Notes About Myself to a Penpal

A few times I have found pen pals on Craigslist. The first time was when I was thinking about moving to Austin, and I emailed with a few people to see what Austin is like. A few times I have answered ads in the “Strictly Platonic” section.

Sometimes women want to see a picture, which is odd for “Strictly Platonic”. Usually when I do that, the correspondence stops. (And yes, I send a picture of my face, not Little Elvis (aka “the purple-headed warrior”, or “the love muscle”, or “the master of ceremonies”).

Here is one that I sent recently. This person wanted me to make up stuff about myself, but frankly I thought that was too much effort. Plus she gave me two different email addresses in two successive messages, which I thought was odd.

I am a WM, 4X. I am from Chicago and I have been here almost 5 years. I live in north Austin. I came here for a job in Taylor which did not last long. I now work as a software developer in south Austin. I don’t know if I will stay in Austin for much longer. One thing I miss about Chicago is that I did not need a car there. Plus Texas is hot. I knew it was hot before I showed up here, but it is really really hot. I find it amusing when people complain about how cold it is when it is 40 degrees. If I ever complain about 40 being cold, I will pack up and move north even if I have no job lined up. Perhaps more Texans should try the Wim Hof method.

I have a sister in Florida and a brother in New York. My brother has two kids, ages 3 (boy) and 4 (girl). I have long hair because my brother is bald and my sister-in-law has no brothers, so the only guy who can show my nephew that hair is an option is me. Granted, the last time I went he really only paid attention when his sister thought it was fun to jump on me. Perhaps this is all in vain.

I used to have my hair short. I would ask for “the George Clooney look” because that prevented me from having to answer a lot of questions. (To date none of them have laughed at me or told me I was delusional.) It used to be a guy could just walk into a barbershop and ask for a haircut. Now they want a detailed description. Asking for “the George Clooney look” mostly worked, until one barber/stylist asked me if I wanted “older George Clooney or younger George Clooney?” I drew a blank for a moment since the whole point of “the GC look” was to avoid questions.

I am also growing a beard to look like Sean Connery. However, I have also gained weight, and I have heard through the grapevine that people think I am starting to look like Jack Black. This was not my intent. If visiting my niece and nephew result in nothing but them pulling my hair and scratching my face, I may revise things.

“Self Portrait as Hamlet” by Eugène Delacroix  (26 April 1798 – 13 August 1863), available at Wikiart, assumed allowed under Fair Use.


2017-06 Dividend Income Report

Here is the dividend income report for June, 2017.

The monthly dividend income came out to $761.91. The yearly income total for 2017 through the end of the month was $3108.53.

The income for June, 2016 was $684.76, and the yearly income for 2016 through the end of June was $2744.28.

There is not a whole lot to report this month. Just rolling along and making money.

One stock I am thinking about buying is Wal-Mart.

One theory going around is that the only reason retail is struggling is because of Amazon. But I think there are other factors as well.

Retail has always been a low margin business. The Great Recession caused people to consume less, and for a lot of people, consumption has not returned to pre-recession levels. So, yes, Amazon is getting a big slice of the pie, but the pie has gotten smaller (or at least is not growing as quickly).

The people who do have money are spending more on travel and food. Plus, despite the dip from the GR, the USA still has more retail space per capita than other countries. Any industry will have a hard time dealing with overcapacity.

Although Amazon is buying Whole Foods (and Wal-Mart is a big player in the grocery space), that might not threaten Wal-Mart as much as people think. WalMart not same clientele as Whole Foods, and when times get tough, people try to spend less money (see this page).

Plus a lot of retailers are owned by private equity firms who only know “financial engineering”, but not how to actually run a business (see this article on Naked Capitalism; also see some of the articles linked to in the preamble). If a big chunk of an industry gets the “strip and flip” model, there will be a lot of casualties. One thing PE firms do is split a retail firm and its real estate into separate entities, then charge the retail firm rent for the land it used to own, increasing its costs. As one commenter pointed out, is retail shrinking because Amazon is expanding, or is Amazon expanding because retail is shrinking?

The point is, I don’t think the story behind the troubles in the retail sector is as simple as “Amazon”.

One counter to the “Amazon eats the world” story is that Wal-Mart is trying to adapt. Walmart is working on e-commerce, and that part of their business is growing (see this page and this page).  Wal-Mart has closed some stores. That is pretty huge in my opinion. For a long time, they thought the answer to all their problems was to just open more stores. And for a long time, it worked.

I think Wal-Mart is taking Amazon very seriously. Wal-Mart is trying to prevent some vendors from running apps on AWS (see this page). Moments ago the fecal matter departed the imaginary realm.

On the other hand, you still see articles like this: Wal-Mart Asks Employees to Deliver Packages on Their Way Home. So to a certain degree, it is the same old Wal-Mart. Stay classy, Bentonville.

