Friday, September 30, 2011
Our son is roughly one month into his freshman year of college, and already he has changed his hometown on Facebook, changed his class schedule, found a girlfriend, taken her to a concert in Cincinnati, attended a frat rush party, gone on a bus trip to Cedar Point, and who knows what else. We can only assume that some actual schoolwork is also part of his busy world.
The time is right to share with him and the world my sister's Three Rules, which she gave to each of her sons as they departed for college. Buster Junior, please read and heed:
1. Go to class, study, and do the work to the best of your ability. This is Rule #1, Job #1, Priority #1. . . . followed closely by . . .
2. Don't come home with a disease.
3. Don't make us grandparents! (At least not for a good, long while.)
Follow these rules, Boy-o. Your aunt is wise.
To borrow a phrase from the great Matt Taibbi, John Wolfe is like a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of Columbus, looking for the next thing he can suck the blood out of.
Wolfe is our own little mini-Murdoch. He and his Dispatch Printing Co. already own and operate the Columbus Dispatch, the This Week newspapers, local CBS affiliate WBNS 10TV, the ONN cable news station, radio stations WBNS-FM and WBNS-AM, and big chunk of the Arena Disrict.
Now comes the news that the Right Republican Mr. Wolfe and his minions are the new owners of the SNP Suburban News Publications weeklies, monthly magazines Columbus Monthly, Columbus C.E.O., and Columbus Bride, and -- here's the worst part -- The Other Paper.
Starting in 1990, The Other Paper was an independent free weekly "alternative" newspaper focused on arts, music, and local Columbus news. It maintained an irreverent, smart-ass style, and was also known for its very personal personal ads.
I speak of it in the past tense because things like this are not exactly the hallmarks of a John Wolfe publication. I can't imagine The Other Paper surviving in its current form as a Wolfe holding. Hope I'm wrong.
Michael Shreffler is the superintendent of the Southeast Local School District (in northeast Ohio). In early September, he attended a private, invitation-only Republican event in Summit County featuring Gov. John Kasich and Ohio Speaker Bill Batchelder. John-Boy and Squirrelly Bill spoke about SB 5 and, according to Shreffler, said the following:
Batchelder -- Ohio public employees have been "bilking" the state for years.
Kasich -- Public employess "don't pay a dime" toward their pensions and health insurance.
-- "We are at war with these people."
-- If SB 5 is repealed in November, "we'll ram it through" anyway with piece-meal legislation.
Mr. Shreffler was not amused. Still hot under the collar, he wrote a two-page email to his staff, and pressed "send".
The now-viral highlight of his email:
"This Governor is a bully, and the legislature is his posse. We have to stand up to this bully AND to his posse!"
(Yowza!! You can read Shreffler's full email by clicking on it under "Buster's Links.")
A flaming email is not politically correct and doesn't do much for one's job security, but you gotta admire the guy's cojones. Bully for you, Mr. Shreffler!
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
I had an appointment early this morning with my dentist for a crown. The doc is a wonderful guy who just happens to be a very conservative Christian. (I sure can pick 'em.) There are a number of TV's throughout his offices. Usually they show some PG-rated family movie. But this morning it was the Fox News morning show, "Fox and Friends".
Watching "Fox and Friends" was a first for me. With any luck, it'll be my last. It's a poorly disguised unpaid political announcement for right-wing GOP'ers hosted by two blond Fox-bots obviously listening to Roger Ailes in their earpieces.
Here's what "Fox and Friends" wanted me to know this morning:
Bill O'Reilly was there to promote his new book about Abe Lincoln. But he didn't talk much about it. Instead, it was an opportunity for another of his patented loopy logic, fact-twisting tirades directed at guess who? "Obama says he wants to improve things economically for everyone. A terrible thing to say. It's unrealistic. It gives people false hope. You can't help everyone. I mean, whatever you do, it's not gonna help the wino or the heroin addict." (Bill, I don't think he meant literally everyone, nor was he talking about drunks and drug addicts.)
Switching gears, O'Reilly said, "We've gotta stop all this negativity toward fossil fuels. Let's face it -- they're the only energy source we have right now." (I guess solar, hydro, wind, nuclear, etc. don't count.)
Throughout the O'Reilly segment, the ass-kiss hosts bowed and scraped and grovelled at King Bill's feet, begging to touch the hem of his garment. It was nauseating.
Next up was the "National Chairman of the Tea Party" whose name I don't remember. He was there to announce which Republican the tea party would endorse for president. They're going with Newt Gingrich. One of the android hosts cooed about how this was indeed a a big, really big, important, really important endorsement! (Newt Gringrich? Really? And the tea party isn't a real party. A real party would have it's own candidates.)
The next segment featured Callista Gingrich, Newt's wife. What a coincidence. She has just published a kids rhyme book about a patriotic talking elephant who helps school children learn about American history. Mrs. Gingrich said she felt compelled to write it "because our schools aren't teaching it. They aren't doing it. They're just dumbing-down everything." (Oh. I thought that was Fox News.)
The host-bot told us that Newt himself was there, standing just off-screen. But this was his wife's moment, and he was there only to support her. Just a moment later, Newt was "persuaded" to come on to the set and be ego-stroked, praised and called "Mr. Speaker." (Mr. Speaker? Last time he held that title was 1998, when he resigned in disgrace.)
