Modern Communication: A texting etiquette primer for Boomers…

A Boomer goes about his day

Boomers have a problem.

Technically, boomers have a lot of problems, like their misplaced pride, regressive values, and frail, saggy, liver-spotted bodies scaring children and gentle ladies of sensitive constitution, but the specific problem I refer to is their inability to communicate appropriately in modern society.

Think about it from their point of view. When their parents were children, humanity was still drawing ochre-colored mammoths on cave walls, and language consisted of grunts and pointing. When Boomers were young, literacy was as rare as a supportive, sensitive, emotionally open father figure, and was almost exclusively limited to myopic monks painstakingly transcribing ancient religious texts onto stretched vellum by hand.

Consequently, Boomers, well…they don’t text so good.

Millennials, by comparison, prefer typed communication to the unhygenic barbarity of the spoken word. Millennials spent their formative years lurking in their parents “computer room”, happily typing away for hours with their friends and creepy internet strangers using AOL instant messenger on a 56k dialup connection. The inevitable result of these activities, besides giving the family Gateway computer incurable super-aids while attempting to download Limp Bizkit’s Nookie from Limewire, was that Millennials learned to express emotion and intent via punctuation in an informal conversational typing style. Boomers, by comparison grew up chiseling pictograms into stone tablets. Writing was a serious business. After walking up hill six miles through the snow to a one room unheated schoolhouse, Boomers were taught that writing should be more formal, and that expressive punctuation was childish and silly. They were taught that exclamation points were infantile, and that conversational pacing and tone was inappropriate for written communication. Paired with their currently failing eyesight, and knobby arthritic hands which lack keyboard muscle memory, this tends to make their text messages quite cold, perfunctory, and sterile. In a time when writing a letter involved plucking a feather from a disagreeable goose to make a quill, dissecting a squid for its bladder of ink, carefully writing a short missive on a scrap of paper from the back page of the Sears Roebuck catalogue, tying it securely to the leg of a carrier pigeon, and hoping the bird survived the harrowing 3 week journey from the front back to the gilded manor estate where your middle-aged 18-year-old sweetheart languished in a laudanum and radium makeup induced haze, then yes, formality and brevity would be worthwhile writing habits to cultivate. What they fail to realize however, is that, to supple young fingers which can type more quickly than a mouth can speak, and where technology can deliver messages instantaneously across the globe, text-based conversations truly are conversations, and not treating them as such is quite jarring and off-putting to the recipient.

Millennials communicate much more clearly through text because they don’t have those outdated notions of formality. They’re used to holding convenient text-based conversations with their friends and have learned how to use punctuation to great effect to convey accurate intent and emotion. Boomer texts usually fail to do so.

Take for example, the following statement – “Here I come”.

If a Millennial were to receive that text with anything other than an exclamation point at the end of it, they would worry that they have somehow angered or offended the person sending the text.

Here I come! – means that your friend is on their way, and nothing is wrong. Here I come!!! – means that your friend is on their way, and they’re relatively happy about the situation. Here I come!!!!!!!!!!!!!! – means that they are on their way, and are super fucking stoked.

Conversely, Here I come. – is NOT a plain statement of fact, but instead an indicator that something. is. wrong. The period is stern. It is angry. It indicates that while the person is indeed coming, they are somewhat pissed off about it, and will be yelling at you about something when they arrive.

What is even worse however, is Here I come… – Oof. The ellipsis. The most ominous of punctuation. Boomers, you seem to use (…) a lot, and I can promise you that Millennials are not reading it how you intend to use it. That grammatical pause is most often used by Millennials to indicate threat, or deep annoyance, or as the setup to the punchline of a joke. Since there is not often a joke following up “Here I come”, the implication would instead be something along the lines of “Here I come…I’m coming to get you (and then kill you)”, or “Here I come…but I’m REALLY fucking pissed off about it and when I arrive I’ll be skipping the yelling and going straight to slapping you in the mouth.”

As another example, LOL or HAHA in texts. LOL, for the particularly uninitiated, means laugh-out-loud, and it is used as a response to indicate that a sentence was either received well, or that a sentence being sent is intended to be lighthearted and uncontroversial. Something like “You forgot the cake lol” does not mean that the sender is actually laughing out loud about your failure to bring cake, they are instead notifying you that you forgot the cake, and that they are not upset about it. It is similar to using an exclamation point, and is often interchangeable. So “you forgot the cake lol” and “you forgot the cake!” can feasibly mean the same thing, which is that cake was forgotten, but all is forgiven. “you forgot the cake.” however, would mean that they are angry about you forgetting the cake, and “you forgot the cake…” means that forgetting the cake is the last thing you’ll ever do, because you’re about to be murdered.

There is a good bit of nuance to the LOL and HAHA as well. Capitalization changes the degree of the term. So lol is only slightly funny, whereas LOL means it is REALLY funny, because it’s BIGGER. LMAO (laughing my ass off) and ROFL (rolling on the floor laughing) are for the funniest things of all, messages which were funny enough that it may even have elicited an actual physiological response, like a quick breath out the nostrils, or even an audible chuckle. “haha” and “HAHA” follow the same rules, with both capitalization, and amount of “ha”s used indicating increasing humor (hahahahaha is funnier than haha). Placing a space between the “ha”s however, is not good. HA HA is bad, and HA HA. (with a period) is worse. HA HA, with the space in between indicates a pause for effect, like you are sarcastically fake laughing, and “HA HA.” is especially scathing.

Ugh, there are too many rules, complain Boomers (a subsection of the population who historically fucking LOVE rules), not because the rules are particularly confusing or onerous to learn, but simply because Boomers are used to perceiving themselves as the experienced professionals at everything, and they don’t like being reminded that there is much they do not yet know. Why should we even text anyway, Boomers may say, hand-written letters are much fancier, and speaking face to face or on the phone with our words is clearly superior?

