Thursday, January 31, 2013

I Will Never Complain About The Weather Again

My daughter has a dear friend from college named Leslie. They spent 5 weeks together in Australia on a mission trip back in the day, and have been fast friends ever since. Leslie spent a week in my house a few years back, and I found her to be a perfectly normal girl, smart, funny and delightful. But since graduating from college, something has gone terribly wrong.

This morning, on my Facebook wall comes news that Minot, North Dakota can look forward to a HIGH temperature today of -15 degrees, which will “feel” LIKE -49 degrees. Inexplicably, Leslie lives in Minot.

Now I’m sure that Minot has some virtues, I’m sure it’s hardy inhabitants are the salt of the earth. I even hear that nobody in Minot ever locks their doors at night. But, there’s a reason for that which has nothing to do with idyllic country living. Who in God’s name would be willing to venture out of doors in -20 degree weather to steal anything??

I think it’s high time that we apologized to the good people of North Dakota and ask them to get the hell out of there, that it was all a terrible mistake, a colossal misunderstanding. See, when Napoleon blundered into selling the place to Thomas Jefferson 200 years ago, the plan was to use it as the nations meat cooler. When Lewis and Clark passed through they were supposed to put up a huge sign that said, “ NOT FOR HUMAN HABITATION”, but they were so freaking cold they couldn’t afford to stop. I mean, the place is so cold, even South Dakotans think you guys are nuts.

What on earth does one do when it’s -20 all day? I suppose you could bundle up and drive into town to…oh, sorry, the car door is frozen shut. Well, you could boil some water and have a cup of tea with… oh, sorry, pipes are frozen. So, you end up getting on Facebook and showing all of your friends a picture of your local forecast with it’s hideous -49 degree wind chill and you ask, “Is this real life?”

No, Leslie. The answer is …no. Bless your heart.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Scandalous Headlines!!

Three headlines dominate my digital newspaper this morning:

A-Rod at Center of new Major League Steroid Scandal”

“Ray Lewis Linked To Banned Substance”

“ Democratic Senator Linked to Under-aged Dominican Prostitutes”

The first two headlines come as no surprise. I’ve always thought Alex Rodriguez capable of anything, and I never believed his carefully crafted admission that he had used steroids for only a brief period of time from 2003-2004. The only thing about the Ray Lewis story that surprised me was that the banned substance involved was “deer antler spray”. Who knew that spray derived from the antlers of deer could have such therapeutic qualities?

The third headline would have been a huge shocker to me, if only it were real. See, I made it up…not the story, but the headline. Let me explain.

Yes, Bob Menendez is a democrat, and he is a senator from New Jersey, and he most definitely is hip deep in a scandal involving raucous, alcohol-fueled sex parties with under aged prostitutes from the Dominican Republic. There’s even a well-heeled donor, a private jet and all sorts of inappropriate payments from said donor to the good senator. Trouble is, I really have to search the internet for any reporting on this story. When I do find something, the headline writers never see fit to list senator Menendez’s party affiliation. Probably an oversight, I’m sure. A simple Google search of past scandals involving republican lawmakers in similar embarrassment never fail to prominently feature “REPUBLICAN” in every headline.

The relative lack of journalistic interest in this particular story is baffling to me since it comes with the one sin that political beat writers usually love to hang on politicians…hypocrisy. You see, senator Menendez was the guy who was in such high dudgeon last year when the President’s security team had been caught procuring prostitutes during a trip to Columbia. The good senator went on record as saying that any secret service agents involved in the procurement of prostitutes should be fired immediately. You would think that some up and coming reporter at the New York Times or the Washington Post would be all over a story like this, one so rich with irony and sordidness. Perhaps there’s a Pulitzer to be won. But, this story is left to the likes of Drudge and Brietbart. See, Menendez is a loyal and valuable member of the team. He’s a liberal democrat, and well, its all very well and good to browbeat the Larry Craigs of the world, but Menendez’s vote is too valuable, and although his behavior would appear to be despicable, he’s “one of us”. There is hope, however. I remember the embarrassing story a year or so ago about the ill-named congressman Weiner, and his nude photo-texting controversy. For weeks, only Brietbart, Drudge and TMZ covered that one, but after awhile the mainstream boys were dragged kicking and screaming onto the scene, to report the degradations of a liberal politician. Let’s see how long it takes this time.

Monday, January 28, 2013

A Reply To A Facebook Slander

I find myself in a bit of a kerfuffle this morning as I read my Facebook page. Last night’s episode of Downton Abbey contained a dramatic plot twist that sent my household into fevered weeping and gnashing of teeth. I then went on Facebook to declare:

Dunnevant house in mourning over tonight’s episode of Downton Abbey. Why couldn’t it have been Edith??”

The comment box is now alive with complaints and accusations that I was guilty of spoiling the show for those who hadn’t yet watched. My own nephew insisting that I had posted a “spoiler”, with my niece piling on her frustration. The only person fair-minded enough to come to my defense was my daughter’s boyfriend, proving that he has mastered the art of the suck-up. In my defense, I will only point out the merely obvious fact that I gave away exactly NOTHING about last night’s episode. A closer examination of my post will exonerate me.

First of all, the fact that I declared my house “ in mourning “ was intentionally vague since it could have meant a number of things. Perhaps the Earl of Grantham had lost Matthew’s new money investing in Tulip futures, perhaps it was revealed that Mr. Bates was in fact a murderer and poor Anna was sent into despair, or perhaps the cable went out in the middle of the episode. “ In mourning “ cannot possibly be considered a spoiler by any fair-minded person.

Then I asked a rather innocuous question, “ why couldn’t it have been Edith?”. Again, I fail to see why this simple question is being vilified. It could have meant many things:

1. Why couldn’t it have been Edith…who was caught smoking pot with O’brien and Thomas?

2. Why couldn’t it have been Edith… who tripped over Carson’s gigantic feet and face-planted in the gravel driveway?

#. Why couldn’t it have been Edith… who started the food fight at dinner by tossing the kidney pie at the Dowager Countess?


The simple fact is that my status update gave away nothing, and my detractors owe me an apology. Besides, don’t we have bigger concerns about Downton? Shouldn’t our real worry be whether or not Julian Fellowes intends to insert a homosexual plot line into season 4? Could anything do more to disturb our Sunday night bliss than the wretched sight of Thomas and the new guy in bed?

Come on people. Let’s keep our eye on the ball here!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Where Has All The Music Gone?

My wife and I had a fascinating conversation last night about theme music for television shows. People of a certain age who can’t remember what we had for dinner last night can nonetheless recall with phonographic certainty the theme song from every television show we ever watched as kids. Its quite remarkable, really. On the ride home from taking dinner to Dad’s I would say the name of a TV show from our youth and within 10 seconds one of us would belt out the theme. If the song happened to have words, we knew them all, this despite the fact that neither of us have actually seen those shows in 30 years.

