Welcome to Buster's Blog

Irregular commentary on whatever's on my mind -- politics, sports, current events, and life in general. After twenty years of writing business and community newsletters, fifteen years of fantasy baseball newsletters, and two years of email "columns", this is, I suppose, the inevitable result: the awful conceit that someone might actually care to read what I have to say. Posts may be added often, rarely, or never again. As always, my mood and motivation are unpredictable.

Buster Gammons

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The BP Mess

The awful BP oil leak continues, and has revealed a system fucked up beyond belief. Congressional hearings into the matter began with Rep. Joe Barton (Tex, R) telling BP CEO Tony Hayward that he is personally "ashamed" of the White House meeting where Obama made BP agree to establishing a $20 billion contingency fund. (It won't be enough.) Barton called it a "shakedown" and a "tragedy". He said he didn't want to live in a country where "legitimately wrong" actions are held to account, "so I apologize." Hey Joe -- since you don't wanna live here, kindly get the hell out!

For his part at those hearings, Hayward played the role of the most ignorant, unknowledgable, incompetent CEO in history. His answer to every question was that he was unaware of it, he knew nothing about it, he is not normally informed of such things, he delegated that, he could not recall, that is not his area, blah blah blah. Tony, if you're the CEO and you don't know anything about anything, then what fuckin' good are ya? BP's chairman has since yanked Tony from the public eye and given him back his normal life of yachting.

President Obama has taken heat for being slow to respond to this disaster, and such criticism is at least partially deserved. But the reality is that nobody -- not BP, not the President, not the Coast Guard, not Jacques Cousteau -- really knows exactly how to fix this kind of deep sea leak. Official protocol dates back to the Exxon Valdez spill and says let the oil companies fix it/clean it up because they have the "expertise". Well, bullshit! Obviously they didn't have the expertise for this one. Yet permits for similar deep water drilling are issued almost daily. When it comes to oil exploration, the inmates have been running the asylum for too long.

These permits are issued by the hitherto unknown federal agency, the Minerals Management Service, a part of the Interior Dept. During the Bush/Cheney years, the MMS became a rubber-stamp outfit where managers earned bonuses for pushing through offshore oil leases, auditors were ordered not to investigate safety issues, and staffers routinely accepted gifts from oil companies. MMS even gave deep-sea drillers a "categorical exclusion" which exempted them from any environmental review. The fox has been given the keys to the goddam henhouse!

The bigger-picture fuck-up of Obama was not recognizing this corrupt cluster of cocksuckers sooner. That he didn't is attributable to his choice of Ken Salazar as Interior Secretary. (I have a hard time taking seriously a Cabinet member who appears publicly in a cowboy hat and bolo tie.) Salazar did make a few heads roll at MMS, but he didn't clean house and the agency remains populated by "drill, baby, drill" douchebags. That's because Salazar has been a long-time proponent of more and more offshore drilling. On his watch, 53 million acres in the Gulf are available for offshore drilling -- an all-time high. Jesus! The ocean floor is gonna look like swiss cheese!

And then we have the bizarre ruling of District Court Judge Martin Feldman (Marty Feldman?!) which blocked Obama's 6 month moratorium on deep-water drilling. Obama's order affected only 33 of over 3000 oil rigs, but Feldman could see no point in taking a break to consider the obvious need for more safeguards. In his decision, the judge (who is personally invested in oil exploration companies) asks, "If one tanker spills oil, do we ban all tankers? If one train wrecks, do we eliminate all trains? If one oil rig explodes due a defective part, does that mean all rigs have defective parts?" My dear moron judge, in this case, yes, it might mean exactly that, given the piss-poor oversight of recent years. And the larger point is that we know how to respond to a tanker spill or a train wreck, but we don't know nearly enough about how to respond to a deep-water oil leak and before we proceed willy-nilly, we oughta fuckin' figure it out!

Meanwhile, the good citizens of the Sportsman's Paradise don't know whether to shit or wind their watch over this whole thing. Louisiana has a long and sordid history as a look-the-other-way, laizzez bon temps roulez kinda place. Now half the people are bemoaning the tragic damage to habitat, wildlife, tourism, the seafood business, etc. The other half are complaining about slow-downs, layoffs and job loss in the oil industry, which is a huge employer on the Gulf Coast. They want to get back to business as usual. But if you want to have your shrimp and eat it too, the old business as usual may not be in your long-term interests. What price your bon temps?

