Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Friday, November 17, 2017



Cities in the USA are filled with silly old laws. For example, in Peoria, Illinois it's illegal to give a dog a lighted cigar. Don't wear boots in a hotel lobby in Tucson. Catching fish with your bare hands is a no-no in Gary, Indiana. Finally, digging for treasure is a third-degree misdemeanor in Eire, Pennsylvania. Since no one ever violates these ordinances, they stay on the books and are only mentioned in silly blogs.

Which brings us to New York City's goofy Cabaret Law. It states: "it is illegal to dance or sing" at any bar in the metropolis without a license. So if you've ever shook your booty while at a Manhattan cocktail lounge, you've broken the law. (I am definitely Guilty on this one!) The curious law was passed in 1926 as part of crackdown on Prohibition-era speak-easies. It was amended in 1936 to allow radio and piano playing, but it remained on the books until two weeks ago, when it was finally repealed by the city council.

The main problem with the Cabaret Law is enforcement. Currently, there are more than 25,000 restaurants and bars in the Big Apple...but only 97 of them have licenses. During the 91 years of the ordinance's existence, the law has only been used a handful of times. In the 1940's, NYPD conducted raids at Harlem nightclubs. Billie Holliday and Thelonious Monk were cited for singing the blues and playing trumpet without Cabaret Cards. In the 1990's, Mayor Rudy Guiliani enacted it as part of his plan to clean-up Times Square.

Not surprisingly, there have been several legal attempts to fight the curious ordinance. Not only is the arbitrary enforcement a problem, but it also has civil rights issues. (Frank Sinatra famously walked out of a police station after officers informed him he would need to be fingerprinted prior to obtaining a Cabaret Card.) A current case filed by Brooklyn nightclub owner Andrew Munchmore caught the attention of his councilmember and current mayor de Blassio.  Together, they were able to repeal the law, which goes into effect on November 30th.

Whew. Unfortunately, New York City still has a handful of similarly odd ordinances which also need to be repealed. For example, in Staten Island, you may only water your lawn if the hose is "held in your hand." It's also to illegal to "be masked or disguised by unusual attire" in Manhattan. This means everyone in Halloween costumes should be cited. No word yet on whether the New York City Council is moving on these issues. But when they do, the DUNER BLOG will keep you informed!

Friday, November 10, 2017



For decades, November 7th was an important holiday in Russia. It marked that fateful day...way back in 1917...when the Bolsheviks captured the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg. Although the czar had already abdicated, Alexander Kerensky's Provisional government was still carrying their torch. The event is similar to the storming of the Bastille during the French Revolution. Events were exaggerated and the day became a symbol of the poor rising up against the rich. Both evolved into major holidays.

Under Soviet rule, the November 7th holiday became a centerpiece in the regime's show of might. It began with a magnificently large military parade through the heart of Moscow. Up front are highly synchronized marching troops bearing portraits of Lenin and Stalin. They are followed by dozens of jeeps and tanks and more soldiers. The highlight is the 100-foot long missiles proudly displayed in launch formation.  Here was the route: Beginning at Novokuznetskaya Plaza, the parade proceeds down triumphantly-wide Bolshoi Boulevard. Next, they cross the Moskva River and it culminates at Red Square. Here, Stalin, Khrushchev or Brezhnev address their adoring countrymen. Wow. A communist tradition unlike any other!

Imagine the dismay of these Communist Party Chairmen if they could see their beloved Red Square on the 100th anniversary of the October Revolution on Tuesday. Sure, there was a small military parade...but with a catch. Instead of actual soldiers, actors were marching in their place. A Kremlin spokesman reminded journalists: This event is not related to the October Revolution. Rather, it commemorates Victory Day in 1941. That year, things were different. After the parade, troops went straight from Red Square to defend the capital. See? They are wearing Battle of Moscow uniforms, not the cool Bolshevik overcoats.

Other than this staged display, not much happened in Moscow on the famed centennial. The Communist Party was allowed to have 5,000 people stage a rally, but journalists were weary of covering it. In fact, November 7th is no longer a public holiday. A recent poll showed that 58% of Russians do not know why it is important. As for Putin, he spent the "holiday" at the opening ceremony for a new church. Rather than attend the Red Square events, he chose instead to remember the "destruction of religious buildings" under Lenin.

We wonder if Putin remembers the 50th anniversary of the October Revolution back in 1967. He was a teen living in St. Petersburg, but it would have been impossible not to be in awe of one of the largest parades in human history. Or maybe Putin fears what actually occurred on October 7th, 1917 recurring. On this date, all bank accounts in the nation were seized by the government and every citizen was declared financially equal. Nothing like this has ever happened in any country. But could you imagine how wealthy every US citizen would instantly become if it happened today? Screw the 1%!

NOTE: November 7th is still a holiday in Belarus and Kyrgyzstan. There were also celebrations in Havana. Also: When the October Revolution occurred, Russia used the old Gregorian calendar. When they switched, the new date fell on November 7th.

