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Don’t Do Anything Stupid - September 19, 2011 by admin

Don’t Do Anything Stupid

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By T.F. Stern, GSP

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Years ago, don’t think I’m supposed to start off a sentence like that; but years ago a few of my close friends at church would end the Sunday meeting block by saying to each other, “Don’t do anything stupid”.  We each knew how easy it was to make mistakes during the work week so we’d give this light hearted warning to each other.  The list of stupid things was wide open to our imagination; much like the scriptures that tell us to avoid sin, just be careful out there.

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This afternoon I called one of my old buddies to let him know he should have called this morning with that warning, “Don’t do anything stupid”.  He immediately broke into a deep laugh while asking, “Okay, Stern, What’d you do this time?”  I then told him and remarked that perfection had yet to grab hold of me as he continued to laugh at such a prospect.

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A Ford dealership called me out to make and program a set of keys for a 2001 Mustang which they had sitting on their entry drive.  The customer was waiting and a little upset that a Ford dealership couldn’t make the keys; but the car was ten years old and  Ford had already dumped the key codes.

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Once the mechanical key was completed and turned in the ignition to set up the programming of the new transponder keys it was determined the battery was dead.  Subsequent to hooking up a set of jumper cables from my truck the after market alarm kicked in; seems the alarm system had been going off for quite some time and drained the battery.  The customer didn’t have the clicker and the bypass switch didn’t shut the noise maker off while the programming took place, wonderful!

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The customer was present the whole time and watched as I explained how the old key (s) that were either lost of stolen would no longer be authorized or start that vehicle; she seemed relieved at hearing this information.  I then programmed the two new keys and demonstrated that they did indeed start the vehicle; the after market alarm sounding each time the key was turned.  I advised her to take the vehicle to where the after market alarm had been installed to acquire another clicker; but she said it had come with the car when she bought it and didn’t know where the alarm had been installed, believing it was a Ford alarm system.

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I told her that she could cut the wire going to the sounding horn and still drive the car; but it would be better in the long run to have the after market alarm system removed.  I handed the bill to the service writer and got my purchase order.

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About half an hour later I got a call, “Who’d you give the keys to”?   I’d made sure Not to hand the keys to the lady who owned the car; my customer was the Ford dealership service people, the folks who were paying me.  A sinking feeling came over me as I realized the keys were in my pocket and I’d driven ten miles across town.  After all these years of training myself to make sure the customer handled the keys last, make sure they felt the key turn in the lock, make sure they liked the job; I still screwed up.

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Eating Humble Pie once in a while is healthy for mortals; just wish I didn’t get to eat it quite so often.  I suppose I should be grateful, could have been a lot worse; the customer might not have accepted my sincere apology for having done something dumb.  Here’s the message, “Don’t do anything stupid”, isn’t a one time reminder.

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This article has been cross posted to The Moral Liberal, a publication whose banner reads, “Defending The Judeo-Christian Ethic, Limited Government, & The American Constitution”.  It was originally posted to T F Stern’s Rantings, a blog which has been up and running since January of 2005.

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There is nothing like a DAME - July 25, 2011 by admin

There is nothing like a DAME

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By T.F. Stern  GSP

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Stealing a line from the hit show, South Pacific, seemed like an appropriate way to start today’s article. Far from home in the middle of the war thousands of men reminded of the fact…

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“…There are no books like a dame,
And nothin’ looks like a dame.
There are no drinks like a dame,
And nothin’ thinks like a dame,
Nothin’ acts like a dame,
Or attracts like a dame.
There ain’t a thing that’s wrong with any man here
That can’t be cured by pullin’ him near
A girly, womanly, female, feminine dame!

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But that’s not what the article is about; sorry to have led you down the garden path. This past weekend the Greater Houston Locksmith Association (GHLA) had Harry Sher down to teach an eight hour DAME class. DAME is the acronym for Defense Against Methods of Entry. The class covered areas of the industry which I seldom if ever venture into, my being an automotive specialist. I needed eight more hours before the end of August to keep my locksmith license up to date; don’t get me started on mandated continuing education .

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Harry Sher’s been a locksmith since the 50’s and has forgotten more about locks than I’ll ever know; not that he’s forgotten much. His presentation was fast moving as he showed how to defeat one lock system after another using sophisticated audio visual tools which were all linked to his laptop computer. Some of the tools looked like they’d fit in a James Bond movie, real “Holy Crap! You mean someone actually makes a tool that can do that?”, kind of stuff.

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At the half way mark, when it was time to go for lunch, Harry wanted to make sure the building would be locked up; all that fancy equipment being left with nobody to watch over it. I turned to the locksmith sitting next to me and laughed out loud, “Yea, like that’s gonna’ stop anyone”; having observed Harry defeat every lock on display.

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Here’s the message, don’t bother locking your door, file cabinet, safe deposit box or safe. If Harry wants in they won’t do any good. I watched him defeat a UL listed lock in 20 seconds; UL listing means it’s supposed to resist picking or manipulation for at least 15 minutes. As for the rest of us, regular everyday locksmiths it might take “a while” longer; but there isn’t a lock made that can’t be defeated.

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Rest easy, the average thief hasn’t got the smarts to use techniques Harry Sher referenced in his DAME class; for that matter, very few locksmiths could claim to be as proficient.

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“There is nothin’ like a dame,
Nothin’ in the world,
There is nothin’ you can name
That is anythin’ like a dame!”

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This article has been cross posted to The Moral Liberal, a publication whose banner reads, “Defending The Judeo-Christian Ethic, Limited Government, & The American Constitution”.  It was originally posted to T F Stern’s Rantings, a blog which has been up and running since January of 2005.

