October 20th, 2012

The Captain's Prop

Does Romney Own Your Vote?

I don't ask this as a hypothetical. You see, a company owned by the Romney family may own the machine on which you cast your ballot:

Through a closely held equity fund called Solamere, Mitt Romney and his wife, son and brother are major investors in an investment firm called H.I.G. Capital. H.I.G. in turn holds a majority share and three out of five board members in Hart Intercivic, a company that owns the notoriously faulty electronic voting machines that will count the ballots in swing state Ohio November 7. Hart machines will also be used elsewhere in the United States.

In other words, a candidate for the presidency of the United States, and his brother, wife and son, have a straight-line financial interest in the voting machines that could decide this fall's election. These machines cannot be monitored by the public. But they will help decide who "owns" the White House. . . .

The investment comes in part through the privately held family equity firm called Solamere, which bears the name of the posh Utah ski community where the Romney family retreats to slide down the slopes.

Unlike other private equity firms, Solamere does not invest in companies directly. Instead, Solamere invests in other private equity funds, like H.I.G. Capital. Solamere calls them partners. These partners, like H.I.G., then invest in various enterprises, like Hart Intercivic, the nation's third-largest voting machine manufacturer.

When people raise throw about phrases like "conflict of interest," this is exactly the kind of thing to which they might be referring.

I'm not accusing Solamere of colluding to fix the election. Rather, I am pointing to a very simple rule of thumb: even if you aren't a shitty person, don't do shit that even looks shitty.

Africa's new middle class

Rampant poverty on one side, and a tiny wealthy elite on the other. And between them: nothing. That is the notion of Africa for many people around the world. At least this is what it used to be - until now. But today, in many African countries a middle class is being formed, and it is going to transform the continent.

There is no doubt now that the world's poorest continent is changing. A new layer of society is emerging, one that until very recently was neglected and overlooked, and irrelevant. Most Western media usually speak of two types of Africans - the poor who suffer starvation, disease and war, and the rich oligarchs and dictators who spend their spare time and their money from their Swiss bank accounts on the French Riviera. People from outside Africa have been fixated on these two extreme opposites, and the only thing they were concerned about (and rightly so), were Africa's problems: AIDS, ethnic conflicts, migration, social tensions, exploitation of natural resources, drought and the expanding deserts. "Africa is being referred to in such a way that it either evokes compassion and a call for help, or in the worst case, animosity and disdain. But neither approach corresponds to its current development", Jean-Michel Severino writes in his book Africa's Moment.

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