Author Archives: Rip Rowan

How the Other Half Thinks

Vanessa and I are touring with a girl from Sweden who lives in Vancouver and makes her living as a musician who lives largely on grant money. So you can accurately guess her political inclinations.

And our last tour was with a guy from Sweden / Denmark and lives there on government money as a musician. So you can guess his inclinations as well. Both are waaaay to the left of Castro.

Neither believe it is possible that there will ever be another World War, especially not in Europe. In their minds it is 100% impossible. Couldn't ever happen, no way, no how.

So you can understand that since they believe that, they think that the US military is a terribly evil anachronism, and when the US takes military action, both of them argue strenuously that we shouldn't, although neither has even a shred of an idea as to what we should do instead. Both object to the occupation of Afghanistan (not to mention Iraq) and consider our actions there dishonorable and maybe even evil.

They also see the US as being something like Nazi Germany because of our military. In fact when Mads saw the Fightin' Texas Aggie Band on TV, his comment was "Hitler would be proud." This comment literally turned my stomach a little, since many/most of the kids on that field had grandparents who fought Nazis to liberate Mads' grandparents who couldn't be bothered to fight them themselves.

I really like them both (rather a lot, actually) and so I am quite respectful of their belief system, and I try hard to understand it. Both are educated and intelligent and caring and sensitive people. And both really seem to like a lot about the USA.  The guy from Denmark thinks he wants to move here (he doesn't comprehend that our government won't give him grants to write folk songs).

I think it's easy for someone to think that their social order is superior to ours when they can afford to give money to starving artists to write songs, since their social order doesn't have to field a military.  It's pretty cool that their cultures so actively support the arts.

Maybe they are correct. Maybe there will never be another major war and the $350B/year we spend on keeping The Free World safe is just a horrible waste of money.  The USA is pretty awesome as-is. Imagine how awesome it would be if that $350B/year could go to funding the arts, curing cancer, ending poverty, putting a chicken in every pot.

If that's the case, it's easy to call the US military "evil".

If on the other hand, human history repeats itself as it has since the dawn of civilization, and once again there will be a war.  It will be our military that saves the Swedes and the Danes from evil. Real evil.

Will they then realize that our military – money that could have been indulgently spent on ourselves – was actually a kind of charity?  After all, without our military spending – so much of which goes to protect Europe – would their governments have been able to fund the arts?

In a very real way, my tax dollars that pay for our F-22s enables artists in Europe and Canada to write their songs.

I still hope they're right, and we're just wasting our money.  But I think we aren't.

Maureen, Meet Occam

A man goes to a psychiatrist…

"Doctor," he says.  "You have to help me.  I’m having terrible problems with sexual fantasies."

The doctor begins his analysis by showing the man a Rorschach (inkblot) test.  "Tell me what you see in this image," asks the doctor.

"A naked woman," says the patient.

The doctor shows him another image.  "And this one?"

"Another naked woman," the patient replies.

"How about his one," the doctor asks, showing the man a third inkblot.

The man blinks.  "A man and a woman in a… uh, sexual position."  He looks embarassed.

The psychiatrist puts away the Rorschach test.  "This is a very simple diagnosis.  You have a sexual preoccupation."

The patient is indignant.  "ME?!?  But you’re the one with all the dirty pictures!"

And so, when Maureen Dowd "hears" Joe Wilson say, "You lie, BOY!" one must wonder… who, exactly, is obsessed with skin color?

But rather than dispute Dowd’s column, the contemptible premise of which is "if you disagree with Barack Obama you are a racist," I want to focus attention on the comments to the article.  There are hundreds.  Read them.  You don’t need to read all of them, just enough to get the feel.  At least a few pages.

Now, notice something:

  • One the one hand, supporters of Dowd’s article are quick to point out that Obama’s detractors are, overwhelmingly, racist.  I cannot find one supporter who actually goes back to the facts and defends the truthfulness of Obama’s statements.
  • On the other hand, those who oppose Dowd primarily do so on the basis of factual inaccuracies (a.k.a. lies) that the President has put forth.

Occam’s Razor suggests that "the explanation of any phenomenon should make as few assumptions as possible."

In other words, perhaps Joe Wilson isn’t a racist, but was just upset about the mistruths the President is trying to sell.

Obama Plan More Than Doubles Expected Deficits

This just in:

President Obama’s budget proposals, if carried out, would produce a staggering $9.3 trillion in total deficits over the next decade, much more than the White House has predicted, the Congressional Budget Office said on Friday.

The office’s estimates of deficits in the fiscal years 2010 through 2019 “exceed those anticipated by the administration by $2.3 trillion.”

