Archive for March 2014

I May Put More Posts On Atheist Nexus

I have accounts on Atheist Nexus and Think Atheist. I have put a few posts on those sites, usually posts dealing with atheism, religion and/or science. I am toying with the idea of putting every post on those sites just to help them get some content. It’s not that I think I am a great writer or deep thinker, but I think that a social network would benefit from more content.

I am not really into Facebook at all. So if I can help any alternative to Facebook survive and thrive, then I am all for it. Although I do find the Ning platform a bit awkward at times.

I don’t know how people will like having posts about other topics on there. But it might help dispel the idea that atheists can only talk about one topic. On the other hand, it is okay for a site to be about one topic.

Image from Atheist Nexus, assumed allowed under Fair Use

Thoughts On Glibertarians

I have a file about thoughts on libertarians and juicy comments from other websites that is getting rather large. So I am cleaning house and writing down some thoughts on “glibertarians” that have been kicking around in my head.

Glibertarians are very vocal about the ills of government, yet they seem blind to anything done wrong by corporations. Look at the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The operators skimped on maintenance, thinking they were going to save a few million, and it wound up costing them a few billion. Yet many glibs (like Rand Paul) tried to blame it all on the government. That somehow the government forced them to cut corners. That is BS. They chose to cut corners.

And you have to be pretty stupid to defend someone who destroys their own money-maker. As BP did. (“Why spend millions when we can spend billions?”) As a company in West, Texas did. Sometimes people in the private sector make bad decisions all on their own. And other people outside the government were negatively affected. I know in Glibertarian Fantasy Land that bad things only come from government. But that is not reality. They are suspicious of Big Government. Why do Big Corporations get a pass?

Besides, many times it is the companies themselves that interfere with the regulatory process. It’s called the revolving door. A lot of gliberarians always seem to put the blame on the government. BP got the regulations loosened, yet somehow it’s still all Obama’s fault. Glibs seem to think that if only we did not have that pesky government making rules, everything would be okay.

As we saw in West, Texas, and recently in Charleston, West Virginia. In both of these cases, yes, there were regulation on the books, but they were loosed and not enforced. For all practical purposes, there was no regulation. Yet bad things still happened. Bad things happened to people outside of these companies. What is the glibertarian answer for that? Less regulation than none? When a chemical company poisons your river, you cannot expect a rival chemical firm to take care of things. I have still not heard of Peter Schiff or the staff of LewRockwell.com drinking and bathing in water from the Elk River.

I think a lot of glibs do not care about freedom. Maybe they care about their own, but do they care about other peoples? If you only care about your own, and you do not care about others’, then you do not care about freedom. This is one of the criticisms of the Free State Project. Maybe the rest of society does not want the sort of changes the glibs want. It’s wrong for government to tell them what to do, but they think it’s okay to tell everybody else what to do.

We saw this with the recent Newsweek story about the identity of the creator of BitCoin. I admit I did not read that story. I did read comments on it on Reddit. It does sound like the reporter did some dumb things if that guy is not THE Satoshi Nakamoto. But there were a lot of commenters who seemed offended by the very idea of finding out Nakamoto’s identity. How dare you try to look at the man behind the curtain. A big chunk of the Bitcult wants to completely redefine money. If you are going to do that, then yes I will push back. If fiat currencies do go away, there is a good chance someone could get hosed. Who are you to mess up other people’s lives? Who do you think you are that you can change society and think that nobody can even ask questions? (Also pointed out here.) Don’t tell me I don’t get it. Don’t tell me I’m a statist. Prove your ideas work before you do anything that changes my life.

Glibertarians go on and on about how many people are too dependent on “the state”. They say people should be more self-reliant. I actually agree with that. But they seem to have no interest in showing people how to become more self-reliant. People are good at getting by. I don’t think people are as good at actually succeeding. Most glibs who claim to have done it all themselves are straight white males in the US. As Warren Buffett has said, if he had been born in Bangladesh, his life would be very different.

They have been complaining about Medicare since it was signed. Yet have they done anything to reduce health care costs in this country? If you want to be healthy, you need to do four things: Do not drink alcohol at all, do not smoke or injest drugs, eat a healthy diet, and exercise. Have glibertarians helped people to do any of those things? People in yoga tend to follow all those rules. Why aren’t glibertarians pushing yoga? That may sound facetious, but it is a serious suggestion. It would help society more than going on and on about the gold standard, or the Federal Reserve. If you want people to rely less on the state, then teach them how to thrive in the society that we have today. A lot of people do not know how to read a bank statement. A lot of people do not track their spending. Going on and on about gold will not help people pay the bills.

