An Honest Thief

How they make their living…

In the middle of August, I began my cross country trip to visit NJ and see my family. I was also visiting during the local stop of Dear Evan Hansen so I was able to see my son for a few days as well. My car, one that was just purchased at lease end, seemed to be the focus of a lot of my trip. Hub caps popping on and off and the changing cost of gas at each stop made for an interesting narrative. Sadly, the worst was saved for my last day in San Francisco. I moved my car from the expensive ($35) parking lot to the free meter for the final day. On Sunday, the meters do not run and the parking is free. Ah…but as the saying goes…there’s no free ride…or in this case park.

I was alerted to this possibility by the daytime clerk at the desk of the Grant Hotel. The night clerk recommended against it. He said that the neighborhood was not good…even in the day. Also, parking spaces may not be available when I want them. I told him that I arrived at 5:30AM the previous day…I would be able to find a spot. Having heard him talk about the access to parking…I decided to move my car at 2:30AM. There were still people wide awake and milling about. The spot I got was right in front of the door of the Golden Gate Hotel which was right next door.

I went in and within the hour, I was to be robbed. I wouldn’t know it until the next morning. I did not heed the warnings. I tried to save $35 and now it will cost me hundreds. All of those trite sayings were popping into my head. Sayings like, “pennywise and pound foolish” or “better safe than sorry”. Still, I take no blame for the crime. I am not the criminal. Yet, the criminal(s)…they had the reputation.

The way they approached their crime was in a very businesslike way. They assessed the risk, they worked in tandem, they knew their target, they were in and out in about 15 seconds. They got a very nice suitcase full of…dirty underwear and a couple pair of shoes. It was not the score that they had hoped for but the crime was low risk. Breaking a window doesn’t trigger an alarm like opening the door without a key. The car was silent all night.

Since they can’t make a decent living off of dirty underwear…I am sure that I was not their only target of the night. It does make me wonder…what if? What if they used their skills to help people instead of hurt them? What if they looked for real opportunities to contribute instead of being opportunists? What if someone had cared enough to get between them and the bad decisions that have now come to define their lives?

Parents, teachers, friends, and extended family have to be much more involved in the lives of young people before they make enough bad choices to end up here working the night shift.

Should the 2nd Amendment be repealed?

if the NRA put as much money into creating facilities and strategies for these law abiding citizens to safely own and shoot these weapons as they do in buying congressional votes, maybe everyone could be made happy and even a new cottage industry could be born.

My Opinion–No–I am just going to put it out there.  My opinion is an emphatic NO.  This is my opinion.

When this country was founded over 200 years ago, after the Constitution was written, Congress saw fit to add to it 10 Amendments on December 15, 1791.  That was a mere 15 years after the Congress took the bold step of Declaring its Independence from a tyrannical government from overseas.  These 10 amendments, The Bill of Rights, as it became known, were articulated on paper and made known to the world.  These rights were the ones that were regularly tread on by the mother country leading to both colonization and then ultimately forming the American Nation.

Flash forward 200 years or so…

Retired Supreme Court Justice, John Paul Stevens suggests that the 2nd amendment be repealed.  His reasoning is articulated in line with one of two schools of thought regarding the Constitution.  Is the Constitution to be taken literally for all time, or is it a living document that must adjust with the times?  Well, if you carry a constitution with you and you can read, you should be able to decide for yourselves…but you can’t…(more later on that).

I, for one, have carried a copy with me for my entire teaching career.  I have focused on one particular amendment in the Bill of Rights and that is why I always had it handy…not so I could say…”see, I told you”…but to provoke thought.  Just for fun…lets provoke a little thought.

I like Law and Order…not the concept although I like that too.  It’s the TV Show.  I love it when Jack McCoy and the defense attorney’s tussle over things that relate to the rights of the accused.  You hear a lot about search and seizure (4), witness against oneself (5), and right to a speedy trial(6).  You hardly ever hear of a jury being empaneled for a small claims action even though they are universally for more than $20 and the 7th amendment should be enforced.  It is specific.  Amendment 3 has not been violated too much in my lifetime, but it stands to reason that it could be.

