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Thursday, September 30, 2010

I pledge allegiance to the GOP Pledge?...or not – Part 3

If you are a part of the Tea Party then you’re going to love the “Pledge to America.” With more insight into this poppycock, you find that it would require Congress to confirm a Constitutional authority for any legislation, to post bills online 72 hours before a vote, and single out each measure to prevent the adding on of numerous provisions. The GOP has heard this repeatedly from the “tea baggers” and has apparently given in to their demands.

As an example, this would mean the Health-care legislation would not have passed. And as indicated by Perry Bacon, Jr. in The Washington Post, the public would have a few days to read legislation and propose changes. Stop me if I am wrong, but aren’t our congressional leaders supposed to listen to their constituents first, then make the decision as to what is best for the country? Isn’t that what we send them to Washington for?

Oh, wrong. That’s why the Congress has some of the lowest ratings today that it ever has. Bacon comments that these things weren’t even done often when Republicans ran things from 1995 to 2006. There is one big difference between the “Pledge” and the “Contract.” In 1994 the GOP proposed 12-year term limits for members of Congress. Actually, if we could ever get this passed, it would solve a lot of this country’s political problems.

Bacon doesn’t think the GOP would repeal the health-care law, just mess with it enough to slow it down, creating more hardships for those not covered or out of work and the economy in general. The Republicans also express ambiguity over just how they would balance the federal budget. If it gets that far, the Boehner gang would continue tax breaks for the rich.

Photo by Istolethetv
As The Dunning Letter indicated earlier, the GOP “Pledge to America” is a huge smokescreen to help them win the elections in November. How many will buy this hogwash remains to be seen, but there is time to turn this whole thing around and make some sense out of the next two years…maybe even six.

Read Part 1 and Part 2.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I pledge allegiance to the GOP Pledge?...or not - Part 2

The Dunning Letter was down for a few days due to a fake Microsoft site virus.  Their cooperation in getting this taken care of was commendable, and any of you experiencing similar viruses, MS does offer free technical help.

According to Dana Milbank in The Washington Post, the Republicans took only three minutes to breach their Pledge to America. They did it by reverting to the George W. Bush era of arrogance after promises to restrain a current administration accused of being an “arrogant and out-of-touch government of self-appointed elites. Perfect description of GWB’s and Cheney’s eight years in office.

They broke their pledge then by arrogantly comparing themselves to the founding fathers and compared their actions to the signing of the Declaration of Independence. All this taking place in a lumber yard near Dulles International Airport. The Dunning Letter is surprised they didn’t go on to liken themselves to Jesus, who was a carpenter.

These pathetic people included Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, and Bubba John Boehner. In an attempt to show the potential effects of the “Pledge,” Boehner said a Republican Congress would save $100 billion a year holding spending at 2008 levels. He didn’t say that this would only remedy 8 percent of the $1.3 trillion budget deficit.

Photo by Sylvar

Milbank cites items not included in the “Pledge.” They are earmarks, the immigration issue, and fixing Social Security and Medicare. What remains is a smokescreen that tries to mirror the 1994 Republican Contract with America that did sweep the GOP into Congress. And there were some major issues proposed, as you can see in the link above.

However, any Republican progress made in 1994 was clearly erased by the incompetent and dictatorial administration of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. But Bubba Boehner wants to return the country to these same policies that put us where we are today, and from this “Pledge” nonsense, he clearly doesn’t have the slightest idea what the GOP will actually do.

Except…oppose President Barack Obama on anything he introduces. If you want to be a part of that, good luck.

Read Part 1 here.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

I pledge allegiance to the GOP Pledge?...or not

Trying to pull off another 1994, the Republicans have come up with 21 pages of the GOP’s “Pledge to American,” which isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on…at least in any relationship to substance. Bubba Boehner’s manifesto says they are listening to an angry America. Apparently they didn’t hear what Americans are saying since there are no real specifics in the “Pledge.”

Same old, same old…cut taxes and spending, reduce government regulation, but uh oh, there is a new one. Repeal President Barack Obama’s health care law. All three of which many savvy economists, political experts and medical industry professionals have said we need. Republicans are attempting to make the midterms all about Obama’s failures, all of which they are partially responsible for in saying no to everything the man proposes.

Photo by Mike Lcich

What really frosts The Dunning Letter is how they call the current administration arrogant and out-of-touch. The GOP are the followers and supporters of what was considered the most totalitarian presidency in U.S. history, George W. Bush. Along with his minion, Vice President Dick Cheney, arrogance saw no limits. It’s still going on with disdainful Dick, although, thankfully, he has been quieted lately.

