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, February 28, 2015

A Week? How Weak!

Same as the old Congress.  Maybe worse.
Congressional Republicans are again playing their favorite game, Shutdown Shakedown.

They want to block the implementation of President Obama's executive orders easing up on immigration policy.  This time, the shutdown hostage is the Dept. of Homeland Security.  The R's have decided to make DHS funding contingent upon stopping those immigration orders.  "Kill those executive orders or we kill this agency!"

A bill to do just that passed in Boehner's Nut House, but died in the Senate.  Utterly predictable and inevitable.  The GOP's brilliant idea once again boils down to a futile gesture, another symbolic vote against the Black Man in the White House.  Once again, the R's look like a bunch of incompetent bunglers, and once again the public will blame them for creating another hot shutdown mess.

Late last night, a "clean" DHS funding bill passed both chambers and was signed by the president.  It funds the agency for one week.  One week.  That's the best the party "in control" could come up with.  It's so bad, many Republicans are disgusted with themselves, and that takes some doing.

What will change in a week?  Nothing, and the same hostage will be taken captive again and the same ransom will be demanded.  Shutdown Shakedown will become a weekly event.

If you're sick of this shit, please don't vote Republican.

How many times can I run this cartoon until it no longer applies?

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Thought Has Occurred To Me


Hmmm.  An interesting acronym.  What could "CPAC" mean?

Crack-Pot Agenda Committee
Constipated Posers Against Common Sense
Creepy Pedantic Allied Chucklebutts
Calamitous Poopheads Are Congregating
Cretins Preventing Any Competence
Crazy People Afraid of Clinton
Craven Petty Asshole Contest

Those are good guesses, but it is of course the Conservative Political Action Conference, the annual GOP cattle call for appeasing the foamy-mouth brigade on the far right.  It's a wing-nut circus where gay Republican groups are banned and the party's presidential hopefuls compete to see who can be the meanest, cheapest, least tolerant, most belligerent, insensitive SOB in all the land.  It's the opposite of a beauty pageant -- it's an ugly pageant.

Snippets from the first day:

Scott Walker says if can "handle" protesting union members, then he can handle ISIS too.  Scotty's foreign policy motto:  Terrorists are just like public sector workers.

Chris Christie:  "I am anti-abortion.  I've always been anti-abortion, from the moment I was born.  My anti-abortion record is clear.  No one loves fetuses more than I do."

Ted Cruz:  "Have I mentioned lately how much I hate Obamacare?  And I hate a whole bunch of other stuff too!"

Spineless worm Bobby Jindal tells Congressional Republicans to "grow a spine."

Carly Fiorina insists that she's a woman too, just like Hillary Clinton.

Ben Carson:  "Hey, I'm black!  How weird is that?"

I could go on, but I'll spare you.  This conference is always supposed to be a critical, serious, big-ass deal for ambitious conservative wanna-be's.  They'll do anything to impress the douchebags (and moneybags) in attendance, and win the "More Conservative Than Vladimir Putin" award.

For me and many others, it's just comic relief.  It's like the pilot for a bad sit-com -- you laugh so you don't cry.  This is the crowd that will boo Jeb Bush off the stage for being sooo liberal.  Jeb Bush!

It's what being a "conservative" in America is all about these days.  And it's a sad/funny state of affairs.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

50 Fox News Lies In 6 Seconds

From the Daily Show.  All are screen shots from various Fox News telecasts, with Fox's bumper-sticker propaganda statement shown in the text at the bottom of the screen.  All statements have been researched and fact-checked by PolitiFact.com.  All of them are false, except for the one where Sean Hannity honestly admits a previous lie.

Lying is what Fox News does intentionally, and has done every day for 20 years.

If you click on the GIF, you can stop and advance the loop.

One more thing -- the GIF actually has only 49 lies.  The Daily Show has acknowledged the error.  Oh, Jon Stewart, you are such a liar!

The Lies:

