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Posts Tagged ‘APPLE’

COVERING TRUMP AS HE DESERVES

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on May 14, 2018 at 12:13 am

On June 8, 2017, James Comey testified before the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

On May 9, he had been fired as director of the FBI by President Donald Trump.

During his Congressional testimony, Comey revealed that, on February 14,  2017, Trump had ordered everyone but Comey to leave a crowded meeting in the Oval Office.

Michael Flynn had resigned the previous day from his position as National Security Adviser. The FBI was investigating him for his previously undisclosed ties to Russia.

“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” said Trump. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

This was clearly an attempt by Trump to obstruct the FBI’s investigation.

Yet Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan rushed to excuse his clearly illegal behavior: “He’s new at government, so therefore I think he’s learning as he goes.”

Paul Ryan's official Speaker photo. In the background is the American Flag.

Paul Ryan

Many reporters who undoubtedly knew better agreed with this excuse: He just didn’t understand the protocols. He’ll get it right next time.

They didn’t dare report the truth: America is being ruled by a dictator in the mold of John Gotti.

Thus, Trump didn’t meet privately with Comey because he didn’t know “how modern government operates.” He wanted a private meeting to make a request he knew was on its face illegal—and he wanted to ensure “plausible deniability” in doing so.

If Comey later told the truth about that meeting—as he later did—Trump could say—as he later did: “It’s just his word against mine. Who are you going to believe?”

Reporters covering the Trump administration need to radically change their methods for doing so.

They should start covering it the way organized crime reporters have long covered the Mafia.

Related image

Donald Trump

First, assume that Trump—and those who serve him—are acting criminally unless they can prove otherwise.

As Niccolo Machiavelli advised in his classic work, The Discourses:

“All those who have written upon civil institutions demonstrate…that whoever desires to found a state and give it laws, must start with assuming that all men are bad and ever ready to display their vicious nature, whenever they may find occasion for it.

“If their evil disposition remains concealed for a time, it must be attributed to some unknown reason, and we must assume that it lacked occasion to show itself.”

Second, report what he and his minions say publicly—but look for well-placed sources in law enforcement for the truth.

Reporters covering John Gotti found him highly quotable copy. But they also cultivated secret sources within the FBI and NYPD to discover what crimes he had committed—and was committing.

And when they wrote stories about him, they stated—unequivocally—that he was the boss of an organized crime family.

Reporters covering Trump should similarly list his own history of conflicts with the law.

John Gotti.jpg

John Gotti

Third, news media should devote fewer resources to covering the public side of Trump—and  more to unearthing the truths he wants to suppress. 

As robber baron J.P. Morgan once admitted: “A man generally has two reasons for doing a thing. One that sounds good, and a real one.”

What’s said during a press conference—whether by Trump or any other of his officials—is strictly the version he wants stated. This could be transcribed by a single pool reporter, who shares whatever’s said with all the major news media.

This, in turn, would free legions of reporters to unearth truths that Trump doesn’t want revealed.

Fourth, recognize that Trump is fighting an all-out war on the media—and have the courage to publicly state this.

In 1976, Arizona Republic reporter and organized crime expert Don Bolles, was killed by a car bomb. Legions of reporters from across the country descended on Arizona to prove to mobsters: Attacking reporters is as dangerous as attacking cops.

Donald Trump has labeled established news media as “fake news.” He has called reporters “the enemy of America.” On at least one occasion, he told a CNN reporter: “You’re fake news.”

Yet no reporter—for CNN or any other news outlet—has called him a “fake President.” Nor has any reporter dared to call him a pathological liar with dictatorial ambitions.

CNN has started running an ad featuring a shiny red apple, while a voice-over intones:

“This is an apple. Some people might try to tell you that it’s a banana. They might scream banana, banana, banana over and over and over again. They might put BANANA in all caps. You might even start to believe that this is a banana. But it’s not. This is an apple.”

Unfortunately, many viewers might mistake the “apple” for Apple. Thus, a more effective ad could feature a picture of Trump in an SS uniform, and the following message:

“This  is a Fascist. Some people might try to tell you that he’s a Republican. They might scream Republican, Republican, Republican over and over and over again. They might put REPUBLICAN in all caps. You might even start to believe that he is a Republican. But he’s not. This is a Fascist.”