Friday, November 3, 2017



Last weekend, the lowly Cleveland Browns lost again. This time to the Minnesota Vikings. What makes this unique is the site of the game: It was the last of four games the NFL played in London this season. While stuffy Brits and American Gridiron seem like unlikely companions, the game marked the ten year anniversary of the so-called London Games. Let's take a closer look at what NFL.com calls a "highlight of the UK sporting calendar." To the mailbag we go!

Where are the games played? Stanley, Hong Kong. London has a plethora of stadiums. A recent Olympics host with five Premier League teams in the metro area, the city has ample facilities. The first two games were played in historic Wembley Stadium and the last two were placed in Twickenham Stadium, home of the National Rugby Championships. They are the first and fourth largest stadiums in Europe.

Didn't NFL Europe fail ten years ago? Joseph, St. Louis. Good point, Joseph. In 2007, the upstart league went under. Commissioner Roger Goodell publicly thanked the fans for their support and privately acknowledged the league was losing $30 million a season. Officials then drew up a new offensive strategy: Concentrating only on London. Having a Sunday evening game in Greenwich Mean Time means the East Coast can watch the game at 9:00 AM Eastern Time...a time when you cannot have local game. The TV advertising revenue alone offsets any losses incurred by the teams themselves.

Will London get a new franchise? Beth, Seattle. This is where things get a little dicey. See, the current format of 30 teams equally spread between two conferences and eight divisions works well. Adding one team would ruin this. So the plan is to force a current team to relocate. Tops on the list is the Jacksonville Jaguars. See, billionaire owner Shahid Khan already owns a Premier League team. Some feel NFL owners approved the Jags sale to him solely for the purpose of moving them to London.

What will the nickname be? Sue, London. We saved the most important question for last! The obvious choice is the Monarchs, the name of the former NFL Europe team. Other royal nicknames include the Knights, Dukes, Kings and Beefeaters. Or maybe it will be a royal house. The London Tudors sounds pretty good. How about something uniquely British like the London Gin? Or a historic event...The London Fire? Nope, although it is clearly a longshot, we'd like the team to be called the London Beatles!

Friday, October 27, 2017



In just over two weeks' time, dreaded Daylight Saving Time ends for the year. The good news is you get to sleep an extra hour on Saturday night. The bad news is the sun will be setting just as you get off work at 5pm. Depressing. It makes one wonder how the heck did such a crazy system ever start in the first place. Well, guess what? We here at the DUNER BLOG have the answer.

Believe it or not, the first person to suggest the concept of turning back the clock was Ben Franklin. However, he did not intend it for Americans. Here's the story. On one of his many trips to France, Franklin penned a piece about the night-owl habits of the Parisians. To save on the number of candles used during the endless night, he suggested shifting clocks and firing cannon at sunrise to stir people out of bed. The whiny article received little attention at the time.

It wasn't until the First World War that Daylight Saving Time was instituted on a national basis. Necessity is the mother of invention, and in 1916, Germany and Austria were losing the war. To conserve coal for the war effort, a plan was hatched to slow heating homes during the evening. Clocks were shifted during the summer. Called Sommerzeit, it was difficult to tell whether or not it actually worked or not. Nonetheless, the Allied powers copied the Axis. In 1916, the UK adopted the policy and the US passed legislation a year later as well.

Since then, the quirky policy has seen hundreds of revisions, alterations and rejections. For example, France repealed it after the war only to reinstate it decades later. The US has expanded DST by two months, Australia trimmed it by a month. Muslim countries discontinue the practice for the Ramadan month. Russia tried year-round Daylight Savings, but it only lasted three years. In short, for the last hundred years, people have been turning clocks back and forth and it's become a horrid mess.

Thankfully, we here at the DUNER BLOG have the solution to the world's time troubles. Let's all go back to Roman Standard Time. Back then, they only had sundials to tell time. So when the sun came up, that was hour ONE. Lunch time would be around FIVE, you get off work at NINE and go to bed sometime during dark hours. Let's face it, starting the day at midnight makes no sense whatsoever. Sometimes, modern human just overthink things..

Saturday, October 21, 2017



This week's blog comes to us from a remote place, high above the Arctic Circle. Here, you'll find two of the world's largest islands: Greenland (#1) and Baffin (#4). The former is a colony of Denmark (with self rule). The latter is part of Canada's Northwest Territories. Wedged in between these two large landmasses you'll find tiny Hans Island, the unlikely subject of this week's submission. See, both Canada and Denmark claim this island as their own.

While the Arctic islands are enormous in size, they are tiny in population. Since they are mostly covered in permafrost, only a small sliver of southern coastal regions are habitable. Greenland's population is 56,000 people. (Green Bay, Wisconsin has twice as many!) Mostly native Inuit, the handful of settlements are serviced by the Danish and Canadian Navies. Their scheduled deliveries include medical supplies, petroleum and treasured can foods and soda. Afterward, they continue north, along the coast, for a most important ritual: Reclaiming Hans Island, their sovereign territory.

How do both nation claim Hans Island as their own? Simply put, it's a case of overlapping treaties. The original was implemented by the League of Nations in 1920. It ceded the island to Denmark. After World War II, a new territorial agreement came into effect. It defined islands within 12 mile coastal zone to be sovereign territory. This placed the island in Canadian territory. However, no one cared about the island until 1984, when a Danish minister visited. Citing the League of Nations, he left behind: a sign claiming Hans Island, a Danish flag, and a bottle of schnapps.

