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

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

It's Just Hillbilly Karaoke

"American Idol" has been around for 10 years, but it feels like forever. That's because the concept is nothing new. "Idol" can trace its roots to TV's "Star Search" in the 1970's, "Major Bowes Amateur Hour" on the 1930's radio, and countless other prehistoric talent contests.

Many people are huge fans of American Idol and follow it religiously and vote online and all that shit. Buster is not one of those people. The best I could do was watch the first night, for comedic disasters like William Hung, the "Pants On The Ground" guy, and so many others. And, of course, for the acid-tongued assessments of Simon Cowell: "That was stunningly awful." "Perfectly wretched." "Do the world a favor -- do something else with your life." Hilarious! But after the first night, I always lost interest, and quickly.

This season, the lovely Mrs. Gammons insisted that I give Idol another shot, so we watched it regularly. Simon is long gone. This year, it's Randy, J.Lo, and Steven Tyler. They're like the anti-Simon -- they love 'em all, everybody's great! And yeah, there were some good singers, forced to endure the show's gaunlet of contrived silliness. ("Tonight, Jimmy Iovine and L'il Wayne help the contestants interpret the songbook of Edith Piaf!")

So it's down to the final two, Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina. And they're both country! Thank you, red-neck America. It's fuckin' hillbilly karaoke. In the future, I think I'll pass.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

After 6, And I'm Still Here. This Calls For Another Drink!

It's after 6 p.m., the Reds & Indians are playing baseball in Cleveland, the ponies are running at the Preakness, no earthquakes, I'm still here, so are you, and all is well.

Rapture - crapture! Life goes on. With a gin & tonic. Cheers!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

End Of Days? On A Saturday Night? What A Shitty Deal.

The end of the world is nigh! May 21st, to be precise. That's the date when Harold Camping, a preacher from Oakland, California, is confidently predicting the Second Coming of the Lord. He says it will begin with an enormous earthquake around 6 p.m. (Would that be Pacific Time? Eastern Time? Greenwich Mean Time? If I knew the correct time zone, I might get a little extra time to repent!)

Camping reckons that 2 per cent of the world's population (the true believers) will instantly disappear and -- poof! -- be immediately "raptured" to Heaven; the rest of us will get sent straight to the Other Place. Or maybe the Other Place comes here to mess with us. I forget. Either way, it's supposed to be bad. All those left behind are basically fucked. The End of Days, the evangelicals call it.

Christ, you get better odds with a lottery ticket! Buster is quite certain he will remain here on terra firma, just another among Earth's many losers. Saturday night around 6, I imagine I'll be enjoying a cocktail or two, but if you should fly past me in mid-air, I'll put down my glass, wave, and wish you bon voyage! It was nice knowing you.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Bury Me With My Pencil Sharpeners

A southeastern Ohio minister died last summer. For years, in a small decrepit shed, he'd kept his collection of 3400 pencil sharpeners. Yes, pencil sharpeners. He called it his "museum". His widow contacted the local media and it snowballed from there.

Now, in his honor, the late preacher's collection will be displayed inside a brand new regional welcome center. (Motto: "When you need to sharpen the old pencil lead, come to Logan!") The Ohio Senate proclaimed it a "fitting tribute".

Dear readers, if I should die and leave behind a museum of 3400 anythings, please don't publicize it. No tributes required. Just toss my craziness in a dumpster and let me rest in peace.

Thanks in advance.

With Us Or Against Us?

WITH US: Would-be Republican Presidential candidates Mike Huckabee and Donald Trump have announced they will not run after all.

AGAINST US: There are still plenty of other Republican dipshits who'd like to be the nominee: Romney, Daniels, Pawlenty, Huntsman, Gingrich, even Palin and Bachmann.

WITH US: None of them are worth a bucket of warm spit.

AGAINST US: Our brilliant state legislature here in Ohio has passed a new law which will allow guns in bars and restaurants. Guns and alcohol -- always a good idea! You couldn't possibly come up with a more dangerous, idiotic law.

AGAINST US: Not so fast, my friend. South Carolina, refusing to be outdone in the Stupid State Stakes by an upstart like Ohio, has introduced legislation to allow guns in daycare facilities. Now, if they'd just allow guns and alcohol in daycare centers, they'd clinch the championship.

Reading, Writing, and Revenues

by Gail Collins, 5/11/11, in the New York Times

American education is going to be reformed until it rolls over and begs for mercy. Vouchers! Guns on campus! Just the other day, the Florida State Legislature took a giant step toward ending the scourge of droopy drawers in high school by upping the penalties for underwear-exposing pants.

