Sunday, June 28, 2009

Fly Bait

The media's fawning obsession with President Obama entered the realm of absurdity with the saturation coverage of his recent fly killing episode. One consolation is that the incident elicited the following Jonah Goldberg bon mot.

Maybe the fly infestation at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. has something to do with the fact that the White House is a central hub of bovine manure distribution?

Jonah also has a splendid piece about the future of fossil fuels in the latest issue of National Review. Enlightening facts abound - enough to disturb even the most close-minded environuts.

Saturday, June 27, 2009


Whenever I read a book that tells a story, I try to imagine it as a movie. Having just finished “Witness”, Whittaker Chambers’ autobiographical masterpiece, I thought it would be an ideal vehicle for a Hollywood production. Look at what it has to offer.
The book takes place in the cauldron of the first half of the twentieth century in the backdrop of two World Wars, The Great Depression and the beginning of the Cold War. It involves powerful and influential people in government, the media and the arts. Prominent actors include U.S. Presidents present and future. The story is a philosophical, psychological and intensely human journey . It has elements of history, philosophy, drama, humor, suspense, intrigue, courage and even murder. It’s part spy thriller, trial drama and love story. Its protagonist is overweight, disheveled, eccentric, has a bad heart and (for good measure) bad teeth. He’s also a brilliant student of language, the arts, philosophy and history, is a keen observer of the human condition, a skilled translator and a magnificent writer. Like his father, Chambers was bisexual, though this isn’t made clear in the book. Being a man of action, he’s not satisfied by merely holding deeply felt beliefs but by boldly working to advance them. For this he suffers greatly.
Born at the turn of the century Chambers grows up in a broken home in Long Island. His philandering father moves out, eventually moving back but remaining estranged to the family. The family takes in Chamber’s deranged grandmother who exhibits homicidal tendencies. Chambers’ brother is suicidal and eventually succeeds in killing himself. Chambers runs away from home and gets a menial, dangerous job in Washington, D.C. After losing his job he makes his way to New Orleans. There, he‘s unable to find work and lives in squalid surroundings with some colorful characters. He decides to return home and enrolls in Columbia University. On a trip to Europe, he sees firsthand the ravages of war. Convinced that mankind is headed inexorably towards its destruction, Chambers, seeking an alternative to what he sees as a failed society, quits school and joins the Communist party. After a few years in the open party, he’s recruited by Soviet intelligence and goes underground. He becomes a liaison between the Soviet military and Communists who have infiltrated high levels of the U.S. government including the Treasury and State Departments. He becomes involved in espionage. In 1937, disillusioned by Stalin’s murderous purge and convinced of the evil of Communism, he breaks with the underground, risking his life and that of his family in doing so. Only once in the next ten years does he attempt to inform on his former associates. When his entreaty to the State Department is ignored, he settles down, making a living as a Time magazine editor and as a farmer. Then in the summer of 1948 his world is thrown into turmoil as he’s subpoenaed to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Under oath, before a nationwide audience, he details the machinery of the Soviet underground apparatuses and its extensive level of infiltration in the U.S. government. In the process, Chambers implicates a highly respected State Department official, Alger Hiss. For the next year and a half Chambers is subjected to vilification from lawyers, the press and powerful political interests and is driven to the brink of suicide. He’s finally vindicated as Hiss is convicted of perjury following the “Trial Of The Century”.

Doesn’t this have the makings of a great film? Yes, but it won’t ever be made. Hollywood and the left have far too big an investment in the myth of the “Red Scare”. Political films in Hollywood mean anti-anti-Communism (“Citizen Cohn”, “The Way We Were”, “Hollywood on Trial”, “Point of Order”, “The Legacy of the Hollywood Blacklist”, “Tail Gunner Joe”, “Good Night, and Good Luck”, “The Front”); Anti right wing dictatorships (“Missing”, “The Year of Living Dangerously”); and anti Nazi Germany (countless numbers); The heart rending tragedies of screenwriters having their names left off of 50s TV show credits have been explored to an infinitely greater extent than the stories of the tens of millions who’ve perished at the hands of humankind’s greatest scourge. Depicting the “Red Scare” more accurately as the “Red Threat” would deprive filmmakers’ and playwrights’ of one of their favorite themes. Who will want to watch yet another production of “The Crucible” if it’s just seen as an indictment of stupid pre-Revolution colonialists? How can a movie be released that doesn’t demonize Richard Nixon but actually casts him as a hero?
Yes, I know. McCarthy was a self-promoting demagogue who ignored civilized rules of the investigative process. Chambers himself deplored McCarthy’s tactics and felt that he severely damaged the cause of anti-Communism. But the fundamental idea that “McCarthyism” was merely an excuse for the persecution of innocent opponents of the right is grossly fallacious. The left has invoked the M-term for more than half a century to (successfully) disparage and demonize conservatism. The record of Communist infiltration of American institutions has been thoroughly documented, but a popular movie, especially if it’s well done and made interesting, would go a long way toward derailing the left’s disinformation campaign. Having the verbatim proceedings of the HUAC acted out onscreen, as Chambers presents them in his book, would show the committee not involved in a vindictive witch hunt, but pursuing a fair, thorough search for the truth.
Naturally, just as there is a sizable cohort that denies that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone assassin that killed JFK, there are legions of left wing sympathizers that dispute the incontrovertible fact that Alger Hiss was a Soviet spy, a secret agent of the Fourth Section of Soviet Military Intelligence.

A book written by New York Times Book Review editor, Sam Tanenhaus, “Whittaker Chambers, A Biography” concludes that Hiss was clearly guilty. Some reviewer comments.

For the American Left (never mind the European Left), the innocence of Alger Hiss was an article of faith. After all, if such a mainstream New Deal figure as Hiss had actually been part of a secret underground cabal, spying on the US for the Soviets, even as WWII was underway, then a whole battery of conservative attacks would gain legitimacy and the whole of FDR's legacy (both New Deal and Grand Alliance) would be called into question.

And this-

It is doubtful that even a confession on his (Hiss’) part would have made any difference to the cottage industry of professional Hiss defenders: as one Hiss partisan admitted, even if he heard that Hiss had confessed on his deathbed to being a Soviet agent, he "wouldn't believe it.”


You could tell where someone stood on the political spectrum simply by getting their answer to whether Chambers or Hiss had told the truth. Well, it's time for our entire society to face those questions and this celebrated Chambers biography by Sam Tanenhaus offers an excellent starting point. Despite the real greatness of this book, Tanenhaus can't clear up many of the mysteries of the story for us, but he does provide several valuable services. …by presenting the Hiss material in a simple declarative manner, he lays to rest any lingering doubts about whether Hiss was guilty of spying for the Soviet Union and then committing perjury about it later. It will be impossible for anyone to contest the mountain of evidence that he lays out so masterfully. …he shows that there were Reds to be uncovered during the Red Scares and when diligent men like Richard Nixon went after them, they hit pay dirt. But he also shows that Joe McCarthy, who alienated Chambers with his dilettantish behavior & was never really serious about the investigatory process, effectively discredited the whole anti-Communist movement. Finally, as the Cold War fades in our rearview mirror, Tanenhaus recaptures the mood & feeling of the time when it seemed likely to be our Gotterdammerung. Hopefully, folks who read this book will also seek out Witness and find, in it's dark and frightening world view, the lost emotional fervor that fueled the anti-Communists & brought us Barry Goldwater & Ronald Reagan and eventual victory over the USSR.