Soon thereafter, the Canadian Coast Guard saw these items. Alarmed, they went to the island to investigate. Afterward, they left behind: a sign claiming the island, a Canadian flag and a bottle of whiskey. Guess what happened the next time a Danish Navy squadron sailed by? Yep, they took down the Canadian flag, left a new sign and guzzled the schnapps. This so-called Whiskey War has been silently waged for decades, without a single casualty...other than a hangover. Pretty cool!

Sadly, this and other lighthearted land disputes are quickly becoming a thing of the past. These days, our earth is getting smaller and smaller. Even the tiniest of Arctic islands might have petroleum deposits. Everyone knows: Oil changes everything. While legislation failed in the Canadian parliament in 2004 to resolve the issue, and it's likely to come up again soon. But for the time being, let's just enjoy a truly silly moment in World History. Cheers!

Friday, October 13, 2017



While Americans are busy debating what pro football players should do during the National Anthem, there have been many important developments overseas. A great example is the stunning developments from Iraq. Yesterday, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced that ISIS will be completely defeated by years' end!! While the hurricanes and shootings will certainly be remembered, we here at the DUNER BLOG feel the year 2017 will be defined by historians 100 years from now by this event.

Things really turned against ISIS last week. A joint force of Iraqi and Kurdish forces freed the strategic city Hawijaw last week. Across the border in Syria, Raqqa, the "capital" of the rouge state, is nearly recovered. These, combined with the fall of Mosul in July, has reduced the once-enormous "nation" to a couple of villages along the Syrian border. News sources in Europe have the story splashed across the front page, but in our local newspaper it was on page 14. Naturally, it was pushed back by the coverage of the Harvey Weinstein sex scandal.

Perhaps the lack of coverage in the US press is due to the lack of participation of the US Army in the offensive. American air strikes with the Russians have kept the skies clear, but the vast majority of the dirty work has been performed on the ground with conventional troops. Here, the Kurdish, Iraqi Security troops and the Syrian Democratic Forces risk deadly odds by performing house-to-house searches. Casualties have been high and one has to admire their fortitude in battle.

Also encouraging are the high number of defections by ISIS soldiers. Thousands have surrendered to invading forces in Raqqa and Mosul. It's clear the luster of the horrid terrorist group is gone. Back in 2014, when ISIS defeated much more heavily armed troops, the leaders claimed they had divine intervention. This was integral in the brainwashing behind the rationalization of such horrid policies like child sex slaves and daily executions for trivial crimes. But the current losses show that no god would ever endorse such evil policies.

Is ISIS gone forever? Of course not. Their leaders are currently busy digging bunkers, preparing for a future jihad. But what is dead is the ISIS dream. Gone are the visions of creating a new caliphate, resurrecting the borders of Islam's greatest extent. The year was 741 and the armies of Islam controlled half of Europe and vast portions of Africa and Asia. Nope, all that's left is a couple crazies in caves. So, America: Let's take a minute to celebrate this remarkable achievement...and then we can go back to those disrespectful NFL stars!

Thursday, October 5, 2017



Xenophobia is on the rise in American media. It's becoming increasingly difficult to find a positive news story from a foreign country. For example, do a quick Google search on Mexico. You'll see that eight of the ten items involve crime, cartels and narcos. It's even worse for Nigeria or Turkey. That's why we here at the DUNER BLOG are so excited about a 'feel-good' story from the most maligned nation on earth: Pakistan.

As everyone knows, superheroes have taken over worldwide. Five of the top ten grossing movies of 2017 involve Batman, Spider-Man and Wonder Woman. Then there's Comic-con. Ten thousand people cram into convention centers dressed in fantasy costumes. So it comes as no surprise that comic books are also popping up again in unlikely places like Pakistan.

Meet Pakistan Girl. Just like every other superhero, she has an amazing backstory to explain her secrets. Sarah...her alter-ego...was a normal girl in a small town with a pet cat. Then, one day...BAM! An explosion destroys everything. Sarah awakens months later amidst the rubble, only to discover she has super-human powers! Her costume is shades of green (the national color of Pakistan.) And, of course, the crescent moon symbol is across her chest.

Like Wonder Woman, Pakistan Girl uses her superpowers for GOOD. However, crimes are a bit different in her part of the world. For example: In one episode, our favorite heroine saves a girl taken hostage by a bribe-seeking policeman. BAM! In another, she whips a man who assaults a woman in the marketplace. SNAP! "There is a huge shortage of female role models here" noted author Hassan Siddiqui. "She is someone the girls of Pakistan can look up to."

So far, reaction to the comic book has been quite positive. The hope is that a comic book will be something girls struggling with literacy can actually comprehend. Sadly, there are a lot of girls in Pakistan who don't go to school...around 11 million! Don't forget: Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai raised awareness to this problem. But it will take more than medals and superheroes to get Pakistan to spend money on education. Sad.