The latest Associated Press-GfK poll shows that of the total population, 75 percent disapprove of how Congress is doing its job. But that’s with 68 percent disapproving of Republicans, and only 60 percent disapproving of Democrats. Now does that mean the current surge in GOP support is only for the sake of change?

President Obama and the Democrats have had only two tedious and terribly demanding years to get something done. George W. Bush had eight and look what happened.

Read more here.

Tomorrow, more on the “Pledge.”

Friday, September 24, 2010

Appathizers at their worst

I don’t know if The Dunning Letter has coined a new word in “appathizers,” but it is the perfect term for the citizens of Bell, California. They are the victims of a city government that mismanaged over $50 million in bond money, and paid its eight city leaders more than $5.8 million in compensation this past year. Robert Rizzo, former city manager, was paid a salary of nearly $800,000 a year. Bell had a population in 2009 of 36,552.

And all this happened because the people of Bell weren’t paying attention to where bond and tax money was going. And if they were, they voluntarily ignored the graft, or were possibly paid off to keep their mouths shut. A despicable example of a citizenry that doesn’t give a damn and ends up suffering the consequences.

All eight city officials were arrested on Wednesday, and it was even necessary to break down the door to Mayor Oscar Hernandez’s home when he refused entry. Pictures of these individuals—which, incidentally, look like a “most wanted” bulletin—can be seen in this MSNBC’s article.

Apathy is everywhere. One of the most dramatic examples is those who think identity theft will never happen to them, and do nothing to protect their personal data. And then it happens. But Bell, California, a blue collar community, has let all this happen at a time when they can least afford it during the economic downturn. What were they thinking when people were losing their jobs, and Rizzo was raising his salary to almost $800,000?

The city had almost no control over spending. State Controller John Chiang said that one man was in charge of the purse-strings, Robert Rizzo, running the general fund like petty cash. The people of Bell were after blood when all of this was discovered and brought into the open. Where were they when it all was being put in place and carried out? Residents apparently demanded no checks and balances, thus, they ended up wallowing in ignorant bliss.

You have to wonder just how much this is going on in other towns and cities nationwide, maybe not up to this level, but a fraudulent government in some measure. Some politicians have always been on the take, but Bell, California has shown us how they can make it their life’s work.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Who will suffer for “don’t ask, don’t tell’ failure?

First it’s the Hispanics who are virtually ignored by the Republicans, and then the party says no to the gay movement in trying to get their rights in the military. Before that, Blacks have received the same treatment over the years when conservatives refuse to pass or have killed legislation for social programs designed to help the needy.

What is it going to take to convince these groups, collectively, that the political right is not their friend, and their only hope is to support and pressure left-wing politicians? Forget the economy, it has nothing to do with these human rights issues, except to place an even larger burden on those individuals affected. What you—and I refer to Latinos, gays and Blacks—should be concerned about is just which party is most likely to work for you.

Since we aren’t yet at the point where the public would support a human rights party as a third option—and that may never happen—what you have left are the Democrats. Agreed, they haven’t been much help lately either, but they have been considerably more benevolent than the other side of the aisle. What The Dunning Letter is saying is, don’t turn government back over to the same Republicans that got us into this mess.

Yes, Obama should have addressed immigration reform before healthcare reform but he didn’t. We do have a new healthcare system that many feel will be good for this country as it is fine-tuned in the future. If you are one of its supporters, remember that Republicans have said that one of the first things on their agenda—should they take over Congress—is to repeal the new health reform law.

It’s not sour-grapes because “us” liberals are trailing in the polls, it’s just hard facts that eight years of Republican control created a situation so bad that some of the best minds in the U.S.—and I mean Republicans as well as Democrats—have not been able to right the ship. Just give the man time and some cooperation.

Read more here and here.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Colin Powell is anti…anti-immigration, supports DREAM Act

Former Secretary of State and moderate Republican Colin Powell appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press” recently and exclaims that Republicans should take another look at their stance on immigration. Powell, himself the son of Jamaican immigrants, said: “We can’t be anti-immigration, for example. Because immigrants are fueling this country.”

His statement lends considerable authority to the continuing opposition to Arizona’s anti immigration law, SB1070.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is hoping Democratic support of the DREAM Act, along with bipartisan backing, will help him and his party in November. That is still questionable since Hispanics currently feel the Democrats have let them down on immigration reform. But realistically, Latinos have nowhere else to turn since most conservatives want to send illegals back to their country of origin, strenuously opposing amnesty.

