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

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Cleveland Bids Fond Farewell to Joakim Noah

With last night's Game 5 victory over the Chicago Bulls at the Q, the Cleveland Cavaliers eliminated the Bulls from the playoffs, 4 to 1. Chicago forward Joakim Noah was saddened by his team's quick exit, saying he always enjoys himself in Cleveland and had hoped to stay longer. Cavs fans suggested Noah stuff the Terminal Tower up his French-Swedish ass and rotate!

Monday, April 26, 2010

"Now Where Did I Put That Doggone Country of Mine?"

Some polls and surveys have given us more information about those who identify themselves as TEA Party members. Most of the data is quite predictable, to wit: TEA Baggers are almost exclusively white. They are above average in age. Virtually all of them call themselves Christian, with many of them saying they are fundamentalist or evangelical Christians. Most would like to overturn Roe v. Wade. They are pro-gun, anti-tax, anti-government. They like Sarah Palin. They strongly dislike Barack Obama. A large majority say Fox News is their source of choice for staying informed. No real surprises with any of that.

Somewhat unexpected was that most of them still had most of their teeth, about half were college graduates, and around 20% said they made more than $100,000 annually. A Dispatch article summarized these findings and ended with a quote from a TEA Party woman, who said, "See? We're normal. We're educated. We're just like everybody else. It's the liberal media that tries to paint us as nutjobs just because we happen to know for a fact that Obama's a Muslim Socialist born in Kenya." (Really using that college education, isn't she?)

Buster has noticed two things about the TEA Baggers: One, they are truly convinced that they are the majority, and therefore mainstream. They are not. The polling results perfectly describe far-right arch-conservatives. Might be 10% of the American public, 20% tops. And two, they are very fond of saying, "I want my country back!", as if it were misplaced or stolen. Often, the words are screamed out with great anger.

It's time to channel the late Howard Cosell and tell it like it is: Their missing "country" is a fiction that never really existed to begin with. It's a Norman Rockwell/Beaver Cleaver bullshit dreamworld with clean-cut WASP families all living, working and praying together in perfect Kum-Ba-Yah harmony. Sounds like Stepford, Connecticut. Preserve me!

More telling it like it is: Where was all this anti-government vitriol while Dubya was running up record deficits and lying out of both sides of his mouth simultaneously? What if the current Democratic President was a low-key, well-spoken moderate white guy named John Smith, instead of a low-key, well-spoken moderate black-ish guy with a funny name? Despite all their protests to the contrary, could it be that there's more than a little raciscm at work in the TEA Party? To borrow a phrase, You betcha!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Bad Math, Part 2

One plus one equals how many?!

When I was a high school sophomore, a teacher assigned us a book to read. It was The Population Bomb, by Dr. Paul Ehrlich. That I still remember it hints at its impact on me. Ehrlich's point was simple, obvious, and powerful: Virtually every problem the world faces today and will likely face in the future is related to overpopulation. Our 3rd Rock has finite space and finite resources, but its people have an unlimited capacity to procreate. According to Ehrlich, we could one day literally fuck ourselves out of existence! We're not there yet, happily, but the global population continues to increase. Can't continue forever.

Let's review the math: A man and a woman get together and reproduce. If they (and others like them) have just one child, population will decrease. If they have two children, population will be static (zero growth). If they have three or more children, population will increase. That's where the bad math comes in. Adding more and more people is just not a sustainable practice for the planet Earth.

I know that nobody wants to wear a raincoat in the shower, but hey, young men, gotta put on that party hat! Uneducated ignorant folks in developing nations have a decent excuse -- they're ignorant. Education will fix that. But people like Jon and Kate Gosselin and that sanctimonious couple with 18 kids and more proudly on the way are irresponsible dumbasses! They should be sterilized now!

Bad Math

In a bit of politically expedient pandering, President Obama recently relaxed certain rules regarding off-shore oil drilling. Any benefits to us in supply or price would be negligible at best, and years down the road. The United States owns 2% of the world's known oil reserves, and we use 25% of the world's oil production. This is bad math -- the numbers just don't work. And we were all reminded again last week that oil exploration can be dangerous and environmentally hazardous.

No easy answers here. As Tower of Power sang in the '70s, "There is only so much oil in the ground. After it's gone, there ain't no more around." That was 35 years ago and not much has changed. Weaning ourselves off petroleum products will not be easy, cheap, or happen anytime real soon, but we've got to get to work in earnest on alternative energy sources. The "Drill, Baby, Drill" crowd is fucking stupid.

"I Know I Was Driving 100 MPH, Officer, But I Gotta Get to Pennsylvania Quick So I Can Pee!"