Democrats planning largest tax increase in U.S. history
Denver Post hired editor to "promote pot"
Media devoted more coverage to Chris Christie bridge scandal than Benghazi
Govt. predicted massive loss of healthcare for small businesses in 2010
Obama admin. manipulated illegal immigrant deportation figures
Colorado food stamp recipients can use ATM's to get cash for pot
All the people getting banned from Facebook are conservatives
Obamacare is "one big fat V.A. system"
Some doctors say ebola can be transmitted thru the air by sneeze of cough
Eric Holder took part in dismissing criminal charges against new Black Panthers
Obama voted "Present" quite often in Senate
Fla. Gov. Rick Scott's approval numbers are up
Black unemployment in Ferguson 3X higher than white unemployment because of Obama's economic policies
Labor union president is the most frequent visitor at Obama White House
"Cash-For-Clunkers" (auto rebate program) will give govt. complete access to your home computer
Obamacare will cost $50,000 per enrollee over the next 10 years
Fox only network to cover that White House Communications Director Anita Dunn said Mao was one of her favorite philosophers
White House political director worked for ACORN
People will go to jail if they don't buy health insurance
Denies Fox ever said people would go to jail if they don't buy health insurance
RomneyCare "wildly unpopular"
NASA fudged data to make the case for global warming
Someone earning $250,000/year pays half of it in taxes
Census worker admitted she lied to lower unemployment rate
Obama sending more forces to battle ebola than ISIS
Colorado voters are allowed to print ballots at home and give to collectors
Obama offered to pay for Muslim culture museum
Fewer people will be covered by "sensible" doctor-patient relationship due to Obamacare
Substituted crowd footage to make anti-healthcare rally look larger than it was (Hannity admits lie) 
Loss of oil production in Gulf of Mexico will cost $8 billion a day in imports
Poverty rate unchanged since 1960's even though we've spent trillions to address it
Obama spent $200 million a day on India trip
Climate scientists fabricated temperature readings
No terror attacks on American soil from 2000-2008
Obama's N.Y. fundraising trip cost between $25-$50 million
Federal healthcare "navigators" going door-to-door to enroll people in insurance exchanges
Less than 10% of Obama cabinet ever worked in private sector
"No good data" for deaths from secondhand smoke
In 1767, unnamed Boston "guy" had "head blown off" for trying to "secretly" raise tax on tea
8.3 million fewer Americans are working under President Obama
U.S. troops have never been under the formal control of another nation
Health insurance industry is run mostly by Democrats
71% of Obama voters regret re-electing him
Texas Board of Ed may eliminate textbook references to Xmas, the Constitution
Obamacare is "government-run health insurance"
In 2013, more children died drowning in bathtubs than were killed by guns
Washington lacks Constitutional right to own land in western states
Obama has accumulated more debt than previous 43 presidents combined
U.S. only country in the world to give automatic citizenship at birth

And many, many, many more than the above 49.  Wow!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Kasich's Income Tax Folly

Ohio Wonder-Guv John Kasich's two-year budget proposal attempts to advance his long-stated desire, his ideological dream:  elimination of the state's income tax.

Knowing that he can't literally get rid of it all at once, for now he'll settle for taking a big chunk.  He wants a 23% cut in the income tax rate to individuals and businesses.  He'll "pay for it" by increasing the state sales tax, frack tax, cigarette tax, and other taxes, and by cutting state spending on education.

(His incomprehensible plan for school funding cuts state aid to more than half of our 600 districts, and has confused and pissed off virtually everyone.  The Wonder-Guv's plan calls for less spending on Ohio public education in 2017 than in 1995.)

Income tax down and sales tax up is classic regressive tax policy, so called because it gives more benefit to higher incomes and places more burden on lower incomes.  It is inherently unfair.  A cut in the income tax rate will have little to no impact on a poor man, but the rich man saves real money.  All sales taxes/consumption taxes are, by nature, regressive.  At any sales tax rate on any given item, a poor man pays a higher percentage of his income on sales tax than does the rich man.  When the sales tax rate goes up, the poor man's proportional share goes up more than the rich man's.  Republicans love regressive taxes.

None more so than Drummer-Boy Kasich.  At last night's State of the State speech, he said, "If we're going to have taxes [if?] . . . they should have the least impact on the private economy."  He said if we don't agree to his income tax cuts, we'll get no economic growth and Ohio businesses will run like scalded dogs to other states with lower tax rates.

Hey, thanks for the blackmail, Guv!  That's your message?  That without ever-lower tax rates, Ohio has nothing in particular to offer?  Tax rate is the only thing that counts?  My dear Governor Kay-suck, if you close the sale only by having the lowest price, you are a poor salesman.  If low taxes were truly the end-all/be-all you say they are, then all businesses in America would be clustered in Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas and Wyoming, because they have no state income tax.  And that doesn't seem to be the case, does it?

The income tax cuts will decrease state revenue by $5.7 billion.  The sales tax/other tax hikes will increase state revenue by $5.2 billion.  That's not "paying for it" -- that's a half-billion-dollar hole!  How might it be filled?  With blue-sky projections, magical thinking, and Tea-bag trickle-down "growth."  Or maybe not.  Ask 'em in Kansas how this new math has been working out for them.  (See the link below.)

(Last night I watched the great movie Being There, in which the imbecile Chance the Gardener dazzled politicians and captains of industry just by saying, "There will be growth in the spring."  They ran him for president.)

Here's the thing -- states have responsibilities.  They're supposed to provide services and do shit, and that takes money.  If you don't want a state income tax, fine, but how will you replace it?  Can you replace it?  (You'd better.  Comin' up a half-billion short won't work.)  Will your method of revenue replacement be fair and equitable, or will you have a riot on your hands?  Maybe you don't really want to replace it and instead just want to slash state services to the bone.  "We'll cut our way to prosperity!"

Maybe you should stop trying to reinvent the wheel and just leave well enough alone.

Let's check out some numbers (data via www.governing.com).

In the 5-year period of 2008-2012, Ohio had net collected total tax revenue of $124.5 billion.  Breaks down like so:

$43.8  billion individual income tax revenue
$1.8    billion corporate income tax revenue
$38.5  billion general sales tax revenue
$24.3  billion selective sales tax revenue (specified commodities, e.g. gasoline, alcohol, tobacco)
$16.1  billion estate, gift, license, severance, and other misc. tax revenue

Individual income tax is the state's single biggest source of tax revenue, and Kasich would like to do away with it.  Actually, he'd like to erase the top two lines, individual and corporate.  How would that deal work?

It wouldn't.  Ohio's tax rates are not the cheapest, but they're far from the highest.  We're middle of the road.  Our current progressive income tax structure, with rates from 0.6% to 5.3%, is fair and equitable and is the most reliable way of providing substantial public funding. 

