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

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Red Means Stop, Green Means Go, And Yellow Means Go Real F***ing Fast!

Today around noon, I'm driving westbound on a 35 MPH city street.  I need to make a left turn at the next intersection, where the lights are green in both directions for east-west traffic.  I pull into the left-turn-only lane, where mine is the only vehicle.  I'm slightly forward into the intersection, stopped and signaling to make my left.  The eastbound traffic is fairly heavy, so I wait.

As the light turns yellow, I inch forward a bit more.  One more eastbound car rolls through on the yellow, then I start a routine, everyday left turn across the now-empty intersection.

Except suddenly it's not empty.  Another eastbound car appears out of nowhere, running the light and about to T-bone me at high speed.  When the light went yellow, this guy was so far back he was a speck, a non-factor.  Now he's gunning it to make the intersection and looming very large in my passenger-side windows.  OMG!  How frigging fast is this douchebag going?  How could he not see me?  Why didn't he stop?

Shocked and certain I am going to be hit, I hold my breath, stomp on the gas and hope I can somehow get out of his path.

I really have no idea how he missed me.  It was so, so close -- a matter of inches.  And it would have been bad.

After this heart-stopping left turn, I required a change of underwear.  And I think the driver's seat of my car may need new upholstery.

There Is No Quit In Mitt . . . Wait . . . What? He Quit?

The herd of GOP presidential hopefuls has been thinned by one.  After strongly hinting he would run again, Willard M. "Mitt" Romney has abruptly changed course and dropped out the race.  Buster is greatly saddened by this news, as it deprives me of the opportunity to recycle thousands of old posts from the 2012 election.  I was really looking forward to revisiting all my old snark about show horses, car elevators, magic underwear and binders full of women.  Damn!

Even though the Republicans are now officially down one old white man, they still have a boatload of other old white men -- plus one weird little Indian guy -- from which to choose.  A target-rich environment for Buster's Blog!

Bill Nye On Deflate-Gate

On Super Bowl Eve, Bill Nye the Science Guy weighs in on the most crucial issue of our time.

Friday, January 30, 2015

More Guns Equals More Gun Deaths. What A Surprise.

From a report published yesterday by the non-profit gun research group Violence Policy Center:

"Our studies consistently show that states with strong gun violence prevention laws and low rates of gun ownership have the lowest gun-death rates in the nation.  The highest gun-death rates are in states with weak laws and easy access to guns."

The top three states for highest gun-death rates are Alaska, Louisiana, and Alabama.  The three lowest rates are in the states of Hawaii, Massachusetts, and New York.  Ohio ranks 30th.

The NRA promotes the unregulated proliferation of guns and ammo, and is always loudly claiming that increased numbers of armed citizens result in a safer society.  The NRA is full of shit.  More guns equals more gun deaths.  Period.

Another favorite logic twist for the NRA is to cite all the non-gun items and circumstances that also kill people -- knives, ball bats, poisons, Colonel Mustard with the candlestick in the study -- and isn't it then so horribly unfair to demonize guns when more people die every year in traffic accidents than by gunshots?

Well, check this out.  This year, for the first time, gun deaths may exceed vehicular deaths.

And yet one political party, deeply beholden to the gun lobby and its money, is committed to the deadly status quo and to doing absolutely nothing to address this public health and safety issue.  Even the slaughter of a school-full of little children could not move them to any sort of action.

There are no perfect, 100% guaranteed solutions to this problem, but isn't it shameful to keep doing nothing?  Couldn't we try to do something?  Shouldn't we?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Dogs Rule

"Dogs are the leaders of the planet.  Say you observed two different life forms together.  One is making a poop, and the other one's picking it up and carrying it for him.  Who would you say is in charge?"
                                                     -- Jerry Seinfeld

Take The Long View

(In case you think I've gone totally off the rails, here's a great dose-of-reality post sent by a regular reader.  Happy to share.  Thanks, D.W.!)

