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

Friday, February 28, 2014

Rand Paul Says GOP Needs To Fake It

At a recent Tea party event, Sen. Rand Paul suggested that perhaps it was time for Republicans to tone down their inflammatory rhetoric and adopt a less divisive imaging/messaging strategy:

"We've been using language that shouldn't be used."
"We can disagree with the president without calling him names."
"If we want to win politically, our message has to be a happy message."

"In other words, we need to lie and hide our true feelings!"

Is This Cartoon Offensive?

Jeff Stahler is a syndicated cartoonist.  His daily one-panel, Moderately Confused, appears in newspapers across the country, including the Dispatch.  (A couple years ago, Stahler was also the Dispatch's editorial cartoonist, until he was replaced by a conservative cartoonist more to the Wolf's tastes.)

Back a week or so, Stahler ran this cartoon.  Kinda cute, made me smile, but nothing of major significance.

What I found to be innocently amusing many local Catholics found outrageously offensive.  They wrote letters to the editor, claiming Stahler was disrespectful, sacrilegious, was attacking their church and mocking its rituals.  They called for the Dispatch to stop publishing the heretical Moderately Confused.  "This is no laughing matter," one woman harrumphed.  Yeah, where's Torquemada when you need him?

Stahler and the Dispatch parted on bad terms, and the paper's editorial board seems delighted now to print letters from his detractors.  But these upright Christian critics have got it all wrong, and are missing the point of the cartoon.   

Humor is often found in the surprise, the unexpected, the familiar scene with something out of place.  In the cartoon, there's nothing unusual about a priest or minister conducting communion, nothing odd or funny about him saying, "Body of Christ."

What is unexpected and funny is the woman asking, "Is it locally made?"  That's where the humor is!  Stahler's not going after religion, he's poking fun at Portlandia-style foodies, the sort of question-askers who want to know the free-range chicken's name and family history before they eat it.  So isn't it funny then to put that kind of person in a church inquiring as to the origin of her communion wafer?  Yes, it is.

(FYI -- All communion wafers are manufactured in a single small plant in Bugscuffle, Tennesse, and are made from a delicious mixture of fish food, styrofoam and library paste.)

But all that the humorless religious right-tards can see is a priest in the funny pages, so they go predictably apeshit.  Buster has a respectful suggestion for these folks:   Pull the Holy Roman rod out of your ass and lighten up!

Stephen Colbert's "Laser Klan" Cartoon

Stephen Colbert trashes a favorite target, the KKK, with this marvelous parody cartoon, Laser Klan in "Illegal Aliens".  Gotta watch -- it's fall-down funny!  Click it.


Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Right Thing For The Wrong Reason

On the plus side, the Wicked Witch of the West, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, has vetoed her stupid legislature's stupid bill, SB 1062, which would have allowed businesses to deny services to LGBT people and others based on the business owner's supposed "religious beliefs".  (A faithful reader says Seth Myers called it the "Nice Shirt, Nice Shoes, No Service" law!)

On the minus side, neither the governor nor any other of the state's Republican powers that be said they were rejecting the bill because it was discriminatory, or it was state-sanctioned bigotry, or it was simply wrong.  No, the real reason they vetoed the damn thing was economic -- somebody might lose money if the law were implemented.  "Legalized prejudice might cost us another Super Bowl!  NO!!!"

Ultimately, Arizona got this one right but learned nothing in the process.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

When They're Not Watching Fox News, They Take To The Streets

In Voting, Fair Is Fair

His party just recently made voting by absentee ballot more difficult and did away with same-day registration and voting.  Now, in the interest of "uniformity", Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted has announced that all in-person early voting stations across the state have identical days and hours of operation:   8 to 5 Mon.-Fri., 8 to 4 Sat., no Sundays.  For many Ohio polling places, this is a reduction of both hours and days.

