Saturday, June 29, 2013

Why I Envy Liberals Part II...free speech edition



 

In September of 2011 I wrote the above blog about political issues. In the context of events of the past couple of weeks I feel that a follow up is in order. This time it involves celebrities and free speech, more specifically, how some speech is freer than others.

Paula Deen is in many ways the quintessential southern woman, with her gawdy make-up, big hair and syrupy drawl. Watching her show is a hoot since she plays up so many stereotypes that non-southerners have of southerners. All of her recipes are slathered in “buddder” and her cackling laugh is enough to make even the most pretentious among us laugh or at least smile. Well, after it was discovered that Paula has used the “n” word on numerous occasions in her life, she lost everything faster than a New York minute, the judgment fairly dripping from members of the media who confessed shock and horror that a 60 something southern woman could possibly ever used such outrageous language. I couldn’t help but picture Captain Renault blowing his whistle and declaring to Rick that he was “shocked, SHOCKED to learn that there was gambling going on in here!” But such is life in the politically charged atmosphere of 2013 America…unless you happen to be a liberal celebrity like Alec Baldwin.

Baldwin’s career as an actor and political gadfly for all things Progressive has been littered with profane explosions, from degrading humiliations of his own daughter, infantile temper tantrums on airplanes, to sometimes violent exchanges with photographers, and now with the advent of Twitter, countless homophobic tirades and F-bomb laced eruptions. In our hyper sensitive world where any negative opinion expressed about homosexuality is greeted with almost unanimous indignation by the thought and speech police in the media, Alec Baldwin, by virtue of his lockstep liberal reliability always gets a pass. I see Mr. Baldwin pitching Capital One’s credit cards to me in commercial after commercial with the clever tagline, “What’s in your wallet?” Mr. Baldwin still makes movies and stars in the widely acclaimed TV show, 30Rock. His movies are not boycotted by the Rainbow Coalition and there aren’t streams of angry activists outside Rockefeller Center demanding that NBC cut ties with this unrepentant homophobe. Mr. Baldwin’s latest Twitter explosion was as follows:

“I’m gonna find you George Stark , you toxic little Queen and I’m gonna f*** you up…you lying little b****, I’m gonna f*** you up. I’d put my foot up your a** but I’m sure you would like it too much.”

How long would it take for any public conservative to lose everything if this sort of talk came from him or her? About as long as it took for Paula Deen to lose everything over a word she never said on her television show, only in private legal depositions and other private moments.

Liberalism is a “get out of jail free” card for hotheaded celebrities. Nice.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Top Ten Ironies of the Week


Maybe I’ll start a new Friday feature here at the Tempest…Top Ten Ironies of the Week. This past week has been chocked full, maybe not ten but why don’t I just start typing and see how far I get:

1.     One of the most enthusiastic responses to the Supreme Court decision to overturn DOMA came from former President Bill Clinton. Who signed DOMA into law in the first place? Bill Clinton.

2.     Paula Deen loses her television show because she used the “N” word in a private legal deposition. Meanwhile Jay-Z and Kanye West get a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Performance for their song, “Niggas In Paris” which contain this heartfelt lyrical masterpiece, “So I ball so hard muhfuckas wanna find me, first niggas gotta find me.”

3.     Although gay rights advocates have always cast their struggle as a civil rights issue, President Obama, after the DOMA ruling reassured nervous pastors and priests with this, “I won’t be forcing churches to perform gay marriages”. Imagine President Johnson coming out after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed and saying, “Now, I’m not going to be forcing the local Waffle House to serve blacks”. No, not quite civil rights.

4.     On the same week as Paula Deen loses her television show and is publically shamed on the Today Show by Matt Lauer, Anthony Weiner, who less than a year ago shared pictures of his manhood to young women on the internet, surged ahead in polls for the Mayor’s race in New York City. Apparently a picture is worth a thousand votes in New York.

5.     How come a couple of years ago when Congressmen were humiliated by loud and sometimes rude questions in town hall style meetings with their constituents by Tea Party types over Obamacare, the Nancy Pelosi’s of the world called them an angry mob, but this week, when an equally loud and disruptive mob interrupted a vote on an abortion bill by the duly elected representatives of the State of Texas, the same Nancy Pelosi declared it “democracy in action”?

Ok, I only came up with 5, but its 7:30 in the morning and I have a physical therapy appointment in an hour. You’ll have to come up with the other 5 on your own.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Litter Rage


Last night I went over to church to see my wife do her yearly Vacation Bible School job. Every year she stands up in front of 400 screaming kids dressed up as some crazy character and teaches them about Jesus by demonstrating some Biblical truth with object lessons pulled from God knows where. This year she is a Queen in a castle and last night she used static electricity to separate pepper from salt. It was all quite amazing, and the kids were duly impressed. She is quite the performer, seems perfectly at ease, as if it’s the most natural thing in the world to be wearing a red robe and golden crown, holding a scepter in her hand looking for all the world like Grace Kelly in front of a building full of sugared up 8 year olds. Despite the inevitable sound and technical glitches, she remained poised and in control throughout, and if I were one of those 8 year olds, I would have fallen in love.

But what I’ll remember most from the night was something that happened before I even got there. I was sitting at the stoplight of Ridge Road and Parham, right in front of the church when I noticed a young man walking south down Parham road. His back was to me so I never saw his face. He had the dress and gait of a teenager and was wearing a back pack. His left hand held a cell phone to his ear while his right hand held one of those giant energy drinks in the huge 20 oz. cans. He tilted the can skyward, polished off the last few drops and then suddenly, as casually as one might shoo away a fly, dropped the can at his feet. The can bounced off the pavement and bounded up into the overgrown grass at the side of the road. He continued on his way, unaware of anything but his cell phone conversation. Luckily for this young man, there were cars coming, because I had to fight off an angry impulse to swerve out of my lane, drive down Parham, cut in front of him, slam on the brakes, get out of my car and beat the tar out of him, then make him go pick up the can and eat it in front of me.

