Monday, September 30, 2013

Better Call Guido

My brother works for the U.S. Postal Service in Maryland. He has a walking route. In December he will turn 65. Delivering mail on foot for over 15 years takes its toll on a person’s feet, so recently Donnie has become what is known in sports journalism as oft injured, which is how Miles Austin is almost universally described, as in, Miles Austin, the talented but oft injured wide receiver for the Cowboys.

Lately, it’s been his left foot. He’s missed some time trying to determine the cause of the sharp pains that stab through it every time he takes a step. While the pains in his foot have been difficult, they pale in comparison to the pain of navigating the mind numbing, sand pounding stupidity of filing a Workman’s Compensation claim. So far, four weeks of filling out paperwork has netted my brother absolutely nothing except a corresponding new pain in his #$%@!!

So, the other night we had a phone conversation that went something like this:

Me: So, how’s the foot?

Donnie: It was getting a bit better until yesterday when my good foot started to hurt.

Me: Oh, great!

Donnie: Yeah, but the worst part is, in order to qualify for the right kind of treatment, I’m going to need a new Workman’s Comp. claim number, and you remember what I went through trying to get the first one.

Me: Did you ever get a claim number the first time?

Donnie: Well, not exactly, but I’m told that it will be any day now.

Me: Whoa, wait just a minute! This is ridiculous. Hey, aren’t you a member of a union?

Donnie: Well, yeah. They take $500 out of my check every month, so I suppose I am.

Me: Well, that’s your answer then. File a grievance with your union.

Donnie: No! I hate unions. I am philosophically opposed to them, and resent being forced to join. I could have retired by now if I could have invested all my union dues they’ve confiscated from me.

Me: Listen to me Donnie. I’m no union fan either, but the fact is, you’re a dues paying member and now is your chance to collect. What’s the biggest benefit of union membership?

Donnie: ummm….the really cool coffee mugs?

Me: No! Access to muscle, it’s time for you to call in some union thugs. I’ll guarantee you that there’s somebody down at the union hall who handles this sort of thing.

Donnie: Oh, you mean Guido?

Me: Of course I mean Guido!

Donnie: I don’t know Doug, I’ve heard stories about Guido.

Me: Yes, and I bet they go something like this…some guy knows a guy, who knows another guy down at the union hall who specializes in workman’s comp. It’s funny, but he doesn’t look like a lawyer. I mean, most lawyers aren’t 6’5”, 270, wear warm-up suits and have a toothpick hanging out of their mouth, but every time old Guido shows up with his Louisville Slugger, negotiations go surprisingly well.

Donnie: Yeah, that’s him.

I fully expect a much smoother claims process for Donnie this time around. Get better, bro!

Sunday, September 29, 2013


What happens when the most ill-conceived, poorly written, impossibly complex and unworkable law collides with the most feckless, juvenile, and dimwitted political party ever assembled in the history of Western Civilization? Come Monday night at midnight, we’re about to find out.

The Affordable Care Act, may be the most ironically named piece of legislation ever. It’s like writing a bill granting all committees in Washington the right to hold their meetings in secret and naming it the Openness and Accountability Act. This bill is so bad, even labor unions have finally discovered a Democratic Party initiative they don’t like. And yet, watching the Republican Party’s attempts to beat the thing back has been like watching reruns of Happy Days…it’s just not funny anymore.

So, looks like the government will shut down. And, can I just say, that I can’t think of any government ever assembled which deserves to be shut down more than this one. Nevertheless, this shut down will be universally declared to be the fault of the Republican Party by our fair and balanced national news media, and like a broken clock which is right only twice a day, they will finally be correct about something. The stock market might get beat up for a day or two. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi will predict immediate death and pestilence, the President, a man who has been responsible for adding close to 5 trillion dollars to our national debt, will suddenly become consumed with concern over our credit rating, and John Boehner will finally cobble together some pathetic retreat. Then the government will reopen so we can get back to the real business of America…racking up debt.

But, all is not lost. Yesterday I was able to watch a great college football game between LSU and Georgia. Classic SEC football. Except for the odd strategy employed by LSU who decided to suddenly play “prevent defense” on the winning Georgia drive, this was nearly a flawlessly played game by both teams. It was almost as much fun to watch as the best game of the year so far, Alabama vs. Texas A&M from a couple of weeks back. In that one, the best player in college football took on the best team and the best team won…barely.

Government vs. SEC football

Bumbling Amateurs vs. Excellence 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Thanking God For Seasons

Fall is here and that means that every weekend I am overcome with a desire to be outside doing something old fashioned. As soon as I see the first leaf turn color, at the first chill from a cool breeze, something in me screams out, “Go pick apples” or “Go plant some mums” or even, “go for a drive to the country and buy something old.” It’s the strangest thing.

So, today, on this sparkling morning, Pam and I will go out for breakfast, then head over to Strange’s. By the time we’re through, our mailbox, front steps and back deck will be festooned with seasonal finery, and we will both feel great. Maybe we’ll drink hot apple cider out on the deck tonight. Maybe we’ll have a fire in the fire pit.

Fall is the best of times. The changing colors and cool nights are like a tonic after three months of heat and humidity. This time of year I get to chose between my two favorite sports, baseball and college football. As much as I envy the likes of Key West and San Diego their gloriously predictable weather, when Fall arrives, I thank God that I live in a place with four seasons. It’s as if he knew that we humans get bored so easily, so he cleverly designed four scene changes for our lives on earth. “Don’t worry,” he whispers in our ear. “Change is just around the corner.”

Friday, September 27, 2013

Fascinated By The Germans

As a student of history, I have always been fascinated by the Germans. In the last 100 years of their existence, they have managed to fight and lose two World Wars, and within 25 years of those spectacular defeats, crawled back to the top of the heap in Europe. Even today, they seem to be the only fully viable economic power on that troubled continent. The German people have given the world the greatest music in history, the most meticulously crafted automobiles, the most brilliant scientists and the most delicious beer ever brewed in the universe. As someone who believes in American Exceptionalism, I think that the Germans can give us a run for our money in that department. If not for the insanity of National Socialism and Adolph Hitler, perhaps the Germans would rule the world even now.

