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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

McCartney iTune Release = Beatles Next

The release of Paul McCartney's Memory Almost Full album on iTunes is the best indication yet that the entire Beatles catalog will appear in the same venue quite soon. A late story in the New York Times entitled: Amazon To Sell Music Without Copy Protection, also tells us that significant changes are coming to the online music business. The Beatles catalog will join The Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd as classic rock musicians available for download into the iconic iPod. The value of this addition to iTunes is proving very difficult for analysts to determine but $1 billion dollars is the initial estimate for total sales spurred by the Beatles addition to Apple's site. What this means is that an older generation that may not have been inclined to download music from iTunes may now go ahead and join their children and grandchildren. The Beatles are also extremely popular among today's college students.New York City 08674

Customer Service vanishes behind Computer Security

A company I have done business with for 30 years continues to add more layers of password security to their web site every year. Each time they do this they effectively lock out more and more actual customers.

Each customer reacts in different ways to the added inconvenience. Many customers simply go back to using the 800 telephone number. Since this is a very large organization this means very long wait times before reaching an actual human customer service representative. The same firm has added so many questions to their automated phone answering system that you must wonder how many humans still work for them. On the back end, this means additional phone and payroll costs for the venerable old firm.
Eastport Tug o' War 26832
Other customers attempt to communicate in writing with the company. This method typically fails in this day and age because customer service people are no longer trained to read and respond to written requests for customer service.

More and more customers must resort to driving across town and visiting the few remaining offices of the old company. This frustrates the company further because they have limited on-site customer service staff and this drives operating costs even higher.

One thing most firms cannot do is actually contact the customer directly. They have trained customers to suspect fraud when a customer is contacted directly by phone or email.

This leaves the customer with only one alternative. Take their business elsewhere.

I did this recently when I was unable to access my account, even with the help of Customer Support. They would not help me without my current password and my current password was apparently no longer "current." Personal information was of no use to this firm. I needed to know a new password that I simply did not know because I never created it. When the phone conversation evolved into, "I cannot help you without your current password" and "The only password I have is one you do not accept," I took the next logical step. I asked them to block all access to my existing accounts. They agreed and I ended the phone call.

I contacted another firm and they quickly and easily set-up a new account and allowed me to purchase the service I desired.

The next morning the old venerable firm sent me an email stating that I should call them on their 800 number (and wait for 30 minutes for them to pick-up the phone) as soon as possible regarding my account. Thanks to all the fraud emails circulating out there I was forced to consider this email to be one more phishing attempt.

If a company wants to do business in the information age they need to hire more real employees and train those employees how not to send customers racing to the competition. Every business should also understand that customer service means providing good service to new and existing customers, no matter how that customer chooses to contact them. If this means hiring more people to stay in business, then so be it. After all, future customers need to be working somewhere to be able to afford to buy goods and services from any business.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Microsoft versus Open Source Software

Microsoft has decided enough is enough. They have decided to publicly admit that Open Source software, such as Linux, is in fact a major competitor and threat to Microsoft's closed source Windows monopoly. They are accusing Linux developers of violating 235 Microsoft patent claims. The 50 billion dollar man, Bill Gates, wants another billion in his portfolio. Microsoft's Zune and Vista products must really be failing in the marketplace for Gates to pursue Linux so ferociously.
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To begin with, Linux and other Open Source software could not have bought better publicity. Millions of people that never really understood what Linux represented will now receive an education on the viable, free alternative to insecure Windows. Hundreds of thousands of software developers that contribute a few hours to various open source efforts will now redouble their efforts.

This foolhardy move by Microsoft is actually the next step in a strategy designed to introduce an MS-Linux product. Microsoft and Novell, which sells a version of Linux, came to an agreement in 2006. Microsoft and Novell signed a pact in which both parties agreed not to take each other to court. In return, Microsoft secretly agreed to go after Red Hat's version of Linux, which holds the lion's share of the Linux market, approximately 70%.

The end result will be new versions of Linux that pose an even greater threat to the Windows monopoly. Anti-Microsoft hackers will be induced to redouble their efforts to breach Windows security with virus', worms, spyware, and similar threats. Google's alternative tools will get a major boost out of this confrontation. Finally, millions of other computer users, unwilling to sacrifice their data in this Verdun-like stand off will simply switch to Apple's OSX alternative.

