Friday, March 31, 2017

The Pence Marriage Rules

The Washington Post recently published an in-depth profile of Vice President Pence's wife, Karen Pence. Almost immediately the internet blew up.

I don't have much in the way of an opinion concerning Pence. He's a very conservative, mid-western evangelical. As such he has been a target of all of the beautiful people who live on the coasts, the recipient of an endless stream of derisive vitriol for his hickish qualities, his bigotry, homophobia, Islamophobia and misogyny,,,and all of the other phobias with which evangelicals are routinely associated.  But this time, the long knives came out over a small paragraph found in the long Post profile which disclosed that the Vice President doesn't dine alone with women not his wife, and he doesn't attend events where alcohol is served if his wife isn't in attendance.

The Progressive snark machine went into high drone before the ink was even dry. The Vice President thinks that all meals lead to sex...he's an affront to all working women...what a Christian weirdo!!!
My personal favorite was from The Onion, where a picture of Pence sitting at a table with a bottle of Aunt Jemima syrup, with the caption, "Pence demands that waitress remove Aunt Jemima syrup bottle from table until his wife arrives."

Ok. Although one can't help but wonder how the left would react to this sort of thing had it been written about a Muslim-American politician's marital ground rules..I rather think that not one word would have ever graced the pages of the Washington Post...lets leave that debate for another time. Lets talk about the substance, shall we?

I have been married to the beautiful and talented Mrs. Pam Dunnevant for nearly 33 years now. In all of that time, I have never had a private dinner with another woman who wasn't one of my relatives. While I have attended functions where adult beverages have been served without her, I always feel awkward and uncomfortable when I do. Does this make me a misogynistic, knuckle-dragging bigot? I certainly hope not! I like to think that it means that I am someone who highly values his most important relationship so much that he takes great care in insuring its health and safety. Let me explain.

Life is mostly the business of risk management. We all make decisions large and small, each and every day, about how much risk we are willing to take. Should we try to beat that train to the crossing? What's that you say Doc? I've got high blood pressure? Does that mean I should't enter that bacon-eating contest next month? Or, as I used to say back in college..."Here, hold my beer and watch this!!!" Part of living a long and productive life is the prudent management of life risk, putting yourself in winning opportunities, knowing your weaknesses and avoiding situations where they might be exploited. My life is centered around the one central relationship I enjoy with my wife. If that falls apart, the destructive ripple effects of that failure will be devastating to not only me but my entire family. Therefore, I have always thought it wise and prudent to protect my marriage at all cost.

Listen, I have never had any inclination to cheat on my wife. First of all...have you seen her?? She's gorgeous. But, most of the reasons why I have never strayed is because I haven't given myself much opportunity to do so. In other words, I'm a bit of a coward in this area. I never want to find out just how much of a pig I might actually be, so I never put myself in situations where I have greater odds of acting on piggish temptations. While this system, which is nearly identical to the Pence's has served me well, I don't judge anyone else who doesn't feel the need to set up these kinds of guidelines. What other married couples do is none of my business. All I know is, my system has worked well for us. That's all.

Which brings me back to the ridicule being heaped upon the Pence's. Ironic how back when Bill Clinton was in the White House, we were always being lectured by those on the left that whatever went on in someone's else's marriage was none of our business. The fact that Bubba was a serial adulterer was immaterial to his ability to run the country, and whatever failings there may have been at home with Hillary was strictly between the two of them. Now, twenty five years later, those same voices are belittling the Vice President for his excessive commitment to marital fidelity, for the odd reason that his stance is somehow harmful to working women?

I will leave it to you, the reader, to determine whether this represents progress.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

John Brown Crazy

This morning. Wide awake at 5:30. High noon wide awake at 5:30. No chance of nodding back off wide awake at 5:30. So, I get up, walk downstairs and fix my coffee. While waiting for it to brew, I empty the dishwasher. Post chore, I perambulate into the library for my daily news briefing, courtesy of Mr. Gore's invention. The news isn't good. It would appear that my mother was right with her accessment that the "world is John Brown crazy." Don't ask me to define what exactly John Brown Crazy means. This was one of my mother's many odd formulations. We never questioned her on matters of language, she being a devotee of the because I said so school of parenting. We took this expression to mean...mentally unstable. There was "crazy" then there was John Brown Crazy, a far more serious affliction of mind and body which was beyond human understanding or remedy.

I'm fairly certain that if Mom were alive today she would consider the men can menstruate too crowd as exhibit A in the John Brown Crazy museum, just around the corner from the women with penises display. This latest absurdity served up by the gender fluidity idiots is one more example of John Brown Crazy which I am eternally grateful that my mother didn't live to see. I cannot imagine how difficult it would be to explain it all to her...

Mom: Douglas, I want you to explain to me what I just saw on the news, and I don't mean maybe!!

Me: Calm down Mom. What happened?

Mom: Don't you tell me to calm down! I just saw a man on Fox News saying that he was gonna sue the school system for not having a tampon machine in the boy's bathroom!! Douglas, what in the Sam Hill was he talking about??

Me: well, uh, I

Mom: I'll tell you what they should be talking about...that man is possessed by a demon if he thinks that a man can have a period. They oughta lock that man up in the loony bin. He's John Brown Crazy!

Swift was the sword of justice swung when my mother was on the case. If I had even used the term gender fluidity with her she would probably have shot back with..."You should be ashamed of yourself, talking that way. Menstruation is a natural part of life, calling it fluidity is shameful!!"

Me: No Mom, gender fluidity is the term given to the idea that a person' gender isn't as simple as male/female. It's the idea that a person's sex can change and evolve over time, that in fact, there are probably endless possibilities when it comes to gender identity...

Mom: Endless possibilities, you say.

Me: Well, that's the theory, at least.

Mom: A person's sex can change over time, you say.

Me: That's what I'm told.

Mom: Well, that's about the John Browndest thing I have ever heard.

Yes, her go-to term for mental instability came in several forms. It could be used as an epitaph, an adjective, an adverb, even a verb..."If you don't straighten up and fly right, I'm gonna John Brown you into next week!" Often she used the term in connection with threats of violence..." if you know what's good for you, you'll straighten up or I'll John Brown come over there and mop the floor up with you!" Mom never actually made good on her threats, the mere evoking of the dreaded John Brown usually had the desired effect.

I miss her in ways impossible to express, but I'm so glad that she didn't live to see gender fluidity, because explaining it to her would have been John Brown Impossible!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A Plan to Eliminate Poverty.....immediately

Contrary to what you may have heard, as a Libertarian I do not hate poor people. For one thing, I used to be one. If I harbor any broad based hatred for a particular socio-economic class it would probably be the nouveau riche, but that's another story. I don't generally blame the poor for their poverty. While some are indeed poor because of the choices they make in life, most are poor for a variety of complicated reasons, many beyond anyone's ability to control. I wish poverty upon no one. In a perfect world, there would be none. But a really great man once said that we would always have the poor with us, so I have always taken him at his word.

This doesn't mean that we should not try to help poor people stop being poor. It doesn't even mean that our government should not try to help poor people stop being poor. It's just that every time we start having a discussion about poverty fighting programs in America, the left presents the issue as the greedy vs. the needy. If only the right could find an ounce of compassion, a thimble full of empathy, a drop of charity, then all would be well. But, consider this:

According to the latest data from the House of Representatives budget committee, there are no less than 92 federal programs designed to help the poor. In total these 92 programs tip the scales with a whopping $799 billion dollar annual price tag. Now, that's a lot of compassion! On a related note, there are currently 46.7 million Americans living "in poverty." Poverty here is defined for an individual as less than $11,700 a year, meaning that a family of four is considered "poor" if their total annual income is less than $46,800. I have no idea who decides all of this, but I will not challenge any of these numbers because it would do no good. I will accept them as true and move along.

