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

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Filter-Free Truth From Sheldon Cooper

Wouldn't we all love to be so honest?

Sheldon Cooper's mother:  "Are you ashamed of me?"

Sheldon Cooper:  "No, I love you.  I'm just embarrassed by the things you think, do, and say."

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Baltimore: The Language Of The Unheard

A riot is always ugly.  Violence and senseless destruction always occur.  A riot is stupid group-think, a thousand people sharing a brain.  Never good.

But not all riots are created equal, at least according to some.  There were Boston Tea Parties and Whiskey Rebellions, which were "patriotic."  There are sports-related riots following big wins or losses, which are silly.  But nothing captures the American attention like a so-called "race" riot.

The white right has always loved race riots -- they're a chance to change the subject.  It happens every time, going back to Harlem and Watts and Hough in the 1960's.  It happened after Ferguson, and it's happening now about Baltimore.

Name-calling.  Victim-blaming.  People I know are posting ignorant shit on Facebook claiming that Freddie Gray's rap sheet justifies his abuse at the hands of the police.  Fox News has ramped up its usual pandering racist mode:  "We don't want to talk about why the riot happened.  We want to focus on black people behaving badly.  Because that's the real problem.  Here, watch this video of a black man throwing a rock."

Why does a riot of this type happen?  Is it because a bunch of bored people decide, on a whim, they have nothing better to do?  "Hey kids, let's put on a riot!"  Or maybe it's because of outside agitators.  They always show up for a good riot.  "Traveling halfway across the country to steal toilet paper from a CVS has been a dream of mine."  Perhaps the mayor caused the riot with a regrettable comment about "space to destroy."

None of that B.S. is why Baltimore got hot.  The riot happened because, in a city with a long history of racism, oppression and police brutality, Freddie Gray got his spine snapped by six storm-trooper cops and somebody caught the aftermath on video.  Let's not lose sight of that single, pertinent fact, amidst all the sideshows and shiny objects.

Everywhere, the black community has a bad attitude about cops, and for good reason.  Harassment is the daily reality.  A kid gets killed in police custody, and decades of frustration and anger come pouring out.  Looting and destruction are the unfortunate, unhelpful, but not unexpected side effects.

If you really can't understand why these riots occur, you are simply perpetuating the problem and are likely part of it.  You're focused on the unpleasant effects while not dealing honestly with the root causes.

Violence rarely accomplishes anything, but even Martin Luther King, Jr. -- that paragon of non-violent protest -- acknowledged it may, at times, be inevitable.

From the #blacklivesmatter post of 11/26/14:

"It is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots.  It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without at the same time condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society.  These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention.  And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard."

My father was born and raised in Baltimore.  I have family and friends in the area.  Peace, Baltimore.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Flying Finns Pay Proportionately

(Almost certainly not about the Flying Finn, Paavo Nurmi.)

Can you imagine if it worked like this in America?

Here, a speeding ticket costs the same, no matter who you are.

In Finland, however, if you are ticketed for driving at high speed, and if you are a person of means, your fine is designed to get your attention with proportional pain in your pocketbook.  If your speed is excessive and your income is large, your fine will be based on your income.  Ooh!

Reima Kuisla is a wealthy Finnish "businessman", gambler, and real estate mogul.  He makes $7 million a year.  He was recently ticketed for going 64 MPH in a 50 MPH zone.  His fine was . . . $58,000!  Mr. Kuisla is pissed, but most Finns don't have much sympathy for him.  That's the way things are done in Finland, plus two years ago, Kuisla was fined $83,769 for speeding 26 MPH over the limit.  He's just a chronic, rich, scoff-law with a fast car.  But he doesn't hold the record in Finland.  That belongs to an asshole on a motorcycle.  His income was $12.5 million, and his fine was $103,600.

The well-off paying more than the less well-off?  How progressive.  Yee-ha!!