John Kasich is Chance the Gardener.

Class dismissed.


Advice Which Deserves Our Attention

Maybe we should pay less attention to exaggerations about covering a war and more attention to the exaggerations which get us into so many of them!
                                          --  Jon Stewart

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Post-Racial Cleveland

Ah, Fox News!  Even on the local level, they're so . . . wrong.

That awkward moment when you say "Jig-a-boo"
in front of your your black colleague.
Grown-ass adult anchorperson Kristi Kapel of Cleveland's Fox 8, for some unknown reason, had this to say about Lady Gaga's Sound of Music tribute at the Oscars:

"It's really hard to hear her voice with all the jig-a-boo music -- whatever you want to call it -- jig-a-boo!"

Her black co-anchor Wayne Dawson forced a little chuckle and said, "She has a nice voice," while undoubtedly thinking to himself, "Stupid white woman!  Shut the fuck up!"

A Bright Spot On The Horizon

In general, February in Ohio sucks.  We get sub-zero temperatures, and the snow and ice go on and on, only to be eventually replaced by gray slush and filth.

The sports world enters its annual slow-down period.  A level of boredom ensues.  Football is over.  Our National Champion OSU Buckeyes had a remarkable season, but naturally, our elation has faded a bit.  I wonder if Urban Meyer is spending the off-season plotting a three-quarterback rotation for next year.  I bet his crafty old ass is thinking about it.

Jimmy Haslam stayed up all night working on this.
NFL teams are preparing for the draft.  I think the Cleveland Clowns, uh, Browns should do whatever it takes to get Jameis Winston.  He'd fit right in with our cheating G.M., our owner-facing-felony-charges, and all our players in 12-step programs.  And then, at quarterback, we'd have our choice of the shoplifting rapist or the coke-sniffing drunkard.  Yeah!  And how about that much-hyped new logo unveiled today?  Seriously, that's it.  Really different, wouldn't you say?

Our basket-Bucks are kinda so-so -- a middle-of-the-pack Big Ten team, probably good enough to make the NCAA tourney and win a game or two.  They're also bad enough to totally crap out and wind up in the NIT.

Up in The 'Land, the Cavaliers are resurgent with King James back in the fold.  They are one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, but the NBA season is a long haul.  Can the Cavs go all the way?  Probably not, but at least they're a winning team again.

There's always hockey and golf . . . and . . . [yawn!] . . .  Sorry!  I nodded off.

But there is a bright spot on the horizon.  Spring training is underway!  Which means the baseball season is just around the corner.  Good old baseball, which means the grass gets greener, the sun gets warmer, and once again all will be right in the world.

And the Reds and the Indian will meet in this year's World Series!!!  And I'll win my fantasy league!  (Hey, it could happen!)

Monday, February 23, 2015

Some Don't Want To Be Thanked For Their Service

Saw a thought-provoking article in the NY Times about saying "Thank you for your service" to veterans.  Here's the link to the full story, followed by a few excerpts.


To some recent vets, saying, "Thank you for your service" comes across as a shallow, disconnected, reflexive offering from people who, while meaning well, have no clue what soldiers did or what motivated them to go, and who would have never gone themselves nor sent their own sons and daughters.

To these vets, the "thanking phenomenon" symbolizes the ease of sending a volunteer army to wage war at a great distance.  It raises questions of patriotism and shared purpose.  Green Beret Mike Freedman says it "alleviates some of the civilian guilt," and calls it "patriotic gloss."

Veteran and author Tim O'Brien says that vets who believed in the mission like to be thanked, but others find the expressions of appreciation uncomfortable and disconnected from "the evil, nasty stuff you do in war."

Hunter Garth saw combat in Afghanistan and is among those who don't care to be thanked.  He says that as his patriotic fervor slipped away, the war for him became solely about survival among brothers in arms.

So what to say to a vet?  Offer them a job, said Freedman.

We've all seen the "Support Our Troops" bumper stickers and banners.  (After more than a decade, the message seems more like a demand than a suggestion.)  While I've never met anyone who does not support our troops, I've met plenty who are opposed to our recent wars.  One does not necessarily lead to the other.

Now the hawks and armchair quarterbacks are clamoring for full-blown military action in Syria and Iraq.  Will this mean more troops to "support"?

Madness!  The best way to support our troops is to bring them home.

American Religious Nonsense, Left And Right

Righties are giving Obama a raft of shit for his refusal to condemn the entire Muslim religion due to the actions of a few.  Having taken enough, our Prez (and my cuz) reacted by telling it like it is:  "ISIS does not represent Islam, it perverts it.  They are not religious leaders, they are terrorists."  Alas, these words of truth didn't mollify the righties (as shown in the infamously despicable cover of the NY Post, a rotten Rupert Murdoch rag).  They also conveniently forgot that Dubya said the same thing 12 years ago and caught zero flak (and should not have).

"I don't know.  And there's
so much more I don't know."
Lefties are giving Scott Walker a raft of shit for refusing to acknowledge Obama's Christianity.  As a corollary to Rudy Giuliani's vile assertion that Obama doesn't love America, Walker was asked if Obama is a Christian.  Walker replied, "I don't know."  Lefties howled at this, because the president is obviously a Christian and how dare Walker pretend he doesn't know it?