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An Open Letter to the Locksmith Industry - June 22, 2011 by admin

An Open Letter to the Locksmith Industry

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By T.F. Stern, GSP

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June 21, 2011

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Texas Department of Public Safety

Private Security Board
6100 Guadalupe, Building E
Criminal Law Enforcement Building
Austin, Texas 78752

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Subject: Locksmith License Renewal Requirements

An Open Letter to the Locksmith Industry

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Honorable John E. Chism, Honorable Howard H. Johnsen, Honorable Mark L. Smith,

Honorable Albert L. Black, Honorable Charles E. Crenshaw, Honorable Brian England,

Honorable Doris F. Washington

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Hopefully you will appreciate the efforts within this correspondence, efforts to contain my contempt for most everything done by the DPS/PSB; well intentioned attempts to “safeguard” society from unscrupulous or improperly equipped locksmiths. In the past letters sent to the DPS/PSB have gone unanswered; almost as if the concerns of an individual locksmith had little if any importance or weight in formulating rules and regulations which govern the locksmith industry.

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“Most of the major ills of the world have been caused by well meaning people who ignored the principle of individual freedom, except as applied to themselves, and who were obsessed with fanatical zeal to improve the lot of mankind-in-the-mass through some pet formula of their own…the harm done by ordinary criminals, murderers, gangsters, and thieves is negligible in comparison with the agony inflicted upon human beings by the professional ‘do-gooders,’ who attempt to set themselves up as gods on earth and who would ruthlessly force their views on all others.” (Henry Grady Weaver, The Mainspring of Human Progress pg 40-41)

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My locksmith license (B12254) comes up for renewal in September, a license which is mandated by the State of Texas in order to do business in what used to be a free market system. Licensing will remain, water under the bridge; the legislature determined licenses were needed to safe guard the citizenry from unscrupulous or improperly equipped locksmiths. They left the nuts and bolts of how to implement that legislation to the DPS/PSB; the term for such transfers of power actually has a name, the Intelligible Principle .

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According to a Supreme Court ruling made by Chief Justice John Marshall many years ago such shifting of authority is constitutional under certain guidelines which have become blurred to the point of irrelevance.

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“Marshall explained: If Congress delegates quasi-legislative powers to another body, it must provide a “general provision” by which “those who act” can “fill up the details.” In other words, Congress cannot give an outside agency a free hand to make law, but it can authorize the agency to flesh out the particulars of a law Congress has already shaped.”

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{…}

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“Not surprisingly, with such open-ended authority, the power and discretion of agencies expanded rapidly. In recent years, the Court has refused to limit agency power whenever the statute is silent or ambiguous on delegation and the agency’s regulations are based on a “permissible” interpretation of the statute. In practice, the vast majority of regulations are now deemed permissible.”

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This does not erase the issue of government having usurped authority in the Utopian desire to protect the general citizenry at the expense of individual constitutional rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is not the purpose of government to sacrifice individual God given rights in the name of public safety; to do so turns individual citizens into subjects of the state.

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Members of the DPS/PSB are charged with coming up with rules and regulations for the security industry. Locksmiths by virtue of carefully worded language are included; their every activity defined. Locksmiths were conscripted; forced to abandon what had been a free market system. Acknowledging duties which are assigned to the board, I must remind you all that government here in America answers to the people; not the other way around.

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“Each of us has a natural right – from God – to defend his person, his liberty, and his property. These are the three basic requirements of life, and the preservation of any one of them is completely dependent upon the preservation of the other two. For what are our faculties but the extension of our individuality? And what is property but and extension of our faculties?” (Frederic Bastiat, The Law, p.6) (emphasis added)

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“Since God created man with certain unalienable rights, and man, in turn, created government to help secure and safeguard those rights, it follows that man is superior to the creature which he created. Man is superior to government and should remain master over it, not the other way around. Even the non-believer can appreciate the logic of this relationship.” (Ezra Taft Benson, The Proper Role of Government)

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Benson added:

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“The important thing to keep in mind is that the people who have created their government can give to that government only such powers as they, themselves, have in the first place. Obviously, they cannot give that which they do not possess. So, the question boils down to this. What powers properly belong to each and every person in the absence of and prior to the establishment of any organized governmental form?”

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The State of Texas, or any other state in America has no powers except those granted by its citizenry; this is at the very heart of today’s correspondence with you, the DPS/PSB. You each have the responsibility to carefully consider the consequences of each and every rule or regulation imposed on individual members of the locksmith industry or the security industry as a whole.

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According to the rules and regulations mandated by the DPS/PSB each licensed locksmith must re-qualify via continuing education credits in order to maintain the ability to work in his/her chosen field. By licensed locksmith I’m referring only to individuals who have already presented themselves before the State of Texas, provided sufficient proof of integrity or standing in the community, passed criminal background checks and have a track record of serving the public in a professional manner.

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The rules are all encompassing and do not take into consideration a number of pertinent factors. These rules presume that all locksmiths are interested in addressing a wide range of security related fields or that each locksmith intends to move forward and expand upon his/her skills in order to stay current with changes in the industry. By writing mandates around such presumptive goals the DPS/PSB has marginalized a portion of legitimate locksmiths.

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At one time I was a general purpose locksmith; involved in safe installation, putting in dead bolts, rekeying residential structures, master keying industrial structures and picking up automotive locksmith work too. Over the years I found I had little desire to work on anything other than automotive locks and refer customers to other qualified locksmiths when they desire work on anything other than automotive.

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Does this in any way diminish my being a qualified locksmith? The answer is no; but when looking for continuing education credit courses the list is insulting at best. I can pay $150.00 to take an 8 hour “hands on” class offered by one of my competitors through the Greater Houston Locksmith Association where I’m a member in good standing. It would cost me one day of work in my own business. The State authorized instructor, Stacy Hetchler, is a great automotive locksmith; but it’s insulting for the State of Texas to have a journeyman locksmith take basic automotive classes simply to meet the mandates of the DPS/PSB.

