The New York Stock Exchange has been an American fixture almost as long as we’ve been a nation. Being “in the market” has been, and remains, of concern for generation after generation of Americans. This goes for me as well. I’ve made money, lost money – overall, I think I’m ahead, but am not certain. Still, I’ve always taken notice of “Wall Street,” come to understand at least some of what was going on, (although probably no more than a portion of the nearly endless ways to “invest”). What follows are more or less random observations derived from years of following the ups and downs of this incredible mechanism for money-making make believe. After reading this, it’s unlikely you will plunge into securities (interesting word), but you might come to appreciate the fact that the stock market will remain and serve as a prime engine of capitalism and like it, the source of endless dreams and periodic disappointments.
• Is the market yet another form of gambling? It can be. Do we not commonly speak of “playing” the market? Don’t we risk losing what we’ve ventured? How much do we really know about the company whose stock we’ve bought? Don’t we sometimes rely on a hunch or a tip from someone who is supposedly “in the know?” Isn’t our goal often enough a “quick buck?” Aren’t some attracted to penny stocks, the equivalent of a gambler’s longshot? A majority of those in the market will deny they are gambling, assure you they’re “investing,” though admitting there is an element of gambling involved. Nevertheless, bear in mind, they’ll note, that if you made a bet on the roll of the dice or the outcome of a game and you lost, the money is gone instantly. If, on the other hand your stock declines, your money has not vanished – the stock price in time could easily rebound. And if you are a “long term” conservative investor you’re comforted by the fact that, over time, the market has almost always gone up. And finally, there’s the risk that gambling can become an addiction. A stock addict? A species most rare.
• Public companies go about their business one day not much different from the one before or after it. But in the market, their stocks go up and down, register highs and lows, seemingly disconnected from the conduct of their business. In the market, every day can be a new drama, a unique arena, forces often unexpected and external, operating in one direction, then another. That’s why, for many, weekends prove lackluster (lacking excitement, because markets are closed). But then, on Monday, energy levels rise once again, with the 9:30am bell and the start of trading activity.
• “Buy low, sell high” – is among the oldest of market clichés. So is “you can’t time the market.” Here you are eager to get in but you hesitate, judging that the market or “your” stock will head lower. It doesn’t – you’ve missed a golden opportunity. But then you do buy the stock and it heads higher. Sell. Take your profit! You do, but it continues to go higher. Sometimes winning is “losing.” “Greed” has triumphed over patience.
• New Issues. A company is about to “go public.” Usually this stock is distributed by underwriters to “insiders” and substantial investors. The “little guy” tends to get shut out. Not always. Occasionally he gets some shares and almost always the price goes up. Carried along, these folks are in for a thrilling ride.
• A sports fan is always on the alert for rookie sensations, or newcomers who rapidly become the talk of the sports world. Same with stocks that generate widespread excitement and accelerate upward. There have been many such winners over the years. In recent months, companies such as Tesla, Zoom, Netflix, Amazon, Beyond Meat, some old, some new, have run away from the pack. Get on board – jump in while the momentum lasts. Or is it too late?
• If only. Lots of people will relate stories about investments they should have made, opportunities lost. It could be in real estate, a business, an invention, etc. For whatever reason, they passed on it. They could have made a fortune. Check various business sites and often you’ll spot an item about how if only you had bought IBM, Microsoft, Apple, Alphabet, Facebook, Amazon, etc., at the beginning, you’d now be worth. . … Maybe next time!
• On the lower end of Manhattan, near the Wall Street area, stands a bronze sculpture of a bull, a massive object that symbolizes investors’ fondest hopes. In a “bull market” a rising tide lifts most all stocks. Buoyant optimism and general euphoria prevails. Money pours into stocks, and bullish “gurus” predict dizzying heights for the Dow. Beyond that, the “wealth effect” kicks in, as people whose portfolio values have gained substantially feel flush and start spending more. (Until Corona arrived a bull market ran for eleven years!) But alas, “bears” lurk in the shadows and warn that there is obvious financial froth all about that bears little relationship to corporate profits and future economic trends. And so a classic tug of war occurs between “risk on” and “risk off” market players, between those with high hopes and others with fresh fears. Often stock prices can turn in an instant, market moods can quickly reverse course. Bears and bulls must always be wary of one another.
• Regular sports bettors know there are multiple ways to wager on a contest including on the winner (by beating the point spread) total points scored, (over and under) first score, leading scorer, etc. Likewise, the stock market offers a lavish menu allowing people to partake in a bewildering number of ways, including direct purchase, buying on margin, puts, calls, straddles, specialty mutual funds (including foreign stocks), index funds, and ETF (exchange traded funds) in all imaginable categories. Are you confused, feel over your head? Better turn to a broker or a financial advisor. In the market “the little guy” is usually at a distinct disadvantage.
• The stock market, we are told, is always “forward looking,” can be likened to a fortune teller. It is true. “Technicians” devise all manner of charts of previous stock performance and discover past patterns which they claim are predictive, but students of the market declare that its behavior is largely predicated upon looking ahead while largely discounting past performance. When, for example, long-term interest notes fall below current levels (inverted yield curve), they signal a slowing economy down the road and produce a market downturn, Traders carefully follow quarterly corporate reports because they almost always include “forward guidance,” a company’s prediction about future revenues and earnings. These then form the basis for evaluating the company when it next reports. If its profits fall short of expectation its stock price will likely slump. If, on the other hand, it exceeded the company’s previous estimates, expect the price to move up.
Most Americans who are in the market do so in order to secure their future well-being; to have ample funds available for retirement. If the American economy expands and the market rises accordingly, it will, for all its volatility and “irrational exuberance” prove its value, that is, provide Americans with their most significant safety net.



