Digital Redemption

Thoughts on faith, programming, economics, philosophy and whatever else grabs my attention

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  • Jan 03 / 2010
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Libertarianism, Politics

Thoughts on liberty and Alabama

The Alabama constitution of 1901 Article 1, Section 35 states, “That the sole object and only legitimate end of government is to protect the citizen in the enjoyment of life, liberty, and property, and when the government assumes other functions it is usurpation and oppression.”  I would agree that is a pretty good view on government.  Maybe Parker Griffith, a congressman from Alabama, was thinking of this when he decided to defect to the Republican party over disagreements about the expansive approach the democrats were taking to government, particularly healthcare.

What scares me is how much of our society does not seem to value liberty today.  I suppose that the defense of liberty has always been a rare quality.  Lord Acton recognized it when he said: “At all times sincere friends of freedom have been rare, and its triumphs have been due to minorities…”  He doesn’t mean minorities in the sense of a racial minority but that the defenders of freedom are the minority.

It amazes me how little regard our current government holds for individual liberty.  Barrack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and many others in power believe that they know what is best for America.  They think they know how you should run your life.  And the astonishing thing is that so many people are content to let them!  They are content to allow legislation that mandates the purchase of healthcare.  They are content to allow them to usurp the rule of law and take advantage of bondholders, giving preference to unions in the bankruptcies of GM and Chrysler.  They are content in the massive expansion of government in our personal lives.

That is, they are content so long as they are not being directly impacted by these gross violations of personal liberty.  Can you imagine what most people would say if congress passed a law that created a new tax that was directly funneled to union members?  The unions would be ecstatic and everyone else would be outraged.  That amounts to what occurred with the bondholders; but since most people did not recognize it they were not outraged.  Or what if congress passed a law requiring every person to purchase and consume at least 3 servings of vegetables a day?  How tyrannical must our government become before the people rightly stand up and demand their freedom?

I hope that as we begin a new year that you will consider the many freedoms that you enjoy today and consider their great value.  If you are a progressive then I urge you to reconsider your position.  Think of the cost of liberty and what the loss of it truly means.

If you do happen to recognize the great treasure that we have in liberty, stand up and fight for it.  Oppose those who would strip our liberty.  There are many things that you can do today.  You can advocate political candidates who stand for personal freedom and liberty.  You can spread the word of what liberty is through a blog and talking with your friends.  Make your voice heard.  Don’t let your liberty go without a fight.  It will make this country better for us and generations to come.

I always admire institutions who fight for liberty and I try to support them financially where I can.  This is another way you can fight for liberty.  Several that I like are the Cato Institute, The Fair Tax, and, of course, the Libertarian Party.

  • Dec 31 / 2009
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Uncategorized

Looking back on 2009

It seems like it’s still the end of 2008 and yet we are in the last few hours of 2009. Time just keeps going faster.

In some ways things are not much changed. I’m still single; still living in tucson; still working for Rincon Research Corporation; and on and on. But 2009 carried more changes for my family than most years in that my grandmother, whom we all loved, passed away in November from cancer. She will be missed and her passing is certainly the defining moment for the year.

Two of my cousins also got married this year. I can’t help but feel that I’m getting older and really need to get moving on the whole family thing. Maybe in 2010.

Health wise I felt that I was sick a lot this year. More than usual at least. I started a diet and lost nearly 40 pounds. That’s good news; but I still have about 30 pounds to lose in 2010. I also had my gall bladder removed in an emergency procedure at the beginning of December. That was a surprise.

Travel was fairly limited this year. I spent about a month in England for work and that was all my work travel. I went back to Lubbock, TX 4 times to visit family for weddings and funerals. Charles and I also went to San Diego at the beginning of the year and on a cruise at the end of May with the Jackson’s.

The stock market started 2009 with a small recovery that was quickly killed. The market proceeded to bottom out in march and started an epic recovery that is still going. It was a positive year for stocks but they haven’t fully recovered from the woes of 2008.

Barack Obama and the democrats had control of the federal government. They pushed through massive new spending packages for “stimulus” and other things. It was a big year for expansion of government; hopefully, in coming years we will be able to reign it in.

So now we look forward to another year, and another decade. This one has gone quickly for me. I hope that I can honor God in more meaningful ways in the coming years and that he will bless me with good friends and a good family.

NOTE: Thanks to colorcubic @ http://colorcubic.com//2008/12/31/2009-our-time-to-shine/ for the permission to use the awesome image of 2009.