The deficits under the Obama plan would be $4.9 trillion more than the projected deficits if there were no changes in current laws and policies — what the nonpartisan budget office calls its baseline assumption.

If you’re surprised, then you are simply naive.  The rest of us expected Obama to do exactly this.

Even Obama’s budget director had to admit that the proposed spending levels were “ultimately not sustainable.”  And that’s just based on the current projection.  If you think this is the worst-case scenario, then you’re even more naive.  The cost of Obama’s plan has already more than doubled since it was announced during his campaign.  My guess would be that once implemented, it could easily cost two to five times more than the projection.  Most government programs vastly exceed their projected expense.

imageThis averages out to about a trillion a year, but again, I think that’s very low.  This year’s deficit is going to top 2 trillion by itself.

Sort of puts this photo into perspective, doesn’t it?

The photo shows John Spratt giving George Bush the Gold, Silver, and Bronze Medals for Fiscal Irresponsibility for running deficits of $482B, $413B, and $398B.  And that was while escalating the war in Iraq.  Obama’s plan expects no Iraq war.

The question is: when does our national debt become unsustainable, and what happens then?

The debt now stands at around $11 trillion, with about $6.5 trillion owed to individuals, corporations and governments and other lenders, foreign or domestic, while about $4.3 trillion is owed to the funds for Social Security benefits, military and civil service pensions and other government programs.

Playing with the Big Boys

Politico reports this quote from Newt Gingrich:

The Republican Party right now is like a midsize college team trying to play in the Superbowl.

True, dat.  Gingrich knows why the Republicans got its 1994 mandate: ideas.  Go back to the Contract with America.  I don’t agree with all of it, but it was a clear, actionable plan replete with reformist ideas centered around a resonant theme: government isn’t the solution to the problem, government is the problem.

In 2008 we face a host of issues that Republicans should be able to champion – especially energy independence, free and fair trade, and an intelligent national defense policy.  What we got – across the board – was a bunch of scattered sound bites.  The Contract with America wasn’t some ultra-right-wing set of ideas.  It never mentioned abortion, marriage, religion, or any of the topics that right-wing talk radio keeps hammering on.  It was eminently practical and resonated with the electorate because it seemed principled.

What happened?  The Republicans passed some of the Contract and then got distracted by the witch hunt impeachment of Bill Clinton.  Rather than out-governing Clinton, they lost the focus and became the most overspending Congress in history.  George W. Bush didn’t help matters either.

Republicans are looking every which way for a person to lead their party.  That’s not going to work.  For Republicans to regain the White House, they have to find a set of resonant principles.  From these principles will emerge an appropriate spokesperson.

Who knows, perhaps it’s Newt.

History Will Note… Then Wonder… Why?

From Rasmussen:

Unless McCain pulls off a stunning comeback, history will note the final two
weeks of September as the decisive and defining moment of this campaign. On
September 14, the Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll showed
McCain up by three points. Then, Lehman Brothers collapsed and the Wall Street
debacle began. McCain’s lead disappeared almost immediately. By September 26,
Obama reached the 50% level of support and was ahead by five percentage


DOWA – Admire Please

Russell's new book is out.  The Department of Off World Affairs is a fun and sprightly read.

Warning: contains spoilers

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Bill Clinton: Congressional Democrats to Blame for Meltdown

Excellent analysis from Over There.

The Problem with Health Care

In Tuesday’s debate, Tom Brokaw asked the best question of the night when he asked if health care is a privilege, right, or responsibility.  I think John McCain gave the correct response when he answered that it is a “responsibility”, and Barack Obama gave the incorrect (if popular) answer that health care is a “right”.

But regardless what you call it, health care is a critical issue in all parts of the world.  Here I present a summary of issues that explain the real problem, and what we must do about it.  You will find that, at the root of the problem, are people who dogmatically cling to the notion that free markets always produce the best outcomes, and people who dogmatically claim that dysfunctional markets must always be replaced wholesale by government programs.

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The Science is Unsettled

Last night, Joe Biden said of global warming, “I think it’s clearly man-made,” while his opponent, Sarah Palin, said that she believes that the evidence shows that both human and cyclical changes account for climate change.

So, which one is the scientist, and which is the religious fanatic?

But before I get into the question of climate change orthodoxy, the exchange between the two caused me to reflect on my observations of pollution in Europe.  It seems to me that many in this country think that Europe must lead the way in cleaning the planet, and the the US is lagging hopelessly behind.


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Is Obama Rapidly Aging?

I was surprised to see the latest Obama campaign graphic.  See if you can tell why:


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