Welcome to Buster's Blog

Irregular commentary on whatever's on my mind -- politics, sports, current events, and life in general. After twenty years of writing business and community newsletters, fifteen years of fantasy baseball newsletters, and two years of email "columns", this is, I suppose, the inevitable result: the awful conceit that someone might actually care to read what I have to say. Posts may be added often, rarely, or never again. As always, my mood and motivation are unpredictable.

Buster Gammons

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Wisdom Of Tolstoy

"The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of doubt, what is laid before him."

--  Leo Tolstoy, 1897

There Are Opinions, And There Are Facts

(Another installment in Buster's ongoing bullshit-correction service, providing accurate info to friends and associates who've been exposed to crapola.)

At the old watering hole the other night, somehow the subject of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau came up.  The CFPB was founded in 2010 to oversee banks, credit unions, and other financial entities, and is headed by Richard Cordray, former Ohio Attorney General and State Treasurer.

One friend mentioned he went to school with Cordray.  Another, who happens to be a real estate attorney, said the CFPB was detrimental to business, punished innocent companies for the poor decisions of individual consumers, and levied fines and penalties which did not benefit consumers but went directly into Cordray's pocket. (No CFPB fan, this guy!)

The CFPB exists for a good reason.  It was created as a response to the abuses in the financial and real estate markets "wherein geeks invented impenetrable securities in order to profit from the miseries of lower- and middle-class Americans who couldn't pay their bills.*"  The over-inflated real estate market and the worthless mortgage-backed investments tied to it were what caused the 2007-2009 financial crash and Great Recession.

At the heart of the mess were adjustable rate sub-prime mortgages -- home loans given to borrowers without the credit and/or income to qualify.  Yet the loans were made anyway.  Why?  Mortgage lenders assumed continual and rapid real estate appreciation.  You could lend hundreds of thousands of dollars to poor dumb schmucks and the never-ending increase in home values would protect your interests.  After the rate adjusted up and the schmucks defaulted, you'd just foreclose, sell the properties and still make money.  In the worst cases -- and they were numerous -- naive, unqualified borrowers, sometimes unemployed, were actually sought out.  Their income and other credit app info was falsified.  Appraisers were incentivized to over-value homes.  Clearly, this was in no way a case a of random individuals making "poor decisions." 

In the peak year of 2006, sub-prime mortgages were 24% of all mortgage originations and accounted for almost $700 billion in supposed value.  One year.

These sub-prime mortgages were packaged together by the thousands, sliced, diced and euphemized into "collateralized debt obligations", CDO's.  Moody's and S&P were persuaded to give AAA bond ratings to these pieces of junk, while Wall Street gave them nondescript names and gleefully peddled them to unsuspecting brokers, municipalities and pension funds across the country.  Some CDO's had a few good conventional mortgages mixed in, but many were entirely sub-prime.  Some CDO's were comprised of other CDO's.

It was all a Big Lie, a house of cards.  When real estate appreciation slowed and default rates sky-rocketed, it all collapsed and the truth came out:  "Looking for bad bonds inside a CDO was like fishing for crap in a Port-O-Let.*"  American families lost up to 40% of their assets -- tens of trillions of dollars gone in a flash.

So that's why the CFPB was created, and it's OK by me.  It was necessary, and likely always will be.  Corporate America, for the most part, has a low opinion of the agency, but they always dislike anything that upsets "business as usual."  Deal with it.

My friend the lawyer is a fine fellow and had nothing to do with the sub-prime abuses, nor did his employer.  But realtors were certainly complicit in the fraud, along with mortgage lenders and big Wall Street banks.  That is fact, not opinion.  (And I never met a realtor who truly gave shit about anything except loan approval.)  At this point, bitching about the CFPB seems a bit disengenuous.

He complained that CFPB rules are slowing down the home sale process and lengthening the average time between sale and closing.  "It's gone from 30 days to 45."  I find conflicting reports on this, but I'm sure he's correct for his company's experience.  OK.  Deal with it.  I think you'll bear up under the strain.  Fifteen days seems a small price to pay for more diligence, verification, transparency and consumer choice.  (e.g. CFPB scrutiny of MSA's, or marketing service agreements -- cozy kickback arrangements between realtors and lenders/title companies.)

