Friday, September 30, 2005

Daniel blogged while Simi burned

For my first California Friday entry, I'll write about some big state news that hit close to home. I live in Simi Valley, where a large brushfire was finally extinguished recently. It was blazing in full force when I tried to drive home. Fortunately only one home was lost (last I heard), and nobody was hurt by the fire (a rock did fall on one fireman's head). The drive home the next day looked pretty cool. It looked to a dork like myself as if orcs had torched a Middle Earth hillside. My housemate said that the firefighting planes were pretty effective. As soon as a bigger, blacker cloud billowed up, a plane would zoom in and drop its payload on it. The libertarian in me would like to think a private plane would have zoomed faster and dropped more stuff. But that's the more churlish part of the libertarian in me.

Daily topics for Ideaspout

I feel the need to add a little structure to my blogging. So I'm going to write about a particular subject that interests me according to the day of the week.

Miscellaneous Monday: On Mondays, I'll write about whatever strikes my fancy.
Tech Tuesday: I love gadgets! Tuesdays will be when I write about my favorite toys.
Ed Wednesday: Ed as in Education. Education is my industry (and yes it is an industry, just one that has been horribly socialized).
Health Thursday: Health care is tied with education as the top-most industry that we desperately need to pry out of government hands.
California Friday: On Fridays I'll write about state and local issues.
Liberty Saturday: I want to reserve my day with the most free time to discuss sweet, sweet freedom.
Culture Sunday: On Sunday, I'll write about the movies, shows, records, and books I've consumed during the week prior.

Since today is California Friday, I'll write about the Ventura County fires, which I can see from my block.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Apple Care-a-lot

My optical disc drive in my precious I-Book wouldn't eject. I'm not sure, but I think it's because I somehow managed to put two discs in there. But I couldn't be happier with my experience getting it repaired by Apple.

First of all, it gave me an excuse to visit a two-story Apple Store in Los Angeles. Normally having to wait an hour to see a technician would have been a major inconvenience. But, for me it just gave me a great excuse to play with one of the new Ipod nanos, scope out my next software purchases, and ogle all big screen displays there. The technician was super nice and informative. And my ibook was whisked away.

I missed my ibook more than was probably healthy for an adult to miss his toy. Part of it was I was just barely starting to integrate StickyBrain into my systems when the disc drive went on the fritz. And I was a little worried they would have to wipe the hard drive (although I backed up most of my stuff).

But every step of the repair process was documented in a log on the Apple Care web site (see below), which eased my anxiety. And as you can see from the log, the turnaround was remarkably quick. I dropped it off on a Monday afternoon, and they shipped it out that Thursday morning. And somehow it got to my office the very same morning they shipped it! Plus, I got e-mail status updates, they didn't have to erase anything, I got a brand new optical drive, and it was all covered by the warranty, even though I may have caused the malfunction!

Altogether a customer service experience entirely befitting Apple's reputation.

Repair Status Detail
Hello, Daniel Sanchez | help | logout

Date Case Number Dispatch Number Name Status
09/26/2005 53295068 R5586319 Daniel Sanchez Repair Requested
09/26/2005 53295068 R5586319 Daniel Sanchez Request Acknowledged
09/28/2005 53295068 R5586319 Daniel Sanchez Unit Received
09/28/2005 53295068 R5586319 Daniel Sanchez Begin Repair
09/28/2005 53295068 R5586319 Daniel Sanchez Begin Testing
09/29/2005 53295068 R5586319 Daniel Sanchez Ready to Ship
09/29/2005 53295068 R5586319 Daniel Sanchez Unit Shippped/Completed
09/29/2005 53295068 R5586319 Daniel Sanchez Closed

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Many Germans say "Nein" to reform

I meant to post about this when it happened. But the left did surprisingly well in the German elections. This shows that, in stark contrast with the Japanese electorate which recently showed strong support for Prime Minister Koizumi's efforts to privatize the Japanese Post, the Germans seem very skeptical about market reforms. It will be an interesting experiment to see, after these landmark elections, where the paths chosen will lead these two giant economies.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Did socialism bring down Rome?

I've been listening to an audiobook version of the History of Ancient Rome by Cyril Robinson, and in it I heard a refreshingly different take on the fall of Rome. Most history's blame invading armies and internal corruption for Rome's decline and fall. Many who want to draw parallels with the "excesses" of modern America blame Rome's arrogance and expansionism. But Robinson points out that, in the face of economic challenges, the Empire set price seriously low price ceilings, prevented merchants from changing their professions and produced huge amounts of currency to fund a swelling government beuaracracy. It was only then that the Empire was unable to heal itself. The Carthaginians and Celts couldn't do it. Caligula and Nero couldn't do it. Apparently, the industry of Romans was enough to overcome anything except its own government trying to micromanage its economy at swordpoint.

