Tuesday, January 7, 2014

On national loyalty oaths

A Facebook friend — someone I hold very dear to me — recently shared the following:

 

Well, I am not afraid of offending anyone.

The Pledge of Allegiance was written in 1892 by a socialist Baptist pastor named Francis Bellamy. Bellamy was so socialist, his own flock dismissed him for preaching socialism more than the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Prior to the Civil War, Americans (both North and South) commonly viewed their primary political loyalty as belonging to their respective states — they considered themselves Ohioans or Texans first, and Americans second. Bellamy considered such views dangerous — having led to the Civil War — and thought it important to train school children to be politically loyal to the United States. This was his motivation in writing the Pledge.

Not only did Bellamy write the pledge, he also specified the original flag salute. For its first 40 or 50 years, you recited pledge with your right arm outstretched upward toward the flag. Numerous old photos and even film clips record the original posture. Some extended their arms palms up, others palms down. (Go ahead, I'll wait while you try this posture in the privacy of your home.) With the rise of Hitler in the mid-1930s, this fascist salute was abruptly abandoned in favor of the hand-on-heart posture we all grew up with.


Please, don't take my word for any of this. Contrary to my usual practice, I won't link to any articles in support of my claims. Just Google "pledge allegiance history" and see for yourself. Read the articles, look at the images, watch the videos. None of these claims re. the history of the pledge are in dispute — they are well-established (though now little-known) facts of history.

And so, dear Facebook friends, I am not ashamed to say that I haven't recited the pledge ever since these facts first came to my attention about 15 years ago or so. I've abandoned the pledge for two reasons.

First and foremost, the pledge is really a creed — a kind of religious act — and Christians of all people should suspect any activity in which fealty is publicly proclaimed to anything other than the Father, Son and Holy Spirit — the one true and living God. The social expectation that people utter such a public proclamation verges on idolatry.

Additionally, the pledge was birthed in big-government nationalism. Prior to the Civil War, we were known as the "united state of America" — small u, small s. In using violence to force the South to remain in the Union against its will, Abraham Lincoln radically altered the political nature of this country. Forescore and seven years prior, America was founded in secession — now Lincoln was prohibiting it! In the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln played the role of the British King, George III.

I realize that your personal convictions may differ from mine. Please understand that, even though the pledge was composed by a socialist for nationalist purposes, and even though it closely resembles a religious creed, I am not saying that people who choose to recite the pledge are, therefore, either idolaters or national-socialists.

But I do think it is important for people to know the history of what they believe, and to know why they believe it. We should not believe or practice anything merely because it sounds good, or gives us a warm fuzzy or a lump in our throat.

And we most definitely should not do things because we will experience social approbation if we don't.

Besides, we shouldn't have to pledge allegiance to the flag or the United States of America to somehow demonstrate that we are good citizens. We should simply obey the law, work hard, and live at peace with our neighbors. Good citizenship is best demonstrated by actions, not words.

Monday, February 7, 2011

“The Emerging American Empire: Mammon Versus Allah” by Douglas Wilson

“The Emerging American Empire: Mammon Versus Allah”
by Douglas Wilson

This essay was originally published in the June 2005 issue of Chronicles, a paleoconservative magazine of American culture published by the Rockford Institute.

Let us begin by assuming that we agree that Islam is inherently militant. The words Muslim and Islam are derived from the Arabic word for “submission.” Submission to the absolute authority of Allah is essential. The heart of Islam is submission to the central credo that there is only one god, Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet. At the center of all Islamic thought is the driving necessity of submission to power. Christians should understand that the Koran is a revelation of Allah’s will and not a giving of Allah himself. Allah is unknowable by creatures. He may be obeyed, but he cannot be known. This is in radical distinction to the Christian Faith, where the central act of obedience is to know God by faith in His revealed Son.

