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, December 31, 2013

Buster's 2013 In Twelve Bites

Another wacked-out year in the old blog books.  Happy New Year to all!  May all your troubles in 2014 last as long as your New Year's resolutions.


M.Naz@Mozi_N.  BREAKING:  Koch brothers warn that higher taxes on them would force them to lay off as many as a half-dozen Congressmen.  #RightToWorkForLess
(The Tweet Of Truth -- January 9th)

If you are confused by the notion that those least able to pay are singled out to pay the highest rates, welcome to the American medical marketplace.
(The Real Problem With American Health Care -- February 26th)

Would Portman have changed his [anti-gay] tune if he hadn't suddenly "discovered" he has a gay son? -- Buster Gammons
I wish the senator could summon that empathy and imagine how he'd feel if his son had been brutally murdered at age six, at school, by a gunman with an assault rifle. -- Dave Girves
(Portman's Epiphany X 2 -- March 16th)

Speaker of the Ohio House Bill Batchelder said he'd rather shoot himself than expand Medicaid in Ohio.  The idea of Batchelder offing himself because more low-income people have health coverage is appealing on both counts!
(Rally For Medicaid At The Statehouse -- April 11th)

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 in our golf cart can habla the Espanol.
(Cancun Highlights -- May 2nd)

"To be honest, we don't want black people to vote if they're going to vote 9 to 1 for Democrats." -- Dallas Tea Party leader Ken Emanuelson.
("We'd Never, Ever Try To Suppress The Vote" -- June 5th)

Myrtle Beach Sun News -- Two women were arrested around 3:45 a.m. after a fight in which one of the women threw small dogs at the other, according to authorities.
(News Of The Southland -- July 12th)

"He comforted the afflicted and afflicted the comfortable."  Not a bad epitaph!
(John J. Gilligan -- August 27th)

I'm not Catholic, but I hope our local gay-bashing Bishop and some of my 'fraidy-cat conservative Catholic friends pay attention to their new head honcho, who appears to be a sort of progressive Pope.
(Frankie Goes To Rome, Says "Relax, Don't Do It" -- September 19th)

For the past four 4 years, the GOP has been indignant about the possibility of people signing up for Obamacare.  Now they're all pissed off because some people can't sign up!
(The Inexcusable Job-Killing Trainwreck Atrocity Of The HealthCare.Gov Website -- October 25th)

Claiming that "Right To Work" is about workplace freedom is like calling a slave owner a job creator.
(Tom Suddes On Right To Work (For Less) -- November 18th)

Note that the very first thing you do as a financially astute, budget-conscious McDonald's employee is get a second job.
(Tips On Working And Living From Corporate America -- December 2nd)

Mary And Joseph Rode To Bethlehem On A Dinosaur

(For the year's final post, this bit of silliness will do rather nicely!)

The Pew Research Center has found that a third of Americans don't accept the fact of evolution.  Standing out among the various groups studied, large majorities of both Republicans and white evangelicals say they believe in creationism and they believe that humans have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.

Given that these people spend all their time inside the echo chamber with each other, it's hardly surprising they've come to this conclusion!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Cleveland Browns Announce Perpetual Rebuilding Program

After ending the 2013 season with yet another loss to finish 4-12, first-year Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and first-year team CEO Joe Banner fired first-year head coach Rob Chudzinski and his entire first-year coaching staff.  The two top executives said that Chud's dismissal marks the start of a new era of constant rebuilding for the once-proud franchise.

Said Haslam, "We gave Coach Chud every opportunity to succeed.  I mean, he was on the job for almost twelve full months.  C'mon!  We exercised an abundance of patience."

Banner added, "We take our new rebuilding mission very seriously.  Our coaches, quarterbacks, all the rest of the players are on notice -- if you can't produce, we'll immediately replace you with somebody else, anybody else.  No more wait-and-see, no sir.  If necessary, we'll rebuild every week."

Sunday, December 29, 2013

It Ain't The Product, It's The Package

The reigning master of American beer-marketing gimickry is Miller Lite.  The entire history of this weak, watered-down brand is nothing if not a testament to the power of advertising.  They burst onto the scene many years ago with memorable, funny TV spots -- "Tastes great!  Less filling!" -- featuring ex-jocks like Dick Butkus, Bubba Smith, and Bob Uecker.  The beer itself has always been mediocre.  The silly ads -- "I also love the easy-opening cans!" -- were the winning schtick.