Ok, here’s a test. I have listed below several shows that came up in our discussion. If you were born between the years 1950 and 1965, take this test. How many of these theme songs can you remember, words included within thirty seconds of reading the names without the aid of Google?

1. I Love Lucy

2. The Dick Van Dyke Show

3. Beverly Hillbillies

4. Gilligan’s Island

5. Bonanza

5. The Brady Bunch

6. Hawaii Five-0

7. Gomer Pyle

8. Hogan’s Heroes

9. Sanford and Son

10. Happy Days

11. Andy Griffith

12. The Wild Wild West


I was a perfect 12 for 12. When was the last time I saw an episode of the Dick Van Dyke show? Oh, I would say 35 years, and yet I remember like it was yesterday old Dick coming home from work, messing with his tie and tripping over that stupid ottoman during the opening music. Amazing.

What started this conversation was our shared love of the theme song from Parenthood. We always DVR that show, so we can fast forward through the commercials, the show flows so much better that way. The odd thing is, when the theme song comes on, we never fast forward, never once. We listen to Bob Dylan’s terrible voice bark out the incredibly appropriate lyrics to “Forever Young”. We watch the beautiful scene there in the Braverman back yard unfold for the 60th time, the soft string of lights hanging over the long picnic table in their back yard, the laughter coming from each member of the family. We see the grandchildren when they were younger, we watch them pass around the food, we envy them briefly for living in a State where this sort of occasion can happen 365 days out of the year. We see that clip and we hear that music and it reminds us of how marvelous it is to be a part of such a family, to share this life with brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts, cousins, nephews and nieces. To see that clip and hear that music is to be reminded of why it is that we settled down to start a family in the first place.

For the most part, television shows have dropped the theme song, replacing it with bumper music, or in the case of Two and a Half Men, these stirring lyrics…”Men men men men men men men men …..” Someone suggested that since shows don’t last very long nowadays, maybe they don’t want to go to the expense of a fancy song. Don’t these producers understand the power of music?? What three shows over the last fifteen to twenty years have been the most successful? Cheers, Friends, and Frazier. All three with forever remembered theme music that people will be humming in their heads fifty years from now.

Bring back the music, Hollywood.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Resolution Checkup

At the beginning of this year I wrote about my plan for 2013. Primarily, it was about striving to live in the moment, neither obsessing over yesterday’s mistakes or worrying about tomorrow’s problems, but simply living all in, in the moment. As January winds down, its time to access my progress. Unfortunately, to do so would require me to obsess over yesterday’s failures so,…just kidding.

The first book I read this year was an autobiography of the quirky knuckleball pitcher from the New York Mets, R.A. Dickey. I’ve been fascinated with his story, a journeyman career minor leaguer who finally makes it to the show in his mid thirties then becomes an unhittable 20-6 as a thirty eight year old, practically unheard of in Major League baseball. Well, it turns out this this book wasn’t about baseball at all, rather it was about the amazing story of a guy who overcame the most horrible childhood imaginable, and with the help of an intense faith and otherworldly commitment to excellence manages to become a great pitcher. Along the way he climbs Mt. Kilimanjaro, for the fun and thrill of it. Ironically, one of the keys to his success is his learned talent for living “all in the present”. For Dickey that meant blocking out the two minute old memory of watching a hitter launch one of his pitches 400 feet into the left field stands for a three run homer quickly enough to be totally committed to his next pitch. No small feat. It’s the same with all great athletes. To be great requires an extremely short memory. The golfer who hooks his drive into the water, the quarterback who throws an interception, the point guard who misses a free throw, all have to quickly regain their composure because the game doesn’t end with one mistake, the next opportunity is coming up and they better be clear-headed and focused, not beating themselves up over what happened two minutes ago. Thankfully for the rest of us, life isn’t that dramatic.

The second book I read was Jon Meacham’s amazing biography of Thomas Jefferson, “The Art of Power”. This is the third biography of Jefferson I have read so I’m familiar with the subject, but in the expert hands of this Pulitzer Prize winning writer, he comes alive in new and fascinating ways. What has stuck me in this reading is the sheer intensity of the life Jefferson lived. It’s as if he determined at birth that he was going to wring every last drop of vitality out of his time on earth. He was going to see all that he could possibly see, learn all there was to learn, build all he could build, grow, plant, cultivate, imagine, discover, all while the day was called day. Thomas Jefferson was an architect, a planter, a writer, a philosopher, a musician, a scientist, a botanist, spoke five languages, and managed to serve his country as a Governor, an ambassador, Secretary of State, Vice-President and President. Reading about Jefferson always produces in me a sense of shame at my comparatively meager ambitions. The mere existence of a guy like Jefferson makes it difficult for me to lay on the sofa eating beef jerky, watching ESPN, without debilitating guilt. Thanks, Tom.

The point of all of this is, if one could combine the commitment to the moment of R.A. Dickey with the zest for life of Thomas Jefferson, one could do a lot worse in life. The good news is, so far this year, it’s working for me. I have been largely successful in living in the moment. My problem in the past hasn’t been beating myself up over failures as much as worrying too much about the future. So far, I’ve been able to let go of tomorrow for the most part. Tomorrow will come regardless of the amount of time I devote to it’s planning. For me, it’s not one day at a time, it’s more like one minute at a time.

I have been given much in this life. For reasons unknown to me, God has blessed me with success. Living in the moment with gratitude and wonder seems an appropriate response.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Snow Conspiracy?

They are calling for snow today. “They”, of course, are the weather forecasters on all the local channels, plus the people over at the Weather Channel. As is usually the case, this particular snow storm has been talked about since last week, such is the science of modern meteorology. Effective in 2013, the big shots in the weather world have decided to start naming snow storms like they name hurricanes. This particular storm must not be very menacing because as of this hour it is nameless.

Here in my corner of the cosmos, snow is greeted with a combination of childlike glee and unhinged panic. At the mere mention of snow in a forecast, hordes of west-enders descend on every grocery store west of the Boulevard, gobbling up every loaf of bread and gallon of milk on the shelves. I have long suspected that there was something nefarious about this spectacle. If the Ukrop’s brothers weren’t such fine upstanding Christian men, I might think that perhaps money was changing hands between the grocery titans and the weather forecasters in town.

Bobby Ukrop: Hey Jim. Uh, listen, we’ve had a pretty slow January over here, and we’re in a bit of a bind since we’re way overstocked on bread and milk. I was wondering if you could help us out.

Jim Duncan: Bobby, I’m surprised at you! You think you can just call here and ask me to cook up a phony snow forecast just so you can move some groceries?! I am a professional meteorologists for God’s sake, I have a reputation to think about, I have..

Bobby Ukrop: I’ll give you $25000 and a life long supply of White House rolls.

Jim Duncan: Done.