Grab onto your socks, faithful readers, because even though Scott Walker is a Koch-sucking douche nozzle, Buster is about to defend him.  (Just a little.  Don't get used to it.)

Walker was far more reasonable than the guy who asked the damn question.  Yes, his answer was a little weak, but it was far superior to that totally lame, irrelevant and awful question!  It was the question that really sucked, not his answer.

To the question, "Do you believe the president is a Christian?" I'll give you a much better answer:

"Who cares?  It doesn't matter!  Our Constitution says no religious test is required for public office.  So enough with the religion questions.  None of your business!  A president's religion, or lack thereof, is no more of a qualification than his or her shoe size.  Next question."

One of these days.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Question Mark Was Unnecessary

Headline in today's newspaper:  Industry Donations, Ruling Tied?

By "industry," they mean the oil/gas/fracking industry.  "Ruling" means the Ohio Supreme Court's recent decision which forbids local governments from regulating drilling, etc.  It's merely the latest in a long line of similar decisions*, here and elsewhere, in which "the oil and gas industry has gotten its way."  (So said Justice William O'Neill, a dissenter in the 4-3 ruling.)

The question mark in the headline was unnecessary.  Totally.  The article goes on to list a number of politicians and judges whose palms were greased by cash from the frackers.  That's pretty sad, but not at all surprising.

This post is not about fracking.  It's about our pay-to-play political system, a Beast which runs on money, and ever more of it.  The frackers are just one tawdry example of the sleazy system which is our reality.  (Don't ask me how to change it, but opening the floodgates to more money, removing all barriers ala Citizens United and McCutcheon, is clearly a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea.)

Some of the more conservative persuasion often try to rationalize this stinking mess with a glib dismissal:  "Everybody's doing it."  Meaning Democrats and Republicans alike are slaves to the Beast, and both sides are awash in non-stop cash contributions.  True enough.  But it doesn't mean it's all the same, with all the same strings attached, no difference.

No, this post is about where the money comes from.  That's much more instructive than the "everybody's doing it" brush-off.

What is the source of the money?  How much money?  To whom is it given?  How often?  And, most importantly, what is expected in exchange?

One side is funded by Wall Street/Big Banking, the oil and gas industry, Big Medical/Big Pharma, military and defense contractors, the NRA, mega-billionaires like Charles and David Koch and Sheldon Adelson, and the majority of the undisclosed "dark money" 501(c) donors.  What do you suppose they want?

The other side has mega-billionaires like Tom Steyer, who's a clean-energy entrepreneur/environmentalist, and financier/philanthropist George Soros, plus a bunch of labor unions -- public employees, teachers, carpenters, plumbers, autoworkers, firefighters and pilots.  And what do they want?

Which group has society's bests interests in mind?  Which group's desires align more closely with your own?

Myself, I'd much rather talk with a school teacher than with Sheldon Adelson.


(*Still not a post about fracking, but you might recall that not too long ago, fracking was considered by the industry to be a rather inefficient and expensive technique.  It was also prohibited under the rules of the federal Clean Water Act.  Then in 2005, George W. Bush signed an executive order exempting the fracking process from the law.  You know the rest.  And how come when Dubya signs an executive order, it's OK, but when Obama does it, people turn ugly?)

Saturday, February 21, 2015

At Least Brian Williams Never Did That!

If there's one thing they don't like at Fox News, it's fact-checking!

For years, Bill O'Reilly has said that when he was at CBS, he was a "war correspondent" who experienced combat during the 1982 Falkland Islands War.  He's talked about it on his show and has written about it in books and op-ed columns.

David Corn is an award-winning journalist, author, and columnist for Mother Jones, a liberal magazine.  He did a little research and reported that O'Reilly's claims are B.S.  He has never been near an actual combat anywhere.  There was combat in the Falklands, but the British military did not allow any American reporters into the island war zone.  All the Americans, including the CBS contingent, were safely stowed in hotels in Buenos Aires, some 1200 miles away.

Numerous correspondents who were there have backed up Corn's story and discredited O'Reilly's.

"We had some great meals," recalled CBS's Bob Schieffer.

"It wasn't a war zone, it was an expense account zone," said Eric Jon Edberg, retired CBS reporter.

A real charmer.
O'Reilly was not amused to find his tit in the public wringer, and he reacted by lashing out in anger.  He swore his every word about it was true.  He went on an extended rant against the "far-left" media.  He called Corn a "liar," "garbage," and a "despicable guttersnipe" (a what?  LOL!) who deserved to be "in the kill zone."  Nice!

Say what you will about NBC's Brian Williams, but when he got caught in his lie, at least he didn't say those who discovered it deserved to die!

Bill O'Reilly is precisely what he seems to be:  an egomaniacal loudmouth bully with low self-esteem and thin skin.  He can dish it out, but he sure can't take it.

He's His Own Man

The second Iraq war is the worst American foreign policy blunder in my lifetime, possibly of all time.  It was wrong from the start, and based on a lie.  The global ramifications of our invasion are felt today, and will undoubtedly last well into the future.  One can draw a straight line from the destabilization of Iraq in 2003 to ISIS, the militant murderers so much in the news these days.