As for the idea that CFPB penalties go only to the agency and not the affected consumers, well, that's just not so.  It's all relative, but the bulk of all CFPB fines go to consumers.  Small portions are indeed civil penalties paid to the CFPB.  A few examples:

Bank of America -- $727 million to consumers, $20 million penalty.
Citibank -- $700 million to consumers, $70 million penalty.
Ally -- $80 million to consumers, $18 million penalty.
Fifth Third -- $21 million to consumers, $500,000 penalty
Chase -- $50 million to consumers, $166 million penalty.  (Ooh!  Chase must have been a bad boy on that one!)

Free-market capitalism in its purest form lacks scruples and basic concern for the end user.  Caveat emptor.  The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau operates as a counterweight to discriminatory, deceptive and predatory practices.  It's a good thing.

(* from The Big Short, by Michael Lewis, 2010, W.W. Norton Publishing)

For the genuine info-seeker, I highly recommend the The Big Short.  If you're nice, I might lend you my copy.  For others, try the major motion picture of the same name, opening in theaters everywhere on Dec. 11th.  That would kinda be cheating, but whatever.  Might be a good movie.



There Is No Difference

A terrorist is a terrorist.  Around the world, inflammatory ultra-right-wing hate speech finds its audience, with predictable results.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

What I'm Thankful For

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Real Story Of Thanksgiving

The Old Philosopher, D.W., rides again.  He sent me this great excerpt about the first Thanksgiving.  It's in the category of "truth hurts," but there's no point in denying it.  And real history is always more interesting and instructive than the fairy tale version.  I recommend clicking the link for the extra credit reading,too.  Thanks, D.W.! 

For three days the Wampanoags feasted with the Pilgrims. It was a special time of friendship between two very different groups of people. A peace and friendship agreement was made between Massasoit and Miles Standish giving the Pilgrims the clearing in the forest where the old Patuxet village once stood to build their new town of Plymouth.

It would be very good to say that this friendship lasted a long time; but, unfortunately, that was not to be. More English people came to America, and they were not in need of help from the Indians as were the original Pilgrims. Many of the newcomers forgot the help the Indians had given them. Mistrust started to grow and the friendship weakened. The Pilgrims started telling their Indian neighbors that their Indian religion and Indian customs were wrong. The Pilgrims displayed an intolerance toward the Indian religion similar to the intolerance displayed toward the less popular religions in Europe. The relationship deteriorated and within a few years the children of the people who ate together at the first Thanksgiving were killing one another in what came to be called King Phillip's War.

It is sad to think that this happened, but it is important to understand all of the story and not just the happy part. Today the town of Plymouth Rock has a Thanksgiving ceremony each year in remembrance of the first Thanksgiving. There are still Wampanoag people living in Massachusetts. In 1970, they asked one of them, Wamsutta a.k.a Frank James, to speak at the ceremony to mark the 350th anniversary of the Pilgrim's arrival. Here is part of what was said:


"Today is a time of celebrating for you -- a time of looking back to the first days of white people in America. But it is not a time of celebrating for me. It is with a heavy heart that I look back upon what happened to my People. When the Pilgrims arrived, we, the Wampanoags, welcomed them with open arms, little knowing that it was the beginning of the end. That, before 50 years were to pass, the Wampanoag would no longer be a tribe. That we and other Indians living near the settlers would be killed by their guns or dead from diseases that we caught from them. Let us always remember, the Indian is and was just as human as the white people.

"Although our way of life is almost gone, we, the Wampanoags, still walk the lands of Massachusetts. What has happened cannot be changed. But today we work toward a better America, a more Indian America where people and nature once again are important."

For extra credit, read more:

The Only Thing We Have To Fear Is Furniture

A thought-provoker.  Can't vouch for the veracity of these "stats", and I'm not saying that we should concern ourselves only with what happens to Americans, but the point is still valid.

Maybe we should declare war on furniture, or bomb the shit out of our guns.

Try to maintain perspective, friends.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Dominican Thoughts

We've just returned from a week in La Republica Dominica, a.k.a. the Dominican Republic, at a Punta Cana resort known as Natura Park.  It was our first time in the D.R., and it was lovely.  (How bad could it be, right?)