Yes, yes, I know, not a very Christian impulse, but it was just a flash of an idea that I had the good sense not to give in to. With age has come impulse control, I suppose. But seriously, it’s been a while since I’ve witnessed a litterer in action. You see the junk on the sides of the road but seldom see the self-absorbed knuckleheads who put it there, and I wasn’t ready for it. I haven’t been that instantly enraged since that time that an episode of 24 was preempted for that Presidential debate. I mean, the kid was wearing a back pack for heaven’s sake. Would it have killed him to put the can in there until he made it home?

I can put up with a lot, horrible music, terrible television, the designated hitter, but let me witness someone litter, and I contemplate assault. It’s the little outrages, I guess.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Bread and Circuses


Over the past month, the American people have been informed that the Internal Revenue Service has been targeting certain groups of their fellow citizens for special harassment because of their political views. Our Justice Department has been seizing phone records of reporters deemed hostile to the government's version of the truth. In addition, a low level contract employee at the National Security Agency named Edward Snowden leaked information to a British newspaper which revealed that the American people have been systematically spied upon in ways previously unimaginable,  ironically, all of this happening under an administration that promised to be the most transparent in history. So far, the reaction of the American people has been a collective yawn.

It has long been a fear of mine that my countrymen would one day, like the ancient Romans be satisfied with “bread and circuses” while everything fell apart around us. That day apparently has come. With our 500 cable channels, thumbs frantically tapping out minutia on ubiquitous cell phones, we seem blissfully unaware. We Americans take it for granted that our politicians are corrupted, so on almost every level we have tuned them out. As long as we have our Duck Dynasty, as long as the cable isn’t out, as long as we can score us some free health care, everything is fine. So, we hear something somewhere about the government seizing our phone records and we flip over to watch TMZ instead. A few cranky Libertarians get all freaked out, an assortment of hypocritical Republicans who couldn’t have cared less about this sort of thing when Bush was in the White House, and even a couple of Democrats warn that the government is getting too powerful, too entangled in what used to be considered our privacy, and all we can think to ask is, “Are Kim and Kanye going to get married?”

So, the various investigations in Washington will exhaust themselves and disappear with nothing having changed, and by inertia the government will grow stronger, more unstoppable by law, less and less answerable to its citizens. Then there will be another election and some idiot will promise the most transparent administration in history again and we won’t even know what the word means anymore. Meanwhile, 2 million people have taken to the streets in Brazil, fed up with their corrupt government’s incompetence, sparked by an increase in bus fare.

Bus fair!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

First Paula Deen, Now Ree Drummond??


In a shocking story that has rocked the Food Network world, popular television chef, Ree Drummond was notified this afternoon that her contract would not be renewed next month after evidence was unearthed that she had once used the word, “Indian giver” in a conversation with her sister in law 14 years ago. Native American groups were outraged, but not surprised by revelations of racism coming from a middle aged white woman from Oklahoma.

George “Golden Eagle” Begay, spokesman for NARF(Native American Rights Fund), said that although he watched The Pioneer Woman all the time and really did kind of like some of her recipes, deep down, he knew she was a racist. “The chances of finding a 45 year old Oklahoman who doesn’t hate Indians is about as rare as finding a Peace Treaty where the American government didn’t screw us over.”

Most observers thought that Drummond might be able to survive the discovery of this ugly Indian slur, if she had immediately apologized to the Indian community. But when her husband Ladd sent out said apology with smoke signals, the end was near. “I thought I was honoring their ancient communication system,” he tried to explain, “but from the looks of it, I made it worse.”

The Food Network has been rocked by scandal ever since the revelation just last week that headliner Paula Deen admitted to using the “n” word on numerous occasions. Industry experts are divided on whether the network can survive losing two of its biggest stars to such horrific allegations, especially if rumors that Giada De Laurentiis once told a joke about lazy Greeks back in college, turn out to be true.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?


It is one of the undeniable facts of life that teenagers do stupid things. It is equally undeniable that the cult of celebrity has the power to transform otherwise normal people into freaks, Michael Jackson and Lindsey Lohan serving as the most obvious examples. Because I’m not famous, never will be and don’t know anyone who is, it’s very difficult for me to fathom what it must be like. What would my world be like if from the time I was ten years old, everyone constantly told me that I was great? If I had super human talent at acting, or music or athletics, I suppose that over time, I would develop an entourage of devoted, fawning sycophants, none of whom would ever say “no” to me. These sycophants along with my adoring fans would most likely create in me an enormous ego. Then, I suppose I would do something like this:

                                                                


When Mr. James was just a teenager, Sports Illustrated famously declared him the “Chosen One”, the natural heir to Michael Jordan. Heady stuff. But it’s one thing for a magazine to over-hype an athlete to sell copy, it’s another thing entirely to go out and immortalize the hype across your back…for all eternity.

Lebron James is an amazing basketball player. Whether or not he actually proves to be better than Michael Jordan remains to be seen, and Mr. James is certainly not the only great athlete with an ego. But, at this point I shudder to think of what might happen to this guy if he does. If you’re the kind of person who would tattoo yourself with “Chosen 1” before accomplishing anything as a professional athlete, what on earth might you be capable of when you do? Transcendent talent, Grand Canyon-sized ego, what could possibly go wrong?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

NBA Finals MVP.....David Stern?


I have no credentials that can justify being a critic of NBA basketball. The last complete NBA game I sat down and watched probably featured Michael Jordon and Larry Bird. What I understand about today’s game comes from reading and watching highlights on Sports Center. But my number one source of information about the game comes from the hilarity that insues at 6 am on my Facebook feed after a playoff game, and I’m here to tell you, nothing is more entertaining than that.

I suppose I lost interest in the pro game when Magic and Bird and Jordon left and were replaced with Allen Iverson, Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki, and Lebron James types, all terrific players but somehow irritating to me what with the tattoo-covered attitude, “we talkin’ ‘bout practice” of an Allen Iverson, to the pretentiousness of Lebron James calling himself “the king” before he had won anything. With Garnett it was always that angry swagger, the utterly unlikable personality, and with Nowitzki, well, I’ve never been big on imports ( insert eye-rolls and heavy sighing from everyone under 40 ).