Today's gimmick is the container.  Not the product itself, just the package.  Somehow, that shitty old Miller Lite is magically transformed if you pour it from a "Vortex Bottle" (aerates it like fine wine!) or from a "Punch-Top Can" (a smoother pour?  Please.  It's a mass-produced chug-a-lug shotgun can.)  Fantastic crapola!  The next time you see someone actually pour a Miller Lite into a glass to better savor that fine brew will be the first.

Their latest marketing spiel is the re-introduction of the original "classic" White Miller Lite Can first seen in 1973.  Inside the can, it's the same old swill as always, but holding that beautiful white container will take you back to the golden age of polyester plaid bell-bottoms and shirt collars out to your shoulders.  "Hey, baby!  You like Edgar Winter?  How about Seals & Crofts?  Stevie Wonder, maybe?"

If they're gonna re-market a beer can from 40 years ago, I sure hope they rinse that sucker out first.

Another Fan Of The Dispatch Speaks Out

[Blogger buddy Dave Girves also takes the Dispatch to task for their specious editorial policies, and does it with far greater economy than your humble correspondent.  How did I miss this two days ago, Dave?  Sorry.]

More guns make schools safer?


Letters to the Editor
Columbus Dispatch,
I just love it.
In Thursday’s letter, B. Sutton Coffman criticizes Toby Hoover’s earlier letter that suggested gun laws in this country are too lax, by saying “It would be nice if there were some facts to support that position, rather than Hoover’s nebulous claims.”
He then proceeds to list several of his own nebulous claims, conjectures, and opinions without offering a single fact to support any of them.
Let me offer just two facts and ask him to draw his own conclusion.
If you combine the populations of Great Britain, Germany, Japan, Sweden, Denmark, and Australia, you’ll get a population close to that of the United States.  We had over 30,000 gun deaths last year; they had less than 1,500.
Is that because Americans are more homicidal by nature, or could it be because those countries have stricter gun control laws?
The number of gun deaths per 100,000 of population in the U. S. is 10.3.  Japan’s rate is 0.06.  We are 172 times less safe.
Dave Girves

Free Advertising From The Bloody Awful Dispatch

Yesterday the Columbus Dispatch, under the headline "Schools Need Armed Protectors" and complete with an illustration of a little schoolgirl flanked by two pistol-packin' rent-a-cops, gave prominent, 4-column space to a lengthy commercial message posing as a letter to the editor.  It was written by the chairman of the Buckeye Firearms Association, a half-assed gun-nut PAC dedicated to the unregulated sale and proliferation of guns and ammo, no matter what.

The writer contrasted the casualty-counts at Arapahoe High School vs. Sandy Hook Elementary (2 vs. 28) and, disregarding all other factors, breezily concluded the difference was due solely to the presence of an armed security guard at Arapahoe.  This the same flimsy "good guy with a gun" argument the N.R.A. has been making for decades, despite the lack of substantiating proof.  It's a paranoid arms-race mentality and makes even less sense for our schools today than it did for the Cold War 40 years ago.  This is why the idea of armed school guards is strongly opposed by the large majority of school administrators, teachers, parents, police, mayors, and sensible people everywhere.

But worse than the writer's simple-minded assertion that gun violence can somehow be reduced with more guns is the Dispatch's decision to give free ad space to this lobbying group.  The real purpose of the "letter" was to boost gun sales by promoting the BFA's four-hour gun training program for parents and teachers, and by advocating the placement of such gun-toters in all school buildings.  (Imagine a low self-esteem, Zimmerman-esque vigilante in every kindergarten room.  Feel safer??)

It's not the first time the Dispatch has provided free P.R. to the BFA.  (See both Buster's Blog and the Dispatch of 12/29/12.)  Sadly, it almost certainly won't be the last, which is both infuriating and embarrassing.  Yes, the Dispatch is famously (infamously?) right-wing, but if they had shred of journalistic integrity, they'd at least try to be less friggin' obvious about it.

