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

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Fox's Ferguson Fatigue

To counteract all the media attention focused on the events in Ferguson, MO, Fox News is devoting itself to 24/7 ginned-up outrage about all the media coverage.

In Fox's view, the media (i.e. everyone but them) has "played the race card" and "inflamed racial tensions" by merely reporting the facts of the story, and everything would have been so much better if it was never reported at all and everybody just shut up.

Their take on the matter:

"We're tired of hearing about racism.  Don't you black people know that slavery is over?  We gave you your freedom.  You can vote and go to school and hold a job, just like us.  OK, an unarmed black teen with his hands up was shot six times by a white cop.  That's not racism, that's just the way the cookie crumbles.  Stop whining!"

To paraphrase Jon Stewart:

If the privileged white pundits at Roger Ailes' Fear Factory are so tired of hearing about racism, imagine how fucking exhausting it must be to live with it every day.

Happy Labor Day From John Kasich

The latest campaign ad for John Kasich features "Lieutenant Steve", a pretend police officer with no last name and no uniform, just a blue shirt and a mustache.

Lt. Steve begins by reminding us that when Kasich took office, "He upset a lot of working people, including me."  Yes, Kasich said cops were idiots, said he was at war against public employees and their unions, wanted to cut your pay and benefits, and take away your labor rights.  I can imagine how "upset" -- not to mention violently pissed off -- you must have been.

Then Lt. Steve turns strangely forgiving, saying that Kasich is tough but OK, because "he listened."  Listened to who?  Union-busters, the Koch brothers, frackers, coal companies, Rupert Murdoch, and the ghost of Ayn Rand.  He sure as hell didn't listen to working people like you, Lt. Steve!  He tried to crush you, but since our repeal of his SB 5 allowed the continued protection of your rights and wages and benefits, now you say you're going to vote for him because . . .

"Before Kasich, Ohio was a mess."  Non-specific and highly debatable, but if you're referring to the financial crisis caused by the Great Crash of 2008 (Thanks, Dubya!), then every state was in the same mess.  And just like other states, Ohio -- and John Kasich -- has benefited from our steady national economic recovery.  Largely a matter of good timing.

So what did the Wonder Guv supposedly do for you?  "Kasich's tax cuts help the middle class."   Oh please, cut the crap!  There's no help to the middle class.  He gave us a small income tax cut, which primarily benefits businesses and higher incomes.  He simultaneously gave us a state sales tax increase, which is detrimental to the middle class and lower incomes.

"Kasich's tough."  My dear, dumb, fake Lt. Steve -- you're mistaking rigid, axiomatic ideology for toughness.

Three years ago, John Kasich's attempted union-busting blew up in his face at the polls, and he couldn't have been elected dog catcher.  But now, thanks mainly to weak opposition, he'll be reelected without breaking a sweat.  A pity.  Voters have such short memories.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Meanwhile, In the Alternate Universe of Fox News . . .

Fox & Friends' Steve Doocy with Linda Chavez, chyron 'Media Bias: Is 'Unarmed Teen' Description Misleading?'

Fox & Friends morning show host Steve Doocy recently asked right-tard columnist Linda Chavez if calling Michael Brown an "unarmed teen" was a misleading description.  This has to be one of the most fact-defying questions ever!

Chavez said, well yeah, because "the description of 'the unarmed teen shot by a white cop' actually colors the way in which we look at this story.  We're talking about a man [Brown] who is 6'4" and weighs almost 300 pounds."  Doocy nodded vigorously in agreement.

She never said how the story should be described, but her point was that a big scary black man without a gun actually is armed because he's still, you know, a big scary black man.  He's armed with himself.  He's his own weapon.

The text on the screen shot says "Media Bias,"  and it's filthy home is Fox News.  It is their reason for being.  We should not expect any more from a show whose host is named for a bowel movement.

The Shooting Range Accident

A nine year old girl at an Arizona shooting range lost control of her Uzi machine gun and accidentally killed her instructor, who was standing beside her.

It's a tragedy for the people involved, and the obvious question, already asked by many, is:

Why put an Uzi in the hands of a 9 year-old girl?  Why?

