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, September 29, 2010

Orange Man With A Plan

(Buster won't even pretend to compete with likes of the estimable Paul Krugman, below, but does have a couple comments.)

The Republican Party's "Pledge To America" is a vague-and-vaguer load of dogmatic claptrap. It pretty much boils down to:

Reduced spending. (All spending is "reckless" and "wasteful" when the D's are in the majority.)

Smaller government. (Government is always "too big" and a "bureaurocracy" when the D's are in charge. "Small government" is code for rolling back regulations, eliminating social programs, and reducing safeguards and oversight.)

Make permanent Bush's tax cuts. (Especially for the real R constituency, the ultra-rich.)

Repeal health care reform. (No real reason. Just wanna stick it to Obama!)

Said chief "Pledge" drummerboy John Boehner, "We're not going to be any different than we've been."

No shit, Orange Man.

On The Downhill Road With The G.O.P.

By Paul Krugman
Published 9/23/10 by the NY Times

Once upon a time, a Latin American political party promised to help motorists save money on gasoline. How? By building highways that ran only downhill.

I’ve always liked that story, but the truth is that the party received hardly any votes. And that means that the joke is really on us. For these days one of America’s two great political parties routinely makes equally nonsensical promises. Never mind the war on terror, the party’s main concern seems to be the war on arithmetic. And this party has a better than even chance of retaking at least one house of Congress this November.

Banana republic, here we come.

On Thursday, House Republicans released their “Pledge to America,” supposedly outlining their policy agenda. In essence, what they say is, “Deficits are a terrible thing. Let’s make them much bigger.” The document repeatedly condemns federal debt — 16 times, by my count. But the main substantive policy proposal is to make the Bush tax cuts permanent, which independent estimates say would add about $3.7 trillion to the debt over the next decade — about $700 billion more than the Obama administration’s tax proposals.

True, the document talks about the need to cut spending. But as far as I can see, there’s only one specific cut proposed — canceling the rest of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which Republicans claim (implausibly) would save $16 billion. That’s less than half of 1 percent of the budget cost of those tax cuts. As for the rest, everything must be cut, in ways not specified — “except for common-sense exceptions for seniors, veterans, and our troops.” In other words, Social Security, Medicare and the defense budget are off-limits.

So what’s left? Howard Gleckman of the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has done the math. As he points out, the only way to balance the budget by 2020, while simultaneously (a) making the Bush tax cuts permanent and (b) protecting all the programs Republicans say they won’t cut, is to completely abolish the rest of the federal government: “No more national parks, no more Small Business Administration loans, no more export subsidies, no more N.I.H. No more Medicaid (one-third of its budget pays for long-term care for our parents and others with disabilities). No more child health or child nutrition programs. No more highway construction. No more homeland security. Oh, and no more Congress.”

The “pledge,” then, is nonsense. But isn’t that true of all political platforms? The answer is, not to anything like the same extent. Many independent analysts believe that the Obama administration’s long-run budget projections are somewhat too optimistic — but, if so, it’s a matter of technical details. Neither President Obama nor any other leading Democrat, as far as I can recall, has ever claimed that up is down, that you can sharply reduce revenue, protect all the programs voters like, and still balance the budget.

And the G.O.P. itself used to make more sense than it does now. Ronald Reagan’s claim that cutting taxes would actually increase revenue was wishful thinking, but at least he had some kind of theory behind his proposals. When former President George W. Bush campaigned for big tax cuts in 2000, he claimed that these cuts were affordable given (unrealistic) projections of future budget surpluses. Now, however, Republicans aren’t even pretending that their numbers add up.

So how did we get to the point where one of our two major political parties isn’t even trying to make sense?

The answer isn’t a secret. The late Irving Kristol, one of the intellectual godfathers of modern conservatism, once wrote frankly about why he threw his support behind tax cuts that would worsen the budget deficit: his task, as he saw it, was to create a Republican majority, “so political effectiveness was the priority, not the accounting deficiencies of government.” In short, say whatever it takes to gain power. That’s a philosophy that now, more than ever, holds sway in the movement Kristol helped shape.

And what happens once the movement achieves the power it seeks? The answer, presumably, is that it turns to its real, not-so-secret agenda, which mainly involves privatizing and dismantling Medicare and Social Security.

