Got some financial advice from a retired baby boomer today. The good news is the tip of my tongue is still attached despite how much I had to bite it throughout the lecture.
The crux of his advice was that whenever you get a raise, you should put it all in your 401(k). "Obviously, you can live on what you're making, so you won't even miss it," he posited.
What isn't obvious to a man who got an aerospace engineering job immediately out of college in 1983 with a degree he was able to pay for with a minimum wage summer job is that I can't live on what I'm making.
Getting a raise means I will have to start making larger payments on the $85,000 in student loans I will never pay off in my lifetime.
Getting a raise means I may finally get a bridge to replace the tooth that literally rotted out of my head more than ten years ago because I didn't have dental insurance until the last four years, and the coverage I do have won't kick in to cover bridges or implants until I spend $3500 out of my own pocket.
Getting a raise a year ago meant I was able to buy new tires to replace the bald ones I'd been driving on for 42,000 miles, two of which had slow leaks.
Getting a raise means I might finally be able to afford an apartment where I don't have to share a bedroom with my son.
Getting a raise means I could put a sufficient amount of money into my HSA that if one of my kids or I get injured, my immediate thought doesn't have to be declaring bankruptcy.
Getting a raise means I would be able to put a couple bucks toward paying for my kids to go to college instead of relying 100% on grants or scholarships.
Getting a raise means I can take my kids on vacations where they'll experience a world beyond the horse track on the far north side of town.
Getting a raise means I could start digging myself out of years of debt I've built up paying for luxuries like car insurance, indoor living, bedbug extermination, clothing for growing kids, and gasoline.
Furthermore, assuming there isn't another huge financial crash in our future--which seems inevitable regardless of next month's election--my 401(k) will never reach a level where I can comfortably retire. If I wanted to get it to $500,000, I'd need to be contributing roughly 40% of every paycheck. And that's if I put off retirement until I'm 70. My 401(k) is really more like a life insurance policy, since I will never collect it myself and it will go to my kids. The main difference being I could have a $400,000 life insurance policy for what I putting into the 401(k), instead of leaving my kids with a couple grand each.
The baby boomer didn't have time to listen to all that. He had to get back up to his second home in Prescott.
George W. Bush's 2000 campaign would have come to a screeching halt if he'd dismissed opponent John McCain's war record and suggested the American people would be better off with a guy who "didn't get captured."
Barack Obama's 2008 candidacy never would have gotten off the ground if video from an old national TV interview existed where he speculated on how nice and big newborn Malia's breasts would be when she grew up.
Walter Mondale might not have even gotten 13 electoral votes in 1984 if he'd followed up his famous "Where's the beef?" debate line by pointing at his crotch and telling Gary Hart, "It's in my pants. Lotta meat in there if you know what I mean. I guarantee it."
But what would have been called "gaffes" in any election prior to Donald Trump using his presidential campaign launch announcement to declare Mexicans who come to the United States are rapists and criminals who bring drugs are now so commonplace they fail to stand out. It's become impossible to make up satire about Trump. If you saw any of the following quotes attributed to Trump in the coming week, none would immediately jump out as bullshit:
"Yeah, but we're talking about Russia here, George. This is the real world, not some made up place like Westeros or Morocco or Oz."
"What a beautiful crowd. I get the best crowds. Crooked Hillary, you go to see her speak and people are a mess. They're terrible. Ugly, terrible people. The worst. It's sad."
"We're sending our Olympic athletes to Brazil. Brazil! The Olympics have always been America's game but Obama is too weak. It's sad. You need someone strong who's going to tell the Olympics they're staying where they belong. In America!"
"The Chinese are killing us on trade. The Chinese know they're not going to come into a Trump White House and say, (pushes corners of eyes upward and sticks out buck teeth) 'Bing bong ching chong, we gonna take-a all you job and you buy from us. Pay beeeeg money.' I've dealt with the Chinese before."
