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

Monday, June 30, 2014

Time-Travelling SCOTUS Rolls Back The Clock 100 Years Or So

It's discouraging and disgusting.  In two of the most regressive opinions in decades, the Supreme Court of the United States rendered two highly divisive 5-4 decisions which undermine labor rights and access to contraception.  Welcome to 1895!

According to the Court's Conservative Cabal, unionized home health care agencies which are funded entirely by Medicare are just "semi-public", and any non-union employees who wish to freeload can no longer be required to pay fair-share union dues, even though they must by law receive all union-negotiated pay raises, protections and benefits.  It's a narrow version of right-to-work B.S.

And to go along with the atrocious Citizens United v. FEC decision, the Roberts Court has birthed its evil twin, the Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius ruling.  Now, corporations are not only people, they are religions as well.  The Green family owns Hobby Lobby.  The Greens are evangelical Christian fanatics who claim personal religious objections to contraception.  Yet the Greens want the tax benefits of providing health insurance to their employees while simultaneously preventing their female employees from getting insurance-covered birth-control services, as mandated by Obamacare.  They want it both ways, and the SCOTUS conservatives have given it to them.  It's a complete crock of shit.  Business owners may now cite their own personal "religious" objections to all sorts of laws, rules and regulations.

This damn Court doesn't offer even the pretense of objectivity.  The battle lines are drawn and every decision is pure ideology. 

In both of these retrograde decisions, the five Justices in the slim majority are conservative Republicans, appointed by Republican presidents.  All five are men.  Draw your own conclusions, but I'd say Reagan and the Bushies got what they paid for.

The Supreme Court is not infallible.  It is capable of awful mistakes.  Dred Scott.  Plessy v. Ferguson.  Eventually, the mistakes are corrected and society is allowed to move forward.  Such will be the case with these two most recent, and most unjust, decisions.

"The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." -- Martin Luther King Jr.

We've Seen This Movie Before

Remember back in the late 1990's when the GOP had no particular ideas, plans or ambitions which they cared to share publicly, other than to grab and maintain power by any means possible?  Pretty much exactly like today?

What did they do then to distract from and gum up the second term of a popular Democratic President, Bill Clinton?

They went on a prude's witch-hunt, supposedly worried to death about what President Bill and his executive willy may have been doing in the White House with Monica the Intern and her blue dress.  Ken Starr and the House Republicans failed miserably in their misguided attempt to impeach the President for trying to cover up his affair.  It was tabloid-style, lowest-common-denominator political muck --  a stupid, lurid waste of gobs of public time and money.  But the goddam circus consumed the media, kept the Democrat jumpin' through hoops, and made him look bad.  Which was the point.

Today, 16-17 years later, nothing has changed.  Another popular Democrat occupies the Oval Office and the GOP still has nothing to offer beyond gross obstructionism, a hard-on for power and control, and a willingness to do anything to get it.  Clown-Thug Darrell Issa holds hearing after hearing on non-starter scandals -- Obamacare, the IRS, Benghazi.  And now, from the ancient trick-bag of shiny objects, John Boehner has pulled out a lawsuit against the President.

The Orange Boner says he'll gleefully toss a monkey-wrench into the rest of President Obama's second term by suing him for supposed "abuse" of Executive Orders.  In truth, Obama has used Executive Orders less often than any recent president, far less than Dubya and Reagan, for example.  

But truth doesn't matter to these schmucks.  Obama is trying to do something, while the Republicans intentionally, proudly do abso-fucking-lutely nothing.  They brag about it, and they laugh about it.

We've seen this movie before.  Boehner and his Party of No clearly prefer suing to working.  It's shameful, but shameful is just about the only thing they do well.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Bad Suarez #1 -- "Bite Me!"

Don't ever say that to Uruguayan soccer star Luis Suarez, because he will!

Bad Suarez #2

Is the name Benjamin Suarez familiar to you?  He's the latest example of slimy corruption and influence-peddling.

Mr. Suarez is the owner and CEO of Suarez Corporation Industries of Canton, Ohio.  He also fancies himself to be a big-wig player in the Ohio GOP.

Ben Suarez.  The would-be big-wig may be
wearing a wig.  He couldn't look any
skeevier if he tried.  The villainous
little mustache is a nice touch!
SCI is a direct marketing firm, selling useless bullshit like "The EdenPure Infraread Heater"; "Dr. Frank Ryan's Abdominal Fat Reducer"; "Arthri-Zen Topical Joint-Pain Reliever"; and "Slim And Cleanse Colon Health Complete."  The company has long held an "F" rating from the Canton BBB, but still manages to sell boatloads of its snake oil to dumbasses across the country.

In 2011, the State of California sued SCI for deceptive marketing practices and sale of unapproved drugs and devices.  The case was settled in January 2014 when Suarez agreed to pay $1.8 million in restitution and damages.

At trial right now is a 10-count federal case, in which Suarez is accused of illegal 2012 campaign contributions to Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel and U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, and of obstruction of justice.