If the 2nd amendment should be repealed, shouldn’t these others also be considered.  And what about the 1st Amendment.

I have been a music teacher all of my life.  I have always struggled with the ideal delivery of a vocal music education which included works of the masters with no consideration for the fact that it may have a “sacred text”.  Students and parents, however, were sometimes surprised to see this music being performed in a public school.  Sometimes, there would be complaints, controversy, and yes, even lawsuits.  They cried “separation of church and state”, which is not in the 1st amendment, not a title to the 1st amendment, but used as a metaphor relating to the actual text of the 1st amendment and articulated by James Madison.  That became the de facto title, then a rallying cry and then it was put into the hands of great thinkers…The Supreme Court of the United States.  These guys and gals if I may be so politically incorrect should always get it right…then why is it not unanimous?  The truth is that they all suffer from the affliction of bias and that is an affliction of humanity.

The history of my bias (aka confirmation bias)

I was born in Philadelphia PA.  I moved with my family at the age of 5 to Marlton, NJ where I attended public school until I was 18.  I went to college at TSC met my wife and became a music teacher and taught for 26 years in the public schools of NJ.  I never hunted.  I never knew crime.  I had no connection with guns.  My family, particularly my mom put the fear of God into me with relation to guns.

I was also bullied mercilessly from grade 6 through grade 12.  I lived in constant fear that I was going to be beaten up or even killed from people who now to this very day I consider the excrement of the world.  As a teacher, when I saw bullying, I went into such an internal rage that my clothing was soaked in sweat and I literally had the shakes.  I confronted the bully and made sure that they knew I wouldn’t tolerate it.

In school as a student, it was fear.  Shaking quivering fear.  As a teacher…it was rage.  Oh, did I mention the lack of gun thing?  Yes.  I’m sure I did.  In school, as a student, if I had access to a gun, I probably wouldn’t have done anything since fear…of literally everything ran my life.  What about rage?  How about rage?  I just don’t know. Who does?

This is my story.  This is my position of bias.  When facing the issue of guns, it could very easily be a confirmation bias.  Confirmation bias is when you consider only those points that seem to confirm your position that you have already decided on a particular issue.  There are other points of view and other “evidences” but they are dismissed because they don’t fit our point of view.  I do it.  You do it.  SCOTUS does it.  So, what can we do?  We acknowledge that we have biases and attempt to think beyond the biases.

Here are my thoughts.

The 2nd Amendment, the entire Bill of Rights in fact, should be left alone.  The Bill of Rights is in our DNA.  It has many little brothers and sisters in Medicine (Patients Bill of Rights), Air Travel (Passengers Bill of Rights), and I am sure many others currently around or in the future.  The repeal of the 2nd amendment will have very little effect on guns since 44 states have this right in their own constitution.  Besides, we wouldn’t have a nation if the 2nd amendment wasn’t there and ascribed to because in 1812, Britain tried to take back the treasonous colonies while we were still yet in a colonial period.  We owe a lot to the 2nd amendment.  We owe a lot to gun owners.  That leaves us with an enormous problem.  If we attempt to regulate guns, how do we do it? (Of course, I mean all of us in we…both sides of the issue.)

In colonial times, the gun was used to protect the home.  This need still exists today.  People could come into our homes to rob us or harm us and we see this on the news everyday.  If you live in certain neighborhoods, you may need that protection at home.  Females in fear of attackers who choose to protect themselves with a gun should be allowed to qualify for a carry permit.

Hunting and shooting clay pigeons are sports and activities that have been around for years.  Taking these guns is just plain silly.

Weapons of war, where the likelihood of collateral damage is great when the weapon is discharged, is another story altogether.  How many times have we seen policemen “empty a clip” on an unarmed person because they ran or hid in the shadows?  Even in the right hands, we’ve seen deadly consequences.  People who think, really think, know that something has to be done…but what?  What is the right answer?  In light of the fact that there are groups that are so fringe that they are an enemy militia being bread in our midst…along with, and no I don’t understand the love of this shooting…but honest law abiding individuals who own and want to shoot their automatic weapons.

