A Festive Days’ Message

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“Festive days been treating you well?” I messaged a close friend just after Boxing Day this year.

To our utter shock, he replied that he was in hospital with a stroke.

We normally remember our friends in our morning and evening prayers. We now say a special prayer for him every day.

We have also now reviewed our meals, lifestyle and other routines, and I spent this last morning of 2017 relaxingly pottering about in our small garden.

Some years ago my work (sadly for the third time in my life) became my Number One Priority, resulting, once more, in serious health issues. After a dash in a taxi during rush hour early one morning the heart surgeon shocked me by saying that if we had ignored the event, he would have been talking to a widow that evening. He placed me on medication and I foolishly still kept up a hefty work schedule. However, one morning at a moment’s thought, I decided to stop working. I gave six weeks’ notice and happily walked out of the office door my last working day.

Since then I have retired. My priorities have not changed.

For me, the order of priorities, have once again been confirmed:

  1. Our Creator
  2. Life
  3. My spouse and our health.
  4. Family and other relations.
  5. Personal safety.
  6. This space left open for now.

This does not mean we place our friends last. In fact, even before I retired, “work” was in position 7. I left position 6 open just so that I could distance “work” away from the first five items.

Hence, in closing this, my last blog of 2017, I prompt you to think about your priorities.

We wish you all a healthy, safe, prosperous and “paced” 2018.

Thank you for reading my blogs during 2017.

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The “Department of Justice and Regulation”

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Law. Not Justice

After a long time between drinks I had a chat with my friendly neighbor Marc on social matters that bother him. Here is what he had to say:

 

Upbringing embodies two components i.e.

  • Respect, including self-respect, and respect for values – or a lack there-of.
  • Discipline, including self-discipline – or a lack there-of.

Our lawyer told me that when you go to court, you receive Law, not Justice.

  • So why is it called the Criminal Justice System?

Or the “Department of Justice and Regulation” as it is in our state?

  • It is a misnomer. Politicians misname things to suit certain agendas.

To quote George Orwell of “1984” and “Animal Farm” fame:

“Political language — and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists — is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind”. “Politics and the English Language”, 1946

 

Solidity to Pure Wind

 

We are going through a crime wave where we live. Home invasions, car-jacking, assaults, violent robberies, drug-fueled violence, hit and run drivers (literally) who leave their victims to die by the side of the road.

Lets put solidity to this:

  • Car-jacking/theft is up almost 85%.
  • In general – crime is up almost 13%, while it is receding in other states.
  • Violent crime covers the first 16-18 items on nightly news.
  • In some suburbs the citizens have formed watch-groups and even vigilante groups.

Imagine the trauma for the normal citizenry.

 

  • The head of police warned the citizenry not to form such groups. “We are making progress”.

Solidity to pure wind. It has been 7 months and crime is rising

 

  • The state premier told the citizenry to leave it up to the police to handle (49 police per 100,000 residents, police stations are being closed in most suburbs).

Solidity to pure wind.

 

Do Not Overstep the Mark

 

A popular legal expert warns on TV “Careful not to overstep the mark if you catch a group of home-invaders – because you do not want to be jailed for 8 or 10 years.” That is the law.

WHAT!

Stuff the Law mister legal eagle.

We want Justice.

Like it says in the” Department of Justice and Regulation”. Otherwise, name it correctly.

  • Question to the legal eagle: What does overstep mean when you are 71, alone in your home and get attacked (in your home) by a group of crowbar swinging youths who inflict bodily harm, steal your car, drive it 20 km and then set it on fire?

Dear Mr. Legal Eagle: Will you kiss and cuddle the perpetrators if you or your family were the victims?

If the state cannot protect its citizenry, then may the citizenry protect themselves?

We provide state lawyers (i.e. society pays) for those who get caught. And if they are under-age they are often released (without bail) into their parents’ custody.

  • The same parents who let them roam the streets at 3.30 a.m.

