Thoughts On Assange

Recently, some on the internet were upset that the Ecuadorian embassy in London cut off Assange’s internet access. A lot of “freedom crusaders” went nuts. We would all live in tyranny if Assange was cut off from the internet.

First off, why do some people think that being a jerk makes them a freedom fighter? Or that “freedom” means that the rest of the world should roll over and give them what they want?

Ecuador made him a citizen in December, 2017. Even still, that does not give him carte blanche. He has a history of trying to get into parts of the embassy that are off-limits to him, yet he thinks that he can just go where he wants. Do any American citizens think they can just walk into an American embassy and start making demands?

He is a guest of Ecuador. He is there as long as they tolerate him. When you are accused of crimes by multiple countries and still wanted by the country that you are in (the UK wants to talk to him about skipping bail) and you have a reputation for sticking your nose in other countries’ elections and claiming objectivity while only telling one side of the story, maybe you should avoid angering your hosts. Shut up and do not make waves. Why should they put up with any shenanigans?

I do not think he is too bright. He said he did not want to go to trial in Sweden because he was afraid the US would extradite him. Why couldn’t the US just extradite him from the UK? He was in prison for about a week and had to wear an electronic bracelet. I do not understand why he was not afraid of the US trying to start extradition procedures while he was in the UK. I think the US is a closer ally to the UK than Sweden. And if he was so afraid of the US getting him by illegal means, again I do not understand why they could not just grab him any time they wanted.

And if he is such a brave fighter for freedom, then why not face the music in the US? Either you are willing to fight for your beliefs or you are not.

He did a Reddit AMA, but posted answers on Twitter. And dodged a lot of questions.

I think one reason that Assange got asylum is because former President Rafael Correa wanted to stick it to the West. At least a bit. It doesn’t matter whether the people in charge are right or left; a lot of small countries do not like the big countries pushing them around. So while Assange thinks he is sticking it to the man, another government is using him as their pawn. 0wned.

A few weeks ago I looked at some of Wikileaks’ tweets over the past year. There were not too many about Russia. I suppose that it is possible that nobody in Russia sends them documents, but I find it hard to believe that nobody in a country with a president-for-life is unhappy with the status quo. Like the XX Committee, I think he is working for Russia (also see here).

They did have a few tweets about Saudi Arabia. A few about Europe. A lot about the US. A lot about elections being fixed, yet nothing about Putin, who seems to run with no opposition. They cannot seem to decide if Trump is dismantling the “deep state” or continuing it. They do not seem to be eager to see Trump’s tax returns.

A lot of glibertarian dudebros have had internet drives to pay for Assange’s defense. Are any of them willing to pay some of the extra costs that Ecuador has incurred because of Assange? One estimate is that he is costing Ecuador $60,000/month. The per capita GDP of the US is about $60,000/year. In the UK it is $30,000/year. In Ecuador it is $11,000/year. People in rich countries like the USA ask questions like, “Why are we letting people starve when we have money to build all these weapons?” I wonder what questions people ask about Assange in a country that has one-sixth the money. Assange isn’t really willing to pay the price for his beliefs, but he has no problem letting a third-world country foot his bills. Let’s find someone else to stick up for freedom.

Big Jim does not like self-centered glibertarian dudebros. Or dudbros.

La Virgen alada del Apocalípsis (“Winged Virgin of the Apocalypse“) by Miguel de Santiago (17th century), assumed allowed under Fair Use.

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Thoughts On Saudi Arabia

Recently, Saudi “reformer” Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman began remaking the country in his image. Recently he detained some members of the royal family, government workers and businessmen in an “anti-corruption” purge.

First off, if the guy fighting corruption is the same guy who is running the country because his dad gave it to him, then you have to explain how you define “corruption”.

Many of the detained were close to the previous king, Abdullah. So one effect of this “anti-corruption” purge is to make MBS stronger. It looks like MBS got help from Jared Kushner in identifying political enemies (see links here, here and here). Perhaps “corrupt” means “not doing what Pretty Boy wants.” Two powerful families cracking down on enemies sounds like corruption to me.

I think it’s kind of ironic that a lot of the detainees got out by paying fines. Granted, people pay fines instead of going to trial in a lot of countries, but paying money to get out of a corruption charges sounds kind of like corruption.

One of the detained was Al-Waleed bin Talal, who just coincidentally has been critical of Donald Trump. To be honest, I always thought AWbT was a bit odd. He always claimed he made his fortune without his family giving him any favors. That may be true, but I think “on my own” for a member of royalty doesn’t mean the same thing it does for me.