And then "Fox and Friends" wanted me to know that some teacher somewhere had been suspended for name-calling. He publicly referred to a tea party fellow teacher as a Nazi. The Fox-bots hooted and howled and said that was just terrible. Not the part about the teacher being suspended. The other part where the tea-bagger was called a Nazi. How awful! He should be fired! (Of course, technically, tea-baggers are not Nazis. They're not nearly that organized.)
At this point, mercifully, I had to open wide and get the shit drilled out of my tooth, and I couldn't hear the TV above the noise. What a relief!
My dentist does great work, but I may need to find another one.
Sunday, September 25, 2011
Or maybe the NFL should change its initials to AFL -- "All Fouls League".
It looks like more hard times for Ohio's pro football teams. The Bengals just lost at home to the mediocre 49ers, and the Browns had all they could handle eking out a last-minute home win against the mediocre Dolphins. I was watching the Browns, and it was not easy.
The Browns many deficiencies were exacerbated by the flag-happy refs. Buster doesn't want to see any player get hurt and is all in favor of reasonable safety precautions, but some of this shit is getting ridiculous. These days in the NFL, all hard hits are evidently forbidden, especially on quarterbacks. Most of the time, the defense is not allowed to even blow a nasty fart in the QB's general direction, let alone touch the SOB. C'mon, man! Football's a nasty game. And these are professionals, not school boys.
Useless trivia, but I still remember a moment in a Browns-Steelers game from the mid-1970's, when Pittsburgh was great and Cleveland was not. Steeler QB Terry Bradshaw dropped back to pass, Browns defensive lineman Joe "Turkey" Jones broke through, bear-hugged Bradshaw, lifted him up and violently head-planted him into the turf. A friggin' pile-driver! The hit knocked Bradshaw goofy (although with him it was hard to tell) and sent him to the bench. This was before the "in the grasp" rule, and although a roughing penalty was called, it was basically just a really hard sack. Today, Jones would've been ejected from the game, banned for life from the NFL, and criminally prosecuted.
I'm not calling for a return to those bad old "good old" days. I'm saying the NFL may have over-corrected just a tad in this area. Gotta let 'em play!
With two dubious flags at the end of today's game, the zebras almost handed a win to the Dolphins. Both were in the "not letting 'em play" category.
The Browns Mohammed Massaquoi made a great TD catch to apparently clinch a 1-point victory. As Massaquoi sat there in the end zone savoring his winning play, a teammate flopped down and hugged him. Unbelievably, this was flagged as "excessive celebration" -- a 15 yard penalty which made the Browns kick off from their own 20! Needing only a field goal with just 35 seconds left, Miami had a real chance.
The Dolphins needs were further served when Miami QB Chad Henne scrambled, slid feet first ("No hitsies!"), and Browns lineman Phil Taylor sort of fell on him. He literally couldn't help it. They were both going down anyway. Taylor weighs 350 pounds. He has a tough time defying the law of gravity. Even so, another 15 yard penalty put Miami very close to FG territory.
Obligingly, Henne threw a pick on the next play and that was that. But the downpour of yellow flags bothers me. The celebration penalties are a waste of time. I don't want a floorshow with a two-drink minimum, but a little silly exuberance after a score doesn't hurt anyone. And while there are plenty of legitimate things to penalize, it's going to be impossible to legislate hard hitting out of football. Not talking about head-hunting and other dangerously brutal tactics. Just talking about hard, clean hits. They're pros. Gotta let' em play!
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Today, President Obama went to Cincinnati and stood in front of the Brent Spence bridge, a.k.a. the "double-decker", which carries I-71/I-75 traffic back and forth over the river between Ohio and Kentucky. The bridge takes twice the volume it should, and it's in poor condition. Obama was there to tout his Jobs Plan and make the case that restoration of this critical artery was exactly what he was talkin' 'bout. The fact that the bridge connected John Boehner's Ohio with Mitch McConnell's Kentucky was, he said, mere coincidence.
Naturally, Boehner and McConnell were outraged and dismissed Obama's appearance as a "political stunt." McConnell was particularly critical of the President, saying, "Look, it's always been our agreement that our party would be the one to engage in political stunts and grandstanding -- the debt ceiling, unemployment benefits, disaster relief, tax cuts for the rich, every Paul Ryan appearance, and all kinds of shit I can't even remember. Our record on political stunts speaks for itself. The President has violated our trust with his Cincinnati bridge photo-op. It was the sort of opportunistic show-off thing that we invented, and we are deeply offended that he beat us to the punch."
And with that, Mitch turned a couple cartwheels, hopped on his unicycle, beeped his horn and pedaled out of the Senate chambers.
Elizabeth Warren is a Harvard law professor who oversaw the TARP program and its payback, helped construct the Consumer Financial Protection Board, and is now running against Scott "Pants On The Ground" Brown for a U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts. She is frank, articulate, not a politician, and definitely one the sharpest knives in any drawer.
Here's what she had to say regarding the recent stink about taxes on higher incomes:
"I hear all this, you know, 'Well, this is class warfare, this is whatever,'" Warren said. "No. There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own -- nobody.
"You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police-forces and fire-forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn't have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory -- and hire someone to protect against this -- because of the work the rest of us did.
"Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific; you had a great idea. God bless -- keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is, you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along."