Long viewed as a slumbering giant, China has, in recent decades, awakened and rushed headlong into the ranks of the world’s most powerful nations. Some even consider it on the threshold of overtaking the United States (especially in light of its forceful response to the Covid-19 Pandemic) in most categories of world influence. Recall that as recently as  the middle of the 20th Century, China had been humiliated by a catastrophic invasion by the Japanese and torn by a devastating civil war. But thanks to the emergence of a strong central government, a compelling ideology, and success in mobilizing China’s immense population it industrialized and modernized at a pace few thought possible. The Chinese people witnessed dramatic changes in their lives and now see a society, largely transformed, enjoy a quality of life few could have imagined not long ago. While there is serious fault to be found, no one denies the Chinese “miracle” has occurred, and that there’s scarce precedent for such a meteoric rise.
Would they, however, to consider the story of China’s long-time adversary, they would discover a nation that was itself dramatically transformed in rapid fashion a full century before China’s startling rise. The transformation of Japan, beginning in 1868, could even be considered more astonishing than even the Chinese ascendance, offering a model that China perhaps unwittingly followed, as it moved to replace a feudal society with a nation able to take its place among the world’s powers. General accounts mention Japan’s “Meiji Restoration,” and its abrupt awakening beginning in 1868, but then quickly pass on and omit what actually took place and whisk us to the end result of their process, i.e., the “proof” – Japan’s surprising victory in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-5), the first instance in modern times of an Asian nation defeating an established European power.
Japan might have remained a backward, feudal, rigidly hierarchical society, dominated by local all-powerful Shoguns, had not Western nations posed a threat to its very independence and self-imposed isolation from the world. It all began when U.S. Navy Commodore Matthew Perry sailed into Tokyo harbor in 1853 unopposed, after which he persuaded the Japanese to sign a commercial treaty favoring U.S. trade. Certain European nations soon did likewise, as imperialist-minded leaders were eager to control regions and penetrate distant markets across the globe. Because the Japanese feared they might be next and understood how vulnerable they were, profound structural changes became imperative. Working in behalf of a new Emperor (a 14-year-old installed in 1868) a dynamic cadre of rising leaders ushered in an era of dramatic changes across society. Local potentates were undermined, the Samurai class had its privileges revoked, and land reforms were introduced.
A central authority assumed control and promoted the semi-divine status of the Emperor as the supreme symbol of national pride and unity. The leadership openly proclaimed its intention to import the most advanced technology available overseas, the Emperor announcing that “Knowledge shall be sought all over the world.” Students as well as delegations of Japanese went forth, encouraged to observe and absorb whatever could advance the nation’s interests. For example, new criminal and civil codes were introduced along lines similar to those in France and Germany. And in 1889 a Constitution was proclaimed establishing Parliament (Diet) and cabinet and the office of Prime Minister. National conscription was introduced (requiring four years of service), and a Japanese army created. Furthermore, a newly organized public school system was put in place and six years of education made mandatory, while a national dialect was introduced to further advance the process of reorganization and national unification. The economy took off, the result of direct government intervention and stimulus. There was impressive growth of railroads, a merchant marine, communication facilities, coal mines, as well as chemical plants, munitions production and textile manufacturing. After a time most of these operations were sold off to private entrepreneurs who consolidated them into powerful economic conglomerates (Zaibatsu).
Would this extensive national makeover now enable Japan to hold its own in the international arena? The question was first answered in 1895 when Japan defeated China in the Sino-Japanese war and again in 1904-5 when the Japanese humbled Russia in the Russo-Japanese conflict. But Japan came away from the latter clash embittered, convinced that U.S. president Theodore Roosevelt, serving as mediator, intervened prematurely, eager to conclude a peace treaty, thereby depriving the Japanese of what they believed to be their just reward, especially after devastating the Russian fleet at the Battle of Tsushima Straits.
In the years that followed, Japan and the United States, both rapidly rising powers, grew increasingly suspicious of one another. Many sources of conflict went unresolved. The day of reckoning finally arrived on December 7, 1941, when the Japanese launched a massive sneak attack against the U.S. at Pearl Harbor. As the Japanese flagship Akagi headed toward the target, and while its sailors cheered wildly, it ran up the very same battle flag unfurled 36 years earlier in Japan’s smashing navel victory over Russia. The attack against the U.S. about to be launched would, the Japanese believed, at long last demonstrate that they had arrived, achieved Asian Supremacy.



