Archive for December 2018

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 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 hate 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. 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 eliminate 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 want to hate no matter what, 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 years 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 sons’ 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, hatred 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.

2018-11 Dividend Income Report

Here is the dividend income report for November, 2018.

The monthly dividend income came out to $50.86. The yearly income total for 2018 through the end of the month was $4657.77.

The income for November, 2017 was $560.60, and the yearly income for 2017 through the end of November was $5699.20.

Over the past year, I have moved most of my money into dividend growth ETFs. I have not paid as much attention to individual stocks. I have not downloaded the U.S. Dividend Champions spreadsheet every month since I switched from stocks to ETFs.  I found out that the original maintainer, David Fish, died recently. See articles on Seeking Alpha here by Mike Nadel  and here by Abby Carmel. It is now updated by Justin Law. The writer at Dividend Growth Investor also puts out their own version of the Dividend Champions spreadsheet. In fact, it was at Dividend Growth Investor that I first heard about the death of David Fish.

One of the tributes on Seeking Alpha said that David Fish did not like the idea of telling people what to buy. A few times people have asked me about investing, and I told them about DGI and the Champion spreadsheet. That alone could guide someone’s investment plan.

The Dividend Champion list divides companies into three categories depending on how long they have been raising their dividends: Champions (25 or more years), Contenders (10 to 24 years), and Challengers (5 to 9 years). Even if you using just ETFs (as I am), it is still a good idea to look at this list once in a while because it will tell you how many companies are raising dividends, and in my opinion give you a tool to gauge the health of the economy. Here is a table for the breakdown of CCC companies for every December from 2010 to 2018.

Year Champions Contenders Challengers Total
2018 865 130 200 535
2017 815 113 222 480
2016 764 107 226 431
2015 753 106 253 394
2014 589 105 246 238
2013 471 105 211 155
2012 466 106 180 180
2011 449 102 145 202
2010 417 98 129 190

Look at that. Mostly increasing numbers. While Obama was president. I guess our not-so-liberal media is wrong when they tell us that things go better with the GOP in charge.

One issue with dividend investing is how it will do in a downturn. It did well in the past two downturns, so I think there is a good chance it will do well in the next. Mike Nadel mentions this in his remembrance of David Fish. He mentions an article in the New York Times saying DGI is not a great strategy since companies could cut dividends when the economy contracts. He wrote a rebuttal, inspired by something David Fish wrote to him: Actually, more than 70% of companies that were Dividend Champions back in 2007 continued to raise dividends through the recession, and another 9% merely froze their dividends. So approximately 80% did NOT cut their dividends.

The funny thing is that if the economy contracts, indexing will not do well either. Nor would active stock picking. It seems like it is the people who push buybacks and capital gains who speak of the benefits of their strategies in terms of absolutes, and ignore the times their strategies do not work. The DGI crowd talks about probabilities. It is a better way to approach life.

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

Month YTD Amount 3MMA 12MMA
2018-11 $4657.77 $50.86 $562.56 $541.30
2017-11 $5699.20 $560.60 $559.31 $560.58
2016-11 $5048.77 $506.98 $502.98 $500.27
2015-11 $4517.55 $460.83 $477.55 $452.28
2014-11 $3528.16 $291.27 $357.30 $343.53
2013-11 $2811.61 $252.75 $277.74 $291.48
2012-11 $2898.91 $247.99 $262.78 $284.49
2011-11 $2577.05 $246.37 $232.84 $240.81

Here are the stocks and the income amounts for November, 2018:

  • Vanguard Total Bond Market ETF: $39.79
  • Vanguard Total International Bond ETF: $11.07

Big Jim wishes he could have thanked David Fish while he had the chance.

“Pegasus Departing” by Albert Pinkham Ryder (1847 – 1917) at the Smithsonian Museum,  assumed allowed under Fair Use.