Greed and Debt: The True Story of Mitt Romney and Bain Capital
How the GOP presidential candidate and his private equity firm staged an epic wealth grab, destroyed jobs – and stuck others with the bill
The great criticism of Mitt Romney, from both sides of the aisle, has always been that he doesn’t stand for anything. He’s a flip-flopper, they say, a lightweight, a cardboard opportunist who’ll say anything to get elected.
The critics couldn’t be more wrong. Mitt Romney is no tissue-paper man. He’s closer to being a revolutionary, a backward-world version of Che or Trotsky, with tweezed nostrils instead of a beard, a half-Windsor instead of a leather jerkin. His legendary flip-flops aren’t the lies of a bumbling opportunist – they’re the confident prevarications of a man untroubled by misleading the nonbeliever in pursuit of a single, all-consuming goal. Romney has a vision, and he’s trying for something big: We’ve just been too slow to sort out what it is, just as we’ve been slow to grasp the roots of the radical economic changes that have swept the country in the last generation.
The incredible untold story of the 2012 election so far is that Romney’s run has been a shimmering pearl of perfect political hypocrisy, which he’s somehow managed to keep hidden, even with thousands of cameras following his every move. And the drama of this rhetorical high-wire act was ratcheted up even further when Romney chose his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin – like himself, a self-righteously anal, thin-lipped, Whitest Kids U Know penny pincher who’d be honored to tell Oliver Twist there’s no more soup left. By selecting Ryan, Romney, the hard-charging, chameleonic champion of a disgraced-yet-defiant Wall Street, officially succeeded in moving the battle lines in the 2012 presidential race.
Like John McCain four years before, Romney desperately needed a vice-presidential pick that would change the game. But where McCain bet on a combustive mix of clueless novelty and suburban sexual tension named Sarah Palin, Romney bet on an idea. He said as much when he unveiled his choice of Ryan, the author of a hair-raising budget-cutting plan best known for its willingness to slash the sacred cows of Medicare and Medicaid. “Paul Ryan has become an intellectual leader of the Republican Party,” Romney told frenzied Republican supporters in Norfolk, Virginia, standing before the reliably jingoistic backdrop of a floating warship. “He understands the fiscal challenges facing America: our exploding deficits and crushing debt.”
Debt, debt, debt. If the Republican Party had a James Carville, this is what he would have said to win Mitt over, in whatever late-night war room session led to the Ryan pick: “It’s the debt, stupid.” This is the way to defeat Barack Obama: to recast the race as a jeremiad against debt, something just about everybody who’s ever gotten a bill in the mail hates on a primal level.
Last May, in a much-touted speech in Iowa, Romney used language that was literally inflammatory to describe America’s federal borrowing. “A prairie fire of debt is sweeping across Iowa and our nation,” he declared. “Every day we fail to act, that fire gets closer to the homes and children we love.” Our collective debt is no ordinary problem: According to Mitt, it’s going to burn our children alive.
And this is where we get to the hypocrisy at the heart of Mitt Romney. Everyone knows that he is fantastically rich, having scored great success, the legend goes, as a “turnaround specialist,” a shrewd financial operator who revived moribund companies as a high-priced consultant for a storied Wall Street private equity firm. But what most voters don’t know is the way Mitt Romney actually made his fortune: by borrowing vast sums of money that other people were forced to pay back. This is the plain, stark reality that has somehow eluded America’s top political journalists for two consecutive presidential campaigns: Mitt Romney is one of the greatest and most irresponsible debt creators of all time. In the past few decades, in fact, Romney has piled more debt onto more unsuspecting companies, written more gigantic checks that other people have to cover, than perhaps all but a handful of people on planet Earth.