GOVERNMENT AS IT REALLY WORKS: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 22, 2014 at 12:40 am

In 1972, 41 years before Edward Snowden revealed that the National Security Agency was spying on the Internet, David Halberstam issued a warning about government secrecy.

As a young reporter for the New York Times covering the early years of the Vietnam war, Halberstam had repeatedly confronted government duplicity and obstruction.

David Halberstam (on left)

Halberstam arrived in South Vietnam in 1962.  Almost at once he realized that the war was not going well for the United States Army and its supposed South Vietnamese allies.

The South Vietnamese Army (ARVN) was ill-trained and staffed with incompetent officers who sought to avoid military action.

Reports to military superiors were filled with career-boosting lies about “progress” being made against Viet Cong guerrillas and North Vietnamese soldiers.

“Screw up and move up” was the way Americans described the ARVN promotion system.

Halberstam soon learned that the phrase applied just as much to the American Army as well–for reasons of the same incompetence and duplicity.

Returning from Vietnam and resigning from the Times, Halberstam set to work on his landmark history of how the United States had become entangled in a militarily and economically unimportant country.

He would call it The Best and the Brightest, and the title would become a sarcastic reference to those men in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations whose arrogance and deceit plunged the United States into disaster.

Halberstam outlined how the culture of secrecy and unchecked power led American policymakers to play God with the lives of other nations.

Out of this grew a willingness to use covert operations.  And this meant keeping these secret from Americans generally and Congress in particular.

This ignorance allowed citizens to believe that America was a different country.  One that didn’t engage in the same brutalities and corruptions of other nations.

Thus, President Lyndon B. Johnson claimed to be the peace candidate during the 1964 election.  Meanwhile, he was secretly sending U.S. Navy ships to attack coastal cities in North Vietnam.

When North Vietnam responded militarily, Johnson feigned outrage and vowed that the United States would vigorously resist “Communist aggression.”

The history of covert operations has had its own in- and -out-of seasons:

  • During the Eisenhower Administration, the Central Intelligence Agency overthrew the governments of Iran (1953) and Guatemala (1954).
  • During the Kennedy Administration, the CIA repeatedly tried to assassinate Cuba’s “Maximum Leader,” Fidel Castro.
  • During the Nixon Adminisdtration, the CIA plotted with right-wing army leaders to successfully overthrow Salvador Allende, the Leftist, legally-elected President of Chile (1973).
  • In 1975, the CIA’s history of assassination attempts became public through an expose by New York Times Investigative Reporter Seymour Hersh.
  • Following nationwide outrage, President Gerald Ford signed an executive order banning the agency from assassinating foreign leaders.

After 9/11, President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney decided to “take off the gloves.”

The CIA drew up an ever-expanding list of targets and used killer drones and Special Operations troops (such as SEALs and Green Berets) to hunt them down.

Predator drone firing Hellfire missile

And when these weren’t enough, the CIA called on expensive mercenaries (such as Blackwater), untrustworthy foreign Intelligence services, proxy armies and mercurial dictators.

In his 2013 book, The Way of the Knife, New York Times national security correspondent Mark Mazzetti traces the origins of this high-tech, “surgical” approach to warfare.

Within the course of a decade, the CIA has moved largely from being an intelligence-gathering agency to being a “find-and-kill” one.

And this newfound lethality came at a price: The CIA would no longer be able to provide the crucial Intelligence Presidents need to make wise decisions in a dangerous world.

While the CIA sought to become a more discreet version of the Pentagon, the Pentagon began setting up its own Intelligence network in out-of-the-way Third World outposts.

And, ready to service America’s military and Intelligence agencies at a mercenary’s prices, are a host of private security and Intelligence companies.

Jeffrey Smith, a former CIA general counsel, warns of the potential for trouble: “There is an inevitable tension as to where the contractor’s loyalties lie.  Do they lie with the flag?  Or do they lie with the bottom line?”

Mazzetti warns of the dark side of these new developments. On one hand, this high-tech approach to war has been embraced by Washington as a low-risk, low-cost alternative to huge troop commitments and quagmire occupations.

On the other hand, it’s created new enemies, fomented resentments among allies and fueled regional instability.  It has also created new weapons unbound by the normal rules of accountability in wartime.

