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, September 30, 2013

Love Thy Neighbors, But Don't Vote With Them

We have a neighbor, K--, who we've known for decades.  He's retired now and stays busy by bitchin' full-time about the gummint.  At two recent neighborhood social occasions revolving around food, drink and OSU football, K-- saw fit to harangue us, unprompted, on the upcoming Columbus school levy and urge us to vote against it, because it would raise his taxes.  On the second occasion, he even worked in the N-word to describe our mayor.  Classy.  I'm here for the beer and the Bucks, K--, so please shut the fuck up!

Our friend and neighbor T----- was there and overheard K--'s charming comments.  T----- doesn't usually go controversial, but she let slip that she has never, ever voted for a school levy anywhere.  That's because she sends her kids to Catholic schools and therefore has never seen a need to support the public school system, wherever she has lived.

Of the two, I can more easily excuse K--'s viewpoint, offensive as it is.  He's just a paranoid, fear-mongering eccentric.  He's beyond help, a true Tea Bagger who opposes all forms of taxation.  (At our homeowners association meeting, he once insisted that our modest annual fee was a "tax".  Whatever, K--.)

T-----'s reasoning is more bothersome to me.  It seems selfish.  She's happy to live in Columbus so she can enjoy lower taxes than in most of the 'burbs, but refuses to support Columbus public schools at the ballot box, even though a quality public school system is a benefit to the entire community.

Paying parochial tuition is her choice, but in the property tax-based model we have, all adults pay one way or another (even renters pay indirectly) to support public education, and that includes T----- and K--, whether they like it or not.

Buster is a proud product of the public education system, from 1st grade through college, and I have plenty of company.  I believe it's incumbent upon all of us to do all we can to maintain the best public schools possible.  It's a "greater good" principle.

Although I might disagree with them, I love my neighbors.  I don't know if the Columbus levy will pass in November, but I'm gonna vote for it for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is it'll piss off K-- and T-----!

Here are a few other reasons to support public education:

  • Having more educated and informed citizens is a good thing.
  • Education helps reduce social costs like welfare, teenage parenthood, and prison.
  • Public education doesn't turn away anyone.  All are welcome.
  • Its essential diversity promotes understanding and tolerance.
  • If you think tax-supported public education is expensive, try ignorance!
  • Public education is a necessary and worthwhile investment for some of our public funds.
  • Without widely-available free public schools, then access to education devolves into a strictly financial proposition.

"Compromise"? Puh-leeeze!

[My online comment today to Boehner and Tiberi]

What's that you say?  The House has "done its job" and now it's up to the Senate and the President to act?  You'd like them to delay/defund/kill/repeal an existing law, and if they do, only then will you agree to a routine procedural matter.  You call that a "compromise".

What kind of dictionary are you using?  Are you insane?  That's not a compromise, it's a hijacking!  It's extortion.  And everybody knows it.

Your plan is doomed and you guys are toast!

(Sorry I keep re-running the same old cartoon, but it's just too perfect.)

Sunday, September 29, 2013

How 'Bout Dat Tribe!!

The Cleveland Indians just clinched a wildcard spot in the post-season.  Yes!!  GO TRIBE!

One of my dreams is an Indians-Reds World Series.  Long odds, but it could happen.  If I can't get that, I'd settle for Indians-Pirates.  :)

Cleveland Indians’  Michael Bourn, right, welcomes Nick Swisher, left, at home plate after they both scored on Swisher’s 2 RBI home run off Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Scott Diamond (58) during the first inning of an MLB American League baseball game in Minneapolis, Sunday, Sept. 29, 2013. ANN HEISENFELT — AP Photo

Cleveland Indians’ Michael Bourn, right, welcomes Nick Swisher, left, at home plate after they both scored on Swisher’s 2 RBI home run off Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Scott Diamond (58) during the first inning of an MLB American League baseball game in Minneapolis, Sunday, Sept. 29, 2013. ANN HEISENFELT — AP Photo

Item 1 of 3

Read more here: http://www.heraldonline.com/2013/09/29/5256516/indians-clinch-wild-card-with.html#storylink=cpy

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Seven Big Lies About Obamacare

With the health insurance exchanges set to open in a few days, many Republicans are still ranting and raving about Obamacare, even though it was signed into law three and a half years ago and was found to be constitutional over a year ago by the Supreme Court.  And early indications are it's going to do some good for a lot of people.  A friend is self-employed with a family of four.  He has an individually-issued health insurance plan.  He told me that his preliminary search of the exchange offerings indicates he'll be saving about $400 a month.

