Saturday, April 30, 2011

Goodnight Moon

What does it mean to be a father? It means lying on a beach at night on a lake in Maine staring at the July sky resplendent with a thousand stars and knowing that there aren’t enough stars in this universe to add up the love you have for your children. But those stars shine back at you stories of your failures. The times you didn’t pay attention. The time you couldn’t be bothered with story time because the world series was on. The time you actually pulled the jeep over to the side of Gaskins road at rush hour so you could give undivided attention to screaming at your screaming two year old girl who had hurt you by not wanting to leave the sitter. Your failures were epic and they haunt you forever.

The stars shine back your triumphs too. The valentine’s day breakfasts with your little girl. Twenty two years of them. That 11 hour drive through a snow storm so you could call her from the parking lot of her dorm on valentine’s morning to tell her how much you miss not being able to have breakfast with her for the first time since she was three. Then telling her that if she could get dressed real quick you might be able to work something out. For that day you made her a princess and for that day she knew that she was the most valuable daughter on campus. So, you had your moments.

“…Goodnight Moon. Goodnight light and the red balloon..”

I used to read that book to my children. They would crowd onto the couch in their long t-shirts smelling of soap and lotion as I would read about the cow jumping over the room. I think of that book now because there is also a moon in the sky this night in Maine. Its where my children live now. It’s a whole other place from where I live. There is a vast chasm between them and me because they have grown up. Their orbits are different from mine now. They have gone onward and upward as it should be. And I am still here on the ground staring at the sky. And tonight my son strides onto a stage in a packed hall for an hour of music that thrills and captivates. Before the last song he speaks into a microphone about how any success he has had is a result of gifts given to him by God . How could he not offer them back to him? Then he and his friends perform an original arrangement of “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”. All of the parents in the crowd begin to weep. All of them. I take it all in astonished at what he has become and thankful that I lived to see it. That’s what it means to be a father.

Goodnight Moon.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Hanging By A Thread

My patience with and tolerance of the Republican party is being severely tested at the moment. In fact, its hanging by a thread. At a time when our financial viability as a nation itself is being threatened, at a time when we face terribly complex problems that involve vexing geo-political issues, the three names that dominate the presidential field for 2012 from the GOP are Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, and Donald Trump. Seriously.

Newt Gingrich, that petulant windbag from…uh..from…you know he’s been in Washington so long I’ve totally forgotten his home state. You remember Newt. The former Speaker of the House who shut down the government back in 1995 because he was pissed that Clinton made him sit in the back of air force one. The congressman who famously informed his ex-wife that he wanted a divorce while she was in a hospital room recovering from cancer surgery…THAT Newt Gingrich.

Sarah Palin, that sweet pretty woman with 16 kids who shoots caribou when not giving fiery speeches using words like “mama bear” and “lip-stick on a pig”. She’s the kind of woman who would make an awesome PTA president and there isn’t a woman alive who I would trust more as a car-pool driver for my kids. Honestly, she’s adorable. But I’m sorry, with her I get the feeling that she hasn’t read a real book probably since the Mark of the Lion series, and I’m being generously hopeful on that score. There is such a thing as gravitas after all. The Presidency requires and we should demand intellectual vigor, not simply the faculty lounge egg headedness variety of the current occupant, but rather the kind that comes from a lifetime of inquiry. Should a prospective president be expected to have thought out the implications of unrestrained federalism, or be able to demonstrate a competent understanding of the laws of supply and demand? You “betcha”. Being really good at Facebook isn’t exactly what I’m looking for at this point in history.

Donald freaking Trump. Yes, by all means, lets elect the star of a reality show and prove to the world once and for all that we are finished as a nation. Yes, at a time when the United States is teetering on the brink of insolvency, lets elect as president a man who has personally gone bankrupt not once but TWICE. Can you imagine what the Oval Office will look like after his interior decorators get finished with it? Where in the world will the tanning bed go, in the Lincoln bedroom? That poor presidential portrait painter is going to have a helluva time finding a true match for that hair color. “LIVE from the Oval Office….its Presidential Apprentice!!!” You’re fired.

