Monday, January 31, 2011

Chantix Days Nineteen-Twenty One

I've been on the Chantix for three weeks and have not smoked for more than seven days. According to everything I've read, the physical addiction should be all but gone. Yesterday was a great day; I felt very positive that, having passed the one week milestone, the worst had passed. I decided to begin weaning myself from the Chantix early, like yesterday.

Yes, this is thoroughly at odds with "the program" and is, at best, ill-advised. I have quit before, using the gum. The last time was for nearly two years. Why did I start again? Because I thought I could have "just one". Clearly, I couldn't, and most people can't. This time I'm committed because I have to be.  If there was ever a person who should not be smoking, it's me.  Two years ago I had a stroke and still have the occasional seizure, for which I take medication. I have (medicated) hypertension and regular blinding headaches, again, medicated. I take a raft of meds every day and my goal was to eliminate Chantix as soon as humanly possible. The problem for me is that I already take too many meds for my liking; anti-convulsants are particularly "brain-dulling" and, frankly, I simply do not need any other meds messing with my gourd.  I took a chance on Chantix as a means to an end, and it's served me well.

That said, I am concerned about taking this medication for an extended period of time.  No, I don't know what the effects are, and I don't  know if there is a withdrawal involved.  I'd rather not find out.  My way of thinking is that anything that chemically affects brain receptors is not to be taken lightly.  Yesterday, I cut the dosage in half; I've decided to "wean" myself off, just as a precaution.  Today, so far, has not been easy; I'm feeling a great deal of anxiety.  It could be a wave of cravings, or it could be some withdrawal symptoms from the Chantix.  No matter, I'll make it through this.  That's not just some sort of self affirmation crap, that's a fact. 

Quite simply, I'm tired of being a slave to cigarettes, I'm tired of huddling in the cold, sweltering in the heat or looking for a dry place to grab a smoke.  Medically, I personally have enough to worry about and this will just be one less thing.

Folks, the first week is the most difficult. Chantix has gotten me through that critical phase.  No, that doesn't mean it's over.  Having been through this before, I know that it's never completely over.  It does, however, fade with time and in relatively short order it's something you can put behind you.

Finally, should you take Chantix?  I can't say.  There are those who praise it and those who curse it.  My experience was positive.  The side effects were pretty minimal, I haven't had a smoke in more than a week, and I feel sane - at least as sane as I ever was.  Everyone is different and approaching a drug addiction like smoking (and it is a drug addiction) is different for everyone.  The one connection that they all have is that, in the end, one's commitment and desire must be present for any of them to work.  Chantix does well in easing the physical addiction, but there is also the psychological "habit" which is stronger than you might think.  In the end, I've found Chantix very beneficial, even though I'm quitting the program early.  My own personal recommendation would be, if you choose to use Chantix, stay on it only as long as absolutely necessary. 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The "Mark" of an Intellectual

Professor charged with peeing on colleague's door

A California university professor has been charged with peeing on a colleague's campus office door.

Prosecutors charged 43-year-old Tihomir Petrov, a math professor at California State University, Northridge, with two misdemeanor counts of urinating in a public place. Arraignment is scheduled Thursday in Los Angeles County Superior Court in San Fernando.

Investigators say a dispute between Petrov and another math professor was the motive.

The Los Angeles Times says Petrov was captured on videotape urinating on the door of another professor's office on the San Fernando Valley campus. School officials had rigged the camera after discovering puddles of what they thought was urine at the professor's door.
Seriously, what more can one possibly add to this?

Chantix Days Seventeen-Eighteen

Today is day 18 of the program and day 3 of not smoking. I've slept very poorly for the last couple of nights, awakening regularly and having trouble getting back to sleep. Last night I awakened at 1:30 AM, laid there for an hour, and finally got up at about 2:30. I went back to bed after an hour and was able to get back to sleep. I've also been terribly thirsty at night.

Yesterday, the urges weren't too bad, especially since I was around the house all day. Unfortunately, today is a different story. The urges are pretty regular and a bit stronger than they have been, though short in duration. This is crunch time. I've read where the 3rd and 4th day are among the hardest - that may well be the case.

As for the Chantix, I do believe that it's been invaluable. It allowed me to taper down over a couple of weeks (yes, I know it was only supposed to be one) so the withdrawal that I'm having now is likely easier.

I know this is going to be a tough day, so far it's been the toughest and tomorrow may be tougher still. Thankfully, I haven't lost my resolve. This can't last forever, and I'm confident that I can overcome this.

See you tomorrow.

"The Home is the Largest Investment Most Americans Have"

Sadly, the above statement is true.

Real Estate has that name because, traditionally, it's an extremely safe repository of your money because, unlike other investments, it's real; they used to say "they're not making any more of it!".

We have seen, over the past couple of years that it wasn't quite as "real" as we imagined. Yes, the Real Estate market has always been subject cyclical fluctuations, but the big run-up in values proved to be just another bubble that is seemingly not yet done with us.
Home prices fall in nearly all major cities, heightening fears of double dip

Home prices slipped in nearly every major metropolitan area in November, with a few cities hitting their lowest levels since prices peaked about four years ago, according to a closely watched index released Tuesday.

From October to November, prices fell in 19 of the 20 metro areas tracked by the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller index, widely considered a gauge of the housing market's health. The only exception was San Diego, where prices were basically unchanged.

Only four areas posted year-over-year gains in November, including Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and the Washington region. But in the aggregate, prices dipped 1.6 percent in November from the same time a year earlier, falling in 16 cities.

The nine cities that hit their lowest annual levels since the housing bust started were Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Detroit, Las Vegas, Miami, Portland, Ore., Seattle and Tampa.