SIGN HERE to stand against Cruz → http://www.dccc.org/fb-AgainstCruz 

Ted Cruz might be suffering from exhaustion after that 21 hour faux-filibuster. He should check out Obamacare and stop trying to shut down the government to defund it. #GetCovered

Yet the far right sticks with its curious tactics of willful ignorance, shut-down threats, and Dr. Seuss recitations.  As a "tribute" to those foamy-mouth loonies, Buster gives you Seven Big Lies About Obamacare:

1.  We Don't Need Obamacare Because U.S. Health Care Is The Best In The World.  Only if you're wealthy.  For the rest of us, it's over-priced and under-delivered.  Compared to the rest of the developed world, the U.S. is an outlier -- we pay much more and get much less.

2.  Death Panels.  C'mon, man!  Voluntary advance care planning for Medicare recipients is not the Kevorkian "Time To Go" Club, unless you're a moron like Sarah Palin who's always ready to believe and repeat misinformation.

3.  It's A Jobs Killer.  If you're in today's GOP, anything connected to Obama is a jobs killer.  His dog, his breakfast, his haircut -- all jobs killers.  But honestly, if an additional 20-40 million people enter the health insurance system, that ought to increase demand for all manner of health care services, which in turn increases employment.

4.  It Will Increase The Deficit.  This false claim is attributable mainly to Mitt Romney, who installed pretty much the same health care reforms in Massachusetts with success, but predicted total failure on the federal level.  The CBO has said repeatedly since 2010 that Obamacare will have a net effect of reducing the deficit, by as much as $1.4 trillion over the next 20 years.  This is accomplished by a combination of spending cuts/waste reduction in Medicare, higher taxes on some plans for some people, and penalties for non-compliance.  It will extend Medicare solvency and reduce the Medicare growth rate.

5.  The IRS Will Audit You.  A load of crap relating to the individual mandate and employer mandate.  There are penalties for individuals for failure to carry insurance and for employers for failure to offer insurance.  There are also tax credits for low-income people and for small employers.  IRS involvement in Obamacare is mainly in administering the credits/subsidies.  The IRS Commissioner has testified that they will not be auditing to determine if individuals have insurance.  In fact, the PPACA explicitly prohibits the IRS from using liens and levies against those who don't obtain coverage.

6.  Obamacare Means Your Health Insurance Premiums Will Rise.  With employer-provided group plans which will continue to cover most of us, rates will continue to be affected by normal factors, not by Obamacare.  If you don't like your premium costs, blame your employer, your insurance company, or your state's insurance department, but don't blame Obamacare.  It is true that, under Obamacare, if you're a high-roller with a costly "Cadillac" plan, you'll eventually pay an excise tax/fee on your premium.  But hey, you're a high-roller!  Quit bitching.

7.  It's A Big-Government Takeover Of Health Care.  It is not single-payer, universal coverage.  The state and federal exchanges established by Obamacare offer options through existing, privately owned and operated, for-profit insurance companies who will compete for our business.  That's about as free-market as you can get!  Government isn't taking over a damn thing (although one of these days it sure as hell should!)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Tiberi Response, My Reply

Rep. Pat Tiberi's response to my email of 9/23/13:

Thank you for your letter regarding your concerns with a potential government shutdown.  I appreciate this opportunity to correspond with you.

As you know, on September 20, 2013, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.J.Res. 59 by a vote of 230-189 with my support.  If enacted, the bill would fund the government through December 15, 2013 while also fully defunding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), also known as Obamacare.  It is currently awaiting consideration in the Senate. 

What I've heard over and over again from multiple employers, providers, and patients in my district is that Obamacare does nothing to lower the cost of health care, to increase access to quality care, or to encourage companies to offer health care, expand their businesses and hire more people. I believe PPACA, enacted in 2010, is making things worse. Bottom line, the Supreme Court ruling to uphold the law on June 28, 2012 does not change the fact that PPACA is unpopular, unaffordable, and overreaching. I am sorry if we do not agree on this matter. 