As a student of American history, I long had the impression that much bad stuff had occurred in the U.S. in the years 1917-1920. But had we really experienced such a calamitous cluster? After all, consider the Russian Revolution and its convulsive impact around the world, the triumph of the “dries” and the onset of “Prohibition,” and arguably the “steal of the century,” when for $150,000 the Boston Red Sox sent Babe Ruth to the Yankees. But not until I dug deeper into those years did I conclude that a strong case could be made about these terrible times. Take note.
Accidents always happen, but some of the following stand out as both deadly and bizarre. Explosives were stacked along docks prior to shipment to our World War I allies and later to U.S. “doughboys” fighting overseas. These stockpiles were vulnerable. (The huge Black Tom blast – a case of German sabotage – had in fact occurred in New York harbor in 1917.) The following year brought another deadly blast with detonations over three days in New York, killing over 100, and also one involving TNT in Pennsylvania, claiming 200 fatalities. Then there was an immense forest fire in Cloquet, Minnesota, which took 453 lives; and a disastrous subway crash in Brooklyn in the midst of a transit workers strike, in which over 93 died; as well as a Great Train Wreck in Nashville, Tennessee, taking 101 lives. Consider also a dirigible crash in Chicago, the aircraft hurtling down onto a bank building, killing thirteen. Stranger still was Boston’s Molasses Disaster in which a huge tank of molasses exploded, releasing its contents in waves of deadly liquid (25 feet high in places), moving at top speed of 35mph, that engulfed bystanders, killing 21 and injuring 150!
Of course the overriding crisis of these years was the flu pandemic. First observed in January of 1917, it spread quickly in military camps where U.S, soldiers were training for combat in World War I. Ultimately, half of the American troops fighting overseas who died succumbed to the flu. Back home, most unusual was the fact that the flu proved especially severe among young adults, with outbreaks more widespread in the summer and autumn. A second and more deadly wave began in October of 1917. Mortality rates were calculated to be around 2.5%. Chicago was one of the many cities that closed theaters, movie houses, and prohibited public gatherings, while San Francisco mandated masks for many of its citizens. New York City required all flu cases to be isolated at home, and its health department outlawed spitting. Philadelphia was hard hit – more than 500 corpses awaiting burial, some for more than a week. In total, 28% of Americans became infected and overall fatalities may have been as high as 675,000. Post-war periods are typically unstable; this time even more chaotic when you add a pandemic into the mix.
Now introduce the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia and its repeated threats to stage world-wide uprisings in order to topple existing governments. Socialists in America had caused “trouble,” opposing the war, and were jailed for defying the Sedition Act. Anarchists were sending bombs through the mail to public officials. An explosion went off near the home of Attorney General A. Mitchel Palmer and, on September 16, 1920, a huge blast rocked the offices of J. P. Morgan on Wall Street, killing 38 – an attack attributed to anarchists. All this and more served as the prelude to the Red Scare producing an atmosphere of extreme peril that darkened those years. The FBI and local police staged raids in at least thirty cities, seizing thousands of suspected radicals – several hundred of whom – all foreign-born, were deported. America was not on the brink of revolution, but some leaders might be excused for thinking the ground was shifting under their feet.
Laboring men and women were deeply discontented owing to a combination of sharply rising prices and economic recession. Many prepared to go on strike for higher wages. America’s first-ever General Strike  occurred in Seattle, together with a major steel strike, walkouts of coal miners, longshoremen and even female telephone operators in Boston. Especially alarming was a strike by most of Boston’s police force, threatening the public safety. Americans generally remained unsympathetic to these actions accepting the view of authorities that they were largely the result of agitation by assorted radicals and Communists.
The position of African Americans after the war was even more precarious than that of most other Americans. Many had left the South encouraged to fill jobs left open by those entering the armed forces. Still, they encountered extreme hostility after they arrived. The KKK had once again become active and contributed to an acceleration of racist violence long prevalent in American Society. Race riots, both large and small, broke out all across the United States. In Chicago it raged over a period of about a week and claimed 38 lives. In Elaine, Ark., 300 were killed in three days of fighting. (In Tulsa, Oklahoma, a massive riot occurred in 1921, which destroyed the entire black section of the city and led to the deaths of a substantial and, to this day, unknown number of victims.) In short, the post-war period, difficult for most Americans, tested the black community even more severely.
The bleak characterization of these years became even more pronounced when we add the following events.
American troops are dispatched to Russia in an attempt to undo the Russian Revolution… The New York State Assembly expels five Socialist members for disloyalty to the United States… An armed robbery and murder in Massachusetts leads to the highly controversial trial of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti (executed in 1927)… Swindler Charles Ponzi, promising large returns with postal coupons makes millions from unsuspecting “investors”… Supreme Court rules regulation of child labor unconstitutional… Teddy Roosevelt dies in 1920 at age 60… President Woodrow Wilson suffers stroke and partial paralysis as wife assumes many presidential responsibilities… The U.S. does not join the League of Nations… Black Sox scandal, involving eight members of the Chicago White Sox, accused of World Series game fixing against Cincinnati Reds… Congress passes Volstead Act (Prohibition)… U.S. Military units cross over Mexican border in pursuit of Pancho Villa… U.S. Army Motor Transport Corps (including Lieutenant Colonel Dwight Eisenhower) drives 3,250 miles across country (Washington, D.C. to Oakland, California) and suffers 21 injuries and 230 road accidents… Local leaders of IWW (Industrial Workers of the World) lynched in Centralia, Washington… Prices double between 1916 and 1919… Yankee pitcher Carl Mays hits Cleveland Indians batter Ray Chapman in the head. Chapman dies the next day – first and only baseball fatality… Al Capone moves to Chicago.
Sure there was upbeat news in this period: Women’s Suffrage, for example. But overall, the evidence seems to support the conclusion that these were far from being “the good old days.”



Horses have surely played a pivotal role in America’s story (and so have mules and oxen, but who speaks for them?). There’s a vast literature out there about these exceptional creatures, yet I could not discover any single account that encompasses the remarkably varied roles horses have played over the course of our history including in the American imagination. If that book is ever to appear I suggest it include a good many of the topics outlined below.
• Never before had the local populations in South America seen armed men riding horses. So formidable did they appear that  conquistadores were everywhere victorious and soon established the foundations of Spanish empire in America.
• Native American tribes that learned to obtain and ride horses, such as the Comanche, Crow, Cheyenne, Kiowa, and Blackfoot, became efficient buffalo hunters, and exceptionally formidable foes in battle.
• Horse thieves, whether, paleface or Native Americans, were a constant menace, especially in western regions.
• The first notable horse bred in America was the Narragansett Pacer, originating in Rhode Island and transported to the other colonies as well as the Caribbean.
• Mail service in the colonies depended upon horsemen travelling along post roads.
• To move about in Colonial America you’d best ride a horse, even within the cities, or consider boarding horse-drawn stage coaches offering seating inside or out.
• Get on a horse, let loose the hounds and go on a bracing fox hunt, an acquired taste for colonial elites, especially down south.
• Organized resistance to the British was made possible thanks to Committees of Correspondence established in many a colonial town. Keeping each of them abreast of developments were express riders whose horses galloped from one town to the next.
• The “Midnight ride of Paul Revere” on a borrowed horse saved the day after he had ridden out on false alarms on previous days. His warning enabled Sam Adams and John Hancock to escape from Lexington via horse and carriage. Afterward, a British patrol captured Revere and confiscated his horse.
• Thomas Jefferson referred to George Washington as a “renowned horseman of his time.” He cut quite a commanding figure on his two mounts, “Blueskin” and especially “Nelson,” both of which survived the Revolution and then retired to Mt. Vernon.
• Thomas Jefferson, long plagued by diarrhea, discovered relief by riding a trotting horse regularly. That exercise, he concluded, helped to strengthen his bowels.
• Cargo often passed through the Erie Canal, thanks to horses moving along the shore, pulling adjacent boats.
• In addition to the traditional roles of horses in agriculture, transportation, freight movement, war and recreation, they played a part in industry, e.g., in coal mines, in breweries (hauling barrels), grinding grain, pumping water and serving as the source of power in saw mills.
• In general, northern farmers preferred horses in the fields whereas southern agriculturalists had a preference for mules.
• U. S. Grant was widely acclaimed for his horsemanship which included training, managing and riding horses. It is estimated that for every soldier who died in the Civil War (750,000) five horses were killed. Mostly, horses pulled wagons, ambulances and artillery pieces. Notable cavalry units included those led by J. E. B. Stuart (South) and Phil Sheridan (North).
• Most famously, General Grant of Appomattox agreed to allow southern soldiers who owned their own horses to keep them so as to be able to plant their crops.
• Robert E. Lee’s horse, Traveller, is said to have gone into battle more often than any other horse in the Civil War. Traveller survived the conflict and outlived Lee, who died in 1876, by a year.
• Riders of the Pony Express carried mail, messages and newspapers, thanks to relays of horses between Missouri and California for a brief period (1860-61). It has, nevertheless, become part of American lore as a bold example of the American “can-do” adventurous spirit.
• The cowboy enters the pantheon of American heroes. He and his horse were viewed as inseparable.
• U.S. cavalry units played a major role providing security to Western settlers and railroad construction crews (Iron Horse). There were, however, many Indian wars in the late 19th Century. American troops did suffer a major defeat at the Battle of Little Bighorn (1876) at the hands of Lakota leader Crazy Horse.
• The 19th Century is considered to be the “golden age of the horse”, especially in America’s cities where they played an essential role in the urban economy relating to transportation (goods and people), manure production (used for fertilizer), valued for their bodies (hair, hides, bones and meat), stable construction and advances in horse equipment (harnesses and horseshoes).
• Horse-drawn railways and trolleys were at the heart of urban transportation and also encouraged expansion to neighboring suburbs.
• Horse racing became a major spectator sport during the late 19th Century, conducted on such notable race tracks as Churchill Downs, Pimlico, Saratoga and Belmont Park. Sizable crowds attended and over the years celebrated many an outstanding thoroughbred as Man O’War Dan Patch, Seabiscuit, Citation, Secretariat and Native Dancer.
• Horses served as a principal attraction in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Shows, as well as in the many rodeo exhibitions presented across the U.S. in the late 19th Century.
• Horses still played a significant role in World War I when, it’s estimated, that close to six million were employed. Cavalry units, however, were soon overcome by machine guns and tanks. Horses remained essential to the movement of supplies and artillery pieces to and from the battlefield.
• Modernized tractors began replacing horses in the fields after World War I. As a result, millions of horses became expendable and were eliminated.
• In the 1930’s, the New Deal’s WPA introduced the Pack Horse Library program through which books were transported by horseback to people living in remote areas of Kentucky’s Appalachian Mountains.
• World War II saw the last cavalry charge on horseback by U.S. Troops (Philippines, 1942). Jeeps, tanks, and other mechanized vehicles assumed roles once filled by horses. German and Russian forces, however, still employed substantial numbers of horses.
• Horses became celebrities on TV and film. Consider “Trigger,” Roy Roger’s mount, and “Silver,” ridden by the Lone Ranger. Then there was Mr. Ed, the talking horse who enjoyed six years as a television celebrity.
• Let’s not omit horses trained to dive into deep waters (e.g., Atlantic City), merry-go-rounds where children rode atop painted wooden horses, and photographers taking pictures of children astride ponies.
• Wild horses by the tens of thousands are protected and continue to roam free today in parts of the American West. To some they represent a romantic reminder of freedom, and the frontier West. Others, closer to the scene, see uncontrolled overpopulation and damage to the region’s ecological balance.
So we have here a full, albeit incomplete, accounting of the roles horses have played throughout our history. Each topic cited requires in-depth research and interpretation. Hopefully someone will be inspired to undertake the task.



Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.
Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

Long term, it makes sense to learn how to become self-supporting; short term, individuals must survive before reaching that point. Americans, though a charitable people, have been somewhat wary of “giving.” Charitable organizations, for example, over the years have often declared their intention to assist only the “deserving poor.” Furthermore, many people will defend not giving “hand-outs,” explaining that those on the receiving end risk becoming dependent. Besides, there’s no guarantee they will make appropriate use of the money. “They’ll just waste it on drugs, liquor or cigarettes.” In a society that celebrates independence and individualism, accepting government money, “going on welfare” has not been viewed favorably.
Such discussions have assumed greater relevance in recent times as various proposals have been advanced to dispense money directly to people undeniably needy. Before tackling this issue some historical perspective may be useful. In the past there’ve been occasional efforts to inflate the currency, put more money in circulation, hopefully to benefit those suffering economic hardship. The Federal Government, for example, issued paper greenbacks during the Civil War and some years later the Populist Party campaigned for coinage based on silver (in addition to gold) in order to augment the supply of money. In recent years the Federal Reserve has poured billions into the economic mainstream.
Still, it was not until the Great Depression of the 1930’s that direct, distributive proposals were advanced and championed by leaders able to generate considerable enthusiasm behind such ideas. They found fertile ground, given the massive levels of distress across the society, the inability of private charities and local governments to provide ongoing relief and the general belief that the American economy could no longer expand much beyond existing levels. It would, in fact, shrink because people without money could not become consumers of goods and services. Furthermore, amidst this widespread misery, American communists were busy recruiting and preaching their anti-capitalist gospel, pointing out the obvious – the private enterprise system had failed.
Such was the context in which strident voices began calling for giving money directly to people. Surprisingly it was the Federal Government that first responded via the Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA) of 1933, which called upon farmers to take land out of production and, in return, receive government money. In other words, stop cultivating a portion of land and get paid to do it. Out in California sixty-six year old physician Dr. Francis Townsend, referring to this AAA Program, went even further, calling for payments of $200 a month to all persons over 60 years old, if they agreed to retire and spend that bounty in the month it was received. Though economists quickly exposed the flaws and calculated the enormous costs of such a scheme, thousands of Townsend’s clubs sprouted across the nation, and millions more signed petitions in favor of cash payments.
At about the same time, another peoples’ “champion” arose, Huey Long from Louisiana. Inveighing against the Money Power and the entrenched Eastern elites he positioned himself as spokesman for the common man, publishing an autobiography entitled Every Man a King and calling for a “Share the Wealth Society.” “Let no one tell you,” he thundered, “that it is difficult to redistribute the wealth of this land. It is simple.” He called for giving a “household estate” of $5,000 to every American family while also guaranteeing every family a minimum annual income of $2,500 per year (nearly double the median family income then). Americans of the time couldn’t be blamed for hoping that Long’s formula could come to their rescue.
President Franklin Roosevelt, the consummate politician, was not unmindful of the various economic nostrums being peddled and how bombastic populist leaders were attracting millions upon millions of supporters. He was also keenly aware of the devastating impact of the Depression on Americans and the immediate need for remedial action. And he responded. Billions of dollars went forth for emergency relief and job creation. The Social Security Act of 1935 would commit the Federal Government to dispense money to retired seniors. But it would not be a handout since they would, first, to have worked and contributed money to fund the program. That same legislation mandated that, at the state level, unemployment insurance programs be enacted with money distributed to those who lost jobs and were not working. Overall, Roosevelt’s New Deal laid the foundation for America’s first serious and reasonably comprehensive effort to establish the rudiments of a social safety net. There were “holes” galore and  opposition aplenty to this unprecedented activism on the part of Washington, but the naysayers would, in the years ahead, be unable to dismantle much of what had been put in place.