Software patents have been riding an old horse lately, so far as U.S. courts are concerned. Various judges have recently decided that the U.S. Patent office has been issuing too many frivolous patents for inventions that multiple people were likely to have thought of at the same time. In another area of concern, the Labcorp v. Metabolite decision by the U.S. Supreme Court weakened patent infringement cases that seek to stop significant benefits from reaching the general public. In reality even the U.S. government knows it cannot stand in the way of technological progress that is leading to many huge economic and personal benefits.

Disclosure: The author worked for Novell several years ago, served as a consultant to Microsoft's Professional Support Services for a time, and holds stock in practically every major publically-traded software and hardware manufacturer.

Sources:

Free Software Foundation

Fortune magazine

Saturday, May 12, 2007

U.S. Government Taxes Your Taxes Until You Die

Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison. - Henry David Thoreau

Did you know the U.S. government actually taxes Social Security benefits? That's right, after all those years of deducting Social Security taxes from the money you earn, the government turns around and TAXES THAT MONEY AGAIN!!!
US Federal Reserve 13390
Of course, if you have a total income of less than $25,000 they do not expect you to pay any taxes. However, the cops will definitely harass you for sleeping on a park bench. Just tell the officer you are trying to live on your Social Security benefit check, maybe he or she will understand.

For normal people with a total income of over $25,000 the government expects you to pay income tax again on income for which you already paid taxes. The tax quickly rises depending on your total income. It could be as high as 85%!!!

So after you work all your life, pay taxes, and eventually retire, the government may only let you keep 15% of the Social Security taxes you paid all those years.

(Note: A significant part of your taxes is used to buy nuclear bombs and other weapons. The rest of your tax payments will be used to pay interest on the National Debt, currently around $7,000,000,000,000 0r 7 trillion dollars and growing rapidly every day!)

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

People Stop Watching Television: NBC Boycott

An excellent article by an Associated Press writer about how the television networks are trying to deceive themselves into why they are losing viewers so rapidly.
New York City 08674

My response in the form of a letter to Brian Williams at NBC:

Brian Williams
c/o NBC News
30 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, N.Y. 10112

Dear Mr. Williams,

I recently read a news article written by Associated Press writer David Bauder
entitled "Where Have The TV Viewers Gone?" I thought you might appreciate
the insight of one ex-NBC viewer. I turned off my television set when I heard
your network was having trouble deciding whether to keep the bigot Don
Imus in your programming line-up. I almost turned it back on a week or so
later but I heard your network was promoting the views of Mr. Cho, the
Virginia Tech mass murderer. Friends and family members told me not to
bother, in fact they insisted that I not watch NBC in particular ever again.
Some widespread boycotts get little publicity, they simply spread like wildfire.
You might pass this along to Alan Wurtzel.

Like myself, I have noticed associates reading more books, spending more
quality time with their families, and generally not watching much television of
any sort. They tell me they are thoroughly disgusted with the menu of
violence and sensationalism spreading throughout all forms of broadcast and
cable television media outlets. I know it matters very little to you and the
executives at NBC how you obtain viewers so long as you keep them but you
might want to consider some alternative programming. All the networks
seem to have forgotten that people watch television primarily for enjoyment
and relaxation, not to be subjected to disgusting or utterly demeaning
programming on a regular basis.

So far as news stories go, you should try presenting the truth about
international and domestic events. When I did watch NBC News (for 40 years
consistently) I could not help but notice the recent sharp decline in cutting
edge stories like those read by Chet Huntley and David Brinkley. It is OK to criticize public, political, or business figures when they obviously seek to
deceive the general public. Your cover-up of the actual events in Iraq was
made quite clear to me by family members that recently served there. Iraq is
an absolute hell hole but your network, like our President, refuses to tell us
the hard truth. You know it, Mr. Williams, you have been there, why not tell
Americans how bad it really is? Why not cover the returning deceased
veterans, despite the Bush Administration news blackout?