There are other questions:

Why put an Uzi in the hands of anyone?  (Exceptions for military and police.)
Why is it legal for the general public to possess, let alone use, an Uzi?
Why are there shooting ranges where Uzis and other military weapons can be fired?  By anyone?
Why do some people think this promotes "self-defense" or "safety"?  (Sure wasn't too safe for that poor instructor.)
Why do some people think firing a machine gun is "fun"?  (The instructor isn't having fun now, nor is the little girl.)
Why do some people insist that all this safe, fun gun shooting is their "right"?
Why do some people feel the need to provocatively parade around and openly carry their assault weapons wherever they go?

Please don't talk to me about the wholesome family bonding that occurs when dear old dad and little Timmy and little Susie grab their rifles and go hunting together.  That's not the issue or the problem.

The problem is that the NRA and its ilk have pandered to far-right wing-nut paranoia for so long that everything is twisted and, for too many, insanity now seems reasonable.  Any common-sense line in the sand about who ought to have what has been erased.

Nine-year-olds with Uzis?  The 2nd Amendment says yes!  Then why stop there?  Why not ten-year-olds with B-52 bombers?  Why not eleven-year-olds with nuclear weapons?

Our American gun policies are insane.

The Essential Pete Rose

Some people feel that career hits leader Pete Rose has been punished enough and that his lifetime ban from baseball should be lifted, so that he might be inducted into the Hall of Fame.  Sportswriter Michael Arace (the best writer in the only worthwhile section of the Columbus Dispatch) had a great article in today's paper.  Arace says that, for all his accomplishments, Rose is still lying in the bed of his own making:

"In the quarter-century since he was nailed, Rose has ignored nearly everything that the commissioner's office has recommended he do to clear a path toward reinstatement.  Baseball wants to see a reformed gambler and a model citizen.  Rose can be found most days at a sports book in Las Vegas, ramming his foot in his mouth like his teeth are Ray Fosse."

Pete Rose was once a tremendous baseball player.  He's always been a selfish, show-off, asshole liar, and still is to this day.  Which is his main problem.

Click the link for Arace's full commentary.

Monday, August 25, 2014


Stopped by our usual gathering spot on Friday evening.  A couple of the conversations among the patrons were focused on the events in Ferguson, MO, and the "hands up" gesture at the start of the Washington-Cleveland NFL game.  I did not care to join in, but from what I overheard, the tone was fairly ugly.

Howard University
One of the regulars, an impish little 70-something retired guy, turned to me and said, "Can you believe all that reaction about Ferguson?  One black guy gets killed, and the whole world goes crazy!"  Since I didn't want to get into it, I replied that it looked like the town had calmed down, and I quickly moved on to other people and other things.

But now I'd like to say, yeah, I can believe it.  And I can understand it, and I can sympathize, and I can agree with the protesters, and I can appreciate their anger.  Why can't you?

Washington-Cleveland preseason game
This is not to excuse the looting, but it's so much more than just "one black guy getting killed" (a heartless phrasing if ever there was one, diminishing and dismissing Michael Brown's very existence).  It's about how he was killed, and why, and the police response, all of it framed by our national history of racism.

Michael Brown was unarmed.  He was accosted by the police for walking in an empty street.  He was shot at least 6 times, including once in the back and twice in the head.  Eyewitnesses say Brown had his hands raised.  His body was left bleeding and uncovered on the street for over 4 hours.  The policeman who killed him remains free and uncharged, and was not even identified for several days while the cops got their story together.  Protesters were met with a ridiculously militarized police response that was a step backward in time -- all too reminiscent of the bad old days of Selma, Montgomery and Little Rock.

And you really can't believe that the citizens of Ferguson, and the entire country, might be just a trifle upset?


Black people in America, from all walks of life, have a very understandable distrust of law enforcement, and they've come by it honestly.  They've had it up to here with being targeted, profiled, harassed, insulted, and stopped-and-frisked by law enforcement.  They are sick and tired of being arrested for driving while black, walking while black, and standing while black.  And they really dislike being beaten or killed for no reason.

Can't you see that?

Michael Brown was buried today.  Time for a change.





Friday, August 22, 2014

I Challenge The Cincinnati Catholic Diocese . . .

. . . I challenge it to pull its head out of its ass!

