Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Er...On Second Thought

Yesterday, this space suggested that men needed to bow out of political office for a few years and let women take over. Now, I hear news that makes me rethink that idea. The Congressional Black Caucus has just put forward Sheila Jackson Lee as a candidate to replace Janet Napolitano as Director of Homeland Security. Wait a minute. On second thought…

I will not here catalog the manifold failings of Congressperson Lee. It would take too long and I do have to get to work at some point today, but suffice it to say that the one legislative accomplishment of her interminable tenure in Congress was her Co-Authorship of a Congressional Resolution honoring Michael Jackson. My favorite Jackson Lee quote was the one where she was touring the Mars Pathfinder Control Center at NASA and asked the director if the Pathfinder had taken any pictures of the American flag that Neil Armstrong had placed there in 1969.

According to the fine folks who make up the Congressional Black Caucus, Ms. Lee would bring “valuable and unique insights and perspectives to the job of protecting the homeland”. I’ll say! This got me to thinking about other similar candidates that could emerge for other government jobs if what we were looking for was merely, “valuable and unique insights and perspectives” rather than actual qualifications. What follows is a short list.

1.     Let’s get Bernie Madoff out of prison to run the Federal Reserve when Bernanke steps down. Talk about unique insights? I can’t think of a more qualified candidate to run the Fed than a man who successfully ran a Ponzi scheme without detection for twenty five years!

2.     How about we put Paula Dean in charge of the School Lunch Program? She needs work, and it would have the added benefit of cutting down on the truancy rate.

3.     Sean Penn would certainly bring unique perspectives to the Department of Defense. Once he got finished disarming the country and surrendering to Cuba, we could balance the budget.

4.     Talk about an Agency that could use some unique perspectives, how about we get Warren Buffet to run the IRS? Since he’s so horrified that his secretary pays a higher rate than he does, I’m sure he would figure out how to fix that in no time.

5.     Let’s get Nancy Grace to become the new Attorney General. She used to be a lawyer right? We could use some screaming hysteria at the Justice Department, don’t you think?

6.     Lil Wayne could head up the National Endowment for the Arts. Rap IS art, right?

7.     Tim Tebow would make an excellent Ambassador to the United Nations. Who could resist that smile? I can see it now, right in the middle of a contentious debate, Tebow smiles and says, “Well, our job as the United States is to work hard and try to get better each and every day. God bless.”

8.     Bryce Harper as President Obama’s Press Secretary. “That’s a clown question, bro.”

9.      Sarah Palin could run the Department of the Interior. She’s from freaking Alaska; it doesn’t get any more interior than that.

10.    And finally, Kim Kardashian, a woman who has accomplished nothing her entire life yet is somehow famous, would be the perfect person to run the Commerce Department, an agency of the federal government that has accomplished nothing its entire life and yet still exists.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

It's Time For Women

Having two twenty-something kids has many benefits. They do their best to keep me as hip as humanly possible with remarks like, “Dad, you’re not seriously thinking about going anywhere dressed like that, are you?” But as a writer, they also serve as my personal sensitivity coaches. We are from distinctly different generations, and I rely upon them to help me to steer clear of the politically incorrect usage of words. Phrases that I think are merely accurate descriptions, like “Chi-Coms”, they think are rich with derogatory racial undertones. So I will proceed with this blog post as gingerly as possible, because even I can sense the potential sexism inherent in its theme. If so, my kids can be depended on to let me know about it.

With the latest Anthony Weiner sexting controversy, his poll numbers have shown some rather severe shrinkage. Perhaps he will finally go away and the Republic will be free of him, but perhaps not. But as horribly embarrassing as this whole episode has been, imagine how much worse it would be if it had been Janet Napolitano caught sending selfies of her womanly private parts to young men via Twitter? Come to think of it, when was the last time a female politician was caught up in ribald sexual Tomfoolery? I can’t think of one. Sometimes I think that we would be far better governed if we only elected women to political office. At least we wouldn’t be caught in the crossfire of some ideological pissing contest between a bunch of horny Alfa-males. I feel certain that if women ran the country we wouldn’t get involved in so many meaningless wars, and I’m rather certain that we would be spared pictures of politicians’ genitalia splashed all over the internet. It seems to me that testosterone and power aren’t mixing well at the moment, and the country would be well served if the men were placed in time-out for a few years. Think about it, for even the most conservative among us, if the choice for President came down to Hillary Clinton or Elliot Spitzer, who would you prefer? This one might be a bit tougher, but suppose it came down to a contest between Anthony Weiner or Michelle Obama? I can say with confidence that in each case I would prefer the liberal woman over the scumbag man.

It is my sincere hope that the feelings and sensibilities of any woman reading this  were not offended by this post.  

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Bargain

Walking into your office after a week away is one of the most deflating experiences this life has to offer. Yesterday, I decided to do so to prepare for my first day back. My desk was piled with 8 days worth of mail and correspondence, a prodigious mound of worry covering almost its entire working surface. Then I glanced at my phone, saw the blinking red light and the number “22” in the message window. “Welcome back Mr. Dunnevant”

Two hours later, I had plowed through all of it, sorting it all into workable piles on the floor, this pile containing the stuff that must be filed, that pile the stuff that needs some sort of action, and a third pile that I get to throw away. Then I catalogued all of the phone messages. Thankfully, there were no emergencies, no angry clients wondering why on earth I would be taking a vacation on the very day they needed to speak to me. I then set about prioritizing the order in which these 22 calls must be returned. I transferred this information onto my very old school “to do list” on the yellow pad that always sits just to the right of the laptop on my credenza. When I was done, twenty five items required my attention for the week of July 29th.

