Tuesday, June 30, 2009

#122 Health-Care Reform--Live and Let Live

A kind of footnote to #120 ......

Call me a "Left" Libertarian if you like, but I believe my advocacy the Public Option (and ultimately single-payer) is a logical extension of, at the very least, the pop-characterization of the Libertarian Party--"live and let live"--which is largely true. I do my private thing, and you're free to do yours. Just don't dare commit any Force or Fraud upon me or my property, or that of others ... I'll get the law on you. That's what we pay taxes for.

Old age, disability, disease, etc. seem to me to fall into a special if not unique category of FORCE that we need protection from: we have just about zero control over these adverse circumstances that are pretty much "forced" upon us. And in this light, they are a violation of the very first principle stated in the preamble of National Libertarian Platform: "Right to Life" (John Locke's Liberty and Property follow--Jefferson swiped them too). So ... Is it that much of a stretch to look to our government to protect us from those "accidents of fate"--again: old age, disability, disease--for ourselves and our fellow taxpayers? Not.

If not a moral imperative, let's bow to a purely selfish one. A major reason that private health insurance costs Americans exorbitantly is that it's "front-loaded" to pay for the million upon millions of the un- and under-insured. Universal Health Care would save everybody money. And just think of all the American lives we could have kept in good health here at home, if we hadn't wasted 900 billion bucks on death and dying in the Middle East.

Live and let live.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

#121 (Equivocal) Wisdom of the Week

  • The AARP putting pressure on the Senate Health, Education, etc. Committee, the one responsible for getting a Reform proposal to the floor, to put pressure on Big Pharma to loosen up on generic drug availability and cost. Speaking for 40 million strong (I'm one), the AARP should be able to make their voice heard. This is a step forward, BUT ... rather narrow and self-serving. Their private, non-profit (but money-making) health insurance wing would be a direct beneficiary of such cost reduction. Speaking for 40 million strong, the AARP should put pressure on the whole of Congress to COMPREHENSIVELY get us out of this mess ... and closer to the goal of affordable health care (if not single-payer) for all.
  • US House of Representatives passing The American [who else?] Clean Energy an Security Act ... barely. Again, a step forward, BUT ... it passed by a slim margin. What's wrong with these people? Big Oil is still pulling some strings, evidently, even among Democrats. The opportunity-window to control global warming is closing ever more quickly. And the bill, for all it's lack of consensus, is pretty weak. It allows major polluters (e.g. Big Coal) off the hook by allowing them to buy federal permits that allow them to continue to pollute! LOL. Called "cap and trade," the moneys so generated would go for development of clean-energy resources, while the polluters supposedly clean up their act in the meantime. Mazel tov.
  • S.C. Gov. Mark Sanders planning NOT to resign. Whoop-tee-doo, he's got a sordid family life, (Libertarian alert) but that's his private business, and not the State's. Worse, of course, he's an execrable hypocrite of the lowest Republican ilk (like Gingrich and Vitter, he was all over Clinton), not only touting their medieval brand of "family values," but forever trying to impose and legislate it upon others--Defense Of Marriage Act and all that--even as they are exposed for the rascals they are (fill in the the latest holier-than-thou Republican scandal or two). Sanders even used the Bible to justify adulterous politicians staying in office: King David! Typical. Odious. No reason to resign, however, from his publicly elected office. South Carolina deserves what it got. Let his constituents vote him out. BUT ... if he knows that his "legitimate trade mission" to Argentina was actually contrived and not properly sanctioned; and if tax-payer's money was used for diddling his mistress, then he should resign, and save his fellow citizens the cost of impeachment proceedings. Enough tabloid politics!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

#120 Health-Care Reform and "Socialized Medicine"

To continue from last post ... My goodness, can there be any valid excuse for not having Universal Health Care in this country? Socialism-Schmocialism: it's a moral imperative ... it's even a patriotic duty, by jingo--other civilized counties are putting us to shame. And as far as the American people are concerned, rah, rah ... they're all for it. In terms of electoral majorities, that is. Listen to the vox populi: according to the network and newspaper polls, Americans support a Public Option in the Health Care Reform package by an overwhelming 3 to 1 margin. A majority of 55-60% are willing to pay higher taxes for it. That second figure is even more satisfying than the first, I believe, because it statistically must reflect large numbers of people who can actually afford the high price of comprehensive private insurance, but who are altruistically concerned over the plight of of others who cannot. And that's just ... all good.