I'll wrap up with one last BP tidbit. Judge Feldman's decision is being appealed and Interior may also order a temporary halt to some deep-sea drilling. It's pretty clear that some sort of moratorium will be reinstated. But here's what BP is planning for this fall, and it won't be subject to any moratorium because it's not technically "offshore". Up in Alaska near the Prudhoe Bay, BP has built an "island" 3 miles out into the Arctic water. This pile of rocks is connected to the mainland by a narrow causeway. So now it's "land-based", see? Salazar's Interior Dept. closes its eyes and agrees that it is. So, already 3 miles out, BP will put a drilling rig on its island and drill straight down for 2 miles. It will then drill 6 to 8 miles sideways to reach the site of the oil. This sideways shit has never been tried before, but BP pooh-poohs any safety concerns and has, as always, low-balled the quantity of any possible leak (leaking which, of course, is virtually impossible. Yeah, right.) The MMS has given BP the go-ahead for this project. You think it was tough to get to BP's blown rig a couple miles out in the Gulf of Mexico? Now try it 9 to 11 miles out into the friggin' Arctic Ocean! This is totally bat-shit crazy nuts!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

K.O. Is O.K. By Me

Posted 6/29/10 on the Huffington Post

Keith Olbermann named Sarah Palin his Worst Person in the World Monday night on "Countdown," mocking the former Alaska Governor for her "stupidity."

Olbermann gave "Sister Sarah" the honor for her "gaffe-fest" at Cal State Stanislaus over the weekend, during which, he said, "she said, perhaps, 100 things that brand her as a phony."

"But none is more symbolic of her imbecility, her corner-cutting, her downright endorsement of stupidity instead of intelligence than this one," he said, introducing her false claim that Ronald Reagan attended "California's Eureka College."

"Eureka College is in Eureka, Illinois," Olbermann said. "Illinois, where Ronald Reagan was from. There is a town of Eureka in California, but it doesn't have a college. And Palin went to three different colleges and doesn't have an education. [Imitating Reagan's voice] Well, that woman is an idiot."


Buster says Olbermann is clearly correct. In the very same California speech, the Moose-Gutter also uttered the following, which is verbatim, I swear. If it makes the slightest bit of sense to you, then you speak Palinese far better than I:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal and are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights and among those life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and the genius of our founding fathers is that they took that, took what the Declaration of Independence called the laws of nature and of nature’s God, and those laws that as the apostle Paul says are written on our hearts, and these providential forefathers of ours they designed a Constitution that enshrined them and allowed people to live within them and it’s an awesome gift given to us in this Declaration of Independence which really was a declaration of responsibility too and in our Constitution including the Bill of Rights."


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Robbie Says "Repeal"

Cincinnati Republican Rob Portman is running for a U.S. Senate. His opponent is Lee Fisher, the Lt. Governor. Seemingly just the other day, the lovely Mrs. Gammons attended elementary school with Portman, known then as Robbie. She reports that, in those days, Robbie was cute. Clearly, those days are over for the cadaverous candidate. But I digress.

Recently both candidates were asked for their opinions on the health care reform bill passed earlier this year. Fisher said he liked it, but felt it didn't go far enough. He personally favored a single payer system as a means to control costs and reduce the inefficiencies of our current 1300-payer system. (Buster happens to agree with this viewpoint.)

Portman is the former G.W. Bush U.S. Trade Representative and is thoroughly steeped in the Bush/Cheney TEA. He said he agreed with the expanded access and coverage of pre-existing conditions that the law provides. (Me too.) He said he felt it didn't go far enough in containing costs. (Me too again.) Then Robbie said that therefore he thought the whole thing should be blown up and, if elected, his first priority would be to repeal health care reform. Huh? WTF?? You essentially approve but nevertheless want to start all over. Later. Sometime between now and Armeggedon. And what is Robbie's big idea for cost control? The doctors' favorite bitch, malpractice law reform. OK, but malpractice costs are a piss-drop in the toilet bowl of total health care costs. The real culprits are the charges billed for medical services, the insurance premiums paid for coverage of same, and the administrative redundancy inherent in our current set-up. They are sucking each other along in a never-ending upward spiral.

Yo, Robbie! Take your dick out of the A.M.A.'s mouth and wake up!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Helen Opens Mouth, Inserts Foot

A couple weeks ago, Israel earned itself more goodwill and made friends all over the globe by attacking a Turkish flotilla carrying relief supplies for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. The Israelis were convinced this was not a humanitarian operation, but a terrorist one, so they boarded the boats, shot things up and killed some people. They justified their actions by claiming there were weapons aboard, but these weapons turned out to be a box of Bic shaving razors.