The 20-city index is now about 3 percent above April 2009 levels, "suggesting that a double dip could be confirmed before spring," said David Blitzer, the index committee's chairman.

This "double dip" in real estate represents one of the worst fears of housing analysts and is developing just as it appeared that the overall economy was recovering. For now, many economists expect prices to keep slipping at least through the first half of the year, dragged down by the nation's large volume of foreclosures and high unemployment rate.

The Washington region has bucked the trend because a healthy job market, particularly for high-salaried workers, buoyed demand and prices for housing. Home values climbed 3.5 percent in November from a year earlier, but they were almost unchanged from October and are well off their peak.

The Case-Shiller index measures repeat sales of single-family homes and reflects a rolling three-month average, so the November data capture transactions that closed in October and September, as well.
As this post is titled, "The Home is the Largest Investment Most Americans Have". That's true, but this continuously bursting bubble could not be coming at a worse time; with unemployment at some 10% now, the problem will not only worsten, it will likely spread.

One has to wonder the overall effect this continued situation will have on the whole of the economy.  These homes that have been foreclosed have dropped drastically in value and are still dropping.  Mortgage companies are not only losing money, their likely stuck with a lot of these properties because people just aren't buying:
New-home sales in 2010 fall to lowest in 47 years

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Buyers purchased the fewest number of new homes last year on records going back 47 years.

Sales for all of 2010 totaled 321,000, a drop of 14.4 percent from the 375,000 homes sold in 2009, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. It was the fifth consecutive year that sales have declined after hitting record highs for the five previous years when the housing market was booming.

The year ended on a stronger note. Buyers purchased new homes at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 329,000 units in December, a 17.5 percent increase from the November pace.

Still, economists say it could be years before sales rise to a healthy rate of 600,000 units a year.
"Economists say it could be years....." seems to be forecast regarding all of our current economic woes, including unemployment which makes talk of "recovery" painfully laughable.

Older people are watching the value of their homes erode by the day, if they're fortunate enough to have a job. Younger people, who are suffering the highest rates of unemployment, simply don't feel comfortable enough about the economy to make such an investment, even if they're working.

So, is this the "hope" or the "change"?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Kucinich vs. The Pit

The nerve of these people! Do they not know who he is?
Cheeky? Kucinich Sues for 'Oral Injuries' From Errant Olive Pit

Kucinich's teeth, prior to his horrific encounter with "The Pit"

It's the pits to break a tooth while eating. Just ask Rep. Dennis Kucinich. 
The Ohio Democratic representative is suing House cafeteria service providers for $150,000 for allegedly selling him a sandwich wrap with a stray olive pit in it.

Kucinich, who ran for president in 2008, said in a Jan. 3 lawsuit filed in the Superior Court for the District of Columbia that the pit caused "serious and permanent" damage to his mouth and wellbeing.

He said he is entitled to recover damages, "including but not limited to past and future dental and medical expenses, compensation for pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment and other damage."
This incident is simply beyond imagination, the fact that an olive pit could make its way into the mouth of a Member of the House of Representatives is simply unacceptable! Imagine the horror had he ordered a peach!

As a patriotic American, I demand hearings into the circumstances surrounding how this olive pit was "missed", and make certain that those responsible for this "oversight" be subject to the justice of an angry nation. We must ensure that this never happen again and all resources of our government must be brought to bear to that end.

State of the Union? Whatever You Believe It to Be.

"State of the Union" speeches are generally laundry lists of spending proposals that sound all sparkly and new but, thankfully, never see the light of day. Last night's speech had it's share of that, which was curious in that we're effectively broke.

The President had an opportunity, at a serious juncture in our nation's history, to make a real statement on behalf of the United States and The People thereof. Instead, he let the opportunity pass.  In a way, substantial leadership was abdicated in favor of unsubstantial theater, and unfulfilling theater at that.

My respect for Barack Obama would have really soared if, after addressing all of the attending dignitaries, he would have began his speech "My fellow Americans, the state of our Union is precarious; we're in debt up to my oddly protruding ears". It would have added an element of levity, self deprecation, and serious financial urgency all in one sentence. Imagine all the Democrats and Republicans, sitting next to each other in their Kumbaya seating arrangements, each looking at the other, not knowing whether to applaud, cross their arms in contempt or consider it a "laugh line", which I believe is pretty rare in State of the Union addresses.

Imagine the home audience, uttering nervous laughter, followed by a collective "holy sh--! I believe he's serious!"

Do you think I'm serious? In a very real way, I am. Extraordinary situations call for extraordinary actions.

Alas, that didn't happen. In fact, the traditional words "The state of our Union is strong" were the last seven words of the address. Take from that what you will. 6,802 words that were all over the map, yet ultimately somewhere between "uninspiring" to "boring".

Then there was the "Sputnik" moment:
"Half a century ago, when the Soviets beat us into space with the launch of a satellite called Sputnik¸ we had no idea how we'd beat them to the moon. The science wasn't there yet. NASA didn't even exist. But after investing in better research and education, we didn't just surpass the Soviets; we unleashed a wave of innovation that created new industries and millions of new jobs.

This is our generation's Sputnik moment. Two years ago, I said that we needed to reach a level of research and development we haven't seen since the height of the Space Race. In a few weeks, I will be sending a budget to Congress that helps us meet that goal. We'll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology – an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people.
Odd, that "Sputnik" moment reference. Back in 1957, the Soviet launch of Sputnik offended our national sense of American excellence and lit the national fire that fueled the "space race". Personally, I'm 57 years old and I don't really remember the launch of Sputnik (I was 4), nor any national fervor surrounding it. Anyone who actually remembers these events in detail are at least in their very late 60s or older. Hell, Obama wasn't even born when these events occurred.

