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, May 30, 2013

A Nice Little Chat

As the Memorial Day weekend wound down, a few of us were sitting around our community pool having a nice little chat.  Included were your humble correspondent, the lovely Mrs. Gammons, a neighborhood friend  of the Democratic/liberal persuasion, and two neighborhood friends -- a married couple -- who are proud conservative Catholic Republicans.  We've known each other for years, have socialized at each other's homes, and we all get along like peas and carrots . . . for the most part.

At one point, our friend asked the other couple, as parents of a Watterson High student, for their take on the Carla Hale situation.  (Carla Hale is a long-time Watterson teacher who was recently fired when she came out as a lesbian.  Her employment contract contains a "morals" clause in which being openly gay is cause for termination.)

Boy, did we get an answer!  Our conservative friends told us that since Hale signed the contract, the Diocese was within its legal rights to fire her.  If she didn't like it, she should have stayed in the closet or worked elsewhere.  It's a private school, we can do what we like.  And besides, the Bible says being gay/lesbian is a sin, we don't want our kids to know about such alternative "choices", the purpose of marriage is procreation so a gay marriage is not a true marriage, the thought of gay sex is gross and icky, and all those Hale supporters/protesters in front of the school are a royal pain in the ass.  But, hey, we don't have anything against gay people!

Our friend responded that the most of those protesters are Catholic, just like him.  He said that the majority of Catholics do not agree with Hale's firing, and both the school administration and the student body are supportive and didn't wish for her to be fired.  He also pointed out that the Bible says a whole bunch of things, many of which are inconsistent and contradictory.

I went with the more basic right-and-wrong, saying that Hale's firing was a type of prejudice that violated her civil rights and the Diocese's decision was therefore wrong.  I added that I couldn't see how a teacher's gayness harmed them or their children in any way, shape or form.

The temperature began to rise.  "This is my faith!" the husband snapped.  "Are you telling me I'm wrong?  The oldest, most respected religion in the world is wrong?"

Whoa there, cowboy!  Didn't say you were wrong.  You believe whatever you want -- your faith is your own.  And I didn't really say your church was wrong.  I said the bishop's decision to fire Carla Hale was wrong.  (And for the record, there are other religions older than Catholicism.  And the long-running epidemic of priest pedophilia has seriously dented respect for the Catholic church.)

Somehow, we calmed the waters and cooled things off and everybody went home friends, I think, I hope.  I'll certainly apologize for any hurt feelings next time I see them.

At its core, this difference of opinion has very little to do with Catholicism.  (I know a great many Catholics of all sorts.  Most of my best friends are Catholic.)  It has to do with the increasingly polarized liberal vs. conservative viewpoints, and I guess we didn't fully appreciate the depth of our friends' conservatism.  They seemed genuinely shocked that someone might look at things differently than they do.

The post-game analysis:  For some people, there seems to be a parallel between the unquestioning acceptance of "church law" and strict adherence to religious doctrine, and the similar acceptance of Tea-Bag politics and rigid social conservatism.  Both are endangered species.  They lack majority support, and both demographic trends and the tide of history are against them.  Their adherents thrash and flail about in unfocused anger and resentment.

Our friend compared these attitudes to those displayed in the dying days of apartheid in South Africa.

Apt comparison.


We Won't Have Michelle Bachmann To Kick Around Anymore?

In a fittingly bizarre video (released at 3:00 a.m., complete with background music!), Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn) announced that she will not seek reelection in 2014.  She gave no real reason for her decision, but said it was not fear of being defeated (she was barely reelected in 2012 and currently trails her opponent in the polls) and it was not the fact that her improper use of campaign contributions is under federal investigation.  Bullshit, and double bullshit.

Mad Michelle was a legislator with little interest in legislating.  Her career as an elected official, including her brief dance in the GOP presidential primaries, was never about doing the job -- it was about the public platform which the job offered.  From there, she could broadcast her beliefs:  Intelligent design, not evolution.  You can pray away the gay.  The HPV vaccine causes mental illness.  We should eliminate the minimum wage and the federal income tax.  And many other crazoid nuggets too numerous to list here.

So, come 2014, will the wild-eyed Tea Bagger just quietly slip back into private life?  Are you kiddin'?  Bachmann's an attention junkie.  I'm sure they're keeping a chair warm for her at Fox News.