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I did notice some classes offered by Elite On Line services, “Automotive Key Generation – Ford Vehicles”, “Automotive Key Generation GM Vehicles (1- 8)” and “Tips and Tricks for Automotive Locksmithing (1 – 5)”. Here’s the course outline for the Ford class which would give me 2 credit hours to my now mandated 16 hours.

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“This is the first in Elite CEU’s Automotive Key Generation series. This two hour video course focuses solely on Ford automobiles for the benefit of all technicians, salespeople, and managers within the security and low voltage industry, but is especially geared for those in the locksmith industry. By addressing the specifics of key and security issues with Ford vehicles we will cover valuable ways to becoming more proficient and profitable with the car locksmith and security business. Real-world examples will be demonstrated which will allow you to see firsthand the do’s and don’ts in how to deal with Ford vehicles.”

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Pardon my saying so; but I’ve been an automotive locksmith specialist for the past 35 years and either I’ve learned it by now or never will. I make keys for a variety of cars; some which require transponder technology, others which might be considered antiques by today’s standards. I don’t wish to work on certain vehicles, either I didn’t invest in the expensive transponder program for that vehicle or otherwise have no inclination; those vehicles I refer to other qualified locksmiths. The State of Texas has no business dictating what avenues of locksmith work I need to “brush up on” or expand my level of proficiency, such issues are strictly between the locksmith and the customer.

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There is no consideration in the rules and regulations for experience gained over a lifetime. It must be the assumption of the DPS/PSB that locksmiths have little if any ability to remember from year to year the tricks of the trade, all those tasks which he/she use on a daily basis. Why else would there be an all encompassing mandate for basic skills, continuing education courses which do nothing other than add to the cost of doing business.

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An argument has been presented that “professional” locksmiths would want to constantly improve their skills in order to provide the highest level of service to the community; a fine suggestion, a repressive mandate. Do you on the board see the difference between a suggestion and a mandate?

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In my particular business I carefully weigh the benefits of purchasing expensive automotive key program updates against the likelihood of getting my investment back. Why learn to work on a vehicle that you might see only once or twice a year?  On some cars the best answer is, “That’s a dealer only item”; which means I don’t know other locksmiths dumb enough to open that can of worms either.

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The public has been offered an empty promise of “security” by virtue of locksmiths having a State issued license along with mandated continuing education; however it is reprehensible for the state to restrict legitimate business or free trade by imposing Lilliputian standards on an individual’s constitutional rights. It is one thing for a trade organization to impose minimum requirements for membership; yet another for the state to limit an individual’s ability to earn a living.

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Not too long ago (about a year) the President of the Texas Locksmith Association stood before the board and suggested the DPS/PSB increase the number of mandatory continuing education credit hours from 8 to 16; that suggestion was turned into a mandate. I sent a letter to the board expressing my opinion; a letter which either never was read or not considered important enough to reply to.

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I respect other locksmith’s desire to improve the public’s perception of the industry. If the President of the Texas Locksmith Association wishes to require additional standards for membership in that organization so be it; however, as an independent business owner/operator in the locksmith business his opinion is left at the door upon entering my business as is the State of Texas DPS/PSB. My skills and services are the sole concern of my customers; not my competitors and certainly not the State of Texas.

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At the risk of being redundant, Ezra Taft Benson pin pointed the argument best:

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“The important thing to keep in mind is that the people who have created their government can give to that government only such powers as they, themselves, have in the first place. Obviously, they cannot give that which they do not possess. So, the question boils down to this. What powers properly belong to each and every person in the absence of and prior to the establishment of any organized governmental form?”

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The DPS/PSB does not have any inherent powers, only those powers which have been given the board by the citizenry. The DPS/PSB may not over ride individual inalienable rights through the “will of the people” as expressed by a majority or any appointed representative of a recognized professional organization, regardless of their numbers.

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Simply put, if the President of the Texas Locksmith Association knocked on my door and demanded I start using Brand X, take a refresher course in master keying or began measuring the size of letters and numbers at my shop I’d laugh at him just prior to throwing him out into the gutter. He is free to run his locksmith business any way he likes or even require members in TLA to follow his guidelines; past that he has no authority or power.

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In our carefully structured society, a society dependent on the rule of law and individual protections afforded under our constitutional government, individuals, not government agencies determine the daily conduct of commerce.

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In closing I’ll leave you with one more quote from Bastiat, a more civilized string of words than I was tempted to address the DPS/PSB; but quite to the point.

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“Ah, you miserable creatures! You who think that you are so great! You who judge humanity to be so small! You who wish to reform everything! Why don’t you reform yourselves? That task would be sufficient enough.” From Frederic Bastiat’s, “The Law.” We need more of his righteous indignation at the socialistic egotists who want to rule us all.”

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T. F. Stern
T. F. Stern & Company
15707 Autumnbrook Drive
Houston, Texas 77068

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This article has been cross posted to The Moral Liberal, a publication whose banner reads, “Defending The Judeo-Christian Ethic, Limited Government, & The American Constitution”.  It was originally posted to T F Stern’s Rantings, a blog which has been up and running since January of 2005.

“X” Marks the Spot - May 9, 2011 by admin

“X” Marks the Spot

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By T.F. Stern, GSP

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Have you ever had trouble finding where a car manufacturer hid the computer port so you could hook up and program a key?  You young locksmiths might not find it difficult to get a good look under the dashboard; but some of us old timers have a real time of it looking into the shadows.