So, imagine my surprise when I ran across the results of polling data about the biggest differences between Americans and Germans. When the citizens of the two nations were asked this question: What do you think is more important, the ability to pursue life’s goals without state interference, or having state guarantees that nobody is in need? 58% of Americans chose freedom, while 62% of Germans picked guarantees. When presented with this statement, success in life is determined by forces outside of our control, 72% of Germans agreed, only 36% of Americans.

It doesn’t surprise me that most of my countrymen still believe in the concept of free will, the notion that every man has it within his power to fashion his own future. But it does surprise me that a people as accomplished as the Germans don’t. Maybe it shouldn’t surprise me that they have given up on the liberating power of individual freedom as a far greater guarantor of abundance than the modern welfare state, they being far further down that road than we. And frankly, the fact that only 58% of us believe it is disturbing. Take that poll 50 years ago and the number would have been closer to 90%. Still, the results surprised me. Germany, a nation that has lost its freedom to government pathology from both the right and left, still chooses to place its confidence in government as provider of life and liberty. How can a people subjugated by both the Nazis and the Communists still have such faith in government?

Add this to the thousand things in life that I will never understand.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Vegan Strip Club

Cory Booker is the current mayor of Newark, New Jersey. In politics, I suppose that this would be considered the ultimate entry level position. Everything and anything that comes after Newark would be a huge upgrade. So, Mr. Booker is attempting to escape perhaps the most reviled, dysfunctional city in America by running for the United States Senate, and if I were him I would do the exact same thing.

Mr. Booker is also somewhat of a star in Democratic circles. He is handsome, smart, witty, and makes a good speech. He is also black, a bonus. This week he’s been out in Hollywood making the fundraising rounds, schmoozing the beautiful people. The usual suspects have been on his arm, the Barbara Streisands, Sean Penns of the world, making sure he’s for abortion on demand, and the legalization of marijuana.  He has not disappointed, and has returned to Newark with 4 million in his campaign war chest, raised from people constantly railing against the evil influence of money in politics.

Upon his return, we discover in a story from the UK Telegram, that Cory is apparently quite fond of a Portland, Oregon stripper named Lynsie Lee, whose Twitter bio reads, “wits and tits #stripper #model #model #weirdo. The story reveals several flirtatious tweets between the two.

First of all, what it is with British newspapers always getting the story first? But that’s a story for another day. Since Mr. Booker is single, and has had to answer questions about gay rumors recently, this revelation will probably help him. While I might question his taste in women; Ms. Lee is the personification of the word skank, he is free to tweet with anyone he pleases. What caught my eye in the Telegram story was not that a young up and comer like Booker would be involved with a tattoo covered stripper, it was something else entirely. Further along in the story we discover that Ms. Lee worked at something called a “vegan strip club.”

Try as I might at 6:00 in the morning, I just can’t get my mind around the meaning of such a thing. A vegan strip club?  My first image is of a juicy, plump ear of yellow corn freshly shucked, laid bare on the bar in front of a dozen salivating farmers. No, it can’t be that, in Nebraska maybe, but Portland Oregon? It must be something else. Then I imagine a room full of metrosexuals ogling Ms. Lee as she does her pole dance, while delicately dipping their broccoli heads into little bowls of soy sauce. Instead of a Confederate flag draped on the wall behind the bartender, there’s a portrait of Che Guevara, flanked on one side by a Rainbow Coalition flag and on the other by the baby blue banner of the United Nations.

A vegan strip club. Can a left-handed coffee shop be far behind? How about a diabetic bakery? A transgendered car wash?

I could go on like this for hours…

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Scare Tactics

As the runaway freight train that is Obamacare careens down the tracks toward its October 1st rendezvous with destiny, President Obama has finally found a political tactic that he finds reprehensible. He is accusing Republicans of trying to “scare people out of a good deal.”

Imagine that, politicians using scare tactics. Oh, the humanity! I’m not sure what political planet our President has been living on his entire life, but I have a news flash for him, scare tactics are the mother’s milk of politics and both parties would be utterly lost without them. Here’s a question for you, name one political issue over the past 50 years that has not been either passed or defeated without both political parties trying to scare the bejesus out of us? Below are just a few examples:


Welfare Reform 1994:  Democrats warned us of tent cities full of homeless people in every city and starving children roaming the streets, our urban centers plunged into Dickensian chaos.

Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction: President Bush, Sec. of State Powell and a cast of thousands assured us that if we didn’t invade Iraq, Saddam would soon be able to attack our cities with WMD’s.

Medicare Reform attempts 2010: Paul Ryan proposed a plan to reform the most actuarially doomed social welfare program in history and for his efforts became the star of Democrat commercials featuring him literally driving Grandma’s wheelchair off a cliff.

Sequestration battle of 2013: In the weeks leading up to sequestration back in March of this year, we were assured by Democrats that a reduction in Federal spending of 1.2% would unleash calamity on a Biblical scale. Planes would fall from the sky for want of air-traffic controllers, tainted meat would be eaten by Americans for lack of food inspectors, and aircraft carriers would float powerless, in the blue waters of the Mediterranean.


So, now that his signature legislative achievement is under attack by the opposition party, President Obama suddenly discovers the horrors of fear and manipulation in politics. Well, better late than never, I suppose.


Friday, September 20, 2013

Help Me Out Here

President Obama continues to enlighten me about economics. The other day he gave a speech to the Business Roundtable in which he offered this gem:

Raising the debt ceiling, which has been done over a hundred times, does not increase our debt; it does not somehow promote profligacy.

As puzzled expressions began popping up in his audience of successful businessmen who know a thing or two about profligacy, he clarified thusly:

The average person thinks raising the debt ceiling must mean that we’re running up our debt.