While I remain committed to overturning Obamacare, I do not believe shutting down the government is a responsible or effective way of accomplishing that goal.  According to the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, in the event of a government shutdown, Obamacare funding and major pieces of the law – including premium tax credits and the individual mandate – would continue to be implemented. Much of the funding for Obamacare is mandatory funding that was authorized when the law was passed in 2010, and even in the event of a government shutdown, this money would be spent and substantial implementation would continue. 

H.J.Res. 59 is the only legislation currently passed by either the House or the Senate that would continue to keep the government funded and would avert a government shutdown.  As negotiations on a continuing resolution continue, I will certainly keep your views in mind. 

As your representative, constituent input is a vital element in best serving the 12th Congressional District of Ohio. Again, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. If I may be of assistance in the future, please do not hesitate to contact me.


                                                                                    Patrick J. Tiberi
                                                                                    Representative to Congress


Dear Rep. Tiberi:

Thanks for responding.  It's good to know you don't want to shut down our government.  Yet you still voted for HJ Res. 59 knowing it could very well do just that with its ridiculously unrelated combination of "funding" the government (thru 12/15/13) while simultaneously "defunding" Obamacare (forever).

I'd like to make a couple follow-up points:

HJ Res. 59 is not "awaiting consideration in the Senate."  It's a dead duck in the Senate and everybody knew it beforehand, just like the 40+ useless House votes to repeal Obamacare.  These divisive "symbolic" votes are just a waste of the people's time and money.

As you mention, most of Obamacare funding (80-85%) is mandatory, so HJ Res. 59 doesn't come close to "fully" defunding it.  Whether it's defunded or not, government shut-down or not, Obamacare will continue to be implemented.  So-called defunding is a pernicious myth.   

Since you don't believe a government shut-down is responsible or effective, then when Ted Cruz finally shuts up and the Senate strips out the House GOP's irrelevant defunding nonsense and returns a clean government funding bill to the House, I trust you'll happily vote for it.  And after 12/15/13, let's put an end to these short-term CR shenanigans.  Deal with one issue at a time and vote to keep our government operational with a traditional budget.

Regarding your "commitment" to overturning Obamacare:

From what you say you've "heard over and over again," you must be listening only to uninformed people.

Obamacare will reduce health care costs for a great many people.  Exchange premiums are expected to average $328 a month.  Many low-income or currently uninsured people will pay $100 a month or less.

It most certainly does increase access to quality care.  That's really the main point.  Obamacare will make coverage available to tens of millions of previously uninsured people.

It does "encourage" companies to offer health care.  In fact, it requires it of all employers with 50 or more workers.  Even those exempt companies with less than 50 employees are encouraged to offer coverage via 35-50% premium tax credits.

Where do you get the notion that health care reform must somehow be expected to "expand businesses"?  That's totally apples and oranges.  But the good news is that with 20-30 million new customers entering the system, business in the health care service and health insurance industries ought to expand rather nicely!

Obamacare affordably expands access to coverage for millions, including the uninsured, low-income folks, and young adults.  It ensures coverage for pre-existing conditions and mental health services, and ends many insurance industry abuses.  And you say you're committed to getting rid of it.  What an odd and heartless commitment you've made.

Yes, we disagree on this matter, completely.  However, as my representative, you may indeed be of assistance to me and many others by changing your misguided position on this important issue.

Buster Gammons

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Not A Bicycle Built For Two

"Tandem" urinal-sink
Kaspars Jursons is the Latvian designer of the "Tandem", a combination urinal-sink.  Jursons says the idea is water conservation, because the tandem will let users "wash the hands and rinse the urinal at the same time."  After peeing, you wash up in the sink on top and -- voila! -- that wash water rinses the thing out.  OK, a little weird, but I guess it would conserve some water.

As a boy, Buster was an inadvertent early adopter of the same concept.

Around the age of 8, I was sent for week to a summer camp.  It had a large, communal boys bathroom with all the necessary facilities.  Early on my first day, I left my cabin and went to the bathroom to pee.  Looking around, I noticed two things:  I was the only one in the bathroom, and there was nothing in it resembling a toilet or urinal.  There was just this big, round bowl thing in the middle of the room.  Had to be four or five feet in diameter.  It had a metal bar or treadle surrounding its base.  If you stepped on it, water sprayed down from above into the big bowl.  I decided this thingamajig must be the urinal, and so I walked over and began to relieve myself.

At that precise moment, an older boy walked in, stepped up to the bowl and started to brush his teeth.  Then he noticed me and, through a mouthful of Colgate, angrily asked me why I was pissing in the sink! 