To whom much is given, much is required. -- Luke 12:48 (paraphrased Bible verse) 

From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs. -- Karl Marx (Commie)

Social Security is a Ponzi scheme.* -- Rick Perry (Republican) 

*(No, it's not.  It's fine for now.  It doesn't need to reduce benefits or raise the retirement age.  It simply needs to keep up with the times.  Right now, the maximum annual income subject to Social Security tax is $118,500.  If the cap is raised to $250,000, Social Security is funded for many, many decades to come.  If the cap is removed, it's good pretty much forever.  An example of a moral principal despised by Republicans.  Bite me, Paul Ryan!) 


You're Doing Fine Oklahoma! Oklahoma, OK!

In a day or two, the SCOTUS will hear a challenge to Oklahoma's lethal drug capital punishment procedures, which are similar to Ohio's.  In both states about a year ago, a convict endured a prolonged and tortured death, via the use of of new and untested drugs.  The old drugs -- proprietary -- came from Europe.  The makers decided awhile ago they could no longer condone the use of their products to kill people.  As America ran out of those old reliable death drugs, some states got chemically creative.

Not wishing to dwell on a botched killing accomplished very slowly by whatever the fuck the old poison was, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallon just signed a bill to allow executions to continue via nitrogen gas.  No one anywhere has ever been executed by nitrogen gas.  Untested again.  How does it work?  Who knows?  But it's new and improved poison!  It's sure as shit not that nasty old poison.  It's . . . different.  Oklahoma is always searching for more and better ways to kill its citizens.

Speaking of which . . .

Oklahoma has admitted that fracking is in fact the cause of  a big increase in earthquakes in the state.  Big, as in a 23,000% increase!  From just one on average prior to 2008, to 230 on average since. then.  Hmmm.

Naturally, the Oklahoma House responded by passing a bill to prevent municipalities from regulating any oil/gas drilling in their towns, cities, etc.  We're shakin' and bakin', the ground is full of toxins, and our water is on fire, but it's money that we love! 


Sunday, April 26, 2015

Bryan Stevenson, Pursuer Of Justice

Do you know Bryan Stevenson?  You should.  He's an attorney, civil rights leader, author, and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama.  He's fought against excessive criminal sentencing for minors and the mentally ill, has defended death row prisoners, and has worked to free those innocently imprisoned.  Bishop Desmond Tutu has called him "America's young Nelson Mandela."  Others say he's a real-life Atticus Finch.

Bryan Stevenson is a truth-teller, and a major righteous dude.  A sampler:

"The narrative of racial difference was created to sustain and legitimize slavery.  It has compromised almost every institution we've created and continues to haunt us."

"Lynching was terrorism."

"We are, each of us, more than the worst thing we've ever done."

"A person who is rich and guilty has a better chance in the criminal justice system than someone who is poor and innocent."

"Everywhere you go, when you look at who gets stopped [by police], who gets searched, who gets menaced, who gets threatened, and who is suspected, race plays an extremely significant role."

"Here in Alabama, President Obama received less of the white vote (under 13%) than any Democratic presidential candidate in our state's history.  Things are still pretty racialized.  The number of complaints we get about overt bigotry and bias has increased over the past 6 or 7 years.  Obama's election has stirred a lot of racial animosity."

"Even with our history of racial injustice, the North Carolina legislature actually felt comfortable revoking, eliminating the state's Racial Justice Act."

(Link to an interview with Stevenson in today's Charlotte Observer.)


To get a real feel for this man, you could spend 20 minutes and watch this compelling video from Stevenson's 2012 TED Talk.  Long, but worth it.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Those Athletic Huguenots

The lovely Mrs. Gammons and I are currently visiting Jacksonville Beach.  We stay just a couple blocks south of the Huguenot Tennis Center.  We've been here several times before and the name of this facility amuses me, although I'm clueless as to its origin.
I do know that the Huguenots were French Protestants who were persecuted by the Catholic majority in the 1500's and 1600's.  Many Huguenots fled France for other parts of Europe or for the New World.  Your humble correspondent is descended from a Huguenot who settled in Maryland.

The Huguenots were essentially Calvinists, practicing a particularly stern and humorless brand of Puritanical Christianity.  They were not big fans of sports or leisure activities of any sort.  Which is why I find the "Huguenot Tennis Center" such a funny name.

