Monday, May 11, 2009

The Mail on My Father's Desk

Donkey Path has been on hiatus since the last week of March. My father was sick and I made two trips down to Southern California. He was unable to fight off pneumonia and died at the end of April at the age of 88. We all miss him but he had a good long life and was facing physical problems that were likely to get worse. His death was hard on my mother after nearly 67 years of marriage. But she's a strong woman and will get through it.

Last week I went through my father's papers. Like a lot of elderly people, he was a bit of a pack rat. I managed to toss some twenty bags of papers, some of which went back to the 1940s. His office was a bit like a time capsule.

Something that bothered me though were letters and offers he had received in the last year that he set aside in a pile to deal with later. Although he was beginning to slip, my father was still a sharp man and it's clear that he avoided the usual scams one gets in the mail. But he was elderly and it seems a number of major companies target the elderly with mildly deceptive ads. It's annoying, disappointing and a sign of how much things have slipped in the last thirty years. I disliked, in particular, some companies who send membership cards as if they were asked for. As one example, I felt the AARP has gotten way too aggressive.

My mother is also still reasonably sharp but she has a literal mind and remembers the companies and organizations who have been respected for decades. Some of the letters on my father's desk gave the impression that my father had done business with them. If a widow or her family are not careful, they can be fooled into thinking they have a bill that needs paying. We got through those letters reasonably well. I was just surprised that my father got so many of them. One thing is clear: during the George W. Bush years, con artists and frauds were having a field day and many of them are still walking the streets.

Today, I notice that Senator Schumer has suddenly discovered the expired auto warranty scam that operates by robocall. Uh, that scam has been around for at least three years and probably four or five years that I know of. Newsday has the story:
Sunday, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced his effort to get the Federal Trade Commission to crack down on the companies that make haranguing phone calls for bogus auto warranties - after he himself received one of the pestering calls on his own cell phone as he sat in session last week.

The solicitation calls on cell phones can eat up expensive airtime minutes, and less savvy people can be caught up by the scary-sounding pitches, he said.

There's also a similar credit card scam where you're supposed to call to clear up a problem and give the scammers your credit card number. Schumer is just beginning to discover these problems? Well, at least it's a vast improvement over the Republicans who have tended to look the other way when a scammer shows up in a suit and tie. But Schumer is a New York Democrat who has looked too much the other way as the scammers of Wall Street drove our economy into the ditch.

I'm proud that a lot of new progressive Democrats get it. But there are a number of Democrats and far too many Republicans who are kidding themselves if they think we can afford to go back to business as usual. The economic crisis we're in was brought about largely by right wing ideology. But the crisis was also brought about by a crisis in ethics that is exemplified not just by Republicans but by a number of Democrats as well. Without reform, we will continue to face trouble.

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