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, July 31, 2012

My New Title -- And It's A Promotion!

For many years now, your humble correspondent has served as the volunteer pool manager at our community pool. The responsibilities of the gig are various, I've learned a lot over the years from many other residents, and I've gradually grown into the position to the point where now it's mostly second nature. It's a labor of love, and I'm way cool with it.

So you can imagine how gratifying it was when I received a promotion this afternoon. A young boy came up to me and asked, "Bob? Mr. Bob? You're the pool janitor, right?"

I said, "Sure, kid. That's me. The janitor. What can I do for you?"

Wherever they are, I'm sure my parents are bustin' their buttons.

Madness, Part II (Global Warming)

Most intelligent, rational people (meaning those whose sources of information go beyond Fox News) accept global warming as an unhappy fact, and acknowledge that we humans are responsible for it.

There are those who do not accept it, or our role in it. These folks are known as the oil, gas, and coal industries. To maximize their profits, they produce and burn gigatons of hydrocarbons, and pretend it doesn't matter.

The attack dog of these industries is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which in the past couple years has become a purely political factory of lies and propaganda. The truth is goddam inconvenient, so the Chamber avoids it.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is now a professional global-warming-denial activist. They insist that, despite all evidence, climate change is simply not occuring. But just in case they happen to be wrong about that, they recently filed a brief with the EPA urging them not to regulate carbon emissions, in which they claimed:

"Populations can acclimatize to warmer climates via a range of behavioral, technological and physiological adaptations."

That's right, folks. When this world really starts to cook, don't sweat it -- just change your physiology. Sprout a fucking heat shield. Darwin would be proud.

If that's not insane, I don't know what is.

Madness, Part I (Gun Crazies)

In the aftermath of the horrendous theater shooting rampage in Aurora, Colorado, many conservative politicians and pundits were quick to urge us all "not to politicize this tragedy." That's just right-tard code for "don't you dare pass any restrictive gun laws." Their common theme was that, essentially, it's too late, that more legislation won't do any good, because there are already so many guns out there. So there's nothing we can do -- just get used to it, America. Good luck! And keep your head down.

Two Republican pols took it up a notch, blaming the victims for their own massacre. Both Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert and Arizona Senate candidate Russell Pearce wondered why nobody else in the theater had a gun and said that an armed citizen in the audience could have stopped it. Gohmert said the murders were the result of an "attack on our Judeo-Christian values." Sure, Louie, sure.

The shooter was crazy, but these attitudes are just as crazy. The killer had automatic weapons, shitloads of ammo, and body armor head to toe. Ol' Ma Kettle with a pistol in her purse would not have helped. And what we certainly don't need is a theater full of armed movie-goers. We need less people like the shooter, not more.

And we can do something. We can ask ourselves why total wackos find it so easy to buy lethal weapons, and take preventative steps. We can reinstate the Clinton-era ban on assault weapons. We can stop selling military and law enforcement equipment -- large capacity magazines, smoke and tear gas grenades, flak jackets and helmets -- to those not actually in the military or law enforcement. We can make real efforts to reduce the number of guns in circulation. Our political parties can grow backbones and tell the NRA to fuck off.

We can end the insanity . . . if we want to, if we have the nerve.

[For more in this vein, see Buster's archives, 1/18/11, "A Sensible Gun Policy"]

Thursday, July 26, 2012

This Year's Beach Thoughts

Back from another fortnight at the South Carolina shore, and once again it was most enjoyable, with a few hiccups here and there just to make things memorable.

The weather was fine both during our travels and while we there. But our minds certainly were cloudy on the day we left home. Four hours down the road, it dawned on us that we'd left the keys to the condo back at our house. Oh shit! Since we rent directly from the owner, the local realty company down there would be unlikely to just hand us the keys after our half-baked "we forgot" story. And the owner was at that moment vacationing in France! Mon Dieu!

For some strange reason, the lovely Mrs. Gammons had the phone number of our condo (I would never think to have such a thing), and as we rolled down the West Virginia Turnpike in a semi-panic, she called it. The current occupant was in the unit (Miracle #1) and answered the phone (Miracle #2). The missus explained our predicament and asked them to leave the condo unlocked when they left. Happily, they bought her story and agreed to leave it open (Miracle #3). As it happened, they were still packing up when we arrived on Saturday morning, so it all turned out OK. But what a brain cramp -- 19 years of doing this and we forget the keys!