Jimmy Fallon & the Tonight Show gang, NYC

Eastern Kentucky University administrators
If you're still above ground, you could not have missed the ubiquitous "ALS Ice Bucket Challenge".  Videos are everywhere.  It's a creative fundraising idea from the ALS Association which has raised tens of millions of dollars for ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) research in just a couple weeks.

Copley Square, Boston

Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Paul, MN

USA men's basketball team, Chicago

It's a great cause and everyone is having fun with it, except for the Cincinnati Catholic Diocese.  These curmudgeons are opposed to the ALS Association because some of their money funds embryonic stem cell research, a process which, according to the Diocese, "destroys embryonic life."   (Embryonic stem cells used in research are leftovers from infertility treatments and would otherwise be flushed down the drain.  They are days-old, microscopic bits of protoplasm, not viable "life".)

What possible good can come from the Diocese's objection?  The Catholic church has a terrific talent for picking the wrong side of social issues.

Cincinnati Diocese:  "We do not approve.  Harrumph!"

Pity The Poor Yacht Maker?

About a month ago, I read an article in a business magazine about a guy named Dennis Jones and his boat, and some thoughts are still lingering.

Dennis Jones is a billionaire, retired from owning a pharmaceutical company.  He annually donates over $2 million to various charities.

His boat, the D'Natalin IV, is a 164-foot superyacht.  Jones recently spent $34 million to have it built by Christensen Yachts of Vancouver, Washington.

The D'Natalin IV
The article explained that Christensen had fallen on hard times and, even with two other superyachts under construction, the company was on the brink of failure -- that is, until Jones' order came riding to the rescue.  When Jones learned of this situation, he declared himself a Romney-esque job creator whose opulent lifestyle had saved Christensen Yachts.  He said other ultra-rich guys should do what he did -- buy a yacht or a space shuttle or a caviar company or something, and provide some jobs.

That's where I had to get off.  I have no problem with Dennis Jones being a billionaire.  I have no problem with him buying himself a big-ass yacht.  It's his money.  I have no problem with the Christensen company being a yacht builder.  We all have to do something.

I do have a slight problem with Dennis Jones indulging himself to the max with one of the world's most unnecessary luxury items, then wrapping himself in the cloak of altruism and claiming some sort of glorious do-gooder status for "saving" a yacht maker.  For his $34 million, he could have made a bunch of charitable donations, or education endowments, or saved lots of jobs at numerous companies engaged in something with a bit more societal value.

And I also have a slight problem with a yacht maker whose business plan apparently requires that it be constructing three or more multi-million-dollar superyachts at all times, or else go out of business.  There's an ass for every seat, but honestly, how big is the market?  How many 150-foot yachts need to be built every year?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

If Self-Regulation Really Worked . . .

Those on the far-right always bitch about rules imposed upon them by the tyrannical government.  Oh, those "job-killing regulations"!  Businesses advocate for self-regulation  -- "No one knows our business better than we do, so trust us!"

If self-regulation really worked . . . 

Auto manufacturers would issue traffic tickets and investigate all accidents.

Utilities would voluntarily shut down coal-burning power plants.

Gun makers would insist on the same sort of training, testing, licensing and insurance required to drive a car.

Wall Street would have never sunk the economy with Collateralized Debt Obligation "investments" backed by piles of sliced and diced toxic mortgage paper.

But it doesn't work that way, does it?  History proves we can't just "trust 'em" and hope for the best.  We can't have an honor system until everyone is guaranteed to be honorable.

Weenies At Kroger

Moms Demand Action has asked the Kroger family of food stores to join others such as Chipotle, Target and Starbucks in issuing a common-sense company policy:  No Open-Carry of Guns in Our Stores.

Surprisingly, Kroger has thus far declined to do so, saying in its official response that the company doesn't want confrontations with its law-abiding customers who are legally carrying firearms:

"We don't want to put our associates in a position of having to confront a customer who is legally carrying a gun. That is why our long-standing policy on this issue is to follow state and local laws and to ask customers to be respectful of others while shopping."

What a fucked-up position!  Management is so afraid of these gun-nuts that all they can do is ask the rest of us to be "respectful."  I just can't respect that.  What a bunch of weenies!

