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, March 31, 2016

A GOP Strategist Shares His Thoughts

(On the off chance that The Donald has finally gone a bridge too far, thought I ought to share the thoughts of Rick Wilson, a Republican strategist and writer who is a frequent guest on the morning shows.  These excerpts are from an interview with Ana Marie Cox in the NYT Sunday Magazine of 3/27/16.)

Q.  You once called Donald Trump's base "childless single men who masturbate to anime."
A.  If one is going to insult a group of people who think that Trump is their own private post-modern Hitler, one ought to be specific.  These aren't people who appreciate subtlety or rational discourse.

Q.  What sort of ad do you think could prevent Trump's ascent?
A.  What really hits Trump is when you prove to people that Trump isn't for you -- that Trump is about Trump, that he screwed people over in bankruptcy after bankruptcy, paying pennies on the dollar to these small businesses that helped him build his low-end casinos.  You start making Trump crazy.  Because -- this is the dirty little secret -- Donald Trump is insane.

Q.  Is that a secret???
A.  Well, this is a man who reacts to stress in ways that are notably, demonstrably lunatic.  He's like an escaped mental patient on the Republican debate stage.

Q.  Who really thinks that Ted Cruz is the solution?
A.  Mostly people named Ted Cruz.

"Pro-Life" Warmth

Oh Donald, you did it again!  This time, when you opened that ridiculous-looking mouth of yours, you managed to outrage everyone on both sides of the barricade!  Have you finally gone too far?

In a sit-down with MSNBC's Chris Matthews, Donald Trump said all abortions must be banned, even if it means some women might "go to illegal places" for the procedure, and that women who obtain abortions must be punished.

No, wait, the abortion doctors must be punished.

Oh hell, just punish everybody!  (Except for the sperm-donor men.  Trump sees no need to punish men.)

No matter what they say, on just about any issue, conservatives are big on punishment:  To hell with cause and effect.  Just give us our pound of flesh.

Example:  Speaking against Planned Parenthood last summer in Cincinnati, anti-abortion attorney Thomas Condit (while being filmed by convicted abortion clinic bomber Michael Bray) said, "We need an American version of the Nuremburg trials for abortion doctors."  Then Bray shouted, "Yeah!  Hang 'em!  They will burn!"  To which Condit replied, "Hang 'em by their necks!"

Can't you just feel the warmth?  If that's not a pro-life vibe, I don't know what is!

Cruz Is Just As Bad

In case you were thinking to yourself that, in comparison to that nasty Donald Trump, maybe Ted Cruz wouldn't be so bad, think again.  Ted Cruz is just as bad, probably worse.

Ted Cruz wants to reverse Roe v. Wade and legally ban all abortions, even in cases of rape and incest.  He's equally heinous on any other issue you can think of.

Cruz is dangerous because he is a zealot, and all zealots are dangerous.  He is a sociopathic, far-right extremist filled with evangelical Bible-thumping craziness.

As a "conservative," Ted Cruz makes Barry Goldwater look like a game show host.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

High School Video: " TrumpMan, TrumpMan, TrumpMan, That Boy Up To Somethin'! "

Here's my man Max in his video for a Centennial High School class project.  Max is a friend and neighbor, and he also works as a lifeguard for our community pool during the summers.  For the project, students had to take on the role of a real 2016 presidential candidate, and create their own campaign ads.

Max was assigned the role of John Kasich.  Here he is in that role, dissin' the Donald!  Sweet!

Arizona 2016 = Ohio 2004

Arizona 2016
Last week's primary election in Arizona gave me flashbacks.  You may have seen the reports of lines around the block and hours-long waits at voting locations in Phoenix.  Reminded me instantly of Ohio in 2004.

Phoenix is the biggest city in Arizona.  It has a non-white, Democratic majority.  It's in the otherwise white, Republican-majority Maricopa County (think asshole Sheriff Joe Arpaio).  For the primary, election officials in Maricopa County slashed the number of polling places by 70 percent!  In 2012, the county operated 200 polling locations.  For 2016, they're going to run with just 60.  The greatest reductions were in urban, non-white parts of Phoenix.  County population is up slightly in the past four years.

Until a 2013 Supreme Court ruling, Arizona elections operated under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Justice Dept., and Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.  But that part of the Act was unwisely voided by the Roberts Court.  Now that GOP election overlords in Arizona are free from federal oversight, voter suppression is the first order of business. Sixteen states now have voting restrictions in place that did not exist in 2012.  The Arizona primary was just a warm-up for what the GOP has planned for the November general election across the nation.

We've seen this many times before.  One memorable time for me was the 2004 general election here in Ohio.  That was the last time I ever voted in person.