Israel's Belligerent-In-Chief Bibi Netanyahu displayed not the slightest bit of embarrassment or contrition. His bad-neighbor policy continues to be shoot first and ask questions later. If mistakes are made, well, tough shit. That's the price of self-defense. And Israel is always defending itself from one thing or another. Peace in the Middle East seems impossible.

It was in this time frame that a videographer asked veteran/ancient/decrepit White House reporter Helen Thomas what Israel could do to improve the situation. Helen looked into the lens and hissed, "Get the hell out of Palestine! Just go back home to Poland or Germany or wherever." Ooh, Helen, that's just a tiny bit anti-Semitic, don't you think? Apparently her bosses at the Hearst News Service thought so, because Helen announced her retirement the next day, ending a career that dates back to the days of John Quincy Adams.

Old Helen, who has some Palestinian ancestry, was clearly wrong to blurt out this bigoted sentiment. But there are plenty of bigots on both sides in the so-called Holy Land/Promised Land. Jews, Christians, and Muslims have been fussin' and fightin' over this patch of ground for literally thousands of years. That bit of British imperial wisdom which redrew the maps at the end of WW II and created Israel out of what had been Palestine has done nothing but fan the flames of resentment ever since.

What Helen suggested will never happen. Modern Israel will not go away. It has a right to exist, and its location makes historical sense. What does not make sense is the absence of a genuine Palestinian state. It's their land too. The only option with a snowball's chance in hell of maintaining peace in the region is the two-state solution. There must be a modern nation of Palestine, just as there is a nation of Israel. Most reasonable Israelis understand this and agree with it. Bibi's not one of 'em. Which is a shame.

Arabs and Jews have been behaving like spoiled children for far too long. It's time for some basic kindergarten rules: Share! Play nice!! Now!!! Please!!!!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Old-School Buster -- Talkin' Baseball

Earlier this week, young pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg made his long-awaited and hyped-to-the-max big league debut with the Washington Nationals. He went 7 innings and threw 94 pitches, and he is now officially The Greatest Pitcher In The History Of The World! Seriously, he was very, very impressive, showing command of 4 or 5 pitches, whiffing 14, and picking up the win. On the other hand, the Nats were playing the woeful Pirates and Delmon Young took him deep. So let's not install his bust in Cooperstown just yet. Baseball has many examples of young flamethrowers who make a big splash, then slowly sink rather than swim. Mark Prior, Rich Harden, Kerry Wood, Todd VanPoppel, Wayne Simpson, and David Clyde come to mind. Buster hopes Strasburg is a swimmer.

The week before, as everyone now knows, Detroit pitcher Armando Galarraga was denied a perfect game (no hits, runs, or errors, 27 up, 27 down)by a blown call from 1st base umpire Jim Joyce. With 2 outs in the 9th, Indians batter Jason Donald hit a grounder to the right side which was fielded by the Tigers 1st baseman, who threw to Galaragga covering. It was a very close bang-bang play, but Joyce made his "safe" call without hesitation. Joyce is an experienced, respected ump who happened, in this case, to be wrong. It would have/should have been an historic, highly improbable 3rd perfect game of the season, all in just 3 weeks. But no. Galarraga just smiled, went back to the mound and promptly got the 3rd out, game over. Joyce took some grief from the Tigers, but quickly watched the replay and immediately acknowledged his error. He went into the Detroit clubhouse and tearfully apologized to Galarraga face to face.

Both men have subsequently been hailed for the calm and classy way they handled the situation, and rightly so. They are the proverbial "good examples". And many are wondering why baseball doesn't avail itself of today's technology and make fuller use of video replay to get the calls right. Not a bad idea.

Buster has a thought for this particular case. The Commissioner of Baseball could exercise his powers "in the best interests of the game" and simply overturn Joyce's call. Just nullify it, call Donald out (which he was), pretend the 28th batter didn't happen, and officially give Galarraga his perfect game. I mean, why the hell not? Who or what could it possibly hurt? Nothing would really change and you'd make it right. But Commissioner Bud "The Dud" Selig, who never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity, says he won't do it, can't do it, blah blah blah. Can't articulate his reasoning, but just isn't gonna do it. Whatever, dude.

Of our two Ohio teams, I'm really enjoying the Reds so far and catch them on TV whenever I can. They're on top of their division with a good mix of veterans and young guys. Rookie pitcher Mike Leake has been great, and call-up Sam LeCure ain't bad. When do we get to see Aroldis Chapman?

The Indians, on the other hand, are going retro, back to the bad old days of my youth -- completely out of it by the 4th of July. In my pre-season post, I predicted the Tribe would win 75 games, tops. I'd like to revise that downward to 65 wins, tops. That means 100 losses is a distinct possiblity. Good God!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Oil's Well That Ends Well. So When Does This Friggin' Disaster End?

