterms proved that and the constitution mitigated his misguided presidency.
The American people have now chosen a deferent path and the deep state is working overtime to destroy the will of the people.
There WAS Russian collusion,..by Hillary. If you are so open minded, why do you disregard the hard facts?
The Russian investigation IS PARTISAN because they refuse to investigate the facts.
There is collusion and criminal acts that were committed to delegitimize a constitutionally elected president. FISA courts were lied to. The FBI and Justice department was weaponized to take down a president that the American people elected. That’s deep state.
The CIA has been smart enough to stay out of the line of fire

Well, the persons who get together at my Dunkin Donuts I believe don’t have the intelligence of the person who wrote this post…and that was my point.

I was cautioned that the Justice Department isn’t following the facts.  I researched a few.

  • In 1972 the American people legitimately elected a president.  His campaign was charged with physically breaking into its opponents headquarters.  Then, President Nixon was charged with a coverup.  He resigned in disgrace as Impeachment proceedings became imminent.
  • In 1996, the American people legitimately elected a president.  He was charged with sexual harassment from his time in Arkansas.  He was further charged with having a secret sexual relationship with an intern.  There was a special counsel, Kenneth Starr who investigated.  Impeachment proceedings started and he survived because it takes 2/3 majority to remove a sitting president.
  • In 2016, the American people legitimately elected a president.  During his presidential run, he was accused of sexual misconduct also by multiple persons.  His campaign was also accused of paying off a porn star.  His campaign is also being investigated for possible collusion with Russian election interference where the evidence for such interference is very strong.  His own hand picked Attorney General recused himself in the investigation and ultimately it led to the selection of special counsel, Robert Mueller.  Now he is investigating both sexual misconduct, infidelity, and campaign collusion with a foreign government.  In a campaign rally, he asked Russia publicly to release stolen emails.  He lied about a meeting at Trump Tower to meet with Russians for the purpose of getting dirt on Hillary Clinton.  These are facts that no longer seem to be in dispute.

I am an American, so according to the First Amendment, I am allowed to speak my views.  I don’t think that I am undermining the president’s leadership…certainly not by my lonesome.  Perhaps this statement has to do with those individuals who have or had a security clearance.  I don’t know.  I never had one.  The author also posts that he didn’t attempt to delegitimize Obama’s presidency no matter how misguided it was…according to the midterms.  The fact that it was misguided is certainly not a fact, but an opinion…I am being accused of ignoring the facts…or the Justice department is…I can’t be sure.

Regarding the statement that The American People have chosen a different path, all I can say is that I am an American, and I didn’t choose this path.  As a matter of fact, more American people voted for his opponent.  I did discover a new word in my research…Gerrymandering.  This is the process of redrawing voting districts to purposely favor a candidate or party and has been done by the Republican Party.  Also, when I researched Deep State, its use in America seems to be associated almost exclusively with this election and in most of my research, it has been defined as a conspiracy theory.

Also, there was Russian collusion by Hillary.  My research on that seems to have gotten me to the Trump Dossier which has been attributed to a bloke named Steele who is a British national.  There is evidence that it was originally paid for by Hillary Clinton and was hidden from the public because foreign countries are not permitted to be engaged in influencing and election.  It is true, this is against the law and had she prevailed, her legitimacy as president should be equally questioned.  This is certainly far from Russian collusion though as the intent was to uncover possible Russian ties to her opponent.  Britain, after all is an ally.  Seems a little more worthwhile, but I certainly will give you that one.

Regarding the FISA warrants and investigating American Citizens, so much was redacted that it is hard to tell what really happened.  Here, I guess, the old security clearance thing may be the issue, or it may be part of an ongoing investigation.  After all, Mueller isn’t finished yet.  While there may be some things that were done wrong by Mueller’s team, most of it falls into a human weakness category and I don’t think it had much to do with the real investigation.  These facts are hidden for now and may not be available to anyone without clearance until they are declassified.    Hidden facts aside, here are a few I do know.

On May 15, 2017 president Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian officials…even during an investigation of Russian collusion without telling American allies.

On June 12, 2018, president Trump praised Kim Jong Un after unilaterally agreeing to cease military drills with our South Korean Allies and openly muses about having blind loyalty like the reputed murdering dictator for North Korea.

On July 16, 2018, president Trump praises Vladimir Putin from the podium at a post summit press conference and the man who says has been tougher on Russia than anyone, takes him at his word that there was no collusion.