And pulling the plug is not the answer. The safety net has been intentionally frayed in this country, yet most people are not better off because of it.

A lot of these guys seem to live in their own little bubble. They have their think tanks and their web sites, but are they really engaging the rest of society? How can you change society if you are ignoring it? I honestly think that completely unrestrained capitalism leads to feudalism. We tried that. I think it’s safe to say that the rest of us are not interested.

I think a big chunk of glibertarians are run-of-the-mill authoritarian Rethuglicans. Over the past few decades, I have noticed that when the brand of the Grand Oil Party takes a hit, all of a sudden a lot more people say they are libertarians. One day I looked at every Wikipedia article for the state legislators for all 50 states. They gave a party breakdown. Not one was from any branch of the Libertarian Party. There are some who are on local school or sanitation councils. Stand back!! It is ironic that they like to think of themselves as can-do alpha achievers, yet they cannot win elections.

Some like to point to Gary Johnson, partially due to his position on the drug war. He came to that position in his second term as governor of New Mexico. That is a term-limited office. So he magically took this courageous stand after he did not have to face re-election. How convenient. And his anti-drug stance was not a big deal in his presidential campaign. Did you honestly think he had a chance?

And I do not understand how the Libertarian Party can claim to know anything about liberty or freedom after selecting Bob Barr as their nominee in 2008. Theocracy is not freedom.

There does seem to be some overlap between theocrats, neo-Confederates and libertarians. Rand Paul has spent more time talking about religion in the past few years. Libertarians like to think they are not Republicans, and Republicans like to think they are not crazy, but after a while they all sound the same.

Glibertarians eventually sound like apologists for the wealthy. They say they are all for freedom of association, yet they hate unions. They hate anything that would help the unwashed masses make something of their lives.

One thing that has really turned me off to glibertarians is climate change. There are some (like Penn Jillette) who are pretty good at destroying creationists: Yes, there IS scientific consensus on evolution. Then they turn around and commit the same fallacies on climate change. I think the main reason is that most of the solutions proposed so far have involved government intervention. But instead of offering a private sector solution or admitting that this is a problem their world view cannot solve, they deny the problem. This is another example of the taxicab fallacy. They love science when it gives them good stuff, but not when it tells them there are problems we have to deal with.

The irony is there is a solution that the private sector could push: Thorium-based nuclear power. But why let cheap, abundant energy get in the way of ideology?

Image from Wikipedia, original source U.S. Geological Survey, assumed allowed under Fair Use

What To Do With Deere

I posted recently that I bought some shares of Deere. Before that, I posted that I sold Intel because they had not raised their dividend in a few years.

I have some Google News Alerts set up for dividend announcements for all the stocks I own and most of the stocks that I follow. I got behind and found out that Deere missed a dividend raise. Their dividend has been at 51 cents for five quarters now. They announced their dividend a few days before I bought. If I had stayed on top of things I would have caught it.

When I sold Intel I pointed out that I think the way to make money is to have a plan and stick with it. Now I am agonizing over whether or not I should sell a stock that I just bought. If I sell now I will still make a profit. I think I read somewhere that if you do not know what to do, then you should sell half. But sometimes I think that is worse because it gives me a third choice.

Image from John Deere web site, assumed allowed under Fair Use

Thoughts on Star Trek and What Happened To My Life

I am now in the sixth season of watching Star Trek: The Next Generation. I have come across a few episodes that I have not seen. But mostly I have seen them. Sometimes I can remember where I was when I watched them.

I first saw TNG when I was at WIU. It had been going for a couple of years at that point. My friends there knew about it. I had watched the movies with TOS cast, but TNG was not on my radar at all. I really only paid attention to shows on the big 3 networks. I remember Saturday Night Live would have sketches making fun of the bad shows on Fox (look for “The Cop and The Prositute”). I think I started watching in the third season. I remember having a conversation that Riker looked like a little kid without the beard. The phrase “growing the beard” was coined, but it has not quite caught on as much as “jumping the shark”. (Side note: He shaved the beard for the third TNG movie. There were only four TNG movies.  The cast from TOS was in six movies. Coincidence? I think not.) So I guess some station in Western Illinois was already broadcasting reruns even then. Sometimes we would imitate the previews: “On the next…exciting episode of Staaaaaar Trek, thenextgeneration”.

I remember my friends at WIU being glad that Dr Crusher was back in season 3.

I remember finding Wesley really irritating.

