Mar 212009

My Kensington Pocket Mouse broke the other day, so tonight I sat down to order one of those Logitech Nano mice. I wanted the tiny USB receiver so I could put it in my notebook computer and leave it there, without worrying about breaking it off when I move around. But I learned that the mice are not full-sized. For some reason neither Kensington nor Logitech puts mouse dimensions on their web site, but I was able to find some reviewers who had measured the things. The Logitech Nano 550 is bigger than my Kensington mouse was, but I want full size. Googling for “full-size mouse nano receiver” tells me I’m not the only one. So I’ve put my credit card away. For now I’ll just drag my corded optical mouse around with my computer, and wait for Kensington or Logitech or somebody to come out with what I want.

Mar 212009

It has been a while since the last Leviathan Ankle-Biter award. But here are some exceptionally deserving recipients — a bunch of British combat veterans of World War II. (“We’ll Fight Brown on the Beaches : D-Day veterans angry at ‘politicisation’ of anniversary“, in The Independent.)

They raised money so those who are fit for the trip could go to the Normandy beaches for the 65th anniversary. There are about 500 who can go. It will be the last opportunity for a lot of them. It was with some difficulty that they raised the money, but they got it — through private contributions.

Then the politicians wanted to horn in on the event. But the veterans are telling them to buzz off:

But Peter Hodge, secretary of the Normandy Veterans Association (NVA), said: “Ministers on the beaches is not really what we wanted or needed. We never complained about the Government not giving us money. We wanted this to be between the veterans and the British people. The public response to our appeal, first publicised in The Independent, has already been fantastic.”

“We also wanted this to be mostly about the veterans themselves. If ministers go along, the extra security tends to mean that veterans are pushed into the background.”

It’s good to hear that something like this can still happen in a country that has been busy trashing its heritage (e.g. throwing out the rule of law in favor of anti-social-behaviour ordinances). Even though these guys are old, they’re going out by setting an example that the rest of the country would do well to learn from, as would those in our own country.

Mar 202009

Remember 1983? I do. That’s when Secretary of the Interior James Watt said, “”I have a black, a woman, two Jews and a cripple.” He had to resign shortly after. I wrote a letter to the Battle Creek Enquirer saying he should have been fired because his policies were repudiated, not because he said that.

Now President Barak Obama does a modern version of a fireside chat and makes a joke about the Special Olympics. Which standard should we hold him to?

Mar 192009

Philanthropy consultant Thomas Tierney argues for bigger, longer grants to fewer organizations. “How many social problems can be solved with $50,000? Over 18 months? Not many.” (This is in The Weekly Standard: “Rich Rewards” by Martin Morse Wooster. Good article.)

But I’d like to know how many social problems can be solved with $50 million or even $50 trillion over whatever timespan you want. No more than with $50,000, I’d wager.

What business do philanthropic organizations have in trying to solve social problems anyway. Why can’t they just try to help people who need help? There are all sorts of good things they can do — helping build institutions by which people can help themselves, funding technological improvements, and who knows what else. But solving social problems? I think that one is beyond their competence, just as much as it’s beyond government’s competence.

Mar 182009

I hope the Animal Services and Enforcement Director in Kalamazoo County doesn’t hear about this. Or if he does, I hope he doesn’t like it.

Just because an impoverished cat owner in Belarus sends the animal out to beg money for its own upkeep doesn’t mean the impoverished horse owners in Kalamazoo County should do that, does it? Because if that’s allowed, it might argue against the idea that leftish people now owe the rest of us support money for our upkeep.

Mar 182009


Today I came to realize that in the world of politics, the word “comprehensive” is a near-synonym for totalitarian.

In Tuesday’s WSJ there was a letter in response to an article explaining how cap-and-trade is a corrupt, expensive system. The letter-writer said we should instead think about the benefits of having a “comprehensive” energy and climate system. And then there are the people who say we need to make all of our existing health systems fail so we can have a “comprehensive” system of national health insurance. (They don’t say so quite that explicitly, but this came up in connection with Obama’s recent statements about cutting benefits for combat veterans.)

I’ve now officially decided that I am very anti-comprehensive anything. I am a raging incrementalist, as the late Representative Barber Conable used to call himself.

The comprehensivists always have an excuse for failure. We didn’t spend enough money, fast enough, they will say. A little reform will never do. Yes, everything they’ve done so far has caused misery. That’s why we need to have more — lots more. We must have a comprehensive, all-or-nothing reform system. (Think of those people who say communism hasn’t failed because it hasn’t been tried. Yes, the more of it you have, the more miserable people get — until you get to 100 percent, and then nirvana! See the graph above.)

It’s different with us free-marketers. For our side, a little more is always better. When Stalin and Khruschev backed off of their grand, comprehensive plans and allowed a little bit of market freedom, things got better, not worse. We don’t need comprehensive.

The comprehensivists are like Linus Pauling and his Vitamin C. “Yes,” I would say, “I took Vitamin C and I still got a cold.” “But you didn’t take enough!” they say. So next time I would tell them, “I took a gazillion milligrams, and I still got a cold!” “But you need to take more — lots more!” they say. It’s never enough.

That’s the way it will be with health care or cap-and-trade. It will fail, and we’ll find out that the reason will be because it wasn’t comprehensive enough. “Of course things got worse,” they will tell us. “We need a comprehensive, all-or-nothing, totalitarian system!” (Holistic might be another term they’ll use.)

They will refuse to enact market-based reforms that will merely improve the environment and health-care.