With the explosion of the internet in recent years, Richmond weather geeks have a new place to go for wild weather rumors. There’s this guy on Facebook with the initials DT. He runs some sort of weather consulting business for farmers and commodity traders. For 9 months of the year he labors in obscurity, but when winter arrives, he becomes a rock star. His Facebook page blows up. He’s famous for making outlandish forecasts of blizzards when the local TV guys are calling for a dusting. Like the proverbial broken clock who is at least right twice a day, DT has built his reputation on being famously right twice…three years ago. Ever since then people have considered him the go-to guy for snow. I hear him on the radio whenever snow is in the forecast, and more often than not he’s explaining why the local TV weather people are fools. It doesn’t seem to matter how often he’s fabulously wrong because he was the guy three years ago who nailed those two storms that nobody else saw coming. What a gig!

Well, I’m prepared for whatever comes our way today. There’s milk in the fridge, bread in the pantry, and as long as we don’t lose our internet connection, lots of great entertainment on DT’s Facebook page.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Dunnistan's First International Crisis

It has been brought to my attention that while the government of Dunnistan is more than adequately staffed with women, there is a disturbing lack of ethnic diversity, in point of fact, the number of minorities in my administration equals zero, about as undiversified as you can get.

While it certainly was not my intention to present to the world a monochromatic face, as it were, never let it be said that Dunnistan is not sensitive to politically correct notions of fairness and diversity. Some have suggested that Dunnistan’s lack of minority representation reveals latent racism. Nothing could be further from the truth. To assuage the concerns of the global community, I hereby announce the following appointments.

Like all other central governments in the world, mine is constantly expanding, whether it needs to or not. New employment opportunities sprout like daffodils in the spring here in Dunnistan. Just yesterday for example, it was pointed out to me that we have no liaison to the Asian community. It fact we have no liaison to any community and didn’t even know one was needed until I read in “Nation-Building For Dummies” that to get along in the modern world, it is vital to reach out to all corners of the globe to seek out alliances. This revelation has presented me with a golden opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. My sister-in-law, Rizaline happens to be Fillipino, and about as friendly and kind as any citizen of Dunnistan. She will be a perfect Ambassador at Large. In addition, her son, my nephew Sean, is half Fillipino, so his appointment to the newly minted position of Secretary of Rock and Roll and Brightly Colored Shoes should be well-received by the world diversity police. I am also considering creating a job for my Niece’s husband, Ruaridh, since he’s originally from Scotland. But I must first get a ruling from the United Nations as to whether he qualifies as a minority. If so, then Dunnistan will have minorities in 3 of the 11 positions filled so far, a sparkling minority representation of 27%!!

This founding father business if exhausting.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Speech

As promised, I didn’t watch any of the festivities yesterday. I spent quite a productive day at work, a very good thing, but as a patriot I felt compelled to at least find a copy of the speech and read it. So I did. Google is a wonderful thing.

President Obama has been elected twice now. He is the clear choice of a majority of my fellow citizens. He is entitled to his views and is free to push his agenda as he sees fit. Much of his speech featured soaring rhetoric, the kind that he is known for. Naturally I disagreed with much, though not all of it. However, two lines captured my attention. They jumped off the page and attacked me. Seldom have I heard such fabulous nonsense come from the mouth of a President, any President.

The commitments we make to each other – through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security – these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.”

Where to begin? Ever since I have been a working adult I have been taxed 6.2% of my pay for Social Security and 1.35% for Medicare. The reason I have been charged this tax is precisely because these programs were designed NOT as welfare, but rather a benefit that citizens pay for. The reasoning has always been, from Otto Von Bismarck forward that government programs of assistance must never be viewed as entitlements by the citizen because if they were it would produce sloth and freeloading. Thus, the citizen pays in to the system and “earns” the benefits he later receives. My Social Security benefit is not a “commitment” I have made with my fellow citizen, it is a commitment that my government has made with me. I pay in to the system, and the government promises to not screw around with my contributions and further promises to pay me when the time comes for me to collect. Because of government malfeasance over the last 50 years, these programs have morphed into gigantic unfunded liabilities and with all due respect they are indeed “sapping our initiative” not to mention our national bank account. In thirty five years time by every prediction model used by either political party, the entire federal budget will be spent paying for these three programs and the interest on our national debt. If that doesn’t “sap our initiative”, what on earth will?

No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores. Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation, and one people.”


What the hell is he talking about? I have never met a single, solitary soul who believes that “ a single person” can do any of these things! This is why people have banded together for, oh, four thousand years of recorded history, to do things as a group that cannot be done individually. To the President, there apparently are only two options when confronting problems…”one single person” or a huge, leviathan government. Has he never heard of civil society? Is he unfamiliar with local associations like churches, charities, Kiwanis clubs, PTA’s? Must every social ill be the soul province of Washington? This is the Life of Julia writ large. That little cartoon put out by his campaign depicted a single woman from birth to death relying totally on a benevolent government at every step of her life as if she had absolutely no where else to go. In the President’s view of our country, the government can and should be the fount of all solutions. The problem is, we are stone cold broke, and our benevolence comes at a cost. No where in his address did the President hazard a plan for the how this great society plans to pay for any of this. All we got from this speech was…bad things happen in life, and your government is going to be here to make everything better, no matter how much money it takes.

OK. Good luck with that.

Monday, January 21, 2013

An Inaugural Lament

Today is Inauguration Day. I won’t watch, since I’ll be at work, but I probably should. I did watch last time. I watched Jimmy Carter’s, and the first Ronald Reagan one, and the first W. one I think, so I have a spotty record.

Today is also Martin Luther King Day, and I won’t be participating in any memorial activities honoring him either. I have nothing against MLK, just as I have nothing against George Washington or Abraham Lincoln when I completely ignore them on President’s Day. See, since I’m not a teacher, or a government employee, and since I don’t work for a bank or the Post Office, I don’t get the day off with pay. I’m one of those greedy evil guys you hear about on the news who works for himself, and let me tell you, my boss is a real jerk.

Don’t misunderstand, owning your own business has it’s benefits. You never have to ask for a raise, never have to ask for time off, never have to worry about getting fired. I’ve never once in 30 years been sent home for being inappropriately dressed. So, I’ve got those things going for me.

But being your own boss has its drawbacks. I have no one to blame for my failures. I don’t have sick pay. I’ve never taken a paid vacation. I have to provide my own health insurance, and it’s terrible. There’s no employer’s contribution to my retirement plan, and I have to pay both halves of my Social Security tax. But, the worst part is that I have to be a success every single week or there’s no paycheck. Well, not exactly “no” paycheck, but rather a greatly diminished one. There is no room for failure or even slumps because the effect is immediate. 30 years ago, I traded relative safety and stability for independence and potential. When friends get laid off from their jobs, I think I made the right choice. When I endure a slump and have nothing to pay myself, I’m not so sure. But I made my choice. It’s a free country.

