HACKERS! WILD IN THE STREETS! – Marilyn Armstrong

We all know about fraud, but this is fraud of a different kind. It isn’t the Nigerian Prince with a zillion dollars he wants to send you if only you will give him all of your personal information. Not even one of the phony contractors who’ll do your driveway for short money “because he just happens to have a lot of concrete leftover in his truck.”

And, it isn’t one of the enormous crew of local and foreign hackers who just want to steal your money, credit cards, and maybe the deed to your house.

No, it’s a PAC. Inevitably, it’s a Trump PAC. Democrats will drown you in email. The GOP is more clever. They pretend to be some local organization until, at the end. they race through the truth. If you are a little hard of hearing or your phone crackles, you could miss it.

So — first you figure it’s your “Police Benevolent” group because the introduction is sort of like that, though that isn’t really what he said. But as he gets to the end of his “rap,” he mentions that he represents a PAC and your donation is not tax-deductible … and you realize you are being hacked by Trump’s functionaries!

As if we didn’t have enough to worry about.

There are tons of fake places that say they need your money to cure cancer, help heart attack victims. All manner of pleadings for money. I remember getting one call from an organization — a pleasant-sounding young woman was on the phone — explaining that they collect money to help out women who have breast cancer. They actually give real money to cancer sufferers.

“Really,” I said. “So when shall I get my check?”

“What?”

“I’ve had cancer in both breasts so I must surely be on your list. Obviously, you are calling me to let me know how much you are sending and where to send it, right?”

She hung up.


The IRS Nonprofit Charities Database has a tool called “The Exempt Organizations Select Check Tool”. This tool allows you to enter the name of an organization and see if the organization is exempt or not. It is important to verify that an organization that claims to have a 501(c)(3) tax exemption is actually exempt.

Most of these calls are for some kind of cancer donations. A few are more obscure: collecting funds to stop climate change, help veterans. It’s always a good cause. No one with a conscience would fraudulently collect for these things, right?

Problem: these people have no conscience. They really don’t care about anything but the money.

The truth? Unless it is YOUR police department, it’s either a political PAC or fraud. If you live in a small town, there are just a few police and you will recognize their names, voices, or minimally, their mid-Massachusetts or wherever-you-come-from accent. They won’t sound like a Pakistani, Russian, or “who-knows-where-that-one-is-from” accent. Your local cops sound like locals.

Real charities also don’t call you at dinner time to ask for money either. There are websites that list legitimate organizations as well as how much of the money they collect gets to whatever cause they represent.

From the Federal Trade Commission, consumer protection advice includes:

I got a fraudulent call this evening from “Social Security” telling me that they are going to “turn off” my benefits. Robo-call, naturally. I was supposed to “press 1 to talk with one of their officers.” I hung up, found the Social Security site, and there was a statement that “If you have received any of the following calls (list of frauds currently in use), HANG UP. ”

There’s an advertisement on television — it’s all over the airwaves because it’s the end of the year and the givers are giving — for the American Cancer Society. They have these people saying how they called them and they got so much help from them. Like places to stay while they were being treated for their family and themselves, free rides to doctors, etc. But when I had cancer, I called them hoping they were able to offer any help. You know, things for people who actually had cancer. Garry had two 75 mile rides to an from the hospital every day. I couldn’t afford rehab. I definitely could have used a bit of assistance. They were very willing to take my money, but when I asked them what they could do to help me they said: “Nothing.”

No transport, no temporary housing, no financial help, or even advice. Nothing. Just because an organization is big and can afford television advertisements doesn’t mean they aren’t also dishonest. If you have money to offer to charities, make sure they don’t just raise money to keep their jobs because the bigger they are, the less money they probably donate to anyone.

Frauds, hackers, and lying politicians. What a great country.

We have a big fat fraud running the country while the hackers are running wild in the streets. Do not mess with them. HANG UP. Don’t chat and don’t try to outwit them. You may be smart, but they have amazing tools with which to work.

HANG UP THE PHONE. Especially if it’s a cell phone!


Related Items:

“SAN ANDREAS FAULT” ALL THE AWFUL IN ONE MOVIE! – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Friday Flashback — December 7


Last night, tired of the endless depressing, appalling, horrible news, Garry played a movie he had previously recorded.