Having said all of this, I have thoroughly enjoyed this year’s playoffs, even though I haven’t watched one second of one game. Here’s why. After each game, I don’t have to check ESPN.com for the score, all I have to do is head over to Facebook, sit back and watch the show! It goes something like this”

SPURS FAN: The worst freaking officiating EVER! David Stern wants Lebron to get that second ring. It’s FIXED!

HEAT FAN: Are you kidding me??? The only reason this wasn’t over in four games is because the refs are in the tank for the SPURS!! David Stern is a racist JEW!

SPURS FAN:  Stern got what he wants, a game seven. Wonder how much money he spends every year fixing these games?

HEAT FAN: Erik Spoelstra is on Stern’s payroll too, worst coach ever! Imagine how much greater Lebron would be if he had Phil Jackson!

 

Who is this David Stern, you may ask? What team does he play for? No, no, he isn’t a player; he’s a very rich white guy who apparently has super human powers of manipulation. He’s that rarest of creatures in sports, an aging rich white man of stunning genius who somehow pulls the strings of athletic competition in such a way as to force the Spurs to shoot 60% from the floor to insure his desired outcome. He is the Commissioner of the National Basketball Association, and as such processes powers that Barack Obama can only dream of. A mere phone call from this man can alter outcomes of games. His devious schemes make millions of dollars for his league by insuring the perfect outcomes for games that have been focus-grouped to within an inch of their lives. In so doing, he has become the reason for every team’s success or failure, if my Facebook feed is correct. The upcoming game seven will not be decided by the exploits of Lebron or Tim Duncan, no, no. It will all be the refs fault, and everyone knows that the refs are in David Stern’s back pocket. What a game!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Movie Review: Man of Steel


 I went to see Man of Steel last night. I have always been enamored with this story ever since I used to watch the old thirty minute black and white television series back when I was a kid, the one that ruined George Reeves’ life and led to his suicide at age 45. I loved the Christopher Reeve version, and was saddened at his death too. With that tract record, I hope nothing terrible befalls British actor, Henry Cavill, who does a fantastic job of filling out his spandex uniform but little else.

The movie was a disappointment for me on many levels, but as I was walking to my car in the parking lot afterwards, I was finding it difficult to put into words just why. My wife, as usual, came to the rescue with the best one sentence movie review of all time, “It had a whole lot of too much and not enough of something.” There’s no way I can improve on that, so I will just list in bullet points the things that irritated me.

# At 143 minutes, this movie once again illustrates that Hollywood has forgotten how to edit. Story could have been told just as well if not better in less than 2 hours …easily. The final fight scene between Superman and General Zod was so overcooked and ridiculous it bordered on comical. After destroying half of Metropolis wrestling through building after building, then, just for kicks, wrestling all the way into orbit onto a satellite, it finally occurs to Superman, that he can kill Zod by simply getting him in a choke hold and breaking his neck. Apparently Superman’s superhuman powers did not include the power of deductive reasoning.

# So, in the 2013 version of this story, Perry White turns out to be black.

# Lois Lane, the Pulitzer Prize winning reporter famous for her inquiring mind, after being up close and personal with Superman in the most dangerous and emotionally powerful ways imaginable, hasn’t even the slightest hint of recognition when she is introduced to the newly hired Clark Kent at the end of the movie, a name she knew from her interview with his mother, and despite the fact that Clark’s only disguise was a pair of glasses.

# Although the story of Superman has always been heavy with religious imagery, Director Zack Snyder handles the religious themes with all the subtlety of a punch in the face. As Clark ponders what he is to do with his great powers, he wanders into a church, and as he explains his conundrum to a priest, behind his right shoulder is a huge stained glass depiction of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane in the background. Nicely done Zack. I see what you did there!

Snyder’s approach seems to have been, “let’s spend as little time as possible telling the story, and as much time as possible blowing things up.” In other words, a whole lot of too much and not enough of something.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Great Day, Bad Night


I’ve been making tremendous progress recovering from my shoulder surgery. Each day my range of motion is improving. Each day I have fewer and fewer moments of excruciating pain. Why just yesterday I was able to put on my socks and shoes all by myself. Granted, there were tears in my eyes and I was sweating like a pig by the time it was over, but the fact remains, I got dressed unassisted. Pam even let me drive out to Dad’s Saturday night. I felt like a kid with a learners permit!

Well, last night a minor setback. We had run out of Aleve. It was time for bed, and my shoulder felt pretty good since I had taken my stronger pain stuff only 3 hours earlier, so I took nothing before going to bed. So, at exactly12:45 am, my body, for the first time in eleven days had no pain medication whatsoever in it, big mistake. My eyes popped open and immediately I became aware of a raging fire burning in my shoulder. Weird pulses of terror were running up and down my arm. No cause for panic, I thought, probably just slept funny on it or something. Then I remembered that I had forgotten to take anything before I went to bed. Ok, no problem, I’ll just go down stairs, pop 3 Advil and a hydrocodone and be back asleep in no time. The trip down the stairs was as unpleasant a journey as I have ever endured. Each step rocked the shoulder, and by the time I made it to the kitchen, my hands were shaking like a crack addict on the third day of rehab.

To make a long story short, I finally fell asleep around 4:30 and learned a valuable lesson in the process…drugs are my friend.

Had a great Father’s Day even though both of my pups were away. They both called me with their wishes, and I had steaks on the grill with my wonderful in-laws. Even winged two squirrels in the back yard who should be thanking their lucky stars that I’m on medication, since ordinarily their rude excursion into my yard would have been fatal. Kaitlin sent me an e-mail that had a slide show that she had put together for my Father’s Day present. It was a series of still photographs, with captions and a soundtrack of computerized music trying to sound like 70’s rock and roll. By the time it was over, I had forgotten all about the shoulder. What an incredible gift it was. I thought about posting it on Facebook, so proud I was of it, but then decided it was too private and might come across as bragging. An hour later she had posted it on my wall. In so doing, she further ingratiated herself to her already adoring father and cemented her financial future in my very generous will.
Just kidding

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Missing Molly


It’s been 5 weeks since my dog Molly passed away. By now you would think I would be past the raw emotion of her death and for the most part I am. But a day has not passed where I have not had at least one moment of sadness, one instant of loneliness upon her remembrance. One such moment happened last night.

