Archive for January 2014

Thoughts on States’ Rights and Local Control

It seems that conservatives push states’ rights when they disagree with the federal government. But when a state does something they do not like (usually a state other than their own), they have no issues siding with the federal government. They go on and on about local control, but they have no problem butting in when someone somewhere else does something they do not like.

Right now Wendy Davis is running for governor of Texas. A few months ago, the Texas Tribune Tribcast said it might look bad for her if most of her money comes from out of state. A lot of Ted Cruz’s campaign money came from out of state. The guys who ran against Hillary Clinton for Senate got money from outside of New York. A lot of Tea Partiers have gotten money from outside their states/districts. For people who go on and on about unchanging values, they sure seem willing to cast them aside when it’s convenient. IOKIYAR.

Many of them say gay marriage is a states’ rights issue. A lot of the money for Proposition 8 in California came from the Mormon Church in Utah. Why can’t those Utah conservatives mind their own business? There are a lot of states with laws against gay marriage. But I bet if they thought they had a chance of getting an amendment to the US Constitution passed, they would go for it.

When New York passed a law allowing gay marriage, Rick Perry said that was a good thing. He said if you’re okay with that, then live in New York. If you are not, you can live in Texas. I think that how they want people to think they view states’ rights. But then after he said that he was quiet for a few days, and said that gay marriage is always bad. I wonder what happened. Perhaps some of his paymasters had a talk with him about it.

Ted Cruz recently criticized the Obama adminstration for not going after people for marijuana laws. As some have pointed out, he doesn’t seem to think that states should not make their own laws on gay marriage, gun control and abortion. But don’t hold your breath.

And when a level of government below the state does something a conservative does not like, they think it’s okay for a state to make a law overriding a local law.

Travis County has required companies running gun trade shows to perform background checks for all “person to person” gun sales. And Greg Abbot had threatened to sue Travis County. Why can’t Travis County do what Travis County thinks is best? Would it really be so hard to have it in a different county? I have heard Taylor really wants to build up its economy. And Hutto has nowhere to go but up. (Hutto is northeast of Austin. It is about as small and rural as it sounds.)

One of the things I forgot to mention in my review of my first year in Austin is that Austin recently banned plastic bags at retail stores. At first I kept going into HEB and get to the counter and realized I did not have a bag. And I still see people walk out of the store without stuff in bags and they put things in their car one item at a time.

Well, a Repub in the lege from another part of Texas proposed the Shopping Bag Freedom ActHis objection was that it could spread disease and bacteria, and it is an overreach of big government. I wonder how he feels about chemical plants polluting rivers and blowing up. To see why a bag ban can be a good idea, see this page.

Sometimes repubs have this magical view that state goverments can do no wrong. Unless they pass a law allowing people to smoke pot or allowing gay marriage.

Then there is the issue of Park 51 in New York City, aka the “Ground Zero Mosque”.  A lot of conservatives were against it, even though it got approval from a local zoning board. And let’s not forget, that Constitution they all claim to love says we ALL have religious freedom. I thought it was funny seeing all of these repubs fall all over themselves screaming about this. They don’t want outsiders telling them what to do, yet they have no problem sticking their noses in other people’s business. The best part: Seeing conservatives get soooooo concerned about NYC. Usually there is a competition amongst conservatives over who hates NYC the most.

Sidebar: This country is becoming more urban and less rural, and they seem to think that only people in small towns are “real Americans.” How can these people say they love America, when they hate most of the people in it?

These people talk about freedom. My question for them is: Freedom for whom to do what?

I am not saying that states’ rights is not a valid issue. But if you look at segregation and gay marriage, it seems to get the most airtime when Southern conservatives see something they do not like. If they only time you talk about states’ rights is when you want to kick someone around, do not be shocked if some people do not get on board.

Image from Wikipedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use

Star Trek and Religion: Who Watches The Watchers

The general consensus is that the third season of Star Trek: The Next Generation is when it hit its stride.

There is an episode in the third season that dealt with religion called Who Watches the Watchers. The basic plot is that some Federation anthropologists are observing humanoids whose technology is at the level of humans a few thousand years ago. But due to equipment failure, the anthropologists are discovered, and one is captured by the aliens. Then a few crew members go down, and one of them is captured.