John McCain Back To Normal

After suffering a brief moment of clarity when he called for unbundling and ala carte pricing in the cable TV business, John McCain is back to his normal, bellicose self.  He secretly visited Syria for a couple minutes and now he's loudly calling for America to get involved in the Syrian civil war by arming the anti-Assad rebels.  John's default setting is always something militaristic, isn't it?

Syria is a trap -- a giant, sucking sink-hole.  Assad is a horrible piece-of-shit dictator who squashes his opposition by killing them, sometimes with chemical weapons.  His regime is chummy with Iran and Russia.  On the other side, the so-called rebels that McCain wants to support are led by a loose coalition of Islamic radical jihadists, some of whom have ties to Al Qaeda.  Lovely.

There's no good choice here, other than to hope that somehow they both lose.  After our folly in Iraq and more than a decade of futility in Afghanistan, the last thing we should do is get involved in Syria.  I hope Assad drops dead, but I wouldn't send the rebels ten cents.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Couldn't Happen To A More Deserving Bunch

First among the classic Great Lies is, "The check's in the mail."  Another is, "I'm from the IRS and I'm here to help you."

As everyone knows by now, some over-zealous IRS employees have been targeting conservative groups for extra tax-exempt status scrutiny.  The focus was on certain 501(c)(4) organizations with names like "Patriot" and "Tea Party".  501(c)(4)'s are supposedly non-profit "social welfare" organizations.  (Yeah, right!)  Their members and donors are secret, as is the amount of their donation, and they are tax-exempt, but are permitted to financially participate in politics and elections.

Some big, well-known political 501(c)(4)'s are the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Karl Rove's American Crossroads and the Koch brothers' Americans For Prosperity.  But thanks to the Roberts Court's idiotic Citizens United v. FEC decision (corporations are people),  political 501(c)(4)'s have been sprouting like weeds over the past couple years.  Some are Democratic, like the Obama reelection group Priorities USA, but more are of the conservative Republican stripe.

It should be noted that IRS scrutiny of tax-exempt status for any group is not illegal, and the IRS in fact denied 501(c)(4) status to Emerge America, a progressive group training Democratic women to run for office.  The IRS has not, to my knowledge, denied the claim of any Tea Party or Patriot group.

But they did single out these right-wing groups and cover them up with reams of paperwork and make them jump through countless hoops.  It gave the impression of profiling, of being unfairly biased against a particular class.  And that's not a good impression to give, especially from the IRS.  We do not approve.  Heads will roll and corrective steps will be taken.

But Buster can't help but be amused by the thought of an army of IRS agents crawling up the Tea Party's ass and making a nest.  Couldn't happen to a more deserving bunch of douchebags.

Boehner's All About Equal Opportunity

Yesterday, for the umpteenth time (37th, actually), House Republicans in the U.S. Congress voted to repeal The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  Before the vote, Speaker John Boehner was asked the obvious question:  Why in the world are you making this incredibly futile gesture again?

Orange John said, "We have 70 new Republican representatives who haven't yet had an opportunity to vote on Obamacare.  They've been clamoring for the chance to be time-wasting assholes just like we've been, and we're gonna give 'em the chance."

Very thoughtful.

Benghazi, Again. Really?

Benghazi:  "You didn't say 'terrorism'!"  "It's a conspiracy!"  "It's a cover-up!"  "It's a scandal!"

Haven't we seen this movie before?

But Benghazi is back.  Again.  Straight outta the GOP's zombie playbook.  And there's nothing new.  Conspiracy to do what?  Cover-up of what?

There's no "there" there.

This scandal-mongering didn't work in the 2012 election.  The R's are obviously worried already about the 2016 election, and they're hoping the Benghazi Hail Mary will work against Hilary.

Good luck.

Saturday Night Live got it right:

Friday, May 10, 2013

Practical Advice For Modern Dress Codes

(Stolen from the web.)

John McCain, Bundle Buster

Upon rare occasions, I have found myself in agreement with that old coot John McCain:  his position on immigration reform and the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law.  That's about it.

But now old "Straight Talk" has won my heart again by proposing "ala carte" choice in cable TV offerings.  My cable package includes over 300 channels, most of which I do not give a shit about and will never watch.  Yet to get the handful of channels I do care about, I must subscribe to the super-duper, stupid-expensive Platinum 300 level of programming.  For even more money, I can upgrade to the Titanium 450 level and get 50% more useless drivel.

So Sen. McCain and I want to know, "Why can't I just pick the 25-30 channels I really want, pay just for those, skip all the rest and save myself a little money?" 

