Just a very few thoughts…

First off, a public “Thank You” to fellow Smokin’ Clam Tim Schenzel – one of our cars developed a flat tire, and Tim was gracious enough to drag his very own personal air compressor all the way across town. Not only did he fill the tire, but he put goop in it, too. And he broke the stem of his compressor hose. And he scraped up his knuckles. And I thank him! Unfortunately, despite Tim’s best ministrations, the tire won’t hold air. Ma and Pa are bringing their little itty-bitty portable air tank in to town for me so I can pump the tire up in the morning and sprint the car the three blocks to Ben Fish Tire to get it fixed. Thanks, folks!

The Clams had a good gig Friday night – we played at Rhonda’s here in town. It felt like we played well. We had a good crowd! I’m still working on getting the pictures on the Clam’s website. I should have them on-line by tomorrow…

Watch your drug interactions. My beloved bride Dagmar started taking a dietary supplement last Tuesday. Since then, she’s been very confused (she went to the store and couldn’t remember her PIN number and had to come home to get cash), emotional (she’s had at least one inexplicable, public crying jag), headachy (“I don’t have a headache,” she told me, “but my brain hurts like it’s burning on top”), and gradually getting more and more ill (icky tummy and cramps and stuff). It took us quite a while to realize that all these things might be related, and even longer to track down the problem. She quit taking the dietary supplement and she’s been rapidly improving. The moral? Read the labels!

Two weeks, no cigarettes. It doesn’t bother me much, except when I’m awake… (Actually, it’s getting easier. When I’m at home I hardly ever think about smoking any more, but when I’m at work or with the band it’s MUCH harder. But manageable. I’m estimating, based on past experience, that I have another couple weeks before I start to feel truly comfortable again, and in six to eight weeks I should be at the point where I can function normally in public.)

Here’s a question for you… Our government claims to be anti-tobacco. So why is it that a pack of cigarettes is so much cheaper than a pack of nicotine gum, or the patch? Did you know that Zyban costs well over a hundred dollars for one month? They recommend you take it for three months… It’s hard for a smoker to rationalize something like that. “Hmmm… Do I spend over three hundred dollars for medication to help me do something I don’t want to do? Or do I spend four bucks on a pack of cigarettes? Hmmm…” If the government TRULY wanted us off nicotine, they’d subsidize the various cures so the average smoker could afford to quit instead of subsidizing the tobacco farmers. Between 2000 and 2003 the government has given out more than $530,000,000 to tobacco farmers. source In 1999 alone, the government gave $328,000,000 to tobacco farmers to make up for their lost profits due to declining cigarette sales. source (Nothing against the tobacco farmers, mind you, they’re just trying to make a living. But instead of the government giving them money to grow tobacco, wouldn’t it be better if the government gave them money to grow something else?)

I read in a “quit smoking” forum recently that a newspaper once published a list of doctors in that area who owned tobacco stock. What a way to make money! Invest in something that will eventually bring business coughing to your door. Wow. I’d like to find out if it’s still true…

Here are some of the stranger things I’ve heard and/or read in the past few days.

“…some people don’t want [insurance] – like the Amish.” – Republican Senator Rick Santorum (Harrisburg Patriot, 10 June 1997)

This is just plain spooky. Senator Santorum, a man in power, believes that millions of people don’t have insurance because they don’t want it? Tell that to the people in MY neighborhood…

“The notion that college education is a cost-effective way to help poor, low-skill, unmarried mothers with high school diplomas or GEDs move up the economic ladder is just wrong.” – Republican Senator Rick Santorum in his book It Takes A Family.

Oh. Hmmm… So, poor, low-skill, unmarried mothers with high school diplomas or GEDs can move up the economic ladder… how? Evidently, not by learning a skill or furthering their education.

“…the question about lobbying on the questionnaire did not trigger a memory…” – Supreme Court nominee John Roberts in a letter to Senator Patrick Leahy.

Turns out that Roberts was a political lobbyist for the Cosmetics, Toiletries and Fragrances Association. But somehow, when he saw a question asking “have you ever been a lobbyist,” it just didn’t trigger a memory. Funny, if someone asked me, “have you ever worked as a circus clown,” chances are I would remember…

“Rafael Palmeiro is a friend. He testified in public and I believe him. He’s the kind of person that’s going to stand up in front of the klieg lights and say he didn’t use steroids, and I believe him. Still do.” – U.S. President George Walker Bush

Unfortunately, President Bush said this after baseball star Palmeiro (who testified in front of a House committee last March, saying he’d never used steroids) tested positive for steroid use. I don’t understand this one. The man has steroids in his system, yet the President insists the guy’s innocent. How odd. Maybe the steroids got into his system by divine intervention?

In other odd news, Republican Senator Bill Frist pulled the year’s defense spending bill off the floor, saying that it was wrong for the Senate to question ANY defense spending during a time of war. (Just out of curiosity, who are we at war with anyway? Didn’t we win Iraq a long time ago? The War On Terror has been changed to The Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism, so that’s not a war any more…) In other words, Senator Frist is unhappy that people would want to trim defense spending, even though last year the United States spent more on its military than the rest of the world combined spent on military. Evidently that’s not good enough. Republican Senator John McCain, along with two other Senators, wanted to tack an amendment on the budget regulating the Pentagon’s interrogation and prosecution of prisoners (remember Abu Ghraib?), but President Bush promised to veto any bill with any amendment that restricts the military. McCain, incidentally, was held prisoner in Vietnam for five years. And tortured.

What’s wrong with the Geneva Conventions? When did we decide to quit abiding by them? The U.S. originally signed the first Geneva Convention way back in 1882. As recently as a few years ago, Donald Rumsfeld (rightly) threw a ruckus claiming the Iraqis were violating the Geneva Conventions when they videotaped five American prisoners. (This would fall under the “Prisoners of war must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity” clause of the 1949 Convention.) But, for some reason, Rumsfeld didn’t see anything wrong with the United States’ photographing Iraqi prisoners in shackles and hoods. Hmmm… Mr. Rumsfeld later claimed that the detainees don’t qualify for the Geneva Conventions because they are “unlawful combatants.” This seems to be a category that Rumsfeld has invented on his own – it’s not found in any language in the Geneva Conventions, nor in any other international treaty. source

So, the upshot of all of this is that our government has abandoned ethical treatment of prisoners of war and “detainees,” and will veto any attempt by our legislatures to rectify that situation. While I have no love for those who have committed acts of terror against the U.S., I think that this position our government has assumed sets a very dangerous precedent. I would certainly hate to be taken prisoner by our enemies now that they know we’re not treating prisoners well here…

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