The DREAM Act provides a natural channel to citizenship for young illegal immigrants who will attend college for two years or enlist in the military.

Arian Campo-Flores says in his Newsweek article that “Though immigration typically ranks pretty far down the list of issues that Hispanics care most about, the level of vitriol this year has sent it back near the top.” Undoubtedly, one of the reasons President Obama decided to tackle health care reform before immigration reform. This ethnic apathy could also explain low voter turnout by Hispanics in the past.

The Dunning Letter has spoken with some Latinos who are middle class and they are 50-50 in their concern for illegals. Any non-Hispanic looks at this with the viewpoint—much similar to the past when some middle class Blacks did not support their own people—why should we care if they don’t. It is a legitimate concern and a failing only the Latino population can correct.

Colin Powell, a former general in the army, also favors the military as a means for illegals to gain citizenship, which is also endorsed by the armed forces. It is a way to strengthen the military, which already has thousands of enlistees who are not yet U.S. citizens. The Hispanic average age is just under 26, and there are 2.6 million males and 2.2 million females now living in this country age 18 to 24.

As Powell says, illegal immigrants "are doing things we need done in this country."

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Is it time to consider social democracy? – Part 6

If you haven’t already, you will have to read Parts 1 through 5 of this series to understand why the U.S. is in some ways already a social democracy, and why we should move even further into this political philosophy in order to get things right in America. It is, in fact, a balancing act, but right now over 13 percent of the country is under the poverty level, soon to go to 15 percent. Folks, that’s 45 million of your fellow Americans.

Because some are skeptical, even afraid, of anything with the word “social” in it—except those receiving Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid, of course—The Dunning Letter will conclude this series of articles by identifying the kind of ideology held by contemporary social democrats. In other words, what you might expect should a social democracy be more prevalent in the U.S. in the future.

• A mixed economy with both private enterprise and publicly owned or subsidized programs for education, universal health care, and related social services for all citizens.

• A far-reaching system of social security to combat poverty and for support in times of job loss, or during retirement.

• Regulation of private enterprise in the interest of workers and consumers.

• Enact environmental protection laws.

• A value-added/progressive tax system to run the government.

• Secular and progressive policies.

• Immigration and multiculturalism.

• Fair trade over free trade.

• The promotion of Democracy and protection of our human rights.

• Advocacy of social justice and civil rights.

Social democracy is an issue that requires considerable research and discussion before embarking on a political philosophy that will virtually change the way we live. But even before that, we need to overcome the barriers preventing many from even giving consideration to this form of government. It may not be right for the U.S., but it at least deserves close examination.

Please read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Is it time to consider social democracy? – Part 5

Many Americans react with dismay when told the U.S. mirrors a European-style social democracy, according to Klaus Zimmerman, a Bonn, Germany labor expert, writing in the Washington Post. Others think our “social net” has been established for some time, and we are, in fact, an “undeclared” social democracy. Since in Europe most all political parties engage in social democracy, is it inevitable that it will officially travel across the Atlantic?

Zimmerman’s Germany, a social democracy and Europe’s largest economy, is the strongest it’s been in 20 years, although some of its social programs have been trimmed due to the downturn. France, another social democracy, has come through the global economic crisis thanks to some expansive consumer and government spending.

Denmark, whose fiscal position is among the strongest in the European Union, along with other Scandinavian social democracies, has suffered from global problems, but is on the way to recovery.

Zimmerman brings up an excellent point when he indicates that, except for the Great Depression, the driving force behind the U.S. Economic model has always been “the great American job machine.” In the past it has recharged the economy when taking over after a recession. This isn’t happening today in the U.S. because so many jobs have been relocated out of the country, and technology has put millions out of work.

We may have reached the point of discovering the fact that we will have to accept a leaner America, and build on that strength. Zimmerman feels there is a need to change our tax structure away from favoring the more-wealthy, and work on balancing the budget. To do that, it may be necessary to raise taxes, where, I am certain, he loses all conservatives in the U.S.

He remarks in closing that we are an “un(der)funded social democracy.

Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Is it time to consider social democracy? – Part 4

What is poverty? On it is defined as: “the state or condition of having little or no money, goods, or means of support; condition of being poor; indigence.” Ah, indigence is a good place to start because its opposite meaning is wealth. In other words those in poverty are in the extreme, indigent, with those on the opposite side of the spectrum also in the extreme, but very wealthy. Put simply, does that seem fair?