Yesterday, Ohio Republicans announced that because their party is so obviously possessed of superior intelligence, warm-heartedness, and farts that smell like Chanel No. 5, they'll henceforth be using a new logo (shown at right) which they feel captures their approach to governance.
Also happening yesterday:
The state legislature rammed through HB 319 -- the GOP-drawn, GOP-skewed new map of congressional districts that guarantees a solid Republican majority for at least a decade. The R's even threw some money into the bill, so that it's effective immediately, with no referendum possibility. When reporters asked if this was perhaps a bit heavy-handed, party officials referred them to the new logo.
Janine Migden-Ostrander, head of the Ohio Consumers Council, resigned in disgust. The Kasich administration, she said, has shown "profound disinterest and disrespect [for the public], blatant disregard for facts, and abandonment of simple fairness. I don't want to get on his bus because I don't like where it's going." When asked for his reaction, Gov. Kasich said, "You people need to see our new logo."
State Treasurer Josh Mandel (R) is running for U.S. Senator, trying to unseat Sherrod Brown (D). Yesterday Mandel acknowledged he's more than four months late in filing certain required financial disclosures because he's still trying to calculate just exactly how filthy rich his wife and her family really are. When asked when his disclosures might finally be ready, Mandel said, "Check the new logo."
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
That old Fox-wad Bill O'Reilly is making the rounds on TV and radio plugging his new book. In one recent interview, O'Reilly said, "I have more power than anybody other than the President." Hmmm.
It's true that he does have a lot of power and influence . . . among old, white, under-educated, conservative Christian, Tea-bag homophobes who watch Fox News all day.
All the rest of us think he's a total dipshit!
You'll find Bill O'Reilly's picture in the dictionary under "egomaniac."
President Obama's $3 trillion deficit reduction plan employs both cuts in expenditures and increases in revenue. Such an approach is sensible and is favored by the vast majority of Americans. If we really give a shit about trimming the deficit, it can't be all one way or all the other. It's gotta be both.
On the revenue side, Obama wants the Bush-era temporary tax cuts on income over $250,000 to finally expire. The top rate would rise from 35% to 39%. He wants to end some write-offs on some corporate tax returns. He wants to end some subsidies to the oil/gas/energy industries.
And he proposed the "Buffett Rule" -- a higher tax rate on those earning $1 million or more in annual taxable income.
No surprise, the Republicans are adamantly opposed. They're all over the airwaves calling it "class warfare". Really? I mean, really?!! What demented spin doctor thought up that piece of shit?
The R's are ready to defend their class, ready to do battle on behalf of those oppressed, long-suffering millionaires and billionaires.
This is actually a startlingly honest admission from the GOP. They acknowledge that the genuinely wealthy are their true constituents, and that even though only 1% of the population earns $1 million or more, the Republicans are ready to go to war . . . against the rest of us.
cre-ate, v.t. [CREATED, CREATING], 1. to cause to come into existence; bring into being; make for the first time; originate.
Politicians love to talk about "creating jobs." I've even been guilty of it myself. But can a job really be "created"?
I suppose it can, if we're talking about a brand-new, never-been-done-before product or service. Jobs to make that product or deliver that service would indeed be "created", since those jobs never existed before. Examples might be ultra-high tech nano manufacturing, or internet services like Facebook or Groupon.
And some jobs can be destroyed, killed, lost and gone forever, when the need no longer exists. We're not manufacturing button-hooks or cathode-ray TV tubes anymore. The milkman and the iceman are history.
But so much of what's of called job creation is actually job-shifting, just moving an activity from one location to another. Yes, one man's loss is another one's gain, but it's still a zero-sum game.
Our own Gov. John Katshit, uh, Kasich is busy patting himself on the back for convincing drug distributor Omnicare to move its corporate HQ from Covington, Ky. to Cincinnati. (Fun fact: Omnicare paid the State of Michigan $52 million to settle a Medicaid fraud case.) Kasich and the City of Cincinnati persuaded the company with $8 million in tax breaks. Now, just like former Cincinnati mayor Jerry Springer once did, Omnicare will do its bidness over the river.
This is not job creation. It's acquiescing to corporate pimping and blackmail. "Hey Covington, we're taking our income and payroll taxes to Ohio unless you pay up, suckers!" "Hey Cincinnati, you lookin' for a date? We're available right now, sweetheart. We'll let you do us for, say, $8 million? Deal?" We've seen the same sort of civic extortion in the world of pro sports -- "Build us a new stadium, give us a deal, or we're moving to Greensboro/Baltimore/wherever."
You say, Buster, it's just business. You're right, it is. It's the part of "just business" that just sucks!
For its part, Kentucky threw money at Omnicare and tried hard to keep them from leaving. In vain. But one of these days, I'd love to hear a city or state say to one these corporate blackmailers, "We refuse to pay your ransom. If you want to leave, get the fuck out!"
This morning, the Georgia Parole Board stupidly declined to halt the execution of Troy Davis. And in the State of Georgia, that means he's out of options, so tomorrow, after 22 years in prison, Troy Davis will be put to death.
In 1989, a group of people was beating a man in a parking lot, an off-duty cop tried to break up the melee, and he was shot and killed. Troy Davis was in the crowd that day and was identified as the shooter by a number of eyewitnesses. He has always proclaimed his innocence, saying he was actually trying to help the victim, asking why he would shoot a complete stranger. Nevertheless, he was convicted and sentenced to death.
