Welcome to Buster's Blog

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

Buster Gammons

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Signs Of The Times

My next door neighbor is a quality young man from a great family.  I'm fairly well acquainted with his father, who's a wonderful guy and a deeply devout Catholic.  A couple weeks ago, the dad decorated his son's lawn with a "Catholics for Romney" yard sign.  Thanks, Dad.

The son and I both find this amusing, since Mormons are far removed from Catholics on the spectrum of religions.  The natural retort to "Catholics for Romney" would of course be "Mormons for Obama".   Remarkably enough, there is such a group and they have signs too.

Which has led me to irreverently revamp my own Obama yard sign:

Dispatch On Drugs?

My local newspaper, the Columbus Dispatch, is among the most conservative dailies in the country.  The last time the Dispatch endorsed a Democrat for President was 1916 (seriously), when they gave the nod to Woodrow Wilson.  They endorsed Romney a couple weeks ago.

So I was rather amazed to read today that the Dispatch is endorsing Sherrod Brown for reelection to the U.S. Senate.  Was I seeing things?  Had the editors been sucking on a crack pipe?

Neither.  While the editors managed to work a load of criticisms into their endorsement of Brown (with friends like these, Sherrod . . . ) and undoubtedly held their nose with one hand while typing it with the other, even the hard-rock Republican Dispatch had to admit that Josh Mandel is a creepy little weenie unqualified to be dogcatcher.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Another Day, Another Lie

The one about Chrysler and Chinese Jeeps?  Or the one about Obama removing the work requirement from Welfare?  Maybe the one where he claims he never said he wants to privatize FEMA and Medicare?  So many Romney lies to choose from.  Let's go with this one today:
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

As a result of Hurricane Sandy, both President Obama and candidate Romney said they would suspend/cancel all campaign activities.  But first thing today, Romney appeared at a "storm relief donation drive" near Dayton, Ohio.  (Hurricane-ravaged Ohio?)  Mitt applauded the effort to collect canned goods, but first subjected the charitable givers to a 20 minute campaign/bio video that someone just happened to bring along to this non-campaign event.  Oops! How'd that get here?  And who decided to show it?  Oops again. 

Mitt, you're a Big Fat Liar.  This was a brazen photo op/campaign activity if there ever was one.  If you were really interested in disaster relief, you'd show up on the east coast.  And tomato soup is lovely, but the real relief effort will take money.  Lots of it.  You're a rich guy.  If you want to provide some real private sector assistance, not that "immoral" federal money from FEMA, get out your checkbook and stroke a big one for a couple million.  Then get your goofy church to match it.  I'm sure the elders can muddle through minus a few bucks.

And has it occurred to you, dear Mittens, that most of this donated tuna fish and ravioli will wind up in the hands of the "47%", the "takers-not-makers", the people who "don't take personal responsibility", that half of our society that you, Mitt-Witt, have said you just "can't worry about"?

What are ya, some sort of enabler?

The Greatest Generation Talks About Voting

Monday, October 29, 2012

Everything You Really Need To Know

"The economy is slowly recovering from the 2008 meltdown, and the country could suffer another recession if the wrong policies take hold.  The United States is embroiled in unstable regions that could easily explode into full-blown disaster.  An ideological assault from the right has started to undermine the vital health reform law passed in 2010.  Those forces are eroding women's access to health care, and their right to control their lives.  Nearly 50 years after passage of the Civil Rights Act, all Americans' rights are cheapened by the right wing's determination to deny marriage benefits to a selected group of us.  Astonishingly, even the very right to vote is being challenged.

"That's the context for the Nov. 6 election, and as stark as it is, the choice is just as clear."


(From the 10/28/12 NY Times endorsement editorial, "Barack Obama for Re-Election".  For the full editorial, which smartly sums up health care, the economy, foreign affairs, the Supreme Court, and civil rights, just click the link.)


The Unbreakable Whiteness Of Being [Mitt Romney]

The presidential race is tighter than the regulars at my favorite watering hole, and Ohio is the swingiest of the swing states, so we're getting mucho attencione from both sides.  They're so entrenched here in the Buckeye Land, they may owe us state taxes.  (If so, Kasich will give Mitt a waiver.)

We're seeing plenty of photos and video from their Ohio campaign stops.  I've been to a few Obama events and have been pleased to see crowds that are a broad mixture of all sorts of people.  It's an across-the-spectrum demographic representation of our future.

In contrast, I can't help but notice that the turnout for Romney is blindingly white, heavily male, and old.
No surprise at all.  The guy's a Mormon (totally white), went to BYU (all white except for few jocks), ran a vulture capital company (white guys in suits), and has lived his life at country clubs and dressage competitions (fuckin' white-out!). 
Now Ol' Buster's a white guy too -- I'm a pasty Dane who can't dance and can't jump.  I enjoy casseroles, Wonder Bread and mayonnaise.  But I can't appreciate the current brand of white-person politics as embodied by the Republican party.  It's divisive, greedy, incredibly mean, and just plain wrong.
Four years ago, most Americans could see that Dubya had been a terrifically destructive dolt, and they could see that the McCain-Palin ticket was a bad joke.  Enough were able to properly disregard race and we elected the clearly superior candidate.  We made history and it made me proud.  But since then, I'm afraid we've taken a step backward.  The simple fact of a black president -- his mere existence -- has rekindled some of the bigotry and ugliness I haven't seen since I was a kid.  The right wing has fanned the flames by shamelessly playing the race card non-stop, and I'm afraid that this time it just might work.
Gawd, I hope not!  We may not be "post-racial" just yet, but for our own benefit and the sake of the future, please let us be "post-old-white-Republicans."    

