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

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Dunning-Kruger Effect: A Psychological Condition For Our Time

(A faithful reader for suggested that I might find this to be an interesting topic.  I do.  Thanks, faithful reader!)

Throughout history, it has been observed and remarked upon:

Real knowledge is to know the extent of one's ignorance.
-- Confucius

The Foole doth thinke he is wise, but the wiseman knowes himself to be a Foole.
-- Shakespeare

Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.
-- Charles Darwin

One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision.
-- Bertrand Russell

The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence.
-- Charles Bukowski

These learned individuals were definitely on to something.  They were describing, in their way, what's now a proven scientific fact, an acknowledged psychological condition known as the Dunning-Kruger Effect -- a cognitive bias in which relatively unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their abilities to be much higher than they really are.

In four studies beginning in 1999, Cornell University psychologists Dunning and Kruger researched a wide range of cognitive tasks performed by various groups of people.  They found that while competent groups estimated themselves fairly accurately, incompetent groups consistently over-estimated their abilities, e.g. "Those in the 12th percentile estimated themselves to be in the 62nd ."

In other words, the truly stupid are too stupid to know that they're stupid!

We all know people who exhibit the Dunning-Kruger Effect -- some from the workplace or other personal associations, some from the GOP presidential primaries, and sometimes we see them in the mirror.  Yikes!  Is that me?

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Thoughts On The Tamir Rice Injustice

After four hundred days and a plain-as-the-back-of-your-hand video, a Cuyahoga County grand jury declined to indict the cops who shot and killed 12 year-old Tamir Rice for playing with a plastic "AirSoft" toy gun in a Cleveland park.  The cops drove right up next to him at high speed, and shot him instantly, without warning.  The kid never had a chance.  Afterward, they did not administer any first aid, they just let him lay there dying.

Two big take-aways for me:

1.  Allowing local prosecutors to go before grand juries when police have killed citizens is a mistake, if you want truth and justice.  Cops and county prosecutors work together all the time, and the relationship is too cozy, too prejudicial, for objectivity.  In any other type of case, any half-assed junior assistant prosecutor can get an indictment out of a grand jury, if he or she really wants to.  But when cops use lethal force, too often they don't want to.  Eric Garner in Staten Island, Michael Brown in Ferguson -- no indictments, cops walk.

From the start in Cleveland, it was clear that Prosecutor Tim McGinty had no interest in getting a grand jury to return an indictment.   He was as slow as he could possibly be.  He blamed the victim.  He commissioned several "independent" reports and saw fit to release them publicly prior to the grand jury hearing.  All of McGinty's reports found the cops to be -- surprise! -- justified in their actions.  McGinty publicly accused Tamir's family of being economically motivated.  His partisanship was blatant.

Special prosecutors should be appointed to handle all police shooting/wrongful death cases.

2.  The "book" is fucked.  Police training is a problem.  After every one of these incidents, we hear the defense that cops are merely following their training, and their actions are strictly "by the book."  Evidently, the book instructs cops to shoot first and ask questions later, assess later, de-fuse later, use discretion, reason and judgment later.  The book teaches cops to justify their quick use of lethal firepower by saying they feared for their lives.  This "perceived threat" notion is an actual legal defense for police, a get-out-of-jail-free card, and they play it all the time.  "Well, Officer, since you felt a bit nervous and scared, then by all means you were entitled to shoot to kill."

Nonsense!  Time for a new book.  I'm fine with a "protect and serve" police department.  I'm not at all OK with a half-baked paramilitary force with a 007 license to kill.

Eight years ago, at the age of 14, my son found himself in circumstances similar to those that ended Tamir Rice's young life.  He and a friend had walked from our house to an open area in our community in order to play with their AirSoft guns.  (Yes, I bought him one.)  They made the mistake of brandishing and twirling their toy guns as they walked.  Some old biddy called the cops, who descended upon these two boys like a cavalry charge, with lights flashing, tires screeching and hands on holsters.  Scared the shit out of 'em.  Brought them back up to our house and scared us too.  It all ended well enough, no harm done, despite the unnecessary dickishness of the cops.

My son is white and was in this neighborhood.  Tamir Rice was black and was in a different neighborhood.  And that made all the difference.

