Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013



!Dios Mio!  Did you hear the news from Mexico City last week?  The Mexican President, Enrique Peña Nieto wants to change the Mexican Constitution!   As everyone knows, it’s very difficult to alter any sacred document.  First, you have to sneak into the National Palace at night.  Next, you have to carefully open the plastic case that holds the 1867 document.  Then…ever so carefully…apply White Out Correction Fluid to the proper page.  Finally, you must re-write the Constitution using Benito Juarez’s best handwriting.  Okay..WE ARE JOKING!  (However, if anyone could pull off a Mission Impossible caper, it’s ENRIQUE.  The dashing Mexican President is better looking than TOM CRUISE any day!)

Sorry!  Let’s return to Mexico.  Specifically, Señor Presidente wants Article #27 altered.  This would allow foreign corporations to participate in the finances of state-owned and state-run Petroleum company, PEMEX.   As any student of Mexican History knows, this is THE MOST IMPORTANT PART of the Mexican Constitution.  It was added by President Lazaro Cárdenas in 1938.  At first, this instant dismissal of British and Dutch companies met with swift international condemnation.   Fortunately for Mexico, the sanctions would quickly be lifted a couple years later when World War II broke out.   The massive oil revenues would continue well into the 1950’s and 1960’s.  They funded the ‘Mexican Miracle’ when Mexico City hosted the Olympics, the World Cup and built the best subway on earth!

Oops!  Back to last week’s announcement.  As expected, opposition politicians are clamoring for Presidente Enrique’s head.  Left-wing troublemaker Manuel Lopez Obrador is busy planning street protests again.   Hands off the 1867 Constitution,” the signs read.  While his rhetoric does sound convincing, closer examination reveals a murky premise.  See, article #27 was placed in the Mexican Constitution by Benito Juarez to protect silver mines from foreign powers.  Then, seventy years later in 1938, it was re-interpreted and altered by President Cárdenas to include oil deposits.   Each time, the government manipulation of the constitution has been for the betterment of the Mexican people.  And this time it will benefit them as well.

See, the truth is PEMEX has already dug up and refined most of the easy-access crude oil in the Gulf of Mexico.  In order for the company to continue to supply gasoline, it will need to discover more reserves.  They seek the deeper shale deposits hidden under the vast body of water.  To do this, PEMEX will need help, as they do not have the advanced equipment needed for such a complicated task.  With foreign assistance, new deposits can be found and processed.  Simply put, ENP wants to keep petroleum production at the levels his nation is accustomed to.  He is not altering the Constitution to make himself Mexico’s Third Emperor like Lopez Obrador wants you to believe.

We here at the DUNER BLOG applaud this initative.  Rather than return to Iron Fist of Aztec Emperors, Spanish Viceroys and 11-term Presidents, Mexican President Peña Nieto has opened up dialogue and furthered Mexican democracy. A solution is possible.  The real problem here is Mexico’s growing thirst for gasoline.  If current trends continue, by 2020, Mexico will be an importer, and not an exporter of oil.  However, thanks to EPN, this will not happen. 

NOTE: Wouldn’t it be great if other North American democracies could work together with big business to solve an energy crisis?  HINT: I’m complaining about the 1% in the USA.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013



There was a most curious announcement in Los Angeles last week.  It involved a strange marriage between glam rock and Arena League Football.  Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley are two of the co-owners of the new LA sports franchise.  They called a press conference to announce they have decided on a nickname for the team.   The football team will be called KISS, named after their Rock Band.  This prompted us here at the DUNER BLOG to post a list of the stupidest Sports Team Nicknames in the USA.  NOTE: This only includes PRO Sports.  If we included College Nicknames, the list would be too long!

#10.  Minnesota Wild.  When most people think of Minnesota, they think of fishing, cold winters and Mary Tyler Moore.  While the state does have lots of acres of wilderness, we’re not sure about the Wild part.

#9.  Miami Heat.  We get it.  South Florida is HOT.  But there are numerous other things in the Sunshine State that are worthy of a team nickname.  How about something fierce from the swamp?  Alligators? Herons? Snakefish?  Or something sexy from the beach, like the Miami Tankinis.  On second thought…maybe they’re correct.  They are two-time defending NBA champs! 
#8.  Miami Dolphins.  Okay…this nickname is fine.  We just want the logo with the Dolphin wearing a football helmet to disappear.

#7.  Oklahoma City Thunder.  This name we can blame solely on the fans themselves.  When the team moved to the Sooner State in 2008, the owners let the fans vote on a new name.  Thunder won handsomely over Energy, Truckers, Express and Wind.
#6.  Indiana Pacers.  Sometimes it’s good to name your team after something special in your city.  The Pittsburgh Steelers name harkens back to the famed Steel Industry.  The San Francisco 49ers are named after the gritty gold miners from 1849.  But to name a basketball team after the Pacer car at the Indianapolis 500 Auto Race is silly.

