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, May 30, 2012

What Would A Romney Presidency Be Like?

Day 01: Repeals the big-government, job-killing, tax-raising, freedom-hating ObamaCare and replaces it with his own Massachusetts forerunner, RomneyCare. No one notices any difference whatsoever, but Republicans are all for it.

Introduces legislation requiring every adult U.S. male, during off-work hours, to wear Sperry Top-Sider boat shoes at all times.

Immediately green-lights the Keystone Light pipeline, creating thousands of jobs that Obama blocked. Originating in Milwaukee, the Keystone Light pipeline will deliver cheap, thin American beer across the nation, lowering our costs and reducing our dependence on foreign alcohol.

Gets tough with Switzerland, issuing an Executive Order calling for the Swiss to "play by the rules" and stop cornering the markets on chocolate and cuckoo clocks.

Repeals Obama's big-government, job-killing, tax-raising, freedom-hating 55 MPG requirement. Replaces it with a new EPA rule mandating that every American family obtains, just like the Romneys, 4 Cadillacs and 4 highly-trained dressage horses. The horses cost more, but get better mileage.

As is his custom, in his Inaugural Address, he will both endorse and repudiate every issue of the past half-century. He'll be simultaneously for and against: organized labor, income taxes, the auto industry, Roe v. Wade, health insurance reform, immigration reform, gun control, environmental protections, military spending, economic stimulus, social services, etc. etc. etc.

That's what a Romney presidency would be like!!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Too Big, Too Greedy, Too Republican

News to give you the blues . . .

Compensation for CEO's of the nation's publicly-held companies went up again. It was up 6% overall. (Did your pay go up 6% last year?) The average Chief Exec made $10 million in 2011. The top-of-the-list number-one guy made $137 million. These are same people who outsource, take money and jobs off-shore, refuse to spend, invest, or hire in this country, and bitch about U.S. taxes and economic "uncertainty", i.e. Black Man in the White House. The whole 1%-99% thing isn't really so hard to understand, is it?

Locally, our central Ohio hospitals and health care systems are sitting on piles of money -- $3 billion in cash reserves, to be precise. And what are they doing with all that cabbage? Improving care, service or efficiency? Lowering the cost of care? Nah. Saving it for big year-end executive bonuses? Probably. Wouldn't it be nice if health care providers used more of their profits on, you know, actual health care?

Recently, JP Morgan Chase revealed that it would soon post a very large trading loss -- something like $2 billion, maybe $3 or $4 billion. No one was really sure, but it was big and likely to get bigger. The loss originated in the bank's office in London or Cairo or the dark side of the moon (again, no one was really sure), and resulted from one of those incomprehensible synthetic, hydroponic, bat-shit derivatives that did us all so much good in 2008. CEO Jaime Dimon, one of the most public critics of post-crash financial reforms, was suddenly all over the place, openly groveling and apologizing for the very things he was once so quick to defend. It was all so delightfully, absurdly rich!

Despite Dimon's acts of contrition, it's clear that JP Morgan Chase is not only "too big to fail", they're too big to know what the fuck is going on! They're so big, they're institutionally unmanageable. We need more than the Volcker Rule -- we need the return of the old Glass-Steagall Act.

Don't hold your breath.

Money Goes To War Against Law

Because the Wall Street Big Money interests, along with their Republican lackeys in D.C., have spent the past couple years doing everything in their power to de-fang any real controls on the post-2008 financial industry, we have a Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act that's a shadow of its original self, with a Volcker Rule that's yet to be enforced and a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau which has become not an independent watchdog, but the lapdog of Ben Bernanke and the Fed.

These days, any sort of genuine progressive reform legislation must withstand a withering barrage of well-funded lobbyists, propagandists, and professional nay-sayers. Should Congress actually pass a good and useful law, it can no longer guarantee it will stay passed. Good laws now face a constant battle to remain on the books. Look at Dodd-Frank. Look at health care reform.

In the 5/24/12 issue of Rolling Stone, Matt Taibbi puts it like this:

"Real people -- even committed public servants -- get tired of running through mazes of motions and counter-motions, or reading thousands of pages of acronyms and minutiae.

"But money never gets tired. It never gets frustrated. And it thinks drilling holes in Dodd-Frank is every bit as interesting as Kate Upton naked. People think passing a new law means end of discussion, when it's really just the begining of a war."