I support the police force.  I give them the respect they are due.  But I'm also a cynic with trust issues.  Too often, interaction with cops can be hazardous to your health.  Be careful!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Buster's 2015, In Twelve Easy Pieces

Words of the year for 2015?  Refugee.  Same-sex marriage.  Paris.  Pope Francis.  Trump.  #BlackLivesMatter.  ISIS.  Active shooter.  Schlonged.

Here are several other words which highlight this past year, in a bloggy sort of way.

Ballshit!  (1/25/15) -- The NFL's machinery of denial kicked into gear and gave us QB Tom Brady talking about how he likes his balls and doesn't want anyone to touch them, and Bill Bellichick discoursing at length on ball-rubbing and temperature-related shrinkage.

The Self-Thinning Herd.  (2/19/15) -- St. Joseph, MI city councilperson Christina Bond accidentally shot herself in the head while adjusting the gun in her bra holster!

Jeb's Position On The Minimum Wage.  (3/20/15) -- The idea that there are gajillions of unfilled jobs out there, but businesses can't hire workers because wages just aren't low enough, is uniquely Republican thinking and a complete crock of shit.

Teacher-Bashing.  (4/2/15) -- 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 yesteryear never had to put up with today's level of crap.

Whole Paycheck.  (5/7/15) -- The Whole Foods Grocery chain has announced it will launch a spin-off with lower-cost organic products.  No name has been chosen yet for the new stores, but leading contenders are "Partial Foods" and "Half Paycheck."

Protecting Us From Our Own Perversions.  (6/6/15) -- State Sen. Jim Hughes is shocked -- shocked! -- that bestiality is not illegal in Ohio.  So Hughes is trying to outlaw it via a tack-on amendment to the state's budget.  Not that boning a sheep has budget implications, but, you know, what the hell.

Last Hurrah For Pete Rose, American.  (7/20/15) -- Loved or loathed, Pete Rose is a uniquely American institution, not unlike Mount Rushmore or the Grand Canyon, but more like Branson, MO, Coney Island, the Cadillac Ranch, the World's Largest Ball of Twine, and yes, Vegas, baby!

The Trump Tower (Of Babble).  (8/4/15) -- If Sarah Palin is word salad, then Donald Trump is the entire buffet, a word smorgasbord in a blender, a verbal vomitorium.

Dr. Ben Carson:  Shattering Stereotypes.  (9/21/15) -- Dr. Carson has proved that a person can know everything there is to know about pediatric neurosurgery, and absolutely nothing about anything else.

Beware The Logical Fallacy.  (10/12/15) -- "Now son, do you know what you did wrong?"  "Yes sir, I shared something on Facebook without checking facts and encouraged bullshit to propagate, leading to the dumbing-down of humanity."

The Only Thing We Have To Fear Is Furniture.  (11/24/15) -- Number of Americans killed by ISIS last year:  4.  Number of Americans killed by furniture last year:  17.  Number of Americans killed by guns last year:  30,638.  Maybe we should declare war on furniture, or bomb the shit out of our guns.

The Real Enemy Is Pita Bread.  (12/4/15) -- In his remarks to the Republican Jewish Coalition, Ben Carson came off like a slow-witted 3rd-grader reading a book report, as he managed to make "Hamas" sound like "hummus."

Saturday, December 26, 2015

A Thoughtful And Proper Gift

My son got me this for Christmas.  It's perfect.  The Bernie Kosar jersey is a nice touch!

Number One When You Were Born

What was the Number One song in America on the day you were born?  Click the link and find out.


Was there a deep karmic connection between the chart-topper and your arrival on the scene?  Probably not, but you never know.  As for my own date of birth, the #1 song back then was "Sh-Boom, Sh-Boom" by the Crew Cuts.  For the lovely Mrs. Gammons, it was "Memories Are Made of This" by Dean Martin.  And for Buster Jr., it was "Can't Help Falling In Love" by UB 40.

Just for fun, here's a list of some notables and the top tune at the moment of their mortal debut.