People of age less than 18 are considered under-age, regardless of the crime they commit. They do not get named publicly and get soft-touch sentences. Even get sent home.

  • Case in point: A group of 3 gets caught for a home invasion and car theft at 3.30 a.m. Ages: 17, 14 and 12. The 12-year old’s rap sheet shows 21 break-ins and entry, car theft, even bodily harm. 21 times. And he gets released into the custody of the same parents who did not know where he was at 3.30 a.m. in the morning.

I suppose that is the “Regulation” side of the Department of “Justice and Regulation”.

Three questions come to mind:

  • Should the legal age of being considered an adult criminal be lowered?
  • Will these parents ever get control of their children?
  • OR are they possibly beneficiaries of the loot?

A volunteering bleeding-hearts person in our area visits these under-age criminals when they are caught – to help them understand their rights.

  • Their RIGHTS? But should someone not focus on the WRONGS?
  • Who helps the victims overcome their trauma – inflicted by those who now all of a sudden are too young AND have rights?

 

How Do We Correct This?

 

Here is what needs to happen – and I know the bleeding hearts leftists will disagree but that is fine.

Just to make clear: I have degrees in Sociology, Psychology and Criminology. And I have been involved with criminals in jails, including for violent and drug-related crimes.

 

Restore discipline

That includes making the criminal accept responsibility for the crime.

An “I am sorry” to get a reduced sentence does not work.

Victims do not get reduced sentences. Neither should criminals.

 

Hand down appropriate sentences

100 hours of community services on how to make jam or to cut grass (these are real sentences!) will not teach a criminal not to assault an elderly person on the train or not to invade a home.

Soft-touch community correction orders are nonsense.

 

Create Citizen Review Boards

Citizens should review parole boards and judges/magistrates’ performance.

Let the citizens develop a scoring system that affect judges / magistrates’ annual increases/promotions and even retaining their jobs.

With all due respect to a separation of the judiciary from the citizens, we vote for government and if we don’t like them we can repeal them only after a certain timeframe. In the mean time we have career judges / magistrates who are appointed and who are beyond the citizenry’s reach.

It they fail us, then how do we correct it?

  • The citizenry are the victims. And pay the taxes that pay the politicians, parole boards, judges and magistrates salaries. They actually work for us. So we should be able to fire them.

So rather than let a situation develop to a point where vigilante groups are formed, get rid of “soft touch” judges/magistrates. Two strikes and they are out of a job.

Keep parole boards and judges responsible for any criminal behavior perpetrated by criminals they release into society.

We pay the taxes and we want to see it at work.

Create Citizen Review Boards.

 

Let the citizens set lower limit sentences for crimes

There is a trend to give increasingly lighter sentences and parole reviews for even murder after a few years.

This is in no-body’s interest. Victims of violent crimes live in constant fear when the criminals get out on parole. And going back to jail AFTER another violent crime is not a deterrent for the criminal.

Let citizens decide lower limit sentences.

 

Let Victims Sue Ministers/Judges/Magistrates/Parole Boards

Develop a mechanism for victims to sue the ministers/judges/magistrates/parole boards in their private capacity.

We are kept responsible for our behavior and mistakes we make at work.

Make ministers/judges/magistrates/parole boards fire-able by the public.

 

Life for certain categories

Certain groups don’t get to walk free – ever: Murderers, child molesters, drug-lords, perpetrators of grievous bodily harm – regardless of whether perpetrated whilst drunk or drugged-up. That should be aggravating circumstances – not grounds for leniency.

And this should include vehicle-related crimes.

Serious crimes don’t have parole.

 

Restore respect

Criminals must face their victims and explain why they did what they did and how they intend to change for it not to happen again – in the presence of their parents/partners and the court.

Criminals must face victims (at the choice of the victims).

 

Keep parents responsible

Keep parents responsible for their children’s crimes in terms of financial costs to victims. Not the state. We do not want to pay for a criminal’s misbehavior.