Realistically, though, Republicans aren’t going to have the power to enact their true agenda any time soon — if ever. Remember, the Bush administration’s attack on Social Security was a fiasco, despite its large majority in Congress — and it actually increased Medicare spending.

So the clear and present danger isn’t that the G.O.P. will be able to achieve its long-run goals. It is, rather, that Republicans will gain just enough power to make the country ungovernable, unable to address its fiscal problems or anything else in a serious way. As I said, banana republic, here we come.

Send The Little Dead-Beat A Bill!

A few years ago, failed Ohio gubernatorial candidate Jim Petro (R) ran a TV ad trying to show that he was a God-fearing right-to-lifer. It featured a lingering image of a pacifier placed on a Bible. How convincing! Congressional candidate Steve Stivers (R) may have outdone Petro when it comes to treacly, gag-inducing, lowest-common-denominator imagery.

His latest TV spot features a close-up of his infant daughter in her crib. The voice-over invites us to "Meet Sarah, Steve Stivers' daughter." (Aww, babies are so cute!) "Her share of the national debt is $35,000." The voice goes on to explain how this is entirely the fault of Stivers opponent, Mary Jo Kilroy. (I knew it!)

What a classy jackass you are, Stivers! Your baby's not even six months old, she has no fucking clue what's going on, doesn't even really know who you are, and already you're using her for your own political benefit. You're a shameless turd.

And since Sarah owes so much, Buster says we send her little dead-beat ass a bill right now! Pay up!

Monday, September 27, 2010

How Low Can We Go?

These days, there is no better proof of the increasing stupidity of the average American than the apparent influence of so-called TEA Party candidates. Let's touch on two of them, just for fun:

Christine O'Donnell, Republican for U.S. Senate, Delaware
Opposes any form of birth control
Favors total abstinence
In 2003, said she was a "young woman in my 30's and I remain chaste"
Equates masturbation with loss of virginity
Opposed to abortion for any reason
Wants to teach creationism in the public schools
Opposed to all stem cell research
Called homosexuality an "identity disorder"
In favor of offshore oil drilling in Delaware
And of course, in the 1980's, she "dabbled in witchcraft"

Sharron Angle, Republican for U.S. Senate, Nevada
Wants to eliminate the U.S. Dept. of Education
Would provide no federal funding to low-income public schools
Wants to phase out Social Security and Medicare and turn them over to for-profit private enterprises
In favor of eliminating the IRS and all income taxes
Thinks the USA should resign from the United Nations
Would ask the UN to move its headquarters to another country
Doesn't believe in global warming
Opposed to any gay rights
Opposed to abortion for any reason
Opposed to fluoride treatments in public water supplies
Would like to repeal the Civil Rights Act of 1964

And there are several others, like Pat Toomey of PA, Rand Paul of KY, Michelle Bachmann of MN, and of course, Caribou Barbie herself, Sarah Palin of the Planet Fox.

We should all be more than a little concerned that people like these have some traction in our society. Because, my friends, it's a very short stone's throw from these angry, ultra-conservative nut-jobs to truly dangerous, anti-social, cult-like movements like the Branch Davidians, the Freeman Ranch, and neo-Nazi militias.

The latter groups share a belief that their "cause" is righteous (especially when they toss religion into the mix). They have a hatred of government, and may even disavow the authority of government. Some believe they are not subject to US law, they pay no taxes, have no Social Security number, no drivers license. They believe that they are genuine patriots/disciples and that they are on the one true path. And they are heavily armed. Are the TEA Baggers that much different?

In previous posts, Buster has written that "Religion is the last refuge of a scoundrel." This is a deliberate paraphrasing of a comment from the 18th century British author Samuel Johnson. Dr. Johnson's actual words were, "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel."

Think about it.

The Columbus Dispatch: Not Ohio's Greatest Home Newspaper

Big surprise. Yesterday, the Columbus Dispatch endorsed Robbie Portman (R) for U.S. Senate. This is predictable and pathetic. I mean, it's still September, for cryin' out loud! Nothing more to be said or learned about this race between Portman and Lee Fisher? Not according to the Dispatch.

Well, fucking hell! They oughta save time, trouble, and editorial space and just issue a blanket endorsement for the entire state-wide Republican ticket.