Barack Obama -- "Tossin' and Turnin'" by Bobby Lewis, 8/4/61
Hillary Clinton -- "Near You" by Francis Craig and His Orchestra, 10/26/47
Bernie Sanders -- "Green Eyes" by The Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra, 9/8/41
Donald Trump -- "The Gypsy" by The Ink Spots, 6/14/46
Ted Cruz -- "The Tears of a Clown" by Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, 12/22/70
Marco Rubio -- "Joy to the World" by Three Dog Night, 5/28/71
Ben Carson -- "Because of You" by Tony Bennett, 9/18/51
Jeb Bush -- "Don't Let the Stars Get In Your Eyes" by Perry Como, 2/11/53

Buster is amused by the results for Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush, and would advise Marco Rubio to not take it too seriously.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Turn-About Is Fair Play

After using his daughters as political props, Ted Cruz was mad as hell at a Washington Post cartoon which called him out for using his daughters as political props.

Cruz ran Christmas campaign ads featuring him and his little girls reading from faux-Dr. Seuss books like, "How Obamacare Stole Christmas" and "The Grinch Who Lost Her Emails."  The ads are uninspired, low-grade political parody, spiced up by his knowing exploitation of his daughters.

WaPo editorial cartoonist Ann Telnaes reacted with her animated drawing of Santa Cruz as an organ grinder and his daughters as a pair of trained monkeys.

Thin-skinned Cruz cried foul -- "Don't mess with my kids!" -- but you can't have it both ways, Teddy Boy.  You messed with them first.  You broke the seal and used your kids in a campaign ad.  So shut up.

Ms. Telnaes did not back down and did not apologize.  Since Cruz made the first move by exploiting his own children, Telnaes then considered them "fair game" for editorial cartooning.  She is correct.

Unfortunately, the Post's editor did not support her.  He caved in to right-wing criticism and pulled the cartoon from the newspaper's website.

In the glory days of Katharine Graham and Ben Bradlee, the Washington Post was a leader in hard-hitting journalism.  That was a long time ago.  Today it is the plaything of billionaire businessman Jeff Bezos.  Somehow, just not the same.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Holiday Cards And Cartoons

Whatever you're into, Buster wishes you all the best!

A Christmas Classic: "Six To Eight Black Men" By David Sedaris

This has become a seasonal favorite of mine.  I try to listen to it at least once a year.  It never gets old.

It's David Sedaris reading his monologue, "Six to Eight Black Men."  Thanks go to my sister for making me aware of it awhile ago.  I initially posted this in 2011, but Sedaris first wrote and performed it in the early 2000's, I think.

Watch all three in a row.  It's fifteen minutes well-spent.


I checked the Oxford English, Merriam-Webster, Collins English, and every other dictionary available:

schlong, n.  [Yiddish, slang, vulgar], 1. penis, 2. male organ of urination and copulation.  SYN. schwanz [German, vulgar].

There are no definitions anywhere indicating that schlong is a slang word meaning to "beat badly," as claimed by Donald Trump.

However, I did find another interesting word definition:

Trump, n.  [American, New Jersey, vulgar], 1. noisy demagogue, 2. contemptible bigot.  SYN.  gigantic asshole [American, vulgar].

The Science Of Santa Claus

Most American parents love to perpetrate the myth of Santa Claus to their young children.  I was no exception.  Were we telling an incredible lie to our kids?  Uh, yes.  Is this practice harmful to children?  No.  It may actually be beneficial, in its way.

Little kids lap up the story of Jolly Old Saint Nick.  They're eager to believe.  But over the course of a very few years, the Santa fairy tale helps children with their cognitive and emotional development.  They begin to employ their skills of reasoning, deduction, and use of evidence.  Flying reindeer pull a sleigh through the sky?  A fat guy brings all the presents down the chimney?  Every home, all over the world, in just one night?

By the age of seven or so, most kids have figured it out by using just the sort of mental processes necessary for scientific/technological discovery and innovation.  Thanks, Scientist Santa!


"I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was six.  Mother took me to see him in a department store and he asked for my autograph."
                                                                -- Shirley Temple

Monday, December 21, 2015

How About Not Taking The Call?

The political chattering class (of which I am a minor member) continues to express disbelief/dismay at the "success" of The Donald.  He has maintained his position atop the polls despite spending very little money, running zero ads, and having very few organizers on the ground in primary states.

But one thing he does have is a phone.  Not only does he clog up the Twitter-verse with endless tweets about his favorite topic, himself,  he's always calling in to TV talk shows.  He's not a scheduled guest, and he doesn't make a surprise visit to the studio, he just calls in -- The Today Show, Morning Joe, Fox and Friends, and The View have all repeatedly put Trump on the air, on the phone, and allowed him to speak at length.  It's a disembodied ambush appearance.

