In the latest addition to the Some-People-Never-Learn (SPNL) file, a Scotland woman who has paid over $19,300 (USD) in parking fines over the last three years continues to park illegally in Glasgow's main square. And she owes an additional 8,000 pounds on each of her two family cars, according to a Glasgow City Council spokesman.

Among the others filed under SPNL are The Bachelorette herself, Trista Rehn, who's seeking a husband for the second time on reality TV; pop star Justin Timberlake, rumored to be back together with ex-girlfriend Britney Spears; and Michael Jackson (no explanation necessary).

The FOOL 50 mirrored the Dow and closed flat today. (It, too, made the SPNL file.)

In today's Motley Fool Take:

AOL : Case Closed

He helped craft one of the great growth stories of the 1990s. His regular letters to the America Online community gave the dot-com revolution a warm voice and a welcome face. With a subscription service so explosive that its membership gains were measured in millions, he helped marry the new with the old in the acquisition of Time Warner. AOL Time Warner's(NYSE: AOL) Steve Case had it all, but now he's leaving with nary the swan song.

Over the weekend, Case announced he would step down as the company's chairman after the media giant's annual shareholder meeting in May. Executive shuffles at the entertainment conglomerate have become a common occurrence since the merger closed two years ago. While the marriage of behemoths has proven unwieldy, problems on the macro level, such as a soft advertising market and a moribund music industry, have been petty potatoes compared to the problems at the company's flagship online service.

Growth has stalled at America Online. With less domestic and wired real estate to cover and a myriad of problems overseas, the company has resorted to cutting jobs and trimming marketing expenses to hold down the bottom line while the top line attempts to regroup.

Patience had worn thin with Case, as the board shackled him to zero-based budgeting; every line item was set to nil and every appropriation has to earn its keep, as if it was a new expenditure. Cost-effective yet as complicated as it is demoralizing, it's easy to see why Case would step down now. It's likely the thumbscrews would have only tightened from here.

If history is kind, it will remember Case as a nurturing visionary rather than the latest AOL Time Warner executive taking the fall for a situation without a quick fix. While accounting irregularities and poor financial results have tarnished the company, it's still the one to watch in so many facets of leisure's realm.

While former subscribers can point to the service's rigid structure and a lack of effective spam filters as critical shortcomings, America Online served as both the educator and the training wheels for the Internet experience. Case's resignation may be at a time when the prognosis appears bleakest, but even his biggest critics are unlikely to be appeased by the near-term results achieved by whomever takes his place.

Keeping core subscribers satisfied and trying to grow revenue channels may be a waiting game until the online ad dollar returns, but it will be far easier said than done -- or bled than won -- for America Online.

Discussion Board of the Day: AOL Time Warner

Is there life after Steve Case for AOL Time Warner? Which choice executive would make the ideal leader for the company? Can America Online can win back market share by lowering its rates, or is it too late for that now? All this and more -- in the AOL Time Warner discussion board. Only on

Fool Radio Wants You: Thoughts on Case's Resignation?

Are you so fired up about Case's decision that you have to air your opinion out loud? Or do you have another question you'd like to ask David and Tom Gardner? The Motley Fool Radio Show wants you. To participate in this week's show, call our Fool Radio line toll-free at 866-NPR-FOOL. That's 866-677-3665.

The Dividend Puzzle

The most talked-about item in President Bush's $674 billion economic stimulus package is the proposal to eliminate the "double taxing" of dividends. This is something most investors find appealing, and you can read more about it in Bill Mann's (TMF Otter) The Truth About the Dividend Tax.

Should the proposal pass, however, you may need an accountant to figure out what it means for you. A Washington Post story by Jonathan Weisman does a good job explaining the enormous complexities involved. Here are the major points:

  • Eliminating double-taxation assumes the dividends will have to be taxed once. And that means corporations will have to track all earnings and pay dividends only out of the pool of fully taxed profits. Further, many companies receive various breaks and pay little or no taxes. These businesses would not be able to offer tax-free dividends to investors. This issue may involve dividend payouts that specify how much of the money was taxed at the corporate level, leaving investors to figure out how much will be taxed at their level.
  • The above complexity favors well-established, dividend-paying companies. After all, businesses that have operated under the same tax rates for years can offer simple, tax-free dividends. Think of companies like General Electric(NYSE: GE), Philip Morris(NYSE: MO), and J.P. Morgan Chase(NYSE: JPM).
  • Companies not offering traditional dividends could pay "deemed dividends." This involves management telling investors how much money the business could have paid out in tax-free dividends but chose not to. Investors could then add that to their cost basis, giving it a higher value. When they sell their stock, the higher cost basis may give them a lower capital gains tax.
  • It may be a disadvantage to hold a dividend-paying stock in an IRA. You'll be able to retain the entire payout of a tax-free dividend in a non-retirement account, of course. But when you withdraw money from a 401(k) or traditional IRA, it will be taxed.