Saddam Hussein was a nasty tyrant, but many are now wishing he was still around.  He was a bloody, brutal bastard, but at least his secular regime did not allow Al Qaeda to set up operations in Iraq.  (As Bill Maher put it, "He kept the shit at shoe-level.")

But someone insisted that Saddam had to go, and go he did.  Since then, Iraq has turned into a safe haven and training ground for terrorist crazies.  ISIS is a direct descendant of the older group, Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), which emerged in the chaos following Saddam's ouster.

So, who was the genius who decided that the U.S. must invade Iraq?  Oh yeah, George W. Bush.  Dubya.  The Decider.

Dubya got plenty of great advice before and during our little Mesopotamian misadventures, not only from Dick-head Cheney, but also from neo-con warmongers like Paul Wolfowitz and Michael Hayden.

Dubya's little brother Jeb Bush is, at this early point, the most likely Republican presidential nominee for 2016.  Jeb just announced his team of advisers, and guess who's on it?  Wolfowitz, Hayden, and a whole bunch of others who previously played advisor to Dubya, or to his father, or to both.

Just prior to this announcement, Jeb gave a speech where he declared his love for his family, but emphasized "I'm my own man."

Jeb says he's his own man, then promptly surrounds himself with the same advisers that worked for his brother and his daddy.  Can you say "security blanket"?

Jeb says he's his own man, but has also stated that he never disagreed with anything his brother did as president, presumably including the Iraq war.  Bushes do no wrong, or at least don't admit it.  "C'mon, big brother George -- you know I love you.  I'd never say anything bad about ya.  No -- Please don't give me another purple nurple.  Ow!  Quit it, George!  Oww!!!"

Jeb has spent his adult life trading on the family name.  He's essentially a professional "Bush."  But he's his own man.  Sure he is.

Between now and November 2016, how many times do you suppose Jeb's gonna take questions about Iraq and brother Dubya?  This could be fun.

Friday, February 20, 2015

So Smrt!

A Final Thought On Net Neutrality, Regulation And Innovation

Conservative ideologues have long taken it as a given, an incontrovertible fact, that regulation necessarily kills innovation.  Regarding net neutrality, both Sen. Portman and Rep. Tiberi told me that internet advancements and innovation have occurred thanks to limited government regulation.  OK, but part of the "limited regulation" of the last two decades was the FCC's enforcement of net neutrality principles.  That was the environment in which "innovation" took place.

Then the Big Cable/Telecom ISP's sued to be rid of that enforcement and put a stop to net neutrality.  The FCC foresees problems with that, and will issue new rules to reinstate limited regulations and to continue enforcement of net neutrality.  But in the convoluted Republican brain, this return to where we were just a short time ago, the same rules of that golden era of innovation, would now somehow do the opposite and crush opportunities with oppressive Big Government Regulation!

Nice try, but total horseshit.  Here's Lawrence Lessig, law professor and director of the Center For Ethics at Harvard University, making the point with an easy-to-understand example:

"Imagine that when you plugged something into an electrical outlet, the outlet queried the device and demanded identification.  Was it a Sony TV or a Panasonic?  Was it a Dell or an Apple?  And then based on that identification, different levels of quality or reliability of electricity were served at different prices.  No doubt such a regime would benefit utility companies.  I've not met anyone who thinks it would benefit innovation.  Thus, it would be something possibly good for network providers, but plainly bad the majority generally."


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Go Straight To Hell, Rudy! Then Keep Going.

"I do not believe that this president loves America.  He doesn't love you and he doesn't leave me.  He wasn't brought up the way you and I were, through love of this country." 
-- Rudy Giuliani, former NYC mayor and current horrible media monster

What the fuck would you know about his upbringing, Rudy?  You are an ignorant, racist sack of shit!

Of course, President Obama loves America!  It's one thing all presidents have in common.  And this president obviously understands what that means far better than you do, Rudy, you heinous old gasbag!

People who require public displays, who demand constant flag-waving, militaristic tub-thumping, and insist on American "exceptionalism" are simpletons who misunderstand true patriotism and love of country.

Rudy Giuliani inflames and encourages this misunderstanding.  Rudy gives assholes everywhere a bad name. 

Love Note To My Congressman

Rep. Patrick J. Tiberi
Sometimes, I just have to give this little piggie a piece of my mind.  I had previously written him asking for his support of net neutrality.  He wrote back.  Naturally, he's not in favor of it.

First, a bit of his response.  (It was lengthy, filled with examples of "better" ideas from the GOP, all of which give Big Cable/Telecom everything they want.)  Then my answer back at him.

Dear Mr. [Gammons],

Thank you for contacting me with your concerns regarding network neutrality. I appreciate this opportunity to correspond with you.

As you may know, on December 21, 2010 U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) members voted 3-2 to move towards greater regulatory oversight of broadband Internet. The decision by the FCC was part of a larger debate about the proper role of the federal government in regulating the Internet and the idea of network neutrality through government regulation, which I am opposed to. The FCC's rules and regulations were published in the Federal Register on September 23, 2011, took effect on November 20, 2011, and are commonly known as the Open Internet Order.  [And blah-blah-blah, etc.