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Advanced Diagnostics sent a PDF file containing the most complete and useful information on finding those pesky sockets.  This showed up in my email:

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“Dear Customers
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Advanced Diagnostics are pleased to announce the release of the AD5 Diagnostic Socket Locator Book.
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This new book is free to download from our web site, and will be updated periodically with new models as they are found.
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Please feel free to send this book and link to your friends and colleagues who may find this book useful.
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http://www.advanced-diagnostics.co.uk/pdf/Master%20Diagnostic%20Sockets.pdf
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Thank you
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The Advanced Diagnostics Team”

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I recommend downloading this file and saving it for future reference.  When looking for treasure, “X” Marks the Spot; information like this is worth its weight in gold.

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Purchasing Key Codes - April 17, 2011 by admin

Purchasing Key Codes

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By T.F. Stern, GSP

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Having been in the locksmith business for 35 years I’ve seen a few changes; obtaining key codes and related PIN codes is on the list.  If this were a Star Wars movie it would have started, “In a Galaxy Far, Far Away…” with letters floating off into the void of space; but instead I’ll offer up a bit of history.

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At one time locksmiths could obtain key codes via a number of avenues.  If the folks at the local car dealership parts counter knew you it was easy; show them the VIN and in a matter of seconds they gave you the information along with a hand shake.

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Things changed and locksmiths had to call a variety of “1-800-Numbers” depending on the make of vehicle.  (That is not a valid phone number to my knowledge so please don’t jot it down; you might end up talking with a personal phone sex goddess who wants your Master Card)  If you had a track record as a “preferred locksmith” with a given vehicle manufacturer the phone clerk would look up the VIN and tell you the answer; all you had to do at that point was say, “Thank You”.

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Somewhere along the line a few rotten apples took advantage of the system and obtained codes for vehicles they had no business making keys for; thieves or agents of repossessions were at the top of that list.  I remember obtaining codes from GM and being told that codes could not be given for vehicles being repossessed.

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I should explain my personal opinion of car repossession is considerably different than the stiff necked approach taken by others.  The “rightful owner”, that being banks, lenders, car lots and dealership or person holding the actual clear title should be able to obtain a key if the “borrowing agent”, that person using the vehicle fails to pay up. “Repo agents” may not wear suits and ties; but they are not thieves, or at least none of the ones I work with are.

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Locksmiths were forced to become familiar with car dealership parts counter folks once more; only most had to be done in person rather than over the phone and in most cases some form of payment was made, either with a receipt or under the table cash payments.

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A couple of years ago, it might have been more; somebody came up with the idea of a centralized data base for locksmiths who wanted to obtain key codes.  For a nominal fee the locksmith could call in or email  information to get key code information.  The down side, at least from what I’d heard; often the locksmith had to wait a considerable amount of time before getting the information.  Most locksmiths worth their salt could have done the job “the hard way” in much less time so this wasn’t very practical for “real” locksmiths; “wannabe” locksmiths may have signed up since most of them couldn’t cut a key without having a key code.

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Jump forward to the present and along comes the National Automotive Service Task Force (NASTF).  This group put it all together, Ford, Nissan, Toyota, GM along with other major vehicle manufacturers.  Their masthead reads:

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“The National Automotive Service Task Force is a not-for-profit, no-dues task force established to facilitate the identification and correction of gaps in the availability and accessibility of automotive service information, service training, diagnostic tools and equipment, and communications for the benefit of automotive service professionals. NASTF is a voluntary, cooperative effort among the automotive service industry, the equipment and tool industry, and automotive manufacturers.”

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The whole thing is run by the Associated Locksmiths of America (ALOA) and has some interesting steps prior to ever obtaining a key code.  Locksmiths must apply for membership with NASTF along with a fairly hefty “sign-up fee”; I think it was $250 for the first two years, so much for that part about “no-dues”.    It took NASTF about a month to process my paperwork because they were short handed.  I noticed the only staff member working on NASTF was also an ALOA representative; that may have changed since GM made it a policy to refuse key code information to locksmiths.

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Once approved by NASTF each locksmith is assigned a User name and Password which is then used to apply to each individual car manufacturer for use on their respective websites.  All correspondence is carried out via the internet and at no time does the locksmith talk to an individual to obtain key codes.  All billing is done with a charge card; however, each individual key code request requires filling in the blanks about the charge card as there is no long term billing set up in advance.

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Being a frugal locksmith I’d avoided the monthly fee for mobile internet connectivity all this time.  That ended last month when I got a 4G “thing-a-ma-bob” that plugs into a USB port on my laptop.  The fellow at the store tried to get me hooked up with a modern cellular phone, one of those fancy “jobbies” that takes pictures, has “Apps” and parks your service truck automatically.  (See Old Dog in dictionary).  My kids all have these fancy gizmos and delight in showing off what they can do; sorry, my phone is just for making or receiving phone calls.

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I do a lot of GM work so the first manufacturer on my list was GM.  I’m not going to say I’m lazy; it’s time efficient to obtain a code rather than figure out the cuts some other way.  I love “Easy Readers” or the very similar competitor’s device; however, on the newer  “Z” key ways I’m not as proficient as I’d like to be; getting a code often times is quick and almost painless.

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I’d set up my account with GM while at the office so it would make things easier the first time out in the field.  Sure enough, a couple of days later I had an opportunity to use the service on a Cavalier that was giving me different “reads” each time I used my Easy Reader.  I learned something very important that day; GM’s connection requires the use of Internet Explorer, it won’t let you get past the first page when using Firefox.

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I didn’t know that at the time and was getting frustrated.  Since it was Saturday there were no folks answering the 1-800 “help-line” number.  Eventually I figured out the key combination; wasted a couple of key blanks only to discover a wafer had been sticking, it happens to the best of us.  You have to use Internet Explorer.