It tickles me to imagine that while the Spanish were building forts and cannons and castles in St. Augustine (the oldest settlement in the continental U.S.), just a few miles up the road at Jax Beach, an enclave of athletic French Protestant refugees devoted themselves to constructing tennis courts!

Revisionist history!


But wait!  Here's even more Huguenot trivia for your blogging dollar.  (OK, blogs are free, but you know what I mean.)

The aforementioned ancient relative was one Mareen Duvall, a French Huguenot who emigrated to Maryland in 1650 at the age of 25.  Mareen is the oldest known relative in any of the branches of our family shrubbery.  Upon arrival, he was given (given!) a tract of land by the Calverts, overseers of the Maryland Colony, and later procured even more by his own industry.  He was a prosperous farmer and merchant.  Mareen preceded little ol' me by 12-13 generations, give or take.  (In subsequent years, some, like my grandmother Katharine, changed the spelling to the more French-ified "DuVal".)

Included among his many descendants are Supreme Court Justice Gabriel Duvall (my 4th great-grandfather), President Harry Truman, king-stealing socialite Wallis Simpson, wealthy investment guru Warren Buffett, actor Robert Duvall, Vice President Dick Cheney, and of course, current President Barack Obama, a.k.a. my Cousin Barry.

I happily embrace my distant affiliation with all of them, except Dick Cheney.  Every family has its black sheep.


Monday, April 20, 2015

Birds Do It, Bees Do It

Even educated fleas do it.

So said the old song.  Down here at the Florida shore, we've seen proof -- no fleas, but birds and bugs have been doing it with some frequency.  Seagulls and little critters known, appropriately, as lovebugs have been going at it every day on the beach.  The gulls insist on a lot of screeching and wing-flapping.  The bugs just fly united, then land on you.  Hilarious!

Must be the season.  Before you know it, this will lead to dancing!

My Unpopular Opinion

They ran the Boston Marathon again today, two years after the bombing.  And the jury in the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving and convicted bomber, begins the penalty phase of its deliberations.  They will almost certainly decide to fry his ass.

How do you feel about that?  Me?  I'm in the minority.  I oppose the death penalty, even for this rat bastard.

  • Capital punishment changes nothing, solves nothing.
  • It is simply eye-for-an-eye vengeance -- understandable, but not a manifestation of our "better angels". 
  • If killing is wrong, society should not engage in state-sanctioned killing as a punishment.  It's the proverbial "two wrongs." 
  • It has obviously never been a deterrent.
  • It can clearly be cruel and unusual.  Botched, prolonged executions are common throughout history.
  • Capital punishment is final, but not foolproof.  The FBI admits to errors in evidence analysis in 268 cases which were decided in the prosecutor's favor, some of which were capital cases in which the defendant has been executed.  The Innocence Project has used DNA evidence to reverse the convictions of over 300 prisoners, many of whom were on death row.  There are more reversals to come.  Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens is opposed to the death penalty for this reason.
  • Although a slim majority of Americans still approve of capital punishment, approval has been falling steadily for decades and is now just barely above 50%. 
  • Several victims of the Marathon bombing, including the parents of the young boy who was killed, have asked that Tsarnaev be imprisoned, not executed.
  • There is no excuse for what they did, but Tsarnaev was 19 years old in 2013 and heavily influenced by his older brother.  (See the link below.)  

Yes, it's true that the death of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will be no great loss for the world, but that's no excuse either.

If you're still into punishment for its own sake, consider that if this guy is really the radicalized Muslim terrorist he's supposed to be, then death is what he wants.  Martyrdom, 72 virgins, and all that shit.  Get your revenge by withholding what he wants.  Maybe that would be the real "Boston Strong."


Wednesday, April 15, 2015


Signs of hate, secrecy and small-minded intolerance.