The so-called Public Option has also been called a mere "nibbling" away at the private Big-Med monster that devours everything in its path. One-third to one-half of all personal bankruptcies are due to health care debt. Why? Collectively we spend over two trillion dollars a year on a health care system that costs 50% more than the next most-costly nation. Add this to our insane War Debt, and the country itself could go bankrupt. Even those countries with mixed private/public systems (e.g. Germany, France, Switzerland), however, are able to cover their citizens at a fraction of our costs, I've learned. So if the only to way to pass significant reform measures is to include Big-Med in the mix with Public Option, okay. It's one step closer to the ideal: SINGLE-PAYER.

And that's eventually what this country will end up with. The Public Option (which WILL pass--you heard it here) will prove to be more attractive, less expensive than the private options, and we'll all soon be speaking Canadian ... if not English. Just listen to Sen. Mitch "Minority Leader" McConnell lamenting on Fox, "The private insurance people will not be able to compete with a government option." Boo-hoo. He's inadvertently touting Single-Payer without realizing it. He knows that the Feds will not have "overhead" expenses for marketing and advertising, will have irresistible power in lowering costs from from providers, and will make ... no profit. That last cuts cost by 10-30% right off the top, say the experts. Everybody would save money.

But as we inevitably move to public health care, the big payoff will be in moral/social equity: everyone would be entitled to the medical treatment they need regardless of age, background, or circumstance. Only a very few things in our social infrastructure are too important, too complicated, and too "national" to entrust to a profit-driven Free Market. Health Care is one of those things, along with others we take for granted like the Military and the Post Office. Big news: we're already "socialized." We've got Unemployment and Old Age covered, and Medicaid takes care of the young and disabled. A Universal "single-payer" Health Care system is the logical extension.

Monday, June 22, 2009

#119 Health Care Reform and Me ...

... and lots of others. To begin with a "shock and awe" manifesto--any tax-paying American should be able to walk into any hospital or doctor's office, show their ID, and get free health care for themselves and their dependents. Not being able to do that in the richest country in the world outside of Luxembourg, with the best health care in the world (once you're IN) ... is an international disgrace. Cuba might be a better place to get sick. It kills me when some wingnut like Rep. John "Minority Leader" Boehner--please, please pronounce that last name as spelled--says that Pres. Obama is trying to make us "like Britain or Canada." Well cut me a slice of that! ... and serve me up a couple of Scandinavian nations on the side. And don't feed me no baloney nohow about the inefficiency of federal control. Boehner, for instance, grasping at straw-men, likes to ask (he thinks rhetorically), "Would you want to have your medical care entrusted to the US Post Office?" Hell yes, I would. It's a marvel of inexpensive efficiency.

First of all, the "long-lines" objection to tax-paid health care is at best specious and mostly untrue. ( The other tired objection is "Big Gov't between doctor and patient"--Well, can there be any bigger "Betweeners" than Big Insurance and Big Pharma?) Studies have shown that the waiting periods for "privatized" first-time appointments in this country are as long or short on average as those in the "socialized" ones. And here's some anecdotal proof close to home: my late father got free treatment in England for a medical problem when he was on sabbatical at Oxford. Because he was technically an "alien," the only delay was paperwork. Now there's some dreaded socialism for you. Can you imagine that kind of largesse happening here?

Secondly, we've got the "long-line" syndrome right here already with our profit-driven, private-enterprise, health care system--a line that stretches to infinity for the 47 million Americans who are uninsured. (If you don't count the triage line at the ER when the condition becomes life-threatening.) But the situation is only a little better for the "under-insured" (which we ALL are really whether we realize it or not ... watch Michael Moore's "Sicko"), who purposely POSTPONE treatment because of fear of arbitrarily uncovered conditions or prohibitive co-payments. And most "insured" Americans are really at the mercy of their employment situation, anyway (those unemployed or "working-uninsured" are simply shit-out-of-luck)--that is, they are stuck with whatever kind of coverage the company's Insurer provides. For all of this, coupled with the Recession, a study published last week (Center for Health Care Improvement) reported that 17.4% of Americans postponed or delayed medical treatment over the last year and that 40% are going to postpone or delay for at least the next three months. Very sad ... and people will surely die--and have--needlessly.

My Employer of-no-choice-at-all these days is Mr. Social Security Administration, Inc., and his Insurer of choice is called Medicare. Part A is automatic, and I decided to PAY for Part B--none of the extras in C and D (like drugs) which I just couldn't afford, not to mention the expensive, so-called "MEDI-GAP" privately-issued policies that might keep me alive a little longer in hospital, physician-attended and happily drugged-out ... I presume. A simple, arguably naive question: after all the taxes we have paid in, and are still paying even on our SS pension, Why should we be paying anything at all for Medicare, and why-in-the-hell should there be ... "gaps"? For these reasons I recently joined the ranks of those postponer/delayers for fear of under-coverage of a medical condition, and thus additional moneys going this way and that.

