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

Friday, March 30, 2012

Obamacare Is On Trial. So Is the Supreme Court.

(Excerpted from an article by Jonathan Cohn, published 3/29/12 in The Huffington Post.)

But in this case, nobody has said they want to stop government from providing universal access to health care. On the contrary, the plaintiffs have stated that a program like Medicare, in which the government provides citizens with insurance directly, would be clearly constitutional. They’ve also stated that a scheme of compulsory private insurance would be constitutional if somehow the government could make people buy it when they show up at the hospital -- suggesting, as Elena Kagan stated, that the only problem with the Affordable Care Act is temporal.

Most amazing of all: The plaintiffs have conceded that a universal health insurance program would be constitutional if, instead of penalizing people who decline to get insurance, the government enacted a tax and refunded the money to people who had insurance. As Sonia Sotomayor noted, functionally such a scheme would be exactly the same as the Affordable Care Act. Both the plaintiffs and some of the skeptical justices have also indicated that the Affordable Care Act would be constitutional if the law's architects had simply used the word "tax" to describe the penalty.

Think about that for a second: If the justices strike down the Affordable Care Act, they would be stopping the federal government from pursuing a perfectly constitutional goal via a perfectly constitutional scheme just because Congress and the President didn’t use perfectly constitutional language to describe it. Maybe labels matter, although case law suggests otherwise. But do they matter enough for the Court to throw out a law that will provide insurance to 30 million people, shore up insurance for many more, and help to manage one-sixth of the American economy? It wouldn’t seem so.

(Buster's comment: This is the court that gave us the awful "corporations are people" decision in the Citizens United v. FEC case. This is the court where Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia attend secret, right-wing events sponsored by the Koch brothers and think nothing of it. This is the court where Silent Clarence's wife is a lobbyist working to overturn the Affordable Care Act. Too many on this court are bought and paid for. They're going to screw us.)

The Constitutionality Of Broccoli

Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments as to the constitutionality of the ACA's individual mandate, which in 2014 will require all of us to carry health insurance. Actuarially, this is entirely sensible, not to mention a good idea in general.

But sense and good ideas be damned. The Rightards hopped on this requirement as some sort of evil thing: Government is taking away our freedom! They're making us do something we might not want to do! If they can force us to buy insurance, what else will they force us to do?

The most popular and most absurd of these stupid slippery-slope hypotheticals goes like so: "If they can make you buy insurance because it's 'good for you', then by the same token they can force you to eat broccoli." In the past two years, there are numerous examples of right-wing pundits making this flimsy insurance-broccoli comparison. Fox News and Rush Limbaugh have both been heavy users.

Well, guess who trotted out the same feeble insurance-broccoli connection during oral arguments? No, not the lawyers. It was Justice Antonin Scalia. While deciding an historically important case, he sits on the bench parroting the typical Tea Party talking-point crapola. I guess we know how he spends his free time.

The fucker couldn't even pretend to be impartial. I'm disgusted and discouraged.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

One Of The Eternal Verities

Governor Kasich says he wants a modest tax increase on oil/gas extraction ("severance") here in Ohio. If it happens, such revenue ought to be set aside for the inevitable, unplanned environmental costs. (Remember earthquakes in Youngstown?). But no, the Wonder-Guv insists this revenue would facilitate a state income tax cut. (Classic GOP mystery math -- curing supposed deficits by reducing income.)

Naturally, Ohio's whining oil and gas lobby is up in arms over the possible severance tax increase. "Woe is us! We thought Kasich was our boy. How could he do this to us?" And many of our Republican legislators are uncomfortable about imposing slightly higher costs on a favorite sugar daddy. Could they scuttle Kasich's plan?

On Sunday, Tom Suddes (the only respectable local columnist in the Dispatch) put it this way: "Governors come and go; Statehouse lobbies are eternal."

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Is ObamaCare "European Socialism"?

The Glove, Icky Ricky, and the Salamander sure want you to believe it is. Not even close, unfortunately. Maybe it should be. Watch the video and see what you think.

She Wouldn't Pull The Ball Again, Would She?

(A political analogy.)

For decades, one thing has been clear: Democrats are just too damn nice! If you're looking for a smidgen of open-mindedness, an occasional willingness to compromise, and semi-honest advertising, look to the Dems. On the other hand, if you seek rigid dogmatism, my-way-or-the-highway ultimatums, and fact-free, ends-justify-the-means ad campaigns, then the GOP is your bunch.