John Kerry was challenging the incumbent idiot George W. Bush.  It was going to be a close one and Ohio, as always, was going to be key to the outcome.  The Republicans got busy.  An amendment to the state constitution banning gay marriage -- guaranteed to fire up the dumb-ass "base" -- was part of it, but, oh, there was more.

In 2004, most of the touch-screen voting machines in use across Ohio were made by Diebold of Canton, Ohio.  The chairman of the Ohio Committee to Reelect George W. Bush was none other than Diebold's CEO Walden O'Dell, who publicly promised to "deliver Ohio" to Bush.  (At the time, O'Dell's machines did not provide a paper trail.)

The co-chair of that same committee was Ken Blackwell, Ohio's Secretary of State, the top election official in Ohio.  Blackwell took voter suppression to shameless heights.  He refused to accept new-voter registration cards unless they were printed on heavy card-stock.  He ruthlessly purged the voter rolls without good reason.  As many as 1 in 4 registered Ohio voters discovered that their names had been removed from the list of eligible voters.  In Cleveland, Cincinnati and Toledo, over 300,000 names were scrubbed.  Blackwell reduced the number of polling places in Democratic-majority areas, and reduced the number of voting machines in virtually every precinct.  Here in Franklin County, the Board of Elections estimated 5000 machines would be needed for the 2004 election.  The Republican Board chairman decided to make do with half that number.

Ohio 2004
Predictably, and by design, many Ohioans spent hours waiting in line to vote on that miserable, rainy November day.  I know, because I was one of them.  At two hours, my wait was shorter than lots of folks.  Many people in those long lines simply gave up after awhile and left without voting.  I know, because I saw it happen repeatedly.

In all my years, I'd never seen anything even close to it before.  It was a real out-lier.  Lou Harris, founder of the Harris Poll and the father of modern political polling, said, "Ohio in 2004 was as dirty an election as America has ever seen."  Old Lou was right.  Something was rotten in the state of Ohio.  It was obvious.  Dubya was declared a narrow "winner," but just a small slice of those disenfranchised, largely Democratic voters would have tipped the state to Kerry, and the White House with it.  This was not to be.

That's when I vowed to never again waste my time with in-person voting, and I haven't.  Any form of voting is an act of faith, and since 2004 I've placed my faith in the absentee ballot.  And yes, I know, the SOB's could toss my ballot in the trash, but at least I don't have to wait in line to be cheated.

2016 will be another biggie, a battle, a pivotal national election with compelling candidates offering distinctly different choices.  Arizona and other states have already shown how willing they are to brazenly tilt the playing field.  Ohio has another Republican Secretary of State, Jon Husted, whose record on voting rights is weak.

One would hope that Husted could pretend to be non-partisan and simply administer the election, rather than throw it.  History, however, suggests a healthy amount of skepticism would be appropriate.

Screw Stalin!  Keep the faith and vote.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Ask A Stupid Question, . . .

So, I was watching one of the network evening news shows tonight -- (Why do I torment myself with such superficial drivel?) -- and they made reference to yet another friggin' poll.  Regurgitating endless poll results is what passes for journalism these days.  "Ooh, look!  Shiny object!  Poll numbers!"

The talking head informed me that this particular poll of the moment indicated that "66% of young Bernie Sanders supporters said they would be 'disappointed' if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee."

Well, no shit, Sherlock!  And what was the brilliant question that produced this illuminating response?  Who's disappointed when their favorite candidate doesn't make it?  EVERYBODY!  

It would be unnatural if Bernie's people didn't feel let down if Hilz turns out to be the nominee.  They'll be a hell of a lot more disappointed in November if it turns out to be President Trump!

Some polls are stupid.  Don't be stupid.  Just vote!  And vote smart.

Going Off The Rails On The Crazy Train

The GOP crazy train, that is.

This morning, Donald Trump's campaign manager was indicted for roughing up a reporter at a recent Florida event (and she was a conservative report from Breitbart.com!).

Later on this evening, masochists may enjoy another debate/debacle featuring the Republican candidates.  So far, we've been treated to such things as wall-building contests, torturing contests, dick-measuring contests and screwable wives contests.  Do you suppose they'll be able to sink even lower tonight?

Oh, you know they will!  Not sure how, but they will.

You must admit that with their dignity, decorum, and their actual ideas and policies, Clinton and Sanders offer a pleasant contrast to the feces-fling on the right.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Again, Nixon Speaks From The Grave

And once again, he's still a dick.
(It's a quote from John Ehrlichman, but you get the point.)

Don't Want To Take A Dump With Trump? Then Lose With Cruz!

It's getting bad enough for the Republican party that this is their latest bright idea, as expressed by Lindsey Graham and others:

"Stick a fork in us.  We're done for 2106.  We're gonna lose the presidential election, and probably a few Senate seats.  Our best option, therefore, is to Lose With Cruz, who is an actual elected -- albeit roundly despised -- Republican person with conservative bona fides.  If he's our candidate, we'll get whupped but at least we'll preserve our ideological purity."