Poverty has been defined as being “cyclical,” which would indicate some fluctuation of significance over a period of time. And according to the Census Bureau, it has been cyclical for at least ten years in a steady growth pattern from 11.9 percent of the population to 14.3 percent in 2009. And now the projections are that it will hit 15 percent in 2010. That figure may even be conservative, considering the wave of new foreclosures expected, and the slow decline in joblessness.

The Census Bureau’s “Summary of Key Findings” in their 2009 poverty report makes for good reading. No kidding, unless you have absolutely no empathy for this issue. And if you have never felt the fear of losing a job or your business, losing your house, or having to decide between rent and food, eventually experiencing this bad fortune, you’re in a select group these days, so perhaps your concerns are limited.

Most of the well off population isn’t particularly interested in broadening their horizons on this subject, so we experience an abject apathy from the very group that could help. Others like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates are trying to do something about it. This personal approach by two billionaires is in its own way a type of social democracy, a leveling of the playing field by donating their fortunes to charity.

It will be interesting to see what effect, if any, their philanthropy will have on the 2010 projections on poverty.

Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Is it time to consider social democracy? – Part 3

George Orwell, author of 1984 and Animal Farm most notably, is also known for his essays on politics. In 1946 in “Politics and the English Language,” he wrote: “All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia.” It was his opinion that deteriorated and vague language was what had brought political thought to its lowest level.

George Orwell
Orwell was a democratic socialist who lived the life he was hoping to provide salvation for, going as far as Burma where he described himself as being in a land “…whose people did not want him there.” Jennie Yabroff in a 2008 article in Newsweek says that is where the writer learned to hate all forms of imperialism. Orwell’s life of denial to help others eventually landed him on the Scottish island of Jura where he died of tuberculosis after finishing 1984.

Animal Farm had given him financial security, but he lived as a tramp and beggar, working for low wages in England and France. He picked hops as a migratory laborer and once tried to get himself arrested as a drunk so he could find out about life in prison. All of this to prove the inequality of life then for those in need.

That was over sixty years ago and we still haven’t come close to doing something about the great separation between wealth and poverty.

Read Part 1 and Part 2.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Is it time to consider social democracy? - Part 2

In Part 1, there was some brief background on where social democracy is practiced and the whys of its need. The two major items in the latter include hot buttons for the conservatives, particularly the Tea Party faction: welfare and free insurance. It’s the “Why should we give it away when I worked so hard for it.” mentality.

And much of this is based on the premise that the poor don’t want to work when they can just sit back and accept handouts. But experts are now saying that won’t hold up with the repression of social programs that actually assist the poor in finding work. As the pendulum swings, all these arguments are moot until it is decided just how government is planning to govern.

So what is a social democracy? Yes, it did spring from the socialist movement, and stayed very close to that ideology in many of the countries where it is practiced. But the literal development of a social democracy is the creation of a welfare state that combines capitalistic and socialistic institutions and practices. Kind of like what we already have in the reformation of democracy in the U.S. with the U.S. Postal Service, Social Security, and Medicare/Medicaid.

In a successful social democracy, the hypothesis is that if all its citizens have at least a minimum standard of living that is adequately above the poverty level, the whole country will thrive. This includes income, as well as housing and in most cases free medical care. The British Labour Party defines itself as a “democratic socialist party” and Gordon Brown and Tony Blair considered themselves social democrats.

Has the U.S. become so accustomed to the “good life” that we cannot understand that there are those in need, and that something must be done to allay these needs in order to stabilize the economy, as well as help our fellow human beings? This has become even more apparent in the recent downturn, and is now affecting those who once thought they were not vulnerable.

Part 3 tomorrow.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Is it time to consider social democracy?

Many of the world’s developed countries are social democracies with mixed economies, some with very large governments, and they provide a large bundle of social programs including welfare and insurance. They do it by equalizing wealth where the proportion is beyond reasonableness. It is a concept some think must be considered in the U.S., and it is open as to just how much SD is needed.

In a piece J. Bradford DeLong did for TomPaine.common sense, he said:

“America was thus a special place. It had its cake and ate it, too: a combination of security with opportunity and entrepreneurship. It seemed that this was the natural order of things. Hence there was little pressure for government-sponsored social democracy: Why bother? What would it add?”

Then he added: “Now things are very different.” That was in 2004. And things today are far more different than then or as they have ever been, especially when you consider the state of poverty in this country. According to a new Census study, it is approaching 1960s levels, which prompted a national war on poverty. It was called the Great Society.

