Mitchell Aboulafia


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NYC looking North from the EMPIRE STATE BUILIDING. Photo by DAVID ILIFF, license HERE (proportions slightly altered from the original photo)








Early to bed, and early to rise,

Makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise

- Benjamin Franklin.

I don’t see it.

- George Washington

Now both of these are high authorities – very high and respectable authorities – but I am with General Washington first, last, and all the time on this proposition.

Because I don’t see it, either. . . .

Put no trust in the benefits to accrue from early rising, as set forth by the infatuated Franklin – but stake the last cent of your substance on the judgment of old George Washington, the Father of his Country, who said “he couldn’t see it.”

And you hear me endorsing that sentiment.

Mark Twain, “Early Rising, As Regards Excursions to the Cliff House,” MARK TWAIN IN THE GOLDEN ERA 1863-1866.


Written by Mitchell Aboulafia

October 20, 2012 at 11:14 pm

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A Parallel Universe Election

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Here is what I would like to see.   The universe needs to move along two different timelines after election day 2012.  In one universe Romney wins; in another Obama.  Those who voted for Romney must live in the timeline in which he won.  Likewise for the Obama supporters.  Let’s also assume that after four years each universe has a window into the other.

Here is my bet.  Those in the Romney universe who are not wealthy, who are middle class, women, minorities, students, working people, etc., will curse the day that they voted for Mitt.  They will discover that he deceived them.  That his five point plan went nowhere.  That it wasn’t really a plan.  The government will be locked in battles as Romney tries to placate his extreme right-wing.  Insurance companies will not have to cover those with pre-existing conditions.  Students will have less options to pay for college.  The wealthy will be doing better than ever and middle class folks will be stuck just where they are (or worse).  The next generation will not be able to count on Medicare and Medicaid as they do today.

How can this be?  Mitt’s a businessman, a financier.  He will know how to fix the economy.  Get things moving again.  But there is no evidence that business skills translate into being a good president, especially in terms of the economy.   Knowing how to make money in the private sector is simply not the same thing as governing.  For what it’s worth, let’s look at the record here.  We have had three presidents who were businessmen in the last 60 years:  Jimmy Carter, George Bush I, and George Bush II.  Carter was a peanut farmer.  Bush I was in oil, and he also served in the government.  Bush II was a businessman with the same degree from the same school as Romney.  Each of these presidents had significant problems with the economy, and Bush II was a dramatic failure.  (As a matter of fact, try to name one truly successful president who was a businessman.  Perhaps Truman.  But I don’t know if running a haberdashery for a short time counts.  And farmers and landowners in the 19th century are just not what we think of today as businessmen.)

And what did Mitt’s business experience do for the people of Massachusetts?  Oh, he would have you believe he helped create a marvelous economy in the state.  But here is actually what happened.

“Unlike Obama, Romney took office during an economic uptick. Massachusetts had a net job growth of 1.4 percent under Romney. However, that was far slower growth than the national average of 5.3%. As Romney’s opponents have frequently, and correctly, noted, Massachusetts ranked 47th in job growth over the entirety of Romney’s term. The only states that did worse: Louisiana, Michigan and Ohio.” [Fact Check, USA Today, 1/5/12]

And what will the Obama universe look like?  In the Obama timeline Medicare, Medicaid, and student loans will all be protected.  Insurance companies will cover pre-existing conditions and thirty million more Americans will have coverage.  Baring a world financial meltdown, the economy will continue to improve and the wealthy will pay a fairer share of the nation’s taxes.  The debt will gradually decrease as a proportion of GNP as the economy turns around and reasonable cost cutting measures are put in place.  We have seen this universe.  It’s the one we are beginning to live in.

What Mitt is really good at doing is selling himself, and he certainly will change his positions in order to do so.  But before you vote for this man for any season, try playing the parallel universe game.

[Thanks to a commentator on a newspaper article who suggested that country should split based on which states went which way in the election, that is, people should be forced to live under the president their state voted for.  Not exactly my idea here, but close.  Sorry that I don't recall where I saw the comment.  I read a lot of them.]