Dear Congressman Tiberi:

Thanks for the response.  I'm well aware of the issues surrounding net neutrality regulation.  The concept, and the proposal backed by Chairman Wheeler and President Obama to reclassify the internet under Title II, has broad public support across all sectors.  It has the support of content providers and technical experts.  The FCC received a record 3.7 million comments, almost all in favor of regulating net neutrality.  Congress has received over 2 million emails urging representatives like you to support net neutrality as we know it.  Millions more have signed petitions for the same purpose.  Republicans, outside of those in Congress, also support it, as do the majority of people in your own district.

Your knee-jerk opposition to protecting net neutrality is based on unthinking ideological rejection of any government regulation of any sort -- even regulations to protect consumers and the general public -- and on your desire to hand President Obama a "defeat," any defeat.

On this issue, public opinion and expert opinion are against you.  You're not representing me and you're not representing your district.  You're representing only the political interests of your fellow Congressional Republicans and the interests of your corporate benefactors.  It's disappointing.


Buster Gammons

The Self-Thinning Herd

A small-town Michigan city councilperson died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.  Initial reports called it a suicide.  Sad.

But yesterday, officials in St. Joseph, MI released new information.  It was not a suicide.  The council person, Christina Bond, had accidentally shot herself in the head while adjusting the gun in her bra holster!  It just went from sad to stupid, in a funny sort of way.  Who the fuck wears a bra holster?  Especially in a podunk little town like St. Joseph (pop. 8200)?  Why??

Christina Bond never went to college.  She was an ex-Navy M.P.  She worked for a local church.  Her obit said she was an "active member of the Christian Motorcycle Association" (who'da thunk?) and was "on FIRE for the LORD."  (Ouch!)  She competed in female body-building contests and beauty pageants.  (Wacky-town!)  Her Facebook page is half Bible verses and half anti-Obama rant.  After her election to council, she wrote about needing more people to get involved "in taking our country back."  (Yes, she was one of those.)  And she was a Republican, of course.

Ms. Bond was part of the herd of 'Murican idiots who are so uninformed, so afraid and so paranoid that carrying a gun in your brassiere seems like a great idea.  The herd has thinned itself.  Good.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Giving Jon Stewart His Due

I really have no way of knowing, but I'm pretty sure most of Buster's readers are familiar with the dynamic duo of Comedy Central programming, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.  I suspect there are a very few who've never allowed themselves the pleasure of some quality TV time with Jon and Stephen.

It's too late to catch Colbert's classic character (he's off to CBS, but there's always YouTube), but even though Stewart recently announced that after 16 years, he's leaving The Daily Show in a few months, you can still catch him every night at 11 p.m. for awhile longer.  If you've never watched, you should find out what you've been missing before it's too late.

What follows is as good an expression of the significance of Jon Stewart as any I've heard or read.  (By James Poniewozik in the current issue of Time magazine.)  

He was a "fake" news anchor, but his commentary was a kind of journalism nonetheless.  The Daily Show really came into its own with the second Iraq War -- or as The Daily Show branded it, "Mess O'Potamia."  As the WMD's failed to materialize, as the "facts" that built the case for war proved far less than factual, Stewart and company hit a theme that later resonated in Katrina and in the financial collapse:  Maybe the traditional authorities and experts don't really know what they're doing.  Maybe the press that was meant to put a check on them has stopped checking.  Maybe someone needs to stand athwart history and declare, "This is bullshit!"

Jon Stewart did that, and any honest media critic knew he was doing the job better than the rest of us.

Tobacco: It's Kinda Like U2

Americans are smoking far less than in decades past, but the tobacco industry is somehow still as profitable as ever.

"It's an aging product that's decreasing in popularity and yet it just can't stop making money.  It's basically the cultural equivalent of U2."
                                                            -- John Oliver 

Four Year-Old Cartoon Still Applies

A couple months ago, President Obama issued executive orders granting temporary legal status to some, not all, undocumented immigrants and halting most deportations indefinitely.  Although both parties agree that our immigration system is a mess, Republicans are pissed that Obama pre-empted them by acting first.  They claim the action should have been legislative and his orders are unconstitutional, but the GOP has produced zero immigration legislation and they're full of shit on constitutionality.  Bottom line, they wish they'd done something, so now they're gonna try to screw the guy who did.  How principled.

By the end of this month, Congress will need to authorize another routine funding bill to keep the Dept. of Homeland Security operating.  Does this have anything at all to do with the president's immigration orders?  Hell, no!  Of course not.  But what have the Republicans in Boehner's Horrors come up with?  A bill that funds the DHS only if Obama revokes his own executive orders.  More high-minded GOP principles in action!  Senate Democrats have enough votes to kill the House bill and are gleefully giving the R's a taste of their own obstruction medicine.

Orange John says he doesn't give a shit and is "certainly prepared" to let DHS funding expire and shut down the agency.  Once again, the Weeper of the House is negotiating at the point of a gun.

Some things never change.  Usually, editorial cartoons are so tied to current events that they lose relevance quickly.  But I could re-run this one over and over.  It originally appeared in 2011 during a shut-down stand-off over the debt ceiling.  I just changed the paper in Boehner's hand from "DEBT CEIL." to "DHS $".

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Al Sharpton Owes Back Taxes. So Do Ten Million Other People.

I was recently informed of the big news that civil rights activist and cable TV commentator Al Sharpton has a bunch of unpaid taxes and the I.R.S. is finally going to come down hard on him.  Although I hadn't heard that before, it's certainly some serious shit.

I kinda like the the Reverend Al, and I'll get back to him in just a bit.  First, a few other thoughts.