Good luck with that!  And if you really believe that Ted Cruz's brand of Bible-based conservatism is worth preserving, you may be crazier than a roomful of Trump supporters.

All The Terrible Things Hillary Clinton Has Done -- In One Big List

(Article by Brett Arends, MarketWatch.com
I have a confession to make: I can’t keep up.
Am I supposed to hate Hillary Rodham Clinton because she’s too left-wing, or too right-wing? Because she’s too feminist, or not feminist enough? Because she’s too clever a politician, or too clumsy?
Am I supposed to be mad that she gave speeches to rich bankers, or that she charged them too much money?
I have been following this woman’s career for more than half my life.  She came onto the national scene when I was a young man.
And for all that time, there has been a deafening chorus of critics telling me that she’s just the most wicked, evil, Machiavellian, nefarious individual in American history. She has “the soul of an East German border guard,” in the words of that nice Grover Norquist. She’s a “bitch,” in the words of that nice Newt Gingrich. She’s a “dragon lady.” She’s “Elena Ceaușescu.” She’s “the Lady Macbeth of Little Rock.”
Long before “Benghazi” and her email server, there was “Whitewater” and “the Rose Law Firm” and “Vince Foster.” For those of us following her, we were promised scandal after scandal after scandal. And if no actual evidence ever turned up, well, that just proved how deviously clever she was.
So today I’m performing a public service on behalf of all the voters. I went back and re-read all the criticisms and attacks and best-selling “exposés” leveled at Hillary Rodham Clinton over the past quarter-century. And I’ve compiled a list of all her High Crimes and Misdemeanors.
Here they are:
1. When she was first lady, she murdered White House lawyer Vince Foster and then dumped his body in a park.
2. She drove Vince Foster to commit suicide through her temper tantrums.
3. She was having an affair with Vince Foster.
4. She’s a lesbian.
5. Chelsea isn’t Bill Clinton’s child.
6. She murdered Vince Foster to cover up that she once bought a tract of undeveloped land in Arkansas and lost money.
7. She murdered Vince Foster to cover up her role in firing the White House travel department.
8. After she murdered Vince Foster, she ransacked his office in the middle of the night and stole all the documents proving her guilt.
9. When Bill Clinton was governor of Arkansas, she was a partner in the state’s top law firm, and it sometimes did work involving the state government.
10. She once invested in commodities futures on the advice of a friend and made $100,000, proving she’s a crook.
11. She once invested in real estate on the advice of another friend and lost $100,000, also proving she’s a crook.
12. Unnamed and unverifiable sources have told Peggy Noonan things about the Clintons that are simply too terrible to repeat.
13. The personnel murdered at Benghazi make her the first secretary of state to lose overseas personnel to terrorism — apart from Condi Rice, Colin Powell, Madeleine Albright, George Schultz, Dean Rusk and some others.
14. Four State Department staff were murdered at Benghazi, compared with only 119 others murdered overseas under every secretary of state combined since World War II.
15. She illegally sent classified emails from her personal server, except that apparently they weren’t classified at the time.
16. She may have cynically wriggled around the email law by “technically” complying with it.
17. She once signed a lucrative book contract when she was a private citizen.
18. Donald Trump says she “should be in jail,” and he’s a serial bankrupt casino developer in Atlantic City, so he should know.
19. Former House Majority Leader Tom Delay says his “law-enforcement sources” tell him she is “about to be indicted” — and if a man once convicted of money laundering and conspiracy doesn’t have good law-enforcement sources, who does?
20. She’s a hard-left radical who wants to break up the nuclear family.
21. She’s a conservative “mousewife” who refused to break up her own family.
22. She’s in favor of single moms.
23. She refused to be a single mom.
24. When she was first lady of Arkansas, she pandered to conservative voters by dyeing her hair.
25. Before that, she totally insulted them by refusing to.
26. She’s a frump.
27. She spends too much money on designer dresses.
28. She has “cankles.”
29. She has a grating voice.
30. She yells into the microphone.
31. She spent 18 years in Arkansas and some of the people she knew turned out to be crazy rednecks and crooks.
32. She’s in the pay of the mafia.
33. She’s in the pay of the Chinese government.
34. She’s in the pay of the Wall Street banks.
35. In order to suppress the billing records from her time at the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock, she cleverly packed them up and took them to the White House rather than shredding them.
36. When she handed over the documents to public officials, they couldn’t find any evidence she’d committed any crimes, so she must have doctored them.
37. Congress spent tens of millions of dollars and six years investigating her investment in the Whitewater real-estate project, and, while they didn’t actually find anything, they wouldn’t have spent all that money if there weren’t something there.
38. By cleverly hiding all evidence of her crimes in the Whitewater affair, she caused Congress to waste all that taxpayers’ money.
39. When she ran for senator of New York, she was still a fan of the Chicago Cubs.
40. She once said the Clintons were thinking of adopting a child, and they didn’t follow through.
41. She was photographed holding her hand near her mouth during the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
42. She’s got brain damage.
43. She’s old.
44. She’s really ambitious and calculating, unlike all the other people running for president.
45. She secretly supported Palestinian terrorists, Puerto Rican terrorists and Guatemalan terrorists.
46. She secretly supported a group that wants to give Maine back to the Indians.
47. She’s a secret follower of “radical prophet” Saul Alinsky.
48. She did her law degree at Yale, and it’s a well-known “socialist finishing school.”
49. When she was young, she did things to build up her résumé rather than just for their own good.
50. When Bill was president, she “allowed” him to keep people waiting.
51. She’s married to a sex addict.
52. She’s an enemy of traditional marriage.
53. She didn’t divorce her husband.
54. His philandering is her fault because she is too strong, and too weak, and too frumpy, and too fat, and too cold.
55. She’s hostile to women who fool around with her husband.
56. A divorced taxi driver in Florida told me that if Hillary is elected president, “women will take over everything.”
57. She insulted Tammy Wynette.
58. When they left the White House, she and Bill bought a big house in New York that they couldn’t afford.
59. She sometimes calls her staff during dinner, even when they’re out at a restaurant.
60. She claimed there was a “vast right-wing conspiracy” against her husband, and it turned out there was nothing but a bunch of tycoons financing private investigators, and some fake think tanks and books and news sites and stuff.
61. When she got married, she didn’t “stay at home and bake cookies.”
62. She supported the Iraq war because she’s a secret foreign-policy conservative.
63. She’s a secret foreign-policy radical with a plan to impose worldwide “radical social experimentation” through the World Bank.
64. She is secretly plotting to let children sue their parents for making them take out the garbage.
65. She looked bored during the Benghazi hearings.
66. Oh, yeah — and she totally has a vagina.
It’s clear: Hillary must be stopped. Hearings now!