Could it be that it's been more than 50 years since our country has been united toward a positive goal? Must we actually go back more than a half century to find and example of Americans actually believing in and defending American exceptionalism?

To President Obama, the lessons that need to be learned today are not those of our past exceptionalism, but from Communist countries whose economies are burgeoning by manufacturing sub-standard, and even unsafe products, produced in an environment of scant regulation and borderline slave labor. Again, from last night's speech:
In a single generation, revolutions in technology have transformed the way we live, work and do business. Steel mills that once needed 1,000 workers can now do the same work with 100. Today, just about any company can set up shop, hire workers, and sell their products wherever there's an internet connection.

Meanwhile, nations like China and India realized that with some changes of their own, they could compete in this new world. And so they started educating their children earlier and longer, with greater emphasis on math and science. They're investing in research and new technologies. Just recently, China became home to the world's largest private solar research facility, and the world's fastest computer.

So yes, the world has changed. The competition for jobs is real. But this shouldn't discourage us. It should challenge us. Remember – for all the hits we've taken these last few years, for all the naysayers predicting our decline, America still has the largest, most prosperous economy in the world. No workers are more productive than ours. No country has more successful companies, or grants more patents to inventors and entrepreneurs. We are home to the world's best colleges and universities, where more students come to study than any other place on Earth.
If that last part which I have put in bold print is true, why must we learn from a slave labor driven, Communist country such as China? Why have the liberals in this country all but refuse to speak about "American exceptionalism" in favor of concepts such as "internationalism". Why has President Obama, on numerous occasions, chosen an apologetic stance when visiting foreign countries?

The state of our union is whatever We The People determine it to be. No, we needn't learn from China or India about financial success; while we didn't invent capitalism, we most certainly perfected it. They are mere flashes in the pan, WE will continue to be the light of the world, if We The People choose to be.

It's time we use our own history as inspiration for the future, rather than the temporary successes of overgrown and over hyped third-world nations. The fact that we must reach back 53 years for an example of our national fortitude is clearly an example that our fortitude and resilience needs exercise. We are not victims of anything but our own success and we need not look to "cardboard capitalists" like the Chinese for inspiration; we, as a nation, are our own inspiration.

"We Are America" and America is capable of anything, the State of the Union is the state of each of US. We have misplaced that spirit, but it's not lost. The world is in chaos and needs a leader. The question for this generation is "do we still have what it takes?" The  answer to that question will determine the true State of the Union.

A Representation of "Moderate" Islam

It would appear that Imam Feisal Rauf of "Ground Zero Mosque" fame has been replaced by another "moderate" Imam to spearhead the project. Andrew McCarthy explains:
Aaron Klein is the World Net Daily reporter and WABC radio host to whom Imam Feisal Rauf could not bring himself to admit that Hamas is a terrorist organization, an episode I wrote about in a column last week. Mr. Klein has just uncovered a recent recording in which the imam who has replaced Rauf as the face of the Ground Zero Mosque explains that Islam’s sharia law requires the imprisonment of former Muslims who publicly renounce Islam.

“If someone leaves the din, leaves the path privately, they cannot be touched. If someone preaches about apostasy, or preaches their views, they’re jailed,” stated Shaykh Abdallah Adhami, a 44-year-old American and scholar of sharia. His remarks were made in a lecture two months ago.

Here is the moderate part: As Adhami acknowledged, many sharia jurists say that apostates — Muslims who renounce Islam — must be killed. But Adhami maintains that sharia distinguishes between “public” apostates and “private” apostates. Only the former, he says, must be punished and — to be even more moderate about it — they don’t have to be killed . . . just “jailed so they are contained.”

Feel better now? Not surprisingly, this enlightened position on apostasy places Shaykh Adhami close to another well known moderate, Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi — the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual adviser who is, as previously noted, is much touted by Imam Rauf.
So, according to this guy, leaving Islam and bad-mouthing it is only punishable by imprisonment instead of execution?  Wow, this guy's really mellowing out.

I'm afraid that Shaykh Abdallah Adhami needs to understand, as an American (which he is) that no such imprisonment for "apostasy" will be taking place in this country.  For him to pose as a "moderate" is futile; the Oscar nominations have already been issued.

In perusing the intertoobs, I came across a "scholarly" article at some site called "Common Ground News Service" which would appear to be some sort of kumbaya site that seeks "common ground" between ritual murderers (Muslims) and victims (non-Muslims).  The article in question is entitled "The Right to Change One's Religion".

In order to make his role as a moderate convincing, he begins by quoting a a Roman Emperor regarding laws against apostasy:
In the renowned code of the Roman emperor Justinian (483-565 CE), corpus juris civilis — the basis of all Roman canon law and of modern civil law — apostasy was "to be punished by death" and there was "no toleration of dissent".
He progresses by referencing the Torah:
The Biblical codes stipulate that the "one who doubts or ridicules one word of the Torah — or of the rabbinical authors — is a 'heretic' in the fullest sense, an infidel ... and there is no hope for him." The laws concerning such an unbeliever are very strict: "he may be killed directly". Or as Maimonides, the 13th century Andalucian rabbi and philosopher, advised regarding the abeyance of apostasy law in his era, "his death may be caused indirectly."
Having laid his foundation, he proceeds to soft pedal sharia law on the same subject:
Islamic law, (shari'a), likewise stipulated killing in cases of established public apostasy. Though there is little literature on the emergence and application of apostasy law in the early periods of Muslim history, its actual application usually depended upon whether its declaration was public or private. Within the Islamic state, what minorities — religious and otherwise — did in their private lives was left to their own discretion, even if it may have been technically termed "deviant" or against Islamic teaching.