Yep, hanging by a thread.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Dunnevant Plan For Fiscal Sanity And National Unity

I have officially lived to see it all. Paul Ryan, perhaps the geekiest congressman in Washington, is suddenly the most popular kid in class. He and his green eye-shade pals have come up with a budget plan that is supposed to reduce the deficit over the next ten years..or something. Not to be outdone, the most liberal members of congress, the Progressive Caucus, have submitted for our approval something called the People’s Budget.( that’s odd. I thought Mao was dead) In it they dream big. To summarize it I’ll just say, let’s keep on borrowing and spending until we balance the budget! Each of these proposals are easy to make fun of and criticize and of course President Obama will enter the fray today with his plan in a speech at some university up north where he will try to present his plan as the reasonable alternative. Maybe he will employ some grand Solomonesque device of say, threatening to slice the fiscal baby of state in half if the two extremes of our national character don’t sit down and reason together, saith the Lord.

Anyway, I feel that now is the time for all caring citizens to rise to the occasion and offer up our own plans to right the ship of state. After all, its much easier to criticize the efforts of others than it is to offer an alternative. So if the Progressive Caucus can dream up a budget that would make Mao himself smile, the least I can do is offer one of my own. I think I’ll call it the Dunnevant Plan For Fiscal Sanity And National Renewal or DPFFSANR for short( I’ll probably have to work on the name later). Here goes.

I start by asking what the role of government should be. A quick reading of our founding documents informs me that of the 15 Departments of the federal government only 4 survive constitutional scrutiny. They are the departments of…Defense, Justice, State, and Treasury. This means I must eliminate the following:

Department of Agriculture- If its something that any idiot can do in his back yard we don’t need government’s help. Especially when they’re paying billions of dollars to huge corporate farmers. Somehow people have grown enough food to feed themselves for oh say 4000 years without a department of agriculture. In fact whenever governments get involved with farming, famine isn’t far behind ( google Soviet Union, agriculture, 1930’s)

Department of Interior-If for no other reason this department needs to go because it has a stupid name. The one department that concerns itself with the great outdoors is called the department of the INTERIOR. Fail.

Department of Education- This department since its creation has presided over epic delinquency rates, plunging test scores, and has produced millions of people like me who can’t spell. Sorry, this is a state and local concern. Besides, this was Jimmy Carter’s idea. Haven’t we suffered enough??

Department of Commerce- Quick name 5 responsibilities of this department. Well? I’m waiting?? Give up? Exactly.

Department of Veteran’s Affairs- I actually have some sympathy for the job being done by this outfit but it doesn’t rise to Department level. It should be moved to the Defense department to give them something to do after I get us out of Korea, Germany etc..

Department of Housing and Urban Development- Next time you are in ANY American city of over 100,000 people take a good look at any housing project that this fine establishment has built over the past 40 years. Not only should this department be eliminated but the date thereof should be celebrated as a national holiday in perpetuity. In the spirit of reconciliation I suggest that we not execute the management team.

Department of Transportation- Amtrak…enough said.

Department of Labor- Public sector unions are thought by many to be the fourth branch of government already. So they don’t need their own department.

Department of Energy- We haven’t built a refinery in this country in 30 years. There’s a moratorium on new oil exploration offshore. We can’t build nuclear plants anymore. Everyone hates coal, and we import tons of oil from nations that hate us. What energy?? Oh yeah, windmills. Since we have no coherent energy policy, no need for a department.

Department of Health and Human Services- These are the people in charge of administering the great social compact we have made between us and our government. They make sure that we humans get served with everything from food and medicine to comfy clothes and contraceptives, cradle to grave. Somewhere awhile back though, a mysterious line was crossed where this great safety net collided with human dignity and initiative and something slothful and debilitating was created…the ward of the state. Millions upon millions of citizens who no longer believe that they are ultimately responsible for themselves are now the responsibility of government under the auspices of this department and paid for by an ever shrinking tax base. (see deficit, federal, as far as the eye can see). We must rework the compact into something that can be administered by something less than this gargantuan monstrosity of a department.

Department of Homeland Security- ( see Bill of Rights )