  • Dec 03 / 2009
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Libertarianism, Video

Good video on libertarianism

I love liberty and I love hearing a good discussion on it.  Sometimes I feel as if those who stand in the intellectual towers of our society have totally sold out and completely given their selves over to socialist ideals.  I am always encouraged to see someone who is at least willing to engage in a fair and open discussion of the topic.  The justice series by Michael Sandel at harvard appears to be doing just that.  It’s excellent and I wanted to promote the video here. You can access the whole series here: http://www.justiceharvard.org/

  • Nov 17 / 2009
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Computers

Windows 7, first impression

It’s been nearly 10 months since I decided to dump windows and upgrade to a Mac. I haven’t regretted the decision once.

One of the big things that drove me away from windows was how slow and cumbersome windows had become. Vista was a disaster for Microsoft. Businesses and individuals alike revolted and refused to buy anything but Windows XP. XP is getting a bit long in the tooth these days and it seems that the initial reviews of Windows 7 are good.

I haven’t had an opportunity to try it out until today. A friend of mine bought a new laptop and needed some help transferring music from her old computer to the new one. She left the computer with me and I took it for a little spin. I wasn’t impressed.

For starters, I was curious if the startup/shutdown times had been improved over windows vista. Shutdown seemed vastly improved and startup did seem better too. This was a brand new laptop (not top of the line but neither is my mac) and my mac is 1 generation out of date. I thought it would be interesting to compare the two though. It was a pretty unscientific test. I just set the two computers next to each other, shut them down and then powered them up. Shutdown was pretty comparable between the two. Of my 5 tests the Mac beat windows 4 of the 5 times but it was very close. Startup was a different story. The Mac beat Windows 7 starting up every time by at least 10 to 20 seconds.

The second thing I looked at was the new user interface.  I really like the UI in Mac OS X, it’s pretty, simple, and intuitive.  Windows 7 looks a lot like vista too me but some of the new UI enhancements seemed cumbersome and confusing.  I’m sure some of this would fade with time as I got comfortable with the new system; but it’s a far cry from the Mac where I’m always excited to use the system.

Microsoft seems to have lost it’s way and I’m really hoping it can create a product that really is top notch but I’m beginning to have my doubts.  There are much more thorough reviews out there but if you’re considering a new computer, I’d recommend the Mac!

  • Nov 15 / 2009
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General

Remembering the ones we love

My grandmother passed away from cancer today at 10:15am.  They are not sure what kind because she refused a biopsy that would determine its type.  The cancer had aggressively spread throughout her body.  There were tumors in her liver, kidneys, and who knows where else.  She was terminal; and only lived about a month after the initial diagnosis.  The cancer had probably been there some time before that.

It’s hard to lose someone you love.  My grandmother had always been a part of my life.  She loved me and I loved her.  When I was young we didn’t have much money; but my brother and I would go to visit my grandparents for the weekend on mini vacations.  We would go to “Chuck E Cheese’s” and play the games (I loved it there but I’m not sure why–the food is horrible!).  We would wrestle with grandpa.  We would watch movies and get our hair cut.  It was great fun.  I have a hard time envisioning life without her;  to think that she won’t visit us every summer or that there will be no more christmas’ with her there.

It bothers me that she won’t be there at my wedding.  She won’t get to meet my wife and my kids won’t know who she was.  I’ll miss her.

She lived a good life.  She loved the Lord and instilled a passion for Christ in her children and grandchildren.  Of 3 kids and 12 grandchildren every single one loves God and worships Him.  I cannot think of a greater tribute to her legacy than that.

Both my grandparents regularly attended church and were very active with the local body.  For several years they lived at a children’s home in Phoenix, AZ called Sunshine Acres.  They took care of the children that no one else wanted.  They loved them and taught them to love the Lord–it’s what God called them to do.

She was a strong willed woman.  I remember stories of how she would sometimes sell the family television when my dad was growing up because she thought they didn’t need it.  My grandpa would get so mad!  But never for too long because he knew that it meant that eventually he would get a new one; and it would be better than the one they had before.

She was a popular woman; although I don’t think she really knew it.  When she wanted to be, she was very charming.  She could make anyone like her!  She was a good conversationalist and could always tell a good story.  She had a way of keeping the audience engaged.

The week before she died I flew into Lubbock and spent the days with her.  My dad, mom and youngest brother, Meshach, came too.  It was a good time.  It was nice to be able to serve her by getting her watermelon when she craved it, brining her cokes and all the other little things that she happened to fancy.  She talked a lot with us; about all sorts of things.  Telling us stories of her childhood and other good memories in her life.

