Tuesday, February 2, 2016


     Will Ted Cruz (above) go the way of Rick Santorum (near below) or George W. Bush (far below), who were also winners of the Iowa caucuses?                                           

For the record, I had predicted to my family last week that Ted Cruz would win 30% of the Iowa caucus vote, Donald Trump 20%, and Marco Rubio 15%. I wasn’t too far off with that prediction. I had also predicted that Jeb Bush would surprise everyone with 8-10% of the vote; I thought he had a decent ground game and would try harder there. I was way wrong about that. He never even put players in the field in Iowa.

I thought Bernie Sanders might edge out Hillary Clinton, but we all knew that would be close. (I thought it would depend on the weather: bad weather would be better for Hillary. It snowed.) Please note that as of today, Clinton has 384 delegates and Sanders only 29. That’s because Clinton has a large number of “super” delegates already committed to her.

The media is making far too much of Cruz’s win in Iowa. Remember that Mike Huckabee won Iowa in 2008 and Rick Santorum in 2012. Where did they go from there? Iowa Republicans love a Bible thumper—especially one whose father is a preacher willing to Bible-beat on the hustings, like Cruz's padre. That skews everything. But Cruz has a much better chance than Huckabee or Santorum. He's more Machiavellian and won’t fold as meekly as they did.

Last week, I was away from my computer, so I couldn’t get my Iowa predictions out here on my blog, but now that I’m home, I will hang my New Hampshire prognostications on the line for all to see:

Here’s my prediction for New Hampshire:

Trump 25%
Rubio 15%
Cruz 15%
Bush 12%
Kazich 12%
Christie 9%
The rest 12%

Sanders 58%
Clinton 42%


These results should bring Bush and the other governors—Kasich and Christie—back into the race, but they may not, because the media will make a big deal about Trump winning, Hillary losing, and Cruz doing not so well, which is all nonsense. Iowa and New Hampshire, like any other individual states, offer warped versions of the U.S. electorate and should not get so much attention.

Super Tuesday, March 1, should be good for Cruz, since Texas and many Bible-belt states are on the line that day. Cruz will have a good night, and many will crown him king, but March 15 may be the real Super Tuesday, with Florida, North Carolina, Illinois, and Ohio all holding delegate-rich primaries in more moderate-, less evangelical-Republican states. If one or more of the governors can hang on until then (which may be difficult, since the media will try to consign them to history after March 1), then one of them may rise toward the top. I would tell Jeb to hold on until March 16.

Hillary will win Super Tuesday and cruise from there.

Who knows, for the Republicans, the way things are going, even New York’s April 19 primary may be meaningful this year!

(Here’s a good link that shows how the primaries work: https://ballotpedia.org/2016_presidential_nominations:_calendar_and_delegate_rules .)

Monday, December 7, 2015


The sky is not falling. The recent killings in San Bernardino are horrific, tragic, and evil, but they should not drive us to generalized worry, much less to gape-mouthed fear, gun-buying panic, or further government degradation of our civil liberties.

Here are the facts: Gun deaths and gun injuries in the U.S. are way, way down over the last 20 years, even taking mass killings into account. Gun deaths are down about 50%; gun injuries are down more than 75%. Liberals don’t like to cite these figures because it undermines their call for greater gun control. Conservatives don’t like to cite these figures because conservatives feed on fear; the more afraid they can make people, the more they can claim that only they can protect us.

All of that annoys me. What absolutely infuriates me is that in the 1990s, the Republican Congress, at the behest of the NRA, defunded any attempt by the federal government to gather and analyze data about gun deaths and injuries. The Centers for Disease Control once tried to look at gun deaths and injuries as a public-health issue. The Republicans wouldn't allow it. The data about gun deaths and injuries thus have to be collected by private organizations like the Pew Research Center.