Fracking Bosses Would Choke If Tables Were Turned

by Joe Blundo, 5/29/12 in the Columbus Dispatch

(As you know, I don't usually find much worth repeating in the Dispatch, but this is an excellent piece of satirical writing.)

A “fracking” executive, a state legislator and an oil-and-gas-industry lobbyist walk into a bar.

They’re pretty pleased with the way they’ve managed to keep some of the chemicals in fracking liquid secret from the public, and they’re ready to celebrate.

Under a bill passed by the legislature last week, people who fear that the secret chemicals sickened them or polluted their water could find out what those chemicals are only by filing a lawsuit after the fact. This seems reasonable to the trio, toasting the victory.

“I don’t know why all the fuss in the first place,” says the lobbyist. “What is it about the process of injecting millions of gallons of chemical-laced water deep underground that makes people so nervous?”

They proceed to order drinks, then decide to have dinner, too.

“How’s the meatloaf?” the fracking executive asks the waiter.

“Excellent,” says the waiter.

“There aren’t any peanut products in it, are there? I’m allergic to peanuts.”

The waiter explains that the chef doesn’t disclose the ingredients in his meatloaf, because it’s proprietary information.

“You don’t understand,” says the executive. “I’m at risk. I have to know the ingredients.”

The waiter repeats that the recipe is a secret one. The executive usually wouldn’t put up with such treatment, but he’s hungry.

“Well, how about the potpie?” he asks. “Can you disclose the ingredients in that?”

“Certainly,” says the waiter. The diners sigh, relieved, until the waiter adds, “But first you’l l have to get sick and file a lawsuit.”

The diners stare at him, slack-jawed.

“You have to be kidding me,” the executive says.

“No, sir, I’m not,” the waiter replies. “What we’d like is for you to eat the potpie first. Then, if your throat swells up and you have trouble breathing, call a lawyer. Once the suit is filed, let us know, and we’ll tell you what was in the food so you can arrange for the correct medical care.

“Of course, your doctor might face some restrictions on whom he can tell about the chemicals. But our recipe secrets will be safe, and your heart can be restarted. It’s a win-win.”

The legislator rises in anger.

“I demand to see the chef right now. I will not let a job creator be treated this way.”

The waiter says the chef has a long list of appointments today and can’t see the legislator.

“Appointments with whom?” the legislator thunders.

“A special group of customers willing to pay large amounts for access to the chef,” says the waiter. “They state their opinions on the chef’s recipes and ingredients. Of course, this in no way influences the chef’s decisions.”

“Oh, please,” the legislator scoffs. “We’re leaving.

“And I’m telling all my friends never to patronize this place. What’s the name of it again?”

The waiter, walking away, says, “It’s called the Business as Usual.”

Monday, May 21, 2012

Preserve Your Sanity! Watch More Baseball.

Faithful readers and old friends know that Buster has long had a sweet spot for the game of baseball. I like all the major sports, but baseball is my favorite. I will not, at this time, wax poetic on the many pleasures of the National Pastime. Maybe later. Instead, I wish to point out a hidden benefit of watching baseball on TV.

Don't need to tell anyone that this is an election year, and a big one. Morning, noon, or night, if you venture anywhere near broadcast TV or mainstream cable, you will be inundated with more gross, vile, despicable political ads than you can count. At certain times, that is literally all you will see. If the reign of campaign ad terror doesn't stop, I may soon involuntarily kick my nightly Jeopardy addiction. Just can't take it! And of course, the ads won't stop. They'll only get worse.

My solution is baseball. In this political mean season, I resolve to watch all the baseball I possibly can, because (1.) It's baseball, and (2.) There are few political ads during most baseball games. Now, on the Fox and ESPN games of the week, you'll get some political shit. But on the local cable stations for the Reds and Indians, there have been zero campaign ads so far. Add to that the fact that the Indians sit atop the A.L. Comedy Central Division, and the Reds are right in the thick of the N.L. Central race, and I'm pleased by the whole state of affairs.

Some may dive deep into a 300-channel cable lineup to escape the shrill cacophony of the election season. The genuinely smart ones just turn off the damn box and do something else. Me, I'm gonna watch baseball.