Natura Park walkway
It was a jungle down there, literally.  Even the grounds of the resort were lush with flora and fauna.  There were fish and turtles and even a snake, but the most conspicuous fauna were birds.  The place was thick with ducks, geese, peacocks, flamingos, frigate birds, egrets, pelicans, and more.  My favorites were these two, both new to me.  At left is the black-crested night heron, and the one with the red schnozz and big toes is the moorhen. 

Night Heron
Common Moorhen, or gallinule

La piscina
La playa
Cancun has been our frequent tropical destination.  Over the decades, the tourism industry there has made an obvious decision to cater to Americans.  New hotels try to outdo each other, and virtually everyone speaks English.  For a gringo like me, it's really easy to be in Cancun.  It's essentially Las Vegas East or Miami Beach South.

The Dominican is not like that.  Back in the good old Conquistador days, the D.R. was a Spanish colony and there is a definite European feel to the tourista business.  Spanish still rules the day.  Very few of the resort staff spoke English.  Fellow vacationers came from Spain, of course, and Germany, Turkey, Holland, Russia, France and who knows where.  We were part of a smattering of Yanks, Brits and Aussies -- a distinct minority for English-speakers.

They say travel can be broadening, and I'd have to agree.  Despite the language barrier, we got by just fine.  The lovely Mrs. Gammons can speak some pidgin Spanish left over from high school, and I can point, pantomime, and say "cerveza."  (I now know that Presidente is the only cerveza in the D.R., and it's pretty good.)  One basic way or another, we managed to communicate with staff and guests.  No problemo!

Another aspect of travel-broadening is exposure to European-style beachwear.  And I do mean exposure!  All vacationing Euros are evidently required by law to wear small bikinis and banana-hammock Speedos, regardless of age or body type.  (Sorry, no photos.  Use your imagination.)  Sometimes it's nice, but often not so much.  Yet one must admit that, all things considered, the European attitude toward the human body -- "Boom!  Here I am, sucker.  Deal with it." -- is probably healthier than our typically uptight, Puritanical, American mindset.  Healthy or not, I am in the post-Speedo stage of my life.
A well-known Dominican bebida is known as "mamajuana," a concoction of rum, red wine, honey, and a variety of herbs and spices resting prominently in the bottom of the bottle.  The locals ascribe all sorts of of medicinal benefits to mamajuana -- it'll cure whatever ails you -- and they especially extol its supposed aphrodisiac properties.  If you order a mamajuana, the barkeepers hoot and holler and make humping gestures.  When I ordered one, the lovely Mrs. Gammons suggested I could use the entire bottle.  The bartender just about fell down laughing.  Thanks, dear.  In any event, it is a pretty tasty little drink.  I'm certain it has no real medical benefits, but if you drink enough of it, for awhile you will feel better and you just won't care.

My last observation is that this trip really made me think about being the dreaded cliche, the "ugly American."  Among the hundreds of people at Natura Park, Punta Cana, D.R., I was just about the only one who wasn't bilingual or multi-lingual.  The staff spoke other languages, just not much English.  There was one guy behind the front desk whose sole function was to speak to the Russians.  We met a nice French woman who could speak anything except English, and I'm the stereotypical American who can speak nothing but.  Jeez!

The Dominican was great!  We'd go back.  And I'd like a Spanish phrase-book for Christmas, please.

The. Absolute. Pits.

The terrorist attacks in Paris were god-awful.  One hundred thirty were killed, many more injured.

The hysterical, foamy-mouthed, knee-jerk reactions from American conservatives have been god-awful too.  Xenophobia, Islamophobia, racism -- they're pulling out all the stops.  It's demagoguery at its worst.  The lowest of the low.  The. Absolute. Pits.

  • The Obama administration has agreed to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees in 2016.  Twenty-some Republican governors informed the President that they will not accept any Syrian refugees in their state, although they have no authority to refuse.
  • Ben Carson and Marco Rubio want to block all refugees from any Middle Eastern country.
  • Jeb! Bush would offer asylum only to Christians refugees.
  • Chris Christie would refuse asylum even for 5 year-old orphans.
  • Ted Cruz asserted that the refugees include "jihadists coming here to murder us."
  • John Kasich* wants to sell religion by creating a new federal agency to "promote Judeo-Christian values" in Islamic lands.
  • Donald Trump says we can't let any refugees in because it might be a "Trojan Horse."  He wants to establish a database registry of all Muslims in America (just because they're Muslim), and he wants to put American mosques under surveillance.
  • The mayor of Roanoke said we may need internment camps for any Syrians in the U.S., just like our camps for Japanese-Americans in WW II.
  • The U.S. House just passed a bill which would stop all Syrian and Iraqi refugees from entering America by adding even more requirements to the screening process, even though there is no evidence of anything wrong with the current process, which is already 18-24 months on average.  (It's another GOP special -- a show bill with no chance of becoming law.)