This should also include legal costs. If necessary, sell their belongings. That should be part of the punishment.

Keep parents responsible for under-age kids’ crimes.

 

Tackle problems at the core

Fix the core/source of the problem.

Confiscate property. Solidity to pure wind.

Then deal with the criminals

Do not treat symptoms. Be relentless on the problem.

 

And a nice last touch

Let real hardcore crims have a session with repeat offending kids. Like it is done in some places in the USA. An in-your-face session that is.  Sweet talk, return to parental custody, and community service apparently does not work. Neither does light sentences.

Consider in-your-face therapy.

Dipping My Keyboard Back Into The Ink

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Don’t Await Destiny. Go Create It

 

I have not updated my blog for some time since I was completing my book on credit cards, which is now available on Amaz
on, Kobo, B&N, Scribd and a host of other places.

 

Red Cover
The good news is that my red cover book “Credit Card Debt Freedom – Part One” is FREEBook front page jpegLY downloadable from the above places.

 

 

The black cover “Credit Card Debt Freedom – Full Book” is available for a small price.

 

I want to clear my debt of thanks to Conrad, Danie and Rupert (in alphabetical order) who beta-read my draft and also proposed positive critique of things which I may be able to get into future editions. I, of course, take full responsibility for the published versions.

 

Now on a point of order: During my blog absence there were a number of local and global issues in response to which I had written blogs but did not post them. I thought it wiser to let the blogs cool off for a while. However, on rereading them, I still feel as strongly about some of them now as I did then.

 

So, I may just dip my keyboard in the proverbial ink soon and publish what might divide opinion.

 

I Felt Amputated – And Home on a Sidewalk

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This is a note I wrote on 30 July 2014.

 

This morning I took a train into town to lodge my tax return. Being in semi-retirement with virtually no income for the past 18 months there was not a lot to report – just a few dollars interest and about $1,000 from some casual work. Not enough to last a winter.

The way to the Tax Office lead past an untidy long-haired bearded and shabbily dressed jobless vagrant on the sidewalk, appreciating his luck of a wrapped sandwich – gifted by a person a few steps ahead of me. A cup of coffee was still steaming next to him – another obvious gift. He did not look up, trying to avoid the stares of passersby – a thimble of pride left in him?

A twinge of empathy seeped itself into me. Winter. No fixed abode. A set of fraying and dirty clothes. Cement sidewalk for a chair – and bed.

As I sat waiting for the Tax Office to open, increasing larger pockets of people murmured by – well-heeled, chatting – some holding expensive brand name drinks and donuts. A thin layer of envy spread over me. Something was amiss.

I started to feel amputated.

The Tax Office doors opened and accorded an escape from myself. The soulless authoritarian Tax Officer and I disengaged as quickly as I could. And I then stepped into a food-court to sit down and gather my thoughts. Around me people sat at small round tables, doing what people do around small round tables.

Yes, I missed the dignity of work and what comes with it.

The way back to the train station became a lonely upstream weave against a flood of workers. The smell of freshly cooked chips wafted out of a shop.

I boarded an empty train home. Opened the plastic lunchbox with fried rice that my wife prepared for the journey. A few shelled peanuts rounded off my lunch – eating them one at a time. A minimalistic frame of mind was engaging me faster than I liked. Even the single paper serviette seemed to have more value than its one time use…

The only difference between me and the jobless “bum” seemed to be that I had a few more earthly things but in reality both of us were amputated.

There is no dignity in being poor, jobless, of pensionable age with nothing to do.

 

Postscript

And then it struck me: Amputated as I might have felt, I was going back to a house I can call a home. With running water and a toilet. A warm bed and clean clothes tomorrow. And hot soup on the stove.

I know where I sleep at night.

And I know where the Ministers of Health and Employment and Social Services sleep at night.

 

Quo Vadis?