It's also a skeezy form of free advertising worth a small fortune to Trump's campaign.  He milks it for all its worth, and the media fall all over themselves to let him get away with it, again and again.  It's diabolically effective.

Here's an idea:  How about not taking his call?

Funny Numbers: How Ohio's Pot Issue Went Up In Smoke

Do you suppose this could actually be true?  Did Jon Husted and the GOP powers that be electronically manipulate election results to manufacture a defeat of Issue 3?  That's exactly what Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman of the Columbus Free Press suggest in the article linked below.

Knowing how our state's Republican party operates (remember 2004?), I wouldn't put it past them.  In Buster's own highly informal poll of "some people I know" prior to the November vote, I found a very large majority in favor of Issue 3, and no one had any real qualms about the supposed "monopoly" it would have created.  Then it was soundly defeated, 65% to 34%.  I was more than a little surprised.



Zogby Analytics completed its poll On October 17th.  Their results showed Issue 3 supporters with 49% of the vote, 35% were opposed, and 16% were undecided.

In order to move from the Zogby results to Ohio's official results, 100% of the undecided people would have had to vote against Issue 3, and 14% of its supporters would have had to change their minds!

The Kitchens Group did two surveys one week later.  Their two polls showed 47% supporting Issue 3, with 35% opposed, and 18% undecided.

"The official results are not only impossible but unfathomable," said Ron Baiman, Assistant Professor of Graduate Business Administration at Benedictine University, where he teaches economics and statistics.

Given the pre-vote polling, Baiman said one would expect the state's officially reported outcome once in every 105,000 elections.

Poll taken 10/13/15

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Missouri Legislator Has An Ironic Sense Of Humor

Received the linked article from The Old Philosopher.  Thanks, D.W.!  It's a great idea!  Some excerpts are below.


Missouri Rep. Stacey Newman's bill would require anyone buying a gun to follow the restrictions of Missouri women seeking an abortion.

"Since Missouri is one of the strictest abortion-regulation states in the country, it is logical we borrow similar restrictions to lower our horrific gun violence rates," Newman said in a statement.

House Bill 1397 says that before Missourians could buy a gun, they’d have to:

  • Meet with a licensed physician to discuss the risks of gun ownership at least 72 hours before attempting to buy a gun and obtain a written notice approval.
  • Buy the gun from a licensed gun dealer located at least 120 miles from the purchaser’s legal residence.
  • Review the medical risks associated with firearms, including photographs of fatal firearm injuries, and the alternatives to purchasing a firearm, including “materials about peaceful and nonviolent conflict resolution,” with the gun dealer orally and in writing.
  • Watch a 30-minute video about fatal firearm injuries. (This requirement mirrors House Bill 124 from last year, which would have required women to watch a video with information about abortion they’re already required to receive from doctors orally and in writing.)
  • Tour an emergency trauma center at the nearest qualified urban hospital on a weekend between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., when gun violence victims are present, and get written verification from a doctor.
  • Meet with at least two families who have been victims of gun violence and two local faith leaders who have officiated, within the last year, a funeral for a victim of gun violence who was under the age of 18.
Newman knows her bill is doomed in the Republican-dominated legislature, but still wants to illustrate the contrast in legislative approaches to two public health issues.

A New Low For The Dispatch

It's common knowledge.  The Columbus Dispatch has always been a blatantly conservative newspaper.  The recent change of ownership has not changed that.  If anything, their editorial pages are growing even more right wing.

Today, the Douchepatch may have hit a new low.  Editorial page editor Glenn Sheller wrote a big five-column opinion piece about the supposed "falsehoods" in the assault weapons "debate."  My immediate first thought was, "What debate?"  The NRA and all their little Republican droogies have made sure that there is no real possibility of honest debate.

Sheller's talking points are that the AR-15 assault rifle is not really a military weapon, is not as powerful as other rifles, and is not designed to kill people.  These are the dangerous falsehoods that have his panties all in a bunch.