I say that superiority is debatable. The goal is clear communication. Most people, and Boomers especially, employ the frustrating Christian habit of assigning moral value to inherently amoral activities. Cursive isn’t fancier/better/more formal/morally upright to print, it’s just an obsolete penmanship style that has been made redundant and unnecessary by the speed, convenience, and legibility of word processors and cell phone screens. A person with good handwriting is not a better person, they are just a person with good handwriting. Inefficient and slowly produced handwritten letters have been replaced by the convenience and clarity of typewritten and printed letters, and even more so by purely digital email and texts. But what about phone calls, you scream impotently into the void. After they stole our telegraph, nothing beats a good old fashioned phone conversation. So why would you even want to text or email instead of just calling?

Stop. Just stop. Millennials HATE phone calls.

Back when Boomers opinions mattered, phones used to be tied to a place, whether home or office, and if you were not within reach of the phone, you were free. If you weren’t within arm’s reach of your landline telephone, nobody could impose upon your free time or privacy. Your boss could not bother you on vacation, your time was your own. If you had to speak on the phone, you did it in the privacy of your own home or workplace. Not in line at the grocery store. Not while trying to enjoy a romantic meal at a fancy restaurant. Millennials do not have that freedom. Thanks to our capitalist corporate overlords demanding more and more productivity and infringing more and more upon our previously free time in their quest for ever higher profits wrung from ever more overworked and underpaid employees, now that everybody has cell phones, we are expected to be plugged in and available all the time. It is EXHAUSTING.

To attempt to combat this, millennials keep their phones on silent ALWAYS. The only time a millennial would have a phone ringer turned on, is if they are expecting a very very very important call, like to notify them that their wife is going into labor, or their mistress successfully got the abortion. Boomers, there is NO reason to keep your phone ringer or notifications on for normal everyday casual usage. If your phone is always in your pocket, you can check the screen periodically, so you would notice a missed call or text quickly enough and can respond accordingly. An immediate response is not expected, nor should it be.

Boomers, try to understand, it is not texts or emails that a Millennial considers rude. If they’re texting you, it’s because they respect you. Actual phone calls are considered rude and demanding. You can answer an email or respond to a text conversation at your leisure while doing other things. You can multi-task. You can prepare yourself and provide thoughtful and accurate responses. Calls on the other hand require your undivided attention immediately and imprison you in a single conversation until they are over. Sending a text or email indicates that the sender respects the recipients time and would like to work with them at their convenience to communicate whatever needs to be communicated. Calling a person indicates that you only care about yourself, and you don’t care about how your selfish actions may inconvenience or otherwise bother your target audience.

When a Boomer makes a phone call, I generously assume they’re not thinking “oh boy, let’s see how quickly I can ruin somebody’s day today”, but that’s ultimately what they’re doing. When millennials receive a call, their immediate response is – first of all how dare you? Who would even? Why would? Eww.

They feel put out, infringed upon, violated.

Receiving a text or an email however, they love. They can respond at a convenient time. They can collect their thoughts and formulate a better response. They can multi-task and remain in contact with multiple parties. It does not disturb the people around them, like having to listen to one half of a phone conversation in public would. And there is no loss of intent, anything that can be conveyed verbally over the phone can also be conveyed visually through text, since Millennials are able to type quickly and express emotion accurately through the clever use of punctuation, abbreviations, and emojis.

The goal is clear, concise, convenient, and quick communication. Currently the best way to do that is through text or email. Not phone calls. Not letters sent via pony express. Not seances, crop circles, or petroglyphs. Text or email. And the great thing is, Boomers, you too can take part in this new renaissance of efficient global communication. All it takes is a little practice. So get to it! Boomers, learn how to text… (implied by the ellipsis – or else.)

Posted in Max's Journal | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Happy Birthday to Me.

“But I am very poorly today & very stupid & hate everybody & everything. One lives only to make blunders.” – Charles Darwin, 1861

I am 36 today.

Technically, yesterday was my birthday, but I can never remember exactly what time of day I was born, and that means that for a while yesterday, I was still 35. So today is the first full day of the 36th year of my life. Status report: I’m struggling.

Not only am I working through the existential dread that afflicts me every year as I grow ever closer to death without achieving much in the way of accomplishments or a lasting legacy, a depressing fact which always leaves me feeling grumpy and irritable around my birthday, but the last couple of years in particular have hit especially hard.

Not to be dramatic, but not only is my entire generation pretty much resigned to the fact that things will never be good, ever again, and all of the happy, fun, carefree days are over, squandered by the generations before us before we ever even got a taste of the pie, but we’ve also been permanently affected by COVID deaths and isolation, rocked by economic uncertainty, victimized by skyrocketing housing, healthcare, education, childcare, food, fuel, and all-around living costs, and exhausted by traitorous politicians, greedy buffoons, anti-intellectual idiots, conspiracy theorist morons, and regressive fucks, all while the entire world boils alive and narcissistic billionaires rush to flee the planet instead of working to save it.

I’m exhausted boss. I’m burnt out, depressed, and anxious, and all of that has been working together to create a never-ending hell loop I lack the imagination to see an escape from. I’m depressed because I’ve been isolated from my family and friends for two years due to the pandemic. I’m anxious because if I make the wrong move and irresponsibly pretend nothing is wrong and spend time with my friends for my own enjoyment and happiness, my selfishness may very well kill somebody. I don’t know who is immuno-compromised and at risk, so I’m trying to do the right thing and act compassionately and responsibly. What I do know is that I can’t think of a single person that died from the flu or any other trendy illness du jour in my entire life, but I can think of at least a dozen people I am acquainted with who have died of COVID in the past year, so this shit is no hoax, and yet there are still assholes refusing to get vaccinated or wear facemasks, which just keeps extending this damn plague when it could have been fucking over already. So not only am I depressed by the perplexing selfishness of a significant portion of the US population, I’m also depressed because my anxiety has gone so far off the rails that I’m having panic attacks while driving, so even if I could safely plan a visit with my friends, I don’t know if I’m even physically capable of getting to them, which has me feeling especially trapped and isolated, and I’m anxious because even if I successfully meet up with my friends, I’m so depressed that I worry I might not be funny enough, or entertaining enough, or just enough in general for them to continue liking me and wanting to be my friends. Which naturally isn’t helping my anxiety. Which obviously, is compounding my depression. You see the pattern.