At the beginning of the episode, the aliens seem atheistic. They regard beliefs in gods and spirits as superstitions of their ancestors. But as they encounter Starfleet’s advanced technology, the aliens think that the Enterprise crew are gods. By the end, the crew reveal themselves as nothing more than beings with more advanced technology, crew members are rescued, and the observations must come to an end.

Throughout the episode religion is regarded as superstition and magical thinking, and something that societies (and individuals) must outgrow. I got the impression from the Memory Alpha page for the episode that it is not a fan favorite. I like it a lot. I like episodes that tell a nice story for an hour and also touch on larger themes in culture and society.

There were a few good quotes about religion in the episode. Here are a few from the Memory Alpha page:

Horrifying… Dr. Barron, your report describes how rational these people are. Millennia ago, they abandoned their belief in the supernatural. Now you are asking me to sabotage that achievement, to send them back into the dark ages of superstition and ignorance and fear? No!

Picard

Are you sure this is what he wants? That’s the problem with believing in a supreme being: trying to determine what he wants.

Troi

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

Thoughts On Snowden

I have been thinking about writing something about Edward Snowden for a while. Why Snowden Won’t (and Shouldn’t) Get Clemency articulates a lot of my thoughts on the subject. For the sake of completeness, I decided to write some random notes on the topic.

When I first heard about this Snowden person, I thought he was not too bright. Here is a guy who is going on and on about how governments should not spy on or oppress their people, and he says this while he is in China. Then he flees to Russia, on his way to Cuba. I have gotten the impression that this guy is a Russian spy. Perhaps a real spy would not out himself, but in many ways he is acting like a Russian spy. They benefit from his disclosure. I am sure there are things he knows that are not in the files, and they can get that out of him too. If he had gone to Bolivia or Ecuador, those files would still be out there. But running to his Sugar Vladdy just rubs me the wrong way.

Why didn’t he just go to South America to begin with? I have read that the NSA places some travel restrictions on its contractors. I think they also have restrictions on leaking classified information, but Snowden didn’t seem to have a problem with those rules.

During his stay at the Moscow airport I read quite a few articles in which reporters tried to find any sign of Snowden or where he was sleeping at night. Nobody could figure out where this guy was. Perhaps that was all a big show.

This guy is kind of like the Bitcoin fanboys who rub virtual shoulders with the Russian mafia and Mexican drug lords. I find it odd that there are a lot of people who go on and on about how they do not trust the US government, yet they seem to have no problem with their new friends. You may not like having to choose between the lesser of two evils, but you really need to look at the other evil.

From what I have gathered, Snowden never contacted anyone in Congress about his misgivings. He supposedly raised his concerns with people higher up in the NSA. If so, let’s see the proof. Feel free to send me a link to that. He seemed to wait for what he felt was the right moment. He took the job at BAH just to leak files, and even used other people’s passwords. That hardly seems noble. All this time he was making about four times the median American income. What moral dilemmas did he face? Perhaps none. I really do not know much about how spies operate. But taking a job at a specific firm for the purpose of leaking files sounds like something a spy would do.

There have been a lot of indications that Wikileaks is pretty close to Russia. I looked on the Wikileaks site, and I could not find a lot of Russian leaks, and the ones that they had were kind of old. They seem to really not like the USA. Are they against government leaks, or just some governments?

This guy seems pretty high on himself. He goes on about how he put himself at risk to leak documents. No, you went back to your paymasters, so you were safe all along. At one point he said there were things that he would never reveal, not even under torture. First off, I don’t care how much of a badass you think you are. I have heard from people who have been in combat that you never really know how you will react to a stressful situation. Sometimes the person you think will panic saves the day, or vice versa. Secondly, flaunting your anti-torture psychological strength in Russia may not be the smartest thing to do. The FSB just might say, “Challenge accepted.” Unless, of course, he is on their side. Lastly, this is a guy who could not finish either college or basic training. He seems like someone who was just drifting through life. Where does he get this idea that he is a badass? Is there an amateur SERE meetup in Hawaii I am not aware of?

Anyone who thinks they can lecture the world about freedom while they are depending on the good graces of the Russian government and Sugar Vladdy is an idiot. Anyone who supports someone like that is an idiot.