It’s interesting that a person that I used to admire playing RISK would miss the danger in the blind loyalty to a man who cozies up to totalitarian regimes that seek to destabilize freedom and democracy all over the world.  Since the tone of the post above seems to be short on facts and explanation and long on feelings and opinion, I welcome a dialog here in my blog.  I don’t need to air my feelings on Facebook with people who don’t value civil discourse, particularly between people called friends.

I am right here.

A Special May

When I retired last year, I believed that I experienced a lot of lasts.  My last concert on May 17, 2017.  My last class on June 9, 2017.  My last opportunity to impact students in a public school…ever.  I knew that I would be a substitute teacher and from time to time I may feel that I have made an impact on a student or two.  I certainly didn’t envision this.

A very unfortunate circumstance developed and a school that had a well respected and effective teacher found themselves without one.  While the circumstances were and still are devastating to the community, it did create an opportunity for a new experience for me.  Students who were hurt and yet still in the process of their music performances were left with questioned loyalties.  Their teacher, whom they loved and supported was now being publicly vilified.  Their school administration seemed to be less than supportive of their devotion to him.  Their school year, as they knew it, was over.  They had just come off of some great “once in a lifetime” experiences and now had to continue through the end of the year concerts.  Then there was me.

The principal said that there was a very difficult situation.  They really needed someone to come in and get them through the end of the year, but, it will be very difficult.  I had seen situations like this before.  I knew that no matter how dedicated I was, I was still going to be seen as “the outsider”.  They were going to rebel.  They were going to vent their anger.  They were going to be middle school students reacting to an adult situation with very little emotional resources.  I was preparing myself for a difficult if not impossible road to affect their lives in a positive way.  What really happened…I never saw it coming.

Since retiring, I have been trying to enjoy my freedom.  Freedom from having to get up every morning.  Freedom from planning for the next day.  Freedom from all of the things that I perceived as annoying.  It just isn’t that easy.  What it means to be a teacher is to unlock another person’s limiting belief in themselves and the world that they live in.  That has been my goal over the past several years as I neared retirement.  It’s hard to quantify, but you know it when you see it.

This group of students, through their shared struggle have helped me see my value…again.  They have come together to support one and other in a way that belies their age.  I couldn’t be prouder of any group of people that I have ever known.  They are a credit to their parents, teachers and yes, their own friends.  They have truly done far more for me than I have for them.

Thank you DRA advanced choir.  You made this old guy feel young…all over again.

The three dollar manager’s special…

I waited for the sale date on the car wash and I paid $3 for the Premium Manager’s special at the local gas station.  This is where all the trouble started.

Several weeks ago, I got an oil change in my car.  This car, I inherited from my wife when she got her new Jeep.  She had paid for this oil change in advance so I didn’t have to lay out any money.  The Saturn is the one that we drove cross country from New Jersey.  It had lost its air conditioning in the summer, and since it was old, we added a new car to the family, but kept the Saturn for me.

After getting my oil changed, I had an occasion to park the car in the garage.  When I pulled it out, I noticed oil had leaked on the ground.  I then checked my parking space which is outside of the garage and it too had oil stains on the asphalt.  I was irritated over this since I had just had the oil changed.  I have been planning a long ride in this car for some time and leaving it in the outdoor parking area where it is subject to daily sprinkling on the passenger side and the occasional dust storm, the car was filthy.  I waited for the sale date on the car wash and I paid $3 for the Premium Manager’s special at the local gas station.  This is where all the trouble started.

After purchasing the gas, I realized that there was no purchase necessary and you had to pay for the wash in the convenience store that was conveniently located across the 100 degree parking lot.  Well I paid after over paying for gas, and proceeded to the car wash.  Now, I had gotten one here before but it was paid for at the pump.  This one was not.  I guess it was more thorough.