P.S. from Buster:  Speaking of "stops," this could very well be her next stop.
1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

This Was Not "Defending" Children

Someone recently said to me that Hillary Clinton "did some bad things that hurt some people."  He was not talking about Bill's hurt feelings for having to sleep on the couch for the past twenty years.  And although I didn't press him for an explanation, I'm pretty sure he wasn't talking about all the wacky right-wing conspiracy theories out there about Hilz, because he's just not that kind of guy. I'll ask for specifics next time I see him.

Maybe he was thinking of this:  Hillary is rightly proud of her early work with the Children's Defense Fund, and mentions it regularly.  And yet . . . twenty years ago, in a vestige of lingering Reaganism, the Clinton administration worked with Republicans and some conservative-leaning Democrats to "end welfare as we know it."

This supposed "reform" push, opposed by liberal Democrats, resulted in the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act (PRWOA).  President Clinton signed it into law in 1996.  It put an end to the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) federal assistance program, and replaced it with a state-run block grant program, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), under which benefits were reduced and, of course, temporary.

Over the past 20 years of TANF, the number of children receiving benefits is now less than a third of what it was in 1996 -- not because the program is "working," but because requirements are more stringent and because states are incentivized to reduce their TANF rolls.  (AFDC paid states per the number of enrollees.  TANF pays a flat fee regardless of the number.)

President Clinton's welfare reform was basically a sop to conservatives.  There's no proof that it succeeded in moving people into the workforce, or in anything other than eliminating federal assistance to a whole lot of needy people, including millions of children.  (Hard-asses like that part.)  Saved a few bucks.  Not exactly a "defense" of children.

Hillary Clinton actively supported the PRWOA back in '96, but she was the president's spouse, not an elected official.  It was not really her deal.  Today, as a presidential candidate and with the benefit of two decades of hindsight, maybe Hilz ought to acknowledge that Bill's welfare reform was not the success they'd hoped for.  Perhaps she could vow to make it better if elected, try to reform the reform.

But no matter how you feel about this one thing, please look to the bigger picture:  What's essential is that you vote for the nominee, no matter whether it's Hillary or Bernie.  The freak-show alternatives on the other side are too hideous to contemplate.  If you are Democrat-leaning, please do not let your fervor for one candidate prevent you from supporting the other, if it comes to that.

I hear some people say, "It's Bernie or nothing!  If Hillary's the nominee, I'm just not voting."  (Or name-flip it, vice versa.)  Please think twice.  Such "principled" refusal is effectively a vote for Trump or Cruz.  And you know you don't want that.

