Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Friday, March 31, 2017



Say it ain't so, Joe! Sorry: The vote is in and the Oakland Raiders are moving to Las Vegas. It was made official on Monday at the annual N.F.L. owners meetings. Held on the last week in March, thirty-two millionaires and billionaires converge at the Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix. Behind closed doors, they wheel and deal with football fan's hearts like pieces on a chess board. Our mailbox is jammed packed...so let's get started.

Why do the Raiders owners want to move to Las Vegas? Leslie, Des Moines. Normally, teams move to larger cities to increase their fan base. Clark County Nevada is the 29th largest metro area in the USA with two million residents. The Bay Area is the 11th largest. Nope, the reason why Mark Davis is moving is he wants a new stadium. Ever since Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones built the behemoth, luxurious indoor super-stadium, all the other owners have been jealous. Other cities like Phoenix, Pittsburgh and Seattle followed the trend and have state-of-art football arenas. However, the publicly-owned Oakland Coliseum is one of the oldest in the league. And Mark Davis is tired of the other owners laughing at him about it!

Is the stadium in Oakland really that bad? Tracy, New York. Naturally, the answer depends on who you ask. According to a recent poll in USA Today, the Oakland Coliseum did not fare well. It placed 30th of the 31 stadiums nationwide. Ouch! The biggest complaint involved the multi-use field which is also used for baseball. This means the first 4 games are played with dirt patches. However, if you ask the fans who actually buy the tickets, they will reply with indifference. See, these are passionate fans who come to watch the game on the field. Frankly, they don't notice much about anything else and certainly don't care about the national rankings of the food vendors.

Who cast the lone vote against the move? Ethan, El Cerrito. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of this story is the near-unanimity of the final vote. A whopping 31 of the 32 owners approved the move. NOTE: A two-thirds vote is required for this measure. That one vote against relocation was from Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross. It appears he is the only participant who cares at all about fans. "I may own the Dolphins, but the team belongs to the people of Miami." he explained. Raider fans are known for their fervor. It seems 99% of the fans at a home games don Raiders gear. ESPN Jersey Rankings has them at #2 in sales amongst all teams.

When will the move occur? Tom, San Diego. Here's the tricky part: The new, domed super-stadium in Vegas won't be completed until the year 2019. Normally, when a pro team relocates, they play a season or two in a smaller venue until construction ends. For example, the Los Angeles Rams are playing in the ancient Coliseum while the most expensive stadium EVER is being built nearby. However, there is no stadium in tiny Vegas large enough to support a pro football team. So next two seasons will still be played in Oakland. This will create a lot of tension in the stands for anyone dumb enough to wear any Las Vegas merchandise to a home game.

At the end of the day, what message are the owners sending? Stephen A, Los Angeles. An editorial in the New York Times stated owners are "going where the money is." See, the 32 NFL teams have a revenue-sharing system, where profits are equally divided amongst teams. Last season, Oakland produced one the smallest contributions. The excitement of a team in Sin City will be a huge financial gain for all of the owners, even the one who voted for the fans. Let's face the truth. The owners stopped caring about fans decades ago. They are simply a commodity that can be found...and mined of their cash...anywhere.

Friday, March 24, 2017


Here’s something you might have missed:
Monday, March 20th was International Happiness Day. Did you remember to celebrate? Sure...it’s a relatively new holiday. In fact, it was proclaimed an official day of festivities by the U.N. General Assembly a mere five years ago, so most nations haven’t exactly begun formal recognition of I.H.D. However, one country has gone bonkers and given everyone the day off: The United Arab Emirates.

See, the Persian Gulf state is the first nation on earth to have a formal cabinet position dedicated to happiness. Her name is Ohood bint Klalfan Al Roumi. Her Excellency has only been on the job less than a year, and this is her biggest project to date. “Some may dismiss the holiday.” Al Roumi explains, “But I assure you, it’s a science. It touches on medicine, health and the social sciences.” She’s right. There are numerous studies that prove that happy people are healthier people.

So far, only a couple of other nations are taking part in government mandated happiness awareness. The pioneer of the movement is the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan. In 1972, they instituted the first-ever Gross National Happiness Index. It incorporates a complicated rubric to measure joy. Every year, they update the rankings. (Denmark is #1, the USA is #13). Also, Venezuela has a Vice-Minister of Social Happiness and Ecuador employs a Secretary of buen vivir, or good living. Other than that, the remaining 234 nations on earth are yet to embrace this life-changing trend.

Let’s get back to the UAE. It seems the minister is barraged by questions for help. People ask her to make their marriages happier. They want their parents to laugh more. But the biggest problem the minister faces is that most people confuse happiness and wealth. “When we talk about happiness, I don’t refer to pleasures or monetary accomplishments.” Al Roumi clarified. “It’s the authentic, long-term happiness” that really matters.  
Readers must be asking: Why is the Middle East telling us to be more happy? The region is the world’s angriest. Well, the UAE ranks #28th on the Bhutanese Index, so they clearly are an exception. Cynics are quick to point out the United Arab Emirate’s dismal human rights record. ‘They need a better Minister of Justice, not a Minister of Joy,’ posted a fellow blogger. While the UAE is a bit oppressive, we feel they have managed to find a good balance. Dubai has emerged as sought-after destination for Muslims and Westerners alike.

