Age vs. Rage

Writing about politics isn’t my strong suit. (Some would say plain old writing isn’t my strong suit… to those detractors I say “me can write gooder!”)

But I’m going to wade into the roiling, boiling waters of American politics – feel free to move on and wait for my next sure-to-be-less-polarizing post about music, or kids, or maybe even puppies.

I think most folks would agree that both candidates in the upcoming presidential election leave a lot to be desired. It’s a sad commentary on our political system that this is the best we can come up with.

That said, I’d rather err on the side of old age when the other option is pretty much the same age + rage.

The kindly grandpa vs. the crazy uncle.

The politician who knows how to get things done vs. the business man who has filed for bankruptcy multiple times.

The guy who has known the pain of unfathomable loss vs. the dude who doesn’t have an empathetic or sympathetic bone in his body.

The person with 50 years of public service vs. the fella with 90+ indictments.

A gentleman who understands “We the People” vs. a guy who only knows “Me, me, me.”

The Commander in Chief vs. the Demander in Chief.

A leader with substantial foreign policy experience who supports our allies vs. a person who has a man-crush on dictators.

But it’s not just about demeanor (or meaner). The track record speaks for itself – check out these stats and facts from this article on Bloomberg.com:

The economy added 14.8 million jobs over the first three years of his term, more than any president in US history over the same period. What’s more, unemployment has held below 4% for the longest stretch since the 1960s. Yet many workers have been dissatisfied as soaring inflation wiped out wage gains and then some in 2022. Last year, though, income increases began to outpace price increases.

America’s cost of living, which surged to a four-decade high during Biden’s first two years, is poised to return to its pre-pandemic level this year — when family wealth across income groups is more robust than at any point in the new century.

Access to affordable health care is Biden’s crowning achievement. The number of uninsured Americans hit an all-time low of 7.2% in the second quarter of 2023, while the number of people who signed up for an Obamacare plan for 2024 surged to 21.3 million.

American households are wealthier and in better financial shape than ever before by almost any measure. Even with a bear market in stocks in 2022 and elevated inflation, Federal Reserve data show household net worth rose to a record $156.2 trillion at the end of the fourth quarter of 2023, from $131.4 trillion at the end of 2020. The stock market, where more than half of all households are invested, has surged.

Preliminary data suggest that inequality continued to narrow in 2023. Even better, the improvement — unlike during Biden’s first two years — was due to rising real wages, at least for some Americans: Lower-income workers saw gains, while median and higher earners saw barely any increase at all, after accounting for inflation.

Since his inauguration, the S&P 500 Index has returned about 45%, more than double the total returns of the rest of the world’s developed-market equities. 

The US was in the midst of its worst spasm of violence in decades when Biden took office, with the homicide rate rising 29% in 2020. It rose again slightly in 2021, but started to fall that autumn. There was a slight year-over-year decline in 2022, then an 11.8% drop last year — the sharpest on record ­— according to estimates by AH Datalytics.

Not to mention the infrastructure bill, a sweeping climate change measure, capping the cost of insulin…

Overall, the blood pressure of America is back to normal after four years of crazed bellowing that left us all on edge and at odds.

Look beyond the age. Look at the record.

The choice is up to us.

Both excerpts above from Tom Nichols in The Atlantic.

Feel free to disagree. That’s what makes America great.

Political rant over. See you next time… with puppies!

Give the Drummer Some

In other words, you rock! Your song “has a good beat, and you can dance to it.”

You may not be in rhythm with everyone else. But someone else will pick up what you’re laying down.

Stay cool. Stay funky!

And bang the drum all day!

[I’m grateful for the daily dose of grateful quotes from Grateful Living.]

the Real M.V.P.

Another day, another mass shooting in America.

Yesterday, it was the Super Bowl parade in Kansas City. It should’ve been a time and place for unbridled joy, a communal celebration. Instead it turned tragic in the blink of an eye.

It’s senseless. It’s heart-breaking. And it’s waaaay too frequent in the land of the free.

Thanks to the politicians who are in the pocket of the gun lobby, it’s always “too soon” to talk about the role that weapons play in these massacres. But I hope that eventually media superstars such as Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce will follow the lead of their teammate Charles Omenihu and use their platform to advocate for common-sense reforms.

That IS a fact, Charles. Here’s another: we, the people, want reform.

I hope when he’s done praying, Patrick (of gridiron and State Farm commercials fame) will be a good neighbor and also advocate for common-sense reforms.

And here’s hoping that Mr. Taylor Swift not only keeps his heart with all who have been affected, but also uses his voice to speak up and speak out. Because gun violence is something we know All Too Well.