For my few conservative readers, if you are equally repulsed by both Trump and Cruz (and you should be), I recommend you write-in a vote for Donald Duck, or just refrain from voting altogether.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Palm Reading

Trumps reads his own palm:

Ted Cruz Patrols A Muslim Neighborhood

North Carolina's "Faith-Based" B.S. Belongs In The Toilet

One month ago, I praised the city council of Charlotte, NC, calling them "an oasis of sense and reason in a desert of dumb."  They passed a resolution allowing transgender people to use the public restroom of their choice.  Their vote was a figurative flip-off to their fear-mongering governor Pat McCrory (R), who had expressed his support for an NC bill pushed by conservative Christians which would essentially legalize discrimination against LGBT people.

Charlotte's ordinance was negated when McCrory signed the bill into law on Wednesday.  He claimed he needed to do it for reasons of  statewide uniformity:  "We must have consistency in North Carolina's anti-tranny pee-pee codes."  His new law goes way beyond bathrooms.  Tar Heel rednecks may now gleefully display their prejudices in any number of hateful yet lawful ways.

Perhaps not for long.  Reaction to the new NC law has been swift and negative.  Major businesses publicly standing in opposition include Google, Dow Chemical, PayPal, the NBA, the NCAA, Biogen, American Airlines, Bayer, Apple, IBM, Salesforce and Facebook.  Many more to follow.

You may recall that Indiana tried this same "faith-based" bullshit a year ago, and wound up immediately amending their new law in the face of public outcry and corporate pressure.

Such laws are ugly, unnecessary, bad for business, and unconstitutional.  They belong in the toilet.  But they keep coming. Georgia is on the brink of passing a similar law.

Christian bigots are the worst.  They never learn, because they believe their "faith" excuses them from doing so.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

GOP Mainstream Endorses Cruz: "At Least He's Not Trump." Or Is He?

In recent days, establishment Republicans like Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney and Lindsey Graham have given the hated Senator Ted Cruz some the most half-hearted, insincere "endorsements" ever heard in the history of American politics.  They all boil down to "Ted Cruz is not Donald Trump, so he's got that going for him."

Many observers say that both Cruz and Trump are crazy-dangerous and are equally detestable pricks.  So pick 'em.  But watch this anti-Trump video from Romney, where Mittens points out some critical differences between the two:

Where Would You Rather Be?

Here's a pic from the final White House concert performance of the Obama administration, an appreciation of the late Ray Charles.  Barack (my cousin Barry) and Michelle got up on stage to join in the fun with Usher, Brittany Howard of the Alabama Shakes, Andra Day and others.  Everybody's havin' fun.  I love the First Couple's style and musical taste, and the President's willingness to bust a dad-move in public.  You go, Cuz!

Meanwhile, in a tacky Florida country club, some tacky country singer serenaded the tacky Donald Trump with a tacky version of "Stand By Me" -- "So Donald, DON-ald, Stand by us, Oh stand by us."   Donald and his guest Ben Carson busted their best dad-moves -- awkward immobility.  Dr. Ben is praying to get the hell out of there.  I feel ya, Ben.

I believe the two photos speak for themselves, but you may draw your own conclusions.

Another Thirty Seconds Of Deception From The Koch Brothers

Back in August of 2015, it was a 30-second attack ad from Americans For Prosperity.  This time, the 30-second attack ad is from Freedom Partners Action Fund.  Both are Koch brothers Super PACs, and both ads are deceptive, dishonest, and for the benefit of Sen. Rob Portman in his reelection bid against former Gov. Ted Strickland.  And Robbie will take all the slimy help he can get.

The latest blast of B.S. is part of a $2 million ad buy from the Kochs.  It features another ex-DHL worker, "Joel," who claims that Gov. Strickland raised taxes $1.5 billion and was responsible for the loss of 400,000 Ohio jobs.  Joel is a paid liar.

Ted Strickland did not raise taxes.  He actually reduced personal and business income taxes.  The $1.5 billion figure is additional fee revenue in the $50.5 billion 2010-2011 budget, up from the previous two-year budget, and coming mainly from franchise fees on hospitals and nursing homes.  In the ad, Joel twice calls this amount taxes while a quick screen graphic refers to it as increased fees.

Ted Strickland is not personally responsible for the Great Recession.  Every state lost jobs during the 2008-2010 national downturn.  Almost 9 million people lost their jobs across the country.  Ohio's experience was typical for an industrialized state.  Michigan was down over 600,000.  In the 2010 race for Ohio governor, John Kasich made the same claim that, despite the Recession, it was Strickland who was to blame for Ohio job losses.  Politifact rated Kasich's claim as completely false.

Kasich didn't care about lying then, and the Koch brothers don't care about lying now.

Here's my post from last August.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

A Healthy Six-Year-Old. Why Do Some People Want To Kill The Kid?

