Question: Why do they — the nameless “they” who seem to make all Earthly decisions — resist repealing the federal estate (or death) tax? Possibly because in the next 50 years (please sit down for this one) estates will disburse $45 trillion to beneficiaries. The director of Boston College’s Center on Wealth and Philanthropy terms it history’s biggest transfer of wealth — ever. And “they” insist on their cut, even if they have to pry it from the cold fingers of the dead. *** Which sets the mind to hungering, again, for tax simplification. Consider these stats arguing the imperative to get it done. (a) The number of pages of federal tax rules and regs in 1995 — 40,500; this year — 66,500. (b) The number of pages in the IRS guide for Form 1040 in 1995 — 84; last year — 142. (c) The number of federal tax forms in 2000 — 475; this year — 582. (d) The cost to taxpayers of compliance with federal tax laws (lawyers, accountants, and such) in 1995 — $112 billion; last year — $265 billion. (e) H&R Block’s revenues from tax preparation in 1996 — $740 million; last year — $2.65 billion. *** “Hussein Sentenced to Death By Hanging.” About to pronounce the verdict on a defiant Hussein, Chief Judge Raouf Rasheed Abdel-Rahman said: “Make him stand up.” Six Iraqi guards muscled the defendant to his feet. “The court has decided to sentence Saddam Hussein al-Majid to death by hanging.” Saddam’s shouted response: “Go to hell — you and the court!” Declared the judge over the din: “Take him out!” Many aggrieved Iraqis, their loved ones murdered in Saddam’s satanic depredations, will be volunteering to prepare his noose. *** Moments before the verdict, the judge ordered guards to escort the detestable Ramsey Clark — one of Saddam’s defense lawyers — from the courtroom: “Get him out! Get him out! He’s coming from America to insult the Iraqi people and the court.” If President Bush is scouting for a strict constructionist to fill a federal court vacancy in the States, Abdel-Rahman might fill the bill. *** Meanwhile, more on the prospects of life beyond this planetary ship afloat in an interstellar sea. During the past 15 years, astronomers have identified more than 200 planets outside this solar system. Now — 10 times farther from Earth — the Hubble Telescope has discovered deep in the Milky Way what NASA astronomers believe are 16 new planets, suggesting perhaps billions(END ITAL) of planets in this galaxy alone. Almost certainly, life requires a hospitable planet. In the entire cosmos, how likely is it that Earth should be the only planet capable of sustaining life? *** >From the anti-Semitic battlements, Iranian television has poured this boiling oil: “The Jewish” Disney company’s movie “Pirates of the Caribbean” is “ammunition” in Disney’s “Zionist” conspiracy to change Iranian culture. And Disney created “Tom & Jerry” cartoons (remember them?) to clean up the image of “dirty” mice following Nazi comparisons of Jews to rodents. *** The U.S. is not alone in wrestling with immigration. Consider Switzerland — as described in this AP dispatch datelined Geneva: “Swiss voters ratified new asylum and immigration laws Sunday making it more difficult for refugees to receive assistance and effectively blocking non-European unskilled workers from entering the country. More than 67 percent voted in favor of the stricter asylum rules….The proposal was overwhelmingly accepted in all of Switzerland’s 26 cantons.” *** Oh, and this from Sweden — long a leftist la-la land. About the same time as the Swiss referendum, Sweden — led by young voters tired of funding the welfare state — rejected socialism 48-46 percent, including the Swedish economic model of government sitting on free enterprise like a fat guy on a barstool. *** Jane Fonda journeyed to Sweden to help gin up votes for a bunch calling themselves Feminist Initiative (FI), chaired by Gudrun Schyman. FI won no legislative seats. Ms. Schyman’s former Left Party, which she departed to found FI, won just 5.8 percent of the vote. *** Bulletin(END ITAL): Psychiatry may be on the threshold of identifying two new addictions — (1) shopaholism (discussed in an article published in the American Journal of Psychiatry ) and (2) Internetaholism (discussed in the October issue of the International Journal of Neuropsychiatric Medicine ). It must be heck — venturing compulsively into cyberspace and binge-buying until your mouse dies.