A poignant and altruistic Memorial Day column from Green Bay

I just learned that the Green Bay News-Chronicle will be shut down as of this Friday. It is certainly sad to see a quality community newspaper go out of business due to lack of sales and the acquisition by a major news conglomerate. In yesterday’s column, Bill Huber wrote a Memorial Day farewell that hit home with me. It’s not just a way of saying goodbye to all of the readers, a simple way of remembering why we celebrate Memorial Day, or a means of making a point about professional athletes holding out. He says more: we should overcome our petty lives for at least just one day and remember why we celebrate Memorial Day. The sacrifices that our soldiers made over the past 230 years paved our modern ways of life, yet we continuously take our liberties and luxuries for granted. Huber is right on the money, and I hope that he and his colleagues manage to find ways to continue to contribute to the press.

I dedicate today’s blog to all of the soldiers that sacrificed their lives to protect liberty and that fought tyranny, and to all of those that never forgot their sacrifices.

Please note: since I don’t know the fate of the News-Chronicle’s web page, I’ve copied the file and converted it to a PDF. I’ve offered you the option of opening either linking to their site directly or opening the saved PDF.

Green Bay News-Chronicle’s Commentary: Out of business, but it could be worse (19.8 KB PDF)

Wisconsin’s iPod tax proposal dies in 2005-07 budget

Last week, the Wisconsin Joint Committee on Finance rejected the idea of charging a five-percent sales tax on media downloaded from the Internet. Representative Scott Jensen (who’s already in hot water for illegal campaigning activities) spearheaded the charge against this tax. I already stated that I supported this tax, since I already report my online purchases on my tax forms. That won’t change with this action (call me what you will, but at least I can sleep at night). What really bothers me is that the “iPod tax” is considered a new tax. When I buy a CD at the Exclusive Company, I pay a sales tax on it. So why not also pay the same sales tax for the same product in a different (read nonexistent) package? Again, Representative Jensen is feeding us with a deception of Governor Doyle’s intent.

The Committee also rejected a proposal for Wisconsin to join in an effort with other states to streamline a sales tax collection mechanism. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Assembly Republicans objected to the plan, which would set national standards on taxable and tax-exempt items, because it would result in $19.3 million more in sales tax collections, Kaufert said.” Well if this state cannot get out of its budget deficit that Representative Kaufert’s political party’s former champion Governor (and former US Department of Health and Human Services secretary) got the state into in the first place, heaven forbid that it collects more tax revenue to aid in controlling the deficit. I had hoped to find more of a statement than that, but apparently that’s all I have to work with, and that doesn’t exactly make him a financial genius in my book. It’s an obvious case of those that can buy online don’t have to pay their fair share of taxes, and the poor get screwed because they don’t have the same opportunity… that only helps to show that Wisconsin’s sales tax practices are regressive.

Finally, the Joint Committee on Finance also managed to cut the landfill tipping fee from $3.00 per ton to $2.25. If passed, this would mean that other states that have not yet passed recycling laws (such as Illinois) would have no incentive to start seeking one now. Wisconsin citizens would then need to step up efforts to recycle more. We would also lose revenue; we’re essentially giving a price break to other states for bringing their trash into Wisconsin. Wisconsin already has recycling practices that have been increasingly expensive for the State and its citizens. When the law was passed, the intent was to develop markets to utilize the materials. The markets never materialized, new manufacturers never installed recycling equipment required by law, and other states continue to dump their trash in Wisconsin.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Online article: Committee rejects Doyle’s download tax

The FBI’s new antipiracy label

I consider myself a law-abiding citizen; I haven’t been to jail or fined for breaking the law. Today I bought the new Audioslave CD, “Out of Exile,” and I noticed the new FBI Anti-Piracy sticker on the back. I don’t burn copies of a CD and give them out or sell them. Instead, I burn one copy for the car and download the music into my computer to use with my portable digital jukebox. They are strictly for personal use; I do not broadcast their contents illegally, share them online, or give them away. I am not rich enough to buy multiple copies of one album, and doing so is practically ridiculous. But the anti-piracy sticker got me thinking and researching, so here is what I’ve found.