Amazon going after everything (see this page and this page). If you look at oil, utilities, it has looked like a lot of dividend industries might be going through a lot of change. Amazon is targeting a lot of them. How are will they go? Who knows. But I think that once Bezos steps away from Amazon, any potential threat will diminish.

Here is a table with the year-to-date amounts, the monthly amounts, and the three- and twelve-month moving averages for each June from 2011 through 2017:


Month YTD Amount 3MMA 12MMA
2017-06 $3108.53 $761.91 $539.42 $536.73
2016-06 $2744.28 $684.76 $464.00 $483.42
2015-06 $2415.32 $612.21 $411.83 $409.95
2014-06 $1933.90 $522.86 $333.10 $320.58
2013-06 $1492.72 $351.48 $257.79 $291.91
2012-06 $1574.81 $305.84 $260.85 $276.29
2011-06 $1351.34 $236.50 $235.38 $203.23


Here are the stocks and the income amounts for June, 2017:

  • AFLAC Inc: $47.73
  • American States Water Co: $28.12
  • Black Hills Corp: $16.90
  • Bemis Co Inc: $32.18
  • Vectren Corp: $26.10
  • Aqua America: $32.52
  • Archer-Daniels-Midland Co: $38.98
  • Emerson Electric Co: $52.86
  • Honeywell International: $68.31
  • Sonoco Products Co: $52.98
  • Exxon Mobil Corp: $92.54
  • Chevron: $27.48
  • 3M Co: $16.58
  • Walgreen Co: $22.32
  • Johnson & Johnson: $88.34
  • Dover Corp: $10.61
  • Consolidated Edison Inc: $22.77
  • Kellogg Company: $56.66
  • RLI Corp: $27.93

“The Coin Collector” by Joos van Craesbeeck (c. 1605/06 – c. 1660), available at Moo Of I site, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

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2017-05 Dividend Income Report

Here is the dividend income report for May, 2017.

The monthly dividend income came out to $531.68. The yearly income total for 2017 through the end of the month was $2346.62.

The income for May, 2016 was $436.85, and the yearly income for 2016 through the end of May was $2059.52.

There is not a whole lot to report this month. Just rolling along and making money.

I did get a WGL payment. I think there will be three more before the acquisition by AltaGas is complete.

I know that last month I said it was not an argument against DGI that WGL was being bought out. A counter might be that after the buyout, I will no longer be getting that money from WGL. That is true. But that also is not an argument against DGI in my opinion.

Generally, nobody acquires a company that is not profitable. I know I am always saying price is not as important to DG investors as it is to other investors, and that is true, but that does not mean I am against taking a capital gain when I have to. I spent $974 on WGL when I first bought it. When I got the payout from WGL on May 1, my shares were worth $2,942.17, for a gain of $1967.77, which I can then use to buy another DG stock.

And as to why I would take a capital gain “when I have to”, my goal is to buy DGI stocks and use them as an income stream for years, ideally for the rest of my life. Buying low to sell high sounds nice, but does not always work. It tends to stop working when people need it to work the most, like the dot com bubble or the meltdown during the Great Recession. People tend to need a higher price the most when they are least likely to get it. Then they truly understand free markets. I don’t care if you paid $80/share for a stock that is now selling at $40/share. Why should I pay you $80 when everybody else is selling at $40? I don’t care if you owe the bank $350K on your mortgage and you put a deck on your house and redid your bathroom. If all the houses in your area are going for $300K, that’s what you’re getting. End of story.

We saw a lot of stocks go down in price during those two meltdowns yet still increase their dividends. DGI performs better in a crisis than the capital gains/buy-low-sell-high model that most people go by. It might not always work, but the last two times things fell aprt it worked better. Past performance may not guarantee future results, but I would rather rely on patterns than dreams.

Here is a table with the year-to-date amounts, the monthly amounts, and the three- and twelve-month moving averages for each May from 2011 through 2017:

Month YTD Amount 3MMA 12MMA
2017-05 $2346.62 $531.68 $553.90 $530.30
2016-05 $2059.52 $436.85 $479.79 $477.37
2015-05 $1803.11 $361.99 $411.92 $402.51
2014-05 $1411.19 $280.01 $304.77 $306.30
2013-05 $1141.24 $242.65 $260.91 $288.11
2012-05 $1268.97 $258.15 $257.13 $270.51
2011-05 $1114.84 $266.55 $233.03 $194.61


Here are the stocks and the income amounts for May, 2017:

  • ABM Industries Inc: $9.88
  • AT&T: $52.64
  • Verizon: $61.70
  • WGL Holdings Inc: $18.09
  • Clorox Co: $47.19
  • Air Products & Chemicals Inc: $64.07
  • Lowe’s Cos Inc: $19.42
  • Colgate-Palmolive: $45.49
  • Hormel Foods Corp: $16.77
  • Northwest Natural Gas Co: $29.43
  • Procter & Gamble: $42.36
  • Texas Instruments: $54.84
  • Eaton Corporation: $69.80

“Where There Are People Money May Be Made” by Adriaen van de Venne (1589 – 1662), available here, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

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Meditation Update 2017-05

It is time for another meditation update.