But where do our homeless go at night?

 

Conclusion

Don’t underestimate the dignity and value of a job.

 

30 July 2014

 

oooOOOooo

US – OR “THEM”

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It is often said that what we do and say defines us.

 

I beg to differ:

  • Is it not the other way around?
  • Is it not who and what we are that defines our actions and words?
  • Is it not our inner feelings, emotions, thoughts – and sometimes our logic – that drive us to do what we manifest?

 

The answer is “Yes”.

 

And I put logic last since it is more than often not the thing that drives us.

  • Think back in your own life. Are you where you are because of logic? Did you get involved with your partner because of logic? Do you have 3 kids because of logic? Do you work where you work and do what you do because of some flurry of logic?

 

The answer is “No”.

 

As much as we would like to think we are the pinnacle, the top of the tree – The Bee, never mind the bees knees – we are far from it.

 

It has been said that humans use less than 5% of their brain capacity.

 

I believe that it is far less than that. I don’t think we use even 0.5% of our brain capacity. And we are constructed that way. We do not have the physical, mental, psychological, emotional, intellectual and spiritual make-up to use even that tiny fraction of what we carry in our cranium.

 

And I am not going to buy into some genetic, biological or sociological gumpf here (done enough study in sociology, psychology and criminology in my time) that absolve us from our actions or non-actions. Such as “I had a terrible life as a child, Your Honour. And I was under the influence of drugs Your Honour. That is why I did this and that. So please humor me and give me a pass on this deed”.

 

We have been given this Life. For which we are responsible in all aspects. Our job is to develop it. Maintain it. Respect it. Use it for the good.

 

So let this then be the year in which our words and deeds be defined by who we are. Not the other way around.

 

Welcome to 2016.

Credit Card Fraud – $16.3 BILLION last year

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Credit card fraud is on the rise.

Important Points

Let’s look at some important bullets:

  • 2014 credit card fraud was $16.3 Billion (with a B)
  • Credit Card fraud (19%) outpaced the growth of credit cards (15%).
  • US fraud loss was 12 ¾ c for every $100.
  • Rest of the world fraud loss was 3 ¾ c per $100.
  • Estimates are that it will average $30 Billion per year over the next 6 years, by which time it would have more than doubled today’s figures to $35 Billion.
  • Banks / investigators estimate that is will decrease after 2020. I predict that it will not, especially with the Asian market still very much in growth/expansion mode. It will not slow down unless all credit card business stops – which will not happen.
  • New protective technology is introduced every year, but the fraudsters are often out-running the protectors.

 

Two points are important to note:

  • It sounds small – until you are the victim.
  • I hesitate to say that this is the full figure, since organizations and individuals may in fact hide some of the cases – for obvious reasons.

 

Five cases

Let me summarize 5 of my own cases:

  • 24 Dec 1973: Amex card stolen. Before the card was stopped I had lost a whole month’s salary. In 1974 things were different than today. It cost me
  • 2003: Received a call one Sunday morning informing that my card had been compromised in another country. I lost no money and my replacement card was with me within a week.
  • 2008: It took me 3 years to get an internet provider to stop billing me for services I terminated when I moved to another country. I had my bank behind me and we disputed it every month until we won the argument.
  • 2010: My card was compromised in another country (with a fraudulent card – something I will expand on more later) by someone buying first 4, then 2, then 1 airline tickets which he sold to people for trips between Australia and NZ. I was in Singapore at the time, and could prove it – luckily.
  • 2012: I made a one-time payment from Singapore to a company in the US, which they subsequently auto-renewed without my knowledge (or warning) and I ended up losing my credit card. I got most of my money back. But losing the card is what hurt – to some degree. This is something I will touch on again later – and the way that you can overcome it.

 

Notice the Pattern?

It took 30 years from case 1 to case 2. Then it picked up speed and now repeats every 2 years.