"Uniformity" sounds nice and fair and reasonable, doesn't it?  But since early voting times were not all that various before, and since those minor differences presented no problem at all to anyone whatsoever, what's so crucial about literal uniformity?  Why has it suddenly become the GOP's self-justifying Holy Grail?  And if literal uniformity is so friggin' important, why must it always be accomplished while reducing voter access?  Why not uniformly expand access?

Democrats say the new rule is unfair, that restricting hours is unnecessary and intentionally makes it just a little bit harder for many working people (i.e., mostly Democrats) to make it to their voting station.

Republicans say that reality is unfair . . . to Republicans.  With more registered Democrats than Republicans, with Democrats receiving far more actual votes, with white people soon to be a minority, Republicans know the only way they have a shot is by blatant gerrymandering and suppressing access to the vote, bit by bit.

C'mon!  That's fair, isn't it?

Big Pharma TV Ads: Where Facts Go To Die

[Saw a TV ad today for some new prescription wonder-drug.  The voice-over gave the obligatory warnings.  Told me not to take this drug if I was allergic to this and that, or if I were allergic to this drug itself!  WTF?  How the hell would I know I'm allergic to it if I haven't taken it yet?  Oh, don't get me started!  Oops . . . too late.]

Back when I was a boy, advertising prescription drugs to the public was not allowed.  It was strictly an over-the-counter world.  We heard about "iron-poor blood" (Geritol to the rescue!),  "Plop-Plop-Fizz-Fizz" (Alka Seltzer), and "Excedrin Headache #4".  The prohibition was lifted in the 1980's, thanks to Reagan and his FDA, but the ads had to include a summary of all risks and side effects.

The first Direct-To-Consumer-Pharmaceutical-Ads (DTCPA's) appeared in magazines, with the risky side effects in fine print.  But it didn't take long for the drug companies to figure out they could verbally rattle off all that shit while simultaneously showing you a shiny TV ad with the brand name and logo of their latest remedy superimposed over a field of butterflies.

With today's DTC ads on TV, it's all advertising and not a speck of education.  From the product names (take 3 or 4 vowels, a similar quantity of consonants, shake well and serve) to the images (healthy-looking young women doing yoga in the park amidst romping golden retrievers), it's a complete haze of hypochondriac come-ons designed to seduce and sell with as little clarity as possible.

Think of the sheer number and variety of DTC pharmaceutical ads you're subjected to daily on TV.  Think about the cost of such a constant advertising presence.  The profit potential in a new prescription drug is enormous.  But what the hell is this drug anyway?  Why are there so many side effects and why do they seem worse that the malady the drug claims to treat?  Could it be that the pharmaceutical industry is actively involved in "finding" new syndromes, illnesses and diseases just so they can sell us new drugs at maximum margin?

Perhaps the old "no-ads" rule was the wiser policy.  While you ponder that, watch this hilarious spoof ad:

In a more serious vein, consider that roughly a third of all FDA-approved prescription pharmaceuticals are eventually taken off the market due to harmful side effects.  It seems that for de facto long-term drug safety tests, the lab rats are us!

30 Prescription Drug TV Ads,
which have been around for years
RED = Ads which have been removed due to SERIOUS SIDE EFFECTS, and/or FDA action.

The preceding list is taken from "Vaughn's Summaries", by Vaughn Aubuchon.  Mr. Aubuchon is a Silicon Valley tech engineer and a total stranger, but he's done some good research and writing in this area.  Click the link to check out more:

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Stockholm Syndrome

Republicans led an economic disaster, denied responsibility, resisted all efforts to repair the damage, and haven't changed their tune in the slightest.  Yet, with complete disregard for their own best interests, many middle class, blue collar, working stiffs continue to vote for them.

It's the Stockholm Syndrome, don't you think?

Damn Government Regulations!


Harold Ramis (1944-2014)

Like Joni said, sometimes you don't know what ya got 'til it's gone.