But the past 72 hours have seen an increased amount of outrageousness from the Republican nominee, even by post-Trump era standards. Most notably, he's attacked the parents of a Muslim American who died protecting his fellow soldiers, claiming he's read the Constitution and that they have no right to criticize him publicly. But beyond that, he's refused to endorse McCain or House Speaker Paul Ryan in their upcoming elections, alleged a conspiracy by fire marshals to limit the size of his rallies, suggested women who get sexually harassed are weak for not quitting and getting new jobs, mocked the mother of a crying baby, ate KFC with a metal silverware on his private jet, spouted Putin propaganda about Crimea, and very likely leaked naked photos of his wife to The New York Post.
It's led to speculation on the parts of many people that Trump may be actively trying to lose the election. Conspiracy theorists have floated the idea that Bill and Hillary Clinton are secretly behind Trump's candidacy. Others think he got into the race to help promote what would have been the upcoming season of "The Apprentice," things got out of hand and now he's trying to get out of a four-year commitment to having to learn policies and being diplomatic. Stories that he offered John Kasich the vice presidential nomination with the promise that the Ohio Governor would make all foreign and domestic policy decisions while Trump "made America great again" lends some credence to that idea.
Trump's real motivation may be found in something he tweeted after Bernie Sanders endorsed Hillary Clinton at last week's Democratic National Convention:
Bernie Sanders totally sold out to Crooked Hillary Clinton. All of that work, energy and money, and nothing to show for it! Waste of time.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2016
In June, shortly after Trump clinched the Republican nomination, two former campaign advisers speculated that Trump might be willing to surrender the nomination for $150 million. Trump shot down the idea, but billionaire Mark Cuban chimed in that was likely less about ethics and more due to the price being too low.
Trump holds something that many may consider precious and priceless. He may very well control the very existence of the Republican Party. But it's meaningless to him. Unlike any of the other 16 candidates he bested in the primaries, Trump has no more loyalty to the GOP than he has to a business he might buy out in a hostile takeover. Trump is a stranger holding a ceramic urn of your grandmother's ashes on the edge of the Grand Canyon. He can drop it and walk away without a twinge of loss, but he knows you'd be devastated. So he begins tossing it from one hand to the other...
I made a prediction a few days ago that by the end of August, Trump will resign his nomination due to business or health reasons, and Paul Ryan would "reluctantly" accept his party's nomination the way he did when he "didn't" want to be Speaker of the House. Reports this morning indicate RNC Chair Reince Priebus and other party leaders are calling for a meeting with Trump to discuss his behavior and how it damages the party. Further reports are indicating the party is exploring its options for replacing Trump on the ballot.
Trump will accept a buyout large enough that he might actually be able to finally call himself a billionaire and mean it. His refusal to endorse Ryan and McCain along with the fact neither was a primary candidate sets the stage for the two of them to form a ticket that symbolizes a complete reversal from the ugliness of the 2016 campaign. And they will crush Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine.
The Democrats are narrowly leading the presidential race right now against a ticket of comic book villains and are opting to reach out to disenfranchised Republicans rather than to the 46% of primary voters who supported Bernie Sanders to shore up their lead. A Ryan/McCain ticket will sell its party members a message of unity (which the Democrats failed to do), and while a portion of Trump voters will refuse to be swayed, the majority will be revealed as either GOP loyalists happy to be back on familiar ground or ardent "not Hillary" voters who don't care what name is on the ballot as long as it isn't "Clinton."
Ryan and McCain will offer the same terrible policies and stances the GOP has offered for decades. But in comparison to the bile spewed by Trump for the past year, it will sound reasonable and comforting.
The final scene of The Dark Knight has Batman running from police fresh off of saving the city. He orders Commissioner Gordon to lie and place the blame for Harvey Dent's murder on him to preserve the district attorney's iconic image as a crusader for justice and prevent the public from knowing of Dent's murderous turn to Two-Face. Gordon explains to his son that Batman is:
"... the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So we'll hunt him. Because he can take it. Because he's not our hero. He's a silent guardian, a watchful protector. A dark knight."Batman was willing to sacrifice his honor to protect the image of Dent, the hero Gotham needed. He understood the greater good outweighed public opinion of his alter ego.
In a Democratic Primary debate in October, Hillary Clinton labeled "Republicans" an enemy. She was blasted by right wing media and walked back the comment, which is understandable since her record makes it hard to imagine she considers the GOP an enemy. Clinton and her ilk have "fought" Republicans by compromising with them on issues in the hope that it would result in give-and-take that would pull both sides to the center. Instead, both parties have continually been pulled to the right as the GOP drags Democrats to a point that fracking, private prisons, trade deals, domestic spying, reduced banking regulations, voter restrictions, and lax gun laws are considered part of the "liberal agenda."