The conserva-tards are confusing refugees with terrorists.  The masses of refugees across Europe are not terrorists, they are fleeing terrorists!  The refugees are risking their lives and everything they have to escape ISIS, not to become ISIS.

The last thing a would-be terrorist wants to do is get on a refugee asylum waiting list and be thoroughly vetted for the next two years.

The terrorists in the Paris attacks were all European.  They weren't refugees.  They didn't sneak into any country.  They were already there.

Now, everywhere you turn there's talk of going to war against ISIS, defeating ISIS, destroying ISIS.  Whether from the right or left, an unfortunate choice of words.  What they mean on the right, clearly, is big-time military intervention.  They accuse Obama of being a sanguine sissy for not "doing something."  (Never mind the fact that the U.S. has been bombing selected ISIS targets for the past two years.)

To combat ISIS, our conservatives are embracing the same old bad ideas they always come up with, the things that got us into this shit in the first place -- invasion, ground troops, heavy bombardment, occupation, and then??

Almost all the GOP presidential candidates want to send our ground troops into Syria and Iraq to fight ISIS.  Most won't specify the number of troops, saying they'll defer to the military experts.  (Oh yes, do whatever the generals tell you to do.  Always a great idea.  Military intelligence.)

Lindsay Graham and Rick Santorum want to send 10,000 American troops.  Bill Kristol, publisher of the Weekly Standard, says he'd send 50,000.  (Easy for you to say, Mr. Publisher.)

Donald Trump has channeled his inner Curtis LeMay.  Bombs away!  Quoth the Donald:  "I'll bomb the shit out of them, every single inch, nothing left."  (It occurs to me that Trump is very much like a barstool pontificater with a drunken opinion on everything.  At once funny and frightening.)

When is the last time any of this conventional stuff worked?  Our military misadventures in Afghanistan and Iraq have been disasters, serving only to create ill-will throughout the destabilized region and spawn ISIS in the process.  And now these geniuses want to do more of the same in Syria?  Brilliant!  I'm sure the outcome will be different this time.

I'll stick with Obama on this one -- his cool, calm, considered approach is much wiser than the conservatives hair-on-fire freak-out.  Terrorism is a problem across the globe.  Not the biggest problem, but it's scary and a problem nonetheless.  And America is not immune.  But we must not succumb to fear and act rashly or stupidly.

Terrorism is not a nation.  It has no specific location or organized military forces.  Terrorism is just a noun.  You can't wage war on a noun.  Terrorism does seek power or money or territory for its own sake.  It cannot achieve "victory."  Terrorism is just a tactic.  You can't bomb a tactic.  The terrorist/bully wants your reaction, your fear, pain and anger.  That's the payoff.  When the right wing indulges in their pandering clueless cacophony, they're giving the terrorist/bully ISIS exactly what it wants.

Ergo, all the over-heated rhetoric about defeating ISIS is bullshit.  The world will not defeat ISIS any more than it defeated Al Qaeda or Boko Haram or the KKK.  You don't "defeat" terrorism.  You learn, adapt, and live with it the best way you know how.  You out-smart it.  You maintain perspective.  You take all reasonable precautions.  Maybe you engage in a little old-school spycraft, or even work to provide an alternative message* to the radical terrorist message.  You play the long game.  With patience and time, you take them down notch by notch.  Your more rational viewpoint makes them less attractive and less relevant to their audience.  You work to shrink them.  The bad guys don't disappear entirely, but eventually, the better ideas always rise and take the forefront.

*(I grudgingly concede that Kasich was sort of on the right track, but his idea of promoting Christian "values" to the Islamic world is fucked up.  Instead of trying to persuade Muslims that Islam sucks and Christianity is wonderful, the better approach would be constant messaging to reaffirm the peaceful nature of true Islam and stress resistance against the lunatic few who would hijack it.  But John-Boy didn't put it exactly that way, did he?)

