Monday, July 31, 2006

Bush's Heir Cut!!!

by Greg Palast
For The Guardian, Comment Is Free
Monday, July 31, 2006

East Hampton, New York -- Anthony Marshall, the tabloids tell us, wouldn't buy his elderly mother her prescribed medicine, locked her poodles in the pantry and refused to buy her hair dye or her favorite make-up.

His mom is Brooke Astor, the ultra-rich socialite, now frail, helpless and dependent on her son.

While others merely gossiped about this tragedy of dogs and cosmetics, George Bush acted. In a deft maneuver at the end of last week, Bush rammed through Congress a massive reduction in the inheritance tax. As a result of the tax change engineered by the White House, Marshall stands to save $9 million on the $45 million he expects to inherit from his mom.

George W. Bush could feel Anthony's pain. It's not easy being a child of incredibly wealthy parents. Indeed, as the President noted, "death taxes" are supremely unfair to those who've earned these millions. As Mr. Bush often mentions, he himself worked long hours his whole life to be born into a rich family.

Our President recently told the Detroit Economic Club that, in an era of government belt tightening, “Spending discipline requires difficult choices.” But this choice was easy as pie: the President chose to use our tax dollars to reduce the burden on the most deserving. And who could be more deserving than Barbara's kids? The President himself, who stands to inherit well over $76 million from his parents, will save at least $12.7 million. Talk about family values!

This year, the President's budget eliminated the $255 paid to widows of social security recipients. But who needs a measly $255 when you're going to save millions on the estate you inherit? Here's how much your family will save, if your family is the Astors. Under current law, Anthony would have to pay the government 46% of his profits from his mother's death, after the first tax-free $2 million. Now, Anthony will get the first five million tax-free and the tax rate on the rest is cut in half. Altogether, this reduction in inheritance taxes will cost, oh, a quarter trillion dollars over the next decade -- $267 billion, to be exact.

To pay for it, besides eliminating the $255 widow benefit, the President's "difficult choices" included taking $12 million from the federal traumatic brain injury assistance program and $119 million from housing for the disabled. But cripples looking for a government hand-out should stop thinking selfishly. They should have more sympathy for the Menendez brothers, whose parents were worth $14 million. The tax laws in 1989 reduced the net sum each of the two boys stood to inherit to just $2 million each, giving the young men no choice but to kill their parents for the additional insurance money. Apparently, one of the single largest beneficiaries of the change will be Robert Durst. And now that he's out of jail (he dis-membered his 71-year-old neighbor), the heir to the Durst real estate billions can look forward to a bonus of, I'd estimate, at least a quarter billion bucks from the US taxpayers. (With the extra Treasury treasure, Durst can look for his wife who is, uh, missing.)

The President could have used the quarter trillion to buy every displaced family from New Orleans a one million dollar home. But, he reasoned, their kids would just end up paying estate taxes on it when their parents kicked the bucket.

Several newspapers deplored the way Anthony treated the elderly Mrs. Astor. But, let me note, it was the Tax-and-Spend policies of Big Government that forced him to dilute his mom's medicine. Let's face it: until our President's bold action to repeal death taxes, Mrs. Astor, hanging in there at 104 years of age, simply had no incentive to die. The National Association of Manufacturers, the key lobby for the end of estate taxes, wrote every Congressman, "Why on earth should good, honest, hard-working people" -- like Durst, Marshall and the Menendez kids -- have to pay taxes while other Americans just slack it?

Until the Republicons took action this week, Americans have simply had no reason, said our president, to "accumulate wealth." I know that in my own dad's case, rather than become a multi-millionaire, he chose to work 65 hours a week in a furniture store, with no pension, just so my sister and I would never have to fear estate taxes.

Congress' vote last week would eliminate only 74% of the taxes on America's wealthiest. Our President is not satisfied. Mr. Bush will not rest in peace until we emulate one of the only nations on the planet without any death taxes, Saudi Arabia. There, our president could point to the example of the billionaire bin Laden family, whose scion, Osama, unburdened by estate taxes, has donated his entire inheritance to "faith-based initiatives."

Thursday, July 27, 2006


I'm up in Santa Barbara (Goleta actually) again working at the Bacara Resort ... all of us (the audio visual technicians) got excited yesterday 'cause KISS is staying at the hotel for a couple of days ... they're playing two dates up at the Chumash Casino north of town ... we all wanted to see Gene Simmons ... we "stole" a golf cart from another department (since sadly, a/v doesn't have it's own cart) and cruised around the resort trying to spot him ... today I was walking up the hill figuring that I wasn't going to see him since I was going to punch-out and leave for the day ... but, half-way up the hill a golf cart with a single occupant in the back seat slowly crawled by ... it was Paul Stanley!!!

