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, December 31, 2012

Buster's 2012 In Twelve Sentences

A twisted distillation of the year that was, in twelve easy pieces.  Happy New Year to all!

I'll believe corporations are people when Texas executes one.
(Jan. 11 --Bill Moyers Nails It)

I see the problem -- you have Republicans in your vagina.   
(Feb. 29 -- I See The Problem)

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.
(Mar. 25 -- If The Heart Fits, Transplant It)

Today Rick Santorum said his campaign has been suspended, but he refused to "terminate" it until it had undergone an ultrasound, watched a video, and been sent home for a 48 hour waiting period. 
(Apr. 12 -- My Campaign Is Suspended, But . . .)

My Aunt Pody always said there were two ways to screw up a mint julep:  too much sugar, not enough bourbon. 
(May 5 -- Derby Day)

Is there anything less authentic than Mitt Romney in a checkered shirt and blue jeans?
(June 19 -- Random Thoughts)

While the Muzak system played a "positive message" Christian music radio station, one TV showed NASCAR and the other was Fox News.
(July 10 -- The Statesville Trifecta)

I'll take rumpled old Sherrod Brown . . . over the fresh-faced emptiness of the Manchurian Candidate, Josh Mandel.
(Aug. 24 -- Nothing Wrong With Career Politicians)

The guy who wants to lead our country also wants roll-down windows on jets.
(Sept. 25 -- Mitt Romney, Aircraft Designer)

I'm sorry, but we simply cannot have as our president someone who wears supernatural underwear.
(Oct. 22 -- Fun Facts To Know And Tell About Mormons)

At this very moment, kicked back in his magic garments at one of his mansions, surrounded by show horses, car elevators and off-shore bank statements, Mitt might very well be saying to himself, "Jesus, I'm glad I lost!"
(Nov. 16 -- He Who Laughs Last?)

The time has come for members of both parties to leave these NRA assholes behind, fix the gun problem, and move on to better things.
(Dec. 17 -- All Quiet On The NRA Front)

After Newtown: Change Has Gotta Come


Thirty-two years, one month and six days ago, I decided I was done living in 850-word boxes like this one. I'd grow claws, if that's what it took. I'd scratch my way out.

I'd just finished coming to a conclusion about a man I'd never spoken to in my life. I'd just written, in two hours of moist deadline panic, an 850-word judgment on Dick Howser's vacillation over returning to manage the 1981 Yankees. Hamlet Howser, I'd called him, a man hemming and hawing over whether to be or not to be. Very cute. Very clever. Very wrong. Dick, it turned out, was a dignified man trying to find some dignified way to stand up to George Steinbrenner's backroom bullying, a hundred cogs whirring behind the curtains that I couldn't see.

That was it for me and sports columns. I went right on applauding the masters of the high-wire sprint. I just knew I didn't have the fast-twitch muscles for it. I needed two months and 8,500 words, not two hours and 850, so I exited the box.

Until last Thursday morning, over breakfast, reading what a rookie basketball coach from low-lying Winthrop University had just done. Walked to the microphone after a 10-point loss to an Ohio State team ranked fourth in preseason polls, politely answered the age-old questions about X's and O's and Davids and Goliaths, then hesitated, as everyone began to scatter and someone muttered, "Anything else, Coach?" ... and said, Well, yes, he did have one more thing.

And suddenly Pat Kelsey was talking about these two pink bedrooms back home in South Carolina and these two little girls that he was going to give the biggest hugs of his life ... and about those 20 empty bedrooms in Newtown, Conn.

"I didn't vote for President Obama," he said. "But you know what? He's my president now. He's my leader. I need him to step up. Mr. Boehner, the speaker of the House ... he needs to step up. Parents, teachers, rabbis, priests, coaches, everybody needs to step up. This has to be a time for change. And I know this microphone's powerful right now, because we're playing the fourth-best team in the country. I'm not going to have a microphone like this the rest of the year, maybe the rest of my life.

"I'm proud to grow up American. I'm proud to say I'm part of the greatest country ever.... And it'll stay that way if we change. But we gotta change."

Then I read, in the next paragraph, that Jim Boeheim-after talking for 15 minutes about his 900th victory at Syracuse last week-had done it too. "If we in this country," he said, "cannot get the people that represent us to do something about firearms, we are a sad, sad society."

And I looked up from my French toast and started reading their words to my wife, and started wondering out loud what would happen if this became contagious, if every coach and every athlete spoke out about the scourge of guns?

Why'd you switch to the 2-3 zone in the last three minutes, Coach? "Their point guard was killing us off the dribble, we weren't getting any weakside help, and I've got one more thing, a question for you: How long can 300 million people keep letting a rifle club's money and fears steamroller all their common sense and humanity?"

Who's your quarterback this Sunday? "Well ... uh ... that depends on Michael's concussion test on Wednesday, on what the doc says, and one more thing: You know, it's got to be just as nice, if you're a gun collector, to see that $3,000 semi-automatic gleaming under glass as it is for a baseball fan to see a Mickey Mantle card, but here's what I don't get -- how that can possibly trump everyone else's right to go to the movies without ending up in a lake of 70 people's blood?"

So you still like your chances against Oklahoma City once all your teammates are healthy? "Give us a month to get a little chemistry going, and yeah, I do, but meantime, help me get something straight: So we're saying that a target shooter's right to squeeze a trigger 30 times and make 30 holes in a target 60 feet away without reloading matters more than every six-year-old's right not to end up in a pile of bodies under a 27-year-old teacher full of bullets?"

And then I began wondering out loud what would happen if all of us, when our wives call from the grocery to see if we're out of peanut butter, reminded each other that banning assault weapons might not prevent every massacre, like the rifle club says, but it would surely prevent at least one.

And if every time our mothers finished updating us on the weather back home, we added that one more thing: "Did you write to your congressman and senators again this week, Mom, because like Coach said, we gotta change."

My wife looked at me across the breakfast table. "You need to write a column," she said.

And I knew she was right, because I was twitching. Fast.