Finally, it’s raised new and troubling ethical questions, such as:

  • What is the moral difference between blowing apart a man at a remote distance with a drone-fired missile and shooting him in the back of the head at close range?
  • Why is the first considered a legitimate act of war–and the second considered an illegal assassination?

In time, there will be answers to many of the uncertainties this new era of push-button and hired-soldier warfare  has unleashed.  And at least some of those answers may come at a high price.

GOVERNMENT AS IT REALLY WORKS: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 21, 2014 at 1:03 am

Millions of Americans are outraged to find that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been running a program to spy on the Internet.

National Security Agency

Created in 1952, the NSA is the largest signals-intercepting and code-cracking agency in the world, using specially designed high-speed computers to analyze literally mountains of data.

Headquartered at Fort Meade, Maryland, the NSA dwarfs the better-known Central Intelligence Agency in both its budget (which is classified) and number of employees (40,000).

NSA’s program–entitled PRISM–collects a wide range of data from nine Internet service providers, although the details vary by provider.

Here are the nine ISPs:

  • AOL
  • Microsoft
  • Google
  • Yahoo
  • Skype
  • Facebook
  • PalTalk
  • Apple
  • YouTube

And here is what we know (so far) they provide to the ever-probing eyes of America’s Intelligence community:

  • Email
  • Videos
  • Stored data
  • Photos
  • File transfers
  • Video conferencing
  • Notification of target activity (logins)
  • Online social networking details
  • VolP (Voice Over Internet Porocol)
  • Special requests

“Trailblazer,” NSA’s data-mining computer system

The program has been run by the NSA since 2007.  But its existence became front-page news only in early June, 2013, when a former NSA contractor, Edward Snowden, leaked its capabilities to The Guardian, a British newspaper.

While millions of Americans were surprised at this massive electronic vacuuming of data, at least one man could not have been.

This was Neil Sheehan, the former New York Times reporter who, in 1971, broke the story of the Pentagon Papers.  A secret Pentagon study, it documented how the United States became entangled in Vietnam from 1945 to 1967.

Its existence had been leaked by Daniel Ellsburg, a former defense analyst for the RAND corporation.

Among the Pentagon Papers’ embarrassing revelations:

  • Four Presidents–Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson–had misled the public about their intentions.
  • At least two Presidents–Kennedy and Johnson–committed increasing numbers of ground forces to Vietnam out of fear.  Not fear for the South Vietnamese but fear that they (JFK and LBJ) would be charged with being “soft on Communism” and thereby not re-elected.
  • Kennedy knew the South Vietnamese government to be thoroughly corrupt and inept, and plotted to overthrow its president, Ngo Dinh Diem, to “save” the war effort.
  • During the Presidential campaign of 1964, Johnson decided to expand the war but posed as a peacemaker.  He claimed that his Republican opponent, Barry Goldwater, wanted to bomb North Vietnam and send thousands of American soldieers into an unnecessary war.

A memo from the Defense Department under the Johnson Administration summed up the duplicity behind the war.  It listed the real reasons for American involvement: “To avoid a humiliating U.S. defeat.”

  • 70% – To avoid a humiliating U.S. defeat.
  • 20% – To keep South Vietnam and the adjacent territory from Chinese hands.
  • 10% – To permit the people of South Vietnam to enjoy a better, freer way of life.
  • ALSO – To emerge from the crisis without unacceptable taint from methods used.
  • NOT – To ‘help a friend’.

The study implicated only the administrations of Democratic Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.

But then-President Richard M. Nixon, a Republican, saw the release of the papers as a dangerous breach of national security.

After the New York Times began publishing the study, Nixon ordered the Justice Department to intervene.

For the first time in United States history, a federal judge legally forbade a newspaper to publish a story.

The Times frantically appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.  Meanwhile, the Washington Post (having gotten a second set of the documents from Ellsburg) rushed its own version of the story into print.

On June 30, 1971, the Supreme Court ruled, 6–3, that the government had failed to meet the burden of proof required for prior restraint of press freedom.

For Sheehan, reading the Papers was an eye-opener, a descent into a world he had never imagined possible.