Now, here's where my dander gets up. I am a simple man. I hold no ill will against my fellow man, with the exception of Yankee fans, so before you go flying off the handle excoriating me for my lack of compassion, empathy and charity, consider this. If the federal government wrote an $11,700 check and simply presented it to each and every one of the 46.7 million poor people in these United States, they could effectively wipe out poverty. Give every family of four a check every year for $46,800. Wipe out poverty. As a bonus, the cost of this wealth transfer would come to $547 billion dollars....saving the American taxpayer a cool 252 billion dollars every year. 

See, the problem with poverty isn't compassion, empathy or charity. The problem isn't that we are too greedy, that we lack the will to do what it takes to help people overcome it. The problem is that the left has convinced the world that it takes 92 federal programs run with zero accountability to get the job done. Those 92 programs then get to be administered by compassionate, empathetic and charitable leftists until the end of time. The trouble is, since LBJ's Great Society and its war on poverty began, we haven't been able to move the needle much. Back in 1966, the US poverty rate was 15% and 28 million Americans lived in it. Today the poverty rate is 15% and 46 million Americans live in it...our Lord and Savior's observation seeming to have been vindicated.

My point in all of this is we really need all 92 of these poverty fighting programs? Are there some among them that do great work and deliver measurable benefits? I'm absolutely sure that there are. But are many of them nothing more than full employment programs for democrats? Wouldn't it be wise to actually do an audit of each of them to weed out the fluff and identify the truly beneficial programs? Then, after we're done there, we can turn our attention to the crony capitalist, bribery infested, money wasting juggernaut that is the defense budget! 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

An Immigrant Story

I just returned from a five day trip to Florida, two and a half days of business, two and a half days of resort living. I had an encounter while I was there that I want to write about while everything is fresh in my mind. If I delay even a few days, I will end up forgetting details.

The Hyatt Regency in Bonita Springs, Florida is not unlike any other high end resort hotel. The grounds are beautiful, the facility impeccably turned out, and the food superb. The only thing I found cause to complain about was the mattress. It wasn't as firm as I like and the hotel pillows were so soft they could hardly support the chocolates. So, after several nights, my balky back began tightening up. I thought it might be wise to avail myself of the tender mercies of the spa, which featured a 50 minute, hot oil, deep tissue massage for the low low price of $145 plus gratuity. When in Rome...

I was introduced to Jackie, a woman who looked to be in her late thirties, early forties and of Latin descent. Her accent was strongly Carribean but I couldn't place it. Her English was choppy and all over the place, but understandable. She had that brawling exuberance of someone from someplace else, someone who had left something bad behind and was desperate to put it behind her. As she instructed me to lay on the table face up, I asked her where she was from. "Cooba"

I am fond of massages. Pam gave me a membership to Hand and Stone for Christmas one year and I've gotten at least one of them a month ever since. This was different. Jackie was different. For one thing, although I've probably gotten massages from over twenty different people, no one has ever asked me about the gigantic eight inch scar running down the front of my chest...

Jackie: You have heart surgery?

Me: Yes. Fourteen years ago next month.

Jackie: Ok now?

Me: Yes.

Jackie: God bless...

She then began going about her work with unbridled enthusiasm. I had earlier made the mistake of mentioning my recent trouble with plantar fasciitis. She then began a rapid fire explanation of exactly what I should be doing about it, complete with pictures of every muscle and tendon found on the human calf and foot courtesy of her smart phone. This woman had medical skills far beyond the entry level familiarity of human anatomy typical of your average masseur. I was intrigued...

Me: How long have you been in America?

Jackie: Eight years. I am here with my husband, daughter, and two brothers. My mother, father and sisters still in Havana.

I never asked her how she got here or even why she left Cuba. Partly because it seemed like too personal a question, but also because when someone has their highly skilled fingers buried knuckle-deep into your latissimus dorsi, it's generally not wise to bring up sore subjects. But, it soon became obvious when I asked her how she liked living in America.

Jackie: It not perfect, but it wonderful. I go anywhere I want, say anything I want. If I want to buy somesing, I go out and buy it, if I have money. Then I have to choose what type, what color, what many choices!! Once, I visit relative in Dalliss. I buy ticket and go. When I finish, I come back to Florida. I ask nobody!! Wonderful.

Me: What's the worst thing about living in America?

I have found over the years that when you ask an immigrant this sort of question, they don't answer very honestly, fearing that they will be misunderstood, and not wanting to criticize America in front of an American. Not Jackie!

Jackie: Medical cost ridicurous! Doctors stupid! They never want to fix anything, they only want to send you to specialist. In Cooba, every doctor free. Only good thing. Also, streets here dangerous. In Cooba, no one carry guns, knives. If you get caught with them, you go to jail and nobody ever see you again. You ever heard of Hunger Game? That is Cooba. Everyone must play governments game. Two television channel, both government. You only watch what they want you to watch. Even internet only what government let you see. You say anything bad about the government, you go to jail and no one ever see you again. In America, anyone say anything they want. In America you do anything you want. But too many guns bad, and stupid doctors.

As I laid there listening to her melodic voice, my mind began wandering. I had been in Florida for four days and had encounters with people from all over the world. I had met a Colombian Uber driver, in America for over twenty years, in between jobs, having recently lost his as a technical producer for The Discovery Channel. There was an Australian man who drove us to the airport. The ladies who served us drinks poolside were either bronzed by a Central American heritage or almond-eyed Asians with silky black hair. The men who emptied the rapidly filling trash cans were from somewhere else, somewhere mostly south of the equator. The mostly invisible ladies who made our beds and cleaned up our rooms every day spoke little English, but offered up broad, defensive smiles whenever eye contact was made.

Jackie: I saving money for citizen test! I have books to study American history...George Washington...haha!

I don't know Jackie's immigration status. I didn't ask her if she came here legally. I believe that any country should have the right to control the traffic at it's borders. There is a right way, a legal way to come here and I have two members of my family who did just that. There is also a wrong way, an illegal way to come here. I want more of the former and none of the latter. But as I lay there listening to Jackie it became clear that she left something bad, something so bad that she was willing to leave her parents behind.

Jackie: My daughter 4 years old when we come to America. She now almost 13. Her English is perfect! But I don't want her to forget Spanish because she has to write letters to my parents every month. She already forgetting how to write, she write four words in Spanish, then two word in English. Makes me sad, but her English is so good which makes me proud. It strange thing...

Yes, it sure is.

When the massage was over I found myself looking at Jackie more carefully. The light came up and I could finally see her clearly. Then I heard myself say...."Jackie, in America today you hear lots of talk about immigration, but I want you to know something. I'm glad that you made it to America. I'm glad you're here. I was born here, as were my parents, their parents and their parents before them. But when you pass that citizenship test, you're gonna be one of us, every bit as American as me. Something tells me that maybe you already are one of us."

As I spoke, this loud, proud woman's eyes began filling with tears. As the tears washed down her face she said, "Thank you, thank you, thank you, gracias, God bless...."

My views bout illegal immigration remain the same. What has changed is that we have got to find a way to talk about this issue in ways that don't make the Jackie's of this  world feel like the enemy, because they aren't. Everyone has a story. Everyone wants something better, a better life, more freedom to live it in peace. Jackie was willing to leave her Homeland and much of her family behind to pursue a life of liberty.

I'm glad she made it.