 I just wrote a short note to Kroger's CEO Rodney McMullen expressing my displeasure and reminding him that his stores have a hell of a lot more customers who don't carry guns than those who do, and therefore his stupid non-policy is potentially harmful to sales, customer safety, and his company's public image.

The request for a no-guns policy is entirely reasonable, and would be a prudent business decision.  Share your thoughts with the CEO:

Rodney McMullen, CEO
The Kroger Co.
1014 Vine St.
Cincinnati, OH 45202-1100

Shower Thoughts From Nick Offerman

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Unintelligently Designed Politician

Rep. Thompson
Ohio State Rep. Andy Thompson (R-Marietta) has introduced HB 597, a bill which would "prohibit [the teaching of] political or religious interpretation of scientific facts in favor of another."

Time out!  

Facts, scientific or other, require no "interpretation."
There is no such thing as religious "fact."  Religious faith, maybe, but not fact.
A fact cannot be "favored" over "another."  There is truth, and there is fiction.

Confusing church with school, Thompson said that some Ohio districts "may have a different perspective . . . on matters of faith, how the earth came into existence, global warming, and other controversial topics [including intelligent design]."  In other words, some Ohioans may be blithering idiots.

History "option"?
In pandering to the idiot base, Thompson claims his bill doesn't mandate what should be taught, but merely aims to provide "options" to school districts.  Options?

Options:  Coffee or tea?  Pepperoni or sausage?  White, wheat or rye?
Not options:  Evolution.  Global warming.  1+1 = 2.

Poor dumb Andy.  For him and other doorknobs who can't tell the difference between proven fact and personal faith, Buster suggests an optional brain scan! 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Best Reason Yet To Vote For Ed FitzGerald

Ed FitzGerald is Ohio's Democratic candidate for governor.  He's a heavy underdog to incumbent John Kasich.  Ed may occasionally lack a running mate or a driver's license, but here's one great thing he's got going for him:

Today's op-ed section of the blatantly right-wing Columbus Dispatch had one of those lame "get to know the candidates" Q&A features, mostly filled with silly questions about favorite foods and sports teams.  One question was, "What habit are you trying to break?"

FitzGerald's answer:  "Reading the Columbus Dispatch."

Right on!  For that alone, Ed should be elected unanimously.

Saying Less Than Zero

Many front-running politicians resort to the "feel-good" TV ad.  These spots say absolutely nothing about issues, policies, accomplishments or voting records.  They don't attack the opponent.  In fact, they don't really say anything at all.  Their sole purpose is to foster warm fuzzy feelings -- no thinking necessary -- to a soft piano accompaniment.  The classic is, of course, Reagan's "Morning in America."

Our own Wonder-Guv, John-Boy Kasich, has just released his own slight variation on the theme.  He himself narrates the spot in his best western Pennsylvania accent.  It's heavy on dear-old-mom-and-dad pathos, but it's actually a Palin-esque one-minute word salad that says less than zero.  Totally meaningless.

"My father was a postman."  (Watch it there, Guv.  You R's are supposed to hate the postal service.)

"He told me, 'Jawhnny, you go out there and change the world.'"  (Are you suggesting that you've done that?  You're a world-changer, are you?)

"My parents were killed by a drunk driver."  (That's truly sad.  I'm sorry.  But so what?)

"One of the messages my mother and father gave me was, 'Jawhnny, make sure the place where you were is a little better off because you were there.'" ( Yes, Guv, where you were you tried to crush unions, refused to create a state-run health insurance exchange, stacked the EPA and the PUCO with corporate stooges, eliminated the Consumer's Counsel office, encouraged widespread fracking even in state parks, reduced income tax revenue while increasing regressive sales tax rates, and tried to privatize damn near everything.  Jesus, Jawhnny!  If you keep making us better off, state government may cease to exist!  Welcome to Ohio, Inc.)