It seems the USA could learn a lot from the UAE on this issue. We too confuse happiness with wealth. Look at our TV shows: We love to peer inside Kardashian mansions and eavesdrop inside the luxury condos of the Real Housewives. Rappers tell us to “Get rich or die trying.” While we love to talk about Second Amendment rights to own machine guns, we forget about another important message from our founding fathers: The pursuit of happiness. These words appear in the Declaration of Independence. Don't forget: Our forefathers left Europe so they could lead more joyous lives!! While it may not require a cabinet position, it does deserve more attention.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017



Aside form Jesus Christ, only one person has an American holiday bearing his name: Martin Luther King, Jr. It's not just this one day, either. Over 900 streets, 200 buildings, 100 schools and two historical sites are also named after him. While MLK is deservedly enshrined in America's hearts and minds, very few of us know about the man he was named after. Since 2017 is the five-hundredth anniversary of Martin Luther's most famous act, we here at the DUNER BLOG want to use this opportunity to remember the original legend.

The Thunderstorm. Born in Saxony to wealthy parents, Martin Luther was well educated for someone living in the 1400's. He graduated from the University of Erfurt in 1502 specializing in law. However, he shunned his father's firm. Instead, he followed the faith. Why the sudden change? One Autumn evening, a horrible storm struck Eastern Germany. Luther's cottage was struck by lightning. The young man feared for his life. Like many terrified people, he got down on his knees and prayed. "I was besieged by the terror and agony of sudden death," wrote Luther. His pledge: If God let him survive the thunderstorm, he would return the favor by becoming a monk.

Johann Tetzel. Luther rose in the ranks of the church. He was rewarded for his diligence by being selected to take a pilgrimage to Rome. Once there, he was stunned by the opulence of Pope. Upon return, he was stationed at the Wittenberg Cathedral. It was there he received instructions from Johann Tetzel, a local friar. He received from Tetzel a blank 'Letter of Indulgence.' This piece of paper is for sinners to buy from the Catholic church, thus assuring forgiveness. The notion of purchasing salvation infuriated Luther. He knew that Pope Leo X was building St. Peter's Basilica and did not approve of these fundraising methods. "Why doesn't the Pope use his own money rather than the money of poor believers to build it?" he asked.

95 Theses. One day, whilst seated on the toilet, Luther came up with the idea to make a formal protest on the matter. (Archaeologists in 2004 discovered his bathroom had a heated floor--Maybe he did spend a lot of time there!) Anyhow, on October 31, 1517, Luther gallantly walked up to the Wittenberg Cathedral and proudly nailed his famed 95 Theses on the twenty-feet high wooden doors. Despite the lack of an Internet, Luther's ideas instantly spread over Central Europe. Many were also displeased about the Indulgence Practice and a grass-roots Protest(ant) movement was born.

Diet of Worms. Back in Rome, Pope Leo was none too pleased about Luther's criticism. He fired back and had Luther ex-communicated from the church. Not smart. Leo should have tried to work out a compromise. Instead, his rash reaction would change Christianity forever. Emperor Charles V didn't like the Pope calling shots in his empire. "No German will be convicted without a proper hearing," he roared. The Diet of Worms (a Diet is also a convention, not an odd food choice) convened in April of 1521. After months of debate, the sentence was upheld. Luther was imprisoned in Wartberg Castle. For the next 120 years, Central Europe would be ravaged by the Wars of Religion.

Renaissance Man. Perhaps saddened by the carnage he released by his 95 Theses, Luther changed course later in life. His first project was an enormous one: Translating the New Testament from Latin to German. Luther felt if average citizens could read the Bible, they could see for themselves there is no mention of indulgences. In doing so, he became the first person to standardize grammar in the fractured German language. Next, he focused on music, writing dozens of hymns. (You've likely sung his version of the Lord's Prayer.) Luther was released from prison and led a quiet remainder of his life. He died in 1546 at age 62.

All in all, Luther changed the Christian World forever, and a branch of the faith bears his name. Today, Lutheranism has 80 million followers worldwide. Unfortunately, there is one huge blemish on Martin Luther's resume: His anti-Semitism. Many historians link his rhetoric to that of the Third Reich, 400 years later. NOTE: Martin Luther King Jr. did not approve of this aspect of his namesake!

Thursday, March 9, 2017



Adam Davidson, an investigative reporter for the New Yorker, printed a bombshell article this week. A week prior to assuming the office of the Presidency, The Donald quietly pulled out of construction of Trump Tower Baku. Although almost completed, the 25-story building was mired in problems. The largest is the subject of Davidson's piece. It seems Trump's partners, the Mammadov Family, have direct links to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. It comes as no surprise: Azerbaijan is one of the world's most corrupt nations. How bad is it? Last year, President Aliyev appointed his wife as Vice-President...and no one cared. Let's look at how the other five overseas Trump Towers are doing.