The FBI is working with recording associations (Recording Industry of America Association – RIAA and Motion Picture Association of America – MPAA) to help stop piracy of their members’ materials. Technically, according to an RIAA lawyer, it is illegal to copy music from a copyrighted source to another. However, the practicality of enforcing the law is so difficult that it is rarely pursued. The Audio Home Recording Act of 1992 states that “copyright holders cannot sue the average user for making home recordings of their music” (Van Ness, see CD Burning Software Review article below).

Below are some links that provide more information. In the meantime, I’ll continue my current practice.

United States Federal Bureau of Investigation Investigative Programs Cyber Investigations – The Anti-Piracy Warning Seal

Digitalproducer.com article: Copying Music to CD: The Right, the Wrong, and the Law – For the Record: The RIAA Position on Home Copying (1998)

US Code 17 – Copyrights

CD Burning Software Review article: Is CD copying illegal?

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act Of 1998 – US Copyright Office Summary (this opens a 71 KB PDF file on the US Copyright Office’s web site)

BBC News article: Why that mix CD might be illegal (Nov 10, 2003)

Monster Cable delivers what my computer needs… for the car?

I searched high and wide for an 3.5 mm plug-to-plug audio stereo cable that is longer than six feet. I finally found one at Best Buy. Monster cable, it turns out, makes one that is seven feet long. What’s in a foot, you ask? It’s the difference of my computer speakers connecting to my computer outside of my desk (rather than underneath) with room to pull it forward for PC maintenance and such.

The cool thing was that the Best Buy associate who decided to stock it paid attention to several customers that had asked for it. He spent some time looking for something and found this cable. When he ordered it, it was backordered for a while. So as I happen to be shopping there tonight for something else, I finally came across the cable and purchased one right away.

I hadn’t come across this before because I was looking in the wrong spot. If you’ve read my guitar page, you know that I use Monster Cable exclusively for all connections between my guitars, amp, and effects. Although it’s a pricey cable, it’s worth it… after all, it’s from Monster Cable.

Monster Performance Car MP3 MusicConnect

Cell phone directories and telemarketers

The other day, someone sent me a warning about how cell phone companies are going to put together a national registry of cell phones and sell them to telemarketers. Working for the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, I already knew that most of this was false (and that friend should have known better, since he used to work there with me). However, a follow-up from his source (with a huge apology) led to the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) web site. The FTC states the following direct quotes on its web site (which is listed at the end of this blog):

  • FCC regulations prohibit telemarketers from using automated dialers to call cell phone numbers. Automated dialers are standard in the industry, so most telemarketers are barred from calling consumers on their cell phones without their consent.
  • The federal government does not maintain a national cell phone registry. Personal cell phone users have always been able to add their numbers to the National Do Not Call Registry — the same Registry consumers use to register their land lines — either online at www.donotcall.gov or by calling toll-free 1-888-382-1222 from the telephone number they wish to register. Registrations become effective within 31 days of signing up and are active for five years. There is no cut-off date or deadline for registrations.

Snopes also has a good article on this. It further explains that some of the wireless providers created a consortium and hired a consultant to produce a wireless subscriber directory. Two of the providers, US Cellular and Verizon, have always opposed such a directory, and Alltel and Sprint PCS have since pulled away from the project (mostly due to bad press and government regulation).

FTC article: The Truth about Cell Phones and the National Do Not Call Registry

Snopes article: Celling your soul

Math is an attitude

I found the following site through my friend Jason’s web site. It’s great for those math lovers that just love messing with numbers (I’m an occasional math geek myself, sometimes). It has many interesting articles and an RSS feed.

curiousmath Web site