After watching the car get scrubbed and rinsed, I watched the process go again and spraying my car one more time.  This didn’t happen before.  Here is where I noticed that I was getting hot.  I put on the non air conditioned blower.  The fan started to pummel me with water through the vents.  At the same time, I started getting rained on through the now saturated ceiling.  I was aggravated and I couldn’t wait for the wash to be over.  When I finally got the green light, I put it in gear hit the gas and got nothing…nothing that is except for two engine lights.  Both were orange, but I still was concerned because the one with the downward arrow in it…well, I never saw that one before.  Since the car wouldn’t move and there was a guy behind me, I opened my window to yell out.  I was still stuck in the garage with the dryer blowing.  I couldn’t hear.  Since my car wasn’t moving anyway…I decided to turn it off.  After waiting and praying for several seconds, I turned it back on.  I hit the gas…alarms went off in the Car Wash as I proceeded too fast, so I hit the brakes to go slowly through the dryer.  I forgot one thing though…I had the windows down.  I was hit with 100 degree air from both sides of my face as I panicked again, and struggled to get the windows up.  Thank God that their electronics worked because the dashboard was once again ablaze with warnings.  I inched out onto the road and got as far as the first traffic light before I once again lost power.  I had to turn the car off and on again several times to get it to the car dealer that had done the oil change just a couple of weeks earlier.

My discussion with the man at the dealership shop is where my $3 car wash really began to get, well, out of the realm of a bargain.  I told him what happened in the car wash.  As he was listening and asking about the car I told him that it had been serviced there before for an oil change and had subsequently developed a leak.  He added that to the service slip and told me that the diagnostic fee was $130.  I jokingly told him that he was going to charge me that to plug in a little device.  (I have the device back in NJ and have used it to save on the diagnostic fee before with a “trusted” mechanic.  He said that the code still wouldn’t tell you what is wrong and that was the reason for the fee.  I didn’t argue.  I just signed the form as the cost of the car wash…including the gas was now up to $169.

Later that day, a call came in to tell me that the accelerator  pedal assembly failed and needed to be replaced.  She said that the entire bill, including the diagnostic fee was going to be $330.  Now my car wash including the gas and repair was up to $369.  I had to wait for a delivery of a bath tub at my house (this requires a blog post by itself…)  so I couldn’t leave my house until after 3pm.  I took my bicycle out and pedaled the two miles in 104 degree heat.  When I arrived, I was told that the oil leak was not resolved as I had refused the work.  They told me that if I wanted it fixed it would cost an additional $160.  Now, we are up to $529 for the car wash!!!  First of all, I brought the oil leak to their attention!!  I had not refused the work. Second of all, they got me to agree to the repair for $330.  They were “sorry for the confusion” but if I wanted the oil leak fixed it would be more time and more money.

In New Jersey, where I am from, there is a place called Bob’s Garage.  Not surprisingly, it was run by Bob!  When we had trouble with our 1985 Ford Escort that was barely a year old and was seen by the dealer several times, we were just about at the end of our rope.  We were close to filing a Lemon Law claim.  Friends of ours recommended Bob.  We took it to him.  He had it for a day and then called us.  We came over and met Bob and he talked to us about the car.  He said simply, “idle control circuit…it’s hard to tell with these new cars…if you have any more trouble, bring it right in…otherwise…”-and then he extended his hand…not palms up for money, but a handshake.  I said, “What do we owe?” He kept his hand out.  I shook it…said goodbye…and was his customer for life.

Before moving to California in 2016, Bob fixed that same 2005 Saturn up for the cross country trip.  That was 31 years after we met him.  He has worked on every car that we own.  When the work was done…if we weren’t happy, he stood behind his work.  He has taken hundreds of dollars off of our repairs over the years and once even bought a car that he couldn’t fix.  Maybe I’m spoiled.  Maybe he’s a dying breed.  Maybe I just didn’t appreciate what I had when I had it.

I am sure that the people at the Cheverolet of La Quinta didn’t know this story.  I am sure that there are people there who would do what Bob did if they had the power.  I am also keenly aware of bogus auto repairs at major dealerships that have been repeatedly exposed on the news just so that they can sell a new car.  This oil leak “snafu” is just the kind of setup that would be featured on one of these programs and since I have recently joined the ranks of the fixed income retiree (yes I played that card), my scam filter went to high alert.

I sometimes wonder about Bob.  He has seven bays, always full, minimum two week wait for appointments, but will still tow you in and have you out in a matter of days for emergency.  He doesn’t do the repairs anymore but has a staff.  He holds himself accountable for their work.  That’s why he has customers.  He provides value and quality.  He’s the In-n-Out Burger of auto mechanics.  Just imagine if he sold cars to this 31 year customer.