This is the bargain we make with ourselves every summer. We plan a vacation with the family someplace far, far away from work and the reality of our lives. We go, and temporarily turn our backs on our responsibilities. It’s glorious, and we love every minute of it, but in the dimly lit recesses of our brain, (right beside old high school memories and to the left of memorized poetry), there lies a poorly suppressed thought, the first day back at work is going to be horrible. But we accept it as a necessary part of being a functioning adult. We can’t have the vacation without the job, unless we are members of Congress where one is indistinguishable from the other.

So, back to work, where I will do my duty and begin plotting the details of my next vacation, which lies somewhere out there at the end of a rainbow.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

What's a Vacation Without a 911 Call?

I hate it when you wake up and you’re still in your beach house, but vacation is over. All of a sudden, the place isn’t a fabulous retreat with glorious views of the ocean; it’s a three story house with stuff strewn everywhere that needs to be picked up, vacuumed, and left clean and pure for the next family. The end of vacation stinks.

This has been a great week with nearly perfect weather. There has been amazing food, lots of laughter, and what vacation would be complete without at least one 911 call? Unfortunately, I missed it all since I was down on the beach, but I have it from fairly reliable sources that it involved Christina, Ezra and Bennett taking an ill-advised joy ride in the elevator. Naturally, the thing got stuck, something about a circuit breaker. So, now you had two little boys trapped in an un-air conditioned closet. Ron, our go-to family know it all, was out walking and unavailable, and me, the family blogger wasn’t there to offer any snappy one-liners, so someone made the decision to call the authorities. Soon, Buxton’s finest pull up the driveway, and suddenly the house looks like a set from CSI: Criminal Minds. Two firemen in full regalia, wielding axes and attitude burst through the door ready for anything, then a couple of plain clothes detectives walk in flashing badges and assuring all that there was no need to panic. Too late. Paul freaks out when he sees the firemen, certain that once Ezra is greeted by these uniformed giants, all hell will indeed break loose. Thinking fast, he recalls a passage from one of Ezra’s favorite books and yells up the elevator shaft, “Hey Buddy, guess what? Your two favorite firemen from, “Let’s Put Out The Fire” are here!!”

Thankfully, the circuit breaker problem was solved, and all ended well. When Bennett emerged from the ordeal he took full advantage of the crisis to demand, “I’m gonna have a pop-sicle right now!”, thus cementing his title of “Most Valuable Vacationer” of 2013.

So, this morning we will stuff everything into the back of the car and cheat the hangman by spending the day in Manteo while waiting for the traffic to die down, wrenching every drop of fun we can out of this week before surrendering to Richmond, Virginia.

Can’t wait for 2015.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Magical Night

It was a little after 7:30 in the evening when we all gathered down on the beach. Jon and Ron were busy digging a hole in the sand near where the waves were washing gently up the steep inclines so common on the Outer Banks. Three other families, several football fields up the beach had the same idea. Soon, the flames were making crackling sounds as they wrapped around the bone dry wood I had bought earlier in the day from the one armed man at the Shell station who let me name my own price since he couldn’t help me load it in the back of my car. I gave him a five dollar bill. “If you’re happy, I’m happy”, he said.

Soon the little ones came down to see the fire, their eyes wide with expectation. By the time we started roasting marshmallows for the s’mores the fire was a blaze, sending strange shadows across the sand. It was getting dark and now the fire was lighting up faces all around. There was a Kryptonite sighting and all the attendant squealing fun as Bennett screamed out his warning.

I sat quiet and still taking in the moment, the chocolate and marshmallow smeared faces of the children, the tanned face of my daughter as she stared at her fiancĂ©, my son sitting next to his mother deep in some conversation. I watched my two sisters and their husbands, my nieces smiling at their children with Matt hovering with his camera taking thoughtful pictures that we will point to years later as we ask, “Do you remember that night?”

On this most perfect of nights, I miss my Mom. This was the sort of thing that she lived for, family all together having fun. She would have loved it. I also thought of my Dad who couldn’t make this trip with us. He would have loved it too.

As the fire died down, we walked down to the water’s edge and stomped around in the wet sand, and like magic, tiny specks of light appeared around our feet. Noctiluca, it’s called, a terrible name for something so romantic. It was nice to feel something like wonder at age 55. It was at this moment, watching my family dancing on the beach, pawing at the sand and pointing at what looked like a miracle that it occurred to me that I will be doing this for the rest of my life. I will be making a trip to the beach with my wildly boisterous family every two years until the day that I, like Dad can’t make the trip…because this is what families do. I will watch the little ones grow to become teenagers, replaced by little ones of my own someday. Someday, my grandchildren will be old enough to carry my chair and cooler down to the beach for me. The family will grow and get younger, louder and more difficult to cram into one house, but we will always do it, because to miss out on the magic of a fire on the beach isn’t worth the risk.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Entrepreneurs For Christ !!

Times are tough all over. Even churches are feeling the heat, as high unemployment and uncertain prospects have resulted in budgets being cut. Just the other day, I was talking with a friend of mine who is an administrator at the First Baptist Church of Freloadia, Tennessee.

Me: So, Steve, how are things at the church?

Steve: Not good, in fact, things are pretty awful. Attendance is up, but giving is way down, so we have had to make some tough decisions.

Me: Like what? You didn’t get let go did you??

Steve: No, no, nothing like that. But as the Administrative Pastor, they all expect me to come up with new and improved procedures to increase efficiency. And, I’ve done just that, but so far, we’ve gotten some rather angry feedback.

ME: Oh dear. What did you do?

Steve: Well, it’s mostly little things, the same sort of things that any business would do in lean years. You know, stuff like charging for weddings, and funerals.

Me: Wait…you charge for funerals? Isn’t that sorta insensitive, you know, adding insult to injury?

Steve: Not at all, it’s a service we provide. Money doesn’t grow on trees around here, Doug.

Me: Ok, what else?

