Burglary and Finals

Since it is early, I cannot sleep, and only contract lists are in my head, I need a diversion.  A quick update is probably in order in light of the events of the week; burglary and finals!  I will rely on Amanda to place photos on the joint blog, if she hasn’t done so already.

Thursday, the last day of April, while studying parol evidence for contracts I received a phone call from our bank in Idaho, Zions Bank.  They asked me about some suspicious activity on a bank account.  I told them I could go online and take a quick look and call them back.  When I went online I noticed that Amanda’s account had been overdrawn by several hundred dollars.  We only use this account to keep some money hidden away just in case of an emergency.  Meaning, we never use it.  She confirmed her card was at home and I knew my card was at home.  Okay, maybe a little identity theft.  There was one nagging problem, these charges were not off in far away Venezuela like the previous problems.  These charges were right here in Oklahoma City!  Something really bothered me about that.  I called some friends, the Elders, and found they were only a few blocks from the house.  They called me back to confirm the back door had been kicked in.  They called 911 and I borrowed a friends car to go home.

After taking a policeman through our mostly untouched home, he began fingerprinting (after determining this was a burglary II.  I thought burglary was during the night!).  These petty thieves knew they were only going for money, credit cards, and some jewelry.  Since our neighborhood has a good number of people who walk around at all hours, anything more probably would have looked very suspicious.  No laptops, computers, books, DVDs, or anything really of value.  Pretty much just what you could fit in your pocket.  The best part is that they took our British Pound Notes and tossed them on top of the dresser.  They didn’t want foreign money they could easily convert!  Just the cards you can easily trace!  They took some of Amanda’s necklaces and rings.  They didn’t take the jewelry that had some modest value but the jewelry that wouldn’t fetch anything at a pawn shop!  These guys were real idiots.  They did leave the lights on throughout the house even out to the garage.

The story gets even better.  Within hours, two of our other banks had called us about suspicious charges and had put holds on our cards.  These thieves were out high living on the hog…at Walmart, Taco Bueno, and 7-11!  Before the cards put on holds or I canceled them, they were able to get almost $3,000 in charges on 7 different cards I had in my desk drawer.  (Mentioning they didn’t take my Omega Watch which is easily worth over $1,000 and was sitting on top of most of the long unused cards.)  These ignoramuses spent most of the money at Walmart!!!!  The store that invests so heavily in surveillance!  They visited over 4 Walmarts before the day was done, enjoyed some lunch, and filled up the car.  I don’t know what they were purchasing but it was rarely over $70 dollars a transaction.  So they must have been making repeat purchases of something because so many of the charges were identical.  I don’t know.

Luckily, Amanda and I both had our cards to one of the accounts so they could not access it.  I never got a card to our account here in OKC, so it is safe as well.  So we have access to funds as I can transfer to the accounts that we still have access to.  But I have to get new cards for all the other accounts and get the money back in them (meaning the accounts are useless until the fraud and investigations are done).  This is not to mention the needed replacement of our back door.  We have a full storage dresser keeping the door closed for the moment.

Anyhow, I should be wrapping up so I can get ready for PEC.  On another note, I discovered this week that about 8 shingles have blown off the one side of the house.  I also appear to have some warping of a board on the back roof of the house making a sort of rippling look on the roof.  Andrew assures me it has to do with moisture and no vents in the back roof.  Plus as I cut some of the branches off that were too close to the roof, I could feel how much the roof gave way under my feet bringing back the HVACer’s comments about the plywood on the roof being too thin.  This probably would explain why the rafters on the very end of the roof are sagging.  I hope to get the shingles fixed, but the DIY roof may be in need of some other serious repairs.  The sticker price I fear will be greater than what we thought would be our greatest expense, namely the plumbing.  I have a professional coming by to give us a bid on fixing the shingles, his opinion on the rest, and the back door.