I really don't know any of their recent music ... I was a huge KISS fan in the 70's when I was in high school ... that was my first rock concert ... KISS at the Johnstown War Memorial in 1975 ... I went with four guys I knew from Junior Achievement (JA) that dressed up as the members of KISS (they all went to the local Catholic school so you know they had "issues") ... we were right at the front of the stage in front of Gene Simmons (so close that I could touch Gene's boots) ... it was fantastic!!! ... my hearing hasn't been the same since!!!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

What A Dick!!!

From today's Progress Report:

CONGRESS -- INHOFE COMPARES PEOPLE WHO BELIEVE IN GLOBAL WARMING SCIENCE TO 'THE THIRD REICH': Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) is the nation’s most prominent global warming denier. He famously declared that global warming is "the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people." Now he’s taken the argument a step further. In an interview with the Tulsa World, Inhofe compared people who believe global warming is a problem to Nazis: "[He] heaped criticism on what he saw as the strategy used by those on the other side of the debate and offered a historical comparison. ... 'It kind of reminds... I could use the Third Reich, the big lie,' Inhofe said." The "big lie" is a propaganda technique Adolf Hitler attributed to Jews in his book Mein Kampf. It involves telling lies “so colossal” that no one would believe “others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.” Inhofe added that every claim in An Inconvenient Truth “has been refuted scientifically.” He also admitted he’d never seen the movie.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

WHAT??? Part III!!!

From yesterday's (7/7/06) Progress Report:

TERRORISM -- CIA'S BIN LADEN UNIT CLOSES ITS DOORS BEFORE 9/11 CHIEF IS BROUGHT TO JUSTICE: Earlier this week, the New York Times reported that the CIA decided to shut down a secret unit that had the mission of hunting down Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenants. Shortly after 9/11, Bush pledged to bring bin Laden to justice "dead or alive." Nearly five years later, bin Laden "is apparently still alive and spreading his message." Michael Scheuer, a former senior C.I.A. official who was the first head of the unit, said the move reflected a mistaken view inside the agency that bin Laden is no longer the threat he once was. "This will clearly denigrate our operations against Al Qaeda," he said. CIA officials countered that the move "reflects a belief that the agency can better deal with high-level threats by focusing on regional trends rather than on specific organizations or individuals." Yesterday, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) sent a letter to National Intelligence Director John Negroponte, expressing his concern over the closure of the unit. "[D]isbanding the bin Laden unit sends the message to the terrorists that they can kill thousands of Americans without being held to account," he wrote. "Reconstituting the bin Laden unit now would make it clear that we will never rest until he has been brought to justice."

WHAT??? Part II!!!

Found this on Sploid today ... lotsa interesting links in this article:

July 5, 2006

CIA gives up hunt for Osama!

July 4 is always a special day for the United States, and today is no different -- although instead of celebrating past glories and canceled freedoms, today Americans are celebrating the utter failure of the U.S. government to capture the alleged mastermind behind the attacks of September 11, 2001.

But that "failure" has been a terrific help to the Bush Administration, according to a shocking report released today. The CIA saw Bin Laden as "helping Bush's re-election," while the 9/11 attacks turned an unpopular, bumbling president who needed the Supreme Court to "elect" him into a "war president" who managed to barely win a second term.

It was also revealed today that the CIA closed its special Osama bin Laden unit ... a whole year ago!

The special terrorist-hunting unit was called "Alec Station" and had been pursuing Bin Laden, a former CIA operative, since the mid-1990s.

While CIA officials weakly claimed the search for Bin Laden "remains a high priority," it's obviously not important at all.

It turns out the Bush Administration needs Bin Laden on the loose, no matter if he's actually alive -- the FBI believes Osama has been dead four years -- and no matter if he had anything to do with terror attacks in the United States.

To this day, no less an authority than the Justice Department's FBI has found "no hard evidence" linking the wealthy Saudi to 9/11. In fact, the FBI is only dedicated to protecting Bin Laden's "right to privacy," not bringing him to justice.

The dramatic news was all released on Independence Day, when absolutely nobody is paying attention to the news.

But the damning revelations won't surprise those who remember the terror bogeyman has always firmly denied having anything to do with the psychologically devastating attacks on America.