Columbus, Ohio is a fairly welcoming, live-and-let-live, and -- dare I say it? -- liberal city.  Or maybe I'm all wrong about that.  Signs like these take the wind out of my sails:

Anti-abortion protesters put up a hateful display on the OSU Oval yesterday, which included  a large video screen and other signs with graphic images.  The protest group remains unknown, but was allowed on campus because it was invited and sponsored by a doctor on the OSU Med School faculty!  He refuses to name the group he invited to spew bile at students on campus.  I can't believe my alma mater allows this sort of shit.  It should not.  "Free speech" needs an equal time guarantee.  The sponsoring "doctor" should be fired.

For the second time in less than a year, an unknown person or persons has paid for an anti-gay marriage billboard in the Grandview area.  On both occasions, the message has been displayed on billboards owned by American Outdoor Advertising.  The company will make no public comment and will not disclose the identity of those who paid for the billboard.  American Outdoor will apparently take anyone's money, but they prefer the money of bigots.

I love this town, except for those rare times when I don't.

When Exactly Did This Ever Seem Like A Good Idea?

I am not making this up.

Because Michigan is a state with one of those moronic open-carry gun laws, the Durand, Mich. school district has developed this Open-Carry Gun Protocol flow-chart for use by front-desk staff.

Durand school administrators admit that at each decision point on the chart, they forgot to add "Shit yourself!!!"

Wouldn't it have been a better idea to not allow guns in schools at all?

Wouldn't it have made more sense to legally prohibit the open carry of all firearms everywhere?

But no, they're way too smart for that in Michigan.

And now dear old Miss McGillicuddy at the check-in desk is gonna have fun with her flow-chart.  Great job, Michigan!

Biggest. Asshole. Ever.

Simultaneously insulting Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama while dreaming of nothing but old, white men with guns as president, NRA chief Wayne Lapierre had this to say recently:

"Eight years of one demographically symbolic president is enough."

Gotcha, Wayne -- no more darkies, no people without penises.

Has there ever been a bigger whore than Wayne Lapierre?  He will say and do anything as long as the death industry (guns and ammo makers) keeps throwing money at him.  What a disgusting asshole!

I say let's have a lot more demographic symbolism!  Let's get with the times.  Let's have government that resembles the larger society.  Obama was a "first," and a great one.  Let's do more firsts! 

For starters, hell yes, let's have our first woman president!  Females have been half the world's population since forever.  Some of the nations with recent or incumbent female leaders include England, Germany, Israel, Argentina, Brazil, Denmark, Jamaica, Liberia, South Korea, the Phillipines, Egypt, Pakistan, Norway, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, New Zealand, Poland, and Scotland.  Here in America, we are seriously overdue.

Hillary Clinton should exploit her gender to the max!  "Isn't it time for a woman President?"  She should say it again and again.  Put it on t-shirts and buttons and bumper stickers.  What if she picked a woman as her running mate?  What if it was Elizabeth Warren?  Kirsten Gillibrand?  OMG!  I smell Democratic landslide victory.

Then let's shatter a few more ceilings, glass or other, by electing  a procession of even more demographically significant presidents (approximately half of which should be female), such as:

Latinos, Asians, more blacks, gays and lesbians (ooh, scary!), atheists (scarier!), Jews, Muslims (scariest!), etc., etc.  Conchita Wong-Goldfarb, we need you!  Come on down!

This scenario would automatically offend most conservatives and strike them as unfair.  Wayne Lapierre would throw an embolism!  Good!!  If we're pissing off those sorts of people, we're on the right track.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Philosopher's Corner: Adlai And Bibi

(The Old Philosopher, D.W., wishes it to be known that the adjective "old" is chosen by Buster, not the Philosopher himself, and since seventy is the new forty, the word is entirely subjective and not necessarily accurate.  He acknowledges, however, that "The Old Philosopher" has a certain ring to it.)


"A free society is one where it is safe to be unpopular."
-- Adlai Stevenson

Stevenson was a man who should have been president, but we went with the war hero, later a movie star, and later still an idiot.

So much for a free society.

And how about that group that is rabid for sovereignty, but is cheering wildly as Bibi Netanyahu tries to blast it apart?

Go Yahus.

