Combs Spouts Off

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Posts Tagged ‘consumer advocacy’

Patients First health care rallies

Posted by Richard on July 26, 2009

The Independence Institute and Americans for Prosperity are co-sponsoring health care rallies in Denver and Colorado Springs next week. Here's the info:

Rally for Real Health Care Reform

Do you want bureaucrats and politicians making your health care decisions?

Make sure your voice is heard against a Washington takeover of your family’s health care, and support real health care choices for every American.

**Bring your family and friends out to the Patients First Tour in Denver and Colorado Springs. We’ll have free food and free t-shirts for the family and top-notch speakers including patients, physicians, Jeff Crank, AFP Colorado State Director and Jon Caldara, President of the Independence Institute.

What: Patients First Tour – DENVER
Where: Colorado State Capitol, West front, 200 E. Colfax Avenue, Denver, CO
When: Tuesday, July 28, 2009, 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Click Here to Register.

What: Patients First Tour – COLORADO SPRINGS
Where: Acacia Park, 115 E. Platte Avenue, Colorado Springs, CO
When: Wednesday, July 29, 2009, 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Click Here to Register.

For many in D.C., cutting costs means cutting care – your care. Join Patients First and let Washington know that one-size-fits-all government plan doesn’t fit all because patients have different needs.

I'll be at the Denver rally. If you're in the area, please join me. There are many other Patients First bus tour stops and related events around the country. Check the AFP bus tour map and event calendar for an event near you. While you're at the Patients First site, don't forget to sign the petition.

If you still believe the Democrats' health care plan is about choice, and that you'll be able to keep your current insurance, watch this:

[YouTube link]

And check out this amusing and informative little video from the Independence Institute:

[YouTube link]

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MPAA guilty of copyright violations

Posted by Richard on December 7, 2007

Oh, the wonderful irony! The Motion Picture Association of America is, together with the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), one of the most hawkish organizations anywhere regarding copyright protection. At one time, the MPAA fought to ban VCRs because they "encouraged" people to copy movies. More recently, the MPAA and RIAA have been the driving forces behind the odious digital rights management (DRM) schemes that encumber digital entertainment and restrict our "fair use" rights. So I found this news just hilarious:

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) recently released a software toolkit designed to help universities detect instances of potentially illegal file-sharing on school networks. The toolkit is based on the increasingly popular Ubuntu Linux distribution and includes the Apache web server as well as custom traffic monitoring software created by the MPAA. Although the toolkit was previously available from a web site set up by the MPAA, the software was removed last night after the organization received a request from Ubuntu technical board member Matthew Garrett to take it down due to GPL violations.

Many of the components in the Ubuntu Linux distribution, including the Linux kernel, are distributed under the General Public License (GPL). … Distributing software licensed under the GPL in binary format without making source code available to end users is a violation of the GPL and constitutes copyright infringement.

The MPAA, which has consistently lobbied Congress for stricter penalties on copyright infringement, will likely take some much-deserved heat for this embarrassing gaffe.  

Much-deserved indeed. 

Meanwhile, there's more good news for consumers regarding digital music. Retail giants Amazon and Wal-Mart have joined the fight for DRM-free MP3s:

Earlier this year EMI and Universal Music Group started selling DRM-free music. Now, Pepsi and Amazon have teamed up to give away 1 billion DRM-free MP3s. The offer puts pressure on record companies who aren't offering music in DRM-free format to either join the party or miss out.

In the past, retail giant Wal-Mart has sold music with Microsoft's PlaysForSure DRM. iTunes, the top online music retailer in the world, sells music compatible only with Apple iPod and iPhone devices.

Now, Wal-Mart is siding with the Smash-DRM movement, claiming it wants to switch to a DRM-free catalogue in 2008 and threatening to leave behind any record label not willing to comply. Meanwhile, iTunes has already started selling DRM-free music. Change is definitely in the air.

A couple of years ago, I pointed out that Microsoft was defending consumers' rights by backing the HD DVD format and insisting that it include Managed Copy, an extension of DRM that restores consumers' fair-use rights. Now, music consumers have a friend in Wal-Mart. Microsoft and Wal-Mart, the little guy's friends — somewhere, a corporation-hating lefty's head just exploded. 🙂

Of course, those corporations are (as they should be) acting out of self-interest. It's really competition and innovation that are the little guy's friends:

Retailers and record labels wanting to sell DRM-free music are hardly feeling an alliance with the open source / free-love crowd. This is strictly business. Universal and others had no problem dealing with iTunes, DRM and all, when the iPod was the only significant MP3 player. But now that practically everybody has cell phones and other non-Apple devices that play digital music, cross-compatibility is looking a lot more interesting.

DRM will become marginalized as Apple's stranglehold on digital music playback weakens.

BTW, on Friday Wal-Mart is selling Toshiba's 3rd-generation HD-A3 HD DVD player for $298, and you get 12 (!) free HD DVDs. If you've been thinking about a high-def player, grab this deal!

 

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Talking to a human

Posted by Richard on November 21, 2006

"For directions and store hours, press 1. To make a payment, press 2. For warranty matters, press 3. To hear more options, press 4. To repeat this menu, press 9." You sigh deeply and press 4. Five more menus and countless keypresses later, you hear, "Please hold for the next available representative. The wait time is currently 23 minutes." Aaaargh!

Just in time for the holiday shopping season, the folks at 9News in Denver pointed to a resource that can help you avoid that kind of customer support hell. The gethuman™ project was started by Kayak.com entrepreneur Paul English to work for better customer service phone systems and support. They offer some general tips for finding phone numbers and coping with phone systems, and they have a database of 500 companies’ phone numbers and specific instructions for reaching a human being at each.

They’ve also developed a standard that defines how a phone system should behave. If your business uses a menu system for inbound calls, you can make your callers much happier by paying attention to the gethuman standard.
 

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