I had to write this down because even though I will never see her again, I don't want to forget.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

How I Survive a Meeting

Ok, for most people this picture would seem an entirely benign image. For some, it might be oddly comforting, with its symmetric layout...glasses placed in even numbers on either side of the sweating water pitcher, pens laid evenly on both sides of the complimentary Hyatt notepads, the tray of candy, inviting. For me and many souls like me, the picture is a dire warning of something horrible to come. Whenever I see this image or any like it, my bowels begin to constrict, beers of sweat start to form around the hairline, then my heart sinks. I know what this picture means. I know what I will be doing for the next however many hours....sitting and trying desperately to listen, trying desperately not to bolt from the room.

I have been attending meetings of this sort for nearly 35 years now. They are necessary. There is information that I must know and apparently, mankind hasn't figured out a more efficient way to disseminate this information since the Council of Trent. So, here I am.

I am not without recourse. I always pick a table in the back of the room, so on the many occasions when I find standing up utterly irresistible I can do so without being too much of a distraction to 99% of the other perfectly normal men and women in the room who seemingly could sit through a three hour tort lecture without even shifting their weight from one butt-cheek to the other. I watch them and marvel at their...stillness. Who are these people? More importantly, what is wrong with me??

Maybe all of them are on some sort of medication which renders even the most sand-poundingly boring material absolutely fascinating. Or maybe they all are grown ups and have acquired the adult skill of sitting and listening. Regardless, I sat through 6 hours and listened to 8 different speakers, all of whom were highly skilled and professional. I'm thinking I might have heard and processed roughly 2 hours of information. The rest of the time I was busy A. Pondering how anyone could possibly have come up with the design of this carpet and B. How anyone else could possibly have purchased it. And, don't get me started on this chandelier... an explosion in a plastics factory that claimed the lives of fifty people. I'm telling you, it is seriously hideous. The rest of the time I ..wait...SQUIRREL!!!!


Monday, March 20, 2017

Living With Regulations

This week, I will be attending a business meeting in Bonita Springs, Florida. Ever notice how business meetings are almost never held in Des Moines or Grand Rapids?'s a two day affair where the main topic will be the impending Federal regulation known as the Department of Labor's Fiduciary Rule, its cost and implementation requirements. I'm stoked...

Once I survive,(and I'm making no assumptions here) the rest of my stay will involve rest and relaxation with my beautiful wife in the Florida sunshine. I could sure use it, but my wife deserves it, a clear distinction I should make up front.

Now, if you are of a certain age and political persuasion, you may be thinking, "Great! Another fat cat soirée at some fancy resort, fully comped by some Wall Street cartel bent on screwing the little guy!!" Sorry to disappoint, but the cost of this soirée is being borne by yours truly. I bought the plane tickets, I'm paying for my hotel rooms, the tickets to the Red Sox spring training game were bought and paid for I am being fed for two days, but, I have to pay for Pam if she decides to join me. So much for my Wall Street benefactors!

However, in fairness I should probably point out that the entire purpose of the dreaded DOL's Fiducairy Rule is to correct abuses in the financial planning/investment business brought on by the fact that some of the folks who do what I do for a living...are crooks. It turns out that if you are a self serving scumbag who doesn't care about anyone but yourself, this is a good business to be in because it is relatively easy to take advantage of people who have placed their trust in you. Of course, to solve the problem of a minority of bad actors, the federal government regulatory regime has chosen a sledge hammer to drive a thumbtack into the wall. The cost of compliance is high and will force me to jettison small clients from my book, the relentless power of unintended consequences once again rearing its ugly head! But, the law is the law. So, comply I must! Unlike the pundits who are constantly extolling the virtues of the regulatory state, for me...the regulatory burden isn't theoretical. I have to write checks.

Sure, I would rather live with bad regulations than no regulations. But that doesn't mean that every or even most regulations that are mandated onto businesses are fair or just. I believe that most were well intentioned but naive, designed to solve legitimate problems but wind up creating more problems than they solve. Make no mistake though...I will comply. I don't get to pick and choose which laws I will obey. I live in a democratic republic and if this is law of the land, then I will fly to Florida on my own dime to find out exactly what I must do to follow that law.

And to make the trip worth while, I'm staying two extra days with the love of my life at a fabulous resort which I am very grateful isn't in Grand Rapids.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Time To Cut Defense Spending

Recently, I posted something on Facebook defending the proposed defunding of the National Endowment of the Arts. Like day follows night, my son rose to the defense of government subsidized do-goodery on the grounds that Art is good, therefore the government should promote it...or something. Although he knows me well enough to know that I too love the Arts, he also is quite aware that I am generally for any cut in Federal funding for...well, anything. Still, he dropped the mic with this challenging observation, "I sure would like to see you endorse cutting the defense budget with as much passion as you're endorsing cutting the NEA."

Little did the young squire know that I have been gathering data for just such an endorsement for quite a while now. At his urging, it's time to write it up. Let's hope that he defends his dear old Dad with half of the passion with which he lit into me for screwing with government-laundering of taxpayer funds to provide Italian operas for the fine people in Podunk Junction, Iowa.

Ok, as a Libertarian, I am, generally speaking, in favor of government spending for only the core functions outlined for it in the Constitution. While people who want the government to fund everything usually cling to the "promote the general welfare" clause as their barest of fig leaf constitutional covering, most everyone can agree that "providing for the common defense" qualifies as an iron clad proper function of our Federal government. As such, it needs to be funded. Yes, we live in a dangerous world. I suffer from no delusions in this regard. But, let's look at some facts, shall

In 2015, here are the five largest defense budgets on the planet in U.S. dollars. To the right of this number is the percentage of each country's Gross Domestic Product which this amount of spending represents:

1. United States.      596 billion.      3.3%
2. China.                  215 billion.      1.9%
3. Saudi Arabia.         87 billion.    13.7%
4. Russia.                    66 billion.      5.4%
5. GB.                          55 billion.      2.0%

Of course, the first thing that jumps out to me from this chart is...wait, what's up with the Saudi's? I mean, good lord, for that kind of money, they could air condition the entire stinking place!

So, this past week, our President met with the German Chancellor and complained (rightly) about the fact that four years ago all NATO members agreed to spend a minimum of 2% of their GDP on defense. Of the 28 countries now counted as NATO members( talk about your mission creep...) only 5 have stepped up to honor their commitments, Great Britain, Greece, Poland, and Estonia. Notice that the two nation's closet to the Russians are fully up to date, and the most broke country in the alliance, Greece, has somehow managed to pay their fair share. The Germans, on the other hand, who happen to be the only country practically in the entire universe who currently is running a freaking surplus, checks in at a mere 1.19%, while the haughty French can only be bothered with 1.78%.

The other thing that stands out from the chart for me is this...we spend nearly 381 billion dollars more than the number two spender, China. Think about that for a minute. What the devil is wrong with us?? But Doug, but Doug you say, we are the world's super power, the beacon of democracy, the defender of the free world. To which I say, says who? Have the American people fully agreed to this role of civilization's policeman with all of its attendant loss of treasure and fortune? Have we been consulted on why we have to spend this amount of money every year despite running trillion dollar deficits? How much of this nearly 600 billion dollars actually goes to defense of our borders as opposed to say...South Korea's borders or Poland's borders? And, how can it be possible that there are actually people screaming that we need to spend more, a lot more to make up for that cheapskate Barack Obama's hollowing out of our military? Well, if reducing defense spending from 687 billion back in 2009 to 596 billion last year qualifies as hollowing out, then Hell's Bells, we are doomed.