-- The Old Philosopher

GOP: More Wings Than A Flock Of Geese

Hillary Clinton is officially running for President.  She's a Democrat.

Today, Marco Rubio announced he's running too.  He's a Republican.  ("Latinos for Republicans; that's like roaches for Raid." -- John Leguizamo)  Joining Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, Rubio now makes it officially Three Stooges in the Republican race, so far.  Many more Stooges will follow.

Democrats have an actual coalition and are fairly, not perfectly, unified.

Republicans have a bunch of disconnected special interest groups, often competing with one another for breathing space.  Their only chance for a GOP "majority" is to glom onto every selfish, greedy slimeball and paranoid, regressive half-wit they can find and try to hold 'em all together somehow.

The Republican party has more wings than a flock of geese (and just about as much crap):

  • There's the Big Business/Big Money wing, occupied by the ultra-wealthy, off-shore One-Percenters.
  • The Big Medical/Big Pharma/Big Insurance wing.
  • The anti-Obamacare/anti-healthcare access wing.
  • The anti-immigration, racist wing.
  • There's a wing for the anti-abortion nuts.  (Do you suppose the anti-abortion zealots who are so adamantly "pro-life" are also adamantly pro-death penalty?  I bet they are.)
  • And there's a big wing for the anti-tax Tea Baggers and Norquistians.
  • A very loud and lethal wing for gun nuts and the NRA.
  • The neo-con militarists/war profiteers wing (Dick Cheney's "undisclosed location").
  • There's the Koch wing for Big Oil & Gas/frackers/power companies, a.k.a. the polluters.
  • And a wing for their enablers, the global warming deniers.
  • There's one for the anti-public education/pro-charter school crowd.
  • Another for the Libertarian/anti-government wing.  (Isn't it amusing that some who oppose government itself are so anxious to be a part of it?)
  • A wing for the "privatizers" who'd do away with Social Security and Medicare.
  • A wing for religious nuts, like those who believe God is an author and Jesus founded the USA.
  • One for homophobes who think prejudice is "religious freedom."
  • Another for Islami-phobes, anti-Semites, and haters of anything non-Jesus.
  • There's a wing for the voter suppression strategists who believe politicians should choose the voters, not vice-versa.
  • And, of course, one for the We-Hate-Obama, It's-All-His Fault deep thinkers.

It takes a shitload of candidates to pander to such a wide-ranging collection of, uh, tastes.  In the equivalent of a political demolition derby, there may be as many as 16 Stooges in the GOP race before the dust settles.  It promises to be a target-rich comedic environment!

It'll probably come down to the Dueling Dynasties, but even if it's Hillary vs. some non-Bush, the choice will still be clear:  If you want to vote away your health care, your Social Security retirement, and your clean air, land and water, go ahead and vote Republican.  If you prefer less crazy in your politics, please try the Democrat.

"80% of Republicans are Democrats who just don't understand what's really going on."
-- Robert F. Kennedy

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Too Much Time On Their Hands

You know the old saying -- "Idle hands are the GOP's workshop."  Isn't that how it goes?

Sure seems like it.  Check out some great bills introduced by Republican legislators with too much time on their hands:

Ohio State Rep. Ron Hood (R-Ashville) wants Ohio to be as idiotic as Kansas.  He's sponsoring a bill identical to the one Kansas just enacted into law -- the one that allows anyone to carry a gun anywhere, anytime, with no permit or training required.  Colossally stupid and dangerous, but as every real Republican knows, the 2nd Amendment is the only part of the Constitution that really matters.

Ever wonder why all these "me too" bills pop up after one state starts it?  ALEC.  (See the "Fun Facts" in Buster's Links.)  ALEC is where Republican state lawmakers turn for ideas (since they so rarely have any of their own).  I don't know if Rep. Hood is an official ALEC member, but he's definitely on their mailing list.

Ohio is not yet as regressive as Kansas, so it's doubtful Hood's bill will become law.  For now.  But stay tuned.

