Thursday, September 27, 2012

Grey skies and Blue Herons..

Just a few images from Bolles Harbor on Lake Erie near Monroe yesterday afternoon.  I used the Windows snip tool while I paused the video to capture the still shots.   

Aint that America. Canadian frackers contaminating Red State American drinking water

A retest of water in Pavillion, Wyoming, found evidence of many of the same gases and compounds the Environmental Protection Agency used to link contamination there to hydraulic fracturing, the first finding of that kind.
A U.S. Geological Survey report on its water testing of one monitoring well near the rural Wyoming town -- where some residents complain that gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing contaminated their drinking supplies -- identified levels of methane, ethane, diesel compounds and phenol, which the EPA had also identified in its report last year.
The latest data are “generally consistent,” with the agency’s finding, Alisha Johnson, an EPA spokeswoman, said in an e-mail. The USGS said it didn’t interpret the results, which were given to state officials.
The driller, Encana Corp. (ECA), said it’s not responsible for the pollutants in the water.

Here is a page where you can look at the stock history for Encana Corp.    

And here is a snip from Wikipedia about Encana Corp.
In northern British Columbia where Encana pipelines have experienced six explosions, media reports indicate the pipeline may have been bombed by disgruntled community members. 
Encana's hydraulic fracturing operations in the United States are visible in the 2010 documentary, Gasland, which alleges that hydraulic fracturing causes pollution of ground and surface water, as well as air and soil pollution.
Issues have also been raised for a proposed project offshore of Nova Scotia, for which Encana has proposed a streamlined regulatory process.

So it has come to this. Canadian energy corporations making the big buck$ by ravaging the natural beauty of rugged Red State USA and going so far as to poison the wingnut water supply and then telling the locals to FOAD even if there is diesel fuel in their drinking water.
Hopefully the people who live in the area and whose lives have been forever affected by this will be compensated justly.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Mitt Rmoney and his $100+ million IRA (Not a typo...)

Private-equity firms (which buy, invest in, help manage and eventually sell companies) and hedge funds (which invest in a wide variety of markets) are run by managers on behalf of outside investors. When profits from a firm’s investments are disbursed, they are typically distributed according to each investor's stake. This income is taxed on each individual’s tax return, usually at the capital-gains rate of 15 percent.
Fund managers may receive some income this way, but there’s a separate stream of income that is usually more lucrative for them. They often take 2 percent of the fund’s assets per year as a management fee, which is paid in cash and taxed at ordinary income rates of 35 percent, plus 20 percent of the profits as a performance-based bonus. The 20 percent portion is typically "carried over" for years at a time, often until the investment is closed out (thus the name, "carried interest"). This payment is taxed at capital gains rates of 15 percent -- less than if it were salary or wages.
But IRA contributions are limited to $6,000 per year. 
In order to contribute to an IRA, you must have taxable income. Your maximum contribution is determined by the annual contribution limit or your total taxable income, whichever is less. As of 2009, the contribution limits are $5,000 if you're under age 50, and $6,000 if you are 50 and up.
Yet somehow Mitt's IRA has accumulated $100+ million
Individual Retirement Accounts were designed as a tax-free way for middle-class Americans to plan for their retirement. The annual contribution limit is $6,000, but somehow Mitt Romney managed to to build his IRA into a $100+ million treasure chest. Without specifically naming Romney, House Democrats are saying they want a review of the loopholes that someone like Mitt Romney would need to exploit in order to generate such a massive amount of tax-free wealth in an IRA:
In all likelihood, Mitt “sold” some of his Bain investments to his IRA.
Next, there’s his IRA, which began life as a 401(k). Many Americans have them, generally modest in size. But Romney’s has a current value of $20.7 million to $101.6 million — one of the largest ever recorded.
With annual contributions to 401(k)’s and IRAs subject to relatively low caps, how on earth did Romney’s get so large? He may be a good investor, but there’s no chance that he took those small amounts, bought some publicly traded stocks and turned it into $20 million, let alone $100 million.
In all likelihood, he “sold” some of his Bain investments to his IRA. Because they are not publicly traded, and therefore “illiquid,” under the tax law, he would be allowed substantial discounts on their valuation — effectively increasing his IRA contribution.
More amazingly, he may well have “sold” some of his Bain carried interest to his IRA. If he did so at the outset of the fund, he likely put little or no value on that transfer — though it was potentially worth millions. Such a transfer would be of questionable legality, according to a recent Tax Analysts article by Lee A. Sheppard.

Bain invested the $37 million of capital in its first fund in twenty companies and by 1989 was generating an annualized return in excess of 50 percent. By the end of the decade, Bain's second fund, raised in 1987 had deployed $106 million into 13 investments. As the firm began organizing around funds, each such fund was run by a specific general partnership – that included all Bain Capital executives as well as others – which in turn was controlled by Bain Capital Inc., the management company that Romney had full ownership control of.  As CEO, Romney had the final approval say on every deal made. 

Insider trading is against the law 
In the United States and Germany, for mandatory reporting purposes, corporate insiders are defined as a company's officers, directors and any beneficial owners of more than ten percent of a class of the company's equity securities. Trades made by these types of insiders in the company's own stock, based on material non-public information, are considered to be fraudulent since the insiders are violating the fiduciary duty that they owe to the shareholders. The corporate insider, simply by accepting employment, has undertaken a legal obligation to the shareholders to put the shareholders' interests before their own, in matters related to the corporation. When the insider buys or sells based upon company owned information, he is violating his obligation to the shareholders.
For example, illegal insider trading would occur if the chief executive officer of Company A learned (prior to a public announcement) that Company A will be taken over, and bought shares in Company A knowing that the share price would likely rise.

Mitt's tax-free IRA was funded by deposits of carried interest that included shares and earnings from Bain Capital funds that were under his direct control.  Mitt was personally benefiting from profitable investment choices he made with access to information that was outside the public realm, but available to him as the private equity fund manager at Bain.  Whatever this practice is called, it is indistinguishable from insider trading.  The reason that this whole scheme is not illegal is that Mitt has been blazing a new trail with these financial shenanigans and the law and the courts just haven't caught up to him and the others following him yet.  

Look out Mitt.  The IRS has a history of retroactively closing closing tax loopholes like this one.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

This is why I say Disney should manage National Park Operations

I have posted before that the Federal Government should consider licensing the operation of some of our  National Parks to corporate firms like Disney. Not only would it help reduce the budget deficit, it would improve the environmental stewardship of the parks and  it would improve the convenience and quality of the experience for visitors who come from around the country and from around the world to view the spectacular scenery firsthand.

And then this story happens.. 
At Yosemite, a virus waiting to happen

At Glacier Point, on which thousands of tourists converge, there were “out of order” signs posted on the majority of the pit toilets — one assumes because of extreme filth. It had only a single, hard-to-find spigot for hand-washing, despite the fact that food was served and there were picnic tables.
The shuttle buses provided by the park were a fraction of what was needed to accommodate the guests, but the signage to various sites was so inadequate that one could not easily walk.
My final view of the park’s Yosemite Valley section was of its main restroom, which was so disgustingly dirty that I snapped a photo to send to the park superintendent...

This story convinces me more that the American Government should consider establishing strategic partnerships with American corporations (like Disney but others would be welcome to bid) to manage the day to day operations involved with taking care of the mass transportation, lodging, feeding, educating, entertaining and selling souvenirs to the thousands of tourists who flock to our parks every day.  This is not core business for a government unit that primarily attracts college graduates with Forestry degrees. 

Of course the Government would still own the property and oversee the operations to make sure the land was being cared for properly, but the non-core operations would be turned over to professionals.