And tonight I enjoyed extra-special baseball benefits. A Reds-Braves telecast was not only free of political ads, for the last couple innings it was free of all advertising whatsoever. For some reason, FoxSportsOhio was unable to run ads in between innings, so Thom Brenneman and Chris Welch stayed on the air and just shot the shit. It was far preferable to the usual two minutes of crapola about tires, sausage, car dealers, and walk-in bathtubs.

Can we do it that way all time? No? Well, poopy-darn!!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

More Reasons To Hate AEP: Un-Fair Energy Ohio, Part III; and AEP Wants A Tax Break

First, they're running yet another deceptive, manipulative TV ad in their PR campaign to end competitive shopping for electricity and lock in higher rates for themselves. In this new spot, AEP again panders with the image of innocent children. This time, the poor little dears are in a cafeteria line being served disgusting gruel by the lunch ladies from hell. The voice-over tells us that unless AEP gets its way, we'll all have to get in line, take what they give us, with no choice, and pay higher prices. And somehow, jobs will be lost.

The truth is, of course, the exact opposite of AEP's message, but they're hoping you're too dumb to notice.

The PUCO will issue its ruling on this issue on June 1st. You can still 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.

Secondly, it was reported today that AEP has filed a request for revision in its 2011 Franklin County property tax bill. These days, many businesses and homeowners are doing the same thing, but AEP's takes the cake. Their downtown corporate headquarters currently has a tax valuation of $65 million, and AEP wants it decreased to $28 million, representing a 57% tax cut. It's the largest such request ever received by the county.

And just a touch excessive, don't you think? If you need more help understanding all the anger and frustration about corporate greed and the 1%-99% thing, look no further than AEP.

Below, a future Columbus public school student gives his opinion of AEP's tax-cut ploy.

Mitt "Scissorhands" Romney, Unrepentant Heterosexual Hair Stylist

Back in the 1960's, when young Mitt Romney was attending an exclusive, all-male, private high school in Michigan, he led a posse of five preppies who tackled, held down, and forcibly cut off hunks of a fellow student's hair. This unfortunate student's crime was being "different" -- his hair was long-ish and bleached blond, he didn't fit in with the crowd, and he was suspected of being gay.

With a mixture of shame and remorse, the other participants clearly recall the incident to this day. Mitt, they say, was the instigator. He pointed out the boy and said, "He can't look like that. That's wrong. Just look at him!" He called him a girl. They recall that the boy, in the midst of his humiliation, was crying and begging them to stop.

When he was asked about this recently, Mitt first laughed (oh, ha-ha!) then said he didn't remember it. Back then, he said, he was involved in pranks and high-jinks, and although he didn't recall, "If anybody was hurt or offended, I apologize."

(Atta boy, Mitt. Crank up the fake sincerity and give us the classic bullshit blanket apology: "I'm sorry for anything I may have done in the past, or may be doing right now, or will do in the future, if it offends you.")

No one's perfect. We've all done things we're not proud of, but most of us haven't done anything quite like Mitt's tonsorial bully-attack. That was no prank, it was premeditated cruelty and assault. If you took part in it, it's certainly something you'd remember for for the rest of your life.

Unless you're Mitt. He shook his Etch-A-Sketch again and claims he can't recall. I claim Mitt Romney is a lying sack of shit. And I will never patronize his barbershop!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Mandel To Young Adults: "You Don't Need A College Degree. You Need Wood Shop. Now Flip My Burger And Wash My Car."

Recently, Josh Mandel, teenage GOP candidate for U.S. Senate, told our local fish-wrapper, "I am sick and tired of young people in this country being told they need to get some four-year, liberal-arts degree in order to be successful. The reality is, you can be a lot more successful and happy in life with a vocational degree."

Who knows what prompted this verbal puke-up, but young Josh, a college grad himself, is correct that not everyone will go to college. This ain't Lake Woebegone -- not all of our children are above average. But he's otherwise full of shit. Those with four-year degrees are far more likely to get a job and make much more money when they do than those with associates degrees or high school diplomas. But Josh says, nah, you'll be better off if you don't go to college. 'Cause his grandparents didn't, and almost all his Marine buddies didn't. What more proof do you need? Joshie says he deeply regrets his own degree and wishes he could exchange it for a distributive education certificate of participation.

In the same interview, Man-Boy-del said he was in favor of federal investment in our infrastructure needs, but when asked if he would've supported Obama's Jobs Act, which contained gobs of infrastructure money, said "I'd have to read about it."