It's a wonderful, sensible idea, and it will never happen.  ComCast, Time Warner, U-Verse, et al, do much better for themselves in the current set up than they would in an ala carte world.  The telecom giants will fight  vigorously and spend lavishly to maintain their status quo.

Remember when cable TV deregulation was going drive down our prices and increase our options?  Jesus, did we get snookered on that one!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013


Same old shit, different day.

In D.C., House Republicans have offered the "Working Families Flexibility Act of 2013."  I heard some GOP spin-meister refer to it as "a liberal approach to conservative principles."  Hmm.  The bill proposes that hourly workers be allowed to convert overtime pay into time off/comp time.  The R's say this will help regular folks balance work/family responsibilities.

In reality, this will motivate employers, especially non-union employers, to intimidate workers into giving up overtime pay today in exchange for working fewer hours tomorrow.  Because employers, not workers, will decide when workers can use the time off.  That's not exactly "flexible", is it?  "Darlin', times are tough and we're super-busy right now, so we're gonna need you to squeeze out that baby real quick and be back here Monday mornin'."

The GOP has tried this shit before in 1997 and again in 2003.  Both went nowhere.  If the current bill passes Boehner's House of Horrors, the same fate awaits.

Here in Ohio, a couple state reps, Kristina Roegner (R-Hudson) and Ron Maag (R-Lebanon) introduced their "Workplace Freedom" bill.  It's a so-called "right-to-work" law.  You'd be free to work for less and free to give up your rights.  The law would prohibit fair-share payments (union dues equivalents) from non-union employees at unionized shops.  It would let non-union workers enjoy the wages and benefits negotiated by the union, without paying anything for them. 

Right-to-work laws are designed to financially strangle unions, and render them less effective and less popular with employees.  It's just poorly disguised union-busting.

We've seen this movie before, and less than two years ago.  SB 5/Issue 2.  We repealed that turd, remember?  Guv Kay-Suck sure as hell remembers and he's hoping the rest of us have forgotten already.  But dumbass Tea Baggers like Roegner and Maag are determined to keep reminding us.

For now, "Workplace Freedom" lacks support.  But the R's will bring it back.  Like zombies, they always come back.  They don't know what else to do.

Hospitals Will Kill You (With Their Prices)

Today the government released data showing that hospitals' billings to Medicare vary tremendously for identical procedures, with no diagnostic or geographical rhyme or reason.  Although Medicare payments to hospitals are standardized and not impacted by these wild-ass bills, it's further evidence that our system is a mess.  Too many of our health care providers just make up outrageous "sucker' prices, toss it all against the wall, and hope that some of it sticks.  As one hospital finance expert put it, "These costs have no rational basis at all."

For an informative article, click the link:

Also, see Buster's archives of 2/26/13, "The Real Problem With American Health Care", for more on hospitals' "chargemaster list" of highway-robbery pricing.

None of this, by the way, has the slightest thing to do with Obamacare.  Nor does an increase in your health insurance premium.  Obamacare expanded access and curbed abuses, but attempts at meaningful cost control were shot down by your helpful GOP legislators.

Anyone for single-payer, universal coverage?  Kinda like Medicare, but for everyone, not just oldsters?  I'm in!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

South Carolina Gets What It Deserves

Now it's official.  Fiction is dead, bumped off by an implausible, bizarre reality --  South Carolina has welcomed back disgraced former Governor Mark Sanford, the "Appalachian Trail hiker".

South Carolina is officially the stupidest state in the nation.

It's never been enough for South Carolina to be merely an ultra-conservative, deep red state.  They insist on being gung-ho Right-tardo to the max!  It's the state that inflicted regressives like Jim DeMint, Nikki Haley, and Joe "You Lie!" Wilson upon the rest of us.  It's home to waffling weasel Lindsey Graham.  It's where the state university's athletes are commonly known as "Cocks".  It's where racism still runs so deep they insist to this day on flying the Confederate flag at the statehouse.

Now it's where Mark Sanford is politically reborn.  It's not so much that he's a philanderer, although that's hardly admirable.  It's just that he's such a slimy opportunist.  But it seems that's just what the folks in his Congressional district like.

Stupid fucking Palmetto bugs!  They get what they deserve.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Senator Robbie Can Be Bought, But He's Not A Cheap Date

The gun lobby spent at least $8.1 million to influence the campaigns and votes of the 45 Senators who shut down the vote on universal background checks.  Our boy Robbie got a big chunk of it.  And if you ask Portman just exactly how it is that background checks violate 2nd Amendment rights, you know what you'll get?  $1.3 million worth of awkward silence.

