More Thoughts On Assange

So Julian Assange was arrested this week. I cannot say I am surprised.

From what I have heard, he was not an easy house guest: arguing with staff, not bathing, smearing feces. He was getting on their nerves. And leaking documents about the president of Ecuador (also see here). And leaking documents about the Vatican. And commenting on the Catalan independence movement. He was staying in an embassy. Diplomats are supposed to keep their mouths shut and stick to business. Preferably their own. Diplomatic norms do not go out the window because some jackass thinks his cause is just.

Meanwhile, Russia still gets a pass from Wikileaks. Assange is not objective.

Maybe Ecuador President Moreno is totally corrupt. I don’t know; the INA Papers site is in Spanish. But what people need to understand is that while freedom and privacy and transparency are nice, they are not as important as intelligence. And Assange does not seem to have much of it.

He came to the government of Ecuador for help. They were keeping him out of jail. If you had a house guest acting the way Assange did, would you put up with it? If someone is keeping you out of jail, do not make them upset. Do not bite the hand that feeds you. He put himself at their mercy, and he did not seem to realize it.

Freedom doesn’t do you much good if you are stupid.

So I have done a bit more digging, and it only confirms my thoughts that Assange is really really stupid.

It looks like he is being detained for helping Chelsea Manning obtain military documents. Not for publishing the documents. But for being involved in getting them.

Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo addressed this in a blog post. If someone gives you the documents, you are clear. If you are involved in getting them, you are not. (I do not know if the drop has to be anonymous.)

He is being indicted in the UK, and charged in the US. But as far as I can tell, his lawyer is Australian, and practices in the UK. Can she practice in the US? Maybe he should get American counsel, since he is being charged by the American government. Just a thought.

Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras have both entered the US since Russian spy Edward Snowden gave them classified documents. So no problem. (I know Greenwald’s husband was detained at Heathrow by the Unwanted Kingom; my only comment is: different country, different laws.)

We cannot replay history and try something different, but Wikileaks was already pretty famous in 2010 when all this happened. Perhaps Manning (or someone else) would have gotten the documents eventually anyway.

It is up to Assange to know the law. I am not a lawyer, so I do not know if you have to be a journalist to get these protections for document drops. But I think that Assange should have known better. I say to Assange and his defenders the same thing I say to Russian spy Snowden and his defenders: You do not deserve to be taken seriously if you go around claiming you are smarter than everybody else, and then insist you could not have done things any other way.

Big Jim says we should fight for our freedoms ourselves, and not rely upon or defend idiots with their heads up the GRU’s butt

Mongolian manuscript at the Art Institute of Chicago, assumed allowed under Fair Use.



Thoughts On Brexit

Here are a few thoughts on Brexit. I now I am a couple of days late and the original deadline was the 29th, but it looks like the Unwanted Kingdom got an extension.

It is irritating to hear English people go on and on about their “sovereignty”, when they ran an empire from an island they invaded. They never cared about anybody else’s sovereignty, so why should anyone care about theirs? Plus, let’s not forget, while in the EU, people in the Unwanted Kingdom still get to use their own currency and speak their own language. They got a lot of breaks from the EU. Not bad for them.

On the other hand, when your quest for “sovereignty” is guided by Russia, how sovereign are you really?  I say to the Brexiteers what I say to Republicans in the USA: The Russians are not doing this for you.

Conservatives (in the US and the Unwanted Kingdom) like to think they are pragmatic realists, git-r-done types who know how the world works and run all types of organizations. (Sometimes it sounds like a fixed mindset; they cling to this image regardless of the results.) They have been wanting to leave the UK for years. They triggered the referendum. They have had two years to work things out. Yet they seemed to be voting a couple of times a day up until the March 29th deadline. This should have been smoother. The “git-r-done” chaps should have had a plan. For something they wanted. It is kind of like the votes for ACA repeal and the circus attempt at repeal and replace here in the USA. It is hard to tell if they appear incompetent because they just say what voters want to hear and can’t deliver when it’s time to put up or shut up, or if they overestimate the complexity of things and it’s all just raw, natural stupidity. (Parliament recently had to adjourn due to a leaky roof in the House of Commons building.)

