Archive for July 2013

I Hope Voting Makes a Comeback

I have voted in every election since I turned 18. I recently moved to Texas, and I got my registration card the day before the election. So my voting streak is unbroken.

I know a lot of people who do not vote. They think there is no point and that nothing ever changes.

There is a great line I have seen on the web: If voting is not important, why are Republicans always trying to stop you? I have noticed the Same Old Party goes on and on about invalid registrations. So their solution to this non-existent problem is to purge the voter rolls. They never seem to have any interest in registering people properly.

You have probably heard about or heard the recording of Mitt Romney’s statement about the 47%.  That was at a fundraiser with an admission price of $50,000. That is about the median income in the US. I bet the people at that fundraiser all voted.

If you don’t vote, you give people who can spend your annual salary in one night even more power. You are giving them more say in our government. You are causing the very thing you say you want to prevent. Granted, it takes a lot of median income people voting to equal the voice of a wealthy person. But if you don’t participate, then who will?

I think it’s funny when people say that there is no point in voting because it never changes anything. By itself it might not do much. But if you are not willing to stand in line to press a button every couple of years, then what are you willing to do to change society? If you won’t press a button, then how exactly is society supposed to change?

I think that slowly things are changing. People are starting to realize that a lot of things happen at the state level. The Trayvon Martin incident. The Wendy Davis filibuster. The Moral Monday protests in North Carolina. I think people are staring to organize. Secular Texas is part of this.

This really hit me after a few exchanges on Twitter (archived here). Do not ignore what happens at the state level.

Image from Bobbi’s Blog, originally from Political Loudmouth, although I could not find it there

Freethought Radio and The Texas Tribune Tribcast

I generally do not listen to podcasts as they are released. I let them pile up for a few months. Sometimes when I find a new one that I like I will go back and download all or some of the older episodes.

Over the past few weeks, I listened to episodes of Freethought Radio from 2012. Freethought Radio is produced by the Freedom From Religion Foundation. One of the things that they do is file lawsuits against various state and local governments (and sometimes the federal government) over church/state separation.

They have members all over the country, and their members are informing them of First Amendment issues all the time. Many times the communities the FFRF is contacting complain about “outside groups telling us what to do.”

First off, it’s an outside group with local members. Secondly, it is amazing that so many people claim to be all for the Constitution yet do not understand it. Many people complain about the FFRF trying to “take away our religion”, or something like that. The case law is pretty clear that government cannot endorse religion. The FFRF is not trying to shut down churches. Opening a city council meeting with a prayer does violate the First Amendment. There is nothing stopping people from praying on their own time.

Recently they had a case down here in Texas in a town called Kountze near Houston. They talked about it quite a bit on Freethought Radio.

It was also mentioned on another podcast that I listen to: The Tribcast produced by The Texas Tribune , “a nonprofit, nonpartisan public media organization covering Texas politics and policy with verve.” I started going through the 2012 episodes right after I got done with the 2012 episodes of Freethought Radio.

The governor and the attorney general played the whole “outside groups coming in and trying to tell us what to do” angle. It’s still a load of BS. (Are they that stupid, or do they think the voters are that stupid?) What really shocked me was that when the Tribcast talked about it, nobody on the show seemed to know how a group in Wisconsin found out about this. (They usually have four people on each episode; they rotate amongst their writers and editors.) That really surprised me. I generally like The Tribcast, but I think they fell down on this one.

I found a couple of links on the Texas Tribune site about this case: here  and here. There may be a few more that I did not look at, and maybe I skimmed these two a bit too quickly, but neither of them mentioned that the FFRF acts on complaints from local members throughout the country. There are some quotes from some locals, the AG and the governor, and there is a lawyer for the students who is mentioned by name. There is a link to a PDF of the original letter from the FFRF to the school, but no link to the FFRF home page, no quotes from the FFRF, why they would have standing to file a lawsuit if they were to do so, or mentions of any attempt to contact them.

If I am wrong, send me a link or point out a paragraph that I missed.

As I see it, it just seems like really bad journalism. Maybe the hosts of Freethought Radio were too busy to talk on the phone, or the FFRF lawyers were swamped, but I honestly think that if the Texas Tribune called the FFRF that they would have gotten some answers.


There are pictures of the staff members on the website. Reeve Hamilton sounded like a young guy, but he looks like he is still in high school. I guess the rarified air of Vanderbilt will do that to you. And that is a really WASP-y name. Jay Root and Ross Ramsey kind of look like what I thought they would. Sometimes when I see a picture of someone whose voice I have listened to, I realize I had formed a picture of them in my mind that I was not always aware that I was forming. But Evan Smith definitely looks like what I thought he would look like.

Image from Freedom From Religion Foundation website, assumed allowed under Fair Use. It is from a page called “Logos and Photos”. 1. I think it is kind of funny they of all organizations have a page called “Logos and Photos” considering that Logos has a theological meaning. 2. If they have a page with a few different pictures of their logo, I guess that means it is okay to use elsewhere.

Star Trek Time Spans

I read an article that Cleopatra (died 30 BC) lived closer in time to the present day than the Great Pyramid of Giza (built around 2500 BC).

I had a similar realization that made me feel kind of old.