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Throw-Back, Or Throw Up?

Pro sports teams are fond of occasionally wearing retro uniforms from the days of yore.  For today's game against the Redskins, the Pittsburgh Steelers were decked out in the height of 1930's athletic style:

To answer the title question, I'm gonna say throw up.

We're So Special!

Friday, October 26, 2012

A Bunch Of B.S. About B.S.

Barack Obama Rolling Stone Cover
In the just published issue of Rolling Stone, historian Douglas Brinkley interviews President Obama.  While poking fun at his appeal to children ("I do very very well with 6 to 12 year olds"), Obama is quoted as saying, "You know, kids have good instincts.  They look at the other guy [Romney] and say, 'Well, that's a bullshitter, I can tell.' "

Get ready for the shit-storm of righteous right-wing indignation sure to follow.  All those upright moral blue-noses, the "values" hypocrites, the conservative Christian Fox-bots will be outraged, shocked, disgusted, etc. by the fact that the President used one of the Seven Words You Can't Say on Television*.  Ooh, the Prez said a "bad" word -- a definite sign of the Apocalypse.

Some people feel any use of profanity is wrong and signals a limited imagination.  I say those people can go piss up a rope!  Oh -- was I wrong to say that?

Here's a wake-up call for the Pollyanna prudes:  Most people curse, at least occasionally.  Personally, I like a President who can act like a regular human being.  (And many could curse a blue streak.  LBJ and Nixon leap to mind.)  We know that Cousin Barry can cuss, drink, smoke, sing, dance, and tell a joke, just like so many of us.  He can hoop a little bit, is a genuine sports fan, and fills out a NCAA bracket every March.

Mitt Romney, on the other hand, can't or won't or is religiously prohibited from doing any of those things.  What does a Mormon do for fun, anyway?

A little salty language now and then from our Commander in Chief is not a bad thing.  And hell, Obama's right -- Romney is a bullshitter!  We must respect the truth.

*Defined in the great George Carlin's 1972 "Class Clown" album.  Click the link. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

More From The Bright Lights On The Right

Donald Trump's big announcement?  He'll pay $5 million to see Obama's college records and passport application. Well, I'll pay $5 to see what's underneath that thing on Donald's head.

Sarah Palin said Obama's "shuckin' and jivin'" about Benghazi.  Really?  Was he eating watermelon and fried chicken too?  Sarah, you're 15 minutes were over a long time ago.  Wave to Putin for me!

Richard Mourdock, Republican Senate candidate from Indiana, is a no-exceptions opponent of abortion.  He recently told an audience that if a woman becomes pregnant as the result of a rape, "it's still a blessing and what God intended."  Why is it always the Republicans who know what God intends?  Mourdock gave a half-assed apology, saying he was "sorry for the misinterpretation."  There was no misinterpretation, asshole!  But thanks for the Democratic seat in the Senate.

(By the way, Mitt Romney endorses Mourdock, but said he "disavows" the candidate's comment.)

Somebody call Ringling Brothers and find a circus for these clowns!  

Obama's a "Retard"? Well Then, I'll Take All The Retards I Can Get

After the Tuesday debate, right-wing commentator Ann Coulter (a.k.a. Ann O'Rexia, a.k.a. Boney Moroney, a.k.a. Skeletor, a.k.a. Horrid Nasty Bitch)) tweeted that she was happy that Romney was "kind and gentle to the retard."  (She must have been watching a different debate than I was.)

She's caught a ton a grief about her word choice, but since Buster has used the R-word often -- usually to describe idiots like Coulter -- I can't really complain about her crudeness. 

I merely observe that if Barack Obama is a retard, then this ol' world needs all the retards it can get!

"When I say ignorant shit, people pay attention to me!  Whee!"

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

There Is No Debate

Last night we were treated to the "foreign policy debate".  Well, that's what they called it anyway.  And, in between the accusations and finger-pointing and subject-changing, there were moments when some foreign policy was actually discussed.

And surprise!  Romney agrees with Obama on everything!  Even policies he'd disagreed with before, like Afghanistan.  Just recently, Mittens was on record opposing our withdrawal from that hell-hole, but last night argued he'd never said any such thing.  Wow!  Magic.

Since Romney acknowledged that Obama's foreign policies are correct, there was really no debate.  All the Glove could do was repeat, ad nauseum, a handful of obvious "no shit, Sherlock" platitudes:  We need strong allies, strong leadership, a peaceful planet, blah-blah-blah.  OK, fine.

Despite being generally agreeable, as is his custom Romney bullied the moderator and constantly abused his time limit.  ("Hang on, Bob, I haven't finished lying.")
When Mitt ventured into battleship-counting, he put one up on a tee for the President, who knocked it out of the park.  ("Yes, Governor, we have fewer ships than we once did.  We also have fewer horses and bayonets.")  The meme machinery shifted into overdrive.

But basically, Mittens said nothing specific.  Afterward, I heard a Republican pundit say that the Romney campaign had made the calculation that his "flexibility" on issues like Afghanistan won't hurt him.  I hope he's wrong.  Because Mitt's not being flexible, he's being himself -- ambitious, but vacuous, empty, and out of touch.