A new wrinkle this year was that son John brought along his girlfriend Emily. Ol' Buster was worried that maybe this wasn't the best idea in the world -- we like Emily a lot, but two weeks together? Would we four be able to enjoy a peaceful coexistence, or would one of us become the turd in the punchbowl? My worries were unwarranted. It was all good.

The interaction between Young Son and Li'l Squeeze is interesting. To an old fart like me, it's more like a lack of interaction. They're side by side, but each is glued to some personal electronic device, seemingly ignoring the other. He's listening to his iPod thru headphones while she sends texts on her cellphone. He plays a game on his phone, she watches TV. Or they're together on the couch but both are on their laptops simultaneously. Sometimes they'll get it down to just a single laptop, and together they'll check out Facebook or other sites. Aww, ain't that sweet? It's the modern equivalent of sharing a soda with two straws.

Our first week group had most of the usual suspects, and we engaged in most of our usual shenanigans: daily happy hours, beach bocce, oysters, Stella paella, the All Star Game, bald paynuts (boiled peanuts), and jeen buckitt (gin bucket). What? You've never had a gin bucket? Well, you'll just have to get your butt down here sometime and try it.

The first week, good old friends Jim and Tish normally rent beach chairs and an umbrella. This transaction is handled via the nearby lifeguard, known always to us as "Vladimir". (Where we go, the beach service employs eastern European kids as guards.)

This year's Vladi asked Jim where he was from. "Ohio," said Jim. With that, Vladi asked if Jim had any "smokey-smokey" to sell, and pantomimed toking a joint. It seems that the prior week, someone from Ohio sold Vladi some weed, and in the logic of a teenage Ukrainian lifeguard drop-shipped into South Carolina, if one Ohioan has pot, they all must! Jim confessed that he was completely out of marijuana (and had been for the past 35 years!).

And yes, that "particular individual" was back again. After last year's flare-ups (see Buster's archives for the 7/25/11 "Beach Thoughts" post) where he finally figured out that perhaps some people disagree with his precious right-wing opinions, P.I. was more circumspect this go-round. Nevertheless, he felt compelled to introduce himself, unbidden, to young Emily as "the deeply conservative Republican retiree who was highly successful in business and made over $250,000 a year." (Isn't that just the perfect way to introduce yourself to someone you've never met? What a douche!) Deconstructing P.I.'s statement: Deeply conservative Republican retiree? You betcha. Highly successful? In the eye of the beholder. Made $250K a year? Bullshit!

P.I. was a bit less politically provocative (hooray!), but still managed to bring up the Fox News version of global warming (there ain't none!) to anyone he could corral. Climate change denial is P.I.'s idea of polite cocktail party chit-chat. Jesus! Early every morning, I head to the beach to set up our chairs -- hey, I rode the bench in JV basketball and I know you gotta box out and establish position -- and one morning I'm sitting there, just me, a cup of coffee, and the Atlantic Ocean. Out of nowhere, and unbidden as always, who plops down beside me? It's the P.I. and it's seven-fucking-fifteen a.m. Oh, goody. My own pathetic version of small talk goes something like, "Wow, it's hot already, isn't it?" Which was all the encouragement he needed. Suddenly I'm being educated as to how global warming is a hoax, and climate change today is just part of a natural up-and-down cycle, and how human beings don't contribute in any way to these changes, and it's all due to flatulent dinosaurs or sun spots or some such nonsense.

The nice thing about a cup of coffee on the beach is that when it's gone, you can always excuse yourself to go get another. So I did, and beat a hasty retreat back to the condo.

The first week drew to a close and our old familiars headed home. For the second week, we knew we'd see Don, the owner of the next-door Unit #1. He's always good company and we were glad to see him again. But as for the rest of the second week occupants, it's like a box of chocolates -- you don't know what you're gonna get.

We drew a real winner in Unit #3, on the other side of us. Saturday evening, as we sat on our little front deck, we observed two SUV's pull in and head for #3's garage. The first one pulled in, but the second one stopped and the portly driver got out and announced that he couldn't get his vehicle in the garage, so maybe he'd just park "over here," meaning in our garage, or in front of it. We quickly and politely hollered down to him that, no, he couldn't park at our unit, that he had to use his own, and that all the units had two-car garages which were identical in size. This information seemed to displease him. He parked in front of the #3 garage all week, never even attempting to get both cars inside.