But assume someone did consider Republicans an enemy, and wanted to destroy the party. Many may picture Bernie Sanders, who has called out the establishment players in both parties for their ties to corporations and big-dollar donors. Sanders' idealism may prompt Commissioner Gordon to label him "the hero America needs, but not the one we deserve."
To really defeat the GOP, we deserve someone else.
Who has done more to destroy the Republican Party in the past century than Donald Trump has done in the past year?
Imagine going back in time two years and finding some people who'd like to see the Republican Party reduced to rubble. Ask them their wishlist of things they'd like to see headed into the 2016 general election. Many may have suggested things like seeing the Bush family's grip on power broken, or having the political futures of promising future party leaders (and likely presidential favorites) Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and Chris Christie neutered. Someone might laughingly suggest, "I'd love to see party leadership having to stand behind a candidate who openly says Mexicans are criminals and find a way to justify it," but no one would realistically expect such a thing.
If they were to put their heads together and create a shoot-the-moon-level, comedically terrible candidate who would expose all the worst aspects of the GOP, they'd probably have that person:
- Claim to be religious while transparently having no understanding of Christianity.
- Insult women for their looks and menstrual cycles.
- Regularly contradict himself, often within the same sentence.
- Never offer a single policy detail.
- Openly court the white supremacist vote.
- Express little to no understanding of foreign policy.
- Express an incestuous attraction toward his daughter.
- Threaten endless military interventions while attacking veterans and surviving family of troops who died on the battlefield.
- Eat a taco bowl as outreach to Latino voters.
- Call for violence against racial minorities at rallies.
- Promise massive tax cuts guaranteed to destroy the economy.
- Boast about the size of his penis during a national debate.
- Name call his opposition like a six-year-old on a playground.
- Praise foreign dictators.
- Order the mother of a crying baby to get out of his rally.
- Dismiss violence committed by his supporters as "enthusiasm."
Donald Trump may not be our hero, but he's accomplishing more than progressives could ever ask of Hillary, Bernie, and Obama combined. And we hunt him like that other make-believe billionaire who inherited everything from his father. Because he can take it. He's a silent guardian--
Nope, I guess the silent bit is where the whole things falls apart...
With the Democratic National Convention failing to convince many Bernie Sanders supporters and Donald Trump detractors that Hillary Clinton should be the next president, third party candidates are getting more consideration than during more election years. This week, there seems to be a concerted effort on the part of the Hillary campaign to hammer home the message that voting for Governor Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party or Green Party candidate Dr. Jill Stein is throwing away your vote and risking four years of President Trump.
This argument, however, fails to consider the outdated quagmire of the Electoral College.
No matter what happens in the next 100 days, Donald Trump will get 173 electoral votes from 21 states. There is a fraction of a percent chance that the voters of Kentucky, Wyoming, Alabama, Nebraska, and Mississippi will throw their support behind Hillary Clinton in November.*
Because the popular vote is meaningless, there's no reason for progressives in Alaska, Montana, and Tennessee not to support Stein. And disgruntled Republicans upset that their party has abandoned fiscal conservatism can feel free to cast a ballot of Johnson. Ultimately, Trump will win Kansas and its six electoral votes. But while the outcome is the same, the message is different if he wins by a margin of 68-32 versus one of 54-20-18-8.
Yes, there are states where voting matters. If I lived in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, or North Carolina, I might be more open to the idea that my vote for Stein or Johnson could be the difference maker. But I live in Arizona and have what could be considered Red State privilege that comes from knowing my vote is a meaningless drop in a bucket if I cast it for the big two parties.
While FiveThirtyEight currently says there's a 27% chance Clinton could win our 11 electoral votes, I have no doubt we'll see those odds narrow as November approaches. Trump will lose in Tucson and Phoenix, but a combination of suppression of Hispanic and black votes along with overwhelming GOP support in rural parts of the state will far outweigh Clinton's narrow victories in the big cities.