I have read a few comments on different sites predicting that ten years after leaving the EU that the Unwanted Kingdom will have a stronger economy than today, and the EU will stagnate. I do not know what will happen or how the EU will do, but I predict that stagnation is probably the best-case outcome for the Unwanted Kingdom. They cannot manage something that they initiated and is totally predictable. And I doubt that other countries will give them a break on trade deals. They are intentionally causing a lot of people unnecessary work, and they want everyone to think they are doing us all a favor. (BTW, that is also a good definition of an asshole.)

Part of the problem is the Brexiteers have been lying from the beginning. They said the Unwanted Kingdom would be able to save millions of pounds a week and put it into the National Health Service. They later denied saying that. The were acting like bozos during the negotiations, telling the British public that “we are going to give them nothing that they want, and they are going to give us everything that we want, and they are going to like it.” That was the first year. Then the second year they all acted like those meanies in Brussels were kicking the UK out of the EU.

The rot started from the very beginning, with David Cameron. He started the referendum to appease the UKIP. He was a Tory, so he should know that if you give a conservative an inch, they will act entitled to a mile. Plus, he initiated a referendum for a change that he did not want. The Scottish independence referendum failed, which put the Scottish nationalists in the position of not getting what they wanted, but not being any worse off. They pushed for a change that they wanted. Cameron got a change that he did not want.

And then he promised to be bound by the results of the referendum, even though it was legally non-binding. Mistake number two. Another structural flaw is that it did not require a supermajority. Maybe a change this big should require a bigger percentage than 51.89%. All the Brexiteers keep going on about freedom, and democracy, and the will of the people, but this barely squeeked by.

And just like the USA, rank and file conservative voters are going against their own self-interest, voting for rich conservatives who do not care about them at all. And if you are all sooooo concerned about globalism and sovereignty, maybe you should do something about the City Of London. Brexiteers are ranting about the globalists in the EU, but London is the real ground zero of globalism. Technically it is the City of London Corporation, but the phrase “City of London” does not refer to all of London. Just the onshore tax haven part. One could call it The Worshipful Company of Liars, Cheaters and Thieves. They do not care about rural England anymore than they care about rural anywhere else.

Josh Marshall pointed out that some Brexit campaigners said that “[t]he world hungered for a strong Britain on the global stage.” Again, this is total delusion. Granted, a lot of speak their language, but not by choice. Nobody loves them, nobody respects them. Never did. Never will. If you want to go through life thinking you are special, you can do that, but nobody is obligated to agree with you or accommodate you.

Another good article is at here on the antipope site.

Big Jim does not like people who intentionally cause problems for other people.

“The Annunciation”, El Greco (1541 – 7 April 1614), in a private collection, assumed allowed under Fair Use.


2019-03 Dividend Income Report

Here is the dividend income report for March, 2019.

The monthly dividend income came out to $1143.33. The yearly income total for 2019 through the end of the month was $1372.50.

The income for March, 2018 was $1099.99, and the yearly income for 2018 through the end of March was $1226.01.

I am thinking about selling some or all of my shares of RLI. I have made enough and gotten enough shares through re-investment that I could sell enough shares to cover my original investment and just play with the house’s money. I am also considering replacing it with a different insurance stock. RLI pays special dividends, which unlike their regular dividends do not grow every year. I would like to have an individual stock around to see the compounding compounding of DGI at work.

I am also thinking about selling some or all of my Vanguard ETFs and replacing them with different ETFs. Other funds have slightly higher costs and slightly lower dividends, so it might take longer to become independently wealthy, but I have a couple of issues with some Vanguard ETFs.

One is that several of them (at least the ones that I have) do not always pay their dividends in the “C” months (March, June, September and December). Some of them spill over into the following “A” month (January, April, July, October) [1]. It is usually different funds that have a late payment in different quarters. But no fund was late with the December payment (I am guessing taxes has something to do with this). Most people spend December running around very busy, taking time off, or both. If they can make a payment on time in the busiest month of the year, why is it so hard to make timely payments in the other three months?

From what I can tell, iShares and State Street ETFs have no problem paying in “C” months.