Shari'a, like all religious law, governs rites of worship and codes of individual and communal conduct and ethics. Contrary to stereotypical notions of religion, the earthly realm within shari'a is in fact pragmatically understood to be essentially secular.
His point in this charade is to present some moral equivalence between Islam's brutal religious laws and those of Judaism.  He begins with "code of the Roman emperor Justinian " for no reason pertinent to the article.  To my knowledge, there are no people on Earth, at the present time, living according to The Code of Justinian.

The piece continues with Biblical quotes concerning the mortal punishments for heresy and/or ridicule of the Torah.  Again, while the Torah is primary to the Jewish faith, the Jewish people have had the good sense to disregard portions dealing with the killing of one's enemies and the execution of heretics.  Jews have, sensibly, set aside those texts as ones written for an earlier day and no longer applicable to their contemporary relationship with G-d.  The only Jews doing any killing are doing so in self-defense from bloodthirsty Muslims.

On the other hand, the violent texts of the Qur'an are still being followed as they were when they were originally penned. Imam Adhami seems to want to make peace with the modern world, but only within the context of Islam, which still abjectly refuses to forgo murder and violence.  If you would like proof of that, simply look at the current news for the "Middle East" on any given day.

In his article, Imam Adahmi paints a portrait of modern Islam that is so out of touch with reality that it's unrecognizable.  For him to begin his piece with an exercise in Islam's moral equivalence with Roman law and ancient Judaic law is laughable in that Roman law simply no longer exists, and the passages from Judaic law are no longer practiced.

In contrast, even the most violent of the Qur'anic laws are practiced on a daily basis.

Imam Adahmi has chosen to whitewash the very same Qur'an that is used as justification for worldwide bloodshed on a daily basis. The Torah and the Christian Bible both have violent passages, but both Jews and Christians gave up those practices centuries ago. As for Muslims, the blood lust is as acute as it was a millennium ago.

As has been done on a number of previous occasions, Imam Adahmi attempts to give us some sort of sanitized primer of sharia and Qur'anic law that simply does not square with the daily, barbaric, practices that are dictated by that very same law.  Our "Western understanding" of Islam is not the problem, we understand it all to well, and we certainly do not need Imam Adahmi's condescending "explanation" masquerading as scholarly text.

Chantix Day Sixteen

Day sixteen marked my first 24 hours smoke free. As I've said before, mornings are my most vulnerable time but, as I recounted yesterday, I made it through surprisingly well. To be honest, the balance of the day went surprisingly well. It was peppered with urges throughout the day, but they were highly manageable. Even with the errands I had to complete yesterday, I was still able to write several posts on my website - keeping one's self busy is quite helpful, and productive.

I awakened today to day seventeen; a bit of a restless sleep, having awakened two or three times. I am enjoying my morning coffee - yes, a trigger, but we must confront our dragons before we can defeat them, no?. I'll not have errands to complete this day, so I'll be about the house all day, but I've plenty to do. Any urges yet this morning? Yes, but they're mild and fleeting. Even with the Chantix, one must endure some of the withdrawal symptoms. Having done this before, I can tell you that it's infinitely easier with Chantix. I'll check in tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tales of the Chromosome Challenged

Woman hanged nephew's 'devil dog' from tree before burning it after it chewed her Bible

A US woman has been charged with animal cruelty after allegedly hanging her nephew's pit bull from a tree with an electrical cord and burning its body after it chewed on her Bible.

"Devil Dog" Executioner
Animal control officers said that 65-year-old Miriam Smith told them she killed a female dog named Diamond because it was a 'devil dog' and she worried it could harm neighbourhood children.

Smith's nephew left the one-year-old animal at the home he shared with his aunt during the recent winter weather while he went away.

When he returned, he could find no trace of the dog and assumed she had broken the chain where she was usually tied at the front porch of the house.

An environmental enforcement officer came across the dog's body under a mound of dried grass, stinking of kerosene.

The dog had an orange extension cord wrapped tightly around its neck and its body was partially burned.

Authorities said bail was not immediately set for Smith, who remains jailed in Spartanburg County, South Carolina after her weekend arrest.
I guess it's fortunate that no one left a baby with Aunt Miriam who may have teethed on a Crucifix!

Aunt Miriam clearly expects a dog to understand the difference between a slipper and the Bible; an expectation so unreasonable that one could only assume that she is (please excuse the clinical language) batshit crazy. At least Michael Vick tortured and killed dogs for some bizarre semblance of "reason", though sick and perverted as it was, like "they didn't fight up to expectation". It would appear that this woman, a walking, breathing affliction, not only to Christianity, but to religious faith as a whole, tortured and killed a dog because it couldn't friggin' read.

Alas, Michael Vick is back in the NFL making millions, while this crazy old bat "faces 180 days to five years in prison if convicted."

It's a sad comment on humanity.

Good News From the Arab World?

Perhaps; any divergence from the status quo in that miserable little spot of hell on Earth is a welcome sign.
Egyptians denounce Mubarak, clash with riot police

CAIRO (AP) - Thousands of anti-government protesters, some hurling rocks and climbing atop an armored police truck, clashed with riot police Tuesday in the center of Cairo in a Tunisia-inspired demonstration to demand the end of Hosni Mubarak's nearly 30 years in power.

Police responded with blasts from a water cannon and set upon crowds with batons and acrid clouds of tear gas to clear demonstrators crying out "Down with Mubarak" and demanding an end to the country's grinding poverty.

Tuesday's demonstration, the largest Egypt has seen for years, began peacefully, with police showing unusual restraint in what appeared to be a concerted government effort not to provoke a Tunisia-like mass revolt.