In its last report on the topic, the I.R.S. said that the U.S. government is owed some $450 billion in back taxes from individuals and businesses.

Federal employees as a group owe $3.3 billion in unpaid taxes.

Washington politicians Rep. Jim Renacci (R-OH) and Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY, and resigned in disgrace) owe hefty amounts of back taxes.  Even budget bitch Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) once paid a small fine for under-reporting his income to the I.R.S.

Celebrities Nicholas Cage, Lionel Ritchie, Lindsay Lohan, Pamela Anderson and Ozzy Osborne have big unpaid tax bills.

General Electric, Verizon, A.E.P., and NiSource/Columbia Gas pay $0 federal income tax.  Other biggies who pay little or nothing include Bank of America, Exxon Mobil, CitiGroup and FedEx.  These are corporations with hundreds of billions in profits, legally dodging taxes via foreign "off-shore" arrangements and tax subsidies/tax credits.

In 1952, 33% of all federal tax revenue was from corporate income tax.  Today, it's just 9%.

OK, back to Al Sharpton, who reportedly owes about $4.7 million in back taxes, most of it to the feds, the rest to state and local authorities.   Much of this is secured by tax liens.  Around three-quarters of it is personal liability, with the remainder owed by his companies, the National Action Network and RevAl Communications.

With penalties and interest and payments, the precise amount is hard to know.  Sharpton says the figure is inflated, but he acknowledges he has old tax debt.  He said the lien amounts are being paid down, and he said he's current on his payments under settlement agreements.

So I think I know why I missed the news flash about this.  There wasn't one.  This has been Sharpton's situation for years, since 2008.  There is no "news" here unless you're Fox News or the Drudge Report.

Not to diminish his tax delinquency -- it's not a small amount and it's not an admirable thing -- but Sharpton has plenty of company in this regard.  Why are Reverend Al's tax troubles such a target for the conservative right?  Why do they call for him to be fired, imprisoned, or worse?  Could it be because he's just a trouble-making, uppity n****r who makes them uncomfortable by pointing out racism and unfairness?  (The white right hates that stuff.)  Yeah, I think that could be it.

Why can't the right get at least as worked up over billions of dollars in corporate tax subsidies and giveaways as they are over this one man?  

Pot-Head = Rot-Head?

"Well, they've finally proved what I've always said."  And what's that?  "That marijuana use causes loss of I.Q."

So said a friend recently.  He's prone to such vainglorious pronouncements, which I routinely ignore.

If that's really what he's "always said," there's no "proof" that he's correct.  There are a couple studies indicating that heavy marijuana use in early adolescence may have some small but lasting effect on mental acuity.  The key word is "may."  (Also "heavy" and "adolescence".)  The connections are tenuous.  Most research has found no long-term impact on the brain from using marijuana.  Short-term euphoria, yes.  Long-term damage, no.

Don't misunderstand.  I'm not recommending marijuana use, and experience teaches that while under the influence of weed, decision-making and thought processes are not at their best.  And it's still technically illegal in most places.  I'm just saying that pot doesn't make you permanently stupid.

What I found most amusing about the comment was that it was made and was being discussed among a group of us regular drinkers who had gathered for a cocktail party.  And as we all know, alcohol always make you smarter!  Hell, after my third martini I'm a veritable MENSA member.

"I'm Almost As Qualified As Rachael Ray"

Scotty Walker, union-busting boy wonder Governor of Wisconsin, has boundless ambition.  His education is rather more limited.  Walker's lack of a college degree was recently dismissed out of hand by Fox News pundit Charles Krauthammer because, "Bill Gates never got his degree either."

Therefore, college education is meaningless?  And Scotty is as smart as Bill Gates?

Live Reporting On Gay Marriage In Alabama

Definitely gotta watch those squirrels!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Big Oil & Gas: "Thanks For Your Vote. Here's $250 K."

(By Howard Koplowitz, 2/11/15, in the International Business Times, www.ibtimes.com)

The oil and gas industry gave nearly $250,000 to each of the 62 senators who voted in favor of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline project late last month, according to MapLight, a nonpartisan research organization that tracks the influence of money in politics. The revelations come as the House of Representatives is set to vote on and expected to pass the Senate legislation Wednesday [it did pass] that would approve the pipeline and start transferring oil in western Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast. President Barack Obama has threatened to veto the project on a number of grounds, including environmental concerns.
The oil and gas industry, which stands to benefit from the Keystone XL pipeline, gave $236,544 on average to the senators who voted yes on Keystone, or about 10 times more than the senators who voted no. The 36 senators against the pipeline received about $22,882 apiece in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry. 
Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., the sponsor of the Keystone Senate bill, received about $275,000 from the industry, according to MapLight, but he wasn’t the biggest beneficiary of oil and gas industry money in the Senate. That distinction goes to Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who has received more than $1 million from the industry, which is important to Texas. The Democratic co-sponsor of the Keystone bill, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, received about $200,000 from the industry -- the biggest beneficiary of oil and gas money among Democrats. But there were 24 Republicans who got larger contributions from the industry than him.
The petroleum refining and marketing industry, which is among the biggest backers of the Keystone pipeline, also gave about 10 times more money to senators who voted yes on Keystone than those who voted against it, according to MapLight. Those in the yes camp received about $47,325 on average from the industry while those who voted no received about $3,600.
No word yet on how much the House reps were paid for their "yes" votes.