This might sound like a “first world problem”, but I am putting money into these funds for my retirement, for the time of my life during which I will not be able to work. I will need my income to be predictable. Unlike now, my income will be more spread out. None of my current ETFs pay in January, and most only pay out every three months. I will need more consistency than Vanguard seems able to provide. I know some people get paid in irregular intervals, but I should not have that circumstance forced on me. Plus, the stocks that these funds invest in generally pay their dividends consistently. The ETFs should be able to do the same.

One of my funds, the Vanguard Global ex-U.S. Real Estate ETF (VNQI), is not making a payment at all this past quarter. The iShares and State Street international real estate funds are able to make payouts this past quarter, so why can’t Vanguard? What is the point of lower cost if there is no income?

Another issue is that I have looked at a few of the index criteria for the indices these funds are based on (as well as a few for indices for funds I am looking at), and I do not like some of the criteria or the structure for the indices used by some of the Vanguard funds. I plan on writing more about this later.

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 2011 through 2019:

Month YTD Amount 3MMA 12MMA
2019-03 $1372.50 $1143.33 $457.50 $593.19
2018-03 $1226.01 $1099.99 $408.67 $606.06
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 securities and the income amounts for March, 2019:

  • Vanguard Total Bond Market ETF: $37.98
  • Vanguard Total International Bond ETF: $9.65
  • RLI Corp: $31.32
  • Vanguard Utilities ETF: $196.01
  • Vanguard International Dividend Appreciation ETF: $10.78
  • Vanguard High Dividend Yield ETF: $401.84
  • Vanguard High Dividend Yield ETF (other account): $269.22
  • Vanguard International High Dividend Yield ETF: $91.65
  • Money Market Fund: $94.88

Note [1]: I think it was the late David Fish who categorized the three months of each quarter as “A”, “B” or “C”.

Big Jim likes consistency as well as efficiency in his investments.

Pope Dionysius of Alexandria, aka “Pope Dynomite”,who has been dead for about 1800 years, so I think we can assume Fair Use.


2019-02 Dividend Income Report

Here is the dividend income report for February, 2019.

The monthly dividend income came out to $138.45. The yearly income total for 2019 through the end of the month was $229.17.

The income for February, 2018 was $66.43, and the yearly income for 2018 through the end of February was $126.02.

There is not really a whole lot to say this month. I plan on writing about the indexes tracked by the ETFs I have invested in, as well as a few others. It is good to know what you are buying.

There are some indexes that are made by small shops and their licensed ETFs can have high expense ratios.

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 2019:

Month YTD Amount 3MMA 12MMA
2019-02 $229.17 $138.45 $847.72 $589.58
2018-02 $126.02 $66.43 $654.60 $581.51
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 securities and the income amounts for February, 2019:

  • Vanguard Total Bond Market ETF: $40.91
  • Vanguard Total International Bond ETF: $11.25
  • Money Market Fund: $86.29

Big Jim had another good month.

Page from Gelati Gospel, 12th-century illuminated manuscript from the other Georgia, assumed allowed under Fair Use.


Remaining 2016 Tweets

I put a page on Everyday Images with the remaining 2016 tweets that were not on the site yet.

Big Jim only tweets about the important stuff.

“Christ Carrying the Cross” by El Greco (1541 – 7 April 1614), at El Greco’s site, assumed allowed under Fair Use.


2019-01 Dividend Income Report

Here is the dividend income report for January, 2019.

The monthly dividend income came out to $90.72. The yearly income total for 2019 through the end of the month was $90.72.

The income for January, 2018 was $59.59, and the yearly income for 2018 through the end of January was $59.59.

For this month, I started counting a money market fund I have at one of my brokerage accounts. I was thinking of using the money to buy bond funds. I did some calculations, and I think that I will make just as much leaving it as it is. Plus, they count the income as “dividends” and not “interest”. So this means that I have been undercounting my dividend income for a while.

One event that happened in January is the death of John Bogle. He was and is one of the most important men in finance. Some people say he was one of the greatest men they had ever met. He has certainly helped millions of people save billions of dollars in fees.

For myself, I went from indexing, to individual stocks, back to indexing, although I now invest in indexes for dividend growth stocks, and not the overall market.