Subsequently, seven of the nine supposed eyewitnesses have recanted (including the victim himself) and now say it was definitely not Davis. They say they were cajoled, coerced and pressured by police interrogators into fingering Davis.
The weapon was never found and there is no physical evidence of any sort to suggest that Davis committed the crime.
There is some evidence that another person may have admitted to the killing.
Among a great many others, Jimmy Carter, Pope Benedict, and former FBI Director William Sessions have each asked that Davis be taken off Death Row, citing persistent doubt, dubious police tactics, and tainted testimony. Countless thousands of letters and petitions have been sent asking for mercy.
Cops understandably take a dim view of cop-killers, but the original conviction has all the earmarks of a set-up, a frame job. And yet the Georgia Parole Board is unmoved. Troy Davis is very possibly an innocent man, but tomorrow, they're gonna kill him anyway.
Why? Georgia Goddamn!!
Monday, September 19, 2011
(Friends may sometime hold differing opinions about this and that, but please know that you are my good friend and will always remain so.)
The other night, you asked if I could tell you “one single thing” that President Obama had accomplished so far in his time in office. As I recall, I mumbled something incoherent about health care reform and financial protections. I hope you’ll now allow me the opportunity of a more sober and well-considered reply -- not to argue or debate (we‘ll leave that to the professionals), but just to give you a better answer. Here goes.
First and foremost, Barack H. Obama is, by himself, undeniably historic -- he is, of course, the first black person to be elected President of the U.S. No matter what you think of his politics, this is hugely important and he is a BFD for this reason alone. Symbolically, Obama is Crispus Attucks, Frederick Douglas, Jackie Robinson, and Rosa Parks rolled into one. He’ll be in the history books, and he should be. And you should be proud to live in a country where this sort of progress has occurred. Not that long ago, it would’ve been unthinkable.
More to your question, please consider the following. (I know this list is kinda long, but it could’ve been much longer. Much. Hang in there and read it.) So far, less than 3 years into it, these are just some -- some -- of the things President Obama has accomplished:
Responding to the financial crash of 2008 (a huge, lingering crisis; the worst recession since the Great Depression of 1929, manufactured by lax Bush policies/oversight and conveniently handed off to Obama in the nick of time), he passed the ARRA (American Recovery & Reinvestment Act), aka the Stimulus Bill. This had a positive impact, no matter what the detractors say. (How can one quantify “Coulda been worse”?) Per the non-partisan, objective Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the stimulus package added about two million jobs, and reduced unemployment. Was it enough? No. In hindsight, ARRA should have been bigger. Even so, the Stimulus helped, no doubt about it. Further action may still be needed.
Passed the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act, aka Health Care Reform. ACA maintains the for-profit health insurance industry, deals with some abuses/inefficiencies (pre-existing conditions, policy rescission, etc.), and offers access to health insurance to some 32 million previously uninsured people. It allows children to remain insured on their parents policies until age 26. ACA pays for itself via higher Medicare taxes on higher incomes, taxes on expensive “Cadillac” private plans, and taxes on some insurance and drug companies. It also cuts subsidies to insurance companies that sell alternative Medicare “Advantage” plans, and cuts some Medicare funding to hospitals and home health care providers. Ultimately, if you like your current health insurance, ACA doesn’t affect you at all or cost you anything. Stay put, be happy. Eventually, in 2014, ACA requires that we all be insured or face a small-ish penalty. Were you planning on being uninsured by then? Again, stay put, be happy. ACA is a much needed step in the right direction. It coulda/woulda/shoulda been so much more, but it’s a start. And ACA is most definitely not Socialism, it’s not government-run health insurance, and “death panels” are not in any way involved. The CBO says that the ACA will save over $100 billion in health care costs in the next ten years, and another $1 trillion in the following decade.
Created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a new watchdog agency monitoring new rules governing lender practices, including the “Credit Card Bill of Rights.” It was the predatory practices and fraudulent investment shenanigans of the financial sector which created the recent Great Recession, so this agency is most definitely needed. The CFPB will soon be headed by former Ohio AG Rich Cordray.
Took steps to close the “donut hole” in Medicare prescription drug reimbursement. (Drug costs were covered to a point, then not covered, then covered once again.)
Temporarily extended the Bush-era tax cuts due to expire in January 2010 for those earning less than $250,000 per year. (I assume this includes you. Certainly includes me.) Personally, I disagreed with this decision.
Temporarily reduced individual FICA (Social Security) tax withholding from 6.2% to 4.2%. Has proposed extending this cut, and may offer the same cut to employers as well as employees. Again, I disagree. Republicans forced the initial FICA cut as the price for extended unemployment benefits. Strangely, the same Republicans who were all for it then now oppose Obama’s proposal to continue the cut.
Expanded eligibility for Medicaid and SCHIP programs.
Passed the Lilly Ledbetter Act, which prohibits gender-based pay inequality in the workplace.
Ended the war in Iraq, and began the draw-down in Afghanistan.
Expanded Pell Grants for low income students.
Ended the anti-gay “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in the U.S. military.
Instructed the U.S. Justice Dept. not to enforce the anti-gay “Defense of Marriage Act.”