Yeah, do that, Josh. If you get the age-appropriate version of the Jobs Act, it's a lot shorter and includes many colorful easy-to-understand illustrations.

What a douche-bag!!

Well, That Didn't Take Long

Just a day after Joe Biden channeled Bo Diddley, President Obama made the non-surprise announcement that he too supports gay marriage. He reversed the Pentagon's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy and his Justice Dept. has refused to enforce the dumbass "Defense Of Marriage" federal law. So we're not exactly shocked.

Maybe Obama didn't want to go there just yet, but the Veep's Meet The Press comments forced the issue. Hey, that's OK. It's the right position, the right thing to do, and the Prez has felt this way all along. Politics is so often seriously sucky, but my cousin Barry finally stood up on this silly "issue", dropped his "evolving" B.S., and just said what he thought. Good man! Some say it will hurt him. I think it'll help, on the hopeful theory that reasonable minds will prevail. (A very dicey theory, to be sure.)

I know many states, Ohio included, legally prohibit gay marriage, but these misguided rules are just a form of modern-day discrimination. Historically, our laws have often been wrong-headed. Racial prejudice and segregation were once codified by law. The same for gender discrimination. If you were non-white, a woman, or God help you, both, you were in the eyes of the law a lesser being -- you could not vote, hold public office, enter certain establishments, or work in certain jobs. (As Orwell put it in Animal Farm, "All pigs are equal, but some pigs are more equal than others.")

Eventually, those laws were overturned. New laws like Brown v. Board of Education, the Civil Rights Act, the Equal Employment, Equal Housing, and Equal Credit Opportunity Acts replaced them.

For quite awhile, sexual orientation flew beneath the radar in the civil rights area. To a degree, the preceding legislation solved some of the problem. But also gays and lesbians were slower to express themselves and claim the same citizenship as everyone else. But now they have, and they insist upon their equal rights and they will continue to do so until our society provides them.

They want to marry, divorce, have children, have joint assets, pay alimony, establish wills and trusts, have family insurance, pay bills, and ride the same friggin' rollercoaster as the rest of us. It is, quite simply, a civil rights issue like so many before. And like before, those rights will inevitably be granted.

There is no good reason not to, and sooner will be better than later. If anyone can tell me how gay/lesbian marriage genuinely harms me or you or society as a whole, if you can justify why it shouldn't be legal, if you can give me anything that doesn't boil down to your own pathetic fear and prejudice, you let me know. I'm all ears. Anybody???

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Who Do You Love?

On Sunday's Meet The Press, V.P. Joe Biden came down firmly in favor of allowing gay marriage, saying he was completely comfortable with it and that, as he saw it, the non-issue simply boiled down to, "Who do you love?"

Despite numerous surveys finding that a large majority of Americans support Biden's position, President Obama is trying to tip-toe around it by saying he's pretty much for it (you know he is), but wants to leave it to the states. Why? Don't wanna alienate some fence-sitting, redneck "independent"? That's pretty weak, Cuz.

Speaking of rednecks, today in North Carolina, they're voting to amend their state constitution to prohibit gay marriage. They already banned it by statute, and now they want to carve it in stone. What are they so afraid of?

Take it away, Bo Diddley . . .

"It Ain't Braggin' If Ya Really Done It"

Hamels Fesses Up To "Purpose Pitch"

In a game a couple days ago, Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper was hit by a pitch from Cole Hamels of the Philadelphia Phillies. It was obvious to all watching the game that Hamels hit him intentionally -- it wasn't head-hunting, just a medium fastball in the small of the back.

This sort of thing happens all the time in baseball. And if there's anybody who needs to get drilled, it's that cocky-ass rookie phenom Harper. He's good, but he deserves to get plunked by every team in the NL. It'll be standard operating procedure. Get used to it, Bryce.

What's not standard was Hamels' impersonation of young George Washington when asked about hitting Harper. Pitchers usually mumble something about how "the pitch got away." Hamels said he didn't want to lie about it and admitted he threw at him on purpose. For his honesty, he drew a five game suspension -- not a big deal, but still . . .

Cole, dude, next time just do it and shut up!

What A Frackin' Fantastic Idea!