So, it’s fair to say that for the last two years, I haven’t really been living much. Just existing.

My hobbies have suffered, because I have lacked the energy, enthusiasm, focus, or drive to really do anything. I’ve just been feeling really dumb and useless. Look at this website for example, I’ve barely posted anything over the last 24 months. Honestly, I’ve barely written anything at all, online or off. I mean, it’s been three years and I still haven’t completed the sequel to my most recent novel, and that story was supposed to be done in 2019. It gives me nightmares thinking about how I’ve let everybody who wants to know what happens next in the story down so thoroughly, and I’m still working on it, slowly and unsteadily, but lately writing anything at all has felt like a chore. Can you imagine? One of my favorite activities, and I can’t find any pleasure in it these days.

My work has suffered too, because something has to give, and I’m frankly not at 100%. The way I figure it, sometimes simply doing good enough needs to be good enough, and while my bosses say they totally understand that things are crazy, and support their employees, and care about their emotional and physical well-being, they absolutely do not understand, and do not support us, and care only for profits, and if our performance slips even a smidge below some arbitrary benchmark, we will be thrown to the wolves immediately without a second of regret, because to them we are faceless interchangeable cogs in an ever hungering machine, so, you know, that’s not really great for my overall state of mind.

My health has suffered, because constant stress, anxiety, and depression will do that to a person. Beyond the newfound anxiety, which I have grown half-convinced is from a brain tumor, or blot clot, or impending stroke or aneurysm, or an even more rare and exotic syndrome or disease which will kill me at any moment, although logically it’s probably just the anxiety making me think that, but I’m not going to actually go find out, because what’s the point? I can’t afford to go to the doctor, because this is America, so if I go and they actually do find something wrong, I may as well just kill myself then and there so that my family can collect on the life insurance policy, because otherwise we’d be saddled with so much medical debt that we’d lose everything and our economic prospects would be ruined for 100 generations, and I’m not doing that to my family.

On top of the natural physical consequences of growing older, COVID isolation has had me stuck at home, sitting on my ass eating sugar snacks and growing fatter and fatter, which, compounded by the depression making me too lethargic and weak to lift weights or exercise, of course makes me feel worse about myself, and contributes further to my depression. Like I said, vicious cycle.

But you know what? It’s not all bad. I woke up on my birthday yesterday still exhausted after a fitful nights sleep with a pounding headache and ready to choose violence all day, but then something wonderful happened. My phone started buzzing, and it did not stop.

All day I was bombarded by texts, and calls, and social media posts from my family and friends wishing me well and giving me tangible proof that, isolated though I may be feeling, I’m never truly alone. Not even a little. Even if we can’t share the same physical space as much as I would like, I am still surrounded by people who care about me. To them, I matter. To them, I’m enough.

So for all of those people who took a moment out of their day to reach out and wish my a happy birthday, thank you. It means more than you can ever know. Even if I’m having a rough day and feeling very poorly & very stupid & hate everybody & everything, as our old pal Chuck Darwin so eloquently stated, those feelings pass. I ended up having wonderful time yesterday, and went to bed feeling so loved, and so thankful, and dare I say, even a little optimistic.

And wouldn’t you know it, it looks like I’m writing again.

Posted in Max's Journal | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s been a shitty year

Who are we? Are we our bodies? Are we our minds? Are we a discrete and singular entity, bound to a specific time and place, or are we instead our legacy, the summation of all of our actions and the cumulative causal weight of our existence?

I prefer to think we are the latter, that the sum of who we are is not bound to the thoughts in our head or the face we see in the mirror, but can instead be fully perceived only in the aggregate effect we have had on others. There is some solace in that.

To use a cheap analogy, we are not just a skipped stone, we are instead both the stone AND the ripples in the pond, emanating from every spot the stone impacted the water.

This does, however mean that we can never truly be known, not fully. Not by somebody else, since our personal experiences are both private and ineffable, and not even by ourselves, since we can never really comprehend the full impact we have had on others.

This is not meant to be a lonely thought, or a depressing one, but is instead beautiful, because it means that who we are is never just one thing. It is instead a wonderful, mutable, conglomeration of the many permutations of cause and effect that have occurred due to our existence. If who we are is defined on a sliding scale between solipsism and sonder, and built from both the rich internal tapestry of our own consciousness as well as the countless unique versions of us that reside solely in other people’s minds, then we are truly infinite, which is immortality of a sort.

I lost a friend recently. Although my knowledge of him, limited as it was to our personal interactions and shared experiences, was really only a small piece of the entirety of his being, if you will let me, I would like to tell you about the man I knew. I would like to tell you about Chris Slater.

Slater was a man of vision. I met Slater in college, and he was, frankly, easily dissatisfied with the mundane, and constantly sought ways to elevate the experiences of himself and others into something special. This was, I believe, both a blessing and a curse, because when he was able to, he invariably made things better than they would have otherwise been, but when he couldn’t, he grew resentful and discontent.

He was brilliant, and creative, inventive, and resourceful. Chris saw what life at UCONN had to offer, and he said not good enough. He created an oasis with his tribe at Willi Oaks that took everything good about the college experience, and turned it up to eleven. It became, in no small part thanks to Chris’s charisma, vision, and sheer force of will, a truly magical place of mad invention, deep friendships, constant laughs, hedonistic excess, and personal growth, and I am forever grateful to have been able to experience it, even lurking as I did on the periphery as a frequent visitor instead of one of the resident savages.

While most of the specific stories I have from that era are wildly inappropriate to share in a public forum like this, just know that many of the funniest, best, most enduring memories I have of college involve Chris, and in that, I am in no way unique.

After college, I was lucky enough to keep in contact with Slater, and although the occasions where we spent time together were far too infrequent, when they did occur I always knew they would be memorable and special, because that is simply what Slates did. Nobody else fit the old adage “here for a good time, not a long time” quite as well as Chris, and the world is a lesser place without him. The effect he had on his friends and family can never be overstated, and he will be missed dearly. The stone may be gone, but the pond will keep rippling, for a long, long time.