He says that "civilian" AR's (AR stands for assault rifle) are not fully automatic like military issue, they're just semi-automatic.  So they're not military/war weapons.  Technically true, but so fucking what?  Does it really matter whether it fires 800 rounds a minute or 30, 40, or however fast you can squeeze the trigger?  Still a lot of goddam lead in the air.

Sheller goes to great lengths to describe the standard caliber, gunpowder volume, muzzle velocity, and foot-pounds of energy delivered by a round fired from an AR-15.  He includes a silly photo of a Chapstick beside a bullet, and wants us to know that other guns are more "powerful."  Again, so fucking what?  It's not a BB gun, and it's plenty powerful enough to kill.  

Killing is what guns are for.  That includes the AR-15.  Sheller is pissed because a recent NY Times front-page editorial stated this undeniable truth.  He trots out the feeble old excuse that "guns have multiple uses, including hunting, target shooting, recreational plinking, home defense and competition."  (Did he really say recreational plinking?  He did.)  Yeah, you can stir a pot of pasta with an AR-15, and cook bacon on its muzzle, but it is still designed to kill.  That's it's purpose.

We have an obvious gun problem in this country, and it's getting worse.  People like Sheller make it worse.  It's disappointing and shameful for the Dispatch to allow their editor a platform to propagate such misleading gun-nut nonsense.  Glenn Sheller is nothing more than an apologist for the NRA death machine, a dissembling, flap-mouthed, twaddle-wit, a frightened little man who must have the smallest penis in the western hemisphere.  He should be fired immediately.         

Friday, December 18, 2015

"Sir, Have You Been Eating Jam Tonight?"

Last night, we went to a dinner gathering with some of my oldest and dearest friends.  Most of us go back to college days, some even further.  There were about 15 of us and it was a lovely evening.

One of these old cronies brought gifts.  He gave each couple a jar of special jam, homemade by one of his neighbors who's in the jelly/jam-making business.  It's called "The Cherry Manhatten" (I can't account for the misspelling), made with Amaretto-soaked Montmorency cherries, Bulleit bourbon, and Angostura bitters.  I had some this morning, and it's delicious.  And when you open the lid, you get a whiff of whiskey!  So good it could be illegal!

So I guess I could almost imagine the following:

"License and registration, please.  Sir, do you know why I pulled you over?"

"No, officer.  Why?"

"You were driving in a nervous, sugar-buzzed fashion.  Sir, have you been eating jam tonight?"

"Nah . . . Um, well, uh, yeah, I guess I may have had a little jam . . . with my dinner."

"How much jam did you have tonight, sir?

"Only two, maybe three bites."

"Are you sure about that, sir?  Your driving was sugar-impaired and I smell cherries on your breath.  And what's all that in the back seat?  Are those all empty jam jars?"

"Wait!  I can explain -- those are not my jars, I was just . . ."

"OK, sir, I'm gonna have to ask you to step out of the vehicle and place your sticky hands on the roof of the car."


Seriously, it's very good stuff and truly home-produced.  The little company is called Sweet Thing Gourmet.  Their products are available at specialty stores in central Ohio, or by contacting them at www.sweetthinggourmet.com, Bexley, OH, ph. 614-252-1830.  Check 'em out!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Deep-Pile Bombing

So, that instant military expert Ted Cruz wants to "carpet-bomb" ISIS.  He says he would "carpet-bomb them into oblivion," until they "glow in the dark."

Teddy Boy, that's some mighty tough talk there.  Let me ask you a couple questions, pardner.

Ted's anti-ISIS ordnance
Will you be dropping plush, berber, shag or textured carpet?  Maybe you're an indoor/outdoor kind of guy.  What about stain resistance?  Whatever you do, don't go cheap on the padding.

And have you considered all the alternatives?  There's always tile, hardwood or linoleum bombing.

Just want to be sure you've thought this thing through.

See Something, Shoot Something

Next time you go to Home Depot, you might want to be extra careful and stay alert.

From The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore, it's the story of a concealed-carry pistol-packin' mama who drew her weapon in a Home Depot parking lot and fired at shoplifters in their getaway car.  She hit a tire.

Wilmore asked, "Why didn't she write down the plate number and call the cops?  Because this is 'Murica!  See something, shoot something!"

The shooter was sentenced to 18 months probation for reckless discharge of a firearm.  Because shoplifting is not a capital offense.


Tuesday, December 15, 2015