The Hiss case put the New Deal itself on trial, asking whether its leadership was pervaded with Communists; whether those leaders had followed the Communist Party line in shaping U.S. policy; whether they had tainted American war and China policy during and after World War II. And whether liberals were either so blind to these problems or so secretly sympathetic to them as to forever render them incapable of loving and protecting their homeland as it was.

Most of “Witness” is engrossing, but it becomes absolutely riveting with its narrative of the Hiss trial. The book is exceptionally well written. Chambers was above all else a brilliant writer. Here’s what a reviewer of the Tanenhaus book had to say.

…he (Tanenhaus) reclaims Chambers the writer. Witness is widely recognized as one of the great books of the Century, but Tanenhaus also demonstrates that his work for Time and National Review and even the stories that he wrote as a young man are the product of a gifted writer.

Witness does have a few shortcomings. First, there’s Chambers’ insistence on detailing his many contacts encountered during his time as a Communist. This tends to clutter the story with names of people who really aren’t essential to the narrative. This may have been necessary since Chambers wanted to present as detailed a record of his experiences as possible. Second, Chambers doesn’t spend much time describing the two Hiss perjury trials. I suspect that’s because his deeply personal (i.e. - sexual) life came up and he was reluctant to discuss it. Chambers also doesn't speculate on the political motives of the HUAC members. Reportedly, the Tanenhaus book covers these omissions and I look forward to reading it. Chambers also delves into the origins and meaning of his Christian faith and for me, such spiritual reflections always seem murky. That’s my failing, however.

There is much wisdom in this book and I could fill several hundred pages just citing sagacious passages. Here are three. First Chambers relates the torment that accompanied his decision to break with Communism.

I have reached the point in my narrative at which this book began – the point at which I repudiated Communism and violently broke away from the slaves of the Communist mill. So great an effort, quite apart from its physical and practical hazards, cannot occur without a profound upheaval of the spirit. No man lightly reverses the faith of an adult lifetime, held implacably to the point of criminality. He reverses it only with a violence greater than the force of the faith he is repudiating. It is not a matter of leaving one house and occupying another – especially when the second is manifestly in collapse and the caretakers largely witless. The faith is not worth holding which a man is not willing to reach, if necessary, through violence, and to hold through suffering.

Note Chambers' belief that Communism would ultimately prevail over freedom and he was thus joining the losing side.
Most people aren’t as deeply invested in an ideology as Chambers was with Communism. Even so, it takes some effort to overcome the inertia binding us to long held beliefs. Since a solid majority of young people are attracted by the rhetoric of the left, that mindset maintains a high degree of support just because of this natural intellectual laziness.

Here, Chambers astutely describes Lenin's "useful idiots", an enduring group, which today continues to urge accommodation with dictators and tyrants. (I find it very funny that the idiots have erected a statue of their denegrator in Seattle).

…the people who were implacably opposed to my editorial views (in Time magazine) on the Soviet Union and Communism were not Communists. Here and there, a concealed Communist may have been at work. But the overwhelming might of the opposition came from people who had never been Communists and never would be.
They were people who believed a number of things. Foremost among them was the belief that peace could be preserved, World War 3 could be averted only by conciliating the Soviet Union. For this no price was too hard to pay, including the price of willful self-delusion. Yet, they had just fiercely supported a war in which one of their ululant outcries had been against appeasement; and they were much too intelligent really to believe that Russia was a democracy or most of the other upside-down they said in defense of it. Hence like most people who have substituted the habit of delusion for reality, they became hysterical whenever the root of their delusion was touched, and reacted with a violence that completely belied the openness of mind which they prescribed for others. Let me call their peculiar condition which sometimes had unconsciously deep, and sometimes very conscious, political motives that it would perhaps be unmannerly to pry into here – the Popular Front mind.
Nor can it be repeated too often that most of those who suffered from it were not Communists. Yet Communists, at a critical spin of history, had few more effective allies. The Popular Front mind dominated American life, at least from 1938 to 1948, and it is still grossly premature to count it out. Particularly, it dominated all avenues of communication between intellectuals and the nation. It told the nation what it should believe; it made up the nation’s mind for it. The Popular Fronters had made themselves the “experts.” They controlled the narrows of news and opinion. And though, to a practiced ear, they never ceased to speak as the scribes, the nation heard in their fatal errors the voice of those having authority. For the nation too, wanted peace above all things, and it simply could not grasp or believe that a conspiracy on the scale of Communism was possible or that it had already made so deep a penetration into their lives.

Chambers’ “Popular Front” never really did go away. It maintained its monopoly on ideas well into the eighties. Only with the development of talk radio and the internet was there made available a viable counter voice. Still, today, the Popular Front, now comprised of the mainstream media and most of academia, remains a powerful force determining the direction of popular thought. (For an egregious recent example, witness ABC News’ decision to move into the White House to help sell President Obama’s health care plan while refusing Republicans a similar platform).

Chambers recognized Communism as one of the twin pillars of fascism in our time.

World War 2, like the Spanish Civil War, would be fought to decide which of the great fascist systems – the Axis or Communism – was to survive and control Europe. In the end, the superiority of the Communist system was indicated by the fact that it was able to use the free nations to carry out its purposes, as indispensible allies in war, whose vital interests could easily be defeated in peace.

What Chambers did not foresee is that his writings would inspire a future President. And, ironically, it was Ronald Reagan’s policies which ensured that Chambers’ prophesy of Communism’s ultimate victory did not happen.

One last item - a good Trivial Pursuit question – Who translated “Bambi” from the original German? Answer – The author of “Witness”.

Rx - Throw Grandma Under The Bus

From an editorial in yesterday's WSJ.

President Obama's TV health-care forum on Wednesday evening was useful, because revealing. Namely, Mr. Obama shared more than he probably intended about the kind of rationing that his health plan will inevitably impose.
At one point in the town hall, broadcast from the East Room by ABC news, a woman named Jane Sturm told the story of her 105-year-old mother, who, at 100, was told by an arrhythmia specialist that she was too old for a pacemaker. She ended up getting a second option, and the operation, for which Ms. Sturm credits her survival.
"Look, the first thing for all of us to understand that is we actually have some -- some choices to make about how we want to deal with our own end-of-life care," Mr. Obama replied. After discussing ways "we as a culture and as a society [can start] to make better decisions within our own families and for ourselves," he continued that in general "at least we can let doctors know and your mom know that, you know what? Maybe this isn't going to help. Maybe you're better off not having the surgery, but taking the painkiller."

