Welcome to Buster's Blog

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

Buster Gammons

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Price Of Literacy

Just heard a report that, thus far, the federal government has spent around $70,000 on books for President Obama. Naturally, all the conservative critics are up in arms over this taxpayer expense. But if you combine the tab for Obama's books with the $5 we spent on comic books for George W. Bush, the recent average Presidential reading habit ain't too bad!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Issue 2 Correction

Today's paper had another election insert from the Secretary of State with the ballot language, explanation, full text, and arguments for and against State Issues 1, 2, and 3. And Buster was wrong in his post of last Friday. Page one of the insert deals with Issue 1, the very last page covers Issue 3, and everything in between is devoted to Issue 2 -- and it's 58 friggin' pages long, not 55 as previously reported.

You can see the thickness of this section in the photo above. That's twice I've now received this 60-page monster. You too? And with state-wide issues, does that mean these inserts are in every newspaper in Ohio? What does it cost to do that twice? Will there be a third time? And who in the hell is going to actually read 58 pages of legislative gobbledygook anyway?

Allow me to summarize one more time: NO ON ISSUE 2!!!!!!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Cruel And Unusual

A lawsuit was recently filed against the city of Houston.

A woman received a traffic ticket for driving on the berm. She objected, saying her car was breaking down and she was just pulling over. For such uppity back-talk, the cop arrested her and took her to jail.

While driving her to the slammer, the cop cranked up the Rush Limbaugh show on the radio in his cruiser, in which, according to the woman, Limbaugh made numerous "derogatory comments" about black people. The cop laughed loudly at Rush's racial witticisms and refused to change the station or turn off the radio.

Once at the cop shop, all charges were immediately dropped and the woman was released. Now she's suing the city for false imprisonment and intentionally inflicting emotional distress.

Listening to Limbaugh can indeed be torture, so this sounds to me like a clear-cut case of cruel and unusual punishment!

With his signature charm and sensitivity, the Great Gasbag felt compelled to weigh in on the topic. Said Dimbulb: "We don't make derogatory comments about blacks. We make derogatory comments about liberals."

Hey Rush, why don't you eat a liberal amount of Oxycontin and take a really long nap?

The "Occupy" Movement

What do you make of the so-called "Occupy" Movement? We haven't seen anything like it in years, and I think I like it.

It started with Occupy Wall Street, which is now over a month old. Every day, OWS draws several thousand people during the daylight hours, more on weekends, and is maintaining a steady 1,000 or so overnight occupiers. OWS has boatloads of Facebook friends and Twitter followers. It has spawned other "Occupy" actions in many U.S. cities, including Columbus, and has now spread to several European cities.

It's a true grassroots movement, with no particular source or leader, and no sugar-daddy funding. Contrast this with the Tea Baggers, who are bank-rolled by the Koch brothers and Dick Armey, and are given endless free publicity via Fox News.

Like all protests and public demonstrations, the Occupy movement is not the prettiest thing you've ever seen -- it's loose, funky, unfocused, and without specific demands. But they're righteously pissed off about all sorts of semi-related things, to wit:

Corporate greed and selfishness.
The insistence by the wealthy for lower taxes on the highest incomes.
The organized attacks on organized labor and public-sector workers.
High unemployment and lack of job security.
The ever-increasing cost of college education.
The high cost of health insurance, and consequent lack thereof by so many people.
The high cost of transportation and fuel.
The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the lies that led us there.
The total absence of criminal prosecutions of the Wall Street executives who crashed our economy and trashed our retirement savings.
The god-awful Citizens United decision, in which our Supreme Court decreed that corporations are people too, opening the floodgates of unlimited corporate cash influence in our political process and our society.
The concentration of wealth in the hands of so few: The top 1% of Americans now control/possess 24% of all income/assets/wealth. The percentage hasn't been that high since the days of the Gilded Age.
The income disparity: The average annual income of the top 1% is $1,500,000, while the average annual income of the other 99% is $55,000.
Pollution, global warming, and impending environmental disasters.
Politicians and business leaders who deny and ignore pollution, climate change, and environmental dangers.
The creeping feeling that certain American powers-that-be are hellbent on turning us into an oligarchy.

These are not unreasonable things to be pissed off about, and if nothing else, it frightens the right people: Romney, Cain, Perry and Bachmann all made disparaging remarks. OWS is routinely mocked on Fox News. Eric Cantor called them a dangerous mob (Where was Cantor's concern when Tea Bag "mobs" were stomping around with pitchforks and misspelled signs?), and like the pussy he is, cancelled a Philadelphia appearance at the last minute when he found out that hundreds of Occupy Philly protesters would be in attendance. So whatever they are, whatever they want, the Occupy forces must be doing something right.