Monday, October 22, 2012

A New Yorker Writes: "Dear Red States"

(Sent by a faithful reader, and promptly re-posted/stolen by Buster.  Ha!) 

Dear Red States:

We're ticked off at your Neanderthal attitudes and politics, and we decided we're leaving.

We in New York intend to form our own country, and we're taking the other Blue States with us.

In case you aren't aware that includes California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois and the rest of the Northeast.

We believe this split will be beneficial to the nation and especially to the people of the new country of The Enlightened States of America (E.S.A).

To sum up briefly: You get Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona and all the slave states.

We get stem cell research and the best beaches.

We get Andrew Cuomo and Elizabeth Warren. You get Bobby Jindal and Todd Akin.

We get the Statue of Liberty. You get OpryLand.

We get Intel and Microsoft. You get WorldCom.

We get Harvard. You get Ole Miss.

We get 85 percent of America's venture capital and entrepreneurs.

You get Alabama.

We get two-thirds of the tax revenue. You get to make the red states pay their fair share.

Since our aggregate divorce rate is 22 percent lower than the Christian Coalition's, we get a bunch of happy families. You get a bunch of single moms.

With the Blue States in hand we will have firm control of 80% of the country's fresh water, more than 90% of the pineapple and lettuce, 92% of the nation's fresh fruit, 95% of America's quality wines (you can serve French wines at state dinners), 90% of all cheese, 90% of the high tech industry, most of the US low sulfur coal, all living redwoods, sequoias and condors, all the Ivy League and Seven Sisters schools plus Stanford, Cal Tech and MIT.

With the Red States you will have to cope with 88% of all obese Americans and their projected health care costs, 92% of all US mosquitoes, nearly 100% of the tornadoes, 90% of the hurricanes, 99% of all Southern Baptists, virtually 100% of all televangelists, Rush Limbaugh, Bob Jones University, Liberty University, Oral Roberts University and the University of Arkansas - Bugtussle branch.

We get Hollywood and Yosemite, thank you.

Thirty-eight percent of those in the Red States believe Jonah was actually swallowed by a whale, 62% believe life is sacred unless we're discussing the death penalty or gun laws, 44% say that evolution is only a theory, 53% that Saddam was involved in 9/11, and 61% of you crazy bastards believe you are people with higher morals than we left-leaners.

We're taking all the good weed too. You can have that crap they grow in Mexico.


Citizens of the Enlightened States of America

Fun Facts To Know And Tell About Mormons

Regular readers know that Buster is not a religious person.  It's fine if you are, but it's not my cup of tea.  No offense, but I think all organized religions are silly, and Mormonism certainly must rank among the wackiest.  At less than 200 years of age, it has the added fascination of being relatively new, and of being an all-American creation.  And, oh yeah, a certain Mormon guy is running for president.

What follows is inspired by and, in some cases, excerpted from "The Ghosts of Mormon History", by Mikal Gilmore in the 10/25/12 issue of Rolling Stone.

Joseph Smith
In 1820, a 14 year-old boy in upstate New York had a vision.  Young Joseph Smith said God appeared to him, along with his #1 son Jesus.  They told Little Joe that all the Earth's churches were corrupt and advised him to avoid all of them.

Moroni and the golden plates
A few years later, Smith said an angel named Moroni (an Italian angel?) led him to a box full of golden plates inscribed with lost ancient scripture.  Smith was granted the ability to translate the message, which in 1830 he presented to America as the "Book of Mormon".

The Book says that the first Americans were actually a group of Israelites, instructed by God to leave Jerusalem.  They built ships (in Jerusalem?), sailed off and wound up in America.  These travelers were comprised of two adversarial groups -- good-guy Nephites, descended from the righteous, and bad-guy Lamanites, who came from evil.  They battled it out over here for 1000 years, with the Nephites eventually gaining a tenuous upper hand.

When Jesus shows up in The Book, he indiscriminately kills bunches on both sides, just for the hell of it.

The Book says the Garden of Eden was in Missouri.

The Book paints Smith as a new American prophet, with new religious insights.  Shortly after its publication, Smith founded his new church, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  Little Joe was Top Saint, of course.

The Mormons built churches and towns for themselves.  But everywhere they went, they were met with hostility and persecution.  Making up a new version of Christianity and calling yourself a saint and a prophet did not go over well with most people of the day.

And there was that polygamy thing, too.  Smith was evidently a serious horn-dog as well a world-class hoaxer.  He claimed that God personally told him to take multiple wives.  Smith had 20 wives and said it was OK for other selected churchmen to do the same.  Men, not women.

A Mormon polygamous family, 1800's

Smith also said his revelations told him that God was once human, and in the LDS, men could become gods on earth.  Men again, not women.

Smith said he would run for president so he could "overturn the present government and overturn every other form of religion in the country."  That was the last straw.  In 1844, Smith was imprisoned and murdered in jail by angy Illinois citizens.

Brigham Young led the flock to the Great Salt Lake in Utah.  In those days, this territory was outside  the U.S. borders.  The Mormons had fled the country and were in exile, primarily so they could practice what they called "plural marriage".

