The Men Who Built America

I really enjoyed this series on The History Channel. If you haven’t seen it, you’re in for a very informative and entertaining treat. From The History Channel website, here’s the description.

John D. Rockefeller, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford and J.P. Morgan rose from obscurity and in the process built modern America. Their names hang on street signs, are etched into buildings and are a part of the fabric of history. These men created the American Dream and were the engine of capitalism as they transformed everything they touched in building the oil, rail, steel, shipping, automobile and finance industries. Their paths crossed repeatedly as they elected presidents, set economic policies and influenced major events of the 50 most formative years this country has ever known. From the Civil War to the Great Depression and World War I, they led the way.

Using state of the art computer generated imagery that incorporates 12 million historical negatives, many made available for the first time by the Library of Congress, this series will bring back to life the world they knew and the one they created. The event series will show how these men took a failed experiment in democracy and created the greatest superpower the world has ever seen. We see how their historic achievements came to create the America of today.

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Is the Islamist Republic of Afghanistan the 51st State?

Apologies to President Obama may be in order as 51 is so yesterday with his decree of 57 states already in existence (or was it the 57 Islamic states his heartstrings were tugging at?). When he hears the “most beautiful sound in the world“, otherwise known as the Islamic call to prayer, perhaps he gets a bit confused about numerology and to which State his allegiance lies.

There should be no confusion on the President’s view on our relationship with Afghanistan. The impending SECURITY AND DEFENSE COOPERATION AGREEMENT will likely be signed by both countries soon guaranteeing a long-term U.S. presence in Afghanistan. The agreement is for 10 years with the option for perpetuity beyond that should both countries agree in its necessity.

Hardly surprising. Our stated goal of entering Afghanistan to eradicate the Taliban and al-Qaeda has been an abject failure. Only the highly intoxicated Kool-Aid drinkers of government spin ever bought into the notion of our occupation there as a noble one. Only those same drunks hungover from our Nobel Peace Prize winning Commander-in-Chief’s hope and change proclamation believed we would simply pull out cold turkey next year.

But I digress. Perhaps I’m being a bit harsh. Perhaps our military is being utilized honorably and only to promote freedom. You know, win the war quickly to minimize casualties. Get in and get out. No long-term ambitions or occupation or nation-building. Perhaps I’m dreaming the Department of Defense’s Task Force for Business and Stability Operations (TFBSO) doesn’t really exist. Perhaps this isn’t their mission statement.

Since 2006, TFBSO’s mission has been to reduce violence, enhance stability, and restore economic normalcy in areas where unrest and insurgency have created a synchronous downward spiral of economic hardship and violence.

We do this by developing economic opportunities through a range of efforts, including the encouragement of private investment, industrial development, banking and financial system development, agricultural diversification and revitalization, and energy development, among other initiatives. Read more – https://spellchek.wordpress.com/2011/09/17/more-proof-of-why-we-really-fight-on-in-afghanistan/

We would never utilize the TFBSO as a procurement facility to award government contracts rather than just to promote local economic growth, would we?

The Security and Defense Cooperation Agreement is a contractor’s dream. It is vague and filled with generalities. For instance, any potential commercial purposes of our presence would seem to be covered in this article.

ARTICLE 16
Importation and Exportation
1. United States forces and United States contractors may import into, export out of, re-export out of,
transport, and use in Afghanistan any equipment, supplies, materiel, technology, training, or services.
The authorizations in this paragraph do not cover the activities of United States contractors that are not
related to the presence of United States forces in Afghanistan. Identifying documents shall be provided
to indicate that such equipment, supplies, materiel, technology, training, or services being imported by
United States contractors are for United States forces’ purposes and not for any private commercial
purposes.

“Not for any private commercial purposes” seems pretty straightforward. But what if our military were to contract out activities? It would be exempt under the agreement including taxation.

ARTICLE 17
Taxation
1. The acquisition in Afghanistan of articles and services by or on behalf of United States forces shall
not be subject to any taxes or similar or related charges assessed within the territory of Afghanistan.
2. United States forces, including members of the force and of the civilian component, shall not be liable
to pay any tax or similar or related charges assessed by the Government of Afghanistan within the
territory of Afghanistan.
3. United States contractors shall not be liable to pay any tax or similar or related charges assessed by
the Government of Afghanistan within the territory of Afghanistan on their activities, and associated
income, relating to or on behalf of United States forces under a contract or subcontract with or in support
of United States forces. However, United States contractors that are Afghan legal entities shall not be
exempt from corporate profits tax that may be assessed by the Government of Afghanistan within the
territory of Afghanistan on income received due to their status as United States contractors.