San Andreas Fault is not merely a disaster film. It is every disaster film you have ever seen in one film. It’s earthquakes that will turn Kansas into the Pacific beach capital of the nation. It’s crashing buildings, towering infernos, the hugest OMG tsunami. We get to see the bravest heroes and most craven cowardice.

It’s all there.

The crashing bridge

Every cliché from every disaster movie made in this and the previous century includes a lot of movies.  Worse, I’m pretty sure we’ve seen all of them, but we’d never seen this one before.

I think it was originally filmed in 3D. Everyone said it was drivel, but it made more than $300,000 million at the box office, so clearly drivel sells well.

Crashing cruise ship

It certainly sold well at our house. When the intended second husband of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson‘s wife (Carla Gugino)  played by Ian Gruffudd (aka “The Asshole”) abandons Rock’s daughter to her fate, trapped under fallen cement in a parking garage, it’s no less than you expect from the cowardly CEO of a major corporation.

Hollywood crashing

We know they are cowards because … well …that’s what they always do in the movies, right? Have you ever seen a brave, manly CEO stand up to anyone or anything outside a boardroom? Especially when they are trying to marry the hero’s ex-wife who we all know should be with the hero.

Even though The Hero can’t utter a coherent sentence (and probably hasn’t since he came back from The War (insert name of war here), he’s a hero (with medals to prove it) and would never run, not even when a million tons of water and a complete cruise ship is about to fall on his head.

The Rock watching everything crash

Finally, the family reconnects. The entire west coast is smoldering ruins covered by about half the Pacific Ocean. There isn’t a bridge, a building … nothing. Total, absolute devastation everywhere.

Garry is giggling to himself.  Because he knows. I know. We both know. It’s coming.

The Rock, arm around his wife, his daughter saved, is gazing over the wreckage of the world and Garry murmurs … “Now, we rebuild.”

Beat. Beat. Beat. Pause.

And THEN The Rock says: “Now, we rebuild.”

Garry collapsed into laughter. The last time he laughed that much was when Trevor Noah had Ben Carson on the show and Trevor did a better Ben Carson than Ben Carson. Garry was still howling while the credits rolled.

A perfect ending.

san-andreas-fault-with-dwayne-the-rock-johnson-000

We’d seen the world end. We’d see the best, the bravest. The worst. We’d seen the most depraved cowardice imaginable and in HD wide-screen.

But now, we rebuild. We have to rebuild … because … SAN ANDREAS 2 is coming! As the headline says, this will finally allow The Rock (who no longer calls himself “the Rock”, so you have to call him Dwayne) to punch an earthquake.


This is everything that we fear will result from climate change, but it all happens in one movie. I need to see this again. Especially how they rebuild a world that has been totally wiped out.


THE HOW AND WHY OF IMPEACHMENT – Reblog – THE SHINBONE STAR

As much as you may view this as politics, it is also education. Impeachment is a complicated business with a single motive: to protect the American Constitution.

I can see all the sides of this impeachment. I understand why Nancy Pelosi wanted to wait and I can see why she changed her mind. I agree with the three scholars who feel that if Trump doesn’t warrant an impeachment, no one does. On the other hand, I also completely understood the one who felt we needed to give the people time to absorb the data and get on board.

I also understand that since the President’s office has categorically refused to provide any of the documents or testimony required by subpoenas, is there any value in waiting when — even if the Supreme Court nods in the Democrat’s direction — it does not necessarily mean the President or his coterie of evil-doers will comply. It would not be the first time an American President refused to obey an order from the Supreme Court.

So what are we to do? If it were possible — if the election weren’t so close — I would slow it down and allow more Americans to understand why impeachment is critically important to us. 

Is it possible to slow it down? I don’t think so. But I don’t have answers. Just many more questions.


The Constitution gives Congress the authority to impeach and remove “the President, Vice President, and all civil Officers of the United States” upon a determination that such officers have engaged in treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.

The last word in this sentence is very important in today’s political world.

Without doubt, Donald J. Trump and members of his entire crew aboard and piloting his Ship of Vipers have amassed enough misdemeanors by their refusal to abide by the numerous subpoenas they are ignoring at his order.

The charge of high crimes and misdemeanors covers allegations of misconduct by officials, such as perjury of oath, abuse of authority, bribery, intimidation, misuse of assets, failure to supervise, dereliction of duty, unbecoming conduct, refusal to obey a lawful order, chronic intoxication, and tax evasion. Tax evasion is a key phrase here and the reason Trump is fighting so fiercely to prevent the House or anyone else from accessing his returns.