Obituary of Christopher Lincoln Slater (cornellmemorial.com)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Liberal opinions v. Conservative opinions on important issues, based entirely on things I’ve heard from my most obnoxious liberal and conservative friends.

When I was a young warthog, my knowledge of the United States’ political system was, perhaps forgivably, quite limited. Since my mushy, porridge-like grade-schooler brain mostly just contained incorrect facts about dinosaurs and schemes to steal Pogs from my friends at recess, my political acumen was more or less non-existent. I basically thought that, if you wanted to be nice, you were a democrat, and if you wanted to be rich, you were a republican. This caused me no small amount of youthful angst, because I had to admit in my secret heart of hearts, that although I knew I was supposed to want to be nice, and for the most part I did really want to be nice, I also wanted to be really rich.

Now, even though I have grown, and matured somewhat, and have a slightly more accurate understanding of liberal vs conservative political philosophies, I must admit that I still don’t really understand where I should fall on the political spectrum. I am not, after all, a 2 dimensional cartoonish caricature of a human being. I believe that there are relevant points made by those looney libertarians, and I salute the refreshing optimism of the other even more minor political movements. There are facets of the Democratic party’s platform that I absolutely support, and facets I whole-heartedly disagree with. Likewise, there are facets of the Republican platform that I support, and facets I despise.

At least, I think there are. It’s hard to tell really, because no conservatives I know will tell me what their platform really is or how it would benefit me.

Based on the year of my birth, I am considered an elder millennial. Consequently, most of the people I regularly interact with in a social setting are also millennials. Maybe it is due to a weird and completely coincidental confluence of circumstances, and not at all an indicator of the health of the parties as a whole, but, at least within the millennial age range, the demographic makeup of my circle of outspokenly liberal friends is wildly different than my circle of outspokenly conservative friends.

Not only are they more ethnically and culturally diverse, which I consider to always be a good thing, but my outspokenly liberal friends also include medical doctors, people with PhDs, masters degrees, and all sorts of other graduate certifications. They read, and research, debate and philosophize. They were the type of kids who spent recess in the library, or robotics lab. They are incredibly smart individuals. Way smarter than me. Look, I am a dumb guy, but I’m smart enough to recognize that I am a dumb guy. So when people who are much smarter than me tell me something, I know I should listen. With them, I am able to have substantive policy discussions, and even though I may not agree with every point they make, we can talk for hours, and when I am demonstrably wrong they can and absolutely do dunk on me with clear, concise, factually robust information. I mean it, these nerds pull out graphs. They bring the heat, and I walk away from a debate with them feeling smarter, even if I lost.

My most outspoken conservative millennial-aged friends on the other hand…well, they’re fucking dumb. Seriously, they have the curiosity of driveway gravel and the unearned self-confidence of walking Dunning-Kruger case studies. While my liberal leftist contemporaries were reading Michener in the school library, my MAGA pals were smoking discarded cigarette butts, huffing rubber cement, and scratching dicks and swastikas onto bathroom stall doors. DISCLAIMER – this is in no way implying that all liberals are brilliant and well-educated and all conservatives are idiots. That is clearly not the case. I am only saying that, of the people my age that I personally regularly interact with, in my particular circle of friends, the most outspoken liberals are actual fucking geniuses, and the most outspoken conservatives are…not that.

Because of this, if I ask the liberals I am acquainted with about their leftist policies and the Democratic platform, they are more than happy to share their theories with me, and it usually results in me going, huh, that makes a lot of sense, I think you might be right. When I ask the conservatives I know about their right-leaning ideologies and the Republican party’s goals, the entire sum of their platform is basically “Fuck Democrats. Fuck the Left. Fuck Liberals.”

Now, that’s all well and good, but… it doesn’t really address any of my concerns, or give me a fair representation of the Republican party’s platform. Like, at all.

I know that a general explanation of the Republican party’s platform is a simple web browser search away. I know that, traditionally, “conservative” values include support for limited government, free markets, and individual liberties *as long as those liberties don’t clash with their own viewpoints*, but I don’t really know what that means for me and the things I care about, and my illiterate conservative friends don’t know enough big words to explain it to me. So maybe a wise stranger on the internet can help.

Here are a list of things I worry about, as well as paraphrased responses I’ve received from my more liberal friends, which they have backed up with statistical data and facts. Hopefully a clever reader can help fill in the blanks regarding the GOP’s plan to resolve these issues, without resorting to hypotheticals, what-ifs, and inaccurate comparisons to other countries, societies, and historical eras, so that I can finally make a fair comparison between the two.

Problem: Cost of living has been increasing rapidly over time, but worker pay has not kept up.

Life keeps getting more and more expensive, but income for the vast majority of American citizens has not really risen to match it. In 1980, minimum wage was $3.10/hr., or $10.27 in today’s dollars when adjusted for inflation. Currently, the federally mandated minimum wage is $7.25/hr. So it’s actually 3 dollars less than it was forty years ago.

Worker productivity, on the other hand, has increased. So workers are working longer hours, more efficiently, creating more profits for their employers, but they are not receiving increased compensation for their efforts. Well, who is? Where is all this money going!?

It turns out that over the same period of time (1980-2020), CEO pay has grown 940%, while regular worker compensation has only grown 12%. So that’s where a lot of the money has gone, to make the rich richer.

This was not always the case. Most Americans believe that a rising tide should lift all boats—that as the economy expands, everybody should reap the rewards. And for two-and-a-half decades beginning in the late 1940s, this was how our economy worked. Over this period, the pay (wages and benefits) of typical workers rose in tandem with productivity (how much workers produce per hour). In other words, as the economy became more efficient and expanded, everyday Americans benefited correspondingly through better pay. But in the 1980s, this started to change. From 1948-1979, productivity went up 108.1% while worker pay went up 93.2%. That’s still good, that means we were mostly getting paid for our work. From 1980-2018 however, productivity went up an additional 69.6%, but pay only went up 11.6%.