Where does it go from here? Who knows? The Occupy Movement could easily fade and wither on the vine with cold weather approaching, or it could stick and grow and become a real force in the 2012 election and beyond. I'm thinking maybe the latter. Things could get interesting!

Occupy Herbstreit

In a lighter vein, there is "Occupy Herbstreit" -- another grassroots movement, this one aimed at college football and named for the ESPN broadcaster. Among the "Occupy Herbstreit" demands:

College mascots must be allowed to unionize.

A $1 trillion federal bailout to the Big East Conference so they can buy themselves some new teams.

Conferences with numbers in their names must have that many schools in them.

Penn State must reveal its secret for keeping Joe Paterno alive.

A spokesman for the movement said, "We're football-focused and we always avoid politics, but if Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan includes a nine-game playoff, he's our man!"

Friday, October 21, 2011

Buster's Recommendations on Ohio Issues 1, 2, and 3

(Hey, everybody else is doing it, so me too!)

Ohio Issue 1 is a constitutional amendment to raise the maximum entry age for state judges from 70 to 75, and thereby also raise the maximum exit age. Since judges are elected to 6-year terms, Issue 1 would let some continue on the bench until essentially 81 years of age. I have nothing whatsoever against those in their 70's and 80's. I aspire to get there myself someday. So it's hard for me to oppose those who'd like to serve at that age. But here's the thing: There are plenty of deserving younger judges. They'd like a turn too, please. It's a constitutional amendment and at any level of government, such changes should always be approached with great caution. Its immediate impact will be to perpetuate the current 6-to-1 Republican majority on the Ohio Supreme Court. And for some reason, I keep having visions of Strom Thurmond! With some reservations, Buster recommends voting no on Issue 1.

So much has already been written and said about Ohio Issue 2, much of it by me. You know where I stand. Issue 2 is the referendum which will decide if we repeal or retain the punitive and unnecessary union-busting Senate Bill 5. SB 5 was a misguided attempt to kill a mosquito with a sledgehammer, and the mosquito was imaginary to begin with. Issue 2 is a turd, and at our house, we flush turds. A great big no vote on Issue 2! (Interesting side point: earlier this week, my newspaper contained an insert from the Secretary of State, explaining each of the three Issues and showing the ballot language. For Issues 1 and 3, this required one full newspaper page apiece. Because Issue 2 may repeal an existing law, all the verbiage of SB 5 was included. It took 55 pages! Jesus!)

Ohio Issue 3 is another constitutional amendment which seeks to exempt Ohioans from carrying health insurance coverage by 2014, as specified by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare). Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and other R's claim this is unconstitutional. But here's the thing on this one: "Federal" trumps "State". Ohio cannot declare a federal law to be unconstitutional. So, as Issue 3 may impact the ACA, it won't -- it's just a defiant stunt, a load of irrelevant bluster. But it also contains too-broad language which could apply at state and local levels. Another turd, another flush. Buster recommends a resounding no on Issue 3.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Flat Wrong

One more time, the Republican presidential wannabe's are trotting out their long-time pet project, the flat tax. Like Libertarianism and other simplistic thought processes, a flat tax sounds fair and good, but in practice would be all fucked up.

Our American income tax system has forever been essentially "progressive", meaning that, as a rule, higher incomes have always paid higher tax rates, with lower incomes paying lower rates. A flat tax applies the same rate across the board to any income but, as it has been historically proposed, effectively gives tax rate cuts to higher incomes while raising the rate on the lowest incomes. This would be what's known as a "regressive" tax scheme (not unlike our Social Security set-up, if you think about it.)

The last guy to get a bit of traction from the flat tax idea was Steve Forbes, a failed Republican candidate from 16 years ago. The son of Malcolm Forbes and heir to a fortune, little Steven thought 17% flat sounded about right. The top rate at the time was 39.6%, so he was saving himself 22-23%. But many of our lowest income earners pay no income tax and Stevie's plan would have taken them from 0% to 17%. Forbes came nowhere near the GOP convention, let alone the White House.