Banned lobbyist gifts to executive branch employees.
Removed restrictions to embryonic stem-cell research.
Introduced a plan to expand broadband internet access across all areas of the U.S.
Helped preserve U.S. auto manufacturing with financial aid (“bailouts”) to General Motors and Chrysler. This money has already been repaid.
“Cash For Clunkers” was a success. Car sales spiked, albeit temporarily.
Increased funding for the EPA.
Instituted higher fuel economy standards for the auto industry.
Has overseen repayment of almost all the Bush/Henry Paulson TARP bailout money given to the bad actors in the financial/insurance industries.
Expanded AmeriCorps (young teachers doing public service in impoverished areas).
Ratified (again) the START Treaty governing ongoing reduction of nuclear weapons.
Very recently, he sent a jobs/economic recovery bill to Congress which proposed massive investment in infrastructure maintenance & repairs -- because we desperately need it!
Today, he introduced his fair and balanced plan to reduce the deficit by $3 trillion.
And, oh yeah, . . . He took out Osama Bin Laden! So he’s got that goin’ for him too.
And bear in mind he did these things despite ugly, brutal, relentless Republican opposition at every turn. We’ve never seen such open hostility to a sitting President . Republicans have made it obvious that their #1 priority -- by far -- is not employment or the economy or the deficit or defense or domestic policy, it’s the defeat of Barack Obama by any means possible, and no matter the consequences. It’s shameful.
Anyway, I think your original question/statement was, “What has Obama done for me? He hasn’t done anything for me.”
Surely there must be something on this (partial) list “for you” or for your family, either now or in the future. At the very minimum, Obama’s “given you” a reprieve in the form of a continued reduction in your personal income tax rate, and a temporary reduction in your Social Security tax as well. Surely these things, if not the social good/bigger ideas, are right up your alley, since they have already put more money in your pocket.
If that’s not enough, if you feel you are “owed” more, if you somehow believe that the President is personally obligated to stroke you a check or something, then I’m simply flabbergasted.
Barack H. Obama is a fine man, a good President, and a far, far better person for the job than anyone else in arena. I don’t expect you to vote for him, but in extremely difficult circumstances and without even a hint of bipartisanship, he’s accomplished a great deal. Even you must give him that.
So that's my better answer! Thanks for reading.
Your old buddy,
P.S. Just for fun, click this link to Buster’s Blog http://bustergammons.blogspot.com/ and check out some fun, fresh perspective. Can you deal? See ya!
After three games as the Buckeyes primary quarterback, it's once again abundantly clear why 26 year old Joe Bauserman has always been a back-up -- he's slow and can't run/scramble effectively, has a scatter-shot inaccurate arm, and despite his age and maturity and time in the system, is often too quick, too slow, or just generally wishy-washy in his decision-making. His talents may suffice against Akron, but that's about it.
So it's time to hand the QB job to the freshman Braxton Miller. Miller was a highly-regarded, blue-chip recruit and a supposed can't-miss phenom. The future is Braxton, not Bowser, so let the future be now. Toss Miller out there and let him do his thing while getting some on-the-job training. He's a good runner and he has a strong arm. (Yo, Brax, just take a little heat off those high hard ones.) Sure, he'll make mistakes and take his share of hard knocks, but he'll learn a hell of a lot more doing that than he will watching Bauserman go 2 for 14.
Friday, September 16, 2011
Here in the good ol' USA, we periodically engage in a peculiar political process known as "congressional redistricting." This results when census data shows a significant change in a state's population, and the number of that state's delegates to the U.S. House of Representatives goes either up or down.
We're doing it now in Ohio. We lost population and, hence, two seats in Congress. We're going from 18 to 16 Representatives. This requires the map of our congressional districts to be redrawn. And traditionally, the party in power will draw the new map in the way most advantageous to itself, while maintaining some small semblance of fairness and legality.
The new breed of R's here in Ohio have forgotten that last part. Their new map (passed yesterday by the Ohio House and soon to rubber-stamped by the Senate) establishes a new low in self-serving sliminess. The 16 new districts, shown above, are a vile tour de force in gerrymandering. Objective analysts have concluded that it will likely yield two to four Ohio Democrats in the next Congress, with 12 to 14 being served on a platter to the Republicans.
The most egregious example is probably my own 15th District, which snakes around central and southern Ohio while avoiding those precincts filled with distasteful minorities. This all but guarantees that I'll continue to be mis-represented by that rigid asshole Steve Stivers. Goody.
Yes, both parties do this shit, but it's never been this blatantly out of balance before. There's gotta be a better way.
Buster offers two alternative maps. They're arbitrary, which can't be avoided, but neither is in any way politically motivated. Both are simple attempts to be geographically even-handed, period. Geography seems to me to be as good a factor as anything else. My maps took me about ten minutes, and I guarantee either one would result in more fairness, more competitiveness, and more true representation than anything either party could come up with, and certainly more than that vile abomination foisted upon us by the Ohio GOP.
Map A -- County-based districts
There are 88 counties in Ohio and 16 districts. Do the math and that's 5-and-a-half counties per district. I started the map in the northwest and proceeded left to right, then down. If I had to cut your county in half, I'm sorry.