In any case, there is no need to be too alarmed about what happened in San Bernardino. Viewed against the big picture, the supposed proliferation of so-called "mass" shootings is a relatively small problem. In fact, the definition of a "mass" shooting is so vague that, by one definition, there have been only five such events in the U.S. in the past year; by another definition, there have been at least 350. The fear-mongers, of course, prefer the latter definition. But compared, for example, to the day-to-day shooting deaths in Chicago, "mass" shootings are not the central problem.

Even the killings in Paris should be viewed in perspective. In fact, the world's rate of violence has dropped precipitously and consistently over the past few centuries, and has continued to drop in this century. One week's news does not change that.

When a tragic event like the killings in San Bernardino and Paris happen, yes, it's appropriate to shed tears and shake one's fist at the heavens (or at ISIS). But don't listen to the Chicken Littles. The sky is not falling. The terrorists are not winning. Both liberals and conservatives, encouraged by the bloodthirsty media, are simply overreacting.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Republican Debate, 10/28/15: Untuned Instruments


A metaphor for last night's Republican debate.

Our house smells of skunk this morning. Must be because I watched the whole Republican debate last night. 
      Watching the debate was (to mix my metaphors) like listening to an orchestra of out-of-tune instruments: Almost every note rang false. Occasionally, almost by accident, the hint of an honest melody could be heard (generally from Kasich, Christie, or Bush). 
      The conductors of this orchestra—the CNBC panel of questioners—were even worse. Instead of using a baton, they used a flamethrower. Their questions were biased, loaded, and ill-stated when they weren’t trivial, irrelevant, or goading. They even argued with the candidates—certainly not their role. These people were (to switch metaphors again) the journalistic equivalent of blunt instruments. 
      On to winners and losers: If I were a Republican (which I am decidedly not), I would be most impressed by the performances of Rubio, Cruz, and Christie—all passionate Obama-bashers who know how to abuse the truth with great glibness.* Trump, Carson, and Fiorina will see their stars burn out by March. Kasich and Bush are the only ones I can abide, but Kasich has an awkward speaking style (iguana movements with his mouth) and poor Jeb is leaking protoplasm so fast that I suspect he will soon become invisible.

Jeb Bush as he leaks protoplasm.

      *  Note: The Republicans especially like to fudge the truth without (they believe) quite leaving themselves open to a bald accusation that they lie. But lie they do. For example, Rubio's claim last night that during last week's Benghazi hearings Hillary Clinton was proved to be a liar is based on the Republicans' intentional misreading of a statement she made in the week after the Benghazi attack. In that statement, Hillary said that "some people claim" the attack was a consequence of an anti-Muslim video that had been aired the previous week. In her statement (and this is the part the Republicans intentionally ignore) Hillary then goes on to say that, even if the video were the cause, it did not excuse the attack. The Republicans, in other words, intentionally misconstrue the point of her statement, which never claims the attack was the direct result of the video. Rubio lied.
      Here's another example of Republicans' playing fast and loose with the truth: For years Republicans have claimed, as Jeb Bush and Carly Fiorina did last night, that, by many measures, the economy has either deteriorated or stagnated since "the day Obama first took office." That last phrase represents a very clever fudging of facts. During Obama's first eight months in office, the economy was still plummeting because of the Great Recession. More than 4 million jobs, for example, were lost in the first six months Obama was in office. But this was before Obama's economy policies could even take effect! A better measure of Obama's success or failure is to compare today's economic numbers with those of, say, September, 2009, when Obama's stimulus package began to be implemented. Such a comparison shows that, by almost every measure, the American economy is far healthier today than it was then. Do Bush and Fiorina lie? Not exactly. They simply distort the facts.

How to dress like a Republican for Halloween.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Dems Debate: A Pro Among Amateurs

Bernie (above) reminds me of Doc Brown (below).

Good Dem debate last night. My impressions:

1) Chafee and Webb were not given their fair share of air time, and what little they were given, they wasted. Webb looked as if his head was about to explode because his collar was too tight. Chafee (as my lady noted) looked like Red Skelton in his later, skinny years. Webb blustered, Chaffee dithered. Webb tried to be tough on foreign affairs, but came across as muddled, whiny, and cold-war-ish. Chafee had little to say of substance.