For a while I kind of fell off the wagon.

I was counting my breaths, but I realized my mind was wandering in between counts. My attention would go back to my breath at the end of the exhale, and I would count the next number, but sometimes in the middle my mind would wander off. Then I would end the exhale and tick off the next number. My mind was kind of in a sine wave pattern. Sometimes I did get really distracted and forget where I was. Maybe I never paid close enough attention to the instructions.

So I tried meditating without counting, and I did not last too long. But I am getting better.

Sometimes I meditate in a chair. I like that since my leg does not fall asleep. My leg falling asleep while meditating has been an issue for a long time. I think it is the rotation that causes it. I also sit on some cushions, and I arrange a few so my hips are higher than my shins, sort of like stadium seating.

One issue is that I do a lot of my meditating late at night. Sometimes I have to cut it short because I start falling asleep. I think I would make more progress if I did it earlier, or maybe when I wake up. And I should probably start waking up earlier. I am also starting to transition to a low-carb diet, and I plan on cutting out soda as soon as I get through the cases I have left.

I do mostly insight meditation and mantra meditation. I tried metta, and it was okay. I tried Mahasi-style noting, and it was exhausting. I might try that again later. I also do some Taoist meditation where I control the breath. A lot of people try to control the breath when they meditate, so why not just go with it?

Glenn Morris mentions Taoist meditation in “Path Notes of an American Ninja Master”. He wrote he attended an event with a bunch of Chinese people who practiced qigong. He said many of them were in their 60s and 70s, but none of the men looked older than 50 and none of the women looked older than 40. Women who never look older than 40 is very appealing. I first read that book in my 20s, and the point about eternally-40 Chinese women did not really register. I re-read the book a year ago, and it stuck.

I also started attending weekly sittings with Mariposa Sangha here in Austin. They meet in Trinity United Methodist Church, like CFI. They/we meet every Thursday at 7. There is 30 minutes of sitting meditation, 15 minutes of walking meditation, then 15 minutes of sitting. The walking is optional, which I like. I stay sitting the whole time.

When I was living in Chicago, I would sometimes attend the Chicago Weekly Sitting Meditation Group which usually met every Monday at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church on Addison; sometimes they meet at Montrose Beach. They did 30 minutes of sitting, and then 10 minutes of walking. Everybody sat in a circle on the floor (there are chairs at Trinity), and the walking was around the circle. It would have been kind of awkward to not engage in walking meditation. Every time I do walking meditation, I either want to say something in a low, slooooow voice, act like a Tai Chi mime behind an invisble wall, or I hear the theme from “Chariots of Fire” in my head.

I have never liked walking meditation, and never really saw the point. If I am not developing concentration doing sitting meditation, what will walking meditation do for me? Besides, I walk around all the time anyway. If that was the path to enlightenment, why would anyone need a sangha?

At Mariposa, there is a “dharma talk” after the meditation for about 15 minutes, then 15 minutes of discussion. Sometimes the speaker will mention the Pali suttas, which I like. One thing that always seemed strange about Zen is that they claimed to be Buddhists, yet mostly ignored the Buddha. The Austin Zen Center had a guy giving lectures on the Pali suttas for a while. But most Zen groups talk about the Chinese and Japanese roots of Zen and ignore the Indian.

One change at Mariposa that I think I helped bring about is they ring a bell at the beginning of the meditation period. When I first went, at some undefined point people would start meditating on their own. At the Chicago Weekly Sitting Meditation Group, the organizer would formally start the group, and give basic instructions at the beginning. The first time I went to Mariposa, I started talking to the guy next to me, and after a few minutes I noticed everybody else had stopped talking and had started meditating.

Someone told me they did it that way because in monasteries the monks would go in and out of the meditation hall when they wanted. Which is fine because they live there. Plus, at the end of the dharma talk at Mariposa, everybody bows to the group. If you end the meeting, why not start it?

Also: I just realized that while  they use the word “sutta” and not “sutra” at Mariposa, they say “dharma” and not “dhamma”.

The Butterfly” by Childe Hassam (1859-1935), assumed allowed under Fair Use.


2017-04 Dividend Income Report

Here is the dividend income report for April, 2017.

The monthly dividend income came out to $324.66. The yearly income total for 2017 through the end of the month was $1814.94.

The income for April, 2016 was $270.38, and the yearly income for 2016 through the end of April was $1622.67.

I got my first payout from Leggett and Platt (LEG), which I think more than makes up for the income I lost since Duke bought Piedmont Natural Gas.