Even before the Pandemic hit, the reality of vast wealth inequality in America,and the general stagnation of middle class wages provoked discussions about ways of getting money out to people. The earned income tax credit, which distributed funds to workers earning sub-standard incomes, most considered to be a real boon to the working poor. Reports from overseas commented favorably about programs of money distributions (as well as cash child benefits). Stockton, California, has been experimenting with distributing sums of money directly to people; and in the 2020 Democratic primary, candidate Andrew Yang, energetically promoted the idea of giving everyone $1,000 a month (concerned that an accelerating Artificial Intelligence revolution will throw millions of Americans out of work – perhaps permanently).
Just as the great depression exposed how precarious were the lives of a majority of Americans, the Coronavirus has revealed the inadequacy of the support system available to people in this crisis. Tens of millions have no health insurance, or have policies altogether inadequate and overly expensive. Child care services are both costly and not easily available. Provisions for sick leave and paid family leave fall well short of peoples’ needs. Housing costs and rental expenses are seriously straining family budgets. Homeless populations continue to grow. The costs of college education, considered the key to social mobility, are on the rise. A majority of retirees acknowledge they have scant resources available at this stage of their lives. A 63% workforce participation rate suggests that large number of Americans will never go back to work.
The relatively good economic times that preceded the Coronavirus outbreak tended to conceal some of these problems; Coronavirus has exposed them. So can we expect to see a repeat of the1930’s, when dire circumstances resulted in the creation of at least a rudimentary safety net? Already billions of dollars are being distributed directly to individuals, with even more money likely on the way. Will our present crisis generate the kind of pressure and result in an innovative “new” New Deal, similar to that which burst forth in the 1930’s? If it does, we can at least take comfort in the fact that something fundamentally valuable and enduring has emerged from the wreckage that currently surrounds us – a measurable triumph out of a destructive tragedy.

Action Packed


Pioneer movie makers of the early 20th Century quickly discovered that “motion pictures” were what audiences wanted. Kinetic action of one sort or another filled the nickelodeons and later, theater screens displaying endless chases, fights, flights, dives, crashes, pratfalls, etc. Mounted cowboys and Indians chasing each other endlessly at breakneck speed became a reliably staple feature of film makers.
Ever since, film directors have never lost sight of the fact that story lines may be ignored or prove nonsensical so long as the action is ongoing and feverish. That, of course, has put a premium on upping the ante on such scenes, extending them, orchestrating improbable encounters, staging spectacular confrontations, casting aside notions of human limits and endurance, understanding that viewers, caught up in the moment, will willingly suspend disbelief and breathlessly thrill to it all. But even as efforts to provide more elaborate spectacular action scenes continue, film buffs are able to recognize certain recurrent patterns amidst the ongoing chaos and frantic maneuverings. Take note:
Car Chases – A standard fixture of action films, car chases ever more creatively reckless and destructive; nevertheless, proceed along familiar paths.
• Principles immediately jump into any car at hand where somehow “keys” conveniently await them. Gas is never a problem.
• The “hero” immediately proves to be an uncommonly expert driver.
• Blowouts and flats are rare, except when shots are deliberately aimed at the tires. Otherwise, gunfire during chases rarely hit their targets.
• If police cars are part of the chase, several will inevitably collide, allowing their “prey” to escape.
• During the chase the “lead” car will unfailingly upend cars, wagons, street vendors, garbage cans, outdoor displays, etc., especially upon entering narrow alleys.
• As the cars head on to nearby highways, they will surely enter lanes against oncoming traffic, leaving numerous collisions in their wake.
• At some point they will speed onto sidewalks, pedestrians frantically scattering to get out of the way.
• Cars will definitely become airborne at some point, land and head off.
• Expect a 180 degree change of direction just when the vehicle appears trapped.
• Despite several “collisions” along the way, resulting in numerous body parts ripped off, the car remains capable of extremely high speeds, operating as if it had just left the showroom.
• However the chase ends, you can be sure it featured almost all the elements just described.
Fights – The fights between principal adversaries have been increasingly drawn out, no-holds-barred punishing affairs of extreme ferocity. Expect no instant knockouts such as Mike Tyson once delivered in the ring.
• Marquis of Queensbury rules do not apply. Anything goes. An object within reach can be employed to batter the opponent. Knives and guns usually are swept aside. Hand to hand fighting will determine the outcome. Martial Arts moves have become standard.
• Blows that would ordinarily appear crushing and conclusive have but limited and temporary effect.
• The fighters will be thrashing from one location to another, crashing through windows and tumbling down stairways, or falling off yachts into water.
• The fights will go back and forth, first one individual seeming to gain the upper hand, only to have the other stage a comeback. There is never a quick conclusion.
• Lots of stuff gets broken along the way as they crash into everything around them. Occasionally an object is thrown,but almost always misses.
• If it is a period piece sword fight, expect a lengthy contest, much parrying, considerable back and forth and abrasive sword scraping. If it ends with a successful thrust and gaping wound, count on a drawn out death scene.
Rooftops – More and more roof top chases have been incorporated with action films. They provide numerous and varied opportunities for heroes and villains to display their physical prowess. Besides which, heights scare a lot of people; it’s a good place to generate excitement.
• Jumping from one roof to another  one over a gap between the two produces surefire thrills. Almost always they make it.
• Convenient hiding places exist on the roofs.
• Leaping from roofs through adjacent windows is ever a crowd pleaser, especially when viewing the shocked faces of those in the apartments.
Expendable Sentries – Many action films incorporate a climactic surprise attack against an enemy whose location has been pinpointed. Audiences eagerly await the assault and the fierce fighting to follow. Almost always there are sentries on guard who, if not neutralized, can eliminate the element of surprise, blunt the attack and disappoint movie goers. Fear not.Predictably  the sentries are disposed of as attackers employ silencers, knives and lethal choke holds to do them in. Those given roles as sentries can expect very limited screen exposure.
Action movies will continue to flourish, as will our ability to anticipate much that’s on the screen, even as intrepid stuntmen and computer graphics experts provide audiences with even more imaginative thrills that will keep us coming back for more.

