Welcome to Buster's Blog

Irregular commentary on whatever's on my mind -- politics, sports, current events, and life in general. After twenty years of writing business and community newsletters, fifteen years of fantasy baseball newsletters, and two years of email "columns", this is, I suppose, the inevitable result: the awful conceit that someone might actually care to read what I have to say. Posts may be added often, rarely, or never again. As always, my mood and motivation are unpredictable.

Buster Gammons

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Schoolhouse Rock Explains How TrumpCare Becomes Law

Dear Mitch

(My email today to Sen. Mitch McConnell.  He'll never read it, of course, but what the hell.)

Dear Mitch,

As always, you insult everyone's intelligence.

Concocted in total secrecy, your lobbyist-designed Senate version of health care is no better than the House's abomination, the AHCA.  Your bill guts funding for the ACA with a huge tax cut for those who don't need it.  It damages the group coverage concepts of the ACA by eliminating the individual mandate and by dropping the requirement that employers of 50+ offer health insurance.  Fewer people will purchase coverage.  Your plan will mean higher premiums and deductibles, especially for the old and the sick, and lower premium subsidies for those who need them most.  It removes the requirement for essential medical benefits and removes the ban on lifetime payment caps, which essentially will render pre-existing coverage meaningless.  And your bill will remove tens of millions of Americans from Medicaid coverage (but the really big cuts won't occur for another 7-8 years, because all you GOP Senators need to get re-elected!).

Then you have the arrogance, the impudence, the gall, to stand up in public and declare your hot, steaming mess to be an "achievement."  It is no such thing.  It's a debacle.  Just like the House's AHCA, your Senate bill does not improve health care in any way.  It worsens it.  It will hurt people.  Have you no decency?

All the worst,

Buster Gammons

Speaking Of Gross Injustice

Here's a coincidental and incredible follow-up to yesterday's "Gross Injustice" post.

In April of this year, Columbus Police responded to reports of a man with a gun.  They found him, arrested him, handcuffed him with his hands behind his back, and placed him face down on the pavement.  The man was clearly sudued and giving no resistance.  Officer Zachary Rosen was then videotaped running up to the suspect and, for no reason, stomping him on the head and then kneeling on his head and neck.

Rosen has a history of out-of-control excessive force.  In 2015, he drew his gun on an unarmed man and kicked him until he fell down.  In the 2016 deadly confrontation with Henry Green, Rosen fired his weapon at Green 15 times.

After the April stomping incident, a grand jury declined to indict Rosen and he was placed on desk duty while Columbus Police Chief Kim Jacobs pondered her disciplinary options.  Yesterday, she announced her decision:  an unpaid suspension of 24 work hours, the equivalent of three 8-hour shifts.

Another gross injustice!  Suspended for 24 hours?  This fucking sadistic pig ought to be fired.  He's mentally unfit to be a police officer.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

"And Your Hats Are Great Too!"

Yesterday, Panamanian President Juan Carlos Vareja visited the White House, and Dolt 45 used the occasion to demonstrate the full scope of his vast knowledge of the Central American nation:

Trump:  "The Panama Canal is doing quite well.  I think we did a good job building it, right?"

Varejo:  "Yeah.  One hundred years ago."

Trump (oblivious):  "We did a very good job."

"Covfefe, right?"

Teddy Roosevelt on a steam shovel, Canal Zone, 1906

Gross Injustice

I'm sure you've seen the horrific dash cam video by now.  Even so, here it is again:

After handing his license and insurance card to Officer Jeronimo Yanez, at the 0:42 mark Philando Castile says, "Sir, I have to tell you I do have a firearm on me."

Yanez:  "Don't reach for it then.  Don't pull it out."
Castile:  "I'm not pulling it out."
Castile's girlfriend:  "He's not pulling it out."

At the 0:50 mark, Yanez fires 7 shots into Castile, then screams, "Don't pull it out!"

Castile's last words:  "I wasn't."

Incredibly, a Minnesota jury acquitted Yanez of manslaughter charges.  Yanez got off because he said he thought he smelled pot (not a capital offense), and he thought Castile was going for his gun (he wasn't), and he therefore "feared for his life."

In reality, Castile was shot because he was black, and cops are trained to racially profile.  Cops are also trained to say things like, "I thought he had a gun" and "I feared for my life" every time they discharge their weapons.  It's their get-out-of-jail-free card, and it works.  Cops successfully avoid responsibility on this basis all the time.

"Oh, the guy was black and you were scared, and so you shot him dead?  Completely understandable and legally justified.  Everybody knows black people are scary and always carry guns and are high all the time.  Yes, better to shoot first and ask questions later."

 Philando Castile, St. Paul.  John Crawford III, Dayton.  Michael Brown, Ferguson, MO.  Tamir Rice, Cleveland.  Alton Sterling, Baton Rouge.  Walter Scott, Charleston, SC.  Samuel Dubose, Cincinnati.  Tyre King, Columbus.  Keith Scott, Charlotte.