I found out that WGL Holdings (WGL), a “B” month stock, decided to be acquired. Rather, the board decided to pursue a merger with Canadian company AltaGas. I got this packet in the mail asking me to vote on it. I found out that if the merger does not go through, WGL will have to pay a breakup fee to AltaGas of $136 million. Perhaps the board should have asked shareholders to vote on whether to agree to a merger in the first place. WGL would have to pay a fee even if AltaGas breaks off the merger under most circumstances; there are some in which AltaGas would have to pay WGL amounts ranging from $68 million to $205 million.

Granted, if it goes through, I lose a dividend stock that gives me money. But I get some cash to buy another stock. Should I go with another gas utility? I have already had two bought out from under me (Piedmont and Questar). An article in Forbes points out that low interest rates and growing use of natural gas in the USA has fueled a lot of mergers in the past few years. There is more to the hype than just a lot of hot air; this sector is really cooking.

I might add a few gas utilities to my watch list: ATO, SJI, SRE, SWX. Another reason to add another gas utility is that NWN,  another gas utility I own, has had declining revenue for a while. These other utilities are doing better on that measure.

So I will probably have at least one fewer stock soon. That kind of stinks, but as I wrote I can use the cash to buy something else. Sometimes DGI detractors (or stock detractors in general) will say something like, “While X companies that fit this criteria twenty years ago, only Y still do. Some of those companies do not exist anymore.” You hear this from people in the startup world who like to bash corporations. I don’t think that a company being acquired (or even going private) is necessarily a bad thing, or that it invalidates the DGI or corporate models. WGL isn’t going bankrupt. Being acquired or going private is not a sign of failure for a large corporation, any more than being acquired would be a sign of failure for a startup. Is Instagram a failure because they were bought by Facebook? Pivoting, on the other hand, could mean you were just flat out wrong to begin with.

No dividend growth investor who knows what they are doing thinks dividends are guaranteed forever. But the probability that a firm that has paid dividends will continue to do so is pretty high. It is better than hoping to get a good price when you need it. Dividends tend to mostly go up, while price is more volatile. Even Bogle knows this.

(An announced dividend payment IS guaranteed, and legally binding.)

Also: do not interpret all of this to mean that corporations are always right; think of Monsanto suing farmers, tobacco companies spreading disinformation about cancer, oil companies spreading disinformation about climate change, etc.

Interesting fact: the word “disinformation” actually comes from Russian. Coincidence? I think not.

Here is a table with the year-to-date amounts, the monthly amounts, and the three- and twelve-month moving averages for each April from 2011 through 2017:

Month YTD Amount 3MMA 12MMA
2017-04 $1814.94 $324.66 $532.02 $522.40
2016-04 $1622.67 $270.38 $461.86 $471.14
2015-04 $1441.12 $261.30 $409.21 $395.68
2014-04 $1130.58 $196.43 $323.64 $303.18
2013-04 $898.59 $179.23 $262.82 $289.40
2012-04 $1010.82 $218.56 $274.05 $271.21
2011-04 $848.29 $203.10 $216.30 $179.46

Here are the stocks and the income amounts for April, 2017:

  • Automatic Data Processing: $34.89
  • Coca-Cola Co: $50.43
  • MDU Resources Group Inc.: $11.64
  • Kimberly-Clark: $58.24
  • Illinois Tool Works: $36.82
  • Leggett & Platt, Incorporated: $51.00
  • Chubb Corp: $44.13
  • RPM International Inc.: $17.73
  • Sysco Corp: $19.78

Portrait of Élisabeth Charlotte d’Orléans (1676 – 744) by an unknown artist, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

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2017-03 Dividend Income Report

Here is the dividend income report for March, 2017.

The monthly dividend income came out to $805.35. The yearly income total for 2017 through the end of the month was $1490.28.

The income for March, 2016 was $732.13, and the yearly income for 2016 through the end of March was $1352.29.

In February I bought Aqua America, which pays in “C” months, but I did not buy it in time for the March payout.

I am thinking about decreasing my oil stocks (or even getting rid of them altogether) and getting more water utilities. Right now the yields in water utilities is kind of low, but I think long term it is a better bet than oil companies. I think we will be using oil for a while, but the past few years have been a wild ride for oil companies, and I don’t think things will calm down anytime soon. There seems to be a lot going on in a lot of industries that have a lot of dividend payers: Utilities, banks, railroad companies. I wonder if the dividend revival that we have seen in the past decade will last the next downturn.

I have been thinking about putting some of the money I have in a taxable account into some ETFs. I am thinking about buying shares in a real estate ETF, even though a lot of people say real estate is also overvalued. Granted, I think people have been calling everything overvalued for about five years now. Maybe it’s time to just bite the bullet.