That sounds ominous, doesn't it? Obamacare asks that our medical decisions take into account the needs of our culture and society. Our society may not "need" your mother enough to pay to keep her alive.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Ideology of Treason

Having recently finished the classic autobiography "Witness" by Whittaker Chambers, I'd just like to mention here an article that has some relevance to the book. It was written by Harry Stein and appears in today's WSJ. Stein notes how easily some on the left shift from merely holding a political position to committing outright treason. He cites the case of the recent arrests of Walter Kendall Myers and his wife Gwendolyn on charges of spying for Cuba. The point of Stein’s piece is that the Myerses are just like countless other American liberals who harbor anger toward their country.

Would others among Castro's legion of liberal admirers likewise be inclined to spy for Cuba? Probably not very many. But probably more than you think -- if they were cultivated properly, as the Myerses were, and asked very nicely. Why? Because it would be cast as work on behalf of suffering humanity, in the struggle against the forces of rapacious exploitation.
This is the romance of the left. Many conservatives wonder how seemingly intelligent souls, who recoil at the horrors of the Nazi camps or the torture cells of a Pinochet, can regard the despots of the left, many of whose murderous totals are even higher, with apparent equanimity. It is because in the emotion-fueled world of liberalism, it is words that matter most, and professed intent, not the facts.

It is a rare conservative who commits treason. The left has cornered that activity and has for quite some time, as "Witness" testifies.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Inconvenient Events

What haunts most about the youtube video of the shooting of Neda Soltan is watching the young woman's eyes staring off to the side a second before her face is engulfed in a flow of blood and then hearing her father screaming her name in agony as he watches her life slip away. The video has galvanized support for the protesters both within and outside of Iran. Pictoral representations of the horrors of war and civil unrest always have the potential to influence hearts and minds. The graphic 1968 Tet Offensive photo of Vietnam police chief Nguyen Ngoc Loan executing a Vietcong prisoner helped turn American opinion against the war. This despite the prisoner's role in murdering South Vietnamese soldiers and their families.
What may be the most important and beneficial effect of the images from Iran is that they will force President Obama to relinquish one of his most cherished fantasies. That is, the attempt, by the mere force of his charm and rationality, to convince Ayatollah Khamenei, that "Supreme Leader" of "The Islamic Republic of" Iran, to bring his nation into the civilized fold. Obama cannot now sit down and "negotiate" with the reprehensible Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. This is a very good thing. Meeting with the dictator would give the theocrats everything they want - stature, respect, legitimacy and most important, time. It would desecrate the memory of the regime's victims and demoralize the country's democratic forces. The danger remains that Iran's leaders, understanding Obama's pathological narcissism, will offer to talk. Such an offer to Obama would be like red meat to a hungry shark. At least now, with those powerful scenes seared into the public's consciousness, if he accepted, he would pay a heavy political price.

Inconvenient events continue to disrupt Obama's childish worldview. He's slowly learning what George Bush knew from the outset - intractable evil exists. To aid in his education here's a statement by an Iranian student protester, made to a CNN reporter cited on the NRO website by Jay Nordlinger.

"Americans, European Union, international community, this government is . . . definitely not elected by the majority of Iranians. So it’s illegal. Do not recognize it. Stop trading with them. Impose much more sanctions against them. My message . . . to the international community, especially I’m addressing President Obama directly — how can a government that doesn’t recognize its people’s rights and represses them brutally and mercilessly have nuclear activities? This government is a huge threat to global peace. Will a wise man give a sharp dagger to an insane person? We need your help, international community. Don’t leave us alone."

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Breaking Ranks

A WSJ editorial today congratulates Maine (Maine?) for lowering its top income tax rate by 2%. Quoting Maine's Democratic governor John Baldacci, "We hope these lower tax rates will encourage and reward work, and that the lower capital gains tax [of 6.85%] brings more investment into the state."

I'm confused. Hasn't President Obama taught us that "making work pay", which involves taking money from the "wealthy" and redistributing it to the "less wealthy", is the way to grow the economy? Mr. Baldacci says that letting the wealthy keep more of their money "rewards work". Didn't he get the word from the front office? Maybe he did and (along with his Democratic colleagues in the state legislature) ignored it, his state having experienced the debilitating effect of confiscatory tax policies.

Monday, June 22, 2009

A Lesson For Obama (and his supporters)

A segment of an op-ed in today's WSJ by writer Andrew Klavan.

"The tragedy of bad ideas unfolds from a moral flaw in a worldview or philosophy as inevitably as classical tragedy unfolds from a flaw in individual character. Tragedies of bad ideas are the most common, pervasive and destructive man-made mass disasters. Yet our thinking class has become powerless to oppose them or even recognize them for what they are.
The reason is that too many of our intellectuals are themselves ensnared in a bad idea. That idea is multiculturalism -- the notion that no system or government is inherently better than any other, that the rules of morality are just a doctrine written by history's winners. Thus there are no enduring human truths, only "narratives" by which almost any beastliness can be explained away if committed by a people with a claim to having been victimized by a dominant culture.
This bad idea has all but silenced our nation at a moment when the world most needs our voice. Thousands of people in Iran are marching in the streets, protesting a sham election, heroically risking life and limb to try to tear some little breathing space in the smothering shroud of theocracy. Yet President Barack Obama, the leader of the most powerful free nation on earth, responds with mealy-mouthed strategic dithering. The man who in his recent speech in Cairo drew an absurd moral equivalence between Western errors and Islam's unstinting history of oppression has condemned the Iranian government's violent reaction to the demonstrations but remains canny and vague in his support of the protestors.
This is too shrewd by half. There comes a time in the affairs of men when bad ideas can be -- and therefore must be -- powerfully opposed by good ones.
Compare, if you can bear it, President Ronald Reagan's response to the 1982 crackdown on the Polish union Solidarity by the Soviet Union: "The struggle in the world today for the hearts and minds of mankind is based on one simple question: Is man born to be free, or slave? In country after country, people have long known the answer to that question. We are free by divine right." In less than a decade, in startlingly large measure because this one idea found so mighty a voice, the Soviet Union was gone."

Friday, June 19, 2009

The 2nd Greatest Generation

The best item in the WSJ today is written by Ayn Rand, Milton Friedman champion, Stephen Moore. He's one baby boomer who's not going to apologize for his generation's legacy - increasing the net worth of Americans from $16 trillion in 1982 to $45 trillion today, even after our economic "catastrophe" - a doubling of wealth after inflation. Moore cites other examples of improvements in living standards over the past couple of decades. Still want socialism?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

What Would Reagan Do?