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On the GM page there’s a warning that lets the locksmith know you have 60 seconds to enter the VIN information or the screen goes blank and make you start over.  I set up a special Word document that sits on my start up screen next to all the other icons.  Before I ever connect with the internet I fill in the VIN so I can “Control C/Control V” the required data.  I also have my credit card information ready in the same manner; 60 seconds goes by really fast.  (Don’t know why the window of opportunity is so slim; these folks never had to work outside in the elements; bright sun on the computer monitor, wind, dust, rain and laptop keyboards).

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Once all the information has been sent you get the key code immediately; write it down as soon as it hits the monitor screen because, like I said, 60 seconds later it’s gone.  A copy of the billing will be sent to your email address along with a transaction reference number.  GM codes are $25 plus tax, a bit more pricey than what I was accustomed to when I dealing with parts counter staff; but still within reason considering how much time is saved if you’re having trouble with a read.  I’ve yet to use any other service other than GM; but I’m told it’s about the same for any participating manufacturers.

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One last issue, documentation of each transaction.  NASTF requires an accountability form, similar to the form most locksmiths should be filling out any time a key is generated.  I had a short accountability form embedded on my work orders; short, sweet and to the point.   The NASTF form has to be filled out and kept on file; the half life time of NASTF forms is similar to that of Uranium, keep them handy just in case they ever ask for proof you’re following the rules.   (click on form to see full size)

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“Comment Awaiting Approval” - March 23, 2011 by admin

“Comment Awaiting Approval”

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By T.F. Stern, GSP

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It’s been several months since Fiercely Independent Locksmiths of America’s website has been up and running and I’m still learning how to “operate” in the capacity of Administrator.  I’ve been “Chief, cook, bottle washer and I take out the trash” for years in my own business; but Administrator of FILOA was a new job which is just now settling on me.

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A while ago I went to the Comment Section to put an exclamation mark to the last article.  In the process, I noticed a line at the bottom of the screen, “pending approval”.   It dawned on me, comments sent to FILOA needed to be approved by me, the Administrator.  I had to Log In and learn out how to accomplish the task of editing any and all comments.

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I found nearly 50 “pending” comments to various articles which had been put on hold since the Administrator (me) had yet to learn his job.  A good portion of the comments were spam related; learn how to grow a larger penis, vacation at some time share property in Southeast Asia, see beautiful naked women in your area and other similar intrusions.

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There were several comments which actually had to do with the subjects presented; gratifying remarks from folks who happened upon our site.  I made it a point to approve those comments which should now be visible to anyone else stumbling upon FILOA.

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A reminder to locksmiths, amateur or professional, FILOA has an open invitation for short stories and technical articles suitable for publication here.  Be sure to include a photograph (150 X 150 pixels) along with your name so credit may be assigned to these articles.  Technical articles, submitted by FILOA Members, which appear in the Members Only Section are eligible for payment rewards based on quality and availability of funds (FILOA had $340.00 in operating funds left in the bank at year end after all expenses were paid; a minor miracle if ever there was one).

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An Open Letter to All Locksmiths - March 22, 2011 by admin

An Open Letter to all locksmiths regarding Proposed Texas Legislation HB2577 , SB1400 and HB1867

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I read the introductory line regarding proposed legislation on the GHLA website and have to wonder why, “It is important that we work cooperatively to get our industry omnibus bill passed without to many changes.” For all practical purposes SB1400 and HB1867 make no significant changes to the licensing of locksmiths and act only as a continuation of what is already on the books; unless you wish to spotlight the addition of a single licensed locksmith to the 9 member board of DPS/PSB.
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HB2577 is a round about way of making it a crime for anyone other than a licensed locksmith to own or produce specialty tools of our trade when used with criminal intent. I’d say this was really dumb since criminal intent must be established in concert with some other crime committed and would already be covered under criminal law. What HB2577 does is establish yet another violation of civil rights by implying criminal intent by virtue of ownership or production of specialty tools associated with the locksmith industry, as if (licensed) locksmiths had exclusive proprietary right to these items.
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I’ve written many articles regarding the licensing of locksmiths and the associated loss of God given rights through well meaning legislative efforts instigated by and through ALOA, TLA and GHLA. What many of my fellow locksmiths fail to recognize is the fine line between membership requirements in those fine organizations and the necessary separation of thought and action when it comes to defining laws which restrict any individual’s movement within the free market system.
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I’ll offer some lines from H. Verlan Andersen’s book, Many are Called, But Few are Chosen. This book is available on line in its entirety and I often quote from it in my own writings; having been given permission from the publisher. Chapter 7, is titled, Acts of Government Which Constitute an Exercise of Unrighteous Dominion and is the source of the following quotes:
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“Another questionable but extremely common practice is to use the police power to give ourselves monopolistic protection against competitors. This would be called a criminal conspiracy and branded as extortion if forcibly engaged in without government protection and approval.”
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“Today in the United States, monopoly protection is afforded by the police power in nearly every line of economic activity: in the professions and trades; in transportation and communication; in agriculture and labor; in finance, banking, and many other lines. How does this vast system of government enforced monopolies stand the conscience test and the application of the Golden Rule?”