Checking my bias as much as I can, I say that if the NRA put as much money into creating facilities and strategies for these law abiding citizens to safely own and shoot these weapons as they do in buying congressional votes, maybe everyone could be made happy and even a new cottage industry could be born.  I mean if there was a way to own your big gun and keep it where you can shoot it and enjoy it among like minded people, then you are similar to my neighbor who has a boat bigger than my house who has to sacrifice his fun when it’s not in the water because it just doesn’t go fast out of the water.

If lawmakers stopped being owned by the gun companies then they could spend some serious time “thinking” and identifying those weapons that should be kept out of the civilian households and tightened up interstate controls instead of trying to trip up the public with their stupid questions about details of “what is an automatic weapon”?, then maybe we would make progress.

If the general public weren’t so afraid to confront the issue and attempt to set aside their own biases even for a short period of time, they would be less likely to be led down the garden path from extremists on both sides and start a real dialog.  It is much easier to scroll…and share…and not give it a second thought. 

On December 14, 2012, there were two major school attacks in the news. One was here in the United States at Sandy Hook Elementary School where 26 people were killed including 20 children between the ages of 6 and 7. The other in Chenpeng Village Primary School in Henan province, China. At this school, 22 students were attacked with a large knife. No one died.

It’s been 10 years since then. The 2nd Amendment of the Constitution of the United States admonishes the law makers to regulate the “rights of the people to keep and bear arms.” It’s time to start regulating.

Schools Need to Vaccinate Everyone

You can do all of this and create the safest “system and physical plan,” but you cannot instill the self discipline in younger children that will make those plans and protocols work.

For years, the people writing the regulations for schools have been so disconnected from the reality of education that they have created the dismal failure that exists in our schools. This only really hurts the students…and what do they know? They have to do what they are told…right? Right? Right!!!! Every teacher knows the answer to this question and now so do some parents who have been observant. The answer to that question is NO.

The pandemic and distance learning have shown clearly that we have a large number of students being left out because of lack of technology but also the lack of supervision. Sending your child to school means that you can put the teacher in charge of “keeping your child in line” in addition to teaching the child the academics mandated by the State. If you have observed a ZOOM class online you can see that many students are misbehaving during their classes in front of their computers or checking out completely. There is no intervention by the adult physically in the room.

You can quote the CDC all you want. You can have the President say it is so. You can have the doctors agree on protocols. You can do all of this and create the safest “system and physical plan,” but you cannot instill the self discipline in younger children that will make those plans and protocols work. Every teacher knows this and now many parents do as well. Those parents are demanding to remain online until there is a vaccine . Which parents do you think will demand to have their children in school? Yes, the ones with very little self discipline or any discipline at home.

Teachers are in the high risk group. The age of a teacher could be 22 or 62 or somewhere in between and comorbidities increase with age. How do you know? The truth is…you don’t. There are immunization requirements before a person starts school for diseases that have all but been eradicated. We have a killer disease in our midst and vaccines that are becoming available more and more. Why the rush? Yes, it has been tough. Yes, you are tired but the idea that one year of this type of education will “do irreparable damage” to kids is ludicrous.

If you wanted to go to school to teach or to learn you would have to get a TB test. In 2019, 1.4 million people died of TB. In 2020, over 2.4 million people died of COVID 19. Both diseases are respiratory in that they are transmitted through the air on water droplets. TB is bacterial, has an ineffective vaccine, and is monitored by employment testing all over. COVID is a virus that has many promising vaccines but is behind the intervention curve in both diagnosis and immunizations. Why the rush? Putting people back into school even part time will not do anything to improve academics and will slow the real progress of getting a normal opening for the next academic year.