But the piano was nice!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Tips For Being An Unarmed Black Teen

(From Onion.com.  Truth in parody!)

the onion unarmed teends

With riots raging in Ferguson, MO following the shooting death by police of an unarmed African-American youth, the nation has turned its eyes toward social injustice and the continuing crisis of race relations. Here are The Onion’s tips for being an unarmed black teen in America:
  • Shy away from dangerous, heavily policed areas.
  • Avoid swaggering or any other confident behavior that suggests you are not completely subjugated.
  • Be sure not to pick up any object that could be perceived by a police officer as a firearm, such as a cell phone, a food item, or nothing.
  • Explain in clear and logical terms that you do not enjoy being shot, and would prefer that it not happen.
  • Don’t let society stereotype you as a petty criminal. Remember that you can be seen as so much more, from an armed robbery suspect, to a rape suspect, to a murder suspect.
  • Try to see it from a police officer’s point of view: You may be unarmed, but you’re also black.
  • Avoid wearing clothing associated with the gang lifestyle, such as shirts and pants.
  • Revel in the fact that by simply existing, you exert a threatening presence over the nation’s police force.
  • Be as polite and straightforward as possible when police officers are kicking the shit out of you.

Cavuto: "Did I Mention That I Hate Obama? And I Hate His Wife Too!"

Only Fox News could turn a puff-piece interview promoting a football star's campaign to reduce childhood hunger into yet another attack on Obama . . . in this case, Michelle!  Neil Cavuto works in the gratuitous contempt, much to the surprise of Russell Wilson.

Neil Cavuto, in his lead-in:  "Can this Super Bowl champ do what Michelle Obama could not?"

Neil Cavuto:  "Russell, what are we doing wrong as a nation urging them to eat healthy or set up these school lunch programs?  Many argue that Michelle Obama is too much of a food police mommy.  Whatever she's doing isn't working, and I'm wondering what you're doing that is working."

Russell Wilson:  "The First Lady, I have so much respect for her.  It's tough to eat healthy.  I remember when I was a little kid I was always struggling trying to eat healthy."

Neil Cavuto:  "Really?  That was never my problem, Russell.  I guess you have some issues."

Great job, Neil.  LOL!  This is Must-Laugh TV!  If you watch Fox News for any reason other than its pure comedic value, you might want to get yourself checked out.

Warning! This Post Contains Graphic Images Which May Be Offensive To Some

The next time some right-wing clod trots out that worn-out old fiction about how Democrats are just tax-and-spend money-wasters and our only hope for salvation lies in the fiscal policies of Republican geniuses, offend him by showing him these three graphs:

What Country Is This?

Where am I, in eastern Ukraine or somewhere?  No.  Ferguson, Mo.  Fucking awful.

A small-town cop emptied his clip in gunning down an unarmed young man, then the police department compounds the error with an over-the-top show of force.  Looked like the Normandy invasion.  Just a wee bit antagonistic, don't you think?

This sort of provocative over-reaction can occur all too easily when police can obtain decommissioned military equipment and weaponry for free, and can buy even more with federal funds through Homeland Security's "anti-terrorism" program.  ("Hey man, we got all these cool toys -- let's use 'em!")

Does the Fort Washakie, Wyoming (pop. 1759) police department really need an armored MRAP fighting vehicle?  They have one.  Barney Fife needs a tank?  C'mon!

This situation is dangerously absurd.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Robin Williams

Robin Williams -- brilliant, manic, tortured, supremely funny. Sadly gone at age 63.  Had an incredibly quick mind with no filter.  Unforgettable comic genius.  He will be missed.

A handful of his classic lines:

If it's the "Psychic Network," why do they need a phone number?

What's right is what's left if you do everything else wrong.

God gave you a penis and a brain, and only enough blood to run one at a time.

If you want a linguistic adventure, go drinking with a Scotsman.  'Cause you can't fucking understand them before!

I went to rehab in wine country, just to keep my options open.

Politics:  poli, a Latin word meaning "many", and tics, meaning "bloodsucking creatures."

I'm looking for Miss Right, or at least Miss Right Now.

Time is the best teacher, but unfortunately, it kills all of its students.

Freud:  "If it's not one thing, it's your mother."

I'm sorry.  If you were right, I'd agree with you.

Reality:  what a concept! 

And with thousands to choose from, one quick video clip from long ago:

A Timely Comment From George Carlin

Three Lassies

I was out at the pub the other night and overheard three rather well-nourished girls chatting at the bar.  Their accent seemed to me to be Scottish, so I approached them and asked, "Hello there, are you three lassies from Scotland?"
They all frowned, and one of them replied indignantly, "It's Wales, you bloody idiot!  WALES!"

So of course I apologized and rephrased,  "I am so sorry. Are you three whales from Scotland?"