Another thing that was weird was his obsession with being listed on Forbes’ list of billionaires. If you want people to invest in you, show them financial statements for Kingdom Holding Company.

That said, detaining AWbT seemed like an odd thing to do. MbS says he wants Saudi Arabia to be more open and equal, and give women more rights. AWbT has pushed for gender equality for a long time and hired the first female pilot. MbS says he wants Saudi Arabia to be less dependent on oil. Kingdom Holding Company’s “Investments” page lists the following categories:

  • Finance Services & Investments
  • Real Estate
  • Hotels
  • Aviation
  • Petrochemicals
  • Entertainment
  • Private Equity & International Investments
  • Health Care
  • Education
  • Consumer and Retail
  • Social Media and Technology.

Granted, “Petrochemicals” is in there, but it looks like AWbT knows about diversification. Isn’t that what MbS says he wants?

A lot of Westerners who worked with AWbT were afraid to come to his defense because they did not want to anger the Saudi government. Well played, MbS.

I want stability in the world, but is MbS the man for the job? Is anyone in the Saudi royal family up to the task? An article in The Intercept goes over the differences between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Depsite having fewer resources and allies, Iran is more successful at accomplishing its goals than Saudi Arabia, which is odd given that SA has more money, more oil, and the cachet of having Mecca and Medina. The article points out that maybe the Iranians are just smarter than the Saudis.

Let’s not forget that it is not Iran that is funding the radicalization of Sunnis the world over; it is Saudi Arabia. It is not Shiites bombing Sufi tombs in Pakistan; it is extremists being fed Wahabbi doctrine. The Iranians might not be wack jobs if the West had left their elected prime minister in place.

Big Jim doesn’t like religious extremists.

Section from a Qur’an, Iraq or Turkey, second half of 13th century, available at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

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2018-05-16 Blog Title

Today’s title is: Emotional Support Goat.

Someone at work said that a few airlines are no longer allowing people to bring bugs, spiders, snakes or birds onto planes as “emotional support animals”. I know there are people with actual disabilities, but I think a lot people out there are taking advantage of the rules. If your dog barks, or your animal goes wandering around, then you are just a jerk trying to take advantage of the rules. And ruining things for people who really do need animals.

I once saw a guy bring a dog into the grocery store. What is wrong with people that they think everybody has to roll over for them? (See what I did there?)

Plus, my mom is allergic to most dogs. Why should she have to put up with a dog because you are too weak-minded to travel without Fee-fee? Some people have very bad allergic reactions. Don’t they have rights too? Amazingly, ten or so years ago people were able to fly without needing Mr Fluffygums to keep them safe.

I think I need to bring along Helga, my emotional support Swedish contortionist and supermodel. She helps me feel good.

Someone at work thought that “Emotional Support Goat” would be a good band name. Someone else thought it would be a good DJ name, but I think “DJ Goat” is enough.

Big Jim likes the Swedish ladies.

“A Pastoral Idyll” by Louis Léopold Robert  (13 May 1794 – 20 March 1835), assumed allowed under Fair Use.

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2018-04 Dividend Income Report

Here is the dividend income report for April, 2018.

The monthly dividend income came out to $50.88. The yearly income total for 2018 through the end of the month was $1276.89.

The income for April, 2017 was $324.66, and the yearly income for 2017 through the end of April was $1814.94.

Once again, the only income came from bond funds. The stock ETFs only pay on “C” months. So far the twelve-month moving average is still doing okay.

Note: January, April, July and October are the “A” months. February, May, August and November are “B” months. March, June, September and December are the “C” months. I got this terminology from David Fish, maker of the great monthly Dividend Champion spreadsheet. If you want to invest directly in dividend growth companies, you should get his spreadsheet every month.

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 2018:

Month YTD Amount 3MMA 12MMA
2018-04 $1276.89 $50.88 $405.77 $583.24
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, 2018:

  • Vanguard Total Bond Market ETF: $36.45
  • Vanguard Total Bond Market ETF: $3.86 (Capital Gains)
  • Vanguard Total International Bond: $10.57

Capri mit Blick auf Santa Serafina, by Johann Wilhelm Schirmer (5 September 1807 – 11 September 1863), assumed allowed under Fair Use.