Count me among the average. Let’s see, the only thing in either of these quotes that happens to be true is the statement that the debt ceiling has in fact been raised by Congress “hundreds of times.” Unfortunately for the President, each of those hundred times has resulted in an increase of our debt. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s what is known as a 100% correlation. Matter of fact, it would seem that from an historical perspective, if one wants to increase our national debt, the quickest, surest way to do so would be first to raise the debt ceiling! What could the President possibly be thinking? Since I refuse to accuse my President of an intentional, deliberate lie, I chose to believe that he is simply delusional. For example:

Let’s say that you were issued a credit card from Capital One with a $5000 credit limit. Then you promptly went out and racked up $5000 in purchases. Although you would be within your rights to do so, the credit card would now be unusable. What to do? Well, you could begin to pay down the card over time, and each time you did, it would restore a portion of your credit. But there would be another option. You could petition Capital One for an increase to your credit line. If they granted your request by doubling your credit line to $10,000, I suppose that technically that would not be increasing your debt, just your credit. One assumes that this is the President’s line of flimsy reasoning. But we all know what happens next. Since you now have access to $5000 more dollars worth of credit, you will find a way to blow through it as sure as night follows day. When the President looks back at our fiscal history, he sees the same fact, that every single time our national debt ceiling has been raised it has also been breached, every single time.

Yes, we average people who suspect that when our debt ceiling gets raised that will mean more debt, suspect as much for an excellent reason, Mr. President. But what do we know? We live in the real world where if we don’t make our car payments, someone comes and tows it away. The elites in Washington just raise the debt ceiling.
Help me out here, am I missing something?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

My First Fan Letter!

About three weeks ago, I received that rarest of correspondence, a personal letter delivered by the United States Postal Service. It came in an odd sized envelope and was addressed in cursive. I was intrigued. My mail box is usually stuffed with sales circulars, bills, brightly colored credit card solicitations, and during election season, grave warnings from candidate A about how candidate B wants to take away my guns and declare sharia law. So, imagine my delight to find an old fashioned, honest to God letter?

Back inside, I showed my prize to Pam. “Look honey, I got a letter!” My daughter perked up at the news, “Well?? Aren’t you going to open it?” So, open it I did, with nervous anticipation. It was a typed letter stuffed inside a strange blank greeting card that featured a family of unknown ethnicity outside their humble hut somewhere in the third world. Turns out it was a village in India. I immediately figured that this was another announcement by one of my former Sunday School students that he or she had decided to go on a mission trip to save these poor people, and I was about to be asked for a donation. But then I opened the letter and read the first line:

Dear Mr. Dunnevant, Perhaps I should call you Doug since we have been close friends for quite some time now…

What the heck? Wait, was this…might this be? I read the next line:

I stumbled upon one of your blog posts about a year ago and have been hooked ever since.

No freaking way!! I had just received my first piece of fan mail! Is the internet great or what? But then it occurred to me that since this particular fan had evangelical sympathies, I might be in store for a diatribe about my views on gay marriage. Maybe this person had had it up to here with my snarky put downs of Baptist church services. I proceeded cautiously.

I quickly learned that my fan was a married woman with three grown children living in North Carolina, who had been introduced to my blog by the father of a girl who used to date my Son, who as fate would have it, also used to be her boss. This was six degrees of separation on steroids. She went on to say how much she had enjoyed reading my blog, how much it made her laugh and how our two world views had much in common. Throughout, she tried desperately to convince me that she was not some unhinged lunatic stalker, sometimes hilariously so. Then she got to the real reason for her letter:

I have followed your book writing and am intrigued…

She then cataloged for me her professional resume as an executive secretary, then made this astonishing offer:

So therefore, despite the awkwardness, I am offering, free of charge, to proofread your manuscript… I really thought that I would go through life anonymously reading your words, but the thought of your book going out with a missing apostrophe or comma troubles me too much to stay silent.

I then read the letter aloud to Pam and Kaitlin and they both thought she was hilarious, and were especially impressed when she ended the letter with practical tips on how to survive the wedding planning process since she was about to marry off her oldest daughter in just a few days. Kaitlin grabbed the letter from me and scanned it carefully with the critical eye of an English Literature major. “Dad, she has perfect diction and I don’t see even one punctuation error.”

To make a long story short, my new proof reader is the bomb. She has made it through chapter 21 of 30, actually likes the work and has caught a ton of bad punctuation, clunky formulations and butchered syntax, and is well on her way to a shout out on the acknowledgment page if I ever get the thing published. Plus, I’ve made a new friend.

Very cool.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


The world is in a crazy, messed up place right now. There’s the Middle East with the Syrian circus and a soon to be nuclear Iran. In this country we’ve got Biblical-grade floods creating islands in Colorado, and deranged men waltzing into supposedly secure military facilities, whipping out shotguns and killing people. We have a completely dysfunctional federal government about to officially run out of money while simultaneously trying to implement a 3000 page health care law that no one, and I mean NO ONE understands. So what’s on my mind today? Baseball, baby!! There are pennant races afoot, so the end of the world will just have to wait until October.

Can the Nationals do the impossible and come from beyond oblivion and sneak into the playoffs as a wildcard? Probably not, but its baseball, so one never knows. All season long the Nationals just haven’t clicked. They’ve seemed tentative, tight, as if the burden of expectations was too much for them. Then, out of nowhere, back in early August, it was as if they all looked at each other and said, “What the hell, we’re out of it now, so let’s just go have some fun.” Since August the 9th they are the hottest team in baseball. Just last night they swept a double header from the Atlanta Braves and are only 4 and a half games back.