Cough It Up


Here, in the midst of the corona crisis, the cough has become Public Enemy #1. Sneezing is a close second, though it has rarely borne the same stigma as a cough, normally evoking supportive “God Bless You” responses. (Item: During the anti-German hysteria, following America’s entry into World War I the word “gesundheit” was declared illegal.) In today’s fraught climate the cougher has become a social pariah, a thoughtless assailant.
Not much new here. Coughing has traditionally prompted alarm, signaled serious underlying ailments – whooping cough, influenza, pneumonia, tuberculosis, severe asthma – all producing worrisome coughing, so much so that writers and playwrights have often set characters to coughing as a way of communicating health problems ahead (tuberculosis being perhaps the most common literary device).
Coughing, an individual action, also has an observable social dimension, so it is to certain such situations that we turn:
The Crude Cougher – Just about every child was instructed, repeatedly no doubt, “to cover your mouth when you cough,” neither a natural or automatic response, especially when it erupts instantly and unexpectedly. Who wants to deal with a sticky, yucky cough residue on your hands? So, what children frequently neglected to do carried over into adulthood. But covering the mouth also had its downside, became especially offensive and thoughtless when that same person subsequently shook hands with another! The single random cough may not concern us, but continuous coughing does raise alarms. We expect this individual offender to offer a reasoned explanation and, if necessary, to distance himself.
Cougher Rationales – Coughers, feeling guilty, often attempt to normalize their hacking. “Not to worry. It’s a smoker’s cough.” – “I’m over the cold. This is just what’s left.” (A favorite of parents hoping to return their kid to school.) – “There’s just a tickle or frog in my throat.” – “I just swallowed the wrong way.” – “It’s my allergies acting up.” Will anxious bystanders take comfort in such explanations?
Cough Contagion – In a group setting one cough is likely to spread. It grants permission for others to do likewise. Listen to what happens during those quiet intervals between movements of a classical symphony. As if on cue, coughing ripples through the audience. Coughing is catching. And when lots of folks indulge no one person can be held accountable.
Cough Cover-ups – Expect strategies to be employed to mask bouts of coughing. Playing loud music or generating some form of noise can provide the necessary sound barrier. Also, watch people suddenly turn away, distance themselves, even leave the room, in order to cough unobserved. Some even manage to merge their cough into a more socially acceptable sneeze or an inoffensive “clearing of the throat.”
Counterfeit Cough – Feigning a cough can substitute for verbal communication. A brief muted cough can register mild dissent to an issue under discussion. Such a contrived cough can also serve to announce yourself, alerting, for example, a service person nowhere to be seen. Also to avoid startling someone unaware of your presence. Should you choose to beg off an upcoming obligation, a well-timed cough will explain and confirm your unavailability.
Cough Suppression – As a child my parents led me to believe that when I began coughing it was largely my fault and my punishment. I hadn’t dressed warmly enough and became chilled; or I’d gone out into the rain without wearing rubbers, or insisted on playing with a friend I knew to be sick. My coughing, therefore, meant I’d been negligent, ignored their directives. I recall doing all I could to keep from coughing in front of them, lest it expose my misdeed. To suppress a cough I’d draw deep breaths, swallow repeatedly, suck on a candy and drink lots of water. If I were in bed, I’d cough into my pillow to muffle the sound. I was frantic. On occasion I succeeded, but just as often the reprimand, “I told you so,” greeted my failed efforts. Among adults cough suppression proceeds in much the same way, with the results at best limited.
The corona onslaught will, in due course, pass but all of us will, in many a future occasion find ourselves coughing once again, but also coping in one way or another with one of our body’s more insistent and socially alarming warning signs.

An Epic Tale


The recent passing of Kirk Douglas at the age of 103 reminds us that this celebrated giant of the silver screen (“Spartacus,” “Lust for Life,” “Paths of Glory,” etc.) was born just as the golden age of Hollywood was getting underway. (Imagine, just a year before saw the release of “Birth of a Nation” – 1915 – the first movie blockbuster that demonstrated the cultural impact this new media could exert.) While we properly emphasize the extraordinary growth of the United States as an industrial power in this period (e.g., Henry Ford and the mass production of automobiles), the concurrent rise of the movie industry foreshadowed the over-sized role entertainment would play in the rapid economic advance of the U. S. in the 20th Century.
It all began on a modest scale – store fronts in urban areas, often in working-class districts, given over to penny arcades and peep shows, popularly referred to as nickelodeons. Sitting in front of a screen, often in chairs borrowed from the local funeral parlor, patrons watched up to 20 minutes of short scenes in motion. Typically, they might include moving trains, parades, chases, pranks, fights or scenes from a familiar play. A longer presentation (12 minutes) of “The Great Train Robbery” (1903) was hugely successful and demonstrated the potential of offering dramatic plot lines to audiences. These brief entertainments proved exceptionally popular and, for these who invested in them, remarkably lucrative. While many regarded these amusements as little more than passing fads, those in the business thought otherwise and began expanding from one neighborhood to another.
These entrepreneurs were a surprisingly homogeneous group of Jewish immigrants or sons of immigrants recently arrived from Eastern Europe. Eager to make their mark in the new country they sensed an opportunity here where few others did, and they made the most of it, gradually building more elaborate theaters (ultimately movie palaces like the Roxy, Rialto, Rivoli, Capitol, and The Radio City Music Hall – 1932 – all in New York), displaying lengthier features, then moving on to become producers and film makers themselves.
Most all of this activity happened back East, primarily in and around New York City. And then, in short order, the “movie industry” picked itself up and headed West, specifically to Hollywood, California. By 1918, 80% of the world’s movies were made by 70 production companies in Los Angeles. “Sunny” California played a role in this: one could film scenes outdoors mostly all year round. Also, land was cheap. And bankers, who financed most projects, were back East and thus would not be snooping around, asking too many questions. And, finally, the movie pioneers – Adolph Zukor William Fox, Benjamin Warner, Harry Cohn, Carl Laemmle, Louis B. Mayer, and others could fashion their own separate world here, a social system and pecking order independent of the genteel establishment back East, which had kept these aggressive newcomers at arm’s length.
And so the stage was set as the 1920’s began, and Kirk Douglas was yet a child, for the first golden age of film in Hollywood. The decade would see the emergence of the major movie studios, such as Fox, Paramount, RKO, Warner Brothers, Universal, Columbia and MGM, all operating with tight control over the industry, from the talent to production, distribution and exhibition. Movie goers in major cities were entertained in luxurious settings in new vast theaters, seating thousands and including full orchestras. And movie stars were created, the likes of Greta Garbo, Mary Pickford, Charles Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Clara Bow, Gloria Swanson, Joan Crawford and Rudolf Valentino, whose fans eagerly awaited their latest film releases. At the end of the decade “Talkies” arrived (“The Jazz Singer”) so audiences could hear dialogue and enjoy movie musicals.
A mature film industry now entered the 1930’s, a decade of economic depression. The studios, though under stress, nevertheless continued to release a torrent of new titles enabling Americans, at least temporarily, to forget their troubles as they flocked to the movies, now a familiar, even an essential feature of their lives.