Suarez asked/required certain SCI employees and their spouses to donate the $5000 individual maximum to both Mandel and Renacci, after which the company would reimburse them.  Not only illegal, but none too subtle either -- most of these employees had never sent a nickel to any candidate before, but now they're suddenly stroking checks for $5000.

Suarez then tried to leverage those contributions in an attempt to derail the California case.  He asked Mandel to write to the California authorities to protest the SCI lawsuit.  Young Josh, who attended a fundraiser at Suarez's home in 2011, did just that.  He even threatened to sue California if it didn't back off.

Mandel also wrote to Renacci, who in turn emailed Ohio Gov. John Kasich to share Suarez's complaints about the California case, and asked Kasich to call California Gov. Jerry Brown.  Evidently, Kasich himself did nothing, but, out of the blue, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted phoned California A.G. Kamala Harris on Suarez's behalf, and Kasich's chief counsel Michael Grodhaus sent Harris a letter asking her to review the case.

Suarez has said he was not making contributions so as to influence the California suit; he was merely doing his part to help overturn Obamacare.  ;)

In February 2013, after the FBI began looking into his campaign contributions, Suarez had his HR director send a rambling, 4-page letter to Kasich to bitch about the fed's "malicious prosecution" and to claim, bizarrely, "the fact that Barack Obama received hundreds of millions in donations from overseas by untraceable pre-paid credit cards."  (Probably from a Nigerian prince!  LOL!)

In October 2013, a SCI marketing executive committed suicide the day before he was to testify about Suarez to a grand jury.

In May 2014, the company's CFO, Michael Giorgio, pleaded guilty to violating federal campaign finance law and agreed to testify against Suarez.

In the past two days, Suarez's lawyers have tried to subpoena Kasich, Husted, Renacci, and Lt. Gov. Mike DeWine to testify on behalf of their client.  They say Suarez was just another "constituent reaching out to his elected officials."  Right.  Reaching out with $200,00 of illegal grease.  Kasich et al. have refused the subpoenas and are treating Suarez like a pariah, which he essentially is.

He may be innocent on some counts, but he's guilty on enough of 'em.  Benjamin Suarez's next place of residence will be a federal penitentiary somewhere.  Exactly where he should be.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Stuff White People Say

All in good fun!

"If Asians Said The Stuff White People Say"

"If Black People Said The Stuff White People Say"

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Putting The "Fun" In Funeral

We all gotta go sometime.  But if you've recently shuffled off this mortal coil and still can't stand to say good bye, you may be a candidate for the latest fad in memorial tributes:  Attending your own funeral.

As an article in today's NY Times explained, some people are refusing to take their own death lying down.  Hot spots for the trend seem to be New Orleans and Puerto Rico.

Here is Miriam Burbank of New Orleans, dead at the age of 53, posed for her own funeral service sitting at a table with her cigarettes and wine, and a can of Busch beer.  Behind her is a big flat screen and a bottle of Jack Daniels.  The article said this was "how she had spent a good number of her living days" (which probably had a lot to do with why her days ended at age 53).

Puerto Rico gives us Chris Rivera, a former boxer refusing to go down for the count, and Georgina Chervony, whose beloved old rocking chair rocks no more.  But they both showed up for their own services, and the photo-ops are both obvious and kinda creepy.

Back to NOLA for Mary Easterling, who went to her own funeral channeling Dame Edna -- feather boa, champagne, and cigarette in hand.  You look mah-velous, dahling!

Even rural Ohioans are getting into the act.  Here is Bill Standley of Mechanicsburg, at the conclusion of his service, about to be permanently planted sitting on his motorcycle, inside a huge plexiglass "coffin".

On one hand, I love the humor, honesty and irreverence of the Miriam-style memorial -- "Yeah, it's still me, honey, just doin' the usual".  On the other hand, if everybody insists on being buried in a small condo like Mr. Standley, the entire planet will turn into a giant cemetery in no time, and there will be no room for anything else.

Go out with a party, but don't attend.  And skip the cemetery.  Ashes to ashes.


Friday, June 20, 2014

John Oliver Nails It On Net Neutrality

From HBO's Last Week Tonight.  John Oliver's explanation of net neutrality is bust-a-gut funny and absolutely true.  An instant classic!  At 13 minutes, the video runs a little long, but let's face it -- we've all wasted 13 minutes here and there on things which are less important.  Unless your name is Verizon, you will not regret watching.

Oliver ends with an appeal to all of us to go to the FCC's website and file a public comment on this issue, saying:

"I would like to address all the internet commenters out there directly:    Good evening, monsters.  For once in your life, we need you to focus your indiscriminate rage in a useful direction."

I recently filed my comment with the FCC, and if you don't mind my asking, you should too, please.  There is still time.  Use this link:
www.fcc.gov/comments and click on Proceeding 14-28.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Perfect Solution To The Redskins Problem

The U.S. Patent Office will not renew patent and trademark protections for the name and logo of the NFL's Washington Redskins, citing the "disparaging of Native Americans".  It will cost the team some merchandising money, but doesn't mean the team must necessarily change its name.  Owner Dan Snyder is stubbornly appealing the decision, but he ought to drop the appeal, change the name, and join the 21st century. 