Those who believe that some supernatural being is actually looking after just one species (or just one small religious sliver of that one species), on just this one planet, around just this one star, in just this one galaxy, probably have no trouble believing in lots of ridiculous things.

Andromeda Galaxy  panoramic view via Hubble and NASA.com

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Wisdom Of Jabbar

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was the most dominant basketball player I ever saw.  More to the point, he's a perceptive and articulate fellow, with wide-ranging interests and intelligence.  Last week, he wrote a column for Time magazine titled "Paris Was Not About Religion."  An excerpt:

Another horrendous act of terrorism has taken place, and people like myself who are on media speed dial under "Celebrity Muslims" are thrust into the spotlight to explain.

We can't end terrorism any more than we can than we can end crime in general.  But I look forward to the day when an act of terrorism by self-proclaimed Muslims will be universally dismissed as nothing more than a criminal attack by a thuggish political  organization wearing an ill-fitting Muslim mask.

Religion -- no matter which one -- is ultimately about people wanting to live humble, moral lives that create harmonious community and promote tolerance and friendship.

(Hmm.  I always say I'm not a religious person, but by Kareem's definition, maybe I am.)

Bill Maher's 2016 Billionaire Buyer's Guide To GOP Hopefuls

This is Maher at his insulting, name-calling, politically incorrect best.  A bit unfair, I suppose, but still right on the money.  Made me LOL.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

He Must Have Been A Turd Even As A Kid

On 60 Minutes tonight, Weeper of the House John Boehner was asked about raising the federal minimum wage above the current $7.25 per hour, as proposed by the president.  Boehner replied with jobs-killer boilerplate, claiming that he worked all sorts of "awful" minimum wage jobs as a kid, and had the minimum wage been higher at that time, he'd never have been hired.

Two points:

1.  His assertion is preposterous and illogical bullshit.  In any era, minimum wage is whatever it is, and it ain't much.  If it goes up, as it has many times before, employers must adjust, and they do, without mass layoffs.  (Those few who can't adjust fail, as they should.  Sooner or later, labor costs go up.  Deal with it.)

2.  If the Orange Man really believes what he essentially said -- "At $1.65/hour I was employable, but at, say, $1.95/hour I'd have been a pariah" -- then the young Boehner must have been a truly rotten little SOB.

Helping Their Own, But Not All

On the same topic as the previous post, a serious and thoughtful article in today's NY Times Op-Ed by author Jennifer Senior.

The U.S. is the only industrialized nation without a paid maternity policy.  President Obama has called for a law requiring 6 weeks paid leave.  Our current so-called Maternity and Family Leave law provides 12 weeks, unpaid.  The GOP feels that's more than sufficient.

Ms. Senior wrote to all 100 U.S. Senate offices and asked how each Senator handled parental leave.  Only 26 answered -- 15 D's, 9 R's, and 2 independents -- and all provided some level of paid leave.  In some cases, Republican Senators offered better deals.  As an example, Lamar Alexander (R-TN) gives 12 weeks of paid leave, while Chris Coons (D-DE) offers 10 weeks.

She writes, "In their own offices, Republicans are often very generous with federal money, giving their own staffs plenty of compensated time. When confronted with the life challenges of their own personnel, these elected officials all believe paid time is in order."

But when it comes to actual policy and law-making to cover everyone -- the private sector as well as the public -- these same GOP stalwarts go all weak-kneed and mush-mouthed and play their same old tune:  Business must decide for itself;  It's an issue best left to the states;  The cost is a jobs-killer.  
Yada, yada, yada.

Thanks, R's!  Selfishly unhelpful, as usual.


6 Weeks Paid Leave Opposed By People With 33 Weeks Paid Leave

WASHINGTON -- President Obama's proposal to give workers six weeks paid leave is meeting with strong opposition from a group of people who annually receive thirty-three weeks of paid leave.

Members of the group heard the President's proposal on Tuesday night, one of the few nights of the year when they are actually required to report to their workplace.

The opponents of paid leave, who show up for work 137 days per year and receive paid leave for the other 228, were baffled by other moments in the President's speech.