Steve: Ok, we have started to charge people for taking communion. Those little crackers have gone through the roof lately, and I don’t need to tell you how expensive grape juice has gotten. We charge one dollar for the blood of Christ and 50 cents for his body. But you can get a special family rate that brings the cost down significantly for a family of four. We call it the “4-Pack”.

Me: Wow…that’s certainly innovative.

Steve: And of course, we’re charging a dollar to park in the church parking lot, which is a twofer since it encourages our people to park off site so there’s more room for visitors, plus, it’s become quite a cash cow, you might even call it a “sacred cow”! Haha!

Me: Steve, I don’t know about this, it just doesn’t sound right.

Steve: Look Doug. This is Twenty First Century thinking. The days of free church membership are over. Besides, people who truly love Jesus won’t mind pay toilets and coin operated water fountains.

Me: Are you freaking kidding me? You guys installed pay toilets?

Steve: Sure! Of course we only charge 25 cents if you’re handicapped. But, the one that everybody has pitched the biggest fit about is our plan to sell tickets for the children’s choir concert. Even though we created a roped off “platinum member” section for the parents of the kids, you would have thought we had killed somebody the way the grandparents yelled and screamed over that one. But Doug, we are serious about these new austerity plans. Matter of fact, from now on, if you want the best seats for any church service, you have to be a tither.

Me: But, how do you know if someone tithes?

Steve: oh, we know. There are ways, we have, er..methods. The chairman of our finance committee used to work for the NSA. We even came up with a new slogan, “At First Baptist, You have to Pay to Pray.”

Me: And the people aren’t happy with these changes, I take it?

Steve: You know how people are Doug. Everybody hates change. But eventually, they’ll get used to it. It’s actually making people think twice before demanding services from the church. I’ll tell you one thing, that prayer list that the Pastor always reads on Wednesday night sure has gotten shorter since we started charging a prayer request prioritizing fee. All of a sudden old Mrs. Fitzgerald’s bunions have miraculously been healed since she had to fork over 5 bucks to get on the list.

Me: I don’t know what to say Steve. What you’re describing doesn’t sound much like a church. It sounds more like a…”

Steve:…a Silicon Valley start up? Exactly! I’m not a Pastor anymore Doug, I’m an entrepreneur for Christ.  

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Vacation Life

 For the past two days, I’ve been laying around on the beach, eating too much food, and engaging in spirited conversations about everything from the financial woes of Detroit to the killing power of Kryptonite. So, today, on Day Three of #Dunnevant Beach13, I will be driving my car onto a ferry, making the trip to Ocracoke Island so I can…lay around on the beach eating too much food, variety being the spice of life, or so I’m told.

It must be reported at this point that seven of us went to play putt-putt last night. The winning score of 44 was posted by your humble blogger, naturally, while the high score of 68 was tallied by my wife who simply could not master the contours of the dimly lit greens while simultaneously looking fabulous. Ryan’s front nine score of 38 set some sort of course record for futility that caused buzzers to go off, sirens to wail and several paramedics to appear to make sure he was ok.

All was not lighthearted fun however; as I discovered that my future son in law is not above cooking the books to embellish the standing of his girlfriend. After one particularly problematic hole in which Kaitlin managed to hit her ball onto the back of a nearby pickup truck, then into a water hazard, I saw Jon write down her score on the scorecard, smile adoringly at her with the words, “Nice 3 honey!”

We got back to the house just in time to hear Linda tell the story of the day when the hurricane came through Richmond and knocked out power to the hospital. The generator was deployed to maintain critical life saving equipment, so each patient room was reduced to one light. This was unacceptable to one expectant grandmother who marched down the hall wanting to know what in the $#@&? was the matter with the television?! The head nurse explained that the hurricane had knocked out the power. “I don’t give a flying rat’s #$@!? about no %$#@&* hurricane. Rick is about to come out of he coma and stop that lying Camille from stealing he inheritance from that thievin’ Brooke who claim she had the amnesia but everybody know that’s a $#%@* lie. Now you people need to power up this here TV are I’m gonna have to open up a can of whup-ass up in here.”

More popcorn, Bill.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Detroit: The Audacity of Math

The city of Detroit has filed for bankruptcy. Like Stockton and San Bernardino California before her, Detroit has woken up from a thirty year bender and surrendered to the brutal nonpartisan reality of mathematics.

The voluntary relocation of a million people out of a formerly great, innovative and iconic city in a mere twenty years is quite a complicated story that cannot easily be reduced to a bumper sticker like “Democrats Suck”. However, since one of the goals of this blog is to make complicated things understandable while displaying as few actual credentials as possible,…here goes.

First, let’s destroy a few straw men.

“Detroit is bankrupt because it’s been run by blacks for forty years.”

Ok, aside from the fact that this is a blatantly racist notion, it is my belief that if the policies of Detroit over the past forty years had been administered by Opie Taylor and his band of blond Swedes, the results would have been the same.

“It’s all the fault of free markets.”

Yes, by all means, if it weren’t for those pesky Japanese and their annoyingly dependable cars, General Motors would still be making Chevettes, and auto mechanics would be the richest men in America.

“It’s all because of the greedy unions.”

It’s not the job of the municipal unions in Detroit to look out for the interest of the city of Detroit. Their job is to get the most lucrative contracts for its members. By all accounts, they performed splendidly.


So, Dunnevant, why is Detroit bankrupt? It’s all the fault of long division. A divided by B = C, where A = Detroit’s pension obligations, B= the number of taxable citizens and C= Solvency. So, what we have here is the City of Detroit piling up more and more A, while at the same time the number of B’s are dropping faster than Congress’ approval rating, all of which flows from two basic problems, one party rule, and the unionization of public employees.