Today, we have Herman Cain and his "9-9-9" -- a flat 9% each for personal, business, and sales tax rates. With a current top rate of 35%, Herman would give himself a 26 point rate cut, while taking the poor folks from 0% to 9%. And a 9% federal sales tax will really get the regular people buying some shit, won't it? At a flat 9% income tax rate, corporations get the same treatment -- big breaks for the big boys, and big increases for the little guys who've always paid next to nothing. Tough shit, sucka! As Cain recently put it, "If you don't have a job or you're not rich, blame yourself! It's your own damn fault!" Thanks, Hermie! Here's my German review of your plan: Nein! Nein! Nein!

Rick Perry immediately jumped on the flat-bed bandwagon, saying he too would trash the tax code and replace it with a flat tax of his own. He was light on specifics, or I've forgotten them already, but it doesn't really matter. Perry's an unelectable asshole. His big "jobs plan" of last week boiled down to "the oil, gas, and coal industries can do whatever they like, and the EPA can piss up a rope." You first, Rick.

Mitt "Glove" Romney has not yet endorsed the flat tax idea, and in fact opposed the Forbes idea of yore. But Mitt has a different "great" idea for economic growth: Deep cuts to the capital gains tax rate. Of course, a full three-quarters of American taxpayers have no capital gains exposure. So basically Mitt would like to benefit the already-wealthy while doing nothing for anyone else. Still trickling down? C'mon!

All this shit is modern classic conservative Republicanism -- reverse Robin Hood; give to the rich and take from the poor. That's the real agenda, and it always has been. And it's always been flat wrong.

A Thousand Words On Mitt Romney

Straight outta the 80's, from the heyday of Bain Capital, here's Glove and the Mittens showin' us all what really talks.

Class or crass? You decide.

Monday, October 17, 2011

"Some People Say"

By Kathleen Reardon, Author, Professor, USC Marshall School of Business
Published 10/17/11 in the Huffington Post

On televised news this evening, expect to hear sentences beginning with "some people say" or "many people think" as a means of positioning a question for an interview or providing support for an opinion being advanced. Look for such deceptive phrases on your choice of early evening televised news, CNN and PBS too.

And what's wrong with this practice? Aren't we supposed to assume that we're being led by our noses by the owners of media giants, that journalism is no longer the honorable profession it was, and this is just more evidence of how far it has fallen? Isn't it our responsibility as viewers to sift through the hype and huckstering to find shreds of objectivity?

Certainly, we are responsible for carefully considering the sources of what we read and view. And yet, from decades of persuasion research, we know that people often process information without engaging in wariness or counterargument. At least when we hear, "According to General Colin Powell or "As Senator Webb described it today," we know something of the political leanings of the sources. We know whether to consider them credible, intelligent, experienced, and trustworthy.

How do we know the motives of "some" people? Who are they? Where do they come from? How many of them are there? Under what circumstances were their opinions obtained? How old are they? Did anyone pay them? Do they even exist?

When will experts respond to "some people say" with, "Who might they be?" Or, "In fact, recent data indicates quite the opposite." They could ask one of these questions: "How many people actually say that?" "Who are these people?" "Where did you find them?"

We're into an important campaign season, one culminating with the election of the next president of the United States. As we've seen over and over, it's an exercise in separating hype from truth, opinions from factual information, and political machinations from admirable political skill.

Slipping "some people say" and "many people think" into "news" is not much different from placing subliminal product messages in grocery store music. It's deceitful. It takes advantage of consumers.

Change the channel the next time you hear, "some people say," "many people think," or vacuous statements in this genre. E-mail the station. Tell them to name their sources. Expect better. Insist on it! Let's teach our children to be intolerant of such manipulation, so we'll all be protected from those "journalists" and their bosses who apparently think we're stupid.

The Essence Of All Web "Conversations"

Referring to the comment threads on so many news websites, blogs, and Facebook pages, Jeff Tweedy of Wilco summed it up perfectly:

'"Look at this beautiful kitten."

"Fuck you, that kitten's a socialist!"

"You're a fag!"

Basically, that's the crux of all Internet discussions.'

No "Truth In Advertising"

When the truth won't work, just make up some shit.

That's the program at Building A Better Ohio, the advocacy group pushing hard for approval of the union-busting Issue 2. Toward that end, they'll lie, cheat, steal, and say and do damn near anything. Their ad campaign is stunningly, intentionally untrue -- the epitome of deceit.

They take their opponents' TV spot with a white-haired granny telling us to vote No on Issue 2, and paste a snippet of her video into one of their own ads, and make it appear she endorses Issue 2. Without her permission, of course.