Cancun Highlights

"This really sucks, said nobody, ever." -- The lovely Mrs. Gammons

We've recently returned from the Caribbean clime of Cancun, Mexico.  It was marvelous!  We went there with three other couples and stayed for a week at a big all-inclusive hotel where they catered to our every whim.  Very hoity-toity, and not my usual sort of accomodations.  (Any longer than a week and I might have turned into Mitt Romney!)

They used a wrist-band caste system to administer the level of luxury you received.  A yellow wrist-band got you a lot of the perks, a silver one gave you most of them, and with a black one you got it all.  We all wore the middle-class silver bands and enjoyed ourselves to the max.  I doubt the black band people had any more fun than we did.

Whether on the beach or sitting by the huge pool, waiters and waitresses made sure we had plenty of potables all day long.  Sometimes, we skipped the middleman and plopped our butts at one of the two swim-up bars.  Tough duty!

In the evenings, we'd clean up and then reassemble at the lobby bar for happy hour and dinner planning.  Most evenings, I was amused and amazed by the "Attack of the 50-Foot Women" -- many of the younger, attractive ladies wore incredibly tall, stilt-like high heels.  They'd arrive in waves and make the bar look like a WNBA convention.

Our hotel had 4 separate restaurants plus a very good buffet open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  And every day there was a nice outdoor luncheon buffet by the pool, or you could order a burger or pizza or a steak or whatever.  The food was plentiful and good, and unlike my last vist to Mexico 26 years ago, Montezuma did not take revenge on me.

One of the hotel restaurants was a Japanese teppanyaki place.  Our group ate there one night and we couldn't help but notice another group seated at a nearby hibachi table.  The men and women alike were all sort of scruffy, hairy, and skanky, with an abundance of tattoos.  And while we ourselves were not exactly models of sobriety and decorum, this other group took it to an uproarious new level.  They screamed and hollered the whole meal.  They knocked back tequila shots, threw signs, high-fived and nearly fell out of their chairs.  I'd never seen anybody get so damn excited about fried rice.

Later, we found out that they were a bar band called the Whiskey Dixons.  They were from St. Louis and were part of a Cancun excursion sponsored by a radio station.  And they'd be playing poolside tomorrow afternoon.

There was a small stage at one end of the large pool.  Every day, a group of peppy, young hotel employees would exhort the vacationers to participate in some activity or silly contest.  ("Ladies and journalmen, you can win a Hard Rock tee-shirt!")  After that, a band would come on and play for a couple hours.  And sure enough, that next day it was our dinner companions who took the stage.  Given their Don Julio consumption the night before, they did OK.  Just a country cover band, but tolerable.

Perhaps they had a bit more tequila during their set, because after they finished playing, their drummer decided to cool off by diving into the pool.  The only problem was that the water is only 4 feet deep.  The drummer sailed through the air like Greg Louganis and skulled himself big-time on the pool bottom.  Knocked out cold, and bleeding.  Strapped to a backboard, he got hauled off to the Mexican ER.

He was OK.  Sore as hell, awful headache, compressed vertebrae, but OK.  Saw him the next day wearing a big neck brace and a sheepish expression.  Drummers!

I think it was Tuesday when we all took a day trip to a nearby island, Isla Mujeres.  We ferried over, then rented a pair of golf carts for a couple hours.  The plan was we'd take a quick tour of the island by golf cart, then do a little snorkeling at a nearby cove, followed by poolside lunch at the hotel next door, all courtesy of our silver wrist-bands. 

We're good friends with two of the three couples in our little entourage.  The other couple are acquaintances and nice folks -- we just don't know them very well.  But they were the seasoned veterans on this trip.  They'd been to all these places before, they knew the ropes, and with their experience, they were essentially our tour guides for the week.  Which was very helpful.

So it was that they were the lead golf cart on our quick tour of Isla Mujeres.  And as soon as we got into the town, they never looked back and quickly lost us.  The streets were narrow and busy and filled with vendors and speed bumps and stop signs.  Their cart was faster than ours.  They were one block ahead, then suddenly four blocks ahead, then gone.  That's great, just friggin' swell!  We have no idea where we're supposed to go.  We are lost on an island in a foreign country, and no one on our cart can habla the Espanol.