Parley Pratt
Out there in the wilderness, Brigham Young's right-hand man was one Parley Pratt, who was Mitt Romney's great-great grandfather.  Pratt had 12 wives and 30 children.  Wife Number 12 proved to be a poor choice, because Pratt convinced her to leave her current husband and come to Salt Lake City, which she did.  But her old husband tracked down Pratt and, in 1857, killed him.
Miles P. Romney

Romney's great grandfather, Miles P. Romney, was also an associate of Brigham Young and a devoted polygamist, a habit which kept getting Mormons in trouble whever they went.  So in 1885, church officials sent Miles P. and his 3 wives to Mexico to establish a polygamous colony down there, Colonia Juarez.

It was in that polygamous Mexican Mormon colony that Mitt's grandfather Gaskell Romney and father George Romney were born.
George Romney at a civil rights march

Father George was by far the best of the Romneys.  George Romney ran American Motors in the 1950's.  He became the Republican governor of Michigan in 1962.  He was an outspoken advocate for civil rights and an opponent of hard-right conservatism.  In 1964, he refused to endorse Barry Goldwater.

"Dogmatic ideological parties tend to splinter the social and political fabric of a nation."  -- George Romney

Mormon officials did not appreciate an atypical free-thinker like George Romney.  Check out these words-to-live-by from of church magazine of the time:  "When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done.  When they point the way, there is no other which is safe.  To think otherwise, without immediate repentance, may cost one his faith, his testimony, and the kingdom of God."  (So just shut up, go to sleep, and let other people think for you.)

Their holy book, the Book of Mormon, essentially codifies racism.  Remember the bad-guy Lamanites?  Joe Smith's book says they were the ancestors of Native Americans and Africans.  God cursed them with dark skin, and only by constant repenting and church-going could they ever again make their skin "white and delightsome."

In 1968, a future president of the LDS Church, Ezra Taft Benson, wanted to be George Wallace's running mate.

Until 1978, the Mormon church totally banned membership by black people.  Then, under pressure, they had another of their revelations and totally eliminated the ban, calling it a "limited understanding."

(One of the slimmest books ever published:  "Black Men I've Met at the Mormon Tabernacle")

Obviously, Mormons have long viewed women as subordinate beings.  The church hierarchy is the Old Boys Club.  Mormons fought aggressively against the Equal Rights Amendment, claiming that ratification of the ERA would result in "an increase in homosexual and lesbian activities, which could alter natural, God-given relationships."

The Tao of Mormonism is this oft-repeated advice to the faithful:  Be in the world, but not of the world.

Would-be president Willard Mitt Romney is directly descended from the Mormon aristocracy -- a very peculiar people, I'd say.

"I am in the world, but not of it."

When Mittens veers from one position to the other and then back again, he makes plain that he may be in the political world, but is truly not part of it.  His shifting viewpoint is like Joseph Smith's magic -- a means to a big payoff, which for Mormons means attaining eternal life for themselves, but not necessarily any others.  That's why he'll never be accountable to any secular morality.  It's part of his Mormon hubris -- they are gods on earth, with special insight and no need to explain themselves.  It's what grants Mitt the right to withhold specifics about both his political vision and his deeper beliefs.

But if you hold yourself apart from the world, how can understand those who do not?  And how can they ever understand you?

And how about those "temple garments", a.k.a. Mitt's Magic Mormon undies, which protect the faithful from the rest of us?  What's up with that bizarre shit?  (See the archives, "Mitt's Magic Undies", 10/9/11.)  I'm sorry, but we simply cannot have as our president someone who wears supernatural underwear.
Mormon temple garments
C'mon, man!  Get real!


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Want A "Get Tough" Foreign Policy?

At tomorrow's final presidential debate, the focus will be on foreign policy, which, these days, means the Middle East -- the Arab Spring, the Syrian rebellion, the attack at the Libyan consulate, Iran's nuclear capabilities, and of course, good old Israel.

You can bet the ranch we'll hear Romney bloviate about how Egypt's new president is in the Muslim Brotherhood party, that Syria's Bashar Al Assad is a brutal dictator, that the Benghazi murders were a preventable act of terrorism (and why didn't Obama call it terrorism?), how we can't let Iran develop The Bomb, and that we must protect Israel at all costs.

And you can bet he'll blame Obama for everything -- his "weak" policies have caused all the problems of the world and put us at risk.  Romney will offer himself as the solution.  He will simply "get tough" with all the bad actors, and -- voila! -- the world will be at peace.

Just standard GOP code-speak:  If we don't rattle sabres, make threatening noises, and go to DEFCON 1, then we're weak.  We might start World War III, but we will not be mistaken for pussies!  We are strong!! Grrr!!!  Pardon me, but what bullshit!  (Did these nutty neo-cons learn nothing from Dubya's Iraq debacle?)

Mitt Romney has no more foreign policy experience than you or I.  (Fifteen minutes spent kissing Bibi Netanyahu's ass doesn't count.)  He has no idea what it means to "get tough" on the Big Stage. ("As governor of Massachusetts, I stood up to Vermont and got tough with them about their unfair maple syrup policies.")