Everything I've said holds true as well in blue enclaves like Illinois, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York, and California, which Clinton can already safely count in her march to the White House. Roughly 80 of American voters have indicated they'd like a viable third party option. Coincidentally, about 80% of states know months, even years before a presidential election that voters' choices won't matter. This election could be an opportunity to change both.
*Not for nothing, many of the states that are solidly in Trump's win column are states Clinton won by wide margins in the primary. In the ensuing months her supporters used that as a reason to urge Sanders out of the race. Sanders correctly pointed out that no Democratic candidate would win the deep red South, so her wins there would be immaterial in the general election.
When my family moved to Arizona in the mid-80's, we were part of the mass migration that made Phoenix one of the fastest growing cities year after year. According to the Census Bureau, when we arrived in Mesa in August of 1984, we were among the roughly 90,000 person boost in population to Maricopa County that year. That rate of roughly 80,000 to 100,000 people per year would continue through 2009, and at this point, Maricopa County is nearly two-and-a-half times larger than it was when we got here.
Even back then, many understood the infrastructure in place wouldn't be sufficient to sustain that growing population. In particular, the need for transportation was of great concern. At the time, there were three freeways, I-10 going to Tucson one direction and Los Angeles the other, I-17 going to Flagstaff, and 60, which connected East Mesa to I-10. A proposal went on the ballot in November to raise taxes to fund a series of new freeways, new buses, and a commuter train that would run from Mesa to downtown Phoenix, which wouldn't be up and running until the early 1990's.
The measure was soundly defeated.
As is so often the case, the decision was rendered by virtue of the elderly turning out in much larger numbers than 20-and-30-somethings who work and have other responsibilities on Tuesdays. Overwhelmingly, they rejected the idea of paying taxes for improvements to the city that many of them likely wouldn't live long enough to see, and that many wouldn't use regularly as they were retired and didn't have to worry about rush hour commutes.
The same scenario would explain the decline of the public schools in the following years as any measure to increase funding was soundly defeated by people whose children were middle aged and whose grandchildren and great grandchildren lived in other states. Why should they give up more of their fixed income in their last few years on this earth to make the future more secure for strangers?
Every advance of medical science extends the average human lifespan by a fraction. And as the population grows older with more people living longer, each election reflects more fears of change inherent in getting old and facing mortality.
"Gay people aren't supposed to get married!"
"I can't understand what Mexicans are saying. What if they're talking about me?"
"I don't want to go in a bathroom with people who have private parts different than mine!"
"I want to go to heaven when I die so don't anger God by letting a mosque be built here!"
"Police keep the black people from taking my stuff!"
"I want to go to heaven when I die so don't anger God by letting women get contraception or abortions!"
"Guns keep the black president from taking my stuff!"
"Keep me alive another six month even if it costs 1000 poor kids their immunizations!"
The Brexit referendum has cast a spotlight on this divide in Great Britain. More than 60% of voters under the age of 35 wanted to remain part of the European Union, while those over 45 preferred the option that allowed them to not have so many foreigners living in their neighborhoods. A portion of the economic impact has already been felt with the pound plummeting in value overnight and the Dow Jones dropping 600 points, but the true extent won't be known for years.
And many of those who voted to leave the EU will never live to see exactly what that impact will be. They will live out their final years with smug satisfaction that fewer Muslims are entering the country, secure that old age pensions won't run dry in their lifetimes. They aren't looking to move to France or to take a job in Italy or find true love in Luxembourg because they're past the point of making life changing moves.
The frustration with Brexit casts an ominous shadow over this November's elections. The Democratic primary overwhelmingly saw young people turn out to support Bernie Sanders and his policies in outrageous numbers, only to have them turned away at polling stations or to find five-hour long lines or to learn their closest poll was five miles away and largely inaccessible by public transit. Old people told them to sit down, be quiet, and fall in line. And when that didn't work, they'd literally beat them with their canes.
Every election brings with it warnings of doom should either side win--"The Democrats want Muslims to kill you all!" "The Republicans will let bank barons wipe their asses with your retirement savings!--which makes it all the more disconcerting to think a large percentage of the voters selecting the path the country takes will die before we reach the chosen destination.
