aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Saturday, December 08, 2007
Watch through to the end…
Pre-paid funeral scams; I’ll be giving my body to science
In 1975 Audrey and Carl Brewer purchased what they thought was peace of mind-both for themselves and their family-when they bought two pre-paid funeral plans from Forest Hill South, a mortuary and cemetery in Memphis. [...]
The Brewers had no reason to question the honesty of Forest Hill… Then in July 2006, one of Forest Hill’s new owners, Oklahoma oilman Clayton Smart, called a press conference to announce he was invalidating 13,500 pre-paid funeral contracts, including the Brewers’. While police stood by to prevent a customer riot, Smart explained that any contract holder who wanted to use his or her pre-need policy would have to pay an additional $4,000, more or less, at the time of death, even if the plan was already paid in full. “Obviously, things were a lot cheaper in 1965,” Smart explained. “I wouldn’t have bought the business if I thought I’d have to honor those contracts.”
Officials with the Tennessee attorney general’s office offer a different explanation for why Smart wasn’t honoring the contracts. They allege Smart and his partner, attorney Stephen Smith, drained the company’s pre-need trust funds of $20 million shortly after they purchased Forest Hill in 2004.
An AARP survey found 23% of those of us over 50 have signed up for one of these. Meanwhile:
The only federal agency currently concerned with protecting pre-need customers is the Federal Trade Commission. And it’s not doing much. The FTC focuses mainly on funeral homes’ compliance in providing itemized price lists to customers. But price lists can’t protect customers against pre-need fraud: “At this very moment some cash-strapped funeral director is diverting pre-need funds for his personal use,Ã¢â‚¬Â� declared the industry newsletter Funeral Monitor in April 2007. FTC attorney Monica Vaca says the agency is privately reviewing possible rule changes.
Via Pam Spaulding:
My mom wanted immediate cremation, no urn, no plot, no service. She didn’t believe in handing over cash to the death merchants. When she passed away in 1997, I followed her written wishes (though we had discussed it many times and was clear on what she wanted). A few days later the Cremation Society of the Carolinas sent me a plastic box containing a plastic bag with her ashes. I think the whole cost was around $500.
Daniel Gross had a recent piece in Slate on how cremation is impacting the death business:
Cremation is, well, on fire. The cremation rate rose from roughly 15 percent in 1985 to 27 percent in 2001, and to about a third of all deaths (PDF) in 2005 and 2006, according to the Cremation Association of North America.
Frontline had a moving episode recently on a family funeral home:
Thomas Lynch, 58, is a writer and a poet. He’s also a funeral director in a small town in central Michigan where he and his family have cared for the dead—and the living—for three generations. For the first time, Lynch agreed to allow cameras inside Lynch & Sons, giving FRONTLINE producers Miri Navasky and Karen O’Connor rare, behind-the-scenes access—from funeral arrangements to the embalming room—to the Lynches’ world for this film, The Undertaking.
You can watch online.
My parents have given their bodies to science. When they die the bodies will immediately be taken. We will have no role, no say, about anything that comes next. I always supported their decision and said I’d do that, too.
Hearing Lynch on the Frontline piece - “Funerals are the way we close the gap between the death that happens and the death that matters… A good funeral gets the dead where they need to go and the living where they need to be.” - made me rethink for a time.
AARP’s piece hints that I should go back to it.
Andrew Young on Clinton & Obama
A more complete clip is here, I’m just not sure how long it will stay there.
Young is quite a character. We say we want pols to talk to us straight; this guy does it. I should really parse each and every word - there is soo much there - before weighing in. But throwing caution to the wind, I think in the end, I agree with him on this one.
AFTER SECOND VIEWING - It will be really interesting to see how this plays out. I still, largely, agree with Young. (And you should please recall that I do also still believe the young are our future and our hope.)
There’s just too much there to be taken out of context and batted about. And for all that we say we want our pols to speak frankly, no! we don’t!
Via Political Insider.
A DAY LATER: My thoughts evolve.
Iranian execution for sex at 13
The Islamic Republic of Iran murdered Makwan Moloudzadeh, a lad of 21, on the cold morning of December 5. Makwan was dragged at dawn from his jail cell in the Kermanshah Central Prison and hanged in secret within the prison, without the required presence of his lawyer and family, for the so-called “crime” of having had anal sexual relations, which the authorities claimed was rape, with boys of his own age eight years ago, when he was 13.
Given witness recantings during his trial, it is impossible to know what, if in fact anything, actually transpired.
Amnesty International released a statement denouncing the execution as a “mockery of justice.” The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission’s executive director, Paula Ettelbrick, said in a statement, “This is a shameful and outrageous travesty of justice and international human rights law. How many more young Iranians have to die before the international community takes action?” [...]
The state murder of young Makwan - who was only 20 if one uses an American calendar, but 21 if one uses an Iranian calendar - was triply illegal, in violation of international law and Iranian law.
As we’ve come to expect, the details are horrendous. Ireland’s story features an interview with the only Iranian journalist to have covered Makwan’s case extensively, Mitra Khalatbari:
“[E]ven in the last hours of Makwan’s life, the authorities continued to break the law… There was no prior notification of the execution to the family or the lawyer, as the law requires, so Makwan’s lawyer was not allowed to be present, as the law also requires.
“Thus, Makwan was not allowed to say goodbye to his family, nor were there any plaintiffs present at the place of execution with whom Makwan could plead for his life and ask their forgiveness to escape death.”
Iran ignored two international treaties to which it is a signatory. Its chief justice ordered the execution halted and a retrial. Iran was intent on killing that kid.
As many as 78 other Iranian children are facing execution right now in Iran, as are several dozen more Afghan children arrested in cross-border smuggling operations. In June, Amnesty International issued a report entitled “Iran: Last Executioner of Children;” which you can read here.
More on Broun and the SAFE Act
While Broun finds people who make or look at child pornography “beneath contempt” and has “nothing but disdain and disgust for them,” he thinks the bill is unconstitutional and could lead to police harassing innocent people, said his spokesman, John Kennedy.
When police investigate child pornography based on information turned over as a result of the bill, or when police discover child pornography that wasn’t reported by the service provider, it will be difficult to tell who was responsible, Kennedy said.
“It puts an innocent person potentially in the position of having to fight off the presumption of guilt,” he said.
Broun believes states, not the federal government, should pass and enforce laws restricting pornography, Kennedy said. The bill also lacked a clear definition of child pornography and was rushed through without a committee hearing, giving lawmakers little time to read it before voting, he said.
States Rights aside, I’m right there with him.