He seemed to get into indexing by accident. He was forced out of his company after a bad merger. He started Vanguard, and started indexing because he could not be an active stock picker. But over time he became an investor advocate and moral authority.

Bogle is like Warren Buffett: an advocate for investors. When Berkshire’s 13-F comes out, and a stock is mentioned in it, you know that it is a good investment. Buffett is a stamp of approval. When Buffett passes, who will be a guide for the common man? Perhaps indexing is enough a part of the culture that we do not need an advocate anymore.

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 2019:

Month YTD Amount 3MMA 12MMA
2019-01 $90.72 $90.72 $818.52 $583.57
2018-01 $59.59 $59.59 $819.32 $614.81
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 securities and the income amounts for January, 2019:

  • Money Market Fund: $90.72

Big Jim thinks this year is off to a good start.

“Behold The Bridegroom” by Γύζης Νικόλαος (Nikolaos Gyzis) (1842 -1901), on exhibit at the National Gallery in Athens, assumed allowed under Fair Use.


Thoughts On Recent Events

Here are a few thoughts about some recent political events.

First off, James Mattis resigned as Secretary of Defense.

He has been lauded as the “adult in the room.” I think this is bad. There are a few issues with Mattis. Just as there were with John McCain, and George HW Bush. We need to stop letting people off the hook (even for minor infractions) just because they are not as bad as Donald Trump or anyone else in his orbit.

For one thing, I do not think he should have been defense secretary. He has not been out of the military long enough . If civilian control of the military is that important, there should not be any waivers. Granted, nobody else wanted the job. And he is not as crazy as John Bolton. But being more sane that Bolton is like being younger than dirt: That is a broad range.

At least Mattis is not a total tool like John Kelly. He lied about a speech given by representative Frederica Wilson, even after a video surfaced proving she was right and he was wrong. Nothing says you are part of a cult like doubling down on a lie even when the evidence is there for all to see. I don’t think Mattis looks down upon people who were never in the military, like Kelly seems to, or spout nonsense like, “In fact, in a way we’re a little bit sorry because you’ll never have experienced the wonderful joy you get in your heart when you do the kinds of things our servicemen and -women do.” Does John Kelly have any idea who he was working for? Has anyone in the Trump family ever cared about anyone but themselves? And if Kelly took not just one, but two jobs from Trump, then what does that say about him and his feelings about service? Enjoy your retirement in Virginia, jackass. But again, not getting sucked into Neo-Confederate BS is a low bar to clear.

Mattis was involved in Theranos, both during his time in the military, and was on the board afterwards. So he is a bit swampy.  And he seems too eager to go after Iran, even though a lot of Saudis have done some shady things in the US and gotten help from the Saudi government getting out on several occasions and they are spreading Wahhabism through out the Middle East. And let’s not forget our good friend Mohammad Bone Saw.

Working for Trump has been a black mark for everyone else who has done it. Why should Mattis get a pass? He is not some 18-year old out of boot camp who probably only knows the chain of command a few levels up from his sergeant. When you are offered a Cabinet-level position, you know who is offering it to you.

His resignation letter contrasted the US to Russia and China. Did he just realize that he is working for the new POTUS? (These days, “POTUS” does not mean “President of the United States”, but “Putin’s Operative in the United States.) Trump bad mouths Democrats, half of his constituents, many foreign leaders, but gives dictators a pass. Trump has a presumption of guilt for most Americans, and a presumption of innocence for foreign authoritarians. I don’t know what those geniuses at the Hoover Institute talk about all day, but roughly 65,853,514 people could have told him how this was going to work out.

The Trump administration is a disaster. He lost the popular vote, but acts like he is god-emperor. Let’s not use Mattis or anyone else as a contrast. Let’s not let people off the hook for their own misdeeds simply because they are not the worse person in the world (that would be Donald Trump). The President should not need an adult in the room. The room should be full of adults. Seriously, Mr Smarty Pants General, what did you think was going to happen?

In other news, Elizabeth Warren has started an exploratory committee to run for President in 2020 (the old kind of POTUS, not the Russian kind we have now). And, predictable, Trump called her “Pocahontas”. Again. For a guy who is supposed to be soooo smart, he doesn’t display much capacity for thought.