This religion of total submission is very different from the emerging (and polytheistic) American empire that is currently in conflict with radical Islam. It seems strange to most Americans to speak of an American empire, but an acknowledgement of the facts is long overdue. Americans are willing to admit that our nation is a superpower, and, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, it happens that we are the sole remaining superpower. But, for all that, we still think of ourselves as a reluctant superpower. For numerous reasons, this is not quite true. As Charles Beard once noted, empires are not built in fits of absent-mindedness. In American Empire, his compelling treatment of this subject, Andrew Bacevich notes that nothing is served by denying the facts. And facts they are, stubborn as usual. America has entered her imperium.

There are two different kinds of empire, however. The first kind is ideological, as the attempt at Marxist empire was. The god of such systems is overtly solitary. Things are run by the Party, the Party line is put out by the Newspaper, and ideological lockstep is the order of the day. The grand idea, whatever it is, is necessarily “unitarian.”

The second kind of empire is an economic empire, as ancient Rome was. America is becoming such an economic, pragmatic empire, only without the formalization of proconsuls and tributary states. In other words, American hegemony is being exerted with a great deal more finesse than was seen with the old-fashioned empires, but our cultural influence, economic domination, and military presence are not any less real for all that. We may call it “global leadership,” but this does not alter what is actually happening on the ground. You can still get a Hard Rock Cafe T-shirt from just about anywhere, and the U.S. Marines will help to keep it that way.

In many ways, economic empires can be far more benign than the empires built and run by ideologues. The commies wanted to haul us off to the Gulag and take all our stuff. The Americans just want the opportunity to sell us a Windows upgrade. Rightly understood, free trade can be a great blessing and benefit. Empires built by merchants are generally not the world-class human-rights disasters that ideological empires are. At the same time, they are empires, and this means the use of force to protect future sales. Establishing democracies may be the stated goal, but establishing markets is a close corollary. Nevertheless, by God’s common grace, empires of this kind can provide the Church with multiple opportunities. The Apostle Paul was not at all hesitant to use the perks of empire — from roads to citizenship — as he sought to establish churches upon the Gospel throughout the Roman Empire. Neither should we be shy about it.

With such opportunities, however, come many temptations. What does it profit a man, Jesus asked, if he gain the whole world but lose his own soul? Gaining the whole world is what empire is all about. Seeking first the Kingdom of God is what the Christian Faith is all about. The early returns do not indicate that American Christians are preparing themselves to see the discrepancy.

The public worship of such economic empires always includes an affinity for the pantheon. Many gods are necessary to keep all of the customers happy. A good example of this kind of thing was the interfaith deism on display at the National Cathedral after the September 11 attack. The worship was self-consciously polytheistic, and, consequently, participating Muslims and Christians were both compromised. The real god of this worship service was the god called America, the guarantor of economic stability.

There was no real commitment to any of the gods honored or invoked, but only a commitment to the bottom line. While ideological empire is overtly unitarian, economic empires have a unifying principle, too, though it is less obvious. Think of them as gigantic yard sales, with everything imaginable laid out for the shoppers. The most apparent thing about the yard sale is the incredible diversity. “Look!” one might say, getting out of the car, “Pluralism!” The avid yard saler can buy canning jars, water skis, jigsaw puzzles, tablecloths, and so on. Even here, however, there is a unifying principle — there is only one cash box.

In economic empires, the unifying principle is the economic vitality of the empire itself — the cash box. This is the implicit unitarian god of the system, the god that will be defended against blasphemy. The diversity and tolerance are only apparent in those things that are for sale; the right to sell anything is a right that will be defended to the death.

This also reveals why the theological currents within the Church have been running the way they have throughout the course of the last century. Despite all Her problems, the Church in America is still a thriving force in our public life. It is therefore important to do something that will prepare our nation’s millions of Christians for their assigned role in the empire. That “something” is to neutralize the Faith by making it just one more item in the yard sale. What is the unifying principle behind our current theological battles? What do openness theology, seeker-sensitive worship, and dumb evangelical T-shirts all have in common? All of them represent a shift from the worship of Jesus, King of kings and Lord of lords, to Jesus, competitor for market share. Modern evangelicals want the shoppers to buy Jesus instead of the old lampshade, and they do not care who runs the cash box.