Sports team nicknames based on American Indians/Native Americans were once fairly common, but the heyday was 100 years ago, give or take.  Back then, the names were intended as an honorific, highlighting the courage and bravery of Native American tribes. Of course, all this honor-naming was done by old white men who never asked any real Indians what they thought.  (If you were a Native American living back then, you were a survivor of a recently-concluded genocide, happy just to be breathing, and probably not too concerned with what those damn white people called their sports teams.)  

But what was once acceptable and cool can gradually turn offensive and pathetically out of touch, e.g. using the "N" word, smoking, mullets and Zubazz pants.  Native American groups began to speak out and express their displeasure at the use of Indian names and imagery in the sports world.  They didn't see it as an "honor", and given the prevalence of white people in "Indian" costumes whooping and tomahawk-chopping at ball games across the country, you could understand their point.

High schools and colleges took the hint and started ridding themselves of Native American references.  The Syracuse Orangemen became the Orange; the Stanford Redmen are now the Cardinal; the St. John's Redmen are the Red Storm.  A few holdouts remain:  the Florida State Seminoles, the Central Michigan Chippewas.

There are still a handful in the pro ranks:  MLB's Cleveland Indians and Atlanta Braves; the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks; the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs and, of course, the Redskins.  In reverse order of notoriety:

5.  The Chiefs employ an arrowhead on their helmets, but that's about it for their aboriginal imagery.

4.  The Blackhawks logo is a basic, rather child-like, line-drawing of an Indian head in profile.

3.  The Braves have phased out their old war-whooping Indian logo, said goodbye to mascot Chief Nok-A-Homa and his tepee in the bleachers.  (After a homer, the Chief would come out of his tent and do a dance.)  The Braves still sometimes work a tomahawk into their logo, and their fans remain fond of the tomahawk chop.

2.  With the Cleveland Indians, the big problem is their Chief Wahoo logo -- the goofy cartoon caricature with its crazily grinning "Chief" has been in use for decades, and has been a sore spot for Native Americans for just as long.  They say the image is degrading, and it's kinda hard to disagree.  The team is finally phasing out Chief Wahoo in favor of a block "C", but he still shows up on a sleeve or helmet from time to time.  (Full disclosure:  Your humble correspondent owns two Wahoo caps, a tee-shirt and even swim trunks.  Hey, Cleveland is my team!)

1.  Most notorious are the Redskins, primarily for the name.  To my knowledge, they are the only sports team named literally for a skin color.  Why not pick a different epidermal shade?  How about the Washington White Supremacists?  The Washington Rhythmic Black Boys?  The Yellow Mathematicians?  The Gross Racial Stereotypes?  C'mon!

It's time for Snyder and his lawyers to give up this fight.  The longer he drags it out, the more he looks like Donald Sterling.  And that's not a good look.  Danny, here's my advice -- pick a new name and logo, get your patent/trademark protections, and start marketing the hell out of your team's new identity.  Don't be a putz!  You have a successful NFL franchise in our nation's capital.  You'll be just fine.

The history of American sports has many examples of a team changing its name, not because of a geographical move (e.g. the Browns turned into the Ravens), but just because somebody thought the name should change:

In football, the Chicago Staleys are now the Bears.  The New York Titans are the Jets.

In basketball, the Washington Bullets traded ammo for magic and are now the Wizards.

In baseball, the New York Highlanders became the Yankees.  The Brooklyn Superbas turned into the Brooklyn Trolley Dodgers, then just the Dodgers.  The Boston Beaneaters changed into the Boston Braves.  The Cleveland Spiders are now the Indians.  The Houston Colt .45's (logo featuring a smoking gun) are the Astros.

Shit happens and things change.  Washington's NFL team needs a new name.  Since the current D.C. baseball team is known as the Nationals, I suggest the football team go with the old leftover baseball name, the Washington Senators.  (Old baseball joke:  "Washington -- first in war, first in peace, last in the American League.")

Those who don't feel like honoring our lawmakers with the Senators name may prefer the Washington Gridlocks.  Has a certain ring to it!

But wait!  An old friend has the perfect solution to this problem:

Keep the name, and change the logo to a potato!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

I'd Say She's Done A Lot

I love my friends.  Some of my friends are acutely conservative, which only goes to show that I'm an equal-opportunity kinda guy, able to tolerate large quantities of baloney in the service of polite social discourse.

So four of us are standing around at someone's graduation party last Saturday night.  It was near midnight, and beer had been involved.  Somehow, the topic of Hillary Clinton came up. (I swear it wasn't me.)