As the crowds in downtown Cairo's main Tahrir square continued to build, however, security personnel changed tactics and the protest turned violent.

Demonstrators attacked the police water canon truck, opening the driver's door and ordering the man out of the vehicle. Some hurled rocks and dragged metal barricades. Officers beat back protesters with batons as they tried to break cordons to join the main group of demonstrators downtown.

To the north, in the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, thousands of protesters also marched in what was dubbed a "Day of Rage" against Mubarak and lack of political freedoms under his rule.

In another parallel with the Tunisia protests, the calls for rallies went out on Facebook and Twitter, with 90,000 saying they would attend.

The protests coincided with a national holiday honoring Egypt's much-feared police.
Tunisia seemed to have sparked the imaginations of a lot of people in the region. Egypt is a big fish in the Middle East and it will be very interesting how this plays out. I must wonder of a relatively free and stable Iraq, sitting in the center of the region, has anything to do with these uprisings.

Alas, there were mass demonstrations in Iran and the Obama administration chose to withhold even favorable lip service from the demonstrators; I would be shocked if he doesn't adopt the same tactic with Egypt. No doubt the administration fears damaging relations with these though they could get any worse.

I sincerely believe that unyielding verbal support for those demonstrators in Tunisia, Iran and Egypt could likely spur revolutions - instability is our friend. These people are tired of despotism, and they are out in the streets, risking their lives in that cause. It would be nice for them to know that the United States supports them, at least in spirit.

Chantix Day Fifteen

Day 15 was yesterday. As I said in my previous reports, the psychological side of the addiction is not to be minimized, but it can be overcome. As for myself, mornings seem to be one of my most vulnerable times of day. Yesterday morning, I had two smokes left in my last pack. I had fully intended to buy "just one more pack, just in case", later in the day. I had one an hour or so after rising, with my coffee; the enjoyment level was zero. A bit later, I had my shower and dressed as I had multiple errands to complete and, as I said, I had intended to pick up that "one more pack" (there's always that "just one more" isn't there?).

After dressing, I had the one smoke I had left; that was about 11:00 AM. Not only was it not particularly enjoyable, it was ever so mildly nauseating I then dawdled a bit, as I am wont to do at times, brushed my teeth, end ended up leaving at around 1:00 PM.

Upon completion of my rounds, I arrived home at around 4:00 PM. Arriving home after completion of errands is one of those "psychological triggers" that requires a smoke. The thing is that while making my rounds, I had completely forgotten to pick up a pack of smokes. I thought to myself that, after two weeks on the Chantix program, I had been reducing my smoking on a daily basis, and then finding that smoking just didn't make me feel better anymore - making a special run for smokes just wasn't going to happen. Oddly, I didn't choose my "quit day", it chose me.

That was 11:00 yesterday morning, nearly 24 hours ago. So what do I have to report? As far as "urges" for the rest of yesterday, yes, I had some, but they were easily sluffed off with a deep breath (I've heard that works, and it does). The urges are so minor that they're not really an issue. Last might I had a drink before dinner (yes, another "psychological trigger"), and I felt a slight urge, but nothing that I would even remotely call a "craving". After dinner, I must say that I don't even recall an urge, so if it occurred, it must have just been momentary. I retired at a reasonable hour, and slept well.

I awakened this morning a little after 7:00. My immediate thought was "uh oh, this is my weakest part of the day". Yes, while having coffee, I had an urge, but it was entirely manageable. I remembered that last smoke yesterday and how utterly unfulfilling it was. Besides I just remembered that I don't have any smokes anyway, and I'm nearing my first 24 hours of freedom. As I write this post, I must say that smoking is not on my agenda. I do know that it takes a long time to slay this dragon, but I'm in the fight for the duration.

I will write again tomorrow about my quest.  If you are following this, I hope it gives you some kind of hope that there is hope in kicking this addiction, and never forget it's an addiction, not just a "habit".  At this point, Chantix is working for me, and, if you have the desire to quit, it's an option that you might consider.

Monday, January 24, 2011

In Other News of Islam

Muzzammil Hassan, "alleged" beheader
A former New York TV executive accused in the gruesome beheading his estranged wife has been granted permission to act as his own defense lawyer for the rest of his murder trial.

In a reversal Monday, a judge allowed Muzzammil Hassan to take over as lead counsel from attorney Jeremy Schwartz. The two have been at odds over Hassan's defense since the trial began in Buffalo last week. Schwartz will stay on to help.
In the United States, we just don't get that many beheadings; shootings, stabbings, beatings and the rare, but occasional drowning or poisoning are generally the most popular items on the American "murder menu". Beheadings, or "decapitation", if you will is definitely exotic fare.
Hassan is accused of killing his 37-year-old wife Aasiya Hassan inside the offices of Bridges TV, the Muslim-oriented television station the couple founded to counter negative images of Muslims after the Sept. 11 attacks.
I can only speak for myself, but I get all warm and fuzzy thinking about this couple working to counter these awful negative images of bloodthirsty, violent Muslims. Of course the (alleged) beheading of the man's wife kinda puts a damper on the warm fuzzies.
"She was very much aware of the potential ramification her filing for divorce might have," said attorney Elizabeth DiPirro, whose law firm, Hogan Willig, represented Aasiya Hassan in divorce proceedings. "But she wanted to proceed despite the potential for it to erupt."

DiPirro said the couple had "physical confrontations off and on" for their entire eight-year marriage that had escalated to death threats. The grounds for divorce were "cruel and inhuman treatment," DiPirro said, referring to multiple prior incidents of abuse.