Map B -- Grid-based districts
For this one, I overlaid a 4-by-4 grid in such a way as to make sure at least some territory was covered by each of the 16 boxes. True, the northwest, southwest, and southeast districts are noticeably smaller, but that's what you get for living in the corners. Many of those people believe they're living in Michigan or Kentucky or West Virginia anyway. If you don't like it, tilt the grid in the other direction.
That was fun! Quick, easy, and better than any "professional" redistricting.
A detailed map in the Sunday paper showed that, per the R's new map, Buster resides in the new District 3, one of the few supposedly "guaranteed" Democratic districts. While I'll be happy to be free of the blockhead Steve Stivers, it's still cold comfort, knowing how the R's have stacked the deck.
***UPDATE ALERT CORRECTION***
I was wrong about being in District 3. Then for awhile I thought I'd now be in District 12 with Pat Tiberi, another R stooge. Turns out I'm still in District 15 with Stivers. Oh, well.
. . . and it sure ain't us!
After initially having one or two good things to say about the President's jobs plan and momentarily pretending to be semi-bipartisan, Weeper Of The House John Boehner dropped the act and made it clear he's here to do the bidding of Grover Norquist and the Koch brothers, and be a constant monkey wrench in the machinery of progress.
Speaking yesterday to the D.C. Economic Club, Boehner quickly reverted to form and pissed all over Obama's Wheaties. Broken-record style, the Orange Man again declared that we must not spend a nickel; that any tax increases are off the table; that cutting taxes and ending regulations are the only way to go.
He said, "We must liberate the American economy from the shackles of Washington." (Shackles? Nice image, douchebag!) And, as is his custom, he got all misty talking about unfettered free enterprise and the American Dream and what he was taught as a child and . . . oh, boo-hoo-hoo!
Oh, blow it out your ass, Boehner!
A few weeks ago, Nabisco introduced a new Oreo cookie called the "Triple Double." Right-wing radio gasbag Rush Limbaugh said it should be called the "Obama", because, see, it's half black and half white. Get it? Oh, ha-ha, Rush. Sooo funny.
Not to be outdone, Keebler has introduced its own new cookie called the "Noisy Tub of Goo." Chewing its extra-crispy coating makes very loud sounds, but the cookie itself contains nothing of value whatsoever.
President Obama said it should be called the "Limbaugh."
Some recent pearls of wisdom from would-be Republican Presidential candidates:
A Tea Bag audience cheered Ron Paul's suggestion that true freedom means letting an uninsured man die.
Another audience cheered the 234 Texas executions which have occurred on Rick Perry's watch.
Michele Bachmann called the EPA a "job killing" agency. Yes indeed, clean air and clean water are the economic boat anchors that are dragging us down, and only through increased pollution will we achieve prosperity and full employment.
Bachmann also said that vaccines cause mental retardation. If true, it's obvious Bachmann has been thoroughly vaccinated.
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Like so many of today's products, motor vehicles are technological marvels. The on-board computing power of our modern cars and trucks exceeds that of the Apollo lunar modules. Automobile dashboards these days are a dazzling array of gauges, read-outs, lights, buttons, bells and whistles. Some of it is show-off "because we can" stuff, but much of it is really useful and really cool.
So, I have this semi-new-to-me car, a 2010 Enclave. Have had it about a year. It doesn't have every techno whizz-bang and gee-gaw on it, but it has a lot, and there's still a lot for me to learn.
Case in point: Recently, the dashboard suddenly told me "RIGHT FRONT TIRE PRESSURE LOW". OK, got it. Frantically I pushed random dashboard buttons trying to turn off the damn message. (Apparently, the car considered this info to be absolutely crucial, because the message refused to leave.)
Eventually I hit some button and the dash informed me "RIGHT FRONT TIRE 27 PSI". I see. Well, 35 psi is recommended, so I better do something about that. I pulled into a gas station, fed 3 quarters into the air compressor (no free lunch, and no fuckin' free air either!), and ran some air into the right front tire. A pretty fair amount of air, I thought. Oddly, nothing changed. Still it was "RIGHT FRONT TIRE 27 PSI". The timer on the air pump had kicked off, so I chalked it up to faulty gas station equipment, and drove off.
I went to another station, coughed up another 75 cents, and tried it again. This pump sounded good and I knew it was working properly. But nothing changed. Still "RIGHT FRONT TIRE 27 PSI". I don't get it!
On to a third station and another 75 cents. I'm now up to $2.25 in air! Jesus! This time, the compressor is an ass-kicker -- loud, hot and strong -- and I just know I'm pumpin' some serious air. Maybe it was operator error before. What?! Still "27 PSI"? C'mon! You cannot be serious!
I drive home pissed and flummoxed. I refuse to "invest" another nickel in the compressed air racket. Against my better instincts, I consult the owner's manual. (Hey now, there's an idea!)
Like so many of today's products, owner's manuals for cars are thick, abstruse, and getting foggier all the time. And it's not about the mechanicals, it's all about the tech and the buttons. So after 3-4 hours of close perusal, I find a little snippet which says "After tire rotation, TPM sensors must be reprogrammed."
Suddenly, I remember that at my last oil change, I also had the tires rotated. Did those grease monkeys "reprogram" my "TPM's" (tire pressure monitors)? Hell no!! And who'da thunk it? So the dashboard message was all fucked up, referring to tire positions which no longer existed. "RIGHT FRONT" was actually right rear. That was the low-pressure tire.