The rhetoric coming from Washington even in this new administration is very Trumpesque. It is not unusual for any administration to legislate schools into institutional obsolescence whether Republican or Democrat. It is unconscionable to politicize the profession to risk the very people we need to overcome the administrative stupidity that emanates from government at all levels for the sake of votes or feeling good. Lawmakers…it’s time for you to put on your Big Boy Pants and defend common sense.

Do Unto Others

When I returned to California and I tried to resume my normal bicycling routine, I found that it was difficult to do the long rides up the mountain. It was colder and I was getting up later and later and there was a little more daylight. I started seeing more things of interest. One day, I rode past an iPhone just sitting in the bicycle lane. It was undamaged. Later that week, along the same area, I found a phone directory complete with websites and passwords. Finally, a month later, I was on a morning bike ride and I found a wallet complete with cash and an id.

I found a way to return all of these items to their rightful owners. I did it, knowing the panic that I would have been experiencing if I had lost these same items. I felt pretty good about what I did, but since one of the items were tossed from a stolen car, it reminded me that there are still evil opportunists out there and we must be careful.

I took a long bike ride the other day. I wanted to pick up donuts at the local Krispey Kreme. That is a short ride of 11 miles and I also wanted to go to a sporting goods store. When I go with shopping in mind, I clip on my trusty panier bags to the rear rack of my bicycle. After my last purchase, I turned for home. A 45 minute ride. When I arrived at home, I realized that one of my trusty paniers was missing. It was then that I felt that panic that I referenced.

Inside that bag was my wallet, my iPhone, my Bose Wireless Headphones and my action camera and charger. Actually, my whole life was now missing. I grabbed my Android phone and my wife and my car keys and headed out the door. Fortunately, I had a a tracker in my wallet and it was linked to my Android phone. I knew where my bag had fallen off of my bike and it was 8 miles away. I also know the bump that I hit. It was a stressful ride but that bag sat on the corner of the sidewalk untouched for over an hour.

When I settled down, I started thinking. No cash was taken from my wallet. My biggest concern is that there are a lot of homeless people who scavenge for whatever they can on the sides of the road. Nothing was touched. The phone, the earbuds, the charging case all had value and could be sold. I still have them. I feel relieved. I also feel that maybe I was being rewarded for my selfless actions from the previous weeks. Maybe…but maybe it was a wakeup call.

I recommend the trackers for your wallets. I also had my location available on my iPhone and if we thought of that, my wife could have tracked my iPhone as well, but at that time, I wasn’t aware that my iPhone was also in that bag. Furthermore, I will keep my wallet and small valuables in a string bag attached to my back instead of paniers which do have a tendency to detach when the road gets really rough. After some thought and reflection…I will keep my eye out for opportunities.

Missed Opportunity

One day before this happened, I was biking in Indio to another donut shop. (I have a problem with donuts). Well, when I left, I rode past a Starbucks where a girl sat tearing through a newspaper. She was clearly messed up and the newspaper littered the entire stoop. Concerned employees came out and chased her off. When I rode past she was hiding her face behind the paper and peaked over the top and said hello. I just rode on. I can’t help feeling that I missed an opportunity to improve someone’s life or outlook with just a cup of coffee or breakfast or anything. My near loss and my concern that a person in need might take something of mine has really gotten me to rethink that situation. Next time, when the opportunity presents itself, I will make the effort.

Christians for Trump

Jesus was asked by an expert on the law, “What is the greatest commandment in the Law?” He responded, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. The second is like it: ‘Love Your Neighbor as Yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

The sign planted at the exit of the Church of St. Francis of Assisi

Advance thousands of years from this declaration of Christ himself and we find ourselves hopelessly confused. As a free nation we test our own laws based on a constitution…or so we did. In this one response, Jesus gave us a test. All the Law and the Prophets hang or come under these two.

This is the account from the book of Matthew and I wonder if Christians actually give this a second thought. In Luke, there is further clarification when the expert in the law wanted “clarification” as to “who is my neighbor.” I won’t insult your intelligence any further by rewriting the parable of The Good Samaritan here, but given it’s specific references to a “hated foreign enemy” the context for my concern lies here.