The lovely Mrs. Gammons said something positive about Mrs. Clinton as a Presidential candidate.  The one R in our small circle of the moment, a guy I genuinely like, who has a multitude of redeeming qualities, but whom I sometimes refer to as "Little Rush", responded predictably -- with volume and anger.  (You learn that early from conservative squawk radio and TV -- when in doubt, get loud and shout 'em down.)  

"Hillary Clinton?" roared Little Rush.  "You wouldn't be stupid enough to vote for her, would you?  What has Hillary Clinton ever done?"  He also made some derogatory statement about her ankles, of all things.  Ankles?

It was late, I was dead-tired and in no mood to engage.  We split for home.

But now I'd like to reply.  Little Rush, your clear implication was that Hillary Clinton was somehow lacking in Presidential qualifications, that she has done nothing.

Hillary Clinton is a graduate of Wellesley College (and its only student commencement speaker) and the Yale Law School.  She was a partner in a law firm, the First Lady of Arkansas, the First Lady of the United States, a U.S. Senator, a Democratic Presidential primary candidate, and the U.S. Secretary of State.

That's a fairly hefty resume, Sport.  If that's unqualified, if that's doing "nothing," then I'm the friggin' Queen of England!  And who, from your undisclosed location under the Fox Dome, do you offer as a better, more qualified, done-something candidate?

Rand Paul?  Chris Christie?  Marco Rubio?  Paul Ryan?  Ted Cruz?  Mitt Romney (again)?  Scott Walker?  Rick Perry?  Mike Huckabee?  Bobby Jindal?  Icky Ricky Santorum?  Jeb (Another) Bush?

Te-hee!  In the timeless words of John McEnroe, you cannot be serious!!  LOL!      

Troops Back In Iraq? I Hope It's The Mayflower Brigade

Jesus Pete, we're sending troops back into Iraq!!  OK, not that many -- 275 or so, some as "advisors", some as embassy security.  But still, what's the point?

It's crystal-clear that George W. Bush's daddy-issues led to a long-term illegitimate war and an ill-advised exercise in nation-building.  President Obama did his best to clean up the other guy's mess, abided by the other guy's agreement, and got the hell out in 2011.  Good!

But now suddenly the ancient religious hostilities have flared up again and everyone in Iraq has gone crazier than shit-house rats.  I'm sorry for their troubles and all their violence against each other, but it's time for these people to stew in their own juice.  It's not our problem anymore.  (It never was to begin with.)

So here's hoping those troops redeployed to Iraq show up with Mayflower vans.  Let's pack up the embassy, wish everyone good luck, and go home for good.

Lies And Made-Up B.S. = Free Speech?

That's what a couple of arch-conservative organizations claim.  They say an Ohio election law banning false statements during campaigns is unconstitutional, and they'll test that theory with U.S. District Court Judge Tim Black.  The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to let the lawsuit proceed.

Back in 2010, a right-tard group put up a billboard accusing U.S. Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-Cincinnati) of "supporting taxpayer-funded abortions" by virtue of his vote for Obamacare. Say what?  Driehaus complained to the Ohio Elections Commission, which agreed the statement was bogus and the billboard violated Ohio law.

But now the lawyer currently bringing suit says he wants "to have this law invalidated so we can speak in the way the First Amendment intended."

Most reasonable people believe the First Amendment is wonderful but does indeed intend some limits to so-called free speech.  Slander, libel, yelling "fire" when there is none, etc.  Today's hard-core righties want no limits:  "It's my right to lie, cheat, and make shit up to further my own interests."  I hope they lose their case.

You see the same attitude everyday on social media.  Someone "likes" or "shares" some hateful nonsense from, say, Ted Nugent or some other nitwit.  If you dare to post a reply that calls bullshit on the stupidity, you're instantly condemned as un-American, someone who doesn't "believe in" free speech.    


Is it any wonder I'm so leery of starting a neighborhood Facebook page?

This Week In Voter Suppression

(I stole the title from Melissa Harris Perry, but it was stolen with the utmost respect.  So please don't sue me, MHP.  And my topic is actually from last week, not this week.)

Here in Ohio, Republicans tried to justify their cut-backs in early voting opportunities by touting the supposed importance of "uniformity".  Could have achieved uniformity with expanded early voting hours, but no, they insisted on protecting us from non-existent fraud by slashing hours, not adding them.  Among the casualties were the three days just before Election Day.

Except the R's preserved those three voting days for military personnel, while eliminating them for everyone else.  That Saturday-Sunday-Monday was very popular with lots of in-person voters, especially black churches with their "souls to the polls" efforts.  Not to get stereotypical, but that demographic tends to vote Democratic.  And military tends to vote Republican.  What a coincidence.

U.S. District Court Judge Peter Economus said it was more than just a coincidence and issued a permanent court order restoring the three day early voting period.  Atta boy, Judge!

The GOP can't even cheat properly.