In a classic case of misguided fiscal conservatism, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) has declared there is no money in the budget to maintain the state's two remaining Interstate reststops. These bathrooms will close immediately. As a lower-cost alternative, coin-op Depends dispensers will be installed at all off ramps. Christie also suggests leather upholstery for all Garden State vehicles.

Catching Up With The Palins

Busy little beavers, those Palins! Sarah is keeping herself occupied as head cheerleader for the TEA Partiers and with her gig as a Fox News commentator. Soon, you'll also be able to see her hosting a regular series on Discover, Sarah Palin's Alaska. She'll get $1 million per episode to share with us how the real Americans in Alaska enjoy raping and pillaging their natural resources by drillin' for oil, ridin' snowmobiles, and shootin' wolves from helicopters. Big fun for all!

Meanwhile, daughter Bristol, having been so frequently and pleasurably fucked by sperm donor Levi Johnston that she's now the unwed teenage mother of a baby she never wanted, has decided she can swear off the meat injections for awhile. Without a trace of irony, she's announced that she'll henceforth be a spokesperson for . . . (wait for it) . . . abstinence! Well, of course!

Half Nelson, Full Nelson, Father Nelson

These are tough times for the Catholic church. It seems there's no end to the sex abuse scandal, and not just here but worldwide. Not that many years ago, it was a source of genuine family pride if a young man announced he wanted to enter the priesthood. These days, family reaction is likely to be somewhat, uh, different.

Where's Waldo The Illegal Mexican?

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (R) signed a new state law aimed at reducing the state's illegal immigrant population. It grants law enforcement broad new powers to stop any "suspected" illegal aliens and make them produce proof (on the spot) that they are in fact properly documented or U.S. citizens, as the case may be.

Buster understands the frustration of some Arizonans, but this is bad law, unconstitutional, and will not stand up to the numerous legal challenges sure to follow. Gov. Brewer says she won't stand for any racism or profiling in the enforcement of this law, but that's pretty much what the law calls for. In Arizona, they're not worried about undocumented Russians or Filipinos or Somalis or Canadians. It's all about the Mexicans. So how does one spot an illegal Mexican? How does one come to "suspect" illegal status? Does illegal look different from legal? Does a shirt and tie do the trick? Does a Mexican look appreciably different than a Honduran or a Costa Rican or a Brazilian?

Without racial profiling, there will be no enforcement. Effective implementation would mean that Officer Johnny Law should shake down everyone who looks vaguely Hispanic. As such, it's a political statement but a legal dead duck.

So what's the answer? Man, I don't know. It's said we now have about 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S., and let's be real for a second -- we're not going to round up 12 million people and deport them, especially if half of 'em will be back tomorrow. Perhaps granting them some sort of legal status/amnesty would not be a bad way to go. That way, we could at least turn them into taxpayers (and voters. Ooh, the R's sure won't like that! Tee-hee!)

Just Say No To Finance Reform Legislation?? John! Mitch! Your Dogma Is Showing!

It appears likely that the Democratic-sponsored package of financial reforms (a.k.a. the Dodd Bill) will come to a vote in the Senate this week. Will the R's play nice, or will we endure a pointless fillibuster? Their initial knee-jerk reaction was pathetically predictable -- Boehner and McConnell immediately told us the bill was "not what the American people want". (These two always seem to know what the people want. They must be very smart!) They also told us the bill will significantly increase the possibility of future bank bailouts. (It does no such thing, of course. It does the opposite. But why skip an opportunity to sow doubt and confusion?)

Then, after a moment's reflection, it dawned on the Glimmer Twins that it was indeed the bad actors at Big Banks and on Wall Street that brought us the stock market collapse, the worst recession since the Great Depression of 1929, the loss of 8 million jobs, big drops in home values, mushrooming foreclosures, taxpayer bailouts of banks, insurance companies and automakers, and happily waltzed us all to the brink of the economic abyss and that maybe the American people want something done about it after all. Well, duh! I mean, Jesus, even right-wing apologist Ben Stein is in favor of passing the Dodd Bill. An amendment or two could strengthen it, but even if that doesn't happen it's still a move in the right direction. The thing will pass.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Just Barely Scrapin' By

To show us that he did not benefit financially from the 2008 demise of his former employer, Lehman Bros., Ohio gubernatorial candidate John Kasich (R) released his 2008 tax returns. These forms show how miraculous it was that Kasich was able to make ends meet in that tax year, struggling and scrimping as he did on a mere $1.4 million in taxable income. And what a relief to learn that while their shareholders took it up the ass, Lehman was financially non-benefitting Kasich to the tune of only $615,000 in compensation. And Fox News was giving him a paltry $265,000 as a commentator. Yes, times were certainly tough in 2008. On the bright side, Kasich's book sales earned him $51 in royalties.