Our country may have been established by Christians but we are not a Christian nation. We are a free nation. We have our rights outlined in our constitution but we are not a theocracy and this comes not just from our constitution but from Christ. When he was once again being tested by the Pharisees tried to trap him again with the question of is it right to pay taxes to Caesar. Jesus said, “…give Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.

We, as Christians are separate from the world, in the world but not of the world and we should not seek to rule the world. When we align politically as a group, we call into question our own spiritual health. Politicians are imperfect. Leaders will fail. We may be disappointed.

But when we are faced with a leader or a potential leader who claims to love God but preaches hate, violence and bigotry, lies to the point of recklessly killing hundreds of thousands of people, announces that he is God’s chosen one, all while stealing from the poor and lining the pockets of the rich and mocking every decent acceptable behavioral norm in modern day society, and “Christians” plant signs at the entrance of their church emblazoned “Christians for Trump”…they have identified with the very antithesis of Christ.

Christians who are offended by my stance would do well to prayerfully read Matthew 23 and reflect upon their own beliefs and actions and how it may affect believers yet to find salvation. As for me, I am deeply saddened by the fact that people I believed were true believers in Christ have traded truth for lies, love for hate, and integrity for arrogance.


A sinner saved by grace

Freedom is Painful

This nation could not start without a unanimous vote of the colonies. Through days of debate, it became clear that the southern colonies would prevent independence unless the mention of the slave trade was removed from the document.

The Cast of 1776 from The Ritz Theatre in Oaklyn, NJ in August 2003.

There is an awful lot of debate now, particularly in the recent weeks that deal with the ongoing hate and prejudice surrounding men and women of color. There is a desire to expose our painful past and remove any public link to any degree of pride with some of the characters that have been involved with past events. Some, I dare say most, are justified. While protesting today’s injustices we must try to keep some kind of perspective. This nation had a painful birth. It was in the name of freedom from England’s tyranny that we sought to have a separation from them as a governing body. At the same time, we had a massive contradiction when talking about oppression but having a practice of enslaving human beings.

When Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence, he examined his own practices and conscience and intended to have this document indict the King of England for creating this practice and seeking to have it ended with the Independence of the United States. This nation could not start without a unanimous vote of the colonies. Through days of debate, it became clear that the southern colonies would prevent independence unless the mention of the slave trade was removed from the document. In the interest of the unanimous vote, the passage was removed.

Independence Hall with the “mythical” scoreboard that kept the audience aware of the score.

“The right to be free comes from nature.” This quote was from Thomas Jefferson. Ben Franklin encouraged Jefferson to leave out the entire passage relating to slavery for the sake of the vote to pass. Samuel Adams said to Ben Franklin, “If we give in on this issue, there will be trouble a hundred years hence; posterity will never forgive us.”

In 2003, I was in a play called 1776. This play and movie chronicle the proposal, debate and finally approval of American Independence. It was a painful process. No country had ever broken off from the mother country before. The quotes listed above were in the play but since Sam Adams was not the main character of the play, the line was given to John Adams character and shortened leaving out the “hundred years hence” line because the authors believed that it would be too unbelievable because it actually happened.

Now here we are…over 200 years hence. We are now “posterity”. We are trying to decide whether to “forgive” the founding fathers. George Washington, Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson have been vilified over recent days because they are now being identified as being in favor of slavery. They were living in a time when it was already part of a “way of life”. If they never debated it in the process of becoming a “free” nation, then I would agree that they needed to be judged a little harsher. They also became traitors to England, a crime punishable by death, in order to become a new nation. They were brave, honorable and yes, they risked the judgement of “posterity” by compromising their ideals for the sake of starting a new nation.

Statues of confederate soldiers and leaders that fought to continue the practice of slavery should be removed. Hate and prejudice will remain but as a nation we need to condemn the painful time. We have to acknowledge that as a nation worthy of the name United States, we have to come together. Our history is our history.