The poverty rate is 13.2 percent and is expected to increase to as much as 15 percent. That would mean 1 in 7 are poor or a total of 45 million people. The Census report from 2009 will also show that child poverty is over 20 percent; and Blacks and Hispanics are disproportionately hit. Yet Lawrence M. Mead, a New York University conservative, said: "Poverty is not as big an issue right now as middle-class unemployment. That's a lot more salient politically right now,"

It may be more “salient” politically, but tell that to the 45 million just trying to stay in their homes and put food on the table. Since the hardest hit are Blacks and Hispanics, it makes you wonder why these two groups haven’t combined forces to elect congressional leaders that are favorable to their cause. It is obvious it would be no problem getting this kind of legislation past President Obama.

TOMORROW: More on social democracy.

Read more about social democracy here.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell proves my point. Comes to the rescue of the rich

The day wasn’t even over on Monday when the Kentucky conservative, Mitch McConnell, vowed no compromise on the Bush-era tax cuts, and today introducing his own legislation that protects the millionaires. At least we will still see cuts for the sorely needed middle-class. The Dunning Letter had reported yesterday that Rep. John Boehner’s compromise was pure politics, which obviously it was.

This is a tough one since some respected economists say to raise taxes on the wealthy now would be a hit to the economy, especially when it affects small business owners. This makes sense, so perhaps the income levels of $200,000 and $250,000 have been set wrong? They can’t afford it but the million and billion dollar babies can. Survey the incomes of small business owners and establish new guidelines. Sounds simple to TDL.

Read more here.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Does any liberal, or moderate, trust John Boehner?

Boehner says he will support extending tax cuts for the middle-class, even if he can’t get the same for his buddy millionaires. That, and a Starbuck’s card will get you a cup of coffee. Boehner knows the tax extensions probably won’t be finalized before the November elections since they aren’t due to expire until next year. Ask him the same question on November 3.

If the Republicans regain control of the House—God forbid—Boehner will likely replace Nancy Pelosi as Speaker. President Obama thinks he has problems now. Should that occur, The Dunning Letter predicts that Boehner will hold the middle-class extension hostage until he can load in cuts for the rich.

Just to be safe, the Democratic national Committee, in an ad, is painting Boehner as a supporter of the wealthy and big business, a foe of teachers, police officers and firefighters.

Even White House spokesman, Robert Gibbs, is cautious of the Republican’s offer of support. After Karl Rove, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, never trust a conservative. Their tendency to tell untruths is legend now. Actually, this could turn into a classic case of “cry wolf.” And TDL will be the first to say we warned you.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Why no one should be surprised Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s lead in the polls increased after her debate disaster

Many have become perplexed over an actual increase in popularity of Arizona’s Governor, Jan Brewer, when she blew the recent debate with Democratic candidate, Terry Goddard. Some thought it would show Brewer in her real light as being completely unprepared and incompetent to run the state. The Dunning Letter also held this opinion. Then, lo and behold, she gets a three point increase. But there is an answer

Arizona universities rank in the lower half of those nationwide, according to a Forbes magazine and the Center for College Affordability and Productivity evaluation. Out of 610 undergraduate programs, the U. of Arizona was 339, AZ State U. 382 and No. AZ U. 460. It is entirely possible that the 60 percent of voters who support Brewer over Goddard, went to one of these schools.

Brewer didn’t go to any of them. As a matter of fact, she holds no degree, as should be evident by the atrocious grammar she used in the debate. But there is one more possibility raised by Terry Goddard:

"This is a Rasmussen poll that asks us to believe something that is almost impossible to believe, and that is she picked up support after her horrifyingly bad performance," he said. "I can't understand it. The poll itself has to be flawed."

The Dunning Letter likes the other option best. That 60 percent has had too many bowls of stupid to see beyond Arizona’s new immigration law, SB1070, which, when signed by Brewer, sent her ratings soaring. If she does get elected, it will be interesting to see just how long it will take this bunch to realize what they have done.

See more on this here.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Off the Wall news headlines

The bizarre headlines keep coming so we thought you might like to see the latest crop, although some have been around for a while. As before, The Dunning Letter welcomes any you find, and with your clever comments.

“Levi Johnston sorry he said 'sorry' to Sarah Palin.” I don’t know if that’s because of what he did to Bristol, but they’re both too late.

“Michael Jackson's two eldest children have attended school for the first time.” Since Prince is 13, Paris, 12, and Blanket is 8, they have a lot of catching up to do.

“Banks not giving up on overdraft fees.” Talk about collapse. The day banks give up on anything that makes them even a nickel will be the day of complete financial cataclysm.