For example, they were confused by Obama's challenge to try to survive on a full-time job paying $15,000, since they all currently hold a part-time job that pays $174,000.


(From The Borowitz Report, by Andy Borowitz, 1/22/15, newyorker.com)

Redneck Calamari

(Swiped from Facebook and a thousand other places!)

Let Me Know When You Begin To Feel Safer

The NRA and its gun-nut brethren are always telling us lies about how guns are just a tool for personal safety, and that the best way to responsibly protect yourself is to carry a gun.

About a month ago, in an Idaho WalMart, a two year-old boy reached into his mother's custom-made concealed-carry purse, found the trigger and shot his mom dead.  A tragic "accident."

A couple days ago, a 62 year-old black man with an open-carry permit walked into a Florida WalMart with his pistol legally holstered on his hip.  He was choked from behind and wrestled into submission by three white men who were yelling, "He's got a gun!"  The men were later charged with assault and battery.

And so, what are the lessons?

  • Real 'Muricans won't let anyone take away their god-given individual rights.  Mountain mamas and old black men have a legal right to behave just as stupidly as anyone else.  (And I don't think God ever discussed firearms.)

  • These sad incidents illustrate yet another good reason to avoid WalMart.

  • The personal safety and self-protection arguments are a total crock -- the exact opposite of the truth.

Iowa Cattle Call

Crazy enough to believe he's sane.
It's not the malevolent Koch brothers annual big-money retreat.  That's going on this weekend in Palm Springs, and it's a champagne and Chateaubriand event for the right-wing elite.

No, it's Rep. Steve King's (R, IA) "Freedom Summit," a beer and lunch meat affair in Des Moines.  An inflammatory Tea-Bag bigot, King believes himself to be a party power broker, but his little confab is just a personal ego massage and a cattle call for wack-a-doodle conservative non-starters and attention addicts, including:

Ted Cruz, Scott Walker, Chris Christie, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, and bringing the nut-job bona fides, none other than Sarah Palin herself.

Moo.  Let the pandering begin.


After the New England Patriots defeated the Indianapolis Colts to advance to this year's Super Bowl, there were rumors that the home team Pats may have slightly deflated the footballs and thereby gained some minuscule advantage (don't ask me how).  Ooh, how devious!  "Deflate-gate", the wags called it.  Then the NFL's machinery of denial kicked into gear and gave us QB Tom Brady talking about how he likes his balls and doesn't want anyone touching them, and Coach Bill Bellichick discoursing at length on ball-rubbing and temperature-related shrinkage.  What a delightful non-troversy!  Ballghazi!!

The GOP chose brand-new Senator Joni Ernst to deliver the party's response to the President's State of the Union address.  She's an anti-tax, anti-government simpleton best known for her campaign ad about growing up castrating hogs on the family farm.  In her SOTU rebuttal, Joni the Ball-Snipper emphasized her upbringing as a salt-of-the-earth "poor Iowa farm girl" who has learned first-hand the need for self-reliance, not government handouts.  After her little speech, it was reported that her family received almost $500,000 in federal farm subsidies.  So, . . . yeah.

Friday, January 16, 2015

An Interesting New Concept In Rule-Making

NFL officiating expert Mike Pereira said the refs were correct in ruling that Dez Bryant's great catch in the Packers-Cowboys game was actually an incomplete pass, but also said the rule should be changed:

"If 50 drunk guys in a bar think it's a catch, the rules should be aligned to that."

So, what should we do about [any number of thorny issues]?

I know!  Let's ask 50 drunk guys in a bar and just go with it!

For football, OK, maybe.  For everything else . . . nah.


(I happen to agree with Pereira this particular rule must go.  At the moment, I am relatively sober.)

We've Heard This Joke Before

Harold Stassen was the governor of Minnesota from 1939 to 1943.  But he's best remembered for spending the rest of his life trying to be President.  Stassen sought the Republican nomination for the presidency ten times between 1940 and 1992.  Ten times!  He never succeeded, but his perpetual candidacy became a long-running joke -- fifty years of fodder for stand-up comedians.