As David Halberstam wrote in The Best and the Brightest, his best-selling 1972 account of how arrogance and deceit led the United States into disaster in Vietnam:

Sheehan came away with the overwhelming impression: that the government of the United States was not what he had thought it was.

Sheehan felt that he had discovered an inner U.S. government, highly centralized, and far more powerful than anything else.  And its enemy wass not simply the Communists but everything else–its own press, judiciary, Congress, foreign and friendly governments.

It had survived and perpetuated itself, often by using the issue of anti-Communism as a weapon against the other branches of government and the press.  And it served its own ends, rather than the good of the Republic.

This inner government used secrecy to protect itself–not from foreign governments but to keep its own citizens ignorant of its crimes and incompetence.

Each succeeding President was careful to not expose the faults of his predecessor.

Essentially the same people were running the government, wrote Halberstam, and so each new administration   faced virtually the same enemies.

HANGING UP ON THE PHONE COMPANY: PART TWO (END)

In Business, Self-Help on April 26, 2013 at 12:02 am

From November, 2011 to February, 2012, AT&T demanded that Dave pay them for a service they had failed to provide.

They had promised to supply him with Uverse high-speed Internet–at 25 MBPs a second. Instead, he had gotten only 6 MBPs a second. And a big dot in the middle of his computer screen when watching YouTube videos.

Finally, an AT&T rep told him the blunt truth:

His geographical area was not yet supplied with fiber-optic cables that could provide high-speed Internet service.

Dave canceled Uverse–and began getting a series of bills from AT&T.

First one for more than $400.

Then a reduced bill for $260.

Then another for $140.

And still another for $126.95.

After getting a phone call from a collections agency, Dave asked me to intervene with AT&T on his behalf.

So I decided to go directly to the Office of the President.

Long ago I had learned a crucial truth:

The man at the top of an organization cannot fob you off with the excuse: “I can’t do it.” He can do anything he wants to do. And once he decides to do it, everyone below will fall into line.

I already had the phone number: (800) 848-4158.

I had gotten this via a google search under “AT&T Corporate Offices.” This gave me a link to “Corporate Governance”–which provides biographies of the executives who run the company.

And at the head stands Randall L. Stephenson–Chairman of the Board, CEO and President of AT&T Inc.

I didn’t expect to speak with him. One of his chief lieutenants would be enough–such as a woman I’ll call Margie.

First, I introduced myself and said I was authorized to act on Dave’s behalf. Then I handed the phone to Dave (who was sitting next to me) so he could confirm this.

I then briefly outlined the problems Dave had been having.

Margie–using Dave’s phone number–quickly accessed the computerized records documenting all I was telling her.

She said she would need three or four days to fully investigate the matter before getting back to me.

I said that, for me, the crux of the matter was this:

An AT&T rep had told Dave the company could not supply high-speed Internet to his geographical area because it had not yet laid fiber-optic cables there.

This meant:
1.There was a disconnect between what AT&T’s technicians knew they could offer–and what its customer service reps had been told;
2.Or, worse, the company had lied when it promised to provide Dave with a service it couldn’t deliver.

I said that Dave wanted to resolve this quietly and amicably. But, if necessary, he was prepared to do so through the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

The PUC regulates phone companies at the State level. The FCC regulates them at the Federal level.

Just as I was about to hang up, I said I couldn’t understand why Dave should have kept getting billed, since he had been assured he wouldn’t be.

Margie said that the company felt he owed $150.00 for “breaking” the two-year contract he had signed.

I immediately noted that AT&T had not lived up to its end of the contract–that is, to provide the promised high-speed Internet service. As a result, they could not demand that Dave pay for something that had not been delivered.

Clearly, this set off alarm-bells for Margie.

When I asked her, “How soon can I expect to hear from you on your company’s investigation into this matter?” she said there was no need to conduct one.

In fact, she added, she was writing out a credit to Dave of $150.00 that very minute.

Previously, she had told me it would take three or four days.

Thus, Dave did not owe the company anything for his disappointing experiment with its Uverse service.

I felt certain that Dave’s experience with a rapacious AT&T was not an isolated case. Just as banks use every excuse to charge their customers for anything they can get away with, so do phone companies.

I knew that AT&T didn’t want the PUC and FCC to start asking: “Is ATt&T generally dunning customers for money they don’t owe?”