By making debt the centerpiece of his campaign, Romney was making a calculated bluff of historic dimensions – placing a massive all-in bet on the rank incompetence of the American press corps. The result has been a brilliant comedy: A man makes a $250 million fortune loading up companies with debt and then extracting million-dollar fees from those same companies, in exchange for the generous service of telling them who needs to be fired in order to finance the debt payments he saddled them with in the first place. That same man then runs for president riding an image of children roasting on flames of debt, choosing as his running mate perhaps the only politician in America more pompous and self-righteous on the subject of the evils of borrowed money than the candidate himself. If Romney pulls off this whopper, you’ll have to tip your hat to him: No one in history has ever successfully run for president riding this big of a lie. It’s almost enough to make you think he really is qualified for the White House.
Obama ran on “change” in 2008, but Mitt Romney represents a far more real and seismic shift in the American landscape. Romney is the frontman and apostle of an economic revolution, in which transactions are manufactured instead of products, wealth is generated without accompanying prosperity, and Cayman Islands partnerships are lovingly erected and nurtured while American communities fall apart. The entire purpose of the business model that Romney helped pioneer is to move money into the archipelago from the places outside it, using massive amounts of taxpayer-subsidized debt to enrich a handful of billionaires. It’s a vision of society that’s crazy, vicious and almost unbelievably selfish, yet it’s running for president, and it has a chance of winning. Perhaps that change is coming whether we like it or not. Perhaps Mitt Romney is the best man to manage the transition. But it seems a little early to vote for that kind of wholesale surrender.
Changing Climate May Have Led To Earliest Mummies
A photo from a recent National Geographic story shows a long-buried corpse, preserved by one of Earth’s driest climates, Chile’s Atacama Desert, where it has retained centuries-old skin, hair and clothing.
A couple of thousand years before the Egyptians preserved some of their dead, a much simpler society made the first known mummies.
The Chinchorros, the first mummy makers, lived about 7,000 years ago in South America, on the coast near the border between modern-day Peru and Chile. The desert area where they lived was so dry, dead people turned into mummies naturally.
“Once you die, you stay around,” says Chilean ecologist Pablo Marquet, who studies the Chinchorros and the area where they lived. “You don’t disappear because of the decomposition that happens in many other environments.”
At some point, the Chinchorros stopped leaving it to nature, and began mummifying their dead. They started dressing them up with wigs, clay and paint.
by LINTON WEEKS
Bruce Boyd helps clean up his community by gathering the litter that collects on the highway.
This month we are collecting your stories about the good things Americans are doing to make their community a better place. Some of your contributions will become blog posts and the project will end with a story that weaves together submissions to make a story of Americans by Americans for Americans.
“Well, because the roadside looks like &%$#,” is why retired insurance executive Bruce Boyd spends some of his free time picking up beer bottles, cans and an endless variety of trash alongside Highway 522 north of Taos.
On a recent Saturday morning we spot the solitary Boyd — in plum T-shirt and black jeans with a Buck knife strapped to his belt and trash bag in hand– scooping up shards of glass. Nearby, panoramic Taos Mountain looks lovely and — at least from a distance — litter-free.
For the record, Boyd says, “the local favorites are Corona and Bud Light.”
It’s a raggedy moonscape; no lush green grass or tranquil arbors here. Concordia Cemetery in El Paso, Texas, just a few blocks from the Mexican border, is stark and dusty. It’s overrun with crumbling concrete markers and old wooden crosses gone askew. And it goes on … and on … and on.
“It’s 52 acres,” says Bernie Sargent, chair of the El Paso County Historical Commission. “Sixty thousand people buried here. And they’re all dead.”
The Grave Of A Wild West Legend
Most notorious among the dead is Wild West gunslinger John Wesley Hardin, interred here after he was shot at an El Paso saloon in 1895.
“He died of lead poisoning,” Sargent says, deadpan.
Every year, Sargent and other El Paso history buffs re-enact Harding’s killing. It doesn’t take very long for him to slip into character.
“I killed over 40 men, but they deserved it,” he announces. And as for his own demise? “One shot in the back of the head and two more shots — one in the stomach and one in the arm. And I laid there dead for hours, while women dipped their dresses in my blood.”