Here was the situation: after 3 weeks of futile, self-help healing I was forced to consult my family physician, Dr. E.R., and after a surprisingly short wait was X-rayed and medicated and released for what turned out to be a relatively minor problem: cellulitis in my left foot. I thought I had been self-treating a hair-line metatarsal fracture, since I had one of those earlier in my life, and the symptoms looked just the same. My diagnosis was totally off-base (I'm not that kind of Doctor), but you know what?--it could have been necrotizing fasciitis (easily mistaken for cellulitis), the gruesome, flesh-eating bacterial disease, made infamous on a couple of episodes of "Scrubs." Point is: delayed treatment ... not good. Death and all that.

I was lucky ... and the Medicare co-payments (yes, there were some) proved to be manageable. But my goodness ......

Sunday, June 21, 2009

#118 Wisdom of the Week

  • Rep. Ron Paul voting against the House resolution to support protesters in Iran ...
  • Pres. Obama's careful circumspection about the situation--"the World is watching" ...
  • Right-winger George Will criticizing chicken-hawk (my words) Republicans criticizing Obama's semi-neutral stance ...
  • The Iranian people protesting a crooked election. A step forward, but they're kidding themselves--Democracy is antithetical to Theocracy. Wrong target ...
  • The American people favoring by a three-to-one margin (in the polls) a Public Option in the health care reform package ...
  • House Democratic leadership preparing to stand firm, so they say, on the Public Option ...
  • Obama pushing for the Consumer Financial Protection Agency. Too long have the foxes been in charge of guarding the henhouse ...
  • Judge Sotomayor resigning from her all-girl club. Though it was started-up as a legitimate protest against exclusive good-old-boy counterparts, she really had no choice ...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

#117 Economics Again--Force and Fraud

As stated previously, Libertarians don't want the Government that they pay for to interfere with their private pursuit of Life, Liberty, and Happiness (or Property, as Jefferson originally re-penned Locke's words). And, by altruistic extension, we don't like it when the Government interferes in the lives of others either. VERY happy to hear that crazy-man Libertarian Ron Paul was the lone vote AGAINST a House Resolution supporting the Iranian protesters. This is just "meddling," he said from the floor, and we "should adhere to the foreign policy of our Founders, who advised that we not interfere in the in the internal affairs of countries overseas." Of course this is the same guy who thinks that it might have been better for Lincoln to let the South secede from the Union. But he's got the right idea here, and I'm frankly mystified that his opposition didn't get at least some token supporters. I just don't understand the political expedience. But this leads us to other sad tales of Middle-East Madness, which I'll take up in a later post.

Two things the Government is paid to interfere about, however, are Force and Fraud committed upon our persons. We pay "protection money," if you will. In this case, for the well-being of The Economy. Our public servants haven't been doing their job, and we're individually and collectively suffering for it. Law-abiding taxpayers--consumers, borrowers, mortgagors, investors--have been generally DEFRAUDED ... and it's been the cause of economic collapse. I may have overstepped the boundaries of my expertise in the Dismal Science, so here's an excerpt from an analysis by economist John W. Shoen which makes it painfully clear Why strict regulation is/was needed, even by Libertarian principles:

There's little debate that regulatory failures played a critical role in the collapse of the housing bubble and the global financial system. Mortgages were written for buyers with no proof of income, backed by fraudulent appraisals. They were packaged by Wall Street firms that paid agencies for AAA safety ratings based on promises that investors would be protected by trillions of dollars of unregulated risk insurance called credit default swaps. Banks were allowed to cut their reserves against loan losses to razor-thin margins. Consumer protections against predatory lending weren't beefed up until 2008. after the market already collapsed and foreclosures had begun to soar. Despite multiple warnings, regulators at the SEC failed to take action against rogue fund manager Bernard Madoff before he cut a multi-billion dollar path of destruction through the accounts of thousands of investors.