[Sent to Glenn Sheller, Editorial Page Editor, gsheller@dispatch.com] 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Buster Wishes You Happy Humorous Holidays!

What I don't like about office Christmas parties is looking for a job the next day. -- Phyllis Diller

Santa Claus has the right idea.  Visit people once a year. -- Victor Borge

I bought my brother some gift-wrap for Christmas.  I took it to the Gift Wrap Dept. and told them to wrap it, but in a different print so he'd know when to stop unwrapping. -- Steven Wright 

Most Texans think Hanukkah is some sort of duck call. -- Richard Lewis

The main reason Santa is so jolly is because he knows where all the bad girls live. -- George Carlin

I once wanted to be an atheist, but I gave up -- they have no holidays. -- Henny Youngman

Dear Santa, I'm writing to let you know I've been naughty . . . and it was worth it, you fat judgmental bastard! -- Anonymous

There are 3 stages of man:  He believes in Santa Claus;  He does not believe in Santa Claus;  He is Santa Claus. -- Bob Phillips

A lovely thing about Christmas is that it's compulsory, like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together. -- Garrison Keillor

Where do you think you're going?  Nobody's leaving.  Nobody's walking out on this fun, old-fashioned, family Christmas.  No, no!  We're all in this together.  This is a full-blown, four-alarm holiday emergency here! -- Clark Griswold

The proper behavior all through the holiday season is to be drunk.  This drunkenness culminates on New Year's Eve, when you get so drunk you kiss the person you're married to. -- P.J. O'Rourke

Memo To Phil Robertson & Friends

TO:        Phil Robertson, Bobby Jindal, Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin, et al
FROM:     Buster Gammons
RE:         Defining Our Terms

Hey all!  Just a quick memo to remind everyone that "freedom of speech" does not mean saying whatever the fuck you like and suffering no consequences.  And expressions of hate, intolerance, bigotry and ignorance wrapped in a Jesus blanket do not constitute "faith".


cc:  A&E Network, Cracker Barrel Restaurants, and all Duck Brains across the land

Bird Problem In Boston

(This was sent by a faithful reader and it ties in perfectly with the previous post.  Thanks, faithful reader!)

Researchers at the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority found over 200 dead crows on highways in the greater Boston area recently, and there was concern that they may have died from Avian Flu.

Bird Pathologists examined the remains of all the crows, and, to everyone's relief, confirmed the problem was definitely not Avian Flu.

The cause of death appeared to be vehicular impacts.

During the detailed analysis it was noted that varying colors of paints appeared on the bird's beaks and talons.  By analyzing the paint residues, it was determined that 91% of the crows had been killed by impact with a truck, while only 9% were killed by an impact with a car.

MTA then hired an Ornithological Behaviorist to determine the reason for the disproportionate percentage of truck kills versus car kills.

The Ornithological Behaviorist offered the following explanation:  When crows eat road kill, they always have a look-out crow in a nearby tree to warn of impending danger. They discovered that while all the lookout crows could shout "Cah!", not a single one could shout "Truck!"

Sunday, December 22, 2013

How Y'All, Youse and You Guys Talk

Try this fun little "dialect quiz."  After answering 25 questions about the way you speak, the program will give you the three towns/cities with speech patterns most similar to yours, and the three least similar to yours.


Buster is evidently Mr. Midwest.  My 3 most similar cities are Cleveland, Akron and Rockford, IL.  My 3 least similar are Boston, Cambridge and Springfield -- all Massachusetts.  If I tried to pahk the cah in Hahvahd Yahd, I guess no one would believe it.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Husted Finds No Voter Fraud In Ohio, Says "We Must Prevent This From Happening Again"

Ohio's Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted is a proponent of voter-ID laws and is in favor of further reductions in early voting.  Some of his voter-suppression efforts in 2012 were ruled unconstitutional.

Husted's office just completed a thorough analysis of all votes cast in Ohio in the November 2012 election.  Of the 5.7 million ballots cast in Ohio, Husted found a statewide total of 17 ineligible voters.  Seventeen.  All were living legally in Ohio.  None were undocumented immigrants.  None, said Husted, were intentionally fraudulent.  But the 17 were not U.S. citizens, and were therefore ineligible to vote.