WAR and PEACE – Thomas Jefferson Remembers


Generations of Americans have read and praised those classic autobiographies of Ben Franklin and Frederick Douglass. Mention the autobiography of Thomas Jefferson, however, and you’re likely to get mostly blank stares from these same people. Perhaps because it is less personally revealing and flavorful than those other two, and granted that Jefferson concluded this work even as much of his career still lay ahead, the autobiography nevertheless stands as a highly rewarding historical account rightfully deserving our attention.
It should be better known not because it reveals much about the author himself – which it doesn’t, but rather because it is a unique first-hand, eye witness account of arguably the most absorbing and significant period of our country’s history. In it we encounter Jefferson still in his early twenties, already in the midst of the action, in a positon to serve as a reliable guide to the many stirring events that led the colonists to take up arms against England, achieve independence, and ultimately form the United States of America. First as an engaged bystander, but soon after as an active participant, Jefferson reveals what went on both in his native Virginia and in the various colonial assemblies to which he is appointed or elected.
He writes to settle no scores or aggrandize his role. It is in 1821 that he prepares his autobiography, his position in the pantheon of American heroes long secure. He undertakes this project, he explains, “to make some memoranda and state some recollections of dates and facts concerning myself for my own ready reference and for the information of my family.” Such modesty aside, the “dates and facts” he presents represent an exceptionally valuable insider’s narrative of the birth of our nation.
Early on, Jefferson avows that he has, lost faith in the supposed benefits of English rule. “During the regal government,” he observed, “nothing liberal could expect success.” While studying law in Williamsburg under the tutelage of George Wyeth, Jefferson, in response to the growing opposition to the Stamp Act repairs to the House of Burgesses and positions himself, he says “at the door of the lobby.” There, “he heard the splendid display of Mr. [Patrick] Henry‘s talents as a popular orator. They were great indeed; such as I have never heard from any other man. He appeared to me to speak as Homer wrote.”
As protests swelled along with boycotts of English goods, many hoped England would respond by relaxing its grip over the colonies. Not Jefferson. To him, “the Royal negative [veto]” closed, “the last door to every hope of amelioration.” Unfortunately, many colonists remained indifferent, still did not think to question English motives “out of habit and despair, not of reflection and conviction.” And when England, bowing to colonial pressure, rescinded the Townshend import duties, Jefferson became discouraged, noting in 1770 that “nothing of particular excitement occurring for a considerable time our countrymen seemed to fall into a state of insensitivity to our situation.” Now part of the elite inner circles of Virginia’s gentleman patriots including Patrick Henry and Richard Henry Lee, he encouraged the formation of “a committee of correspondence” in each colony as” the best instrument for intercommunication.” Here we find one of the rare instances where Jefferson attempts to correct the record, writing that it was Virginia, not Massachusetts that should be credited with inaugurating this vital network for intercolonial communication.
In reaction to the Boston Tea Party (1773), England closed the port of Boston. Would Virginia take up the cause of Boston? Jefferson wasn’t sure. Fellow colonists, he stated, needed once more to be aroused “from the lethargy into which they had fallen as to passing events.” Now seated in the House of Burgesses, Jefferson and others proposed that, as the Puritans had often done, there be a “day of general fasting and prayer.” So “we cooked up a resolution,” Jefferson writes and after modernizing certain phrases, called for “a day of fasting, humiliation and prayer to implore heaven to avert us from the evils of Civil War.” For such impertinence the Royal Governor, as had happened before when openly challenged, “dissolved the legislature.”
By this time (1774) Jefferson’s thoughts on America’s connection to England are quite radical. “Our emigration from England,” he writes “to this country gave her [England] no more right over us than the emigration of Danes and Saxons gave to its present authorities of the mother country over England.” He gathered such inflammatory thoughts (later printed in a tract – A Summary View of the Rights of British Americans) and sent them on to Patrick Henry about to leave for Philadelphia, where the First Continental Congress would be meeting. He feared, however, that Henry “was too lazy to read it (for he was the laziest man in reading I ever knew)”, Jefferson nevertheless informs us that, in fact, the pamphlet did circulate widely, including within England.
Jefferson now takes us to the Second Continental Congress, convened in Philadelphia, with most members, he observed, prepared to sever ties with England. But not all, especially one John Dickinson of Pennsylvania, who still “retained the hope of reconciliation” and because he was “so honest a man and so able a one that he was greatly indulged, even by those who could not feel his scruples.” Despite this, on Friday June 7, 1776, Virginia urged that Congress should declare that these united colonies are “of right ought to be free and independent states.” Jefferson worried such a move might be premature insofar as the middle colonies “were not yet ripe for bidding adieu to the British connection” and as a result could “secede from the Union.” Furthermore, he was not confident Americans could count on French and Spanish assistance because both countries “had reason to be jealous of that rising power which would one day certainly strip them of all their American possessions.” Even so, he regrets not having enlisted France because the French “might have marched an army into Germany and prevented the petty princes there from selling their unhappy subjects to subdue us.”
Even as Congress worked for greater unity of opinion to emerge, Jefferson mentions that he was placed on a committee and instructed to prepare a declaration of independence. Readers will surely be disappointed here because Jefferson tells us next to nothing about how he fashioned this extraordinary document. The committee, he states, simply “desired me to do it” and “it was accordingly done.” He does, however, include a preliminary draft of the declaration and includes certain specific stylistic and word changes that were introduced. Eliminated was censure of the English people because of, according to Jefferson, “the pusillanimous idea that we have friends in England worth keeping terms with still haunted the minds of many.” The final draft also omitted casting blame for slavery on King George III because Jefferson writes our “Northern brethren. . . for though these people have few slaves themselves yet they have been pretty considerable carriers of them to others.”
Independence declared, war with England underway, Jefferson still a delegate to the Continental Congress offers a lengthy account of that body’s efforts to devise a permanent government in order to conduct the war and secure assistance from Europeans. Endless wrangling ensues over how to balance small and large states and whether slaves should be counted when tabulating population. Should taxes be apportioned based upon population or property values in each state? These debates, Jefferson reports would continue endlessly before the Articles of Confederation government finally is formed.
Well before that Jefferson departed the Congress, having been elected in 1778 to the Virginia legislature. Here he and others threw themselves into the monumental task of revising archaic colonial laws, modernizing the language of statutes and introducing new legislation that reflected the reform spirit of the age. Jefferson endlessly writing reports and drafting laws was especially keen on revising land law which had, he asserted, “enabled families to amass, retain and pass on undivided large tracts of land.” He wishes instead “to annul this privilege and instead of an aristocracy of wealth, of more harm and danger than benefit to society, to make an opening for the aristocracy of virtue and talent. . . essential to a well-ordered republic.” Jefferson would win out here but not before doing battle with Edward Pendleton, “who was zealously attached to ancient establishments; and who. . . was the ablest man in debate I have ever met with.”
Jefferson also took aim at the “spiritual tyranny” represented by the Anglican Church establishment in Virginia for the support of which Quakers, Presbyterians, Baptists and other dissenters were taxed. Jefferson and other like-minded colleagues carry the day and, as he notes, “the establishment of the Anglican Church [was] entirely put down.” What is remarkable is that these and many other reforms are considered and achieved during war time, and despite “the endless quibble, chicaneries perverseness, vexations and delays of lawyers and demi-lawyers.” Having said this, Jefferson does concede that the reform tide left slavery largely intact. He observes though that
“nothing is now certainly written in the book of fate that these people are to be free. Nor is it less certain that the two races, equally free, cannot live in the same government. Nature, habit, opinion has drawn indelible lines of distinction between them. It is still in our power to direct the process of emancipation, deportation peaceably and ensure slow degree so that the evil will wear off insensibly and their place is pari passu filled up by free white laborers.”