2) O'Malley had some good progressive things to say, and said them well enough, but he harped on the year 2050 (his year for 100% clean energy) far too much. That's hardly a subject on which to ground one's campaign. His posture (staring hard at Hillary when she spoke) and persistent grin made him look like the cocky kid in high school who really doesn't have that much to be cocky about.

3) I share almost all of Bernie Sanders' ideas. He's almost as left-wing as I am. (Not quite.) I love his hair-on-fire passion and the way he articulates his outrage about economic inequality in a capitalist system that still has far too few checks on it. I like his respect for the northern European countries (Denmark, Norway) and their policies. He reminds me of the professor in Back to the Future: wild-eyed, wild-haired, and flaky, but ultimately correct. He wants to upset the apple cart and distribute the apples fairly. I like that. He is, however, unelectable except against a true wild-card of a wilderness Republican (read: Trump, Carson, Fiorina). It didn't help that Bernie ended his final statement with a pitch for money and the promoting of his website, making him sound like the Kickstarter candidate.

4) Hillary was very good: articulate, smart, informed, engaging. She explained her positions clearly and convincingly. She's too moderate and hawkish for my taste, but she came across as the one professional in a room full of amateurs.

Biden, seeing Hillary's fine performance, will probably stay out of the race now.

Martin O'Malley (above) reminds me of Eddie Haskell (below).

Friday, December 12, 2014


I know Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren's hair is on fire about the year-end spending bill passed yesterday (December 11, 2014) by the House of Representatives, and so is Nancy Pelosi's. A lot of other Democrats are also in flames. Many of my fellow liberals are directing their ire at President Obama because he pressured House Democrats to vote for the bill, which funds the government through September, 2015. (Fifty-seven Democrats did vote for the bill; without their votes, it would have failed.)

My liberal friends are most angry about the rider in the spending bill that weakens the Dodd-Frank legislation of 2010. Among other things, the Dodd-Frank law was designed to prevent banks from using depositors' federally insured savings to gamble on swaps and other derivatives; without Dodd-Frank, if those gambles go wrong, the taxpayers would have to bail out the banks . . . again. My fellow liberals, furious about the amount of money in politics already, are also burning hot about a provision that raises limits on what individuals can give to political parties.

Elizabeth Warren is mighty angry.
The rantings of Warren, Pelosi, and others aside, here are some facts to keep in mind about all this, so we at least know what we're outraged about:

1) Obama did not ask for the weakening of Dodd-Frank regulations to be put in the spending bill. By all accounts, he did not want that provision in the bill. His asking members of Congress to support the bill as a whole in no way represents his endorsement of that one provision.

2) In 2013 a bill came up calling for this exact change in Dodd-Frank regulations—a change allowing some bank credit swaps and other derivatives to be covered by federal insurance. When that bill came up in 2013, 70 Democrats voted for it. It had in fact been co-sponsored by a Democrat. In other words, when it comes to this provision in the spending bill, Obama's own party is split, despite the publicity being given to the disgust of Nancy Pelosi and Elizabeth Warren.

Obama and Pelosi in warmer times.
3) The insured-derivatives provision in the current spending bill affects less than 10% of the banks' swaps/derivatives transactions.

4) About 50% of the Dodd-Frank rules have not even been written out yet, even though the bill was passed four years ago. House Republicans have managed to de-fund, obfuscate, or delay the implementation of most of the law up to this point, anyway. There is some question about whether the change in the current spending bill makes any difference at all, given that the law is full of so many loopholes already and that none of its strongest and most important provisions are even being enforced four years later. (Note: This failure to enforce Dodd-Frank is not the executive branch's or Obama's fault. The Republicans in the House have refused to fund enforcement or clarify the rules, so they cannot yet be enforced.)