A little quick math -- 17 out of 5,700,000 is 0.000003, or 3/10,000th of one percent.   This is not just statistically insignificant, it's statistically invisible!  In Ohio, Obama defeated Romney by 170,000 votes, about 3 percentage points.  His margin nationally was 4 points.

So when Husted announced finding all of 17 ineligible voters, he said with a straight face, "We must modernize to prevent [this] from happening again."

[Like most of his ilk, Husted tries to justify voter suppression as an effort to fix the non-existant problem of voter fraud.  But I must commend him for coming out in favor of both online voter registration and mailing absentee ballots to all registered voters.  I still don't trust the little weasel, but those are actually good ideas.]

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

I Heart Obamacare

Well, we did it.  The lovely Mrs. Gammons and I just officially signed up for health insurance coverage through the HealthCare.gov website.  Yes, the website is finally working properly.  The coverage is solid, provided by an actual insurance company, and the price is right.  And for good measure, we've tossed healthy 20 year-old Buster Jr. into the actuarial mix.

We're doing this because your humble correspondent has long been self-employed and the dear wife lost her job, and family insurance benefits, at the end of October.  We've been in this position before and have needed to pick up health coverage via the old individual-issue marketplace, which really sucked -- low limits, high prices, lots of unfair exclusions.  Many of those sort of policies are now, appropriately, defunct.  They don't meet today's minimum requirements.

(Somewhere between 3 and 4 percent of all insured Americans have coverage through the individual marketable place.  Some -- not all -- of those polices are discontinued, because they are shit.  And this is where Republicans are staking their claim that Obamacare is a disaster and the President "lied" -- a fraction of a small fraction.  Bitching about it is their big strategy for the 2014 mid-terms.  Good luck with that.)

Today, Obamacare makes it easier and better than trying to figure out the individual market all by yourself.  The website is slick, coverage is improved and guaranteed, choices are sufficient, and most people (including us) are going to get at least some small amount of tax-credit premium rebate to make it more affordable.  

Just a couple months ago, we surely didn't expect to be doing this.  But stuff happens and here we are.  And since I've been a such constant and vocal proponent of Obamacare, now that I'm part of it, I'm glad to say that I'm really pleased with the process.  This is just a first step in real healthcare reform -- our system is still far too expensive, and a true public option remains the goal -- but I think it's gonna work just fine!

If you wish to know more about how I got involved in this issue, click the links below.  The first is a photo from 2010 of Columbus Mayor Mike Coleman and Buster (seated to the left of the lectern) on the podium at rally celebrating the passage of the ACA.  The second is one of my early posts talking about that rally.  The third is a wide-ranging healthcare rant written in my pre-blog days of 2009.




Monday, December 16, 2013

Person Of The Year Vs. Putz Of The Decade

One is an Argentinian Jesuit with the common touch.  He has rejected religious "obsession" with contraception, abortion and homosexuality.  He has denounced bogus trickle-down economics, noting that "the excluded are still waiting."  He is a simple man in the best sense, whose priority is the poor, the downtrodden, the underprivileged.

The other is an American right-wing radio host who panders to lowest-common-denominator fear, ignorance and prejudice about contraception, abortion, homosexuality, and a whole host of other scary things.  He is a drummer boy for unfettered capitalism, and believes society's "excluded" should blame themselves for their misfortune.  He lives ostentatiously in a Palm Beach mansion.  His priority is the wealthy, the successful, the One Percent.    

The second one has called the first one a "pure Marxist", which is just plain silly.  The first one has replied, "I'm not, but I have know many Marxists who are good people."

One of them is Time's Person of the Year.  The other is a ridiculous gasbag tub of goo, a charlatan, the Putz of the Decade.

You know who is who.


Saturday, December 14, 2013

"Embrace The Suck"

That was Nancy Pelosi's great line in urging her fellow Democratic Representatives to support the Ryan-Murray budget deal.  They did, and it passed in the House by a huge margin.  Some hard-ass GOP Senators are grumbling, but it'll pass there too.

It's an anti-grand bargain that won't make anybody really happy.  It's major benefit is that it prevents another Republican-driven government shutdown for two years.  But it's an actual small bit of something from the Do-Nothing Congress.  Yippee.