I believe the answer would have proven to be: “Yes.”

And I believe that Margie felt the same way.

So, when dealing with a predatory company like AT&T:
1.Keep all company correspondence.
2.Be prepared to clearly outline your problem.
3.Know which State/Federal agencies hold jurisdiction over the company.
4.Phone/write the company’s president. This shows that you’ve done your homework–and deserve to be taken seriously.
5.Remain calm and businesslike in your correspondence and/or conversations with company officials.
6.Don’t fear to say you’ll contact approrpriate government agencies if necessary.
7.If the company doesn’t resolve your problem, complain to those agencies, and/or
8.Consider hiring an attorney and filing a lawsuit.

HANGING UP ON THE PHONE COMPANY: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Business, Self-Help on April 25, 2013 at 12:10 am

Lily Tomlin introduced her character of Ernestine, the rude, gossipy, know-it-all telephone operator, in the 1960s series Laugh-In.

A typical skit would open:

“A gracious hello. Here at the Phone Company, we handle eighty-four billion calls a year. Serving everyone from presidents and kings to the scum of the earth.

“So, we realize that, every so often, you can’t get an operator, or for no apparent reason your phone goes out of order, or perhaps you get charged for a call you didn’t make. We don’t care!

“You see, this phone system consists of a multibillion-dollar matrix of space age technology that is so sophisticated even we can’t handle it. But that’s your problem, isn’t it?

“So, the next time you complain about your phone service, why don’t you try using two Dixie cups with a string?

“We don’t care. We don’t have to. We’re the Phone Company.”

All of which was–and remains–hilarious. Except when you face such behavior in real-life with the phone company.

That’s exactly what happened to a man I’ll call Dave.

Dave had had DSL Internet service with AT&T for a year, and had been entirely satisfied with it. So when AT&T offered him Uverse service for less than what he had been paying, he signed up.

But the new service never worked properly.

Dave had been promised that he would get 25 MBPs a second–double his previous download speed.

Instead he got only 6 MBPs a second. He was also being repeatedly disconnected from the Internet.

Dave called AT&T to complain. The company sent a technician to inspect the connection.

The tech told him that the line he was using for DSL was not working with Uverse. He was told he needed to install a new line to solve the problem.

Seeking a second opinion, Dave asked AT&T to send out another technician.

This one said there was already an existing CAT 5 line in Dave’s apartment. He said that by connecting this line to the computer, the problem should be solved.

But after he connected the line, Dave could not watch videos on YouTube because a dot appeared in the middle of the screen.

Since Dave had a Mac, he sought advice at his nearby Apple store. Was there was anything wrong with the computer? he asked.

The Apple rep said the problem was that he wasn’t getting enough download speed.

Dave called AT&T again.

A tech said the problem lay with the modem: Send it back and we’ll send you another.

Dave sent back the modem and AT&T sent him a second.

Dave installed the modem but still found a big dot in the middle of the screen while watching YouTube videos.

A technician tried to resolve the problem from AT&T’s own facilities, but was not able to.

Dave called AT&T and said he was going to disconnect the service because it still wasn’t working.

Suddenly, the blunt truth finally emerged:

An AT&T rep told him that his geographical area was not yet supplied with fiber-optic cables that could provide high-speed Internet service. In six months, the company would probably have such lines set up in his location.

Dave said that in six months, if AT&T had fiber-optic cables installed in his area, he would call back and have service restored.

The rep told him to send back the modem and he would owe nothing.

And that’s when the real trouble started.

Dave soon got a bill from AT&T saying he owed more than $400 for Internet service. He called them back and asked why he had gotten this bill.

The AT&T rep said the bill was to cover the costs of sending over the technicians.

Dave replied that they hadn’t installed any new lines or corrected the problem. They had only checked the line.

AT&T said they would reduce the amount Dave owed to $260. This was to cover about two months’ service and the modem—to be paid one month in advance.

Dave said that he hadn’t gotten service that worked and he would pay the money only if they could get it working properly.

AT&T told Dave to return the modem and he would owe them nothing.

Dave mailed the modem to AT&T in November, 2011.

AT&T then sent Dave a letter saying he owed them $140.

He refused to pay it.

He got another bill that said AT&T was reducing it to $126.95 for Unverse Internet service.