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Isn’t this exactly what locksmith licensing is guilty of? Are we not attempting to limit competition through Lilliputian mandates? While it is not my style to preach; I’ll make an exception and include a rather lengthy quote from this same chapter:
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“Men use a variety of arguments to justify the use of the police power to restrict competition. Some claim there is over-production of the commodities or services they are offering. When one considers the millions who are classified as paupers in every nation on earth with death and want in many places, how can it be asserted that there is an oversupply of any form of organized wealth? True, there are raw materials, and energy in abundance but man’s desire for the finished product is insatiable and always exceeds the supply.
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Still others argue that open competition in their field should be prohibited because, if this were not done, the unlearned, the unskilled, and the inexperienced would be serving the public. But this argument assumes it is possible to classify men into two groups—the qualified and the unqualified. Is this assumption valid? (emphasis added)
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Let us investigate this matter by first observing that no one is perfect. There never was and there never will be a professional or business man who could not benefit from more knowledge, training, experience, skill, and better facilities with which to serve the public. This fact must be faced: there are not two groups of men—the qualified and the unqualified; there is only one group and every member of it is unqualified to some extent.
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This being true, the only choice open is between varying degrees of incompetence, inexperience, and ignorance. Now is there a man living who can honestly claim that he is able to make a division of this group, confer special privileges on one segment which are denied to the other, and still be fair to everyone? What rational basis exists for determining where the line should be drawn? How much training or experience should be required before permitting a person to offer his services to the public—6 weeks, 6 months, 6 years, or double one of these periods? It is impossible for men to reach agreement on this problem or for any person to say with certainty he is right in his opinion and all who disagree are wrong.
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It is also impossible to reach agreement on who should be given the power to set up the qualifications for engaging in a given economic activity and force their views on all others. Some may contend that those already engaged in the profession, trade, or business should have this privilege. Others would confer the power upon some agency of government. Still others contend that the matter should be settled by majority vote.
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Since all men are to a greater or lesser extent unqualified to serve the public, and since it is impossible to find a fair or a logical basis for making a division of the unqualified, and since it is also impossible to reach agreement on who should be given the power to confer special privileges on some which are denied to others, why not leave the decision to the only person who has a moral right to make it—the one who is paying the bill? Why not adopt a policy which allows every member of the consuming public to decide for himself how much education, experience, facilities, etc. are necessary to engage in a profession or a business? No one can devise a more equitable method than this.
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If those who hold themselves out to serve the public misrepresent the extent of their training and experience or otherwise act in a criminal manner, they should be punished for such wrongdoing by the police power. One form of punishment might be to deny them the privilege of engaging in such activities for a specified period of time. Also, if they perform their work negligently and cause injury, they may be held liable to those who have suffered damage.
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But why should we prejudge them? Why should we impose prior restraints and threaten them with jail or fine for even attempting to serve the public in their chosen field? They may do much good and no harm. Their services may be needed.
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If those who consider themselves better trained than others desire to form an exclusive professional group and limit membership to applicants who have met certain minimum requirements, this should be their privilege and no one should interfere with it. Furthermore, if they desire to inform the public as to whom they consider qualified to engage in a given profession, trade, or business, this basic right should be protected.
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But to give one partially qualified group (or their government agents) the power to forcibly prevent those they consider less qualified from competing is rank discrimination and an abuse of the power of government. (emphasis added)
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D&C 134:5 tells us very plainly that, the civil magistrate should restrain crime, but never suppress the freedom of the soul. It is a direct violation of this scripture for us to direct our agents in government to punish our fellow men for engaging in perfectly legitimate business or professional activities. We do not restrain crime or punish guilt when we do this, but we do suppress the freedom of the soul.
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When we use the police power to prevent our fellow men from buying goods and services from whomsoever they desire we are treating them as children or mental incompetents who are unable to make their own decisions. We are either prohibiting them from purchasing a desired commodity or service or compelling them to trade with someone they would not have patronized had we allowed them their freedom in the matter.
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When we direct our bureaucratic servants to forcibly prevent a farmer from raising certain crops on his own land; when we deny the youth who emerge from our schools the right to work at any trade, business, or profession they desire without first getting the exact amount of training we have decreed and obtaining the express consent of our government agents; when we substitute our own judgment for that of our fellow men and threaten them with a loss of their life, liberty, or property if they engage in perfectly legitimate economic pursuits except in accordance with rules we have laid down, we have clearly done things which we would consider highly immoral if done outside the framework of government.
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How can we bring ourselves to do these things to one another? Are we deceiving ourselves as to the real reason behind our actions? Could it be that instead of fearing overproduction of the goods or services we offer for sale, we really are trying to create a scarcity so that we can enrich ourselves with the higher prices restrictive legislation permits us to charge?
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Is it possible that, instead of fearing that some untrained novice will injure society by offering inferior services, we are really using the force of law to create an exclusive class of citizens to which only a select few may belong? With these questions in mind let us consider the following scripture: (emphasis added)
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Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen? Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness. (D&C 121:34-36)
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We might also ask ourselves if, when we forcibly prevent the buying public from patronizing anyone they desire, we are not proving the accuracy of the following judgment and penalty pronounced by the Lord upon men in general:
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We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.
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Hence, many are called, but few are chosen. (D&C 121:39-40)”

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If, after having been given the information just shared, you or anyone can justify support for the proposed legislation mentioned above, or for that matter, support legislation which has already been imposed on the locksmith industry I would ask, “How?”
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We are responsible for all we do in mortality and our actions follow us into eternity. Could we look up at our Lord, when faced with our actions at the Great Bar of Justice, and say that we took his admonitions seriously, that we acted in the spirit of our founding principles? We live in a nation which acknowledged our Creator as having established inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all individuals and yet it has been the agenda of the ALOA, TLA and GHLA to destroy these God given rights, all in the name of a more professional locksmith industry, using police powers of the State to limit God given rights as if by doing so Utopia would be guaranteed and citizens would automatically be safer.
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I have no problem with any of these organizations raising the bar for membership and consider it an honor to be a member of GHLA; however, I stand firmly against them when they attempt to enlist police powers of the State, unrighteous dominion on any individual citizen, through licensing with its accompanying strangle hold of rules and regulations. I will continue to expose locksmith licensing as a malignant cancer which has its origins on the opposite side of liberty.
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T.F. Stern, GSP
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This article was originally posted to T F Stern’s Rantings, a blog which has been up and running since January of 2005.