None of this means you need to make portfolio adjustments right now. After all, the proposal is still a proposal, and it may change drastically as it works its way through Congress -- if, indeed, it makes it through at all.

Quote of Note

"Men do not realize how great a revenue economy is." -- Marcus Tullius Cicero (c. 106-43 BC), orator, lawyer, politician, and philosopher

Another Win for Microsoft

Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) was dealt another court victory today from everyone's favorite alliteratively named judge, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly. She decreed that two industry groups unhappy with Microsoft's antitrust settlement haven't the legal grounds to appeal it.

The Software and Information Industry Association and the Computer & Communications Industry Association filed friend-of-the-court briefs in December hoping for the right to appeal Microsoft's settlement with the government. Kollar-Kotelly squashed that desire today, though she did tell the two groups that if they wanted to pursue the matter further, they could file private lawsuits.

Several technology and software companies that have a great interest in getting tougher sanctions against Microsoft are members of the two associations. AOL Time Warner(NYSE: AOL) is a member of both groups, as are Oracle(Nasdaq: ORCL) and Sun Microsystems(Nasdaq: SUNW). Sun has its own private antitrust lawsuit still pending against Microsoft, and Kollar-Kotelly referenced it as an example of a legally acceptable private case. The associations could file private suits, or individual members could do so.

Whether or not further lawsuits are imminent isn't clear. Neither association had any comment yet on the ruling.

Microsoft's legal headaches aren't completely gone, however. Massachusetts and West Virginia still want tougher penalties against the company, and the Sun suit is ongoing. Plus, antitrust action against Microsoft in Europe remains outstanding, with the two above-mentioned trade groups lobbying for strict treatment of the software giant.

For its part, Microsoft had no comment on today's news, choosing instead to focus on (of all things) running its business and preparing for its earnings release this Thursday.

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Quick Takes

Raytheon (NYSE: RTN) and securities regulators have been getting to know each other very well. First the company was sanctioned for (allegedly) ignoring Regulation Fair Disclosure (Bill Mann took Raytheon to task on this topic, too, nearly two years ago.) Now the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating the accounting and revenue recognition practices at Raytheon's aircraft unit.

England's second-largest supermarket chain, J Sainsbury, hopes to gain ground by buying Safeway (not the same Safeway many Americans shop at) for some $5.6 billion. Meanwhile, it's rumored that Asda Group PLC, the nation's third-largest chain, will also make a bid for the firm. Wal-Mart(NYSE: WMT) owns Asda, so money shouldn't be a problem.

Faced with inadequate health insurance coverage and sky-high prescription drug costs, many Americans (especially the elderly) have been buying medication from Canada, where prices are much more reasonable. This isn't technically legal, nor is it smiled upon by American pharmaceutical firms. Now GlaxoSmithKline(NYSE: GSK) says it will cease selling drugs to Canadian pharmacies that sell to Americans.

The price of oil has been rising recently, spurred by a Venezuelan oil strike and impending war with Iraq. Today, we learned OPEC, pressured by Saudi Arabia, will up its oil production quotas by 6.5%, an increase of 1.5 million barrels a day, to keep prices from rising further. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia says it can increase its own production by 2 million barrels per day in just two weeks, if needed.

Vodafone Group (NYSE: VOD) , in an effort to own more of Europe's wireless market, is aiming to snap up the shares it doesn't already own of its Swedish, Dutch, and Portuguese subsidiaries. The cost? Roughly two billion euro in cash (equivalent to about $2 billion). Vodafone owns 45% of America's Verizon Wireless(NYSE: VZ).

In an effort to take a stronger lead in the battery biz, compete with private-label brands, and revive flagging sales, Gillette's(NYSE: G) Duracell division will cut its prices by about 13% on AA and AAA batteries. That would take a $5 pack of batteries down to $4.35. Good luck, Gillette!

The Wall Street Journal reports (subscription required) that after a post-Sept. 11 absence, jokes are making a comeback at Southwest Airlines(NYSE: LUV). A sample: "If you smoke in this airplane, the FAA will fine you $2,000... [pause] and at those prices, you might as well fly Delta!" Here's a little more airplane humor.

And Finally...

Today on

  • Successful stock picking starts with looking at as many promising candidates as possible. Matt Richey tells you how to find them.
  • Need help talking money with your honey? Learn from the mistakes of married Fools.
  • Strong results for Tenet may warrant a checkup from investors.
  • More and more seniors are saying, "Forget retirement!" Turns out, there are benefits to working after age 65, for employers and employees.
  • In Fool's School, how to use the Web to find the best deal on a car.

Bob Bobala, Robert Brokamp, Jeff Fischer, Tom Jacobs, LouAnn Lofton, Bill Mann, Selena Maranjian, Rex Moore, Rick Munarriz, Matt Richey, Jackie Ross, Reggie Santiago, Dayana Yochim