But despite getting repeatedly fleeced, fucked and lied to by the R's, it seems the D's are always ready to trust, play nice, and give up many things they want, hoping in vain the R's will someday return the favor and behave reasonably. But they never do, and the D's live in a state of constant amazement at the tactics of their opponents -- "Can you believe the shit they just pulled? That sucks! We'd never do anything like that!"

Republicans are Lucy VanPelt holding the football.
Democrats are Charlie Brown running up to kick it.

If The Heart Fits, Transplant It

Yesterday, from a still-undisclosed location, came the news that former Vice President Dick Cheney underwent heart transplant surgery. Cheney's team of cardiologists had been pessimistic about finding him a suitable donor organ, but they finally located one that was appropriately cold and hard.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Health Reform Is A BFD

That's what Joe Biden whispered to President Obama two years ago just before the signing of the Affordable Care Act.

Starting Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court will begin to hear arguments regarding the constitutionality of the ACA, a.k.a. Obamacare. It's an election year, and the High Court has never been more of a political animal, so the eventual outcome is anybody's guess. (I do know that Justice Clarence Thomas' wife Ginni is CEO of Liberty Central, a right-wing PAC working to overturn the ACA. That shitheel Thomas therefore ought to recuse himself, or better yet, fucking quit. Won't happen.)

Thought I'd share a few excerpted thoughts on the subject of health care from a pair of worthies: Fareed Zakaria, "Health Insurance Is For Everyone", published in Time, 3/26/12; and Paul Krugman, "Hurray For Health Reform", published in the NY Times, 3/18/12.

The centerpiece of the case against Obamacare is the requirement that everyone buy health insurance -- the so-called individual mandate. Nearly 20 years ago, Switzerland concluded that to make health care work, everyone had to buy insurance. Their system is very similar to Obamacare. Today, the Swiss enjoy high quality of care, everyone has access, and costs have moderated. Overall satisfaction is high. -- Fareed Zakaria

How would the ACA (ObamaRomneycare) change American health care? For most people the answer is, not at all. In particular, those receiving good benefits from employers would keep them. The ACA is aimed, instead, at those either going without coverage or relying on the miserably malfunctioning individual non-group insurance market. -- Paul Krugman

Individual health insurance just doesn't work. If insurers are free to deny coverage at will, they offer cheap policies to the young and healthy (and try to yank coverage if you get sick) but refuse to cover anyone likely to need expensive care. -- P.K.

Taiwan created a new health care system in the 1990's. It has a single insurer, basically a version of Medicare. The result: universal access and high-quality care at stunningly low costs -- only 7% of Taiwan's GDP. In the U.S., we spend 17% of GDP on health care. -- F.Z.

Put simply, we have the most expensive, least efficient system of any rich country on the planet. -- F.Z.

In Massachusetts, Romneycare is already working! The number of uninsured has dropped sharply, quality of care hasn't suffered, and costs are very close to initial projections. -- P.K.

Free markets just don't work well in health care. Such a market would work just as it does for BMW's: anyone who can afford one can buy one. But the vast majority of Americans wouldn't be able to pay for a bypass or a hip replacement. -- F.Z.

The ACA isn't easy to love, since it's very much a compromise. But for all its imperfections, this reform would do an enormous amount of good. It's truly urgent, because fewer and fewer jobs come with health benefits. Employment-based coverage has been declining steadily since 2003. So this reform had better survive -- because if it doesn't, many Americans who need health care won't. -- P.K.

The Obama plan is not perfect. It maintains the connection between employment and health care, which is massively inefficient and a huge burden on American business. It does little in the way of controlling costs. But it expands access to 30 million Americans. That's good economics and also the right thing to do. -- F.Z.

Twenty other countries provide health care for their citizens in some way or other. All of them have found the need to use an insurance or government-sponsored model. All of them provide universal care at much, much lower costs than we do and with better results. -- F.Z.

Our task is not to abolish our system for a utopia that never actually existed, but rather to accept our messy reality and try to improve it to allow everyone access to decent care at an affordable price -- something every other rich country in the world already does. -- F.Z.

(Check out the blog archives of 2/25/10 for "Health Care Reform: Buster Explains It All", written 9/9/09)

Monday, March 19, 2012

I Wouldn't Walk Across The Street

Lately, I've noticed a TV commercial for that shitty fast-food "Mexican" restaurant, Taco Bell. In this particular spot, the voice-over tells us about a young man who had an incredible craving for their latest offering, but the guy lived 950 miles from the closest Taco Bell. So he supposedly got 3 or 4 friends together and they happily drove the 950 miles just for a crappy, mystery-meat taco.