30 years ago, guys like me were celebrated. We were called entrepreneurs, risk takers, the drive-shaft of the engine of commerce. Now we’re vilified as greedy, self centered and unpatriotic, mostly by the men and women who will fill the grandstand behind the President at today’s ceremony, and especially by the President himself. He won reelection largely because there are far too few of “us”, and we are an easy target. Fair enough, it’s a democracy after all. But forgive me if I don’t participate in the festivities today. I’ll be busy trying to make enough money to pay my “fair share”. Trouble is, after paying the Feds on the 15th, my State on the 27th, my property taxes, sales taxes, gasoline taxes, licensing fees to all the States where my clients live, business taxes, errors and omissions insurance, and after trying to dig out from under six years of putting my two kids through college, there just isn’t much left. And yet when I look at the sea of faces behind the President on that grandstand today, I will see an average net worth per capita of somewhere around 5 million, and it is these people who derisively call me…rich.

So, I harbor the President no ill will. I wish him every success over the next four years. We could use some success about now. But, no, I won’t be tuned in today. I’m a little busy here.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Dunnistan. Fully Staffed and Open For Business!

My brother left me a message on my phone yesterday, indignant that I hadn’t named him the Secretary of State of The Republic Of Dunnistan. My nation isn’t two days old and I’ve got my first diplomatic challenge. After re-reading yesterday’s post it occurs to me that I should flesh out the infrastructure of Dunnistan, since I left you with precious few details about the makeup of my State, and here in Dunnistan, we pride ourselves on full-disclosure. In fact our motto is, “Dunnistan, the only Nation with no State secrets.”

OK, my Secretary of State is my brother Donnie. This was a no-brainer since he’s always been someone who hates conflict and avoids it at all cost. Since my entire defense apparatus consists of one Daisy Powerline 35 BB gun with one 2400 count plastic box of ammunition, Donnie will be severely restricted should he get the urge to invade another country. Donnie will also be my point man at the United Nations. Since the Gross Domestic Product of Dunnistan is only $250,000 I’m sure we will be in line for some sweet no-interest loans from the International Monetary Fund.

I’ve decided that we don’t really need a Secretary of the Treasury. I mean, all the money we need is generated out of thin air in the basement, and it never has to be paid back, and even if it did, we would be paying ourselves back, so what’s the point?

The population of Dunnistan is limited so those who serve in my administration will have to wear many hats. For example, My sister Linda is my Secretary of Health and Human Services, and Surgeon General. She’s the most tenured nurse in the family so, she’s qualified. My other sister Paula serves as my Attorney General and Press Secretary, and Secretary Of Education. Although she isn’t actually a real lawyer, she has led 25 groups of talented and gifted students to victory in mock trial competitions during her 30 year teaching career. Close enough. Anyone who knows Paula knows that she will be the greatest Press Secretary of all time. After the first press conference, every reporter in the room will cower in fear at the back of the room rather than risk asking a “perfectly ridiculous question!!”

My daughter will be the Poet Laureate, and my Son will head up the National Endowment for the arts. Since Dunnistan is all about endowments, thanks to our handy printing press, the arts will flourish.

That leaves an awful lot of jobs to be filled by the First Lady…as follows.

Secretary of the Interior

Secretary of Housing and Urban Development

Secretary of Agriculture

Technology Czar

Secretary of Organization

Common Sense Czar

Welcome Wagon

She’s in charge of the interior of all State buildings( my house ), she keeps the nation organized with her epic computer skills, she welcomes all visitors with grace and cheer, a multi-tasking government official if ever there was one.

One more thing. In the spirit of always creating new government jobs and continuing the time-honored tradition of nepotism, I have created a new post, the Secretary of Fixing and Repairing Stuff. This position will be jointly filled by my two brothers-in-law, Bill and Ron. Seeing as how the executive branch of my government has very limited truly useful skills, there will be much work for them to do.

There. A fully functioning nation, complete with a working bureaucracy, staffed by cronies of the President. We are ready to roll and open for business!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Republic Of Dunnistan

I want to be a country. I would like to become my own nation. I could name myself The Republic of Dunnistan, or Dougalia. There would be some great benefits to such a move, not the least of which would be immediate access to waterfront property( an office at the United Nations ). But the real reason I want to become my own country is financial. I want to be able to loan money to myself.

As just plain me, I always have to worry about money. Let’s say I’m bringing home $10,000 a month, but I’m consistently spending $15,000 a month. For Doug Dunnevant, this is a problem. I’m eventually faced with tough choices. I either have to find a way to come up with more income, or I have to cut my expenses back, or some combination of the two. But, for The Republic of Dunnistan, I would just go down to the basement, crank up my Federal Reserve printing press and within a few minutes, I will have loaned myself enough money to cover my shortfall and then some.

Being my own country would be awesome. I’ve even designed a flag. It would have a bright yellow field with a giant smiley face in the center. Why shouldn’t I be deliriously, single-mindedly happy? With that printing press in my basement, there wouldn’t be anything I couldn’t do, nothing I couldn’t buy, no limits to my capabilities. I could dream big because there would never be any limits, just crank up the machine.



The award for Liar Of The Week goes to Lance Armstrong. It was a close vote with Manti Te’o giving him a run for his money. Lance went on Oprah and admitted that he had doped his way to seven Tour de France titles. The fierce and angry denials of the past ten years were theatre. The personal and legal destruction of everyone in his path over the past ten years was “regrettable”. I thought maybe there would be tears and uncomfortably painful contrition. There were no tears and nothing that even resembled contrition. It was as if he decided to throw us all a bone, “Ok, yeah, I cheated. Can I go now?” The biggest mystery is what on earth was he trying to accomplish. If he was trying to present himself sympathetically, he failed. Confessions only bring sympathy if they seem heartfelt and if the confessor seems personally devastated by his own behavior. He was neither. LIVEWRONG, Lance.




President Obama signed 23 executive orders this week in a ceremony at the White House surrounded by cute 8 year olds. These particular cutie-pies had written him letters after the Sandy Hook tragedy asking him to “do something” about guns. The President even let them read their letters. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against 8 year olds. I was one once and I hear I was pretty cute myself. My own two kids were positively enchanting at 8. But, it always creeps me out whenever I see any politician surround himself with the kiddies when he is signing legislation. Not only does it look manipulative, it makes me think that I’m being head-faked. “No, no… pay no attention to what I’m signing, look over here. Aren’t these kids adorable??” Besides, I’m thinking that one shouldn’t write laws based on the desires of children precocious enough to write letters to the President. On the other hand, maybe the Republicans should take some notes. The next time they vote against deficit spending, perhaps they should call a press conference and march little Johnnie out to read this statement…

“Mr. President, my name’s Johnnie, and I’m here to ask you not to borrow anymore money. I’m 8 years old and my share of the national debt is already over $50,000. If we keep borrowing money at this pace, by the time I’m old enough to be President myself, there won’t be a country left to be President of. And while you’re at it, could you please do something about the vending machine at my school? Some idiot took out the Snickers, and M&M’s and replaced them with carrot sticks and Wheat Thins. That’s like, so stupid!”