Then there’s the American League wildcard race where four teams are still battling for the last spot. After 150 games, these four teams are still separated by a mere 3 games. The Cleveland Indians, Baltimore Orioles, Kansas City Royals and the New York Yankees are slugging it out every night as if every game was the seventh game of the World Series. It’s been spectacular baseball. Watching the Red Sox utterly dominate the Yankees down the stretch, to watch the aging Yankees fall victim to a pulled muscle here and a stiff neck there has been something close to heaven for me. I believe the word is Schadenfreude, a word so rich in all the wrong human emotions that it could only come to us from the Germans. Experiencing pleasure from observing the misfortune of others is not a healthy place to live long term, I know. But for these last few weeks, watching the Yankees crumble has been like renting a fabulous house at the beach. I don’t intend to stay here forever, but what a fabulous vacation spot!!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Verbal Diarrhea

Have you ever noticed how politicians of all stripes never answer any question posed to them with a simple yes or no? Watching our hapless Secretary of State these past few weeks has been excruciating in this regard. Whenever he starts answering a reporter’s question, it’s like the voice of the unseen adults in those Peanuts television specials, “Waa, wa wa wa waaa.” Then it becomes the Russian Foreign Minister’s turn and his answer takes one sentence.

But it’s unfair to single out Kerry when practically everyone in Washington does it. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear that they were paid by the word. So, I would like to offer politicians from all parties a short tutorial in directness and its many virtues, not the least of which is clarity, something in short supply at the moment. Below you will find many of today’s most vexing problems facing our country. Then, you will read what I think about them, in other words, what I would say to a reporter if asked my opinion. Then imagine any politician speaking this way.

# Senator Dunnevant, do you think that Obamacare should be defunded?  No.

But, aren’t you against Obamcare? Yes.

Then, why don’t you think it should be defunded? It’s the law and we don’t have the votes.

So, what do you say to your voters who want it repealed? Win more elections.

# Senator Dunnevant, are you troubled at all by the growing influence of Vladimir Putin and Russia in the Middle East, in particular his growing prestige in Syria? No.

But, aren’t you at all concerned about the rapid decline of America’s prestige and influence in that strategic part of the world? Concerned? No. Ecstatic? Yes.

Why would you be ecstatic? I can’t think of two people who deserve each other more than Vladimir Putin and Bashir Assad.

# Senator Dunnevant, in less than three weeks, Washington will run out of money to operate the government through the continuing resolution agreement of this past summer. Would you be willing to support a raising of the debt limit and an end to sequestration? No.

But Senator, without such an agreement, the government will have to shut down and most experts believe that the Republican party will get the blame. That’s not a question.

Ok. Why are you willing to shut down the government knowing that your party will get the blame? We spend way more money than we bring in. So, accordingly, we are broke.

Yes, but what about the blame thing? What about it?

Don’t you worry about your future? No. I worry about the country’s future which won’t be much of one if we don’t stop spending money we don’t have.

# Senator, what are your views on Gay Marriage? None of the government’s business.

# What about taxes? They are too high and not enough of us pay them.

# Are you in favor of granting amnesty for the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants currently in our country? No.

So, does that mean you’re in favor of rounding up 12 million people and deporting them all? No,that’s a logistical impossibility.

Then how do you suggest fixing this problem? Allow all of those here to remain here but deny them the right to ever vote in an American election.

How will that solve the problem? It won’t. But it will remove immigration policy from the Congressional calendar forever, since without the prospect of 12 million new voters, my Democrat friends will lose interest in the issue.

# One more question Senator, if you were King for a day and could pass any legislation you wished, what would it be? Term limits.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

I Stand Amazed?

A couple of days ago, I wrote a post slamming the Pope for his muddled thinking on the nature of salvation. Well, this morning, I ran across the above article entitled “Why Christianity Should be Patron of the Arts,” written by a Catholic apologist named Barbara Nicolosi. Although she writes about her struggles with the Catholic version of church, her complaints can be universally applied, I think, to most all of Christianity. Reading this article, I found myself thinking that if I were a Catholic, I could have written it, because so much of what she says, I have felt for years.

I will not here lay out her entire case. That’s why I provide the above link. This is an argument that you need to read in its entirety, if you’re interested, to form your own judgment. But one thing she said practically jumped off the page.

 Too many churches are not an ante-chamber of heaven in their interiors, but instead are ugly, drooping, often “in the round” spaces calculated to distract us not by the Divine, but by each other. Banal banners and signs, plastic or half-hearted flowers, filthy carpets, stained ceilings, and ugly oak pews with the varnish half gone. There is truly, nothing to look at, never mind by which to be inspired.

What she is describing is that strange melancholy that comes over me every time I walk into most church buildings, an unnamed disappointment that I feel at the ordinariness of it all. The architecture is about as far away from majestic as humanely possible. Yes, I know, that one can have an encounter with God in a barn, but why must the place where we are meant to have weekly encounters with him be so pedestrian?
Anyway, give this article a read and let me know what you think.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Thanks For Clearing That Up

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Pope Francis for clearing up the last 4000 years of recorded history. The human race has been in a death struggle with this whole business of sin and redemption, good and evil, since the Garden of Eden. Perhaps the most existential battle in all of human history has been between the world’s great religions, each with conflicting truth claims, each proscribing different ways and means of personal salvation. But now this new Pope comes along to assure us all that it was all a big misunderstanding. See, it doesn’t matter any longer whether someone actually believes in God are not, since we’re all going to heaven anyway. Not only that, but we also learned from the Pontiff that there’s apparently only one sin, the sin of failing to obey your conscience. I, for one, am very relieved to hear this, since I have always had trouble with several of those Ten Commandments.

Pope Francis shared this new world-changing truth in a letter to Eugenio Scalfari, the founder of the newspaper, La Repubblica, which had published a list of questions for the Pope to answer. It is here where the world learned this new ground breaking truth:

    Francis wrote: “You ask me if the God of the Christians forgives those who don’t believe and who don’t seek the faith. I start by saying – and this is the fundamental thing – that God’s mercy has no limits if you go to him with a sincere and contrite heart. The issue for those who do not believe in God is to obey their conscience.”