"We were worried about the situation becoming volatile," DiPirro said.
Here is a seemingly "westernized" couple, who start a TV station to "counter negative images of Muslims". There's trouble in the marriage, including (allegedly) physical abuse on the part of the husband, violence, "cruel and inhuman treatment" which results in the wife filing for divorce. The abused wife is then beheaded. The sad truth is that the story is not shocking in the least, daughters killed or beaten, wives beheaded, we've heard this all before; they're little "rituals" by which they resolve their day-to-day interpersonal problems. What may be shocking and horrific to us is "not so much" to many Muslims.

Just another day in the "Religion of Peace".

More Islamic "Peace"?

Explosion Kills at Least 35, Injures 130 at Moscow's Busiest Airport

An explosion ripped through the international arrivals hall at Moscow's busiest airport on Monday, killing at least 35 people and wounding about 130, an airport spokesman said.

Russian news agencies reported the explosion was caused by a suicide bomber and that the device was packed with shrapnel.

"From the preliminary information we have it was a terror attack," President Dmitry Medvedev told officials.
Though careful not to use the words "Islamic" or "Muslim" (mustn't upset them or offend their delicate sensibilities), they do mention "Chechen militants" which are, in fact, Muslim Terrorists:
Although there have been repeated attacks on the Moscow subway and on Russian trains -- most blamed on Chechen militants -- the bombing Monday was the first involving a Russian airport since 2004.
Yes, the attacks were just "blamed on them". After all, a "suicide" bomber could be practically anyone, couldn't it?

Climate Alarmism: It's All About the Money

To no one's real surprise (at least not mine), the real "green" in the "Green Movement" is money - lots of it, and the lawyers (shock!) are salivating at the prospect.
Climate change: Dogs of law are off the leash

PARIS — From being a marginal and even mocked issue, climate-change litigation is fast emerging as a new frontier of law where some believe hundreds of billions of dollars are at stake.

Compensation for losses inflicted by man-made global warming would be jaw-dropping, a payout that would make tobacco and asbestos damages look like pocket money.

Imagine: a country or an individual could get redress for a drought that destroyed farmland, for floods and storms that created an army of refugees, for rising seas that wiped a small island state off the map.

In the past three years, the number of climate-related lawsuits has ballooned, filling the void of political efforts in tackling greenhouse-gas emissions.

Eyeing the money-spinning potential, some major commercial law firms now place climate-change litigation in their Internet shop window.

Seminars on climate law are often thickly attended by corporations that could be in the firing line -- and by the companies that insure them.
While this is not a legal tsunami washing over the court system quite yet, it's clearly being seen as a "growth sector" for the future:
But legal experts sound a note of caution, warning that this is a new and mist-shrouded area of justice.

Many obstacles lie ahead before a Western court awards a cent in climate damages and even more before the award is upheld on appeal.

"There's a large number of entrepreneurial lawyers and NGOs who are hunting around for a way to gain leverage on the climate problem," said David Victor, director of the Laboratory on International Law and Regulation at the University of California at San Diego.

"The number of suits filed has increased radically. But the number of suits claiming damages from climate change that have been successful remains zero."

Lawsuits in the United States related directly or indirectly almost tripled in 2010 over 2009, reaching 132 filings after 48 a year earlier, according to a Deutsche Bank report.

Elsewhere in the world, the total of lawsuits is far lower than in the US, but nearly doubled between 2008 and 2010, when 32 cases were filed, according to a tally compiled by AFP from specialist sites.

The majority of these cases touch on regulatory issues and access to information, which can have many repercussions for coal, gas and oil producers and big carbon-emitting industries such as steel and cement.

"In this area, the floodgates have opened," said Michael Gerrard, director of the recently-opened Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School in New York, who contributed to the Deutsche Bank report.

In the United States, many cases seek clarification on the right of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, while in Europe, the main issue has been emissions quotas allotted to companies in Europe's carbon market.

In some cases, courts have thrown out the suits, admitted part of them or declared themselves unfit to issue a ruling and booted the affair to a higher authority.

The legal fog is especially thick when it comes to so-called nuisance suits, which seek to determine blame, and thus open the way to damages.

"There are billions of potential plaintiffs and millions of potential defendants," said Gerrard. "The biggest problem, though, is causation."

Gerrard and others pointed out some of the dilemmas for establishing liability, starting with the fact that fossil fuels are used, by all of us, in complete legality.

And a molecule of CO2 is no respecter of national boundaries. Gas emitted by a car in Los Angeles or by a coal plant in China will help drive climate damage in South Asia, Europe, the North Pole -- anywhere.

Then there is the business of distinguishing between weather and climate. For instance, hurricanes, droughts and floods have always occurred in human history. Can one, or even several, of these be pinned to human meddling in the climate system?

And there's a further complication: rich nations were the first to plunder the coal, oil and gas that powered the industrial revolution, but they are now being overtaken by China and other fast-growing but still poor giants.

So who is to blame? And to what degree?
Please, do read the whole thing.

Those industries who have provided petroleum for plastics, our cars, coal and fuel oil to keep us warm and provide electricity, steel for our buildings, ships and automobiles and cement for our roads are now being prepared as sacrifices on the "green" altar of environmentalism.

I'll be the first to admit that all of these industries have been guilty of fouling the air and the water. The fact is, however, with each succeeding year, comes new technologies that have reduced this repulsive and unhealthy byproduct of industry. The air and the water are far cleaner as a result of this technology than they were decades ago and this trend continues apace.

The "Green Movement" can be a good guide as to how we can continue to use technology to satisfy environmental preservation, as well as increased industrial development and production, but many choose a more radical course. Alas, the "Green Movement" has become an alarmist community that seems insistent upon stifling development and production and, at their fringes, literally questioning man's very existence on the planet.

The movement of this environmental war into the courts is not a good development for anyone; artificial "good guys" and "bad guys" have already been created and litigation will cause further alienation and forestall any hope of cooperation.

