Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Campaigning Against Robocalls

["Let Inga Tell You," La Jolla Light, published June 12, 2014] © 2014 

Every election, I conclude that robocalls are God's way of punishing people who still have land lines.

In 2010, eBay CEO and Republican Meg Whitman spent 140 million dollars of her own money to run for California governor against Jerry Brown.  One-hundred-thirty-nine million of that was spent calling us.

The money might better have been spent annoying someone else.  I'm a Democrat.  Olof has been a life-long Republican albeit disenchanted with his party for some time.  We both vote across party lines.  We're also absentee voters and usually have our ballots in well in advance so the 25 robocalls a day (yes, really) that we received prior to that election were totally wasted on us.

Desperate to reduce future roboballs, I actually changed my party affiliation to Decline to State.  I begged Olof to do the same, as it was not lost on me that while both parties are incorrigible telephone harassers, the Republicans are the real robo-felons.  Sure enough, dumping the Dems has only reduced our robobcalls by, at best, 25%.

But Olof refuses to abandon his affiliation, holding out hope that the party will regain its former glory. And as I love to say to Olof, good luck with that.  (Smirks Olof:  "Spoken by a woman who spent her entire career in a university welfare environment where firing someone for cause would be considered 'mean'.")

My favorite robocall was on May 22 from local Republican Party chairman Tony Krvaric exhorting us to ignore all other Republican robocallers and fliers we had received for this open primary and vote only according to the Official Republican Voting Guide which had been mailed to us. I love it when they eat their own.  At the end, he says, "Thank you for being great Republicans!"  Sorry, Tony.  We're your worst fear.

I even registered us for a site where one can opt out of political calls for a year at a time.  Like that worked.  I fear I gave our phone number to the only two political agencies that didn't already have it.

Here's the puzzling part of it all though: As I understand it, the TCPA (Telephone Consumer Protection Act) allows "auto dialing" to land lines but prohibits them to cell phones without prior express consent.  (Like anyone's going to sign up for robocalls to their mobile.)

Somebody explain to me why this makes any sense.  Unemployed lawyers of America, have I got a job for you!  This is a class action suit begging to happen.  Could the Civil Rights Act be extended to include discrimination based on telephonic preference?

Even more to the point, where, inquiring minds want to know, is the research that shows that harassing people into homicidal rage makes them more likely to vote for you?  I can only lament that the "send bazooka to caller" app is still in its infancy.

During the 2010 gubernatorial election, in my worst fantasies, I imagined someone in a voting booth looking at the ballot for the first time.  "Well, let's see. That nice Meg Whitman called us 500 times so I'll vote for her!" 

Unfortunately, I think Meg Whitman did call us 500 times.  Even Olof was sticking pins into Meg Whitman dolls by election time.

One of our adult sons, who was surprised to hear that land lines were still legal, said that the solution was to dump the land line and become cell phone-only users like the rest of the planet.

But we like our land line.  OK, I like our land line.  You can't drop it in the toilet.  It never needs recharging.  It doesn't annoy me with upgrades. Besides, it's been my number for decades (even if the area code has changed about six times.)  I'm hoping it will be able to be transferred to the Alzheimer's facility with me because it will probably be the only thing I'll still remember.

Meanwhile, the candidate of my fantasies is the one who lets you opt out of political contact in any form, blocks all those perfidious political ads from your TV, doesn't send fliers to your mail box, and never calls unless you flat out beg them.  I don't care what you're running for.  You've got my vote.

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