There it is. These folks just didn't have the money to cover their bets ... but pretended they did. And the Government should have been there to break their legs. Forgetaboutit. That's what we pay the Feds good money for. Now I'm not sure that Obama's plan to give increased regulatory powers to the half-dozen watch-dog agencies plus one--his Consumer Financial Protection thing--will work, or not. He perhaps should have stripped them all of their "territories"--the old ways have failed, after all--and started fresh with a super-Agency that would integrate and consolidate all financial oversight. I'm for that one, but at least Obama is trying, and the positive, placebo effect of all of this busywork will pay off in the long run.

He's not trying hard enough in other needful areas, however, and I'll have to pick those bones in future.

(Nota bene: don't forget about Mosteller Musings.)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

#116 "Mosteller Musings" Inaugurated

Announcing mostellermusings.blogspot.com, a companion blog, which can be accessed by clicking the "View my complete profile" button on this page.

Here's the deal: the DM has apparently evolved into a kind of running commentary (for what it's worth) on current newsworthy events ... mainly political, as my listing of labels informs me--more in the manner of the Daily Kos than I would have thought at the outset (even though I stole Markos Moulitsas' idea for the masthead). Or Tina Brown's Daily Beast. In other words, the DM relies on and is inspired by topicality ... What's the buzz? and What do I want to say about it? Important things, I should hope, that significantly affect our social and political lives.

So silly things are right out! Not really ... there's enough silly things/memes going about in the world that it's hard not to get mummery/silly right back ... in a rhetorically effective way , of course. How about the anti-Obama "birther" movement, so-called, an agit-prop seriously promulgated by several influential Southern politicians, which brands our President an illegal alien with a fake birth certificate?! So even when silly, the DM will stick with the topical and socially consequential, as far as possible.

The new blog will provide me with an alternate venue for truly random and not-so-urgent thoughts, facts, observations, quotations, book and movie reviews, a poem or two, and so on--like the "Sunday Sundries" I used to do, but now moved to a permanent time and place. The site should be sort of on the order of an old-fashioned "commonplace book" ( lit. trans. of L. locus communis), traditionally for jottings-down of one kind or another that would be of common or "community" value. (Folks like Francis Bacon and Mark Twain were famous for carrying one about for future reference and publication.) And in this vein I would encourage the Myriad Reader Community to click "comments" and contribute their own "jottings-down" to Mosteller Musings as the spirit moves.

Monday, June 15, 2009

#115 Obamanomics--pt. 2

I invoked the ghost of J. M. Keynes in last post, because whether most most people know it or not we have been under his salutary aegis since the "Crash of '08," and his sworn enemies, the Tories ... umm, Republicans ... started it all! Above all, Keynes shared with FDR in his time and Obama in ours the kind of OPTIMISM--ebullient for FDR, "cool" for Obama (even better)--and CONFIDENCE in one's policies that I think is the primary key to recovery. Here is Keynes speaking in 1932 when the Great Depression had inevitably spread to Britain and across the globe ... just as today:

Both of the two errors of pessimism which make so much noise in the world will be proved wrong in our time [they were]--the pessimism of the revolutionaries [Marxists--not many of these left today] who think that things are so bad that nothing can save us but violent change, and the pessimism of our reactionaries [Republicans--some of these are still around, I understand] who consider the balance of our economic and social life so precarious that we must risk no experiments. [emphases and addenda mine]

How's that for a jolly-good bit of a time warp! His "experiments" are of course no longer experimental. They were proved in the laboratory of the Great Depression. In a nutshell (for more go to #94-5), Keynesian Economics is Government Spending--pumping money into the economy when it's down. Recovery took longer in the 1930's because FDR was contending with a hardcore free-market Weltanschauung where economic safety-nets like unemployment benefits, Social Security, FDIC, etc. were still unthinkable. We have those things now, and the severity of our Crash is thereby lessened. Somehow the "reactionaries" in the now tiny third-tier party (numerically behind Indies and Democrats) called Republicans are willfully blind to the fact that many aspects of the American economy have been "socialized" for many, many years. And, c'mon, they'll never acknowledge the Corporate Welfare State, as I call it: government contracts (usually inflated--think Halliburton), tax breaks, incentives, loopholes, and other stuff I'm sure you can think of. And think about this while your at it: has the Republican party since Nixon stood for anything else but the politics of War and Greed?

Well, I'm a Libertarian (thus Independent, thus in the largest "party"), and the Obama-Keynesian Solution compromises those principles NOT in the slightest. First, let's be practical: Keynes WORKS in extremis; forget abstract dogma. Second, all of this stimulus money is just that: an investment of taxpayer contributions that will bring returns when the economy is finally "over-stimulated," and we can put the child to bed. Most of this money is in the form of loans, anyway, and what we have literally bought, like GM stock, has buy-back options for later on. And much of the money will go to paying wages for honest work in fixing up our infrastructure, and other such public projects. This too, along with the rest, would be TEMPORARY, let's not forget. Obama, to his credit, has resisted outright nationalization. Can wingnut GOP'ers seriously compare what's going on to Mussolini's Italy or Stalinist Russia? They have.