I think that’s a huge problem. Normal people are working harder than ever, but not being justly compensated for the labor they are providing, and the middle class is shrinking rapidly. Soon we may not even have a middle class anymore, just a few insanely wealthy neo-bourgeoise overlords living in mountaintop palaces while the rest of us toil wearily in their underground sugar caves and are periodically hunted for sport.

Liberal Solution: While everything from housing, to healthcare, to education skyrocket in price, workers are getting paid pennies for their labor. I know what the Liberal Left wants to do about this obvious problem. They want to increase the minimum wage to actually reflect the minimum amount needed to survive, and consequently promote increased wages across all jobs. That makes sense to me. If a human being sells at least 40 hours of their life a week to their employer, no matter what job they are doing, they deserve to at least be paid the bare minimum actually needed to survive. Minimum Wage is not meant to be a “starter” wage or a “practice” wage. It is not just teenagers working a few hours after school for video game money that earn minimum wage after all. In fact, almost 90% of the people making minimum wage are adults over 20 years old. They are real people, with real bills, who cannot survive on their current income.

Conservative Solution: The market will decide? I don’t know. Do conservatives even think it’s a problem that normal people are getting poorer and poorer while like 13 people hoard most of the wealth? I don’t see how reduced government regulation and unrestrained capitalism solves this issue, and no conservative has bothered to explain it to me. The fact that we need child labor laws, and that American companies sidestep that restriction by building sweat shops which exploit child slave labor overseas in the pursuit of higher profits seems like pretty definitive proof that regulations are necessary. We can’t just trust businesses to do the right thing, if that were the case then a federally mandated minimum wage would be unnecessary, because all businesses would already pay their workers a living wage, and not the bare minimum that they are required to by law. The golden era that the MAGA crowd nostalgically reminisces about through rose colored glasses when they say Make America Great Again was a time when American workers were well paid, and the income gap between workers and CEOs was much smaller, so you would think the GOP would be onboard with raising the minimum wage to a survivable level. That is, of course, assuming that middle class prosperity is what they’re referring to when they chant MAGA, and not like, segregating the blacks and preventing women from opening bank accounts again.

Problem: National debt and Taxes.

The GOP playbook since Reagan has basically been: Promise to lower taxes to get elected. Lower taxes and watch the deficit skyrocket. Lose office to Democrats. Complain about the deficit as if it were the Democrats fault. Prevent the Democrats from passing any useful legislation or achieving anything while they are in office. Complain about how the Democrats never pass any useful legislation or achieve anything. Promise to lower taxes. Get re-elected. Rinse/Repeat.

In 1960, wealthy Americans were taxed at 56%. In 1980, that dropped to 47%. In 2020, it has plummeted to 23%, and is now actually lower than the tax rate for the average American household, which in 2020 was 24.2%. The top 400 families currently have more wealth than the bottom 60 percent of households, while the top 0.1 percent own as much as the bottom 80 percent. Bruh.

Championed by the GOP, the theory of trickle down economics has had 40 years to bear fruit, and it has definitively shown itself to be a complete sham. Making it easier for the super rich to get even richer has only resulted in further hoarding of wealth by the lucky few. The greatest indicator of future wealth and success, BY FAR, is not a person’s intelligence, or work ethic, or anything they can actually pat themselves on the back for. It’s familial wealth. Rich people are rich because they are born rich. It’s way easier to work your butt off and create a company from the ground up if you’re starting that company with a massive cash infusion from mommy and daddy. Economic policies specifically favoring the wealthy and privileged have done nothing to benefit the vast majority of American citizens, and have in fact contributed to an increased national debt, and burgeoning wealth inequality in an increasingly stratified society. In the 1950s and 1960s, the “Great” times so constantly referenced by the MAGA crowd, when the economy was booming, the wealthiest Americans paid a top income tax rate of 91%.  Today, the top rate is 43.4%. In our current system, while the richest among us are coddled and protected, the most vulnerable are forced to fend for themselves.

Liberal Solution: Make the rich pay “their fair share”. Democrats want to increase taxes on the uber-wealthy, not even back up to where it used to be historically, but just a little, just enough to close some glaring loopholes being exploited by the rich, in order to take some of the burden off of the working poor and shrinking middle class who have been footing the bill since Reagan. Democrats argue that increasing taxes on the wealthiest people and biggest corporations is fair because not only are they most able to easily pay that amount without any increase in hardship or decrease in quality of life, unlike their poorer fellow citizens, they are exactly who benefits the most from the products paid for by those taxes. The wealthy and corporations rely on, and benefit far more than your average Jack or Jill, from government investment in infrastructure, law enforcement, or military, and their continued profits rely on a healthy, well-educated workforce that is protected by a robust social safety net which reduces crime and promotes productivity. Since the super rich have more money to spend, and receive more benefit from the government services that our taxes pay for than poorer people do, Liberals feel that increasing taxes for the super rich makes sense.

Conservative Solution: I don’t think they consider this a problem? They pretty much universally hate taxes, right? Unless it’s to pay for tanks and bombs? Even if my conservative pals making $30k-$50k a year would not be affected by increased tax rates for wealthy people, and would almost certainly indirectly benefit from the funds collected, as far as I know they’re against the idea just because the Democrats support it. Conservatives moan constantly about the national debt, and blame the Democrats, but during my lifetime at least, the national debt and budgetary deficits actually increase more during Republican presidencies, and the economy has actually done better during Democratic presidencies, so when Republicans claim that they are the more fiscally responsible party, the data would indicate otherwise and they seem a little hypocritical to me.