As they ascended the stairs, it was clear that this group had issues beyond the inability to park a car. The adults were fat, decrepit, and disabled. There were three red-headed teenage kids who were "on the spectrum", to use the current phrase. Although every unit has its own deck space, the decking is continuous and wraps around the entire complex. Our unit shares a staircase with Unit #3. The kid who was clearly the furthest out there on the fringe of the spectrum galloped up the staircase and instead of turning right toward his own unit, he went left and clomped onto our deck as we sat there. He looked at us, a bit puzzled. "Well, hello there!" I said cheerfully. He held up a bandaged finger and said, "I scraped my finger." I told him I was sorry to hear that and I hoped it was feeling better. He said it was. By then, his parents were calling him back to their side and I remarked that I was glad he hadn't scraped his dick!

And so for that second week, for the first time ever, we closed the gate that separates Unit #2 from Unit #3. Our neighbors took full advantage, covering the gate and the landing with their towels, sandals, etc., all of which we had to move each time we used the stairs. Indeed, they kept their deck and railing constantly adorned with gobs of wet shit. Couldn't park or find the dryer, I guess.

Speaking again of parking, on Sunday I was coming up from the beach and Kathy was at that same moment returning with our car from an errand. And now a third vehicle had appeared at #3. Parked behind the one that was already out, this new one conveniently blocked the stairs to Units #6 and #7, as well as the driveway to Units #1 and #2. From behind the wheel, Kathy threw up her arms and gave me the universal "WTF?" signal. I stepped over their mountain of flip-flops and knocked on their door. The new arrival opened it. (We eventually learned that she was ex-military, had bad home-made tattoos, came with a couple idiot children of her own, and could hock a loogie with tremendous velocity, distance and accuracy. Charming!) I explained that she had to move right now and couldn't park where she was because it obviously gummed up the works and blocked everybody else in or out. She told me she'd just arrived and didn't know where else to park. What I really wanted to say was, "If your dumb-ass relatives could figure out how to get two cars in a two-fucking-car garage, we wouldn't be having this conversation!" But instead I politely suggested the public access lot just to the south of our building. This being a metered lot, she naturally chose to park illegally along the street all week. I hope she got a ticket.

Beach Foul: Space Invaders. As I mentioned, I set up our four beach chairs fairly early each morning, in front of our condo and roughly at the high tide line. I get this done before the lifeguard puts out his rental chairs and umbrellas. The first week, this year's Vladi was pretty good about setting up the rental chairs for Jim and Tish and Jerry and Stella right beside ours, as we'd asked him to do. But the second week, he grew careless. Sunday, he set up an unrented umbrella and chairs right smack-dab in front of us. I moved our chairs a bit.

The next morning about 8:00, I looked out and he was doing it again! He had the chairs positioned in front of us but hadn't sunk the umbrella yet. I hustled down to the beach and asked Vladi if he could maybe open his eyes and take notice of our chairs and set up his rentals to the side of us instead of in front of us. He shrugged in a "I-don't-speak-English-and-I-don't-care" manner, pointed to his stuff and said, "Pipples vill zit in dis chairs." I pointed at my chairs and fired back, "Yeah, Vladi, but I have pipples vill zit in my chairs too, and my chairs were here first! Spread your shit out, damn it!" He moved his chairs and did marginally better the rest of the week. Maybe he'd been enjoying too much smokey-smokey.

Personal space violation continues to be the most frequent beach foul, but there are others. One humorous foul is "Fat Man In A Little Chair". Is it inspired by Chris Farley's fat man in a little coat bit in Tommy Boy? I don't know, but we've seen the routine at the beach twice in two years. Last year's big boy literally crushed a low surf chair. This year, we observed another grossly obese man (400-500 lbs.?) attempt to use a somewhat more suitable chair -- a folding aluminum lawn chair with a normal seat height. Less of a drop from the standing position to the seated. This year's Crusher made it through one day, but the next day the aluminum was stressed out and the seat tore free of the frame, dropping to earth. With the Crusher in it. He calmly sat there with his ass in the sand for quite awhile, as though this awkward position was intended, but eventually he conceded, and pitched his broken chair. The lesson? If you weigh 500 pounds, they don't make a beach chair for you. Sit on a blanket.