Environmental warriors must learn the value of patience and understand the meaning of the proverb "Rome wasn't built in a day". As is the case with any campaign, wars are won by a succession of small victories; that is the way industrial progress is made as well. "Wanting it all now" can not only be self-defeating, it could very well have a very real and very negative impact upon economies and future development.

As for me, I am simply not willing to give up warmth in the winter, cool air in the summer, personal transportation, fresh food on my table and all of the other advantages of living in a 21st century western society. Technology and industry have produced advancements I never thought possible and, if allowed to, we will continue to marvel at what we "can do" as we move into the future. Can we have all of these things in a way that doesn't "destroy the planet"? Well, of course we can.

The answer, however, lies in research labs, not in the courts.

Chantix Days Six-Fourteen

Well, "Days Six-Fourteen" sounds like a lot of ground to cover, but not as much as you might imagine.  If any one's been following this, I'm sorry that I've been remiss in writing, but there have been a number of things distracting me, and when you're trying to quit smoking, distraction is a good thing.

After the first week (on day eight), the dosage doubles; one in the morning and one in the evening.  In all honesty, the program suggests that on day seven, one is supposed to lay them down for good.  I tried that, but wimped out.  With that confession out of the way, on day eight, I had 4-5 smokes (at most, I didn't really count).  Yesterday, I had 2 1/2 (I counted) with nary a real "effort".  If you were to ask if, up to this point, it has been painless, my honest answer would have to be "relatively so".  I would have to say that "The Urges" are primarily psychological at this point; I'm still using a smoke as a "punctuation mark" for activities, but I'm eliminating them one-by-one.  I'm having trouble with mornings; that smoke with coffee.  The after meals reflex is almost non-existent and "the last smoke before bed" is dead.  It's the damned mornings that are giving me the trouble right now and clearly, that's a (the) primary dragon on which I should concentrate. 

The fact is that I've analyzed how I feel while I'm having that first hit of the morning and it's not satisfying at all; I must say that not only do I not feel better, I actually feel a little worse.  This is a very positive sign.

As to side-effects, the nausea is easily controlled by eating prior to taking the medication and the dreams (at least for me) are not of any real concern - unusual, but not terrifying by any means.  As I might have said before, since I'm taking a raft of other medications, any other mild side-effects may not be caused by the Chantix.

Yes, I'm a believer in this drug.  Surely everyone will have different results, but for me, it's working as anticipated - maybe even a bit better.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

More $pending? Really?

No, this isn't an old piece; it's from the Wall Street Journal, today.
Obama to Push New Spending

President Obama will call for new government spending on infrastructure, education and research in his State of the Union address Tuesday, sharpening his response to Republicans in Congress who are demanding deep budget cuts, people familiar with the speech said.

Mr. Obama will argue that the U.S., even while trying to reduce its budget deficit, must make targeted investments to foster job growth and boost U.S. competitiveness in the world economy. The new spending could include initiatives aimed at building the renewable-energy sector—which received billions of dollars in stimulus funding—and rebuilding roads to improve transportation, people familiar with the matter said. Money to restructure the No Child Left Behind law's testing mandates and institute more competitive grants also could be included.

While proposing new spending, Mr. Obama also will lay out significant budget cuts elsewhere, people familiar with the plans say, though they will likely fall short of what Republican lawmakers have requested.
Let's see, "targeted inventments", where have I heard that before? Besides the fact that "targeted" is language that seems a bit martial and violent for the "new tone" in Washington, these types of "investments" seem to just more money poured down the black hole. How's that $Trillion "Stimulus Plan" working out for everybody?

Some "Favorable" Economic News

Union Membership in Companies Slumps to Record Low 6.9% in 2010

Union membership in U.S. companies slumped to a record low last year as the recession eroded employment in industries where organized labor represents the workforce, the Labor Department reported.

Labor unions represented 6.9 percent of employees in companies last year, down from 7.2 percent in 2009, according to data released today. Union rolls shrank to 7.1 million, led by a drop in the construction industry, where membership fell to 13.1 percent of workers from 14.5 percent a year earlier, the agency said.

“Today’s numbers are a telling indication of the fundamental imbalance in our nation’s economy,” said Kimberly Freeman Brown, executive director of American Rights at Work, a Washington-based group seeking to make it easier for workers to unionize. The group said “union membership levels fell drastically.”

Total union membership, including public employees, fell to 11.9 percent of the workforce from 12.3 percent in 2009, the agency reported. Unions represented 36.2 percent of workers in public-sector jobs.

Union representation has declined since 1983, the first year the agency collected the data, when 20.1 percent of the U.S. workforce and 16.8 percent of company workers were organized.
First of all, Public Sector Unions are a travesty; public employees work for The People - "collective bargaining" with, or "protection" from The People undermines and makes a mockery of public service. The fact that more than a third of public employees are unionized should be a red flag to every citizen in the country, and I'll wager that many don't even know.

As for unions in general, is there any wonder that membership is on the decline? The heavy industries, that were the core of unionization, are collapsing under the weight of not only poor management and failure to compete but also the weight of extravagant pay packages and retirement plans of unions. The fact that only 6.9% of American employees are now unionized is a grim indication of where we now find ourselves, and why.

Labor unions are an anachronism; surely a necessity in the early 20th century, but now nothing more than an expensive burden. The lavish lifestyles and exorbitant compensation packages of the remaining union leaders are testament to the fact that they care more about the perpetuation of unions than the welfare of the members.