Trump Towers Istanbul. Another enormous financial venture with an Islamic nation, this unique structure is actually two buildings in one. Architects conjoined two skyscrapers in diagonal fashion, creating one of the city's most noticeable buildings. One side is for offices, clocking in at 40 stories. Next door are 38 levels of luxury apartments. A five star restaurant boasts the largest wine cellar in Turkey-16,800 bottles. Trump's anti-Islamic rants have hurt business lately and President Erdogan has requested his name "be removed immediately" but it remains in place today.

Trump Tower Manila. Perhaps the most spectacular of the Tower family, this building features curious peal-away corners. Designed by famed architect Jason Pomery, it is one of the tallest buildings in the nation. Like Baku, it too finds itself at the center of a 'Conflict of Interest' issue. See, Trump's Filipino business partners have government connectinos. This puts the US president on the Filipino national payroll. Another mess involves the neighboring businesses. Next door is the 'Mixed Nuts & Ladyboy Bar,' where greased up women wrestle and midgets box.

Daewoo Trump Towers Seoul. Towering 41 stories in the fashionable Gangnam District, Daewoo Trump Towers can be seen in the background of the famous 'Gangnam Style' video. It opened in 2002 to grand fanfare. The Daewoo Corporation had helped construct the original Trump Tower in Manhattan, and the partnership continued to flourish in Korea. The luxury apartments are sold-out with a long waiting list. The two twin towers boldly display the Trump name in 30-foot high capital letters. Koreans are not known for angry protests and there have been few disruptions since the election.

Trump Towers Panama. The only entry for Latin America, the Trump Ocean Club opened in 2011. Dominating the city's skyline, the behemoth, 70 floor hotel is just steps from the beach. From there, guests can take a quick ride to the private resort on Vivernos Island. Shaped like a sail, many noted the similarity to the iconic Burj Dubai Hotel. Donald says this is merely coincidence, and the lawsuit remains stalled somewhere. Meanwhile, the project has been amazingly successful. In addition to the private island, guests love the 600 slot machines recently installed in the Casino.

Trump Tower Toronto. The final entry might be the most impressive. Toronto's fourth tallest building is also very wide. It totals 380 condominiums and apartments, with two penthouses on top that would blow your mind. Sadly, in addition to continuous protests, the building has been besieged with financial issues. During construction, a nasty row between investors involved multiple 'breach of contract' lawsuits. Despite this, on Opening Day in 2012, 261 units were occupied. The future looks dim. JCF Capital, the firm overseeing operations, fined for bankruptcy last year. This is one investment Donald will be happy to walk away from.

Friday, March 3, 2017



Every day, a president form one nation visits a Prime Minister from another country. So, normally, the DUNER BLOG doesn’t cover such items. HOWEVER… When the Saudi King’s flotilla of luxury jets touched down in Indonesia yesterday, we felt the need to blog. Why? Well, when the Saudi monarch travels, he travels in style. Not since Mansu Musa has any king ever traveled so lavishly. Let’s run down the details.

First of all, King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud doesn’t travel alone. More than 1,500 Saudi delegates, aides, chefs, bodyguards, advisers and servants also accompany him. (Not to mention twenty-five royal princes.) To carry this ginormous entourage, the Royal family uses seven specially-equipped airplanes. Did we mention the 506 tons of luggage? Granted, a lot of this weight is the two S600 Mercedes Benz limousines. (Bulletproof plates are heavy!) Finally, there are his clothes. We can only imagine how many robes, clocks, bishts and sandals the King and his people have packed.

Check out the interior of the Royal jet!

Next, let's review what happened when he landed in Jakarta. Naturally, the king had a couple minor requests for the Indonesian government. Immediately upon arrival, he demanded a gold-plated escalator to take him from his Airbus Dreamliner cabin to the tarmac below. Next, he needed an elevator assist him up to a royal platform. Tomorrow, he'll travel to the famed Isfiqulal Mosque (the largest in SE Asia.). Fortunately, a special VIP toilet was installed just for him...if nature calls. Oh, don't forget the luxury hotels. Four in Jakarta and five in Bali are completely taken over by the enormous Saudi delegation this week.

You’re wondering: Why are the Indonesians going so crazy for the Saudi king? Hmm. Maybe it’s the $20 billion he plans to invest into the nation’s companies and infrastructure. See, King Abdullah knows that nothing lasts forever. Hybrid cars might suddenly take over the planet, putting petroleum-based economies in peril. Naturally, Saudi Arabia is looking to diversify. In addition to the $6 billion refinery they will build in Java, they are investing in mining, textiles and manufacturing as well.

Sadly, lost in the media coverage of the Saudi’s grandiose lifestyle is the historical significance of the visit. Indonesia is the world’s largest Islamic nation. Saudi Arabia is home to world’s most important Islamic centers. Yet the two have had less than friendly relations; the last such visit was 47 years ago. Simply put, Saudis don’t like mild Indonesian Islam. Indonesians didn’t like it when the Saudis beheaded one of their maids for ambiguous crimes. But today, King Abdullah and President Widodo are putting these matters behind them. They are forging new economic ties to better both states. It just seems funny that they have to build a gold-plated escalator to start talking!