I think that this is an important story.  That’s why I wrote it.  That’s why I intend to share it.  I hope to find that Diamond in the Rough auto mechanic here in the Coachella Valley.  I doubt very much is will be Chevrolet of La Quinta. Still, before I add SEO links and share it on Nextdoor, I will give them an opportunity to read it. I will also share it with Bob Holshue and his son.   I believe that we can all learn to do better.  I believe that we should all want to do better.

I hope we do.

BTW…my car was supposed to be done this morning…but the part, apparently is in Tennessee.  Maybe I should have moved there.

 

Fraud and Big Business

On May 23, 2016, at approximately 1:00pm eastern time, my wife responded to a phone message indicating an issue with the IRS.  The person who handled her call insisted that she was subject to arrest if she didn’t clear up a tax evasion issues from her 2014 tax return.  He gave his name, badge number, dates that the IRS sent correspondence and threatened her with a public arrest and public humiliation if she didn’t follow directions to immediately clear up this balance.  Yet this whole conversation was a fraud.

 

He directed her to borrow a person’s car, and purchase prepaid Visa cards and sent them directly to your company’s locations to buy them and transfer them.  All the while he told her that if she ended the call she would be arrested.  She went to a CVS and bought as many as were allowed.  (There is apparently an awareness of potential criminal activity, but there must be acceptable losses allowed.)

 

When I finally tracked my wife down she had already acquired the cards and complied with every one of the person’s requests to stay out of jail.  I immediately knew that this was a scam and we went back to the post office to retrieve the cards that the fake IRS employee told her to mail to a bogus address. We called the police and they arrived at the post office.  They talked to the scammer online.  There is a record with the local Police Department.  We did retrieve the cards.

 

When we tried to follow the steps for cancelling these cards, we found that there was no way to get through to the prepaid companies.  All the phone numbers on the back of the cards were for automated computer responses and one of them even asked for our social security number…after just being scammed.  When we questioned a representative from OneVanilla a prepaid company, he said that the payee who received the funds was a known fraudulent business.  Further investigation found that this scam has been running for over 5 years.  The IRS even has the very name of the individual that was being used.

The use of the prepaid Visa card is part of the plan.  The perpetrator knew this and directed every step of the transaction.  He knew the location of the stores and knew where the cards were sold.  He knew how to instill fear and he attempted to wipe every trace of the transaction away by insisting that we mail the cards…to a phony IRS address.  This is known to pre-paid companies and no warning are made on the website, the cards, or at the point of sale. There is no way of accessing a human being and even as the crime was being committed we couldn’t stop it because we can’t get in touch with a human.  All totaled, 10 Visa cards totaling just under $5,000.00 were purchased and used to pay our phony delinquent tax bill to the scammer.  Of those 10, 6 were Green Dot cards and 4 were Vanilla.

 

Based on the information obtained so far, it is clear that Green Dot and One Vanilla were aware of this situation.  Additionally, Green Dot’s consumer access to their customer service is deplorable in light of this threat. Since there were no warnings about this scam that regularly utilizes Green Dot cards among others to launder their money, there is clearly a perceived liability on the part of the issuing bank.  I say perceived because it is my viewpoint and my perception matters here.

 

Since this happened almost 2 years ago and we had reported it to Green Dot and Vanilla and neither company has seen fit to respond to our case, we are pursuing a lawsuit.  These cards are sold in drug stores and dollar stores and they are displayed like candy and activated by clerks who know little more than the fact that they must be purchased in cash.  Since that time there has been a major break in one of the organizations responsible in India and there has been no restitution paid to the victims.  Still there is no warning to the consumer that they are being scammed if being called by the IRS and directed to these financial instruments because, apparently, it would cost the companies money.

 

According to Green Dot’s corporate site, they are doing quite well in returning corporate profits for those investors who don’t care for the dark side of their business or even dealing with consumers who are victimized by crooks who know their practices and know that they will continue to look the other way when presented with these crimes; yet they are as guilty as the person supplying a getaway car in a bank robbery. Financial fraud perpetrated on citizens through use of phone, mail and financial instruments is far more devious and dangerous and under reported.

 

It is for this reason that I have engaged an attorney to sue the companies that have participated in a fraud and done nothing to prevent it from happening again.  The criminals are still out there as my family members continue to get these calls.  I am suing because they are at the very least negligent if not complicit in the crimes being committed against Americans.  Clearly they have been silent on this issue because the percentage of frauds using their products represent a significant enough portion of their profits to make it part of their business plan.  Sad.