Just a sink
Didn't look like any sink I'd ever seen.  I found out later that the toilets were around the corner in another section of that same large restroom.  Who knew?  Not me, that's for sure.

Just a young water-conservationist ahead of his time!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Elvis Costello On The Death Of Satire

(As you may recall, PRISM is the government computer system which collects foreign intelligence data for the NSA.)

"You've got the idiocy that PRISM, the NSA stuff, has a logo.  I'm sorry, there's a design department at the secret government agency?  Satirical literature can't exist anymore, because it's in our newspapers everyday."

Even More Gun Control Proposals

The Strip, by Brian McFadden, 9/22/13 in the NY Times

"Have You No Sense Of Decency?"

137727 600 Tea Party Loonies cartoons   

(My email sent to both Rep. Pat Tiberi and to Speaker John Boehner.  With Tiberi, you must be an actual constituent, but anyone can email the Orangeman at www.speaker.gov/contact.  It's the equivalent of a spitball -- won't do any good, but it sure is fun!)

Re: Your vote on Friday's 2014 CR, H.J. 59

So, the brain trust of the House GOP is going to just shut down the federal government unless you get your way and "defund" Obamacare?

Many times you've employed this same blackmail, but it won't work anymore. You can spew all the lies and B.S. you want about Obamacare.  You think it's all just standard operating procedure -- political posturing and theater.  But do have you any idea how reckless and cruel and childish your tactics appear?  What you propose would hurt real people.

In the well-known words of Joseph N. Welch (chief counsel for the US Army in the Army-McCarthy hearings):

"Have you no sense of decency, sir?  At long last, have you left no sense of decency?"

For a long time, I tried to persuade myself otherwise, but now I really believe the answer is, no, you have no sense of decency left at all.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Frankie Goes To Rome, Says "Relax, Don't Don't Do It"

Well, what do you know?  Semi-new Pope Francis suggested in a recent interview that the Catholic Church should not be so friggin' "obsessed" with its prohibitions on gay marriage, contraception and abortion.  He said that such outmoded beliefs "locked up [the church] in small things".  He called them "small-minded rules" and suggested the church would do well to become a lot more merciful and tolerant.

According to Francis, if Catholic doctrine cannot wake up, move on and join the modern world, then what's left of the church's supposed moral authority would "fall like a house of cards."

I'm not Catholic.  I'm not a religious person at all, but religious ideas are not difficult to comprehend, and so I truly hope that our local gay-bashing Bishop Campbell and some of my 'fraidy-cat conservative Catholic friends (see Buster's Blog of 5/30/13, "A Nice Little Chat") might pay attention to their head honcho, who appears to be a sort-of-progressive Pope.  Would be good for ya!

Let The Brian Hoyer-Willis McGahee Era Begin

Just two games into the 2013 season, the Cleveland Browns have pretty much thrown in the towel.  Running back Trent Richardson has been traded to the Colts.  Quarterback Brandon Weeden has been replaced by erstwhile 3rd-stringer Brian Hoyer, probably for good.  Injury-prone retread Willis McGahee will take Richardson's spot.  Both Richardson and Weeden were 1st round draft picks just last year!

Yeah, yeah, I know we're getting more draft choices, and we're rebuilding, and we can get a better QB, etc., etc.  I've heard it all before.  We always get plenty of high draft choices because we always suck.  Because we suck, we're always rebuilding.  We always have a mediocre QB -- our last effective one was Bernie Kosar, and that was 20+ years ago!  Gawd!!

The real Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore after the 1995 season.  Since 1999, we've been subjected to the Cleveland Clowns, a franchise going nowhere.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


If you want to give yourself indigestion, type "debt ceiling" into the Buster's Blog search window.  You'll be transported back to the summer of 2011, when, for the first time ever, House Tea Bag Republicans refused to OK a routine increase in our so-called debt ceiling unless they got massive spending cuts.  (Of course, one has nothing to do with the other.)  Failure to approve the debt ceiling would result in government default and shut down.  The government would be unable to pay its bills or pay salaries.

 A last-minute deal was struck and default was averted.  But our government credit rating was downgraded and the deal was a Tea Party wish-list of delayed spending cuts we now know as "sequestration".