Ok. So by my calculations I’ve just saved Uncle Sam 450 billion dollars and I haven’t even taken a shower yet! Now it gets harder because one of the four legitimate jobs of government is to provide for the common defense which brings us to the Department of Defense with its 750 Billion dollar budget. Now I take a back seat to nobody when it comes to supporting a strong national defense. We live in a dangerous world that requires the ability to react to a variety of contingencies. Having said that, what the heck are we doing with military bases in Germany? Japan? South Korea? Are these three countries unable to provide for their common defense? Are they economically limited in some way? Not only are they doing quite well economically, their economic health is enriched by the beleaguered American tax-payer because our army and navy is allowing their governments to spend the tons of money that they would normally have to spend on armies and navies, on fun stuff like selling billions of dollars of refrigerators, video games and luxury cars to the beleaguered American taxpayer. Its really a sweet deal for everyone except our soldiers and sailors. That brings me to an even thornier problem. Why are we still in Iraq and Afghanistan? Regardless of whether we should have gone into Iraq in the first place, why are we still there? Are we afraid that if we leave the country will descend into chaos and violence? Well its not exactly a garden spot now and if the Iraqis want a democracy they are going to have to establish it themselves at some point. We went into Afghanistan to kill Bin Laden right? Ok. He’s still alive and now we’re there to defeat the Taliban. If the Afghanis don’t like the Taliban they should fight them themselves ,something that they have demonstrated great skill at for 2000 years. Nothing that’s going on in that part of the world is worth one drop of American blood. Bring them home.

There. That’s probably another 250 billion from the Defense Department’s budget. So, in one morning in my pajamas I have single handedly cut this year’s deficit in half. I’ll be available later in the week for a rose garden ceremony.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Whew...THAT was close!!

The headline on my laptop screen said, “Crisis Averted..11th Hour Deal to Keep Government Open”. Whew!! That was close. For a minute there I thought our nation was in some sort of financial trouble what with trillion dollar deficits as far as the eye can see and all. But this morning I learn that the “Crisis” has been averted. Our brave congressmen and senators with the tireless help of the First Cheerleader urging them on, hammered out this historic compromise proving once again that in times of greatest peril our politicians are still capable of rising to the occasion.

Laboring mightily through the night, the best and brightest among us bravely slashed 38 billion dollars in spending from the 2010 budget. Harry Reid called it historic. President Obama proclaimed it the “biggest annual spending cut in history”….so much history being made. Now instead of a 1.2 trillion dollar deficit for 2010, the sword of Damocles has fallen, the Grim Reaper has wielded his scythe, and the great machete of fiscal discipline has been unleashed against the unruly jungle of waste, fraud, and abuse that is Leviathan. Americans awoke this morning to the glorious news that our 2010 deficit is only 1.162 trillion dollars.

If that alone wasn’t cause enough for rejoicing, we can all rest easier in the comforting knowledge that 89% of the employees of the Department of Education who had been designated as “nonessential” will not have to be furloughed. The nonessentials over at Housing and Urban Development, 99% of that workforce, would have missed their paychecks. The 75% nonessential population at the Labor Department would have been told to stop all their laboring had it not been for the Herculean efforts of our elected representatives in Washington.

Although averting major life disruption for our federal workforce is a noble enough outcome, what really causes me to rejoice this fine morning is the great relief I feel knowing what even greater human suffering has been avoided. Now I don’t have to worry about the dead bodies of our senior citizens being thrown in the streets because their nursing homes had to be shut down. I know that millions of women will now not die because they couldn’t get proper cancer screenings. Millions upon millions of our children will not starve to death because their school lunches had to be taken from them. We are now all free to visit our national parks, the valiant workers at Planned Parenthood can keep helping Americans avoid parenthood, and best of all, the diligent tax collectors at the IRS won’t have to stop auditing our returns.

There are always nay-sayers among us, those who will point out that a 38 billion dollar cut in a 3.69 trillion dollar budget is worse than a drop in the bucket, that its hardly worth talking about much less all the dire warnings of economic collapse and histrionics that it has produced. But I say…the longest journey in the world begins with a single step, and we have taken that step. At least we didn’t trip on a rock, fall flat on our face, have to be ambulanced to the hospital for an emergency nose job that we find out later isn’t covered under Obamacare. Right?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A Birthday Story To Remember

The 52nd year of my life went out like a lion and so far my 53rd year has come in like a thief. Last Friday, two days before my birthday, I got a hold of some bad potato-salad. The 72 hour bout of food poisoning that followed ruined the festivities, not to mention my appetite. Then on Monday I picked up a nail in one of my tires in the parking lot of the office. Later that night Pam asked me if I would take her car to fill it up with gas while she went with Kaitlin to a meeting. So I drive her Pacifica with its 20 gallon gas tank over to BP. When the pump finally stopped after 18.8 gallons of the cheapest grade gas I could find the bill was a clean crisp even number…$70.00. I think I will always remember where I was the first time I ever paid $70.00 to fill a vehicle up with gas, because it was two days after I had spent a couple of hours alternating between vomiting and diarrhea. The two experiences were quite similar.