Ohio State Reps. Cheryl Grossman (R-Grove City) and Andrew Brenner (R-Powell) have introduced a bill to require cursive handwriting be taught in all Ohio elementary schools.  Why?  Seriously, who cares?  I mean, besides Grossman and Brenner, who clearly have too much time on their hands.  They believe the decrease in the number of cursive practitioners is a clear sign of the apocalypse.  Just like the death of the button-hook industry.  And where have all the barbershop quartets gone?

Other states have bored conservative legislators, too.  In Missouri and Kansas, they're busying themselves thinking up new ways to humiliate and punish the poor for their poorness.  Missouri Republicans have a new bill to prohibit the use of SNAP (food stamps) EBT cards for the purchase of cookies, chips, soda, seafood or steak.  The purchase of canned cat food is still permissible.  The Kansas GOP wants to ban SNAP EBT transactions for liquor, casinos, tattoos, nail salons, lingerie, movies, swimming pools and cruise ships.  I'm relieved the good people of Kansas will not have to endure the presence of poor people in their swimming pools.  They mess up the filters.  And isn't the cruise ship thing a bit silly?  Hordes of disadvantaged of Kansans are sailing the globe on the public nickel?  Really?

A question for my small handful of conservative readers:  How do like these Great Leaps Backward?  Are you proud?

God Speaks

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Philosopher's Corner: Planting The Seeds Of Our Own Destruction

(The Old Philosopher, D.W., is a friend who occasionally sends me his thoughts in interesting emails.  It's time to share.  His provocative point of view is simultaneously dark and funny.  The Philosopher does not mince words, and I enjoy his take on things.  Hope you do too.  Thanks, D.W.!)

Some long for the days when no one owed anyone anything.  If you stay healthy and live awhile, your longing may be fulfilled.

The capitalist system is built on borrowing from the future, an ample supply of [first] slave labor and [now] low-cost labor, and a disregard for nature.  As capitalism unwinds and collapses like the bridge we don't repair, we shall return to a survivalist experience.

The capitalists and their client states are still planting the seeds of destruction of their own hallowed creation.  To perpetuate their system, they moved production to low-wage countries and cut back on benefits and pensions.  Their financial experts advise the populace to manage their finances in a manner that is frankly impossible for them to achieve.

The special ones among us who are "self-made" will be able to occupy a world where they must live in a secured, gated community just like the real capitalists do now.  Their family will need a bodyguard to ward off carjackers and thieves.  They might watch Fox News to find who is responsible for all the dreadful chaos.  The capitalists will support their efforts to finger the villains.

Capitalism gave so much to so many, until there was simply not enough for so many/too many.  Our planet now holds over 7 billion human beings, all striving for the consumerism and debt that are the lifeblood of the capitalist system.  But the system can no longer support such numbers.

The party is not quite over.  Enjoy dessert if it is available.  Baklava will not be served due to the bee colony collapse.

-- The Old Philosopher

America, We Have A Problem

I'm sure you've seen this video of Walter Scott being shot in the back by a Charleston, SC policeman, so you don't need me to elaborate.  It speaks for itself.

Obviously, we have a problem in American policing.  Here's Buster's bold fix:

  • We start with a temporary law enforcement stand-down, nationwide, right now.  Every single police officer, sheriff's deputy and Barney Fife out there is, for the moment, off duty.
  • The police will relinquish all guns, tasers, clubs, sprays, and other weapons immediately.
  • All existing training programs, manuals, videos, etc. are cancelled and eliminated.  The "book" is shit-canned!
  • All current law enforcement personnel must undergo a battery of painstaking, thorough psychiatric tests.
  • Anyone with the slightest self-esteem issues, delusions of grandeur, sadistic or anti-social tendencies, a history of violence or racism, or anything else indicating even the tiniest bit of mental hinkyness or unfitness will be dismissed immediately.
  • Those who make the cut will be completely and utterly re-trained.  Their figurative hard discs will be wiped.  Their new training will contradict 90% of everything they were previously told, and will make crystal clear what constitutes a genuine life-threatening situation and when lethal force is truly the only option.
  • Upon their eventual return to active duty, all re-trained officers will wear body cameras at all times, of the sort which cannot be turned off by the officer.
  • Weapons will be reissued selectively, only as needed, and on the basis of intelligence and good judgment, not proficiency on the shooting range.
In the short run, if this means we experience a shortage of police officers, if it means that black people are free to do things like walk down the street, stand on the corner, attempt to enter their own homes, drive with a broken taillight, or shop at WalMart, well, I guess we'll just have to suck it up and muddle through somehow.  In the long run, we'll be better for it.