My problem with this sort of military spending...besides what it does to the financial stability of the budget, is the fact that if you constantly build bigger, better, fancier and more deadly weapons, you will end up with a hundred generals who start dreaming up ways to use them. I mean who gets a shiny new toy for Christmas but never wants to play with the thing, right?

Here's my proposal. I say we live up to the obligations we have made to the NATO alliance and spend 2% of our GDP on defense. We would still be outspending everyone else in the a lot. This would free up roughly over a quarter of a TRILLION dollars to the U.S. Treasury...every year!! We can immediately start fighting over what to do with all this money. My son can lobby for full funding of every Arts program known to exist in the free world and even invent some new ones. I could start arguing for a tax rebate back to the citizens who actually pay taxes, and I would not even be opposed to a paying down of the national debt with the windfall.

Before you start haranguing me about how naive I am about how the real world works, explain to me what exactly we got out of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? Was our safety and security enhanced or threatened by those vast expenditures of men, women and materials? My modest proposal above still calls for spending more on our defense budget than Russia and China do on theirs combined.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Greatest Speech I Ever Heard

I'm generally not the type of person who goes in for motivational speakers. I find them trite and formulaic and a bit too flashy for my taste. Consequently I have avoided them for most of my life, with one notable exception. I was in Atlanta, probably twenty years ago, attending a Million Dollar Round Table meeting...something else I have tried to avoid for most of my life. I was with my friend, Doug Greenwood and we had both signed up to go to an evening breakout session with some guy named Jim Rohn. I can't remember why we had chosen him, since I had never heard of the man, but nevertheless, there we were at 7:00 in the evening walking into a standing room only ballroom with two thousand other people. We were stunned at the size of the crowd and surprised at the buzz flying around in the atmosphere as we waited. I kept hearing the descriptor, great man, wafting in the air. I remember thinking, who is this guy?

He walked out onto the small stage to thunderous applause. Apparently, we were amongst a pack of Jim Rohn groupies, I thought. I immediately noticed how small and unimpressive he was except for a shock of white hair, mostly on the sides of his head. His attraction came from somewhere besides his looks. Then I noticed that there was no podium. He carried nothing in his hands, no notes of any kind. There was no TelePrompTer. The only prop anywhere to be found was an old school easel holding one of those giant flip pads of plain white paper. He began his talk by walking up to the easel and drawing a sail boat and a couple of swooping lines to indicate windy conditions. Then he stepped away and turned to all of us and spoke these words:

"It's not the blowing of the wind that matters, it's the setting of the sail."

Thus began an incredible fireside chat filled to the brim with the wisdom of the ages. This was a man with almost Godly gifts of story telling who stood alone and almost immobile at the front of a room filled with two thousand type A personalities without a single note and held us in the palm of his hand for the better part of two hours. It may sound a bit overwrought, but that speech changed my life. The things I learned that night have stayed with me. I used many of his insights to teach teenagers at my church for ten years. I have applied lessons learned there to my professional no personl life ever since I got back home. The funny thing was, even though I didn't take any notes, I remember almost everything he said. Some of the highlights:

Success is something you attract by the person you become.

If you really want to do something, you'll find a way. If you don't, you'll find an excuse.

Don't wish it were easier, wish you were better.

You are ultimately the average of the five people you spend the most time with.

No one else "makes us angry." We make ourselves angry when we surrender control of our attitude.

Stand guard at the door of your mind.

Failure is not a single, cataclysmic event. You don't fail overnight. Instead, failure is a few errors in judgement, repeated every day.

Things don't cost too much. You just can't afford them!

Be strong, but not rude; kind, but not weak; bold, but no bully; thoughtful, but not lazy; humble, but not timid; have humor, without folly.

He delivered all of this wisdom seemingly from memory while making it all seem like a spontaneous conversation with not a syllable rehearsed. Every so often he would go off in an odd direction almost like an aside to himself, like he was thinking out loud. One of the greatest such asides was when he was trying to make the point of how crucial education was to the creation of a well rounded person. Then this came out of his mouth:

You know what the worst thing in life would be? Waking up when you're forty years old and realizing that you're stupid. I mean, being broke is bad,  but stupid? That's the worst. Being broke AND stupid would be doubly bad...only thing that would make it worse would be if you were sick. Sick, broke and stupid. Awful! About as far as you can fall unless you're ugly. Ugly, sick, broke and stupid! Life's most negative scenario!!!

The hall was laughing hysterically and I'm not even sure he was trying to be funny. It was more like he was just talking to himself, trying to work it out. Regardless, it was a magical moment.

I was reminded the other day that Mr. Rohn had died a few years back. He was only 79, I was told. But, what a 79 years it was. He left a piece of himself inside everyone who ever heard him speak. I'm told he spoke to over 40 million people during his life. I was one of them on a hot and humid night in Atlanta twenty years ago. I still remember it, all these years later.

Words matter. Good words, fine words, uplifting, inspiring words matter eternally.

Friday, March 17, 2017

A Facebook Critique

I have been an active participant in the social experiment known as Facebook for a very long time now. I find it a fascinating place to interact with large numbers of people. It has allowed me to keep up with hundreds of old acquaintances who otherwise I would have long ago lost contact with. It has delivered a treasure trove of hilarious dog videos to my doorstep, costing me nothing. It has flooded me with a million memes, some hysterical, some simply stupid. It has exasperated me with the often ignorant political musings of people who have never once in their entire lives had to pay an employee and yet profess to know exactly what the minimum wage should be. But hey...that's what Facebook is for, the uninhibited flowering of opinion. Asking those opinions to be informed is asking the impossible. So, I take the bitter with the sweet. For the most part, I thoroughly enjoy my daily excursions onto Mark Zuckerberg's playground.

Having said all of that, there are a few irritants which must be dealt with. Although what irritates me might not irritate you, diversity of irritation being the spice of life and all. But here goes...

The biggest problem with Facebook is that far too many people suffer from the flawed impression that large numbers of people actually give a flying *€#<?! about:

1. What you had for breakfast
2. How tired you are of this bad weather
3. What you had for lunch
4. The fact that you just "checked in" at the Waldorf, Maryland Jiffy Lube
5. What you had for dinner

But, even more annoying than these staples is the dreaded Type "Amen" if you agree declarations that usually come with some sappy picture of a white clapboard country church. Saints preserve us!

Then, the worst of all, and we all have them...that friend starving for affirmation who begins some long screed with the threat, "I'm about to find out who my real friends are," then lays out his or her crisis with the demand that if we are really their friend we will copy and paste said screed onto our  Facebook wall as tribute. Thanks, but there's enough self-absorption run amok in this world without me spreading yours around. Emotional blackmail is no less annoying just because it comes with cute emojis via the internet. Think I'll pass.

But, hey, keep those awesome puppy videos coming, people!!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

My Bracket

Yes. I filled out a bracket. Me and fifty million of my fellow Americans sat down for ten minutes and made 61 snap decisions based on nothing more than the unscientific urgings of instinct. This one cost me twenty bucks and is run by our office bookie, Bland Weaver. Three or four years ago, I won the thing. Most years I'm middle of the pack.

There once was a time when I followed college basketball. I would watch a dozen or so games during the regular season, and read up on the fortunes of my local teams (UR, UVA, VT and VCU). But, not so much anymore.