Problem: Healthcare Costs Big Large

Americans spend twice as much on healthcare now as they did in the 1980s, and as we know, we aren’t all getting paid twice as much as we were in the 1980s, so every penny of that increase is felt. We pay so much, not because the actual cost of healthcare is that high, but because our For Profit healthcare system is allowed to price gouge us viciously, from charging $10 for a single cough drop, to charging thousands of dollars on life saving medications that cost $3 to produce. Since our income has not also doubled from the 1980s, this massive increase in healthcare costs is clearly an issue. I have a friend that is self-employed, and a few years ago he got injured in a motorcycle accident. Since he was self-employed, he was not protected by an employer health insurance plan, and since he could not afford the wildly expensive private plans available then, he was un-insured at the time of the accident, and his medical bills for a relatively minor surgery were so high that he lost everything. His house, his car, his boat, his RV, everything that he had worked hard his entire life to build for himself were gone practically overnight.

Although it is cruelly uncompassionate to do so, you can argue that he brought this financial ruin on himself, by exercising his freedoms and choosing to roll the dice and live without health insurance, but there really were no attainable options for him to obtain, and besides, other friends of mine that have employer funded health insurance and have also had the bad luck of getting sick or injured, have shown that their situation is not much better, with thousands of dollars still paid out of pocket, even though they pay a large portion of their paycheck into health insurance every month. That’s right, even people who have done “everything right” and have insurance, and an HSA, and savings, are still being financially ruined by a single illness or injury because of our current system.

We KNOW that our system is not the only option. We KNOW that almost every other developed country has a less barbaric healthcare system, where people can receive the care they need without going bankrupt. We KNOW that the healthcare we receive is not notably better than other countries, it’s just more expensive. And yet, here we are, charging hundreds and thousands of dollars for services and medications that don’t actually cost nearly that much to provide.

Liberal Solution: Medicare for All, or some other form of single payer health insurance. When economists analyze the US health care system and look for inefficiencies, they look first at the for-profit insurance provider. Overhead at private insurers in the US is in the range of 15% of total costs, while overhead at Medicare is about 2%. Medicare for All would eliminate the role of the for-profit private insurer, resulting in massive reductions in administrative costs. These savings – hundreds of billions of dollars a year – could be funneled into providing care for the 30 million Americans without health insurance and the nearly 100 million Americans who are under-insured, without increasing overall costs of financing health care.

Additionally, the best way to control the artificially inflated costs of healthcare in the US is through a Medicare for All universal system that would use regional global budgeting and eliminate fee-for-service medicine. Hospital and doctor costs would be controlled through regional management and pharmaceutical costs could be controlled through negotiation. This would be good for both doctors and patients—there would no longer be an incentive for a physician to perform certain medical procedures or prescribe certain medicines because they would make more money providing them, patients would receive more medically necessary care, and health care resources would be distributed in a more regionally appropriate manner.

According to Democrats, by controlling prices and getting rid of the private insurance industry, Expanded and Improved Medicare for All would save hundreds of billions of dollars per year that would be directly translated into needed medical care for more people. Even with the expansion in coverage and benefits to every resident of America, ALL recent estimates—both liberal AND conservative—of an Expanded and Improved Medicare for All system show that national health expenditures would be decreased by trillions of dollars over the next 10 years. 

Conservative Solution: There doesn’t appear to be one. If there is, we can’t know what it is, because they haven’t presented it, and if they have, my conservative friends certainly haven’t heard of it, because when asked for their thoughts on healthcare costs, their response has basically been “Obamacare is bad! Michelle Obama is a tranny! Illegal Immigrants! Build the Wall!” which… isn’t an appropriate or sensical response. Trump had 4 years to present his promised healthcare plan, and we got nothing. Now, nobody is going to argue that the liberal plan of Medicare for All would have an easy, painless, or even efficient rollout. There are problems and concerns that would need to be addressed, but at least they have a plan. The Republican plans submitted to date look like an undergraduate’s half-finished homework assignment, and basically amount to – Get rid of the Affordable Care Act to save money, and replace it with the Dying If You’re Sick plan. They’re unfinished at best, and malicious and cruel at worst.

Problem: Education costs have, you guessed it, skyrocketed!

Like healthcare, the cost of college has doubled since the 1980s. At most universities and colleges, it has gone up even more than that. In a depressing lack of a twist, I must remind you that, no, unfortunately, income has not also doubled. Consequently, we now have an entire generation of people who have been crippled by sky high student loan debt, and have also graduated into a series of economic recessions and disasters that have created a super competitive job market, where they are fighting for the privilege to be overworked and underpaid in positions where their limited income will never be able to pay off their loan debt (or pay for astronomically inflated home prices, or healthcare). This has led to countless millennials with college degrees working 40/50/60+ hours a week at multiple jobs, but still living at home with their aging parents, or renting with multiple roommates, and putting off marriage or having children because they literally cannot afford them, and meanwhile, older generations, who were able to pay cash for college with a part time summer job, and immediately had corporations lining up to suck their dicks and offer them lucrative positions with pension benefits as soon as they had their degrees, or who were able to secure high paying manufacturing jobs right out of high school, and to buy a house for 16 cents at 19 years old, having the GALL to claim that millennials aren’t achieving those big milestones of adulthood because they are immature and lazy.

All this, in a time when most of those aforementioned manufacturing jobs have dried up, and there simply aren’t enough high-paying blue collar positions available in our highly out-sourced modern economy, so not everybody can go work in a factory, or go to trade school and become electricians, or welders, or plumbers, or any of the other valuable skilled technical careers that you can obtain without a 4 year+ college degree. At the end of the day, the majority of the jobs that pay living wages nowadays, like it or not, are jobs that require a college degree, so college is more important and essential than ever. The fact that it is being priced out of attainability for most Americans without coming from a wealthy family or without crippling your future economic prospects by shouldering tens of thousands of dollars worth of debt, is a major issue.

Liberal Solution: Progressives have toyed with the idea of forgiving federal student loan debt to help struggling citizens survive and thrive in our troubled economy. Proponents say this will allow millions of struggling Americans to save more money, which will then be used to stimulate the economy, all while directly benefiting lower and middle class families. Detractors say “I had to pay my student loans, why should they get theirs forgiven” to which I say, sometimes it’s okay to want good things to happen to other people. Democrats argue that instead of spending money to bail out multi-million and billion dollar corporations, we should instead spend the money helping normal people.