Open Letter To The Haters

This morning, in a rare visit to Facebook to post a silly photo, I noticed a post from a friend (an actual friend, not just the FB variety).  It turned out to be a re-post from an ER doctor somewhere who was bitching about having to treat a Medicaid patient who had a gold tooth, lots of tattoos and a new iPhone.  The doc whined that "Our president expects me to pay for this woman's health care."  It was like Reagan's old story about the Welfare queen with a Cadillac -- apocryphal junk.  I was saddened that my friend had decided to share it with the world.

Right after reading her post, I came across an article entitled "Open Letter To The Haters", which makes an appropriate counterpoint.  I won't share it with the world, but I will share excerpts here.

I'll be seeing my friend later tonight at a party.  It'll be a great party, and we'll have fun, and even share a peck at midnight.  We sure as hell won't talk politics.  Everything will be light and breezy, and probably boozy too.  But in the back of mind . . .     

An Open Letter To The Haters:

I meet you all the time. You hate Obama. You hate gay people. You hate black people, immigrants, Muslims, labor unions, women who want the right to make choices concerning their bodies, you hate 'em all. You hate being called racist. You hate being called a bigot. Maybe if you talked about creating jobs more than you talk about why you hate gay people we wouldn't call you bigots. Maybe if you talked about black people without automatically assuming they are on food stamps while demanding their birth certificates we wouldn't call you racist. You hate socialism and social justice. You hate regulations and taxes and spending and the Government. You hate.
Image Hosting by PictureTrail.com
You like war. You like torture. You like Jesus. I don't know how in the hell any of that is compatible, but no one ever accused you haters of being over-committed to ideological consistency. You like people who look like you or at least hate most of the things that you hate. You hate everything else.

Now, I know you profess to love our country and the founding fathers (unless you are reminded that they believed in the separation of church and state), but I need to remind you that America is NOT what Fox News says it is. America is a melting pot, it always has been. We are a multi-cultural amalgamation of all kinds of people, and yet you still demonize everyone who is not a rich, white, heterosexual christian male or his submissive and obedient wife.

You hate liberals, moderates, hell, anyone who disagrees with Conservative dogma as espoused by Fox News and Rush Limbaugh. You hate 'em.

For the record, I do not hate you. I am embarrassed by you and nauseated by your cruel and thoughtless behavior and your all-consuming greed, but I do not hate you. I forgive you and I hope you can change someday, but I don't hate you. You have enough hate in you for the rest of us as it is.


Saturday, December 29, 2012

Dispatch Gets Gun Message All Wrong

"Scores of school workers want gun training."

So says a front page headline in today's Columbus Dispatch.  The article says that 450 school employees from around the state have applied for a free gun training program offered by the Buckeye Firearms Association.  As a self-serving PR gesture in reaction to the Sandy Hook slaughter, the association is offering free classes to 24 "lucky" teachers.  The general implication of the Dispatch article was "Wow! The demand really exceeds the supply.  Gun training for teachers must be a very popular idea." 

The Dispatch article is an example of Fox News-style yellow journalism at its worst.

It gives undeserved publicity and credibility to the Buckeye Firearms Association, a very small local PAC.  (Dispatch-owned WBNS TV has also been giving undue attention to the BFA.)  In truth, the BFA is just a tiny but noisy splinter group -- sort of club for Delaware County gun nuts/wing nuts.  Shame on the Dispatch for giving them a platform, on the front page no less.  

The 450 applicants for the gun class come from all over Ohio and include teachers, administrators, and others such as secretarys, nurses, janitors, etc.  The Ohio Dept. of Education reports that there are currently 112,845 public school teachers in the state, and another 22,400 (approx.) private school teachers.  Round it off and call it roughly 135,000 total teachers in Ohio.  Using a very conservative guess of 10% additional non-teaching staff, we get an estimated total of 148,500 people employed in Ohio K-12 education.  And just 450 of 'em want to bring a gun to work.

A better, more accurate headline would have been:

"Vast majority of school workers don't want gun training.  Only three-tenths of one percent of employees apply for gun class."

Friday, December 28, 2012

Girves On Guns

(From time to time, I re-post something from fellow blogger Dave Girves.  This is one of those times.  His comments are succinct and strong.  Dave's blog appears in Buster's Links.)
Letters to the Editor, Columbus Dispatch:

How many more Newtown style massacres do we need to endure before our legislators do something to control the killing?
The Second Amendment to our Constitution was written for another time in our history – a time when we truly did need “a well regulated militia” of ordinary citizens – a time when that same Constitution counted black citizens as only 3/5’s of a person. Those days are gone.

Even if people do need the right to bear arms in today’s society, there’s a limit to that firepower. Laws already prevent us from owning nuclear arms, grenade launchers, or automatic weapons. Is that where the line should be drawn? Why does anyone need a semi-automatic gun that holds 10 rounds of ammunition? Why does anyone need a gun designed to kill . . . people?

I realize the gun manufacturers have a different point of view, one that puts even more guns in the hands of the public. They have a duty to their greedy stockholders. The drug companies have a duty to their stockholders too but we don’t allow them to sell heroin as easily as guns to help their bottom lines. Greed doesn’t always trump morality. Is the gun lobby that much stronger than the drug lobby?

Do our legislators feel no shame for not having acted sooner? I can think of 27 Connecticut citizens who would have wished they had.


A Quick Thought On Web Content

We should always remember that even though the internet is the biggest and most accessible public library the world has ever known, there is no librarian.

Gun Nuts!

A couple days ago, the NRA's Wayne LaPierre said, "If it's crazy to call for putting police and armed security in our schools to protect our children, then call me crazy."   As you wish, Wayne.  You are crazy!  Bat-shit fucking nuts!!

Arizona A.G. Tom Horne recently said that having an armed police officer in each school would be "ideal".   You, sir, are crazy too!

Ohio A.G. Mike DeWine said right after the Newtown massacre that boards of education should "seriously consider" hiring armed security guards at each school.  Mikey, you're in crazy territory!

And in the past day or so, I've noticed TV ads for the Westland Mall Gun Show, which starts tomorrow.  As always, the ads invite us to come to the show and "celebrate our 2nd Amendment rights!"  This event is run by C&E Gun Shows, Inc.  They allow both licensed and unlicensed dealers (private sellers) to buy a vendor's table for $68.  Licensed dealers must perform a background check on all would-be gun buyers.  But unlicensed dealers are exempt from this requirement and use it as a selling point.  This is the so-called "gun-show loophole".  There are roughly 5000 gun shows annually in the U.S., and it is this loophole which lets 40% of their sales to escape any background check.  This is just unbelievably, stupidly CRAZY!

Friggin' gun nuts!!  
"I'll protect you, sweetheart."

Cliff Diving

But this is not Acapulco.

And this is certainly not John Boehner

No, we're talkin' about the fiscal "cliff".  Very soon, the dangerously schizophrenic GOP will likely take us over the edge, all because some Republicans stubbornly, idiotically refuse to vote for any sort of tax increase, even for the very wealthiest among us.  They'd rather risk another recession and add to the hardship at lower income levels than ask the David Kochs and Sheldon Adelsons of this world to pay another penny in income tax.

We saw the same sort of Republican hostage-taking brinkmanship in the summer of 2011, as we neared the debt ceiling/default deadline.  Democrats were willing to compromise, Republicans were not.  There was a last-minute short-term deal, but America's credit rating was damaged in the process.

That last-minute deal is the fiscal cliff we now face -- mandatory budget cuts combined with the expiration of the Bush tax cuts.  These things were supposed to be so scary that we'd never go there, but here we are again.

The cliff may or may not be as bad as advertised, but we shouldn't be in the position to find out.  Responsible grown-ups ought to have been able to avoid it, but Boehner can't herd his cats and the Tea-Bag assholes try to hijack everything. 

We ought to be righteously pissed off that the GOP has allowed this to happen again.

Writing for the NY Times in July 2011 about the stalled debt ceiling talks and possible government default, conservative columnist David Brooks had this to say:

"[The American people] will conclude that Republican fanaticism caused the default, and they will conclude that Republicans are not fit to govern.  And they will be right."

Nothing has changed.


Monday, December 24, 2012

NRA's Half-Cocked Idea: "We'll Fix The Gun Problem . . . With More Guns!"

After what for them was an eternity of silence, the National Rifle Association today finally had something to say about the slaughter of little children in the Connecticut elementary school.

Wayne LaPierre, NRA head honcho and nauseating scumbag, told us that the cause of gun violence is not easy access to guns, it's not the availability of assault weapons, it's not lax gun registration rules and background checks, it's not gun "enthusiasts" with a small armory in their homes, it's not even that crazy kid over there with a goddam AR-15 in his hand.

No, Wayne says the real causes of gun violence are TV, movies, music and video games, not actual people bearing actual arms. Oh, I see -- the semi-automatic assault rifle is just a symptom.

But Wayne and the NRA have a solution to the problem:  They propose to have armed guards in every school in America.  And while we're at it, armed teachers.  Hell, most of the older kids are responsible -- let's have them strap up too.  Guns all around!  It's an all-shoot!

Every school an armed camp?  The proposal is certifiably insane.  This sick mentality is reminiscent of the nuclear arms race, where the deterrence was supposedly in "mutually-assured destruction."  (Acronym MAD.)

It's time for the NRA to go away.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Tom Lehrer's "Christmas Carol"

Tom Lehrer, a musical comedian popular in the 1950's and 1960's, was one my dad's favorites.  Mine too.  One of Lehrer's best was his satiric "Christmas Carol".

A couple years ago, I posted just the lyrics, which have cracked me up for decades.  This year, let's hear the music too:

Boehner's Boner

The Bush tax cuts were always meant to be temporary.  They had an original expiration date of 2010.  Some political tap dancing resulted in the cuts being extended until the end of 2012. 

Any person truly serious about debt and deficit reduction would be in favor of letting the Bush rates expire, and having all tax rates return to where they once were.  We paid those rates not that long ago, without any big problem that I recall.  The economic growth and trickle-down prosperity that the Bush cuts were supposed to create didn't happen.  The opposite occurred.  And our government was in better financial health before Dubya decided to give it a pay cut.

Obama wanted higher taxes on incomes over $250,000.  Boehner said no.  Obama said, how about $400,000?  Boehner said no, and countered with "Plan B", with higher taxes only on those making $1,000,000 or more, and threatened to pass it in a House bill. (Never mind that it would have DOA in the Senate.)

Turns out the Orange Man couldn't get his goofy anti-tax-for-any-reason Tea Bag faction to agree to Plan B.  Oops!  There would be no House bill.  It was "Plan See You Later", and Congress went home for the holidays.  The Republicans have never been anywhere close to serious about deficit reduction, so their mulish stubbornness can't count as a surprise.

In just a few days, the Fiscal Cliff/Off-Ramp/Gentle Downhill Slope will kick in, and all tax rates will return to pre-Bush levels.  And all these jack-ass R's will get exactly what they don't want.

Boehner's negotiating tactics make the NHL strike talks look positively productive.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Doomsday Forecast?

Somebody Please Call Me on Saturday!

(Swiped from an FB friend. Gracias, amigo!) 

All Quiet On The NRA Front

Since Friday, when the Sandy Hook shooter murdered 27 people, there have been so many things said by so many people, your humble correspondent included. 

One outfit has been strangely silent -- the National Rifle Association.  Usually outspoken, combative and fanatical, the NRA has suddenly gone quiet.  They shut down both their Twitter account and Facebook page.  A friend sent me an account of a person who phoned NRA headquarters for a comment on the shooting.  The employee who answered said the NRA had nothing to say and  "nothing to apologize for" and hung up.

Golly, NRA, why so reticent?  Cat got your tongue?  Where's the usual high-volume bullying and belligerence?  Where's the old actor shaking a rifle at us?

It seems that the NRA has decided that now would be a good time to shut the fuck up!

But it won't last.  They'll be back soon enough with their standard PR campaign of lies:  The feds want to grab all your guns!  (No, they don't.)  The Second Amendment guarantees your individual right to an RPG launcher.  (No, it doesn't.)  The best way to prevent gun violence is more guns!  Everyone should be armed!  (Total horseshit.  The opposite is true.)

The NRA is not a "people's" organization.  The NRA's real purpose is to make it as easy as possible for makers of lethal weapons to sell as much product as possible, regardless of deadly consequences.  Those companies are the NRA's source of funding and hence their real constituents, not the individual members of the NRA.

I heard a statistic today that 75% of the NRA's 4 million members would be in favor of more gun restrictions and better background checks.  Not bad -- the members are far more reasonable than their own rotten organization!

So let's ask those members to take the next logical step, and quit the damn NRA.  What do you really get for your NRA dues?  Lies, scare tactics, and a shitty magazine.  That's all.  Who needs it?

Then let's put pressure on our elected representatives to do the same -- refuse all NRA support, financial and other.  Do you really need their money to stay in office?  The NRA is a paper tiger, not nearly as influential as they'd like you to believe.  Their top priority was to defeat Obama?  Not even close.  Their other liberal targets?  Reelected.  Can they honestly say they made a difference in any race? 

The time has come for members of both parties to leave these assholes behind, fix the gun problem, and move on to better things.

Fuck the NRA!



Swamp Of Indiscretion: Facebook Newtown Comments

Faithful readers know Buster is a Facebook failure.  I check it rarely and have little to say.  The lovely Mrs. Gammons likewise has little to say on Facebook, but unlike me, she does check in often for shits and giggles, just to monitor the silliness in that online Swamp of Indiscretion.

In the wake of the Newtown massacre, the wife tells me that the Swamp is suddenly filled with stupid commentary from a paranoid mix of Minutemen, Promise-Keepers, militia types, doomsday preppers, and fundamentalist conservative Christian gun owners who have inappropriately chosen this particular moment to trumpet their 2nd Amendment rights and to warn against the never-ending government plot to take away their guns.  Gimme a fuckin' break!

In the past day or so, the missus felt compelled to jump into a Facebook fray when a young man of our acquaintance posted some ill-advised comments about how the gummint would surely use this murder of 20 children to trample on his rights and freedoms. 

Now, my constant Facebook advice to the dear wife is "don't take the bait", but in this instance, she couldn't help herself and just had to call High Holy Bullshit on this person's thoughtless post, which ignited a small brushfire of online "Point-Counterpoint" exchanges.  Oh goody.  (This is why I, as a rule, avoid Facebook.)

But Mrs. Gammons is absolutely correct:  to use this bloodbath as a Facebook soapbox for airing crack-pot conspiracy theories is more than just ignorant and insensitive -- it's shameful and wrong.

So grow up!  We're not going to take away your precious guns.  But just in case I'm wrong and you're really that torqued up about it, we'll be taking yours first!  If you're that obsessed, then you're the last person on Earth that ought to have a gun. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

How Violent Are We?

When it comes to violent assaults on other human beings, We're Number One!  We're Number One!  How's that for American "exceptionalism"?

This chart compares deaths from violent assualts in America to those in other "OECD" countries.  That'd be the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a group of 34 nations, including the USA, that essentially comprises the "developed" world.  Thirty-three of those countries are in that pink smear across the bottom.  And who's that one standout?

It's us!  Isn't it time that we change, that we agree to do better?

A Sensible Gun Policy (Re-Post)

Dear Faithful Readers:  This was written almost two years ago in reaction to the Gabby Giffords incident.  After yesterday's slaughter of schoolchildren, I thought I'd re-post it, for what it's worth.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Sensible Gun Policy

The recent rampage in Arizona has reignited the issue of gun control, or rather, the lack thereof. Some have suggested that ammunition clips be limited to 10 rounds, with expanded 50-100 round clips outlawed. Others proposed that it be illegal to carry a gun within 100 yards of a federal employee.

These are good ideas, but are also essentially wimpy half-measures. No such small stuff for Buster. Let's think big (or at least as big as I can manage after 10 minutes of heavy cogitation.) And so, here is my proposed legislation: Buster's Ammo & Gun Reduction Act for Safe Households, a.k.a. BAGRASH.

This is federal law, and all future gun/ammo laws will be federal. States and localities have no trump cards. Arizona can go piss up a rope.

Immediately if not sooner, the National Rifle Association gets its nuts cut off. This is the worst PAC/lobbying organization in the country. I cannot understand how these assholes gained so much traction in recent decades. Their policies have done nothing but increase the number of guns and the amount of bloodshed in America. So, in the interest of the greater good, all reasonable citizens agree to legislate the NRA out of business. We'll shut 'em down, seize their assets, and never allow anything like them to exist again.

You're a gun owner? Relax. Buster will let you keep them (even though your 2nd Amendment "right" to arm bears or bear arms or whatever is a MYTH. More on that another time.). Just two stipulations:
1. You must register all your guns with the federal government -- all of 'em, and in person.
2. You take and pass a basic mental health exam every 3 years.
Fees, possibly substantial, will apply. But complete these two simple steps and you'll have legal possession of federally licensed firearms. If it takes a month of Sundays to complete the process, sorry, deal with it. If you don't go through the process, your guns are illegal. If discovered, they'll be confiscated and you'll be subject to fines and jail time.

You're a "collector" with numerous guns? See the previous point. Register your entire collection and pass your psycho test and you'll get licenses for each of your guns. One more stipulation:
If your collection includes automatic weapons, assault rifles, howitzers, cannon, grenades, bazookas and the like, these pieces will have their firing pins removed and permanent trigger locks installed during registration. And ammo for such things is no longer available for purchase by private citizens. You may gaze upon your mini-arsenal with dewy-eyed fondness, but you're just not gonna be able to fire the fuckin' things!

Gun dealers must hold a federal license as well. The bar for this license will be set high. Approved dealers will be few and far between. Many current gun retailers will disappear.

Gun dealers will have old-time bankers' hours, open 9 to 3 Mon. thru Thurs., 9-5 Fri. No more buying 500 rounds of 9mm ammo at 2:30 a.m. Deal with it.

Gun dealers will sell genuine hunting rifles, shotguns, selected handguns, ammo for same, and that's it. Machine guns and military-grade weaponry are unavailable to the general public. And no, you don't "hunt" with an AK-47.

Any and all ammo is available only at federally-approved gun dealers. Big-box retailers like Wal-Mart are not on the list. The amount of ammo purchased will be severely restricted, registered, and tracked. Buying case-load quantities of shells is out of the question.

Gun sales between licensed private owners are strictly forbidden. You want to sell your gun? Sell it to a federally-approved gun dealer. Want to buy a gun? Same deal.

You're a would-be first-time gun buyer? OK, probably, but no guarantee. And be patient, because this is gonna take awhile. There will be a lengthy application, a thorough background check, and a comprehensive psychological evaluation. With fees. Those with even the slightest bit of hinkyness will wash out. Those who make the cut must then take and pass a gun safety program. Only then may they purchase and register their gun. All this hoop-jumping may take 6-9 months, so don't be in a hurry. And basic psych exams will still be required every 3 years.

On a go-forward basis, any new gun owner may legally possess no more than 3 guns at any one time -- 1 rifle, 1 shotgun, and 1 pistol.

Current owners who already have more than 3 guns are grandfathered in and can keep them, but can't add to their number. You're more than sufficiently armed right now, thank you very much! If you want to buy a new rifle, you'll need to sell or trade one of your old ones at the same time.

Your license to possess a specified firearm cannot be sold or transferred to another person. It applies to you and only you.

As personal property, guns may be bequeathed in a valid will, and may be subject to probate. Heirs may legally inherit up to 3 guns per person, subject to the standard licensing process. If more than 3 guns are bequeathed, the excess weapons may be sold, or the excess may be kept if they are properly licensed, then disabled (no firing pin, trigger lock). Choose wisely, Grasshopper!

Private citizens have no right to carry or display a gun in any public place. Never, ever. This is real life, not a cowboy movie. Concealed carry, open carry? A stupid, dangerous policy. It's history! Try it, and you will not pass Go, you will not collect $200, but you will proceed directly to jail.


And there you have it. None of the foregoing would apply to law enforcement and military personnel. They can have any sort of weapons they want, and in any quantity.

Yes, I know the BAGRASH plan does not deal with the black market in illegal guns and ammo. That's a hard one. Where there's a will, there's a way. And you know the NRA will trot out its old logic-challenged slogans and shriek that "When RPG launchers are outlawed, only outlaws will have RPG launchers!" Wait a sec. I forgot I already eliminated the fuckin' NRA. Hot damn, that's a good thing!

For the rest of us, BAGRASH would slow things down and make buying a lethal weapon a bit more challenging and a bit less impulsive than buying a Big Mac. This would be a good thing. Long term, it would slowly but steadily reduce the number of those lethal weapons. Another good thing.

And it's all a dream. Not a snowball's chance in hell of any of the above actually happening. Oh well.

A Tale Of Two Headlines

Columbus Dispatch front-page headlines for the last two days:

Senate votes to loosen gun limits
Friday 12/14/12

Saturday 12/15/12

Do you suppose any of our fine state legislators appreciate the terrible irony?  Does our governor?  I'm guessing not.

Friday, December 14, 2012

This Needs To Change, And Very Soon

Surely didn't mean to get ahead of the news curve.  Couldn't resist the juxtaposition of Ohio easing its gun laws with the story unfolding at a grade school in Connecticut.  It's still unfolding.  It now seems it was just one shooter, not two, like I posted previously.  Twenty-some people are dead, most of them little kids.  An unspeakable tragedy.

Both President Obama and Jay Carney said that "today" is not the time to talk about American gun policy, but is instead a day to focus on the victims and their families.  OK.  Not today.  Fair enough.

How about tomorrow?  How about real goddam soon?!  And to hell with a policy "discussion."  We need a policy CHANGE!  A big change, a 180-degree turnaround.  It could start with a linguistically correct interpretation of the 2nd Amendment.  It could start with Democrats showing some backbone.  It could start with the GOP immediately and permanently severing all ties, financial and otherwise, with the NRA.

Obama today said it's time for "action" on the issue of gun violence.  I sure hope so.

Tweaked, But Still Crazy In Ohio (And Elsewhere, Too)

This morning, two gunmen started shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.

A few days ago, a gunman shot and killed some people in a Portland, Oregon shopping mall.

A couple weeks ago, a football player in Kansas City, Missouri used a handgun to murder his wife at home in front of his mother and his daughter, then used it again at a stadium to kill himself in front of his coach and his general manager.

Here in Columbus, Ohio, what did our disconnected State Senate do yesterday?  They passed an NRA-crafted bill to further relax the state's gun laws, then headed home for Christmas recess.  It was their last official legislative act of the year.  Several senators who voted for it are lame-ducks who won't be back next year.  Thanks a lot.
The tweak was removing the automatic reciprocal heat-packing agreements with other states, but the bill still grants Ohioans even broader rights to go damn near anywhere while carrying bunches of lethal weapons and ammo.  Just fucking brilliant!
As most Republican Senators were scurrying for the doors, minority leader Sen. Eric Kearney had the temerity to ask why it was necessary to let guns into the statehouse garage.  The majority's answer came from Sen. Larry Obhof, who said it was because other states allow guns in and around their capitols.  Oh, I see -- it's the old "everybody else is doing it" ploy.  Your mother never let you get away with that weak shit when you were a kid, but now it's your party's official position?  Double brilliant!!
Disconnected, hell!  They're nuts!  Preserve us from this madness!

If you'd like a sane point of view, Buster suggests:
The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence

Mayors Against Illegal Guns
 The Brady Center is named for James Brady, Reagan's press secretary who was disabled for life in the 1981 assassination attempt.  The Mayors group is headed by NYC's Michael Bloomberg.  Its roster includes hundreds of mayors across the country, including the mayors of Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati.
Visit the sites, sign a petition, make a donation, write a letter.  Do something to combat the craziness.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Crazy Ohio!

No, I'm not talking about our appointment of an unqualified anti-abortion zealot to the State Medical Board.

And no, I'm not talking about our wack-a-doodle governor using the Buckeye football team's visit to the Statehouse as an occasion for some off-the-cuff (off the rails) lecturing.  Kasich wanted the jocks to know that he was upset because, after he'd rolled out the red carpet for them, all the oil and gas frackers in our state were hiring "foreigners" from Alabama and Texas.  Our Wonder Guv also advised the team against playing video games.

What has Buster's BVD's in a bunch today is Ohio House Bill 495, the latest lunacy from the concealed-carry gun nuts.  Stupidly, we already allow concealed-carry in Ohio, but that's not enough for some people.  HB 495 is a so-called reciprocal agreement where we would recognize and welcome "licensed" gun-slingers from other states, and they in turn would welcome ours.

A rep from the Buckeye Firearms Assoc. said the bill would "help Ohioans traveling to Florida who currently have to disarm going through Georgia."

An NRA spokesperson said it was "common sense to make use of a firearm more user-friendly."

HB 495 also would allow unlicensed Ohioans to carry ammo clips in their cars, and to bring their guns into state parking garages on Capitol Square.

AARRGGHHHH!!!!  I really don't have the words to properly express just how thoroughly and  insanely fucked up this is!  Oh, the awful inconvenience of having to disarm while in Georgia!  Buck up, cowboy, you can handle it.  (And hooray, Georgia!)  I do not see any benefit to anyone by making gun use "more user-friendly".  Only an NRA shithead would use such an idiotic phrase.  I want guns to be less user-friendly!  I want it to be harder to use them, not easier!  When the NRA defines "common sense", you can bet it's the exact opposite.  And why the hell would anyone need to bring a gun into the statehouse parking lot?

No surprise, law enforcement agencies are absolutely opposed to this measure, but they were also opposed to concealed-carry, and it passed.  Maybe those legislators with backbone and real common sense will vote down HB 495.  If not, maybe Kasich will veto the piece of shit.  Don't hold your breath.

If Ohio keeps heading down this path, pretty soon we'll be mentioned in the same sentence with those political loony bins Arizona and South Carolina.  Nice places to visit, but we can do better than that.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Adam Sandler Sings The Hanukkah Song

A classic.  'Tis the season!

The Day Of Perfect Balance

Today is December 12, 2012, a.k.a. 12/12/12.  It's a day worth noting for numerologists, newlyweds, and new-age mystics.  It's also really cool if you were born on this date in 2000, because today you'll turn 12 on 12/12/12.

Yes, it's a day of perfect balance.  We won't see another until next year on 13/13/ . . . uh, no, that's not right.  Never mind.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Lost Civilization

(There's been a lot of Republican-bashing in the last month.  It's well-deserved, but by now pretty close to played out.  Nevertheless, Maureen Dowd had one the better GOP-rippers in her Sunday NY Times column, which I must share.  Choice nuggets follow, with full article link below.)

The Mayans were right when they predicted the world would end in 2012.  It was just a select world:  the GOP universe of arrogant, uptight, entitled, bossy, retrogressive white guys.  Just another vanishing tribe that fought the tides of history.  Someday, it will be a National Geographic special with faded photos of Clint Eastwood and an empty chair.

Who would have ever thought blacks would get out and support the first black president?  Who would have ever thought women would shy away from the party of transvaginal probes?  Who would have ever thought Latinos would scorn a party that expected them to finish up their chores and self-deport?

Gun sales have burgeoned since the president's reelection, as the dead-enders rush to arm themselves.  But history will no doubt record that withering Republicans were finally wiped from the earth in 2016 when the relentless (and rested) Conquistadora Hilary marched in, General Bill on a horse behind her, and finished them off.


Monday, December 10, 2012

". . . With Liberty And Justice And Twinkies For All"

Some conservatives with a sense of humor (they do exist) have come up with a good one.  They've launched an official White House petition asking the President to nationalize Twinkies and "preserve our nation's sweet, creamy center."  It's a tongue-in-cheek gesture and ya gotta laugh, even though it's half joke, half insult.

After Hostess demanded concessions, its workers went on strike in November.  The company then promptly filed for bankruptcy for the second time since 2004.  Many right-leaners reacted predictably and simplistically, blaming the bakery workers union for the company's failure.  Since banks and carmakers were bailed out, isn't it cute then to ask Obama to nationalize Twinkies?  Well, sure.

(For the record, quickly:  In the '04 bankruptcy, Hostess forced big wage and benefit cuts, and plant closings.  Average annual pay went from $48,000 to $34,000.  In '12, the company wanted pay to fall to $25,000, with much larger out-of-pocket for health insurance.  The employees said no.  The company said fuck you, and 18,000 lost their jobs.  The company will sell off to new buyers, who will try to restructure without the union.  Capitalism can work well.  This was not one of those times.)

A Twinkie is the famous, non-nutrious, sort-of-delicious, spongy food-like substance with a half-life of a million years.  Many people love 'em.  So don't automatically pooh-pooh the idea of a nationalized snack cake.  Could be a smarter and happier use of government dollars than some of the stuff the Pentagon wants.    

And there could yet be some military purpose.  If you remove a Twinkie from its wrapper, it won't get moldy but it will eventually turn as hard as a rock.  Old Twinkies could be useful in artillery units. 

Protecting Us From 3 or 4 Really Stupid People

He's baa-aack!  And clueless tub of goo State Senator Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster) is still very, very worried about illegal drug use by those who receive state assistance.  Back in 2011 (see "Who Came Up With That Brilliant Friggin' Idea?", in Buster's archives,  4/17/11), Schaffer tried to introduce a bill to require all Ohio welfare recipients to be drug-tested.  Those testing positive would have been cut off from future assistance.

Given its host of ethical and constitutional problems, Schaffer's bill was DOA.  But apparently Schaffer still believes that dope-fiend welfare queens are epidemic in Ohio (they're not), and by God, he's gonna do something about it.  The new version of his bill would be a 3-county pilot program, and Schaffer believes he's solved any legal issues with this little tweak:  Only those welfare applicants who acknowledge using illegal drugs would be drug-tested.

Yep, his revised application form would add a simple YES or NO question:  "Have you recently used illegal drugs?"  Only those very few welfare scammers so colossally stupid as to answer "Yes" would be tested.  And they'd have to pay $35 for their own test!  Another brilliant friggin' idea!

Speaking of tests, I suggest a brain scan for Sen. Schaffer.

"Right" Is Wrong

That state up north is about to pass a "Right to Work" law.  Like so many Republican euphemisms, it sounds harmless enough, but has the opposite effect.

Everyone has the "right" to work.  Right-to-work has nothing to do with that -- it's code for slowly bleeding labor unions to death by reducing their membership and financial resources.

In this country, union membership cannot be required.  Yet there are many employers whose workers are unionized, meaning that management and labor have agreed to certain pay scales, work conditions, benefits, etc.  As an employee at these workplaces, you can't be forced to join the union, yet you will still enjoy those union-negotiated benefits and protections.  If you choose to be non-union at such a company, you won't pay union dues but state labor law usually makes you pay a "fair share" equivalent.  Fair share payments are not technically union dues, but in a practical sense, yes they are.  You may not be a union member, but one way or another, you'll pay for union benefits.

Unless you're in one of the 23 right-to-work states.  Right-to-work laws prohibit fair share payments from non-union workers.  So you can get the wages and the goodies without paying for them.  And if you're not a hardcore, Samuel Gompers true believer, why join the union if you get the advantages anyway?  Why pay the dues if you don't have to? 

Right-to-work laws flip the financial motivations.  More and more workers see a disincentive to paying union dues, so they don't.  Fewer and fewer members means less and less money in the union's coffers, which means, eventually, less union leverage and reduced bargaining power.  And once a union is viewed as weak and ineffective by the majority of employees, that union is pretty much toast.

Then, just watch what happens to wages, benefits and work conditions.  It's suddenly the "right-to-work for less."  If you don't believe it works that way, you're a poor student of history.

The governor of that state up north is a sneaky bastard.  He often said in the past that he felt right-to-work laws were divisive and dangerous.  But some hefty campaign contributions from the nefarious Koch brothers have persuaded him to see it differently now.  In a heavily unionized state, he'll sign it into law.

Will he pay a political price?  I hope so.

"In our fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans such as 'right to work' ".  -- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Good Old Boy In A Bubble

Good news!  Jim DeMint (R-SC) is leaving the Senate to head the conservative "think tank" Heritage Foundation.  DeMint founded the Senate Tea Party Caucus and is a Bible-beating right-wing goober.  His departure will be a positive for the country.

Bad news!  South Carolina's Republican Tea-Bag governor, Nikki Haley, will undoubtedly appoint someone with a viewpoint similar to DeMint's.  There's no shortage of 'em in the Palmetto State.

DeMint will make $1 million a year at Heritage, a pretty good pay raise from his Senate salary.  But he says it's not about the money.  No, he's leaving so he can use Heritage's pulpit to "convince the American people that conservative ideas will make their lives better."  

Good luck with that.  DeMint and the Heritage Foundation live in a bubble of their own making.  Obviously, they missed the message of the recent election.  They're still convinced that they lost because Republicans weren't far-right, anti-government, anti-labor, anti-woman, anti-environment, pro-wealthy, pro-corporate, pro-tax cut, pro-white, pro-gun bat-shit crazy enough!!

Some say DeMint is making this move to prep for a 2016 presidential run.  Tee-hee!  That'd be great!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

If I Lived In Kentucky . . .

. . . I'd sure like to see Ashley Judd challenge Mitch McConnell for the Commonwealth's Senate seat in 2014.  Make the SOB work a little.  Sure, the old Bluegrass reptile would be a formidable opponent.  Incumbents usually are, especially party leaders.  But Ms. Judd, non-commital at this point, would bring a certain something -- some spice, some cred, some contrast -- to the hypothetical match-up:

Judd is an 8th-generation Kentuckian, every bit the pedigree of the aged turtle McConnell.

Her Q Score crushes McConnell's.  She's a media darling who grew up in the public eye.  He's a slithery old fart who grew up on C-SPAN.

Ashley is from a family of talented, professional singers.  She can sing a bit, too.  Mitch can barely hum.

She is a very public supporter of University of Kentucky basketball, which is merely the most popular, biggest friggin' deal in the whole damn state.  He is a backer of Louisville hoops, coached by ingrate infidel Rick Pitino, who left UK for the 'Ville.

Judd is an intelligent, well-spoken, involved Democrat.  McConnell is a duplicitous, mush-mouthed Republican involved mainly in preserving his own ass.

Franchitti & Judd at a UK game
Ashley's married to a handsome world-famous race-car driver, Dario Franchitti.  Mitch is married to . . . good old Mrs. McConnell.

She's an accomplished actress who's appeared in many films.  In fairness, Mitch is a pretty good actor himself, having many times played the role of concerned GOP leader on Meet The Press and Face The Nation.

There's the whole age and appearance thing.  Judd by a landslide.  (Superficial, but hey, all's fair.) 

And finally, the very idea of Ashley Judd as a U.S. Senator (D, Ky.) really, really pisses off the other current Kentucky senator, that libertarian dick-wad Rand Paul.  If you can enrage Rand Paul, you must be doing something right!

Vote Ashley Judd 2014!

The Pale Blue Dot

Need a little perspective?  Try "The Pale Blue Dot", by Carl Sagan. 

"You Old Gimp, It's Nice To See You! Now Roll Your Ass Outta Here While We Go Nuts And Vote Against You."

(Excerpted from an article by Lawrence Downs in the NY Times, sent by a faithful reader.  Thank you, faithful reader!  Link to the full article http://takingnote.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/04/from-republicans-a-parting-slap-at-bob-dole-and-disabled-americans/?ref=disabilities )

"Former Senator Bob Dole, 89 years old and in a wheelchair, went onto to the floor of the Senate today to urge his former colleagues to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities. Mr. Dole, a disabled veteran, has been one of the leading voices urging ratification of the treaty, which seeks to bring the world closer to the high standard set by the Americans with Disabilities Act, the landmark civil-rights law enacted under President George H.W. Bush.

"One by one, the senators approached Mr. Dole to pat his shoulder or clasp his hand, making gestures of respect for the man who was for many years the Republican majority leader.

"Then he was wheeled away, and all but a handful of the Republicans bailed out on him. The treaty failed. "

As the full article points out, the vote failed because only 8 Republican Senators voted for it.  Why?  It's a U.N. treaty and true conservatives hate the U.N., because America doesn't always get its way with all those other unruly nations.

Tweedledumb & Tweedledumber
It also failed because the Senate Tea-Bag contingent was willingly bamboozled by a crackpot conspiracy theory put forth by those two beacons of truth and reason, Glenn Beck and Rick Santorum:  This U.N. treaty is a world-wide plot to kill disabled kids!  Santorum said it would mean that "the government, not parents, would decide the fate of children with disabilities."  He said it would have meant the death of his own disabled daughter.  Beck called the treaty "Orwellian, fascist, Nazi."

Wow!  Even for such a pair of charlatans, that's some real Grade-A horseshit, fellas!

After the vote, Sen. John Kerry said it was "one of the saddest days I’ve seen in almost 28 years in the Senate."

Bob Dole was probably saying to himself, "I don't recognize this place.  Where the hell am I?  I thought I was going to the U.S. Senate, but this must be the funny farm."

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Really, Guv? Seriously, This Is Embarrassing

The State Medical Board of Ohio oversees regulation, licensing and disciplinary action for the medical profession.  Its twelve members include nine doctors and three so-called consumers. All are appointed by the governor and serve for five years.  In its long history, it has been more or less objective, and has avoided being overtly political.  This is appropriate, given its mission.

"I care about this much."
Our Honorable Governor Katshit -- pardon me, that was vulgar -- Governor Kaysuck clearly doesn't give a fat rat's ass about such proprieties.  He's made two appointments so far, both of the non-professional consumer class, and both are right-wing, anti-abortion ideologues.

The first was Laurie Elsass.  She's the wife of Rex Elsass, Kasich's media consultant/spin doctor.  She's also a trustee for Ohio Right To Life.  Just a typical "consumer".

Then a couple weeks ago, the Guv topped himself by appointing Michael Gonidakis to the Medical Board, again as a consumer member.  This douchebag is no consumer -- he's a lobbyist, a one-way, one-issue zealot who happens to be the president of Ohio Right To LifeAre you fucking kidding me, Kaysuck?

These two have no medical background and have no business being on this board or any other in the public sector.  They are not there as public stewards, doing the public's business and looking out for the public good.  Their sole function on the Medical Board is to harass, challenge and hamstring abortion providers in every possible way. 

It's an embarrassment for Ohio.  If you agree and want to make a symbolic gesture, you can click the link below to request that Kasich withdraw the appointment of Gonidakis.  Like lobbing spitballs in study hall, it probably won't accomplish much, but it feels good. 

But every now and then, the accumulation of little actions can add up to something.



It's The Law In Britain: Deny Global Warming, Go To Jail!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Good Advice On The Fiscal Whatever-The-Hell-It-Is

Economist and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich has two and a half minutes of advice for us :

Bad Kabuki Theater

McConnell & Boehner?
For a month, the GOP brain trust (oxymoron?) has been scrambling to come up with a plausible explanation for the spanking they took on November 6th.  In their best mis-readings, what they've said is that they lost the election because the "under-class", the "nobodies" from "urban areas", young people, "minorities" who got gifts from Obama (tell me again just exactly who the "minority" is) , all those people were "pulled from their apartments" and turned out to vote in larger-than-expected numbers.  (It seems that after trashing and demeaning these folks for years, the R's are shocked to discover that they're allowed to vote.)

Democrats got more votes than Republicans, be it President, Senate or House, but Boehner and other top R's are running a Playhouse 90, pretending that the opposite occurred.  As a friend puts it , "It's just a bullshit Kabuki show."

In the current "crisis" of the impending fiscal "cliff" (actually more like the fiscal off-ramp), the nobodies are not deceived.  They understand that the GOP wants to slash Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security benefits while at the same time ensuring that the wealthiest Americans don't pay a cent more in higher taxes.  In fact, they want the upper crust to pay less.

Instinctively, ethically, mathematically, it's nonsense.

The nobodies instinctively know that this time, the Republicans are yet again on the wrong side of the policy issue, the wrong side of public opinion, and the wrong side of history.

The nobodies know bad Kabuki theater when they see it.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

De-Coding Some Conservative "Beliefs"

I've noticed that some conservatives of my acquaintance are very quick to identify certain aspects of modern society that they disagree with by saying something like, "I just don't believe in [                 ]."  You can fill in the blank with words like gay marriage, abortion, welfare, gun control, and taxes.   

These same folks are much less able (or willing) to explain why they hold such "beliefs" -- you often get junk reasons like "That's just how I feel," or "That's how I was raised."

What are their real reasons?  Allow Buster to de-code.  What they really mean is:

"I think gay sex is disgusting and icky."

"Abortion is birth control for sluts, and it's the easy way out.  Too easy for you, slut!"

"People on welfare are just lazy bums and con artists who don't want to work."

"I'm paranoid and need a handgun to protect myself from scary black teenagers in hoodies."

"Taxes cost me money and I'm a cheapskate chiseler who hates to pay a thin dime for anything.  I'd shoplift cart-loads from Kroger's if I thought I could get away with it."

At least it's honest!  It's also prejudiced, immature, uninformed, and mean.  Grow up!

Dumb Ways To Die

Sort of morbid, sort of cute.  A silly, fun PSA from the Land Down Under:

"Soaking The Wealthy"?

(This is a re-post of a letter written by Dave Girves.  You can always find his blog in Buster's Links.  Dave regularly writes some great letters to the editor, but our weenie newspaper rarely has the nerve to print them.  I particularly like this one, so here it is.  Well said, Dave!)

Letters to the Editor
Columbus Dispatch

In his Friday letter, “Soaking the wealthy won’t eliminate the debt”, Michael Rice objects to the term "obstructionists" when referring to congressional Republicans. He asks “What major piece of legislation [did] President Obama want that he failed to have passed?”

In August, 2011 he proposed The American Jobs Act to put more people back to work, even though his policies had already generated tens of thousands of new jobs every month for more than 30 straight months. That piece of legislation failed to pass. Because of obstructionist congressional Republicans that piece of legislation hasn’t even been discussed. The Republican head of the Senate even admitted, out loud, that their primary objective was to limit Obama to one term, not to do something about jobs.

During the debate last year to allow our country to pay its bills, the obstructionist congressional Republicans refused to consider asking millionaires to pay one cent more in taxes, causing our country’s credit rating to be reduced for the first time in history, leading to the impending fiscal cliff. The President wasn’t proposing to soak the wealthy then and he isn’t now. All he wants is to allow the Bush tax cuts to expire, just as President Bush had intended them to.

The wealthy would see their top marginal rate, the rate they pay just on the income they earn over $250,000, return to 39.6%. That was the rate they paid under Clinton and they weren’t complaining about being soaked then. Under Republican President Eisenhower, with full employment and a good economy, the top marginal tax rate was 91%, well over twice what Obama is proposing, and no one was complaining about being soaked then either.

Dave Girves