It was most amusing to watch chastened R's John Boehner and Paul Ryan attempt to distance themselves from their party's Tea Bag sugar daddy power brokers -- the Koch brothers, the Heritage Foundation, the Club For Growth, etc.  After dancing to the wing-nut tune for the past three years and leading the charge in the pre-planned shutdown, Boehner and Ryan are now claiming they never wanted to do it that way, that they were lied to and their hand was forced.  Just a couple of misled innocents.

"The day before the government re-opened, they said,  
'Well, we never really thought it would work.'
Are you kidding me??!!"

Despite Boehner's theatrical facial expressions, that's some serious bullshit revisionist history.

Real (Stupid) People Are Greatly Worried (About Fake Stuff)

First, it's host Megyn Kelly on Fox News assuring children that, no matter what some [black] person suggests, "Santa Claus is white."

"Just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn't mean it has to change."  What a beautiful, heart-warming thought, Megyn, you moron.

Next comes the news that a group of British doctors who studied the complete works of Ian Fleming have concluded that James Bond drank too much.  I'm sure he did.  I mean if Doctor No, Odd Job, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, and all the criminal masterminds of Spectre were constantly trying to kill me, I'd want something "shaken-not-stirred" too.  Just to take the edge off.

I'm also sure that Santa Claus and James Bond are purely fictional characters who don't really exist.  Therefore, Santa has no actual skin color whatsoever and James Bond wasn't drinking anything.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Remember Your Postal Carriers

During this Holiday Season, take a moment to consider our postal carriers lugging all those cards and packages all over the place.  In their honor, it's "I'm Your Mailman":

The 12 Days Of Congress

It's that time of year to look back on all the things the House Republicans brought us in 2013:

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Baseball Gets The Call Right

1970.  High-school-age Buster was watching the major league baseball All Star Game on TV.  Those were the pre-cable days.  Where I grew up, we got regular broadcasts of the Cleveland Indians, and that was about it.  Naturally, I was an Indians fan, which was tough duty back then.  But they had some good young players, one of whom was catcher Ray Fosse, who made the that year's A.L. All Star team.  In a famously violent homeplate collision, the N.L.'s Pete Rose (a great but cocky player who I never liked) scored from third not by sliding into home but by lowering his shoulder, plowing into Fosse and knocking him ass over teacups and into next Tuesday.  In today's NFL, Rose's play would've drawn a flag, but of course the game was baseball.  Rose was just fine.  Fosse was never the same player.

1974. College-age Buster (on hiatus from higher education) was playing slow-pitch softball in a City of Westerville work league.  The skill level was not high.  I was in the outfield for the Public Service Dept. team.  Our opponent that day was the Electric Dept.  Their best player, a big cocky asshole, was on second.  There was a base hit, and the big A-hole rounded third and headed for home.  In the time-honored tradition of slow-pitch, our worst athlete was behind the plate.  His name was Pat, and he was just a little guy, but he was up the line a bit, dug in and gamely trying to block the plate as the throw came in.  Just like Rose, the Electric Dept. douche gave no thought to a slide.  Just like Rose, he lowered his shoulder and rammed like runaway truck into poor little Pat, whose left femur snapped in two.  Sounded like a gunshot.  I could hear it clearly from the outfield.  I could also hear Pat's screams.  It was pretty gruesome.

Since that time, I enjoyed another two decades of playing rec league and work league softball, and watched my son play ten years worth of summer league and school ball.  For all those hundreds of games, the rule was well-known and always the same:  If you're a baserunner and there is a close play at the base, including home, you get down or get out of the way, or you're out.  You may not just run over the fielder and crush him like a grape.  The rule is safe and sensible, and doesn't detract in the slightest from the quality of play.

However, in the bigs, they didn't see it that way and continued to allow, even encourage, the Rose-style homeplate trainwreck.  "That's baseball" was the rationalization.  Meanwhile, decades-worth of catchers and baserunners lost their senses and various body parts in muy macho, full-speed carnage at the plate.