Ok! Seems a bit convoluted and a bit contradictory, but hey, he’s infallible. For example, if someone doesn’t believe and doesn’t “seek the faith”, why would they ever go to him with a sincere and contrite heart?  And what happens if a person obeys their “conscience” when it’s telling them to strap on fifty pounds of explosives so they can detonate themselves in a crowded subway killing 100 innocent people?

Listen people, I’m no theologian, and I’m certainly no Catholic basher, in fact I’ve always had much admiration for certain aspects of Catholic tradition. But trying to fathom what Pope Francis could possibly been thinking here is a struggle. Perhaps a clue to his thinking can be discovered in the first sentence of the newspaper article that reported the story in the first place;

   In comments likely to enhance his progressive reputation…”

I’ll say! You can’t get much more progressive than, “don’t worry folks, God has unlimited mercy so we’re all good!” Later on in the article, we discover that the Pope’s comments were further evidence of his attempts to shake off the Catholicism’s fusty image, and overcome barriers to an open dialogue with all.

Well, personally, I’ve always been quite fond of Catholicism’s fustiness, and the uncomfortable words of scripture are indeed quite a barrier to overcome. But I always thought that this was the point of Evangelism. Proves how little I know.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Leader of the Pack

Linda Schwartz is my sister. Back in the day when I was teaching high school kids Sunday school lessons, this bit of information would always bring me enormous amounts of good will and instant credibility. “You’re MZ. Linda’s brother?? How cool!!” they would say. When adults at church found out that Linda was my sister, they would look at me with a faint grin and usually say something like,
“Well, of course you are!” I’ve never quite understood that reaction, but it is what it is.

Today being her birthday, I feel compelled to say a few words about her. From the time I started the second grade until I was in the sixth grade, Linda was practically my mother. Our entire family lived in a cramped apartment in New Orleans on the campus of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary where my father was enrolled. For the next three years I barely ever saw him. He went to class during the day and loaded freight onto trucks at night. My Mom took a secretary job at the printing office on campus to help ends meet, so it was left to Linda to take care of Paula and me after we got home from school. It was Linda who made me do my homework; it was Linda who fixed dinner most nights, and it was Linda who had to deal with the frantic ADHD of her 8 year old terror of a little brother. 47 years later, not much has changed.

Linda is probably the most energetic, driven person I’ve ever known. If I described a typical day in her life for you, it would be hard not to conclude that she was on some sort of illegal steroid. She takes care of her grandchildren, husband, and  children, works crazy hours as a nurse, teaches over a dozen piano students, leads her famous Praise Kids choir at church, and is the driving force behind our Dad’s round the clock care. Just writing that sentence makes me want a nap.

Somehow she keeps it all together, I just don’t understand how. I wish I could afford to send her and Bill to Hawaii for a month, but I can’t. But sometimes, I think that I should take out a line of credit and do it anyway. Linda lives the kind of life that makes other people look like lazy slugs by comparison. Like anyone else, she has her flaws, but if you know what’s good for you, you won’t ever complain about one of them to me. She’s my big sister and the leader of the Dunnevant pack, so back off!

Happy birthday, Sis.

Keystone Cop Foreign Policy

Just a few observations about the President’s speech last night. As I watched it, I had to remind myself that it was he who had requested the time from the networks. There he was, for all the world to see, a man clearly annoyed that he had to, once again, explain brilliant strategy to his slow-on-the-uptick citizens. There I was trying to make sense of the bazillion contradictions flying around, sometimes within the same sentence. Something is clearly wrong with either the world’s greatest communicator…or me.

The President described the horror of chemical weapons, the tragic image of children laid out on concrete floors covered by sheets, the agony of a father holding his dead children in his arms begging them to wake up. What remedy did he then propose to right this monstrous wrong? A limited, targeted strike designed to limit Assad’s future use of chemical weapons which absolutely, positively will NEVER involve one American boot on the ground. So, which is it, Mr. President? When you’ve got your Secretary of State running around making references to the holocaust and Harry Reid throwing around Hitler comparisons, it would seem like your moral indignation would produce something a bit more lethal. This “shot across the bow” strategy would be like discovering that Hitler had murdered 6,000,000 Jews, then putting him in time out for a week with no television.

Then I was treated to the bizarre sight of a United States President reminding me that although he doesn’t need Congressional approval to bomb Syria, he wants it because we are the oldest Constitutional Democracy in the world and it’s always better when the President and Congress work together. In the very next sentence he then informs us that the Congressional vote that just last week he was demanding immediately if not sooner, now he wants to be put on hold until a diplomatic solution can be pursued through that champion of freedom and democracy, Vladimir Putin. By this time, my head was about to fall off my shoulders from the rhetorical whiplash.

Ok, so what to make of this? First a summary of events:

1.     Obama makes “red line” comment about Syrian chemical weapons and their use.

2.     Chemical weapons are used in Syria

3.     Obama immediately talks tough, telegraphing his intention to carry out military strikes on Syria.

4.     The Prime Minister of America’s oldest ally, the United Kingdom, goes before Parliament to make the case for and gain approval for his country’s participation in said military action whereupon, he loses the vote in humiliating fashion.

5.     Obama takes a walk after dinner and suddenly sees the need for Congressional approval

6.     Our Secretary of State goes before Congress and testifies to the horror of it all and the urgency to act immediately, if not sooner.

7.     Members of Congress are not persuaded and the Congressional switchboards are lit up with calls coming in at a rate of 100-1 against intervention.

8.     Days turn into weeks after the President’s initial telegraphing announcement that a missile strike was in the works, giving Mr. Assad lots of time to rearrange his assets, to redeploy everything he doesn’t want destroyed by cruise missiles to a safer place.

9.     Sec. Kerry gives a convoluted answer to a reporter’s question about a hypothetical, something any beginner politician knows to never do, especially at a time of great crisis when the less said the better.