We are the ones who pay for police.  We need to make it clear to them that they are employed to protect and serve us, period.  We are not paying them for harassment, intimidation, profiling, ticket-writing revenue generation, or trigger-happy enforcement.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Rand Paul Wants To "Take Our Country Back!"

Rand Paul, the junior Republican Senator from Kentucky, has announced his candidacy for President of the U.S.  This is a red-letter day for chuckle-headed college students and the handful of others who think his nonsensical jumble of Libertarianism and Tea Baggery makes perfect sense.

In his speech today, Rand said he has come "to take our country back!"

Hang on.  We have questions for Rand and anyone else who says that "take-back" shit:  

Back from where?
Where did our country go, exactly?
When did it leave?
Was it a voluntary departure, or was our country banished for misbehavior?
Was our country kidnapped or stolen?  If so, who took it?
What has our country been doing during its time away?
Has it been enjoying itself?  Getting in some much-needed R & R?
What has it learned while away?
Does our country actually want to come back, or would it prefer to stay wherever the hell it's run off to?  Maybe it's nicer there.
Wouldn't it be easier for all of us if Rand Paul would simply go to where our country is, instead of trying to bring the whole thing back here?

We need answers, Rand!

Rand will draw the same insufficient gaggle of goofballs who were devoted to his father.  Dear old dad never came close to the White House, and neither will the son.

A Rand Paul sampler:

Along with Ted Cruz, was a leader of the 2013 government shutdown.
Believes businesses have a "right" to unfair discriminatory and prejudicial practices.
Opposes immigration reform.
Opposes marriage equality.
Opposes the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act.
Wants to privatize Social Security.
Said we should "get health insurance out of the way and let the consumer interact with the doctor the way they did before World War II."

(As a doctor himself, Rand doesn't say if he'd take a home-made cake as payment, just like they did before WWII.)

Saturday, April 4, 2015

I Was A Catholic. Now I'm A Cheesehead.

Last weekend, I turned Catholic for about two hours and I pulled hard for Notre Dame to upset the Kentucky Wildcats in the NCAA Elite Eight.  It almost happened, but Kentucky lucked out with a two-point win.

So we're down to the Final Four later today, and my favorite team is still ABK -- Anybody But Kentucky.  Around 8:30, I'll undergo a cheddar-ific transformation and turn into a Cheesehead for two hours.  I will root for Wisconsin to knock off Kentucky.  


"I'll Have A Bourbon Over An Astronaut"

A new ad campaign for Suntory whiskey features elaborate cocktail ice "cubes" produced by a 3-D printer.  They're not really cubes, they're pagodas, guitars, the Sphinx, the Statue of Liberty, sharks, Michelangelo's David, and many more.  They are real ice.

How about one in the image of the Wicked Witch of the West?  "I'm MELTING!"

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Perfectly Sensible

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback will sign legislation to allow anyone to carry a concealed firearm without any permit, license, or training of any sort.  Anyone.  No restrictions, no rules.  Nothing.  Have gun, will pack.

Said Brownback:  "Responsible gun ownership is a right inherent in our Constitution, and our belief here in Kansas is that someone who's able to obtain a gun by any means possible -- retail purchase, black market, theft, or just borrowing the pistol from your dad's sock drawer -- is obviously a responsible adult who can be trusted to walk around in public with that gun hidden in the waistband of his sweatpants.  There really can be no debate about this."

Brownback went on to say that anyone who can snag a set of car keys is obviously a responsible driver, anyone on the sidewalk with an open bottle of Jack Daniels is obviously a responsible drinker, and anyone who stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night is obviously a neurosurgeon.