She told us that her most vivid memory from childhood was when she was about 7 years old.  She grew up in Michigan and her family had 2 cherry trees right by the drive way.  She liked to climb the trees and hang upside down from the branches.  Apparently, her parents weren’t too fond of this.  They told her not to climb the tree anymore; but, often as kids do, she didn’t listen.  I guess she didn’t know how to get down on her own when she was hanging.  So her parents decided to teach her a lesson when they saw that she had disobeyed them and climbed the cherry tree.  As she was hanging from it they told her that they were going shopping and would be back soon.  After they left she got to thinking and began to fear that they were never coming back.  It seemed as if she would never get down from that tree and would starve to death or fall cracking her head on the ground below.  Well as she hung there worrying, she saw one of her neighbors walking down the street.  She called out to him asking for his help.  This particular neighbor was a very tall man and seemed particularly scary to her.  He asked her where her parents were and why they couldn’t help her down.  After she had explained the situation to him, he told her that he shouldn’t interfere and started to walk away.  He took several steps and then came back and helped her down.  Those few moments when she thought he was walking away seemed like an eternity.  Needless to say, she never climbed the cherry tree again.  It’s funny what people remember.

It’s hard to say goodbye to the ones we love.  But with the Lord we know that in time we will see them again.  I love my grandma and I know she is in a better place now.  She loved the Lord her whole life, and it ended well.  We should celebrate that and know that while the sorrow will last for a time; this too shall pass.


“Of old you laid the foundation of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
They will perish, but you will remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away,
but you are the same, and your years have no end.
The children of your servants shall dwell secure;
their offspring shall be established before you.” – Psalm 102:25-28


  • Oct 27 / 2009
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Economics, Politics

The true cost of socialism

I came across this study today about the true costs of socialist policies in terms of human life.  The drive of the study is how can we calculate how many people would not have died, how many more people would be literate, and how many more people would be above the poverty line if certain policies were not implemented.

The paper looks at India, which while not a communist state, it was socialist until strong economic reforms through out the last 2 decades.  The thrust of the paper is that if the country had not implemented the socialist policies it did and had instead focused on a free market capitalist approach then 14.5 million more children would have survived, 261 million more Indians would have become literate, and 109 million more people would have risen above the poverty line.

Obviously studies like this will always be somewhat error prone and controversial.  It’s very difficult to say what could have been.  But, the author does a good job defending the methodology used to make the calculations.  The study really illustrates that there is a costs to the ideals that we hold.  Socialism is often sold as a system that champions the poor.  Sadly, it’s the poor that often end up paying the greatest cost.

If you want to read the paper it’s available here: http://www.cato.org/pubs/dbp/dbp4.pdf

  • Oct 25 / 2009
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Politics

Obama does not agree with our founding Father’s

In an interview with a Chicago public radio station, Obama said:

If you look at the victories and failures of the civil rights movement and its litigation strategy in the court. I think where it succeeded was to invest formal rights in previously dispossessed people, so that now I would have the right to vote. I would now be able to sit at the lunch counter and order as long as I could pay for it I’d be OK.

But, the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth, and of more basic issues such as political and economic justice in society. To that extent, as radical as I think people try to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn’t that radical. It didn’t break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the founding fathers in the Constitution, at least as its been interpreted and Warren Court interpreted in the same way, that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties.

Says what the states can’t do to you. Says what the Federal government can’t do to you, but doesn’t say what the Federal government or State government must do on your behalf, and that hasn’t shifted and one of the, I think, tragedies of the civil rights movement was, um, because the civil rights movement became so court focused I think there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalition of powers through which you bring about redistributive change. In some ways we still suffer from that.

(audio interview here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iivL4c_3pck)

If, for whatever reason, you didn’t believe that Obama was a radical who does not believe in the society that our founding fathers envisioned over 200 years ago this quote should dispel any disbelief.

You see, the original constitution did not include a “bill of rights” in it. The articles simply outlined how the government should be run. Early opponents argued that because the document did not provide for any specific protections of individual liberties it should not be ratified. James Madison proposed the 10 amendments that have collectively come to be known as the “Bill of Rights.” These were ratified by the states in 1791.

The purpose of these rights was to secure liberties to the people. They were designed to ensure that government kept it’s focus on preserving people’s liberty. Obama fundamentally does not believe in individual liberties. His focus is on centralizing services and equalizing outcomes. This is a key difference with our founding fathers. Someone who desires to equalize outcomes will invariably wish to redistribute income and centralize control so that it can be ensured that everyone has a similar quality of life, etc.

Our founding father’s believed that it was necessary to protect our liberty and they encoded that in the Constitution.  That document has served our country well for over 200 years and the ideas that it embodies are part of what makes America great.  Barrack Obama does not see things this way; he wants to tear down the Constitution.