Today, let’s take a look at the privatization craze and the conviction that there is nothing about molding young minds that can’t be improved by the profit motive.

Enrollment in for-profit colleges has ballooned to almost two million, propelled by more than $25 billion in federal student loans, many of which are apparently never going to be repaid. More than 700 public K-12 schools around the country are now managed by for-profit companies. Last week, in Ohio, the State House went for the whole hog and approved legislation that would allow for-profit businesses to open up their own taxpayer-financed charter schools.

“It takes the public out of public education,” complained Bill Sims of the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

This exciting new plan, which seemed to have been inserted into the state budget bill by a magical invisible hand, would also reduce oversight. It got a rave review in The Columbus Dispatch from an op-ed contributor named Thomas Needles, who cheered legislators for trying to end the “drip-drop of wrongheaded regulation” of charter schools.

Needles is a consultant for White Hat Management, the largest company currently managing charter schools in Ohio — and with none too great a record, according to the National Education Policy Center, which said that only 2 percent of the schools White Hat runs have scored well on yearly progress tests. The owner of White Hat, David Brennan, is a gynormous donor to the state Republican Party. To the tune of $4 million last year. Not that that would make any difference. Just saying.

So that’s the pathbreaking privatization news in Ohio.

When we started clamoring for for more investment in education, I don't think we envisioned it going into corporate profits.

"We're Spending A Ton On P.R., So Please Love Us."

Have you noticed all the TV ads now being run by the oil/gas/energy industry? They're strictly public image pieces, and they fall into two broad categories: "Please don't tax us" and "Please let us frack".

In the first, we get a series of staged man-in-the-street mini-interviews in which Joe and Joan Baggadonuts give their opinions on a "new energy tax" to the unseen interviewer. What energy tax would that be? They never say. There isn't one imminent that I'm aware of, but the ad clearly implies that there is. And naturally, Joe and Joan think it would be "a really bad idea", and that "now is not the time for a new energy tax." (And when would it be time? Never? Oh, I see.)

In the second, industry PAC's and Exxon Mobil joyfully inform us of the bountiful natural gas that's been hiding in the rock right under our feet all this time, and tell us how they can extract great gobs of it -- cheaply, easily, safely -- via hydraulic fracturing, a.k.a. hydro-fracking. They'll just drill shitloads of holes down into the earth, inject water chemically-treated to be explosive, then make it explode, fracturing the rock and releasing trapped natural gas. They capture the gas, pump out the toxic water and put it . . . somewhere, and it's just all good and perfectly safe! Except that henceforth your tap water is both undrinkable and flammable. Relax. You'll get used to it.

I don't know much, my friends, but if we're so desperate for petro products that shit like this seems sensible, maybe we oughta go with Plan B.

Big Oil Gets Big Help

Recently, executives of some of America's largest oil companies were called before the U.S. Congress to explain themselves. These hearings were largely for show, but the point was this: Our five largest oil companies showed 1st quarter profits of $30 billion. And these same Big Oil companies receive over $4 billion in annual tax credits and subsidies.

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex), who infamously apologized to BP officials last summer, opened the hearing by offering his opinion that it was unfair to refer to these gigantic corporations as "Big Oil". You prefer "Tiny Oil", Joe? What a douchebag.

The CEO of Conoco Phillips told the assembled Congressmen that ending all these taxpayer handouts to the oil industry would be "un-American". Really?

Well then, Buster is ready to be un-American. These fucks clearly don't need our help.

Our Immaculate Gag Order

As previously mentioned here and elsewhere, Gov. Kasich's proposed budget not only halves the funding for the Ohio Consumers Council (who aren't funded by tax dollars anyway), it also contains a sentence prohibiting the OCC from making any derogatory comment about deregulation of the natural gas industry. To impose a gag order on a consumer advocacy group, telling them that essentially they cannot advocate for consumers, is pretty fuckin' outrageous by any measure. But outrageous is just the way our John-Boy rolls.

What's interesting is that nobody can say how that single sentence got into the budget proposal. Who wrote it? Who stuck it in there? It clearly benefits the state's gas retailers. Was it submitted by one of their lobbyists? All the Republicans in the House and Senate think it's a splendid sentence, but not one of them claims authorship. So whodunnit??

It's pretty mysterious. Seems like Ohio's budget can actually write itself. Wow! It's supernatural, or maybe an act of God. Call it the Immaculate Deception.

The Debt Ceiling

America has hit its' "debt ceiling". Did you know we had such a thing? Neither did I. That's because it's really not a big deal at all. We've reached this artificial limit bunches of times before and Congress simply increases it, with no muss, no fuss. We raised our debt ceiling 9 or 10 times during the Bush years, virtually automatically. Because if we don't, the government is officially in default. And everyone agrees this would be a very bad thing.