Delving deeper into the manual, I discover another button which displays rear tire pressure. One of the rear tires (which is actually now the right front tire, the one I'd been putting all the air into) indicates 57 psi! "LOOK OUT, SHE'S GONNA BLOW!!!!!"
Eventually, I got it all worked out, reprogrammed my TPM's, and achieved correct tire pressure all around. But Jesus Pete, what a pain-in-the-ass achievement!
Once upon a time, a tire was low when it looked low. And air was free, because it was . . . just air.
"Those days are gone forever, over a long time ago. Oh yeah." -- Steely Dan
When in doubt, consult that War And Peace owner's manual.
1. Social Security does not contribute to our "national debt." There are many things that go into the official calculation of our debt, but Social Security ain't one of 'em.
2. Social Security is not "going broke." In fact, the Social Security Trust Fund is growing and enjoys a healthy surplus, for now.
3. The so-called "problem" is all of us Baby Boomers retiring and living longer, combined with lower birthrates and a smaller workforce behind us. We're gonna take a lot out of the system, and there's not gonna be as much paid into it. Unless something changes, the Trust fund could be depleted in 25 years or so.
4. The "fix" is simple enough: We increase Social Security revenue, or we reduce benefits, or some combination of both. (Or if you're a Tea Bag Libertarian wing-nut, you just kill the program altogether.)
5. Social Security has not had an increase in FICA payroll tax rate since 1990. It's been 6.2% for employees, and 6.2% for employers for the past 20+ years. That might've been OK as all of us boomers were coming through the system like a squirrel through a snake. Maybe you don't need to raise rates if you can increase the number of workers. But times have changed, everything is more expensive, and the old math doesn't work anymore. We must raise more revenue for Social Security. Imagine if you had no increase in pay rate since 1990. How would that have worked out for you?
So here's the Buster Gammons Social Security Fix:
Let Obama enjoy his temporary cuts in payroll tax, but they must be temporary and they must expire. Then we raise the payroll tax rate to 6.7% on both employees and employers. That's half a point, $500 a year on $100,000 income, or $42 a month. That's obviously affordable and, according to experts, would close half the gap for the next 75 years.
We also raise the cap on income subject to FICA tax to $250,000. It's currently $106,800. Higher-income individuals are getting an unnecessary break. Raising the income cap to $250 K will probably take care of the other half of the shortfall. (FYI -- totally removing the income cap closes the gap entirely.)
If there's any remaining gap, it'll be small. We'll fiddle on the benefit side with the yearly cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) until we get it right.
But basically, it's just increase the rate, increase the cap. That'll do it.
Tonight, with the stage all to themselves, the Republican Presidential candidates will "debate", i.e. they'll try like hell to avoid saying anything stupid. Toward that end, Mitt Romney will try to appear like a CEO, instead of the spineless tool of the corporate/financial elite that he actually is. Rick Perry will try not to seem like the mean, nasty, bigoted prick he actually is. And Mad Michele Bachmann will struggle to keep her inner lunatic under wraps. And of course they'll all be strongly in favor of all sorts of tax cuts. Or will they?
Tomorrow night, President Obama will make his big speech on the economy to a joint session of Congress. He'll propose massive investment to build, maintain and repair our infrastructure. (Good! We need it.) His other big idea will be to continue the temporary payroll tax cut for employees for another year, and to give employers a matching cut. (This is where the cheese starts to get a little more binding!)
"Payroll tax" is a euphemism for Social Security/FICA tax. For years, the contribution rate was 6.2% from employees and 6.2% from employers. But last year, Obama wanted to provide an extension of federal unemployment benefits to the long-term jobless. House Republicans gave it to him, but only after extorting a temporary 2-point cut in the employee rate, taking it down to 4.2%. It's set to return to 6.2% in January.
Republicans have forever bitched and moaned about Social Security -- they want to kill it, privatize it, tell us it's broke, and complain about that horrible "payroll tax" that sends American jobs to Bangladesh. Robbie Portman, for example, made reducing/eliminating payroll taxes the focus of his campaign. So when Obama reluctantly agreed to 4.2%, the Republicans howled with glee and proudly displayed the scalp on their tepee wall.
So tomorrow Obama will tell us he now wants to continue the 4.2% employee rate for another year, and what the hell, while we're at it, let's drop the employer's rate to 4.2% as well. That'd be mo' money, mo' money, mo' money in everyone's pocket! And a page torn straight out of the Republican playbook. The R's ought to love it, yes?
But, strangely, no. The GOP honchos now say they are opposed to cutting the payroll tax unless the revenue loss is offset with spending cuts. How's that for through-the-looking-glass weird? Republicans concerned with revenue loss resulting from a tax cut!
Where was this concern when the costly Bush tax cuts for millionaires were due to expire? Where was the insistence then about covering those costs/lost revenues with spending cuts?
It was nowhere. Because the GOP really doesn't care about small stuff like that. What they care about is power and control. They lack principles and integrity but not ambition. They want the White House and both Houses of Congress and are willing to say, do, and spend anything to get them.
Monday, September 5, 2011
Hey . . .