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Buddhist Valentines

Some Buddhist valentines:

  • Your absence is the cause of my suffering
  • Let’s be impermanent together
  • You turn the wheel of my heart
  • I’d like to enter your stream sometime
  • You make cessation less appealing
  • Let’s add “Right Lovin'” to the Noble Path

On a side note, it seems like a LOT of the women in Buddhist groups have (or have had) some serious addiction problems. Kind of like women in general.

 

Standing Buddha, ca. 3rd–4th century Pakistan (ancient region of Gandhara) at the Metropolitan Museum, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

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More Titles

Here are a few more titles.

Sometimes People Just Die

I have been getting into post-rock. I listen to a YouTube channel at work with a lot of post-rock, and some of the songs have interesting titles. One band that I like is Collapse Under The Empire.

Penobscot Washer Girl

Whenever someone claims they are part Native American, they always say one of their ancestors was a “Cherokee Princess.” Never another tribe. Never a male ancestor. And never a commoner.

Maybe some people are just dumb. I guess some people think, “I’m white, I have dark hair, I must be part Native American! Therefore, Cherokee Princess!” Granted, some families have been here a while. Maybe some people are part Native American. But why is it always a Cherokee princess?

And for the record, lots of white people have dark hair.

Transparent Codpiece

I am not naked, m’lady, I am wearing a transparent codpiece.

I have no idea how this occurred to me.

Lady Playing the Veena by  Raja_Ravi_Varma (29 April 1848 – 2 October 1906), assumed allowed under Fair Use.

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2018-03 Dividend Income Report

Here is the dividend income report for March, 2018.

The monthly dividend income came out to $1100.29. The yearly income total for 2018 through the end of the month was $1226.31.

The income for March, 2017 was $805.35, and the yearly income for 2017 through the end of March was $1490.28.

The total was not too bad for a “C” month (March, June, September and December), as David Fish calls them. The problem is my totals for the prior “A” and “B” months were low, and this quarter only happened due to getting dividends on stocks after I sold them. That will not repeat in the future.

I think my total for 2018 will be lower than for 2017. I have still not re-invested all the money I got from selling my stocks. Everyone says you should have a cash cushion, and now my cushion is bigger. I might buy some more stocks and get my cash to the same amount as before, so that will increase my income going forward.

Another thing that will make my income lower than before is that before I only bought stocks that had yields of at least 2% (at least at the time I bought them). Many of these ETFs have stocks with yields that are lower than that, so that will dampen things. But then again, I keep saying that I am not just going for price.

One thing that might change things in the future is that I have more international stocks. Many companies outside the US do not pay the same amount for all four quarters. Many, like Vodafone, pay twice a year, in unequal amounts. I think the first quarter was pretty light. But all in all, while my income may be lower for this year, I still think that the dividends will increase, and with them, my happiness.

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 2018:

Month YTD Amount 3MMA 12MMA
2018-03 $1226.31 $1100.29 $408.77 $606.08
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, 2018:

  • Vanguard Total Bond Market ETF: $33.23
  • Vanguard Total International Bond ETF: $8.74
  • RLI Corp: $29.09
  • Vanguard Utilities ETF: $168.43
  • Vanguard Dividend Appreciation ETF: $159.10
  • Vanguard International Dividend Appreciation ETF: $39.62
  • Vanguard REIT ETF: $143.41
  • Vanguard Global ex-US Real Estate ETF: $15.46
  • Vanguard High Dividend Yield ETF: $243.36 (I have this in two accounts)
  • Vanguard High Dividend Yield ETF: $183.43
  • Vanguard International High Dividend Yield ETF: $76.42

Colosseum and Arch of Constantine, Rome by  Giovanni Antonio Canal (18 October 1697 – 19 April 1768), AKA Canaletto, which is Italian for “Canaletto”, assumed allowed under Fair Use. This guy has a LOT of nice landscapes.

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2018-02 Dividend Income Report

Here is the dividend income report for February, 2018.

The monthly dividend income came out to $66.43. The yearly income total for 2018 through the end of the month was $126.02.

The income for February, 2017 was $466.05, and the yearly income for 2017 through the end of February was $684.93.

A big chunk of this month’s income came from Vodafone. I guess I sold after the ex-date, or the record date, or something. I plan on holding my ETFs for a long time, so frankly the difference between these dates is irrelevant to me. I know there are some people who go in and out of dividend stocks to get the payout, but I am not one of those people. Granted, I did sell most of my stocks recently and put the money into ETFs, but I held some of those stocks for six years.