Six years ago today, President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law.  Happy Birthday, ACA!  As an early supporter of the proposed reform, I lobbied my elected officials relentlessly.  For my efforts in championing the cause, I received the genuine, mass-produced, signature-stamped Presidential certificate of appreciation shown here.  It's suitable for framing, but I haven't framed it yet.  But I do like it!

I was also invited to attend and speak at a Columbus victory party in April 2010, and I did.  I was among a few amateurs on the dais making brief comments.  The major talkers were Sen. Sherrod Brown, Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy and Mayor Mike Coleman.  No photos taken while I was speaking, but here I am seated to the left while Mayor Mike was at the podium, and at far right with Brown and Kilroy at left.  Got a signed thank-you note from Sherrod.  Did frame that one.

And, of course, I've written about American health care in these pages many, many times.

I bring all this up only to note that six years in, all the job-killing, premium-raising, health system-ruining, sky-is-falling nonsense about the ACA from right-wingers remains just that -- nonsense.  Obamacare is a healthy six-year-old, and doing well:
  • 13 million Americans signed up for Obamacare in 2016.
  • 20 million more of us have health insurance than before the law took effect, including 6.1 million young people age 18-26.
  • Over 120 million Americans with pre-existing conditions are now protected against discrimination.
  • 90% of Americans now have health coverage, which is an all-time high.  Put another way, the uninsured rate is at an all-time low.
Now, some will say "Hang on, Buster.  Health insurance premiums are in fact rising."  That's perfectly true, and it was just as true before Obamacare.  But it's also true that the rate of premium increase is less than before the ACA.  Health premiums are always going up, for reasons that have nothing to do with Obamacare.

Slowing the rate of increase is cold comfort.  I wish that Obamacare could have accomplished more on the cost side, but paid-off politicians beholden to Big Medical/Big Pharma/Big Hospital interests made sure that wasn't going to happen.  But one of these days, it will happen.  It's necessary, inevitable.  A single-payer, Medicare-for-all system with government-negotiated prices is the logical and overdue next step.

But until then, why are some people still so opposed to Obamacare?  (And by people, I mean real people, not conservative D.C. douchebags and presidential wanna-be's.)  Just two reasons -- ignorance and meanness.

No respectable person can be opposed to giving more people more access to more health care, especially for those people who unfairly had none before the ACA.  So for most real-people/real-world Obamacare opponents, it's simple ignorance:  You wrongly believe that Obamacare is personally costing you a shit-ton.  The Congressional Budget Office estimates that for the ten-year period of 2016-2025, the premium subsidies of Obamacare will cost taxpayers $850 billion.  OMG!!  But wait.  That's an average of $8.5 billion per year, which, divided by 250 million American taxpayers, works out to a whopping average of $34 per taxpayer per year.  $34.  A year.  Nine cents a day.

So it's not a personal financial burden and the benefits of the ACA to our society are obvious.  So what else could it possibly be?  I think I know.  You're just a mean old SOB:  You want health care to be a strictly financial winner/loser proposition.  And you're a winner who's not paying 9 cents a day for loser deadbeats.  If you have a really good job with top-notch, low-deductible coverage heavily subsidized by your employer, good for you, you win, and you have no clue about what health insurance really costs.  With your employer coverage, you can indulge in elective procedures and unnecessary surgeries and whatever.  But if I don't have those things, I lose, and I'm allowed to know far too well how much insurance premiums really cost.  If I actually need to use my high-deductible coverage, I get to pay lots more than you for the same thing.  And if I don't like it, well, it's my own fault -- I should have had a better job, and I just don't deserve what you have.

If you dislike Obamacare, you are clearly irrational, but here's hoping it's because you're just simply ignorant.  

Tail-Gunner Raphael?

Yesterday, Raphael Edward "Ted" Cruz called for national surveillance programs because . . . Muslims!!  His campaign's national security advisor, Clare Lopez, attempted to justify her boss's unjustifiable comments with some gems of her own:

“We can go all the way back, of course, to the time of the Cold War and back to the 1920s, ’30s, ’40s when communists, you know, the KGB, infiltrated our government at the very highest levels.  And then, like now, we were unprepared and in large measure unaware of what was going on, at least until the House Un-American Activities got rolling in the 1950s with Sen. Joseph McCarthy, who absolutely was spot-on in just about everything he said about the levels of infiltration.”

Uh, no, he wasn't.  But she doesn't care, and neither does Raphael Edward.  Cruz has previously said that comparisons between himself and McCarthy "may be a sign that perhaps we're doing something right."  Uh, no, it isn't.

Although it's almost certainly not an ancient Chinese curse, we live in interesting times.

What Trump Doesn't Understand About The "Deal"

I have noticed, along with about a jillion other people, that Donald Trump puts damn near everything in the context of money -- how much he has, how much he can borrow, how much he made on this deal or that.  It's how he expresses himself -- his only yardstick, the only thing he knows or cares about.