Now, it's not productive, given the history of the U.S.-Iranian relations, to be seen as meddling -- the U.S. President meddling in Iranian elections.

Most of the time, President Obama's moral equivalence is just another irritating manifestation of his far left mindset. That attitude becomes detrimental and dangerous when it collides with the reality of oppressive tyranny. Obama calls the situation in Iran, "troubling". It's not troubling. It's exciting and inspiring. More than that, it's a potentially unprecedented opportunity to significantly alter the world for the better. (Remember - "change"?) Obama's feeble response to the uprising risks squandering this opportunity. It didn't even have the desired effect on the leaders of Iran's thugocracy which accused the U.S. of meddling in its affairs anyway.
The events in Iran are troubling for Obama because they throw a roadblock into his vision of being the one to reestablish diplomatic relations with the regime after 30 years. For Obama talking is an end in itself. As long as we're "engaged" with our enemies the world is a better place even as it gets more dangerous.
What Obama and the rest of the liberal left don't understand is that the fundamental creed of America - life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness - is it’s most powerful resource. Just as we provide material assistance to regions struck by natural disasters, we should provide spiritual encouragement to those peoples seeking to emulate and adopt our ideology. We have a moral obligation to do so.
The regressive regimes clinging to their tenuous hold on power, fear the greater power of our message. (Just as they sometimes fear our material assistance - remember how the ruling junta in Myanmar rejected U.S. aid after the earthquake there last year, believing it would undermine their authority). Ronald Reagan understood this when he called the Soviet Union an evil empire and when he demanded that Gorbachev tear down the Berlin wall. Those statements gave hope to enslaved millions behind the iron curtain that they weren't alone in their struggle for freedom.
Instead on Iran, we get statements like this by one of Obama’s spokesmen made just after the “election” results were announced and before the protests began. An expression of relief that the despotic status quo remained in place.

Had there been a transition to a new government, a new president wouldn't have emerged until August. In some respects, this might allow Iran to engage the international community quicker.

Ah yes. That is the goal. Allowing the Iranian dictatorship – the one that oppresses women, gays, non-Muslims and minorities; executes adulterers and rape victims; the one that’s been developing nuclear weapons to threaten its neighbors and annihilate Israel ; the one that’s been engaged in diplomacy with Europe for years with no result except to buy time for the mullahs strategy of regional domination - the goal is to “engage the international community”.

Incidentally, it's unreasonable to assume, isn't it, that the Iranians' newfound freedom demanding boldness has anything to do with the burgeoning Democracy next door in Iraq.

No exaggeration

If you thought that National Review's Newsweek spoof (see my post 6/10) was over the top.

Friday, June 12, 2009

My Fellow Americans...

I’m honored and humbled that you've elected me President of the United States. Needless to say, I'm flattered to have received ninety six million write-in votes in the recent special election. I'm surprised and gratified that so many people are reading my blog. I'm also pleased that I’ve been provided emergency, temporary powers to effect real, lasting change. I hope that I can meet the high expectations that you’ve set for me and indeed, that I’ve set for myself. The American people can expect no less.
You’ve given me one year to turn this thing around, so I don’t want to waste any time getting started. However, before outlining the initiatives to take effect immediately, I do want to recognize all of the positive accomplishments of my predecessor. By having been elected as the first African-American President of the United States, Barack Obama has provided an example to all minorities that race is no longer a barrier to achievement in our country. And by agreeing to step aside with his country in crisis, he has shown us his patriotism and his good sense. I wish him well in his new career, one that he’s well suited for, hawking household products on TV alongside Billy Mays. Now to the business at hand.

First, I'd like to explain the rationale behind my decisions. As is always the case with severe economic downturns, our current situation was caused by the misguided policies of an overbearing government. It was initiated in this case by the Federal Reserve's strategy of keeping interest rates too low for too long following the 2000-2002 recession. It was propagated by the illusory derisking of trillions of dollars worth of highly risky assets due to Congressional promotion of Government Sponsored Enterprises. By the way, Frank and Dodd. You're both fired. And under arrest. Sergeant-at-Arms, please take them away...Sorry for the commotion, folks...
The cure for excessive, wrongheaded government influence is not more government but less. My decisions were influenced more by the Milton Friedman model of limited government rather than the more austere models advocated by Adam Smith and Ayn Rand.

Now to specifics. All Federal Departments are hereby eliminated except the following. Defense, Justice, State, and Treasury. I am also creating a new Department of Domestic Affairs. This Department will incorporate all the functions of the former Interior, Transportation, Health and Human Services and Commerce Departments as well as regulatory agencies such as the FDA. I expect that budgeting for the new Department will be far less than that of the sum of the Departments it replaces. All other Departments are hereby dissolved. All government employees terminated by these changes will get 30 days notice, more than enough time to find real work.

The office of the Vice President will be occupied by the eminently qualified Newt Gingrich. My chief of staff is Karl Rove, reprising his successful role in the Bush administration and Dick Cheney has agreed to act as my Press Secretary. I expect that CSPAN will now have the top rated TV program, White House Press Briefing. It will be fun to watch. I am naming as Secretary of Defense, Joseph Lieberman, Attorney General, Miguel Estrada, Secretary of State, John Bolton, Secretary of the Treasury, Steve Forbes and Secretary of Domestic Matters, Jack Welch.

The 44,000 page federal tax code is hereby declared null and void. It will be replaced by a two page document. One page for individuals and their families and one page for businesses. There will be two personal income tax rates, 20% on all income over $100,000 ($150,000 for couples) and 10% on income below $100,000 ($150,000 for couples). Capital gains taxes are eliminated as is the estate tax. The business tax rate will be lowered to 20% from the nearly worldwide high of 35% we have currently. I’ve instructed Secretary Forbes that whatever modifications are deemed necessary or desirable for the new code, deductions, credits, exemptions, allowances and the like, will be constrained by the one page specification – 12 point font, double spaced.

The defense budget will be doubled to roughly $1 trillion per fiscal year. The budgets of the other departments will be decided following reviews by my capable cabinet members and their staffs. However, my goal is to reduce non-defense spending to one-half its current level.

My new jobs program contains three components. The first is the new tax policy, which by promoting explosive economic growth will create millions of new jobs.
Second, the minimum wage is hereby abolished. We cannot continue to abide the job destruction, productivity losses and revenue diminishment that this ill-conceived policy has inflicted on our country.
And third, we will provide extensive job training and job placement programs with the goal of employing every able bodied American who wishes to work. Unemployment benefits will be provided only so long as training continues and no job offer has been extended, in no instance to exceed 20 weeks. With our soon to be realized booming economy there will be no excuse for not working.

The Social Security program as it exists today will end. In its place will be substituted a 401K type program where employees will be allowed to invest up to 10% of their income, tax deferred, any way they wish. Employers will be required to match the employees contribution up to 3% of the total invested. All workers presently contributing to Social Security will be required to transfer the full value of their accounts to other investments. All Social Security participants presently receiving benefits will continue to do so. Alternatively they may opt to transfer the full value of their account into other investments and collect the income generated from those investments.