I kept watching TNG when I transferred to UIUC. I did not see every single episode since I have never owned a TV. But usually I could find someone who let me join in. I lived in the Illinois Street Residence hall, and when the latest episode of TNG was on, there would be several rooms on the floor full of guys watching TNG. In one episode, “Riker falls in love with Soren, a member of an androgynous race known as the J’naii, who dares to be female.” (This was a metaphor for homosexuality, a pretty daring thing to do even in the early 1990s.) At one point, she says to him, “Commander, tell me about your sexual organs.” Someone down the hall yelled, “They’re huge, baby!”

I remember writing a letter by hand summarizing Redemption.

I remember Picard and Dathon…at El-Adrel.

I can remember one guy translating the French in “Time’s Arrow” for a few of us. After I left UIUC the first time, he starting dating a woman no one else on the floor liked, and I don’t remember what happened to him after that.

I remember that I was living in an apartment when “Timescape” aired (although I have not quite gotten that far yet in my current TNG binge).

But like Scotty in “Relics“, sometimes it makes me feel old.

I remember watching “Samaritan Snare“. Wesley asks Picard if he ever thought about having children or getting married, if he ever gets lonely. I do remember when Wesley asks Picard if he was always so disciplined. I remember thinking at the age of 19 or so that I was going to be as disciplined as Picard, and I would reach that point long before I got to Picard’s age. Now, I realize that Patrick Stewart is about ten years younger than I thought, and I still don’t feel like I have as much self-control as I wish I had, or as much as my 19 year old self thought I would have by this point.

There were times when I felt I was getting some control. How to get that discipline back?

“Samaritan Snare” image from Memory Alpha, copyright owned by CBS, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

Darmok campaign image presumed public domain, copyright and originator undetermined, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

“Relics” image from Star Trek site, copyright owned by CBS, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

Neil deGrasse Tyson On Science Deniers

Crooks and Liars embedded a video with Neil deGrasse Tyson on the place of science in our society. It’s a good interview.

I mention it here because he talks about the taxicab fallacy. He does  not use that term, but I think he expresses the basic idea.

The Immoral Minority had a post with another good NdT quote. There is a difference between scientific claims and political claims.

Just yesterday I listened to an episode of the Green News Report in which they covered the climate change “debate” between Bill Nye and Marsha Blackburn. Blackburn kept saying there is no scientific consensus on climate change. There is.

98% of climate scientists say it is happening and caused by humans. It is not a scientific controversy. A scientific controversy is when a sizable proportion of scientists in a field have not been able to make a determination. I do not know what the threshold is to stop saying a thesis is under debate, but I am guessing that it is lower than 98%.

A thesis might conflict with your political ideology. Or your religion. It might hurt your profit margin. It might inconvenience you. But all of those are different than scientific controversies.

Not everyone in this world believes in any sort of god or spirit. And not all who do are christian. And since there are so many denominations, obviously there is a lot of disagreement within christianity. So why don’t conservatives apply the same “there is no agreement” logic to their religion?

Image from Wikimedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use

2014-02 Dividend Income Report

Here is the dividend income report for February, 2014.

The monthly dividend income came out to $336.61. The yearly income total for 2014 was $496.28.

The income for February, 2013 was $248.39, and the yearly income total up through that month was $358.51.

There was a dividend from Vodafone of $31.61. Also, Vodafone sold its share of Verizon Wireless to Verizon. This means that I now own some Verizon shares. I also got some cash from the fractional Vodafone and Verizon shares ($29.08 and $37.17). I now own a whole number of shares for both stocks. Without all of these special events, the income was $238.75.

The income for November, 2013 was $252.75. Eaton paid a dividend in November but not in February. Without Eaton, the November income was $230.84. So I guess I am getting ahead.

Here are the stocks and the income amounts for February, 2014:

  • ABM Industries Inc: $8.42
  • AT&T: $26.67
  • WGL Holdings Inc: $13.36
  • Lowe’s Cos Inc: $9.47
  • Vodafone: $31.61
  • Air Products & Chemicals Inc: $10.86
  • Texas Instruments: $15.97
  • Colgate-Palmolive: $36.00
  • Clorox Co: $38.28
  • Hormel Foods Corp: $9.35
  • Northwest Natural Gas Co: $25.48
  • Abbott Laboratories: $11.56
  • Procter & Gamble: $33.33
  • Vodafone: $29.08
  • Verizon: $37.17

I just realized that I have been spelling Vodafone as “Vodaphone” for all this time.

Image from Wikimedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use, shrunk with GIMP by yours truly.