Ok, so let me explain my methodology. When you have actually watched not one single game in its entirety all season, and know virtually nothing about all but a handful of teams, how does one go about making picks? I always start with the 16-1 matchup and pick the number one seed, since an upset there has never happened. Then I look for all of the local teams and pick all of them except UVA. Why? Mostly because it is my firm belief that there exists nowhere in the universe a university as overrated as Mr. Jefferson's school. Besides, their coach, Tony Bennett is frankly entirely too handsome to be a basketball coach. It's just not right. Then I go on to the matchups where I have literally no information. Perfect example of this...Purdue vs. Vermont. Frankly, it would require at least three boilermakers to force me to watch this game. I picked Purdue because I had no idea that anyone in Vermont even played basketball. Or how about Oregon vs. Iona? Seriously? Iona? They named a college after my fourth grade teacher?

Here are a list of the major upsets that I picked:

UNC Wilmington over UVA
Florida Gulf Coast over Florida
Nevada over Iowa State
Rhode Island over Creighton

That's it. Four upsets. I guess I'm a front runner.

I did notice that this year's bracket sheet comes courtesy of Jiffy Lube, a perfectly legal business enterprise which happily attaches its name to what amounts to a criminal enterprise whereby businesses throughout the nation are transformed into illegal wagering parlors in clear violation of every gambling statute on the books. The cops would do something about this wanton law breaking, but they are all watching the games!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Worst. Job. Ever.

I stumbled across a story yesterday that I have never heard of happening, and immediately wondered how it could be possible for it to never have happened before. Ever get that feeling? Yeah, me neither. Until yesterday. What am I talking about? Well, I just may have uncovered the very worst job in America that nobody has ever heard of.

I read it in the Washington Post. Early in Monday's Senate session towards the end of Senator Mitch McConnell's opening remarks, it was revealed that the Senate stenographer had collapsed. The unidentified woman had just keeled over right there on the floor of the Senate not twenty feet from the man. Senator McConnell is said to have remarked, "Oh, my goodness." A brief recess was declared as the poor woman was revived and taken to the hospital for observation. The video from C-SPAN shows the woman slowly teetering to her right, then collapsing head first onto the Senatorial carpet accompanied by a loud thud. How can this possibly be the first time this has happened? I mean, what are the odds?

Imagine for a moment that your job is to preserve for posterity every word that proceeds from the mouths of 100 of the most pompous windbags in America. Think about that...every utterance from the likes of Mitch McConnell and Church Schumer, everytime one of them opens their pie holes, you have to be there, manning your front row seat, typing every word into a machine. You alone have to bear witness to the oratorical stylings of the first blonde-haired, blue-eyed Native American Senator, the self righteous musings of the wild-eyed Vermont Socialist, the nasal dronings of the curly haired windbag from Kentucky. Five days a week, eight hours a day you have to type out classic exchanges like this:

"If it pleases the chair, I would like to yield the floor and grant the remainder of my time to the distinguished gentleman from the great State of North Dakota."

"The gentlemen from North Dakota is recognized."

"I would like to thank the distinguished gentlemen from the great State of New Hampshire for yielding his time and will gladly yield back the floor for him to revise and extend his remarks shortly..."

You're damn right the poor woman collapsed!

We are constantly told about the thousands of jobs that Americans just won't do. We are told that some disagreeable work is beneath us. This is why we need cheap foreign labor. Well, I am here to tell you, the collapsed woman laying out cold, spread eagle in the well of the United States Senate should stand as a dramatic refutation of such nonsense. Here is a woman, an American woman, who stands for eight hours a day listening and recording the most inane, inconsequential men and women spout the most inane and inconsequential rhetoric known to be uttered anywhere in the civilized world. This is her job.

You think you got problems??

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

My Weirdness Cell

Every so often, I become detached from reality. Some of you are probably thinking, "Well, that explains a lot!" Luckily, these detachments don't last long, and require no therapy or chemical intercession to remedy. Eventually it goes away and all is back to normal. It has been this way for as long as I can remember. How to describe the sensation?

It's as if I separate from myself and float up to the ceiling, and watch my life being lived down below, trying to figure out which view is correct. Sounds more serious than it actually is. It's more like a short period of acute awareness of normally unseen or unnoticed things. Suddenly, it's as if each day to day thing that I never ordinarily notice becomes the singular focus of my attention. The squeaking door, the ticking clock, that troublesome tag hanging from the bottom of the recliner, the strange way that dead leaves gather in the narrow, bricked gap by the front steps. After several days of this hyper attentive focus, life blends back into clarity, as if nothing ever happened.

During these days, I always feel like writing, but I can never begin. Where to start? How to explain? Nothing can compete with it, this temporal, third person existence. It always eventually sends me scurrying for the great old writers. I dust off something by CS Lewis or GK Chesterton. It helps to read something deep and wise, the Proverbs, Shakespeare. Luckily for me and those who depend on me, these episodes are infrequent and of short, spasmodic duration and serve as nothing more than a fresh way to look at the world for a day or so. No harm, no foul.

I have often wondered what the trigger mechanism might be. Hearing a particular song? Eating Pam's incredibly delicious meatloaf? Or maybe there's a random weirdness cell flowing through my bloodstream that occasionally stalls on his route through my brain, and until he shakes free and flows through, my perception gets heightened. Whether or not such a thing is biologically possible is another story, of course, but it's as good an explanation as any at the moment.

Here's a great example of how it works. The other day I was driving in South Carolina and happened upon a freshly disked field covered by probably 500 seagulls. This field was at least 40 miles from the ocean, but there they all were busy pecking the muddy soil with their hooked beaks unaware how far they were from home. For the next hour I thought of nothing but their flapping wings and muddy talons. I couldn't shake the image of a field of seagulls until I was nearly at Fayetteville. You try thinking of nothing but seagulls for over an hour. It's not as easy as I make it sound!

Not to worry, this latest episode has passed and now another won't come for six months or so. I'm back to the relentless clarity of reality, the big picture firmly in front of me, all the minutia back where it the background.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

A Dead Thing

South Carolina highway 9 leaving Myrtle Beach is like withdrawing from something. It's a divided highway in every sense of the word. The cars and trucks loaded down with the accoutrements of vacation life flow into town with such eagerness and purpose, then limp out of town worn, spent, exhausted. After ten miles or so the vacation-kitschy shops and huts begin to thin out. Fewer t-shirt shops, vegetable stands and tacky gift huts.

Suddenly, I saw a dead thing. A golf course, abandoned, gone to seed. The white painted brick gate elegantly sloping away from the entrance in both directions like wings proclaiming with black letters...lack Bear, the giant cursive B probably stolen by college kids and adorning the wall behind the bar at a frat house somewhere. A memory comes to mind of playing a round here twenty years ago when it was new and bustling with cigar smoking men in loud pants. Now it was dead.

I wondered what could possibly have happened. It was so beautiful when it was new. It was pitched as a sure thing by some sharp man in an Armani suit around a conference room table. He spoke of the unique qualities of the design, the flawless team that had been assembled to oversee the project. The investors could hardly wait for him to finish so they could write their checks.

But now it looks like a moonscape, all browns and grays, tall billowy weeds of cat tails, ragweed mixed in with the purple traces of wild alfalfa. I saw a block of blue wood with an iron stake through it pointing at the tops of trees where once a tee box stood. Here there was a rusted ball washer. There a faded hole sign diagramming the contours of what used to be a finely trimmed fairway but now looked like a minefield.

I thought of a story my Dad told me about an obnoxious churchman who, admiring his neighbor's garden, commented, "what a fine garden the Lord has given you to tend..." The neighbor, hands gnarled and stained by toil replied, "think so? You should have seen this garden when the Lord had it by himself."

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. "There is a way which seems right to a man, but in the end leads to death." The golfing market became saturated. Too many options available, too many competitors. The flawless team never saw it coming. Now, 18 fiberglass poles with colorful flags were slowly decomposing in a landfill, 18 holes and 18 cups scattered throughout the property serving no purpose now except as a home for weeds.