Time to close.  I awoke this morning thinking of the acronymn we put together to remember interpretation of contracts.  You may find it humerous.  We found it highly usable in remembering interpretation.  LQSS2PPHVWGRR  Those are the generally available interpretation canons for a contract.  To remember the acronynm, “My LQSS 2 the Pied Piper Hitler, in his Volks Wagen, in the Great Rally Race.  We lost in the race.  To who?  Hitler, who was a pied piper, in his mass produced vehicle, the Volkswagen.  What do the letters mean.  Without explanation the list is as follows: Lists, Qualifying terms, Specification, Series, 2 Meanings in favor of non-drafter, Public Policy, Public Interest, Handwritten over printed and printed over form, Validity over invalidity, Whole document, Grammar, Redundancy, and Reasonable interpretation.  Guess I am somewhat prepared for my contracts final tomorrow.  Off to dress for a PEC where I report and nobody does anything on the information!

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The Ross Market

It has been a good bit of fun on the Ross Market this week.  High, low, all over the board.  Thought I would share a little bit.

We leveraged, Wall Street terminology, our investments in order to put a down payment onto our home this summer.  The stipulation in leveraging our assets is that we cannot have more than 50% of the value of our assets in the loan against our investments.  As I am sure we are all aware, the stock market dropped precipitously on Monday.  Luckily I have a great investment rep who called me Tuesday morning informing me I was having a margin call.  Which basically means I have to drop money into pay off some of the loan or they would sell off investments enough to bring the loan back within 50% or less.  Somehow I suddenly found myself in a similar category with all Wall Street.  Cough up money to put on our debt or start selling off.

This probably would not have normally been a problem.  Except when coupled with other events, it made for a difficult situation.  We lost use of all the bank cards for our regular bank in Burley, Idaho.  I previously mentioned that we had fraud coming from Venezuela on that account.  I did not mention we also lost use of a card for another account a week before.  Add that to the situation where we have been dumping money into paying off other debt.  So we were getting pretty close to not having any room to wiggle like I normally like to have.  Then of all things, one of Amanda’s student loans withdrew the October monthly payment twice for some odd reason.  Knowing the Department of Education is a highly sophisticated and intricate agency where money goes and is easily lost, I decided to just bite the extra withdrawal.

Tuesday rolls around and I am squeezed.  My investments money market is where I usually turn for emergencies but all those savings were sucked up into saving my investments from being sold off.  Those savings were not enough in the money market and I now had to move over several hundred dollars to keep my investments from being herded to auction.

No credit cards, no cash cards, and I am left with checks and the U.S. Postal Service!  Wednesday sent checks from bank to bank trying to keep every account I have in black standing.  At one point, I found another check bounced for a reason we have yet to determine and I ended having to borrow $2 from a buddy at school to cover the possible charge for the bounced check.  Holy hannah!

Here we are arriving to Monday tomorrow.  I am happy to report all bank accounts remain in black.  The U.S. Postal Service worked like I needed it and money transferred easily enough.  Sadly, the money I transferred on Friday was not enough to keep the margin call at bay against a sliding stock market and I contributed to a sliding Wall Street on Friday.  I have decided that since they have liquidated a huge portion of my assets, we might as well pay off the entire debt against the investments and reinvest what is left over.

While I have not any real wealth since my debts are higher than my assets, I have seen what assets I do have shrink considerably this past two weeks.  Think about it.  I have a loan against investments sitting at 50%.  If they sell off investments in order to pay the loan, they have to sell around 225% of what they are paying off in the debt.  When you sell off investments, it lowers the bar for what 50% is.  Therefore, to sell off enough to pay the debt down and to keep the debt below 50% of the investments value is a chore.  Then we can see why banks that have leveraged their assets not only lose value, but lose tremendous amounts of money to liquidate and pay off debt.  Their problem is compounded by the fact that when they start such a scenario the investors get a whiff and start selling stock and the bank loses even more assets.  It is a downward spiral that ends in death for the bank.  Luckily, I did not have to worry about investors lowering what I could sell my assets for (beyond what the stock market already did).