Friday, June 13, 2014

John McCain Stays True To Form

Sen. John McCain says we "won" in Iraq.  He blames the current Sunni vs. Shiite sectarian battle in Iraq on . . . wait for it . . . President Obama.  He says Obama's troop withdrawal jeopardized our "victory".  McCain says we should have left a "residual" American military presence in Iraq, like we still have in Germany, Japan and South Korea.  He wants to fire all of Obama's military advisers and restore order in Iraq with renewed military action -- The Surge, Part II.

What exactly did we win in Iraq?  When did we win it?  Remind me again why we ever went there in the first place.

The rift between Sunni Muslims and Shiite Muslims is thousands of years old, and transcends modern notions of nations, borders and governments.  You think some Muslims hate Christians and Jews?  Just wait 'til they get hatin' on other Muslims!

Comparing Iraq with Germany, Japan and South Korea is ridiculous.  Those are grown-up countries -- stable, developed, secular democracies.  They are our natural allies.  By contrast, much of the Middle East is still tribal, and obsessed with religious fanaticism and jealousy.  (Religion is just so helpful, isn't it?)

Poor John.  He's consistently ignorant of history and convinced that military force solves all problems.  McCain's lingering bitterness over the Viet Nam experience (both his and ours) is so obvious.  His hunger for just one more decisive American military victory -- just like his grand-daddy had -- has animated his entire political career and clouded his vision.

I'm so glad we didn't elect John McCain to be President in 2008.  Not only would he have made Sarah Palin our Vice President, he'd have started World War III.

Not sure which would have been worse.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Portman's Email Request; Our Reply

Yesterday, out of the blue, the lovely Mrs. Gammons received this email from our Republican Senator, Rob Portman.  Our reply follows below.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Condemn President Obama’s illegal prisoner release
From: Rob Portman <robportman@robportman.com>
To: bankergirl_43235@.com

President Obama broke two separate federal laws when he released five high-level Taliban operatives from Guantanamo Bay without notifying Congress. Earlier this week, I introduced a resolution in the United States Senate condemning the illegal transfer and putting Congress on the record to hold the Obama Administration accountable.
Sponsor Senator
Portman's Resolution Today!

Thousands of Americans from across the country have joined the cause, urging Congress to pass my resolution in the Senate. Add your name to the effort by becoming a Citizen Co-Sponsor of my resolution today.

Together, we can stand up to this abuse of executive power and help make Washington understand that nobody is above the law.
All best,

Rob Portman


June 12, 2014

Senator Rob Portman
Washington, D.C.

Senator Portman:

Thanks for sending the above email to my wife, Kathy, urging her to "condemn President Obama's illegal prisoner release

You may not know that you and Kathy were once K-thru-4th grade classmates at Kilgour Elementary in Mount Lookout, Ohio.  You clearly don't know that you sent your email to a houseful of registered Democrats.  (Doesn't say much for whoever is managing your database.)

Those Kilgour days were long ago.  Kathy, like most of your classmates, enjoys a typical middle-class, working-parent existence.  You've led a life of upper-class privilege at the Golden Lamb and the country clubs of Terrace Park and Hyde Park.  Nothing necessarily wrong with that, but different paths teach different lessons.

We've learned long ago that you and your party do not have our best interests at heart.  We've learned that you're just a craven opportunist -- ready to support gay rights only after your son comes out; ready to pose as a hard-ass only after Eric Cantor gets Tea-Bagged in a primary.

We support the prisoner exchange.  We brought our man home.  Would you really have wanted another outcome?  Time was of the essence and President Obama made an executive decision.  We believe it was the right one.  We support our President.  Your call to "condemn" him is highly offensive -- a very poor word choice, Senator.

By the way, if we're counting laws supposedly "broken", it's hard to top your former boss George W. Bush.  He lied to America and he lied to the United Nations in order to prosecute an illegitimate war in Iraq -- tens of thousands dead, torture, war crimes, warrantless wiretapping, illegal firing of U.S. Attorneys, and on and on.  Pretty impressive.  According to the Boston Globe, during his tenure, George W. broke at least 750 laws.

Where was your "condemnation" then?  Why did you not stand up to that "abuse of executive power"?  

In closing, Senator Rob, we'd like to say:

1.  The photo of those bearded bad guys was really scary.  If they wore bandanas, they could be the cast of Duck Dynasty.
2.  "Common sense" is two words, not one.

We will certainly not be co-sponsoring your silly resolution.

All Best,

Robert G. Jacobsen (aka Buster Gammons)

Kathleen McTigue Jacobsen (aka The Lovely Mrs. Gammons)

John G. Jacobsen (aka Buster Junior)

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Problem Is Stupid People

(From "Kentucky Death Match" by Mark Binelli, in the 5/22/14 issue of Rolling Stone.)

The popularity of Kentucky's Democratic Governor Steve Beshear has soared with the success of Kynect, the state-run healthcare exchange established under the terms of the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare.  One of 12 Kentuckians has enrolled, which Beshear attributes to an aggressive outreach program and a no-frills, easy-to-navigate website.

"We knew that our audience was not going to be the highest-educated.  So we made the website pretty simple and direct," said Beshear.