Obama didn't go gray for nothin' -- he has the experience and he knows true diplomacy: 
  • We aren't the world's cop or its puppetmaster. 
  • Emerging democracies may replace their toppled despot with a freely elected douchebag just as bad.  We have to cope. 
  • Assad is a horrible killer of his own people, but there are many others like him.  We can't go after every bad guy on the planet.  
  • Was the Libyan attack terrorism?  Obama called it that in his first comments, but does it really matter?  Four diplomats are dead.  They had a dangerous job in a dangerous part of the world where bad things happen regularly.  Could it have been prevented?  Perfect security is a dream.  Could 9/11 have been prevented?  Who was in charge then? 
  • No one wants Iran to have a nuclear weapon, but preemptive military action based on an assumption (stop me if this sounds familiar) is foolhardy.  It was reported just today that the U.S. and Iran have agreed to discussions about Iran's nuclear program.  Although "discussion" with the mullahs is iffy business, it's far preferable to hard-line posturing, or bombs. 
  • We remain Israel's faithful ally and protector.  This does not mean we take our orders from Netanyahu.
  • Trimming some of the fat, fluff and unnecessary programs from our military budget is not a sign of the apocalypse. 
All Mittens can do tomorrow is shriek and accuse and haul out the scare tactics.  I'll take the guy already occupying the chair, Cool Hand Barack.

Oh, I almost forgot China.  The Glove is also going to "get tough" with China.  Sure.  I can hear the Chinese leader right now:  "What a road of clap.  Just brow me, Lomney!" 


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Man Crushes Boy

If you're in Ohio and were enough of a masochist to watch tonight's Senatorial Debate (like I did, god help me), you witnessed an embarrassingly one-sided affair.  When Josh Mandel (R) opened with his high-pitched, adolescent  squawk, and stiff, awkward gestures, he immediately confirmed the GOP's worst fear -- despite all their spending and lying, their Senate candidate is an unprepared, unqualified juvenile melting in the spotlights, utterly out of his league.

While Senator Sherrod Brown (D) easily rattled off votes, policies, legislation, towns, and companies that his opponent had obviously never heard of, Josh alternated between "deer in the headlights" and desperate, rote repetition of his advertising talking points -- "That's Washington-speak!" and "The only way to change Washington is change the people we send there," and of course, "I'm a Marine!"  According to Josh, all our problems were created by Sherrod Brown, and will be in the future.  Just him alone -- he's the root of all evil.

I personally enjoyed it when Brown referred to Mandel's signing of Grover Norquist's ridiculous "No Tax" Pledge as "the pledge to never think for yourself."

And as the lovely Mrs. Gammons pointed out, Mandel seemed to be preoccupied with our exact location:  "For those of you watching at home, . . . "  (What if I'm not at home?)  And, "If you're watching this in your living room, . . . "  (Sorry, dude, I was in the kitchen.)

This particular contest was probably decided already, but if you were undecided and watched tonight's pathetic Amateur Hour With Josh Mandel, it was game-set-match for Senator Brown.  The man took the boy to the woodshed.

My First Election

It was 1972, I was a first-quarter college freshman, and I was also part of the under-21 youth segment that was voting for the first time ever in a presidential election.  (The law had changed in 1971.)

I was pretty fired up about my first vote and was solidly in the George McGovern camp.  My adolescent years corresponded with the social upheaval of the 1960's -- Viet Nam, rock music, assassinations, race riots, student protests, black power, flower power, hair, hippies, drugs, men on the moon, Woodstock, Kent State (1970, but close enough), and on and on.  A heady mix, to be sure.

For me, the major attraction to McGovern was that he was strongly opposed to the Viet Nam war, and strongly in favor of bringing home all American troops immediately, no matter what.  His opponent, the incumbent Richard Nixon, was espousing what he called "Peace With Honor."  This meant we'd stay there indefinitely and try to help the South hold off  the North Vietnamese while trying to negotiate an end to hostilities.  Maybe we'd even get lucky and "win".  Oh boy.

In 1972, the Paris Peace Talks were ongoing, but were going nowhere.  Many tens of thousands of Americans had already been killed in Viet Nam, and although we had reduced the number of our troops on the ground, there were still plenty of us over there and the place was still plenty hot.  In newspapers, magazines, and on TV, we saw unfiltered images of war not often made public in previous wars.  It looked gruesome.  It looked frightening beyond words.  I did not want to go there.

Deep down, my attitude was like Muhammad Ali's, who, while refusing military induction, famously quipped, "I ain't got no quarrel with them Viet Cong!"  Me neither, champ!  To hell with Nixon's "honor" -- the Commies want that godforsaken jungle so fuckin' bad, let 'em have it!

Like all my male friends of that era, I had a draft card and a lottery number.  I also had a student deferment, so the chances of me actually being drafted and winding up in Nam were very slim.  But not zero.  We all knew somebody over there.  And what if there was some crazy, late-game escalation, and suddenly all bets were off?  What would we do then?  What would I do? 

So, largely out of self-interest and self-preservation, I was a McGovern man, and so were most that I knew.  It was hard for us to be enthused about Nixon, who, despite his words, continued to prosecute the war, and American soldiers continued to die.

You can imagine my surprise then, to encounter organized groups of cheerful, clean-cut college students handing out Nixon paraphernalia right in the middle of campus.  They stood out in their pseudo-uniforms of striped shirts, bow ties and straw hats.  (Like a friggin' barbershop quartet.)  Who the hell were these odd-balls?  They were, I learned, the "Young Republicans".  They were a minority on campus, and we made fun of them behind their backs.  Inconsequential, misguided dorks.  