Elizabeth Warren thought she was part Native American because her grandmother told her she was. When you grow up in Oklahoma, and your grandmother tells you that you are part Native American, that is a good reason for thinking you are Native American. DNA was first discovered in 1953. Elizabeth Warren was born in 1949. So all these conservative wack-jobs insisting she take a DNA test are a bit unfair. DNA was not a household term when Elizabeth Warren was growing up. Heck, her grandmother was probably born in the 1800s. Using DNA in court is a recent thing. To expect Elizabeth Warren’s grandmother to have known things about DNA then that we know now is just sloppy thinking. Pro tip: When you challenge someone for evidence, and the evidence gives you an answer you do not like, admit you were wrong. Don’t reject the test as fake like the MAGA crowd did. Just admit you don’t like her and leave it at that. And seriously, is that all you got?

Interesting fact: The current Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation is only about 3% Cherokee.

And finally, there is the shutdown. The Trump Shutdown. Let’s stop blaming both sides. This is the Trump Shutdown. Make America grind to a halt.

He had a GOP House and a GOP Senate for two years to get this wall started. If it such an important campaign promise to his base, why did he wait until he knew he was going to get a Democratic House that would not give him everything that he wants? He made these threats while the GOP still had the House. Why wait? They had no problem getting a bunch of corporate judges in, or tax cuts for the wealthy that do not do anything for anybody else. I guess the wall is just like repealing the ACA: They can’t really do it because then they can’t use it to score points with voters.

I have read a few articles that some conservatives are hoping to use this to permanently shrink the government. If so, then why was this not mentioned during the campaign? I do not think Trump started this shutdown with any long-term plan. People may not like the idea, but I think the government is a bigger part of our lives than people think, and before too long, this shutdown will start to hurt a lot of people. The feds are involved in things like air traffic control and food inspection. I didn’t sign up to spend every day putting my life in the hands of fate and acting like the past 5,000 years never happened. A lot of economic data comes from the Department of Commerce, which is currently shut down. I think big business is going to want to see all that data keep coming in. IPOs are on hold. I wonder if dividends will still come through since the SEC is shut down.

Another thing that the federal government funds is scientific research. So while China is growing plants on the far side of the moon, our government is run by a carnival barker who kills everything he touches. I think one of the Founding Fathers said the USA was more likely to be destroyed from within that from without. That is what we are seeing.

Big Jim is starting to think that some people actually want to be taken advantage of.

“The Immaculate Conception”, one of many by Francisco de Zurbarán (1598-1664) at the El Paso Museum of Art; assumed allowed under Fair Use.


2018-12 Dividend Income Report

Here is the dividend income report for December, 2018.

The monthly dividend income came out to $2313.99. The yearly income total for 2018 through the end of the month was $6971.76.

The income for December, 2017 was $1837.78, and the yearly income for 2017 through the end of December was $7536.98.

I had my money in individual stocks from 2010 until late 2017. In 2017, I sold almost all of my stocks except RLI, and I put the money into ETFS: domestic and international bonds, domestic and international real estate, domestic and international dividend stocks, and a utilities fund. I bought the ETFs in December of 2017, and got payouts from those funds in late December. So any comparison of the ETF approach with the individual stock approach needs to take into account that I was double-dipping in the markets in December.

I also got some dividends from individual stocks in 2018 even though I had sold in 2017. I guess this is an example of all that ex-date and record date stuff that I do not think long-term investors need to worry about. You can read about that stuff here. I held a lot of the stocks that I bought for five to seven years. I doubt that missing one quarter’s payment will condemn me to eating cat food when I am old.

In December of 2017, I got $816.26 from dividend ETFs. If we subtract that from the 2017 total of $7536.98, we get $6720.72. In 2018, I got $80.74 from individual stocks othe than RLI. Subtracting that from our 2018 total of $6971.76 gives us $6891.02. So 2017 was still my best year up until that point, and I made more with the ETF strategy in 2018 than I made with individual stocks in 2017. It may seem pedantic to these calculations, but I think it is an accurate way of looking at and comparing the two strategies. I don’t change strategies too often.