Another routine debt ceiling increase must be approved by September 30th, and guess who's back?  It's those same Tea Bag kamikaze pilots.  They're once again quite willing to blow up the U.S. government unless they get their way.  What do they want this time?  They want to "de-fund" Obamacare.

That's right, these geniuses will "allow" their own government to function only if the President agrees to destroy his own hallmark legislation.  Today, the Orange Boner caved in to his Tea Bag minority and said he'd let it come to a vote.  The House will probably pass a resolution to remove funding for the ACA.  But it won't pass the Senate, and if it somehow did, Obama would veto it.

(And to illustrate how willfully obtuse these people really are, "de-funding" Obamacare would not prevent its continued implementation and would have very little impact on it.  Most of Obamacare -- 80-85% -- is "mandatory" funding, like Medicare.  The House has the power to block only "discretionary" funding, which wouldn't do much to stop Obamacare from functioning.)

But if the suicide bombers in the GOP keep making their ridiculous demands a condition of continued government operation, a shut-down may be inevitable.

President Obama called it "extortion."  It is just that.  It's also childish, dangerous and destructive.  These simpletons are unfit to govern.

I know Buster has two or three Republican readers.  If you can offer the rest of us any justification for this sort of disturbingly petulant behavior (other than "ends justify the means"), we'd sure like to hear it.  Leave a comment.

"Phenomenally, Fascinatingly Expensive Health Care"

John Michael Green is a Kenyon College alum and an award-winning author (Looking For Alaska, The Fault In Our Stars), critic and video blogger.  He's one very smart, very quick young man.

I know this video is long at almost 8 minutes, but it is time well-spent.  Give it a look-see.  If you're in a hurry or just have a short attention span (you know who you are), skip ahead to around 4:50 where he discusses "The Big One":  We don't negotiate health care costs. 

The "Hank" he's addressing is his brother.

Monday, September 16, 2013

No Gun Problem Here

This morning, a civilian contractor working at the Washington D.C. Navy Yard brought a semi-automatic assault rifle, a shotgun and a handgun to work with him and began to open fire.  He killed 12 and wounded others before being killed himself.  His motive is unknown.  He had a concealed-carry license from Texas and a prior arrest for unlawful discharge of a firearm.  He may have had an accomplice.

But we don't have a gun problem here in America.  Not at all.  No problem with mass shooting after mass shooting.  No problem with easy access to military-grade weapons and ammo.  No problem with ineffective, lax background checks.  No problem with nut-jobs walking around in society armed to the fucking teeth.  No problem with spineless lawmakers afraid to take on the NRA.

Nope, it's all good.  No gun problem here.

Earl Sweatshirt On Sheep and Sinks

"Earl Sweatshirt" (Thebe Neruda Kgositsile) is half of the rap duo Odd Future.  (The other half is "Tyler the Creator".)  I don't know much about their music, and I doubt that I'd like it, but Earl was recently interviewed and displayed an amusing take on a couple things:

What do you think of social media?
Earl:  "Everyone's like sheep on social media, like one person starts making noise, and everyone's like, 'Hey, yeah!' and then you get a whole bunch of people making noise at you."

It's been reported that your dad, South African poet Keorapetse Kgositsile, has not listened to your music.  Has he?
Earl:  "I haven't shown him any music.  Like if I was a plumber, I wouldn't bring a sink home to my parents.  I'm not actively trying to bring my work into the house."

Judge John Hodgman Rules

"Kitty" writes:
My husband got his driver's license renewed, but refused to be an organ donor because he doesn't want to take the chance that Dick Cheney might get his heart.  Now it's time for me to renew my license.  What's your call, Judge?

Judge John Hodgman rules:
This is a question of balance between principle and reality.  And the reality is, if Dick Cheney wanted your heart, it would be in his hand right now.  But that is much less likely than it going to some otherwise needy non-Cheney.  Or was, until I published this letter.  In any case, you and your husband should be less selfish and sign the card.

"We Won't Be Bombing You Today. But Remember, We're Good At Bombing, So Tomorrow, Who Knows?"

It looks like President Obama has successfully danced between the raindrops without getting wet.  With a little back-channel diplomacy at the G20, some face-to-face diplomacy between Secretary Kerry and Russian counterpart Secretary Lavrov, and a very reasonable desire to avoid World War III, it now seems that we won't be bombing Syria anytime soon.  Which is very good news.