In those days, there was not the constant polling, or the advertising blitz, or the media frenzy that goes along with today's campaigns.  And what little there was, I ignored.   On that first Tuesday in November, my mother picked me up and drove me an hour north back home for my first vote.  Inside the booth, I proudly pulled that lever for McGovern-Shriver (Eagleton had issues, as you may recall) and walked out of there satisfied that I had done the right thing, confident that millions of others had done the same, and that we'd made history.  I was also aware that my parents had almost certainly voted for the other ticket.  On the ride back, I didn't say who I voted for and my mom, to her credit, didn't ask me.

And in those days, there was no exit polling, no quick predictions, no instant results.  It was many hours later that I learned that McGovern, the white knight of my very first election, had been crushed like a grape.  History was made, alright -- the most lop-sided loss ever.  How could this happen?  I was stunned.  So much for my youthful idealism.

I bring this up now because the bell is tolling for George McGovern and his time is very short.  For all his life, he was a diligent, honest, well-liked public servant.  He should be appreciated not only for that, but also for his courage in standing strong for his beliefs.  And even though he was an historic loser, he was ultimately the winner -- because, ultimately, he was right.


It All Sucks, But "The Process" Sucks Worst

(Excerpted from "Blame the Media" by Matt Taibbi, in the 10/25/12 Rolling Stone.)

What we Americans go through to pick a president is not only crazy and unnecessary, but genuinely abusive.  Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent in a craven, cynical effort to stir up hatred and anger on both sides.  A decision that in reality [could be made with] one or two days of careful research is somehow stretched out into a process that involves two years of relentless , suffocating mind-warfare, an onslaught of toxic media messaging directed at liberals, conservatives and everyone in between, which by Election Day makes every dinner conversation dangerous and literally divides families.

In every race there are now not two but three dominating figures -- the Democrat, the Republican, and The Process, and we're raising whole generations who hate The Process far more than they like either candidate.

If we did this right, people would come out of presidential elections exhilarated, not exhausted.  The campaign should start and finish in six weeks.  There should be free and equal TV access to both candidates.  And it should be illegal to publish poll numbers.

It's a shame.  Feeling optimistic [about elections] shouldn't require turning off the TV or tuning out The Process.  What we are witnessing, after all, is the world's greatest contest for power, an amazing fairy tale full of iconic moments that we'll watch no matter how much Sean Hannity or Chris Matthews screams at us.  But it would be awesome, next time, if we could find a way to turn down the volume.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Mitt Romney Has Finally Released His Tax Plan

Just click the link for detailed info. 


"Binders Full Of Women"

In just the past couple days, the Romney-Ryan ticket has turned into a veritable meme factory.  At last night's debate, while discussing equal employment and his track record hiring women as governor of Massachusetts, Mittens referred to having "whole binders full of women."  That's all it took.  Ten seconds later, there were ten thousand memes.  Here are a few.  (Cheap, silly humor, I know, but I like it anyway!)

  • Where Mitt keeps Sarah Palin


  • Fat bastard on equal employment issues…
  • I organize my women with Apple.  Just don’t ask me to map them.

  • Tuesday, October 16, 2012

    Texas Public "Education"

    Buster has commented on this before.  [See "Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Of Historical Fact)", 5/21/10, in the archives.]  The video clip is a trailer for an award-winning independent film, The Revisionaries.  Check it out.


    Monday, October 15, 2012

    A Possibly Fatal Mistake

      My wife and I attended my 30-year college reunion a couple of weekends ago, but the partying was bittersweet. My freshman roommate, Scott Androes, was in a Seattle hospital bed, a victim in part of a broken health care system. Strip away the sound and fury of campaign ads and rival spin-meisters, and what’s at stake in this presidential election is, in part, lives like Scott’s.

    Scott and I were both Oregon farm boys, friends through the Future Farmers of America, when Harvard sent us thick envelopes. We were exhilarated but nervous, for neither of us had ever actually visited Harvard, and we asked to room together for moral support among all those city slickers.

    We were the country bumpkins of Harvard Yard. Yet if we amused our classmates more than we intended, we had our private jokes as well. We let slip (falsely) that we kept deer rifles under our beds and smiled as our friends gave them a wide berth.

    Scott was there when I limped back from the Worst Date in History (quite regularly), and he and I together worked our way onto the Crimson, the student newspaper. He had an omnivorous mind: Scott may be the only champion judge of dairy cattle who enjoyed quoting Thomas Macaulay, the 19th-century British historian. Scott topped off his erudition with a crackling wit to deflate pretentiousness (which, at Harvard, kept him busy).

    By nature, Scott was even-keeled, prudent and cautious, and he always looked like the mild-mannered financial consultant that he became. He never lost his temper, never drove too fast, never got drunk, never smoked marijuana.

    Well, not that I remember. I don’t want to discredit his youth.

    Yet for all his innate prudence, Scott now, at age 52, is suffering from Stage 4 prostate cancer, in part because he didn’t have health insurance. President Obama’s health care reform came just a bit too late to help Scott, but it will protect others like him — unless Mitt Romney repeals it.

    If you favor gutting “Obamacare,” please listen to Scott’s story. He is willing to recount his embarrassing tale in part so that readers can learn from it.       

    I’ll let Scott take over the narrative:
    It all started in December 2003 when I quit my job as a pension consultant in a fit of midlife crisis. For the next year I did little besides read books I’d always wanted to read and play poker in the local card rooms.