Now, proof that some of the old jokes never die:

Who Will Lead On Weed?

In the run-up to the 2016 election, with all its attendant posturing and spinning and jockeying and jostling, one key question for the candidates could be this:

What's your position on legalizing marijuana?

Much like attitudes morphed on gay marriage and LGBT rights, things are changing in the world of weed.  Colorado, California, Oregon, Washington, New York and Washington D.C. have taken steps to decriminalize or outright legalize the stuff.  More states are sure to follow.  Legalization has a majority of public support, regardless of political leanings.  There is growing consensus in law enforcement that the result of our decades-long "War on Drugs" -- at least when it comes to casual pot use -- has been to waste shitloads of money and to arrest millions of people and imprison bunches of them for not much.  Marijuana is still prohibited under federal law, but the Obama administration's Justice Dept. is actively ignoring recreational possession and use.

So, if you're a political party and you want to grab the attention of young voters, if you want to appeal to a broad spectrum, if you want to win, legalizing weed could be your issue.

And who on the political scene today is the only potential presidential candidate so far to come down clearly on the side of legalizing marijuana?  Not Hillary Clinton.  Not Elizabeth Warren.  It's Rand Paul.

Of course, wacky little Rand has too many loose screws to even get nominated, much less elected, but the Dem's ought not to let themselves get out-flanked on such a tailor-made progressive issue as legal weed.  Hillary, warm up your wordsmiths.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Bringin' The Joy, Bringin' The Pain

They did us proud, and we're basking in reflected glory.

Our civic self-esteem is sky high!

Showing Your School Spirit Until It Hurts . . . 

Crowds of students in the streets to celebrate a big win by their team -- it's an age-old tradition in college football at Ohio State and elsewhere (I've done it myself long ago), and it's not exactly a cause for major alarm.

Shortly after the Buckeye's win on Monday night, OSU cops and Columbus cops -- some in riot gear, and including a SWAT unit -- descended upon campus revelers and began indiscriminately using pepper spray and tear gas.  Many kids were standing on packed, narrow sidewalks with not much room to move, despite police commands to disperse.

Was this really necessary?  The police immediately and predictably said their action was "justified" and "by the book," blah blah blah.

I think they need a new book.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Ohio Man Indicted For Threatening To Kill John Boehner

At this time, I'd like to state publicly and for the record . . . I swear it wasn't me!

(Turns out it was the bartender at one of Boehner's Cincinnati country clubs.  I guess he dislikes the "Person of Color" even more than I do.  I bet Orange John is a shitty tipper.)

The 2014 National Champion Ohio State Buckeyes

With two-time Big Ten Player of the Year Braxton Miller coming back at quarterback, Ohio State fans are stoked about the 2014 football season.

Miller blows out his shoulder in preseason practice.  Done for the year.  We start the season with unknown J.T. Barrett as starting QB.  We are doomed.

We win the opener.  Hey, this Barrett's not so bad!

We lose the next game at home to unranked Virginia Tech.  Barrett sucks.  We are doomed.

Barrett plays lights-out, leads us to ten straight wins and the Big Ten East title, and sets all kinds of QB records.  Hey, this Barrett's really good!  No, he's great!!  No, wait, he's better than great -- he's the best of all time!!!

Barrett breaks his ankle at the end of the Michigan game.  We are doomed.

Unknown 3rd-string QB Cardale Jones takes over as starter.  He plays lights-out, and we beat favored Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship.

Ohio State is chosen as the 4-seed in the National Championship Playoff.

ESPN's Mark May says we are doomed because we don't really deserve to be in the playoff.

Cardale plays lights-out, leading us to victory over favored Alabama in the semi-final Sugar Bowl, and over favored Oregon in the final Championship game

We face a Heisman nominee in each of the last 3 games, we are underdogs each time, and we win all 3 times in convincing, no-doubt-about-it fashion.  Boo-yah!

The Ohio State Buckeyes are the 2014 National Champs!