Here is a table with the year-to-date amounts, the monthly amounts, and the three- and twelve-month moving averages for each March from 2012 through 2017:

Month YTD Amount 3MMA 12MMA
2017-03 $1490.28 $805.35 $496.76 $517.88
2016-03 $1352.29 $732.13 $450.76 $470.38
2015-03 $1179.82 $612.48 $393.27 $390.27
2014-03 $934.15 $437.87 $311.38 $301.75
2013-03 $719.36 $360.85 $239.79 $292.68
2012-03 $792.26 $294.68 $264.09 $269.92
2011-03 $645.19 $229.43 $200.06 $163.15

Here are the stocks and the income amounts for March, 2017:

  • AFLAC Inc: $47.45
  • American States Water Co: $27.98
  • Black Hills Corp: $16.78
  • Bemis Co Inc: $31.99
  • Vectren Corp: $25.91
  • Valspar Corp: $22.25
  • Chevron: $27.22
  • Emerson Electric Co: $52.45
  • Honeywell International: $67.97
  • Sonoco Products Co: $49.91
  • Walgreen Co: $22.22
  • Exxon Mobil Corp: $89.32
  • 3M Co: $16.48
  • Archer-Daniels-Midland Co: $38.70
  • Johnson & Johnson: $83.60
  • Dover Corp: $10.55
  • Consolidated Edison Inc: $22.56
  • Kellogg Company: $56.26
  • RLI Corp: $26.51
  • Eaton Corporation: $69.24

Paisagem com arvoredo e figura” (Landscape with Grove and Figure) by Portuguese painter Alfredo Keil (1850-1907), assumed allowed under Fair Use.

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2017-02 Dividend Income Report

Here is the dividend income report for February, 2017.

The monthly dividend income came out to $466.05. The yearly income total for 2017 through the end of the month was $684.93.

The income for February, 2016 was $383.08, and the yearly income for 2016 through the end of February was $620.16.

There is not a whole lot to report this month. I did buy Aqua America, which pays in “C” months, but I did not buy it in time for the March payout. Long term, baby, long term.

On the bright side, the twelve-month moving averages all moved higher. On this site, I only report the overall twelve-month moving average, but on my spreadsheet I break it down by Roth IRA and rollover IRA. I will have to pay taxes when I withdraw from the rollover, so I don’t want to see a nice big number and then have a big surprise when I need the money. The twelve-month moving average for the Roth IRA is a pretty small number. Right now it is about $140. I admit I have moments where I wonder if I will have enough to live on when I am old.

Here is a table with the year-to-date amounts, the monthly amounts, and the three- and twelve-month moving averages for each February from 2012 through 2017:

Month YTD Amount 3MMA 12MMA
2017-02 $684.93 $466.05 $570.90 $511.78
2016-02 $620.16 $383.08 $524.89 $460.41
2015-02 $567.34 $353.85 $492.40 $375.72
2014-02 $496.28 $336.61 $363.62 $295.33
2013-02 $358.51 $248.39 $348.20 $287.16
2012-02 $497.58 $308.90 $337.51 $264.48

Here are the stocks and the income amounts for February, 2017:

  • AT&T: $52.03
  • Verizon: $60.98
  • WGL Holdings Inc: $17.18
  • ABM Industries Inc: $9.84
  • Vodafone: $16.87
  • Lowe’s Cos Inc: $19.33
  • Clorox Co: $46.89
  • Air Products & Chemicals Inc: $57.64
  • Texas Instruments: $54.48
  • Colgate-Palmolive: $44.10
  • Hormel Foods Corp: $16.69
  • Northwest Natural Gas Co: $29.20
  • Procter & Gamble: $40.82

Untitled painting from 2001 by Pakistani painter Ismail Gulgee (1926-2007), assumed allowed under Fair Use.

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2017-01 Dividend Income Report

Here is the dividend income report for January, 2017.

The monthly dividend income came out to $218.88. The yearly income total for 2017 through the end of the month was $218.88.

The income for January, 2016 was $237.08, and the yearly income for 2016 through the end of January was $237.08.

The main reason the income went down is PNY was bought out. I bought LEG, but too late to get the dividend for January. My twelve-month moving average went down slightly for January. Since January is what David Fish calls an “A” month, the income tends to be smaller in January. Another reason the January income is low is because KO pulls its first dividend back and pays it in January, and pays the other three in the other “A” months.

As I stated, I bought LEG, but too late to get the payout for January. I guess I missed the ex-date, or the record date, or something. I don’t really know what exactly those dates mean. One comes before the other, and one of them makes you eligible to receive the dividend for the quarter. I think you have to buy the stock before whichever comes first. I don’t really know. Frankly, I don’t care. I have sold stocks in the past, and I will probably sell some more in the future, but the general plan is to hold on to the stocks I buy for years. Ideally for the rest of my life. Waiting an extra three months for the first payout will probably not make any difference about whether or not I eat cat food when I am old.

