Written by Ralph E. Shaffer
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Friday, 26 May 2017

SACRAMENTO, CA. That tell-tale burp that often is followed by a long pause before a robocaller says hello may soon be heard no more. California state attorney general Xavier Becerra today criminalized all automatically dialed phone call solicitations as "domestic terrorism" and those responsible for placing the calls as "terrorists." His announcement was met with almost universal approval by the state's residents, who are plagued with an average of 5 calls a day by the intruders.

"The people of California have, for far too long, endured the annoyance of unsolicited phone calls that come at inopportune times, but thinking it might be a call from a doctor, a child in need of assistance, or a lover from long ago, we dutifully answer, only to find it's some contractor wanting to put solar panels on top of the ones we already have on the roof. Too many seniors have fallen in their haste to answer a call that they aren't interested in. Important conversations are ended quickly when that mysterious beep is heard, indicating a call waiting... which turned out to be an offer to lower your credit card interest rate... and you never have a balance to pay interest on in the first place.

"We are going to stop that in California. Those callers are terrorists, in that they disrupt your life and call repeatedly. The Feds "Do Not Call" list is a joke. That agency has no interest or desire to terminate this form of terror. California will!"

Robocalls have ended in arrests for domestic terrorism even before the attorney general acted. In response to a robocall that got a terminally ill senior out of bed, the old man told the caller "May Isis lop off your head." The robocaller responded by contacting the FBI, who promptly charged the old man as an accomplice of the Islamic Republic. His case has not yet come to court but his legal expenses have mounted far beyond his bank account.

The attorney general's branding of robocallers as terrorists has activated vociferous objection from business elements, conservative politicians and libertarians. The robocall industry is so large that it provides employment to millions, directly and indirectly. "Jobs, jobs, jobs" is their cry, and it is echoed by President Trump who doesn't want to lose all those jobs. Telephone companies, who prosper immensely from the fees involved in robocalling, labor unions whose members are employed in the industry, and anti-regulators who hate any infringement by government on the freedom of commercial enterprise - all of these have united in defense of unlimited robocalling. When capital and labor unite, beware!

The first court test comes next week when a state judge hears a case against that determined credit card purveyor who continues to call after you've pressed the "Don't Call" number repeatedly. The company entered a plea of innocent, suggesting the only terrorist was the poor employee who participated in the call.
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Ralph E. Shaffer is professor emeritus of history at Cal Poly Pomona. reshaffer@cpp.edu

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