Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sunday Reading

Bringing the War Home — In The Atlantic, Tina Dupuy profiles Iraq war veterans who are finding their place in the Occupy movement.

We’re in a coffee shop near McPherson Square, the location of Occupy DC, and Michael Patterson, 21, and I are having hot cocoa on a cold November night. He’s wearing an Iraq Veterans Against the War sweatshirt and baggy shorts. It’s freezing outside. “I’m from Alaska,” he offers as an explanation. He’s been sleeping in a tent in D.C. for over a month now. I’ve traveled to five Occupations in two countries. In every demonstration (including the one in Canada) I’ve found a vet to talk to:

In Zuccotti Park, Army Specialist Jerry Bordeleau, 24, was sitting next to a table of IWW (Industrial Workers of the World) literature. On his sweater were two buttons: an Iraq Campaign metal and one from the IWW. He served two tours in Iraq and now says he’s unemployed and can’t find work for over $10 an hour. And he can’t live on $10 an hour. When I asked him why he’s at Occupy Wall Street he says, “I went and fought for capitalism and that’s why I’m now a Marxist.”

At Occupy Baltimore, I met 21-year-old Justin Carson, who tells me he served in the Army National Guard in Iraq from 2009 until this February. His nickname is Crazy Craze. He says he has PTSD and is bipolar but won’t “do pharmaceuticals.” Then he told me I should look into the Illuminati since I’m writing an article.

It was a surprise to meet Iraq war vets at these protests. There are only, after all, around a million Americans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan in what was once dubbed the War on Terror.

Their presence became national news when Iraq vet and former Marine Scott Olsen’s skull was fractured by a non-lethal round fired by police in Oakland in late-October. A week later in New York, around 30 vets held a solidarity march from Zuccotti Park to the Stock Exchange. They had a rally at the park afterward where Bordeleau spoke. “This is the first major movement for social change we’ve seen in this country since the ’70s,” he said to me.

At Occupy DC, a painting of Scott Olsen in uniform is draped on the side of a tent. He’s become a symbol of the Occupation Movement — he fought overseas only to be injured when exercising his “freedom” of peaceful assembly at home. His name has become a shorthand to talk about why so many vets are at Occupy Wall Street.

“There’s a reason Scott Olsen got shot in the head,” says Patterson, looking down at his chain-restaurant hot cocoa. “Because he was out front.”

More below the fold.

Giving Them The Business — Michael Barbaro in The New York Times looks at an example of how Mitt Romney’s company, Bain Capital, took over a company and what happened next.

By the green-hued yardsticks of Wall Street, the 1990s buyout of an Illinois medical company by Mitt Romney’s private equity firm was a spectacular success.

Mr. Romney’s company, Bain Capital, sent in a team of 10 turnaround experts from Boston to ferret out waste, motivate executives and study untapped markets.

By the time the Harvard M.B.A.’s from Bain were finished, sales at the medical company, Dade International, had more than doubled. The business acquired two of its rivals. And Mr. Romney’s firm collected $242 million, a return eight times its investment.

But an examination of the Dade deal shows the unintended human costs and messy financial consequences behind the brand of capitalism that Mr. Romney practiced for 15 years.

At Bain Capital’s direction, Dade quadrupled the money it owed creditors and vendors. It took steps that propelled the business toward bankruptcy. And in waves of layoffs, it cut loose 1,700 workers in the United States, including Brian and Christine Shoemaker, who lost their jobs at a plant in Westwood, Mass. Staggered, Mr. Shoemaker wondered, “How can the bean counters just come in here and say, Hey, it’s over?”

Mr. Romney’s career at Bain Capital, which he owned and ran as chief executive, is a cornerstone of his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination — a credential, he argues, that showcases the management skills and business acumen that America needs to revive a stalled economy. Creating jobs, Mr. Romney says, is exactly what he knows how to do.

The White House, though, is already preparing a less flattering portrayal, trying to frame Mr. Romney’s record at Bain as evidence that he would pursue slash and burn economics and that his business career thrived by enriching the elite at the expense of the working class.

Here Come the Snowbirds — Tonya Alvarez of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel looks at the migratory habits of our approaching flock.

The migratory season is upon us and Florida’s most famous birds are making their annual return.

Snowbirds. We love them. We hate them. We love to hate them. They often get a bad rap, characterized as disgruntled, rude, demanding and always looking for a deal, but nobody can deny the huge economic benefits they bring.

Here are the tell-tale signs they have returned.

Tanner people among us

The deep tans tell Steve Ita, of Hollywood, the snowbirds are back: “They’re real sun lovers. They’re probably either the palest people you’ll see or the tannest.”

Questions, questions, questions

“You tend to get a lot of questions when you’re walking down the street,” said Ken Keller, of Fort Lauderdale. “‘Where’s the Aruba Café? Where’s Commercial Boulevard? Will you take our picture?'”

A lot more money being spent here

About 500,000 snowbirds visited Broward County last year and spent about $1 billion dollars. And one job is created for every 85 visitors, said Nicki Grossman, president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau. She anticipates that this season will be “even stronger.”

“The snowbirds have become a very important component of our economy. Without them there are fewer jobs and fewer cash registers ringing around the community,” she said.

Grossman’s counterpart in Palm Beach County, Jorge Pesquera, estimated more than 150,000 snowbirds visit each year but could not estimate how much they spend.

Pembroke Park doubles its population

“We double in size from 6,000 to 12,000,” said Bob Levy, Pembroke Park’s town manager. “We try to accommodate, because truthfully it’s part of our lifeblood, the economic engine.”

As a result, the town has a City Hall receptionist who speaks fluent French. And on Wednesday, up went the towns “Bienvenue” signs on Hallandale Beach Boulevard to welcome back its seasonal French-Canadian residents.

Doonesbury — Honesty.