Remember when teachers, police, firefighters, public employees, Planned Parenthood, NPR, and PBS crashed the stock market, wiped out half our savings, took trillions in taxpayer-funded bailouts, spilled shitloads of oil in the Gulf of Mexico, gave themselves billions in bonuses, paid no taxes, and were the cause of all our problems?
Yeah, me neither.
Times are tough for newspapers these days, but no paper helps itself less than the reliably idiotic Columbus Dispatch. It's a thin piece of shit, getting thinner each day. Ownership-wise and editorially, the Dispatch has always been a chronic red rag, and in that regard, it's getting redder and dumber everyday.
Today, Labor Day, the Dispatch brain trust saw fit, with typical tactlessness, to sow more seeds of divisiveness. They featured an editorial diatribe attacking the labor movement, the Democratic Party in general, and President Obama in particular. There will be no reason to celebrate Labor Day, according to the Dispatch, until the Socialist Negro is vanquished and Big Business is restored to its well-deserved place of supremacy and dominion.
So happy fuckin' Labor Day to all you hard-working people out there trying your best to keep it together for yourself, your family, and for society at large. How comforting it must be to know that your local newspaper believes you are the problem, not the solution.
Saturday, September 3, 2011
Cousin Barry, what are you thinking? I know you're a compromiser and a centrist and a political animal, but this I just don't get.
I refer, of course, to President Obama's surprising decision to disregard EPA recommendations, reverse his own course, and halt the impending strengthening of air pollution rules. He will now leave in place until 2013 Dubya's dubious 2006 weakening of the rules. (The EPA director has called these current rules "indefensible.")
Obama tried to rationalize this by saying he could not justify changing the rules now only to have them reviewed again in just two short years.
Now, I am by no stretch of the imagination a really "green", environmentally aware person. I should do better, and I'm trying. But even though I lack true "tree-hugger" cred, I think Cousin Barry's explanation is pretty fuckin' lame.
If it's important to regulate toxic emissions and have rules in place to reduce/eliminate them, then why let things slide for another two years? How can more pollution instead of less be a good thing? We have only one planet and it isn't going to get bigger. If we allow more poisonous shit to be spewed into the air for the next two years, we don't get those two years back and that shit doesn't magically disappear. It just takes us that much further and faster down the road to ruin.
Cuz, you're a good man, but this was a bad call and it makes you look weak.
By Robert Reich, professor of economics and public policy at UC Berkeley and former US Secretary of Labor, published 9/3/11 in the Huffington Post.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports today no jobs were created in August. Zero. Nada.
Well, not quite. The strike at Verizon reduced the labor force by 45,000. Minnesota government employees returned to work, adding 22,000. So in reality, America added 23,000 jobs. Almost zero.
In reality, worse than zero. We need 125,000 a month merely to keep up with population growth. So the hole continues to deepen.
Since this Depression began at the end of 2007, America's potential labor force -- working-age people who want jobs -- has grown by over 7 million. But since then the number of Americans with jobs has shrunk by more than 300,000.
If this doesn't prompt President Obama to unveil a bold jobs plan next Thursday, I don't know what will.
The problem is on the demand side. Consumers (whose spending is 70 percent of the economy) can't boost the economy on their own. They're still too burdened by debt, especially on homes that are worth less than their mortgages. Their jobs are disappearing, their pay is dropping, their medical bills are soaring.
And businesses won't hire without more sales.
So we're in a vicious cycle.
Republicans continue to claim businesses aren't hiring because they're uncertain about regulatory costs. Or they can't find the skilled workers they need.
Baloney. If these were the reasons businesses weren't hiring -- and demand were growing -- you'd expect companies to make more use of their current employees. The length of the average workweek would be increasing.
But the length of the average workweek has been dropping. In August it declined for the third month in a row, to 34.2 hours. That's back to where it was at the start of the year - barely longer than what it was at its shortest point two years ago (33.7 hours in June 2009).
It's demand, stupid.
So what does a sane nation do when the consumers and businesses can't boost the economy on their own?
Government becomes the purchaser of last resort. It hires directly (a new WPA and Civilian Conservation Corps, for example). It helps states and locales, so they don't have to continue to slash payrolls and public services. (The help could be structured as a loan, to be repaid when unemployment drops to, say, 6 percent.)
And it hires indirectly -- contracting with companies to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, including school buildings, to take another example.
Not only does this create jobs but also puts money in the hands of all the people who get the jobs, so they can turn around and buy the goods and services they need -- generating more jobs.
Get it? Not exactly rocket science.
So why don't Republicans get it? Either they're knaves -- they want the economy to stay awful through next Election Day so Obama gets the boot. Or they're fools -- they've bought the lie that reducing the deficit now creates more jobs.
Every time you hear anyone say we're "broke" or "can't afford to spend more," tell them we'll be in worse shape if we don't. If the economy remains dead in the water, the ratio of public debt to GDP balloons.
And remind them that the federal government can now borrow at fire-sale rates. Interest on the ten-year Treasury bill is 2 percent.
Do you hear me, Mr. President? Please -- be bold next week. And if, as expected, Republicans refuse to go along, take it to the people. Mobilize the public. Use the bully pulpit. That's what you have it for.
One more thing, Mr. President. You also have to tackle inequality. When so much income and wealth continues to flow to the very top, America's vast middle class still won't have enough purchasing power to boost the economy. Priming the pump is necessary but won't be sufficient without enough water in the well.