Dave called AT&T and complained.

This time, an AT&T rep said it had been a “computer mistake” and that this would be corrected on his next bill; there would be no such charge.

Shortly afterward, Dave got another letter on February 15, still demanding the payment of $126.95 for Uverse service.

After getting a phone call from a collections agency, Dave asked me to intervene with AT&T on his behalf.

TELL ERNESTINE TO PHONE OFF – PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Self-Help on April 3, 2012 at 12:00 am

From November, 2011 to February, 2012, AT&T demanded that Dave pay them for a service they had failed to provide.

They had promised to supply him with Uverse high-speed Internet–at 25 MBPs a second.  Instead, he had gotten only 6 MBPs a second.  And a big dot in the middle of his computer screen when watching YouTube videos.

Finally, an AT&T rep told him the blunt truth:

His geographical area was not yet supplied with fiber-optic cables that could provide high-speed Internet service.  

Dave canceled Uverse–and began getting a series of bills from AT&T.

First one for more than $400.

Then a reduced bill for $260.

Then another for $140.

And still another for $126.95.

After getting a phone call from a collections agency, Dave asked me to intervene with AT&T on his behalf.

So I decided to go directly to the Office of the President.

Long ago I had learned a crucial truth:

The man at the top of an organization cannot fob you off with the excuse: “I can’t do it.”  He can do anything he wants to do.  And once he decides to do it, everyone below will fall into line. 

I already had the phone number: (800) 848-4158. 

I had gotten this via a google search under “AT&T Corporate Offices.”  This gave me a link to “Corporate Governance”–which provides biographies of the executives who run the company.

And at the head stands Randall L. Stephenson–Chairman of the Board, CEO and President of AT&T Inc.

I didn’t expect to speak with him.  One of his chief lieutenants would be enough–such as a woman I’ll call Margie.

First, I introduced myself and said I was authorized to act on Dave’s behalf.  Then I handed the phone to Dave (who was sitting next to me) so he could confirm this.

I then briefly outlined the problems Dave had been having.

Margie–using Dave’s phone number–quickly accessed the computerized records documenting all I was telling her.

She said she would need three or four days to fully investigate the matter before getting back to me.

I said that, for me, the crux of the matter was this:

An AT&T rep had told Dave the company could not supply high-speed Internet to his geographical area because it had not yet laid fiber-optic cables there.

This meant:

  1. There was a disconnect between what AT&T’s technicians knew they could offer–and what its customer service reps had been told;
  2. Or, worse, the company had lied when it promised to provide Dave with a service it couldn’t deliver.

I said that Dave wanted to resolve this quietly and amicably.  But, if necessary, he was prepared to do so through the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

The PUC regulates phone companies at the State level.  The FCC regulates them at the Federal level.

Just as I was about to hang up, I said I couldn’t understand why Dave should have kept getting billed, since he had been assured he wouldn’t be.

Margie said that the company felt he owed $150.00 for “breaking” the two-year contract he had signed.

I immediately noted that AT&T had not lived up to its end of the contract–that is, to provide the promised high-speed Internet service.  As a result, they could not demand that Dave pay for something that had not been delivered.

Clearly, this set off alarm-bells for Margie.

When I asked her, “How soon can I expect to hear from you on your company’s investigation into this matter?” she said there was no need to conduct one. 

In fact, she added, she was writing out a credit to Dave of $150.00 that very minute.

Previously, she had told me it would take three or four days.

Thus, Dave did not owe the company anything for his disappointing experiment with its Uverse service.

I felt certain that Dave’s experience with a rapacious AT&T was not an isolated case.  Just as banks use every excuse to charge their customers for anything they can get away with, so do phone companies.

I knew that AT&T didn’t want the PUC and FCC to start asking: “Is ATt&T generally dunning customers for money they don’t owe?”

I believe the answer would have proven to be: “Yes.”

And I believe that Margie felt the same way.

So, when dealing with a predatory company like AT&T:

  1. Keep all company correspondence.
  2. Be prepared to clearly outline your problem.
  3. Know which State/Federal agencies hold jurisdiction over the company.
  4. Phone/write the company’s president.  This shows that you’ve done your homework–and deserve to be  taken seriously.
  5. Remain calm and businesslike in your correspondence and/or conversations with company officials.
  6. Don’t fear to say you’ll contact approrpriate government agencies if necessary.
  7. If the company doesn’t resolve your problem, complain to those agencies, and/or
  8. Consider hiring an attorney and filing a lawsuit.

