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Why I Didn't Buy A Dell, Dude: An Open Letter to the Eighth Richest Man in America

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To:  Michael Dell 

From:  Gregg Gordon 

Subject:  Why I Did Not Buy A Dell Computer 

Dear Mr. Dell: 

I recently was in the market for a new laptop computer and considered your products along with several others.  There were a number of factors that pointed in the direction of Dell.  I know people who own Dells who seem satisfied with their performance, plus I used to be a neighbor of yours in Austin and know several people who work for your company, and I would like to see them prosper.  But ultimately I decided to go with another brand, and here's why. 

As I said, I used to live in Austin, including in the late '90s when our then-governor was gearing up his presidential campaign, so we both had a chance to observe him up close.  I don't know what you saw, but I saw a man who sometime in his 40s, out of the blue, realized he had the money, connections, a well-known name, personal charm, and sufficiently ruthless friends to make a serious go of it, thought it would be a kick to try, and he might even be able to finally one-up his dad.  I saw a man who proudly claimed not to lose a minute of sleep when sending people to their death.  Not even the Pope could give him pause -- not once -- and when a woman who proclaimed Christ as her savior asked for his mercy, he thought it was funny and later mocked her publicly to a reporter.  I gave him the benefit of the doubt and assumed he was merely putting on a macho front for craven, political purposes, because the only alternative explanation was that he was a dangerous sociopath who badly needed help.  But an emotionless, cynical, dilettante president, with Oedipal issues and a mid-life crisis, armed with the most powerful arsenal in the history of the world and with the futures of billions of people in his hands -- no, that's not what we needed. 

So in 2000, when friends would jokingly speculate about the possibility of George Bush actually becoming president, I would literally get cold chills.  While you were maxing out your legally allowable campaign contribution to him and lending your name to various public appeals for his support, I was begging my Naderite friends to vote for Gore instead.  Alas, I had no pull with the US Supreme Court, and the unthinkable happened.  (Who would have thought, before he was even out of office, Gore would have the Nobel Peace Prize, while Bush would be the most despised person on the planet?  You sure know how to pick 'em.) 

Once in office, his very first act was to push for tax cuts which plunged the nation into unprecedented debt but which, to someone in your tax bracket, must have made your comparatively trifling campaign contribution seem like one of the best investments you ever made.  Then he acted as if he thought his job was done.  Even when the CIA warned him the country was in danger of imminent attack, he blew it off and went back to his vacation.  Only when that attack in fact came did he re-engage in his responsibilities, and that proved to be worse still. 

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Meanwhile, you continued your generous giving to a rogue's gallery of Bush enablers (http://www.newsmeat.com/billionaire_political_donations/Michael_Dell.php), including a $250,000 soft-money donation to the Republican National State Elections Committee and contributions to such weirdly-named political action committees as Conservative and Republican Together Equals Results, and Every Republican Is Crucial. 

Most galling were your contributions to Tom DeLay and his Americans for a Republican Majority PAC, who promptly showed his gratitude by dismembering our hometown Congressional district, once represented by giants like LBJ and Jake Pickle, into minority status split among three separate districts, stretching to the suburbs of Houston, the deserts of West Texas, and the Mexican border.  Gee, thanks Mike. 

But after the fiasco in Iraq began to unfold, I realized even I had underestimated just how big a disaster a Bush presidency would be, so in 2004 I upped my efforts, knocking on doors in Florida and New Mexico and even helping organize pro-Kerry military veterans in the hopeless cause of Texas.  But you upped yours, too, and eventually gave $250,000 to the Bush inaugural fund.  I'm sure it was a good party, but not for the people working and too often dying in the nation's uninspected coal mines, not for children who need to see doctors or like to play with toys, and not for the people of New Orleans. 

Do you even begin to appreciate the damage to our country and the world you have helped do -- eight precious years irretrievably lost to confront the most serious threat to our planet's health ever faced, millions of Americans facing this holiday season on the brink of losing their homes, the value of the dollar evaporating as fast as our international reputation, the Constitution reduced, in the words of the President, to "just a piece of paper," and of course, more than $1 trillion dumped down the sewer of Iraq, thousands of American lives lost, tens of thousands more broken, and hundreds of thousands innocent Iraqis dead, some of whose crime was nothing more than approaching the wrong intersection at the wrong time. 

And who has benefited?  Just you and a tiny percentage of the wealthiest Americans.  I see now that, according to the Forbes 400, your personal fortune has reached $17.2 billion -- up $4 billion just since 2003, a cool billion per year.  How nice for you.  I congratulate your children on their good luck.  But now that you have accumulated more money than you could spend in 10 lifetimes, can you finally, like King Midas, say, "Enough.  Enough." 

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I notice also that you've recently begun to hedge your bets, donating money to a "pro-business" Democratic PAC.  Well, your business savvy is legendary, but I'm afraid that just won't cut it. 

For unlike Mr. Bush, I believe in redemption.  I would humbly suggest you find more serious ways to begin to make amends, and soon.  I'm sure you won't notice my small impact on your market share, but I think you will find it good for your soul.

 

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Gregg Gordon is a writer, musician, activist, and otherwise ne'er-do-well in Columbus, Ohio. "Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little." - Edmund Burke

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