10. Vladimir Putin rushes in to the breech caused by Kerry’s feckless remark and buys more time for his client Assad, by proposing that he turn over his entire stockpile of chemical weapons so they can be destroyed.

11.  This, we are told by our President is a development worth pursuing. Nothing is said about how maddeningly difficult it is to “destroy” chemical weapons even in the best of conditions, let alone inside of a country racked by civil war. Indeed the United States is not even in compliance with the provisions of the much heralded Chemical Weapons treaty outlawing their use, since we have yet to destroy all of our stockpile, yet we are now asked to believe that the Syrians will be able to manage their safe destruction in a country where the air is thick with artillery fire.


What a fine mess we’ve gotten ourselves into. Here’s my view. If John Kerry’s bumbling and the President’s ham fisted incompetence has opened the door for Vladimir Putin to win HIS Nobel Peace prize, I say, thank God for small miracles. I care not how we’re able to wiggle off this hook. All I want is for the United States of America to stop interfering in the Middle East. If the result of this Keystone Cop routine we call our foreign policy is no intervention in Syria, I’ll be more than happy to give the President all the credit he will demand for his brilliant statecraft.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Remember This Story?

This was the headline on Wednesday, December the 12th, 2007. The BBC warned us all that scientists in the US had made this bold forecast using state of the art computer models. The Polar ice cap was going to be "ice-free" by this time. Along with this dire forecast came calls for dramatic government "action". Al Gore practically gave himself a hernia jumping up and down warning everyone about this new study from the comfort of his 10,000 square foot, 9 million dollar, 191,000 kilowatt-hour consuming Nashville home.

So, imagine my surprise this morning to see this morning's headline in the UK Daily Mail.

I eagerly await Mr. Gore's assessment of this NASA satellite image. I also look forward to the press conference where the scientist responsible for the 2007 prediction will explain to us how he could possibly have been so fabulously wrong.

While I have no scientific knowledge or expertise, what I do have is enough common sense to know that a subject as maddeningly complex as global climate cannot be predicted with anything approaching certainty by computer models. How can we predict climate change fifty years down the road when we can't even get the weekend forecast right half the time? I little humility in discussions of this topic would be nice. Oh, and before we completely scrap the world's economic model based on hyperventilating former Vice-President's grave prognostications, how about a little candor about the flimsy reliability of computer models? 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

My Return To Golf

Three months and three days ago, I had rotator cuff surgery on my left shoulder. My doctor has proven himself to be not only a fine surgeon, but an even more impressive prophet, since every single thing he told me would happen, HAS happened. He warned me that it would be an extremely painful experience, and that I would curse every time I thought of him for the first six weeks. He told me that the rehab process would be long, painful, and slow. Then finally, he told me I would be well enough to start playing golf again by September.

So, there I was Friday, driving out to Royal Virginia on a gorgeous Friday morning, prepared to test his hypothesis. As I expected, RV was wide open, so I walked up on the 1st tee box with a mixture of exhilaration and fear. Just in case you’re wondering, no…I didn’t go to the range to hit any balls beforehand. That’s just not how I roll. That would have been the smart thing, the prudent thing to do. Start out with the wedge, hit a few chips, work my way through the bag taking ever longer swings to test my range of motion…that sort of thing is what the careful, thinking man would have done. But, there I was with a driver in my hand, taking the club back waiting for a sharp pain, feeling none, then swinging down through the ball and watching it fade majestically against the bright blue sky and into the trees on the right side of the fairway. I was thrilled! The ball was lost, but it didn’t hurt! By the time I tapped in for a triple bogey seven, I was practically ecstatic.

The second hole brought more of the same, another lost tee shot, and another triple, but absolutely no discomfort. I did notice that every shot I hit was roughly twenty yards shorter than usual and my ball flight was left to right , when before it had always been the opposite. Then, the miraculous happened…two consecutive pars! By the end of my first nine holes of golf in over six months, I had lost 6 balls, but managed to shoot a 50 with no pain. As I walked off the green and headed to my car, I remember thinking that finally, the shoulder problems were over, behind me.

Then, I made the mistake of overconfidence. When I woke up yesterday and saw the beautiful blue skies and felt no pain in the shoulder, I couldn’t resist a follow up nine holes. I drove out to Sycamore Creek to see if I could possibly be paired up with a threesome. I was amazed to find the parking lot virtually empty and the first tee box wide open, (note to self…sell Sycamore Creek stock). This time, I was hitting the ball a little better, and had only lost two balls by the time I found myself standing in the middle of the 5th fairway with a six iron in my hand. On the follow through of the swing I felt a sharp pain in the shoulder and dropped the club as the ball took a sweeping turn to the left towards a creek. I immediately knew that there would be no more golf for me for the day. The disappointment was deep. Too much, too soon, according to Pam. She’s probably right. Stupid shoulder.

This is always the way it is with me. I can never just take things slow; take my time, pace myself. I always have to go off half cocked with no reasonable plan and no calculus which allows for the possibility of failure. It is one of my many character flaws, one which causes Pam much frustration and grief, my unbridled, unreasonable, and unjustified self-confidence!

This morning’s good news is that the shoulder does not hurt, so apparently, there’s no lasting damage. See? I knew it was just a minor setback all along! I’m good to go. Maybe another nine this afternoon?? What the heck, why not eighteen?

Meanwhile, Pam rolls her eyes in disgust and shakes her head while mumbling, “I am married to a middle school boy!”

Friday, September 6, 2013

An Advanced Copy of the President's Speech

Good Evening.

Two weeks ago, we are reasonably sure that Bashir Assad used chemical weapons on his own people killing over a thousand of them including women and children. I made the decision to authorize a military response to this heinous act. But then, after Prime Minister Cameron lost his authorization vote in Parliament, I took a walk after dinner and came to the decision that I probably should get Congress to put a fig leaf of constitutionality on the thing by voting their approval. Well, since then, I have taken another walk and tonight am announcing my decision to call the whole thing off.