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A Mountain of Words - March 6, 2011 by admin

A Mountain of Words

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By T.F. Stern, GSP

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The Declaration of Independence offers a starting point, a glimpse of liberty and all its transient meanings. Our basic structure of government is based on the acceptance; change that, demands the acceptance of a separation between natural rights of individuals and powers granted to their government.

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“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the governed…”

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If we are to accept the premise that rights exist outside of and prior to the formation of government, whether they be “natural” or of God, then the origin of an individual’s rights are of no consequence for the purpose of this exercise. It is not my intention to proselytize anyone into a belief in God, a Supreme Being or religion in general; however, such is not required to accept the premise that individual rights exist and have existed without government.

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Governments are, in fact, created to protect individual rights; not the other way around. You don’t have to take my word for it; others have stated this premise as captured in Ezra Taft Benson’s talk, The Proper Role of Government .

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“It is generally agreed that the most important single function of government is to secure the rights and freedoms of individual citizens. But, what are those right(s)? And what is their source? Until these questions are answered there is little likelihood that we can correctly determine how government can best secure them.

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Thomas Paine, back in the days of the American Revolution, explained that:

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“Rights are not gifts from one man to another, nor from one class of men to another… It is impossible to discover any origin of rights otherwise than in the origin of man; it consequently follows that rights appertain to man in right of his existence, and must therefore be equal to every man.” (P.P.N.S., p. 134)

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The great Thomas Jefferson asked:

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“Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath?” (Works 8:404; P.P.N.S., p.141)

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You might wonder where this is going; I’m about to tell you. The mailman left this month’s copy of Locked-In, a publication of the Greater Houston Locksmith Association (GHLA), of which I’m a member. There was an article, Report from January 5, 2011 TDPS-PSB Board Meeting, by Bonnie Brown Morse. (You might recall Bonnie Brown Morse as the instructor of a State mandated Ethics class I attended and then wrote about in June of 2006 ). Items listed went on to mention several changes in the bureaucracy which governs the security industry, and in turn, locksmiths.

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Stop right there! It is important to understand the purpose of the “security industry, and in turn locksmiths”. This industry works in harmony with our founding document, The Declaration of Independence.

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“…That to secure these rights…”

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What does that mean; after all it’s important enough to have been included from the get go among a people desiring to protect their God given right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness (property with all its many variations). I find it appealing in a most satisfactory way to be involved in securing the rights of other individuals by virtue of my acquired abilities.

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The reason folks put locks on things is to protect against those who would deprive them of those properties. You’ll find locks on most anything you can imagine; houses, cars, refrigerators or foot lockers. In this age of information there are electronic “locks” to prevent unauthorized access to computers and digital files. In antiquity locks were used to secure chastity; perhaps more than their hearts were broken.

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In any case, an industry was established to “secure” rightful owners/users their property. Tradesmen or professionals installed gadgets or were called to restore their use in the event the previously installed gadget no longer functioned properly or needed to be reset for the rightful owner of his/her property. (This is covered in my yet to be written book, This is a Lock – This is a Key).

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Getting back to the GHLA report and the proceedings of the Texas Department of Public Safety- Private Security Bureau (TDPS-PSB), which used to be simply the DPS-PSB; another name change was instituted. If I got this down properly, the PSB is now to be called the RSD, Regulatory Services Division and includes staff for Licensing & Registration along with Compliance & Enforcement sections. (If this were the television show Dragnet, “…only the names were changed to protect the innocent”)

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But that isn’t what started this mountain of words; there’s a paragraph dedicated to Amendment 35.311 “Exemptions”, which passed.

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“(This change allows employees of repossession agents to provide a number of locksmith services without TDPS-security oversight.) ref 1702.324 (b)(3).”

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In plain English, some folks can do exactly what I do without being forced to apply for a locksmith license, take mandatory continuing education courses or any of the Lilliputian bureaucratic impositions. It means locksmiths are not equal citizens; but have been demoted to subjects of the state by virtue of their named trade or profession. What was it Thomas Paine said?

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“…it consequently follows that rights appertain to man in right of his existence, and must therefore be equal to every man.”

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Some are more equal than others in a corrupted government; isn’t that how it works? The rightful owner of property is not limited to which tradesman restores his/her property, either a licensed locksmith or an unlicensed repossession agency; why is that if they both perform the same level of skill?

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I’m not arguing in favor of having TDPS license repossession agents; not at all and in fact, just the opposite. I’m pointing out the singularly repugnant situation of having an arm of government impose unrighteous dominion over an entire industry.

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Again, let’s get back to our founding principles.

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“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…”

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If we accept the premise that individuals have the right to the pursuit of Happiness, which includes the concept of private property, then it must also be established that individuals have the right to adequately protect or secure that property.

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This principle was clearly explained by Bastiat:

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“Each of us has a natural right – from God – to defend his person, his liberty, and his property. These are the three basic requirements of life, and the preservation of any one of them is completely dependent upon the preservation of the other two. For what are our faculties but the extension of our individuality? And what is property but and extension of our faculties?” (The Law, p.6)

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To argue against this premise is foolish unless we are to toss our entire system of self rule down the toilet. The Texas Department of Public Safety has defined that recovery and restoration of property for a rightful owner by the use of locksmith skills is not a threat to the safety or well being of our citizens or it would not have been part of the “Exemption” listed in Amendment 35.311. By so defining this particular legal act as applied by one citizen the TDPS, by their own admission, is guilty of denying free movement in our society to locksmiths who perform the same or similar tasks.