And . . . that's the last thing I remember.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Look What Came In The Mail Today!

Do you suppose I can use it at the liquor store?

Can You Feel The Warmth?

Recently, two American medical professionals who went to West Africa to help out with the Ebola breakout became infected with the virus themselves.  They're now being treated back here in the U.S., but not before Ann Coulter and Donald Trump, a.k.a. Skeletor and Ass Hat, spewed forth with their own special brand of warmth and compassion.

Ass Hat
Trump tweeted:  "Stop Ebola patients from entering the U.S.  Treat them, at the highest level, over there."  (As Stephen Colbert pointed out, the "highest level" over there means "our freshest leeches and finest bite sticks.")

He then went on Fox & Friends to say that although the infected pair are undoubtedly wonderful people, "they have to suffer the consequences."  (i.e. stay there and die.)

Coulter wrote on her website that the infected doctor should be diagnosed with "idiocy" for trying to help in the "disease-ridden cesspool" of Africa.  She said he "would have done more good [here] than marinating himself in medieval diseases of the Third World."  And she wonders why we "can't serve Christ here in America" (and tell the rest of the world to fuck off and die, as Jesus would have done.)

As for me, I wonder why anyone listens to these two heinous butt-plugs.  They're just comically hate-filled, but there's a market for anything, even their B.S.

"Hey Ann Coulter!  I'm comin' to getcha!"

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

John Boehner, Speaker At Law

The Strip, by Brian McFadden, NY Times, 8/3/14

"Restless Repeal Syndrome" -- I love it!

Bully Vs. Bully In The Middle East

"Every night we fuss and fight like Arabs and like Jews" -- Monkey See, Monkey Do, by Michael Franks, from the LP The Art of Tea, released in 1976.

First, a little history.  Jews, Christians and Muslims have jointly resided in the Middle East for most of recorded time, and have yet to figure out a way to live together peacefully.  The area generally known as Gaza has always been a significant piece of real estate, lying as it does along the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea.  It's been a geopolitical football for thousands of years.  It has been ruled and/or occupied by the ancient Egyptians, the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, Arab Muslim dynasties, Christian Crusaders, the Mongols, the Ottoman Empire, Egypt again, British Colonial Palestine (after World War I), Egypt again, Israel (after the Six-Day War of 1967), and since 1993, Gaza has been under the control of the Palestinian Authority, which also oversees the Golan Heights, and Jericho, Bethlehem, Nablus and other towns in the West Bank.  There is still no true Palestinian state.

Israel maintained a military presence in Gaza from 1993 until 2005, when it finally withdrew completely.  During that time, Israel constructed "security fencing" and a buffer zone to completely enclose the Gaza Strip along its eastern and northern borders, and built a wall along the Egyptian border to the south.  Israel deployed its naval vessels to patrol Gaza's Mediterranean coastline.  There were just a handful of border crossings

In a 2006 surprise, the militantly anti-Semitic, anti-Israel political party Hamas won Palestinian elections and took over the administration of Gaza.  Calling Hamas a terrorist organization, Israel promptly locked down all the border crossings and instituted an economic embargo as well.  The situation continues to this day.

So here we are.  The Gaza Strip is 7 miles wide by 32 miles long.  It is densely populated with 1.8 million Palestinian people, with a per capita annual income of $3100 U.S.  It is blockaded on all sides.  It currently has only three border crossings, which are rarely open.  It is effectively a concentration camp with a beautiful ocean view.

In such conditions, it's hardly surprising that some Gazans dig tunnels and fire rockets into Israel.  They're captives and they're pissed.  It's no surprise that Israel fires back.  Some folks are taking pot-shots at them and they're pissed.  Like always, a cease-fire will be negotiated, but it won't last long.  It never does.  One side or the other will do something provocative, and the cycle will start up again soon enough.

In the current round of violence, it's bully vs. bully -- Israel's Bibi Netanyahu and Hamas's Khaled Meshaal.  Two ultra-conservative, unyielding, belligerent "leaders" engaged in a hopeless, childish and brutal blame-game.  Whose "fault" is it?  Who "started it"?  Who friggin cares?!  This crap has gone on so long, no one can remember who started what, or when, or why.

