California tax windfall

Big chunk of record tax receipts from insiders’ stock sales

California took in a record $11.3 billion in personal income tax receipts in April, $4.3 billion more than it collected last April. It’s almost certain that a significant chunk of April’s haul came from Google employees — perhaps one-eighth or more of the tax receipt gain.

Fourteen of Google’s top executives and directors sold $4.4 billion worth of stock last year.

Another likely source of April’s tax take, which could be less volatile than stock-based capital gains, is real estate.

Colbert walks a tightrope

Once again, Comedy Central has done what mainstream reporters are apparently too timid to do: speak truth to power. Stephen Colbert delivered an amazing routine at annual White House Correspondents Dinner. Apparently the head of the Press Club had never watched the Colbert Report. Because Colbert’s performance was completely unexpected by everyone in attendance.

They usually hire a mainstream comedian to do some good-natured ribbing of the President and press corp. It’s all mild, chummy and light hearted. This year they hired a Bush impersonator, who got a lot of laughs imitating Bush’s mannerisms.

Then they brought our Colbert. Like a court jester, he mocked the administration and press alike, with ironic humor. And in the process, he delivered a scathing, pointed roast of the Bush administration policies, its hypocracy, and numerous failures. All with the President sitting 8 feet away. Some of the humor fell flat. Some just provoked nervous laughter from the Washington insiders. But it was an incredibly brave performance. “Like watching a tightrope walker without a net” according to one commentator.

In the persona of the right-wing ideologue he plays on the Colbert Report, Colbert professed his love for the president, and his disdain for the “liberal media”. And point by point, he highlighted the administration’s worst mistakes of the past 6 years.

“Now I know there’s some polls out there saying this man has a 32-percent approval rating,” Mr. Colbert said a few moments later. “But guys like us, we don’t pay attention to the polls. We know that polls are just a collection of statistics that reflect what people are thinking ‘in reality.’ And reality has a well-known liberal bias.”

He talked about the quagmire in Iraq, the NSA wiretapping scandals, the bungled response to Hurricane Katrina, and the Valerie Plame affair. But more than that, he emphasized George Bush’s worst character flaw – how the President seems to come to a decision based on instinct, and then stubbornly hold to that decision in spite of all evidence to the contrary.

“The greatest thing about this man is he’s steady. You know where he stands. He believes the same thing Wednesday that he believed on Monday, no matter what happened Tuesday. Events can change; this man’s beliefs never will.” (Transcript courtesy Daily Kos).

Over the past few weeks, the Colbert speech has become one of the most popular video downloads on the internet. The usually quiet CSPAN site, known for mind-numbingly boring coverage of congressional speeches, has had to cope with a sudden spike in traffic.

Why they keep calling it a ‘death tax’

According to watchdog group Public Citizen, an aggressive lobbying effort to repeal the estate tax has been largely funded and directed by 18 “super-wealthy” families. Those 18 families are worth a total of $185.5 billion.

That’s right. That’s an average of $10 billion per family.

That kind of money can buy a lot of votes in Washington. And it’s money well spent. According to the report, repealing the estate tax would save the families about $72 billion. And in the first decade, it would cost the U.S. treasury a trillion dollars.

Dinosaurs still walk the earth

I.B.M. Seeks to Make the Mainframe Modern Technology

The mainframe business, while far smaller than it was, remains crucial for I.B.M. Sales of the machines alone account for only about 5 percent of I.B.M.’s revenue. But all mainframe-related hardware, software and services account for a quarter of its revenue and, more important, about half of I.B.M.’s total operating profit.

Competitors say most of that growth comes from a comparatively small number of big customers like banks, brokerage houses, insurance companies and some government agencies, whose growing computing needs in general require continued investment in mainframes. The number of mainframe computers in use worldwide, analysts say, is about half what it was a decade ago.