The last episode of Star Trek: The Original Series was broadcast was broadcast in 1969. The last movie with the original series cast came out in 1991.

So as much time has passed between Turnabout Intruder and The Undiscovered Country (22 years) as has passed from The Undiscovered Country until the present day (22 years), the year of Star Trek Into Darkness.

I saw Into Darkness in the theaters recently. It was pretty good.

And yes, I know if you take months into account (as opposed to just going by the year as I did), the time spans are not quite equal. But it will be true pretty soon.

Images from Memory Alpha and Memory Alpha, copyright owned by CBS, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

Thoughts On Race And Class

A few random thoughts on race and class in America. There is no overarching thesis. It just seems kind of fitting to write about this now after the Trayvon Martin verdict.

I think that some of the tension between races may be due to some people’s discomfort with interracial dating/intermarriage. I have found that some people in interracial relationships can be just as narrow-minded as the people that don’t like them. Plus, sometimes I think some people are in IR relationships for the wrong reasons: either “ha ha, I have one of yours”, or “ha ha, I have one of theirs”.

(There is one simple rule when it comes to interracial relationships: I can have one of yours, you can’t have one of mine.)

But just because I do not like a particular group of people, does that mean that they do not have the same rights as I do? Why should they be prevented from voting, or getting an education? My family came from Ireland and the Scottish Highlands. They got kicked around in their own country. I don’t like the idea of pulling the ladder up after me.

I read an article about the largest landowners in the USA. One of them was John Malone. He said part of his lust for land was due to his Irish ancestry. That kind of bugged me. I can see wanting something of your own, but this land was also stolen. There are more Irish outside Ireland than in it; there is no way we could all fit. But don’t use the fact that your ancestors lost their country as an excuse to take somebody else’s.

There are a lot of conservatives in this country who do not want to spend money educating poor brown kids. On the surface, that makes sense. But where this goes off the rails is that they have no problem spending money to but poor brown adults in jail. A lot of people will pay through the nose to live in a gated community, and to send their kids to private school, and to separate themselves from poor people. And they will pride themselves on paying less in taxes. But if you are spending all that money to keep away from “those people”, then what difference does it make?

A lot of people need to get it into their heads that you are going to spend money due to poor people one way or the other. You might as well spend it on something that will help “those people” make something out of their lives.

And if you think you really are that much better and that environment does not matter and you really built all that yourself, feel free to move to a slum to raise your kids.

Image from Wikipedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

2013-06 Dividend Income Report

It is time for the dividend income report for June, 2013.

The total for June, 2013 was $351.48. The year-to-date total through the end of June was $1492.72.

For June, 2012, the income was $305.84. The year-to-date total through the end of June, 2012 was $1574.81.

Here are the stocks:

  • American States Water Co: $18.72
  • Black Hills Corp: $12.76
  • Intel: $10.96
  • AFLAC Inc: $18.14
  • Bemis Co Inc: $16.32
  • ConocoPhillips: $34.16
  • Vectren Corp: $19.11
  • Archer-Daniels-Midland Co: $11.88
  • Chevron: $21.73
  • Emerson Electric Co: $21.26
  • Sonoco Products Co: $19.81
  • Questar Corp: $9.46
  • Exxon Mobil Corp: $36.00
  • Johnson & Johnson: $21.62
  • 3M Co: $8.12
  • Walgreen Co: $15.18
  • Valspar Corp: $13.11
  • Dover Corp: $7.74
  • Consolidated Edison Inc: $17.21
  • RLI Corp: $18.19

Image from Wikimedia

Thoughts On Abortion and Religion

As you may have gathered, abortion has been in the news a lot here in Texas lately. Juanita Jean has been keeping me informed on what is going on. Many people at Secular Texas were at the rallies and the hearings. I was not able to go since I work full-time. A big chunk of the people in Secular Texas are either retirees, freelancers, or work much closer to the capitol than I do.

As with many abortion debates, many people on the pro-birth side are men, who try to use religion to justify their positions. I wrote “pro-birth” on purpose. We need to stop letting them get away with saying they are pro-life. If you fight tooth and nail for an unborn child, but then refuse to lift a finger once the child is born, you are not pro-life.

Over the past few weeks, the Talibaptists in three states used underhanded tactics for pro-birth bills: Texas, Ohio and North Carolina. Either they stacked the deck for scheduling testimony, or they introduced bills or amendments at the last minute.

If you have to lie or obfuscate to do the right thing, are you really doing the right thing?

On the pro-choice side are a lot of women. There are a lot of old women. Grandmothers who are too old to get pregnant. Yet they fight pro-birth bills tooth and nail.

Religious people like to think they are better than us atheists since they believe in something greater than themselves.

Which leads to a couple of questions. If they can see the big picture, why can’t they see this issue from the perspective of the women on the other side? Shouldn’t the fact that women who are too old to get pregnant are so vehemently against abortion restrictions make the big thinkers stop and think why these women fight tooth and nail for something they themselves will never need?

Alternatively, shouldn’t these people who believe in something greater than themselves be able to persuade people who disagree with them?

I am starting to realize that religion and libertarianism are just a way to put fancy words and catchphrases around selfishness and control.

Image from Wikimedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use.