Mar 172009

Even by Murdoch standards, this one is exceptional. It’s the lead headline on page one of today’s WSJ:

“Political Heat Sears AIG”

Those must be some special reporters who can come up with objective measurements for these things. Next they can tell us how to prepare our Thanksgiving turkeys safely.

Mar 162009

Horses may be going hungry, but here’s some food for thought. It’s inspired by a front page story in Sunday’s Kalamazoo Gazette.

The article explains that people can’t afford to take care of their horses, but they’re required to anyway, even if they’ve lost their jobs and incomes. There is no longer a market for the animals, so they can’t be sold. And the other alternatives (such as euthanasia) are even more expensive or non-existent. Kalamazoo County’s Animal Services and Enforcement director explains:

Winter time is tough, with people being laid off and home foreclosures. Hay’s expensive — all these things add up. But I don’t want to hear their excuses. They’ve taken on this responsibility. You can’t have an animal that’s solely dependent on you for food and care and let it starve just because things have changed. You’ve got to find an alternative, even if you have to go shovel driveways.

Leave aside for a moment the question of whether it’s appropriate for a law enforcement officer to get all moralistic and emotional like this. His statements suggest a way to handle some similar situations involving humans.

Leftish people have enacted entitlement programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, which have turned out to be way more expensive than originally projected. Now the economy is down, and they are becoming unsustainable. People are now soley dependent on the government for these services.

The leftish people have basically created pets out of people, who have become dependent on their care. The recipients can’t just be released back into the wild at this point. They can’t be euthanized (though some societies that have found themselves in similar circumstances have adopted that as a partial solution). These leftish people have taken on a responsibility, and now need to find an alternative. Shoveling driveways won’t do it, so we’ll probably need to confiscate their homes and property and garnish their incomes to pay for these services. No excuses.

And what about the people who put these leftish persons in a position to do this? What about the citizens who voted for legislators who enacted the social security tax increases of the 1980s? I suggest that the thinktanks get to work and come up with formulas by which the citizens of the states and congressional districts that elected these people be charged additional surtaxes to pay for their bad judgment.

“Wait a minute!” you might say. “This is a collective responsibility that we’ve taken on as a nation. The country as a whole has a responsibility to tax itself into oblivion to pay for these obligations!”

Under certain circumstances, you would be right. If our national legislature did things in a collective manner, for the nation as a whole, then perhaps we’d all bear some responsibility. But that’s not the way things work.

Take earmarks, for example. The latest stimulus package is full of them, no matter the claims by some people that they make up only a small portion of it. Lots of the money is designated for particular programs in particular districts. Spending decisions are not made objectively on the merits of competing programs. Instead they’re made based on political clout and for the exchange of political favors. And even where funds are turned over to granting agencies that might use objective criteria to disburse the funds, they are subject to “oversight” and meddling by members of Congress who lobby on behalf of constituents. Representatives run for re-election on the basis of the bringing home the bacon to their district, and leftish newspaper editors endorse politicians on the basis of their ability to do favors for their districts.

Under this system of crony corruption, the people who vote these people into office need to be the ones who are financially responsible for ponying up when entitlement programs prove to be unsustainable.

“Wait just another minute!” you might say. Just because some spending decisions are made on the basis of corrupt favoritism, that doesn’t mean all the entitlement programs work that way.

Oh, yes, they do. All these programs are inter-related. Congressman Bacon votes for Congressman Upright’s entitlement program, in exchange for Congressman Upright voting for Congressman Bacon’s pet project. It isn’t always an explicit trade — in fact it rarely is. But implicit in this system is trading of votes — “I’ll vote for your boondoggle because otherwise you might not vote for mine someday.”

The people who create these problems need to be the ones to pay extra.

[Late note:  Cross-posted to the Conservative community on LiveJournal.]

Mar 122009

Remember when pro-abortion people used to say that reproductive choice should be a matter between a woman and her physician? What they didn’t tell us was that a woman is now to be denied the choice of making this decision with physicians who are personally opposed to performing abortions themselves. (WSJ Health Blog: Obama will move to rescind ‘conscience’ rule on abortion, birth control)

Remember the bumper stickers that said, “If you don’t like abortions–DON’T HAVE ONE”? I used to think it was a valid point, if not a deciding one. But now we’re told that if don’t like abortions, we have to participate in having one, anyway. We’re throwing out the uneasy compromise by which people are allowed to exercise their own abortion-choice while others are allowed not to take part, and are replacing it with an anti-choice system in which we all will be required to take part in abortion whether or not we find it to be right.

Remember those people who say we need to ban smoking in all restaurants in order to protect the workers? Sure, people should be allowed to choose whether or not to patronize an establishment that allowed smoking, but what about the workers? We can’t tell them that if they don’t like it they should find a different employer (they would tell us). But now it turns that we can very well tell doctors and nurses that if they don’t like participating in certain activities detrimental to the health of a fetus, that they should find, not just a different employer, but an entirely different line of work.

Mar 122009

First we had the Defenestration of Prague; now we have the Hypovehiculation of Barak. From James Taranto’s “Best of the Web Today“:

In an item yesterday, we observed that the White House had done the right thing in “defenestrating” Charles Freeman, the unhinged former ambassador who had been President Obama’s nominee for chairman of the National Intelligence Council. Since Freeman was thrown under the bus rather than out the window, we should have said the White House did the right thing in hypovehiculating him. We regret the error.

It’s about time somebody invented it. It’s going to be an important new word for our political vocabulary. It has been needed for some time — starting at least as far back as when we first heard about Barak’s grandmother.