I’m not big into sports. I enjoy college basketball (Go Duke!), often watch hockey, tolerate football–that’s it. No baseball. No soccer. No NBA.
There is one sport I never get enough of, though. Politics. It’s the best mental game around. Better than chess by far. You do your darndest to outsmart your opponent to win the hearts of your constituents. And if you think politics is boring, you haven’t paid nearly enough attention. Think 1994. President Bill Clinton’s poll numbers were in the toilet. Democrats in Congress were wildly unpopular. Republicans took both houses for the first time in decades, essentially killing–or so one would have thought–Clinton’s legislative agenda, seriously handicapping him (again, or so one would have thought) and making his ’96 reelection bid uphill at best. Newt Gingrich, the architect of Republican congressional victories, basked in his own glory as he watched his fortunes rise and Clinton’s seemingly sink. One post-midterm-election newspaper headline read, “A Whole Newt World.”
Not so fast. Clinton, a master at the game of politics, spent no time sulking. He got to work immediately devising a strategy. In the months following the ’94 Democratic slaughter, Clinton co-opted the more moderate elements of the Republicans’ own agenda, used the bully pulpit of the presidency to convince Americans he’d come up with the ideas, turned his approval numbers around, and just two years later won reelection handily, while Newt Gingrich grew so unpopular with Americans he had to step down as House Speaker and later resign from Congress to stop the bleeding on the Republican side of the aisle.
Politics is high drama and terrific sport. My younger, still-idealistic friends who’ve wagered all their hopes on government will no doubt complain I’m making light of something serious: “Politics is not a sport. Politics matters!” All I can say in response is, for whatever good politicians might affect in the world, the road to governance is the best game in town.
I’m nowhere near retirement age, and honestly, I love working enough to wonder if I’d ever want to retire. If I do, though, the picture to the left is good idea of what I’d like. That’s Lauren and Jack Hermann standing in front a beautiful background of Bordeaux.
“We sold our three-bedroom townhouse in suburban Washington for $385,000 in 2004 and paid $118,000 for the house in France. It was originally a barn built in 1842 that the previous owner restored. It has four bedrooms and two baths and stunning views.
“I spend my time doing exactly what I feel like. I cook and make several types of jam each year. The lifestyle is much slower. People take their time to enjoy a good meal and stop and talk to friends. A neighbor stops and gives me eggs from her hens. Pastures surround us and some days we see sheep grazing there. Their milk is used to make Roquefort cheese.”
Sounds great, except for making jam. Easier to buy it, and it tastes as good. I have no idea what Roquefort cheese is, but I bet I’d like it.
But it’s FRANCE, you say. Yes. I’m not a France hater like many of my fellow Americans. True, I can’t think of a war they’ve ever won, but I can think of a few we perhaps should not have fought, so we’ll call it even. The thought of living in wine county, nibbling on cheese and sipping delicious vino–heaven. Of course, Italy will do just fine, too. I love cianti. Basically, give me wine, cheese, and a great little village with canals for streets. In short, give me what’s pictured to the left.
Today, September 10, was World Suicide Prevention Day. I almost missed it. I would have if not for a brilliant, beautifully written piece by guest CNN.com columnist Melody Moezzi. Before being diagnosed as bipolar (or, manic-depressive) and given proper treatment, Moezzi attempted suicide and was hospitalized. There she found a reason for living, to speak up and end the stigma surrounding mental illness. She writes,
“The dangerous thing about silence is that it breeds shame and isolation, both of which can be much more devastating than any singular psychiatric condition alone. It’s one thing to be crazy. It’s quite another to think that you’re the only crazy person on the planet.”
Whether you struggle with mental illness or know someone who does, I’d encourage you to click here for the full article by Melody Moezzi. The writing is terrific; her message is urgent. As someone who has dealt with serious depression, I appreciate her raising her voice.
Only folks of a certain age will get this, but anyone who came of age in the 80s should enjoy this.
Australia and New Zealand have topped a charity index released by Britain’s Charities Aid Foundation. The rankings were based on three criteria, the percentages of citizens who, in the last month, 1) donated money, 2) donated time, and 3) helped a stranger. Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Ireland, the US, and Switzerland were all close in average scores:
New Zealand 57%
At the bottom? China and Madagascar.
Some of the least charitable nations were those receiving the heaviest amounts of international monetary aid, which will surely raise age-old questions of whether hands-off handouts breed a culture of dependency. Should governments give less and invest more, helping the poorest countries develop their own economies rather than simply handing them more money that isn’t tied to any specific long term goals for growth? Does foreign aid inspire people to entrepreneurship or enslave them to other countries?
Click here for the full story. And feel free to leave a comment.