“The bereaved go bargain hunting.” Clearly this must mean for a less expensive casket, but, hey, someone could have spied a big sale at Macy’s on the way to the funeral.

Report: Paris Hilton claimed cocaine was gum. Now I’m no authority on cocaine, but if she mistook this for gum, she’s even dumber than we thought.

Kelly Osbourne strips. Can’t wait to see if her skin is painted black.

Please send in your headlines cause I’m fresh out for next week. In the meantime, keep laughing.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

9/11 Ground Zero…Sacred or not?

President Obama has tried to put all this into perspective, although being somewhat confusing at times over the constitutionality of the Mosque planned at Ground Zero. The Washington Post, critical over this in earlier coverage, once again on Friday covered his comments. What the President did try to define was what it means to be an American by describing what is un-American.

And that amounts to one word, according to Mr. Obama: prejudice. Whether it is anti-Muslim, or anti-anybody, and I might add, anti-Hispanic, it is purely un-American. He talked about the millions of Muslims in the U.S. that are our neighbors, friends, and co-workers that are the brunt of this prejudice. They are also helping us to fight the war in Afghanistan. It’s not us against them, it’s just us, as Obama put it.

Peace on 9/11!

Friday, September 10, 2010

BBB concerned with the rise in senior fraud – Part 2

Yesterday, in Part 1, we discussed the basic plight of the seniors who are experiencing an increasing number of fraud attempts, according to Paulette Scarpetti, President of the Connecticut Better Business Bureau. The scams were identified, and the demographics of the issue were laid out in detail. It is not a pretty picture. There are almost 35 million seniors in jeopardy of being victimized, with 16.7 million of those age 75+ the most vulnerable. Now that we know who we are, exactly what do we have to worry about?

Howard Schwartz, the Connecticut BBB Communications Director has put the scams together in a neat package that is convenient for the seniors and their families. If you guard against this group of frauds, you will be protected against those most likely to be used today. Of course, the crooks are developing new ones every day, which I am sure the BBB is staying on top of.

Sweepstakes and Lottery Scams - The victim typically receives a letter in the mail claiming he or she has won a lottery or sweepstakes. The letter instructs the victim to deposit an enclosed check and then wire a portion back to the company to cover taxes or administration fees. The check turns out to be fake, and the victim loses whatever they wired back to the scammers—often thousands of dollars.

BBB Advice: Never wire money to someone you don’t know. You should never have to send money to receive any winnings from a lottery or sweepstakes.

Medicare Scams - Commonly, a scammer will claim to be with Medicare and ask for personal information such as Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, credit card or bank account numbers. Con artists give a variety of reasons for requiring this information such as updating information on file or that the information is needed for the senior to be eligible to receive free products or a new prescription drug plan.

BBB Advice: Remind elderly family members that Medicare will never call to ask for sensitive personal financial information.

Bereavement Scams - In one recent example, a mother and daughter team in Ohio found targets by scouring the obituaries. They would then call the widow or widower and claim that their spouse had outstanding debts that needed to be paid immediately. Victims were urged to provide a blank check or credit card.

BBB Advice: If you are uncertain about owing a debt when collectors call, ask for written confirmation.

Deceptive Sales – Some scams begin at the front door in the form of furnace repairmen, contractors, door-to-door salespeople, air duct cleaners and other service providers. Some professionals will lie about the extent of the problem or claim safety issues and then inflate prices for unsuspecting older customers.

BBB Advice: Find professionals you can trust by checking out a company with your BBB at 203-269-2700, extension 2 before you hand over any money.

Investment and Work-at-Home Opportunities - The pitch might come in the form of an investment opportunity that promises big returns, or as a way to make money at home for an upfront cost. Regardless of the specifics, the victim is offered what sounds like a great opportunity but the extra income never materializes.

BBB Advice: Always research any work-at-home opportunity with BBB. Beware of investment or money-making offers that seem too good to be true or use high pressure sales tactics to get you to sign up immediately.

Grandparent scam - Telephone calls come from someone claiming to be a relative who is stuck in a foreign country and needs money to get home, or to help pay emergency medical bills or even bail.

BBB Advice: Ask the caller his or her name or other information that only a relative would know. Ask for a telephone number to call back so you can contact other family members to verify whether the caller in distress is, in fact, a relative who is out of town. A sure red flag is if the caller asks that money be sent by wire transfer.

Mailing lists targeting seniors – This is my own alert from spending 35 years in the junk mail business as a data broker. There are actually mailing lists categorized as “The Gullibles,” those who respond to offers too good to be true, and these are broken down by age in order to reach seniors who are the most vulnerable.