Or maybe I am changing tactics because I am still investing mostly in dividend growth companies, but just doing it in a different, more indirect way.

I did not re-invest all the money I got from selling the individual stocks, so I could have done better in 2018 than I did. I might put that money into a commodities fund, a yieldco fund, or an insurance company ETF.

One of the reasons I kept RLI is I think the insurance industry will do well going forward. Insurance against damage caused by climate change will be in high demand going forward. I will have to look into this more. RLI did lose money due to hurricane claims. But my shares are worth a lot more than I paid for them, both due to capital gains and reinvesting dividends.

One thing I like about this approach is that it is a lot less work. I track my money in GnuCash, and I also have a spreadsheet for my investments; there are some things that I do not know how to do in GnuCash, like moving averages, and I have formulas to compare the value of the shares against what is spent, and a few others. I used to keep track of when companies have press releases announcing their dividends, and what the record and payout dates were. I used to have to enter in a LOT of information for all the stocks I was in. Now there is a lot less.

On the other hand, I wonder if this will help me stay afloat when I am older. This has been a concern for a while. My income is increasing by about $500 to $1000 a year. This includes new money into my IRA and from more shares from re-invested dividends. I guess I thought there would be some acceleration at some point, but it does not seem to be happening.

Here is a table with the year-to-date amounts, the monthly amounts, and the three- and twelve-month moving averages for each December from 2011 through 2018:

Month YTD Amount 3MMA 12MMA
2018-12 $6971.76 $2313.99 $1165.08 $580.98
2017-12 $7536.98 $1837.78 $913.40 $628.08
2016-12 $6076.53 $1027.76 $605.28 $506.38
2015-12 $5472.07 $954.52 $575.86 $456.01
2014-12 $4438.02 $909.86 $481.67 $369.80
2013-12 $3406.20 $594.59 $344.05 $283.85
2012-12 $3585.01 $686.10 $386.41 $298.75
2011-12 $3091.99 $514.94 $323.40 $253.92

Here are the securities and the income amounts for December, 2018:

  • Vanguard Total Bond Market ETF: $39.41
  • Vanguard Total International Bond ETF: $10.59
  • Vanguard REIT ETF: $199.20
  • Vanguard Utilities ETF: $209.32
  • Vanguard Dividend Appreciation ETF: $234.77
  • RLI Corp: $30.75
  • RLI Corp: $139.79
  • Vanguard Total Bond Market ETF: $40.80
  • Vanguard Total International Bond ETF: $223.82
  • Vanguard International Dividend Appreciation ETF: $47.82
  • Vanguard Global ex-US Real Estate ETF: $279.54
  • Vanguard High Dividend Yield ETF, Rollover IRA: $302.29
  • Vanguard High Dividend Yield ETF, Roth IRA: $451.20
  • Vanguard International High Dividend Yield ETF: $104.69

RLI paid a regular dividend of $0.22, and a special dividend of $1.00. Vanguard Total Bond Market ETF and Vanguard Total International Bond ETF each had two payouts in December. For some reason bond funds have two payouts in December and none in January. I hold shares of Vanguard High Dividend Yield ETF in two separate accounts.

Big Jim had a pretty good year.

Image  from Wikimedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use. Painting “Aparición de la Virgen a San Isidro sobre el cielo de Bolonia” by Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes, or just Goya (1746-1828). Goya does have a website, although this painting is not on it.


Thoughts On Dogs In Stores

I am adding an item to my list of “Signs That Someone is an Asshole“: Bringing a dog into a store.

I have been seeing more people bringing dogs into stores and even restaurants. I always thought that was a violation of health codes. I have blogged about this before. Airlines are cracking down on “emotional support animals“.

Most of the times that I have seen people bring dogs into businesses, they have been women. Usually low class women. Low class, high crass and total trash. Sometimes they are older women who wear too much makeup, tight pants that might have looked okay on them decades ago, or leopard print. Sometimes all three. Call it the trash-fecta.

If they are younger, usually they are fat, with blue hair and tattoos. Three bad things that do not add up to a good thing.