Time out! Forget all the other improbabilities -- in today's world, where in the hell would you live to be 950 miles from a Taco Bell? Oh. Yeah. Mexico.

Time To Go

War is hell. In every war that ever was, war crimes are committed by both sides. One of our four-tour soldiers in Afghanistan snapped and murdered a bunch of civilians, many of them children. Yes, the poor bastard went off his rocker, but this is an unconscionable horror.

Let's use it as a motivator to quickly get the hell out of Afghanistan. It's as good a reason as any for us to vamoose. We have no compelling reason to stay. Stabilization? Democratization? Bullshit! The next time those things happen in Afghanistan will be the first.

(Check the archives for Buster's Afghanistan: Same Old Shit, Different Day of 7/29/10. Not much has changed.)

Doonesbury? You Want The Doonesbury? You Can't Handle The Doonesbury!

Seems that while I was absent, the spineless Dispatch decided that a Doonesbury story arc about Texas' abortion rules was "inappropriate" for the delicate sensibilities of Columbus readers, and made the editorial decision to not run it. (Where I was, the right-wing Pensacola News Journal had no problem running it.)

As a matter of record for those who may have missed it, here's the comic strip that was too hot for the Dispatch editors to handle. What a bunch of weenies!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Fog

Wasn't that a Stephen King book?

Anyway, we're down in Navarre Beach, on Santa Rosa Island, Florida panhandle, and today we experienced one of the most peculiar weather days ever: a gorgeous clear morning during which a low, thick fog settled stubbornly over the beach and stayed there all day. It was actually a sunny, cloudless day, except for this one big cloud on top of us. Kinda like that old Li'l Abner character Joe Btfsplk.

The photo was taken around 2:30 in the afternoon. Ordinarily, you'd be able to see the pier in the top portion of the shot. It's less than a quarter-mile away. We're in a 20-story high-rise, and for most of the day the top half of our building was invisible. At one point, a small single-engine plane flew overhead. Everyone looked up. We could hear it, just couldn't see it. Viewed from the nearby mainland, Santa Rosa Island disappeared, totally shrouded by the fog.

Locals down here say this happens every now and then. Very strange.

Same shot, next day, no fog.

Comedy And Tragedy Defined

(defined by Lewis Black, to be precise)

When I cut my finger with a kitchen knife, that's tragedy.

When you fall into an open manhole and die, that's comedy!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Conservative Viewpoint: ObamaCare Bad, Transvaginal Ultrasound Good

This random thought just worked its way into my twisted brain:

Today's conservatives are uniformly and bitterly opposed to Obama's health care reform, right? It's unconstitutional, and it forces people to do something they might not want to do. It's intrusive and results in a loss of our precious personal freedoms. It's Big Government running amok!

These same conservatives are uniformly and enthusiastically in favor of that same government regulating and restricting women's access to birth control, forcing women to endure waiting periods, counseling, and sonograms which they may not want, and in some cases, non-intrusively stuffing a sonogram probe up a woman's previously free, precious personal vagina. That's not Big Government, and it's perfectly constitutional -- just some helpful old white men looking out for fairer sex.

Buster calls double-bullshit on the whole damn hypocritical thing!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Dog Inspiration

(Suggested by a faithful reader. Thx!)

Song Of The South

Buster is comin' at ya from his bivouac deep in the heart of the Deep Red South, a.k.a. the Florida Panhandle, a.k.a. the Redneck Riviera. A little roadtrip with the lovely Mrs. Gammons.

Down here, freeway billboards say things, seriously, like, "God Bless America!" (petitioning the Lord with mass media) and "Go To Church!" (featuring a red devil with a scythe, illustrating the result of staying home).

And with typically exquisite timing, we're down here in time not only for cold and rainy weather, but also for the Alabama and Mississippi Republican primaries. I get see to see all the same shitty Romney/Santorum/Gingrich ads I saw at home last week! And the local R's bring some serious game to their contests: "My opponent is an asshole conservative, but not nearly as much as I am!!"

I'll paraphrase a comment from the late great George Carlin:

"Think about how stupid the average American voter is, and then realize half the voters are even stupider than that!"

Thursday, March 8, 2012

I Support The Girls Scouts Of America . . . By The Case!

As most of you know, when it comes to that swamp of indiscretion known as Facebook, Buster is a failure, but I do have 3 or 4 FB friends. Several weeks ago, one of them posted that her daughter was selling Girl Scout cookies, along with a picture of the ingredients in Thin Mints, which, as you can see, include "crack". Oh, ha-ha.