It was a spectacularly gorgeous night, the air was clean, a hint of a breeze stirring in my backyard, the temperature a perfect 76 degrees, like a summer day in Maine. Pam and I were determined to spend the entire evening on the deck, despite the intolerable shrieking of our neighbors’ kids and the howl of lawnmowers from neighbors who always decide to mow their lawns at night just about the time we decide to eat dinner outside. Pam hooked up my cool wireless speaker system and dialed up the Frank Sinatra station on Pandora and soon, we were competing with the annoying soundtrack of suburbia with one of our own, Sinatra, Michael Buble, Ella Fitzgerald, it was no contest! I grilled up some veggies and beef sausages, Pam made some macaroni and cheese and some fresh sweet tea, and soon we were having an amazing night.

After dinner, we sat in our newly purchased recliner chairs, which are every bit as cool and comfortable as they sound, surrounded by beautiful hibiscus plants and Pam’s herb garden. The peacefulness of the moment had all but made me forget about my ailing shoulder. I began to watch the newly filled bird feeder hanging from the tree in the middle of the back yard. There were little wrens and sparrows, competing with rude blue jays, and majestic cardinals. At the base of the tree, an adorable chipmunk was scurrying around for the leftovers.

All of a sudden, out of nowhere, Molly came to mind. I imagined her laying in her spot in the yard, that one place where she could keep an eye on us on the deck while keeping a sharp eye out down the driveway into the front yard. It was her favorite place, so much so, she had worn a bare spot there. I glanced over at the spot and noticed it was green and healthy, no longer worn and brown as if finally even the back yard, her kingdom, had forgotten her. Maybe it was the pain meds, but in that moment a wave of sadness came over me, powerful and intense. What the hell is wrong with me, I thought. For a minute I thought I was going to start crying, so I got up from my chair, made some excuse for needing to watch the end of the second round of the US Open or something and beat a hasty retreat. Once inside, I quickly recovered in time to watch Phil Mickelson sink a birdee put on 18.

It’s the strangest thing, what the loss of this dog has done to me. About most things I am a logical realist, sentimentality not being something most people would associate with me. But when it comes to Molly, the littlest thing can bring on the most powerful emotions, turning me into a sentimental mess. At some point I’m sure it will all pass, and the memories of Molly will bring only happiness and laughter. But it hasn’t happened yet.      

Friday, June 14, 2013

A Fool's Errand


In the Syrian city of Aleppo, a 14 year old boy named Mohammad Qatta was working as a waiter in a coffee shop. A customer asked him to bring him some coffee to which Qatta replied in that overly dramatic, put-upon way so common with 14 year olds the world over, “Even if the Prophet Mohammad comes back to life I won’t!” In America this type of thing would result in Qatta most likely forfeiting his tip. In today’s Syria, it cost him his life.

A group of Syrian rebels happened to be driving by in a black car, somehow heard the remark, went inside the coffee shop, grabbed the kid, stuffed him in the back seat and disappeared. An hour later they returned, having whipped Qatta severely, covering his head with his shirt. After waiting for a crowd to gather, a crowd that included Qatta’s parents, the rebels announced that because the rude waiter had insulted the Prophet Mohammad, he would pay the ultimate price as would anyone else guilty of blasphemy. Then they executed him on the sidewalk in front of the cafĂ© by shooting him point blank in the mouth and neck.

Yesterday, the Obama administration announced that the United States would begin immediately offering military support and assistance to….the Syrian rebels, murderer of 14 year old waiters. In addition, the Administration has graciously offered to accept thousands of Syrian refugees for relocation here in the United States. I hope they all end up in my neighborhood, don’t you?

Just over a month ago in this very space, I praised the Obama Administration for standing up to the “Let’s get involved in another middle eastern war” crowd, by being prudently cautious towards Syria and maintaining our neutrality. Now, it seems they have changed their minds, having been convinced that the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons on his own people. Sound familiar?

So, now we have embarked upon another fool’s errand in the Middle East. We have pushed our chips to the middle of the table in support of a hodgepodge of ruthless rebels who administer justice by murdering 14 year olds in front of their parents. Billions of dollars will be spent, dollars that we do not have. Eventually, American men and women will be asked to risk their lives in a war where there are no good guys, only evil and expedient ones. And as a bonus, we get a batch of new immigrants.

Once again, I have no idea what my government is thinking. What a hot mess!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

An Open Letter to the Southern Baptist Convention


An Open Letter to the Southern Baptist Convention,

 

I have been a member of a Southern Baptist church for most of my adult life. I came to faith in Christ in no small part through the teachings and ministry of one such church. My Father is a retired Southern Baptist pastor, having said all of that, whenever anyone asks me about my religion, I never answer, “I’m a Southern Baptist.” Instead, I usually say that I’m a Christian. The reason for that is the subject of this letter.

There are many amazing things about the Southern Baptist church, things of which I am very proud. Through the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists have found a way to leverage the giving power of 45,000 churches and turn it into an amazing missions organization that supports over 5000 missionaries who serve over 950 different people groups around the world. In the United States, whenever there is a disaster, a tornado, flood or hurricane, groups from local Southern Baptist churches are some of the first relief organizations on the scene and usually the last to leave. As a denomination, Southern Baptists have done more to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ than any other organization I know of. This has been the single focus of our existence and is worthy of great praise accordingly.

But then, once a year we have a convention. Each church elects “messengers” to attend. Speeches are made, songs are sung, and then like the sun rising in the east and setting in the west, we do something stupid. This year it involved the Boy Scouts of America.