Of course, that could change in a heartbeat, mainly because Assad remains a chin-less, duplicitous rat bastard.  ("Oh, did you mean those chemical weapons?  I forgot about those.")  But also because, as George Carlin once warned us, we kinda like war and we're good at bombing shit, so we do a lot of it.

The late, great Carlin always enjoyed ruffling feathers and being controversial.  He was nothing if not thought-provoking.  This video is more than 20 years old, and George is talking about the Persian Gulf War, a.k.a Desert Storm back in 1991.  (Iraq I, Iraq II, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria -- is there really much difference?)

Check it out:

Friday, September 13, 2013

Old Crow

You thought I meant the bourbon, didn't you?
In Buster's world of suburban wildlife, you never know what's next.  One day it could be falling squirrels hitting you in the head.  This morning, it was a big, dead crow underneath a fir tree, stiff as a board.  You don't see that everyday, do you?

Which makes me wonder:  Why don't we see it every day?  Around here, there are bajillions of birds, rodents and other critters.  Compared with us, their lives are brief.  Large numbers of them are dying all around us all the time and, except for road-kill, we see very little evidence of it.  Why isn't the ground fairly littered with dead crows and what-not?

Nature works in mysterious ways.  So do scavengers and insects.  But they were a little too slow to take care of my old crow.

The Bluest Nose

Toni Morrison is a best-selling author, winner of both the Nobel and Pulitzer prizes, college professor, recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and an Ohio native.  Her first novel, The Bluest Eye, was published in 1970 and is on the Ohio Dept. of Education's suggested reading list for high school students.  The fictional work is set in Ohio.  The main character is a young black girl who dreams about having blue eyes like some white girls.  In the story, she's raped and impregnated by her father.

The Bluest Eye is "totally inappropriate".  "It's pornographic."  "It should not be used in any school for any Ohio K-12 child."  "I don't want my grandchildren or anyone else's children reading it."  The State Board of Education should not "even be associated with it."

Who spoke those words?  None other than State of Ohio Board of Education President Debe Terhar.  She's a Tea Bag Kasich pal best known for equating Obama to Hitler on her Facebook page.

Toni Morrison is a giant in the field of literature, a living legend.  Debe Terhar is a small-minded, blue-nose prude.  And if she really believes she's protecting today's high schoolers from "porn" by banning books, she's living in the wrong fucking century.

Morrison's reaction to Terhar's diatribe:  "Ironic, at the least."

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Is Soccer Really That Popular?

This Tuesday the lovely Mrs. Gammons was travelling for business and planned to spend the night in the Cleveland area.  It's a regular trip for her, and she finds it convenient to stay in the Brook Park vicinity, near I-71 and I-480.  She's never felt the need to make reservations.

She called me Tuesday night to report that she was there but was driving all over the place trying to find a hotel room.  Every place she tried was sold out, and the front desk clerks were clueless as to why.  She wondered if it might be because of an Indians game.  I wish, but not likely, my dear.

Eventually, the clerk at yet another place with no vacancies told her it was because of the soccer game that night . . . in Columbus, over 100 miles away.  Yes indeed, on Tuesday night Crew Stadium was host to a World Cup qualifying match between Mexico and the USA.  Not being much on soccer, I was only vaguely aware of it, but for all serious futbol fans, it was a genuinely big-ass deal.  The hotel clerk said that virtually every hotel from there south to Columbus had been sold out for months, because of the soccer game.

Soccer's that popular?  Who knew?  And while I doubt that the big match was the sole reason for all the booked hotels (and I'm certain the Indians had nothing to do with it), the lovely Mrs. Gammons spent the night in Vermillion.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.  (Vermillion was home to Charley McGarvey's, one of my mother's favorite restaurants.  Wonder if it's still there.)

By the way, the U.S. defeated Mexico 2-0 to clinch a spot in the World Cup tournament.  Yay!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Guest Beer

"Guest beers" are cheap, watery beers you hardly ever drink yourself.  You keep some around in case surprise visitors show up.  If the need arises, you'll appear like a good host while being extremely frugal at the same time.  Cheapness is the key attribute.  When you offer a guest beer to an unexpected caller, your unspoken message is:  "Yes, I am being hospitable, and yes, this is a really bad beer, so I'm sure you won't be staying long."    