Much FB hilarity ensued, as many people posted snarky, humorous responses. Not to be outdone, I thought I'd join in the fun, so I posted what I thought would surely be taken as just another joke reply: "Holy shit! I'll take a case!" I mean, it's just stupid ol' Facebook, right? We're just kidding, aren't we?

Well, silly fuckin' me, she took me literally. Last night her husband showed up at the door with the case of crack-laden Thin Mints I had apparently "ordered" with my off-the-cuff FB comment. And yes, I stroked the check. Twelve boxes of cookies. How many is that? Jesus!

No biggie. Gave 'em all to the college kid. They'll be gone in a few days.

A Quick Course In Comparative Religion

(Sent by a faithful reader. Thank you, Faithful Reader.)

Taoism: Shit happens.

Buddhism: If Shit happens, it’s not really Shit.

Ecumenicism: Overlook all the different Shit.

Islamism: If Shit happens, it is the will of Allah.

Protestantism: Shit happens when you don’t work hard enough.

Judaism: Why does this Shit always happen to us?

Hinduism: This Shit happened before.

Catholicism: Shit happens because you are bad.

Hare Krishna: Good Shit happens when you chant Rama Shit.

TV Evangelism: Send us more Shit.

Jehovah’s Witnesses: Knock, knock, Witness some of our Shit, and take our Shitty pamphlet.

Christian Science: Shit happens in your mind.

Rastafarianism: Let’s smoke this Shit!

Atheism: No Shit, Sherlock.

Agnosticism: Maybe Shit happens, maybe it doesn’t.

Existentialism: What is Shit anyway?

Hedonism: There’s nothing like dirty Shit.

Humanism: Human Shit just doesn't stink.

Relativism: Shit teaches us to live and let live.

Stoicism: This Shit doesn’t bother me.

Syncretism: Mixes up all the Shit to produce diarrhea.

And my favorite...

Nihilism: Annihilates all other "isms" by making them Eat Shit and Die.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

6 Things Rich People Should Stop Saying

(Sent by a faithful reader. Thank you, Faithful Reader.)

Excerpted from an article by David Wong, published 3/5/12 on Cracked.com
For the full article, go to Buster's Links. It's a worthwhile read!

If you're somehow both rich and reading an article with this title, you're probably thinking, "What the hell? I didn't crash the economy!" You might even be tempted to defend yourself and your wealthy friends. But before you open your mouth, I want you to stop and ask yourself, "Will saying these sort of things make me sound like an out-of-touch douchebag?"

6. "Well, $500,000 a Year Might Sound Like a Lot, but I'm Hardly Rich."
"Look at how tiny my yacht is!"

5. "Hey, I Worked Hard to Get What I Have!"
"The only reason I have a hundred times more money than you is because I work a hundred times as hard!"

4. "If I Can Do It, So Can You!"
"Since everyone at my country club makes good money, it can't be that hard to do."

3. "You're Just Jealous Because I Made It and You Didn't!"
When we hate people, it's always for the same reason: Not because they're rich or powerful, but because they refuse to acknowledge that their power brings with it any responsibility. It's why we hate bullies and dictators and supervillains. It's why we hate people who benefit hugely from society and then pretend like they're living on an island with a population of only them.

2. "You Shouldn't Punish the Very People Who Make This Country Work!"
You're not a tall person who the dwarfs are jealously trying to cut down to size. You're a tall person being asked to get something down from a very tall shelf because nobody else can fucking reach it.

1. "Stop Asking For Handouts! I Never Got Help From Anybody!"
So ... you were never a child? From birth, you were hunting and gathering your own food? You never had a mother give you a milk "handout"? You're completely self-educated? At age 4, you sought out your own knowledge, and paid teachers out of your own pocket?

(Read the whole thing. It's funny and insightful.)

Monday, March 5, 2012

My Best Friend For Another Day Or So

Ohio is a "battleground" state (how'd we ever get so lucky?), and tomorrow is "Super Tuesday". For a couple weeks, we've been inundated by campaign workers, fliers, mailers, and of course, thoroughly despicable TV ads.

The number of 3rd-party-sponsored ads has mushroomed, thanks to unlimited spending by so-called Super-PACS. These uniformly horrible ads prove one thing -- goofy old billionaires may have shit-pots of money, but they're a little light on brains. Foster Friese has given tens of millions to Icky Ricky Santorum, and Sheldon Adelson says he'll "invest" up to $100 million in Newt Gingrich. Newt! For a couple of rich dudes, those are two bad bets.