I knew it all along.

Mark May can bite me.

BTW, who let Bob Newhart out there on the field last night?

Monday, January 12, 2015

Scandal! Obama Skips Paris Anti-Terror Rally

Fox Nation

http://www.newscorpse.com/ncWP/?p=24443   (Click the link for the full article)

No surprise, Fox News is all in a lather because President Obama didn't go to Paris.  Most of the world leaders in attendance were no more than an hour away.  Obama's flight from D.C. would have been over 5 hours one way.  The U.S. Ambassador to France and A.G. Eric Holder were there already.  But Fox News never misses a chance to demean the president, no matter what.

And if Obama had indeed traveled to Paris?  Then Faux News would just spin it the other way and skewer him for going:

  • Obama Spends $12 Million to Attend Paris Street Rally!
  • Obama Jets to Paris While Congress Works to Restore American Jobs!
  • Obama Links Arms With Socialist French President Francois Hollande, Soviet Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas!
  • Obama Pays Tribute to French Cartoonists, But Would Not Attend Funerals of Murdered NYC Cops!
  • Obama's Security Detail Disrupts Paris Unity Rally!

What's In A Word?

Sometimes, all it takes is one word to set me off.  (Blame it on too much TV.)

I've been seeing a lot of ads for the Wounded Warrior Project and other appeals using the word "warrior".  I support our troops as much as anyone, but could we please use a word that doesn't glorify war?  Warrior carries too much connotation of Mongol hordes and the like.  How about wounded soldier, veteran, service man, service woman, or military personnel?

Subway Restaurants:  "It's our best chicken yet."  Yet?  Really?  How bad was your chicken before?

With the NYPD slow-down kerfuffle, I've heard some people talk about "discretionary" policing, as in "These cops are making a statement to the mayor by refusing to engage in any discretionary policing."  What is discretionary police work?  Does such a thing even exist?  It shouldn't.

Dodge:  "Driving is a holy endeavor."  Oh yes, it's "holy" for sure.  WWJD?  What would Jesus drive?

60 Minutes Misleads About Obamacare

One segment on last night's "60 Minutes" pissed me off.  It began with a promo/teaser:  "This man says American can't afford Obamacare!"  The man, Steven Brill, just published America's Bitter Pill, a well-researched and documented book about the unconscionably high prices for medical treatment brought to us by the for-profit Big Hospital/Big Pharma/Big Insurance industries. Last night, Brill said Obamacare is great but he sees no way we'll be able to pay for it.

Lesley Stahl and her producers managed to frame this in a way to suggest that Brill is a staunch opponent of the ACA and believes it's a terrible idea, and that's just not true.  His book is all about the exorbitant prices charged by the medical industry, not Obamacare, but CBS made it seem like he was blaming the ACA and saying Obamacare somehow causes high prices, and that's just not true either.   Medical costs were out of whack before law, and they still are now.   His point was that he wished the health care law had gone after Big Med profiteering, but Obamacare "does nothing" about this.

Which is essentially true.  The Affordable Care Act expands coverage, but doesn't do much to address the cost issue.  (The point has been made countless times in the last four years, but only now does 60 Minutes hop on it like some "aha!" epiphany.  It's hardly news.)

Should the ACA address costs?  Hell, yes!  Why doesn't it?   Because conservative Republicans in Congress wouldn't allow the cost side to enter into discussions in any meaningful way.  They were far more concerned with protecting the bottom lines of their corporate benefactors and lobbyists than about what actual people might face.

Eventually, we will of necessity join the rest of world's advanced nations in providing single-payer, universal coverage with government-negotiated pricing.  That's how you make it affordable for everyone.  It would have been nice indeed if Obamacare had moved us in that direction.

One of Mr. Brill's final comments last night was sad but true:  America will address the problem of crazy-high health care costs only when it becomes a genuine crisis.  At that point, finally, the lobbyists and all their money and all their bullshit won't matter.

But until then, there's money to be made.