Last week, the U.S. Dept. of the Interior announced new federal rules governing the disclosure of chemicals used in fracking fluid, which is injected under pressure into wells so as to fracture surrounding rock and release oil and natural gas. Officials said this will remove states from the disclosure process and will ensure uniformity of public information.

Good news: Some states didn't really have any disclosure requirements to speak of, allowing the oil/gas drillers to regulate themselves and do anything they wanted. So this is certainly a step in the right direction.

Not-so-good news: The new rules require disclosure only after the well has closed, and do not require disclosure of so-called "proprietary" chemicals. That's a day late and a dollar short.

Here's a future press release showing how this will play out in the real world:

EASTERN OHIO -- Chesapeake Energy today announced that it has concluded activities at its large oil/gas well in Salt Fork State Park. Abiding by federal disclosure rules, the company's official statement said that its fracking fluid "primarily contained Chanel No. 5 and Bud Light. Any other chemicals in our fluid are trade secrets*. Our Salt Fork operation was a great success, and now we're getting the frack out of town!"

(*Proprietary or not, we're talking about stuff like methanol, 2-butoxyethanol, ethylene glycol, diesel fuel, naphthalene, hydrochloric acid, tuluene, formaldehyde, sulfuric acid, and many others too numerous to list. The effects of these chemicals on human beings range from skin irritation to cancer. Effects on fish and wildlife are similarly unhappy.)

Monday, May 7, 2012

In Praise (OK, Faint Praise) Of K-Mart

Dustin Hoffman said it in Rain Main, and he was right. K-Mart always sucked. Still, it had its limited charms. For the past twenty years, we had a K-Mart store less than a mile away. For something so close, it was curiously inconvenient -- moronic, unhelpful employees, and painfully slow check-out. Our local K-Mart was among the first retailers to use a self-serve check-out, maybe 15 years ago or more. It lasted about 6 months then disappeared forever, replaced by non-English-speaking clerks. That's the K-Mart way: cuttting edge to Stone Age overnight.

Despite that, despite the Soviet-bloc linoleum ambience, despite the understaffing, despite the distinct possibility of being in the checkout line behind a hillbilly grandma trying to pay with coins and not having enough of them and having a lengthy debate with herself about what to buy and what not to, despite all that and more, the K-Mart was useful.

If it wasn't, why would I, over the many years, have bought the following there?

Flowers, mulch, dirt, bicycles, shorts, socks, a coffee maker, paint, hardware, baseballs, footballs, basketballs, tennis balls, women's jewelry, swim trunks, flip-flops, pool chemicals, t-shirts, CD's, DVD's, beer, pop, Little Caesar's pizza, ice, trash bags, a nice autumn jacket I still wear, and countless things I can't remember.

And in recent years, there was my man Richard, a dentally-challenged semi-homeless man, hawking the "Street Speech" paper from the Columbus Coalition For The Homeless. Richard's a good dude -- we'd shoot the shit and I always bought a paper from him.

Anyhoo, my local K-Mart, along with many others, is done, history, closed forever, a casualty of the big-box wars. Kinda sad. Yup, K-Mart sucks, but it was damn handy. I miss it already.

And you know what? Wal-Mart sucks even worse!!

The "Uncertainty" Excuse

Are you like me? Are you sick of some business owners trying to explain their cold feet, their unwillingness to hire, their own lack of nuts on "economic uncertainty"? Are you tired of politicians piling on and validating this same lame-o excuse?

You know the routine: "We just can't predict our future costs for taxes, for health insurance, for this, that and the other. Therefore, we'll just stand pat and do nothing, for now." Not a new concept, but suddenly a very popular posture among righties.

When the hell exactly will perfect certainty show up? When did it ever? What bullshit! Business has always offered plenty of risk. There's always the unexpected. Life in general is the same. If looking you're for a guarantee, you're in a dream land. In the real world, we real people make a SWAG budget -- business or personal -- then roll with it as best we can.

The uncertainty excuse is just conservative code. Translation: "We're certain there's a black Democrat in the White House. And we're certain we'd prefer a white Republican. It's all so . . . uncertain."

We're coming out of the worst economic crash since 1929. Back then, it took FDR almost 10 years to turn things around. These days, we've had GDP growth for 3 years in a row, we're adding jobs, and unemployment is down again. And all The Glove can do is insist it just isn't good enough and pull crazy made-up numbers out of his ass. He claims that in his magical, mystical Mormon way, he'd somehow do better. Sure, Mitt, sure.