Why do I subscribe to that piece of shit rag? Sports section, I guess.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Ohio's Redfern Strafes TEA Party, Drops F-Bomb

Last week, Ohio's Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern was addressing a group of steelworkers in northeast Ohio. He expressed his anger and frustration at TEA Partiers who oppose the health reform law, calling them "these fuckers".

Redfern has since refused to apologize for his remark, but has said he will choose his words differently in the future. He will no longer refer to the TEA Partiers as fuckers. From now on, he'll call them "boot-licking, slime-sucking ignorant tools".

Virginia Executes Woman For Being Fat, Ugly and Stupid

Last week, the Commonwealth of Virginia saw fit to carry out a capital punishment sentence on a woman named Teresa Lewis. Teresa didn't actually kill anybody herself; she had somebody else kill her husband. The actual killer did not receive the death sentence, just a jail term. He acknowledged that Teresa was pretty much a sap who he set up in order to get her money. In prison, Teresa's mental facilities were tested several times, and indicated an IQ of just 71, which is borderline moron status. Nevertheless, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell (R) refused to commute her sentence, saying, "Our official cut-off line for executing idiots is a 70 IQ, so she's passed the test and we're gonna kill her." And they did.

Somebody please tell me how this makes sense.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Tackling the Deficit

Sure is a lot of talk these days about "the deficit".

First, let's remember that there was no deficit when Clinton left office. And let's remember that our current deficit didn't show up yesterday. It's the result of 8 years of George W. Bush spending like a drunken sailor on all things military, while at the same time slashing income taxes and pretending not to notice the reduction in federal revenue. The two biggest components, by far, of our deficit are the two fact-challenged wars Dubya felt compelled to wage, and his unnecessary tax cuts of 2001 and 3003.

Second, please recall that a deficit means that expenses exceed income. Trimming a deficit can be accomplished by increasing income, by decreasing expenses, or by some combination of both.

So, here's The Buster Gammons Fearless Plan For Deficit Reduction and Economic Recovery. It's a hybrid of FDR's New Deal WPA, Paul Krugman economics, and Lewis Black's "Really Big Fucking Thing" theory:

We get the hell out of both Iraq and Afghanistan. All the way out. Right the fuck now. That will allow us to greatly reduce our military expenditures (always a humongous budget category). We won't need more planes, boats, tanks, guns, what have you. We already have shitloads of cutting-edge equipment and technology and we still couldn't catch one old Arab wearing a sheet and fucking sandals! So, sorry, but the military budget has to take a big hit. The generals will howl, of course. Let 'em.

We let all the Bush-era temporary tax cuts expire as scheduled at the end of this year. Not just the top bracket for the well-off top 2% of earners making over $250,000 annually, but for all earners in all brackets. This means me, you, everybody. Obama and most D's would like to cut the baby in half by letting the temporary rates expire only on the $250 K+ people, but make the lower rates permanent for the rest of us. That'd be nice, but if you're really serious about deficit reduction, you need a boost on the income side and so you have to restore all the rates to their pre-Bush levels. (Bush's cuts stimulated nothing and were a stunt anyway -- "Temporary cuts because I can, because it feels good, because it's Republican orthodoxy, and I'll let somebody else worry about the effects later, like when I'm gone.")

We make a huge investment in America's infrastructure. Obama recently said he'd like to spend $50 billion to spruce up our aging and neglected stuff. That's truly a good idea, but not nearly enough. Make it a couple trillion dollars and now we're talkin'! (The American Society of Civil Engineers has said we could easily spend that much.) We have plenty of decrepit roadways, bridges, buildings, tunnels, railroads, runways, pipelines, sewers, etc. Enough to employ millions of people in a necessary endeavor and keep 'em busy for decades.

Yes, that's a whole lot of money, but once this giant public works project really gets going, you've got a lot more people earning decent incomes, which increases personal income tax revenues and Social Security revenues. You've got more people buying more things and going more places, which increases revenue from sales taxes, property taxes, hotel taxes, airfare taxes, gasoline taxes, liquor taxes, etc. To meet the higher demand, more new businesses spring up and more existing businesses thrive, which leads to increases in business income taxes. And on and on.

There you have it. A major investment in our infrastructure is an investment in our own people and our economy. Like my old boss used to tell me: Sometimes you gotta spend money to make money.