Forgive me, but I will not stand with him in this.  The very idea that we have a president who does not believe in the principals of the constitution frightens me and I hope that the people of this nation will do everything in their power to oppose him.

Unlike Obama, I hope we remain free.

  • Oct 25 / 2009
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Books

Ender’s Game

I just finished the sci-fi book by Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game.  An alien race, called the Buggers has attacked humanity.  We have already fought two wars in our home solar system which humanity has barely won.  The world has pulled together and is looking for someone who can lead us to victory against the buggers.  Enter Ender Wiggin. He is a young boy who is particularly brilliant and the military leaders decide has a possibility of being this brilliant commander that they are looking for.  The book explores the loneliness and isolation that Ender feels and how he hates to hurt people but they won’t leave him alone so he has to hurt them.

I know that I’ve been sparse on details but I don’t want to give too much away.  It’s an excellent read; although disturbing at parts.  I have found myself sort of sad and lonely after finishing the book because Orson Scott Card did such a good job putting me into Enders shoes.

This book is definitely on my must read sci-fi list.

  • Oct 17 / 2009
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Economics, Politics, Technology

The internet is proof the Government doesn’t bungle everything…

It’s no secret that I enjoy economics. It’s also not closely held that I think that the government is far too large and should receive a substantial haircut (and perhaps a few limbs cut off as well). Some of my co-workers don’t quite see eye to eye with me on this. They believe that the government should have a larger role than I do; particularly when it comes to healthcare.

In the course of one of these healthcare debates a co-worker pointed out that “the government doesn’t bungle everything, just look at the internet.” He then proceeded to point me to an article in the L.A. Times by Michael Hiltzik entitled “The Internet is proof that government doesn’t bungle everything.” The article is a good illustration of how the left doesn’t really understand capitalist principals. What follows is a discussion of the article and, hopefully, a clarification of what many capitalist, such as myself really do believe.

Hiltzik’s basic claim is that companies don’t do a good job at “basic” research because they have a profit motive that clouds their perspective. He claims that the internet is a good example of this because AT&T and IBM both rejected Taylor’s idea for a universal network that could connect all types of computers together. Thus, in his view, this is proof that the government doesn’t screw everything up and goes on to claim that the government should be entrusted with fundamental research and possibly even things like healthcare.

Hiltzik fails to give much definition to his outrageous claims. In particular, he claims, “His experience underscores the importance of a government role in fields like basic research, which profit-seeking enterprises tend to shun.” What constitutes basic research is not defined; which is convenient for him, because any attempt at a definition would reveal that private industry does in-fact engage in a great deal of research that many would consider “basic” in nature.  But perhaps, carbon nanotubes are not basic research?  NEC funded the research that lead to this discovery which is a bedrock in modern nanotechnology innovation.  Or maybe, Ted Hoff’s research at Intel that lead to the invention of the microprocessor was not significant?  These are not isolated cases.  Look at nearly every major company in existence today and you will find that they engage in a great deal of research on a regular basis and much of this research may not yield fruit for many years into the future.

The second problem with the article is the implicit claim that the government should continue to fund research because the internet was funded by the government and it proved useful. In general, capitalist don’t believe that the government shouldn’t fund research because it cannot succeed in any of it. However, the problem lies in the inefficiency of it. None of the protections that the free market affords apply to government. This is where we take issue with it. There are no controls to prevent government from continually wasting the peoples money on failed research and funneling money to political allies. The profit motive of corporations does not make them ineffective at basic research, there have been and will continue to be many companies and individuals who engage in a great deal of research that will not yield benefits for many years. Many of these projects will fail; however, the market balances how much money should be spent on them versus investment in current things like new houses, etc. If a company is particularly bad at doing the right research or effectively bringing it’s research to market (ie, making it useful), it will run out of money and go bankrupt. There is no such protection when it comes to the government.

Hiltziks understanding of capitalism is underscored by the comment: “Take the government out of the equation, whether as regulator or competitor, and they will continue to pursue their own interests, not yours and mine.” Any student of Adam Smith knows that the “invisible hand,” as Smith calls it, aligns selfish interests to the benefit of society. Large corporations may only care about making a dollar; however, it doesn’t matter because to make that profit they must do things that are useful to society. Governments have no such requirement; they only have to do what they believe is right, even if it’s not. They can continue on the wrong path indefinately whereas failed corporations go out of business (unless the government intervenes).

There is nothing about government that makes it more efficient at research than corporations. There will be some research projects it engages in that will be fruitful; however, this is not proof that the government should engage in them because we forgo all the protections of the free market.

In closing, we should remember the very apt words of our founding fathers as they declared our independence from a tyrannical government: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”

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