Recently the BSA changed its rules and decided not to prohibit openly gay boys from joining. Actually, the wording stated that being gay could no longer be the sole reason for an applicants’ disqualification. For reasons that escape me, the Southern Baptist Convention decided that it needed to get involved in the membership controversy of an organization that has nothing to do with the Southern Baptist church. Well, that’s not exactly true. In the United States, over 100,000 scouts do hold their weekly meetings in some 4,000 local Baptist churches. But the Convention has no power to force a local congregation to prohibit such meetings, so, why make a statement about it, which you had to know would be the one single headline to come out of your entire meeting, “SOUTHERN BAPTISTS SLAM SCOUTS”

I understand that homosexuality is a sin in both the Old Testament and the New. But, it has a lot of company, and gets nowhere near as much attention as good old fashioned adultery, dishonesty, pride and greed. Why no statement about the rampant adultery and divorce among the faithful? How about a statement coming out against the pornography business which has destroyed more traditional marriages than homosexuality ever thought about destroying?

I guess my problem with you guys is one of emphasis. Why pick a fight with the Boy Scouts? With all the problems facing the world today, it’s the Boy Scouts membership policy that tops your agenda? With traditional marriage divorce rates hovering around 50%, why do you spend so much time railing about the sexual practices of at best 10% of the population? And, what are we to make of this statement? Are we trying to encourage local churches to not allow local troops to meet in their buildings because they may have a gay member? Does this mean that we are against gay people coming to church? I guess I just don’t understand the method to this madness. Homosexuality is a sin. I get it. Lots of things are sins. The entire world is full of sinners. Isn’t it the job of the church to reach them with the message of salvation through Christ? How does this Boy Scout statement accomplish this? What it does accomplish, is reinforce the stereotype of Southern Baptists as a bunch of people who are against everything. We’re against drinking, gambling, dancing and gays. Well, there goes 75% of the country, and 100% of Washington DC.

Good luck dealing with the fallout from this. Oh, and the next time you’re sitting in a meeting pondering the problem of declining membership and influence, you might want to consider coming up with a list of things that you’re FOR.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Graduation Gift


Dear Graduate,

Congratulations on this important achievement in your life. I have no idea what the future will hold for you, and I’m not sure you do either. But, something tells me it’s going to be special. Ever since I’ve known you, God has had his hand on your life. Of all of the members of your wonderful family, you have always been the one who has reminded me most of myself. You have a rebellious streak, like me. You have a devilish wit and a gift for sarcasm, and the ability to not take yourself too seriously, things that I have been accused of all my life. Where all of these gifts will take you is anyone’s guess, but I bet it is going to be amazing, which brings me to your gift.

This United States 100 dollar bill is not just any old 100 dollar bill. It comes with strings attached. This is not to be spent on some new outfit, or Justin Bieber tickets, (I swear, if you buy Bieber tickets with this money I will hunt you down!!!). This 100 dollar bill is to be folded neatly a couple of times and hidden away in the depths of your wallet and forgotten about. First of all, an adventurous world traveler should never leave the house without a 100 dollar bill stashed away somewhere, but besides that obvious truth; God has plans for this money. Let me explain.

Someday, you might find yourself down on your luck, in a very hard place, thinking that you’re at the end of your rope. Then suddenly, you will remember this 100 dollar bill, and for you on that day, it will be a miracle, given to you not by me, but by my obedience to God. Or maybe, one day you will meet someone in your travels, someone destitute and truly at the end of their rope, for whom this 100 dollar bill just might save their life. You know better than I that in many parts of the world, 100 US dollars is life changing money. Imagine how awesome you are going to feel when you discover that God has used you as the instrument of their deliverance! Perhaps a day will come when you are presented with an amazing opportunity to do something for yourself, a chance to learn a new skill, or take a class, but it costs 100 bucks that you don’t have. Then you’ll remember this bill in your wallet, you’ll take that class, learn how to convert ocean water into gasoline and become a bazillionaire.

The point is, this is seed money. The huge string attached is this; whenever you use it, you have to tell me the story. Knowing you, you’ll probably be living in some hut in Zimchikastan somewhere so you’ll have to send me a letter or email. If you’re living anywhere near me, I’ll expect a personal visit. It may be next month, next year, or twenty years from now. If I’ve already passed away, tell the story to my wife and kids.  Another thing, don’t worry about using the money. Don’t think, “Man, if I use this money for this thing, he’s going to be disappointed.” No, when the time comes, God will let you know that it’s the right time. I can’t wait to hear all about it.

Now go out there and do something great with your life.

Your Financial Advisor on Percocet


Progress is being made, just completed my second consecutive night without getting up at 3am to take pain meds. Now, the discomfort level at 5:30 was high, but this is progress, no?

I have gone into the office two days in a row, and each day started well, but after 3 hours, I was done, shoulder throbbing and incredibly sleepy. So today, I’m dialing it back a bit. I will stay home today, and spend my waking hours writing.

Its funny how on the two days I was in the office, the phone rang off the hook with client after client asking me question after question about highly complicated financial things. My response was always, “Well, Bob, I’m not sure I feel comfortable answering that question on Percocet.” Then the client would laugh and say, “Oh yeah! I forgot that you just had your shoulder worked on! Tell ya what, why don’t you call me next week.”

Actually, a conversation with your financial advisor when he is taking Percocet might be rather entertaining:

CLIENT #1: Doug, I’m starting to worry about how I’m going to put little Johnnie through college. Can you explain this 529 thing, and do you think it would be a good idea for me to start one?

ME: Can I be frank, Frank? From what I’ve seen of your little Johnnie, he doesn’t stand a chance in hell of going to college. He’s dumber than a box of rocks. So, forget the 529 and invest in a baseball glove instead.

CLIENT #2: Doug, I know that you’re uncomfortable with my level of debt and the fact that I keep taking withdrawals from my IRA and all, but I don’t believe in life insurance. Betty and the kids and I have always trusted God to take care of us, and I think that if I buy life insurance it’s like showing a lack of faith.

ME: Look, don’t blame God for the fact that you’re one paycheck away from bankruptcy.

CLIENT #2: What do you mean? I’m not blaming God!

ME: You just said that you’ve always trusted God to take care of you. You’re 55 years old, 385,000 in debt and you’ve got 12,713 dollars left in your retirement account. If this is how God “”takes care of you”, he’s incompetent. AND since I know that God isn’t incompetent, it’s more likely your total lack of discipline, horrible choices, and personal malfeasance. You’re fired!