5) According to insider reports, the Dodd-Frank-weakening provision came as a compromise necessary to protect the Consumer Protection Bureau from further Republican depredations. The Dems were given a choice: a slight weakening of one aspect of Dodd-Frank (which is already a mess) or a frontal attack on the Consumer Protection Bureau (which is the one part of the Dodd-Frank legislation that is in fact doing good work).

6) If the spending bill had been voted down, the government almost certainly would have been shut down. This would have been very bad in every way for an economy that is otherwise doing quite well these days, and the shutdown would almost certainly have been blamed on the Democrats and Obama (had he threatened a veto).

Will the current spending bill really change campaign financing?

7) The provision in the bill that allows individuals to give "10 times the current amount" (as most news reports put it) to political parties has not been clearly explained in most media. The provision allows individuals to give that extra money only to committees of the political parties that 1) put on conventions, 2) deal with recounts, and 3) control building expenses. The money would not go to those committees that distribute money to candidates. The new provision would in no way increase the amount of money given directly to candidates by any individual, which is still limited to $2,600 per election. Several nonpartisan campaign-finance experts have suggested that raising the amount given to political parties is in fact necessary so that the political parties themselves can counter, at least to some extent, the influence of political PACs. As a recent article in The Daily Kos about the Koch brothers having their own "political party" suggests, if PACs get any stronger, the political parties themselves will grow relatively weaker, and perhaps irrelevant, by comparison. That would not necessarily be a good thing, for reasons I'm sure that anyone reading this understands.

These facts in no way lessen my outrage about the riders added to the spending bill. I too am furious at any attempt to weaken Dodd-Frank, even if Dodd-Frank's enforcement is several years down the road (if it will ever be enforced). I am also furious that the bill cuts $345 million from the Internal Revenue Service's budget, making it more difficult to go after rich tax cheats, and that it cuts $60 million from the Environmental Protection Agency's budget, making it more difficult to combat poisoned air and the overheating of the planet. To be honest, I'm not too concerned about people being allowed to help the political parties pay for their conventions and rest rooms.

If one looks at all the facts, one can see why Obama agreed to a bill that keeps the government running for another year rather than see the government shut down: such a shutdown would have damaged his party and, more importantly, the country.

I am glad all this gives the Elizabeth Warrens of the Democratic Party a chance to have their ideas heard (I like her ideas), but Elizabeth Warren and President Obama have very different responsibilities just now, a fact that some of my fellow liberals don't seem to take into account.

Has Obama really betrayed Chris Dodd and Barney Frank, as some liberals claim?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


Which Hillary will we see in October 2016?
For what it's worth, Hillary Clinton's interview on NPR this morning was so impressive that I'm now thinking that she could absolutely devour any Republican who runs against her in 2016. She's damn smart and articulate, as we already know, and she simply and eloquently swatted away all questions about things like Benghazi, Bergdahl, and the supposed failure of U.S. leadership in the world.

I'm still worried about her stamina on the campaign trail, however. This has nothing to do with her being female or with Fox News' rumors about her brain health. It has to do with her turning 69 years old in 2016. I am now 68 years old and in rather good physical condition (three hours of singles tennis? no problem!), but there is no way I could survive a presidential campaign. Only Reagan was older than 68 when he ran, and he was held together by make-up, hair gel and 3X5 notecards; we also now have a pretty good idea what happened to his brain while he was in office.

Picture of a presidential candidate held together with make-up and hair gel.
I keep imagining a hoarse, pale, hollow-eyed Hillary up against a young, studly, gleaming Paul Ryan in the October 2016 debates. Specifically, I imagine Ryan getting on the floor and doing push-ups and ab crunches while Hillary croaks on intelligently about NATO and Ukraine. Not a pretty picture. And if Americans judge male candidates by their looks, imagine how much more harshly they'll judge a female candidate.

Will Americans prefer Hillary or this guy in 2016?
Still, Hillary was terrific this morning, so I shall, for the time being, be optimistic about her chances.