The Constitution does not define bribery. It is a crime that has long existed in English and American common law. It takes place when a person gives official money or gifts to influence the official’s behavior in office. For example, if defendant Smith pays federal Judge Jones $10,000 to find Smith not guilty, the crime of bribery has occurred. It seems to fit Trump to a T. Only this time, he withheld money from Ukraine for a political favor against his political opponent, Democrat Joe Biden, and son Hunter.

It should be remembered that the impeachment process is political, not criminal.

According to the rules of impeachment:

  1. The House Judiciary Committee holds hearings and, if necessary, prepares articles of impeachment. These are the charges against the official.
  2. If a majority of the committee votes to approve the articles, the whole House debates and votes on them.
  3. If a majority of the House votes to impeach the official on any article,  the official must then stand trial in the Senate.
  4.  For the official to be removed from office, two-thirds of the Senate must vote to convict the official. Upon conviction, the official is automatically removed from office and, if the Senate so decides, may be forbidden from holding governmental office again.

Rule 3 doesn’t give Mitch McConnell or Lindsey Graham — or anyone else the right to block the impeachment.

The oath used today has not changed since 1966 and is prescribed in Title 5, Section 3331 of the United States Code. It reads:


“I, AB, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”


In contrast to the presidential oath, where it’s used only by tradition, the phrase “so help me God” has been part of the official oath of office for non-presidential offices since 1862.

Each and every one of them swore to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

When the subject of an oath arose during the Federal Constitutional Convention in 1787, the founders were divided. Should an oath be required in a free country at all? And should state officials swear allegiance to the federal Constitution, or should federal officials swear to uphold state constitutions as well as the U.S. Constitution?

According to the History, Art And Archives web page of the House of Representatives: “Delegate James Wilson of Pennsylvania viewed oaths as ‘left-handed security only’ and that ‘a good government did not need them and a bad one could not or ought not to be supported.’ The lexicographer and political writer Noah Webster called oaths ‘instruments of slavery’ and a ‘badge of folly, borrowed from the dark ages of bigotry.’ Both Wilson and Webster argued that people would be naturally inclined to support just governments, so oaths were unnecessary.  Many others thought such concerns were overwrought. In his 1833 Commentaries on the Constitution, Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story wrote that requiring oaths for government officials ‘would seem to be a proposition too clear to render any reasoning necessary in support of it.’”

The web page continues: “The current practice for swearing-in Members is an innovation of Speaker Nicholas Longworth of Ohio, who abandoned the practice of Members taking the oath by state delegations in 1929. Longworth altered the practice because he hoped the mass swearing-in would better ‘comport with the dignity and solemnity’ of the ceremony and, according to some historical accounts, to avoid a potential attempt to challenge the seating of Oscar De Priest of Illinois, the first African- American elected to Congress in the 20th century.

“While subsequent Speakers went back to the original method, in 1937 Speaker William B. Bankhead chose to return to the en masse swearing-in and this has remained the practice. Since the 80th Congress (1947–1949), Members have also been required to sign an oath, which is held by the Clerk of the House.”

During the Constitutional Convention, James Madison of Virginia successfully argued that an election every four years did not provide enough of a check on a president who was incapacitated or abusing the power of the office. He contended that “loss of capacity or corruption . . . might be fatal to the republic” if the president could not be removed until the next election.

This is an excellent defense to the oft used mantra of “let the voters decide.” George Mason of Virginia proposed adding “maladministration.” He thought treason and bribery did not cover all the harm a president might do.

As we can sadly see, Mason’s fears were well-founded.

If the Founding Fathers could see how our entire governmental process has been stolen by the Republican Party, they would likely suffer apoplexy.

Likely if the Democrats were the target of impeachment charges, they would vote party line to quash the impeachment. It’s how every presidential impeachment attempt has ended.

In a perfect, ethical and moral political world one can only dream that the Democratic Party would stand erect and purge their embarrassment. Obviously, the Trumplican Party will cling to their crooked, vile captain and vote nay. Like Captain Queeg in “The Caine Mutiny,” Donald Trump, Captain of his Ship of Vipers, sits and juggles his marbles — as it were.


Check out the original on The Shinbone Star. They have written some brilliant material that can answer a lot of questions. No, they are not a neutral voice, but they are also right.