I want Free Enterprise Capitalism back as soon as possible--but fiercely regulated, even more so, in other words, than before the periods of Republican de-regulation madness. Look, even Alan "Chicago-school" Greenspan had to confess, after the damage was done, that a completely free market in fiduciary areas like mortgages, loans, investments, insurance, and so on, finally just didn't work. Problems? Hello: Greed and Fraud. But as I pointed out in those earlier posts, I was led into the Dismal Science early on by Adam Smith's "Invisible Hand," which was slapped rather hard only later in college by J.M. Keynes and the activist London School. I'm convinced both can work. We're just in a necessarily Keynesian cycle right now. And once we're back closer to the laissez faire ideal, there's nothing wrong with watchdog regulation, either--not even from a Libertarian point of view. We pay the government to protect us from Force and Fraud. And, fueled by greed, Fraud was what our financial institutions were guilty of.

Finally, I find Keynes's last words portentous. He challenges those "who consider the balance of our economic and social life so precarious that we may risk no experiments." The UK at the time had the great asset of stable government, second only to the USA, then as now. (Poor Iran is rioting in the streets over an election as I type.) Stable Government + Lots of People. Keynes-Schmeynes--THAT'S the real bedrock formula for recovery. Big China's gonna make it through just fine. In fact, we owe them some money. We've got 300 million (generally) law-abiding and peace-loving Americans who ARE the economy. It's self-generating. We gotta buy groceries ... sleep with a roof over our heads ... walk on paved sidewalks ... play on the Internet ... you get the picture. People will be working, and people will pay them for it, howsomever. Recovery is inevitable. How's that for some optimism.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

#114 Alfred E. Obama and the Economy: What, Me Worry?

No, you shouldn't worry, Mr. President ... though it seems from some news reports that some of your team may be worried that "too much spending" (or at least the public perception thereof) may hurt election chances in 2012. HooHah! ... as Mad Magazine would be wont to exclaim. HooHah! You are doing just fine.

But as fired up as I am about "The War" (see last post), let me revisit The Economy (in a minute), which has effectively distracted most everybody from that truly life-and-death issue, BUT which is not at all unrelated to our economic problems. How about this?--Bring the troops home tomorrow. Could we save a little money? "Yes, but ..." Groans. Well, I'm sorry. That outrageous suggestion is based on one of the still totally unqualified and unsullied bedrock Libertarian principle that I might even die for: Defensive Wars Only! More of that later, but even those with less radical views would agree that we are wasting a shitload of money over there, and the sooner out , the better. I'm not letting Obama off the hook on this one. His grace period is about over.

Okay, back to over here. And now. And close to home: my former Significant Other is currently unemployed, primarily due to the recession. But ALL indicators point to stabilization and even improvement in most areas. I told you so ... way back in pre-Obama October (#92, 94-5) when even the likes of Republicans were throwing money around! The Big Bailout of '08. It's the basic tenet of what I've appropriated (#92) as the Alfred E. Newman School of Economics: Print Up the Money and Loan It To Almost Anybody (but be sure they pay you back). It has worked so far, even as Obama has now taken over as First Spender. For example, from the Associated Press: Ten banks ready to start paying back bailout next week. Americans pay their debts. Always have.

And that's not the only good news. Some other representative headlines this week:
  • U.S. consumers' mood strongest in 9 months...
  • Retail sales up by largest amount in months...
  • New jobless claims drop more than expected...
  • Dow-Jones pushes into the black for 2009...
The last item was again from the AP on Friday, and normally I wouldn't trust the stock market as an indicator of anything (I've been stung), especially on a day-to-day basis ... EXCEPT: mood. And here we have almost a half-year of Wall Street's quirky but steady comeback to assess the placebo effect of Obama's big spending. C'mon ... it's working. Don't hold back, Barack. May the immortal "What, Me Worry" be with you. The worst thing our new president could do right now is to give in to fears of "over-spending." Too-much can be taken back; not-enough can't. You can't "over-prime" a pump. Best to err on the side of extra-sufficiency, because in the long run, when the economy does come back, all of this seed money will come back along with it. Too optimistic? John Maynard Keynes and I will answer that charge in the next post.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

#113 Obama and Me--Grant Park Revisited

Yes ... we're up and running, but please see #112 for an introduction to this post.