Hence, I start a new week definitely less in debt.  However, at a tremendous cost of doing so.  I guess the only real cost is what it costs to sell the investments, and reinvest what is left.  Oh, and what the stock market did in the meantime.  May I be lucky enough to buy with the price lower than what I sold it for rather than higher.

Let me assure you, we are still solvent.  That is not the issue.  Amanda is paid again this week and the influx will certainly breath life into the Ross banking network.  We will live to see another day.  The real question is, Why can’t I get in on the bail out too?  After all, I have just endured what most of them are!

Fraud and Honesty

I thought I would take a quick moment to ventilate a little frustration.  Amanda and I have once again been the victims of fraud.  Luckily it is on the same credit card (different number) with a bank that is easy to work with.  I have to admit, I really like Zions Bank and how well they have treated me for some 15 years now.  On that same note, I feel somewhat justified to see Wachovia suffer an ignominious death.  The way they treated us with a little account makes me glad they are out of business.  While I don’t hold much more esteem for CitiGroup, I am happy to see the bird of a similar feather buy the same type of business.

Anyhow, back to the fraud.  Amanda went to do a little food shopping for us this night and found our card rejected her.  We pulled up our account on the internet and found we had purchased several hundreds of dollars of goods in the Philippines.  Well, that is where we assume Las Pinas, PL is.  (Upon wondering, in searching that location on GoogleMaps, it brings up Venezuela.)  I find myself a bit more surprised at Venezuela than the Philippines.  Hmmm, why would I think that?  Venezuela, the country telling us to get a new Constitution over the past few days.  The guy organizing nuclear business with Russia as a neighbor to the United States.  What ever happened to the Monroe Doctrine?  Nobody messes with our hemisphere.  Oh wait, that probably went out the window when we started messing with their hemisphere (the other side of the Monroe Doctrine).  Ironic I joined the J. Reuben Clark law society, one of the men credited with undoing the Monroe Doctrine.

What is coming of the world?  What happened to people living their religion?  What happened to honesty?  It seems strange that a person would take the private information of another for gain.  It almost seems as if there is no cheque for greed anymore in the world.  What is best, we claim it is good to gain on the behalf of another.  Look at Wall Street, years of greed and not playing for the long run have given them one last hurrah trying to continue to make a buck on behalf of the tax payer.  I very much hope they don’t get it.  What if we fall into recession again, or even depression?  Perhaps we will learn to be frugal and industrious once again.  Perhaps we will learn debt is not a solution or viable long term option.  Perhaps we can hope we would see beyond the moment into this continual cycle.  But then, human nature continues.

Now, asking all those questions.  Haven’t we great reason to rejoice?  There are great reasons to rejoice.  Those who are prepared need not fear.  Those who have heeded the counsel of the scriptures and the prophets of ages past and present find themselves once again vindicated.  At least for the moment.  There is always a silver lining.  The world will go on despite poverty, sadness, and loss.  We have eternity and that makes anything now worth it.

Wow, talk about abstract tonight.  Darn fraud.  For some reason Mo Udall comes to mind, “The people have spoken; The bastards.”  We see the cumulative effect of millions of people living in debt, conglomerated into businesses and government, finally receiving some of the due.  Sadly, those who will hurt the worst are probably the poorest.  While we are not poor by any means, in fact, I consider ourselves quite rich, we are finding our finances attacked by some dishonest person in the world.  My only thought comes from the scriptures, “God judge between me and thee, and reward thee according to thy deeds.”  (D&C 64:11).  (Look at that citation!  Finally I am feeling some more confidence in my grammar and punctuation.  What a great benefit to law school!)