Thursday, January 17, 2013

"Horse Walks Into A Bar..."

Horse walks into a bar. Bartender says, “ Hey buddy, why the long face? “

This was one of the first jokes I remember being told when I was a kid. I was probably 9 or 10 years old, and I thought it was hilarious. A simple play on words. I must have told that joke a hundred times to my 10 year old buddies but to my great dismay, hardly any of them thought it was funny. Then I would try to explain to them why it was such a great joke, about the role of the bartender as a confident, someone who people tell their troubles to, someone who’s job it is to cheer you up, and about the shape of a horse’s face. They still didn’t get it, and even when they did they would usually say something like, “ Dunnevant, you’re weird. That joke blows.” The lesson I learned at age ten was that humor was in the eye of the beholder.

A few years later, when all my friends were into rock and roll, my brother taught me to play three chords on a beat up guitar with only five strings. Although I was a huge fan of rock and roll myself, one day when I was 14 I rode home from a baseball game with a friend. His Mom was listening to one of those horrible classical music stations on the radio when I heard the most amazing guitar playing I had ever heard. Some guy was going to town playing some 200 year old song and I was transfixed. I heard the announcer say, “That was Christopher Parkening playing Bach’s Cello Suite # 1 in G Major”. Within a week I had joined Columbia House record club and in my welcome package of 8 free records, there was Christopher Parkening introducing me to classical music. I wore out that record, scratched it up to within an inch of it’s life over the next few years teaching myself how to play classical guitar. None of my buddies got it. “ Dunnevant, you’re weird. That music blows.” Age 14 taught me that musical taste was in the ear of the beholder.

Later on, I became enthralled with baseball at about the time that it began to fall from favor. The whole country was going bananas over football and I was busy memorizing the starting lineup of the 1983 Atlanta Braves. It got so bad, I would call the hot line at the Times-Dispatch at 6:30 in the morning to get the west coast scores. Pathetic.

54 years in, I can say with complete confidence that my interests and sensibilities have never been aligned with the world around me. I can never manage to get on the same page with the dominate culture in which I live. Square peg, round hole.

“ Dunnevant, you’re a businessman. How come you hate Donald Trump? You’re an investment advisor, how come you detest Wall Street? You own your own business, how come you can’t stand Republicans? You’re a World War Two loving patriot, how come you want us to cut the defense budget and bring all of our troops home? You’re a serious Christian, how come you

 don’t like church?”

I have no answer to any of these questions.

“Dunnevant, you’re weird and this blog-post blows!”

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

8 More Weeks Of Winter....Sigh

Day three of 40 degrees and heavy cold rain. Tomorrow is to bring more of the same. Four days of no sunshine, dark, foreboding skies and gloom. Now there’s talk that the end of this deluge may bring some snow. Insult to injury.

Everything outside smells like a wet dog. Even my own dog seems offended. The streets are slick with oil. The weather maps are dark green and menacing. The meteorologists are apologetic. As of today, we are only half way through winter.

The prospect of 8 more weeks of this is oppressive. February will be the worst. February has no redeeming value. There’s Valentines Day, a fabricated faux-holiday that makes every single person, and every unhappy married person feel even worse about themselves. Even happily married couples struggle with the thing, basically because it takes place in February. Love should be celebrated in sun dresses and bathing suits, not wrapped up in layers wearing boots and gloves. February does provide us all with that eagerly anticipated Federal holiday, President’s Day. I always circle that one on my calendar. There’s nothing like contemplated the life of George Washington to take the chill from your bones, just the thought of that brave man rallying his frozen, shoeless troops at Valley Forge is enough to transport me to the Tropics. But the worst thing about February is that there aren’t any sports going on to divert our attention from the inhumane weather. Football is over, spring training doesn’t start until March, the Masters doesn’t happen until April, nobody cares about college basketball until March madness. There’s isn’t February madness, except for the monotonous forecast…” Today, look for cold temperatures with a chance of freezing rain this morning, turning to all rain by this afternoon, then switching over to sleet, followed by snow this evening.”

As a February bonus this year, we get to watch the madcap adventures of our elected officials in Washington arguing and posturing over the debt ceiling. As the sleet piles up on the front steps we can watch Barack and Boehner call each other names. Maybe, if there is any winter justice, a 100 year snowstorm will paralyze DC under three feet of snow, knocking out television communications in or out of the capital. Then if the government actually does shut down, no one will know until spring.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


On a perfectly miserable day, I went to the gym to work out. It was raining and 40 degrees, with low clouds sinking lower by the minute. At 3 o’clock in the afternoon it was dusky, and streams of water were sliding across the parking lot towards the storm drain.

The gym was nearly deserted. The weather held down the crowd but mostly it was flu season, and people are careful not to congregate in places where lots of folks routinely sweat profusely while breathing deeply, and exhaling with great force. I practically had the place to myself. I dropped into the locker room to put my jacket and towel away. I saw a friend sitting on a bench leaning against the wall with his eyes closed. For a second I thought about going about my business without saying anything to him. His eyes were closed, so he probably didn’t see me so he wouldn’t have thought me rude. But, I found myself saying, “ Hey buddy, rough workout, huh?”

He opened his eyes abruptly. His eyes were red and tired. He had been crying.

In that instant, I desperately wanted to be on a treadmill, lifting weights, or cleaning out the toilets, anywhere but in a locker room with a grown man who had been crying. Men are not good at certain things, maybe not all men, maybe not even most men. Ok, I’M not very good at certain things, like comforting another man who is hurting. I never know what to say. I feel embarrassed, for myself, and for the poor guy across from me who now suddenly stands and walks over to my locker, “Doug, do you have a minute?”

We sat down and he begins to talk. He tells me about a friend of his who just got caught cheating on his wife. This couple were close friends with him and his wife. They used to do everything together. Everyone involved is devastated. There are young children involved. He thought he knew the guy, couldn’t believe him possible of such a thing.

“Doug, the worst part is, he’s probably the most committed Christian man I’ve ever known.”

I listened a little longer, tried my hand at saying something comforting. After a while, we were talking about the Ravens-Broncos game or something, and I soon held the handles of my elliptical machine in a death grip, trying to control my growing anger. My friend’s story is just the latest in the long continuing saga of infidelity among supposedly “committed Christian” men. With each new revelation, my faith takes another body shot.

What is a committed Christian, anyway? What does the term even mean? Apparently, when it comes to wedding vows, it means absolutely nothing.

I finish my run, then head upstairs to the weight machines. As I’m resting between sets of bench presses, I think about all the Christian guys I’ve known at my church who are my age who have divorced their wives. They were all good guys, at church every Sunday, guys who studied their Bibles and prayed for their families. For them, their faith wasn’t enough to save their marriages.

But by the time I’m on the abdominal crunch machine, I’m also thinking about all the Christian guys I’ve known who are hanging on to their families, who are making it work, who are still committed to their wives. There are a lot of them, and I start to feel better.