What you don't do is try to fight unconventional ISIS terrorists with conventional military operations.  We can always bring in the sledgehammers and blow up a country and its innocent civilians.  We're good at that.  It will destroy a region but it won't destroy terrorism.  Same-old, same-old doesn't work in this instance.  Terrorism is too volatile, too mercurial.  Try to hit quicksilver with a sledgehammer and see what happens.

No easy questions, no easy answers.  Gotta go with sound long-haul strategy, not bomb-happy instant gratification.

P.S.  If we want to do something intelligent to reduce our risk here in the U.S., we should immediately close the gun show loophole which allows any wanna-be terrorist to buy a small arsenal of military-grade firearms without any background check, and immediately tighten up our lax "law" which keeps those on our so-called terror watch-list from boarding an airplane, but still allows them to buy guns.  Unbelievable!  'Murica.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Ignorance Can Be Fixed, But Stupid Is Forever (Especially On Facebook)

I saw this stupid meme the other day.  It was posted on Facebook by one of my FB acquaintances.  Don't recall who it was, and that's just as well.

It seems to be saying that this poor young man was better off when he wasn't required to have health coverage, and therefore did not have any.

I can relate to the affordability problem, at least before Obamacare.  But not now.  The ACA's income-based premium subsidies make the coverage affordable for anyone, even this poor slob.  For those with very low income, premiums are miniscule, almost free.

And if our poor boy in the picture is actually at poverty-level income, then he would qualify for Medicaid and pay zero.  That was true before Obamacare, and it's still true.

By the way, the I.R.S. penalty is not for "being unable to afford it."  It's for willful ignorance of the law and refusal to take advantage of the options in the law which do in fact make coverage affordable.

(The Grassroot Journal, source of the meme, is an ultra-right, militia-man, anti-government site based somewhere in the western U.S.  It's author is a Cliven Bundy fanboy.  I do wish people would check the source before they slap shit up on Facebook.  Silly me.) 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Worth It?

If It's Really True, Shouldn't Just About Everybody Be Out Of Work?

Conservative ideology has always held that increasing the minimum wage is always a jobs-killer, guaranteed to to cause catastrophic mass lay-offs.

As demonstrated in Tuesday's debate, the current batch of GOP geniuses are still toeing that same old line:

A federal minimum wage has been the law of the land sice 1938.  Since then, we've raised it 22 times.  If every increase in the minimum wage leads to massive job loss, then by now there ought to be just about 12 or 13 jobs left in all of America.

Numbers From The Dark Side

In this modern world, we're polled and surveyed to death.  It seems like every day there are new results and percentages emerging on one thing or another.  The blitz gets mind-numbing, and one must always consider the source.

Even so, Buster found the following numbers interesting.  All are from recent national polls conducted by respected sources.  If you are a Republican, or lean that way, check these out then ask yourself how you really feel about your party.  Proud?

In October 2015, a CBS News poll found that 48% of registered Republican voters believe the government is an actual threat to their life and liberty.

A September 2015 CNN poll found that 43% of Republicans believe President Obama is a Muslim.  At the same time, Public Policy Polling put it at 54%.

The September 2015 survey by Public Policy Polling found that 71% of Republicans believe Obama was not born in the USA.

In a May 2015 poll, the Pew Research Center found that 47% of Republicans want to change the 14th Amendment to ban birthright citizenship, and 62% of Republicans want to build a wall along the entire Mexican border.

Happily, there is some good news, sort of.  An April 2015 study by Pew found that those likely to hold such embarrassing opinions are in the minority.  In that study, 48% of Americans identified as Democrats or Democrat-leaning, 39% as Republican or Republican-leaning, leaving 13% as wishy-washy/undecided/too busy/lazy/don't care/independents.  What a country!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Donald Trump's Flim-Flam "University"

If you think Donald Trump would make a great president (yes, even among Buster's readers there may be a couple of you), please read these excerpts or click the link for the full article, then change your mind.  Please.

(From "Trump U.", by Steven Brill, Time Magazine issue dated 11/16/15)

Politicians often charge their opponents with selling snake oil when they overpromise.  But in litigation that has been meandering through court for five years, Donald Trump is being accused of actually selling snake oil.