In the near term, we'll "borrow" from the federal pension system, which will forestall default until August. Until then, conservative Republicans, led by Speaker John Boehner, will try like hell to hold us hostage over the whole deal. Boehner says he'll agree to raise the debt ceiling only if the President agrees to massive federal spending cuts, like $400 billion in the next year! There's no connection between one and the other, and no respectable economist endorses this idea. Most think it'd be a disaster for our economic recovery.

Eventually, the grandstanding will stop and we'll raise the limit. But until then, "The Boner" will remain stiff and unbending, so to speak, in his insistence on both spending cuts and tax cuts -- a ridiculous position which nonetheless plays well with the idiot class of rednecks.

Hey, Orange Face! You wanna get serious about increasing income and decreasing expenses? Then repeal the Bush tax cuts and end the two Bush wars! That would do it.

Monday, May 16, 2011

King John's Ad Wars

A couple weeks ago, Ohio's nursing home industry had the audacity to run an ad criticizing Gov. King Kasich for his proposed budget, which cuts their state funding by about half a billion dollars. Quite credibly, their ad claims this would result in reductions in nursing jobs and in care and service to those they serve.

Kasich responded with a fit of pique. He called the ad an unfair attack and insisted that nursing homes are nothing but a big money suck and his "jobs budget" would give their "powerful lobby" their just desserts.

Then, on cue, came ads from a consortiom of Ohio big businesses urging passage of Kasich's budget. One Ohio United is a non-profit 501(c)(4) now authorized to do partisan shit like this, thanks to the moronic Citizens United v. FEC decision. (CU v. FEC ranks right up there with the Dred Scott decision in the annals of Supreme Court stupidity.)

Gov. Kasich claims he has no involvement with One Ohio United, which is, of course, a big fat fucking lie. OOU was founded by the CEO of a company on which Kasich served as a board member, and its articles of incorporation were filed by a former Kasich campaign staffer. There are several possible campaign violations here, but John-Boy, he don't care.

One Ohio United's ad is a lie, too, although it fires a flurry of "facts" at us. It claims that in the past decade, Ohio's tax revenues are flat but its "government has grown by 36%." Specifics? No way. Just a provocative statement, and let the other side prove it isn't true. And how exactly does government "grow"? Explain that to me. What do you mean? And are these guys saying we should grow tax revenue? These guys?

Their ad says "Ohio has lost more jobs [in the past decade] than any other state except Michigan." What they don't say is that much of that job loss came in auto manufacturing (Michigan & Ohio being the top two in that area) and those jobs didn't leave Ohio for, say, Nebraska. It was not the result of some horrible Ohio anti-business policy. They left forever, not replaced anywhere, the result of forty years of silly-ass over-capacity in the auto industry. Kasich's budget will do nothing to fix that.

Their ad claims Ohio has "higher sales AND property taxes than New York." (Ooh! Higher than that hotbed of liberalism, New York!) No details with this claim, either. Of course, sales & property taxes differ from county to county, and the many school levys add even more variation. The truth, if any, may lie in the ad's combining of the two. Why those two? Why not toss in taxes on income, gasoline, food, tobacco, what have you?

Their ad touts Kasich's miraculous balanced budget ("balanced" with fantastic, fake increases in projected revenues), accomplished without any tax increases whatsoever. (No, just some right-wing social engineering, draconian spending cuts, and union-busting. That's all.)

The ad wraps up by telling us it is "time to downsize government" (Here we go again -- the return of the Reagan zombies!) and "make Ohio business-friendly again." (Pardon us. We just didn't realize how terribly "unfriendly" we'd been until Kasich and his cronies began whining about it every five fucking minutes! Now we get it -- friendliness means huge cuts in corporate taxes and regulations. Right, ol' buddy?)

When you believe you need an ad campaign like this just months into your administration, when you feel you've gotta use deceptive advertising to prop up yourself and your stupid store-bought policies, what does it say about you? It says you're a fucking shit-heel.

"Finding" Bin Laden: Pakistan's Growth Industry

Much has been made of the fact that Osama Bin Laden was pretty much hiding in plain sight for over five years in a big house right in the middle of a Pakistani city. Many a talking head has wondered aloud how our supposed ally could have "missed" him. Many a politician has asked if our "anti-terrorism partner" could have actually helped hide the son of a bitch.

Buster will explain. Hell yes, they helped hide him! Pakistan is a slut-puppy, playing both sides against the middle. Pretending to help us track down Bin Laden was a fucking cash cow for them.