The American commitment to the bottom line is real and abiding. It would, therefore, be a great error to suppose that America’s conflict with Iraq has been a conflict tantamount to a war between the Christian Faith and Islam. This is not a second Battle of Tours. Something far more complicated is going on. In recent years, the United States has armed and/or tacitly supported Muslims in their conflicts with Christians in Indonesia, the Sudan, Bosnia, Chechnya, etc. We have also supported Jews against Muslims (and Christians) in Israel. We have also supported Muslim against Muslim. The reason for all of this is ultimately the bottom line, Mammon, America’s great idol. This includes obtaining resources, such as oil, and establishing markets in which we may compete — otherwise known as “spreading democracy.” Because Money is our great idol, we want all the customers to stay contented, and one good way to do this is by honoring their household deities — the kind of gods that can be kept on a shelf.

The one rule is that all the customers must go along with this and not complain when the economic empire honors the tiny gods of the other customers. If we agree to have our God demoted, the merchants of empire will see to it that all the other traditional gods are demoted, too. The empire’s name for this kind of unctuous flattery is pluralism.

Think of the empire as a huge Wal-Mart that sets aside Mondays as Christianity Day; Tuesday, as Hindu Day; Wednesday, as Buddhism Day; and so forth. But every day is Money Day.

Of course, America is largely despised throughout the Muslim world for her residual Christianity, and this places Americans who want to be consistent Christians in an awkward position. We defend our civilization from this Islamic attack from outside because we are a Christian people. We critique our civilization from within because we are not a Christian people. Combining these two, we see that we must call our people back to our earlier covenants, the covenants we have broken. We are like ancient Israel just before the book of the Law was found in the days of Josiah. The Gospel message is constant: Repent and believe.

This means that consistent American Christians must refuse to worship any god within the pantheon, including our own. Within the pantheon, our own God retains His name but has become an idol. This demand places consistent Christians at complete odds with pluralism, our civic polytheism. Christians may certainly accept the pluralistic society around them as a fact, just as Saint Paul knew that Athens was full of idols. By contrast, the pluralist push is for American Christians to accept this state of affairs as principled and desirable.

It is certainly lawful for Christians to occupy various positions within idolatrous empires. Daniel was the chancellor of the University of Babylon; Joseph was Pharaoh’s chief of staff; and the centurion that Jesus praised beyond all the men of Israel was a military man in a pagan military machine. Such participation is possible, but it presents great challenges. One is the need to refuse to worship any of the other gods in the pantheon or to accept that it is legitimate for others to worship them. The stopping point is always on the question of worship, a point that was quite clear to Daniel’s three friends. They cooperated with their enforced scholarships to the University of Babylon, but they would not bow down and worship. It is lawful for a Christian to be in President Bush’s Cabinet, but he must refuse to participate in any way in the jumbled and corrupting world of syncretism.

In order to honor God’s name in such civil settings, Christians need to recover a right approach to Christian worship. We will not get out of this mess by seeking to “recover” the Constitution. We should not idolize the Constitution but should regard it as an exemplary document, now deceased. As one writer has observed, our current rulers treat the Constitution as the Queen Mum of American politics. She gets trundled out on the balcony periodically to wave at the crowds, but she has no real power. Case in point: We went into Iraq to topple the regime of another country. This was an old-fashioned war, pure and simple. The Constitution says that Congress, not the President, declares such wars. The Constitution, for all intents and purposes, is a dead letter, although certain parts of it are still arbitrarily observed because they are part of our unwritten constitution. The best thing would be to quit pretending.

Still, to acknowledge the development of an American empire, even a polytheistic one, is not to say that everything that comes out of it has to be bad. God extends His common grace in all sorts of ways. Such an empire is not necessarily wicked in everything it does, but a consistent Christian cannot give any fundamental religious allegiance to it. And, as American Christians participate (necessarily) in the growing fight between the open markets desired by our government and the closed minds desired by Islam, we must not see this battle as one between light and darkness. This is not a religious war, except in the sense that it is a war between two idols, Mammon and Allah. Christians may be present in the fray — there are many believers in the American military — but all Christians everywhere must not give way to the pressure to conform to the prevailing idolatry.

Neither may Americans on the home front give way to a quasireligious patriotic fervor whenever the shooting starts. I have seen more than one red-white-and-blue example of blasphemy in a Christian bookstore. One was a clever rendition of the ubiquitous “Jesus Saves,” but with the letters run together in a string of nine — Jesusaves. The middle three letters — usa — were inappropriately done up in red, white, and blue. But the worst image I have seen in this respect was one with Jesus holding a shepherd’s hook and extending His left hand in a compassionate gesture. Draped over His head, like a prayer shawl or something, was an American flag. What is to be done with people who think up things like this? One of the reforms that Christendom desperately needs is a return to stocks in the town square, with a ready supply of ripened vegetables and dead cats.

An important word of commendation is needed here. One thing that radical Muslims can do is follow an argument. If Allah is god, then other gods are not. It is precisely this ability to follow an argument that brings them into conflict with Christians who also can follow an argument. If the Triune God of Scripture is God, then Allah is not.

Radical Islam has not succumbed to the Hellenistic dualism that relegates faith to an internal compartment of the heart and therefore allows secularism to reign elsewhere. There was a time when Christians (considered generally) understood this as well, and the results of that understanding were called Christendom. The Christian Faith was thought of as a package deal. It was a different package from Islam, but they had this in common — they were both packages. Because of this common understanding of the total nature of all religious claims, and because Christendom and the realm of Islam bordered each other, the result was conflict and war over the course of many centuries.

If a Muslim who accepts the relegation of Allah to one option among many in our pluralistic marketplace is a compromised Muslim, then it follows that a Christian who accepts the same thing is a compromised Christian. A consistent Christian and a consistent Muslim are, in a strange way, in a state of agreement when they are at war. And when they agree to serve the idol of Mammon together, each is at war with his own foundational assumptions. Religious claims are total. If the Triune God is God, then serve Him. If Allah is god, serve him. If Mammon is god, then get ye to the mall.

Christianity proclaims the crown rights of Jesus Christ over all creation. There is no realm where His authority and glory are not felt. Jesus Himself declared this in the Great Commission, when He told His disciples that all authority in Heaven and on Earth had been given to Him (Matthew 28: 18-20). A key word in this commission is the word therefore. It is not enough for Christians to go: They must “therefore go.” The basis for the task is the fact that universal authority has been given to Jesus Christ, declared with power to be the Son of God by His Resurrection from the dead (Romans 1:4). In the second Psalm, God promised the Son that all He had to do was ask, and God would make the nations His inheritance, the ends of the earth His possession.

Because this is true, and only because this is true, the nations belong to Him. He purchased Saudi Arabia with His Blood, as well as Iraq, Libya, and Iran. He requires us to be disciples to these nations, baptizing them and teaching them what it means to be a Christian nation. Of course, we cannot teach them that until we know what it means ourselves. And this means that we have some idols to topple at home before taking the show on the road. •

Douglas Wilson is pastor of Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho, senior fellow of theology at New St. Andrews College, and the author of several books, including Angels in the Architecture: A Protestant Vision for Middle Earth, which he coauthored with Douglas Jones.
__________________________________

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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Stuck in My Head: "When I'm Sixty-Four"

Radios, iPods, etc. are not allowed in my workplace. But that's not too big a deal for me, as my brain is filled with numerous tunes from a broad variety of genres, acquired in my 48 years of life. Consequently, I tend to sing or whistle — lots — throughout my day, whether I'm at work or not.

One day last week, a co-worker of mine got me whistling the Beatles' "When I'm Sixty-Four." As is often the case, I didn't know the lyrics, so when I got home, I pulled up the lyrics and a YouTube video of the song. It's really a cute and infectious little tune.

Ah yes, infectious.

The next day, a coworker I don't know said sardonically, "Thanks for the song yesterday." After hearing me whistle "When I'm Sixty-Four" in the locker room the night before, the tune was stuck in his head all day. Funny thing is, my manager at Pizza Hut often complains about the same thing when I start to sing or whistle a tune there: "That song had better not get stuck in my head!" (Well, sorry pal!)

Anyhow, their sad refrains have inspired me to launch this friendly (mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!) little blog feature called "Stuck in My Head," in which I share with you the music and lyrics that have been plaguing ... er, stuck with me for the last day or so.

Should prove to be quite an eclectic collection ... Enjoy!

"When I'm Sixty-Four" (Wikipedia entry)
(Lennon/McCartney)
from The Beatles album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band


When I get older losing my hair,
Many years from now,
Will you still be sending me a valentine
Birthday greetings bottle of wine?

If I'd been out till quarter to three
Would you lock the door,
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I'm sixty-four?

(oo oo oo oo oo oo oo oooo)
You'll be older too, (ah ah ah ah ah)
And if you say the word,
I could stay with you.

I could be handy mending a fuse
When your lights have gone.
You can knit a sweater by the fireside
Sunday mornings go for a ride.

Doing the garden, digging the weeds,
Who could ask for more?
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I'm sixty-four?

Every summer we can rent a cottage
In the Isle of Wight, if it's not too dear
We shall scrimp and save
Grandchildren on your knee
Vera, Chuck, and Dave

Send me a postcard, drop me a line,
Stating point of view.
Indicate precisely what you mean to say
Yours sincerely, Wasting Away.

Give me your answer, fill in a form
Mine for evermore
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I'm sixty-four?

Whoo!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

There’s “illegal,” and then there’s unlawful — and in a righteous society, they would be the same

The distinction between an act being truly unlawful and merely “illegal” is that the former is rooted in God’s law, whereas the second is merely created by humanist judicial or legislative fiat.

Robert Ingram illustrates the distinction quite clearly [my italics]:
... Due process of the law means a proper and just conviction of a crime. No one may be executed, imprisoned or fined unless he is a convicted criminal. At the time of the adoption of this Constitution there was none of the present day confusion about crime which sees any infraction of statute regulations somehow as criminal. But the real criminal law, which is summed up, I say, in the Ten Commandments, is such that, together with universal principles of justice, many if not all these regulations are unlawful; they are themselves enforced only by criminal acts.

The Prohibition Amendment and the Volstead Act which made it operative furnish a clear illustration. The common law rights are guaranteed by laws that would punish anyone who takes unlawfully what belongs to another. Thus it is unlawful even for police authorities to put a man under arrest without either a warrant or personal immediate knowledge of a criminal act. It is therefore unlawful to search his person or his property apart from lawful arrest. Now there was no way to enforce the Volstead Act, which outlawed the possession of alcoholic beverages and also their manufacture, except by unlawful search and seizure.

If the Volstead Act was to be enforced, the authorities then had to break the law and violate the common law rights of every one. The result was an intuitive recognition by the general public of the fact that they no longer enjoyed the protection of the law (which is also known as the protection of God since it is God’s law): therefore they turned almost overnight to the protection racket — to gangsterism.
The notorious lawlessness of the Prohibition era is quite wrongly explained as the consequence of men becoming accustomed to breaking the law by buying bootleg whiskey; it was simply the collapse of the common law caused when the power of government was used unlawfully.

Attempts to outlaw the possession and sale of narcotics today present the same problem. This is no argument for permitting unlimited use of narcotics; it simply is a recognition of the very precise and serious limitations facing rightful control. Perhaps all that can be done is to follow the ancient precedent used to deal with prostitution — outlaw solicitation. Fornication itself is unlawful under the common law (based on the commandment forbidding idolatry), but raiding a house of prostitution is highly questionable. On the other hand, solicitation, or making the offer to fornicate for a price, is necessarily an open and observable act and is unlawful. So narcotics might be controlled lawfully* by outlawing offering them for sale. No one would expect by these measures to “eliminate” either prostitution or traffic in and use of narcotics; but they probably would serve the common good by keeping these things within tolerable bounds.

The operative principle is to be noticed carefully. The usual
common law rights are simply the reverse side of common law prohibitions. It is unlawful to take any of this world’s goods from a man — his person, his liberty, his family, or his goods. It is unlawful for the sheriff or the king to do so. Under the law, then, a man has a “right” to his life, his limbs, his liberty and his property simply because it is wrong to take them from him except in just punishment for breaking that same law. The law is a closed circle, a complete fence. Within it men are free and have innumerable “rights” if one wants to think of them that way. But these rights appear from the wrongs specified by the common law.

~ T. Robert Ingram,
What’s Wrong With Human Rights (free PDF available here), pp. 53-54
Of course, it should likewise be stated that, where the civil magistrate acknowledges and honors God’s law, “illegal” does not conflict with “unlawful.”
__________

* The book’s original text reads, “So narcotics might be controlled
unlawfully by outlawing offering them for sale.” But given the context and Ingram’s line of reasoning, I think that “unlawfully” is a printing/publisher’s error, which I have taken the liberty of correcting here.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

"The warranty on your car is about to expire!" My letter to General Warranty Services

I was weeding out my gmail box this morning when I came across the following. I thought that someone else might be able to use it — whether against General Warranty Services, or some other persistent, nefarious, unscrupulous telemarketers — so I humbly submit it here for your consideration and free use.

From: Frank & Di [lastname] [mailto: ________@msn.com]
Sent: Saturday, June 14, 2008 7:52 PM
To: bill@generalwarrantyservices.com; gary@generalwarrantyservices.com; compliance@generalwarrantyservices.com; ken@generalwarrantyservices.com; ray@generalwarrantyservices.com; media@generalwarrantyservices.com; kevin@generalwarrantyservices.com
Subject: Do NOT call!!
Importance: High


Frank [lastname]
_____ N. 43rd Ave.
Glendale, AZ 85306

14 June 2008

General Warranty Services, Inc.
282 Main Street
Salem, New Hampshire 03079

Bill Ranney, President
Gary Roberts, V.P. Operations
Peter Skouras, Compliance Manager
Ken Spencer, I.T. Operations
Ray Thayer, Customer Support
Kevin Hurley, Sales Manager

Gentlemen,

I am having a problem with your company. A MAJOR problem.

Almost daily, I receive a phone call on my cellular phone, number 602.696.0833, from one of your nationwide army of slave telemarketers. Since I don't recognize the area code from which the call is originating, I decline the call, but they leave a recorded message anyways.

When I get around to checking my messages later, it's always the same message:
THIS IS A COURTESY CALL TO ALERT YOU THAT THE WARRANTY ON YOUR CAR IS ABOUT TO EXPIRE!!
(A "courtesy call"?! That's **too rich!** And your "alert" would otherwise be really hilarious, considering that your company obviously has NO IDEA as to the status of my automobile warranties.)

Anyhow, when this whole song-and-dance first started, I simply deleted the calls.

But they kept coming.

So then I decided to try telling your nationwide army of slave telemarketers to PLEASE STOP CALLING AND REMOVE MY NUMBER FROM THEIR LIST.

I would press the necessary buttons to speak to somebody, but when I tried to tell them to PLEASE STOP CALLING AND REMOVE MY NUMBER FROM THEIR LIST, they either hung up on me, or said that they had removed me from their list — and THEN they hung up on me.

In short, I have asked to have my number removed from your call list dozens of times. BUT THE CALLS STILL KEEP COMING.

So when I received yet another call today, I finally asked the slave telemarketer the name of your company: "General Warranty Services."

When I told him that I have asked several times to have my number dropped from your list, but that I keep getting calls from his company anyways, he said "Sir, that's probably not the case, because there are dozens of companies selling extended auto warranties by phone."

And when I told him, "Gee, it's funny how every one of these companies uses the exact same recordings," he said that I had been removed from his call list and he would not call again — and he hung up on me.

(Fifty-second verse, same as the fifty-first ...)

So I Googled "General Warranty Services." As you are all likely aware, there is a firestorm of hatred and vitriol swirling about Internet telemarketer-complaint chat rooms about GWS. Here was my personal favorite:

Posted by Bill Ranney, Jr. on 23 May 2008

Hi, I'm the President of General Warranty Services, the company that's bothering you.

I'm a huge douchebag with a flimsy Product/Service that's been around for less than six months but has still garnered enough bad attention to fill posts and threads throughout the web with venom about my shady company. My business model is to have my poor employees call you constantly with no regard to "No-call lists" and requests to be removed from our sales list to try and trick you into thinking that this is your last chance to extend a warranty on a vehicle that I have no idea of the make/model/year or even if it exists.

It's likely that the person calling you has also been duped by my job ads stating they can make $700 - $1200 weekly, though there are many people like the girl who wrote this complaint about making $45 for 54 hours worked.

Whenever you receive multiple phone calls from General Warranty Services, and find yourself on the edge of losing your mind I encourage you call me, Bill Ranney at 603-685-6250 ext. 1141 as many times as my unethical company has called you and please let me have it.

P.S. I make love to children, animals and things that have died.

Now, I didn't want to simply call this "Bill Ranney" guy and unload on him, because that post could just as well have been fraudulent. (That is what is known as "being considerate of other people." You really should try it.)

So after Googling GWS/Bill Ranney a little more, I learned that Virtual Sun, LLC had designed a website for General Warranty Services — and Virtual Sun's home page actually has an audio-recorded testimonial from a "Bill Ranney" of "General Warranty Services"!

So I finally just Googled "General Warranty Services" — and bingo, I found your website!

To cut to the chase, I found your website's "DO NOT CALL" PHONE NUMBER field, entered my phone number (602.696.0833) and clicked "Submit" -- and GUESS WHAT?

A WINDOW CAME UP SAYING:

"The number: '6026960833', already exists in our do not call database"

THEN IF THAT'S THE CASE, GENTLEMEN, WHY DO I KEEP GETTING CALLS ALMOST DAILY FROM YOUR SLAVE ARMY OF TELEMARKETERS?!

No, I really don't care what the answer is!

JUST CONSIDER THIS E-MAIL TO BE LEGAL NOTIFICATION THAT:

1) YOUR NATIONWIDE ARMY OF SLAVE TELEMARKETERS ARE TO **IMMEDIATELY** STOP OR REFRAIN FROM CALLING MY TELEPHONE NUMBERS:

602.696.0697

602.696.0833

602.441.2569

2) YOU ARE NOT TO PROVIDE MY NUMBERS TO ANYONE ELSE.

I will be sending a copy of this letter to the office of the New Hampshire Attorney General, and I will be calling them at my first opportunity Monday morning to file a formal complaint against GWS.

Lastly, I am now keeping a log of all calls received from your nationwide army of slave telemarketers. (I found a handy "Do Not Call" log form at the NH AG's website!)

An acknowledgment of receipt of this e-mail and a statement of intent to immediately address my complaint would be greatly appreciated — and might, in fact, serve to assuage the anger I currently have toward GWS by the time I call the NH AG's office.

Very truly yours,
Frank [lastname]

cc: Kelly A. Ayotte, Attorney General of the State of New Hampshire

I sent that email on a Saturday, and received the following reply Monday morning:

From: compliance@generalwarrantyservices.com
To: ________@msn.com
Subject: RE: Do NOT call!!
Date: Mon, 16 Jun 2008 14:29:52 -0400

Frank [lastname]
[address]
Glendale, AZ 85306

GWS - Mr. Frank [lastname] -000164

Dear Mr. Frank [lastname],

In response to your request for written reply to the above captioned reference number. Your name has been removed from our Telemarketing Program. In addition, we sincerely apologize for any inconvenience or aggravation we may have caused you. We gladly send you this sincere written apology per your request. However, at this time, it is certainly not our intention to inconvenience or aggravate you any further.

Upon receipt of this letter could you please respond with your telephone number or numbers so we could absolutely confirm the complete removal of your entire information from our telemarketing program?

Also as a preventive nuisance practice, we do in fact "scrub" all of our outgoing telephone lists with State Do Not Call Lists and the National Do Not Call List so to remove any number from our outgoing call list that appears on the National DNC. As of January 3, 2008 we hired an independent company called Protus, Inc., who among other business practices specializes in such "scrubbing" procedures regarding the National DNC and as a result our current complaints are nearly non-existent.