When He Thinks No One Else Is Around

Can you imagine, say, Vladimir Putin doing this?  Or Bibi Netanyahu?  I don't think so.

But our Prez is self-assured enough to make fun of himself in a goofy health care video.  I'm sure Fox News will hate it.  Good!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

A Tough Call

Say you had a pet dog that you loved dearly; best dog you ever had.  Somehow, your dog and a person you don't know at all have simultaneously fallen into a body of water and are drowning.  You have the ability to save one, but not both.  The one you don't choose will die.  Which one do you save, your dog or a total stranger?

Quite the existential dilemma, eh?

It's hard to determine what's right and wrong, but most people say they would choose to save the human being.

On Larry Wilmore's Nightly Show, the question was posed to a pair of comedians, whose answers did not disappoint:

"I'm saving my dog because I love him and because, statistically speaking, most people are assholes." -- Rory Albanese

"I don't have a dog and I don't like people.  Can I just go for a coffee?" -- S.E. Cupp

Net Neutrality Update

Let's review.  Net neutrality is the long-held idea that all internet data/traffic should be treated and delivered equally.  (See the link below.)  The FCC enforced the concept, but Big Cable/Telecom ISP's like AT&T, Verizon, ComCast, Time Warner, Cox, and WOW have always hated net neutrality.  They want to establish for-pay internet "fast lanes".  Since bandwidth is finite, this would necessarily create "slow lanes" too.  Not net neutral, not consumer-friendly.  Your internet access would morph into a clone of your cable TV service -- basic internet for one price, with "premium" websites for an extra fee.

After a successful lawsuit which held that the FCC has no authority to enforce net neutrality (because ISP's are "information services", not "telecommunications"), the Big ISP's put their fast-lane proposal before the FCC.  At about the same time, President Obama appointed Tom Wheeler as the new Chairman of the FCC.  This seemed to be bad news because Mr. Wheeler had been a career lobbyist for . . . the cable industry.

As HBO's John Oliver put it, "Putting Tom Wheeler in charge of the FCC is like needing a babysitter and hiring a dingo."  Oliver, among others, also got the word out about the FCC's public comment period, open prior to their decision on the Big ISP's proposal.  (See the link below.)

The FCC got a record 3.7 million comments on this issue, with the vast majority in favor of maintaining true net neutrality.

A week ago Wheeler announced his surprising decision.  He's whole-heartedly in favor of net neutrality and will continue to enforce it by reclassifying the internet as a telecommunications service.  The FCC will regulate the internet as a public utility, just like telephone companies.  (Wheeler's stance awaits full FCC approval later this month, and the OK is a rubber-stamp foregone conclusion.)

This exactly what consumers and content providers were hoping for, and the exact opposite of what the Big ISP's and their Republican foot soldiers wanted.

(I sent Sen. Rob Portman a note stating my support of net neutrality and asking for him to do the same.  I won't bore you with all of his pathetic reply, but he starts by hailing "limited government intervention," so you pretty much know immediately where he stands.  He's worried that "increased regulation" could be "harmful to internet users" and "disrupt freedom and opportunity for economic growth."  What a load of boilerplate horseshit!  Robbie Portman is a spineless sell-out, owned by Big Cable/Telecom, the NRA, and anyone else with a really fat checkbook.)

But this little battle ain't over yet.  The Big Cable/Telecom industry says it will sue to overturn this latest FCC ruling, and get themselves back to being unregulated information services.  And some GOP reps on the Hill are already proposing bad bills which would unwind it legislatively.

But just like 3.7 million comments got Tom Wheeler's attention, maybe we can put the full-court press on some of our elected officials, and maybe they can persuade the ISP's and their droogies to back off.

Below are links to your representatives in D.C. (key in your info), and to an online petition (just one of many).  If you're so inclined.  And if you value your favorite cat videos.





Proof That I Don't Always Agree With My Cousin Barry

 President Obama today asked Congress for "war powers" to fight ISIS/ISIL for the next three years.  (Aren't we already bombing them on behalf of Jordan, the Saudis and others?)  He says ISIS could become a threat to us here in the U.S.  (Doubtful.)  The President says our involvement will not be "long-term or large-scale" like Iraq or Afghanistan.  (Good, but if that's the case, why bother?  And why us?  If the need is short and small, let someone else do it.)
Our presence would be limited to intelligence collection, rescue operations, special ops to takeout ISIS leaders (good, I guess), and "kinetic strikes".  (WTF is that?)

So, Buster, what's your opinion?

After careful consideration, how about NOOOOOO!!!!!   Will our military misadventures in this bad neck of the woods never end?  Yes, Dubya stupidly put us on this path over a decade ago, but that was then, this is now and this is Obama's call.  We're already "helping" over there.  We're already engaged.  Do we really need the Congressional stamp of approval to make it official?  Enough war already!  (And once again, we're declaring "war on terrorism," an absurd and impossible concept.  It's a war against a noun, a war against a tactic.  Have we learned nothing?)  

No, wait -- I get it!  We're not playing world-cop again in the quagmire of the Middle East, we're just launching a jobs and economic stimulus program:  jobs in the armed forces for our under-employed youth, and economic stimulus for our downtrodden military contractors.