Each was an unarmed black man recently shot dead by police.  A couple were children.  Each shooting was unjustified.  In fact, each was a gross injustice.  (The complete list is much longer.  Those are just the ones I can remember.  Could add Eric Garner, New York City, and Freddie Gray, Baltimore, but they were choked and beaten to death, not shot.)  In almost every case, the cops were exonerated, and most were not even criminally charged.  The cop in the Walter Scott case escaped criminal prosecution and heavy jail time by pleading guilty to violating Scott's civil rights.  After a mistrial, the cop in the Dubose case is being retried on criminal charges, and the jury is still deliberating.

And it's a gross injustice that these incidents have become a "normal" part of being a black person in America.  Must every black person now resort to the demeaning strategy Trevor Noah calls "extreme surrender"?

Big Money Battle Over Ohio's Drug Price Relief Act

A citizen-initiated bill will appear on Ohio's November election ballot.  Known as the Drug Price Relief Act, it would prohibit the state from paying more for any prescription drug than the lowest price paid for the same drug by the VA's Veterans Health Administration.  (By law, the VA may negotiate drug prices, while Medicare and Medicaid may not.)  This new price cap should produce cost savings to Ohio of at least 24%, and potentially much higher.  The discounted prices would apply to approximately 4.2 million Ohioans, most on Medicaid, the rest being state workers and public university employees.  Seems fairly straightforward.

Opponents of the bill include the drug industry lobby known as PhRMA, and the Chamber of Commerce.  Last year in California, they defeated a similar bill by outspending the proponents five to one.  Drug companies will always charge the highest price they can get away with, and Ohio's Drug Price Relief Act would trim their sails a little bit, which they don't like at all.

As in California, the pro-side, Ohio Taxpayers For Lower Drug Prices, is already being vastly outspent by the anti-side, Ohioans Against the Deceptive Rx Ballot Issue.  The opponents may have much more advertising money, but their argument is light on facts and evidence, and heavy on scare tactics.

These critics threaten that if the bill passes, drug makers will cover their reduced profits with price hikes to those not covered by state insurance.  They offer no proof that this will occur.  Interestingly, they never suggest that drug makers are not making a profit at VA prices.  And they never claim the bill would not save money for Ohio and 4 million of its residents.  Instead, valuing their bottom line and nothing else, they fall back on massive ad buys packed with FUD -- fear, uncertainty, and doubt. 

They rely on words and phrases such as "unworkable," "dangerous," "may actually increase costs," and their favorite, "deceptive."  But they never explain why the bill is unworkable, dangerous, costly and deceptive.  It just is.  Be afraid.  Such tactics are common and, well, deceptive.

With everyone from liberal Sen. Sherrod Brown to conservative Ohio AG Mike DeWine to deranged dipshit Donald Trump trying to do something about rising drug prices, not to mention my own self-interest, I'm inclined to vote for the Ohio Drug Price Relief Act.  I don't see a real downside, and I'm turned off by the slippery mendacity of the bill's opponents.

But it's a long road to November, and I'm no expert.  If I'm looking at it the wrong way, give it a shot -- persuade me.  

Monday, June 19, 2017

School Scandals -- Columbus City Schools vs. ECOT

A couple years ago, Columbus City Schools, the largest district in the state of Ohio, was caught in a sandal of dishonest manipulation of student enrollment records and grades.  Purpose?  To inflate the district's academic performance and make it look better than it actually was.  Why did they want that?  To avoid an official academic downgrade and the enrollment loss/funding loss likely to come with it.  The GOP loves charter schools and hates public education.  They've devised an evaluation system where test scores are everything.  Any large, big-city public district has the socio-economic deck stacked against them in such a scheme.  Lower public school ratings help the GOP push its privatization agenda.

The online high school Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) is the state's largest charter.    ECOT uses Ohio's public education tax dollars to run its for-profit school, and its owner, Bill Lager, is a major GOP campaign donor.  Their scandal involves intentionally and grossly inflating the number of their online students.  (Of the 15,300 students claimed by ECOT, only 6,300 could be verified.  Oops!)  Purpose?  To receive more state funding dollars.  Why did they want that?  Greed, pure and simple.  ECOT has been fighting the findings in court, and losing.  They were recently ordered by the Ohio Dept. of Education to repay $60 million of the $109 million they received last year.  And yet ECOT is brazenly spending our money right now on a TV ad campaign whining about how unfair it is they got caught.

In both cases, the behavior is inexcusable.  But to my mind, the motives of the Columbus City School system were at least understandable.  ECOT, on the other hand, is a thief, a criminal.  What they did is a form of embezzlement.  I hope they go out of business.

Of interest -- ECOT isn't the only Ohio online charter school to inflate its student numbers.  Audits have found at least three others.  And charter schools as a whole are the worst-performing schools in Ohio.  By the GOP-designed metrics, two-thirds of our charters have a "failing" report card.