All direct government sponsorship of medical programs will end. With our tax reform plan, companies will no longer get the tax break that allowed them to offer discounted health insurance to their employees at the expense of the unemployed and underemployed. The skewing of medical costs and pricing will also be reduced by the termination of Medicare and Medicaid. The government instead will offer a tax credit ranging from $5,000 to $15,000 to be used to purchase private medical insurance or to pay for any other medically related cost. The exact credit amounts will be determined by Secretary Forbes and his staff and will be income related. Above some income level to be determined, no credit will be offered. Correspondingly, below a certain income level, health insurance will be free. There will be no geographical or other restrictions from where a citizen may purchase insurance. Insurance companies will be required to provide policies to potential customers irrespective of their existing medical conditions, though they can make limited adjustments in premiums to reflect their higher liability. In addition, as is the case with auto insurance premiums reflecting driving habits, health insurance premiums will be based on the insured’s health habits. Factors to be considered will include smoking status, blood pressure, cholesterol level and weight.

The state of education in this country is a disgrace due in no small part to the government monopoly of the education industry. To rectify this situation, I am ordering the following approach, the exact budgeting details of which will be worked out shortly. The federal government will collect taxes from the states, local governments and individuals. It will then apportion these revenues back to families in the form of vouchers. These vouchers may be used at any educational institution of the families’ choosing regardless of its location. I estimate an initial voucher value of $6,000 - $8000 will be sufficient to purchase quality education for each student. This sum should drop once competition improves educational efficiency. Schools will not be allowed to pick and choose their students. As long as it has openings, a school will be required to accept a valid voucher holder. This direct funding of schools by their customers will incentivize excellence. Schools not satisfying their customers’ expectations will fail. Those that do will thrive.

Racism, racialism and sexism have no place in a free society. Accordingly, I am prohibiting all race and gender based programs that attempt to meet arbitrary quotas in schools, the workplace and elsewhere. Any institution practicing racialism or sexism will be severely penalized – the penalties to be determined by Attorney General Estrada.

As the Wall Street Journal has pointed out, the state of Texas created more new jobs in 2008 than all the other 49 states combined. Why? Two reasons - low taxes and tort reform. We must follow Texas' lead and put an end to the destructive effects that unjust litigation results have had on our economy. To this end I am creating a Tort Review Board to examine all lawsuit judgements in excess of one hundred thousand dollars. The board will have the power to reduce or throw out any and all judgements it deems were wrongly decided. And don't try to slip any $99,999 settlements past us. While the hundred thousand figure sets off a mandatory review, any judgement may be reviewed. The board will be headed by noted author and lawyer Philip K. Howard.

For the long term security and economic health of our nation, we must reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources. To accomplish this, I am removing all restrictions on offshore drilling and drilling in the vast wasteland of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge or ANWR. Additionally, I am setting a national goal of getting at least one hundred new nuclear power plants online by the year 2020 with more to follow. To do this, the federal government will offer financial assistance to and expedite the certification of any and all nuclear power projects. I am also increasing federal appropriation for alternative energy sources threefold. If and when this investment bears fruit, we’ll be able to utilize efficient wind, solar and biofuel technology. Until then, any attempt by Congress to punish carbon production - the byproduct of our prosperity - with the imposition of a cap and trade type tax program, will be vetoed by me and laughed out of my office. Again, I wish to thank the people for providing me with absolute veto power. A wise move.

And, oh yeah. Almost forgot. All outstanding Free Trade Agreements that haven't yet been approved by Congress are hereby approved.

My foreign policy prescriptions will be presented shortly.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Reading Assignment

Rob Long of National Review reporting Newsweek's latest interview with the Obama's. A taste,

NEWSWEEK. So, does it still feel strange to be flying around on Air Force One, running a nation and a large auto company?
PRESIDENT OBAMA. Strange? No, not really.
NEWSWEEK. This was your destiny?
PRESIDENT OBAMA. Look, everyone is put on earth for a reason. I’m here to transform a nation and build a better mid-size sedan. Michelle is here to support me and help raise our children. You’re here to interview me. The American people are here to vote for me. We all play our part. This isn’t a “me” situation.
NEWSWEEK. So you always knew you’d be on the cover of Newsweek?
PRESIDENT OBAMA. Well, not seventeen times!
MICHELLE OBAMA. Nineteen, actually.
NEWSWEEK. Well, twenty, after this one!
MICHELLE OBAMA. Hahahahahahahahahaha!
NEWSWEEK. Hahahahahhahahahahahahaha!
PRESIDENT OBAMA. Twenty? So the other thirty-two are of . . . what? Trends and things? Are you sure that’s wise? I mean, for consistency’s sake . . .
NEWSWEEK. Hahahahahahahahahaha!
MICHELLE OBAMA. Hahahahahahahahaha!
PRESIDENT OBAMA. Wasn’t really kidding.

Also in the current issue of NR, Jonah Golberg responds to critics of his book "Liberal Fascism". Goldberg's rigorously researched book has been hugely successful both in terms of sales and in the extensive left wing vexation it elicits.

I would broadly define “left-wing” as statist, collectivist, egalitarian (within a defined group, be it based on class, race, or nationality), enamored of the Romantic spiritualization of the political, and hostile to tradition, religious orthodoxy, natural rights, and Lockean individualism. I would define “right-wing,” particularly within the Anglo-American tradition, as pro-market, favoring limited government, respectful of religion and tradition, and protective of the individual and his rights. By any remotely similar definition, fascism belongs on the left — and, to date, not a single critic of the book has even come close to rebutting this basic point.

The NY Post excerpted Charles Krauthammer's remarks upon receiving the 2009 Eric Breindel Award for Excellence in Opinion Journalism. He talks about the impact of Fox News on journalism and his own political pedigree.

...Fox News is...resented. It altered the intellectual and ideological landscape of America. It gave not only voice but also legitimacy to a worldview that had been utterly excluded from the mainstream media.
I'm proud to be part of this televised apostasy. And particularly proud to be part of the single best news program on American television, the six-o'clock news -- first with Brit Hume, now with Bret Baier. How good is "Special Report"? So good that even if I weren't on it, my mother would watch it -- and she spent 50 years as a Democrat.
Now, there is something in my past I think I should clear up right now: I was once a speechwriter for Walter Mondale. How do I explain that? Easy. Being born one generation too late, working for Mondale was the closest I could get to being a Trotskyite -- which, as you all know, is the royal road to neoconservatism.

Yesterday's WSJ presented an op-ed by a doctor, a native Canadian, David Gratzer, who gives us a look into our socialized medicine future by examining Canada's present system. Not a pretty picture. As we prepare to be thrown headfirst into this abyss, it's instructive to note that Canada, England and even Sweden, having experienced nationalized health care, are all taking steps away from it.