They have another ad claiming that government employees compensation is "43% higher" than private-sector workers, due to "excessive benefits". Sorry, this doesn't pass the sniff test, and in fact, it's just not true. Today's Columbus Dispatch ran the results of a thorough study which found no difference -- none -- in the average compensation of public- and private-sector employees.

Then they have the "scare 'em to death" Apocalypse ad, where we're told that if Issue 2 fails, your taxes will go up, schools will close, there will be no public safety workers, your house will burn down, and you will be a homeless wretch pushing a shopping cart. Really? (The R's always love to play the fear card.)

The arrogance, the utter lack of scruples, the outright lies -- the slime dripping off the pro-Issue 2 forces is astounding! And these days, it's pretty hard to be astounded.

SB 5/Issue 2 is Gov. Kasich's big play, his defining piece of legislation. Asked for his reaction to these dishonest ads, Kay-suck said he wasn't running the spots, but "what they're doing is fine." (And that's really all you need to know about John-Boy.)

Not a shocker: Despite the publishing the research on public vs. private compensation, today the moronic Dispatch endorsed Issue 2. Their editorial called its opponents "intellectually dishonest."

Come-the-fuck-on! Who's dishonest?????


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Mitt's Magic Undies

Mitt Romney recently said he feels that personal faith is just that -- personal -- and therefore all discussions of religion ought to be "off the table" in any upcoming debates. Amen, Glove! I couldn't agree more.

I wish we could attribute Romney's words to a thoughtful stance about what is and what is not truly important in our society. But his motivations are craven, not principled. He just wants to avoid -- desperately -- any examination of the batshit nuthouse that is the Mormon sect (in which he and his family are charter members).

You-can't-make-this-up category (and how did I miss this shit during Buster's History of Religion?):

1. As a show of their faith, adult Mormons are supposed to wear a special style of underwear (pictured here).

These skivvies are sold to them by the church in a special ceremony, are considered to be sacred, and are known as "garments". They are to be worn at all times as a symbol of purity and modesty. The magic underwear will protect the faithful from "the world", i.e. the rest of us.

2. Because Joseph Smith said so, Mormons believe that the Garden of Eden in fact existed and was actually located somewhere in western Missouri.

Really? Well, yeah. So Mitt would like to change the subject.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

"All My Rowdy Friends Are Rascist Assholes!"

A couple days ago, Hank Williams Jr. was on the "Fox and Friends" morning show. (Water seeks its own level.) And Ol' Hank offered up his opinion that "President Obama playing golf with John Boehner was like Hitler playing golf with Bebe Netanyahu." Huh? Asked to clarify, Hank obliged, saying of Hitler and Obama "they're both the enemy."

Hank Jr.'s "All My Rowdy Friends" had for years been the theme song for Monday Night Football telecasts. Not any more. This morning, ESPN pulled the song and terminated the agreement.

So bye-bye, Hank. Time for you to go play golf with Rick Perry.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Don't Forget What SB 5 Really Wants To Do

With all the deceptive ads that will fly from now to November, Buster wishes to remind one and all what SB 5/Issue 2 is really all about:

It will impact virtually all of Ohio's public sector workers. That means, approximately . . .

180,000 public school teachers, including our state universities
123,000 school staff and miscellaneous workers
30,000 police, fire, and other public safety workers
57,000 state government workers
300,000 other general government workers in our various cities, towns, counties, townships, and so forth.

These are the roughly half-million people who deal with our emergencies, wipe our children's butts, pick up our garbage, plow our streets, and generally maintain just about all our untidy shit here in the beautiful Buckeye state.

And in return, here's some -- just some -- of what SB 5 proposes to do for/do to all these people:

It eliminates binding arbitration.
Public employees cannot strike or take other job actions.
They cannot bargain for employee benefits. (Originally, it banned bargaining for wages, hours, and terms of employment.)
Public schools are prohibited from collectively bargaining class size limits.
Mandates merit pay for teachers based on student performance, without regard to class size.
Removes seniority as a consideration in staffing levels.
Eliminates step-pay increases for teachers.
Abolishes continuing contracts for teachers.
Cuts sick-leave payments.
Reduces amounts of other leave time, such as vacation, personal days, etc.
Requires employees to pay 15% of health insurance premiums, and 10% of pension contributions.
Prohibits public employee unions from sending any member dues to any union PACS.
Bans "fair share" fees on non-union members. (Why pay dues if you can get union benefits without them? But those benefits will go away quickly if the unions are fiscally starved.)