The Dunning Letter Advice – Try to screen your seniors’ mail, particularly the elderly, without violating their privacy. In many cases, they will thank you for it later. Look for offers that promise something that is “too good to be true.” Also be on the lookout for envelopes with no identification of the sender, designed to lure a curious senior inside to the trap. Since the bad guys are targeting this age group, in many cases concentrating on those age 75+, you will be doing your family members a favor by helping them with their mail.

Folks, this is critical, and it is time for all family members to come to the aid of their elders, and do it now.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

BBB concerned with the rise in senior fraud

Paulette Scarpetti, President of the Connecticut Better Business Bureau, wants all you families out there to discuss the potential of fraud with senior family members. Unfortunately, many of us older folks don’t realize just how many con artists there are, and just how smooth they can be in order to get their hands on our money. I have personally met with AARP volunteers who work with seniors and the horror stories abound.

Howard Schwartz, Communications Director for the Connecticut BBB has put together a list of the cons that target seniors, along with an explanation and BBB advice on how to avoid these traps. They include the following scams: sweepstakes and lottery; Medicare; bereavement; deceptive sales; investment and work-at-home opportunities; and the grandparent trick. I can add to that mailing lists categorized as “gullibles,” those who respond to offers too good to be true, and that are broken down by age.

But first, let me describe in detail the demographics of the senior issue that point out just how huge this problem is, and how important it is for families to help their elders now in this dire time of need. It’s not like they are asking you for money. Unknowingly, they are really begging family members to help them keep what money they have.

The total population age 65+ is 34.9 million representing 12.4% of the total; of that, 4.3 million ages 85+ are the most vulnerable. The U.S. Census breaks this down into “Family” and “Non-Family,” households, so let’s begin with the easiest group to work with, the families. 12 million of the age 65+ are in a “family” situation, which means the children probably have easy access to their parents or grandparents to educate them on fraud.

Non-families are a much bigger problem, numbering 10.1 million age 65+ or 30.2% of the population. A majority of these seniors will be living on their own, 29% with incomes under $15,000, compared to 9.5% of family situation incomes. Widowed females, 4.2%, represent over four times that of widowed males, alone with nobody close to talk with, and perhaps the easiest target of all for the bad guys.

Next in line of vulnerability are the age 75+ who number 16.7 million, with 5.8 million of those in non-family situations, compared to 4.8 million in families. This group is still active—I am one of them—and they are more likely to be on the Internet where some of the worst scams originate. They are probably harder to reach, and many are out of contact with their families.

Now that you know the enormous parameters, the question is do you have family members that fall within this universe? If you do, you should at least talk with them now and offer your help if it should ever be needed. If they are in the more elderly age group, be more persistent in discussing their financial situation, using the possibility of losing their life savings as your reason for concern.

TOMORROW: More on the BBB’s identified scams and how to avoid them.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Tired of political robocalls?

The November campaigns are heating up with the candidates in place, and you, my reader, are the target. It could be relentless, but there is something you can do. As you may know, the politicians make it illegal for anyone else to call you who is on the Do-Not-Call Registry. Except, they shrewdly left themselves out of the law.

Citizens for Civil Discourse has established a site where you can register, and they will contact all political parties, candidates, political action committees (PACS) and any other organizations that make the dreaded robocalls, and tell them you do not want to hear from them. Here is your link to I recommend you go there now to make sure you are in their registry for the coming onslaught.

It’s FREE, although you can sign up for a lifetime membership for $24.99. Shaun Dakin, founder of the site, worked the phones for John Kerry in 2004 and knows just how much people detest these calls. He decided to do something about it and this is the result. It’s not legal like the FTC’s DNC Registry, but most candidates know a call to someone on Dakin’s list is probably worthless.

John McCain used the robocall tactic in Colorado against then candidate Barack Obama in the 2008 Presidential election. While McCain attacked the robocall in public, privately he was using the strategy himself. It was the one attempting to tie Obama in with Bill Ayers, accusing Ayers of being a domestic terrorist years ago. It didn’t work and probably backfired somewhat on McCain.