The high muckety-mucks of MLB, having learned a thing or two about concussions and such, changed all that for the better yesterday.  Henceforth, catchers may not put themselves in  harm's way by blocking the plate, and baserunners may not imitate steam rollers and try to grease catchers in an attempt to score.  No football plays.  No head-hunting, no "targeting".  Homeplate will now have the same slide-and-tag protocol as any other base.

Essentially, the big-leaguers will adopt the same common-sense rule that has for many years governed little kids in coach-pitch leagues.  Naturally, Pete Rose has voiced his opposition to this decision.  "What's the game coming to?" kvetches Charlie Asshole . . . excuse me, Charlie Hustle.

If Pete objects, it must be a very good call.



Sandy Hook Anniversary

This Saturday December 14th will be the one-year anniversary of the horrific mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.  To mark the day, let me list all the significant improvements in gun control, gun registration and background checks our nation has undertaken in the past year:

The End.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Mitch McConnell, Comedian

Last month, the Senate changed an old rule for approving most executive-branch nominations.  Instead of the old 60-vote rule, it now takes just a simple majority.  In a sign of just how hide-bound the Senate can be, this rule change was known as the "nuclear option".

The Republicans' 5 years of constant obstructionism and its' ridiculous record-setting use of filibusters finally became too much to take.  Had Mitch McConnell and his minority been just the slightest bit reasonable, the teeniest bit flexible, the Dem's wouldn't have been compelled to change the rules.  But no, Mitch made his minions go full-roadblock -- from the day Obama took office, whatever or whoever the President wanted, they automatically opposed it, every friggin' thing every friggin' time.  It had to stop.

Now it has.  Yesterday, in the first post-nuclear Senate vote, Judge Patricia Millett was confirmed 56-36 to the D.C. Circuit Court, and Rep. Mel Watt was OK'd 57-40 as Federal Housing Finance Agency Director.

Both had been previously blocked for many months by GOP filibusters.

Here's the good part:  Addressing reporters after the vote, McConnell said with a straight face and no apparent sense of irony, "They [the D's] did this for one reason -- to advance an agenda the American people don't want.  This vote isn't about any one nominee.  It's about an attitude on the left that says the ends justify the means.  Whatever it takes."

LOL!!!  Oh, Mitch, you old do-nothing turtle, you're just killin' me!  Who knew you had such a sense of humor?  Your sour-grapes statement is a perfect description of your very own attitude and strategy.  Very funny.

"Senator McConnell, Comedy Central is holding on Line 1."

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Sometimes A Cigar Is Just A Cigar

During today's memorial service for Nelson Mandela, President Obama shook hands with Cuba's Raoul Castro.  With that one simple gesture, the right-wing blogosphere went absolutely apeshit, calling Obama every name in the book, including "traitor".  The handshake, they said, showed panty-waisted "weakness" on our part and provided the Commie "tyrant" with an enormous PR "victory" in the eyes of the world.

Oh, please, righties!  Take a deep breath and get over yourselves.  Sometimes a handshake is just a handshake.

After all, Obama gave Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff a kiss on the cheek, and back in September she cancelled a state visit to the U.S. to protest NSA spying.  And then he greeted German Chancellor Angela Merkel by unzipping his fly.  (Just kidding about that!)

Monday, December 9, 2013

Mandela's Place In History

[Suggested by a faithful reader.  Thank you, faithful reader!]

Tomorrow, many hundreds of world leaders and over 90 sitting heads of state (Obama, Merkel, Cameron, Castro, Karzai, et al) will descend upon Johannesburg to attend a day-long memorial celebration of the life of Nelson Mandela, the late civil rights activist and former South African president.

Sources have confirmed that the revered humanitarian has thereby become the first politician in recorded history to actually be missed. 

Baseball Hall Of Fame Blows The Call Again

The results of this year's balloting for for ex-players haven't been announced yet, but when they are, pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine are mortal locks for the Baseball Hall of Fame, Class of 2014.

Today, however, the "Expansion Era Committee" (one of 3 iterations of the old Veterans Committee) released it's non-player inductees:  former managers Tony LaRussa, Joe Torre and Bobby Cox.  These three are rock-solid, if obvious, choices.  No argument here.

But this Committee of 16 former players, executives and historians also blew it big-time.  Their list has two glaring omissions:  George Steinbrenner and Marvin Miller.  With 12 votes needed for election, neither received even six.  Huh?

Steinbrenner was the long-time principal owner of the New York Yankees.  "The Boss" was controversial, egotistical, free-spending, boorish, dictatorial, dishonest, even occasionally criminal.  He changed managers like most of us change socks.  Non-Yankee fans (like me) loved to hate him.  But George Steinbrenner was highly successful.  His teams won championships and his franchise is currently worth $2.3 billion, the most valuable in all of sports.  His impact was huge.  He died in 2010.

Miller was likewise a value-creator.  As its' Executive Director, he turned the MLBPA into the first effective players union.  He ushered in the first collective bargaining agreement, salary arbitration, true free agency and the resulting multi-million dollar player contracts (many offered without hesitation by Steinbrenner).  Miller's work opened the floodgates for massive escalation in broadcast and cable revenue for the teams.  Together with Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson, Marvin Miller is one of the three most important men in baseball history, and one the most influential figures in all of sports.  He died in 2012.

This is my third mention of Marvin Miller in four years.  The last time he appeared on the ballot, he received 11 votes -- one short of induction.  This time, he inexplicably went backwards.  It's a travesty.

The Hall of Fame loses credibility with this bullshit.  Rod Carew, Carlton Fisk, Joe Morgan, Paul Molitor, Phil Niekro, Frank Robinson, Whitey Herzog and Tommy Lasorda are on the Committee.  The next time they check their bank accounts, they ought to drop to their knees and thank George Steinbrenner and Marvin Miller, and vote correctly the next time.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

"Bah! Humbug! Screw Your Kids! Send Your Gifts To Me!"

Remember Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker?

Some say he harbors Presidential ambitions.  He's held up as poster-boy for a supposed warmer-and-fuzzier breed of Republican.  No doubt he's an ambitious little shit, but don't you believe that "kinder, gentler" junk for a second.

Walker is still the same brown-nose Big Business tool who rammed through a law making public-sector collective bargaining illegal in Wisconsin.  He swore it was the only way to balance the budget, then got phone-punk'd by a David Koch imitator who got him to admit it was all about "crushing those unions".  After that, Walker barely survived a recall vote.

Yeah, that Scott Walker.

Last week, he showed his true colors in a different way.  In a Black Friday email promotion, Walker asked parents to make contributions to his re-election campaign instead of buying Christmas gifts for their children: 

"Instead of electronics or toys that will undoubtedly be outdated, broken or lost by the next Holiday Season, help give your children the gift of a Wisconsin that we can all be proud of.  It's a Black Friday Special that's better than any deal found in budget deficits."

So much for the re-invented GOP.  Meet the new breed, same as the old breed.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Our New HGTV Show

Watching football on TV with my buddies last weekend, we were instructed by our lovely wives to turn down the volume during commercial breaks.  We surmised they wanted to talk chick-stuff.  (Pardon the dumb male shorthand.)  From there, we quickly riffed on popular girl TV which they might discuss while we waited for the next snap:  Dancing With The Stars, The Biggest Loser, Say Yes To The Dress, and of course, HGTV shows like Property Brothers, House Hunters, and Love It Or List It.

And then we promptly created our very own new HGTV program.  It's about a married couple with a home in need of major repair.  The wife is wooed by a remodeling contractor with exciting (i.e. expensive) ideas.  The husband is simultaneously offered a 12-pack of beer, a plate of nachos, and the couch all to himself.  We're calling our new show "Fix It Or Fuck It".

"When we come back, see what they decide."

Why Detroit Went Down

Yesterday, a federal judge approved an $18 billion bankruptcy filing by the City of Detroit in the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.  It's not going to be pretty.  Creditors, pensioners and other claimants may get as little as 15 cents on the dollar.  Local unions say they'll file an appeal on the grounds that cutting pension benefits violates the Michigan constitution (which it does, but the judge says do it anyway).

Fox News predictably blamed unions and retirees, saying pension liability was the "key problem".  Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr said the same thing.  This is what Buster likes to call total bullshit!  (But we must consider the source.)

In reality, Detroit succumbed to a terrible decades-long cash-flow problem.  City revenues fell steadily as a result of declining population (almost 2 million in 1950, 700,000 today), corporate tax subsidies and out-sourcing, reduced auto manufacturing, and soaring, chronic unemployment.  Also, the city ignorantly entered into exotic, costly and one-sided rate-swap deals pushed by Wall Street vultures.  And yes, the city did fail to make all of its required pension payments and did spend that money elsewhere, but even so, Detroit's pension liability is 77% funded, which ain't bad given all the shit that's gone down.  (By contrast, the Kentucky State Employees Retirement System is only 27% funded.)*

I won't claim any expertise in municipal bankruptcy but Detroit's financial problems seem insurmountable and it's clear everyone's going to take a haircut, even the retirees.  But I hope the bankruptcy judge finds a way to be as generous as possible with pension benefits and uses the bigger scissors for other obligations.  Blaming unions and pensions is blatant scapegoating.  Detroit's problems were not caused by retired librarians and garbage men, but I'm afraid they're gonna take the hit. 

(*Rolling Stone 10/3/13)      

Monday, December 2, 2013

Tips On Working And Living From Corporate America

For a variety of reasons, many people find themselves stuck in low-paying jobs in the food service industry or big-box retail.  But never fear, Compassionate Corporate America has plenty of helpful advice for their own employees.

For example, McDonald's posted this suggested personal budget on their "McResources Line" website:

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Note that the first thing you do as a financially astute, budget-conscious McDonald's employee is get a second job.  Then to get that $2060 monthly take-home, just work at minimum wage somewhere between 62 and 74 hours per week.  Also note that you'll pay only $20/month for health insurance and $0 for heat.  Gas for your car?  Food?  Must be "other".

The McResources Line website also suggests breaking food into small pieces so you'll eat less while still "feeling full", and eating stale bread and bruised/rotten fruit.  The website recommends raising extra cash by "selling unwanted items on eBay or Craig' List" and says employees should avoid shopping at the mall, and instead should try the thrift shop (because, as Macklemore taught the world, "This is fucking awesome!")

Even with such outstanding budgeting, nutrition and shopping advice, you may still have other questions.  Fortunately, you can call the McResources Help Line, toll-free!  Full-time McDonald's employee Nancy Selgado made the call and got some great tips:

"As a valued employee, Nancy, we recommend you sign up for SNAP and Medicaid, OK?"

If you're thinking it's all a shit sandwich, Gordon Gough, president of the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants wants you to relax and rest easy in the knowledge that it's all just temporary.  Says Gough:  "Retail jobs, by design, are not meant to be long-term jobs.  They are jobs meant to subsidize income or get you by to your next job."

How comforting.  Short-term by design.  And subsidizing my income implies I have other income.  What if I don't?  And what if my next job is just as sucky as this one?

Low pay and income disparity are real and growing problems.  A recent state report found that Wal-Mart, McDonald's, Wendy's, Kroger's and Bob Evans had a combined 49,000 Ohio employees on Medicaid, up 27% from 2007.  Ohioans working for those same companies get $6 million per month in food stamps.

State Rep. Robert Hagan (D-Youngstown) has introduced a bill to publish official annual data on how many retail and food service workers receive public assistance.  He says it's time to "shine a spotlight on how corporations prop up employee benefits at taxpayer expense."

Hagan is right and his intentions are noble.  Of course, in our GOP-dominated statehouse, his would-be bill will never see the light of day.  A pity.

From The Sublime To The Ridiculous

Wow!  Saturday gave us two of the wildest and most important finishes ever in college football.  First, Ohio State topped Michigan 42-41 by intercepting a pass on the Wolverines' last-gasp attempt at a two-point conversion.  Then Auburn beat top-ranked Alabama with a last-second (literally) coast-to-coast return of a missed field goal for the game-winning TD.  Unbelievable!  All the more so because Auburn's victory pushed OSU up to #2 and into position for the National Championship game.

On Sunday, two of the worst teams in the NFL met when the Jacksonville Jaguars visited Cleveland.  When it was all over, the Bumblin' Browns had managed yet again to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.  It's come to the point where losing seems inevitable.

(After the game, it was reported that QB Brandon Weeden will likely miss next week's game with "concussion-like symptoms."  With Weeden, how can they tell?)