Seven more days. After the sun sets tonight, that's how many more days you have to file your 2003 taxes. If you haven't started, don't panic. You still have one more weekend to get buried in W-2s and 1099s. But your procrastination time is running out. Just do it, and pay Uncle Sam what you owe him. There's no way around it. For handy, last-minute tips, visit our Tax Center, then get it over with and get on with your life.
In today's Motley Fool Take:
- Voters Reject Wal-Mart
- Shameless Plug: Motley Fool Hidden Gems
- Don't Believe the Skype
- Quote of Note
- The Death of Dollar Downloads?
- Discussion Board of the Day: Apple
- More on Fool.com Today
Voters Reject Wal-Mart
By Seth Jayson
A couple of days ago, I wrote a brief article about Wal-Mart's
Yesterday, Inglewood's voters rejected that initiative by a margin of 60% to 40%. I'll no doubt be branded a hippy-commie-pinko for saying this, but I am glad to see 04-A go down in flames. I'm all for free enterprise, but not at the cost of local control.
Shareholders and shoppers may disagree, but it is the duty of civic governments to regulate their communities. They have every right to reject a company if they are concerned about issues like low wages, union-busting, and skewed competition to established grocers like Safeway
We should note that Wal-Mart could have built the store without 04-A. The Inglewood government had already reversed its ban on big-box retailers. So why did Wal-Mart go through with it? Because it could. And that's the scary precedent for California.
Ballot initiatives are meant as a democratic safety valve for disenfranchised citizens. It's a perverse exploitation of the process when a company with the economic clout of an entire nation plays the victim and tries to spend its way around local ordinances. (Anyone else see the paradox in the fact that Wal-Mart was paying signature collectors more than it pays its retail employees?)
Even Fools who disagree with that ethical stance ought to realize the potential for economic backlash against the firm's tactics. Wal-Mart's success at the expense of its competitors and suppliers already generates enough bad press. It should avoid alienating the public -- and higher government authorities -- through political bullying. There may be more at stake than the $1 million thrown away in Inglewood.
Each month, Motley Fool co-founder Tom Gardner hunts for undervalued companies that have what he thinks it takes to hit the jackpot. Don't take our word for it. The numbers speak for themselves. Tom Gardner's picks are up 45.49% to the S&P 500's 8.55%. Check out Motley Fool Hidden Gems risk-free for 30 days.
Don't Believe the Skype
By Dave Mock
With Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Michael Powell still wrestling with how the U.S. government should or should not regulate Internet telephony, provider companies haven't skipped a beat in pushing ahead toward the age of voice over Internet protocol (VOIP).
Major carriers and equipment suppliers such as Verizon Communications
Recently, another popular private player leading users into the convergence age -- a company called Skype -- announced software that enables mobile calling over data networks. With the software, voice calls can use broadband access points (Wi-Fi hotspots) and the Internet to complete calls between users. Because the calls need to originate and terminate on devices using Skype's software, it's referred to as peer-to-peer (P2P) telephony (it can't call traditional phones -- yet).
The company announced the slimmed-down version of its desktop software, called PocketSkype, for use on Pocket PC devices using Microsoft's
Skype CEO Niklas Zennstrom touted the new offering in an interview: "Say that you're traveling. You just fire it up in your hotel, in Starbucks or wherever, and you can start making and receiving Skype calls completely free of charge."
Cool. The only problem is -- it's not completely free. Heck, it's not even partially free.
Who told Mr. Zennstrom that Wi-Fi in Starbucks
So, for those who are dreaming of dumping all your fixed and mobile carriers for free VOIP calls, go back to sleep. Keep a watch on Skype, though, like other VOIP offerings, it's a great product with a tremendous value for users. Just don't expect it to displace traditional services anytime soon.
Fool contributor Dave Mock is so cheap, he'll walk five miles uphill in the California snow to reach a free Wi-Fi hotspot. He'll just stop at Starbucks -- a stock he owns -- to pick up a latte on the way. Dave owns no other stocks mentioned here.
"If A is success in life, then A equals x plus y plus z. Work is x; y is play; and z is keeping your mouth shut." -- Albert Einstein
The Death of Dollar Downloads?
By Alyce Lomax (TMF Lomax)
No sooner have digital tunes really started to catch on, we hear that the $0.99-per-song -- or less, if you go toWal-Mart
It's no secret that the recording industry's not adjusting well to change. Illegal downloading -- made notorious by services like Kazaa and the now-legit Napster -- continues, and is still blamed for bleak revenue shortfalls in the industry. But will the legally downloading public pay more than it's already paying per song? What about paying nearly as much for a downloaded album as for a CD? I think not.
While recording industry stalwarts like Sony
Hiking prices to more than just chump change or, in the case of albums, close to levels charged by traditional record stores, Amazon.com
Wooing people to the side of the law by offering downloads for less than a buck has been very successful thus far. However, it's a touchy business. The Internet and music are both perceived as "free" mediums. The terms "ripping" and "burning" -- i.e., recording friends' CDs onto blank discs -- may be new, but it's hardly a new concept, given that people have been copying albums for years.
Though the economics of the situation seem dire, the names behind the RIAA haven't won too much sympathy from music fans recently. And speaking of rock 'n' roll rebellion, if squeezed too tight, renegades -- who all the piracy coverage revealed to be just regular people like you and me -- will probably soon cook up other ways to rock on.
Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.
Do you love iTunes? Are you willing to pay up to $2.49 for a single song, or do you think that is highway robbery? Would this limit your downloading? Talk about issues like this and more on the Apple discussion board. Only on Fool.com.
Want to know the secret behind Tom Gardner's picks in his newsletter Motley Fool Hidden Gems? Find out in Small Stocks, Big Gains.... It seems like it is all about tech stocks these days. Bill Mann has his opinion on the matter in The Big Tech Scramble.... And Dave Mock wants to pitch the case for Qualcomm in Has Qualcomm's Time Come?
In other news:
- IBM's India Adventure
- Radio Flyer Sells Out
- Morgan Stanley Believes in Barra
- Lucent Sings to the Feds
For a list of all our stories from today, see our Today's Headlines page.