Romney’s Biggest Debate Lie

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There is little question that during Wednesday’s debate Romney lied and changed his positions.   (See, for example, “At Last Night’s Debate Romney told 27 Myths in 38 minutes.”)  But the biggest lie of the debate didn’t occur on Wednesday evening.  In an interview with George Stephanopoulos on September 14, 2012, less than three weeks ago, Romney said that he expected the president to lie during the debate:

But I think the challenge that I’ll have in the debate is that the president tends to, how shall I say it, to say things that aren’t true.  And in attacking his opponents.  I’ve looked at prior debates.  And in that kind of case, it’s difficult to say, “Well, am I going to spend my time correcting things that aren’t quite accurate?  Or am I going to spend my time talking about the things I want to talk about?”

Psychologists talk about the phenomenon of projection in which a person claims that someone else is doing what he or she is doing.  However, Romney wasn’t only projecting his own expectation of lying during the debate onto Obama.   Romney and his strategists knew that he would need his Etch-a-Sketch moment, the one in which he portrays himself as a moderate after tacking far right for months.  It  couldn’t happen at the convention because of how far right the delegates leaned.  So they saved it for the first debate.  But there was a small problem.  If Romney just shifted his positions, he would appear to be flip flop Romney, once again.   Solution: devise a narrative in which Obama is made to appear as if he is lying when he challenges Romney.

Romney started setting the stage for this narrative weeks ago and carried it into the debate.  From the transcript of the debate:

21:16:44: ROMNEY: So if the tax plan he described were a tax plan I was asked to support, I’d say absolutely not. I’m not looking for a $5 trillion tax cut. What I’ve said is I won’t put in place a tax cut that adds to the deficit. That’s part one. So there’s no economist that can say Mitt Romney’s tax plan adds $5 trillion if I say I will not add to the deficit with my tax plan.

Number two, I will not reduce the share paid by high-income individuals.  I know that you and your running mate keep saying that and I know it’s a popular thing to say with a lot of people, but it’s just not the case. Look, I’ve got five boys. I’m used to people saying something that’s not always true, but just keep on repeating it and ultimately hoping I’ll believe it. But that — that is not the case. All right? I will not reduce the taxes paid by high-income Americans.  (Emphasis added.)

At the moment when Romney is making extremely misleading statements about his tax plan, a crucial issue for him, he pivots and says, “Look, I’ve got five boys. I’m used to people saying something that’s not always true.”  So, Obama, if you challenge me, you are a liar.  This wasn’t a spontaneous remark.  It was at the heart of Romney’s strategy for the debate.  Leaving aside the question of the status of truth in the Romney household, this was certainly a prepared response, perhaps one of the “zingers” that Romney’s team promised.

And let’s not forget another memorable Romney zinger, “Mr. President, you’re entitled to your own airplane and your own house, but not your own facts.”

The bottom line here is that Romney didn’t just lie during the debate; he had a strategy to cover his lies by claiming that his opponent is a liar.  An old rhetorical gambit.  Well played.  But it only makes Romney even more of a liar and less trustworthy.   If this man is elected president, we will never know if he is telling us the truth.

Written by Mitchell Aboulafia

October 5, 2012 at 12:30 am

Republicans and the Jewish American Vote

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Ok, I am now going to say what I believe at least 85% of American Jews believe deep down, and I say this as a Jewish American.  “Jewish Republican” is an oxymoron.  Yes, there are those who claim to be Jewish Republicans but either 1) they aren’t really Republicans or 2) they aren’t really Jewish.  How can I make a statement of this sort with the likes of Sheldon Adelson and Eric Cantor running around, and with all of those Jewish neo-cons who gave such poor advice to W about Iraq?  I simply dismiss them.  They are lost souls.  Their souls have been stolen from them.  No one whose ancestors escaped the pharaoh can actually be a Republican.

But I have a more compelling argument.   Sheldon Adelson and something called the Jewish Republican Coalition are placing these billboards along highways in Florida.