Monday, October 7, 2013


My mother, Elsie Weathers (left), and her friend Phyllis McGuire at Biggs Hospital c. 1943.

I believe the U.S. government should cover the health expenses of every American citizen. Some call this “Medicare for everyone.” Some call it a “single-payer system,” the single payer being the federal government. Some call it the European or Canadian system. Some call it “socialized medicine,” thinking that term is pejorative, although I find it neither pejorative nor accurate. (Most of those who throw around the word “socialist” have no idea what it means.)

Whatever you call it, I believe that if a person gets sick, he or she should be able to go to a doctor or a hospital, receive treatment and medicine, and have to pay nothing.

The Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare, is not what I would prefer; it still leaves people vulnerable to large medical costs. It is nevertheless better than the system we have had until now. Obamacare is, of course, much in the news today, but it is not my subject here.

My subject is universal, free health care. I believe it should be the law of the land in any country that, like ours, can afford it. My stake in this is personal: Without free, government-sponsored health care, I would never have been born.

My father, Terry Weathers (left), and his friend Ed Miller at Biggs Memorial Hospital c. 1939

Sometime around 1940, my mother, then in her early twenties, a girl from a hardscrabble upstate New York farm, contracted tuberculosis. Shortly before that, my father, almost as young, a boy from a small town in Kentucky, had contracted tuberculosis while working in New York City. They did not know each other when they got sick. They met after they had both been admitted to Biggs Memorial Hospital, a tuberculosis sanatorium overlooking Cayuga Lake, near Ithaca, New York.

For nearly four years, my mother was in the hospital, taking the “rest cure.” In fact, she had little rest, enduring operation after agonizing operation. Periodically, long needles were inserted into her lung cavity, through her back. The last operation she had resulted in her right lung being shut down forever. My father, too, went under the knife, though not quite so drastically. He was in the hospital for about three years.

My father and mother fell in love in the hospital and married after they were finally released, in 1945. I was born in 1946. I was an “accident” that was a bit dangerous for my still-weak mother, but we both came out of it okay.

Without socialized medicine, this scene would never have occurred. That's my father, my mother, and me in the middle.

My father lived to be 84. My mother lived to be 93. I never saw either of my parents in a bathing suit; they were too embarrassed by the scars on their backs. And yet, until the day they died, they spoke of their time at Biggs Memorial in—surprise—the most affectionate, almost reverent terms. They spoke of the kind and beautiful nurses (and, yes, of the occasional sadistic nurse) and of the warm, caring, and competent doctors (and, yes, of the occasional cold-hearted doctor). Most of all, they spoke of the fellowship of the sick who made up the patient population. Friends they loved died in that hospital, and they were some of the dearest friends my parents ever had. Those who lived remained their dear friends for years after.

For my parents, their time at Biggs was a time of prolonged physical pain made bearable by the balm of human kindness.

Now to the point: For more than three years of hospital care, innumerable operations, and hundreds of medications, my mother paid exactly nothing. Not a dime. Nor did my father ever pay a cent for his care at Biggs. New York State paid for it all, on the assumption that tuberculosis was societally too dangerous to be left untreated and its victims too contagious to remain in the general population. The taxpayers of New York paid for my parents’ care.

That’s why my parents became lifelong supporters of universal, free health care—go ahead, call it socialized medicine—and why I feel the same way today.

Thanks to those years of free medical care, my father and mother went on to live enormously productive, generous lives. I can assure you that New York State earned back all the money it invested in their care—and much, much more.

Whenever one of my conservative friends complains about “socialized medicine,” I tell them this story. It doesn’t shut them up, but it should.

Paul Robeson was a great athlete, actor, singer, and early civil-rights activist. In November 1942, he gave a free concert at Biggs Memorial Hospital, where my father took this photo. During the communist witch-hunt of Senator Joseph McCarthy, Robeson was blacklisted because of his political activism. My parents never forgot his performance at Biggs and always spoke of him with reverence. They despised McCarthy and his kind of right-wing politics for all of their lives.