Today’s Hardin fans are more likely to leave trinkets as tributes at his grave. Patricia Kiddney, who runs the Concordia Heritage Association, points out a shot glass, coins and cartridge shells scattered over a plaque commemorating the man who was a “a friend to the poor,” as Bob Dylan sang about him. From other points of view, the gunfighter might be remembered as a murderous jerk.
Mitt Romney at the NAACP National Convention in Houston, Texas
Wow. If you live long enough, you’ll see some truly gross things in politics, but Mitt Romney’s work this past week “courting black support” was enough to turn even the strongest stomach.
Romney really showed us something in his luridly self-congratulating N.A.A.C.P. gambit, followed by the awesomely disgusting “free stuff” post-mortem speech he delivered the next night in front of friendlier audiences. The twin appearances revealed the candidate to be not merely unlikable, and not merely a fatuous, unoriginal hack of a politician, but also a genuinely repugnant human being, a grasping corporate hypocrite with so little feel for how to get along with people that he has to dream up elaborate schemes just to try to pander to the mob.
A NEW generation of travel-sharing Web sites matches travelers with knowledgeable locals for offbeat, authentic and mostly very economical experiences — across the globe or across town.
The guide, Russell Howze, is one of a growing number of artists, chefs, biologists, college students, authors, urban beekeepers, expats or hobbyists of one kind or another who are using travel-sharing platforms like CanaryHop, Gidsy, SideTour and Vayable to market their particular brand of expertise.
For the package-tour averse, this means a vastly expanded menu of opportunities. Want to take a private lesson with a Mongolian circus contortionist in Las Vegas? Learn about New York City’s garment district with a costume and wardrobe stylist? Fish a private bay off Qamea Island with Fijian royalty?
“Each experience is as unique as the person offering it and the person taking it,” said Jamie Wong, who co-founded Vayable last year. “It’s the way we all want to travel but haven’t been able to until now.”
These new services rely on free listings to fill out their catalogs. Some (SideTour, Vayable) put considerable effort into curating their offerings, vetting guides to be sure that they can deliver what they offer. Others (CanaryHop) leave it to peer reviews and the judgment of its users. Each handles online transactions between the parties, often charging travelers a small service fee and taking a 10 to 20 percent commission from guides on confirmed bookings.
Below, an overview of four travel-sharing services.
One of the newest players in the field, CanaryHop started in March with a slick YouTube video starring the “Saturday Night Live” star Andy Samberg, who is also a founder of the site. In it, Mr. Samberg awakens to find he’s had an array of surprising experiences that could have been scenes from the Todd Phillips movie “The Hangover.”
In essence, CanaryHop works as a searchable list of some 2,500 guides and travel service providers, as well as a handful of vacation-rentals-by-owner.
Damon Spiegel, a founder, calls it “a modern-day classifieds for travel.” Guides and service providers are referred to on the Web site as “canaries.” Travelers are “hoppers.” The majority have yet to be reviewed by travelers, so you’re on your own to check the operator’s bonafides.
Sample experiences: Circus training in Las Vegas (one hour, $100); camping in the Mojave Desert with a botanist (seven days, $495); Amsterdam “Bar N Culture Tour” ($6.61 an hour); tuk tuk ramble in Bangkok (five hours, $39); New York City makeup and accessories tour (three hours, $250); home cooking and eating with a family in Delhi (six hours, $37).
Maybe a few of your followers would appreciate this – in North Central
Alberta – apparently where all, or at least some, dead limos are thought to
Christie McNally and her husband, Ian Thorson, were among 39 people who had been living in the huts here as part of an extended yoga retreat.
BOWIE, Ariz. — The rescuers had rappelled from a helicopter, swaying in the brisk April winds as they bore down on a cave 7,000 feet up in a rugged desert mountain on the edge of this rural hamlet. There had been a call for help. Inside, they found a jug with about an inch of water, browned by floating leaves and twigs. They found a woman, Christie McNally, thirsty and delirious. And they found her husband, Ian Thorson, dead.
The puzzle only deepened when the authorities realized that the couple had been expelled from a nearby Buddhist retreat in which dozens of adherents, living in rustic conditions, had pledged to meditate silently for three years, three months and three days. Their spiritual leader was a charismatic Princeton-educated monk whom some have accused of running the retreat as a cult.