   Now here is a simple thought experiment that will reveal just how out of touch these people are.  Imagine Mitt Romney, the candidate these folks are supporting, uttering the words, “Obama…Oy Vey!”  Any real Jewish American would be on their sides in stitches at the thought.  Laughter that would wake the dead.  And how could one not imagine Mitt trying to say Oy Vey after seeing these billboards along major highways?

So here is my proof that at least these Jewish Republicans can’t actually be Jewish.  They have a lousy sense of humor.  They think this billboard is cute.  But it actually manages to be tacky, tasteless, crude, and funny (in spite of what they intended).  Oy Vey.

[I am not alone.  See, Yiddish Curses for GOP Jews.]

Romney Explains Why He Is Not Qualified to be President

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Ah, Romney and his taxes are back, after his campaign’s Friday release of his 2011 taxes.  Not only did they dump the stuff on Friday hoping that less attention would be paid to them, but they would only take questions about them by email.  (I know, it sounds like a skit from Comedy Central.)  There are hundreds of pages in the filing but one important fact surfaced immediately.  Romney had said that his effective tax rate was never below 13% in the last decade.  And in 2011 this appears to be true.  He paid 14.1% .  But this was only after he didn’t use allowable deductions on contributions.  Had he used the deductions his rate would have been closer to 10%.

So what’s the issue here?  Romney (the hard-nosed businessman) made a rather self-righteous proclamation last summer: if he paid more taxes than he owed, he wouldn’t be qualified to be president.  Here is how this was reported in today’s New York Times, “Romney Reveals He Paid 14% Rate in 2011 Tax Return.”

Mr. Romney’s tax return for last year showed just how sensitive a political matter his wealth and tax rate has become. In a bit of reverse financial engineering, he and his wife, Ann, gave up $1.75 million worth of charitable deductions, raising his tax payments significantly.

Had he claimed all the deductions to which he was entitled in 2011, his effective rate could have dipped to near 10 percent, contradicting his past assurances that he had never paid below 13 percent.

But forgoing the full deductions available to him put him at odds with his own past assertions that he had never paid more taxes than he owed and his statement that if he had done so, “I don’t think I’d be qualified to become president,” as he put it to ABC News in July.

We here at UP@NIGHT suspect that Mitt has changed his mind about his qualifications.  Not a problem for him.  It’s clear that he took Obama’s campaign message in 2008 about change rather personally.   (Oh, and one more telling point.  It seems that Romney can submit a revised return later this year, which will allow him to take the deductions.  Another change.)

Written by Mitchell Aboulafia

September 22, 2012 at 4:43 pm

THe Wall Street Leopard

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National Geographic

When the economy tanked we all remember how Wall Street continued to give excessive bonuses to its executives in the face of huge losses in their divisions and accounts.

If there is any question that Mitt Romney is a creature of the same out of touch Wall Street culture, here is some further evidence.

The collective wisdom is that the Republican convention didn’t do much for Romney and friends, and it will most likely be remembered as the convention of the empty chair.  The campaign as a whole has not been well run.  But this didn’t stop old Mitt from handing out a slew of bonuses right after his nomination at the convention, when there was no evidence that his “executives” had been successful.

Another set of expenditures is likely to draw grumbles from Mr. Romney’s allies given his campaign’s current struggles: The day after accepting the Republican nomination, Mr. Romney gave what appeared to be $192,440 in bonuses to senior campaign staff members. At least nine aides received payments on Aug. 31 well in excess of their typical biweekly salaries, including $25,000 each for Matthew Rhoades, the campaign manager; Lanhee Chen, a policy adviser; and Katie Biber, the general counsel. Rich Beeson, the political director, received $37,500.   (“Low on Cash, Romney Tries to Rally Donors for Final Phase,”  New York Times, September 20, 2012.)

Mitt (Leopard) Romney won’t be changing his spots anytime soon.  You can take that to the bank.

Written by Mitchell Aboulafia

September 21, 2012 at 4:42 pm

Mitt Romney Joke of the Week

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Think Progress

Why did Mitt Romney cross the road?

To avoid 47% of his fellow Americans.

Written by Mitchell Aboulafia

September 20, 2012 at 11:50 pm


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