Once more Jefferson is on the move, having been appointed (June 1, 1779) Governor of Virginia. About his term of office he writes but a few words, excusing the omission by stating that others have written about this period of Virginia history. Such evasion is probably best explained by the fact that his term of office was generally regarded as unsuccessful, most historians agreeing it was not a high point in an otherwise remarkable career of public service. But as usual, Jefferson then eased into yet another post, back in Congress representing Virginia. As before, little is accomplished here, Jefferson remarking how erratic attention, frequent recesses and the lack of an executive resulted in considerable laxity and irresolution. No doubt he was relieved when the Congress appointed him to join John Adams and Benjamin Franklin in Europe to negotiate commercial treaties. He soon discovered, however, that most nations “know little about us,” regarding Americans as mere “rebels who had been successful in throwing off the yoke of the mother country,” the exception being France, its “government entirely disposed to befriend us on all occasions.”
Unfortunately for the Americans, the French government (so critical to American victory in the Revolutionary War), itself would succumb to revolution. Jefferson was on the scene during its early stages and begs readers to excuse him if he provides an overly detailed account of events there, which is what he does. “But I have thought it justified by the interest which the whole world must take in the revolution.” He is energized and reasonably hopeful about the prospect for reform, believing that the American Revolution had “awakened the thinking part of the French nation in general from the sleep of desperation in which they were sunk,” and that they were entirely justified in reacting against “the monstrous abuses of power, under which their people were ground to powder.” “I went daily from Paris to Versailles and attended their debates.” I was “much acquainted with the leading patriots of the Assembly,” who he tells us appreciated his role in America’s revolution “and had much confidence in me.” Alas, Jefferson writing his autobiography from the perspective of 1821 knows full well that early hopes dissolved into destructive upheavals and that the reformers “were unconscious (for who could foresee?) the melancholy sequel of their well-meant perseverance.”
But even as the French lost faith in their government, so had many Americans in the late 1780s, and one could even claim that they also overthrew their existing national structure, except that it was accomplished via a well ordered convention (albeit held in secret) which then submitted the new constitution to the people for their ratification. For all of this, Jefferson was not on the scene, had no role at the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention. He nevertheless applauded the fact that the “people as soon as they perceived the incompetence of their first compact, instead of leaving its correction to insurrectionists and civil war,” sent representatives to create a new framework of government. After receiving copies of the document, Jefferson wrote to James Madison and General Washington expressing “my approbations and objections.” The absence of a Bill of Rights disturbed him, as did the failure to limit a President to two terms. Without such limits he warned about the danger “of interference with money or arms by foreign nations, to whom the choice of an American president might become interesting.”
Whatever his misgivings, Jefferson was about to experience firsthand how well the new government would function. Summoned from France by President George Washington Jefferson would now serve as the nation’s first Secretary of State. And it is at this point that Jefferson’s Autobiography abruptly halts. He offers no explanation, even though he knew (in 1821) that he was about to embark on two exceptionally eventful decades of public life.
No matter. Let us appreciate the fact that he left us an autobiography of exceptional historical value, not by exposing the inner man, but by taking us step by step along a path he and fellow statesmen followed as they launched a wondrous national experiment.



How far should certain Democrats go in their policy prescriptions for the 2020 Presidential race? Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders insist that Americans are eager for major initiatives, for breakthrough programs involving healthcare, higher education, infrastructure, the environment, child care, etc. Incrementalism simply won’t do any longer, not in the face of so many unmet critical needs.
Calls for such decisive actions are not received favorably by those who believe these proposals, while surely praiseworthy, are unrealistic, given current legislative realities, and so represent a leap too far. As an American historian, I would point out that most all of our much heralded and long-celebrated reform legislative breakthroughs were, when passed, considered as unduly restrictive in scope (though often expanded later on),  contained unavoidable concessions. An analysis of such landmark legislation, as the Homestead Act (1862), Civil Service Reform (1883), Sherman Anti-Trust Act (1890), Pure Food and Drug Act (1906), Social Security Act (1930), Wagner Labor Relations Act (1935), Americans With Disabilities Act (1990), Affordable Care Act (2010), etc., reveals that reformers rarely achieved all they hoped for. Obliged to accept the realities of the situation, they accepted compromise and prepared to fight another day. The clear message and lesson from our past: shoot for the moon and take heart even when heading back down to earth.