Shelby Steele in Monday's WSJ on the racial implications of the Sotomayor nomination. Steele used his bargainer - challenger paradigm to explain the rationale behind President Obama's choice.
As he explains bargaining,
...the minority makes a bargain with white society: I will not "guilt" you with America's centuries of racism if you will not hold my minority status against me. Whites love this bargain because it allows them to feel above America's racist past and, therefore, immune to charges of racism. By embracing the bargainer they embrace the impression of a world beyond racial division, a world in which whites are innocent and minorities carry no anger. This is the impression that animates bargainers like Mr. Obama or Oprah Winfrey with an irresistible charisma. Even if post-racialism is an obvious illusion -- a bargainer's trick as it were -- whites are flattered by believing in it.
and challenging,
Challengers see the moral authority that comes from their group's historic grievance as an entitlement to immediate parity with whites -- whether or not their group has actually earned this parity through development. If their group is not yet competitive with whites, the moral authority that comes from their grievance should be allowed to compensate for what they lack in development. This creates a terrible corruption in which the group's historic grievance is allowed to count as individual merit. And so a perverse incentive is created: Weakness and victimization are rewarded over development. Better to be a troublemaker than to pursue excellence.

In this dichotomy, Sonia Sotomayor is, like Jeremiah Wright, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, a challenger. Despite being a bargainer while campaigning, the real world of Supreme Court nominating forces Obama into challenger mode, so as not to anger his minority base.

Jay Nordlinger also looks at Sotomayor's blatant racialism, here.

Last week on the Bloomberg web site, Amity Shlaes, author of the revisionist Depression history, "The Forgotten Man", offered a look at the resurgent popularity of Ayn Rand. Shlaes notes that "Atlas Shrugged" is selling more copies than ever and she correlates its sales rate with high earners' share of the tax burden. If this correlation holds, "Atlas Shrugged" will be setting sales records for years to come. As well as spotlighting her wisdom in economic matters, Shales makes some funny observations about Rand's writing style.

Monday, June 8, 2009

On Obama in Cairo

There's been a dustup of sorts among conservative commentators concerning The Speech To The Muslim World by President Obama last Thursday. (I'm waiting for his followup Speech To The Christian World - coming soon no doubt. I'm guessing he won't play up his middle name as he did to his Egyptian hosts). There's the camp that was relieved, (if not wholly impressed) that Obama acknowledged some of the positives of his predecessor's policies (though without crediting President Bush, of course) and that he managed to criticize some aspects of Islamism. Rich Lowry, chief editor of National Review and the WSJ editorial board fell into this catagory. But then there was the other camp, represented by Mark Steyn and Andrew McCarthy who were having none of it. They opined that Obama came up woefully short and that his continuing postures of apologia and moral equivalence are demeaning and dangerous. Naturally, Steyn peppered his column with Steynian witticisms.

The speech nevertheless impressed many conservatives, including Rich Lowry, my esteemed editor at National Review, “esteemed editor” being the sort of thing one says before booting the boss in the crotch.

Which he proceeded to do, in an argumentative sense.
Actually, my favorite take on the speech was written by someone who calls himself Doctor Zero on the website. It's done in the form of what Obama should have said in Cairo. As the author admits, there's no way Obama would ever say these things. To go further - he wouldn't even get it. The article is bursting with patriotism, a concept alien to the President. (Hint - It has nothing to do with dissent or taxpaying). Some of the disparaging posts responding to the piece clearly came from those of the Obama - liberal mindset.
(I was considering reproducing some of the article here but thought it better just to publish the link).

Rich Lowry

WSJ editorial

Andrew McCarthy

Mark Steyn

Dr. Zero

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Glory of Capitalism - Part Two

As promised, here’s the follow up to my post of a couple of days ago.

Monogamous marriage was developed over the course of human civilization as a means of harnessing the male sexual drive and directing it into a stable, societal good. So has the free market system (Capitalism) developed over the millennia to utilize natural human traits such a greed, materialism, competition, risk taking and self-interest as resources for productive wealth creation. Those traits are disparaged and targeted for eradication by today's "progressives”. They envision the creation of a collectivist system (the more extreme versions of which are Communism and Fascism) in which programs designed to promote the "common good" are implemented. The obvious problem with this is that the common good is determined by a group of elitists, either self appointed or empowered by a misguided, misinformed or otherwise bamboozled electorate. The results of their attempted social engineering have usually been disastrous. In Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead” her lead character, Howard Roark explains this in a seven page speech (uncharacteristically brief for Rand). In the movie version the (much abridged) Roark speech goes on for about five minutes. This excerpt provides a concise summary.

Everything we have, every great achievement has come from the independent work of some independent mind. Every horror and destruction came from attempts to force men into a herd of brainless, soulless robots, without personal rights, without personal ambition, without will, hope or dignity.

Progressives are trying to radically alter a process that has been evolving for thousands of years, much as eugenicists propose to interfere in biological evolution by creating an optimized gene pool from which superior humans can be generated. It is significant that many of those supporting eugenics are, or were prominent progressives – H.G. Wells (who coined the phrase, “Liberal Fascism” that Jonah Goldberg used as the title of his book), George Bernard Shaw, Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt, Margaret Sanger (whose racism manages to be overlooked by her admirer, Hillary Clinton), John Maynard Keynes and Linus Pauling.
One item on the progressive to do list is a return to "simplicity" or a reversion to a world not so dependent on complex technology. Ironically, the "progressives" want to undo technological progress.These self proclaimed moralists would take us all back to the mid 19th century (or earlier) if they had their way. The reaction against progress is what drives much of the left's agenda, from its anti-corporate, anti-profit, anti-materialist culture to its war on the "rich" to its global warming alarmism. (One segment of the BBC documentary, “The Great Global Warming Swindle” depicts the devastation that’s being propagated by environmental activists as they try to “save the world”, striving to prevent development in poverty stricken Africa).
The free market has reached its pinnacle with American style Capitalism. Liberals claim that since poverty exists there is something inherently wrong with the mechanism that humanity has developed to manage it. But this ignores the reality that humankind began in poverty and has been gradually lifting itself out of it, despite the explosive population growth of the past two centuries. As Thomas Sowell writes in his book, “Economic Facts and Fallacies”,

Since all countries were once at least as poor as Third World countries are today, what needs to be explained is not poverty but the creation of wealth – and the things that increase or decrease the ability to create wealth.

No system is better than free market Capitalism at creating wealth. Messrs. Norberg and Buchholz attempt to convey this in their columns. They explain the source of our prosperity and how to extend it to those not yet among its beneficiaries. We need more, many more, of these sober explanations and a much larger audience to hear them. We need to forcefully counter the soothing, yet sinister rhetoric of the left.