Detroit’s politicians are 99% democrats, and as such it is the most monolithic government in America. Unfortunately for the citizens of Detroit, the most dependable voting block is the public sector unions, ie, city workers. So, here’s how this works. When it’s time to negotiate union contracts, there are democratic politicians on one side of the table, and on the other side are union bosses, the same ones responsible for their reelection. As a consequence of this incestuous relationship, there is no one in the room representing the tax payer. In this room, the unions do what they do which is wrench every possible nickel they can, and the politicians do what they do which is take care of their biggest and most dependable constituency. So, even during times of tight budgets, in lieu of pay raises, offer hugely rich retirement packages, kicking the fiscal train wreck down the road. The results of such an unhappy negotiation are contracts that pay the “horseshoer” who works for the Detroit Water and Sewer Department $56,000 a year, even though he has no horses left to shoe.

So, a city with only 700,000 citizens left looks at its future obligations and says, “no mas”. By filing for bankruptcy protection they are hoping that its Congressional delegation will have the clout to pressure Washington to step up for one more bail-out. My hunch is that they are correct. How can Obama rationalize bailing out the auto workers four years ago, and now turn his back on their corrupt city? The term “moral hazard” practically leaps off the page here, but to bring that up would probably shower me with charges of insensitivity.

“All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service.”

What knuckle-dragging, union-hating, big-business loving conservative Republican said this, you might ask?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Trip To Hatteras

Yesterday, three groups of Dunnevants left three different locations headed for Hatteras, North Carolina. Kaitlin left from Winston-Salem, the law firm of Schwartz, Hawkins, Garland and Roop from Richmond, and Pam, Patrick and yours truly from Princeton, New Jersey. Kaitlin left at 11:00, the Richmond contingent at 9:30, and the New Jersey group at 7:30. What follows is mostly true.

We got our first text from Paula around 11, “As God is my witness, I will NEVER make this trip again!!” She was in her first back up on 64 and was handling it with her characteristic calm and understated detachment. Meanwhile, Kaitlin was sending YouTube videos to us featuring profane black women raging about the heat wave. “I’m not tropical, I ain’t no toucan!”

Soon, I hit my first toll booth, one of the many plagues afflicting our northern states. There was the $2.90 one for the privilege of travelling 28 miles on the New Jersey Turnpike, a road dedicated to some long dead New Jersey Governor. Then I was separated from another $8.00 for going over the Delaware Memorial Bridge, and here I was, so ignorant I wasn’t even aware that Delaware had died! Each time, and I mean each and every time I sat in the long line to pay my toll, my son would remind me that if we had an EZ Pass, we would already be on our way. Each time, I would say something like, “Yes Patrick, and if I only had a son who looked like Trayvon Martin, I would be President.” But just about the time I thought the tolling was over, we reached the Chesapeake Bay Bridge tunnel, a 21 mile feat of engineering which featured not one but two tunnels. When described this way, it makes the $12.00 price tag seem almost like a bargain. Almost. When the total toll expense exceeded the $25 dollar mark, it occurred to me that in 2013 America, it even takes money to be a drifter.

Meanwhile, down south, Paula had reached Def Com 5 on the freak-out meter. “It’s useless. We will never get there. We will die in this car.” Kaitlin sailed through North Carolina listening to country music, blissfully unaware. The New Jersey group was getting very cocky, since our all-knowing GPS women kept rerouting us around traffic backups with steely precision, notifying us in her slightly creepy accent that she was busy, “seeking alternate routes”, but then all of a sudden, around 10 miles west of the bridge leading to the Outer Banks she dejectedly announced, “Mother of all backups detected ahead. You are screwed.”

10 and a half hours after leaving our Hampton Inn, we finally pulled up into the driveway of our beautiful beach house, the last to arrive, whereupon Patrick reminded me that if we had an EZ Pass, we probably would have beaten everyone.

Friday, July 19, 2013

A Year's Worth of Hard Work...Down the Drain.

What’s the only bad thing about going on vacation? Knowing that the squirrels will have free uninhibited access to my back yard, that’s what! All year long I have been out there standing guard, putting the fear of God into those rabid, twitchy little rats. I have worked hard trying to penetrate the dense thickets of their tiny pea-brains with the notion that my yard was a place of death and destruction, hoping that at some point they would desire an end to the slaughter, that the mysteries of the squirrel DNA would reveal this deadly truth to them, and I would at last be free of them. No such luck.

They keep coming. They devise ill-fated schemes to penetrate the bird feeder; they cast covetous glances at my tomato plants. Meanwhile, I pick them off one by one, killing a few, injuring many and scaring the living bejeezees out of all of them. They never know exactly where I am, because I come at them from all fronts, even going so far as setting up a snipers nest in the movie room window upstairs where I rain down a barrage of BB fire from the sky, hoping the pure terror of it will get through to them that the back yard of my house is where squirrels go to die! But still, they keep coming.

And now, for the next 10 days I won’t be there to maintain order. There will be no death or destruction. I might as well put up a sign in the pine tree by the fence gate announcing, “CRAZY MAN GONE…PARTEEEEEEY-TIME!!”

It’s almost enough to make me hire some trigger happy teenager as a stand in. But, that wouldn’t work. The squirrels would know that he was just a nervous kid firing off shots every time he saw something move. They would laugh at me and my feeble attempts at deterrence. No, these next 10 days belongs to them, and there’s nothing I can do about it, furry little bastards!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Don't Be a Garbage Parent

This Friday is my wife’s birthday. What will we be doing? We will wedge all of our vacation gear into the back of the car and leave the house around 10 am for the white knuckle thrill ride that is I-95 north to Princeton, New Jersey. 5 hours and several near death experiences later, we will check in to our hotel, rest a bit, then get dressed for my son’s choir concert. He has been taking part in some sort of advanced choral workshop thing with all these high powered choral big shots from all over the country for the past two weeks and they will display the fruits of all their labor Friday night.