And yet a majority of Kentucky voters also tell pollsters they oppose Obamacare.  Gov. Beshear tells a story of a guy who "listened intently" to a pitch from a government rep about Kynect at the state fair -- after which the constituent raved, "Man, this is great!  This is so much better than Obamacare!"


Two-Point Nutshell Analysis Of Eric Cantor's Stunning Defeat

Dave Brat's campaign manager?
1.  When only 12% of voters turn out for an election, anything can happen.  This is why the far-right prefers low voter turnout and modern-day voter suppression laws.  They know the nut-job zealots will always show up to vote (they have nothing else to do), and the low numbers improve their odds and make them look more influential than they really are.

2.  Evidently, in rural white Virginia, hating Mexicans is still a thing.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Political Brat Defeated By Actual Brat

The loonies are on the loose in Virginia!  And they vote!

In a huge surprise, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va) has just been defeated in the state's GOP primary.  Cantor, a whiny, ambitious political brat, lost to an actual brat -- an unknown Tea Bag college professor named Dave Brat.

Cantor, a 7-term Congressman assumed to be the heir-apparent to House Speaker John Boehner, outspent Brat 40-to-1, but still Brat took 55% of the vote by claiming Cantor was for "amnesty" for illegal immigrants, and was just not conservative enough.

This is a mind-blowing, historic upset.  The incumbent House Majority Leader has never, ever been defeated in a primary before.

Don't know who the D's are running for this District, but the win by the ultra-right Brat could represent a good opportunity to pick up a seat in the House.

I mean, c'mon Virginians!  You don't wanna be represented by a Brat, do ya?

Global Warming Proved By Underwear!

A Little Perspective On The VA

The Veterans Administration is dealing with a well-publicized problem.  Some of our servicemen and women requesting medical appointments are experiencing unusually long wait-times before the appointment is granted.  New findings show that 57,000 veterans have waited at least 90 ninety days before seeing the doctor.  And several VA offices have falsified their wait-time records.

It's unacceptable and embarrassing.  I just don't understand why a person must wait 90 days to see a doctor.  We owe our vets better than that.  It's easy pickins for talking heads and cartoonists, but it's not some sinister conspiracy, as the scandal-mongers would have you believe.  It appears to be a case of middle managers retroactively fudging some dates to make their offices, and themselves, look better.

Worked like this:   Today, someone requests a medical appointment immediately/ASAP, but for some reason, things are slow and the appointment doesn't occur until 60 days from today.  After the fact, a VA clerk re-opens the file and changes the appointment request date from what it was -- immediately -- to when it actually happened, making it appear that the individual requested an appointment 60 days hence, got it, and -- voila! -- no wait time.  Aren't we efficient?

No, we're not.  But we're not horrible, either.  The VA handles most of its business in a fairly satisfactory manner.  True, there are 57,000 applicants waiting "long-term".  Who knows why?  But last month the VA processed 6 million appointment requests.

It's too slow and it's not right, but those waiting long-term represent less than one percent of the total.  Not much, but still too much.

"Oh, And Here Are Two More Things We're Against."

The list of things they oppose is lengthy:  civil rights, voting rights, women's rights, Social Security, Medicare, health care for everyone, environmental regulation, safeguards against gun violence, immigration reform, etc., etc.

Now the Party of No has added two more things they don't like -- healthier standards for school lunches, and any sort of student loan relief.

Michelle Obama led the push for improved school nutrition standards, including less fat and sugar, and more protein and whole grains.  It was passed into law in 2010.  But ever since, House Republicans have been trying to unwind it and delay its implementation.  Their stated reason for opposition?  Compliance is "too costly" and kids won't eat the new menu items.  The real reason?  The Republicans are up to their eyeballs in high-fructose corn syrup.  They've taken decades of campaign cash from the likes of ConAgra and PepsiCo, and have promised to do their bidding.

Barack Obama just signed a Executive Order permitting student loan repayment to be limited to 10% of one's income.  Elizabeth Warren just introduced a Senate bill which would allow student loans to be refinanced at lower interest rates. Student loans are notoriously hard to get rid of if you can't repay.  Warren wants to improve the odds of repayment with lower rates, which mean lower payments.  She would fund the refi effort with a minimum tax on incomes over $1 million.  (You know the GOP hates that!)  Republicans are opposed, saying both Obama's Executive Order and Warren's bill fail to address the core problem, which is the high cost of college tuition.

College tuition is expensive.  One of the primary drivers of ever-increasing costs is the proliferation of proprietary "schools" like Strayer, Phoenix and Full Sail.  These for-profit colleges have ridiculously high tuition and pathetically low graduation rates.  Student loans are a big part of their business plan -- saddle unsuspecting kids with tens of thousands of dollars of debt right out of high school, and if the kids can't hack it academically or financially, well, too bad.  The school made its money up front.  Republicans have long been championing this sort of racket as the free-market version of higher education, so they are wary of anything that might upset the for-profit-college apple cart.  And as for a Buffet Rule automatic tax on a million bucks or more,well, that's just out of the question, whatever the purpose.  Mustn't ask our job creators to invest a nickel in education.