Monday, September 12, 2005

One giant leap for Japan

Japan Post, an odd quasi-governmental entity, which is actually the largest financial institution in the world, looks set to be split up and privatized. This has long been a primary goal of Junichiro Koizumi, Japan's prime minister. He faced a heavy impediment when in August, members of his own Liberal Democratic Party broke ranks and opposed his Post privatization bill. In what now seems like a brilliant strategem, the prime minister dissolved the lower house of Parliament and called a special election. On Sunday, the new coalition Koizumi created out of pro-reform LDP members and a Buddhist party, won a landslide victory. This paves the way for the Post, which controls a staggering $3 trillion in financial assets to be pried out of government hands. This election was a turning point for Japan. It could have buckled under the pressure of entrenched political interests. But instead it is striding boldly into the global marketplace. Indeed, after 4 years under Koizumi revised GDP figures show Japan's economy to have grown a thumping 3.3% in the second quarter. While old Europe's rejection of the EU constitution showed it to be in a severe case of future-shock, it looks like Japan has placed itself firmly in the winner's column of the world economy.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Why aren't all pacifists libertarian?

The two ideologies are actually remarkably compatible. When you think about it, if libertarians hate any one thing it's violence. The only justification a libertarian would accept for curtailing a person's right to do what he pleases, is if that action would harm another person. Even some non-libertarian leftists have this viewpoint, except that they have a broader definition of "harm". If Wal-Mart elbows out a mom-and-pop grocery store, that's harm to them. To a libertarian, harm only means direct physical injury, or coercion under the threat of physical injury. "The right to swing my fist, ends at your nose," the maxim goes. This philosophy also underpins the libertarian's opposition to government action in general, even if it's not prima facie curtailing someone's rights. If you think about it every government action involves a gun. Say a person wants to open a store without the "proper" permit. What's stopping him? There's a law against it. What if he ignores it? They'll take him to court. What if he ignores that? He'll lose the case, and the government will tell him to shut the store down. What if he ignores that? The government will try to take control of the property and arrest him. What if he locks the door? They'll break it down. What if he tries to push them out? They'll beat him. What if he uses a weapon to force them out? They'll shoot him. And it's not just laws against behaviors either. It's all government programs too, because they all depend on tax money, that if a citizen tried to not pay, he would be thrown in jail or shot. Every law is enforced at the barrel of a gun: under threat of physical injury. And the only justification a libertarian will accept for such violence is if it is to directly prevent citizens having violence done upon them by other citizens. So at the core of the two tenets of libertarian thought: individual liberty and minimalisation of government, is a strong opposition to violence.

So again, why aren't all pacifists libertarian? It strikes me as odd that so many of the same people who are so dead-set against any war, no matter what, are so willing and eager to use the threat of deadly violence against their own fellow citizens to ensure proper behavior.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

How leftists kill babies (and I'm not talking about abortion)

...rather, I'm talking about market interference. In a globalized economy, economic inefficiency in any part of the world reduces global wealth. In a world with so many human beings living right at the threshold of starvation, such reductions are bound to knock some humans out of the survival column. And study after study has shown that market interference causes economic inefficiency. Leftists think we should all accept that for the greater good. But what good is greater than people not starving!-- especially when so many of those people in question are innocent children. Foreign aid, peace-keeping missions, social safety nets: none of these things have come even close to saving the amount of innocent young lives as freeing up markets, especially in places like China. The precipitous drop in Chinese infant mortality brought on by trade liberalisation should have been front page news every day for the past 20 years. How could such a dramatic increase in the welfare of humankind have gone so unheralded? Every single selfish, pointless government regulation or program that gets in the way of that kind of progress literally sickens adults and starves children throughout the world. I'm talking about cotton subsidies, textile tarrifs, and corporate welfare. And yes I'm also talking about artificially affordable housing, socialized education, and the ordinary type of welfare. These programs not only dull and hinder our own populace, but by slowing down the global engines of prosperity, they are actually costing countless lives. Where is the outrage over that? Where are the bleeding-heart celebrities, and the chest-beating protesters? They're so eager to join battles for the oppressed, why aren't they participating in this one? Well, they are, just on the wrong side. It is their attempts to fix the world's problems that are creating those problems in the first place. And why is this so? Not because they are immoral or two-faced. It's simply a case of economic illiteracy. Strident activists can understand factories paying workers too little for their liking or big chains elbowing out local stores. But, freedom to pursue profit leading to competition, leading to efficiency, leading to greater global wealth, leading to more babies not starving is perhaps one or two plot points too long for the average do-gooder. And that is a shame. More than that, it's a tragedy.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Life, Liberty, and Property

I am very happy to be joining the Life, Liberty, Property blog community. The LLP was started by Eric over at Grumbles Before the Grave in response to the notorious Kelo V. New London Supreme Court Decision. As I've expressed, that court decision greatly apalled me. Check out the LLP button and blogroll in my sidebar.

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