Still, when I hear the next sad story it will still make me angry. I will still feel like punching something. For although I know that my faith doesn’t promise me an easy life, and my belief in Christ doesn’t guarantee me success, my gut tells me that it ought to make it easier for me to keep my sacred vows.

I finish my workout, go sit in the sauna for ten minutes, then gather my stuff from my locker. My friend is gone. I get in the car and drive over to my Dad’s with his dinner. As I take the Montpelier exit towards his house it occurs to me that he was married to my mother for 65 years, and though she passed away 6 months ago, he’s still in love with her, …still honoring his vows.

The heavy mist covers the windshield. It’s been raining for two days now. As I make the turn onto Winn’s Church road, I think that it’s a good day to see my Dad.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Here We Go

Another Monday. Another week begins, and my eternal quest for financial security continues. This week will be especially full, many client meetings, preparations for even more meetings in the weeks to come. There will be bills to pay, cash flow to manipulate, unexpected expenses to manage.

My dad’s glasses are too loose on his face. He will need to go have them adjusted. I will take him. My daughter will come home tonight to have her wisdom teeth extracted tomorrow, then stay here until she is sufficiently recovered. There will be two meals to fix and take over to Dad. Federal taxes are due tomorrow, business bills to pay by Friday.

I don’t feel well, like I’ve been fighting something off for three days now, willing it to go away. This is not a time to be sick. I read about the Nora virus and wonder if it’s just my imagination, the power of suggestion. For now, Nyquil will have to do.

It’s raining today. All week it is to be cloudy with intermittent rain. It seems that it has been so all year. January has brought no snow, but lots of fog, rain and dreariness, like a London railway station in the movies. When the sun peaks out from the gloom we all walk outside with a hand over our eyes gazing up to get a glimpse of blue. Now I understand why the British are always so practical. Clouds do not encourage dreaming.

Another Monday. Another week.

Here we go.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

A Clash Of Icons

The game was billed as a clash of icons. Arguably the best quarterback in the history of the game on one side and the most dominate middle linebacker of this generation on the other. Unlike most games that are hyped by using words like “clash of icons”, this one actually delivered, an epic back and forth battle that went two overtime periods before delivering a winner. Peyton Manning was once again disappointed, while Ray Lewis’ pending retirement got postponed another week.

Peyton Manning fascinates me, always has. On the one hand, I’ve never seen a smarter quarterback. No one who has ever played understands the game better than Manning. He will go down as perhaps the greatest of them all. I read his statistics, I look at his record and marvel. Yes, its true that most of his numbers were racked up inside a windless seventy degree dome in Indianapolis, and his legacy is obscured by a lone Super Bowl title amidst all that statistical dominance, but anyone who knows anything at all about football must acknowledge his brilliance. And yet, for his entire career he has been hard to watch. All of that hand jiving, caterwauling at the line of scrimmage, all the pointing, ranting and raving before the snap, the false starts, the hesitations and misdirection…its like all of America is screaming,” For God’s sake SNAP THE FREAKING BALL!!” But that’s Peyton Manning.

I watched Joe Montana, I watched Dan Marino. I saw Joe win all those Super Bowls with one clutch performance after another, while Poor Dan hardly ever got to a Super Bowl. My eyes told me that Dan was a far better Quarterback, but there was Joe lifting the trophies. I watch Peyton Manning, I watch his little brother Eli. My eyes tell me that Eli isn’t worthy to hold his big brother’s jock strap, yet Eli has two rings to Peyton’s one. Team sports can be a cruel mistress to personal greatness. Yet through it all, Peyton Manning ccan always be counted on for one thing, class through adversity. Once again last night after a bitter disappointment, there was Peyton Manning, two hours after the game, dressed in a suit, waiting in the empty Ravens locker room for Ray Lewis to finish his press conference, so he could offer his personal congratulations.

Ray Lewis is the best middle linebacker I have ever seen. I’m not old enough to have watched Dick Butkis, and I barely remember Willie Lanier. But when I watch a thirty four year old man lugging a brace the size of a small child around on his right arm, make 17 tackles in 12 degree weather, I can do nothing but stand amazed. As awkward and gawky as Manning is, Lewis has always been a fluid thing to watch, swift, athletic and lethal. Despite all of the pre-game histrionics he is famous for, once the game begins Ray Lewis has always played with discipline and calmness, keeping his head while everyone around him is losing theirs. When he blew out his tricep earlier this year his entire team went into a tailspin, since his return they seem unstoppable. Never have I seen a defensive player have such an impact on his teammates.

He announced his retirement as soon as this season is over. Each game could possibly be his last, and he is playing like it. But with Ray Lewis there is always the cloud. It follows him. As a younger man, he was every inch the Miami Hurricane, in every negative connotation associated with that team. There was the limo, the entourage, the gun, the murder and a trial with an ambiguous verdict. Now Ray Lewis seems to have found God, quoting scripture to anyone who will listen, and because it’s Ray Lewis, everyone listens. He’s seems the quintessential changed man. The cynic might say that his new found religion is an attempt to scrub the blood stains from hands, to assuage the guilt and wash his image clean. Maybe, maybe not. I only know that he does seem like a different man, a man who has grown into his stardom, and not been diminished by it.

The Ravens won the game 38-35. Peyton goes home. Ray moves on. And even though its only professional football, I find myself caring.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Harry Potter and Me.

Harry Potter has overtaken my house. My son and his mother have engaged in a Harry Potter marathon during this, his last week at home for quite a while. Between shopping and packing they have been watching all the movies. Since Pam was just six chapters shy of having finished reading the last book, Patrick insisted that she turn off the final movie at the exact point at which she had stopped reading. Now they are sitting on the sofa downstairs staring blankly off into space listening to a skilled actor read the last six chapters. Pam has a box of tissues on her lap. All activity has ceased, even Molly is still and silent, probably too scared to even pass gas.

I had forgotten what an amazing work is the Harry Potter series. It will be read by generations of kids to come. When my kids inform their kids that they waited in line at midnight at Barnes & Noble every time a new book in the series was released, they will stare in wonder and ask, “Mom, what’s a book? And why did you have to wait in line, and what is a barnes and noble?”

What I remember most about the Harry Potter phenomenon, sadly, was the uproar it ignited in the Christian community, at least my corner of it. We knew many parents who were horrified by the books, thought that they were satanic, glorified the occult and were aimed at nothing less than the possession of our children’s minds, and if our kids were allowed to read them they would become lifelong slaves to Lucifer. With those kinds of accusations flying about, my contrarian, rebellious nature insisted upon giving them a try. I don’t remember all the details, but the first time I discovered the books was on a drive to Maine, or Nags Head, or something. As I drove, Pam read the book. I took maybe fifteen minutes to discover that this was indeed no ordinary “ children’s book”. This was beautiful writing, filled with wit and crackling with imagination. Yes, the story centered around magic, but as far as I could tell, it was chocked full of big themes of right and wrong, courage and friendship, and even good and evil, with clear delineation between the two. Plus, it was great fun.