Virtually all of SB 5 could have been addressed through collective bargaining agreements, as it has been for many decades. Nationally, unions have never had less power and influence. Today's union leaders have shown a willingness to make reasonable concessions when asked/when a good case is made.

But Kasich and others like him don't want to bother with all that. They just want to codify union-busting into law so they never have to discuss it again. Their insistence that SB 5 is all about reducing costs for the benefit of state and local governments is utter bullshit. It's just about killing unions, ruining them financially, and thereby further harming any Democrats who receive union support.

VOTE NO on Issue 2, repeal SB 5.

**UPDATE 10/4/11 -- A faithful reader points out that Buster omitted the real icing on the SB 5 cake: Ohio's Republican-dominated state legislature exempted themselves and the governor from any part of SB 5 by declaring that they are not government employees.

Ain't that some shit!!

"Yes, Dr. Freud, I Agree. It's A Clear Case Of Union Envy."

In a desperate attempt to dress a turd, the proponents of SB 5/Issue 2 are running some "Hail Mary" TV spots. These ads focus on two very small facets of the bill, and they hope like hell you've forgotten the rest of it. "Less than full disclosure" is putting it mildly.

One spot has a teacher telling us that SB 5/Issue 2 will "improve education" in Ohio through its merit pay provision. "Isn't it about time," asks the teacher, "that our best teachers will finally be rewarded for what they do in the classroom, and not just for showing up?" (Wait a minute -- weren't teachers overpaid and a horrible drain on budgets? Sounds like this guy wants to pay "the good ones" even more.) As a general concept, most people like the idea of merit pay. That's the reason for this ad. But implementing it fairly is another matter altogether. What is "merit"? Who defines it? Who evaluates performance? John Kasich? And how exactly would this system improve education? It's a guaranteed can of worms, fixing a non-existent problem.

Speaking of Kay-suck, in another spot, the Wonder Guv tells us, "Times are tough. People are tightening their belts. Government must do the same." (The voice-over implies that all our problems have been solved by Kasich's "common-sense reforms".) Kasich speaks: "Issue 2 makes government employees pay 10% of their pensions and 15% of their health insurance costs. It's not too much to ask."

A third ad likewise emphasizes the pension/health insurance angle. A whiteboard shows an Ohio map. A hand with a pen draws a fracture down the middle of the state. The voice-over says, "Ohio is hurting. But Issue 2 will fix our state." (Wow! Just like that?) Two pie charts appear and the hand draws a 10% slice and a 15% slice. The voice tells us this is what public workers are being asked to pay for these benefits, that it's only fair, that many people pay more than this, and these payments will save tax dollars.

Obviously, this little snapshot/snippet of SB 5 polls favorably with lots of people. Again, it explains this ad. A lot of people do indeed pay more than 10%/15%. Your humble correspondent, for one, pays for 100% of his home-made "benefits". But I certainly don't hold a grudge against those who get good benefits via their employer, even if their employer is the government, and even if a union negotiated those benefits on their behalf. Good for you. You go, baby! My job has advantages in other areas.

And isn't it an oddly Socialist position the Republicans are taking? "Quick! Look at this shiny object! Those damn government employees are getting a better deal than you are! What a rip-off! We should all get the exact same thing!" No shit? The same? Well, power to the people! I thought the Big R program was straight trickle-down benevolence and relying upon the kindness of extremely wealthy strangers. (A little Blanche DuBois for y'all!)

The truth is that many public sector workers -- some say most -- are already contributing more than the 10%/15% SB 5 prescription. So where are the big savings? What's the point?

The point is spin. The point is bullshit. The point is tryin' to sell us the same old okey-doke yet again. SB 5/Issue 2 is and has always been about union-busting, but toward that end the Koch/Rove/Kasich power brokers would like to sell us the fairy tale that public workers are the upper-class, an over-priveleged, overpaid elite who don't pay their fair share like "the rest of us."

My diagnosis? A psychosomatic case of "union envy."

I Wish I'd Said That!

Remember back in August on "ironic Thursday" when Kasich and his droogies unexpectedly said they were now willing to compromise on SB 5, but only if the repeal was first yanked off the ballot?

I missed it at the time, but now I gotta share the perfect "instant analysis." The website Plunderbund.com had this snarky reaction:

"This is like catching a guy in your home as he's trying to steal your big flat-screen TV. You have a gun in your hand, pull back the hammer, and the thief looks up at you, stunned he was caught. He quickly offers you $50 for the TV, then acts like you're the prick if you don't accept his offer."