Aeroplane squalls

I thought I would take an opportunity to voice a complaint.  I know it isn’t normally in my nature to complain, usually I try to give the benefit of the doubt or to press forward with the ‘can do’ attitude.  But since nobody else seems too concerned about it, I will air my concerns out where a few may agree.
What ever happened to service?  What happened to the customer, the consumer holding a special place for businesses?  It seems somewhere the status quo, business as usual, and possibly profits have taken over.
Two weeks ago I took a pickup in to have it serviced.  They told me it would be ready on Wednesday.  I returned on Wednesday to have them tell me that more work had to be done and I needed to authorize the work.  What happened to calling me to ask to authorize?  What happened to calling me to let me know the pickup would not be done?  I let it slide and authorized them to do the work.  They then told me it would be done on Friday.  I made it clear to them the truck had to be done first thing on Monday morning because I was supposed to drive it to Pasco, Washington for work.  Not only did I need to drive the truck, it would be left there so taking another vehicle was not an option.  Well, Friday arrived and I called in to make sure it was done, and I was assured the job was completed.  I drove in on Friday to pick it up and it wasn’t even out of the back of the shop yet, let alone completed!  Once again, I let my irritation slide, the changing of my plans, and the trip in to pick up the truck.  Remembering, this requires another person’s help to get a ride in to pick up the truck.  Monday rolls around and the truck is still not completed!  Nobody once again notified me, nobody told me anything.  Finally, Wednesday I pick up the truck, pay the bill, and head home.  My boss moved my trip to Pasco for the Monday after.
I then left my personal vehicle for a service.  The story goes on from there.  When I left my personal vehicle I made it very clear I would be in Pasco, Washington for the week and I would need to be notified if they had any problems or questions.  They said there would be no problem for my coming back the following week.  Well, today, I arrived to find my truck had been looked at but nothing had been done!  I was about ready to start swearing at the man!  He told me I had to authorize the work before it could be done because some gasket needed replaced.  I showed him right on the paper where it said I would be out of town and that I would need to be called.  I asked why I was not called.  He said he did not know.  I told him I had been dropped off and was taking my pickup with me.  I was not a pleased customer!  I drove out of the parking lot vowing I would never again do business of any type with Goode Motor in Burley or Rupert, Idaho.  They have forever lost my business.
In conversation afterward I found out my Dad has had the same problem.  He even notified the manager, Garth Williams of the issue.  I guess he took in his truck to be serviced and they started asking him a bunch of stupid questions.  The guy got huffy with him when Dad told him to go out and get the information from the truck.  After two episodes of this, Dad said he would never do business again with Goode Motor.  So all those who read, here are two customers who are highly unhappy with the business, especially with their service department.  They even gave Dad a coupon for service when he bought the truck and they would not honor the certificate later.  How is that for forging loyal customers.
That episode pretty much tainted the rest of my day for me.  Tonight I sat in the airport for my flight from Salt Lake City to Portland, Oregon.  Our flight was supposed to take off at 7:05 PM.  No, the flight was delayed.  Two hours later I finally board the plane.  Just to press the button on their customer service I went to the Southwest Airlines Ticket Counter and complained.  I told them there should be some reimbursement for my ordeal and they were putting me late.  I lied and said I was going to miss my business engagement.  They offered me their sympathies and basically wished me well.  I told them there was not point of going now and wanted a refund.  This request was denied with a document giving me a phone number to call my complaint.  You would think that customer service would be able to take care of a problem in the airport without my having to make a phone call to listen to some fake woman directing me.  What happened to honoring your word?  What happened to pleasing the customer?
Lastly, I completed McCullough’s 1776 this evening in my hours wait to board my delayed flight.  The discontent I noticed of poor service in the Ford dealership and in Southwest Airlines only turned into more rancor as I thought of what it was we fought for in the Revolutionary War.  We separated ourselves from Britain and fought a war for abuses less than what we currently face with our present government.  What is even more frustrating is the fact that we as Americans let business and government so dictate our lives.  Hey look, they are even going to give me $1,500 of my own money back and then want me to go spend it!  Well, geez, thanks for giving my own money back and then tell me what to do with it!

A good friend in a sad place, learn…

This is something I wanted to make more available for others to recognize what is going on.  I have taken out some of the personal parts of the e-mail.