It just so happens that the Dunnevant family vacation of 2013 begins Saturday, in Hatteras, North Carolina, which means, that after this night of singing and frivolity, we will add Patrick and his suitcase to the back of the car, and make the 8 and a half hour drive from New Jersey to the Outer Banks. Why would we do such a thing? Why not make him drive himself? Why not fly him down?

Well, my friends, here’s the deal. This side trip to Jersey serves three noble purposes. Number one, it saves Patrick’s very old and hanging by a thread car the pain and agony of a sixteen hour drive in 1000 degree heat. Number two, it saves me the pain and agony of having to be a part of the famous Dunnevant beach convoy, where 5 cars turn a 4 hour drive into an all day scenic tour of the finest bathrooms between Richmond and Hatteras. But lastly we do it because we have no real choice. We can’t afford to miss the concert.

Half of parenting is just showing up. If your kid has a ballgame or a play or a concert, you make sure your fanny is in a seat watching it. There are no excuses for not being there. When I hear some guy say, “my kid is in a play tonight and I wish I could be there, but I have to get this proposal ready. Ha, somebody’s gotta pay the bills,” I usually say, “you’re a fool.” No, seriously, I say that to his face, because it’s total garbage. The entire debate between quality or quantity time is complete garbage. If it’s important to your kid, it better be important to you or you’re a garbage parent.

So, Pam and I will make a ten hour detour to hear our son sing his heart out in a chapel at Westminster. Somewhere along the way we will celebrate the birthday of the woman who brought him into the world, perhaps at a rest stop in Pisquataway.

Break a leg, son.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Old School vs. No school

Rachel Jeantel speaking out after the trial. (CNN)

"The jury, they old. That's old school people. We in a new school. Our generation."

                                                                                         Rachel Jeantel

If this particular child of God is an example of the new generation of America, then my advice would be to sell your United States Treasuries....TODAY. Miss Jeantel thinks that the jury of six women who decided George Zimmerman's fate were "old school" people. Listening to excepts from her appearance on the Piers Morgan show last night leads me to the conclusion that Rachel Jeantel must represent the "no school" generation.

I don't know Miss Jeantel, I know very little of her background since what little I can find in the media is distorted beyond believability by the biases of the media. Depending on the source, I can choose to believe that she is a terribly misunderstood victim or an illiterate embarrassment. Either way, she doesn't present a desirable outcome. If Miss Jeantel is any indication of what is being produced by the public school system in Florida, then there isn't any amount of money in the world that can correct it. This is one bitterly angry girl who is either semi-literate or deliberately ignorant. From the looks of it, I would guess that she comes from difficult circumstances and most likely a one parent home.

But she no more represents African Americans, than Albert Einstein represents White Americans. The number of blacks who overcome poverty and terrible schools to become leaders of industry, entertainment and academia indicate that it can be done. The fact that it doesn't happen very often is a National disgrace. There are of course many factors involved in producing the Rachel Jeantels of this world, but a major one is the notion among many urban blacks that education is for suckers. Any young black boy or girl who decides to apply themselves and excel in school has to fight through a barrage of accusations by their peers of being an Uncle Tom sell-out. Until this mindset changes, we better get used to more and more Rachel Jeantels.

But I refer to her as a child of God because she is, and any analysis of her must begin and end with that fact. When I hear her speak, when I see her anger and ignorance on display, I feel a sense of pity and shame. She has been the butt of a thousand jokes ever since her bumbling testimony, but there is nothing funny about the world that produced her.


Monday, July 15, 2013

Vacation Logistics

As is my custom at 6 am on Monday morning, I just finishing writing out my action plan for the week. I say “action plan” because it sounds more masculine and aggressive and less pathetic than a “to do list”, which is more accurately what it is. These are the things that I must accomplish for the week before I can start my weekend. As a business owner, and my own boss, if I manage to check off the last item by Wednesday afternoon, well, my weekend starts early. However, this week everything must be checked off by Thursday evening or, the barnyard manure will hit the fan. See, this is the week before my vacation, which means I must work twice as hard as I do any other week, so as to earn the right to officially goof off for a week. It’s all very much a matter of cosmic justice.

Usually there are 10-15 items on my list, er.. action plan, all of them business related. But this week there are 27 items, only around half of which have anything to do with making money. The rest are all about the intricate details involved in vacation logistics, when one goes on vacation with 15 of your closest relatives. Yes, once every two years we Dunnevants engage in a week long exercise in communal living on the Outer Banks, where everything is shared, from each according to his/her abilities, to each according to their needs. We even establish a communal bank of sorts, which involves a large white envelope stuffed with cash. Karl Marx would be proud, except for all of the religious music.

To complicate things (another hallmark trait of the Dunnevant clan), Pam and I have decided to pack up a couple of days early so we can drive up to Princeton New Jersey to hear Patrick perform in a concert. Then we will rise early the following morning and stuff Patrick’s vacation suitcase into the back of the car and make the 9 hour trek from Jersey to Hatteras, through the byways and highways of the Garden State, then down the coast, a trip never before attempted on a Saturday in July since the Great Boll Weevil infestation back in the 1920’s.

Nevertheless, I will hack my way through this prodigious list one item at a time until I check off the last one, which reads, “follow up TransAmerica money-laundering requirement”, which is much less sinister than it sounds, but regardless, must be done. Then Pam and I will leave town for nine days away from life, and for the first time in twelve years, not have to leave instructions for someone concerning Molly’s care. Strange how we mark the passage of time.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Zimmerman Verdict


In March of 2012, I wrote the above blog about the Trayvon Martin case. Now that the jury has rendered a verdict, a few observations.

Re-reading my old blog, I find that not much has changed in my views on this subject. Back then, I thought it odd that a 28 year old man could shoot a 17 boy and be released simply on his word that it was an accident. Much of the anger back then from the black community centered on this point and on this point they were right. No 28 year old black man would have been so breezily sent on his way for an accidental shooting of a 17 year old white boy.