It's soon to be two months, and BP's broken oil well is still gushing gunk into the Gulf. Their latest efforts are capturing some of the leaking oil -- operative word some -- but reality is that a permanent fix in the form of a "relief" well is still months away. They estimate August, but their estimates have been overly optimistic so far. It's the biggest mess we've ever seen.

There are some common-sense rules about excess in this world: If a business has an unfair monopoly, bust the trust. If a bank is too big to fail, make it get smaller. If the baseball team can't knock any HR's at their home park, move the fences in. If the ultra-huge 2 lb. burger is more than you can eat, order something else. And if you've drilled an oil well so fucking deep in the ocean that you can't get to it when it blows out, well then, you shouldn't have drilled there in the first place!

That's kinda what a Shell Oil exec said when asked about such deep-water drilling. According to him, the government shares the blame because our misguided regulations prevent oil companies from drilling nearer to land, like say, right on the goddam shoreline. So, you see, BP had no choice -- they were forced to drill way, way out in the briny deep.

And then a BP spokesperson suggested there was actually a silver lining to this horrible black cloud. He explained that the spill would have atmospheric benefits because all those millions of barrels of leaking crude cannot now be turned into gasoline or diesel fuel for internal combustion engines. So, see? Less oil, less gas, less air pollution! Then he further explained there would be health benefits for America as well, because seafood can be high in fat and cholesterol, and since so many fish and shrimp have now been poisoned, we can't eat 'em, so we'll all lose a little weight! I never thought of that.

The Sun Has Fried Their Brains

Arizona is giving South Carolina a run for its money in the contest for Stupidest State In The Union. Arizona grabbed headlines, of course, with its recently passed law which essentially permits government-sanctioned racial profiling. Their law conveniently ignores the fact that all immigration laws are federal. They justify this by pointing out all the undocumented Mexicans in their state, then saying, "Hey, the feds aren't doing their job, so we have to." So Arizona cops will conduct a sort of rodeo, but instead of cattle, they'll be a-ropin' and a-roundin' up some illegal Juans and Juanitas. And then what? Throw 'em in jail? There's a brilliant cost-saving measure. Deport 'em back across the border? "See you tomorrow, dumbass gringo!" What exactly does Arizona expect the U.S. government/I.N.S. to do? Man the border with shoulder-to-shoulder machine gunners? Eject all the Mexicans then hermetically seal the entire state in a giant bubble? Arizona is clearly a very squeaky wheel, but should they get all the grease? I hear the good people of Washington state are sick and tired of all those Cannucks from British Columbia coming south of the border and drinking up all the Olympia.

This reactionary immigration law is not the only example of Arizona looniness. For years, it has been legal there to openly carry firearms. But the weapon must be openly displayed (i.e. holstered). It's a safety measure. They want you to be able to see the .44 Magnum that some dumb fuck is gonna shoot you with accidently. But now they want to OK full-scale concealed carry, where any nut job can hide that gun in his pants without restriction -- no permit, no training, no background check. Yee-hah, cowboy!

They recently passed another knee-jerk law aimed at a Hispanic studies course taught in a Tucson public high school (with a heavily Hispanic student body, needless to say). This law forbids any class "designed for a specific race", or which advocates "ethnic solidarity", or which teaches "hatred" of other races. The Tucson course did none of those things, but Arizona lawmakers just don't want young Mexican-Americans learning anything about, say, . . . Mexico. Local rumor here has it that the Columbus Africentric Nubian football and basketball teams will take a summer field trip to Phoenix for some "attitude adjustment" at the Arizona statehouse.

The Republican-dominated state legislature also passed a law which gives Republican Governor Jan Brewer (who looks like a real party girl), not the Democratic Attorney General Terry Goddard, the power to sue the federal government over the supposed health care "mandate". Goddard had previously said he would not file any such lawsuit over health reform, so the R's did a little legislative end-run around him and now the Guv can sue too. And the statehouse cafeteria staff is collecting signatures for a ballot issue that would allow them to file lawsuits as well. "AG? We don't need no stinkin' AG!"

Chances are slim that you were thinking about it, but just in case you were, you should know that Arizona law strictly prohibits any attempts to create human-animal hybrids. And you know, I always thought John McCain was half human, half turtle.

And some dipshit state rep introduced a bill that would have required President Obama to produce a birth certificate in order to have his name appear on Arizona ballots in the 2012 election. The bill did not pass. A minor miracle.