It being a small island, we did eventually make it back to where we'd rented the golf carts, and with hardly a minute to spare.  We'd completely missed the snorkeling, but we did see all of the island, much of it twice.

When you're the leader and someone is following you because you know where you're going and they don't, isn't it incumbent upon you to keep an eye on your followers and not lose them?  Jesus!

Our ostensible leader/tour guide/hot-foot golf cart driver was also a source of quasi-enlightenment during the week -- that is, if you consider a non-stop stream of unsolicited opinions enlightening.  He's a corporate lawyer who vaguely resembles a younger Dick Cheney.  He freely shared his thoughts with anybody who'd sit still.   The trick, I learned, was to keep moving.  Even so, here's a sampling of what I "learned":

Ann Coulter is funny and smart.  Rachel Maddow is a bitch.  (How odd.  I see it the other way.)

George Harrison wrote and sang the Beatles' hit "Come Together".  (It was John Lennon.)

John F. Kennedy was the worst president ever.  (Really?  Not Buchanan?  Nixon?  Dubya?)

Flip-flops are the worst invention ever.  (I didn't even want to ask.)

Human rights cannot be granted by government.  Human rights are inherent.  Therefore, governement should not give any "special" rights to gay people.  (Following this logic, we'd still have slaves, there would be no labor laws, and women would be unable to vote.)

You can't force me to get a background check because gun ownership is my constitutional right.  (Wait a minute, I thought you didn't want government granting any rights.)

Islam is an evil religion that preaches violence and murder.  (Well, I'll see your radical imam and raise you one dickhead evangelical preacher.)

Name one thing that government does for you.  (I could name a hundred.)

Eventually, the lovely Mrs. Gammons had taken the bait one time too often and popped off:  "Hey, man!  I didn't come here for this stuff, so until your loser party 're-invents' itself, talk to the hand!"

Happily, he took it with good humor.  And the next day, he sidled up to the lovely Mrs. Gammons and said, "Have I told you lately that I hate Obama?"  Gawd!  Sometimes, ya just gotta laugh!

Friends, food, sun, sea, sand, and suds.  What else do you need?  It was a Great Vacation!


If You Are Age 50 Or Older . . .

(Sent by a faithful reader.  Thank you, faithful reader!)


Due to the current financial situation caused by the slowdown in the economy, Congress has decided to implement a scheme to put workers of 50 years of age and older on early, mandatory retirement, thus creating jobs and reducing unemployment.

This scheme will be known as
RAPE (Retire Aged People Early).

Persons selected to be
RAPED can apply to Congress to be considered for the SHAFT program (Special Help After Forced Termination).

Persons who have been
RAPED and SHAFTED will be reviewed under the SCREW program (System Covering Retired-Early Workers).

A person may be
RAPED once, SHAFTED twice and SCREWED as many times as Congress deems appropriate.

Persons who have been
RAPED could get AIDS (Additional Income for Dependants & Spouse) or HERPES (Half Earnings for Retired Personnel Early Severance).

Obviously persons who have
AIDS or HERPES will not be SHAFTED or SCREWED any further by Congress.

Persons who are not
RAPED and are staying on will receive as much SHIT (Special High Intensity Training) as possible. Congress has always prided themselves on the amount of SHIT they give our citizens.

Should you feel that you do not receive enough
SHIT, please bring this to the attention of your Congressman, who has been trained to give you all the SHIT you can handle.

The Committee for Economic Value of Individual Lives (
PS - Due to recent budget cuts and the rising cost of electricity, gas and oil, as well as current market conditions, the Light at the End of the Tunnel has been turned off.

Bullshit, Bishop!

In the NBA, a journeyman player named Jason Collins came out as gay.  Most sports fans greeted this news with yawning indifference.  (ESPN's Chris "Old Testament" Broussard was the lone exception.)  Collins has received widespread public support, plus letters from Obama and Clinton.  It's progress.

Meanwhile, here in Columbus, a Watterson High School teacher named Carla Hale came out as gay and was promptly fired by the head of the local diocese, Bishop Frederick Campbell.  He said he had to fire Hale not because she was gay, but because she had violated both her employment contract and diocesan policy (by being gay).

What bullshit, Bishop!  You have a bad contract and a bad policy, and they ought to be changed.  As Bishop, you had the chance to show real leadership by establishing a new policy, but you didn't.  You're the opposite of progress.

Won't Vote For Sensible Gun Laws? We Will Meme You Into Submission!