A journal of political, social, and other important, possibly even somewhat related affairs, including but not limited to: Central European Society, The European Union, HC Kometa Brno, American Politics, Film, and Beer.

22 June 2016

The Problem for the Rest of Europe

The Brexit vote übermorgen is, as the folks at National Review point out, a way to finally shake free of some of the more unfortunate developments that the European Union has presented to the British people. Their reasoning is as ironclad as Callmedave's promise, and there can be little doubt that, as Michael Gove would put it, there would be no reason to join such a monster if the referendum was on to join rather than to stay.

Your correspondent mentally agrees. But he cannot heartily agree. Were he a subject of the crown, he would vote for Brexit. It is clearly best for Britain (Make Britain Great Again? OK, maybe that's not what we mean....), but it's Our Man in Brno, not Leeds or Oxbridge or Whatevershire or wherever Jürgen Klopp is. On the continent, it's good to have someone not just to look to as an abstract example, but to see them in your camp. Parties like ODS in the Czech Republic and PiS in Poland (maybe even more than ODS) need the Tories -- the flagship of the ECR group.

Sure, there's an "official" European Parliament aspect to this (though ECR has long been the bee in the bonnet of the usual four continental groups of post-Christian Christian Democrats, post-democratic Social Democrats, post-liberalism Liberals, and posteverything Greens), but there are also important less formal reasons for this. The Tories serve as an example for many parties in first-generation democracies. The nations of Central and Eastern Europe take cues about the roles of the state and society not just from the corporatists in Germany or Sweden, or the populists in Greece, but from the actions, the actors, and the stage on which they play in the UK. And while they read the news about the US or Australia or Japan, they see in the UK something "European," if only to make "those folks" more like "who WE are."

These feelings are reciprocated and honored by small-c conservatives in the UK and elsewhere; in the US, at least, it is the Right that is looks to men like Lech Wałęsa (a union guy!) and Václav Havel (a hippie playwright!) for inspiration about the way the state should serve society, rather than the opposite. To leave the heirs of such thinkers hanging is not unthinkable -- indeed, it is perfectly thinkable -- but it is unnerving. And any conservative, being such,should be unnerved by such a change.

10 June 2016

I Can't Help But Feel....

1. that this story is somehow philosophically related to this story.

2. that it might be time to spark up the blog again, for a variety of reasons.

15 August 2013

Required Reading for August 15

This fantastic story about the Coptic Egyptians in 718 should be taught more often in schools. The West still owes them a favor or two.

14 August 2013

Pastafarian in Brno

Lukáš Nový, who lives in Brno and is the chairman of the South Moravian regional branch of the Czech Pirate Party, recently made international headlines for becoming the first person in the Czech Republic to be photographed for his ID while wearing a kitchen strainer on his head as a "religious" head covering. Another article points out that an Austrian man has already been photographed by The Man for his ID while wearing the same, but that in Poland, it has only been attempted unsuccessfully.

One of the interesting details about this case is in fact the relative little difficulty Nový had while getting the photograph. The rumors circulating around Brno are that he walked in, asked for his new ID, put the plastic strainer on his head, and walked out. The staff of Our Man in Brno will attempt to dig a little deeper into this important story in the next few weeks for further developments.

24 July 2013

NYT calls on Anthony Weiner to Resign....

You know it's bad when even the Times says "Enough."

But the only reason I think this story is particularly blog-worthy is because the banner ad above the story as I read it here in Brno is for what these days is referred to as a "male enhancement supplement" called Arecitin.

17 July 2013

Comment generally unnecessary

13 July 2013

Food Stamps and the Farm Bill

Well, the GOP has passed their version of a farm bill, (nice easy-to-understand writeup is here) and there's no mention of food stamps, which, as our handy-dandy article notes, is a subject traditionally logrolled into annual farm bills to get urban Democrats to be more supportive of rural welfare -- trading rural welfare for urban welfare, as the case may be. (The overall impact of omnibus bills full of pork and indiscriminate spending on public finances and the health of constitutional government is a subject for a different day.)

And, my-oh-my, how the Democrats howled. Evil heartless Republicans were "taking food out of the mouths of your own poor constituents," as the virtuous and generous Nancy Pelosi phrased it. Of course, the food stamps will keep on coming; the only issue is that now they are going to be in a separate bill.