TWO BUT NOT OF A KIND IN BLACK & WHITE – Marilyn Armstrong

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Two of Anything


This time of year, I have a shortlist of things of which I take pictures.

  • Birds.
  • Squirrels.
  • Heaps of snow.
  • And occasionally, people.

That’s it. We don’t go to the falls or parks. We do very little traveling because there are crazy drivers out there and all the little parks and falls are blocked by snow. You can’t get there from here.

On the other hand, bird and squirrel watching is at its peak. Everything is hungry and we are the open banquet. I try not to think about how much it costs to buy all that birdseed. Yikes!

Two pink blossoms on the Christmas Cactus

Two hungry birds

Two!

A bit of red remaining on the Cardinal

Two chubby Doves

Two TV persons. Guess which one is the weather guy?

Cee's Black-White

I REGRET NOTHING – Rich Paschall

We all have regrets, that’s for sure.  You can not lead a life without them.  You may regret your first stumble and fall — if you remember it.  You may regret dropping that toy or that cell phone.  You may regret letting go of the balloon or a house that rose dramatically in value right after you sold it.  You may regret throwing away food, furniture, or clothing.  But why cry over that?

As you grow, I guess there are plenty of things to regret.  How about the day you did not do your homework?  How about the time you got caught with your hand in the cookie jar, literally or figuratively?  How about the time you were grounded for not doing _________ (fill in the blank).

School years can be filled with regrets.  Many of them will actually have to do with getting caught, rather than what you did.  Of course, if you fell off old man Jones’ garage and broke your arm, you will probably regret that.  If you picked on someone smaller and got your butt kicked, you probably regret that too.

When you could not work up the nerve to ask Sally or Janie or Billy to the prom, you may regret it years later.  This especially stings if you find out the person you wished to ask, liked you too and was hoping you would ask him or her out.  There are a lot of friendships, especially at the high school level, they may have developed into something, if only you had the courage to move forward.

This is especially tough for gay boys and girls who feel they may be the only gay ones in their class and are afraid to approach anyone on this topic.  Recently, I learned a high school classmate was gay so I went back to look at his yearbook picture.  I wanted to see if he was the person I remembered.  He was smart, handsome — someone I would not have thought I could approach.

Adult life may be filled with a series of sorrows over decisions made.  Should you have gone to college?  If you went, did you pick the right school?  The right major?  It is easy to spend time at the fraternity parties and local bars.  Will you later wonder if studying harder would have made a difference in later life?

There was a good friend of mine through elementary and high school who also went on to the same University as me.  We took many of the same classes.  We frequently studied together.  Many times, our studies started with a trip to a deep-dish pizza place where we would order pizza and pitchers of beer.  Since deep dish pizza took a long time to make, we might get 30 to 40 minutes of studying done before the pizza was delivered.  After that, it was just pizza and beer.  I guess I don’t regret this one too much.

After college, I cultivated many groups of friends.  A lot of these friendships revolved around hanging out local bars watching sports and drinking beer.  In later years, it might involve karaoke.  We enjoyed our nights.  As I look back on those years, I am not sure I remember who came along or what occasions were special.  They were just nights out. It was more about killing time than fulfillment.

Then, of course, it would be easy to regret all the money we spent in these various places.  Some nights, we poured money over the bar just as fast as they poured drinks into our glasses.  Buying drinks for others, especially if they did not have a lot of cash, seemed like a great idea.  They probably do not remember me, just as much as I do not remember them.

dead leaves

My mother spent a lot of time in the local lounges, one in particular in my lifetime.  The time spent took up more than 50-years of her life and all of her spare money.  At these places, I am convinced she felt she made a number of deep friendships.  It was important to get to these places on Friday or Saturday night to see her “friends.”

When she had a stroke at 73, a couple came to see her once or sent a card.  After the first few weeks, over the next 16 years, we never saw any of these people.  I wonder if she regretted the time spent at the lounge. I will never know.

If you married the wrong person, you may have deep regrets. If you joined with several incompatible partners, you could pile up many regrets. Falling out with family members always leaves plenty of regrets, even when there’s nothing to be done about it. Friendships and marriages are often chosen in haste. They need to be corrected and forgiven (at least forgiving yourself) rather than regretted.