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Glory of Capitalism - Part One

In an April 16 post I cited a WSJ op-ed published 10/2/2006 by Johan Norberg who explained how we are indebted to free market capitalism for our current high level of health and prosperity. In today's WSJ there's a column expressing similar sentiments. Written by Todd Buchholz it castigates those who believe that the silver lining in our present economic cloud is that we're all being forced to seek a smaller, simpler life. Buchholz contends that this is not a good thing. He shows how our lives have been improved immeasurably over the past century (e.g. - life expectancy was 47 in 1900) and attributes these advances to the natural human instinct to consume, compete and take risks. Buchholz also warns that a pullback from our consumer driven society to one stressing simplicity would consign the world's poor to their status permanently. the past 20 years, thanks in part to the explosion of American consumption, hundreds of millions of people around the world, now with jobs to meet U.S. import demands, have eaten three meals in one day -- for the very first time in their lives. This is a War on Poverty that we are winning! Snobs would rather downsize and turn victory into defeat.

I'll have more to say on this in a later post.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Ironic, Isn't It?

My daughter has asked me, more than once, to give her a clear example of irony and I generally fail to come up with one that captures its true meaning. Thanks to Senator Ted Kennedy I now can give her a descriptive example.
At the 45th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Orlando this week, encouraging phase 2 clinical data was presented that offered hope to patients like Kennedy who've been diagnosed with brain glioblastomas. A collaborative effort between Celidex Therapeutics, a small biotech firm, and Pfizer, the evil large pharma company, are developing a potential vaccine, CDX-110 (PF-04948568), to extend the lives of the tumor's victims. The companies provided new evidence of the agent's effectiveness.

There are rumors that Kennedy is one of the clinical patients being treated. It's been more than a year since Kennedy was diagnosed with a disease that has a three year survival rate of less than 10%. He's undergone surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and now possibly a novel therapy, all carried out by the much maligned U.S. medical system. Leftists like the Senator would prefer to substitute a socialized system in place of the one he's now utilizing.
The following link provides a hypothetical account of a typical citizen (i.e. - not like Kennedy) facing Kennedy's diagnosis in today's Britain. The writer also points out that in Canada, a Liberal candidate for Prime Minister opted for treatment in California rather than in her home country when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

And here's a link to a NewYork Post article from a year ago making much the same point and providing a couple of nightmarish stories for illustration. The Post notes that Kennedy was treated with Temodar, (developer - evil big pharma firm Schering) the first oral chemotherapy agent for brain tumors in 25 years. And that,

(The) British health-care rationing agency, the National Institute for Comparative Effectiveness, ruled that, while the drug (Temodar) helps people live longer, it wasn't worth the money - and denie(s) coverage for it.

An agency with the acronym NICE, no less. A real Orwellian scenario - one that will become all too familiar in the socialized health care future Kennedy and friends promise us. Meanwhile, the senator is being kept alive by the system he wants to displace. What's the word for that?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

More Sotomayor; Peaceful Iraq

In my recent post (May 30) I took issue with Peggy Noonan who disputed that Sonia Sotomayor is a racist. Jay Nordlinger (NRO) was probably referring to Noonan's column when he wrote this.
The question has come up whether Sotomayor is a racist. I think she is, more properly, a racialist — indeed, she fits the definition to a T. According to our trusty, racialism is “An emphasis on race or racial considerations, as in determining policy or interpreting events.” See if her Berkeley speech does not burst with that emphasis.

I stand corrected. Racialist is a more fitting term.

Rob Lowry, also in NRO, points out that in that Berkeley speech, Sotomayor's "wise Latina woman" remark is only the most notorious of several that she made. Apparently she has a "misspeaking" problem.

And in today's WSJ a letter writer observes that Iraq is now safer than some U.S. cities. Iraq's civilian death toll for May dropped to the lowest level since the invasion - 150 - for an annualized rate of 1800. There were 510 murders in Chicago last year. Factoring in the population difference, Iraq has roughly ten times that of Chicago, the equivalent number for the city would be 5100, more than twice as much. Doing a similar calculation for New Orleans, 179 murders, population 1% of Iraq's, the murder equivalent is 17,900, almost ten times as high.

Monday, June 1, 2009

I Can't Believe I Voted For This Guy

The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.
Muhammad Ali

I campaigned for and voted for George McGovern in 1972 when I was 19. His op-ed in the WSJ today shows that he hasn't changed much over the years. Fortunately, I have. His column is a revealing look inside the head of a far left liberal. In it, McGovern has some advice for President Obama.

Here are his primary points with my comments following.
First, he wants all U.S. troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan by Thanksgiving.

We now spend $12 billion a month on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- two mistaken invasions that have increased violence and terrorism in the Middle East. For a fraction of what we are spending on these badly conceived interventions, we could fund a new GI Bill with full medical care for the tens of thousands of veterans who have lost legs or arms or suffered lasting nerve or brain damage.

Yes, violence and terrorism increased - these are wars. The Civil War and World War 2 were historical events of great violence but they were ultimately determined to have been necessary and successful. Rarely is the cost of not invading Iraq and Afghanistan ever considered or discussed.
The invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan were not mistakes. We've deposed a despotic, terrorist, war making regime in Iraq. The only regime in recent times besides the Soviet Union to have deployed WMDs. Deployed against its neighbor and against its own people. A regime that was responsible for more than one million deaths, mostly Muslim, over the course of its existence. We can never know what would have happened had we not liberated Iraq. But imagine Iran and Saddam Hussein's Iraq, bitter enemies vying for supremacy in the Middle East. Both armed with nuclear weapons, ready to be used against each other and Israel, with a nuclear armed Israel determined to defend itself. A plausible scenario. Instead, there's now a burgeoning democracy in Iraq, an American ally and a country committed to fighting terrorism. And Iraq has been shown to be a positive model for other Arab/Muslim countries struggling to democratize. This is exemplified by recent elections in Morrocco and Kuwait, where for the first time women, four of them, were elected to parliament. Despite premature rumors of its demise, the Bush Doctrine is alive and well.
In Afghanistan we've displaced al-Queda and their Taliban hosts. Rather than having control of a sovereign nation and the sanctuary and security that comes with it, these groups have been reduced to launching attacks from caves and mountains. By degrading al-Queda in this way, we've crippled its ability to terrorize the U.S. and elsewhere. What's left to do - a well planned, sustained military offensive combined with political outreach will destroy the insurgency, much as it has in Iraq.
But even if you think the liberations of Iraq and Afghanistan shouldn't have been undertaken and weren't worth their cost, wouldn't walking away from either, or both, now be catastrophic? Thanks to the surge, we're in a position to gradually reduce our presence in Iraq. A precipitous withdrawal would allow destabilizing forces to erupt again, resulting in the eventual breakup of the country and chaos. Thankfully, Obama is doing what Bush would have done.
The correct approach to Afghanistan is, again, the Bush approach. An increased committment (surge), and if Obama's able and willing to stay the course, it will lead to the dismantling of the terrorists last safe haven.
The second part of McGovern's prescription for Iraq and Afghanistan shows that he looks at our military as just another receptacle for government largesse. He can't wait to get the soldiers back home to throw some money at them. By all means, let's take care of our veterans but at least wait until they successfully complete their missions.