And not to be picky, but my other favorite beach foul this year was people who have no idea how to play bocce on the beach (or elsewhere, I suppose). Examples were many and numerous. Now Ol' Buster learned his bocce from Jim, married to full Italian Tish, so my schooling was authentic and legit. What I know: real bocce has four red balls and four green, period; they're wooden and heavy; they're fairly large, about like softballs; on the beach, you play parallel to the water and below the tide line on the packed sand where the balls roll nicely; in a two-team, four-person game, two stand on one end, two on the other; teammates stand on opposite ends; after the first two balls are thrown, the team further away, or "out", from the pallino (the small, white target ball) throws until one of their balls is closer, or "in", and then the other team throws. What I saw: a bunch of cheapo bocce sets, often plastic; bocce balls in hideous shades of blue, yellow, pink, purple; people trying to play bocce shotput-style in the deep, soft sand above the high tide line; people digging a hole in the sand and placing the pallino in the hole; eight players all standing at one end throwing one ball apiece; the out-throws-until-in rule routinely ignored, etc. etc. Oh, the horror. The horror!

But such things are minor annoyances, mere trifles soon forgotten. It was a great vacation, as always, and we're already talking about doing it again next year -- if we can remember to bring the keys!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

No Merit Badge For "Cher: Epitome Of Glamour"?

The Boy Scouts of America continue to dwell somewhere around the turn of the century -- the last century, of course. The BSA recently reaffirmed its policy of not allowing "open or avowed homosexuals" to join a troop or participate in any way in the organization. (The rather more enlightened Girl Scouts have no such policy nonsense.)

The irony of this position is delightfully rich: There is much evidence to suggest that Lord Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scout movement, was himself a repressed gay man with pedophilic tendencies, a man who fantasized endlessly about boys and whose closest friend in life was a younger man named Ken.

(The painting below, untitled by Henry Scott Tuke, once hung in the Baden-Powell House in England, headquarters of the Boy Scouts.)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Pain Capital Is Here To Help*


Hello, I'm Elder Price from the private equity firm Pain Capital, and I'm here to help your company. Pain Capital is a take-over specialist which may or may not have once been run by Mitt Romney. Our motto at Pain Capital is: "Your employees get all the pain, and our investors get the gain."

And since I'm a Mormon as well as a venture capitalist, I can help ease your company through this process by teaching you a deeper and more accurate understanding of Jesus, because when we're finished with you, you're gonna need all the Jesus you can get!

(* Suggested by a faithful reader. Thank you, faithful reader!)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

"Hey, Kids! I Have An Idea -- Why Don't We Put On A Show?"

Politics is theater, and the Republicans are Tony Award winners.

A prime example is the protracted kerfuffle over the "Fast & Furious" gun-walking scheme, the ATF's dumb idea dating to the Dubya administration -- allow powerful assault weapons bought in the U.S. to "walk" into Mexico, so we could trace them to the nasty narco-trafficantes and bust up their drug cartels. But guns disappeared in droves, untraced. Oblivious, the ATF kept up the practice and kept losing guns. They gun-walked one last time in 2009, after Obama was in the White House. After a federal agent was killed with a hot gun, AG Eric Holder shut down the operation.

Itching to pin a scandal on Obama, the R's tried to paint Fast & Furious as some sort of cover-up, led by Darrell Issa (R-Cal), chairman of the House Oversight Committee. Holder testified before Issa 9 times, gave him 7500 documents, and acknowledged it was a stupid program (not of his making). Nothing scandalous was uncovered but Issa would not relent, so Obama invoked executive privilege and shut down the witch-hunt. House Republicans responded by voting Holder in contempt of Congress. It's just a show; total bullshit theater.

[Here's part of Buster's 2/7/11 post on Mr. Issa:
How this slimy, unsavory criminal ever got elected to Congress, I don't know. He's one of those self-made men, a car alarm tycoon personally worth $250 million. But before he made his fortune, Issa was a punk -- a high school drop-out (who eventually earned a GED and college degree). He has been indicted for auto theft, insurance fraud, illegally carrying a concealed handgun and a tear-gas gun (a tear-gas gun?), and was suspected of arson in a total loss fire at the offices of his own company. And this is the man in charge of oversight and investigation? Who's in charge of the oversight and investigation of Darrell Issa?]

And Prime Example #2 is the GOP's never-ending mission to destroy ObamaCare. They tried to kill it when it was a bill, but it had the votes and was signed into law. They tried to kill it by having the Supreme Court declare it unconstitutional, but the SCOTUS didn't see it that way and the law was upheld. But even with ObamaCare safe for now, Weeper of the House John Boehner (R-OH), in a completely meaningless gesture of futility, has called for yet another House vote to repeal Obamacare. (This is something like the 30th time they've tried it.) Orange John knows any repeal vote in the House is DOA in the Senate. Doesn't matter -- it's still good political B.S. theater, and longer-running than Cats!