Democrats have also promoted the idea of free public colleges and universities for lower income students, paid for by taxes. Personally, I’m all for that, and I’m happy to pay for it. The government is already taking a quarter of my paycheck, I’d be much happier if that money went toward educating America, instead of bombing little Afghani children. We spend more than everyone else on our military BY A LOT, and I’d rather have those trillions of dollars go toward improving the lives of American citizens, than taking the lives of people in other countries just so that we can enrich a few oil executives. That’s the type of America First policy I can get behind.

Especially because education, as we can clearly see in this time of QAnon and anti-intellectual conspiracy theorist congress members, is so very important. College is so very important. Not necessarily because of WHAT is taught there, but because college teaches students HOW TO LEARN. It teaches students data literacy, how to review and reflect on the information that are receiving, to look and test for bias and inaccuracies. The sad truth is, I really don’t remember much of the specific information I learned in my college courses, but I do retain the skills I honed while I was studying for those courses. The information itself may fade, but my ability to examine and assess new information remains. Those life skills are so, so important, and always will be, since we are constantly bombarded by false, misleading, or misinterpreted information on TV and from the internet. By being forced to submit your own research, tests, and essays to the rigorous academic scrutiny needed to successfully earn a higher education degree, regardless of the major or course of study you pursue, College creates an invaluable bullshit filter for weak, faulty, flawed or biased information that is applicable throughout the rest of your life.

Conservative Solution: Like most conservative solutions, their plan is to do nothing. I say that facetiously, but that really is their platform. Conservatives agree that education costs are too damn high, but they do not think the government should be involved in any potential solutions. In fact, they want to get government out of education altogether, and stop providing federally underwritten student loans, instead freeing up the market exclusively to the private sector. That, somehow, is supposed to then result in reduced prices due to healthy competition amongst student loan lenders. How very…optimistic.

That’s really the main difference between Liberal and Conservative philosophies as far as I can tell.

Conservatives believe that the government should do less, regulate less, restrict less, cost less. They believe that governments are guaranteed to be bloated, inefficient, corrupt, and greedy, and that individual people, businesses, and NGOs are shining beacons of intelligence, efficiency, benevolence, and generosity. They therefore think that governmental oversight and interference is an unnecessary evil, and that when left to their own devices, humans will create utopian paradises where nobody is taken advantage of, and everybody works together in harmony.

While I agree whole-heartedly that many governmental organizations are mired in bureaucracy, and move with the glacial slowness of shifting tectonic plates, and operate with the efficiency of high displacement big block V8 motors from the 1960s heyday of American muscle cars, a certain national emergency occurring in Texas right now due to their independent, privatized electrical grid refusing to adhere to governmental requests to winterize their infrastructure in an attempt to cut costs and increase profits, and the inevitable collapse of that system following *precedented* but infrequent winter weather, has resulted in massive multi-day power outages, and subsequent deaths and property damages due to hypothermia, carbon monoxide poisoning, fires, and floods from frozen and burst plumbing pipes, is a stark reminder that most people are indeed lazy, greedy, and short-sighted, and that a certain amount of governmental oversight is probably unfortunately necessary to protect us from ourselves.

But then again, I am biased. I KNOW I’m biased. That’s the entire point of this post. I have been drawn in by the sweet siren songs of the brilliant liberals I know, who provide me with clear, concise, substantive information backed by replicable and reviewed data, while the conservatives just spew verbal diarrhea, and share inflammatory and inaccurate Facebook memes.

Some other topics I am passionate about that my most outspoken liberal friends constantly discuss are:

  • The war on drugs/mass incarceration/ and the for profit prison system.
  • Our flawed justice system, police brutality, and systemic racism.
  • and white privilege.

They acknowledge these problems exist, and they seek ways to solve them.

My conservative friends don’t seem to give a crap, or refuse to admit that these are problems, and I’ve never heard them talk about ways to solve them. All they seem to care about are –

  • Immigrants
  • Abortions
  • “Socialism”
  • Gun control
  • Hating the Libs

I’ve never been bothered by an immigrant, and most of the ones I know, legal or otherwise, have been wonderful hardworking people who have improved my life with their presence, so that’s not really as much of a concern for me as say NOT BEING ABLE TO AFFORD TO GO TO THE DOCTOR, so I don’t really connect with the conservatives and their fixation on that topic. Likewise, I am incapable of carrying a baby, so I am unqualified to weigh in on the abortion debate, and I think that it is a women’s issue involving women’s bodies, that should be resolved by women, WHEREAS WORKERS NOT BEING PAID ENOUGH TO SURVIVE WHILE CEOS AND BUSINESS OWNERS ARE RICHER THAN EVER is an everybody problem and therefore one I have a much stronger opinion on. So, if I want to talk about the evils of socialism with people that don’t know what socialism is, and slavishly label anything progressive as “socialism”, great, I can do that with the conservatives I know. If I want to talk about how gun control bad with a group of people who refuse to acknowledge basic statistics about gun use, gun ownership, and gun violence, perfect, I know just who to call up.

I know what problems concern me. I know that the liberals are also concerned about those problems, and I know what their plans are to solve those problems. I don’t know if conservatives share my concerns, and even when they say they do, I don’t know what plans, if any, they have to solve them.

But I want to. Because currently, it seems to me that conservatives hate the government and don’t want to rely on it for anything, but also don’t want to come with any alternative solutions to our modern problems. It seems crazy to me that the conservative’s entire platform seems to be – privatize everything because the government can’t do anything right, but they’re IN the government ACTIVELY working to prevent the government from doing anything right, just to prove their point. It’s like, if you imagine the country is a ship, and our government is the crew. Half the crew are the liberals, who are just trying to steer the ship and keep it afloat, while the other half are conservatives, who are saying this ship doesn’t work, it’s going to sink, there shouldn’t even be a crew, we should let the passengers sail it instead, all while they’re cutting ropes and drilling holes in the hull to guarantee it sinks. Like yeah, of course the government doesn’t work, YOU’RE BREAKING IT ON PURPOSE. You can’t complain about inefficiencies, when you’re the inefficiency.