It was the very first time that Patrick showed any interest in a book. Now, as an adult, he loves reading. Kaitlin was overwhelmed with the stories, and the Harry Potter books played no small part in her adult love of literature and the pursuit of discovery it has produced in her. For this, I suppose I have J. K. Rowling to thank. So far, neither Kaitlin nor Patrick have succumbed to the full time service of Satan. Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Lance Armstrong, Oprah Winfrey Interview.

The headline read, “ Armstrong Will Ask Oprah For Absolution, Forgiveness”. In this Therapeutic Age in which we live, this is top of the fold news, must see TV. Two huge questions flashed across my mind when I read this. The first was, why now, Lance? The second was, wait…Oprah’s still on TV?

So, Lance Armstrong is going to come clean. After years of angry denials, he’s going to admit to cheating. The seven time Tour de France winner, and cancer surviving icon and hero to millions is going to admit to blood doping or using performance enhancing drugs or whatever it is that he’s been accused of by a host of competitors and teammates alike. Instead of calling a press conference and reading a statement of guilt, he will sit down for an hour and a half interview with Oprah Winfrey. He will cry. She will cry. The studio audience will cry.

This is how we do contrition in 2013 America. The rich and famous go on Oprah. She listens earnestly, those huge brown eyes wet and piercing. She asks about their childhoods. We discover long buried memories of abuse. We find out just how despicable their now safely dead parents really were. Why, it’s a wonder that they even survived their childhoods. Is it any wonder that they had a sex party with six women on the very day that their spouse was giving birth to their first child? Who among us can say that given the circumstances we wouldn’t have done the same thing?

Just once I would love for Oprah to snap out of her fawning celebrity-worship love fest and conduct a real interview. Lance Armstrong would be a great place to start. It might go something like this…


Oprah: You have consistently denied these accusations against you for years. In the process of those denials, you have attacked the ethics and motivations of every accuser, yet you come here asking ME for forgiveness. Shouldn’t you first go to all of the people whose reputations you have publicly attacked and ask THEM for forgiveness?

Lance: Oh, I plan to. It’s a process Oprah. Baby steps, baby steps.

Oprah: Why are you coming clean now, when just three months ago you held a defiant news conference in which you defended yourself vociferously against the governing body of your sport, accusing them of having a jealousy fueled vendetta against you?

Lance: Oprah, I’ve lost everything, I’ve got nothing left, nowhere else to turn.

Oprah: Everything? You’ve lost everything? You have a personal net worth of over one hundred million dollars.

Lance: Well, of course I still have the money I earned from winning all those races and the endorsements I scored from those wins and the great almost God-like reputation that being a seven time Tour winner brings. But money can’t buy happiness.

Oprah: True. So give it all back.

Lance: Wait… what?

Oprah: You heard me. Give it all back.

Lance: Well, that’s er, uh, logistically that would be, er…

Oprah: You make me sick Lance. You really do. You come here on my show, you cry me a river about how horrible you feel, about how everything you worked for your whole life has been shattered, how rotten your parents were, what a terrible wife Cheryl Crow was, but you know what I see? I see a wretched little man who built one of the most untouchable reputations in all of sports on cheating and then when he got caught his ego wouldn’t allow him to admit it. So instead, you spent years throwing everyone and everything under the bus to save your own sorry ass, and now you don’t have one single solitary friend left on this planet. So, you come to me. You hope that I’ll cry and you will cry, and all of America will feel sorry for poor little Lance and magically forget what a mean, manipulative jerk you are.

Lance: Well, yeah… isn’t that what you do?

Oprah: Not any more. Give the money back Lance. Give it all to charity and start over from scratch. Sell your six homes, sell all of your toys and go back to school. Maybe you can become a gym teacher somewhere, or become a personal trainer at American Family Fitness.

Lance: I should have listened to my agent. He said “Go on Barbara Walters”, but I insisted on you, Oprah. And this is the way you repay me??

Oprah: Lance Armstrong, everybody! We’ll be back after these messages from our sponsors!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Downton Abbey is BACK!

It’s finally here. The day we’ve all been waiting for is finally here. The waiting has been unbearable, the anxiety and anticipation excruciating. That’s right. Downton Abbey is BACK!!

For months now we’ve worried about them, wondered what will happen next. Although when last we tuned in Matthew and Mary were spinning around in the snow, finally a couple, none of us believe it’s a done deal. Something surely will conspire against them in season three, we just know it. Then there’s poor Mr. Bates rotting in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, er, uh, a crime he probably didn’t commit, while that angel, Anna, grieves gracefully.

We wonder if Robert, the Earl of Grantham’s brief flirtation with that maid will come back to haunt him. We don’t much care for Cora, his American wife. She’s just there. Same for Edith, the plain, spiteful sister. Sybil, the hott one, has married the Irish chauffer, Branson, moved to Dublin and gotten pregnant so we know that they will be back.

Meanwhile, downstairs, it’s all about Thomas and O’Brien, that dynamic duo of chicanery. What schemes will they dream up, and how will Carson ever manage to stop them from bringing dishonor ( gasp!!) on the good name of the Crawleys? Mrs. Patmore will be in a frenzy to feed them all, and Daisy will manage to muck up the works with one of her bouts of self-loathing and indecision.

But what this night is really all about, what all Downton Abbey fans have really been waiting for is the smack down between Violet, the Dowager Countess, and Cora’s American mother, played by Shirley Maclaine. Truth be told, without Violet, Downton Abbey would lose half of it’s appeal. When she waltzes into a scene, any scene, we all sit on the edge of our seat and wait for it. We wait for that tone of voice, that aristocratic turn of phrase, that classically educated rapier wit. Everyone has a favorite. There are so many to choose from. I love them all. When describing the poor financial condition of a potential suitor for Mary she tilts her head and says, “Fortune? He’s lucky not to be playing the violin in Lester Square. He is hardly the consummation devoutly to be wished!” In all the history of television, no one has ever quoted Shakespeare to greater effect.

So, tonight we begin season three. My house will be filled with the Fort family. We will watch the last two episodes from season two as preparation. Instead of crumpets and tea there will be pizza. We are, after all, Americans.

Can’t wait!!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Johnny Freaking Football

Last night I watched the most exciting, dynamic football player I have ever seen on the college level, and he’s a freshman. Johnny Manziel was unstoppable against the Oklahoma Sooners, just as he was against the Alabama Crimson Tide earlier in the year. Oh, and he won the Heisman Trophy last month.