The bond ETFs do not pay as much as I thought, especially the international one. I am toying with the idea of getting some Wisdom Tree ETFs. They pay every month. I will sit down and make a spreadsheet to see if getting one payment every three months is any different than getting three smaller payments once a month.

So far, I have not put as much into ETFs as I have put into stocks. I still have a lot of cash. So the drop in stock prices is not as bad as it could have been for me. But if I stay with this strategy it will probably take a while until I beat my previous records.

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 2018:

Month YTD Amount 3MMA 12MMA
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 stocks and the income amounts for February, 2018:

  • Vodafone: $21.15
  • Vanguard Total Bond Market ETF: $35.42
  • Vanguard Total International Bond ETF: $9.86

“The Visitation” by El Greco (1541 – 7 April 1614), housed at Dumberton Oaks assumed allowed under Fair Use.

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Notes On Options

I used to know someone who traded on the floor of the NYSE. Here is something they told me about options. I wrote it on a piece of paper years ago that I just found recently.

call (right to buy) – in the money when market above strike price

put (right to sell) – in the money when market below strike price

x Buy (long underlying) Sell (short underlying)
Call limited risk, unlimited gain limited gain, unlimited risk
Put limited risk, unlimited gain limited gain, unlimited risk

If selling has limited gain and unlimited risk, why do it? From what I wrote: “Premium upfront ( most options expire worthless); Higher chance of making money; may sell near maturity”.

From another sheet:

Options – downside – limited to price

short option – limited gain, unlimited loss. Cash upfront. Margin required.

Covered call – write call/put -> selling that option

Self portrait of  Zinaida Serebriakova (1884-1967), assumed allowed under Fair Use.

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2018-01 Dividend Income Report

Here is the dividend income report for January, 2018.

The monthly dividend income came out to $59.59. The yearly income total for 2018 through the end of the month was $59.59.

The income for January, 2017 was $218.88, and the yearly income for 2017 through the end of January was $218.88.

The total is a lot lower because I have sold almost all of my stocks and put my money into ETFs. I have a couple of bond ETFs. Most of the rest pay dividends, either because dividends are the focus, or they are in industries that pay higher than average dividends, like utilities and real estate.

I got some real estate because I am leaning towards the philosophy of The Index Show (brought to you by the same guy who does ETF Guide) of getting into the major asset classes of stocks, bonds, cash, real estate and commodities. I might not get into commodities because few commodities ETFs pay dividends since they are not open-ended investment companies like most ETFs. They have structures that require them to send K-1 forms and could saddle me with a tax liability. I might look into them later.

The only dividend payout was from Kimberly-Clark. I guess I sold before the ex-date, or the record date, or something. I never really kept track of all of that. I don’t think it matters if you plan on holding something for a few years. I held KMB for seven years.

I kept a spreadsheet of when all the different stocks I own and stocks I was watching paid dividends, and I had a tab for all the transactions. I just got tired of spending all that time doing that. I was expending a lot of energy on which stocks to buy. I sold Kellogg, and then it shot up after I sold it. I got tired of the roller coaster. I was kind of building my own index by hand anyway. I bought stocks with at least a 2% yield (at least at the time I bought them), with a P/E ratio less than 20, with a payout ratio below 75% that had been paying dividends for at least 5 years. That sounds like an ETF.

I was expending a lot of energy keeping track of small things. In my first cycle of stock buying, I bought as many shares as I could for $1000. Back then, that got me 12 shares of 3M (MMM). Each quarter, I got just under one-tenth of a share of MMM. Why think about that? I got tired of getting more balance between the A, B and C months. I got tired of worrying about which industry to get into or out of. Should I follow the lead of the Norway pension fund and get out of oil? Maybe. Maybe I will agonize about other things, but I felt like it was time for a change.

The ETFs that I am buying all hold more stocks than I had. Some of the stocks they own have lower yields than what I had, so it is possible my income will go down at first. It might take another ten years to reach my new high mark. I hope not.

I also have a utility ETF, which I got for the yield. I might get an insurance ETF. I might buy something again in my taxable account. Things are up in the air. The stock ETFs pay quarterly, and the bond funds pay every month except January. So this might be the last January update for a while.

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 2018:

Month YTD Amount 3MMA 12MMA
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 stocks and the income amounts for January, 2018:

  • Kimberly-Clark: $59.59

Painting by Kim Hong-do (1745-1814), assumed allowed under Fair Use.

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