But it seems peculiar to me why the Democrats are so supportive of food stamps, when they are so opposed to vouchers for other things, such as education, or health care provision.

One of the things that the economist Murray Rothbard got right was that there is a huge bias towards the status quo in politics. As he put it, if there was traditionally a government monopoly on shoes, the Planners would be up in arms about Libertarian efforts to free up the shoe market, asking, "But who would produce the shoes? How many stores would there be in every town?" Yet the Left doesn't, for sensible reasons, argue that we in the US need special centralized planning for food -- there is longstanding bipartisan consensus that a voucher system is clearly the way to go. Individuals have the best information on what their food needs are, and accordingly shop at regular stores using their government debit cards. Why then, do they not see that voucher systems or tax credits could be used for other things that the government wants to support, but perhaps would not be the most able decision-maker on?

Some of this, of course, has to do with interest-group politics, and the role organized teachers' unions have in the Democratic Party. We can only imagine how the workers of a hypothetical state-run Nutritional Distribution Network would react to the idea of a libertarian-minded Senator introducing a "food voucher" bill in Congress for the first time. It wouldn't matter that the food at Safeway is produced more efficiently, cheaply, and of a higher quality than Government Cheese (or Government Raisins); what matters is that the NDN's way of doing things as a monopoly is threatened.

A similar dynamic is at work in health care. The overall drive of the health care debate is that prices of health care are steadily increasing faster than the average Joe's paycheck. Part of this, indeed a great deal of this, concerns the fact that the quality of the service is increasing faster than in other sectors of the economy -- the "product" is qualitatively better than it was 30 years ago. An MRI scanner detects more problems and creates a better quality of life than using an X-ray machine, not least for the technicians administering the tests. But an MRI machine is damn expensive, and the costs of installing one have to be borne by someone. Yet the Democrats' answer to this problem is to set up a Health Care Distribution Network, thus both eliminating the incentives to bring these costs down as well as entrenching various interests that my not have "the public welfare" as a primary consideration. Why not let the market system, supplemented by a voucher program, work the same way it does in the food stamp program?

So keep food stamps, and encourage Republican lawmakers to pass some kind of bill that keeps that form of the system in place. Then move on to the next logical step. The poor will appreciate it.

01 July 2013

Working at the European Parliament

This wonderful video (the fun English part starts at 5:00) shows two Members of the European Parliament, one from the Italian Il Populo della Libertà, and the other from the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia, clocking in 6 pm at the European Parliament, collecting €300 for "expenses," and clocking out at 6:05. 

All in a day's work! What's particularly exciting is that both MEPs start to get just a little feisty with the Dutch reporter, refusing to answer his questions, and they start slapping his mic -- and him -- as they try to get away. 

This should be required viewing for MEPs, as well as Members of Congress in the US. When elected representatives, even at such a talk-shop as the European Parliament, act that contemptuous to reporters, no matter how obnoxious they are, it's small wonder that citizens question what exactly these folks are actually doing as "public servants," especially when caught red-handed with their hand in the till.

30 June 2013

Cord Blood

In cooperation with Duke University, the first Slovak, a five-year-old girl, is set to undergo an experimental treatment using cord blood stem cells to treat her cerebral palsy. It's a double-blind test, so it's hard to say if her condition will improve, or even if she's being treated. Still, it's possible that little Nelly Vadovičová may be not only a footnote in the annals of medical progress, but live a happy and long life with this type of therapy.

As the article notes, the treatment is taking place in the US, and while there are a few centers in the Czech Republic and Slovakia storing and experimenting with cord blood, the countries are suffering from tight university research budgets and high regulatory hurdles. Nevertheless, the promising future of cord blood as a source of stem cells should continue to be supported as a morally (as well as experimentally) superior source of stem cells in contrast to those that destroy embryos.

So wish little Nelly luck, and wish the Blue Devils luck too.

19 June 2013

Miracle? Science?

Yes. Over in the capital, where it seems everything is happening these days, a girl-year-old girl has woken up out of a year-long coma. It's a day-brightening story.