Here are excerpts from a great article along those lines by someone who's far smarter about it than I -- Adam Davidson of "Planet Money."  Link to the full article follows.  (Read it!)

Donald Trump's obsession with "deals" isn't just egotism.  It's a dangerous and outmoded vision of the whole economy.

Donald Trump loves the word "deal."  His book is titled "The Art of the Deal."  He wants to "beat" China in a "trade deal."  When asked how he would guarantee health care for the uninsured, he answered, "I would make a deal."  He plans to "make deals" with pharmaceutical companies and hospitals.  On immigration, of course, he promises the greatest deal of all time -- making Mexico pay for a border wall.

But the winner/loser "deals" central to Trumponomics are tangential economic concepts.  They defeat the microeconomic purpose of a mutually beneficial agreement.  And the key issues of national/global macroeconomics -- inflation, unemployment, currency-exchange rates, overall growth -- are impossible to control through any sort of Trump-style deal.

Trump is a spokesman for a different sort of economy, one that often goes by the technical name "rent-seeking."  In economics, "rent" is money you make because you control something scarce and desirable, e.g. an oil field or a monopolistic market position.  There is a bit of "rent" in every transaction.

The transactions in life that make people the most frustrated are "rent-seeking" transactions in which some force is imposing a better "deal" for just one party.  Your cable service costs more and is less responsive because deregulation allows monopolistic behavior.  Your local pro sports franchise threatens to leave town unless the city builds a new stadium.

A classic "rentier economy", as they're sometimes known, was Iraq under Saddam Hussein.  Business success in Iraq came not from being better or more efficient, but from knowing the internal family politics of the Husseins.  That was the force imposing "deals."

The quintessential American rent-seeking/rentier economy -- in which markets don't function, in which excess profits are held by a few -- is Manhattan real estate development.  Just 23 square miles, with many more people who want to own property than there are available housing units.  Manhattan real estate development is about as far as it is possible to get from that Econ 101 ideal of mutually beneficial transactions.        

This is the world Trump knows.  Everything he has gotten -- as he proudly brags -- came from cutting "deals" in this rentier environment.  Accepting the notion of a zero-sum game, he set out to grab more than his share.  And his policies would force the American economy to conform to that worldview.

It's no accident that, around the world, rentier states tend to be run by un-elected dictators* -- the ultimate dealmakers-in-chief.


*In addition to his facism, Trump demonstrates other dictatorial traits -- he says he will "unsign" laws, "tear up" treaties and agreements, and force compliance with his wishes.  "If I say do it, they're gonna do it."  In the business world, if you own your own private company, maybe you can get away with that tyrannical horseshit, but it just won't fly in democratic government.  You can't fire all your detractors just so you can get your own way.  You need the votes in Congress.  The Donald is delusional.  He should go buy himself a banana republic and leave the rest of us alone.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Trump & Cruz React To Brussels Attack: More Torture! More Walls! More Xenophobia!

Leave it to Donald Trump and Ted Cruz to have responses to the Belgian bombings which may be nearly as horrible as the terrorist attack itself.

Trump says Belgium should do "the waterboarding."  "The waterboarding would be fine.  You could expand the laws more than waterboarding to get the information from these people."  (By expand the laws he means ignore them.)  He said a similar incident wouldn't happen here if he were president because he'd "close up our borders" and would be "very, very tough on the borders."  (Donald envisions America as a gigantic gated community.  He says it's worked every place he's ever lived.)

This time, Cruz may have actually trumped Trump in the battle of inflammatory hate-filled nonsense.  Croozie's doozies:  "We need to immediately halt the flow of refugees."  (Does the U.S. actually have a flow of refugees?)  "We need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized."  (Shades of the Gestapo!  And how many Muslims does it take to make a neighborhood?)  "We need to secure the southern border to prevent terrorist infiltration."  (Is ISIS swimming across the Rio Grande?)  "The days of the United States voluntarily surrendering to the enemy are at an end."  (Surrender?  Enemy?  What the fuck are you talking about??)

Vote for either of these Bozos at your peril.  Both are staggeringly unqualified to occupy the Oval Office.

Shall We Elect A President Or An Emperor?

Who lives in this golden ghetto of gaudy glitz?  Caesar?  Napoleon?

Nope, this is the "living room" of Donald Trump's Manhattan penthouse.  Trump Tower, of course.  Proof once again that wealth cannot buy good taste or intelligence.  I mean, what the hell is that on the ceiling?  Greek gods?

Too many poor, dumb, angry, white working-class Americans have convinced themselves that the tycoon who lives like this actually gives a shit about them and will make their lives "great" again.

Sure he will.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

No Offense To Bowling Balls

Trying to reason with a Trump supporter is like trying educate a bowling ball.  . . . No offense to bowling balls.