Most Brexit opponents dismissed the chances of the referendum passing, echoing the sentiments of Americans who laugh at the prospect of President Trump. Exit polls even showed that a majority of those Brits who voted to leave the EU didn't think the referendum would actually pass, and many younger supporters have admitted voting to leave either because they didn't understand the true consequences of the vote or as a means of sending a patriotic message.
Unfortunately, by November, the lessons of Brexit will have been long forgotten in the 24-hour news cycle and the past will no doubt vote against the future again.
Robert Baker originally wrote this on the now-defunct Ye Olde Comick Booke Blogge in around 2007.
Way back in 2003, Jake and I went to our first non-San Diego convention in Las Vegas. Most of our regular group was going, but they didn't want to take a day off work, so Jake and I-- having pathetic jobs we could easily get out of-- headed to Vegas Friday morning for a day to ourselves.
Almost literally, as it turned out. The attendance was small, to say the least, and we had our run of the place. Remember, San Diego was our only comparison, so an initial walk-through of the three rows and four columns of booths (with an artists alley of about twenty tables, most of which were unoccupied for the first hour) set up in the Mandalay Bay convention hall led us to believe we were going to be playing a lot of roulette waiting for the rest of the guys to tell them what a mistake coming to this con was. We decided to wait for the first wave of appearances at a series of tables set up in the back of the hall. At 11 o'clock, the first names rolled in and made the attendance all the more laughable, as the fans had to wind their way through about sixty yards of roped-off space to get to each tables. Bendis was the only one to have a full que waiting for him when he showed up, but after twenty minutes of autographs anybody could just walk-up.
This was when we realized a smaller con was ideal for getting sketches and fraternizing with the artists. We got to stand and talk with Darick Robertson, Ale Garza, and J.H. Williams III for over half-an-hour each, and Lee Bermejo for nearly an hour, simply because nobody else was there. We were in sketch whore heaven!
DC was the only company represented, so when we had exausted the special appearance tables, Jake and I went to see who'd be appearing at the DC booth. Judd Winick and Darwyn Cooke were the names listed on the dry erase board. I knew Winick as the guy doing Green Lantern, Jake knew him as the guy from "The Real World." I knew Cooke as the guy who'd done a cool Batman one-shot, but at least he was an artist. So we waited.
Winick showed up first, so we got in his "line". Then Darwyn Cooke showed up, looking ever bit like he'd just warped from 1952: buzz cut hair, horn-rimmed glasses and a suit with a thin tie. We got some awesome sketches from Cooke, but-- and I'm sure Jake would agree-- the best thing we walked away with that day was the enthusiasm Darwyn had instilled in us about his epic project The New Frontier.
We immediately rushed over to his booth, hidden in the last row facing the wall, where he had told us to go to see more about the project. Being Halloween weekend, Darwyn and his friends decided to theme their booth after the book, making into a 1950's airline called New Frontier. Everyone at the booth was dressed as pilots or stewardesses, and Darwyn himself, it turned out, was dressed as Slam Bradley, his favorite character.The booth was decorated with large banners, promotional art for the book scattered the tables and old bombs sat prominently on the corners of the booth. Why? Because they looked cool. The most astonishing part of it was that Darwyn had paid for it all himself, not DC, because Darwyn was that enthusiastic about his project. It turned out almost everyone working with him were also artists, and were very willing to do sketches for us. In particular, J. Bone (an uncredited assistant to Cooke on The New Frontier) blew me away with the sketch he did for me.
That night when the rest of our group arrived Jake and I got them equally excited about Cooke, his booth and The New Frontier. We spent a good number of hours at that booth over the remainder of the weekend, and that Las Vegas con ranks as one of my favorites. It got us hooked on doing multiple conventions each year, in no small part due to Darwyn Cooke and his enthusiasm.
Six months later we all went to WonderCon, where Darwyn was a guest of honor, and The New Frontier was in full swing and an unqualified success. The real kick-in-the-head was when we first saw him that weekend he remembered us. Not by name, but he remembered specific things about us, and that was incredibly cool. He was so friendly towards us, that on Sunday Darwyn, J. Bone and Dave Bullock had lunch with Jake and I. It was a great for us, though I'm sure they've forgotten it.