CLIENT #3: My neighbor says that he invested $100,000 in Siberian beach resort bonds that have a guaranteed 50% yearly return. How come you haven’t told me about this?

ME: Because your neighbor is a liar. Look at a map.

 

Yeah, think maybe I should stay home today.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Recovery Part I


When I first learned that my surgery was scheduled for June 5th, it occurred to me that the appointments I had set in Atlanta for the 11th “might” have to be rescheduled. But then I thought about it and decided that I could probably do just fine, after all, I had one good arm, and my suitcase is on wheels and 6 days will have passed since the surgery, so what’s the big deal? My assistant listened patiently to my travel plans, trying not to burst into laughter. Later, when I ran my idea past Pam, she was less patient and just cut to the chase, “There is no chance that you are getting on an airplane 6 days after shoulder surgery!!” Then she looked at me with that expression she gets sometimes. It’s like she is a scientist and I am some rare example of a species long thought to be dead. She quenches her eyes up, her mouth hangs open, and she starts slowly shaking her head from side to side. Then she lets out a heavy sigh and walks away.

The very idea that I thought that I could fly to Atlanta, rent a car, drive to two different appointments, stay overnight in a hotel, then fly back to Richmond six days after this procedure is actually pretty hilarious. So far, all of the stories I was told about the amount of discomfort associated with shoulder surgery have proven to be accurate. I was hoping that they were overblown exaggerations. No such luck. The Percocet helps a lot with the dull ache, but the sharp ice-pick pains that come upon you at the oddest times, caused by the smallest, most insignificant movements are beyond the reach of mere narcotics. When one of them hits you, you just grab something and hold on for a minute or so until it finally stops.

Today, Pam will be driving me over to the office where I will hopefully not have to take any calls from clients. I will do some paperwork; bring some of Pam’s cupcakes to my office buddies, and plan my very light week. It will be good to get out of the house.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

My Daughter's Engagement


Four years ago, I was swaying peacefully between two palm trees on a richly woven hammock, in Key West, Florida, celebrating my 25th wedding anniversary at the Casa Marina Hotel. It was a gorgeous day, beautiful blue skies, mid seventies, around noon, and I was sipping on a delicious tropical drink directly across from my daughter. This trip was serving two purposes, not only a celebration of 25 years of marriage, but also as a graduation gift to Kaitlin, since she had just a couple of weeks earlier graduated from Cedarville University. In fact, she had returned home from her roommates’ wedding in upstate New York just in time to pack her bags for our Key West trip. I had hardly had time to have a conversation with her since her graduation so I was looking forward to four days of fun with my son and my two best girls in the world. Only, things weren’t going as planned.

Despite the fabulous tropical surroundings, Kaitlin seemed a thousand miles away, her face and attentions fixated on her iPhone, where something close to a texting war was being waged. It was our first introduction to Jon Manchester. While Kaitlin was in New York standing up for Mrs. Katie Plume, she had met a boy, and apparently the two of them couldn’t go ten minutes without some form of communication, even in beautiful Key West, and despite the fact that she was in the presence of her heretofore most favorite man in the universe. I was in the process of being replaced!

A few weeks later he showed up at our house for a visit. I was not impressed. Who was this tall, skinny, Yankee with the big smile and his arm around my daughter? What on earth could Kaitlin possibly have seen in him, this Ohio State-loving northerner?

In fairness to Jon, there was no one alive on this planet who I would have liked standing next to Kaitlin that day in my living room. There’s this thing between Fathers and their little girls, a connection deep and sublime and woe be unto the poor boy that disturbs it. But now, four years have passed, my cell phone rings and the breathless voice of my daughter is on the other end of the line. She is deliriously happy, her voice radiates joy as she tells me that she’s engaged. But this time, there’s no resentment, no suspicion, only happiness and gratitude, because over these past four years we have had a chance to get to know this boy, we have seen his character on display, we have observed the depths of his love for our daughter in a thousand acts of kindness and consideration, and we now know that he’s the one we have been praying for since May 11, 1987.

So now the wedding planning begins, and my job becomes finding a way to pay for everything. I don’t lose a daughter in the exchange; rather, I gain a son. As long as he makes her happy, I will be his most enthusiastic advocate. If he mistreats her, then he will understand fully why there is still a small corner of his brain that fears me.

During one of the informal interviews I conducted with Jon over the past four years, I asked him why he thought he was good enough for my daughter. His answer was that he wasn’t, but that it was his goal to become good enough for her one day.  Well, that day has come. Jon will make for Kaitlin a remarkable husband, and for Pam and me, a wonderful son.

Friday, June 7, 2013

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?


I have been told that it can be a dangerous thing to write a blog under the influence of Percocet. However, since my shoulder at present simply won’t allow me to set them aside, I will have to forge on. So, what follows might contain a few dangling participles, misplaced modifiers, and even for me, over the top hyperbole. But the news this morning that practically every phone call, text message, Skype exchange or e-mail that has originated from my house has been handed over to the National Security Agency for the last 7 years has to be dealt with today, or my head might explode.

After 9/11, a hideous piece of legislation, born in fear, and passed virtually unanimously was appoved as an emergency measure to give our vast National Security apparatus great powers to confront our terrorist enemies. The treacherously named Patriot Act has been the law of the land ever since. Despite the political caterwauling back and forth, both parties were on board and have largely remained on board ever since. The law’s most recent extension was shepherded through Congress by none other than Nancy Pelosi. Well, now thanks to an intrepid reporter from a BRITISH newspaper the Guardian, we have discovered just how much of our privacy we have lost. Even the darkest conspiracy theorists among us would have been hard pressed to come up with the facts of this revelation, the sheer scale of this invasion of personal privacy.

Late yesterday I actually read someone on National Review DEFEND this practice, a supposedly conservative, small government publication defending the biggest power grab of our lifetime. One’s phone records carry with them no expectation of privacy, this idiot argued, since you can call Verizon yourself and they will give you your phone records for as far back as you like. Yes, that’s true, you WashingtonDC insider moron, but having my phone company give my phone records to ME upon MY request is just a little different than my phone company giving those records to the GOVERNMENT without my consent!!

