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Robin Williams Live at the Met – 1986

Lots of retrospectives on Robin Williams today, all of which make for some good reading about celebrity, entertainment, depression, etc.

I’ll never forget this performance from almost 30 years ago – not sure if we had it on tape or whether we’d catch it on HBO, but it is an indelible memory of a master comedian at work.

Click on the YouTube logo directly above  to navigate to Part 2. Don’t know where it appears in this, but the discussion of his cocaine usage is pretty funny. I recall him talking about waking up in the morning (or afternoon or evening) with Buddy Rich drumming on his chest.

The U.S. is the world leader in prison population and a close second in prison population rate. How we got there is shown below from the animated graphic in this story at Vox.

We currently lead the world with over 2 million people incarcerated (many for drug crimes as part of the wildly unsuccessful “War on Drugs”) and our prison population rate is exceeded by just one country – the Republic of Seychelle (no, never heard of it before either).

Retiring Early is Un-American

It wasn’t immediately clear that the usage of the word “Un-American” in the title above was appropriate, that is, until reading this definition at Wikipedia:

Un-American is a pejorative term of U.S. political discourse which is applied to people or institutions in the United States seen as deviating from what are widely perceived to be fundamental American cultural and political values

Now, there are clearly no politics involved here. Rather, it is the deviation from well established cultural values, namely, ratcheting up your lifestyle at least as fast as your income rises, that makes those who choose to spend much less than they earn during their working years a candidate for retiring early as detailed in this USA Today story.

As with most journeys, retiring early starts with a few simple steps, the most important being this: You have to calculate – there’s no getting around it, really – how much you’ll need to fund your lifestyle for as long as you (and your partner) will live. This won’t be easy because you don’t know just how long that will be.

But what you do know is this: Retiring early means calculating more years into the equation — say, 30 instead of 20. For the average American household, that could mean saving an extra $400,000 or so on top of what you might already need for a traditional retirement plan.

Once you know your “number,” there are only two other steps to commit to memory: Start saving and stop spending. Put another way: Live not just within your means, but well below, says Rick Miller, president of Sensible Financial Planning in Waltham, Mass.

Living “well below” your means really is un-American – it goes against the fundamental American cultural values of consumerism and debt.

I’ve often said that a large part of the U.S. economy is driven by people buying things they don’t need with money they don’t have and, while some may point to that as being a great post-World War II success story, it results in millions upon millions of people who might never be able to call it quits as part of the traditional work force.

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On the Declaration of Independence

A few thoughts on the Declaration of Independence on this Fourth of July after having read much about the Revolutionary War period in recent years.

In addition to Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams, two other members were on the Committee of Five tasked to draft the document – Roger Sherman and Robert Livingston. It is not know what, if any, contributions Sherman and Livingston made to the document as the group met infrequently from June 10th to July 5th and kept no minutes.

Though there is some debate on this subject, Thomas Jefferson wrote the first draft of the Declaration of Independence, but only because John Adams asked him to. The other four members of the committee wanted Adams to write it. At the time, authoring the document was seen as being a relatively menial task and high profile members of the Continental Congress such as Adams much preferred oration before their peers to a writing assignment such as this. As it turned out, writing the Declaration of Independence was, by far, the most important development in Thomas Jefferson’s political career.

Jefferson borrowed liberally from others, notably the Virginia Declaration of Rights that was adopted by the Virginia Convention in June and opens with the following:

That all men are by nature equally free and independent and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.

This is surprisingly similar to the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

The most famous edit came from Benjamin Franklin who suggested changing “sacred and undeniable” to “self-evident” in the passage directly above.

Lastly, that John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died on July 4th, 1826 – exactly 50 years after the Declaration of Independence was adopted – is pretty amazing. The two had been ill for some time and, as a testament to how important the date July 4th had become and the power of mind over the body, both held on until that day, expiring as others celebrated.

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