However, my observations about the unseemly nature of the race-hustlers and their roll in enflaming tensions have likewise not changed. The Al Shartons and Jesse Jacksons of this world are a scourge on our nation. They practically break their necks trying to beat the other to the closest microphone whenever something like this happens, assuming for themselves the roll of “spokesman” for every African American in the country. Meanwhile, since the day over 16 months ago when Trayvon was killed, 480 blacks have been murdered, the vast majority of them by other blacks, in Chicago alone! Jesse Jackson, call your office.

I must here confess that I didn’t watch any of the trial. I only read summations. I found the wall to wall coverage by the cable networks an appalling spectacle. It was very difficult finding anything approaching dispassionate coverage of the facts in question. From the beginning, The New York Times, and most of the mainstream press were heavily invested in a guilty verdict, so much so that the Times went to the trouble of creating an entirely new racial classification, the heretofore unheard of “White Hispanic”. Under this new Times standard, from now on I suppose that the Times will refer to the President as a “White African American”, since he too had one white parent. On the other side of the political barricades, Fox News was absolutely convinced of Zimmerman’s innocence, even going so far as calling the proceedings a “show trial”. Conservative talk radio was nearly unanimous with accusations that the fix was in, and that Zimmerman would be found guilty to appease the race hustlers.

But, despite the alleged “fix”, I read this morning that Zimmerman was cleared of all charges by the jury of six women. Unlike me, these six women sat there in court for every second of the testimony, every preening speech, and the presentation of every item of evidence. These six women decided unanimously that George Zimmerman was innocent. Now comes the hard part. Will there be riots? From some of the stuff popping up on social networks, it seems inevitable. But perhaps, the ability to anonymously vent on Facebook, the technological gift of being able to spew forth vile epithets without consequence on the internet will take the place of actually destruction of property. Instead of a thousand cars turned upside down, burning, looting, rape and murder, we will only have to endure a virtual riot. If so, we should nominate Mark Zuckerberg for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

A Confession

Sometimes in life, you just have to admit that you’re a terrible person. This is one of those times. I’ve been in Atlanta the past couple of days on business, so I was out of my morning routine and consequently missed this story. In the aftermath of the crash of Asiana Airlines flight 214, a San Francisco television news anchor broadcast the names of the four Korean pilots of the ill fated plane. The names had been confirmed by none other than the National Transportation Safety Board in Washington. She read the names on the air:

     Captain: Sum Ting Wong

     Wi Tu Lo

     Ho Lee Fuk

     Bang Ding Ow

Apparently, a “summer intern” at the NTSB had come up with these names as a prank and the folks at KTVU in San Francisco fell for it hook, line and sinker. The info-babe read the names on the air without batting an eye. See for yourself:

Was this prank insensitive, racist and juvenile? Yes, yes, and yes. Then, why did I laugh so hard, I nearly wet my pants? Judge me all you want, but if you can watch that clip without at least smiling, then, well… you’re a better person than I am.

This, on the heels of the Chicago Sun Times issuing an apology for their headline announcing the crash: “Fright 214”, seen by many as an insensitive jab at Asian-American pronunciation. Let’s just say, it was a busy week for the politically correct language police.

On some level it bothers me that this sort of thing is funny to me. I blame it all on Mel Brooks, and his influence on me at a young age, but tasteless jokes have always made me laugh. Although I can sit for hours reading Shakespeare, Hemingway, Dostoevsky, and C.S. Lewis, I still find a well timed fart hilarious. I am confident that I harbor no animus towards Asian Americans; in fact, I have never known one who wasn’t fairly awesome, but when I heard that the Captain of flight 214 was someone named, Sum Ting Wong, well my first thought was, that summer intern at the NTSB has a bright future at the Onion!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

2.5 Million Gladys Kravitzes'

With very little fanfare or public comment, President Obama issued an executive order in October of 2011 called the Insider Threat Program. You’ve never heard of it, have you? See, that’s the great thing about executive orders, no Congressional hearings, and no annoying media to generate negative feedback. It was in response to the leaking of classified material to WikiLeaks by Army Pfc. Bradley Manning. The idea behind the Insider Threat Program, or ITP for short, is to turn all federal employees into snitches, a two and a half million strong horde of spies, all trying to be Gladys Kravitz.
You remember her, right? Well, if you’re under 50, probably not. She was the nosy neighbor on Bewitched who was constantly peering through the window, seeing some supernatural thing going on over at the Stephens house, but by the time her beleaguered husband would come to look, things were back to normal. Eventually, he stopped paying attention.

Well, here’s what the ITP is asking each federal worker to do:



I love that last one…snitch, or else! So, now when I go to the Post Office, my 30 minute wait in line will be more like 45 minutes, since all the employees will be busy keeping a sharp eye out for stressed out divorcees in their ranks.

I suppose this is designed to prevent leaks of classified material by identifying potential threatening employees who might be so inclined. Whether or not any of this would have worked on Pvc. Manning, or Edward Snowden is hard to tell. Seems to me a better way to prevent these sort of leaks is to limit access to classified material to Army personnel with the rank of Private first class!


But, in the age of NSA spying on ordinary American’s phone calls, why shouldn’t Government workers be ordered to spy on one another? It seems to have become our national pastime.


All of this reminds me of one of the most disturbing yet powerfully moving movies I’ve ever seen. It’s called, The Lives of Others, and is about a Stasi officer who is ordered by the East German government to spy on a playwright. As he hides in a room on the roof of the apartment building where the playwright lives and listens to every word that is spoken inside the apartment, he hears poetry for the first time. What happens to this Stasi officer is both beautiful and chillingly tragic.