Johnny Football is a paradox, a riddle wrapped in an enigma. I watch him standing in the backfield and he looks diminutive, a wiry unimposing mess with buckles and straps sticking out of his jersey as if he was dressed to be shipped UPS. But then I look down at his feet and find size 15 cleats. Weird. Then I watch him roll out to his right and suddenly dart through the slimmest of holes like he was fired out of a gun, a gun with a hair trigger. He looks like the fastest, quickest man on the field, and I remind myself that he is white. Weird. Just when I think he’s just a one dimensional running quarterback, I watch him throw a laser 40 yards to a barely open receiver from his back foot. He runs for 220, throws for 290 and goes the entire game seemingly without ever getting hit. There’s not a scratch on him, he’s hardly broken a sweat. Weird.

As intrigued as I am, as enthralled with his game as I am, Johnny Football worries me. I’m old school enough to prefer humility in my sports heroes. Guys like Hershel Walker and Walter Peyton, guys who simply flipped the ball to the ref and ran back to the huddle after some jaw-dropping feat with nothing more than an “awe, shucks” grin. Manziel is the quintessential modern athlete, full of bravado and showmanship, a guy who loves the limelight a little too much for my taste. Then there’s the arrest back in June for a fight outside of a bar for which he spent a night in jail and still faces charges. I see the swagger, the ego, read about the arrest and wonder whether he will simply be the latest in a long line of pampered, entitled primadonna athletes who end up spending more time on TMZ than on Sports Center.

But intrigued I am. What I saw last night was simply brilliant, as dominant a performance as I have ever witnessed by one so young on such a stage. He is twenty years old and has arrived at the pinnacle of fame. The spoils of big time college football lie at his feet. If I were his parents, I would start praying. Hard.

Friday, January 4, 2013

I'm Done.

I’m done. Done with politics. Done with politicians. Done with Democrats. Done with Republicans. Done with our political system. It’s dysfunction is irredeemable.

There is nobody in government with anything approaching real power who represents my interests. Oh, lots of them say that they represent my interests, but when it comes time to vote they all vanish into thin air. What are my interests? Good question. Here’s a short list:

1. I want a simple, straight forward tax system. If my government wants me to pay more, that’s fine. I’m a patriot, I can handle it. Give me a flat tax rate, eliminate all the million and a half deductions and exemptions and credits, schedules, accounting gimmicks, and the blizzard of forms required to legally pay the taxes I owe. All of that complexity only empowers accountants and the very politicians who make the rules. It also allows them to insert 11th hour credit gifts to preferred constituents to even the most innocent piece of legislation under the cover of darkness, thinking we don’t know what they are doing. Tax breaks for Hollywood and Nascar in the fiscal cliff bill?? This type of chicanery only serves to embitter the citizen, and justify our cynicism.

2. Once my government sets my tax rate and I legally comply with the law and pay my taxes, I want my government to operate within the restraints of the revenue that they take in. The dominate party in Washington right now has convinced themselves through arcane economic theory that spending 1 trillion dollars more than you bring in every year for eternity doesn’t matter, that government spending is so vital, so indispensable, it must continue unabated, regardless of revenue. Every American family instinctively understands that this is impossible with regards to their own budgets, but enough of them think that it’s perfectly fine for the government’s budget. This is the ultimate victory of Keynesian economic theory…the death of mathematics. The other party in Washington is even worse on this issue since they claim to be concerned with deficits but have yet to offer a plan that eliminates them before 2045.

3. I want my government to spend less money, not simply slow the rate at which they increase spending every year. There are several ways to do this, but the quickest way would be to drastically downsize the military. Sure we need a military force to protect us from bad guys, but something tells me that we don’t need to be in 200 foreign countries, doing God knows what. Maybe we can afford to do away with the National Helium Reserve, stuff like that.

None of anything I’ve just written matters because it’s never going to happen. Money is power, and both of them live in Washington DC. Nobody in that town is willing to give up one penny of the money or one molecule of the power.

Accordingly, for the rest of my life, my job will be to live my life and conduct my affairs in such a way as to minimize my interaction with that government. I need to find ways to avoid as much conflict with them as possible. Keep my head down, my nose clean, and protect myself and my family from whatever the dysfunctional future may bring. This doesn’t mean I drop off the grid and move to Montana. It means that I no longer have confidence in the ability of my government to properly function, so I must increasingly look out for myself. In ten years time when I’m eligible to collect on the Social Security that I have contributed to for 45 years, it will be means tested so I would have to live 75 years in retirement to get back what I paid in. But at least in ten years I’ll have free health care, paid for with what will by then be a 55% federal tax rate. So I can look forward to a health care system run and administrated by the same government that brought me the Post Office. But other than those two points of unavoidable contact, I plan on building as much independence into the rest of my life as I can.

I’m done.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

A Plan For 2013

On Thursday December the 20th of 2012, I wrapped up business activity for the year and left my office full of excitement and a bit of dread for what the Christmas season would bring. For the next twelve days, I was free of my routine. Because I live so close to my office, I did go in to open mail, check messages, several times over those twelve days, but largely, I was free from the daily constraints of my work. Twelve days is a long time.

So much of the Christmas holiday is centered around family, and I have a great one. Patrick and Kaitlin came home from grad school. We spent a lot of time with my extended family, and although I was away from work, it never fully left me. I would read the news about the fiscal cliff negotiations, keeping a wary eye on the markets. Whenever I had an unencumbered minute, thoughts of business would rush in to fill the void. What would 2013 bring? I need a good year, would 2013 be it?

In this, I suppose I’m no different than millions of others. Anxiety about the future, my security, the well-being of my family, my ability to continue to provide for them, seems to be a preoccupation without end. Although I have had the same job and consequently the same pressures for nearly thirty years, it seems more oppressive now, heavier, harder to switch off at night and on the weekends.

Yesterday, the twelve day break was over. I began a new year. Saw a couple of clients, began making phone calls to set up reviews. Having my routine back was nice. Instead of wondering about 2013, it’s here. It has begun. However it turns out will mostly be a result of my effort, tenacity, and commitment, or at least, that’s what I like to believe. The illusion of control is a powerful sedative. However, when I look back at my best, most productive years in this profession, all of them seem to hinge on some unexpected phone call, a series of unsolicited referrals, being in the right place at the right time, or some serendipitous encounter. Some would call it luck, or the “residue of design“. My gut thinks it’s Providential care, the unmerited favor of God. But since it’s unmerited, that favor can be withdrawn.

Living in the moment has always been a daunting task. For me, it’s always been about the next thing, the next challenge, the newest problem. In times of great success, I’m always wondering when it will end. In times of great struggle, I think that perhaps success will never return. Terrified by failure, can’t stand prosperity!

So, for 2013 my goal is to achieve what has always alluded me, equanimity. When success comes, I want to receive it with thankfulness and joy. When reversals come, I want to accept them with calm patience, not make them worse by indulging despair. That hackneyed sports cliché comes to mind, “one day at a time”. Like all clichés, it has become one because it is true and reliable. Live each day on its own terms, carrying neither baggage nor expectations left over from yesterday.


This is the day that the Lord hath made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.”

Psalm 118:24

Sounds like a plan.