In no particular order, here are ten fine examples of guest beer:

Natural Light.  a.k.a. Natty Light, Nasty Light.  Probably the #1 choice of poor college kids.  If you drink enough to catch a buzz, you'll either puke or you'll pee for a day and a half.

Keystone.  a.k.a. Kidney Stone

Ice House.  a.k.a. Lice House, Mice House

Milwaukee's Best.  a.k.a. Milwaukee's Worst, Milwaukee's Beast

MeisterBrau.  a.k.a. Mister Beer.  Norm's quaff on Cheers.

Iron City.  a.k.a. Iron Shitty

National Bohemian.  a.k.a. Natty Bo, an old Baltimore standby.  "Natty Bo, Natty Bo, the more you drink, the more you go!"

Old Milwaukee.  a.k.a. Old Mil-yucky

Pabst Blue Ribbon.  a.k.a. PBR, a current favorite of hipster douchebags.  Doubles as a laxative.

Schaefer.  a.k.a. Shitter.  Brewed by Pabst.  "The one to have when you're having more than one."  Stay close to the bathroom.

And a bonus pick from the archives, the now-defunct but fondly remembered guest beer . . .

Olde Frothingslosh.  "The Pale, Stale Ale With the Foam on the Bottom"

Take The Deal, Cuz

On the eve of President Obama's prime-time speech to urge Congressional approval for military action against Syria, suddenly Syria is willing to accept a Russian proposal to relinquish all its chemical weapons.  They would be turned over to the international community for destruction.

This development presents a handy escape hatch.  It lets us avoid a military strike which literally no one in the world wants (except John McCain, of course).  The idea that we could lob a few "limited" cruise missiles into Syria and suffer no consequences has been absurd from the start.

I love ya, Cousin Barry!  So revise your text, make your speech, rattle a sabre or two, but take the deal!

(Should we give any credit to Russian President Vladimir Putin for introducing the idea at last week's G20?  We could, but Putin's the narcissistic megalomaniac obsessed with restoring Mother Russia to its "former glory" who's always being photographed with his shirt off.  So fuck him.)

Serena: Strong On The Court, Strong With The Pencil

Congratulations to Serena Williams, who recently won her 5th U.S. Open championship.  She is one of the best female tennis players ever, and at age 31 (old for top players), she's still going strong.

But seriously, what's up with those eyebrows?  Serena seems to be going for the Classic Hollywood look -- the Joan Crawford-Kim Novak heavy pencil.  Because her eyebrows seemed unchanged by a hot, sweaty 3-set title match, it is rumored she had them tattooed onto her face.  Sure hope not, 'cause, you know, damn!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

He Should Have Mailed It To His Cat

Yesterday, Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Chris Perez and his wife Melanie pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor drug charge, drew probation, and paid a small fine.  The court also ordered Mr. Perez to speak to children about drug use.

Perez's problem began when he mailed some marijuana to his home, but addressed the package to his dog.  This "I'm-so-high" decision attracted suspicion from the postal inspector and eventually the police.

He has acknowledged his error and said he'll counsel kids to make better choices than he did.  "I'm gonna tell 'em to really think before doing something like I did," said Perez.  "Mailing weed to 'Fido Perez' was really dumb, a dead give-away.  I shoulda sent it to my cat, 'Garfield'."

Big Pile Of Shit Disappears

(How did I miss this story until now?)

The Detroit River "pet coke" pile
Petroleum coke, or "pet coke", is a waste byproduct of extracting oil from Canadian tar sands at the Keystone XL site.  Pet coke is a grainy, dusty solid that is officially "safe", but contains the toxic metals selenium and vanadium, and who-knows-what-else.

Detroit had a big mountain of it 4 stories tall.  It was piling up for a year along the banks of the Detroit River.

Who put it there?  Marathon Oil.  They process Canadian tar sands into oil at their Detroit facility.

Who owns the pile of pet coke?  Koch Carbon LLC of Wichita, a.k.a. the Koch brothers.  Although pet coke is generally considered to be useless crapola, the Kochs are buying it up.  They see a market for it as a cheap, high-sulfur, dirty-burning fuel for Chinese and Indian power plants.

After taking many complaints from residents about this giant shit-pile blowing black dust all over the place, Detroit officials finally ordered Koch Carbon to remove it.  At last, it's gone.  Yay!

Where did it go?  Ohio!  To an unspecified location.  No one is exactly sure where.  The Ohio EPA says it hasn't received any notification and, in fact, none is required.  Because it's "safe", right?  Gosh, thanks, Koch brothers!