Case in point is the "Card Check" Bill that's being pushed so feverishly by the unions.  This bill would remove employee anonymity when voting for, or against, union organization in a company.  This bill, formerly, and highly deceptively called the Employee Free Choice Act is anything but;  it leaves employees open to unions' age-old tactics of intimidation up to, and including, physical violence.  Lest you say that I'm fabricating this charge, I have personally been the subject of overt threats of physical violence at the hands of union organizers.  As to "Card Check"? The Unions see it the situation as somewhat dire:
Labor unions have pushed aggressively to enact the bill — formally, the Employee Free Choice Act. They view it as essential to reverse labor’s long decline.
Personally, I see the decline of unionization as a pendulum that has long needed to swing back to the side of independent employees working for independent businesses. There is a raft of laws and regulations that protect employees and unions are merely a redundant, expensive, relic of the past.

While there may be some areas and professions where collective bargaining benefits the employee as well as the industry, as a means of simplification and standardization, unionization should remain the increasing minority it has, thankfully, become.

Friday, January 21, 2011

There Are Some Lines I Simply Will Not Cross

I have chosen to disassociate myself, for an indeterminate period of time, with a website where I have spent many a pleasant hour discussing the issues of the day.

The site in question shall not be named, for my intention is not to soil their reputation; I wish them and all of their commenters well. No delinkage, blog wars, or even harsh words; just a fundamental difference of opinion.  These are people that I consider my friends, many have encouraged me and done me acts of kindness that I will never forget.  My departure is not without sadness.

Alas, there are times when one must do what one feels compelled to do.  This is one of those times.

My issue began with a post that read, in part:
"The tax deal was political suicide since it gave Obama the chance to appear as a centrist. What the GOP should have done was let the tax rates go up, then propose fundamental tax and regulatory reform. Then the onus could have been on Obama. Would he have had Harry Reid kill it in the Senate or would he have vetoed it? If he did either of those two things he would be put in a predicament as Americans see their take home pay go down. Instead the GOP did their usual surrender and Obama benefits."
The post was written by an admin; one of the “owners” and overseers of the site, and the excerpt is fully in context. This is a good site; full of rough and tumble discussions on virtually all matters, political or not, but primarily political. My belief is that domestic political discussions should have a basic foundation of unquestionable truth on which both sides agree. One of those foundations is that the well-being of the American people is paramount; it is the very point of the political process. When we lose sight of that fact, our basic purpose becomes clouded. When we hold the well-being of the American people as a virtual hostage for our own political gain, our means become so reprehensible that our ends are worthless. The paragraph (above) clearly advocated that type of policy; the fact that it came from an admin was unsettling.

Another veteran poster (admin?) added the comment:
"It would have been better for the GOP in December to protest against the expiration of the tax rates while Obama let them expire. By now people would’ve seen that their 2011 paychecks are smaller in comparison to last year and therefore have blamed Obama. It was a bad deal for the GOP even though they put the country first. Now people (the media actually) are referring to it as “the Obama tax cuts”. It also gave Obama a veneer of (fake) bipartisanship."
My response (to the comment immediately above) was as follows:
"I think that using The American people’s income as a pawn by causing economic pain to get our point across would have been tawdry and unconscionable. As you said, “they put the country first”. In the end, that’s what I expect out of any politician.

Sorry, but suggesting that we should have played poker with the Democrats using the American people’s money, during a very tough economy, is bull****."
To my (above) response, came the following comment (from the admin who penned the original post), reiterating his original assertion:
"Why not cause Americans to suffer? The onus would of been on Obama and it would of destroyed his Presidency. Now he might be re-elected and thus continuing America’s economic decline"
The veteran poster chimed in, agreeing with the admin on the “Americans need to suffer” narrative (immediately above):
"Quite concur! If people want Obamaism they need to see what Obamaism is all about."
It was at this point that I had pretty much had it. I will admit there were some in the community who agreed with my point, but most offered kudos and reinforced the admin’s position. My response to the admin’s post containing the phrase “Why not cause Americans to suffer?" is as follows:
That’s f****** nuts! You would have Republicans put politics over the best interests of the American people?

Sorry buddy, but you are way out of line. Maybe a bit more thought and a bit less passion would be in order.

If that’s the kind of s*** that is being put on the table, I really don’t want to sit at it.
There were other posts which, in the interest of brevity, I have not recounted.

At this point I left, leaving a detailed reason for my departure which I have covered here and need not be reiterated.  My departure is without animus, rather it’s with a profound sense of disappointment that an admin of this particular forum, and apparently other admins felt that core principles on which this country was founded, principles for which our founders pledged their ‘lives, fortunes and sacred honor’ are somehow negotiable topics for discussion. The well-being of the American people is the keystone of those core principles and “political discussions” are simply about how to achieve and preserve it.When we have lost sight of that, we are truly lost.

When we set aside our principles, for just a moment in order to achieve a political goal, we betray everyone who has sacrificed for our Republic. When speaking of the American people, we say, as a prominent, veteran poster did; “ The point was ‘short term pain in exchange for long-term gain’, and that gain would be economic if Obama would be defeated in 2012”, does that not smack of political opportunism of the most loathsome variety? How is this comment any different than Rahm Emanuel’s now infamous opinion: “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste, and what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things that you didn’t think you could do before.”? It’s amazing to me that this obvious connection was made by no one.

When people unapologetically become that which they hate the most, when “We The People” get lost in political discussion, and precious few seem to even notice, and when reason is overridden by unbridled passion, perhaps it’s time to reevaluate where one spends one’s time.  Perhaps writing here, on my own site, albeit to a highly limited number of readers would be more worth mine.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Political Non Sequiturs and Opportunism

I've already written about the illogical, pathological, and malicious linkage between the Arizona shootings and "political discourse" here and here. A madman's attack that killed six people, injured 14 others, including a U.S. