Friday, July 29, 2005

Supreme Court Paves Paradise


It's great to see a picture that so well depicts the recent betrayal of our highest court.

I recently had an op-ed accepted and published in the local newspaper here in Harrisonburg, Virginia. It addresses this same issue and addresses how this issue is being played out at a local level.

Although it doesn't compare to Russmo's genius it does express my thoughts on the matter:

Paradise Lost

Independence Day has passed and with it, the quaint delusion that our government of the people, by the people, and for the people will respect our right to private property.

On June 23rd, Supreme Court Justices Stevens, Kennedy, Souter, Ginsburg, Breyer, decided, in the "Kelo et al. v. City Of New London et al., that local governments may seize property from one property holder and transfer it to a private citizen or firm, if the new use would "promote economic development.” This decision should have ignited fireworks in any freedom loving American.

A few years ago, I purchased a few acres of land to pursue my interests in gardening. I am attempting to transform overgrown weeds and thick brush into a rainbow of perennials and flowering trees along with a water garden to sit beside on warm summer mornings. I hope that my sweat equity plus countless buckets of water will blossom into my own piece of paradise in the Shenandoah Valley.

Now I am threatened, not by another Valley drought, not by terrorists, but by anyone who can convince local government, to take my land in exchange for a tax pumping commercial enterprise who measure success, not in quality of life, but in quantity of dollars.

Joseph Stalin applied this same logic to seize land from Russian citizens in the 1920’s. Soon retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, confirmed this horrible reality could happen here in the USA in her dissenting opinion stating the, "specter of condemnation hangs over all property. Nothing is to prevent the State from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall, or any farm with a factory."

I am no Andre Viete.* With so many new plantings, it looks more like Oliver’s (Eddie Albert) Green Acres. Nonetheless, it is my land; to me it is priceless. Yet the Supreme Court decision reduced me to nothing more than a caretaker until the day some investor applies eminent domain law to confiscate my corner of paradise.

JMU has sent out veiled threats regarding our property rights. Apparently, there are those on the JMU Board of Visitors who believe what is right for JMU will be right for Harrisonburg. To threaten to commandeer the property owned by a longstanding funeral home director strikes against the very principles of their namesake.

In his “Address at the Virginia Convention,” James Madison stated, “It is sufficiently obvious, that persons and property are the two great subjects on which Governments are to act; and that the rights of persons, and the rights of property, are the objects, for the protections of which Government was instituted. These rights cannot well be separated. The personal right to acquire property, which is a natural right, gives to property, which acquired, a right to protection, as a social right.”

We should therefore wake up, smell my mail-ordered hybrid roses, and oppose those who seek to use the force of government against our property rights. Economist Llewellyn Rockwell warned, "Private property is the real human right, and the foundation of all freedom. If a church can't own its building, there can be no freedom of religion. If a newspaper can't own its newsprint, there can be no freedom of the press. If there is no private land there can be no freedom of speech."

Recently I signed the pledge to pay for a week’s lodging at the Lost Liberty Hotel in Weare, New Hampshire ( Thousands have now signed on requesting the Weare City Council to condemn Justice Souter’s home in preference for a planned hotel that promises the town more revenue compared to his annual property taxes. Indeed all the justices who formed the majority opinion against property rights should feel the pain of losing their home for, say, a hotel, or even a new Wal-Mart.

Sadly, this government birthed on the Fourth of July for a people committed to individual liberties and property rights believes it can now seize our land in preference to corporate greed and as folk artist Joni Mitchell sang, “pave paradise and put up a parking lot.”

*Andre Viete: Local yet internationally renowned gardening guru
**JMU: James Madison University

Monday, July 18, 2005

Dell Hell Part II: The Dell Dance

July 18, 2005

An Open Letter to Michael Dell

Dear Michael,

You don’t know me and in fact, may never read this letter. This is a follow-up to the article I submitted over the weekend to several blogsites as well as Dell Customer Care. Please pardon my sarcasm, cynicism, anger, and disgust. I seem to recall that I am actually a nice guy.

I know your time is valuable so I will not repeat the details leading up to today. You can read the attached article I wrote regarding this ongoing tragedy. Unlike your Customer Care and Tech Support personnel who always have me repeat this story. I would assume that their behavior indicates your computer networks do not file these cases in such a way that a service employee can access the information and save the customer some needless frustration.

But I digress. Today I made another mistake. Still angry over waiting around last Friday evening for your Advanced Resolution Specialist (or whatever you call these folks) based on a Dell Tech I spoke with the night before only to never be called, I, fool that I am phoned Dell yet again today.

I informed the Dell employee (after waiting about 15 minutes listening to that real peppy Dell music) about this situation, (she had to know the story she said. so she could help me and apologize). I requested this ARS person or higher being and she agreed to connect me to him or her but I would have to wait. I waited another 10 minutes to be connected to Tech Support who informed I was routed to the wrong place and would need to be rerouted to, yes, Customer Care.

Finally, I was connected with a person whom I thought possessed these angelic Dell powers to help. She did what I now call, the Dell Dance, complete in 3 steps.

Listen to the Consumer
Apologize to the Consumer
Forward customer to another Department
(don''t solve the problem)

She wanted to, yes, route me back to Tech Support, a group of Dell Shamans, who cannot fix Axims. I refused her offer and in more vivid detail described my never-ending saga of 2 Defective Dell Axims. She apologized repeatedly and repeatedly wanted to send me back to Tech Support. She became a bit angry when I insisted that she have Dell pick these wretched systems up and refund my original purchase price.