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Now take that a step further, restoration of property includes all aspects of usage. Helping to secure items, restoration of lost or damaged keys and making an item useful for its rightful owner is by extension not a threat to the safety or well being of our citizenry. To believe so violates yet another code in our Republican form of self governance; that each individual is innocent until such time he/she is proven guilty. Going about the functions of legal business should not require a State issued license except in extremely rare circumstances.

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If you want to see how licensing of citizens has been taken to the extreme, just take a look at Communist Cuba where funeral flower arrangers, shoe shiners or even doll and toy repairs require a State issued license. There are a couple of things which stand out rather quickly; licenses generate income for the State while at the same time reducing citizens into subjects.

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There are criminal and civil laws enough in place to accommodate society at such times when tradesmen or professionals fail to properly apply their skills. There is no rational justification for a secondary bureaucracy with license expenses, rules and regulations or added enforcement on top of these existing laws.

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We have seen changes in our society which mock the very foundations of a free nation. Industries which at one time were open to anyone with the audacity to apply their skills have been turned into closed shops; licensed with regularly occurring fees that stager the pocket book. Are we to believe licenses and fees actually protect an unsuspecting public or is there a more sinister undercurrent?

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There are several versions of the well-known statement attributed to the German anti-Nazi activist, Pastor Martin Niemöller ; most of us are familiar to some extent with this one.

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In Germany they first came for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.

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Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.

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Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

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Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant.

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Then they came for me —
and by that time no one was left to speak up.

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I’ve been shouting into the four winds about the injustice of licensing the locksmith industry for quite some time. The usurpation of power by government never intended by our founders applies equally to other trades and professions. I’ve written a mountain of words to stir you into action; more government isn’t the answer, it’s part of the problem. Stand with me at a time when individual liberties and our Constitution are hanging by a thread.

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This article has been cross posted to The Moral Liberal, a publication whose banner reads, “Defending The Judeo-Christian Ethic, Limited Government, & The American Constitution”.  It was originally posted to T F Stern’s Rantings, a blog which has been up and running since January of 2005.
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Is it worth the effort? - February 14, 2011 by admin

Is it worth the effort?

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By T.F. Stern, GSP

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It’s easy to get discouraged when dealing with bureaucracies; getting ignored or worse, beaten into submission.  After a while the thought pops into your head, “Is it worth the effort?”

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The Sunday comics are a good place to find solid answers to questions like, “Is it worth the effort?”  I give you a long time favorite, BC.    (click to enlarge picture)

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Occupational Licensing Violates the Golden Rule - February 8, 2011 by admin

Occupational Licensing Violates the Golden Rule

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By T.F. Stern, GSP

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Ever since I began my efforts in the locksmith industry back in 1976 there were rumors of the eventuality of licensing. I was convinced the rumors would become reality and prepared for that day by joining a national association, one which would have the effect of acting as a buffer, a means to be “grandfathered” if and when licensing took hold.

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In our heart of hearts each of us knows the difference between right and wrong. Freemen recognize the simple beauty of this nation, its founding documents and our constitutional form of government which support the idea of inalienable God given rights for all individuals. There’s a short video on Fox’s website under their Freedom Watch section with senior judicial analyst Andrew P. Napolitano regarding the use of occupational licensing to limit competition.

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Why is it then, we as freemen labor so intently, through PACs and other forms of lobbying, to destroy that form of government in favor of totalitarian impositions on man’s agency ?

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I ran across a book written by H. Verlan Andersen, Many are Called But Few Are Chosen (ISBN: 1-57636-043-1, Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 97-68785), which contained the following passage in chapter 7 entitled, Acts of Government Which Constitute an Exercise of Unrighteous Dominion :

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“Men use a variety of arguments to justify the use of the police power to restrict competition. Some claim there is over-production of the commodities or services they are offering. When one considers the millions who are classified as paupers in every nation on earth with death and want in many places, how can it be asserted that there is an oversupply of any form of organized wealth? True, there are raw materials, and energy in abundance but man’s desire for the finished product is insatiable and always exceeds the supply.

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Still others argue that open competition in their field should be prohibited because, if this were not done, the unlearned, the unskilled, and the inexperienced would be serving the public. But this argument assumes it is possible to classify men into two groups—the qualified and the unqualified. Is this assumption valid?

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Let us investigate this matter by first observing that no one is perfect. There never was and there never will be a professional or business man who could not benefit from more knowledge, training, experience, skill, and better facilities with which to serve the public. This fact must be faced: there are not two groups of men—the qualified and the unqualified; there is only one group and every member of it is unqualified to some extent.

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This being true, the only choice open is between varying degrees of incompetence, inexperience, and ignorance. Now is there a man living who can honestly claim that he is able to make a division of this group, confer special privileges on one segment which are denied to the other, and still be fair to everyone? What rational basis exists for determining where the line should be drawn? How much training or experience should be required before permitting a person to offer his services to the public—6 weeks, 6 months, 6 years, or double one of these periods? It is impossible for men to reach agreement on this problem or for any person to say with certainty he is right in his opinion and all who disagree are wrong.”

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It would seem my natural instincts regarding the DPS/PSB are not without merit and they certainly aren’t original. Those who would impose their will on others through licensing of the locksmith industry, supposedly to protect an unsuspecting public from unscrupulous tradesmen and the criminal element, violate the Golden Rule through deceitful measures which act as a barrier to free trade and unwanted competition. Rules and Regulations imposed on those already licensed intended to promote professionalism are nothing more than flawed and expensive hurdles.

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This article has been cross posted to The Moral Liberal, a publication whose banner reads, “Defending The Judeo-Christian Ethic, Limited Government, & The American Constitution”.  It was originally posted to T F Stern’s Rantings, a blog which has been up and running since January of 2005.

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