Turner Classic Movies will be running the movie version of 1776 starring William Daniels on Saturday. Maybe we should encourage everyone to watch it. Aside from the songs, which probably didn’t happen, this depicts what actually happened. It may give a new perspective to those who would want to demonize all of our founding fathers without putting this into context.

It’s Going Viral

If we all locked down and really did what we were told by medical professionals, we’d be looking at this in the thing rear view mirror.

This is an all too common phrase. When we see a YouTube video that we like or some other video or post and we share it, it is said to go viral. The term comes from the medical world where a virus spreads from person to person because it is transmitted or “shared” with that person. That is why households get sick, places of work get sick and it goes from place to place. We seem to be comfortable with the term when describing the Internet experience but it gets clouded when you bring it back to medicine and that is where the viral experience becomes deadly.

Medical professionals have told us that it is a virus. They have categorized it as such and understand it as such, but the disease that it causes is new and it is attacking old and young alike in many different ways. In order for it to be treated we have to deal with it for a much longer time and experiment and we are going to lose a lot of people that way. In order to prevent it, we have to find a way to trigger an immune response to the virus. This also takes time and is unique to this new virus. Medicine has only one absolute. Remove the host and the virus will die.

If we all locked down and really did what we were told by medical professionals, we’d be looking at this in the thing rear view mirror. It would have taken about a month of serious lock down and we’d be back to “near normal”. Instead, we are on the path to real devastation. This is because we have another viral load to deal with…deniers…led by the denier in chief.

He said in January it would go away and has been saying it ever since. Now, what could have been a one month shutdown if it where handled as a national emergency has no end in sight and his narrative hasn’t changed. “It will go away”, he says. In spite of all that he has said that hasn’t come true, people are believing him…and they go about like there is no threat at all. They also do something far worse. They “share” their opinion and others follow suit. The idea goes viral and so does the virus.

A Seismic Change

Yesterday I was watching a special extended news program regarding the local response to the COVID-19 outbreak. During the news broadcast there was a sudden boom and shaking of my chair, violent shaking that lasted for about 5 seconds. The government put the seismic measurement at 4.9. The news had already gone to commercial but was cut back immediately to the local anchor who was knocked off his game. He was clearly shaken up and for the rest of the broadcast there was a trembling in his voice as the tremors continued.

Just two days ago I had been hiking in the mountains very close to the center of the quake. I remember thinking to myself that just one misstep could kill me or seriously injure me. I also thought about and earthquake. The ground was rock solid. There was nothing but rock. This was unthinkable. Imagine the power to move all of this rock.

There are protocols for what happens in a quake. Emergency vehicles have to exit their structures so that they are not trapped in the event of a collapse. Local law enforcement is put on high alert and now, our cell phones send out the emergency message. Everyone knows what to do but it doesn’t make it any easier. The very ground we live on, the literal foundation of our lives has become unreliable.

This is what we, as a society are facing right now. All of the things that we held dear are now unreliable. Our jobs, our schools, and certainly our government officials have become as unstable as the ground was last night. We want to have back what we have lost. At this point, we have been so shocked at the speed that it has vanished that we miss our opportunities.

We now have the opportunity to rethink a lot of things. We can re-imagine our lives. In the war against a killer virus, we have all become foot soldiers in the battle against the pandemic. We are driving our cars less and the air is beginning to clear around our urban centers. Gas prices have come down and this could contribute to lower costs of moving goods and services around. Our ability to work from our homes has made the highways less crowded. We have all had to embrace technology just to continue to survive.

On a Hike with Mike

I have seen far too many people focus on the negative aspects of this “crisis”. I choose to look at the situation with a different perspective. I choose to consider things that I never would have considered before. I refuse to take a bias against anything as we are in a new world. The ground has moved. It may knock me down but I will get up. If the path is gone, I will make a new one. I will be a better person in the end.

The Pain

Physical pain combined with emotional and spiritual pain can be unbearable.