Starting as a freelance writer for the Chicago Daily News, Harold Ramis moved on to be a joke reviewer for Playboy, and then became a driving force in comedic entertainment.  Whether as writer, actor, director or producer, Ramis had a hand in a lot of the funniest material ever presented.  Roll credits . . .

Second City Improv (actor), National Lampoon Radio Hour (writer, actor), SCTV (head writer, actor), Animal House (writer), Meatballs (writer, producer), Stripes (writer, actor, producer), Ghostbusters (writer, actor, producer), National Lampoon's Vacation (writer, director), Caddyshack (writer, director), Back To School (writer, producer), Groundhog Day (writer, director, producer), Analyze This (writer, director), The Office (director), Year One (writer, director, producer).

Animal House

"Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son."


"It just doesn't matter!  It just doesn't matter!"


"Chicks dig me because I rarely wear underwear, and when I do, it's usually something unusual."


"He slimed me."


"Big hitter, the Lama.  Long."

Back To School

"Bring us a pitcher of beer every 7 minutes until somebody passes out.  Then bring one every 10 minutes."

Groundhog Day

"I have been stabbed, shot, poisoned, frozen, hung, electrocuted and burned, and every morning I wake up without a scratch on me, not a dent in the fender.  I am an immortal.  I'm a god."

Analyze This

"OK, I was gonna whack you, but I was real conflicted about it."

Year One

"You're a virgin by choice?  Ha!  Not your choice!"

National Lampoon's Vacation

"I think you're all fucked in the head!  We're 10 hours from the fucking fun park and you want to bail out.  Well, I'll tell you something.  This is no longer a vacation.  It's a quest -- a quest for fun!  We're all gonna have so much fucking fun we're gonna need plastic surgery to remove our goddam smiles!  You'll be whistling 'Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah' out of your assholes!"

Sunday, February 23, 2014

A Sobering Thought

"Have you ever had that weird feeling when you wake up one morning and suddenly realize your entire life is based on a decision made by a teenager?  A stoned teenager?"

-- Mark Stewart, aka "Stew"

Mark Stewart is a musician/artist and the Tony-winning playwright of Passing Strange.   He's the leader of the group Stew & the Negro Problem.

Arizona On A Roll!

Photo: From Rocco’s Little Chicago Pizzeria in Tucson.

The AZ legislature just passed bill allowing businesses to refuse to serve gays on religious grounds. Glad to see some businesses throwing it back at them. #TheNewSegregation http://ift.tt/1dajHcqaz-law

Where do they come up with this shit?  First, it was the "Mexicans may not pee" bill, and now it's the "gays may not eat" bill.  The Arizona state legislature recently passed a law allowing any business establishment to refuse service to LGBT people if doing so offends the business owner's personal "religious" beliefs.

It's kinda like racial profiling, except now they're profiling on the basis of . . . what, exactly?

Although it hasn't yet been signed by the governor, it's another clearly unconstitutional "law", and evidence that Arizona legislators are pulling out all the stops in their quest to be crowned The Stupidest State In America.

Friday, February 21, 2014

"A Promotion And A Pay Raise? No Thank You."

My morning routine goes like this:  feed the dogs, make coffee, pour a cup and sit down with an old-school, actual hard copy of the newspaper, the thin and doltish Dispatch.  After checking the good stuff like sports and weather, I take a deep breath, try to suppress my gag reflex and turn to the editorial page.  I don't linger, but once in a while an especially ignorant letter to the editor will jump out at me.  Like today.

Has no need for income.
Just wants insurance subsidy.
Under the Dispatch-written headline "Health Care Law Works Against Ambition", a Mark Antonetz of Westerville wanted the world to know that because of Obamacare's insurance premium subsidies, great multitudes of people will now be refusing job promotions and pay raises, preferring instead to keep their income low in order to maintain their subsidy.  This favoring of cheaper insurance premiums over higher personal income will be, Mr. Antonetz says, "inevitable."