Strange tales come out of the American desert: lost cities of gold, bandit ambushes, mirages and peyote shamans. To that long list can now be added the story of the holy retreat that led to an ugly death.
The retreat — in which adherents communicate only with pen and paper — was designed to allow participants to employ yoga and deep meditation to try to answer some of life’s most profound questions. Mostly, though, it has only raised more questions.
Was it a genuine spiritual enclave? What happened to drive Ms. McNally and Mr. Thorson out of the camp and into the wilderness? And just why, in a quest for enlightenment, did Mr. Thorson, a 38-year-old Stanford graduate, end up dead, apparently from exposure and dehydration, in a remote region of rattlesnakes and drug smugglers?
When Ms. McNally and Mr. Thorson left the retreat on Feb. 20, after having participated for one year and one month, she had been its leading teacher. The monk who ran the retreat, Michael Roach, had previously run a diamond business worth tens of millions of dollars and was now promoting Buddhist principles as a path to financial prosperity, raising eyebrows from more traditional Buddhists.
Dawn Kasper moved the entire contents of her home and studio into a room at the Whitney Museum.
ON most days, you can hear Dawn Kasper’s installation at the Whitney Biennial before you see it. Bessie Smith or the Beatles or an episode of “The Young Ones,” a British sitcom from the ’80s, might be playing scratchily on one of her many devices, spilling out into an adjacent gallery and accompanied by a throaty guffaw from the artist, whom you might then come upon sitting cross-legged on a mattress, wearing a Hawaiian shirt, eating a sandwich and entertaining a few strangers.
In late February, Ms. Kasper, a Los Angeles performance artist, moved herself and the entire contents of her apartment-slash-studio into the Whitney, where it and she will remain for the duration of the show (it closes May 27), in a kind of living sculpture she calls the Nomadic Studio Practice.
Though she is only 35, she has albums on vinyl, as well as VHS tapes and cassettes; there they are, in stacks on the floor. This is partly because she has a fondness for old media equipment and partly because she can’t afford to upgrade.
Indeed, Ms. Kasper’s finances haven’t allowed for a real studio since 2008, a common scenario in the life of an artist and one that generated this piece, which recalls the more festive aspects of Relational Aesthetics as well as a party in the room of a particularly messy teenager. (Ms. Kasper has sublet the room she rents in a two-room apartment in Los Angeles to a friend.)
While Ms. Kasper spends her nights sleeping in a rented room in Greenpoint, Brooklyn — the museum won’t allow her to sleep over — she has spent almost every day the Whitney is open in her reconstituted home, snacking, making collages and drawings, and chatting up the museumgoers who fill her room like shoppers in a cramped thrift store, squatting to sift through her records and paperback books. Small children will climb out of their strollers to dance. Ms. Kasper hands out markers and paper to the older ones; she has a stack of their drawings. Last week, two boys were convinced she was a robot, Ms. Kasper said, until she left her desk to draw pictures with them. Older patrons might sink gratefully onto a chair to rest. READ THE ARTICLE………….
When Greg Smith quit his job at Goldman Sachs, he slammed his former employer in a blistering newspaper essay. People don’t often quit with such a public display of vitriol. But when they do, it certainly gets attention. LISTEN TO THE STORY
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You might be tempted to chuckle about some Norwegian researchers peering back at experiments done during the ’60s and ’70s with LSD as a treatment for alcoholism.
Their rigorous analysis, combining data from six different studies, concludes that one dose of the hallucinogenic drug might just help.
The past studies randomly assigned patients to get a strong dose of LSD or something else (another drug, such as amphetamine, a low dose of LSD or nothing special). And the results provide evidence for a beneficial effect on abstinence from alcohol.
For what it’s worth, the analysis, just published online by the Journal of Psychopharmacology, was funded by the Research Council of Norway, not exactly a fringe outfit.