Eventually, someone will come along with an idea. A new Armani suit will stand at the head of a polished table speaking of unique things. But this time, the hint of death will hover in the room, mental images of this barren landscape will enter the minds of investors. It will be a harder sell.

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

Friday, March 10, 2017

A Two Dog Story

This afternoon, I spent some time on the beach. The place was largely deserted except for maybe a dozen college kids about fifty yards up the beach. Although it was clear and warm, it was also very windy and the wind swept down the beach from where the kids were, amplifying their voices. I heard a couple of loud female squeals(am I allowed to say this?),  and the word Wiggles. I glanced up the beach to see what was going on and saw an older woman with a little dog on a leash. The two of them had drawn a crowd. After a while they went on their way, headed towards me. When they got close, "Wiggles" made a beeline for me...

This is truly a horrible picture, since Miss Wiggles was far more adorable than this photograph. She was stunning, with one blue eye and one brown one and couldn't get enough of me. Her owner, a woman in her mid 60's told me that Wiggles can always tell when she meets a dog lover. She told me she didn't even have to ask me if I had a dog, because Wiggles doesn't care for people who don't have dogs! Without prompting, she told me the story. Her husband of 40 years had recently passed away unexpectedly. She was beside herself with grief. A friend suggested that she get a dog. Wiggles was a rescue, two days away from being put down. She's had her for nearly a year now and can't imagine what she would have done had they not found each other. As I watched the two of them disappear into the distance, they stopped at every child, every adult who wanted to meet her, and nearly everyone did. I thought to myself...who rescued whom?

Then, I found this on the internet...

Meet Air Force Sergeant Kyle Smith and his dog Bodza. They served four tours of duty together until 2014 when Bodza retired from the military to become Kyle's real life dog. Recently, Bodza, a German Shepherd, had been diagnosed with a degenerative disorder from which there would be no recovery. It was then that Kyle had to make the toughest decision of his life. When he had Bodza put down, he was sure to find an American flag to properly honor this noble animal. It is difficult to look at this picture without feeling the full measure of sorrow and grief, of how very difficult it must have been to say goodbye to such a friend, loyal and true.

The next time Lucy wakes us up in the middle of the night shaking on the bed because, I don't know, because a leaf fell from a tree too loudly, I'll remember Wiggles and Bodza...and squeeze her back extra tight.

A Day Off

By some touch of cosmic grace, I have two clients who live within 10 minutes of each other in Pawley's Island, South Carolina. Because of this happy fact, I get to schedule their annual reviews on the same day in March every year. This allows me the chance to spend a day or so down here afterwards at my partner's condo in Cherry Grove.

This is my view this morning. Lovely.

In past years, I have brought Pam with me. This year that didn't work out, so it's just me here today. Yesterday was a very long and stress-filled one. My first appointment was in my office in Richmond at 8:00am. I left the office at 9:10 and drove the five hours to the condo, ate some lunch, then got back in the car for the 45 minute drive to Pawleys. By the time the third appointment of the day was complete, it was 7:00pm, and I had another 45 minute drive back to the condo. I stopped at a grocery store, bought a frozen pizza and heated it up for dinner. It's been a while since I conducted three annual reviews and drove 410 miles in the same day.

So, today is a recovery day. There is nothing on the schedule except an hour of paperwork which I completed before breakfast. I plan on playing a round of golf, then taking an afternoon nap on the beach. Honestly, I can't imagine a better day.

Tomorrow morning, I'll head back home for my side hustle as a chauffeur. My wife bought her two sisters, her Mom, her daughter and her niece tickets to the Cinderella play for Christmas. It's a remake of the great Rodgers and Hammerstein version that ran on television way back in the day. Pam was smitten by this production as a girl and when she discovered that it was coming to town, she opened up her checkbook and began counting the days!! Well, since it will be six of them going, I had the bright idea that I would hire a limo to pick them all up and drive them up to the theatre in style. But when they gave me a quote of $475, I let go with a highly charged sarcasm-drenched rejoinder which I would prefer not repeating here. Plan B will involve yours truly getting dressed up and driving them to the show and picking them up afterwards. Not exactly a pumpkin carriage, but hopefully it will do.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Imagine a Day Without Women?

Being a leftist is hard work. It is nearly impossible to keep up with the list of causes that are constantly throwing them en masse into the streets. To the Progressive, America must seem like a gigantic Petri dish crawling with malignancies, all of which need to be exercised from the body politic...right now! From Black Lives Matter to white privilege, from ageism to homophobia, clear through to transphobia, from the rape culture, to saving the planet from global warming, to the evils of the patriarchy, it is the job of the modern leftist to raise our awareness or die trying. God bless their passion and relentless energy.

I try to imagine what would ever inspire an old Libertarian like me to take to the streets, and come up empty. When your number one political objective is being left the hell alone, the last thing you want to do is bring unwanted attention to yourself. But, this is America, which means everyone is free to get out there and demonstrate.

Yesterday was the International Day of the Woman, whereby the rest of us were asked to try and imagine a day without women. The purpose of the day, as best I can determine was to bring awareness to gender inequality in the workplace and elsewhere. Women were encouraged to stay home from work. Those who work at home were encouraged to refrain from doing the thousand things they normally do on a daily basis to keep households running smoothly. The rest of us, (men), were supposed to learn some deep, profound lesson from all of this. Facebook was filled with empowering encouragement. The media was saturated with stories of the day's events both here and throughout the world. Unfortunately, the nations most in need of some feminist education...Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, et al, didn't participate in the day's activities, but...there's always next year.

Here's the thing. I can't even begin to imagine a world without women because such a place couldn't possibly exist. Well, maybe for about seventy years or so until all of the remaining men died off. What am I saying?? Without women, men would kill each other within five years, ten tops! But neither can I imagine a world without men. Such a concept is beyond my abilities. A world without both men and women is no world at all. Despite the 119 different genders that the sexual identity crowd have conjured up in their imaginations, everybody knows that there are only two with existential weight. Without any one of them, we are history. A world without women is a place that couldn't possibly exist and if it did, I would want no part of it.

I read somewhere that one of the issues behind the day was equal pay for equal work. In this, I am in complete accord with the organizers. How anyone could be against such a straight forward concept is beyond me. If my daughter, or my wife...or your daughter or wife applied for a job for which she was equally qualified, in a field in which she had equal experience, and proficiency, then she better damn sure be getting equally compensated with her male counterpart. Full stop. No excuses. Yet, time and time again we hear of organizations great and small which routinely pay women less than men....organizations like the Hillary Clinton campaign. It's complicated, I'm sure.

I was raised by a giant of a women, possessed of a brilliant mind, strong will and a highly refined sense of right and wrong, good and evil. I grew up with two older sisters who disabused me of any thoughts I might have nurtured about male superiority. My wife is my superior in almost every measurable human quality, equality being something to which I can only aspire. My daughter stands as a constant reminder to me of what the term professional excellence actually means. I have a family full of sharp, accomplished nieces who could mop the floor with most men I know. If it's true that equality starts at home, then I'm at least halfway there. But, I suppose it's the other half of me that insures the continued existence of things like...the International Day of the Woman

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Ain't Nobody Repealing Nuthin'

There are probably an awful lot of Trump supporters out there who feel betrayed right about now. I'm talking about the ones who voted for him because he promised that he was going to repeal and replace Obamacare. With the unveiling of the Republican plan this morning, that fantasy has been put to rest. Ain't nobody repealing nuthin.To explain what happened, here's a quick tutorial:

1. The first law of thermodynamics states that energy can be transformed from one form to another, but cannot be created or destroyed.