Israel says it occupies the high moral ground, but it's a dubious claim.  They've essentially imprisoned 2 million people and called it "self-defense."  Whenever some of the inmates get uppity and shoot unguided mortars and RPG's over the barbed wire (and yes, that's bad business, inexcusable), the Israeli army squashes the gnat with a sledgehammer.  Militarily, it's no contest -- Israel is shooting fish in a barrel.  But for all their technology and precision targeting, the Israelis sure seem to miss their mark a lot.  "Oh snap!  Did we blow up your apartment building/school/mosque/power plant/U.N. shelter again?  Oops!  We're sorry."  The casualties are almost all on the Palestinian side, and most are civilians, not Hamas fighters.  Bibi's idea of self-defense looks a lot like indiscriminate large-scale destruction, and Israel looks like the bigger bully.

What has either side gained with all this slaughter?  What has really changed?  Nothing.  The blockade will go on. Gaza will rebuild.  Tunnels will be dug again, rockets will fly, tanks will roll.  A genuine "two-state solution" is the only path to peace, everybody knows it, and yet it seems further away than ever.  And as long as both of these stiff dicks insist on having the last word, the last strike, the last bomb, it will never end.  It's not a war, it's back-and-forth revenge terrorism -- a pointless perpetual motion machine where each act of retaliation begets another.

The State of Israel has a right to exist.  A Palestinian State has an equal right to exist.  I'm not pro-Hamas.  I'm not anti-Israel.  I'm just pro-peace.  Good luck to me, eh?    


Monday, August 4, 2014

Reinstate Jon Waters!

John Waters, film director
Jon Waters -- no, not that one . . . that's John Waters.

Jon Waters, OSU Band Director
This one.  Jon Waters, former Director of The Ohio State University Marching Band.

After a couple complaints, Jon Waters was recently fired for allowing a "sexualized environment" to exist within The Best Damn Band In The Land.  This environment included lewd nicknames, marching in underwear, and other stupid hazing rituals which are unfortunately so common to the college experience.  There was a report of a sexual assault within the band's ranks as well.

Waters had been Director of TBDBITL for a brief two years.  He's an OSU grad, a former band member, and was a long-time assistant to the previous Director, the sainted Dr. Jon Woods.

Waters gained a large measure of fame last year when TBDBITL began performing intricately choreographed halftime routines never seen anywhere before.  Videos of the performances went viral on network, cable and the web.  The one shown here, the Michael Jackson tribute, has had over 10 million YouTube views.  Another routine, "Hollywood Hits" featuring Superman coming out of a phone booth to leap a tall building, has drawn almost 16 million viewers.  The value to the university of such positive PR should not be underestimated.      

All the silly hazing crap did not originate with Jon Waters.  It had been going on literally for decades, and it was there when Waters marched, but changing such hidebound traditions can be like turning around the Titanic -- it takes awhile.  Doesn't make it acceptable, just hard to shake.  Somehow, the idea persists in certain groups that a meaningful bond can be achieved when people stand around together in their BVDs.  

Waters was not given much of a chance to change anything.  Just two weeks after OSU issued its report on the band, he was canned.  It was just four days into the term of the new OSU President, Dr. Michael Drake, and was pretty much his first order of business.  You can see the legal department's fingerprints all over the decision.  "No Penn State going on here!  We're firing people right now!"  And today, OSU announced that two "interim" band directors would take over.

I'm an OSU alum, although I try not to be a fanatic about it.  Even so, this episode is embarrassing.  The band's "traditions" look silly, and the administration looks reactionary in turning Jon Waters into a scapegoat for a problem not of his making.

After this shit-storm of bad publicity, the "culture" of the TBDBITL could be (will be) changed pretty much overnight.  So wouldn't it be cool if the university neutralized their over-reaction by giving Jon Waters his job back?

Won't happen, but it should.            



Saturday, August 2, 2014

More Compassionate Conservatism

Rep. Adams
Saying, "It's the philosophical issue of illegal," Ohio State Rep. John Adams (R-Sidney) has introduced a bill which would cause any Ohio city, county, state agency, or even private company to lose all state funding if it agreed to house any of the 57,000 Central American refugee children now being detained at our borders.