You don’t suppose our corporate interests in America would partner with the TFBSO to contract out certain activities exempt from taxes and legal under this agreement? Determining just what is a requirement of the United States forces as the agreement refers to them is a red tape boondoggle if there ever was one.

If you haven’t caught my drift yet, let me clarify. Who is to say that we could not legally pursue our true goal of raw material acquisition such as precious minerals, gas and oil under the auspices of providing security and training? And tax-free to boot? Perhaps a payoff for the massive bill our military has rung up in the last decade? The legalities are in place (or will be as soon as the agreement is signed). The DOD organizations are in place.

They don’t call it the military-industrial complex for nothing. So we may not formally annex Afghanistan as the 51st State, but we can certainly conduct business there for the foreseeable future just as if they were a part of our nation’s economy. Almost as if we had it planned that way all along, don’t you think?

How to defend yourself against the Knockout Game

All the rage these days amongst our youth in America is the trendy new game called knockout – http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2013/11/19/police-examples-of-troubling-knockout-game-popping-up-all-over/.

Brutal video is coming in from various places, including Pittsburgh, where a teacher was attacked, and London, where a teen was hit from behind. On Tuesday afternoon, CBS 2 learned of another victim — a 78-year-old woman attacked a week ago Saturday in Midwood.

It’s called the “knockout game.”

The victim in Pittsburgh was 50-year-old James Addeslpurger. A 15-year-old was charged with assault.

As a public service, we here at Spellchek have come to the rescue with a defense sure to make these gutless wonders wandering our streets looking for You Tube fame hesitate.

thCAHIO3O3

Bet they’ll think twice before taking a swing at you. Better yet, Halloween is over so you can get the mask for a huge discount!

Is there a way around the retiree legacy cost debacle?

Being a resident of Michigan means municipal bankruptcy has been a hot topic around these parts thanks to Detroit. Turns out that the problem of legacy costs is far more prevalent than anyone imagined just a few years ago. What I find most interesting is the solutions proposed to deal with it. First, a little history.

Accounting practices are guided by the Financial Accounting Standards Board(FASB) which basically sets the guidelines for the private sector under the authority of the Securities and Exchange Commission(SEC). The Governmental Accounting Standards Board(GASB) is the public sector equivalent. Both the FASB and GASB issue statements, which are rules accountants must follow.

In dealing with costs associated with retiree health and pension benefits, the FASB was the first to the plate way back in 1984 with Statement 81. It was 20 years later that the GASB followed the lead of the FASB on accounting for legacy costs with GASB 45. The big change was going from what is called pay-as-you-go accounting in which costs are accounted for only when they are actually paid to a system that accounts for unfunded liabilities in the future. This is what opened the Pandora’s box on the scale of the legacy cost problem across the country.

Perspective is an important aspect of assessing retiree legacy costs. Take this union newsletter for example which asks the question “WHY ARE THEY OUT TO GET OUR RETIREMENT BENEFITS?” The union likes pay-as-you-go and really dislikes accounting for future liabilities.

By requiring companies to account for future costs of retiree health insurance and life insurance, FASB 81 created a paper liability – that is, made it look like these future costs were additional debt owed by the company.

Really? Made it ‘look’ like future costs were debt? Yes sir, that’s some typical liberal spin for you. Yes, it is quite common in the business world to have to actually account for ALL costs related to operating a business whether past, present or future. Just a nasty little detail when determining profitability but that concept doesn’t seem to factor in anymore. Not in the bailout world we live in.

Here’s one more example for you from the liberal la-la land of California. It’s entitled “Issues in Retiree Health Coverage“.

The two primary culprits of reductions in retiree health coverage were: 1) escalating health costs and 2) FASB 106, which required private sector companies to “book” the actuarial liability of employer paid retiree health coverage. Because of the cost, private sector organizations reduced or dropped retiree coverage entirely.

Perspective again. It’s considered ‘evil’ to actually be transparent with true costs and thus adjust your business accordingly. Who is at fault? Is it the business being fiscally responsible to insure sustainability or is it the long-time trend in this country to make unsustainable promises to employees without having to account for them?

Earlier this year, a study was completed determining the legacy costs for Michigan municipalities. This illustrates just how widespread the problem of legacy costs has become. Bridge magazine has an excellent article breaking down the situation in Michigan municipalities – http://bridgemi.com/2013/11/detroit-coming-to-a-city-near-you/.