So here’s your chance. You have 54 days until the November 2, elections, and even if you haven’t made up your mind yet, all you will get from politicians is self-serving political rhetoric anyway.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Between Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck…hate has no boundaries – Part 2

And on the other side of country, Glenn Beck on this past August 28 holding the “Restoring Rally” in Washington, D.C. that drew 500,000, no 300,000, no 90,000 to finally nobody really knows. Bob Cesca, sometime writer for the Huffington Post, did an article back in April indicating that he intended to expose Glenn Beck as a fraud. Here’s a quote from Cesca:

“This is all stuff that's been proven to resonate with (and utterly manipulate) certain American audiences who also willingly hand over their cash to obvious flimflam artists claiming to provide salvation. Glenn Beck is just pooling these techniques and applying them to American politics.”

Shela Grunow, another Huffington Post writer said:

“Glenn Beck spews hatred, racism, misogyny, and disrespect to anybody who doesn't subscribe to his sputum. That's what you call a demagogue.” Then she goes on to compare him with Joe McCarthy.

But another blogger, Adam, from the Throwing Quarters Blog, had it figured out: Beck is nothing but an entertainer and his shows and appearances are produced for that purpose with the goal to make Beck a millionaire. Just like Rush Limbaugh. With hate as the message. And yet the poor souls who follow him can’t yet figure that out.

The Dunning Letter has long ago.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Between Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck…hate has no boundaries

Joe McGinniss (pictured bottom right) is a writer, a pretty good one with books like “The Selling of the President,” “Fatal Vision,” and “Blind Faith” to his credit. He also just completed research on a book about Sarah Palin, living next door to her for three months on Wasilla’s Lake Lucille in Alaska. He had “hanger-on” Todd Palin in his face once but assured the family he wouldn’t cause trouble and didn’t.

MSNBC/Associated Press reports, the author hasn’t even returned to his home in Massachusetts and the quotes are already coming. One is particularly troubling but not really surprising, McGinniss saying, “…she presses a button and what comes back is hate.” He goes on to say “The people who respond when she complains about something are just so filled with hate.”

Palin put an extension on the 8-foot fence between the properties, which prompted a retort from McGinniss that “…peeping through knotholes was never part of his research.” He added that anyone who wanted to see onto the Palin could simply get a boat and park 10 yards off shore, but who would want to do that?

The writer found that some people in the area were scared of the Palins; afraid to talk for fear “…something terrible could happen to them.” But most were willing to talk, some even bringing him pie. One of McGinniss’s biggest problems was refusing the number of handguns offered to him by residents. Apparently this was wide spread everywhere he went.
The Dunning Letter can hardly wait for the book.

Tomorrow: the Glenn Beck side of the story

Sunday, September 05, 2010

A softer side of Iraq

The picture you see below is that of an American soldier fighting in Iraq, not against the enemy at this moment, but against the loss of meaning of why he is here to begin with. He is mowing the grass with a pair of scissors to keep this patch of home in readiness so he can feel it beneath his feet, as well as the other men of his squadron just before going on a mission. They hope this will bring them good luck.

You see, he asked his wife to send him good old U.S. soil, some fertilizer and grass seed. As you can see, it is planted just outside his tent, and it represents to him and his fellow soldiers the country they are fighting for. Whether or not you agree with the Iraq War, you have to believe in the men and women who are participating in it. And no matter what happens, we must support them to the bitter end.

This story was sent to me by my daughter, taken from an email that was being passed around. If anyone knows who the soldier is or anything else about this story, please leave a comment below.


A safe and happy Labor Day to all

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Off the Wall news headlines

Have you ever read the newspaper or Internet sites just for the headlines? I mean not go any further and actually read the article, but rather conjure up in your own imagination what might be appropriate with the headline. Here are some headlines from the Internet with my own personal interpretations.

Fidel Castro claims, Osama bin Laden is a U.S. Agent. No doubt he was recruited by Sarah Palin and reports to Glenn Beck.

Kirstie Alley says, I’m too chicken to go dancing. Just as long as she doesn’t look like Joan Crawford in her dancing debut years ago that mimics a duck waddling.

Doctors look for small tumor, find 56-pounder. At first I thought Burger King had replaced the double whopper hamburger.

Body left in hearse. The real explanation is the best. A mortician from Carrboro, NC kept the decomposing body of a woman in the hearse while waiting for cremation authorization.

How a cadaver made your car safer. Was it a cadaver before it made your car safer, or did it become a cadaver in the process of making your car safer?

Bristol Palin reported going dancing. Who cares?

Lennon's toilet sells for $14,740 at U.K. auction. We have to assume that Yoko Ono no longer needed it.

And my favorite for today: Scoop: Lohan back on Twitter with driving tips. That one speaks for itself.

Please send me your “Off the wall headlines” with your own comments, and I will publish the best. In the meantime, keep laughing.