Friday, June 30, 2006

French Lawmakers Approve "iTunes" Law

Lawmakers in France have approved a law that would require Apple to make its iTunes Music Store and iPod compatible with rival music players and online services. The decision could lead to Apple pulling both from the French market. Apple spends millions in research and development to create the iPod and iTunes, they should have every right to make both of them proprietary. This French law is a great example of anti free market ideals. I hope Apple refuses and pulls out of France alltogether.

Apple described the law as "state- sponsored piracy" when it passed the National Assembly in March, and U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said he supported the company's protest.

The driving rationale behind the law is the insistence on diversity that lies at the heart of French cultural policy. "It is our intention with this law to break the hold any one technology might hold over a cultural work. When I buy a song or video over the Internet, it should be like a CD or DVD and playable on any machine."
One positive about this French law... it would lower fines for illegal downloading of music on the internet, making them comparable to fines for minor traffic offenses. I can agree with that.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Another Idiot Celebrity Believes 9/11 An Inside Job

The lead singer of the pop/rock group Blink 182 has become the latest idiot to come forward with the belief that the Bush Administration was behind the September 11th attacks. He follows Charlie Sheen, who showed his ignorance by suggesting the same thing in March.

More Good Economic News

The U.S. economy is remaining strong, as new figures from the Commerce Department illustrate (pdf file). The first three months of 2006 saw the economy grow at a rate of 5.6%, the fastest rate in 2 1/2 years. That's up considerably from the final quarter of 2005, which was very negatively affected by hurricanes along the Gulf Coast. Expectations for hte second quarter of 2006 are between 2.5 and 3%.

Consumer spending was up 5.1% during the period, and business spending on equipment and software was up nearly 15%.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Should The NY Times Be Tried For Treason?

I'm not advocating it, but let's look at something interesting. The NY Times published a story revealing that the National Security Agency was listening in on calls from al Qaeda suspects abroad to people in the U.S. Last week a Times article revealed details about how the U.S. tracks terrorist financing through a consortium in Belgium.

Some are suggesting these actions may violate the Espionage Act of 1917. Here is Section 798 of that Act...

§798. Disclosure of Classified Information.

(a) Whoever knowingly and willfully communicates, furnishes, transmits, or otherwise makes available to an unauthorized person, or publishes, or uses in any manner prejudicial to the safety or interest of the United States or for the benefit of any foreign government to the detriment of the United States any classified information—

(1) concerning the nature, preparation, or use of any code, cipher, or cryptographic system of the United States or any foreign government; or
(2) concerning the design, construction, use, maintenance, or repair of any device, apparatus, or appliance used or prepared or planned for use by the United States or any foreign government for cryptographic or communication intelligence purposes; or
(3) concerning the communication intelligence activities of the United States or any foreign government; or
(4) obtained by the processes of communication intelligence from the communications of any foreign government, knowing the same to have been obtained by such processes—

Shall be fined not more than $10,000 or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.

(b) As used in this subsection (a) of this section—
The term “classified information” means information which, at the time of a violation of this section, is, for reasons of national security, specifically designated by a United States Government Agency for limited or restricted dissemination or distribution;
The terms “code,” “cipher,” and “cryptographic system” include in their meanings, in addition to their usual meanings, any method of secret writing and any mechanical or electrical device or method used for the purpose of disguising or concealing the contents, significance, or meanings of communications;
The term “foreign government” includes in its meaning any person or persons acting or purporting to act for or on behalf of any faction, party, department, agency, bureau, or military force of or within a foreign country, or for or on behalf of any government or any person or persons purporting to act as a government within a foreign country, whether or not such government is recognized by the United States;
The term “communication intelligence” means all procedures and methods used in the interception of communications and the obtaining of information from such communications by other than the intended recipients;
The term “unauthorized person” means any person who, or agency which, is not authorized to receive information of the categories set forth in subsection (a) of this section, by the President, or by the head of a department or agency of the United States Government which is expressly designated by the President to engage in communication intelligence activities for the United States.

The Times certainly has violated subsection (a)(3): concerning the communication intelligence activities of the United States, assuming the anti-terror programs were considered "classified". Perhaps the Times should be prosecuted. Their reporting on these issues certainly harms our government's efforts to use these programs to thwart terrorists.

As for arguments about freedom of the press... that freedom extends only up to the point that it conflicts with the national security of the U.S.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Today's Hero

Last year at this time, my bride and I were in Jamaica on our honeymoon. The people we met were so kind, and the island is beautiful. But there is a tremendous amount of poverty. That's why I want to share this story...

Barbara Gilbert is a waitress from Jacksonville, Florida who doesn't even own her own home. Yet she spearheaded an effort that has built a 14-home village for some of Jamaica's poorest families. She pledged over $200 a month of her own money, and solicited donations from others. The total amount raised was $69,000. The village cost $50,000, leaving $19,000 to build individual homes across the country.

The organization Barbara worked with is called Food For the Poor. They provide food, housing, health care, education, water projects, micro-enterprise development assistance and emergency relief to the poorest of the poor throughout the Caribbean and Latin America. If you are looking for a charitable organization to support, you might keep them in mind. They are working hard to help the poor throughout the area, and particularly in Haiti, which might be the poorest nation in our hemisphere.