It’s a German film which could never have been made in Hollywood, since the villain in this picture is totalitarian Communism and it’s destruction of the human spirit. When I watched it in 2006, I never dreamed that one day, agents of our own government would be up to many of the same tricks.

Do yourself a favor and find The Lives of Others on Netflix.

Monday, July 8, 2013

"This Time We'll Keep it in Our Pants!"

Just how far has the dignity of public service fallen? Consider New York City. The citizens of that fine city will have quite the entertaining ballot in front of them as they enter the polling booth this fall.

Running for mayor will be Anthony Weiner, the recently disgraced former Congressman, who shrunk from public life after admitting that he had exposed himself to young women on the internet. Despite the existence of several disgusting photos of his manhood in circulation, and a mere 18 months since his disgrace, there he is atop the polls.

This morning brings news that Elliot Spitzer has thrown his hat into the ring for the job of Comptroller. You remember Spitzer, right? He was governor of New York when he was caught up in a Prostitution sting by the FBI. It was revealed during the proceedings that “client number 9” was in fact the governor himself, that mysterious customer who oddly insisted upon wearing nothing but his black dress socks during sex …THAT Elliot Spitzer. Well, a mere five years have passed and apparently, that’s enough in New York. There he is, the instant frontrunner, asking to be trusted with the city’s finances.

Who will he be running against, you may be asking? Well, in a twist dripping with more irony than Mark Antony’s funeral speech in Julius Caesar, Kristin Davis will be giving him a run for his money. Who is Kristin Davis, you ask? Wait for it….. the Madam who ran the high priced call girl ring that provided Spitzer with his prostitutes! I am not making this up, I swear.

What a ticket! The new wave of Democratic party leaders for the 21st century. Try coming up with a slogan for these two…”This Time, We’ll Keep it in Our Pants!”, or, “Weiner and Spitzer, Thrusting Forward For Change”.

Some may not see this as an embarrassment for democracy like I do. Some may see this as some grand example of grace and redemption, two talented (and reliably liberal) public servants overcoming the transgressions in their past, rising like a strike the “rising”, overcoming and atoning for past sins by recommitting themselves to fighting for justice. Reasonable people can disagree, I suppose.


Meanwhile, Paula Dean can’t be forgiven for using the “n” word in a 14 year old legal deposition.


Sunday, July 7, 2013

Humidity...God's Wrath

All week on Facebook, I have been treated to pictures of my friends vacationing. Here’s a lovely shot of someone basking in the breezy bliss of a beach in Hawaii, there’s one of someone sitting outside in the middle of the afternoon drinking COFFEE somewhere in Michigan, while still another is wearing a long sleeve sweatshirt posing in front of a giant lobster in Maine. Meanwhile I’m dealing with 92 degrees and 90% humidity. Being from Richmond, Virginia, this is my lot in life from mid May all the way through mid October. Humidity is God’s cosmic retribution to the South for the sin of slavery; I am convinced, since I believe God to be a just God and someone who will not be mocked. For my readers who don’t live here, how shall I describe what humidity feels like? Here goes.

I wake up at 6 am. I don’t have my contacts on yet so I throw on my glasses and go downstairs. I get my coffee and open the door to the deck so I can protect my tomato plants from the early morning squirrel raids so common in my neighborhood. Since it’s already 85 degrees, my glasses instantly fog over so I have to feel my way to the loveseat. Once seated, my hair begins to rebel against such ungodly climate by desperately trying to escape the body heat escaping through my scalp. A million strands of hair stretch and pull, contorting themselves into a frizzy explosion of sticky curls making me resemble a maniacal Shirley Temple.

Then I begin to sweat, tiny beads of perspiration appearing on every square inch of my body, especially my back. Soon, the cotton shirt I am wearing begins to cling to my body like angry spandex. It now weighs 10 pounds and is plastered onto me like a death mask. As I peer across the back yard I think I see a squirrel dancing along the edge of the fence. But I can’t be sure because the heat waves rising up from the ground distort my view, washing everything I see in a roiling mist. I think it’s a squirrel, no it’s definitely a squirrel. I raise my Daisy Powerline 35 and draw a bead when I realize that it’s actually the neighbors’ 6 year old boy wearing a coon skinned cap. Crisis averted.

When I consider the fact that I grew up in a house with no air conditioning, I can hardly imagine how I survived. It was certainly no thanks to this:

I suppose it’s all what you’re used to. I see pictures of Theodore Roosevelt in a wool suit in an un-air conditioned train car in Panama…in August, signing some sort of treaty with a bunch of other men in wool suits and I shake my head in wonder.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

"How's the Shoulder Feel?"

One of the manifold frustrations of having shoulder surgery is that it is so difficult describing how it feels to someone, especially your physical therapist. He will be in the middle of contorting the thing into some sort of pretzel torture and will ask you, “how’s that feel, tight, any pain, or just uncomfortable?”

How does one answer that question while maintaining one’s composure? I usually try to hide any hint of a grimace and answer, “ok”, when what I really want to say is, “How does that FEEL, you say? How about all three! It’s an uncomfortably tight pain!”

It’s high time I developed a better answer to the question I get all the time, “How’s the shoulder feeling?” But it won’t be easy, because honestly I’ve never felt anything like it before, but here goes:

When I wake up in the morning, after a long night where the shoulder has been immobile, it feels like there’s an army of fire ants, each with a tiny ball-peen hammer in one appendage and a chisel in the other, hammering away at what’s left of my rotator cuff. Then I get up, go downstairs, brew some coffee and let my arm hang down and move it in small circles, round and round until the coffee’s ready. Then I take a pain pill. I picture hydrocodone warriors in war ships flowing through my bloodstream until they reach the fire ants at which point a blessed massacre takes place, the bodies of a million fire ants strewn across the battlefield of my supraspinatus tendon, (and yes, I had to Google that). This triumph is short lived however, for roughly 5 and a half hours later the pesky fire ants return for a counter offensive. More hydrocodone, more ant carnage.