Alright, here’s the thing. Although I am one hell of an orator and probably the best communicator to ever occupy this office, the truth is that I’m much better with prepared remarks. Whenever I just start yakking and yammering on extemporaneously, I end up getting screwed. Which brings me to this whole “red line” thing. See, that’s a perfect example of what I’m talking about. All I was doing was trying to sound tough and serious about a hypothetical use of chemical weapons. The term “red line” is perfect since it suggests seriousness and alarm. Well, who would have thought that such an off-handed remark would come back with such vengeance to bite me in the ass.

I hope that it has been clear to you that I have never really wanted to go to war with freaking Syria. It’s soooo Bush-esk, complete with iffy intelligence, and those insufferable Code Pink women holding up their stupid bloody hands while Lurch was trying to make the case to that Senate committee the other day. It’s embarrassing. But, because of me and my big mouth, I found myself in one helluva bind. My worst mistake was flying over to Sweden and blaming the red line thing on some 75 year old treaty and trying to insinuate that it wasn’t even my red line. I mean the minute it came out of my mouth I knew it sounded whiny, but what’s done is done.

So, as President, sometimes you just have to admit defeat. It’s clear that the American people don’t want to get involved in Syria, and although I could probably round up plenty of Republican neo-con votes, I’ve put the folks in my party in quite a bind since none of them ever want to go to war for anything. The other day I even had Howard Dean sounding like a hawk. It’s all just too much.

So, tonight, I say to you, the American people that I have heard you and I get it. There will be no attack on Syria. This in no way should be interpreted as tacit approval for genocide, just an acknowledgment that a couple of days of cruise missile launches isn’t going to make a hill of beans difference on the ground in that God-forsaken hell hole, and honestly, I would rather concentrate on funding Obamacare and granting amnesty to 12 million illegal immigrants.

God bless you and God bless the United States of America.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Dog Ate My Homework

President Obama’s press conference yesterday in Sweden will one day be shown in Psychiatry classrooms the world over as a classic example of the concept of transference. While every news outlet in America was running clips of Republicans and Democrats alike blaming the entire Syrian mess on Obama’s ill-advised “red line” remark of last September, there was our President responding to a reporter’s question about that red line thusly:

“I didn’t set a red line; the world set a red line. My credibility isn’t on the line; the world’s credibility is on the line…”

This is essentially the President of the United States explaining that the dog ate his homework.

Ok, let me get this straight. Virtually everyone in Washington understands that Obama has been painted into a corner because of his red line remark, and now has to be supported or he and our country will lose all international credibility. We watch the spectacle of historically dovish Democratic Senators tying themselves into pretzels of illogical contradictions trying to rationalize support for something that they would be marching in the streets protesting if Obama were a Republican President. We hear Chris Matthews demand that Democrats vote “yes” on Syria in order to “save the President’s hide.” And yet, half way around the world the President stands in front of a bank of microphones blaming the entire world for the very red line that his own words produced.

All of which begs this simple question, if the President is right and this really is the “worlds” problem, then why isn’t the UN in charge? World problems need to be addressed by the world in the world’s forum…the United Nations. Why are we unilaterally declaring this an American mission? I seem to recall this President being a huge fan of the UN, a big supporter of coalitions. So, why are we a coalition of one?

There are many reasons a nation goes to war, some better than others. But to jump into the middle of another Middle Eastern cat fight to recover a President’s prestige and reputation is possibly the worst reason of all.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Parental Vindication

This week has brought a feeling of vindication to the Dunnevant home. The work of being a parent is a never ending treadmill of struggle and self doubt, a work without many tangible rewards. It’s like cutting the grass, no matter how well you do it, next week you have to do it all over again. You constantly second guess yourself. Was I too strict? Did I shield them too much from life’s brutal consequences? Did I teach them too much theory and not enough practical life skills? Should I have made them do more chores? Underlying all of this angst is the fearful question; will they make it out there on their own?

Well, this week brings two small rewards, a tantalizing hint that Pam and I just may have pulled it off. My daughter had her first day with students as a middle school English teacher, and my son tried out for the biggest, most prestigious choir he’s even encountered, one that had rejected him a year ago…and made it.

Kaitlin has handled the preparation for her first full time job with uncharacteristic calm. Usually, she hasn’t done well with new things, change. In the past she has been crippled by doubt and feelings of inadequacy. Suddenly, as she has approached this biggest stage of her life, a new Kaitlin has emerged, a confident, well-prepared, professional who seems to know that she’s ready and able. Spending two years cloistered with extremely smart and ideologically hostile people at Wake Forest has apparently instilled a mental and emotional toughness in my daughter that has been thrilling to observe.

Patrick has always been able to rise to the top of every musical environment in which he has been planted. Whether in high school or college he has been able to distinguish himself merely by demonstrating his enormous talent. Then he got accepted at Westminster Choir College for grad school and naturally tried out for their premiere showcase choir, the one that gets to sing behind world famous singers in Central Park, and for the first time in his life, he didn’t make it. To his credit, he didn’t fume and throw a fit like many ego-heavy musicians would have, he just figured he wasn’t good enough and needed to get better as a singer. After getting knocked a few rungs down on the self-esteem ladder, he shrugged it off and went to work. Well, last night he got word that this year, he made it. He couldn’t have been happier, and we are justifiably proud of his hard work and persistence.

Of course, after watching Breaking Bad for the past two weeks, what we are really thankful for is the fact that neither of our children are cooking meth and hiding their rolls of hundred dollar bills in air conditioner vents.

It’s all relative, really. Just thankful for the little things.   

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Breaking Bad... and Me.

About a week ago, I gave in to heavy pressure from my son and started watching Breaking Bad on Netflix. I am now into season two and feel that I have watched enough to form an opinion. What follows is a review of what I have seen so far.