At least, that’s what I think, mostly because I’m a dumb guy and my most outspokenly liberal friends are super smart and super persuasive geniuses, whereas my most outspokenly conservative friends are even dumber than me. If I’m going to be shifted toward conservativism, I’m going to need some friendly conservative geniuses to speak up and lure me over to their side with shiny baubles like data, science, and reason. Sadly, easily refuted lies and incorrect Facebook memes just aren’t going to cut it.

Posted in Max's Journal | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Merry COVID Christmas

It is Christmas Eve. A time for peace and goodwill. A time for love and family. A time for tradition.

At least, it should be.

I do not practice very many traditions. I have no interest in repetitive ritual for the sake of historical precedent, so the only traditions I take part in are ones that I actually enjoy, and the only reason I do them is because they are fun, and not because they are tradition. That makes the end of this depressing year extra disappointing, because almost all of the very few traditions I hold dear are centered around Christmas, and thanks to the Covid pandemic, I will get to do exactly zero of them.

And so I cry and cry.

NORMALLY, in the weeks or months leading up to Christmas, my mother gets together with her lady friends, and takes part in a cookie bake off. Basically, they all make a million different cookies at home, then get together at my mom’s house and make a billion more, and then trade with each other so that they have countless sweet, sugary, delicious treats to share with their families throughout the holiday season. As a big, hairy, sausage-fingered beast man, I am not, and have never been welcome at the lady cookie party, which is absolutely fine because I’m fairly certain they all just drink wine, braid their tampon strings, and bitch about how much they hate their husbands and children while baking those sweet sweet cooks. But this year, the girls didn’t get to have their sinful gathering, and that blows because I WANT THEM COOKIES. If I’m not 63 pounds heavier and hobbling around on feet painfully swollen with diabetic gout by the end of the holiday season as sugar crystals the size of rock candy squeeze through my rubbery veins while my pancreas gives up, packs a bindle on a stick and squirts out my asshole to hop a convenient cargo train west, then what even is the point of the holidays?

To add insult to injury, not only do I not get to enjoy an unwise amount of homemade cookie treats this year, I also don’t get to visit with my family.

Every year since the beginning of time, my mother’s family has gotten together on Christmas Eve, and in recent decades the party has been hosted at my Aunt and Uncle’s house in Massachusetts. My mom has 376 siblings, and most of them had 12-15 children, and several of them have had children of their own, so on the day before Christmas an army of relatives large enough to sack mighty Carthage fill up my Aunt and Uncle’s cute little suburban ranch home until it’s packed tighter than a pre-1980s YMCA Men’s locker room on elephant walk night, and then they just sit, and eat, and talk, and laugh, and that’s it. That’s the whole party, and I love every minute of it. Almost none of my relatives even drink or do drugs at the party because they’re fucking NERDS, and you don’t even understand how much I love them. It’s not going to be much of a Christmas at all if I can’t drive up to Massachusetts, smuggle booze into my relative’s house, eat my weight in homemade meatballs, then vape weed, blast sneaker bumps, and rip shots in the dark basement with Mistress Kay and my two sleazebag cousins while all of the well-liked, well-adjusted cousins and other relatives gather upstairs around the Christmas tree and sing carols or whatever it is that those wholesome nerds do. God Damn I love them all so much and I miss them already. Missing out on the Christmas Eve party this year hits hard.

Not the least because, after the much anticipated Christmas Eve dinner party, I would then have perhaps the most cherished portion of our Christmas traditions to look forward to. I speak, of course, about the sibling slumber party. Usually, this beloved event would occur in Tiny Town, the legendary home of my ancestors, the 14 square foot farmhouse my grandmother and her sixteen siblings (that’s the actual number, not an exaggeration) were raised in, and the place where my mother, sisters, and I would spend Christmas Eve night eagerly awaiting Santa’s arrival. This place had everything. Uncomfortably low ceilings. Saggy wood floors. A fuzzy 19 inch CRT TV with attached VHS player. Grandmama ignoring us while playing solitaire on the kitchen table with her hearing aids turned off like a total fucking savage. Zero comfortable places to sleep. It was paradise.

Much to Wife Kay and my sister’s husband’s consternation, we continued this slumber party tradition well into our adulthoods, and would be happily continuing it this year too, albeit not in Tiny Town, since Grandmama now resides in a nursing home and Tiny Town is inhabited I assume by the Keebler Elves, but thanks to COVID, we not only don’t get our sibling sleep over in any location, we don’t even get to open presents together and have breakfast Christmas morning because it turns out my family HATES me and told me that I’m not welcome in any of their homes. Instead, Wife Kay and I have been generously invited to stand on a snow bank in my sister’s yard and peer through her window while her family drinks hot cocoa, eats candy canes and opens presents in sinful Christmas splendor without us, only pausing to periodically throw egg shells, coffee grounds, and other breakfast rubbish at us to eat from the ground like the wretched scum they think we are.

It’s okay, I only cried a little when my very own family told me that they wanted nothing to do with me this year, and that they’d rather chop off their ding-dongs than let me into their houses for even a second. I figured, at least Wife Kay’s family still loves me and we can still do our Christmas tradition with them, which would be to visit her dad’s house after breakfast while still in our pajamas, open presents there, and then watch a movie.

ALAS.

That is not the case either. They, like my family, have also made it clear that if we even set foot on their property, they would shoot me in the face with a blunderbuss full of ghost peppers and rusty nails.

Even though I work from home and am literally starved for human contact, and both Sadness Kay and I always wear masks and socially distance on the very rare occasions that we do leave the house, and we haven’t had so much as a sniffle all year, and we’ve passed multiple negative Covid Tests, none of our “loved” ones want to see us, none of my beloved Christmas traditions are occurring, and Sadness Kay and I will be spending a lonely Christmas alone crying beside our undecorated tree and opening the zero presents we got each other because we’re fucking poor, so 2020 is clearly going out with a last few kicks to my dangling veiny nut sack like the total bitch of a year that it was.

Thanks Obama.

Posted in Max's Journal | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment