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

Monday, April 30, 2012

Un-Fair Energy Ohio, Part II

First, AEP portrayed itself as a little girl selling lemonade. Now in its latest ad from FairEnergyOhio, AEP is a group of nerdy little schoolkids being pummeled by grown men in a dodgeball game. "Waah! It's so unfair!"

This sleazy ad is even more disgustingly untrue than the first one. AEP is opposed to market-based pricing and is opposed to competition. They want to raise rates, rig the game and make sure everybody pays more. That's AEP's idea of fair.

You can comment on this issue by going to www.PUCO.ohio.gov and clicking "File a Public Comment". Make reference to Case# 10-2929-EL-UNC. Tell the PUCO to retain its present market-based pricing rules.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Economic Thoughts

Thinkin' 'bout the economy . . . not thinkin' deep thoughts, because I'm no economist. But neither are the politicians, and that doesn't stop them from talking about it like they're smart or something.

I often think back to a memorable economics professor I had at Bowling Green. It was a big lecture and she was part teacher, part performer. Very interesting and often funny, she was reminiscent of Patricia Neal. She was also Navy Reserve and usually taught in dress uniform, which gave her a certain gravitas. I regret I've forgotten her name.

I remember very little of the coursework, but I do recall some of her words. She told us there's a reason why economics is known as the "dismal science" -- our American economy is always big, slow, and uncertain, except for when it's big, fast, and disastrous. According to her, there is very little science to it and most of the time, nobody really knows what's going to happen, and those who claim to know are mainly bullshitters. All we do is watch what is happening and dissect what has happened.

She said that the things to remember about economics are: Needs & Wants; Supply & Demand; Price elasticity; The inverse relationship of unemployment & inflation. Beyond that, she said, it's all a crapshoot. She taught us that turning the economy is usually like turning an aircraft carrier. It can be done, but it will take time. She said incumbent office-holders -- presidents, governors, etc. -- always take too much credit or get too much blame for current economic conditions.

All this stuff comes back to me every so often, like when I hear Romney and the GOP rail against the economy and unemployment and gas prices, and you know who's to blame, don't you? Yeah, him. Clearly all his fault.

But please recall that the Big Housing Bubble Burst and the Market Crash and the Great Recession all occured before "him", and despite his inspiring election, by the time Obama sat down for his Inaugural luncheon, the economy was serving up shit sandwiches.

Although we'd all like instant pie-in-the-sky economic bliss, things are improving -- slowly, like an aircraft carrier turning. Considering where we were, there was no place to go but up. One can always say things could be better, but nobody promised us perfection. To me and to many others, it feels like we're getting better. Housing, car sales, the stock market, good chunks of retail -- all looking better. The signs are there. Not ideal, but I'm pretty sure we'll be O.K.

So let the R's howl. (Don't they always?) A government report a couple days ago confirmed that the U.S. economy (in terms of GDP) has expanded for eleven straight quarters -- essentially three years of growth. The Republicans only point then can be, oh well, that's good, but it's not good enough. We'd have done so much better.

Yeah? How? Worst mess since 1929 and you're still revenue-slashing the way to prosperity? Puh-leeze!

If I'm my cousin Barry, I think I say, "Bring it, douchebags! We're gettin' there. What exactly have YOU done?"

Friday, April 27, 2012

And How Do You Know, Joe?

Have you and Barack been having a stick-measuring contest at the White House?

Our Bass-Ackwards Health Care System, Or "Bend Over -- This Won't Hurt A Bit."

Yesterday it was reported that over 3 million health insurance policyholders and thousands of business will receive $1.3 billion in premium rebates/refunds this year. This is due to a provision in the ACA ("ObamaRomney Care") requiring insurers to spend a minimum of 80% of premiums on actual health care. If they don't, the insurance companies have to kick back the difference to customers.

Said Larry Leavitt, who studies the industry for the Kaiser Foundation, "This is one of the most tangible benefits of the health reform law that consumers will have seen to date."

Of course, the insurance industry sees it differently. A spokesperson for the industry's main PAC, America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), said, "The net of all the requirements will be an increase in costs for consumers."

In other words, health insurers are telling us, "Even though we've been caught overcharging you, we'll find new and creative ways to maintain our excessive margins. One way or another, you're gonna pay, sucka!"

The attitude expressed, this contempt for anything other than maximizing the bottom line, is a good illustration of why the ACA was necessary and why there is still much more to do. When it comes to health coverage, our stubborn reliance on free-market principles and fee-for-service has created a monster. It's created a symbiotic vicious circle with doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies all feeding off one another and constantly driving prices up. Ultimately, it's the American consumer who pays. And it's the consumer who sometimes suffers. The industry itself seems to be quite healthy.

Entering into our health care system today is worse than going to a car dealership. You know you're gonna get fucked. The only questions are: By who? To what extent? How often?

The ACA is a good first step in the right direction. No matter what happens with the Roberts Court, we must keep pressing for lower costs and coverage for all. Maybe one of these days we'll join the rest of the world's advanced countries with a sensible health care system of our own.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

WMD, featuring Susan Sarandon

Pretty damn funny! (And a little serious bit at the end.)

We're All Immigrants

Anti-immigration activism has led to a number of borderline racist anti-immigrant laws, such as Arizona's SB 1070, now being challenged in the Supreme Court. Here are ten groups to keep your eye on. Often, they work together. Some are genuine hate groups. They all believe that immigrants (non-white variety) are are the cause of poverty, inner city decay, crime, urban sprawl, and environmental problems.

American Immigration Control Foundation. According to them, immigrants "have sown the seeds of ethnic strife in America."

California Coalition for Immigration Reform. Its leader calls Mexicans "savages" and claims there's a secret Mexican plan to take over the American Southwest.

Federation for American Immigration Reform. This is the biggest and most financially capable of these outfits. They were instrumental in creating the Arizona law now before the Supreme Court. They believe immigrants are engaged in "competitive breeding" to reduce white power. Their founder has said that unless our borders are sealed, America will be "overrun by people defecating and creating garbage and looking for jobs."

National Organization for European American Rights. Founded by David Duke. Typical statement: "Government policies will transform our society into a version of Mexico City, Rio, and Kampala, helpless to halt the dispossession of our own folk."

NumbersUSA. They believe immigration is responsible for environmental degradation.

ProjectUSA. "Present policy will lead to a Balkanized America of hostile and competing ethnic groups." "Anti-racism is turning us into cockroaches."

The Social Contract Press. Its editor has said, "Third World immigrants have declared racial demographic war against us."

The Stein Report. Affiliated with FAIR, this group is also worried about "competitive breeding" and has called for the U.S. population to be cut to 150 million.

V-DARE. They argue that America is historically a predominantly white nation, and that Americans therefore have a right to demand that it remain that way.

Voices of Citizens Together/American Patrol. Their leader says, "The Mexican culture is based on deceit. Chicanos and Mexicanos lie as a means of survival." He adds that immigration and interracial relationships have turned the U.S. population into a "slimy brown mass of glop."

Pretty fuckin' amazing to think that dipshits such as these can influence legislation in way too many of our states!

I've said it before: Unless your name is Sitting Bull or Nanook, you come from immigrants. In America, we're all immigrants!

Aspirational Republicanism

Like most, I dislike confrontation, so I usually steer clear of political discussions. (Blogging, obviously, is a little different.) Occasionally, though, it can't be helped, and when I get sucked into a debate with a rightard, my favorite snappy line is: "Buddy, you don't have enough money to be a real Republican!"

This will invariably get a chuckle out of even the most rock-headed conservatives, because they know it's pretty much true. But they'll often reply along the lines of "Nothing wrong with trying, is there? A guy can hope, right?"

No, nothing wrong with trying, but this sort of muddled thinking leads some folks to intentionally vote against their own economic self-interest. Call them "aspiring Republicans", and their logic goes something like this:

"If I vote like I'm a tycoon and if I support everything the tycoons want, then I'll have a better chance of becoming a tycoon myself."

Okey-dokey. Let me know how that works out for you.

Mandel: The Manchurian Candidate

Josh Mandel looks like he's in junior high and acts like cocky frat boy. With massive support from the good-old-boy Republican money men, Josh was elected Ohio Treasurer for the sole purpose of immediately becoming a full-time candidate for U.S. Senate. He has avoided his Treasurer duties like the plague while instead working diligently to raise campaign funds and line up fat-cat influence peddlers. Prior to becoming Treasurer, Mandel was a state representative who spent the bulk of his term of office serving as a Marine in Iraq. Cynics have suggested he stage-managed this tour of duty so as to pad his resume.

Now he's running his first TV spot as the challenger to Sen. Sherrod Brown. The ad is all warm and fuzzy and pseudo-biographical. In it, he plays up his veteran status by pulling on his old army boots, and we learn that his grandfather was a "soldier and a blue-collar worker," and we're told that Josh has "always believed in a strong middle class." I'm sure Grandpa was a swell guy. As for you, Josh, we thank you for your service but being a veteran doesn't qualify you for a Senate seat. And your blue-collar background and belief in the middle class has translated into supporting the wage-cutting, union-busting SB 5, and being in favor of letting the American auto industry go out of business.

Ol' Blue-Collar Josh is married to Ilana Shafran, a relation of the Ratner family, who made a fortune in lumber as Forest City Enterprises and own the site of the new Cleveland Casino. Funny his ad didn't say anything about his old lady's side of the family. When, after violating the law for 6 months, Josh finally filed the required financial disclosures, we learned that Ilana has personal assets of approximately $7 million. Just her. By the way, Sherrod Brown has holdings of around $500,000.

In truth, Josh Mandel is uniquely unqualified to be a U.S. Senator. As a state rep, he was out of the country. As treasurer, he's been out of the office because he's been busy running for another one. He has money and ambition, but he's short on experience and vague on issues -- essentially an empty suit with a fat wallet. As a good little Republican boy, Mandel was hand-picked for this assignment and for the past couple years he's been schooled and polished and programmed for the role.

He's the modern Manchurian candidate.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Wedding, My New Little Sister, And A Nice Compliment

My sister's son and my nephew Chris was married last Saturday in Charlotte, NC. That's him and wife Megan in the photo. Megan is a charming, smart and fun person. (Chris, ya dun good!) I'll remember three things in particular:

1. The entire wedding celebration -- pre-party, ceremony, reception -- was utterly marvelous, and had the added meaning of the family connection. Everything was top-notch (glad I wasn't paying!). All in all, it was probably the best wedding I've ever attended, and that's more than a few. Thanks to all those who put on such a wonderful affair. It was a pleasure to be there.

I hadn't met Megan's parents before, and they're a hoot. Mom Peg concluded her brief reception speech with the words, "Party on!" Her dad is known, fittingly, as "Big Al". At Friday night's little get-together, Big Al approached my son and his girlfriend and, out of the blue, abruptly asked them, "How old are you?" Nervously, they replied, "Eighteen." And Big Al, with a twinkle in his eye, jokingly said, "Filet? You both ordered filet mignon for the reception? They do a nice chicken, you know. You coulda gone with the chicken and saved me a few bucks." Slowly, the kids figured out he was kidding.

2. I have a new little Sister. Sister Miriam, to be precise, a diminutive 80-something nun from Louisville and the bride's great aunt. While waiting for the shuttle to the reception, Miriam and I introduced ourselves. She said, "Oh, you're Chris's uncle and your family has some famous forebear who signed the Declaration of Independence." No, he wasn't a signer, I explained, but you mean Gabriel DuVal, my 4th great-grandfather. He was a Maryland Congressman and an acquaintance of Thomas Jefferson, and Jefferson appointed him to be U.S. Treasurer and, later, to be a Supreme Court Justice. "Oh," said Miriam, "the Supreme Court with John Marshall." (Turns out Miriam is something of a historian.) "Why, yes," I replied, rather amazed.

I helped her onto the shuttle bus (she really didn't need the help) and we sat together. I mentioned that Barack Obama's mother was a distant relative of that same Gabe DuVal, so I was claiming the President as a cousin. Miriam said she'd read "A Singular Woman", the biography of Ann Dunham, admired her spirit, and had great respect for Ann's parents, who essentially raised her son Barack. She told me she was proud we'd elected Obama, but she bemoaned the resulting racism that seems to have once again reared its ugly head. From there, she told me about an old friend, a staunch Democrat, who received a White House Christmas card signed by President Ford, said "Why would I want that?", and threw it in the trash. Then she quizzed me on the status of Bank of America and wondered if there would more fines or jail time for BOA executives. (I think I flunked the quiz.) As the lovely Mrs. Gammons and I escorted her into the reception, Miriam gave us an impromptu lesson on the history of the Old Louisville riverfront. I fetched her a glass of wine. Before the meal, Sister Miriam gave the blessing. What a wonderful, memorable gal!

The reception was held at a gorgeous botanical gardens chock-full of every flower, herb, shrub and tree imaginable, topped off with ponds, fountains and exotic birds. It was glorious. There were perhaps two hundred of us drinking and eating on someone else's dime. Most had the beef. After dinner, our son found the father of the bride and told him, "Al, those filets were delicious!" Said Big Al, smiling and eyes a-twinkle: "You bastard!"

3. I received a very nice compliment. Among the assembled family down there were Chris's paternal aunts and their husbands. We had not laid eyes on each other in years, like maybe 15 of 'em. So we played catch-up and they all told me I reminded them of my late father, somewhat in appearance, more so in mannerism. Either way, this is a lovely compliment and I consider it high praise. When I grow up, if I turn out to be half the man my father was, I'll be a helluva guy!

It was great, great wedding!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

"We're Not Anti-Women, We're Just Bro-Choice!"

(Get it? Not pro-choice, bro-choice.)

Hey, ladies! Listen up!

Republicans in the Ohio House passed HB 298, which would effectively defund Planned Parenthood in the state. Ohio would still receive the federal funds in question, but Planned Parenthood would now be dead last on the list of recipients. If any money would be left, they'd get it. None would be left.

How about all the states that have tried to pass "personhood" legislation in the past year? You know, the goofy idea that human beings legally exist from the moment of conception? Kinda goes like this: Release the swimmers! A woman is inseminated, and off go the little sperms. Not a person, not a person, no, wait for it . . . One lucky sperm penetrates the ovum, and -- ta-da! -- person!!

One-upping the personhood nonsense, Arizona has a new law, the “Women’s Health and Safety Act”, which designates the start of an unborn child’s life as the first day of the mother’s last menstrual period. Technically, that’s before the woman has even made the baby, but details are for liberal losers. If you are a menstruating woman in Arizona, you are always potentially pregnant. So, congratulations?!

Mitt Romney has decided that the best way to improve his standing with female voters is to rack up pro-life endorsements. National Right-to-Life and the Susan B. Anthony List just endorsed Romney, highlighting his pledge to defund Planned Parenthood and his commitment to select a pro-life vice president.

Don't forget that Rick Santorum and Rush Limbaugh say that contraceptives make you a promiscuous slut.

And everybody's favorite -- trans-vaginal ultrasound probes! This won't hurt . . . much.

(All brought to you by our gentlemen GOP legislators and candidates.)


In this day and age, if you're a woman and you're seriously considering voting for a Republican, you're just not . . . well, you can't be serious!

Un-Fair Energy Ohio

Once again, AEP-Ohio wants the PUCO to be its lapdog. The present "market-based" pricing method will require AEP to reduce its prices on June 1st. No surprise, AEP is instead asking the PUCO to approve "capacity charge" pricing, which is essentially a much larger shopping tax ($355 vs. the current $20) levied against customers who choose a competitive supplier, and would at the same time work to keep prices higher for non-shopping customers.

AEP's lobbying arm, FairEnergyOhio.Org, is running an ad which paints a very different picture. In the ad, AEP is portrayed as a cute little girl with a lemonade stand in her yard. AEP's competitors are shown as big, bad men in suits who steal the girl's lemonade and set up their own stand across the street. Poor little AEP!

This is the same sort of slimy, we're-lying-but-you're-stupid advertising favored by Karl Rove, the Koch brothers, 60Plus.Org, and all the other Super-PAC assholes. After these spots run, I wanna take a shower.

AEP is the big dog in this fight, and they should be ashamed of themselves.

You can comment on this issue by going to www.PUCO.ohio.gov and clicking "File a Public Comment". Make reference to Case# 10-2929-EL-UNC. Tell the PUCO to retain its present market-based pricing rules.

Comment And Response

Recent brief comment from Brian Brady, arch-conservative Chairman of the San Diego GOP Central Committee, regarding my post of 1/19/12, What $6 Million Will Buy, in which I advocated for government investment in emerging technologies, despite the failure of Solyndra:

By what authority, does the government have the right, to invest our money in ANY business/industry?

Buster's rather longer response:

I smell TEA!

Brian, you're no more of a constitutional scholar than I am, but that doesn't prevent you from being an "originalist" who believes the document is Holy Writ, its words frozen in time, never to be reconsidered or "interpreted" (unless by Antonin Scalia).

What I know about our Constitution is that it permits the Congress to regulate business and commerce, and grants it the power to tax and spend.

Within that framework, over our history the U.S. government has provided financial support instrumental in the development of public universities, railroads, aviation, agriculture, and the internet, to name but a few.

A failure at Solyndra should not deter the government from investing in similar solar technologies and in other energy alternatives.

And work on that punctuation. In a very short sentence, you have two commas too many!

Comment And Response

Recent comment from "Anonymous" regarding my post of 6/15/11, I've Been Asplundhered!, where I suggest AEP might someday consider burying their "fucking lines":

What happens when they bury their fucking lines? Do they dig a trench to bury their fucking lines? Does the trench pass through the trees' root zone? Do the trees die from the root damage? Do you really think that there has never been a single electrical utility that fully considered the possibility of going underground?
If this experience actually affected you so deeply, why not put some effort into finding a solution? A truly inspired person might invest their time in researching a viable alternative.

Buster responds:

Dear Anonymous: Not exactly a timely comment, but that's OK. And I suspect you have a connection to Asplundh or AEP.

No, I don't believe electric utilities have fully considered going underground. Quite the opposite. I think their policy is just to say, "Too expensive," then pray we shut up. I think they'll bury residential lines only when forced to/paid to. And I know utilities don't give a shit about property appearance or value, or the concerns of homeowners. They care only -- ONLY -- about clearing lines. Nothing else is important, and AEP has made certain Asplundh got that message.

Now, I'm no utility or construction engineer, and I bet you aren't either, but I do believe retro-fitting residential areas to underground lines would be viable, and I believe it would be the best solution. It would also be a huge and very expensive undertaking. Customers would need to share in the cost. And it would create some problems, as you point out. But Asplundh's heavy-handed approach causes plenty of problems in the current set-up. Recently, their "trimmers" killed 12 mature trees on the Green in downtown Worthington. Unacceptable.

Underground lines aren't perfect, but they're vastly preferable to overhead -- safer, lower maintenance, and far more attractive. And let's face it -- wires strung stick to stick up in the air is the seminal delivery technology of Edison and Tesla. You'd think we'd have moved forward by now.

Secret Service "Sex Scandal"

OMG, this is almost as bad as Hilary having a beer!

As you no doubt have heard (and heard and heard), some members of the U.S. military and Secret Service men assigned to the same conference availed themselves of the services of 20 or so Colombian prostitutes.

I know -- shocking, isn't it? Soldiers and security personnel patronizing hookers? Surely this has never, ever happened before.

(OK, it was poor judgement, it shouldn't have happened, and it's diplomatically somewhat embarrassing, but it's hardly worth all the ink, airtime, and bandwidth it's received. What I want to know is, did somebody score Hilary a gigolo?)

Monday, April 16, 2012

Go Hilary! You Go, Girl!

W.C. Fields famously said, "Never trust a man who doesn't drink."

On a diplomatic mission to Colombia, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton cut loose by having a beer and doing a little impromptu party dance with staff members. Good for you, Hilary! Undoubtedly, some prudish critics will give her hell for it, but they're off base. It's natural and healthy to let off a little steam now and then, especially for the leaders of the most powerful country in the world (who build up more steam than most of us). And it makes our leaders seem like normal human beings.

President Obama had his D.C. Beer Summit, and he downed a pint of Guiness when he travelled to Dublin. If that's OK for him (and it is), then it's OK for Hil to knock back a cerveza and do her woo-woo dance on her trip to Cartagena.

Let us add a corollary to Fields' adage: "Never trust a Secretary of State who doesn't drink."

Speaking of drinking, do Mormons drink? Officially, I mean? Does the church permit it? I bet not. Can you picture Willard The Glove and Queen Ann The Common Woman kickin' back on the old Barca-Lounger with a couple PBR's? Nah, neither can I.

And I know I'm getting a little quote-happy, but I'll leave you with one little anecdote about politicians and alcohol:

Once, at a formal state dinner, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill consumed numerous brandies and was blotto. A high-toned English lady was displeased, and huffed at him, "You, sir, are drunk!" Churchill replied, "That's perfectly true, Madam, but in the morning I shall be sober, and you will still be ugly."

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A Dozen Of The Best Things Anybody Ever Said

"If you can't annoy somebody, there is little point in writing." -- Kingsley Amis

"True terror is to wake up one morning and discover your high school class is running the country." -- Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

"Hard work never killed anybody, but why take a chance?" -- Charlie McCarthy

"Water, taken in moderation, cannot hurt anyone." -- Mark Twain

"My problem lies in reconciling my gross habits with my net income." -- Errol Flynn

"I have already given two cousins to the war and I stand ready to sacrifice my wife's brother." -- Artemus Ward

"The more he spoke of his honor, the faster we counted the spoons." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Either this wallpaper goes or I do." -- The last words of Oscar Wilde

"I am firm. You are obstinate. He is a pig-headed fool." -- Katharine Whitehorn

"You can't have everything. Where would you put it?" -- Steven Wright

"Never keep up with the Joneses. Drag them down to your level." -- Quentin Crisp

"I think everyone should be treated in a Christian manner. I will not, however, be responsible for the consequences." -- George Carlin

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Disgraceful And Shameless

The National Rifle Association has 4 million members. A big number, right? Well, there are 312 million people living in America, so the NRA represents just slightly more than one percent of the population.

Yet somehow this tiny splinter group has enough financial influence to successfully bribe the Republican Party. As usual, the R's don't give a shit as long the checks keep coming. It's a long-running disgrace.

In light of the Trayvon Martin case, many Americans are questioning the wisdom of "Stand Your Ground" laws. Not the NRA. They're doubling down in opposite direction, pushing hard to expand such "shoot first" laws into every state. And they want federal law to allow those with state-issued "concealed carry" licenses to be able to travel the nation with impugnity, going anywhere in planes, trains and automobiles while armed with lethal weapons.

And yesterday, shameless boot-licking turd Mitt Romney addressed the NRA's National Convention and told them he's fine with that, thinks it's a wonderful idea, and said, if elected, he'd staunchly defend the Second Amendment and the god-given rights of these 4 million nutjobs to arm bears or bear arms or what-the-fuck-ever. That's great thinking, Glove, just great.

(For similar thoughts, go to "A Sensible Gun Policy", Buster's Blog, 1/18/11)

Breaking Up Is Easy To Do

Breaking up is hard to do? Not if you're a North Korean rocket, it isn't. In fact, it's damn easy. They break up all the time, the most recent example being a couple days ago.

In this most recent failed attempt, the rocket exploded just seconds after launch. Afterward, North Korean leader Kim Joon Oops issued the following statement: "How you like us now, capitalist dogs? We got some crazy rockets, don't we? We press button, you never know what gonna happen. Rockets go anywhere!Crazy rockets!! How you like us now?"

Friday, April 13, 2012

Bird Brain

For a week now, a very determined robin (male, I think) has been repeatedly flying into the windows in the front of our house. The bird flies into the glass and flutters up against it for several seconds, its wings and feet clattering on the pane. Unable to fly through or perch on the window, the robin retreats to a nearby tree branch. But after a minute or two -- thwack! -- he tries again. And again. Seven, eight, ten times. This is one persistent little sumbitch.

The robin is focused on a first floor window in the family room and a second story bedroom window. And its efforts seem to be generally a morning pursuit, anywhere from sun-up to noon. Who needs an alarm clock when the early bird crashes into your bedroom window at 7 a.m.? It's just a minor annoyance, but I'm starting to wish that Rockin' Robin would build up a head of steam and break his stupid little neck.

I've never seen this sort of behavior from a robin. It seems very odd. Perhaps some of Buster's outdoors-y, natural resources readers can explain it, but until then, I'm going with the obvious diagnosis: Bird-brain!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Well, I Guess I Believe In Reincarnation. I Don't Believe Hilary Rosen Needed To Apologize.

Senator Joseph McCarthy has been reincarnated. He's come back as a black freshman Tea Party congressman from Florida by the name of Allen West. A couple days ago at a local meeting of some sort, West claimed that "78 to 81 Democrats now in Congress are members of the Communist Party." Really? Far out, brother!

This rather bizarre statement drew some predictable comments from Democrats, but was greeted by deafening silence from the Republicans. They had nothing to say, but here's what they were thinking: "He's crazy, but he's one of ours. His clip will get heavy rotation on Fox News and we'll snag a few more of the moron votes."

Compare that under-reaction to the firestorm surrounding comments from Hilary Rosen of the Democratic National Committee. Mitt Romney has been trying to walk back all the pukey anti-woman rhetoric expressed (often by Romney himself) in the GOP primaries. He's trying to pivot away from talk of contraception, women's choice, and trans-vaginal probes. He's learned almost all he needs to know about damn near everything from his country club buddies, but "my wife Ann tells me what women really want, and she says women want jobs." ("Yup, at the club we don't know shit about females. Why would we? So I just get Ann to explain it all for me.")

In a perfectly reasonable response, Hilary Rosen said, "No offense intended, but Ann Romney has never worked a day in her life. She's never worried about how to feed her kids, or how to send them to school." Translation: Ann Romney is a pretty poor barometer with which to gauge the concerns of the average American woman.

Well, no offense intended but plenty taken! And coming from all corners. The R's: "OMG, the bitch is attacking the sanctity of American motherhood! We are outraged -- do you hear me? Outraged!!" The D's: "Ms. Rosen shouldn't have said that. She didn't mean that full-time mothers don't work." Michelle Obama: "All mothers work hard."

The normally speechless Mrs. Romney volunteered that she had proudly "made the career choice to be a mother." Career choice? Time out! Would that we all could make such a proud choice! How clueless can the Romneys get?

Parenthood, either version, is most definitely noble work, but it is not a career choice. Most mothers I'm acquainted with have jobs, both in the workplace and at home. The same is true of most fathers. Mostly, this is of necessity. And such real working parents possess at least the same amounts of love and care and make at least the same effort as do the privileged, choice-laden few like Ann Romney.

Rosen apologized. She shouldn't have.

"My Campaign Is Suspended, But . . . "

Today, Rick Santorum issued a clarification. Yes, he said, his campaign has been "suspended", but he would refuse to "terminate" it until it had undergone an ultrasound, watched a video, and been sent home for a 48 hour waiting period.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

My Aunt Babs

Her given name was Katherine. She referred to herself as Karen. In our family, she was always, for some reason, "Babs". Never married, Aunt Babs served in the Coast Guard in WW II, and for decades worked as a school teacher. She was a dedicated tea drinker who filled her small apartment with books, tea cups and various "little things". She was tall, thin and spoke with a sort of lilting East Coast patrician inflection. Babs was regally unpretentious, if there can be such a thing. She died last week in Baltimore at the age of 90, pretty much the last of the Mohicans of my parents generation.

A few years ago, she sent me a copy of a 50-page memoir she had written about her very early years. She titled it "Born In The Jazz Age". It's marvelous. In her honor, here's the opening paragraph:

I arrived in 1922 to find a rather large family already settled into its marching positions. Two burgeoning Flappers at the top led the parade in red, unblotted lipstick and cloche hats tilted over their spit curls. (They spent a lot of time looking into mirrors, adjusting those tilts.) Innumerable brothers, known to the neighborhood as the Jacobsen Clan, filled out the middle -- all tall (or going to be tall), all good-looking, and all called Jake. When the telephone rang and a voice asked, "Is Jake there?", you had to go through a roll call of their more elegant-sounding family names, which Mother preferred, to find the right one, and then the voice would say, "Yeah, Bryce DuVal-whatever, that one." On this rather crowded ladder, I was at the bottom. "A very sickly child," said Mother. "We had a hard time getting you to talk." It was the same year King Tut's tomb was found and his mummified body taken to Cairo, and though we had little else in common, it was always a comfort to know that His Majesty the Pharaoh and I shared a profound silence at the new world opening before us.

Santorum For President In 2016? Yes!

Surprising no one, yesterday Rick Santorum dropped out of the GOP presidential primary race. Yes, he has an unfortunate and unwell little daughter, but if she was his foremost concern, he would never have entered the primary contest to begin with.

No, the real reason was that he had no chance against the Romney money machine and he didn't want to endure an embarassing defeat in his home state in a couple weeks. He wants to protect his image. Icky Ricky sees himself as an influential mover and shaker in the Republican party, and believes he could be the presidential nominee in 2016. He makes frequent reference to Ronald Reagan falling short in 1976, but coming back strong four years later.

Santorum as the 2016 GOP nominee? A great idea -- I love it! First of all, it would mean that My Cousin Barry had defeated The Glove in 2012. And secondly, it would give Icky Ricky four years on Fox News to add to his track record of Conservative Christian dumbfuckery. By then, he ought to have said enough batshit crazy stuff to guarantee a Democratic landslide.

So, yeah, I'm all in favor of Santorum in 2016.


Hardly a day goes by anymore without some well-known sports figure doing or saying something stupid. University of Arkansas football coach Bobby Petrino, married and a father of four, was fired for screwing around with a girl and lying about it. Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen was suspended for 5 games for saying he loves Fidel Castro. New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton and defensive coordiator Greg Williams were suspended for a year for running a big-hit bounty program. And many others too numerous to list.

It makes one yearn for the golden days of yore, that wholesome, simple time when our athletic heroes were role models and paragons of virtue.

The link will take you to a brief questionnaire completed by NY Yankee icon Mickey Mantle in which he describes his most outstanding memory of old Yankee Stadium. It's been verified as authentic. (Before you click, double-check that warning in the title!)

Letters of Note: Mickey Mantle's outstanding experience at Yankee Stadium

Monday, April 9, 2012

Scientific Proof: Liberals More Rational, More Thoughtful, More Complex and Less Selfish Than Conservatives

(Excerpted from "Stephen Colbert, Scientific Pioneer", by Chris Mooney, published 4/5/12 in the Huffington Post, and suggested by a faithful reader. Thanks!)

In 2005, Stephen Colbert coined the word "truthiness" -- the problem of people making up their own reality, one just "truthy" enough that they actually believe it. It is knowing something in your gut or your heart, as opposed to in your head. It is the power of emotion trumping calmer, more rational reflection. Colbert elaborated:

"Truthiness is, 'What I say is right, and [nothing] anyone else says could possibly be true.' It's not only that I feel it to be true, but that I feel it to be true. There's not only an emotional quality, but there's a selfish quality."

His point has now been bolstered by research results in psychology and neuroscience on the differences between liberals and conservatives.

Princeton psychologist Daniel Kahnemann explains that the brain processes information using two systems -- the rapid and emotional System 1, and the slower, more reflective System 2. Studies find that System 1 often guides and even trumps System 2. Before we're even consciously aware of it (and some of us never are), System 1 has emotionally driven us to interpret reality in a self-serving manner -- thinking with our guts, or our hearts, rather than our heads.

Recent research suggests that going on your gut responses is more strongly associated with political conservatism than with liberalism. In the just published "drunkenness and politics" study, bar patrons who were more drunk gave more conservative answers on a political questionnaire, whether or not they claimed to be liberal or conservative.

There is a body of research suggesting that conservatism tends to be more associated with quick, instinctive reactions to reality, whereas liberalism is more about making things complex and nuanced. Several studies show that you can make liberals more conservative if you block their ability to, essentially, "complexify" things.

Much recent research associates political conservatism with a stronger sensitivity to the emotion of disgust. It is easy to see a role for disgust sensitivity in conservative views on issues like gay marriage and contraception. But psychologist Jonathan Haidt says conservatives may literally find liberals disgusting, revolting.

A new cognitive neuroscience research study found that liberals showed more activity than conservatives in the part of the brain involved in error detecting, changing habitual response patterns of responding, and overriding gut instincts. Conservatives, meanwhile, were shown to have more activity in the part of the brain involved in detecting fear and threat and driving automatic, self-preserving patterns of responding.

Buster's nutshell: It's always been kindergarten simple and easy to be a conservative. Being a liberal takes a bit of intelligence.

Below is an actual brain scan of a conservative.

Lobbyists Should Not Write Our Laws

I've held my tongue on the killing of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, until now. The kid was shot dead by a blockwatch volunteer spending all his spare time "patrolling" and calling 911. Trayvon was unarmed and doing nothing wrong. But bullets beat Skittles everytime. In many states, the shooter would have quickly been charged with manslaughter, at least. Probably murder. But not Florida.

Florida is among those states with an absurd, awful law known as "Stand Your Ground", which says you can use lethal force to defend yourself not only at your own home, but anywhere you might go. Wherever you are, if you feel "threatened" by another person, you can just fuckin' kill him and claim self-defense. And if that's what you tell the cops, the law prevents them from charging you with a crime. Unbelievable! This is a return to the Wild West vigilante days, and Marshall Dillon won't be coming to town.

Who's responsible for this brilliant piece of legal shit? The National Rifle Association, that's who. Your grandfather's NRA lobbied semi-decently for U.S. gunmakers. Today's NRA is bloody, crazy and evil, and they give a shit for nothing. They're modern-day KKK/John Birch Society fanatics. They want "Stand Your Ground" to be the law of the land. They won't rest until every newborn is presented with a pistol, and we're all walkin' around armed to the teeth "protecting" ourselves 24/7. Madness! Madness!!

The Rightards can shriek all they like about the media "rushing to judgment", but their brethren in the stupid state of Florida let the NRA rush them into this legislative cul-de-sac. They should correct their error and repeal "Stand Your Ground" immediately. It won't bring back the dead, but it would clearly be the right thing to do.

Whether they repeal it or not, the state, the homeowners association, and the shooter should brace for some big-ass civil suits.

Shatner's World

William Shatner. He's 80 years old with the energy of an 8 year old. He's James T. Kirk, T.J. Hooker, and Denny Crane. He "sings" Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds. He's the Priceline Negotiator. He's simultaneously self-deprecating and egomaniacal. A tremendous ham with a twinkle in his eye. All of which makes him strangely entertaining.

The Shatner (His Shatner-ness?) will be at the Palace Theater on Sunday. The lovely Mrs. Gammons got us a pair of tickets and we'll be there. I anticipate being amused.

Here's a lip-synch video of the Shatner-Henry Rollins recording "I Can't Get Behind That":

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Truth About Oil

You've seen the scare-tactic ads from the oil & gas industry. Do you believe Obama's to blame for "higher" gas prices? Do you think that if we turned the continent into a Swiss cheese of oil wells we'd suddenly get Newt's magical $2.50 gas?

If you do, you're an idiot and therefore you're not reading this. If, on the other hand, you are reading this, you understand that oil industry attack ads are an obvious acknowledgement of end-game panic and desperation, and you, sir or madam, are OK by me. You get it. Unfortunately, there are way too many idiots out there.

Here's the truth:

U.S. oil/gas production and supplies are up, higher than under Dubya. We have more oil rigs operating now in America than in the rest of the world combined. U.S. demand is down, but global demand is up. China and other emerging nations are thirsty and they'll insist on taking their turn to consume, combust, and pollute with gay abandon, just as we once did.

Growing global demand is driving the price bus, and the American oil industry's desire to punch holes every-goddam-where won't slow things down. And world market speculators play a significant role too, betting on ever-rising gas/oil prices and thereby fueling a self-fulfilling prophecy. It's like when everybody bets on the favorite horse at the race track, that horse becomes even more of a favorite.

In trying to meet increasing demand for a finite supply, the petro industry resorts to more and more unconventional methods to extract the precious juice -- sideways drilling, fracking, arctic drilling, ultra-deepwater drilling, tar/oil sands mining, and god knows what they'll think of next. Compared to what's gone before, it's all riskier, dirtier, and a lot more expensive.

At what point do we consider the consequences of pursuing every last drop?

President Obama is certainly no Greenpeace activist, but in light of the obvious truths, his fairly reasonable energy policy is "all of the above", not just oil. And not every break in the book just for oil. He upholds some clean air/clean water standards. He pushes for higher vehicle MPG standards. (Doubling your gas mileage equals cutting your fuel cost in half.) He calls a timeout on the Keystone XL pipeline. He advocates for alternative fuels and energy sources.

And for this he is absolutely pilloried by pandering, fear-mongering, billion dollar ad campaigns from oil/gas/coal (and now by Romney too). Remember the days when oil/gas advertising was all about a tiger in your tank and fuel line freeze-up and Arnold Palmer's old tractor? Well, that shit's over! Virtually every single industry ad you see today is a lie -- straight spin, propaganda and disinformation about how this wonderful, trustworthy industry simply must be allowed to frack in your backyard and create a million jobs. "What good news!"

What bullshit! Obama's right -- we need to diversify and explore all energy options. But that doesn't mean that oil/gas gets to use every Rube Goldberg scheme they can come up with. This ain't Maxwell House -- it isn't gonna be good to the last drop.

(Check out Tower of Power performing "There's Only So Much Oil In the Ground")

Yet Another Reason To Hate The Columbus Dispatch

OK, class, here is today's assignment: Study these two examples from the Dispatch's new editorial cartoonist. Compare and contrast the images, then draw obvious conclusions as to the artist's political beliefs.