    I didn’t buy health insurance because I knew it would be really expensive in the individual policy market, because many of the people in this market are high risk. I would have bought insurance if there had been any kind of fair-risk pooling. In 2005 I started working seasonally for H&R Block doing tax returns.

    As seasonal work it of course doesn’t provide health benefits, but then lots of full-time jobs don’t either. I knew I was taking a big risk without insurance, but I was foolish.

    In 2011, I began having greater difficulty peeing. I didn’t go see the doctor because that would have been several hundred dollars out of pocket — just enough disincentive to get me to make a bad decision.

    Early this year, I began seeing blood in my urine, and then I got scared. I Googled “blood in urine” and turned up several possible explanations. I remember sitting at my computer and thinking, “Well, I can afford the cost of an infection, but cancer would probably bust my bank and take everything in my I.R.A. So I’m just going to bet on this being an infection.”

    I was extremely busy at work since it was peak tax season, so I figured I’d go after April 15. Then I developed a 102-degree fever and went to one of those urgent care clinics in a strip mall. (I didn’t have a regular physician and hadn’t been getting annual physicals.)
    The doctor there gave me a diagnosis of prostate infection and prescribed antibiotics. That seemed to help, but by April 15 it seemed to be getting worse again. On May 3 I saw a urologist, and he drew blood for tests, but the results weren’t back yet that weekend when my health degenerated rapidly.

    A friend took me to the Swedish Medical Center Emergency Room near my home. Doctors ran blood labs immediately. A normal P.S.A. test for prostate cancer is below 4, and mine was 1,100. They also did a CT scan, which turned up possible signs of cancerous bone lesions. Prostate cancer likes to spread to bones.

    I also had a blood disorder called disseminated intravascular coagulation, which is sometimes brought on by prostate cancer. It basically causes you to destroy your own blood cells, and it’s abbreviated as D.I.C. Medical students joke that it stands for “death is close.”
    Let’s just stipulate up front that Scott blew it. Other people are sometimes too poor to buy health insurance or unschooled about the risks. Scott had no excuse. He could have afforded insurance, and while working in the pension industry he became expert on actuarial statistics; he knew precisely what risks he was taking. He’s the first to admit that he screwed up catastrophically and may die as a result.

    Yet remember also that while Scott was foolish, mostly he was unlucky. He is a bachelor, so he didn’t have a spouse whose insurance he could fall back on in his midlife crisis. In any case, we all take risks, and usually we get away with them. Scott is a usually prudent guy who took a chance, and then everything went wrong.

    The Mitt Romney philosophy, as I understand it, is that this is a tragic but necessary byproduct of requiring Americans to take personal responsibility for their lives. They need to understand that mistakes have consequences. That’s why Romney would repeal Obamacare and leave people like Scott to pay the price for their irresponsibility.

    To me, that seems ineffably harsh. We all make mistakes, and a humane government tries to compensate for our misjudgments. That’s why highways have guardrails, why drivers must wear seat belts, why police officers pull over speeders, why we have fire codes. In other modern countries, Scott would have been insured, and his cancer would have been much more likely to be detected in time for effective treatment.

    Is that a nanny state? No, it’s a civilized one.

    President Obama’s care plan addresses this problem inelegantly, by forcing people like Scott to buy insurance beginning in 2014. Some will grumble about the “mandate” and the insurance cost, but it will save lives.

    Already, Obamacare is slowly reducing the number of people without health insurance, as young adults can now stay on their parents’ plans. But the Census Bureau reported last month that 48.6 million Americans are still uninsured — a travesty in a wealthy country. The Urban Institute calculated in 2008 that some 27,000 Americans between the ages of 25 and 65 die prematurely each year because they don’t have health insurance. Another estimate is even higher.

    You want to put a face on those numbers? Look at Scott’s picture. One American like him dies every 20 minutes for lack of health insurance.

    Back to Scott:
    For seven weeks they kept me alive with daily blood transfusions. They also gave me chemotherapy, suppressing the cancer so that my blood could return to normal. I was released June 29, and since then have had more chemo and also hormone therapy to limit the cancer growth.

    But the cancer has kept growing, and I went to the E.R. again on Sept. 17 when I found that I was losing all strength in my legs. They did an M.R.I. and saw that there were tumors pressing on my spinal cord. They have been treating me with radiation for three weeks now to shrink those tumors and will continue to do so for another week.

    I submitted an application to the hospital for charity care and was approved. The bill is already north of $550,000. Based on the low income on my tax return they knocked it down to $1,339. Swedish Medical Center has treated me better than I ever deserved.

    Some doctor bills are not covered by the charity application, and I expect to spend all of my I.R.A. assets before I’m done. Some doctors have been generously treating me without sending bills, and I am humbled by their ethic of service to the patient.

    Some things I have to pay for, like $1,700 for the Lupron hormone therapy and $1,400 for an ambulance trip. It’s an arbitrary and haphazard system, and I’m just lucky to live in a city with a highly competent and generous hospital like Swedish.

    In this respect, Scott is very lucky, and the system is now responding superbly and compassionately. But of course, his care is not exactly “free” — we’re all paying the bill.

    Scott Androes in May 1979, when he and Nicholas Kristof were freshmen at Harvard University.