Civil cases filed on behalf of thousands of Trump's customers mean that a leading presidential candidate is in court defending a product that short-changed vulnerable consumers.

The snake oil that Trump is accused of selling has to do with Trump University, a series of adult-education classes offering Donald Trump's real estate investing methods and secrets.  At its core, the accusation is that the name was deceptive on both counts:  there were no distinctive Trump methods or secrets actually provided.  And despite its use of terms like professors, adjunct professors and tuition, it was never a university.

Trump and his "university" -- which operated from 2005 through 2010, when it was shut down as the lawsuits were beginning -- lured approximately 7000 consumers into paying $1,495 to $34,995 for courses where, as the promotional material put it, Donald Trump's "handpicked instructors" would  teach them "insider success secrets" of how to invest in real estate.

Trump University collected approximately $40 million from its students, and Trump personally received $5 million of it.

The "curriculum" was actually a sales funnel.  At the top were a series of free 90-minute workshops, meant only to persuade attendees to buy a $1,495 ticket to a three-day workshop, and then up-sell those $1,495 attendees into mentorship programs costing $9,995 to $34,995.

"Faculty" at the free or $1,495 sessions were shake-down artists with no real estate background, who were paid on a commission-only basis for whatever up-sell programs they sold.

And what did the "students" get for their money?  Kevin Scott, 46, of New York sat in on a 90-minute presentation, then enrolled in the $1,495 course where he was persuaded to buy the $25,000 Elite package.  Said Scott, "It all amounts to a whole lot of nothing."  Boyce Chait, 84, of New Jersey spent $34,995 on a mentorship he says proved "to be worth nothing.  When it came to the nitty-gritty, there was nothing there."  Chait demanded a refund, but was refused.

Trump's director of operations declared that the company had issued refunds to 32% of its attendees.  But the majority of those now suing claimed they, too, wanted refunds but were told they could not get them because they did not ask for them within 72 hours.

Bottom line?  No handpicked experts, no best-of-the-best, no insider success secrets.  And no refunds if you were slow about it.  Just deception and flim-flam, ripping off the unsuspecting.

While running for office, both Mitt Romney and Carly Fiorina have been attacked for their business dealings.  But neither was accused of defrauding people or breaking the law.  The rap against them was that they were hard-hearted businesspeople.

The charges against Donald Trump and his scam "University" are something of an entirely different magnitude. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

More GOP Non-Debate Fun

That is, if a bunch of unctuous conservatives hurling lies and insults at each other is your idea of fun.

Tonight's episode of the GOP's serial non-debates is supposed to focus on economic issues.  As a time-saving public service, allow me to summarize their oh-so predictable positions:

Most of them like trade deals, none of them like Social Security or Medicare.  None of them want to increase the minimum wage.  But the economic policy centerpiece for every last one of them is that old Republican standby, income tax cuts.  The biggest beneficiaries of their proposed tax cuts would be the wealthy.  For everyone else, it's spending cuts and lumps of coal.  The Wall Street Journal called their tax plans "bold."  I call them BS.

These candidates are engaged in a race to the bottom -- the bottom of the revenue barrel.  They all blithely slash revenue by trillions of dollars without any realistic thought of how to replace it.  All of their plans increase the deficit dramatically, and they either don't care or preposterously claim it won't.

It's still the same old Norquistian, Tea Bag fetish about tax cuts and supply side/trickle-down theory.  And I guess there are still a few slow learners out there clinging to the discredited belief that giving tax cuts to the rich will somehow benefit all of society.  Strictly Fantasy Island stuff.

Below is a post from five years ago.  It's a good refresher, if you need one.  Today, five years ago, 35 years ago -- it doesn't really matter.  Republican tax policy is, was, and has long been bullshit!


Monday, November 1, 2010

Stranger Than Fiction: A Reaganite Republican Tells The Truth!

You might remember David Stockman as Reagan's budget director and the architect of Ronnie's huge tax cuts. Stockman, a staunch supply-side theorist, justified it by coining the phrase "trickle down". You might also remember the Reagan Recession which followed in 1982-1983, featuring 10%+ unemployment. (Obviously, not enough people remember.)