I have heard there are some people (or at least trading firms) will buy a stock and hold it just long enough to get the dividend, and then sell it before the payout and put the money into some other stock. I agree with Warren Buffett on this point: “If you aren’t willing to own a stock for ten years, don’t even think about owning it for ten minutes.” I guess you could make money by going in and out like that. You would have to take positions large enough to make more than your trading costs. But it just sounds like a lot of effort.

Here is a table with the year-to-date amounts, the monthly amounts, and the three- and twelve-month moving averages for each January from 2012 through 2017:

Month YTD Amount 3MMA 12MMA
2017-01 $218.88 $218.88 $584.54 $504.86
2016-01 $237.08 $237.08 $550.81 $457.97
2015-01 $213.49 $213.49 $471.54 $374.28
2014-01 $159.67 $159.67 $335.67 $287.98
2013-01 $110.12 $110.12 $348.07 $292.20
2012-01 $188.68 $188.68 $316.66 $256.77


Here are the stocks and the income amounts for January, 2017:

  • Automatic Data Processing: $34.69
  • MDU Resources Group Inc.: $11.57
  • Kimberly-Clark: $54.80
  • Illinois Tool Works: $36.63
  • Chubb Corp: $43.90
  • Sysco Corp: $19.66
  • RPM International Inc.: $17.63

Image  from Wikipedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use. Painting “View of Constantinople” (1856) by Russian-Armenian painter Ivan Aivazovsky (1817-1900).

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Delayed Thoughts On the Election

So far the pivot from jerk to adult has still not happened. Cheeto Jesus, the Siberian Candidate, is president. It’s late, but here are some thoughts on the election and its aftermath.

Although a lot of the GOP tried to distance themselves from Trump (until he won the election), I have a feeling that some big shots in the GOP are taking some notes about this election. The last time they won outright was 2004, with another guy who was proud to be stupid. So why not stick with what works for them?

To be frank, I was surprised that he won. I kept refreshing several news sites throughout the night.

To be fair, HRC did not run as good of a campaign as she could have. They spent way too much time on Nebraska trying to get that one electoral vote, and spent little time or energy on or in Wisconsin and Michigan. I am not saying that they should not have spent any time on Nebraska; it is a bad idea to write off entire states. But don’t ignore your strengths.

But there were many external factors that worked against HRC.

One is all the laws restricting voting rights (see this page and this page). Pretty much all of them were instituted by Republicans, and were structured to restrict the voting rights of demographic groups that are more likely to vote for Democrats.

One is the obsession with emails. To be honest, I have no idea what she could have done differently about this. A lot of people in the GOP had the “creationist mindset”: They have their conclusion, and they just needed some facts to back it up. Representative Jason Chaffetz plans to keep investigating HRC’s emails, because “we have to get to the truth”.  She has been investigated for years by people who wanted to find something to use to nail her to the wall, and they still found nothing. Here’s an idea: Maybe she didn’t do anything wrong. Maybe it’s time to admit your assumptions were incorrect. Maybe you have gotten to the truth, but you just refuse to accept it.

I do think the media bears some blame. For all the talk of a “liberal media”, they give Republicans a lot of leeway. They let Trump define himself and HRC. They went with what Trump said, and ignored what HRC said, ignored reality. Trump said she has no plans to increase jobs, but she did. Part of it was increased spending on infrastructure, which is something he talked about in his inaugural address. Trump said that HRC is a lapdog for Wall Street because she gave a speech to Goldman Sachs, but his campaign and now his administration have more Wall Street people on it than she did. He said she is shady and corrupt because she won’t release information about the Clinton Foundation. The fact is, she said she and Bill would shut down the foundation if she won the election. And we are still waiting to see his tax returns (link at White House site still good as of 2014-01-30 ).

I think the FBI director deserves some of the blame. He has been out to get the Clintons for years, and he got his chance. Note to future Democratic presidents: Do not put Republicans in important posts; it could bite you in the back later, and the rest of the GOP will still hate you. As I stated, it should surprise nobody that nothing came of the re-opening of the investigation. And if anybody tells you the FBI was not trying to influence the election, they are either lying or stupid. But apparently, the FBI only talks about investigations of Hillary Clinton, and nobody else. Plus, it’s odd that when they found out the DNC was hacked, they only made one call to a help desk, instead of calling then-DNC chief and incumbent Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz. The investigation into HRC’s emails, however, went on full-speed ahead.

I think the real reason that the GOP is all worked up about HRC’s email server: It’s the only one the Russians could not get into.

And then there is Russia. I do think Russia “hacked the election” (which does not mean they actually hacked the voting machines themselves). Many of the people working on Trump’s campaign (and now administration) have been to Russia and/or have business ties to Russia (like Paul Mantafort, Carter Page and Michael Flynn; see this graphic of Trump/Mantafort ties to Russia). One of Trump’s sons said that Russians have invested in many Trump properties. Trump has given contradictory statements as to whether or not he has met with Putin.

