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as seen on phillyBurbs.com

Wrong message sent
Sign my online petition or else...

Some times you people really tick me off.

Two weeks ago, I reported that former Pennsylvania Gov. Mark Schweiker and the Legislature last year quietly and deliberately killed the twice-a-year weeklong state sales tax break on buying a new computer.

They eliminated "Tax-Free PC week" with no public debate. They simply cut the popular program's funding during closed-door budget negotiations and never announced it publicly.

I started an online petition with our online affiliate, E-The-People, to have the program restored. My idea was to send a message to our lawmakers that they should do the public's business in public.

The petition will automatically be e-mailed to Gov. Ed Rendell in another two weeks. But to date, only four state residents have taken the time to sign it.

If it gets e-mailed like that, it will be sending the entirely wrong message folks. So I'm asking you once agains to add your electric John Hancock to the petition. To add your name, click here.


In June, I railed against the Pennsylvania proposal to repeal the state's 24-year-old motorcycle helmet law, arguing that sometimes, the state has to legislate stupidity.

You might remember that I even nominated Gov. Rendell for a Darwin Award, for his service to humanity by letting the herd cull itself. However, the Darwin Awards Web site managers said the honor would have to wait until the first helmetless idiot goes splat on the pavement.

The law went into effect last Thursday, and as of this writing, I guess I'm happy to report that they and I are both still waiting.


In my Aug. 12 column, "Philly sports heroes" I asked readers to help me with my ballot by selecting the first inductees into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame. 

Ken Avallon, the hall's president, shot me a quick e-mail to say that the "charter class" will be announced today. He also hinted that baseball Hall of Famer and basketball legend Sonny Hill would be among those chosen for the honor.


My Aug. 4 column, "Stop or I'll sue," which looked at the finances of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), has made its way into numerous Web logs and Web sites involved in the trade group's war on music file-swappers.

Since I wrote it:

  • The RIAA has been sued by a group of online music broadcasters who allege the major record labels have unlawfully inflated webcasting royalty rates to keep independent operators out of the market.

  • Court papers the RIAA filed against a Brooklyn woman accused of file swapping show the trade group is examining the "digital fingerprints" on mp3s to see if a person created the file by herself or if they downloaded it from someone else.

  • The RIAA is expected to announce an amnesty program this week. The association promises not to sue anyone who admits to file sharing, so long as they pledge to delete the songs off their computers.

The column generated several e-mails including:

It's nice to see someone actually doing some actual reporting rather than writing from a RIAA press release. Great Job!

- Bill Evans, founder of www.boycott-riaa.com

Simple fact is that music artist aren't suffering. If they can produce one poor artist, I would stop my file sharing days. But they can't. They are saying everyone else is hurting. It's the Enron case all over. The producers and bosses get the money and glory. So they can afford to take a paycut to pay the rest. Why buy an album if it has one or two good songs on it that get played out on the radio?

- Shawn

Thank you for an excellent article. I am sorry to be confused  - but where does the RIAA collect fees from?

- Rebecca Hale

For the record, the RIAA collects dues from its members, the music labels, and also raises revenue by suing music pirates. While the association is obligated to return a portion of the money in wins in those suits back to the record companies, the labels are not obligated to pay their artists any more money.


Last week's "Labor Day rant," generated this:

Just read your article about working on Labor Day. Funny as it was, and entertaining, the sad part of it all is that IT'S TRUE!!! Keep up the good articles like that one Dave. I enjoyed it very much.

- Dave Danser

A veteran soldier stationed at Fort Bragg also sent a pretty long treatise on why I was wrong in my April 7th column arguing that women who wear the uniform should be allowed to participate in combat. Here's a portion of what the 1988 Bensalem High School graduate had to say:

What makes you think that denying females from fighting is going to have a significant impact on their promotions? Is this your guess?

I am venting on you for one reason:  Females are a big part of the military.  We need every man and woman in the service to contribute to the best of their ability the training they have received.  No job or person is better than another in the military. Everybody has a specialty, some have more than one, and each one is equally important. 

Your article is bad for recruiting.  If I were a female and read this article, I would question myself before joining the military.  I am not saying that females are weak or that they are easily persuaded by news articles.  I am simply stating that your article, which was a collaboration of several other newspaper and magazine articles, needed more personal research by you.  If you personally spoke to a soldier, sailor, airman or marine, I would have more respect for your article.

(Stories you might have missed but shouldn't have)


Group gets private data on U.S. officials
Almost everything is for sale on the Internet - even the Social Security numbers of top government officials like CIA Director George Tenet and Attorney General John Ashcroft, consumer advocates warned Wednesday.


Gov. Davis signs financial privacy bill
California Gov. Gray Davis signed some of the nation's most sweeping financial privacy legislation Wednesday, allowing state consumers to block banks, insurance companies and other institutions from sharing their personal information.

Bill will authorize fines for unruly fans
Fans who throw objects onto the field or court during a game could be hit with fines of up to $250 under a bill headed for the desk of Gov. Gray Davis.

(COLUMNIST'S NOTE: Thank God I don't live in California. After work last Monday, I went to the Phillies game at the Vet only to watch the team blow a 4-0 lead, hit into at least three double plays, use virtually every pitcher in the clubhouse and finally blow the game in the ninth on a grand slam. Philly fans showed remarkable restraint by not launching their Mike Schmidt bobblehead dolls from the stadium's higher levels.)

Dave Ralis' Pave The Grass column appears on Mondays. You can send him an e-mail at  or call him at 215-269-5051. To read his previous columns, click here.

Sept. 8, 2003