Last night's 60 Minutes on CBS had a segment featuring Stockman talking not about cutting taxes, but raising them.Seems the one-time Wunderkind has had a change of heart. Said Stockman:

"Tax cuts are a religion for Republicans -- an absolute, the gospel, something which can't be questioned.

"We've demonized taxes, turned them into a metaphysical evil. It's rank demogoguery. To always rub raw this anti-tax sentiment, the Republicans should be ashamed of themselves.

"Both parties are telling a Big Lie, that we can have all our programs and not tax ourselves appropriately to pay for them. It's delusional.

"Neither party would cut more than $50 billion, and the problem is $1.3 trillion."

Stockman actually agrees with Buster (see the 9/24/10 post, "Tackling the Deficit") that all the George W. Bush tax cuts should be allowed to expire at year-end. He then goes a step further, wanting to whack the shit out of the national debt with a one-time 15% surcharge/surtax on the wealthiest Americans. Dude!

Really good ideas. Don't hold your breath.


Those rascals at Twitter have done it again, creating the new #bencarsonwikipedia. 

It's a rapidly growing list of the sort of cray-cray things Ben Carson could have said.

Didn't say 'em, at least not yet.  Give him time.

  • Some respected scientists believe that aliens built Mount Everest to get closer to heaven.
  • Dogs that go into animal shelters straight come out gay.
  • Kangaroos were the first to sink in the great flood because they have pouches that filled up with water.
  • The square root of any number is always four, because a square has four sides.
  • Fish pee is especially salty, which is where salt water comes from.  Before fish, everything was fresh water.
  • The Amazon is the longest river named for a corporation.
  • Possum fur is a natural antibiotic.

A New Way To Play Your Own Tune

Does this procedure replace the standard colonsocopy?

Monday, November 9, 2015

Everything's Bigger In Texas

It was a big ballot issue.  A week ago, the good citizens of Houston shot down a wide-ranging anti-discrimination ordinance because it included the phrase "gender identity."  This somehow overshadowed everything else and convinced most of the goobers that our god-given, all-American potty etiquette had gone straight to hell.  Men peeing sitting down!  Women peeing standing up!  LGBT people peeing sideways!  And everyone sharing bathroom facilities, without border walls (as The Lord Donald Trump intended)!!  OMG!!  That is pre-verted!  It's the end of civilization.  Vote NO!

"When I'm wearin' this here camo-cap,
I can sneak into any ladies room and
ain't nobody gonna see me."
I've spent my entire life sharing bathroom facilities with the opposite gender.  I'll bet you have, too.  I'm unaware of any negative consequences.

Everything's bigger in Texas.  Especially the fear.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Health News For Smokers

Important health news for smokers:  

The latest medical research indicates that every cigarette you smoke takes a half-hour off your life, . . . and gives it to Keith Richards.

"The Art Of Fiction" by Dr. Ben Carson

Many parts of Ben Carson's life story seem to be "inspirational fiction," a.k.a. made-up shit, or lies.

Carson claimed he met Gen. William Westmoreland and was offered a full scholarship to attend West Point.  Since the Army pays the tuition of all cadets, there's no such thing as a scholarship offer.  And there is no evidence that Westmoreland and Carson ever met, and no record of Carson applying or being admitted to Westpoint.

He has told the story of how he protected several white high school classmates by hiding them in the science lab during a period of racial unrest and rampage in the school building in 1968.  Carson can't remember the names of any of the students, and no one from the school has any recollection of such an incident.

He has frequently repeated the tale from his Detroit youth of how, in a fit of anger, he tried to stab a young friend, then had an immediate religious epiphany which changed his life.  Except none of his friends and associates from that time recall the incident, and all the names Carson used in telling the story are fake.  Carson now says the friend was actually a relative, and he used fake names to protect those involved, but he cannot today remember their real names.

Ben says that back in college he was singled out by his professor as the "most honest student" in a Yale psychology class, Perceptions 301, and photographed for an article in the Yale Daily News.  No such photo or article ever appeared in the school paper, and Yale has never offered a course with that name or number.

Carson has often said he once had a gun pulled on him by a robber at a Popeye's restaurant in Baltimore, but Ben never filed a police report.  Popeye's has no internal records of a robbery attempt at any location near the Johns Hopkins hospital, and the restaurant never contacted the police or reported any armed robbery.  