I'm sorry, Mr. Antonetz, but that's one of the larger crocks of shit I've ever heard.  I'm a big fan of Obamacare, but your assertion that most people value health insurance more than actual income is absurd.  Money won't buy love or happiness, and it won't solve all your problems, but it helps solve some of them.  As any 3rd-grader could tell you, in a general sense, more money beats less money.

So I'm not passing on any pay raises, and I bet you're not either.  First things first -- Show me the money!  After that, then I'll worry about details like insurance premiums.

Which is worse, the off-base conclusions drawn in this chuckle-butt letter, or the Dispatch's decision to print it?

Hooray For The U.S.A.! (Seriously)

For all the times I bash our vast American stupidity and call bullshit on my fellow citizens, you could easily get the impression that Buster is some sort of hater of his own country.  But in the words of our great pioneer forefather Daniel Boone, "Au contraire, mon frere!"

It's true that I'm not big on nationalistic cheerleading.  I reject jingoism and "love-it-or-leave-it" and "American exceptionalism" and all that rah-rah crap.  We'd be a better country if we focused more on feeding our school children than on making them memorize the Pledge.

But that said, as I look around at the rest of the world today, what do I see?  A lot of horrible stuff in a lot of places -- Ukraine, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Venezuela, Egypt, Libya, Sudan, North Korea.  Outide the Sochi Olympics, the punk-activist Russian girl group Pussy Riot was literally whipped by Kossacks.  (Are you fucking kidding me?  Kossacks?)

What a retrograde mess.  So much death and violence and unrest.  (Did you ever notice that "unrest" is always a hot topic, but "rest" is never reported?  "Brian, after last week's breakout of civil rest here in Lower Slobovia, things remain calm and quiet.  Back to you.")

By comparison, we look pretty good indeed.  America is far from perfect, our problems are many and numerous, but so are our charms and advantages.  We have much to work on and much to be proud of.  Yes, we'll have our seemingly endless political arguments, but no matter -- on the whole, our country will always be basically OK.  For all our faults, we're still the place that draws people from all over the globe, still the nation so many others try to emulate.

It's good to occasionally take a step back and look at the bigger picture.  For me, this has just been one of those moments.  Don't get used to it!  ; )

Hooray for the U.S.A.!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Email To My State Rep

To Ohio Representative Michael Duffey, District 21:

I'm a constituent and I'm deeply confused by what you and your fellow Republicans have just done.

Senate Bill 205 mandates that absentee ballot applications now ask for additional  unnecessary information (more chances to make a mistake equals more invalidated ballots), the apps provide no information as to sufficient return postage (more incorrect postage equals more undeliverable ballots), are to be sent only by the Secretary of State (rather than by local election boards), and only if you guys approve funding to do so.

Senate Bill 238 cuts one week from early voting, and eliminates same-day registration and voting.

Upon their passage, your comment was that Ohio still has "better than average" ballot access.  But this makes it worse than it was before, doesn't it, Mike?

One of your colleagues said, "A month of early voting is not voter suppression."  Perhaps not, but neither was five weeks, was it?

Gosh, Mike, what's the purpose of these two bills then?  They're definitely not about fixing voter fraud, because we don't have any!  Secretary of State Husted recently confirmed that, placing the level of fraudulent voting in Ohio's last election at 3/10,000th of a percent.

If there's no problem, why change the rules?  Help me understand.

You guys think you're slick, but you're craven and obvious.  This legislation is an odious batch of partisan jury-rigging.  When your odds of being elected go up as vote totals go down, you know you're not really representing the majority.

I won't forget.  And you should be ashamed.

Raise The Minimum Wage

First, the disclaimers:
  • I am not an economist.
  • They don't call economics "the dismal science" for nothing!
  • Ask the same question of 5 economists and you'll get 10 different answers.
Now then . . . President Obama and others are calling for an increase in the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10, to be phased in over three years.  They claim it would improve the lives of the working poor.

Conservatives are opposed, of course, and claim that a raise in the minimum wage would be a job-killer.  They always say that.  (And they find job-killers everywhere, don't they?  Benghazi?  Job-killer.)

The Congressional Budget Office has come out with its report which says it could do both.  The CBO's analysis found that higher minimum wage would raise 900,000 working adults above the official poverty level.  (That's "would," as in for sure.)  It also found that it could also result in the loss of perhaps 500,000 current jobs.  ("Could," as in maybe.)

Some thoughts and some numbers.

Poverty-level income for a family of four is $23,850.  That's gross income.  With typical withholding, it's a net income of $16,695, or $321 take-home per week for every-damn-thing for four people.  That's some mighty slim pickins.  I hope we can agree that any wage increase for these folks will be a clear and obvious benefit to them, and indirectly to our economy and society as a whole.

The minimum wage has been law for 76 years.  Under that law, the minimum wage has been raised 22 times.  If raising it will automatically result in catastrophic job loss, as the Republicans say it will, shouldn't we have seen 22 catastrophic job losses already?  Did I miss them?  Or is that the first 22 wage bumps were OK, but the 23rd will trigger the apocalypse?

If the suggested increase in the minimum wage will cause a loss of 500,000 jobs, shouldn't a similar wage decrease create 500,000 new jobs?  (This is the Michelle Bachmann economic theory, wherein she advocated eliminating the minimum wage altogether, claiming it would "end unemployment by creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs paying whatever.")

"Five hundred thousand jobs!" they scream.  The total American workforce is presently about 144 million people.  Around 78 million are hourly employees.  Roughly 2% of the hourly workers -- 1.57 million -- are paid the actual minimum wage right now.  But an increase in the minimum would also push up the wages of other current near-minimum workers.  Best guess is that approximately 10% of hourly workers -- 7.8 million or so -- would wind up getting a raise.  Still only 5% of the entire workforce.

I know a lot of business people.  I am one myself.  Ever-attentive to the bottom line, businesses always try to minimize all costs, including the pay rate and the number of employees.  They know how many workers it takes to "get the job done," whatever that job may be.  Whatever the wages, a rational business does not intentionally maintain a larger workforce than it requires.

But the CBO report seems to be saying that, at the moment, U.S. companies are paying minimum wage to half a million extraneous workers who aren't really necessary.  Yeah, we've been keeping them on the payroll out of the goodness of our hearts, but if the feds ever raise the minimum wage, all of a sudden 500,000 heads gotta roll.  Really?  It's possible, but that just seems business-irrational to me.

Finally, who are these minimum and near-minimum wage workers we're talking about here?  For the most part, it's not the zit-faced teenager's summer job.  That's a popular misconception.  The majority of these people flipping burgers, making beds and folding sweaters are adults just trying to support themselves and their families.  And $7-something an hour is a poverty wage.  We can do better than that, can't we?

Raise the minimum wage.  It's time.  The benefits outweigh the costs.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Good News From Secretary Of State John Kerry

Photo: (M) Does that sound like a fair deal?

No Peeing Without Proof Of Citizenship

Mr. Seel
Arizona State Representative Carl Seel (R) has introduced a bill to make it a crime for "any person in the state illegally" to use any public facility or resource, including schools, libraries, parks, streets, even public restrooms.  That's right, Pedro -- no papers, no pissing.

Seel's bill is stunningly, laughably unconstitutional, but that seldom matters in Arizona.  They remain locked in battle with South Carolina, Texas, and Florida for the title of Stupidest State.  The contest is still too close to call, but with this move Arizona has reasserted its claim.