Don't be surprised to see the "Black Hills of Ohio" popping up all over the Buckeye State.  One of the many problems associated with refining tar sands into oil is that it generates so much pet coke waste.  The Marathon Oil plant in Detroit is just a small-time player.  Up in Canada, there are over 80 million tons of pet coke waste just sitting around Keystone XL, with more coming every day.  The more we process tar sands in the U.S., the more we'll create our very own shit-pile disposal problem.  Hell, just ship it all to Ohio. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

"All Wells Are Fracked"????

Recently, at a wonderful gathering of some of my oldest and dearest friends, one of my old buddies was holding forth, darting rapidly from topic to topic.  He landed briefly on fracking, and declared himself amused by all the fuss, because, he said, "All wells are fracked.  Always have been."  From there, we bounced to a quick story about his father posing for a photograph standing by an oil well while lighting a cigar with a $100 bill.  (Cute?  Crass?  Depends on your point of view, I guess.)    

Not wishing to argue or debate on such a fine social occasion (and being unaware that the retired securities attorney was now a geologist), I just smiled and said nothing as the conversation flowed elsewhere.  But now . . .

"All wells are fracked."  Really?  Yeah, in the sense that any type of well drilling fractures some of the surrounding rock.  But beyond that superficial comparison, it's disingenuous to suggest there's no real difference between a residential water well, or a conventional oil well, and a fracked natural gas well.

A vertically-drilled well fractures some rock as a secondary consequence of the process.  A horizontally-drilled nat gas well intentionally fractures large fields of rock with pressurized water.

All well drilling uses some water for cooling, lubricating and flushing.  The nat gas hydro-fracking process uses much, much, much more water -- 6 to 8 million gallons per frack -- than conventional drilling.  And a single frack doesn't guarantee a producing gas well.

Hydro-fracking water isn't just water.  It's known as "slick water" or "brine" -- water doped up with salts, benzene, hydrochloric acid, and a whole host of toxic and carcinogenic additives (which the nat gas industry is loath to specify).  Such concoctions aren't needed for ordinary drilling.

Fracking wastewater temporary impoundment
After fracturing given (large) spots in the shale fields, these millions/billions of gallons of toxic soup can't be just dumped into the creek (although they certainly would be were it not for legal prohibitions).  All the nasty brine must be "contained", i.e. pumped into a fortified storage tank, where it will be kept  . . .  forever!  Required with regular drilling?  Nope.

But of course nothing can be contained forever, especially in some hole-in-the-ground designed by the petrochemical industry.  Some estimates say 35% of storage wells are leaking already.  We have literally no idea of long-term consequences, but we're proceeding willy-nilly anyway -- because there's money to be made!

Today's fracking isn't occurring in the wide-open spaces of Oklahoma.  It's happening in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia -- older, forested, populated, developed areas.  Nat gas fracking poses significantly more threat to the environment and to public health than any sort of conventional drilling ever has.  Fracking has already damaged land, wildlife and drinking water.  It has caused earthquakes.

And you say all wells have always been fracked?

Respectfully, no.  Not really.  Not by a long shot.  And even if they had, it wouldn't make it right.

Click the link for a few facts:

And if you're a real glutton for punishment, enter "fracking" in the Buster's Blog search window.

Foreign Policy Follies

These days, the political norm in our nation's capitol is that Democrats and Republicans are in a state of perpetual opposition on everything.  They can't even agree on what friggin' day it is.  But give them the prospect of lighting up another country with a few cruise missiles, and suddenly they're all holding hands and singing Kum-Ba-Yah together.

A large majority of Americans want nothing to do with a military strike against Syria, but the D.C. politicians are banging the drum about "strong intelligence" and "irrefutable evidence" of "a violation of international law" that has "crossed the red line" and demands a "shot across the bow".  We must "send a clear message" to Syria that their "behavior will not be tolerated" and so a "limited surgical strike" is called for to "degrade their capabilities" because the "cost of inaction" could worse than the alternative.  Of course, "there will be no boots on the ground".

It sounds just like the rhetoric from Dubya, the Dick, Rummy and all the other neocon nitwits 11-12 years ago in the run-up to Iraq.

And it sure looks like we're gonna stick our dick in the hornet's nest again.  What's the worst that could happen?