I'll stick with my Cousin Barry.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Confusion Of Youth

Had a nice day yesterday. Went to the Obama-Rama campaign kickoff at OSU with my D buddies Tom and Jerry. (Actual people, not cartoons.) It was impressive and fun.

Watched the Kentucky Derby. (A horse won. I had a couple mint juleps, so I won too.)

After that, we went to a party at a neighbor's house. As is typical at such affairs these days, the lovely Mrs. Gammons and I were the oldest people in attendance (by far).

Some folks we knew, some we didn't. Made the acquaintance of a friendly young man named John. At one point, we were talking one-on-one about something (his home-brewed beer, perhaps, which was very good) and for some reason, unbidden I swear, he trotted out the old standby that he was a "financial conservative, but social liberal", who considered himself a Republican. He then reeled off a list of progressive opinions covering Wall Street, taxes, abortion, drugs, military spending, gay rights and god-knows-what-all.

John checked the quizzical expression on my face and said, "Hell, I don't know what I am." I told him that, with all respect, "fiscal conservative/social liberal" is pretty much bullshit -- on a personal level, everyone is trying to be as financially responsible as they can. So if you're socially liberal, you're . . . well, liberal.

"For instance, John," I said, warming to the topic, "I happen to believe Mitt Romney is a plastic billionaire robot trying to buy the Presidency. Whadya think of Romney? You like him?"

"Oh man," replied John, "I could never vote for Romney!"

With that, I gave him a hearty handshake and told him he was the most peculiar Republican I'd ever met, seeing as he was a Democrat.

The question is, why would such a young man self-identify as a Republican? Call it the Confusion of Youth.

Semper Fi Ad Nauseum

Hey, did you know that ostensible Ohio Treasurer and wanna-be U.S. Senator Josh Mandel was a Marine? If you didn't, you must not own a TV. (Or probably you're smarter than Buster and turn yours off.) Young Josh has run two campaign ads so far, and both tread heavily on his service as a Marine, using his boots as a weird metaphor.

In the latest, some fellow Marines who served with him want us to know that he's really not the twerpy little jackass he seems to be, he's a man, he's a Marine, goddam it! And you cannot push around a United States Marine!!

Josh caught some flak for missing every single Deposit Board meeting since taking office. He is supposed to chair these meetings. After finally attending one for the first time, a reporter caught up with him and asked about his prolonged absence. Mandel said that being in the Marine Corps taught him the importance of delegating responsibilities. That's a good one, Josh.

His every answer -- indeed, his entire campaign -- seems to be: "Marine. Republican. Did I mention Marine? That ought to be enough."

Thanks for serving, but no, Josh, that's not nearly enough.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Derby Day

Today is the annual running of the Kentucky Derby, an amusing "sports" ritual known for three things: 1. A horse race. 2. Wealthy women wearing ridiculous hats. 3. Mint juleps.

The most important of the three is, of course, the mint julep. Most restaurants and bars don't serve them, and if they do, the juleps are poorly made. And at Churchill Downs, what they try to pass off as a mint julep is light, watery, and comes in a plastic cup. For shame!

A proper mint julep is a strong, slightly sweet, slightly minty drink. My Aunt Podie always said there were two ways to screw up a mint julep: Too much sugar, not enough bourbon.

Here's how to do it right:

Use an 8 oz. metal tumbler. If you're an aristocrat, make it sterling silver. If you must, use something of similar size made of glass. But metal is nice -- it conducts the cold and gets all frosty.

In the bottom of the tumbler, muddle a small sprig of spearmint with a a bit of sugar (no more than a teaspoon) and a dollop of bourbon. Some people prefer to use simple syrup instead of sugar. Either way, go easy on the sweet.

Insert a straw and pack the cup to the rim with crushed ice. To the rim. Crushed, not cubed. Fill with a good bourbon. Blanton's, Woodford Reserve, and Makers Mark 46 come to mind, but there are so many good ones on the market these days. (It sounds like a lot of bourbon, but in an ice-packed cup, it's 2-3 oz.) Garnish with another sprig of spearmint.

Present with a napkin ('cause that frosty metal tumbler gets cold!), sip and enjoy!

Since today's Kentucky Derby coincides with Cinco De Mayo, enjoy your mint julep with some tamales and chalupas. On second thought, maybe not.