Only in a clumsily faked video put out by the Pentagon did "Bin Laden" even claim to have a few days' advance knowledge of the attacks -- the Pentagon, CIA, Justice Department, FBI and White House knew months in advance, while preparations for the attacks had been in the works for years.


Thursday, July 06, 2006


From the New York Times:

July 4, 2006

C.I.A. Closes Unit Focused on Capture of bin Laden


WASHINGTON, July 3 — The Central Intelligence Agency has closed a unit that for a decade had the mission of hunting Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenants, intelligence officials confirmed Monday.

The unit, known as Alec Station, was disbanded late last year and its analysts reassigned within the C.I.A. Counterterrorist Center, the officials said.

The decision is a milestone for the agency, which formed the unit before Osama bin Laden became a household name and bolstered its ranks after the Sept. 11 attacks, when President Bush pledged to bring Mr. bin Laden to justice "dead or alive."

The realignment reflects a view that Al Qaeda is no longer as hierarchical as it once was, intelligence officials said, and a growing concern about Qaeda-inspired groups that have begun carrying out attacks independent of Mr. bin Laden and his top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Agency officials said that tracking Mr. bin Laden and his deputies remained a high priority, and that the decision to disband the unit was not a sign that the effort had slackened. Instead, the officials said, it reflects a belief that the agency can better deal with high-level threats by focusing on regional trends rather than on specific organizations or individuals.

"The efforts to find Osama bin Laden are as strong as ever," said Jennifer Millerwise Dyck, a C.I.A. spokeswoman. "This is an agile agency, and the decision was made to ensure greater reach and focus."

The decision to close the unit was first reported Monday by National Public Radio.

Michael Scheuer, a former senior C.I.A. official who was the first head of the unit, said the move reflected a view within the agency that Mr. bin Laden was no longer the threat he once was.

Mr. Scheuer said that view was mistaken.

"This will clearly denigrate our operations against Al Qaeda," he said. "These days at the agency, bin Laden and Al Qaeda appear to be treated merely as first among equals."

In recent years, the war in Iraq has stretched the resources of the intelligence agencies and the Pentagon, generating new priorities for American officials. For instance, much of the military's counterterrorism units, like the Army's Delta Force, had been redirected from the hunt for Mr. bin Laden to the search for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was killed last month in Iraq.

An intelligence official who was granted anonymity to discuss classified information said the closing of the bin Laden unit reflected a greater grasp of the organization. "Our understanding of Al Qaeda has greatly evolved from where it was in the late 1990's," the official said, but added, "There are still people who wake up every day with the job of trying to find bin Laden."

Established in 1996, when Mr. bin Laden's calls for global jihad were a source of increasing concern for officials in Washington, Alec Station operated in a similar fashion to that of other agency stations around the globe.

The two dozen staff members who worked at the station, which was named after Mr. Scheuer's son and was housed in leased offices near agency headquarters in northern Virginia, issued regular cables to the agency about Mr. bin Laden's growing abilities and his desire to strike American targets throughout the world.

In his book "Ghost Wars," which chronicles the agency's efforts to hunt Mr. bin Laden in the years before the Sept. 11 attacks, Steve Coll wrote that some inside the agency likened Alec Station to a cult that became obsessed with Al Qaeda.

"The bin Laden unit's analysts were so intense about their work that they made some of their C.I.A. colleagues uncomfortable," Mr. Coll wrote. Members of Alec Station "called themselves 'the Manson Family' because they had acquired a reputation for crazed alarmism about the rising Al Qaeda threat."

Intelligence officials said Alec Station was disbanded after Robert Grenier, who until February was in charge of the Counterterrorist Center, decided the agency needed to reorganize to better address constant changes in terrorist organizations.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Bueller??? Bueller???

So today after The Boy and I watched "Cars" (not too bad ... too long for toddlers though ... The Girl is under the weather so she stayed at home with her Mama) at The River in Rancho Mirage we decided to grab some lunch at Baja Fresh ... we sat outside since it wasn't too hot and the inside of Baja Fresh was like an ice box ... while we were dining I looked up to see Ben Stein meeting someone for coffee at Starbucks ... it didn't register that it was him until he asked the guy he was meeting if Starbucks was open ... nobody talks like he does.

It would have been a cool celeb sighting except Ben Stein is such a hardcore resmugnican ... worked for Nixon (as his lawyer and speechwriter) ... supports Dubya ... and he hates Mark "Deep Throat" Felt for what he did to bring down Nixon ... and to think he started out as a "poverty lawyer."

I normally don't post celebrity sightings but I haven't posted anything in awhile ... I'm so discusted with the way this country is going I haven't felt like posting anything.