I don’t know if Trump himself has any direct ties to Putin. But even during the campaign, he seemed to have this odd need/desire for some sort of approval from Putin. Until we see his taxes, we might not get the full story. I don’t know if there is a “pee-pee tape”, but I do suspect the Russians have some sort of financial leverage over Trump. Perhaps he owes them a lot of money. Perhaps he is helping oligarchs launder money (see this page and this page).

The question is not really whether Trump has any financial stake in Russia. The question is how much of a financial stake does Russia have in Trump.

One reason I think it is financial leverage is that I don’t think Trump cares if people think he is a pervert, or an amazingly small-minded and thin-skinned individual. But I do think he wants to be seen as a business and financial genius.

The “pee-pee tape” is a reference to a dossier by a former MI6 agent about Trump’s relationship with Russia which  mentioned golden showers. After it came out, Trump tweeted about it a few times:

  • Totally made up facts by sleazebag political operatives, both Democrats and Republicans – FAKE NEWS! Russia says nothing exists. Probably… (tweet here)
  • Russia has never tried to use leverage over me. I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA – NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING! (tweet here)
  • Russia just said the unverified report paid for by political opponents is “A COMPLETE AND TOTAL FABRICATION, UTTER NONSENSE.” Very unfair! (tweet here)

Notice that in two of them, he said that the Russian government says there is no tape. First off, Putin is a former KGB agent, and has a lot of former KGB agents (and possibly current GRU and FSB agents as well). I am not going to take their word on anything. I wouldn’t ask those guys if water is wet. Secondly, if you are accused of being too close to the Russian government or of being in a position to be blackmailed by them, using their denial as your argument makes it look like the accusations are true.

After Trump announced he was nominating Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, he said Tillerson’s relationship with Russia is a selling point.  Believe it or not, I am not against having a good relationship with Russia. But it seems like Trump wants to please the Russian government, and kind of hates everybody else. Even most of his own constituents.

Someone on twitter pointed out that Trump has been consistent about only two things: How great he is, and how great Russia and Putin are. He seems to hate every other country on the planet. Even the one he will be running.

Trump says Russia will respect the USA more with him in charge. I doubt that. People generally do not respect lapdogs.

According to not-failing Bloomberg, Trump tweeted: “Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing Only ‘stupid’ people, or fools, would think it is bad! We have enough problems around the world without yet another one.” Nobody is saying a good relationship with Russia is a bad thing. It’s just that their leadership is full of liars and thieves who cannot be trusted. Another point: What does Trump mean by a “good relationship with Russia”? If by that he means Russians controlling our government, then, no, I do not want a good relationship with them. Also, if a good relationship with Russia comes at the cost of alienating the USA from every other country, then it is not worth it.

To me, a good relationship with Russia is necessary because you should keep your friends close, and authoritarian, interventionists closer. The US intelligence community has thought for a while that Russia has been meddling in the EU for some time, supporting parties that want to break up the EU. There is a movement to make California an independent country. It opened “California Culture Center” in Moscow (see this page and this page).
“It was opened by the President of Yes California Independence Campaign, Louis Marinelli, and the President of the Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia, Alexander Ionov.” That is according to the website of the Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia. News flash, dipstick: If you are encouraging part of a nation to declare independence, you are not “anti-globalist”. Don’t complain about corporations pushing you around if you want to break up other countries.

If the EU is broken up, and the US starts breaking up, who wins? That’s right, Russia. They become more powerful relative to everybody else. If you don’t like Brussels or Washington telling you what to do, but you have no problem with Moscow telling you what to do, you are an idiot.

Russia was behind the DNC hack, the Podesta hack, and a lot of the fake news (or more accurately: lies and propaganda). I also think that they are in cahoots with Wikileaks (see this page and this page).

It took a Google search, but there is a page that lists leaks by country. (I get a feeling of plausible deniability here.) There are a LOT of leaks about the US (over 9,500 at the time of this writing), and about 57 on Russia, 5 more for the “Russian Federation“. I am not one of those foam-finger, #1, USA-is-never-wrong guys, but don’t tell me that Russia has a better human rights record than we do.

Julian Assange had a show on RT. I don’t take Assange at his word that he has no ties to Russia. He has said that if he had dirt on the GOP he would release it, yet amazingly he seems to have a lot of documents tied to Democrats. He has insisted that nobody has sent him anything about the GOP. But that’s the paradox with Wikileaks, isn’t it? You just have to take his word for it.

Wikileaks has made a few weird moves, like getting personal info about ALL verified twitter users and putting it online. They also threatened legal action against MSNBC for talking about possible links between Russia and Wikileaks (see this page and this page). They could solve this by being more transparent.