Then, there’s Edith Piaf:

The thing about regrets? There’s nothing to be gained from them. You should learn from mistakes, but regrets aren’t worth anything. You can’t get back time lost. You can’t get back money spent.  You can’t undo a painful history. There’s nothing to be gained from dwelling on mistakes.

Take the lesson. Move forward. Dump the regrets and find a more positive approach to life.


Regrets, I’ve had a few
But then again, too few to mention
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption

I planned each charted course

Each careful step along the byway
And more, much more than this
I did it my way.

Don’t look at yesterday when today encourages you to look ahead. You can never change what already happened. Maybe you don’t really want to. Everything you’ve done — good and bad — is part of you.

That’s true too, but not necessarily the healthiest way to go.

THUS QUOTH THE RAVENMASTER – By ELLIN CURLEY

In this work, there are some unusual professions. Many of them exist within the British Royal Household, like Keeper of the Queen’s Stamps, Grand Carver, and Royal Clock Winder. However, the one that caught my eye was written about on October 21, 2018, in the Washington Post: Ravenmaster.

The Ravenmaster cares for the seven ravens who reside at the Tower of London, the 11th-century fortress that is one of Britain’s most popular tourist sites. It was a prison and an execution site for many nobles — Anne Boleyn being a primary example.

The Tower holds numerous lurid stories throughout its long and brutal history, though it was originally built as a tower for the earliest royal family (post-Norman invasion).

Christopher Skaife in his regular Ravenmaster uniform

Ravens seem to have started living at the Tower in the Victorian era when the Gothic Revival was in full swing. Charles Dickens kept a raven as a pet.

The Tower birds are now celebrities in their own right and they receive loving and meticulous care from the current Ravenmaster, Christopher Skaife. He gives them treats of dog biscuits soaked in blood and he has had to climb parts of the Tower to retrieve rogue ravens.

Treats for the ravens

Mr. Skaife was a machine gunner in the British Army for 24 years and then became a Yeoman Warder, one of 37 élite guards who are keepers of tradition and tour guides. He now lives at the Tower with his family. It must be fun for his kids to bring friends ‘home’ for playdates!

The Tower ravens come from bird breeders. They are wild, though acclimated to humans. They roam free during the day. At night, Skaife has to round them up and put them in airy enclosures to protect them from foxes, who ate two ravens in 2013.

Night enclosures

In the morning, Skaife releases the birds in careful order, from least dominant to the most dominant. The birds apparently have a very strict hierarchy which the Ravenmaster must respect. They have also divided the tower into individual territories according to that hierarchy.

Ceremonial Ravenmaster uniform

The birds are scavengers and like to rummage through the trash cans. They are particularly fond of potato chips but they don’t like the flavored kind, like cheddar or onion. So they wash the flavored chips in puddles to get rid of the extra flavoring, which is very clever! Ravens are surprisingly bright compared to other birds, probably on par with parrots.

They are also known to steal sandwiches from children.

Ravens at Tower

Ravens can fly but not too far or too often. They can fly to the roof or the ramparts, but that’s about it. Previous caregivers would trim their feathers so they couldn’t fly at all. But one bird, on Skaife’s watch, climbed up some scaffolding and leaped off it. He died in Skaife’s arms so Skaife will no longer limit the ravens’ flight.

Once one raven did manage to escape the Tower and flew down the Thames River. She was captured by a local birdwatcher who recognized the bracelet on her leg as belonging to the Tower flock. The Good Samaritan put the raven in her gym bag and returned her to her home.

Raven at the Tower

I love all animals so this job caught my imagination. While not the cutest or friendliest of birds, it must be gratifying to preserve a long-held tradition at a historically famous site. Caring for a ‘conspiracy’ or an ‘unkindness’ of ravens, the words for a group of ravens is clearly not a job for everyone.

After eleven years, Christopher Skaife is still going strong at his job. He’s even written an autobiography. Who knew that being a Ravenmaster could be the route to becoming a published author!

FAT SQUIRRELS! – Marilyn Armstrong

We don’t have the fastest, leaping squirrels. They don’t do tricks. What they do is hang around and eat. A lot. I took some pictures. You tell me if this squirrel doesn’t have the fattest butt you’ve seen on a wild squirrel!

Impressionist squirrels. So they don’t all look exactly the same.

Looking around. Are there any more feeders? I could use another snack.

A well-rounded bottom

All he needs is a golf club and he’ll look like you-know-who but with MUCH better hair.