2. The second law of thermodynamics states that there is a natural tendency of any isolated system to degenerate into a more disordered state.

Hardly anyone knows the 16th law of thermodynamics, but it is crucial to understanding what is happening or not happening to Obamacare. It states that...Whenever an entitlement program is enacted into law whereby a benefit is provided to X by confiscating money from Y, said entitlement program never dies. In other words...ain't nobody repealing nuthin.

People, it turns out, really like free stuff. People are fond of subsidies, even more so when someone proposes taking them away. Just listen to the caterwauling from people making a half million dollars a year whenever someone suggests doing away with the mortgage interest deduction. Do these people really need their fellow taxpayers to help them finance their McMansions? Once an entitlement, always an entitlement. You want to commit political suicide? Propose a serious social security reform that might actually save that actuarially doomed program, by suggesting that perhaps the payroll tax needs to be increased and maybe the benefits at some point might need to be means tested...then look for your obituary in the Washington Post. Ain't nobody repealing nuthin.

The very idea that Obamacare, once innacted could ever be taken away betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of both politics and human nature. Sure, it might get tinkered with around the edges, but once the concept of government subsidized anything takes root, good luck getting that genie back in the bottle.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Progress, and Beauty

Progress is great. It is the essence of what life is about. Improving. Getting better. I type this out on a thin, light weight miracle device unimaginable a generation ago. Soon, My wife will drive to work in an automobile with more computer power than the one that powered the first moon landing. Of course, not everything that marches under the banner of progress is, necessarily. But, for the most part, given a choice between a world of innovation and a world without it, I'm good with progress.

What got me to thinking about this was the oddest thing. A couple of days ago, I developed what has turned out to be a gigantic zit...on my middle finger, of all places. Stay with me now. Don't worry, there will be no pictures. This thing is huge and menacing, with the power to escalate the act of flipping someone the bird to the level of assault with a deadly weapon. I don't know what leprosy looks like, but it can't be any uglier than this baby. All of this has brought back memories of my acne-scarred youth...which got me to thinking about progress.

When I was growing up in the 60's, my parents didn't have much money. But we were no different than most of my friends. They didn't seem to have a lot either. As a result, there wasn't much money lying around for spending on stuff like orthodontia or dermatology. If you were born with crooked teeth or acne, well, that was just your lot in life. The recommended remedies were, "wash your face more", and "floss harder!"  The entire time I was growing up, I don't remember a single friend of mine getting braces. I had world class acne back in the day. It was brutal and left me with a pock marked face which my wife insists rendered me ruggedly handsome. But to those not blinded by love, a few have actually asked me why I don't have the scars worked on. Same goes with crooked teeth. "You know, they make these clear braces now...for adults!"

When my kids came along, at the first sign of acne or crooked teeth, an appointment was made with a wildly overpriced dermatologist, a session was scheduled with the orthodontist with the colorful mural in the gigantic waiting room. A second thought was not even entertained about the cost. Don't get me wrong, I don't regret doing this, and I'm sure my kids are grateful. But it leaves me with a few nagging questions.

Yesterday at church the pastor made a statement about how over the last fifty years or so people have become much less concerned about their souls than their bodies. It's hard to deny. Just look at the amount of money we spend on doing away with even the smallest flaw in our appearance. We spend billions annually on tummy tucks, face lifts, butt lifts, breast implants, hair implants, braces, eye jobs, nose jobs, gym memberships, steroid regimens, diets, makeovers of every description. We all are chasing that perfect look...for a body that is in the process of dying and ultimately will return to the dust. Is this progress? Does becoming prettier make us better? Well, if statistics are to be believed, it may make us more hireable, and more likely to advance at work, such is the shallowness to which we have descended. But, does it make us better people?

I don't begrudge anyone trying to be their best. But, I would rather live in a world with compassionate, generous, and big-hearted people who might be a bit overweight, acne-scarred, with a few extra lines on their faces, than a world with perfectly sculpted Barbee and Ken dolls constantly checking themselves out in the mirror.

The old saying is only skin deep. Discarding that truth isn't progress. 

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Hacksaw Ridge and Fences...a two movie weekend

I generally try to watch the Oscar nominated movies every year. Not all of them, but most. Don't intend to see La La Land, for example and think I'll pass on Moonlight. But the past couple of nights I've seen Hacksaw Ridge and Fences.

Pam sat on the sofa next to me, prepared to read an e-book while Hacksaw Ridge played. She cannot abide blood and gore, especially the brutal variety that comes with war movies. Since Mel Gibson was directing, she was probably expecting a cross between Braveheart and Saving Private Ryan. But, to her great surprise, she found herself caught up in the story of Desmond Doss, the first conscientious objector to be awarded the Medal of Honor. Sure, she covered her eyes during the battle scenes with her blanket, but she was blown away by the other-worldly heroism, the transformative power of conviction and its ability to enfuse a man with supernatural endurance and bravery. What Desmond Doss accomplished at Okinawa, surviving the hellish landscape of total war savagery, without a weapon, while rescuing 75 men to safety is the sort of thing one still can't quite believe, even after watching him do it. While Gipson's obsession with exploding body parts and blood-squirting arteries was a little over the top, this film wasn't about patriotism, or the glory of war, or any of that. This story was about a conviction and courage that survived the worst that mankind is capable of.

I love Denzel Washington. Always have. I think he's probably the best American actor around today. I'm often disappointed in his choices, however. He's capable of so much more than Flight, The Equalizer, and the laughable Equalizer II. So when I heard all the buzz about Fences, I couldn't resist. Unfortunately, this was one of those pictures that had no business being a movie in the first place. It was written for the stage, and didn't transfer well. If you like nearly two and half hours of boisterous, shouted dialogue and lengthy speechifying, 80% of which takes place in the dump of a back yard of a row house in Pittsburg...then you're gonna LOVE this movie. Although Denzel and Viola Davis were fine in the lead roles, their performances seemed overwrought, overacted, over the top. Does everything have to be shouted? Do stories about the African-American experience contain no subtlety? Does every raw emotion have to be vomited up before us? Can nothing be suggested? As I watched this movie, I kept feeling like the playwrite was channeling Shakespeare, what with Troy's incessant conversations with death, and his King Lear-like estrangement from his children. But, in the end, I just couldn't conjure up any sympathy for Troy. He seemed nothing more than a bitter old tyrant. Maybe if I were African-American myself, it would have resonated more. Or maybe, Fences should have stayed a play...

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Trump's State of the Union Speech

Although I mentioned the President's State of the Union speech in passing the other day when I broke my political silence, I didn't give an opinion on it. So, since it's the weekend and I am recovering from a persistent headache, I find myself in the perfect mood to do so.

Most people gave the President good marks for his speech. I was braced for boorish buffoonery, tortured logic and syntax, with a dash of demogoguery. So, when he actually gave a reasonably decent speech, I was relieved. The only line I can remember was the best line of the speech: "My job is not to represent the world, my job is to represent the United States of America." Its about dang time an American President had the stones to say this. Take your Globalist one-world government and stick a safe place.

But, just because he gave a perfectly presidential speech doesn't mean I liked it on the substance. The primary takeaway for me was this simple truth...the Era of Limited Government (which hasn't actually been a thing in nearly a hundred years) is clearly over, and now with Trump, even lip service to it is over. This speech could have been given by any big-spending Democrat in America over the past fifty years. You want an infrastructure spending program? Check. You want your brand new entitlement program of child care? Check. You want a protectionist trade policy? Check.