"I Took A History Class In College, But I Flunked"

Catering to his constituency, Bob McDonnell, the white Republican governor of Virginia, recently declared April to be "Confederate History Month" in his state. In his speech kicking off the month-long celebration (nuthin' says party like the Civil War!), Gov. McDonnell touched on plantations and Lee's Army and Bull Run and Jeff Davis, but somehow made not a single reference to slaves or slavery. Black leaders in Virginia were incensed. McDonnell acknowledged his oversight and vowed to make up for it by declaring May "Nigger-Joke History Month."

Hoops Yes, Baseball No

President Obama is a well-known basketball fan and a decent baller in his own right, which he showed playing H-O-R-S-E with Clark Kellogg during the Final Four. On the other hand, his first pitch at the Washington Senators' home opener was an awkward, dorky lollipop. Hey Cuz, stick to hoops! Next Opening Day, send Biden. Hell, send Michelle!

"We Took Public Relations Classes In College, But We Flunked"

If you needed proof as to why health care reform was the right thing to do, look no further than the health insurance industry's first official comment after the bill was signed. In the first year, the bill requires that insurers provide coverage to children with pre-existing conditions. Children! But an insurance industry spokesperson said that their reading of the bill indicated the exact opposite and they were not required to offer such coverage.

This sort of self-serving splitting of the semantic fine hair is typical of insurance companies. Looking for any pretext to refuse coverage or deny claims is their default setting. But in this case, their hasty and ill-conceived statement conjured images of sick, suffering, uninsured kids and even the most hard-hearted Scrooges on the right had to admit that the insurance industry's interpretation was a little, shall we say, cruel.

So, in a spasm of furious back-pedalling and spinning, industry representatives issued a "clarification" -- that they were merely pointing out that the bill's language was a bit fuzzy, that they of course would honor the spirit of the law and cover these helpless little children, and that they never had the slightest intention of refusing them coverage.

Oh, fuckin' sure!!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Hangin' With Sherrod, Mary Jo and Mike

On April 1st (no foolin') I attended a rally in Columbus to celebrate the passage of the health care reform bill. Never before in my life had I been to such an affair, but I was at this one by invitation of Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown. Sherrod and I are old homeys -- we're both from Mansfield, attended the same church, and went to the same junior high school. But that's not why I was invited.

Over the past year, I sent rather frequent emails to my elected officials in D.C. about what I saw as the necessity to do something to improve the state of health insurance in this country. Mostly I sent stuff to Sen. Brown and Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy. I sent a couple emails to Sen. Voinovich too, but I knew he didn't really give a shit. At some point, I shared the story of Kathy being turned down for health insurance for a lame-ass, trivial pre-existing condition -- mild, treatable high blood pressure.

So when the health bill finally passed, I got an email from Sen. Brown's office inviting me to attend this celebration rally thing in Columbus on the 1st. I sent back the RSVP form and said I'd be there. A couple days later, I got a phone call from someone at Brown's office asking if I would be willing to speak at this rally and tell my story (Kathy's story, actually) to the crowd. I said yes.

And I'm glad I did. It was a real rah-rah party atmosphere (albeit a party with no drinking and an unimpressive deli tray). Had about 400 supporters there, with signs and balloons and confetti. There were cops and Secret Service and metal detectors. Photographers, videographers and newspaper reporters. Across the street were 4 or 5 pathetic TEA-bag protestors, trying hard to work up their moral outrage at having a black guy for President.

There were two other people like me who were there to "tell their story". We arrived early for a private meet and greet with Brown, Kilroy and Mayor Michael Coleman. After all these years, Sherrod recognized me and called me by name before I could introduce myself. Very gratifying. The other story tellers and I got to sit up front on the dais along with the politicians and dignitaries. When the time came, I was introduced by Mayor Coleman. I got the personal shout-out from Rep. Kilroy when she spoke, and got the same from Sherrod when he took the podium. He also name-dropped our mutual alma mater, Johnny Appleseed Junior High, his memory refreshed by his old 1966 yearbook photo (above), which I brought with me. When all the speeches were finished, complete strangers came up and thanked us (for what, I'm not sure). Some lady asked me to autograph her sign. It was unreal!

Sure hope the R's don't repeal it!

I'm still a rank beginner at this blog stuff, so I can't figure out how to insert a working link into this post. But if you look at "Buster's Links" and click "Health Care Rally Photo Set", it will take you to some photos of the event. You'll find your humble correspondent pictured in the 5th row, 2nd, 3rd, 4th images; 7th row, 2nd image; 8th row, 1st image. My 15 minutes!