We used to rely on the candor our evening news broadcasters provided but
that honesty seems to have suddenly died with dear Mr. Jennings. I will make
it quite clear to you right now when I say you will probably never win me
back as a viewer but you still might want to consider making major changes if
you want to keep carrying all those pharmaceutical advertisers. My parents
turned you off during the Cho broadcasts and swear they will never watch
your show again. Makes sense doesn't it?

Sincerely,

Monday, May 07, 2007

U.S. Senate Votes To Allow Drug Price Fixing

The U.S. Senate voted to continue to allow U.S. pharmaceutical firms to continue fixing drug prices. Senators voted 49 to 40 to ban inexpensive drugs manufactured overseas. Senators voted this way to assure campaign contributions from drug manufacturers.
US Capitol
Already awash in huge profit margins, the drug firms touted the canard that drugs manufactured overseas are dangerous. Oddly enough, more than 50% of medications sold in the United States are already manufactured outside of the 50 states. Do not look for ingredient lists or country of origin stickers on your medicines, the drug firms do not have to tell consumers exactly what they put in drugs or where they obtain the ingredients.

Drug manufacturers do not care if people are actually healed with their products. They have proved this over and over again with the high prices they charge for all medicine, not just HIV and AIDS medications. Just recently Merck, a firm drowning in huge profits, refused to offer low-cost AIDs medication to patients in Brazil. So the Brazilian politicians voted to void Merck's patents and buy the same medicine from a drug firm located in India. Good for Brazil!

Go overseas and see the masses suffering from diseases long-since cured in the United States. You can be sure U.S. drug makers will continue to ignore that suffering despite the thick reports lining their fabulously decorated walls!

Health care in the United States is provided by the rich only for the rich. "Let the poor die a miserable death, we don't care!" is the motto of drug CEO's paid hundreds of millions of dollars each year. A few little subsidies here and there do not make up for the millions of people they deliberately allow to die for lack of known cures.

They bombard susceptible people with television and magazine advertisements for non-existent illness'. They spend millions inventing fake diseases instead of searching for real cures for real diseases. They hide drug side effects in a blizzard of fine print and fast talk. They cry foul when someone points out how a profitable drug like Celebrex or Vioxx actually is quite deadly. Drug firms pay off doctors, Congress, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They have absolutely no ethical standards, no morality, and no corporate responsibility whatsoever. Talk about killers; drug firms stand proudly at the top of the list of mass murderers and could care less about sick people.

These same firms refuse to develop safe vaccines, there simply is no gross profit for them. These same firms kill people with drugs they know are unsafe, all for the sake of inflated salaries and huge shareholder dividends. Drug manufacturers are among the worst mass murderers throughout human history. They refuse to seek real cures to common ailments, why should they when there is more profit in prolonged suffering than in actual cures.

Remember this when you pick up your next prescription, if you can actually afford to buy the medicine you need.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Justice Department To Investigate Self

Barbarism begins her reign by banishing the Muses - Earl of Chesterfield

The White House (READ: Karl Rove) and the Justice Department just came up with a new way to keep Monica Goodling from testifying before Congress. They have decided to make her into a criminal and thus negate any benefits of an immunity deal Ms. Goodling might have benefited from.
White House
We have seen this tactic before when they threw Scooter Libby to the wolves to protect Karl Rove. Everyone except Karl, Dick, and Alberto is expendable in this fight to keep politics as the number one deciding factor for every single decision the Bush Administration makes. It does not matter if the careers of good hard-working people are trashed, just let us keep every unqualified crony that remains loyal to the war, torture chambers and all. Loyal Bushies are to be protected even if it means outing a CIA agent or the deaths of thousands of soldiers and hundreds of thousands of people in the Middle East.

Heckuva Job, Georgie!

There is no justice left in the Justice Department, just as there is no constitution left in U.S. Constitution. No trial by jury or habeas corpus; cruel, unusual punishment and secret concentration camps are what America now stands for. Everybody in the world can see the corrupt new America plain as day, everyone expect the deluded U.S. President and his shameful cohorts in crime.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Department of Injustice

It's a curious contrast that leaders in the Department of Justice would slip a change into law to allow one U.S. Attorney to spend only a few days a month in his district and keep his job, while at the same time claiming to fire another for spending a few days a month away from his district to serve his country.

- Sen. Patrick J. Leahy