These mash-ups of previously published studies can be done well or badly, so I talked with Matthew W Johnson, a psychologist at Johns Hopkins. He said this so-called meta-analysis helped quantify the effect and give more heft to work that had suggested LSD could work.
The Hopkins group that Johnson is part of has been investigating the use of psilocybin, the hallucinogen in “magic mushrooms,” for smoking cessation and to help terminal cancer patients cope with their illness. They’ve also taken a look at Salvinorin A, a hallucinogen in salvia, too.
Why would hallucinogens be suited for these kinds of treatments? Johnson said people taking the drugs in the studies he’s helped with report that it is “one of the most meaningful experiences — or the most meaningful — in their life.”
Some says the “trip” changes the direction of their lives and can trigger a redefinition of how they see themselves. That could be as profound as, “I’m now a nondrinker, or whatever the adciction may be,” he said.
Of course, the LSD experiments analyzed in the latest report involved about 500 people. And the drug can cause very disturbing problems for some people who take it — especially at high doses. Larger, more careful studies would be required to assess the approach.
As it is, Johnson said various tests of hallucinogens as treatments suggest that the right surroundings and support are important during a therapeutic trip. “There have been plenty of people who have been alcoholics who have taken LSD, and it has done nothing for their alcoholism,” Johnson said.
Just out of the womb.
1st ski trip to the mountains.
Billy (on left) with local homeboys.
The domestique after a hard day.
Commiserating with The Orange Welfare
Rose Mary Woods demonstrates the infamous stretch that may have resulted in the erasure of the Watergate tapes.
My old saddle pal Billy Roos signed in on line – 14- July, 1966 just after high school graduation…oh my…. Peter Lev’s signature is on line – 4 – July, 1966
Billy… do you have a higher resolution copy of the summit register? The one you sent me is a little fuzzy, probably like you were at the summit when you should have been swilling beer in the parking lot…….Jerry
I probably told you the story about the poor boy scout who wandered over one evening and was found the next morning passed out in a mud puddle covered in vomit by his scoutmaster and a couple of rangers. Those sort of antics were likely responsible for a decision to close the campground the next summer. Billy
“I have things in my head that are not like what anyone has taught me-shapes and ideas so near to me – so natural to my way of being and thinking that it hasn’t occurred to me to put them down. I decided to start anew to strip away what I had been taught.” Georgia O’Keffe
Horse’s Skull with White Rose, 1931
Sky Above Clouds III/Above the Clouds III, 1963
Black Mesa Landscape, New Mexico/Out Back of Marie’s II, 1930
Bighorn Sheep Canyon in Colorado holds a chuckling ribbon of water, with a highway running alongside. Artist Christo wants to drape sections of it — almost 6 miles’ worth — with long, billowing panels of silvery fabric.
“The silver-color fabric panel will absorb the color,” he says. “In the morning, it will become rosy, in the middle of the day, platinum, and [during] the sunset, the fabric will become golden.”
Christo and his late wife, Jeanne-Claude, are famous for works measured in miles: pathways of flapping, flame-colored gates in Central Park, thousands of umbrellas scattered along the coasts of California and Japan. For many locals, however, Christo’s artistic vision for the Arkansas River feels more like a nightmare.
It has been 16 years since the Bulgarian-born artist picked Bighorn Canyon for this piece, called Over the River. It has taken that long to slowly accumulate the needed permits and permissions, a process financed by selling preparatory sketches. “All that is part of the work of art,” Christo told a panel of county commissioners earlier this month.
“The work of art involves everything. People who dislike or like the project, they’re part of the work of art,” he said.
Ellen Bauder disagrees. “I don’t particularly consider it an art project. This is a construction project in my view,” she says. Bauder is a leading member of a group called Rags Over the Arkansas River, or ROAR, which opposes the project.
Evidence of ROAR’s fight is everywhere in Bauder’s home office, with Over the River files scattered across the floor and boxes of media clippings in the corner.
Compassion is something really worthwhile. It is not just a religious or spiritual subject, not a matter of ideology. It is not a luxury, it is a necessity.