In 2018, when I arrived in California, I was in serious pain. I had both a DVT and a Baker’s Cyst in my right knee. I was placed on blood thinners and did whatever I could to relieve the pain. I just felt old and helpless. In march of 2018, I saw an ad for a Stem Cell Therapy Seminar. I met Dr. David Duffner and was able to chat him up at the Old Spaghetti Factory in Rancho Mirage, California. He was presenting but was experiencing technical difficulties. Two days ago, on Valentine’s Day, he was fatally shot in his office.

People go to doctors when they are in pain. Doctors have solutions for the pain that vary according to their specialty. I have had doctors work with me and been successful. Some have been unsuccessful. In some cases, they have been the cause of more pain and ill health. I have been angry with doctors. I have been angry with lawyers. Physical pain combined with emotional and spiritual pain can be unbearable. It can make someone believe that “if I can’t get rid of this pain, I must cause equal or greater pain to the person that I believed caused this pain”.

Then they take their legal gun and make a lethal choice. Common sense gun laws mean that we have to make sure that people who are taking huge does of pain medication do not have access to a gun, a driver’s license, or anything else that we seem to consider a God given right… I pray for the family of Dr. Duffner’s and hope that they can get past this event and move forward. I pray for his patients who had successful results. I imagine that there were quite a few.

Later this week, Donald Trump will be speaking in Rancho Mirage. Dr. Duffner will not be in attendance. I won’t either. Common sense and Donald Trump are don’t go together.

New Year, New Scam

Nothing like a scam to start the new year. It’s becoming way more common than you might think. Scams have a way of affecting the masses everywhere. Let’s take my day here and think of all of the scams that I encountered.

This morning, like I have been doing since November, I got up at about 5AM to prepare for my day in the stock simulator. I have been doing this for the last 3 months and I have been very excited to learn the procedures. I was getting better and better at this over the past week, but today, no. When the President attacked Iran, he put fear into more than just the Iranians. He put fear into the Middle East, the allies, and everyone connected with international commerce. The result was something that I had never encountered before. Craziness put me close to $2,000 in the hole. Of course it was play money but I am trying to develop skills and discipline.

Somewhere along this losing streak, I became aware of new activity in my online store. That is the one on this site. You can visit it if you want, but i has been disabled temporarily. You see, people started buying my stuff. They were buying my downloads. This was my original content. I was so pleased. Then…I realized, most of the transactions were being denied. I quickly realized it was all the same person using many credit cards. After briefly researching this and removing the downloadable products for now, I found that this was a way for people who had acquired stolen credit card data to find out which cards were still live and which were cancelled.

There were 7785 attempts to purchase materials using this stolen credit card data. All but 3 were denied because of credit card rejection. The total attempted crime was $80,536.35 . Yes, that’s a big number, but I was not the intended target. I was the conduit. These people were seeking the cards that “fell through the cracks” to rob individuals of far more. They are operating outside of the United States. Up until this week, all of my website traffic came from the US and China. This week, India and Australia spiked. I am angry but thankful that there were security measures in place to protect me and most of the credit card users. What about getting the perpetrators? They’re in India. Should we bomb India?

Truly the new battlefront is the Internet. If it is not misinformation regarding our politics, then it is the very real threat to national and international commerce. Foreign powers continue to abuse the naivete of American citizens aided by selfish partisan politicians who continue to ignore the fact that the failure of the government to act to lock down our electronic communication and truly defend this front instead of their own personal agendas.

It took me 3 hours to figure out and lock down my site. This is a major crime and if you are reading this, there is a chance that your credit card was used on my site. At some point during my work, the President made a public statement about his “war footing” and the stock market found some more confidence and went on a run. Surprise, surprise. I opened my trading software and I found that I left an open position on 17 shares of Tesla. It went from -$17 to +$325. At some point, I am sure that I will have to deal with the refund of $27 that actually went through on my site. My prayer is that the criminals who found these credit cards were working will immediately charge way more on these accounts. That would be tragic.

If you own a website store, lock it down. If you are alive a breathing, your information is already out there and no amount of free credit monitoring will fix that. Be vigilant. Oh…and Happy New Year.

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