But Doug, but Doug, those terrible terrorist are lurking around every corner. Yes they are, as was just demonstrated to us by the two brothers in Boston. How come the sweeping Patriot Act powers didn’t prevent that attack? We are empowering our government by voluntarily giving up our rights as free men and women in exchange for an unrealistic expectation of safety that cannot possible exist. Is it worth it? The National Review defender closed out his argument this way, “ The problem here is not government power, it’s the people we have elected to wield it.”

This may very well be the worst sentence to appear in the National Review in 20 years. The secret intercept of billions of personal phone records of private citizens isn’t about government power gone wild, no, no,…it’s just about having Democrats like Obama and Holder in power?? This would all be perfectly fine if Chris Christie were at the helm?

No, Mr. Andrew McCarthy of National Review magazine, this is exhibit A in why our constitution is about LIMITING the power of government. It manifestly matters not how sterling a character we have in the Oval Office, because history tells us that power is the great corrupter. This is ALL about government power, you mental midget, and it has precious little to do with who wields it. The Patriot Act was a mistake made by free people in a moment of panic, and needs to be repealed at once. But guess what? Politicians from both sides of the aisle, having tasted the power of unrestricted surveillance, will not be in any hurry to give it up unless we the people raise a little bipartisan hell of our own and force them to.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Pam the Nurse


My wife knows me. She knows all about the good, the bad and the ugly. She’s knows what I’m going to do before I do. A perfect example of this sometimes irritating clairvoyance of hers happened last night after dinner.

When I got back from the hospital, I spent most of the afternoon relaxing out on the deck in these fabulous recliners we just bought. I caught up on my e-mail and browsed on Facebook for awhile until it was time to eat. During the meal we watched some episodes of Frasier that we had on DVR. I began to fidget after awhile, which is my wont. After the third episode, Pam looks at me and says, “ You getting bored already?” I didn’t have to answer, because she already knew that the earliest symptom of Dunnevant Derangement Syndrome had manifested itself. Boredom. She knows that this will be followed in time by, irritability, antsiness, extreme cabin fever, and finally, demands to be taken to AmFam so I can lift weights or some such ridiculous thing.

So, my wife disappears for a couple of minutes, then returns with both hands behind her back. “Pick a hand,” she says with a mischievous grin. I pick her left hand which is empty. “Sorry about that. Better luck next time.” Then after a laugh she gives me this:

                                                               


 No doubt she has many more of these surprises in store for me over the next few days, since I am such a notoriously awful patient, and…she knows me. This beautiful magazine, chocked full of the complete history of the Rat Pack and pages upon pages of glorious black and white photographs will keep me occupied and out of her hair for 3 or 4 hours. She knows that I so love Sinatra, I can’t possibly be thinking up some crazy scheme to sneak out of the house while I’ve got this magazine in my hands.

This woman is a one in a million.                                 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

"How Did Your Surgery Go?"


5:00 am

Wake up for the last time from a long and restless night. Shoulder is pulsing out pain shots in rhythm with my heartbeat, a new twist. Realize that I am starving. Would give anything for a six cheese bagel with cream cheese from Einstein’s, but it occurs to me that I have to observe a strict fast until surgery is over, which includes coffee.

6:15 am

Start browsing through my morning news sources where I learn that the biggest overnight story concerns the First Lady getting heckled during a speech by a lesbian activist. The “news” was the normally unflappable First Lady’s rather petulant response which involved a threat to storm out of the place if this protester didn’t shut up, to which I would reply, “Relax Michelle. You’re nobody in Washington until you’ve been heckled by a lesbian activist.”

8:00 am

Receive phone call from Jennifer at Tuckahoe Orthopedic reminding me of my 10:00 am surgery time. She sounds positively giddy at the prospect, a woman who clearly loves her job.

8:19 am

Raging hunger pains in empty stomach serving as excellent distraction, since I’m so freaking hungry, I haven’t felt any shoulder pain in over an hour.

8:35 am

Take hot shower and wonder how long it will be before I get to take another.

9:45 am

Arrive at Surgery center and sign my name 25 times to various releases and medical CYAs, one of which inquires as to whether or not I have a “do not resuscitate” order. I take this as a bad sign.

10:00 am

Sit in waiting room listening to some guy on MSNBC say that for conservatives, the term “IRS” is the new “n*****”. Wasn’t aware that I had already been given drugs since this couldn’t possibly be true

10:20 am

Administered sedative and other powerful drugs by Anesthesiologist from Budapest, Hungary. Why exactly I can remember this detail, but can never remember where I left my keys remains a mystery.

11:05 am

Wheeled back into operating room which was a delightfully balmy 55 degrees. Was asked by my new Hungarian best friend to count backwards from 10 to 1. Made it to 8.

1:50 pm

Wake up in recovery room feeling much discomfort in shoulder. So much for the vaunted “nerve block”. Lovely nurse cranked up some Demerol and all was well. Surgeon comes in to tell us the good news that the tendons weren’t as torn up as he had feared. Bone spurs were successfully removed and my recovery time will be much faster because of this happy news.

2:30 pm thru 6:55 pm

Between naps and eating amazingly delicious food prepared by my sainted wife, I learn that Steven Strasburg has been placed on the 15 day DL, and that idiot on MSNBC was in fact a real person and actually accused republicans of meaning “n*****” when they say “IRS”. Received phone calls and texts from several dear friends, which made me very happy to know that I have chosen my friends so well. All of you know who you are. Just know that you guys mean a lot to me.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

My Shoulder Surgery and a Preemptive Apology


Tomorrow I will be undergoing rotator cuff surgery. This will be only the second surgical procedure of my life, the first being the open heart variety ten years ago which left a 7 inch scar running down the middle of my chest and quite the lasting impression on my psyche. Shoulder surgery, by contrast should be a comparative breeze since A. It’s not life threatening, and B. It’s being done arthroscopically leaving behind only a suspicious hole. Not only that, but it’s an outpatient deal; I’ll be home in my own bed tomorrow night.