There is the terrorist danger, but this is not a military problem. Terrorism is a by-product of military weakness. The terrorist has no battleships, bombers, missiles, tanks, organized armies or heavy artillery.
The only significant terrorist attack on the U.S., on Sept. 11, 2001, was carried out by 19 young men from Saudi Arabia and Egypt armed only with boxcutters. They used these devices to intimidate the crews of four airplanes into surrendering control of their planes. The terrorists then suicidally flew the planes into buildings.
This event, which took place nearly a decade ago, dramatized the limitation of a huge military budget in assuring national security.

Modern terrorists don't need the customary weapons of war to inflict catastrophic damage. A successful nuclear, biological, chemical or e-bomb (electromagnetic pulse) attack(s) could cause great devastation. McGovern's is the attitude that gave us 9/11. In NRO, Andrew McCarthy has an excellent piece detailing just how the non-military approach to terrorism failed in the 90s and resulted in disaster. Our military needs (at least) two components - a large traditional one to deter expansionist, powerful nations (China, Russia) and to also to win small wars quickly against lesser nations (Iraq, Afghanistan). We also require smaller, flexible forces to battle insurgencies and conduct guerilla operations. Both the large and small military components are essential to combatting terrorism. As McCarthy relates, treating terrorism as a criminal activity has a bad track record. McGovern gets one thing right. There have been no attacks since 9/11/01, nearly a decade ago. A period in which we've treated acts of terrorism as acts of war.

In his second term, Ronald Reagan met with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who proposed that the two countries end the Cold War and the arms race. Reagan agreed, and the danger of war between the two nuclear giants has since subsided.

Ooohhh, so that's how the cold war ended. Of all the inanities in his column (and there are several), this is the inaniest. It's what a left wing propagandist (like McGovern) would write for a grade school history text. Gorbachev tells Reagan that the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. really should be friends. Reagan says hey, that's a gosh darn good idea, lets. And friends they become. Reagan's massive increases in defense spending, his decision to deploy Pershing intermediate nuclear missiles in Europe, his insistence on developing the Strategic Defense Initiative (Star Wars), his labeling the Soviet Union an evil empire, emboldening human rights activists behind the iron curtain, these had nothing to do with Gorbachev's acquiescence.

McGovern also ignores anything that's happened during the past two decades. Russia's imperialist designs on the Baltic states and Eastern (and Western?) Europe have resurfaced. It remains a dangerous, expansionist nuclear power.

As for China, no one any longer fears war with this most-populous, fast-developing country to which we have extended "most favored nation" trading status. It would seem that no nation now threatens us.

China is not our friend. In 2000, China's military budget was $14.6 billion U.S. dollars. In 2009 it's estimated to be over $70 billion. That's a 3800% increase in 9 years. China's been looking to project its military presence in the Pacific. It's been carrying out research into cyber attacks. There are recent allegations that China has been hacking into sensitive government computer systems in the United States and Europe including the Pentagon. The old weather satellite that China destroyed with a missile two years ago was an indirect threat to the the U.S. which is increasingly dependent on GPS satellite technology for military and other purposes. To the extent that China is not yet a major threat to us can be credited to our large defense allotment.
Russia and China have both worked to stymie our efforts at imposing even mild economic sanctions on Iran and North Korea to deter their aggressive nuclear ambitions. McGovern blithely ignores the dangerous game these superpower wannabes are playing.
There are nations that are threats to us and to global peace and stability. Even countries (e.g. - Iran, North Korea, Venezuela) that don't pose existential threats to us, can and do cause economic upheaval, aid terrorists and create instability in their sphere of influence.

...our military budget is higher than ever -- $515 billion annually, not including the cost of Iraq and Afghanistan.
This figure is greater than the combined military budgets of the rest of the world.

Of course it is. We protect the world. We're the only nation able and willing to assume the responsibility to counterbalance tyranny and oppression. If Obama really wants to change the world and if his persuasive powers are half of what they're cracked up to be, he'll convince the Europeans to pull their own weight. They won't because they can't. Their welfare state economies and institutional lethargy prevent them. This is what McGovern proposes that we emulate.

We could defend ourselves with an arms budget half that size ($515 billion). If we directed the $250 billion we could save annually into national health care, improved education, a better environment and restoring our infrastructure, the nation would be more secure, better employed and have a higher standard of life. Or the savings might be used for annual reductions in the national debt.

I don't know if McGovern really believes ths stuff or he's just trying to provoke outrage from the WSJ readership. (I expect a robust response from that sensible cohort). How does he know that halving our defense budget won't seriously hamper our ability to protect ourselves and deter our enemies? Did he perform a thorough analysis? Why half? Why not one-third? Or two-thirds? And eviscerating our military will make us more secure? I don't think so. To be truthful, McGovern doesn't care much about our defense capability. He just wants the money diverted to his laundry list of liberal special interests - health care (price controls on doctors, hospitals, drugs), education (maintain the teacher's unions monopoly), energy (tribute to the environmental lobby) and infrastructure projects (a good idea if the pork could be taken out). This is what attracted me when I was young, naive, ignorant and unthinking. (I still retain three of those qualities but to a somewhat lesser extent, I hope). Money for health care, education, clean air, it just seems like the right thing to do - as long as intentions and not results are the measure of success.
And then, since we haven't yet gotten into the tens of trillions of dollars in government expenditures, McGovern proposes that,

Finally, I would like to see America build the fastest, safest and cleanest-powered railway system in the world. This nationwide system of passenger and freight rail service should be integrated with equally superior public transit facilities in our cities.

Cleanest-powered. You don't mean nuclear do you George? I didn't think so. Blown by the wind perhaps. Sorry George, this is one you're not going to get. The one limitation to the otherwise limitless liberal need to spend other people's money comes when spending hurts a favored constituency. In this case, the Teamsters Union and their trucking industry.
Fortunately, McGovern ran out of space at this point. He could have gone on for pages listing programs that he and his fellow know-it-all comrades insist we need and would like to impose on us.

McGovern has come out surprisingly and forcefully against the union friendly "Employee Free Choice" Act. Good for him. It shows that he has the capacity for sensible thinking. Unfortunately when it comes to prioritizing our foreign policy and domestic needs McGovern reverts to stale leftist dogma. An ideology that is both wasteful and dangerous.
Radical Islamists, dictators, anarchists, communists or any other group seeking global destabilization, war, terrorism, or economic chaos to advance the collapse of Western Civilization could not devise a more effective means to do it than by doing what George McGovern recommends, weakening the one entity - the U.S. military - that deters them.