Corporate America -- good old private sector, free-market, trickle down, corporate America -- took our TARP money and our stimulus money while they continued to pay their executives unconscionable incomes. They've now posted several straight quarters of profitability. Earnings are good and they're splashing around in cash like a kid in the baby pool.

But unemployment is still high and the private sector sure as shit ain't hiring. Why? "Uncertainty" about the economy, i.e. will that black Kenyan Socialist Muslim president of ours kiss the collective ass of big business and give them everything they want? Or won't he?

This uncertainty excuse is Grade A bullshit. The private sector is the exact opposite of uncertain. They're certain that they're OK, even if you're not. They're certain that a Republican majority will shower them with tax cuts, regulation rollbacks, and a host of similar goodies. They're certain they're gonna sit on their hands and continue their hiring freeze through the mid-term elections, and possibly even through 2012.

As for the many millions of unemployed Americans? Certainly let them eat cake.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Big Business Shakedown

As a public service, Buster reminds all his dear friends that unfettered free-market capitalism is not necessarily your friend. Big business has a long and ugly history of fucking the little guy at every turn, all in the name of maximum profit and shareholder return. Remember that, at one time or another, it was the captains of industry who brought us fun stuff like monopolies, child labor, deplorable working conditions, unsafe products, the 16-hour day, the use of violence and murder against labor organizers and striking workers, gender and age discrimination, and unequal pay, to name but a very few.

Take any one of these examples and you'll find that, at the time, business stomped and snorted and insisted that not only was this condition just fine and dandy, but it was also the very key to their business survival, and any restriction of it would spell their certain and immediate doom. "That's right, Congressman. The day I'm not allowed to have little 8 year-old Timmy running the radial arm saw is the day I have to close my doors!"

A total load of crap. But to this day, selfish moaning and groaning is the default setting for corporate America: Taxes are always too high, regulations are always too restrictive, the business climate is never friendly enough.

This strikes me as a threat and it pisses me off. Like the owner of a pro sports franchise who threatens to move the team unless a new stadium is built at taxpayer expense, today's business community likes to work the same sort of slimy shakedown: "Hey America, better give us what we want or else we'll be forced to downsize, outsource, or maybe even move our whole goddam operation to a Third World country!" It's corporate hostage-taking.

Subjecting business to a rule or two, a tax or two, having some protection for worker and consumer, is not a bad thing and it doesn't make us a bunch of Commies. Don't pay the ransom.

Fahrenheit 2010

Terry Jones is a load his mama should've swallowed. He's the ignorant red-neck asshole "preacher" who threatened to burn Korans on September 11th. Although he's about as significant as a booger and not much smarter, this shithead got way more media attention than he deserved. That he thought it appropriate to burn the Koran, and the fact that some Islamic zealots were ready to go postal if he actually did, ought to tell us something about religion.

Nevertheless, we have free speech rights and those rights must be protected, even if that means some moron is allowed to do something really offensive. But stupid is as stupid does. So the next time some stupid jerks want to burn a book or a flag or some other fucking thing, let's all agree right now to ignore them.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Replay Taketh Away, and No Replay Taketh Away. What Giveth?

Earlier this summer, we saw an umpire's bad call take away a perfect game from Tiger pitcher Armando Galarraga. Although the TV broadcast had access to a bunch of replays showing the runner clearly out at first, the umpiring crew wasn't allowed to go to the tape to make things right. The bad call had to stand. No replay taketh away.

Last Sunday, receiver Calvin Johnson of the Detroit Lions scored an apparent game-winning touchdown againts the Bears with 30 seconds left in the game. He clearly caught the ball, had both feet down, slid on his ass while holding up the ball in one hand, then left the ball on the ground as he got up to celebrate. But a required booth review of the replay nullified the TD because Johnson didn't "maintain ball control after touching the ground." Technically correct, but it sure didn't feel right. But rules are rules, so no TD, and the Bears, not the Lions, won. Replay taketh away.

The football ruling is obviously the more significant. It cost the Lions a game and in the NFL, one game can make the difference between making the playoffs and watching them. The baseball call cost a pitcher a perfect game on his resume, which is too bad, because they're rare. But the pitcher still got credit for a 1-hit shutout and the Tigers still won the game.