    Scott Androes in his hospital room earlier this year.
    Romney argues that Obamacare is economically inefficient. But where is the efficiency in a system that neglects routine physicals and preventive care, and then pays $550,000 in bills as a result? To me, this is repugnant economically as well as morally.
    In the Romney system, people like Scott would remain uninsured. And they would be unable to buy insurance because of their cancer history.
    Obamacare does address these problems, albeit in a complex and intrusive way, forcing people by a mandate to get insurance. Some will certainly fall through the cracks, and in any case the Obama plan does little to address the underlying problem of rising health costs. But do we really prefer the previous system in which one American in six was uninsured like Scott, all walking the tightrope, and sometimes falling off?
    As my classmates and I celebrated our reunion and relived our triumphs — like spiking the punch during a visit by the governor — I kept thinking of Scott in his hospital bed. No amount of nostalgic laughter could fill the void of his absence.
    Back to Scott:
    This whole experience has made me feel like such a fool. I blew one that I really should have gotten right. You probably remember that my mother died of breast cancer the July before we started college. She watched my high school graduation from the back of an ambulance on the football field at our outdoor graduation. Six weeks later she was dead, and six weeks after that I was on an airplane that took me east of the Mississippi for the first time in my life.
    Her death at 53 permanently darkened my view of life. It also made me feel that I was at high risk for cancer because in my amateur opinion I was genetically very similar to her, just based on appearance and personality. And much of my career has been in actuarial work, where the whole point is to identify risks.
    I read Nassim Taleb’s book “The Black Swan” and imbibed his idea that you should keep an eye out for low-probability events that have potentially big consequences, both positive and negative. You insure against the potentially negative ones, like prostate cancer.
    So why didn’t I get physicals? Why didn’t I get P.S.A. tests? Why didn’t I get examined when I started having trouble urinating? Partly because of the traditional male delinquency about seeing doctors. I had no regular family doctor; typical bachelor guy behavior.
    I had plenty of warning signs, and that’s why I feel like a damned fool. I would give anything to have gone to a doctor in, say, October 2011. It fills me with regret. Now I’m struggling with all my might to walk 30 feet down the hallway with the physical therapists holding on to me so I don’t fall. I’ve got all my chips bet on the hope that the radiation treatments that I’m getting daily are going to shrink the tumors that are pressing on my spinal cord so that someday soon I can be back out on the sidewalk enjoying a walk in my neighborhood. That would be the height of joy for me.
    When I make mistakes, my wife and friends forgive me. We need a health care system that is equally forgiving.
    That means getting all Americans insured, and then emphasizing preventive care like cancer screenings. Presidents since Franklin D. Roosevelt have sought to create universal health insurance, and Obama finally saw it achieved in his first term. It will gradually come into effect, with 2014 the pivotal year — if Romney does not repeal it.
    In some ways, of course, America’s health care system is superb. It is masterly in pioneering new techniques, and its top-level care for those with insurance is unrivaled. Sometimes even those without insurance, like Scott, get superb care as charity cases, and I salute the doctors at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle for their professionalism and compassion toward my old friend.
    But it would have made more sense to provide Scott with insurance and regular physicals. Catching the cancer early might have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in radiation and chemo expenses — and maybe a life as well.
    So as you watch the presidential debates, as you listen to those campaign ads, remember that what is at stake is not so much the success of one politician or another. The real impact of the election will be felt in the lives of men and women around the country, in spheres as intimate as our gut-wrenching fear when we spot blood in our urine.
    Our choices this election come too late for Scott, although I hope that my friend from tiny Silverton, Ore., who somehow beat the odds so many times already in his life, will also beat this cancer. The election has the potential to help save the lives of many others who don’t have insurance.
    In his hospital room, my old pal is gallantly fighting his cancer — and battling a gnawing uncertainty that he should never have had to face, that no American should so needlessly endure. This is all heartbreakingly unnecessary. I’ll give Scott the final word.
    From my 12th floor room I have a panoramic view looking east from downtown Seattle toward the suburbs to the Cascade Mountains. My visitors are often struck by the view.
    Through my window I watch a succession of gloriously sunny days and I wonder if this will be my last Indian summer on earth. I still have hope and I tell myself that medical science has come a long way in the 34 years since my mother died, but I can’t help feeling that I’m walking in her footsteps.  

    Clear Channel Is Clearly Wrong!

    Clear Channel Communications is a mass-media giant.  They own over 850 radio stations, scores of syndicated radio shows (including Limbaugh, Beck and other right-tards), more than 1500 transmission towers, and hundreds of thousands of billboards worldwide.

    But they do not own a conscience, and they've never met a nickel they wouldn't grab.

    Pictured is a billboard in Cleveland, Ohio.  It's far from the only one.  Plenty of identical billboards recently popped up in black and Hispanic neighborhoods across Ohio and Wisconsin.  An anonymous group is funding this slimey voter-suppression tactic, but in all cases the billboards delivering the thinly-veiled Jim Crow message are owned by Clear Channel.

    Pretty sleazy, if you ask me. 

    To send Clear Channel a clear message asking them to take down these billboards, just click the link.


    Paul Ryan's Workout Memes

    These are actual recent photos of the guy who wants the #2 spot of the most powerful nation on earth.  I wonder exactly when it was he said to himself, "Hey, this is a really good idea!"

    Yo, Pauly Wonk!  You deserve being mocked by every silly-ass meme the world can think up.   

    Backwards cap.  Jesus!
    ORIGINAL: Photos by Gregg Segal for TIME. Seriously.