A million people saw Charles Omenihu’s tweet. 10 million saw the tweets from Mahomes and Kelce. We’re not asking them to be role models. But they do have the opportunity, and the forum, to be leaders off the field as well as on it. Until then, Charles Omenihu is the real M.V.P.

Some Stuff about Stuff

This short Paul Graham essay from 2007 should be required reading for every American. In fact, we should have to read it at least once a year. Maybe around spring cleaning time.

Stuff is an extremely illiquid asset… The only way you’re ever going to extract any value from it is to use it. And if you don’t have any immediate use for it, you probably never will.

Companies that sell stuff have spent huge sums training us to think stuff is still valuable. But it would be closer to the truth to treat stuff as worthless.

In fact, worse than worthless, because once you’ve accumulated a certain amount of stuff, it starts to own you rather than the other way around. I know of one couple who couldn’t retire to the town they preferred because they couldn’t afford a place there big enough for all their stuff. Their house isn’t theirs; it’s their stuff’s.

Stuff takes up space. Not just in your home, but also in your head.

And unless you’re extremely organized, a house full of stuff can be very depressing. A cluttered room saps one’s spirits. One reason, obviously, is that there’s less room for people in a room full of stuff. But there’s more going on than that. I think humans constantly scan their environment to build a mental model of what’s around them. And the harder a scene is to parse, the less energy you have left for conscious thoughts. A cluttered room is literally exhausting.

I’m certainly guilty as charged on buying too much stuff, especially when it’s a “bargain.”

But one thing that might work is to ask yourself, before buying something, “is this going to make my life noticeably better?”

Stuff sticks around. It can haunt you.

The purchase price is just the beginning. You’re going to have to think about that thing for years—perhaps for the rest of your life. Every thing you own takes energy away from you. 

It’s better to free up some headspace for memories of life experiences, not stuff. Things like travel… or just time spent with good friends.

If I want to spend money on some kind of treat, I’ll take services over goods any day.

If you don’t take it from Paul Graham, maybe George Carlin can convince you:

Home (Court) is Where the Heart is

Xavier eked out a one-point win over Georgetown in men’s hoops last night. The key play on the court was a last-minute dunk by freshman Dailyn Swain.

The key play off the court happened at halftime, when dozens of… ahem, “mature” Xavier alums gathered to toast our dear friend Ned, who passed away in October.

Ned’s wife Felicity and their daughter Grace (front row, 2nd from left and left in the photo above) joined us. Yesterday would’ve been Ned’s 60th birthday, so it was a difficult day for them emotionally.

But I know they felt the love and affection from all of us gathered there to pay tribute to a wonderful human being. “All of us” being: LJ and Patty, Maynard and Teresa, Art and Sheila, Phil and Suzanne, Tom, Lisa, Maria, Drew and Lyn, Phil and Jenny, Jack and Sherri, Joyce, Chrissy, Eddie, Jimmy, Joe and LeAnn, Amy, Jill, Jackie and Mike, Lynne, Mike, Doug, yours truly, and some others I’m surely forgetting due to my… ahem, “maturity.”

We met at a bar in the upper corner of Xavier’s arena. The actual bar was taken from a longtime student hangout near campus called The Norwood Café (or “The Woods” in our parlance).

We spent countless hours at that bar with Ned some forty-odd years ago, so it was a very fitting spot for our gathering.

Those who couldn’t make it in person joined us in spirit in our toast, from all over the country.

I made a photo collage poster and we hung it on the wall near the bar… so many great memories with a guy who always made us smile.

I just read a Chuck Klosterman essay where he wrote that it’s irrational to think that just watching a game will have any impact on the outcome. But still we, the fans, believe it to be so.

Last night, we all left the arena smiling. And those of us who are Ned fans truly believe that he had a hand in making that happen.

It was Ned’s birthday, but we’re the ones who got the presents. Sure, the Xavier win was great, but the better gifts were the chance to gather, the hugs, the laughs, the smiles. Ned’s not here, but he’s still helping us win in the game of life.

May 2024 be Golden

Jim James is the lead singer of My Morning Jacket, a great band that started in Louisville, KY. He can be a bit “out there” at times, but the email he sent out to the My Morning Jacket mailing list yesterday is worth pondering as we flip the page to another year.

Maybe it’s a bit too “Successories posters” for you.

But there’s probably a nugget or three you can latch onto.

Be generous and compassionate. Pray for an end to all wars, an end to all violence and hatred. Work and pray for equality and love and universal human rights. Try to be honest and kind to everyone you meet – even if you are sad. Help someone along their way. Sing a simple song. Listen to the wind. Listen to the birds. Learn something new. 

May your 2024 be “Golden.”