Opponents presented Rep. Seel with this commemorative toilet.  Piss off, Carl!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Privileged Class Enjoying Its Privileges

"Once we made it to the lobby, [they] reassured me that what I’d just seen wasn’t really a group of wealthy and powerful financiers making homophobic jokes, making light of the financial crisis, and bragging about their business conquests at Main Street’s expense. No, it was just a group of friends who came together to roast each other in a benign and self-deprecating manner. Nothing to see here."
-- from Young Money, by Kevin Roose

Did you know there is an exclusive secret Wall Street fraternity for wealthy financiers called Kappa Beta Phi?  (Phi Beta Kappa in reverse.  Cute, huh?)  A reporter sneaked into their private annual dinner to observe the privileged class enjoying its privileges.  Kevin Roose's evening amidst the elite is recounted in his new book, Young Money.  He sums it up this way:  "When you're a member of the fraternity of money, it can be hard to see past the foie gras to the real world."

For more on Roose's party-crashing experience, click the link.  It's a good read, with more photos and some audio, too.


Laurel & Hardy Dance To "Billie Jean"

There are other versions, using Santana's "Oye Como Va," Sam the Sham's "Woolly Bully," the Archies "Sugar Sugar," the Stones "Out of Time," the Gap Band's "Party Train," the 69 Boyz "Tootsie Roll," and even the Beatles "I Feel Fine."  But I like the version with Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean":

I'm Not Anti-Gun, I'm Pro-Knife

"I am not anti-gun.  I'm pro-knife.  Consider the merits of the knife.  In the first place, you have to catch up with someone in order to stab him.  A general substitution of knives for guns would promote physical fitness.  We'd turn into a whole nation of great runners.  Plus, knives don't ricochet.  And people are seldom killed while cleaning their knives."  
-- Molly Ivins (1944-2007)

Kasich Keeps His Promises

Why the sudden shock and surprise that Gov. Kasich's ODNR devised a "marketing plan" to sell/promote fracking in our state parks and forests?  Our Wonder Guv is merely keeping his old campaign promises.  From the archives:

Friday, December 31, 2010

Kasich Vows To Give Ohioans The Business

Guv Elect John Kasich has said "Ohio is open for business"and his administration is anxious to "exploit the wonders of our state", including drilling for oil and gas in state parks, and possibly even in Lake Erie. Oh, goody!

John-Boy's new Director of Ohio Natural Resources is a former AEP executive who now runs an oil and gas company in Dubai (that petro-drunk Arab country with man-made islands shaped like palm trees).

And his new head of the Ohio EPA is a former executive at Perdue Foods, one of the largest commercial poultry operations in the world. (If you look up "environmental protection" in the dictionary, the antonym is Perdue Chicken.)

Don't look for much in the way of regulation or enforcement from this pair of tools. John-Boy clearly intends to plunder our natural resources and set us adrift on a river of oil and chicken shit, all so a handful of corporate bigwigs can make a quick buck.

Let the raping and pillaging begin!

The Rand Paul Department Of Transportation Presents . . .


Monday, February 17, 2014

Someone Help This Poor Woman Fix Her Dress!

This is really juvenile, but it made me laugh out loud.

My New Winter Olympics Vocabulary

Yes, the Winter Games are like the less attractive, less popular sister to the Summer Games, but some of those winter events can help expand your vocabulary:

"Bonspiel" -- A good sales pitch? No, a bonspiel is a curling tournament.

"Nose butter" -- Not to be confused with nose candy, Aspen lift lines, or Peruvian marching powder.  A nose butter is a skiing trick.

"Look at the unison!" -- Frequent exclamation from the TV commentator during the ice dancing event.  The judges are always looking for unison from the skating pair.  I thought things in unison were heard, not seen.  (I think she meant unity.)

"Their twizzle was out of sync." -- Then they should seek immediate medical attention, right?  No, twizzle is a required skating maneuver in ice dancing.

The Existential Anguish Of The Tattoo

(Courtesy of Dan Brooks in the NY Times Magazine, 2/16/14 and Saturday Night Live.)

"Tattoos are permanent, even when little else is.  As your ink settles (and stretches) into middle age, it brings terrifying implications about free will.  Our past and present selves are not always in accord.  You're not the same person you were when you got that dolphin."