Somebody once described the American Man as the European Man left alone. No longer true. We are now as completely ruled and regulated as any man from Finland to France. And it will only get worse. Especially now that the party of small government has been taken over by a world class Statist like Donald Trump. Yes, I'm aware of his promises to reduce the regulatory burdens in America, and I am aware that he promises a wave of tax cuts. But, it's very hard for me to believe that he can or even wants to deliver on either of these promises. My gut instinct is that for every regulation he dismantles, a new one will appear. I also fail to see how you can cut taxes while at the same time creating new entitlements and presiding over a trillion dollars of infrastructure spending. And yes, he did mention his desire to actually cut some government budgets, real cuts, not some voodoo baseline budgeting gimmickry sleight of hand. But, then he admits that the goal of these cuts is to free up 54 trillion for increased military spending. That's where he lost me...sigh....

I realize that I am a weirdo on this subject, and my views on government and it's proper function died out over a hundred years ago, but, if you're serious about debt and the financial health of this nation, everything needs to be cut, including the military. If you're the type of person who believes that spending  nearly $600 billion on the military in 2015 was woefully inadequate...then, there's nothing I can say to help you.

So, I watched the speech for a while at least. After thirty minutes it became boiler plate and I tuned out with a heavy sigh. Activist, intrusive, ever-expanding, liberty-encroaching, centralized planning, power-grabbing government is here to stay and more robust than ever. We all better get used to it.

Friday, March 3, 2017

The Sultan of Suck

The Dunnevant family in Short Pump has done its part to boost the economy, what with our recent  automobile purchase. Well, now we have added another big ticket item, and this one was for me!

Yes, sports fans, you are looking live at the brand new Dyson Ball Animal. This baby is the Lamborghini of vacuum cleaners, the cutting edge of floor cleaning technology, the Sultan of Suck. Our old Dyson finally bit the dust, so naturally, I had to have the best. This new model is over the top, billing itself as the "most powerful" sucking machine since the 1962 Mets. I've only used it in one room so far, just a quick test drive around the den. Good Lord Almighty!! What a machine!

Ok, I'm the official vacuumer around here, and truth be told...I've always kind of enjoyed it. It's hard to explain really. I just like the feel of it, the clean lines it makes on the carpet, the sound of the thing. When you've owned a Golden Retriever for nearly thirty years it's a big deal, vacuuming. It has to be done all the time. And, it turns out, I'm pretty good at it. In a house our size it's also a workout.

So today, after work I'm going to put this thing through it's paces, a whole house tour. Lucy has taken an intense dislike to The Animal, sensing menace. In fairness, she never was a big fan of our old Dyson, always retreating into another room whenever it was deployed. But, when I took this thing out of the box, she actually let out a small growl from her perch on the sofa in the next room. "What new , fresh terror is this monstrosity my human has brought into my home??" I could feel the animosity from thirty feet away. I reassured her..."Don't worry Lucy, it's just a vacuum cleaner. If you didn't shead so much we wouldn't need this beast!" Once again she sniffed the air and let out an aggrieved sigh..."Sure, blame the dog. Perfect!"

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Winning the Lottery

Yesterday, a client of mine came to my office to review her accounts. In her hands, I noticed, she carried a very dog-eared copy of the book I wrote about my parents a few years back, Finishing Well.  She made no statement about it initially. We just went about the business of the day. But then, towards the end of the visit she placed the book on my desk in front of me and began talking.

"Do you remember two years ago when you gave me this book? When I was in your office, you had just gotten your first shipment of them and there were a bunch of them in a box. You gave me this one. Well, I need to tell you that not only have I read it, but I've given it to all the other women in my study group at church and they've all read it too! That's why it's so beat up. I just wanted to let you know that this book has been such an incouragement to me and all of us that there still are families out there who love each other and come together to take care of their parents when they get old and sick without it making all of them fight with each other."

Honestly, and this is a bit embarrassing, the very first thought that went through my head was, "See, this is why you can't make any money as a give away your product!"

But, thankfully, that inappropriate thought soon was replaced with a far nobler one...How cool is it that my parents are still being a blessing to strangers years after their deaths!

After she left, I picked up the book and flipped through it for a couple of minutes, the memories that inspired it still fresh and powerful in my mind. It's easily the best thing that has ever happened to me, having the family I have. I didn't choose them, I didn't get to pick my parents, nobody does. I didn't get to pick my brother and sisters. I simply won the lottery.


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

A TRUMP Post!!!

I made it. I managed to go the last 35 days without writing about politics and especially...Trump. It wasn't always easy, but a deal is a deal. Now that the self-imposed ban is over, I honestly don't have a lot to say. I mean, there was a speech last night and all, but I can't think of anything necessarily smart or even snarky to say about anything political. Maybe it's because, Donald Trump remains exactly who I thought he was, and so do his enemies.

In the first five or six weeks of his Presidency, he has done literally nothing that has changed my mind about him. He has been no worse and no better than I expected him to be. So far, everything he has done or attempted to do has been straight out of his campaign stump speeches. People who are acting all shocked by any of this were obviously not paying attention during the campaign. Sure, many of his cabinet choices were heavy on generals and billionaires, but what did you expect, professors from Yale and Harvard?  And yes, his first several weeks have been full of ill-conceived initiatives from which he has had to back track. Sort of what one would expect from someone who constantly reminded voters that he was "not a politician." Well, it turns out that if you're not a professional politician in DC, it shows.

Funny story. On the day of the Inauguration, I had a busy schedule at work. After two morning appointments I stopped by the house to have some soup for lunch. As I warmed the soup up on the stove I asked our new digital assistant, Alexa, to play WRVA. The very first words I heard were Trump saying, "So help me God." I had forgotten about the speech! So, I listened. By the time I finished my soup, it was over, a sixteen minute Inaugural speech with no poetry. But, around half way through, I ran into the library and found a piece of paper and wrote down four numbers...the Dow Jones Industrial average, last year's GDP growth rate, the inflation rate, and the unemployment rate. Then I dated it and stuffed it back into the top drawer of my desk.

Bill Clinton famously ran a campaign with the unofficial theme of "It's the economy, stupid." He was right and he won. While much of it was not his fault, the fact is that Barack Obama was the first president to serve eight years who never once presided over a nation with a GDP growth of at least 3%. As superficial and simplistic as this might sound, unfortunately, I believe it to be true...if his Orangeness can get this economy back to the 4-5% growth rates that we had become accustomed to for most of our history, he will be reelected in a real landslide as opposed to the one living rent free in Trump's brain. However, if he doesn't, the American people will soon tire of him and will drop him like a bad habit in 2020. One advantage(or disadvantage, depending on your politics) of such a short, direct, non-poetic inauguration speech is the fact that it will be easy to judge how well,(or poorly), he has done come 2020. When you don't cloud your objectives with soaring, flowered rhetoric, it's easy to find the promises. When 2020 rolls round, if we're still slumbering around with a growth rate of 1.9%  Trump will be history. If he succeeds, all the Hollywood preening, all the street demonstrations in the world won't be able to prevent his reelection.

But, honestly, hasn't it been an exhausting five weeks? It's the little things, really. When I saw the picture of Kelly Anne Conway sitting crosslegged on a sofa in the Oval Office, her heels digging in to the fabric, I thought, what fresh hell is this??  I wanted to slap her. I always hated seeing pictures of Obama with his feet all over the furniture like he was kicked back watching Caddy Shack or something, but this Conway dame takes the cake. There will be four years of this sort of thing. Four years of Trump's temperamental Tweets.

I'm getting tired just thinking about it.