Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012



Last Friday's horrific tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut left everyone at the DUNER BLOG stunned and saddened.  After the shock, grief sets in, then a strong bout of remorse.  Then, a week later, Americans and renew the debate on Gun Control for a couple of days...and then we all go back to watching sports and reality TV.  However, the young ages of the victims in this latest mass shooting has really grabbed the nation's attention.  So...before you go back to watching ICE LOVES COCO...please spend a minute or two thinking about the SECOND AMENDMENT!

If Thomas Jefferson could see a Bushmaster XM-15 rifle, he would never had signed the Bill of Rights.  
Let's take a look at weaponry in 1788...the year when the Second Amendment was being drafted in Philadelphia.  In the 18th century, the mighty cannon was still king of all armed forces.  The coveted...yet horribly heavy...cannon were the staple.  They were mounted on ships and dragged onto muddy battlefields.  The whole concept of a hand-held, miniature, gunpowder-exploding device in warfare was strange.  In fact, the American Revolution was the first major war to use a musket..and it was not a favorite of artillerymen.  They were heavy (twenty pounds)...gunpowder was often unreliable...and it fired only one lead ball, three-quarters of an inch in diameter.  Then, it took two minutes to reload.  In short, the most important thing on any musket was the sharp, silver bayonet on the tip of the weapon.  For every one soldier killed by a musket's bullet, ten more were killed by the sharp spear at the end of the gun.

If the SECOND Amendment is so important...why isn't the the THIRD Amendment also important?
Americans love the Bill of Rights...even more than the Constitution itself.  See, while the original document took care of the big, important stuff...like congress, courts, elections and stuff...it did little for the common man.  That's when our founding fathers sat down and came up with the Bill of Rights.  These ten amendments made sure everyday folk couldn't be picked on by King George Washington.  In addition to freedom of speech, they covered other important civil liberties as well.  For example, people can't be tried twice for the same crime...(5th)...or subject to whips, chains, cruel and unusual punishment (8th)...nor could an American army enter your house and search and seize everything (4th amendment).  We all agree these laws are just as important in 2012 as they were in 1788.  However, other things in the Bill of Rights aren't as important today.  Point in case: The THIRD Amendment.   It provided protection against the quartering of troops in your home.  Back in 1790, there was a high probability French troops might force their way into your home and demand lodging and chickens for a month.  But this doesn't happen anymore.  The Third Amendment has never been the subject of a Supreme Court case.  Times change and civil rights change too.

In Colonial Times, every house was armed with a gun for protection.
American movies and novels set in Colonial times incorrectly have citizens with firearms.  For example, when there's a stranger at the door, the man grabs a gun and points it at his visitor.  Wrong!  We already covered how few muskets and rifles there were in Colonial America, so let's now discuss handguns.  The pistol is a Czech invention from the 1500's.  While used in warfare, it was mostly used by the upper class game hunters and for the occasional duel.  These guns...like muskets...could only fire one shell at a time and had a range of 15 feet.  (The Smith & Wesson wouldn't be invented until 1858).   Historical records show only a few gunsmiths in the whole of North America in the 1700's and very few handguns were imported from Europe at the time.       

In summary, we here at the DUNER BLOG hope we can learn from the Newtown Massacre and move forward with serious Gun Control Legislation like civilized people.  Any American who has traveled overseas lately knows the rest of the world sees us as the most violent nation on earth.  Let's change!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012



It's been a couple years since every one's favorite Chinese Basketball star YAO MING laced up his sneakers.  You see, Yao retired last year.  But don't worry...he is not spending his days on a rocking chair in Shanghai.  No way!  Today, YAO is busy promoting the C.B.A. (Chinese Basketball Association).  Currently in its twentieth season, the league has seventeen teams in two divisions.  Recently, YAO (a co-owner of the Shanghai franchise) sat down with some journalists in hopes of raising international awareness about the CBA.  While the DUNER BLOG wasn't specifically invited to Beijing...we will help our hero spread the message.

During YAO's playing days, he put up some BIG numbers is the N.B.A.  In nine All-Star seasons, he averaged nearly twenty points and ten rebounds a game for the Houston Rockets.  However, as an athlete, YAO is most proud of his achievements with the Chinese National Basketball teams.  The 7 foot 6 inch (2.3 meter) center anchored the Olympic squad three times, in 2000, 2004 and...his favorite accomplishment...in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.  Under his leadership, China reached the quarterfinals each time...China's highest finishes ever.  However, with Yao's retirement, the Chinese team sputtered.  At this year's London Olympics they did not win a single game.