Great job, Kansas!  In-friggin-credible!  Should I ever feel the need to drive from here to Colorado, I think I'll go by way of Saskatchewan.  


After a grade- and test score-inflation scandal, eleven black teachers in the Atlanta public school system were convicted of racketeering.  Racketeering!  A conservative white Fulton County judge refused to release them on bond and threw them in jail immediately, pending sentencing.  He called them "convicted felons."

Isn't this just a bit extreme?  Racketeering charges are normally reserved for serious organized crime and RICO offenses, like extortion, bribery, money laundering, etc.  But now a school teacher can go to Leavenworth for changing a grade?  WTF?

For over 25 years, University of North Carolina professors engaged in academic fraud for the benefit of the basketball team.  No one is in jail.  Lloyd Blankfein, Jamie Dimon and the rest of the Wall Street wizards tanked the economy and caused the worst loss of personal wealth in history, and no one is in jail.  But a teacher changed a D into a B?  Toss him in the slammer and throw away the key.

Let's not excuse the behavior, but before we start filling our prisons with teachers, let's also think about why it happened, and almost certainly will again.  It's not an incident exclusive to Atlanta.

Conservative political forces want education to be a free-market business opportunity, and have therefore long been opposed to public schools in general.  They never hesitate to point out the "failures" of public education.

Toward that end, they've set up a high-stakes game of near-constant student testing and achievement measurements, designed to show us the winners and the losers.  The kids take the tests, but it's the teachers who're under pressure to "perform" by having their kids hit the magic numbers.  Then they take a page from the corporate playbook and incentivize the whole damn thing:  Paying bonuses to teachers whose students exceed the "standards."  Making job security dependent on children's test scores.  Threatening the very existence of "under-performing" districts.  (Gosh, which ones might those be?)  It turns the teacher's job into a perverse contest, ala Glengarry Glen Ross:  First place, a new Cadillac.  Second place, a set of steak knives.  Third place, you're fired!

That some teachers succumb to the pressure and resort to unethical shortcuts is not really a surprise, is it?

When conservatives get all misty about the good old days that were so much better than today, I hope they appreciate that their favorite school teachers of the golden yesteryear never had to put up with today's level of shit.  Not that long ago, parents yelled at the kid who brought home a bad report card.  Today, they yell at the teacher and blame the school district.

I worked in adult education in the business world for many years -- job training, sales training, product training, etc.  You can lecture and test and demonstrate and theorize and show videos till the cows come home, but the biggest variable, the most important factor in determining success on the job is the person whose fanny occupies the chair.  Teachers are essential, but it's ultimately up to the individuals being taught.

This isn't Lake Woebegone, and we can't all be above average.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Not Just Another Day In Voter Suppression

As in virtually every other state, students from outside Ohio who attend colleges in Ohio may register to vote as residents of Ohio if they so choose.  It's been that way for years and has never caused a problem.

Nevertheless, Republicans in the Ohio Senate tried to stuff a little voter suppression measure into the current transportation budget.  They wanted to require that out-of-state students who register to vote in Ohio must also obtain an Ohio drivers license and vehicle registration.  Such requirement would necessitate an expense to these students of $75 or more.  Approximately 115,000 students would be impacted by the measure.

Does this have anything to do with transportation?  Hell no!  With establishing residency?  Hell no!  With making it more difficult for a small bloc of likely Democrats to vote in Ohio?  Hell yes!!!

The transportation budget bill landed on Gov. Kasich's desk today and guess what he did?  Kasich used his line-item veto power and scratched out that blatant attempt at voter suppression.  I still don't trust the Wonder Guv as far as I can spit, but I must say I'm pleased.  He did the right thing today.

That's today.  Tomorrow, who knows?  Republicans know full well that low voter turnout is always in their best interests, especially if those who don't show up are young people, college-educated people, women, African Americans/Latinos/non-whites, old people, and low-income people.

That's why they'll continue to "fix" the non-existent problems of voter fraud and residency.  They'll keep fixing it until the only people allowed to vote are those who sit on the boards of Fortune 500 companies.