Only thing that is worrisome about this business is how often I am being reminded by everyone I know and even by complete strangers in bank parking lots, of how painful the aftermath of shoulder surgery can be. The descriptions I have heard have ranged from the polite to the hysterical. The following is but a small sample.

My Doctor: Quite painful

Nurse I know: One of the worse pains ever

Client: The worst rehab ever, thought I was gonna die.

Client: Shoulder surgery (screws up face in horror) so sorry to hear that.

Random man in bank parking lot wearing sling two weeks after his own rotator cuff surgery: Hurts like a m***** f*****!!

My Doctor: Quite horrible actually, which I feel qualified to say since I had this exact procedure done two years ago. But, you know what they say…no pain no gain (fake grin).

 

I consider myself something of a tough guy, but I don’t mind telling you that after all of this doom saying, I have felt compelled to ask my doctor about pain medication. His reply wasn’t encouraging. “Well, of course we will provide you with strong pain medicine during your recovery, but that’s just dull it the best we can.” Hmmm…

About a week ago I wrote a blog entitled, Things Are Never as Bad as They Seem. I hope I don’t have to change that title to…Things Are Never as Bad as They…GGGAAAAAAACKKKKKK, what the hell was that???!!!

Hopefully, all the dire predictions will prove to be wrong, and I will sail through this business with ease. However, one thing can’t be avoided and that is that my typing proficiency will be cut in half, reduced from hunt and peck to merely peck, which combined with heavy doses of pain meds might produce some bizarre blogs in the coming weeks which I would like to apologize for in advance. If you read that I have become a liberal democrat, have decided to leave my wife, or have become a huge soccer fan, blame it on the Percocet.

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Lerner Method





This is the face of the American bureaucracy.
She is stern, emotionless, and incredibly pissed that Congress would have the unmitigated gall to question her competence. Those pursed lips, those you can’t touch me, I’m with the IRS eyes, that Beatles-chic haircut, all practically scream at you, “TAKE A NUMBER”!  She has the look of someone who is thinking, “When I get back to the office I’m going to audit every one of you assholes.”

But the best thing about Lois Lerner, the Director of Tax-Exempt Organizations at the Internal Revenue Service, was her testimony. The Congressmen had requested her appearance to offer her a chance to explain how the harassment of those organizations applying for tax-exempt status that happened to be politically conservative could have taken place on her watch, while liberal organizations like those of the President’s brother, were being approved in less than three weeks, a turn-around time unheard of bureaucratic circles, the equivalent of a nanosecond in government. Ms. Lerner, with cool contempt, invoked her 5th amendment rights against self-incrimination thusly, “I have done nothing wrong, and I will not be answering any of your questions.”

First of all, it is my understanding that one can’t offer a defense of one’s actions, then invoke the 5th. That would be like offering testimony that doesn’t allow cross examination, but what do I know?  Regardless of its legality, these now famous words will come in quite handily if I’m ever audited by Ms. Lerner’s employer. Come to think of it, I can think of many times in my life when I might have been well served to invoke the “Lerner Method” when being questioned about my actions:

                                                          #1

 Mom: Douglas, would you care to explain why there are muddy footprints from the back door all the way to your bedroom when I’ve told you a thousand times to take your shoes off before you come in the house??!!

Me: I have done nothing wrong, and I will not be answering any of your questions.

Mom: Oh, well…ok.

                                                         #2

 Coach: Dunnevant!! If I’ve told you once I’ve told you a thousand times, never make the first out of an inning at third base. Why in hell did you try to go from first to third on a base hit to left field??

Me: I have done nothing wrong and I will not be answering any of your questions.

Coach: Sure, Well, keep up the good work, son.
 
                                                               #3

 Pam: Honey, look at this plate. What do you see? Isn’t that some sort of spinach baked on? Doesn’t that suggest that this plate might not be clean? When you are emptying the dish washer, would it kill you to actually look at the dishes to make sure they aren’t still dirty??

Me: I have done nothing wrong and I will not be answering any of your questions.

Pam: Ok, and let me say how much I appreciate your effort.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Canadian Generosity vs. American Incompetence


We have all been terrified these past few weeks watching the devastation visited upon the good people of Oklahoma by a series of powerful tornados; entire houses lifted off their foundations and whirled about like so many vegetables in a blender, children sucked out of cars by the force of killer winds. It has been a brutal thing to watch and even more difficult to contemplate. But while most of us are sitting around contemplating, an amazing group of Canadians decided to do something about the suffering.

Our neighbors to the north, moved by compassion for suffering people a thousand miles away went to work gathering life sustaining food, water and clothing. Before long there was a tractor-trailer full on its way, sent by a Christian relief group called the Windsor Lifeline Outreach. I have always had a fondness for all things Canadian, such a beautiful country with which we share a border and with whom we have been at peace for over two hundred years. But to learn that a group of them would be so moved to action by the suffering of Americans so far away, raised my admiration for Canada to an even higher place.

Unfortunately, our Department of Homeland Security believes that no good deed should go unpunished. Ever-vigilant, American officials at the border refused to let the shipment proceed until all 20,000 kilograms of food, blankets and diapers onboard was itemized in alphabetical order with the country of origin of each product noted. A spokesman for Windsor Lifeline Outreach, Dennis Suave, said that it was a physical impossibility to do the paperwork required to get the perishable food to Oklahoma before it spoils.

Defenders of all things government will be quick to point out that I would be singing a different tune if a nuclear bomb was hidden cleverly inside a package of Huggies. Lovers of the all-powerful State will make the case that the Windsor Outreach people should not have shipped perishable food in the first place, that this is what happens when mere civilians get involved in disaster relief instead of leaving it to government experts. Big government types will applaud Homeland Security for doing their job, keeping us safe from rampant, out of control Canadian humanitarianism.

The first casualty of the War on Terror was the Bill of Rights, the second apparently is our common sense. Despite our government’s ham-fisted response, I would like to thank the good people of Canada for their big hearted gesture of good will, and offer my apologies for our inability as a nation to overcome the stupidity of our bureaucracy.