Missin you as always and want to one day get together to have some more discussions about doctrine…
I am off to the Y in a month if I ever make it home from this adventure. Am writing from Sarajevo en route to Iran on a motorcycle.  Here is a copy and paste message about my last couple months but it is very sad so take a breath before you read on.
I have been doing an internship here in Brussels at Payoke (http://www.payoke.be/pages/eng/engindex.html its a small website as usually these organizations don’t even have websites; you don’t want to give the criminals too much info). I can only say that it has been one of the most eye opening, earth shattering, heart wrenching, and heart breaking experiences I have ever lived through. Trafficking in humans is such a sad phenomenon. Payoke guides the victims of trafficking down the road of recovery if such a thing is even possible after they have been found by the police. These victims are children, mothers, wives, teenage girls, and even men who have been sold for money and forced to work as prostitutes in either brothels under lock and key 24/7, work camps, or sweat shops right here in Brussels, Antwerp, Liege and smaller towns throughout Belgium. Bulgaria is a huge source country for girls right now as the trade has moved out of Albania and into Bulgaria. But the whole Eastern side of Europe, since the EU expanded, has been a major source for domestic labour and prostitution. Trafficking is a problem plaguing not only all of Europe but the rest of the world as well, though the problem is more well known here than it is in North America. We are about 5 years behind Europe. I can’t explain in an email just what a brutal and hopelessly sad story it is…You can’t help but almost cry at the end
of each day…These three cities have three major NGO’s that take all of the victims found throughout Belgium and tries to help them. As you can imagine, help is not always possible. Patsy, the founder of Payoke was once a member of the European parliament and was forced to go to work with 6 body guards, a bullet proof jacket, in a bullet proof car. I was in Strasbourg last week for the plenary and people still remember her and the entourage. She was making big waves in the community and cutting deep into the pockets of the traffickers. Living in precarious and dangerous circumstances is something that people in this line of work sometimes have to get used to. It’s crazy. The traffickers have no borders, only the bureaucrats and law enforcement trying to catch them do; which is, essentially, the good guys fighting the bad guys with their hands tied behind their back.
To give you an idea of just how current this phenomenon is…there is a girl in the shelter right now who only got lured into the despicable trade in April. She was at school in Romania and just finishing up high school. She is 18 and had a friend at her hair dressers tell her about making big money in the West. She followed the advice of the friend and followed the contact. When she crossed into Holland she had her passport confiscated by the pimp who bought her there where she was forced to have sex with him and his cousin within a week of leaving her home. That was in Amsterdam in May.  By June the brothel wasn’t making any money and she was forced to move to Brussels. Here she was found by accident in a police raid only two weeks ago.
It is a typical story. She is young, pretty, and naive. She thought gold hung on trees in the West. She was lucky. Some girls know they are going into prostitution but many don’t. People go missing and people turn up dead and when it comes to the victims…they are cheap property that can be easily eliminated.
Patsy, the head of Payoke, was the first person to tackle the problem of victims involved in the sex trade, starting her organization over 20 years ago. Society didn’t acknowledge the problem then and it took until 1994 for it to change when the King of Belgium personally came down to the shelter to endorse Patsy’s work and sign his full support behind Payoke. She has since been traveling to countries around the world explaining the problem of human trafficking to governments, law enforcement agencies, legal prosecutors, and NGO’s from America to Albania to Egypt.
She has given us free reign and access to her entire network of Judges, Police officials, prosecutors, politicians, NGO’s, and diplomats. She wanted our idealistic naive opinion as non experts in the field.
Call it fluke or call it something else that she got me and Anna (a girl from Montreal who thankfully speaks French) of the ten interns. Not too mention me and having my bike, I have access to places that most don’t. Anyways…I am preparing for a major conference on human trafficking next year at BYU so I am trying to learn all I can from the European perspective before I return home.
I’ll write more about this on the blog and give more information as to where you can learn about the problem. Suffice it to say that the world can be a nasty place and I am witnessing some of the worst of it. I will be off to some of the worst source countries for these girls in a couple days, Sofia, Bucharest etc. to see their red light districts and underground brothels for myself, I have some more NGO contacts to veer me in the right direction and hopefully keep me out of harms way. Tel Aviv is a major source country and destination country and so I am hoping to make
it there by mid August. Wish me luck .