U.S. Government to Pakistani Government: "Howdy, pardner. Any Bin Laden sightings? We're still pretty damn sure he's somewhere in your country."

Pakistan (with fingers crossed) to U.S.: "Yes, we're sure he's here too, but no, we haven't found him yet. Additional funding would be a great help to us in our tireless efforts. Please send us another billion dollars."

U.S. to Pakistan: "Comin' at ya, pardner. The check's in the mail."

Pakistan to U.S.: "Praise be to Allah!"

Credit Where Credit Is Due

Final score Obama 1, Osama 0. The quiet, intelligent, steady President got the bad guy. He accomplished what the addle-brained, bellicose, buckaroo Dubya could not. Yet even as former Bushies praise Obama for a job well done, they also try to claim some of the credit for themselves. "Laying the groundwork", they call it.

Well, bullshit! The Bush-wads taking credit for the death of Bin Laden is like Neville Chamberlain taking credit for the death of Hitler; like the caveman who carved the first stone wheel taking credit for the radial tire.

Let's give credit where credit is due, and that's to Cousin Barry.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Kasich Issues Irony-Free Proclamation Re Public Workers! I Am Not Making This Up!

We all know that Gov. Kasich is gung-ho for SB 5, which would effectively gut public employee unions in Ohio. This cruel and unnecessary law has sparked tremendous protest and may very well be overturned by referendum this November.

Nevertheless, our Bad King John, with a straight face and no apparent sense of irony, has declared this to be "Public Service Appreciation Week". The press release follows below.

However, the image shows the actual official Resolution document, with a number of revisions scribbled by the Guv himself, wherein he shows his true colors. Apparently, cooler heads prevailed and they went with the first draft.

[If the image is too small, click "View" then "Zoom" on your toolbar.]


MAY 2, 2011

Issues Proclamation in Honor of Public Service Appreciation Week

COLUMBUS – Today Gov. John R. Kasich issued a proclamation honoring May 1-7 as Public Service Appreciation Week, honoring Ohio’s thousands of public employees. Gov. Kasich made the following statement thanking Ohio’s public servants for their work:

“Public employees are community leaders and our neighbors who work every day to ensure that our state and local communities effectively provide essential services. Public employees make it possible for us to enjoy basic freedoms and rights we may too often overlook. They protect us, care for our most vulnerable, teach our children, and maintain our infrastructure to aid commerce and economic development throughout Ohio. This week I ask all Ohioans to reflect on all that our public employees do in our communities, and thank them for the invaluable work they do each day,” said Kasich.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Wealthy Are Suffering. Won't You Please Help?

The Ohio House will probably vote this week on the state's two-year budget. After bingeing on Whip-Its and Jager-Bombs, House Republicans added their two-cents-worth. Among their "improvements":

Permits breweries to hand out free samples. (Very shrewd. The more we drink, the less we pay attention!)

Gives every possible advantage to for-profit charter schools, and encourages their proliferation (even if they're currently fucking up).

Prohibits the Ohio Consumers Council from "taking a position contrary to development of competitive utility markets." Translation: Sit down, shut up, and let utility companies maximize their profits.

And my favorite -- Eliminates Ohio's estate tax. Gone. History. No mas.

Republicans believe the estate tax drives wealthy Ohioans out of the state. And that's just so true, you know. Just a few weeks ago, I was travelling and I encountered a caravan of millionaires fleeing Ohio, bound for Florida. They had circled their limousines and were encamped for the night in hostile Tennessee territory. Such a sad sight.

Yet Another Reason Why Kasich Sucks

By now, we all know that Gov. Kasich does not have a functioning filter between his brain and his mouth. Any time his lips are moving, some stupid shit is liable to come out.

Last week, he made a remark that, in certain circles, may be even worse than his "run you over with my bus", "cops are idiots", and "I don't need you black people" bon mots.

Speaking in the Cleveland area, King John called himself "a Pittsburgh boy". When some in the audience groaned, Kasich, in his best tone-deaf, smart-ass manner, shot back: "Yeah, yeah, well, when you win a Super Bowl, let me know."

Yo, John-Boy! You're the governor of Ohio, right? Round on the ends, high in the middle? Remember? And that means when you're in Cleveland you love the Browns and the Indians and the Cavs. And when you're in Cincinnati, you adore the Bengals and the Reds.

It's pretty simple, you magnificent moron!

Birther Question Answered; The Donald Moves On

Now that the ridiculous "birther" issue has been put to rest, Donald Trump has turned his attention elsewhere. He is now asking to see:

Barack Obama's kindergarten diploma, his SAT scores, and his high school transcript, as well as a copy of Kate and William's marriage license.