Don't Ya Just Hate Telemarketers?

The U.S. government has a secret hotline connecting Homeland Security with the nation's 50 governors. They've had to place that number on the Federal Do Not Call Registry after being deluged with telemarketer calls.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Death Tax Failure A Shame

The federal estate tax, also known as the death tax, will be a burden for at least a few more years. Libs opposed to anything representing success and achievement have prevented Republicans from doing away with perhaps the worst tax on the books. Instead of eliminating the tax, it will increase the exemptions beginning in 2010. The exemptions would be $5 million of an individual's estate, and $10 million of a couple's estate. After that, an estate worth up to $25 million would be taxed at capital gains rates, currently 15 percent and scheduled to increase to 20 percent in 2011. Estates worth $25 million or more would be taxed at twice capital gains, currently 30 percent and increasing to 40 percent.

Let's do the math... In 2011, a couple leaves an estate valued at $25 million. With the exemption of $10 million, that couple's heirs will wind up paying $6 million in estate taxes (40% of the remaining $15 million). That would, in all likelihood, mean selling off a good portion of the estate to raise the cash to pay the taxes. So, the heirs will not only have been taxed a huge amount, but will have lost a sizeable portion of their inheritance, just to pay taxes for inheriting it.

Someone please explain to me where it is just or fair to tax personal property being passed from parents to children. You work hard all your life to build something, then you can't pass it on to your flesh and blood without the government getting a cut. Somehow, I don't believe the founding fathers envisioned the goverment they created stooping to such lows. Our leaders should be ashamed.

When this most onerous tax could have been eliminated, it's instead been given new life. Now it will be an unfair burden on the more wealthy. Lord knows, the evil wealthy deserve to be taxed. Building companies, creating jobs for people, supporting charities and universities... evil rich people.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Chicago Police Officers To Be Fired For Cowardice

Three Chicago Police officers ran away when a fellow officer was struggling for his life with an armed man. Now two of the three have been fired, and the third faces termination.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Hundreds of WMDs Found In Iraq

Funny, I keep hearing about how Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction. But here are two congressmen quoting declassified reports that we've found hundreds of weapons munitions containing mustard and sarin nerve gas. While this isn't the product of an ongoing weapons program from the 90's, it does show that Saddam lied about disposing of WMDs and it shows that UN weapons inspectors were not capable of finding the weapons Saddam was hiding.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

From The Web...

Here are a couple of interesting pages I've stumbled across recently.

Nuclear Explosion Database - with the location, time and size of explosions around the world since 1945.

Disney Lies - Your source for lies, distortions, untruths, half truths, urban legends, rumors, and just plain made-up stuff about Walt Disney, Disneyland Resort, and Disney films

Monday, June 19, 2006

Big Oil Profits

My wife and I recovered our dining room chairs recently. I bought the foam padding from a fabric store near the house. The price for the foam had risen in the week since I called and was given a price quote. I asked the saleswoman about the price increase. Apparently, the foam is made from some petroleum-based product, and petroleum prices affect foam prices. She then went on a two-minute rant about the "obscene profits" the oil companies are making. I smiled the entire time, and even nodded a bit. When she was done (or out of breath), I asked her a question.

"Do you have a retirement plan, like a 401-K or IRA?"

"401-K," she replied.

"Remember," I told her, still smiling, "that millions of people with retirement plans are invested in index funds, like the S&P 500. These funds invest in companies like Shell and Exxon, and high profits for those companies mean a better return for the investors. That's a good thing for people like you and me. Also, those profits fund the research and development of new, more cost-efficient ways to produce energy. And they allow for pay raises for middle and low-level employees of the companies. Those profits don't just go into the pockets of the CEO."

This woman looked at me like I had two heads. I don't know if she'd never thought about things that way, or if she couldn't believe I defended them. I thought she might begin to scream if I said anything else. I just smiled, took the foam, and told her to have a great day.

There's such a lack of knowledge among Americans about how the free market works. So many people see the word "profit" as something evil.

I saw part of NBC's Meet The Press yesterday, with the CEO's from three of the largest oil companies (ConocoPhillips, Chevron and Shell) explaining the reasons for current fuel prices and defending their apparently enormous profits. They explained that prices have risen (as any student of economics should know) because of increased demand and decreased supply. Refining capacity dropped because of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. There are tremendous amounts of oil waiting to be claimed in ANWAR and off-shore along the Pacific and Gulf coasts, but environmentalists and politicians are keeping that oil off limits.

So many Americans don't understand or appreciate how much better we have things than people in other parts of the world. Gas prices in Europe are more than double what we're paying here.

Extremely high profits have made the oil companies targets. How dare these companies rack up huge profits while charging such high prices at the pumps? Well, better they make profits than flirt with bankruptcy.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Hey There... Remember Me?

Yeah, I know it's been two months. What can I say? Things have been busy. In the last two months we've had two funerals, a party for a friend's son's first birthday, busy times at work, a health scare in my wife's family (which turned out okay), a trip out of town, tons of yard work and house work, an out of town work weekend, remodeled our guest bathroom, and two family get-togethers at the house. It's been hectic.

Oh, and to squelch any rumors or misunderstandings, there are no little rugrats in our immediate future. None. As my lovely wife would say, "We haven't even been married a year yet." That's next Sunday.