The Quotable Asshole

Just for fun!  From The Quotable Asshole, Sellers Publishing Inc.

Consultants have credibility because they are not dumb enough to work at your company.
-- Scott Adams, "Dilbert" cartoonist

Oh, you hate your job?  Why didn't you say so?  There's a support group for that.  It's called EVERYBODY, and they meet at the bar.
-- Drew Carey

Our Image Abroad, Then And Now

The Top Two Reasons Why Non-Americans Used To Laugh At America

1.  Most expensive and least effective health care system in the civilized world.

2.  Total lack of sensible gun control laws despite highest rate of gun violence in the civilized world.

The Top Two Reasons Why Non-Americans Laugh At America Today:

1.  Trump 2016!!!!!!!

2.  Most expensive and least effective health care system in the civilized world, and

2.  Total lack of sensible gun control laws despite highest rate of gun violence in the civilized world.

It must be really embarrassing to be a Republican right now.

"Trump?  Oh Jesus!"

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Never Trust A Bus Driver From 1955

It's Not About "Principles," It's About Lack Of Principles

[My email to Ohio Sen. Rob Portman]

Dear Sen. Portman:

I was greatly amused but not at all surprised to read your comments as a member of the Republican blockade refusing to grant even a hearing to Merrick Garland, the president's highly-qualified nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court.  The most amusing part is your statement that "it's not about the person, it's about the principle."

"Uh, yup, we're not gunna do it."
OMG, Robbie!  You're killin' me!  I'm ROFLMFAO!!  Principle?  What principle?  The principle of being an obstructionist jackass one more time because Mitch McConnell told you to?

Openings on the Supreme Court bench are not magically synched to the election cycle.  Justices die and retire on their schedule, not yours.  Despite your party's feeble assertions, there is no age-old "precedent" for stalling for a full year just because it's an election year.  (And if there were such a precedent, it would be a stupid one.)

So stop pretending -- you and the other GOP senators aren't acting on principles; you're demonstrating a lack of principles.  You already look like a bunch fools with your do-nothing stance.  Further delay until after the election will only add to, not reduce, the rank politicization of this Court appointment, and will make you look even worse.

You've painted yourself into a corner on this, and your problem is not like wine -- it will not get better with age.  Might as well deal with it now and do your job.  Give the guy a hearing and a vote.

Thanks for your time, Rob.  Enjoy your last few months in the Senate.

Buster Gammons

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Email Jail? Get Real

A lawyer friend is fond of telling anyone who will listen (and I'm usually not one of them) that Hillary Clinton will be going to jail for her use of private email as Secretary of State.  He also insists that Obama will stage a military coup in January and refuse to leave the White House -- but I digress.

He recently sent a cute Bill & Hil meme to the lovely Mrs. Gammons, along with a portion of the U.S. criminal code -- to be precise, Title 18, Chapter 37, Section 793 -- which he indicated was for me!  Wow!  What a lovely gift.  As I've said to other lawyers at other times, "Thank you for the unsolicited recitation of code/case law/whatever."

This section of code deals with espionage and protecting defense information, and is based on war and defense legislation from WW's I and II.  (It speaks of things like canals, telegraphs, photographic negatives and blueprints.)  The learned counselor reads Section 793 to mean, without a doubt, that Hilz is gonna do hard time in the Big House for sure.  Because . . . Email-ghazi!  He's joined in his opinion by the likes of Alex Jones, Glenn Beck, Tom Delay, Dick Morris and other crackpot conspiracy-theorists.

Is it his contention that Hillary Clinton used a private email server for nefarious purposes, to intentionally harm and endanger and weaken the security of the United States?  No?  Then STFU.

After countless hours of Congressional show-trial grilling by Darrell Issa and Trey Gowdy, and, of course, after getting off scot-free for personally assassinating Vince Foster while simultaneously hiding her Whitewater tax losses and planning the Benghazi attack -- after all that, there remains a sub-set of "special" people who are still convinced Hilz is going to email jail.  

(Before that happens, maybe Gowdy can drag her back in for another smear hearing and make her look really good again.)

Let's get real.  Mrs. Clinton's use of private email was ill-considered, not proof of some horrible character flaw which will surely doom our Great Nation.  Not only is she far from the only public official to use private email, she's not even the first Secretary of State to do so.  Colin Powell and Condi Rice did it, too.

Whether it's government email servers or the NSA hack or Apple iPhone encryption, data security is an important issue.  Like our technology itself, our thinking and legal interpretations on the subject are constantly evolving.

In this environment, in these times, do you seriously believe that Hillary Clinton will be charged, prosecuted, convicted and sentenced for using private email?  Guess again, bud.

By the way, in case I'm wrong, would she do time as the sitting President, or only after leaving office in 2024?