Friday, November 15, 2013



Originally Armistice Day celebrated the end of the First World War, November 11 is now known as Veteran’s Day, a time when the nation pauses to remember and celebrate the sacrifices our men and women in uniform have made through the years.

I was never in the service. Too young for WWII, and a draft exempt father during the Korean War, I slipped between the cracks of the selective service lottery.

If called, of course, I would have gone. Not overjoyed, to be sure, but duty is duty. You do what you have to do.

I often think I missed something. My older brother was in the navy and my younger brother went into the army. Both drafted. Both gained a lot from the experience.

I was never a fan of peacetime conscription. Always sort of thought impressing citizens to bear arms was a rather extreme decision which needed to be grounded on rather serious reasons.

Musing about it today, I am not so sure.

The founders of our nation had a healthy distrust of standing armies. They even limited appropriations for an army to two years. They believed in citizen armies – militia – that could be called up when needed. Citizen soldiers who come forward to meet the challenge and then return to their homes and their private affairs.

That was what happened in 1917 and 1943. The last of those citizen – soldiers are dying these days. Their stories enrich our traditions and ennoble our history.

Today, we have what is called a volunteer army. The problem with recruiting a volunteer army in 2013 is the vagueness of the mission. In 1943 the enemies were Hitler and Hirohito. They could be cartooned. They could be hated.

The need to go to war was personalized and volunteers came forward. The draft wasn’t celebrated, but it was accepted because Americans understood the stakes.

Now compare how Americans felt about the draft during Viet Nam. Draft protesters effectively swayed public opinion. There were still many young men who went to war, fought courageously, suffered injuries and died because they were drafted and they did their duty.

But many others didn’t, and we got a taste of how difficult it is to wage an unpopular war.

I am now beginning to wonder whether Universal Military Service might not be a wise course for our nation. To maintain a large volunteer standing army is to risk reliance upon mercenaries. Professional soldiers are needed to train and command draftees, but professional boots on foreign soil are not, or should not be the goal or the norm of American foreign policy.

George Washington warned against foreign entanglements. It was wise counsel. Most of human history is a chronicle of wars. Famous battles. Famous victories. Famous defeats. Heroes and villains. And great empires gained and lost.

There was a lot of talk in the early part of the last century about America’s manifest destiny. Now historians chortle about the Pax Americana.

I’m sorry, but I don’t think there has been a lot of Pax in the Pax Americana.
We have been at war pretty much since my puberty, and that was a long, long time ago.

I think it’s time to bring our soldiers and sailors home from all over the world, teach our young people how to soldier if they are called up, and see if we can’t find some kind of peace time normalcy in our homeland.

There are enough bad guys in the back alleys and boardrooms of our nation to keep us in battle mode.

And if that doesn’t satisfy he blood lust, there’s always Monday Night football.  

Monday, November 4, 2013


The recent government shut down has been widely blamed on the Republicans. It is said that the tunnel vision of the Tea Party caucus was the fly in the ointment.

I have to say they have a point. Like it or not, ObamaCare is the law of the land. Just refusing to fund it without repealing it is a contradiction.

Had the budget passed both houses without Obamacare funding, there would, no doubt, have been a flood of lawsuits by creditors who contracted with the government in good faith, then didn’t get paid.

Of course, I wouldn’t mind sitting at the defense counsel’s table when the goofs who built the Obamacare web site sue to get paid. But that’s another story.

No, the de-funding strategy was ill advised.

But it didn’t have to be. Speaker Boehner should have insisted that the Tea party caucus come up with an alternative health care plan, something consistent with Republican free enterprise principles. And something simple enough to fit on one sheet of paper.

Hindsight, to be sure, but here’s an idea. There’s still time to do it. It’s a simple, free enterprise solution to provide affordable health care for all Americans.

The wealthy and the solvent working folks who are happy with their insurance – both the coverage and the cost – can be ignored.

The elderly who paid taxes for a lifetime to fund it, are getting Medicare. The poor who qualify for Medicaid, and can’t afford any insurance are already covered by Uncle Sam’s single payer system.

The big middle ground of younger people who can’t afford to buy the health insurance they want or ought to have are the ones who need attention.

The Republican solution should be to charter a national insurance company and charge it with the duty of writing insurance policies that everyone can afford.

Capitalize it at a billion or so – well less than the cost of ObamaCare – and cut it loose in the open market to provide the kind of insurance people ought to have at a price they can afford to pay.

It’s called free enterprise. Set the company up with a self-perpetuating thirteen member board of directors, the initial members of which to be designated by the President.

Let the company balance its budget anyway they want. Let them require any kind of coverage they decide on. Abortions and maternity care for men. Prostate cancer coverage for women.

Whatever they want to do. No coverage for surgery after age 80 (or less). Mandatory final illness committees.Whatever.

In the free market they can sell whatever they think will attract customers to whomever they want.

Smokers, drinkers, the obese and the addicted. Tight rope walkers and asbestos factory personnel. Pre-existing conditions and current symptomology. Doesn’t matter.

Premiums would be calculated on two factors, the recommendation of the actuaries and the means and priorities of the customer. Affordability is a very personal, individual matter.

If the company errs on the side of giving too much coverage for the premiums charged, it will go broke. Just like any other business.

It will, of course, have one ace in the hole.

It will be too big to fail. Like the Post Office. And like Freddie, Sallie and Fannie.