TELL ERNESTINE TO PHONE OFF – PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Humor, Self-Help on April 2, 2012 at 12:15 am

Lily Tomlin introduced her character of Ernestine, the rude, gossipy, know-it-all telephone operator, in the 1960s series Laugh-In.

A typical skit would open:

“A gracious hello. Here at the Phone Company, we handle eighty-four billion calls a year. Serving everyone from presidents and kings to the scum of the earth.

“So, we realize that, every so often, you can’t get an operator, or for no apparent reason your phone goes out of order, or perhaps you get charged for a call you didn’t make. We don’t care!

“You see, this phone system consists of a multibillion-dollar matrix of space age technology that is so sophisticated even we can’t handle it. But that’s your problem, isn’t it?

“So, the next time you complain about your phone service, why don’t you try using two Dixie cups with a string?

“We don’t care. We don’t have to. We’re the Phone Company.”

All of which was–and remains–hilarious.  Except when you face such behavior in real-life with the phone company.

That’s exactly what happened to a man I’ll call Dave.

Dave had had DSL Internet service with AT&T for a year, and had been entirely satisfied with it.  So when AT&T offered him Uverse service for less than what he had been paying, he signed up.

But the new service never worked properly.

Dave had been promised that he would get 25 MBPs a second–double his previous download speed.

Instead he got only 6 MBPs a second.  He was also being repeatedly disconnected from the Internet.

Dave called AT&T to complain.  The company sent a technician to inspect the connection.

The tech told him that the line he was using for DSL was not working with Uverse.  He was told he needed to install a new line to solve the problem.

Seeking a second opinion, Dave asked AT&T to send out another technician.

This one said there was already an existing CAT 5 line in Dave’s apartment.  He said that by connecting this line to the computer, the problem should be solved.

But after he connected the line, Dave could not watch videos on YouTube because a dot appeared in the middle of the screen.

Since Dave had a Mac, he sought advice at his nearby Apple store.  Was there was anything wrong with the computer? he asked.

The Apple rep said the problem was that he wasn’t getting enough download speed.

Dave called AT&T again.

A tech said the problem lay with the modem: Send it back and we’ll send you another.

Dave sent back the modem and AT&T sent him a second.

Dave installed the modem but still found a big dot in the middle of the screen while watching YouTube videos.

A technician tried to resolve the problem from AT&T’s own facilities, but was not able to.

Dave called AT&T and said he was going to disconnect the service because it still wasn’t working.

Suddenly, the blunt truth finally emerged:

An AT&T rep told him that his geographical area was not yet supplied with fiber-optic cables that could provide high-speed Internet service.  In six months, the company would probably have such lines set up in his location.

Dave said that in six months, if AT&T had fiber-optic cables installed in his area, he would call back and have service restored.

The rep told him to send back the modem and he would owe nothing.

And that’s when the real trouble started.

Dave soon got a bill from AT&T saying he owed more than $400 for Internet service.  He called them back and asked why he had gotten this bill.

The AT&T rep said the bill was to cover the costs of sending over the technicians.

Dave replied that they hadn’t installed any new lines or corrected the problem.  They had only checked the line.

AT&T said they would reduce the amount Dave owed to $260.  This was to cover about two months’ service and the modem—to be paid one month in advance.

Dave said that he hadn’t gotten service that worked and he would pay the money only if they could get it working properly.

AT&T told Dave to return the modem and he would owe them nothing.

Dave mailed the modem to AT&T in November, 2011.

AT&T then sent Dave a letter saying he owed them $140.

He refused to pay it.

He got another bill that said AT&T was reducing it to $126.95 for Unverse Internet service.

Dave called AT&T and complained.

This time, an AT&T rep said it had been a “computer mistake” and that this would be corrected on his next bill; there would be no such charge.

Shortly afterward, Dave got another letter on February 15, still demanding the payment of $126.95 for Uverse service.

After getting a phone call from a collections agency, Dave asked me to intervene with AT&T on his behalf.

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