Granted, sometimes people put themselves at risk by sending documents to Wikileaks. So maybe Wikileaks really has no idea who sends them stuff. Which means they really cannot say with any certainty whether or not the Russian government is the group that got/stole the info they are releasing. Yet somehow Assange is 1000% certain. Okay.

Assange saw the Panama Papers as an attack on Putin (many of Putin’s associates were implicated), yet ignored the grief it caused David Cameron and Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson (the then-Prime Minisiter of Iceland who resigned because of revelations in the Panama Papers).

When Wikileaks started, Assange wrote: “Our primary targets are those highly oppressive regimes in China, Russia and Central Eurasia.” So what changed?

Wikileaks does seem to like some people more than others. They have also released info about private citizens (see this page and this page). Not a group to be trusted.

I think Assange’s paranoia has turned Wikileaks from a force for good to a Russian mouthpiece. I am not clear why he was so afraid that Sweden would extradite him to the US. The US has an extradition treaty with the UK. I think if the US wanted the UK to send Assange over, they would have. And even if Sweden decides to drop the charges, he is still a fugitve from British justice. That is one problem he caused himself.

Let’s not forget, Trump advisor Roger Stone has stated he has a “back channel” to Julian Assange through a mutual friend (see this page, this page and this page). This is a guy who worked for Nixon during the dirty campaign of 1972, and has a tatoo of Nixon’s face on his back. Need I say more?

Also, some have said that this election was decided by the “white working class”. I don’t know if that is true, since a lot of people who should know better voted for Trump.

There has been some hand-wringing amongst Democrats about how to connect with the white working class. I think this is kind of funny. The Democratic Party has always been the party that stands with unions. Has the Democratic Party abandoned the white working class, or did the WWC abandon the DP? Yes, there is a lot more corporate influence in the DP than there was 30 or 40 years ago, but there is WAY more in the Republican Party. And the exodus of the WWC to the GOP started with Reagan. If the WWC votes for the party that is out to destroy unions, then there is not much you can do for them.

Some, like Bill Black and Thomas Frank, thinks liberals have driven the WWC out of the DP because a lot of liberals are “too smug”. Generally I like what those two have to say, but they are off their rocker on this point. The migration started with Reagan, who was elected when I was 9. Before many of today’s hipsters were born. Nobody is forcing these people to vote for the GOP. Nobody is forcing them to watch Fox News, or listen to the liars on talk radio. If someone keeps voting against their own economic self-interest for 30 years, it’s their own fault.

I have also seen articles telling us city folk that we need to understand rural communities and the WWC. Screw you. No I don’t. A lot of them are bigoted. I can tell you based on the questions and comments I get from these people and that I read and hear about, they (Trump voters) have no desire to understand me at all. They are intent on misunderstanding everyone but them. Why are they still asking, “If evolution is happening, why don’t cats give birth to dogs?” Tell me if you have heard this one: “You’re not really an atheist. You really believe in god, you’re just mad at him.” They might hear, but they refuse to understand.

Also: The popular vote. Which Trump lost. I have read that this point does not matter. I think it does. If it did not, why did he make his claim that there were millions of illegal votes? (I have heard of three people being arrested for voter fraud, all for Trump.) Trump seems to think that life is all about ratings and approval. He uses that as justification for his policies. The fact is that most people did not want him in office. Most people do not support his policies. He does not have any sort of mandate.

We on the left need to be more vocal, more forceful. When a GOP president or governor squeeks by, they act like God made them king. What a Democrat barely makes it in, the GOP uses that slim margin as a reason to obstruct. Perhaps we should obstruct. Be jerks if need be. Just don’t believe in nonsense, and don’t refuse to change your mind when the facts change.

First image from Wikimedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use. Painting “La femme et le pantin” (The Woman and the Puppet) by Angel Zárraga (1886–1946).  Second image  from Wikiart, assumed allowed under Fair Use. Painting “Hourglass” by Romul Nutiu.


New Page: Things Trump Says He Knows

I have a new page on my site: Things Trump Says He Knows.

I think Trump knows about manipulating people, lying and being a jerk.

He claims to be an expert in more topics than I think any human could possibly be an expert in. So instead of documenting all his lies, I will start a list of things that Trump claims to know, especially things he claims to know “a lot” about.

He made this claim a few times during the campaign, and he made it in his first speech to the CIA.

I say right now: I reserve the right to stop updating this page. Because Trump thinks he knows a lot about a lot of subjects. He thinks he knows so much, I just might say, “Trump, please stop knowing so much, I can’t spend all my time updating that page.” I’m sure we will get tired of him knowing things.

Just like he said his campaign would get tired of winning. And the CIA would get tired of “so much backing”. But someone else can make a page listing all the things he says we will get tired of.

Image  from Wikipedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use. Painting “Witches’ Sabbath” by Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes, or just Goya (1746-1828). Goya should have his own website. He’s really a wonderful artist, very artistic in his art. Nothing to do with Trump.