I don’t think any of these people are actually suffering from PTSD. Like I wrote before, some people are allergic to dogs. If you really cannot leave home without your dog, solve your problems on your own. Or stay home.

Big Jim is against class discrimination, unless you act like trash, or put people at risk.

“Female Nude with a Dog (Portrait of Leotine Renaude)” by Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) , at Musee d’Orsay, assumed allowed under Fair Use.


The Bush And The Dead

The recent death of George HW Bush has sparked a lot of discussions about many topics: His presidency, his personality and the contrast with Trump, and whether it is wrong to “speak ill of the dead”. Much of the discussion has bordered on hagiography (in the non-ecclesiastical sense of the word). I don’t think he was that great of a president, and I do not think that saying so is “speaking ill of the dead”.

Whenever Trump fires someone from his administration, he says that they are “some sort of Democrat”. As if being a Democrat is a bad thing. And if Trump doesn’t like Democrats, why is he putting them in his cabinet? Trump’s behavior is boorish and crass. We had nice presidents up until January, 2017. Part of the glowing coverage of Bush 41 is that he looks good in contrast to Trump. I think this is a mistake. Bush 41 had some bad policies, and his son had worse policies. Going through life saying, “At least he’s not as bad as the last guy” is a recipe for disaster. We should not normalize or accept bad policy. We should not excuse bad policy from a president just because he can act like an adult in public.

What about Bush 41 did I not like? First of all, this guy was a Republican. With all the nastiness that entails. He helped bring John Birch theocrats into the party. He said Reagan’s policies were “voodoo economics”, then embraced them. He was right the first time, and should have stuck to his guns. He brought negative campainging to a new low with the Willie Horton ads.

If you don’t think Republicans are nasty people, then consider that even in his so-called repentance, Lee Atwater never really accepted responsibility for his actions. He talked about a “spiritual vacuum at the heart of American society”, how our society was warped by “its ruthless ambitions and moral decay”. No, Mr Atwater, the problem was not society, it was you. You did that. You chose to do that. To be mean, spiteful and deceitful. And Mr Bush, you paid him to do it.

Bush 41 was part of the trend by Republicans to make “liberal” a dirty word. He said Michael Dukakis was a “card-carrying member of the ACLU”, as if that is a bad thing. Conservatives have trouble with the concept that you cannot love your country if you have half of the people in it.

The religious fanaticism, the hatred of the poor, the deification of finance over all else: Bush 41 was a part of that. He was a part of taking the Republican Party on the path of decay. He was a part of the trend that put party over country. This man that we were told was a class act either never saw what was in front of him, or never spoke up against it.

Granted, he did raise taxes on the rich. Lower taxes are nice, but people need to get in their heads that cutting taxes and raising spending is not a good idea, even when presidents you like do it. So GHWB did the right thing and defied his party. Once. But more often than not he consented to the dark side.

His invasions of Panama and Kuwait were based on lies. They had nothing to do with freedom or democracy. He got rid of Noriega because Noriega was making the US look bad, and Kuwait was all about oil. The USA thought they could control those guys, and want us all to be shocked when it did not work out. And he left the Shiites and Kurds in Iraq to the whims of Saddam. The US government sold Saddam weapons of mass destruction under If Saddam was worse than Hitler, why leave him in power? Granted, now it’s obvious why they left Saddam in place, but why use the “worse than Hitler” line? Why not just say it’s about oil? Why not just say it’s about the commodity that makes the world run? The world might be a better place if we were honest about the fact that we act more in line with our interests than our ideals. Yet this supposedly great man would have none of it.

Many pointed to his time in the CIA. He was only director for a year. There have been many unproven rumors that he was involved with them much longer. Even if he wasn’t, Operation Condor was still nasty. In all seriousness, why does the USA try to elimiate radical left-wingers, yet reward radical right-wingers?

Frankly, he was a bad person in a bad family. His father and grandfather helped finance the Nazis. His son was the worst president until the next Republican (which doesn’t exonerate him). His wife was a nasty, mean bitter woman.