"Does the community actually want them?  That's the question," said philosopher Adams.  With his hatefully punitive bill, he answers his own question to his own satisfaction.

Obama asked Congress for $3.7 billion to assist in processing and caring for all these kids until we decide what to do with them.  House Republicans gave OK'd $600,000 at the last minute, then blew town for recess.  Great.  That'll buy some toothbrushes and Kleenex.

Adams doesn't want any of that money or any of those kids in Ohio.  Like far too many in his party, he's got a pigmentation problem.  All he sees is a bunch of brown-skinned future Democrats.  If there were 57,000 old, conservative, white English-speaking men stuck at the Canadian border, clamoring to be let into the U.S., you think Adams would have a problem with that


George Will, speaking in an unusually
reasonable manner.  Probably shouldn't
get used to it.
"We ought to say to these children, 'Welcome to America!  You're going to go to school and get a job and become Americans.'  We have 3141 counties in this country.  That'd be 20 children per county.  The idea that we can't assimilate these 8-year-old 'criminals' with their teddy bears is preposterous." 


"Corporate inversion" has been in the news lately.  This is when a U.S. corporation buys a small company somewhere overseas, shuffles some paper around, and -- voila! -- declares that it has reincorporated in, say, Belgium.  Operations remain here in America, and nothing else changes.  It's done to escape the U.S. corporate tax rate and adopt the lower rate in the new "home" country.  (Our corporate rate is 35%.  Very few companies pay anywhere near that, and a great many pay zero, but what the hell.)

None other than Fortune magazine calls the practice "un-American," but Republicans are falling all over themselves defending it.  In unison, they remind us it's "perfectly legal" (if it's legal, it must always be done), and these corporations are merely performing their "fiduciary duty" to their shareholders.  Screaming CNBC Tea-Bagger Rick Santelli says corporate inversion is "patriotic."  With a straight face, Sen. Rob Portman (R-Oh) declared such companies to be "economic refugees."  Please, Robby!

Fiduciary duty, my ass!  Such companies are fid-douchebags!

Columbus Public Schools Scandal

Top administrators of the Columbus, Ohio city school district engaged in systematic, dishonest manipulation of certain student enrollment records and grades, for the purpose of making the district's academic performance look better than it actually was.  This week, the district's former "data czar", Steve Tankovich admitted he designed the record-changing system and taught others to use it.  He pleaded no contest to a felony charge of records tampering and received two years probation.

Tankovich (center) in court
Some people think he got off easy.  They feel he should do some hard time behind bars for his "crime."  And they feel the same way about his his former boss, ex-Superintendent Gene Harris.  They want to throw her in the slammer too.

Harris, Tankovich and others knew what they were doing, and they knew it was wrong.  They'll pay a price for their misdeeds, but it shouldn't be jail time.  Like all public school officials these days, they were under heavy pressure to make their district "look good" in the official state evaluations.  We shouldn't excuse their behavior, but we shouldn't be surprised that they felt compelled to do it.

Instead of focusing on punishment, let's ask why they felt the need to cheat in the first place.

Start with a simple fact:  The GOP hates public education -- it's taxpayer-funded, it's small-d democratic, and it's teachers are unionized.  Republicans believe government has no place in the education "business," and a business opportunity is what they see.  They're eager to charter-ize/privatize all K thru 12 education and turn the whole thing into a strictly economic proposition.  "Can't afford that private school tuition?  It must suck to be poor.  Here's a voucher.  We call it 'choice'."

The conservatives come up with the No Child Left Behind Act and other data-driven/testing-driven/metric-driven education "reforms."  All that proficiency testing and accountability might sound good, but it's also inherently unfair to large urban public school systems.  The socio-economic deck is stacked against them, and no big-city district will ever post test scores comparable to smaller, more affluent districts.  For conservatives, this "proves" their point that public education is failing and not worthy of support.

So, in this test-scores-are-everything environment,  if you're a believer in public education and you don't want to see some of your low-ranking schools closed or reconstituted as charter or private schools, the incentive to manipulate the numbers is strong.  Statistical gamesmanship and data-scrubbing are almost inevitable.

Columbus is not alone.  The same sort of record-tampering has occurred elsewhere in Ohio and across the country.  It's not right, but it's not exactly high crime either.  And it certainly doesn't warrant jail time.