And it is not just fraud but blatant money-grabbing and the card-holder has very few ways to fight back except for inconveniencing him/her-self.

Cases is known where 3-star generals were caught with 2,500 blanks which they were busy turning into fraudulent cards which were for sale at USD2,000 but with $10,000 loaded. That is aside from having been caught with the Reserve Bank signatures for printing false notes – which has not been configured into the $16.3B fraud.

 

Just One of the Frauds

Credit card fraud is just one way to become a victim. Other fraud activities include:

  • Cloning / phishing / skimming at ATM’s and other sites.
  • Account take-over (often via changing the victim’s address details – physical and or email.
  • Card users themselves also “clean out” their cards and then run away.
  • “Friendly fraud” perpetrated by someone whom the victim knows. These are often not reported due to people trying to protect relationships / family. However, these cases are starting to appear with regularity on some current affairs programs.

 

How to Fight Back

I spoke with my bank representative two days ago who informed me that she herself is now fighting 2 cases of fraud involving her credit card number. She has settled one so far.

  • Keep you card in a safe place (on your person is one way, depending on your movements and location). In fact, check your cards from time to time.
  • Study your statements every month.
  • Report any breach or loss of a card immediately.
  • Gather supportive information to prove where you had been at the time. In my case it was my passport that came to the rescue.
  • Do not give up, even if the bank seems to tread water (which was in my instance number 4 above. I eventually made enough public noise that my case was taken into a private office and settled but not after I was threatened with them calling the police – which I said I would welcome).
  • Think very hard who you give your credit card details to, especially in today’s internet shopping world. I spoke to my lawyer yesterday and her response was “giving your credit card number to someone (person or company) is like giving them a signed cheque” to which I would like to add “several signed blank cheques”.
  • Whatever you buy / when you eat out, and pay for by credit card, check the relevant paperwork before leaving the queue. Years ago, when cards were still imprinted, I used to follow the person to the pay point and forced them to do the imprint in front of me – also taking with me all “bad imprints”. I never left them behind since there was a market for those.

 

There are more ways to protect yourself – some of which will be covered in an upcoming book – but it causes some inconvenience to yourself.

 

Was Your 2015 a Groundhog Year?

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 “Hello Again”

As a year draws to a close we all normally – at one point or another – reflect silently on what we had done during the time.

Two things are important:

  • Things change. “You never stand on the same river bank twice”.
  • Time goes by – relentless. “Our tomorrows are not endless”.

So what do we do to distinguish ourselves from the one period to the next during the passing of Time? Do we groundhog-live the same life again or do we tackle new things, brave new adventures, leave a fuller Chest of Legacies?

Many years ago I spent 3 years with a backpack on the road – and tried to make each day different from the previous day – learning new things, experiencing new places, savouring new cultures, building a mental album of things that I can now both reflect on and find blank spaces to put a “snapshot” in.

I sat on our patio the other night watching a fantastic sunset and noticed that the crumbs that I spilt (I was celebrating the release of my 2nd book) attracted some ants. As dusk settled in it dawned on me that if I sit still long enough in one place I will be eaten by ants.

So, rather than be eaten by some virtual ants, I make it a point to keep moving in life. I do not intend to live groundhog years.

What are your Goals for 2016?

 

My 2015 in Short Review – Activity-wise

  • Published 36 blogs
  • Completed and published my 2nd book (50 PERSPECTIVES – The Value of Things Unseen)
  • Started on 2 others (one practical, one semi-autographical)
  • Appeared at Faeryville Singapore Red Carpet Event with award-winning producer Tzang Merwyn Tong, his production team and my co-stars.
  • Enjoying a 2nd season of organically self-raised (“free range”) vegetables.
  • Delivered 6,000 free local newspapers in our suburb, walking 250kms in the process.
  • Played Santa to 2500 children and their parents over 7 Saturday in a national chain store.

 

Missed doing

  • Playing in another movie.
  • Making a record.