The GOP may be against damn near everything, but there's one thing they're always for:  lower taxes on rich people.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Will The Right Call The Millers "Terrorists"?

Good riddance!  Should have killed yourselves sooner. 
Jerad and Amanda Miller are the Las Vegas killers who murdered three people, including two cops, before offing themselves.  They draped the dead bodies with swastikas and "Don't Tread On Me Flags."  They were racist Tea Bag assholes obsessed with violent overthrow of the government.  They were chicken-shit bastards, loads theirs mothers should've swallowed.

Their Facebook page was full of hatred, paranoia and insanity.  Among their FB "likes" and "shares":

Freedom Works, Generation Opportunity, Americans For Prosperity (Dick Armey, Tea Party, Koch bros.), American Crossroads, American Center For Law and Justice, Newsbusters.Org (Karl Rove, and two heavy Fox News contributors), NRA, Rand Paul, Alex Jones, Heritage Foundation (yeah, them too.)  You like that sort of stuff?  Think it's smart?

Will any of these fine patriotic groups call out the Millers for what they were -- stupid, delusional terrorists?  Will Fox News say it?  (Benghazi!)

Not a chance.

The GOP and their toadies refuse to denounce these lunatics because they desperately need every last nut-job to vote for them.  Beyond that, they don't much care.

You say that's not you?  That's not your Republican Party?  OK, if you really mean it, then get real and don't vote for the bastards ever again.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Mountains Of Horse Crap

In a recent post about the EPA's carbon emissions proposal, I wrote that "energy policy is undergoing a natural evolution born of knowledge and necessity,"  and gave a couple analogies.  My brother-in-law just sent me an article about another surprising illustration of the principle -- the adoption of the automobile.

The dawning of the Age of the Automobile was more than 100 years ago.  What was the impetus behind the newfangled horseless carriage with its internal combustion engine?  Innovation?  Convenience?  Fun?  Sure.  But the automobile was also a reaction to a world-wide pollution problem of that era -- too many horses.

Here are a few excerpts, followed by the link to the full article.  It's a good read.  Thanks, Mic!

"In 1898, delegates from across the globe gathered in New York City for the world's first international urban planning conference.  One topic dominated the discussion.  Horse manure."  

"In 1894, the Times of London estimated that by 1950 every street in the city would be buried nine feet deep in horse manure."

"Vacant lots in New York were piled 60 feet high with horse manure."

"A fallen horse would be shot on the spot and abandoned.  Carcasses rotted in the streets."

"At the time, the private automobile was widely hailed as an environmental savior."


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Thoughts On The Release of Bowe Bergdahl

Semi-famous POW Bowe Bergdahl was finally released after 5 years in Afghan captivity.  A cause for happiness, one would think.  But some conservatives are most unhappy about it, and of course, it's all Obama's fault.  (They will not give the man credit for any-damn-thing.)

What's their beef?

1.  We negotiated with "terrorists," and we just don't do that.
2.  We traded 5 Gitmo bad guys for one soldier, which sets a bad precedent and encourages more hostage-taking.
3.  This prisoner exchange was "illegal."  Congress was supposed to be notified 30 days in advance.
4.  Bergdahl was a deserter and a traitor.

My responses to these complaints, in order:

1.  Oh please!  Every nation "negotiates" in these cases, even if they say they don't.  Prisoner exchanges are routine diplomacy.  The Israelis have been known to trade 100 for one.  The French just write checks to spring their captive citizens.  Reagan sent 1500 missiles to Iran to free 7 hostages held in Lebanon.

2.  Would trading just 3 or 4 bad guys have been better?  There are plenty of assholes in this world who need absolutely no "encouragement" to take an American hostage, and they're not influenced in the slightest by this supposed "precedent".

3.  Hey, sorry about that, Congress.  Did we hurt your feelings?  What were you going to do -- say no?  Debate it for the next two years?  Have another Darrell Issa circus?  If there was ever a Congress that deserved the end-run, it's this one.  So fuckin' sue me!

4.  Where has all this "Bowe's a bum" stuff been for the past 5 years?  Why is it coming out now?  It's all just too Swift Boat-ish for me -- another pre-fab "scandal" pulled from the far-right trick bag.  Maybe Bergdahl walked off, maybe he didn't.  Maybe he was disillusioned with the Afghan "war" (and what a reasonable thing to be disillusioned about), maybe he wasn't.  Given that he was imprisoned, starved, mistreated, and possibly tortured for 5 years, maybe it doesn't really matter now.  And if he did desert, were we supposed to just leave him there forever?  The one person we haven't heard from is Bergdahl himself.

We will bring our man home, which is what we're supposed to do.  If he was my son, I'd want him home, no matter what.

Chill on all the wild-eyed speculation.  We'll go from here, and time will tell.

Nuts To You, Speaker Bonehead!