In the off-season, the NFL Rules Committee will promptly address the screwy language of the rule that burned the Lions and they'll fix it. Done. Baseball, on the other hand, will study, review, assess, cite the long history of the "human element" in the grand old game, review again, reassess, and agree to look into the issue further at a later time. That's baseball!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Round-up At The Big R Corral

(Wherein I mock the TV ads of douchebag Ohio candidates with my usual wise-ass comments.)

John Kasich for Ohio Governor: (Kasich is addressing a group of old, white factory workers who vigorously nod their heads in agreement.) "When I was in business (at the now defunct Lehman Bros), Park Ohio (Who? A Cleveland co. making specialty molded plastic products. Also has a location in Shanghai.) wanted to improve itself financially. (In what way? John doesn't say.) I was able to assemble a team of people and we were able to do just that. (How? Lend 'em money? Make better investments? Outsource to China?) That's what it's all about, and when I'm Governor, we'll work everyday to make Ohio business-friendly again." (We're non-friendly now? How so?)

(And remember that Kasich has previously said he'd eliminate the Ohio income tax and privatize a number of the state's departments and activities.)

Rob Portman for U.S. Senate: "There's a new energy tax coming, and it's a jobs-killer for Ohio. It's called Cap and Trade, and it'll tax you for turning on a light, using a computer, or cooking dinner." (No shit? What's the tax rate on lasagna?)

"We have three kids and we want them to have a future here in Ohio." ("But there can be no future for them if Lee Fisher is elected. They'll have to move away or slit their wrists. And it'll be Fisher's fault!")

"The Portman Plan For Jobs says there's a better way to approach taxes and regulations." (Yes, approach them with a shotgun and blow them away.)

(Things to know about Robbie: In Congress, he voted for more than $30 billion in tax breaks for companies already outsourcing jobs. While he was Bush's trade czar, our trade deficit with China went up $41 billion. He has repeatedly said he wants to repeal the new health care law. He strongly supported Bush's goofy idea to privatize Social Security. As Bush's budget director, he said he'd cut the budget deficit in half, but two years later it had doubled. And he's a world-class lobbyist whore.)

Steve Stivers for U.S. House of Representatives (my district): (Opens with a photo montage of Stivers as a boy, with his parents and siblings, and in his Army uniform wearing a helmet, which makes him look suspiciously like B.D. from Doonesbury.) "I grew up in a small town ("so I'm a short-sighted, provincial hayseed") and I was a Boy Scout, an Eagle Scout, and a paper boy. (Everybody knows paper boys make the best Congressmen!) I was raised with the values that I think we need in Washington today. ("My opponent, Mary Jo Kilroy, was raised by atheist wolves.") The issue is jobs, so we've got to say no to the spending and the taxes, and get government down to a level we can afford." (And that's gonna get me a job?)

Pat Tiberi for U.S. House of Representatives (not my district. Yay!): (The ass-faced Tiberi strolls down a quaint little street with U.S. flags every ten feet.) "Washington could learn a few thing things from Main Street America. Here on Main St., we save our money (Well I'm moving to Main St., 'cause where we are, the rest of us are broke!), we balance our checkbooks (Congrats! Major accomplishment!), and we create jobs." (No 10% unemployment on Main St. Yippee!)

Sounds like it's all good then on Main St., right Pat? Well, no.

"We need to eliminate the roadblocks that Washington is building everyday (Hey, at least we're building something), stop the bailouts (unless they're in my district), cut the red tape ('cause only Socialists have, you know, rules), and get rid of the expensive new laws (health care -- very expensive, especially if you don't have any) that punish businesses everyday." (Punish? I love punishment. Take that, and that, and that!!)

Kevin Bacon for Ohio Senate (not my district, I think, I hope): (Have no idea who Bacon is, but he's a fat tub of goo who looks like he eats a pound of bacon every day. His spot is short, cheap, and to the point.) "Hi. I'm Kevin Bacon and I'm running for Senate because our only chance (Repent! The end is near!) is to lower the taxes, get rid of all the red tape, and get the government off the people's backs." (Why is it that all the hot-heads who want to "get government off our backs" are in such a goddam hurry to join that very government?)

Buster senses a theme here: If we will just repeal health care, slash funding with across the board tax cuts, spend literally nothing, focus on breaks for business (owners), and starve our own government until it looks like a Darfur refugee, all problems will be solved and it'll be a wonderful life.

Don't you swallow that simplistic hokum!