Here's a link to an old post about Steven Brill and this same issue of health care costs. 

Friday, January 9, 2015

The Pen Is Mightier Than The Sword

If you were about to tell me that the rat bastards who gunned down a bunch of French cartoonists working for the Charlie Hebdo satire magazine were "representative" of the Muslim religion, save your breath 'cause you'd be wrong.  They were just a stupid little gang of vile fanatics and punk murderers.  Their actions accomplished nothing, and were not an indictment of Islam or proof that it's an "evil" religion.

No sacred cows!  All religions, Islam included, are silly for the most part and should be mocked and made fun of regularly.  Hooray to those who do just that.  Je suis Charlie.

I wonder if an English language version of Charlie Hebdo is available.  I'd love to read it.

Wrong Republicans

Part One

The ACA/Obamacare requires employers of 50 or more to offer health insurance to those employees working 30 hours or more per week.  For years now, Republican spinners have railed against what they call the "elimination of the traditional 40 hour week".  They say the ACA has "redefined" full-time employment and has caused employers to slash their workers' hours to less than 30, just so they can avoid the insurance coverage requirement.  "Oh, the humanity!" cry the R's.  "All those folks losing hours and income, and it's all Obama's fault!"

It's a bald-faced lie.  There is absolutely no evidence of systemic, massive cuts to working hours.  And never mind the R's demonstrably false premise that an employer's only concern in determining work hours is . . . health insurance coverage!  LOL!

"I'm tanned and rested, and now there's even more of us
to waste the public's time and money."

But the GOP never lets facts get in the way of theater, so yesterday the House passed a bill to change the coverage threshhold to 40 hours per week.  The main purpose of the ACA is to expand access to many of those previously uninsured.  The Republican bill is a shameless attempt to do the exact opposite by allowing employers to reduce their number of covered workers.

This House bill will probably pass the Senate as well, but it's DOA once it hits Obama's desk, and everyone knows it.  How many times is it now that Republicans have wasted their time fucking with Obamacare?  Fifty?  Sixty?  I've lost count.

Part Two

In this day and age, you would think every person in public service would be eager to renounce racism, and disavow anyone who, say, once spoke at a Louisiana rally for neo-Nazi white supremacists and once referred to himself as "David Duke without the baggage."  Distancing yourself from that sort of idiocy would be not just politically correct, but plain old correct.  Right?

"See?  No robe, no cross, no torch.  Like I said, no baggage!"
Well, not for our Republican friends.  Not only do they stand in support of Steve Scalise, they promote his ass!  

Bratton And DeBlasio Tell It Like It Is

Ambitious little shit
Last week, I told a friend that I thought NYC police union chief Patrick Lynch was a giant asshole for trying to blame the murder of two cops on Mayor Bill DeBlasio.  During the peaceful "I Can't Breathe" protests of the Eric Garner verdict, the mayor mentioned his own mixed-race family and said he understood black distrust of police.  Lynch said the mayor's comments "threw police officers under the bus."  Shortly after, the two cops were gunned down by a crazy person with no connection to the Garner protesters.  Lynch said DeBlasio had "blood on his hands" for the shooting.  Then at Lynch's urging, some cops turned their backs as DeBlasio spoke at the funerals of their two fallen comradres.

Embarrassing themselves
I told my friend this was shameful.  He said the mayor needs to be careful in what he says.  I replied that he chose his words very carefully, spoke the truth, and said exactly the right thing.  I said I wished he'd respond to this nonsense, but the mayor was too courteous to engage in a war of words with an ambitious little shit like Lynch.

At a press conference this week, DeBlasio and Police Chief William Bratton finally had something to say about the cops who turned their backs.  DeBlasio said they were disrespectful to the families of the dead, to their fellow officers and to their own department.  Bratton said the back-turners embarrassed themselves.

Well said, gentlemen!

Now, to prolong their streak of stupidity, some in the NYPD are staging a "work slowdown" -- spoiled children waiting for the mayor to apologize to them.  Enjoy the wait.  It's gonna be a long one.