Yesterday, EPA Secretary Gina McCarthy announced a proposed initiative to reduce power plant carbon emissions by 30% by 2030.  This would be the first-ever federal limitation imposed on carbon pollution produced by existing power plants, which are the single largest source of carbon-based pollution.  Most electricity in the U.S. comes from coal-burning power plants.

Weeper of the House John Boehner was predictably singing from the Big Coal/Big Energy hymnal when he said, "The president's plan is nuts."  I've found that if the Orange Boner is vehemently opposed to something, then it's probably a good idea.  So I'm convinced that Boehner's determination to preserve the  status quo is what's actually nuts.  Continued blind-faith reliance on fossil fuels is what's actually nuts.  Erecting barriers to alternative energy sources is what's actually nuts.  (Here in Ohio, SB 310 is what's actually nuts.)

There's no such thing as "clean coal."  That's kind of like a "safe cigarette" -- just marketing bullshit.  Coal-burning power plants are on their way out, and the sooner the better.  In the short-run, there will probably be more natural gas-burning power plants (friggin' frackers, rejoice!).  Gas is cleaner than coal, but it still emits carbon, it still adds to global warming, and it's still a non-renewable fossil fuel.  It's preferable to coal in the same way getting smacked in the face once is preferable to getting smacked in the face twice.

The energy future is wind and solar.  Boehner and the righties want to scare us into postponing that future.  The transition away from coal will, they say (and stop me if you've heard this one before), raise prices and cost jobs.  Pretty scary, right?  So let's be safe and do absolutely nothing.

Jobs lost in the non-renewable, carbon-emitting energy industry will be more than offset by job growth in the New Energy future.  It costs less to generate electricity with wind and solar than with coal/gas-burning installations.  To deny these facts is to live in a dream world and delay the inevitable.  The EPA's proposal is a good start.  Let's get on with it.

Joe Manchin can piss and moan all he wants, but if he really believes West Virginia is going to dig coal eternally, then he's nuts.  Energy policy is undergoing a natural evolution born of knowledge and necessity.  One analogy might be the states whose economies were once heavily dependent on tobacco farming.  Another older one might be those states whose economies were once utterly reliant on slave labor.  Those economies thrived for awhile, but then, for a whole lot of really good reasons, they didn't.

Those states didn't shrivel and die.  They adapted to new realities and moved on, and were better for it.  To do otherwise would be . . . nuts!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Workin' At The Car Wash

A couple days ago, I went to a nearby car wash.  It's one of those old-school places where, from behind glass, you can watch your car go through the wash line.  The workers vacuum the interior, wipe it all down inside and out, clean the windows, and ArmorAll the tires -- all while you sit there and watch them sweat.  If you opt for the full treatment, it's about a $25 service.  Not cheap, but they do a very good job.

The car which went through just before mine was a late 1980's/early 1990's mid-size GM station wagon, and it was a real beater -- peeled paint, dented fenders, bent hubcaps, broken-taped-up taillights, and nasty rusted-through rear quarter panels.  Not the sort of car you see everyday at a nice car wash.

Anyway, when they finally drive your car outside for the final dry-off, most of the real work is over and it's pretty much for show.  When the guy with the rag signals that he's finished, you're supposed to tip him, for Chrissakes.  And I'm watching the owner of this broken-down wagon tell the rag man that his wipe-down job wasn't good enough -- missed a drip here and there, and how about hand-drying this jagged, rusty metal right here?  And I'm thinking, with this piece of shit car, what does it matter?  Really, why are you here?

The rag man dutifully hit those spots, and Mr. Picky-Ass hopped in his clunker and drove off without a word, and without a tip.

Nothing wrong with an old car.  Drive whatever you like.  Nothing wrong with taking your old car to the car wash.  But not tipping the guy who busted his butt cleaning your vehicle?  Wrong!  

Two Great Lines of Last Week

These days, we can all choose from an ever-larger, damn near infinite smorgasbord of news bits, sound bites, and nuggets of spin/info.  If you can't find something that suits you and matches your worldview, your just not tryin'.

My personal faves from the past week:

"Just because we have the best hammer doesn't mean every problem is a nail." -- President Barack Obama, from a West Point speech, outlining his "don't do stupid shit" foreign policy.  

"There is a difference between unanswered questions and unlistened-to answers." -- Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in the Benghazi chapter of her new book Hard Choices.

15 Minutes? His Was Up Years Ago

Not Joe.  Not a plumber.
His name is not really Joe, and he's not really a plumber.  He caused a brief stir as an audience plant way back in the 2008 McCain campaign.  Since then, he's been a failed candidate for public office and a fringe right-wing agitator.

He's Sam Wurzelbacher, a.k.a. Joe the Plumber.  For some unknown reason, he recently crawled out from under his rock to submit an open letter to the grieving families of the Santa Barbara shooter.  He wanted them to know that "their dead kids don't trump my constitutional rights" to possess and carry guns.

Nice choice of words, asshole!  Back under your rock, Sam/Joe/whoever you are.