The Orange Man even claims that the Patient Protection And Affordable Care Act "will destroy the greatest health care delivery system in the world." Yeah, it's great if you can afford the ever-increasing premiums and deductibles and out-of-pocket costs. But if you can't afford it, or there's something already wrong with you, Mr. Boner believes that's your own fault --health care is a privilege for the well-to-do, not a right, and you had the same opportunity as he did to be healthy and successful and participate in this great system. If you can't afford our great system, you're just a pathetic loser.

The Statesville Trifecta

Once again, the Buster Gammons clan is below the Mason Dixon Line. On our way down here, we stopped in Statesville, NC for a quick fast-food lunch. As we sat there and choked down our sumptuous repast, I noticed that the restaurant was treating us to the Southern hospitality media trifecta:

While the Muzak system played a "positive message" Christian music radio station, one TV was showing NASCAR and the other was Fox News.


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Kasich To AEP: "You're Doin' A Heckuva Job!"

It's about to be a week after a very bad storm, and well over 100,000 central Ohioans are still without electricity. The heat index is over 100. This is not good.

Sounding eerily like Dubya, our Wonder-Guv congratulated AEP for their efforts. AEP barely noticed this compliment as they were far too busy complimenting themselves!

The picture says it all.

Supreme Court Affirms ObamaCare, by Dave Girves

[Another post/letter from Dave Girves (see "Buster's Links" for more), who was in rare form on this one. Give 'em hell, Dave!]

July 4, 2012
Letters to the Editor

Columbus Dispatch,

Over the past few days, since the recent Supreme Court decision affirming ObamaCare, several letters have appeared in the Dispatch questioning not only the Court’s decision but also conservative Chief Justice John Roberts’ courageous deciding vote to uphold the law’s constitutionality.

The most prominent criticisms were in the lead editorial in Sunday’s paper.

You said “hundreds of thousands of people who already are eligible to enroll in Medicaid but haven’t will be required to do so.” Is that a bad thing? Don’t the poor deserve health care?

Then you listed things “we found out” since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law in 2010:

-- “The mandate is a massive new tax on the middle class.” Actually the mandate will have no effect on anyone who already has health insurance or on anyone who can’t afford it. The only people who will be affected are the free riders who could afford insurance but chose not to buy it relying on the rest of us to pay their bill when they go to the ER – about 1% of the population. It’s a question of personal responsibility.
-- “Promises that the law would bend the cost curve of health care and actually save money were a sham” because it is expected that “health-care spending will jump by 7.4%” when the law takes full effect. My experience during the ten years before I became eligible for Medicare was that my group health insurance premium increased an average of 11.2% every year. A 7.4% increase would seem to be the definition of bending the cost curve.
-- You said an insurance industry lobbying group warned of raising costs and disrupting coverage unless major provisions of the law are addressed. Frankly, on this issue, I couldn’t take the word of an ‘industry lobbying group’ without independent corroboration.
-- You said Obama promised that "if you wanted to keep your existing insurance you would be able to under the Affordable Care Act but that isn’t true because companies are likely to change or drop insurance coverage." The fact is that companies were changing and dropping coverage long before ObamaCare. What President Obama promised was that the ACA wouldn’t force anyone to change the insurance they currently have; in fact it would improve that coverage. You say that some large companies will likely “dump their employees into the public-option plan.” There is no public-option plan.
-- Last on your list is the assertion that “small business employing close to 50 people will resist adding more workers, since 50 is the threshold at which the law requires them to provide health care.” As a former small business owner I can assure you that the biggest reason employers don’t hire more people is the basic payroll expense itself. Businesses already do everything they can to limit the number of employees.

Then you say “in hindsight, it’s apparent that Obama’s obsession with passing the health-care overhaul . . . probably prolonged the recession.” But when I look back I see a turnaround in job losses beginning the month Obama took office and positive job growth for the last 27 consecutive months coupled with a Republican intransigence to go along with anything Obama suggested, including The American Jobs Act he proposed almost a year ago, because it violated their Norquist obsession to keep taxes on the wealthy at the lowest rate in history.

Finally you note that the “Affordable Care Act has been unpopular since the day it was passed” but fail to mention that when people are asked about the individual provisions of the law they overwhelmingly approve and that much of their dissatisfaction is because the law doesn’t go far enough.

You can tell us the earth is flat as much as you want. We know the truth.

This November we will have a clear choice for President – a man who has demonstrated throughout his life that he is motivated by compassion or a man who has succeeded in life because he is motivated by greed.

David T. Girves