Skepticisms

by Richard Kostelanetz (May 2012)


Warren Buffet's Deception

W hen the legendary investor Warren Buffet advocated higher rates of income tax for high earners, such as himself, incidentally noting that his secretary paid a higher percentage of her income than he did with his contribution of six-plus million bucks (on what gross, he didn’t say), he was grandstanding, as we say, incidentally being more than a bit disingenuous. He fails to acknowledge how the current American rules for taxing income scarcely affect how he accumulates wealth.

Since Buffet takes no salary as chairman of his holding company Berkshire Hathaway, which pays no dividends, and he reportedly doesn’t sell any of his BH shares that would thus be subject to “capital gains,” may I wonder how he acquires any taxable income at all? Where, pray tell, does it come from? Does he bet on himself as a bridge card player? Does his wife earn in ways he does not and they file a joint return. Until Buffet makes his tax returns public, as should anyone with his advocacies, we can only speculate.

If he wants American rich people to assume more responsibility for the federal deficit, why doesn’t he advocate a tax on personal assets? Real estate taxes are, in principle, taxes on an asset even no income comes from it. Thought these are currently collected only by municipalities, state and federal governments could levy them.

If Buffet’s net worth is 50 billion dollars, as others claim (and he doesn’t deny), a personal assets tax even as little as 1% would cost him $500 million per year, which isn’t peanuts but might, however, be more moolah than he wants to spend on federal follies.


The Bin Laden Hoax

Earlier in the past decade, in short essays reprinted in my books Toward Secession (Autonomedia, 2008) and Skeptical Essays (Autonomedia, 2010), I speculated that Osama Bin Laden no longer existed. After all, no Westerner had interviewed him since 1998 or so, while he reportedly suffered from a kidney malady requiring regular dialysis if it didn’t kill him. The image of his and his minions shlepping dialysis machinery through Pakistani caves was hard to imagine, if accept.

The image of OBL as a continuing threat was, instead, I suggested, a fabrication of Western intelligence agencies to account for any and all mischief that couldn’t otherwise be explained, much as doctors once used “virus” to account for any malady that lacked any particular verifiable diagnosis. OBL’s muddy tape-recorded messages, made by whomever, could also be quoted, even if opportunistically mistranslated, whenever Western police wanted to increase repression, as when the Pope visited the USA. I further speculated that OBL would never be taken alive--he would instead conveniently disappear.

Well, he was taken alive a year ago, purportedly, only to disappear quickly with suspiciously little evidence for the authenticity of his identity other than claims of DNA similarities. (Were these last “scientific” claims ever made public? Independently verified? Isn’t the lack of public detail here in itself suspicious?) What about his dialysis machine?

What could have and should have been provided was a picture of an Arabian-looking man unusually tall, reportedly 6’5”—one in a thousand otherwise similar in appearance, perhaps. Absence of persuasive visible evidence raised further suspicions with me. As Groucho Marx quipped: “Who are you going to believe? Me or your own eyes?”

Some Bin Ladin skeptics, as I shall now call them, have noticed some hocus pocus regarding the disposal of OBL’s body, purportedly within 24 hours after his demise, into the Indian Ocean, where, of course, smaller than the S.S. Titanic, it can’t be recovered. Though some US military flack claims it was first flown to the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, no one on that ship reported seeing such a plane land. If true, where else might the OBL body have gone? Can it still be measured? Photographed?

Let me suggest that this hugely publicized evaporation of OBL is a hoax—indeed, a perfect hoax, initially because very few people needed to conspire in the fakery. The participating American soldiers need not know the truth; nor need their immediate commanders, all following orders from someone above them in Washington, DC.

Another factor is making the hoax successful is that nearly everyone else in the world assents. When someone was killed by an American force whose few bosses claimed it was OBL, Republicans were stuck commending President Obama for his success in combating terrorism (maybe). Whereas only the month before in 2011 he seemed a shoo-in to lose in 2012, his approval ratings temporarily climbed. The rest of the Western world rushed to congratulate Obama who, don’t forget, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize while he pursued wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. (Now that’s a world-class con.) Meanwhile, some folks claiming to represent Al Qaeda went along in acknowledging OBL’s death, implicitly granted an international celebrity martyr to publicize among their followers. Obama & Co. have neatly exploited the fiction created by Dubya & Co. How bipartisan!

Otherwise, OBL’s removal changed nothing in the continuing war on terrorism—nothing, except, of course, Obama’s approval ratings. The Taliban along with other terrorists still exist, striking by surprise everywhere. The surplus security business continues to thrive along with the military-industrial complex. Can I be alone in wondering why in the current reelection campaign neither Obama nor his handlers cite this among their major past achievements? Who knows what we don’t?

The only people who could claim fakery would be Pakistani intelligence, which was,  however, opportunistically discredited for failing to find this OBL purportedly hiding in the midst. Though they haven’t so far, one year later, perhaps afraid of negative press around the world or simply because of their fabled incompetence, let’s wait for this hoax to unravel. Stay tuned.

If, of course, this 2011 assassination were eventually identified or exposed as a mistake, that would create the opportunity for Hoax B: for US Seals to take out another Arab, this time taller in height, whose photograph with his body measured, perhaps next to his dialysis machine, could then be disseminated around the world as an example of successful American “counter-terrorism.” Don’t forget that you read about that scenario here first.

Richard Kostelanetz survives in New York, where he was born, unemployed and thus overworked.

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