As you may or may not be aware, there are at least twenty-two other companies nationwide with over two hundred call center under their direction conducting nearly the same business as General Warranty Services, Inc. GWS is one company with merely one call center under its direction. Therefore, it is at least possible that other similar warranty companies have called and will continue to call you or any other resident who is a member of the National DNC List. Obviously, we have no control of other companies using unethical or suspect business practices.

Also, GWS has a strict policy never to call residents of any state until the passage of at least thirty-one (31) days from the day we issue a campaign in that specific state. Therefore, it is probable that other warranty companies are responsible for at least some of the calls that you allege we made to you. In any event, your name has definitely been removed from our telemarketing program and once you inform us of your telephone number as requested above, you will NOT receive any further calls from GWS. However, as we previously stated, we have no control over any of the other similar warranty companies that may continue to call you.

Furthermore, General Warranty Services, Inc. does not condone any type of predatory practices and we continually remind our employees via daily employee meetings and weekly written memos of our policy regarding consumers requesting to be removed from our call list. General Warranty Services, Inc. has developed an easy and simplistic system for all of our employees to immediately remove consumers from our call list upon their request. At the bottom left on our home page @ www. generalwarrantyservices.com is a selection box where the consumer's telephone number is typed in and immediately removed.

If you have any further questions please do not hesitate to contact me directly at the telephone number, e-mail or address listed below.

Respectfully,

Peter G. Skouras
Compliance Department
General Warranty Services, Inc.
282 Main Street
Salem, NH 03079
(603) 685-6156
compliance@generalwarrantyservices.com

Closing notes and observations:
  • Those courtesy [sic] calls alerting me that my car's warranty was about to expire originated from a variety of area codes around the US. I wonder if GWS has subcontracted work out to non-GWS call centers who sell GWS's "service"? That way they can plausibly claim that their own (GWS) call centers adhere to a strict code of telemarketing ethics, while avoiding having to address the ethics of other call centers who still sell for GWS.
  • Regardless, after my email to GWS, all such calls immediately ceased.
  • Although I signed the national "Do Not Call" Registry shortly after moving to Spokane in August 2008 (despite advice to the contrary from Lew Rockwell), we still receive unsolicited calls from what appear on our Caller ID screen to be telemarketing firms. I either don't answer them, or I occasionally pick up the phone and hit the "O" (operator) key, which sometimes puts your number on their "Do Not Call" list.
Then of course, if you are mentally prepared and think you can pull it off with a straight face, there's always this approach [NB: some adult language].

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Seven years of commercial-free, non-stop album rock!


I’m definitely no expert on radio or rock & roll. But I knows what I likes when I hears it ... and I likes KCDX 103.1 FM out of Florence, AZ!

Everyone knows that the playlists of most “classic rock” stations these days are gettin’ pretty tired: Zeppelin ... Floyd ... Stones ... Aerosmith ... repeat.

Well boomer-era rockers, point your browsers at KCDX’s “Listen Online” link and get ready to hear songs you haven’t heard since phones had dials.

I first read about KCDX in a September 2003 Phoenix New Times article called “Ghost Radio.” Sounded cool ... way cool! Problem was, the station is situated in the Sonoran desert between Phoenix and Tucson, and their low-power signal just plain didn’t reach up into my neck of the Valley.

I don’t know if they were streaming their audio online back then, but it wouldn’t have mattered anyway — I didn’t have a suitable internet hookup or computer. So KCDX fell off my radar.

Then one day about a year later — when we finally had high-speed internet and a newer Mac — I was working at the computer, and suddenly recalled that magical mystery transmitter I once read about. After a quick Google search ... BAM, I was receivin’!

KCDX boasts a repertoire that’s so classic it’s fresh ... no commercials or DJs ... and of course, an online playlist (to help you recall the songs and artists when those “senior moments” hit you) ...

So what are you waiting for, rock & roll fan? Go forth and check it out ... now!

(In addition to the original New Times story above, you can also read about Ted Tucker, KCDX’s reclusive owner/manager/disc-jockey here.)