We saw him one more time in San Diego a year later when he was up for a number of Eisner awards. Again we had the pleasure of being in his company, and again it was a time none of us will soon forget.
As this entire post is simply about name dropping, I'll get to the point of it all. This week the Absolute edition of The New Frontier came out. It is without question one of the best purchases you could ever make if you liked the book the first time around, and if you've never read it, you might as well get the bells-and-whistles edition. The supplemental material is impressive and the larger format makes the artwork shine.
On the very last page is a list of people Darwyn wished to acknowledge. It came as quite the surprise to see that, amidst the hundred or so other names, we were mentioned as a group, Mark by name (you cocksucker!)Seven words that, to the majority of the people would seem like no big deal-- "You weren't memorable enough to get your name in it, so get over yourself."--, but to me it shows that we had an impact. He appreciated our support, and to me that's the coolest thing in the world.
Republican presidential candidate and Ohio Governor John Kasich is in hot water for answering a question about sexual assault on college campuses by suggesting coeds avoid parties where alcohol is served. He also talked about things like anonymous reporting of sexual harassment and rape kits at schools in Ohio, and threw in the party bit as a piece of advice after mentioning how nervous it makes him just to think about the subject because he has two teenage daughters who'll be going to college soon.
Several critics have accused the governor of victim blaming. That term gets thrown around a lot, particularly in cases of sexual assaults. Obviously victims are victims and deserve sympathy, but are they always blameless?
Saying a victim may have taken actions (or should take actions) to make the crime less likely to happen is not absolving the perpetrator of any and all condemnation.
If you hear that a friend's car is stolen, you feel terrible for him. If he then tells you he parked it in the high crime part of town with the windows rolled down and the keys on the passenger seat, you still feel bad, but you'd be a fool not to think your friend's actions may have contributed to his situation. That doesn't mean you think the car thief had a right to steal the vehicle or that police shouldn't waste their time trying to find it.
It shocks me that in 2016, news outlets continue to cover stories about people being taken in by Nigerian email scams. Actually, I'm shocked that people still get taken in by Nigerian email scams*. And, yet, the local news reporters covering such stories will try to evoke sympathy for the person who had to ignorantly make the obviously wrong decision in about ten different circumstances in a row.
Again, the scammers are not innocent. It sucks that there are people out there who take advantage of stupid people and steal their money and they should be caught and prosecuted. But do we say that someone who gets an email claiming he won a European lottery he never entered, or that a distant, never-before-heard-of relative died while on an African vacation and left a trunk full of $16 million cash in his hotel room and never questions played no role in his fate?
Likewise, if a woman spots a celebrity at a nightclub, flirts with him, drinks on his tab all night, accepts drugs from him, and goes back to his hotel room, that celebrity has no right to rape her, but at what point in the evening should she have acknowledged there was an expectation on his part that she would have sex with him? I will keep saying this, if he sexually assaults her, he is 100% in the wrong and should be arrested and prosecuted, but suggesting that she should have been allowed to put herself in that situation without any fear that she would be in any danger is like suggesting you should be allowed to dip your feet in alligator-infested waters or run across a live shooting range without risk.
If you tell your friend, "lock up your car," is that victim blaming? If you tell your uncle, "don't reply to that email in your spam folder," is that victim blaming? Then why is telling a woman "avoid drunk, horny assholes with a sense of entitlement who are already bigger and stronger than you but also not above using roofies?" By the standard being set by those you toss about the victim blaming accusation, telling kids not to take candy from strangers would be victim blaming. "Instead of teaching kids not to take candy from strangers, why don't we teach strangers with candy not to kidnap children?"
The world is full of scumbags who will take advantage of those they see as vulnerable. That will never change no matter what legal measures you take and policies you institute. By all means, those measures and policies should be pursued, but suggesting that people avoid situations where they could be vulnerable or that they take precautions to make themselves less vulnerable is not victim blaming. It's good--albeit sad--advice.
* Did you know email scammers purposely fill their emails with bad grammar, incorrect punctuation, and factual errors (like claiming to be a prince from a country that has no royalty)? The point is to make them so obviously false that any even moderately intelligent person (who is likely to put up resistance, ask questions, or go to the authorities) will spot the scam and delete it, leaving only the stupidest and ripest for the plucking to actually respond.
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