Dr. Ben has insisted he had no involvement with the quack nutritional supplement company Mannatech.  In fact, he publicly endorsed Mannatech products and made promotional videos for the company.

Among his many bizarre personal convictions, Ben believes that Egypt's pyramids were built to store grain.  

Carson's cranium was built to store mush.


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Legal Weed Whacked In Ohio

This one surprised me.  Of course, I was surprised when McGovern got skunked by Nixon.

I thought Ohio's Issue 3 to legalize recreational and medical marijuana would pass easily, continuing the national trend.  Instead, it was soundly defeated.  Not being a joker/smoker/toker for many decades now, I'm not personally impacted.  I just happen to believe legalization is inevitable and advisable, thus I'm a bit disappointed.

So, did Issue 3 fail because (A) so many intelligent, research-oriented, deep-thinking Ohioans had genuine misgivings about the supposed "monopolistic" aspects of its attempted launch of legal weed?  Were the majority of Ohio voters really opposed to the idea of investors/owners of 10 designated growing facilities having exclusive rights (profits) across the state for the next 4 years?

Or was it (B) just another case of low-info, stupid reactionary voters having out-sized influence in a low turnout election?

Uhh, I'm gonna have to say (B).

Ohio's Forces of FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) have done it again.  They've convinced the goober classes that Issue 3 would have put THC-laced gummy bears on every school kid's lunch tray.

Hang in there, legalization advocates.  We are, sadly, a little slow about some things here in Buckeye Land, but eventually we come around.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Four Or Five Good Guys

Seemingly having learned nothing from our long and futile escapades in Iraq, America is now poised to make the same stupid mistakes all over again in Syria.  (I hope not.  I love my Cousin Barry, but he has regrettably fallen under the spell of the generals and has forgotten Ike's timeless advice to "beware the military-industrial complex.")

As has been widely reported, the U.S. spent over $40 million to train and equip "rebel fighters" to overthrow the nasty Assad dictatorship.  We stopped after sheepishly acknowledging that our efforts had produced "4 or 5" Syrian opposition soldiers.

Yesterday, Fareed Zakaria had this to say on the Daily Show:

"We usually think we know who the good guys are.  In Syria, we know exactly who we don't like.  We're against the Assad regime.  We're against its principal opponent, ISIS.  We're against all the Al Qaeda affiliates in Syria.  We're against all the Shiite militias, the ones the Iranians are funding, like Hezbollah.  So we're against everybody.  We just haven't figured out who we're for.  We want to be for good, moderate Syrians who are like Jeffersonian Democrats, and it turns out there are 4 or 5 of them." 

Ben Carson Explained, Possibly

It's way, way early folks (at this point in 2007, Rudy Guiliani had a huge lead among Republican candidates), and historically, Iowa and New Hampshire are meaningless, but the rise of Ben Carson is fascinating.  He has zero experience, very few yet demonstrably crazy policy ideas, and a drowsy, can-barely-keep-my eyes-open style.  Somehow, this has vaulted him to the temporary top of the GOP heap.

I believe that much of Carson's appeal among conservatives can be tied to the presidency of Barack Obama.

If you'll recall, many people thought that Obama's history-making election in 2008 marked a turning point.  Some called it the start of the American "post-racial society."  On the contrary, it instead brought out the very worst of our lingering, latent racism.  Everyone knows this, including conservatives.  (Those few who would dispute this obvious fact are either delusional or have been comatose for the past 8 years.)  

So I think that Ben Carson simply makes a great many conservatives feel better about themselves for all the hateful rhetoric they've spewed at Obama.  Carson's safe and non-threatening.  It's a right-wing racial redemption:  "You can't call me a racist now, you Lib-tards.  See?  I support a black man for president!  So there!  QED."

Please bear in mind that Rupert Murdoch, a.k.a. Lord Vader, has said he likes Carson, and has said that Carson, if elected, would be America's "first real black president."  (Old white Rupert is, of course, a well-known expert on all things "real black.")  Murdoch is accustomed to getting his way.  He believes Carson would help him in that endeavor.  Don't know about you, but if the Australian schlock-meister and media megalomaniac likes something, I instinctively tend to not like it.

Ben Carson?  Nah.  I really don't think so.