My mother thought that perhaps the death of their first daughter was why Barbara Bush was a mean, nasty, bitter woman. I say: so effing what? If your child dies, that is your problem. You have no business taking it out on everybody else. I am not giving them or anyone else any leeway on this. They were and are a terrible family, terrible people.

They display typical Republican logic: They have no problem judging other people. But when something bad happens to them, then it’s all “poor me, poor me, poor me”. If one of your children dies, and you still cannot grasp that things in life can just happen to someone else, then you really are a terrible, terrible person.

As an aside: My mother also wondered how it made the surviving daughter feel to hear everyone always say how wonderful her dead sister was, and to be compared to her. Granted, I am not them. Maybe the universe said to them, “Your dead daughter is still under warranty. Here is a replacement. Do not treat her as a separate individual. She’s just a consolation prize, nothing more.” I don’t know what goes on in the brain of Dorothy Bush, but I would guess that being asked “Have you stopped beating your wife?” every day of your life would get old quickly. I assume that being measured against someone who is not even here would be tiring. Maybe being compared with a dead toddler who never could never disapoint her parents was okay with her. It’s a terrible way of parenting. Sort of like blaming your kids for how poor you were. The only thing worse than living in the past is trying to make someone else live in a past that they were not a part of.

GWB was a terrible person and a terrible president. Jeb was a terrible person and a terrible governor. His daughter’s drug problems were “a private matter” while a lot of people rotted in Florida jails for doing the same thing. Neil Bush has been involved in a lot of shady deals. Marvin and Dorothy are the only ones who do not seem to have any controversy.

A lot of people are upset that Bill Clinton pardoned Mark Rich who had given a lot of money to the DNC. Yet a lot of people seem to forget that GHWB pardoned a lot of people who could have gotten him into trouble over the Iran-Contra scandal.  It is amazing that Iran-Contra did not get any mention in the aftermath of GHWB’s death, considering how upset a lot of Republicans are about the nuclear deal with Iran. GHWB pardoned someone who could probably have landed him in jail, yet we are supposed to believe that he is different than Trump.

Is it wrong to criticize GHWB? Am I “speaking ill of the dead”?

One of the possible origins of the taboo of “speaking ill of the dead” is people were afraid what others will say about them after their own death. I know that if most people think of me at all, they do not think of me highly. People will think whatever they want, and there is not much I can do about it. When you are a man that women hate, you learn things.

Another possible origin of the taboo is that the dead person cannot defend themselves. If you do not to be criticized in death, be a good person in life. GHWB had 94 to not be a terrible person. If someone wrote a critical article about GHWB a few months ago, nobody would have complained or thought it was out of line. If it was okay then, it should be okay now. Besides, it’s not like a former president would care what a random blogger writes. People who say we should not speak ill of the dead are like people who get tattoos saying “Only god can judge me”: They usually deserve it.

Saying that a bad person did bad things is not speaking ill of them. It is just speaking the truth. This guy was president. He made decisions that affected the whole world, most of whom had no say in his rise to power. He was a terrible parent who raised terrible children who themselves made bad decisions that also went on to have bad affects on the world. It is better for us to understand the world as it is than hide behind fake courtesy and outdated taboos.

I did not ask him to appease the religious right. I did not ask him to raise a man-child and help his son’s political careers. The basic story of the past thirty years of the USA is that the conservative movement has brought together the theocrats and the moneymen who care more about party than country, who care more about power than humanity. GHWB chose to be a part of this. He could have walked away. The first buildings on the famous Bush Compound in Kennebunkport, Maine was built by his great-grandfather in the late 19th century. This family had wealth. He did not need to be president. He chose it. He chose to ally himself with power-hungry zealots and money changers of the temple who just want to watch the world burn.

And let’s stop the nonsense that GHWB and Trump are different in kind as well as degree. Trump is the natural conclusion of the Republicans pushing fear and hate, the same trend that GHWB was a part of. Tax cuts for the rich, putting corporations over people, wacko judges, hatred for the poor, for those who are different. It’s the same merging of church and bank today as it was then.

Big Jim does not think the sins of today should excuse the sins of the past.

“The Fall of Icarus” by Jacob Peter Gowy  (c. 1610 – after 1644 and before 1664), at Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid, assumed allowed under Fair Use.