Then bedtime comes around and an entirely different enemy visits this blood soaked battlefield. Gone are the fire ants, replaced by legions of microscopic worms playing tubas and other low register musical instruments, creating a dull throbbing ache, which can only be overcome by the application of ice. Once my shoulder is nice and blue, I crawl into bed and wait for the blessed relief of sleep.

And, THAT is what my shoulder feels like.

The good news is, that each morning there seem to be fewer ants, their ranks decimated as they have been by the mighty Hydro-warriors, and each evening one or two fewer tuba playing worms. This is progress and I am grateful for it!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Travel Day

My Son will get in his 1996 Volkswagen Jetta today at about 1:30 in the afternoon, and make the most dangerous drive in America, from Princeton, NJ to Short Pump, Va. via I-95. He is coming home for the three days of July 4th to sleep in his old bed, eat some home cooking and see his family and for this I’m very grateful. But, beginning at 1:30 today, my stomach will be in knots and every time my phone rings my heart will skip a beat. Every parent of a college-aged kid reading this knows exactly what I mean, when I say that I worry more about my kids when they are on the highways coming home than at any other time. It is a dreadful thing, one of the few curses of being a parent.

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not one of those helicopter parents who can’t let their child out of their sight for two seconds. If anything I have always been quite lenient with my kids, anything but overprotective. My wife might even accuse me of being negligent with their safety. I’m the guy in that awesome commercial that keeps telling his kids “Don’t tell Mom!” Pam was always the one who held her breath while I was doing some crazy thing with the kids. But something strange comes over me when one of them gets behind the wheel and disappears down the street. It all started in 2006 when I endured the most terrifying 30 seconds of my life.

I was in my office with a client, wrapping up a presentation when the phone on my credenza behind my desk rang. Usually, calls don’t come through to me when I’m with someone, so I thought this call must have slipped through by accident. I apologized to my client for the interruption and asked his forbearance. When I picked up the phone, a man whose voice I didn’t recognized asked me, “Are you Mister Douglas Dunnevant of Richmond, Virginia?”

What came next was nothing short of the most horrifying words any parent could hear. “Mister Dunnevant, I’m Sergeant Tom Smith with the Ohio State Police, and your daughter Kaitlin has been in an accident.”

In that terrible instant, all the air rushed from my lungs, my heart began to beat loudly in my ears and according to my client, all the color drained from my face. Everything seemed to be going in slow motion. His next line wasn’t any better than the first, “She is in the hospital and I am here with her.”

My hands started to tremble; all the moisture in my mouth was gone. I said nothing. Then the wonderful words from the Ohio State Trooper, “Don’t worry Mister Dunnevant. Your daughter is fine, she hardly got a scratch, she’s only here for observation. Would you like to speak with her?”

Everything after that was a blur. She had hydroplaned off of an on-ramp to the interstate in a downpour, tore up the guardrail and her car, but I hardly heard any of that. My daughter was unhurt, and my heart started beating again. Ever since that day, I dread travel days. I stay busy, fiddle with things, sit still even less than normal, while the minutes crawl by. Every phone call sends my blood pressure reading into the stratosphere. Then they pull up to the curb in front of the house, and I breathe again, and feel silly for all the worrying. But, something tells me I’m not the only parent who goes through this. It’s part of the territory.

So, from 1:30 this afternoon until around 7 tonight, please don’t call me on my cell phone. Give a father a break!    

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Finally, Some Good Spying

It’s 6:08 am and I’m sitting in my study drinking a cup of coffee and nibbling on my nutritious breakfast of two lemon-Oreo cookies. That’s right, there is such a thing and if you haven’t tried them, you should. I browse through the overnight news. It is dependably upsetting but often hilariously funny, sometimes at the same time. Like this one story I stumbled upon where according to Twitter, there is a rather large group of mostly young, white and oddly blonde women who think it’s a crying shame that New England Patriot tight end Aaron Hernandez has to go to prison because, he is “so very hot!!” Apparently, the alleged murder charge does nothing to dampen feminine enthusiasm for his tight end. Lovely.

While I slept, the leaders of France and Germany continued to whine, moan and complain about the revelation that the United States has been spying on them, bugging their offices etc. I could break out a Shakespeare quote and go all “methinks they do protest too much”, but that’s probably the most overquoted passage the Bard ever wrote. Suffice it to say that I make no apologies for THIS type of spying, after all, this is the only type of spying that my government should ever be doing in the first place, and frankly, I’m shocked that we still have the balls to do it! I thought with this “we are the world” bunch running Washington at the moment that good old fashioned espionage would have been a thing of the past. I’m impressed, Mr. President.

The most hilarious reaction has been from the German Chancellor Angela Merkel. She confessed SHOCK that the United States would be spying on such a stalwart friend and ally. She went on to say that relationships between allies must be based first and last upon trust, and that this alleged bugging violated said trust in the most egregious way.

Cry me a river, Angie.

If there is anyone in my readership who believes that the nations of the European Union are our stalwart friends, then I have a couple dozen baseballs signed by Mickey Mantle  himself up in my attic that I bet you’d be interested in. Here’s a newsflash for all of you who might be upset by the news that we routinely spy on our allies. My guess is, there isn’t an office of anyone in Washington DC who really matters that isn’t already bugged by France, Germany, even Great Britain. Well… maybe not France ( much too decadent to bother with self preservation ). All of this screaming is for domestic consumption only. They have been embarrassed by Mr. Snowden’s revelations and are trying to save face, and I find it hilarious to watch. Thanks, Ed!

So, well done CIA. It’s about time this country got on with the business of protecting our own interest in dealings with our fickle European “allies”. More of this kind of spying, and less spying on US, please.