I should say at the outset that I have a strange, almost neurotic aversion to depictions of drug use in movies or on television. Simply put, it makes me queasy. It’s the oddest thing since I can watch the goriest war movie, or other violent productions without hesitation, but show someone shooting up and I reach for the Pepto-Bismol. When I shared this weakness with my secretary(another recent Breaking Bad addict) her response was, “Don’t be such a baby!” So, there’s that. But after listening to my son rave about this show 24/7, Pam and I decided to give it a shot.

The central plot revolves around a 50 year old high school chemistry teacher named Walt who is married to an oddly irritating woman named Skyler, who is pregnant with a “surprise” baby. They also have a physically handicapped high school aged son boringly named Walter Jr. Early on Walt is diagnosed with a rather advanced case of lung cancer, strange since Walt isn’t a smoker. He spends practically all of season one hiding his diagnosis from his family while coughing his head off all day and night. The viewer gets the impression that although Walt is a long time teacher in the New Mexico school system, he somehow has very bad insurance, and is otherwise in precarious financial shape. With this terminal illness hanging over his head, and a baby on the way, Walt decides to do what anyone else might do under the same circumstances…he decides to put his chemistry knowledge to work cooking crystal meth for profit. In this enterprise, he is assisted by one of his former reprobate students, Jesse, himself a small time Meth chef who spends most of his time sampling the inventory and acting like the 20 year old meth addict loser that he is. Just to make the story even more bizarre, Skyler’s kleptomaniac sister Marie is married to a foul-mouthed DEA agent, Hank, whose job it is to hunt down Meth dealers. In other words, on paper, it’s difficult to root for any of these people.

So, how come eight shows in, I find myself feeling such an emotional attachment to Walt? How come I’m growing so fond of Jesse and his baggy pants, oversized sweatshirts and his constant use of the word, “Yo”? How come despite Hank’s degenerate brand of humor and his psychopathic fondness for gore, I actually like the guy? This is the genius of Breaking Bad.

Walt rationalizes his turn to the drug trade as a desperate eleventh hour bid to provide for his family, and in the beginning, it may have even been true. But as the show goes on, I get the impression that Walt is a man who has gone through life playing it safe and doing what he was told to the point where he has nothing but regrets. Now that he knows that the end is near, the violence, chaos and danger of the drug business has empowered him somehow, making him feel more alive than he has ever been. Along with the money has come a blurring of lines. Why are some things legal and other things illegal he asks his DEA brother-in-law? Aren’t the legal lines we draw as a society arbitrary? I can only assume that future seasons of the show will show fresh rationalizations.

The show is expertly written, superbly acted and brilliantly directed. There are scenes that you want to watch again simply because the humanity was so electric, the emotions so raw. Walt is a man capable of going either way, capable of both great tenderness and raw violence, an almost meek man who loves his family but can come up with the idea of an acid bath to destroy the evidence of a dead body. The central idea that pulses through this amazing show seems to be the question of how far would you go to provide for those you love if you knew you were about to die? Would you respect the law? How ruthless would you be willing to become?
Captivating television.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Two South Carolinas

I had a business appointment in South Carolina over the weekend so Pam and I decided to make the most of it by driving down a day early and making a little getaway out of it. Amazing what a couple of days sitting around on a beach listening to the waves can do for your mood.  It was a wonderful 48 hours.

Not much planning went into this particular trip. I picked a hotel online just a couple of days before we left. I chose the Surfside Beach Resort because it was only 15 minutes from my client’s house and because it had the word “resort” in the name, leading me to believe that it wouldn’t be some dump out by the airport right across the street from a strip club. Well, it was on the beach, and there were no strip clubs to be seen, but to call this place a “resort” is sort of like calling the State Penitentiary “all-inclusive.” As we were checking into our room, the cleaning lady was exiting with a spray bottle of air freshener and a gas mask…not a good sign. For the first thirty minutes or so our room smelled like orange peel, desperately trying to hide something else more sinister. This is what happens to you when you start watching Breaking Bad.

But we didn’t come to Surfside Beach to lie around all afternoon in our room, so we hit the beach around 2 in the afternoon and suddenly realized that we had walked onto the set of Jersey Shore. Everywhere we looked there were heavily tattooed men and women, large people with loud mouths and stern rebukes that dripped from their lips at their children whose only sin seemed to be, wanting to have fun in the water. Cigarette butts littered the sand around us and more than once I found myself picking up empty Doritos bags that someone had thought too much of an inconvenience to throw in the trash. Mr. Thicke’s summer anthem belched from a boom box somewhere nearby. Pam and I looked at each other and realized that we weren’t in Hatteras anymore.

The second night we drove 20 minutes further south and had dinner at a Frank’s. It was then that we realized that our hotel was in the East End and Frank’s was in Short Pump. The parking lot told us everything we needed to know about the place. The total net worth of the vehicles parked there would be enough money to balance New Jersey’s budget. The atmosphere of this place was magical, complete with outdoor seating under 100 year old live oaks covered with Spanish moss and Christmas lights. Fans hung strategically from the tent roofs making every seat comfortable. A jazz singer whispered Ella Fitzgerald tunes quietly in the background as Pam and I enjoyed two delicious entrees and marveled at the well dressed, perfectly coifed southerners who filled the tables around us. After dinner we took a driving tour of the island where all of these people, no doubt were staying. Pawley’s Island, that arrogantly shabby enclave at the southern most end of the Grand Strand that stubbornly refuses to get with the commercial program of the rest of Horry county. There are no restaurants, no gas stations, and no stores of any kind anywhere on the island. Nothing but old homes with even older shrubbery nestled in between the Ocean to the east and a marsh to the west. Magical.

On the way home we passed through Conway South Carolina, the first half of which looked typically elegant with its beautiful homes and finely trimmed lawns. Then abruptly the appearance of a pawn shop announced that we were now entering the wrong side of town. Over the next three miles we counted no less than 17 signs advertising bail bonds, featuring towering billboards featuring the face of some very shifty looking attorney asking the question, “Made Bail?? Talk to Joe Axelrod Today!!”