It's clear: YAO MING is worried basketball's popularity in China will also continue to decline.  He believes the C.B.A. is the answer to keep interest up.  This season, he persuaded former Houston teammate TRACY McGRADY to come to China and play ball.  Since joining, the Quingdao Eagles have been unstoppable...even against other former NBA stars like STEPHON MARBURY (Beijing Ducks) and GILBERT ARENAS (Shanghai Sharks).  However, YAO understands this is only a temporary solution.  "You can’t always rely on the foreign basketball players to come and help with your marketing," he recently told the WSJ-Asia edition.

Simply put, YAO MING wants China to produce its own basketball stars.  It already has a billion kids ready to learn.  It already has lots of gyms and practice facilities.  The main problem, according to Yao, is: "convincing the country’s schools and parents to give students a break from their relentless study schedules" He stresses the need for a better balance for China's youth.  Yao feels "education is not only about homework and examinations. Physical education is important, too."

Yao is right.  And it's not just kids in China.  Studies show that children of Asian descent in the USA also exercise less than other ethnicities.  (In fact, only Pacific Islanders work out less).  For the time being, Yao is putting his energies into the C.B.A. in hopes of finding inspiring stars for Chinese kids to emulate.  He's also found a new role model in current Houston Rockets star JEREMY LIN.  Although from Taiwan (Boo!), Yao is cautiously optimistic that JEREMY LIN can influence kids in the PRC.  In praise of Lin...a Harvard graduate...Yao quipped: "He proved that it’s not necessary to give up education to become a great athlete.”


Friday, December 7, 2012



This week's blog comes to us from the steppes of Central Asia.  Why is DUNER'S BLOG taking our readers to Kazakhstan?  Why visit the Land of Borat?  Well...since the deaths of North Korea's KIM JONG ILL and Libya's goofy GADDAFI...we've been searching the globe for replacements.  We want a new world leader to ridicule!   Someone self-absorbed.  Someone who actually thinks he is a Roman Emperor.  Someone who erects 50-feet-high statues of himself.  Well, last Saturday we found our man   Ladies and Gentleman, we are proud to introduce...The Most Egocentric Man in the World:  NURSULTAN NAZARBAYEV!

Oops...once again we got a little ahead of ourselves at the DUNER BLOG.  What happened last Saturday in Kazakhstan?  Well, it was a new holiday!  FIRST PRESIDENT'S DAY commemorates that wondrous December First...way back in 1991...when our "glorious leader" was first elected to serve.  To celebrate the most important date on the Kazakh Calendar, an immense outdoor stadium was erected in the capital's massive Bayterek Square.  Hundreds of thousands filled the stands to watch 30,000 performers (more than in London Olympic Opening Ceremony) performing carefully choreographed routines.  Then everyone joined in mass singing a banner waving...all hailing NURSULTAN THE GREAT!

See, Kazakhs are raised to love Nursultan.  Since more than half the population is under the age of 31, the Dear Leader is the only "President" most people have ever known.  In Kazakh schools, teachers read fairy tale books about the boyhood of our hero.  They feature beautiful illustrations by Roza Akbolatova who feels they "make politics more accessible to children." Kazakh teens flock to the cinemas to see his riveting movie "Deep Roots." The thriller cost $3 million to make and has some pretty impressive C.G.I.  Finally, Kazakh adults read his lengthy biography. It topped the nation bestsellers list for three whole years.

You're asking yourself: How does Nursultan manage to keep power amid such audacious acts?  C'mon!  You know the answer: Money.  Since independence, over $40 billion dollars has been invested to develop Kazakhstan's lucrative natural resources.  The nation is swimming in petroleum, natural gas and uranium deposits.  Currently, a massive pipeline is being constructed under the Caspian Sea to bring these to an energy-thirsty Europe.  And we all know where these funds go.  They are spent insuring our Dear Leader is kept in power and that any opposition is swiftly dealt with.

The Kazakh Capital looks like Disney Land!
Don't expect things to change in Kazakhstan any time soon...and maybe that's a good thing.  Nursultan may have a egotistical approach to leadership, but his nation is anything but unified.  Kazakhstan is the ninth largest nation on earth but has only a few highways and railways.  Its population is half Kazakh, a quarter Russian and a serious mix of Uzbek, nomadic Tartars, Uyghurs and 250,000 ridiculously misplaced Germans.  Simply put...this republic could fall apart any second.  Nursultan's autocratic rule keeps together a bunch of crazy folks who have a lot more in common with Genghis Khan than with Chaka Khan.