#105---What a difference in the post-election speeches of the two candidates!?--well ... venue-wise, at least. Because, in fact, they were very much alike. Switch a few words related to winning or losing, obviously, and each could have read the other one's speech without too much damage to essential content and tone. Both candidates were gracious and deferential ...

#113--- ... McCain so much so indeed that his kind words about fellow-senator Obama incited groans, cat-calls, and even boos when he called him his "good friend." Despicable behavior, but by this time to be expected from the kind of hate-filled crowds that he and Palin and fellow-traveling speechifiers were drawing in the last months of the campaign.

I want to talk mainly, though, about the wildly contrasting VENUES that seem to define the candidates and their campaigns even unto the last moments. It's all in the symbols, the PR perceptions maybe. But the Grant Park Chicago location for Obama's victory speech has personal and historical resonance for me. Just look at the physiognomy of the two places: Las Vegas Hilton convention hall versus Grant Park concert bowl. Not only half-a-continent, but worlds apart. Look at them: you've got the enclosed, private and exclusive versus the open, public, and free. (In fact, the Hilton space would literally have been that "smoke-filled room" of bad political omen in earlier, less health-minded times.) More: dry, desert playground of the conspicuously rich, "paying" customers and supporters versus well ... them too, but also whoeverthehellelse wanted to wander in from the green, breezy lakefront . Here again it's that constricted smallness of McCain-dom (tiny-minded, mean-spirited people and places) as opposed to the expansive and inclusive world of Obamaland. Like Alice's claustrophobic underground compared to the wide, wonderful world of Oz that I alluded all about in #102-3.

And Grant Park is a beautiful place, day or night. Obama's audience that evening would have sparkly Lake Michigan beach-front on one side and the lights of Michigan Avenue's "magnificent mile" on the other. Been there many, many times in my youth, especially to the renowned Field Museum of Natural History and the Shedd Aquarium nearby. Not much over 10 minutes and only10 cents by CTA bus from the South Shore. It's appropriately for Obama a "people's park"--free art and science and history museums, free open-air summer concerts, where me-and-a-girl-and-a-blanket could enjoy a very cheap date (for real) during my late high-school years. (I had a friend and fellow-percussion-student at American Conservatory who was good enough to gig on tympani in that off-season version of the famed Chicago Symphony.) And lo, years later there would be Obama performing in the very same band shell! One more: during the last two summers of suburban high-school I took the train all the way to the "Loop" to work in the mail-room at Quaker Oats (Merchandise Mart). Guess what: I was third-baseman on the their softball team after work on the fields of nearby ... Grant Park. Good times.

But no doubt the Obama team was parlaying Grant Park's historical/political angle too, because a little more than 40 years earlier in the summer of '68 it was the site of a true "people's park" rebellion--the anti-Vietnam "youth" protests at the Democratic Convention that ended up as a bloody police riot instigated and carried out (as the official investigation proved) by Mayor Daley's Finest. Chicago Seven and all that. You've heard of it. I was long gone but had a good friend and colleague later on who was right in the thick of it and had the psychological scars to prove it. LBJ's henchman in that ill-conceived and endless war (or so it seemed at even that early date) was up-for-nomination Hubert "Dump the Hump" Humphrey, who decided waaaay too late, shortly before his defeat by Nixon in November, that it might be a good idea to just PULL THE TROOPS OUT. Of course this was always the intention of the then-late Bobby Kennedy (even though his brother had paved the way for LBJ's excesses), who doubtless would have won the nomination in what would then have been a pacific Chicago ... and Grant Park, as flower-children peacefully frolicked and skinny-dipped in Buckingham Fountain. "What if" ... indeed.

I couldn't vote for the Hump. Nor Tricky Dick ... who notoriously and mendaciously, as it turned out, "had a secret plan to end the war." Nixon won, and we had SIX MORE YEARS of it. Well, Obama got my anti-war vote this time around. So he had HIS extravaganza in Grant Park, where he promised a new era of Change You Can Believe In that would have pleased the hippie-youth of forty years ago ... and where, as I recall, he said something about ending the war in the Middle East. But wait. Are we out of it yet? I think I'm getting queasy. Yes, the Economy tanked, and health care reform is urgent--people are dying for lack of it. But people are getting killed in Iraq for no goddam good reason at all.

Do we have some broken promises here? A breach of trust? Answers to these and other questions coming soon--I PROMISE--so stay tuned.