Image Of Kim Philby memorial in Moscow from Wikipedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use


http://littlegreenfootballs.com/article/42936_Fred_Kaplan_at_Slate-_Edward_Snowden_Doesnt_Deserve_Clemency
http://littlegreenfootballs.com/article/42937_WaPo-ABC_Poll-_Most_Americans_Say_Snowden_Harmed_US_Security_Want_Him_Prosecuted

http://www.businessinsider.com/wikileaks-and-edward-snowden-2014-1
http://www.businessinsider.com/edward-snowden-and-wikileaks-2014-1
http://www.businessinsider.com/snowden-assange-wikileaks-and-russia-2013-8
http://www.businessinsider.com/did-wikileaks-sell-out-snowden-to-the-russians-2013-9
http://www.businessinsider.com/heres-why-edward-snowden-needs-a-long-prison-sentence-2014-1
http://www.businessinsider.com/joshua-foust-on-the-nsa-leaks-2013-10
http://pando.com/2013/11/27/keeping-secrets/ transparency is being privatized

A Lot More Difficult

I used to be able to work out more than I can now. Part of it is due to scheduling, part of it is due to age.

I used to be able to eat whatever I wanted as long as I exercised. But now, sometimes even if I do exercise regularly, it is not enough. I am reaching a point where I may have to make some serious changes to my diet. Like giving up chocolate. Cutting out junk food will require some serious mental discipline.

I used to work out to make my whole body bigger. Now I work out to make my stomach smaller, and that is a lot more difficult.

Perhaps there is a limit to what exercise can do. Working out more as I get older is not as hard as I thought it would be. Eating less, on the other hand, is proving to be a lot more difficult than I thought.

Image from Wikipedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use

2013-12 Dividend Income Report

Here is the dividend income report for December, 2013.

The monthly dividend income came out to $594.59. The yearly income total for 2013 was $3406.20.

The income for December 2012 was $686.10, and the yearly income for was $3585.01.

The income for September, 2013 was $395.65. RLI paid a special dividend in December of $3.00/share, which came out to $161.90. Without that, the income for December would have been $432.69. Coca-Cola also pays its dividend a month early. Without that and the special RLI dividend, the income for December would have been $402.85, still more than September.

The income for 2012 was higher than 2013 for a couple of reasons. One is that I did sell a few stocks. This was offset a bit by the fact that I bought more shares of Conoco-Phillips. The main reason that the income for 2012 was higher was that some companies paid their dividends earlier due to uncertainty in the tax law.

If the stocks that paid their dividends early had instead paid on their regular schedules, then the dividend income for 2012 would have been $3490.89, and the income for 2013 would have been $3500.32. I have to admit, so far dividend growth investing is not quite giving me the bonanza I was hoping for.

When I started buying stocks a few years ago, I started out buying as many shares as I could get for $1000. I wound up with a whopping 12 shares of 3M, and I was buying 0.08 shares a quarter or so. I have not bought any more outside of dividend reinvestment. After 13 quarters, I finally have another whole share of 3M, for a total of 13.001 shares. I will buy more someday, but right now the P/E ratios of almost everything are a bit too high for me. I know I said that I will just buy more stocks in January regardless, but I think I will still wait.

Here are the stocks and the income amounts for December, 2013:

  • AFLAC Inc: $19.41
  • American States Water Co: $21.66
  • Black Hills Corp: $12.97
  • Bemis Co Inc: $16.54
  • ConocoPhillips: $71.32
  • Intel: $11.17
  • Vectren Corp: $19.79
  • Archer-Daniels-Midland Co: $12.02
  • Questar Corp: $9.61
  • Chevron: $22.09
  • Emerson Electric Co: $22.61
  • Johnson & Johnson: $21.96
  • Sonoco Products Co: $20.15
  • Exxon Mobil Corp: $36.51
  • 3M Co: $8.21
  • Walgreen Co: $17.60
  • Valspar Corp: $14.93
  • Dover Corp: $8.36
  • Consolidated Edison Inc: $17.59
  • Coca-Cola Co: $29.84
  • RLI Corp: $18.35
  • RLI Corp: $161.90

 

Image from Wikimedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use