Locally, I've been "re-districted" and my soon-to-be-former Congressman Steve Stivers and my soon-to-be-new Congressman Pat Tiberi are having a contest to see which of them can run the more treacly, faux-patriotic TV ad. Stivers is still wearing his Army helmet and showing off his little daughter as he tells us what he's doing "as we face these dark days" (with the Dark Man in the White House). Tiberi's still showing old home movies of his Italian immigrant parents as he assures us he's "battling Obama's liberal agenda." (Like immigration reform?)

Both these ads make me puke, so the contest is a tie. Tiberi and Stivers are both incumbent Republicans, and they're a pair of tools. Neither has any serious primary opposition, and both are assured of reelection in November. Why are they even bothering to run ads now?

For another day or so, whenever the TV is on, my thumb will be working the mute button. After Tuesday, I hope I can give it a rest for a few months.

Behold The Public Face Of The GOP: Rush Limbaugh

That pig Rush Limbaugh is a real class act, isn't he? A female grad student, Sandra Fluke, testifies to Congress and says she thinks contraceptives ought to be covered by health insurance, and the Fat Toad just goes off, calling her a slut and a prostitute and asking her to make some sex tapes for him.

Even by Limbaugh's standards (oxymoron?), his comments are especially vile. The target of his on-air attack is a student, not a politician. There is immediate backlash and countless online petitions asking Limbaugh's sponsors to pull their support of his radio show. (I signed one.)

A number of his sponsors drop him and Limbaugh issues an insincere non-apology "apology" on his website, saying, "My choice of words was not the best." Asked for their opinion, Mitt Romney, John Boehner and a host of other Republicans offer similar half-hearted horseshit about how they would have said it differently. None of them says it was wrong, none of them disavow Limbaugh's words or say they disagree with him. All they say is they would have phrased it differently.

Ms. Fluke says she's unimpressed, and she has a lot of company. Sponsors continue to drop Limbaugh like a bad habit (which he is). Rush feels compelled to issue another apology, apologizing for the first apology. This second apology is not much better than the first. It's delightful to watch the Fat Toad squirm in the hot seat!

Many Republicans are suddenly saying that of course Limbaugh does not represent the party or any of the candidates or this or that, etc. No, no, no, not so fast! For decades, Limbaugh has been the unabashed drum major for the GOP, regurgitating everything fed to him by the party fathers. The R's stood by and benefited from all his lies and propaganda and took all his free advertising without a peep. Now that he's in a bit of trouble, you can't have it both ways. Rush Limbaugh is the de facto face of the Republican party; the flag bearer. Hey GOP! You can't just disown him now. He's yours!

Meanwhile, the Committee to Reelect President Obama is preparing a thank-you card.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

It's Only Fair

State Senator Nina Turner has a great idea. Since Republican men are so very concerned with female sexual activity and contraception, Turner says she'll introduce a bill requiring men to get a second opinion before obtaining a Viagra prescription.

In a press release, she said, "The men in our lives, including members of the General Assembly, generously devote their time to female reproductive issues, and the least we can do is return the favor." (Seems fair enough to me.)

Turner said she felt compelled to "guide men to make the right decision for their bodies. Before a man takes that little blue pill, let's make sure there's a valid medical reason for his limp dick. A healthy man running around town with a four-hour woodie is just showing off and wasting good medicine."

Her bill allows an employer's health insurance plan to opt out of covering erectile dysfunction drugs based on the employer's religious or moral objections. Turner said an employer's desire for a completely flaccid workforce is "a matter of religious freedom guaranteed by the Constitution."

To ensure the medical necessity of the drug, Turner's bill requires 24 hour advance pre-screening. A man wishing to pop a Viagra or Cialis must submit to an external penile ultrasound the day before, and at the doctor's discretion, a trans-anal probe. Turner acknowledges there is no medical reason for this, but said she wants all parties "to be sure of what they're doing, and, you know, we kinda want to fuck with the men a little, too."

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Andrew Breitbart

Well-known conservative blogger and Tea Bag pundit Andrew Breitbart has died at age 43. Via his Big Government blog, he was best known for posting intentionally misleading, race-baiting videos of ACORN workers and of Shirley Sherrod, and for posting former Rep. Anthony Weiner's junk shot. He once called Ted Kennedy "a prick."

The far right adored him, and they are mourning his loss. Conversely, although I agree that death at 43 is too soon, I always thought that Breitbart was an ass-faced scumbag jerk, so I'm not exactly in mourning, and I'll just paraphrase Mark Twain:

I won't attend the funeral, but I'll send a nice note saying that I approve of it.