#5.  Columbus Blue Jackets.  The sentiment behind this nickname is great.  Since it is the Ohio capital’s first pro team, the owners wanted to name the franchise after something unique.  They chose the Blue Jacket Brigade of the Union Army. This famed group included Generals Sherman, Grant and Sheridan.  According to their website this group showed: "patriotism, pride, and the rich Civil War History in the state of Ohio and city of Columbus."  However, it makes for a lousy chant:  Let’s Go Jackets!”
#4. Washington Redskins.  Every American is familiar with this debate.  Prior to the Civil Rights Movement, many pro franchises named themselves after Native Americans.  The Blackhawks of Chicago and the Seminole of Florida are fierce tribes that sports teams want to emulate.  Other nicknames…like the Cleveland Indians, Kansas City Chiefs and the Atlanta Braves…are less specific, but still somewhat acceptable.  The Washington Redskins...however...have always been wrong. 

#3.  Utah Jazz.  When this basketball franchise originated in New Orleans, the Jazz was the perfect nickname.  However, a number of poor decisions…like trading the rights to Magic Johnson to sign Gail Goodrich…sent the team into bankruptcy.  The move to Salt Lake City proved to be profitable...but highly confusing.  Although a Google search did find a number of music clubs that occasionally feature Jazz, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir is still the #1 music gig in town.
#2. Nashville Predators.  In defense of the new hockey team, it is hard to come up with a tough-sounding name in this millennium.  Lions, Tigers and Bears have all been taken long ago.  Heck, even all the fierce birds are taken: Eagles, Hawks and Pelicans.  So the folks in Nashville thought they’d just take the larger biological name: Predators.  The big problem: In the US today, the word Predator refers to a guy with a felonious sexual past who just moved into your neighborhood.

#1. Toronto Raptors.    Fifteen years ago, there was a huge ‘Dinosaur’ fad.  Fueled by the popular movie Jurassic Park, T-Rex was king.  Back then our kids would only eat Dino-Gummi Bears and Dino-Chicken Nuggets.  Eager to capitalize on this phase, the new NBA franchise in Canada was quickly on the bandwagon.  However, a dinosaur dribbling a basketball is stupid in any year.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013



It seems every American tourist has a horror story about visiting France.  Mine goes like this: A crappy bike broke down two kilometers after I rented it.  When I tried explain that the axle was horribly rusty, a heated dispute arose with myself and the shady manager of the rental kiosk.  Finally, a gendarme was called.  A decision was made.  There is now a lifetime ban on DUNER ever returning to the picturesque riverfront city of Blois. 
Well…those days are over!  At least, that’s what new French Tourism Minister Sylvia Pinel says.  Since the socialists took over last year, there is a nouveau attitude in Paris.  This means lots of fresh programs aimed at changing vague things like the ‘national psyche.’  For example, Mamoiselle Pinel is extremely proud of her latest such promotion.  It’s a twenty-page pamphlet titled: “Do You Speak Touristé?” It is designed to help Parisians “break language barriers” and help wealthy tourists around town. It has simple, helpful phrases in six languages.  It also has a section devoted to the subject of traditional French egalité…and how it needs to be toned down a bit.

Sylvie Pinel means business!
Why the big fuss?  Well, around 30 million tourists visit Paris every year…which is more than any other city on earth!  Consider this:  The entire metropolitan area has a mere 7 million people!  It's a fact: No one can deny that there is a worldwide obsession with the beauty and romance that is Paris.  In fact, since such travel statistics were first recorded fifty years ago, France has always been perched as the #1 Destination Nation for tourism.  The USA and Spain are ranked #2 and #3. 
You would think Sylvie would be thrilled with such a statistic! However, there is another stat that is much important regarding international tourism: The total amount tourists spend in a country during their visit.  On this list, the USA doubled the revenue of France last year...a whopping $126  to $56 million.  Sacré Bleu!  The main reason for the disparity is the nation’s sizes.  Most foreign visitors to France leave after seeing Paris and then depart elsewhere…to ski in Switzerland or sun in Spain.  Also, the figure also includes a 50% increase in UK visitors, who zoom into town for the weekend on the Euro-Star train.  In the USA...however...travelers tends to stay longer and spend more.  In short, Sylvie wants people to make France their only European destination.

We here at the DUNER BLOG applaud Sylvie Pinel and her wonderful goal of humanizing the French.  However, we know that there is still a long road ahead.  There are many other cherished national traditions (aside from being rude in the street) that also need to be examined.  For example, it’s hard to shop when the stores are closed during a three-hour lunch break.  On Sundays, the French like to spend the afternoon burning tires and blocking main roads over a labor dispute.  And…of course…The French love to charge way too much to rent an old bike to a college kid on summer vacation in France.  Bon chance, Sylvie!
NOTE: We like Sylvie Pinel’s goal to encourage visitors to see some of France’s wonders outside of the capital.  Here are three amazing places that are a two hour train ride from Paris:

MONT SAINT MICHEL.  At high tide, it's a island.  But at low tide, the road opens up and you can access the castle.  It might look familiar to film buffs as it was the inspiration for Minas Tirith Castle in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  It also appeared in the film The Spy Who Came In From the Cold. 

CHENONCEAUX.  Everyone loves this castle...because it was built across a river!  You walk in the front door, glance out the window at the water, then exit onto the vineyards on the other side.  It also has a topiary garden for the kids.

CHAMBORD.  The inspiration for the famous liquor is perhaps France's most famous chateaux.  Visited by everyone from Leonardo da Vinci to Louis XIV, it claims to have the most chimneys of any building on earth: 282 in total.  During World War II, the Mona Lisa was hidden in one to escape Nazi capture.