Apparently, even when Dell has manufactured defective units, and had numerous employees do the Dell Dance to me, the idea of complete refunds is a cardinal NO-NO. She would do it for a 30% “restocking fee.” Michael, you should be ashamed. You would take these pieces of junk and restock them so you could actually resell them?

Michael, tell me it’s not true!

Michael, it is bad enough that my first Axim was defective. It certainly was terrible that the second one was. Some of your folks somehow thought offering me a third one would resolve this problem. I don’t think so. Nor do I think offering me a $50.00 coupon will solve this problem either as some of your folks tried. You see Michael, I won’t purchase from Dell again. Ever. I can promise you it will not happen.

So how can a $50.00 coupon help? Will the Axims get healed if I wave the coupon over them? Does Dell sell special transport packages ($49.99, and this week, free shipping!) that I can use to flush these PDA’s down the toilet?

A few minutes ago, another Indian gentleman, a Dell Case Manager, stating he was the “End of the Line,” called me, to first have me explain what the problem is so he:

And tried to forward me to Tech Support

Well Michael, that’s where it stands, I am just one more person of that growing chorus of former Dell customers who really miss the Dell of years ago when customers got treated promptly and with courtesy. When customers didn’t get runarounds, lied to, or bribed.

Those were the good ole days Michael when you were on your way to making your first billion. But something happened between one billion dollars and where you are today. Dell became a company of inferior and defective products, substandard outsourced Customer and Technical Support, and last but not least, 30% restocking fees so Dell can continue punishing the people who got Michael Dell where he is today.

Michael, if you’re reading, if you care enough about your company to prove what I am saying about Dell is wrong then email me ( I’m sure after a few beers you will see the wisdom in departing with 2 crappy Axims and leaving me with the six hundred and something dollar refund.

Just don't try the Dell Dance on me.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

My Hell With Dell

I apologize for the inconvenience this has caused you

Maybe I have finally learned. Over the years, I would have minor problems ordering Dell products or getting the support I needed. Last November should have taught me a lesson. No, instead I purchased yet again from Dell and am experiencing Dell Hell.

Last November I ordered what I thought would be a nice desktop. Took Dell’s advice and ordered online. I was particularly impressed when a Dell sales rep called me about thirty minutes later to confirm my order. That was easy enough.

I was so naive. The next day I checked the Dell website to review my order status. Lo and behold, my order now showed 2 desktops, a camera, and a printer. Plus, the camera and printer had already shipped.

So I tried to contact Dell via telephone and went through the pressing various numbers routine and waiting ad nausea until I finally got to the right department. There I was connected with a friendly woman somewhere in India with a surprising English name but distinct accent. Her English was so poor the most frequent phrase in the conversation coming from me was: “Repeat that please I can’t understand you.”

To cut to the chase, that nightmare resulted in numerous phone calls, online chats, emails, etc. before I finally convinced Dell I intended to order only one computer. Then I discovered the new Dell company motto: I apologize for the inconvenience this has caused you.

However, Dell finally resolved the issue after I put in over 8 hours in waiting on hold, explaining and re-explaining the problem with each new Customer Care person. It was not until I spoke with someone at Dell who a) lives in the United States and speaks real English, and b) took initiative to solve the problem.

So, stupid, foolish, me thinking it could never get any worse than that, ordered an Axim in March. I even paid the extra bucks for Dell’s “Complete Care” in case the PDA blew up or I dropped it.

I had problems with it from the start. It frequently would not connect to wireless networks (I ordered a more expensive model for this feature) and then I could not get the stylus to make the Axim respond. It was quite frustrating and I made several calls to India always with them chanting the company motto: I apologize for the inconvenience this has caused you.

Finally I asked Dell to replace it and a Dell support technician who called himself Michael but had an email name of Manikandan (translated: I apologize for the inconvenience this has caused you) agreed to send me a replacement.

A few days later DHL delivered my new refurbished Axim. It was great. I promptly charged it and eagerly waited to use an Axim that actually worked.

After many days, I am still waiting.

Apparently, the refurbished models work about 50% of the time. So the next day I phoned Dell technical support and after hearing the official motto (I apologize for the inconvenience this has caused you) was told, I needed to upgrade the ROM and directed to the appropriate download that yes, did not solve the problem.

Since then, I have phoned, emailed, and chatted with numerous Dell Customer Care or Technical Support personnel, most who chant the company motto and then direct me to some other Dell department. One employee in Technical Support told me I would need to speak with Customer Care. I went to Customer Care only to be informed quite emphatically that I should have taken care of my problem in Technical Support.

This has gone on and on numerous times. Finally, a wise Dell employee, probably an Indian guru in his spare time, advised me that I would need to speak with someone in the Advanced Customer Care Resolution or Advanced Resolution Care or something to that effect. I agreed and we set a time for the next night after six p.m. Eastern time for one of these advanced people to call me.

No one ever contacted me. This is the “Complete Care” I paid extra for.

I will not take up too much space to say that after every online chat conversation in this matter I checked the Yes box to get a transcript of the conversation. There as been at least six online chats--- yet I never received transcripts.

I hope Dell will understand then when I say I am tired of the Dell twilight zone, this Dell Hell, a company that apparently grills the new motto (I apologize for the inconvenience this has caused you) into every employee but fails to show them how to actually resolve problems. Dell, please just refund my money, take both Axims back to your PDA refurbish shop, and let’s part ways peacefully.

Now I have 2 Axims, both of which are defective and useless to me. Dell has not kept its promises, not delivered even marginal customer “support” and, did I mention the many times, the overseas outsourced Dell employees argued with me?

In spite of their low prices, slick marketing, and international work force, I hope Dell will understand that they have lost yet another customer. If it bothers them all I can say to Michael Dell is: I apologize for the inconvenience this has caused you.