I read through it and also the comments. Ah, the big government solutions rear their ugly head. Here’s one commenter’s take.

If the country opted for a Canadian style single payer system, all these legacy health care costs go away and not just for government entities, but also for every business.

Isn’t that great? Just go hog wild with Obama’s single-payer agenda and all will be solved! Can it really be that easy? Of course not. You know, the FASB and GASB get skewered for their burdensome regulatory practices, and probably rightly so, generally due to necessity issues. But transparency is the true ‘evil’ here. Nobody likes having their books so exposed.

Same goes with this commenter, and a great many other supporters, who propose to just wipe away all legacy healthcare costs by going to government run healthcare. One problem. You can’t eliminate costs. You can hide them as accounting practices have done for decades previously, but they always catch up some day. Switching to single-payer is just this. The costs are spread to be borne by all federal taxpayers rather than just a municipality. Healthcare is never free. Even if you subscribe to the notion that it is a right, it still isn’t free.

So single-payer may ‘eliminate’ the legacy cost paper debt of municipalities concerning healthcare, but it’s still a debt and all debts are always paid by someone. Usually we say it’s either the lender or the borrower who pays the debt, but in this case it’s a third-party.

And one way to manage that debt will be to ration both the quantity and quality of healthcare. That’s where single-payer will take us.

There is another theory on addressing legacy debt. Bonding it out. Rather than forcing retirees to accept benefit cuts or playing accounting tricks as switching to single-payer, bonds still ensure that the municipalities eventually pay their obligations. However, once again there is no free lunch. Selling legacy bond debt increases the overall cost to a municipality by extending the payment period thus forcing it to be absorbed by future generations.

The reason it is so appealing to municipalities is that it’s yet another kick-the-can philosophy by pushing off problems to future generations. Also, Helicopter Ben over at the Federal Reserve has got interest rates so artificially low it is irresistible to politicians looking for the least painful way out.

The bottom line to all of this is that benefit promises made to employees are a true cost. Who pays or when it’s paid is negotiable. There is one common area of agreement amongst all of the stakeholders. Meaning the politicians, accountants, business leaders and retirees receiving the benefits. The easiest way out is to simply pass the cost along to our kids and let them deal with it. Whether it’s Obamacare or the eventual single-payer or the yet to come pension reforms, they are all simply gimmicks to transfer costs. Period (sorry to steal your line Mr. President).

Who owns America?

Could Mr. Carlin, R.I.P., have been referring to this conglomerate?

10 Mega-Corporations

Click for larger image

H/T to Mish for link

Don’t think it’s possible that the government spendaholics won’t come for your pensions as Carlin alluded to? It’s a $17.5 trillion (yes, trillion) dollar pie and represents the last and largest untapped revenue stream Congress hasn’t confiscated yet – http://www.independentsentinel.com/big-government-is-coming-for-your-retirement-savings/.

Let’s not forget the VAT tax that will find its way in at some point as well. That will be far more expensive than Obamacare in the long run.

But you’ve heard all this before. What will it take for people to realize the window for fixing our problems from within has passed? Still stuck on the notion that just electing true conservatives and taking back the GOP is the cure? You know, the pundits have labeled all who wish to step anywhere outside the box as extremists, racists, or some form of fringe kook. I’d recommend living up to their labeling. If not, the establishment will continue to win as illustrations like those above show that they permeate all facets of society and have us peasants squabbling amongst each other for yet one more way they can save us from ourselves.

America is not the greatest country in the world (anymore)

Here’s a thought provoking clip for you

Is it safe to say that a century of progressivism has succeeded in making America just one amongst many?

Can we still be the greatest with a leader who is openly promoting our standing as just another equal?

Are you comfortable with the toolkit your kids will have at hand to keep America strong? With the educational indoctrination that awaits them? With the unsustainable debt burden?

Socializing healthcare is nothing more than a step in the ladder for those who proclaim it to be the end all. Completing the transformation of America into its standing as a global equal still has a ways to go, but if you ignorantly remain tied to this notion that we are still the ‘shining city upon a hill’ and we will remain so despite ourselves then you are a fool.

Oh, by the way, I am aware that Jeff Daniels plays a huge lib in this HBO series and my conclusions are not at all what liberals have in mind after his rant addressing a conservative audience, but isn’t it interesting how perspective plays such an important role in assessing situations? As always, when you start out on the wrong premise, everything that follows is usually wrong as well. If you assume that Barack Hussein Obama is right when he proclaims that government has not done enough as being the problem, then you are forever doomed to make the wrong decisions going forward.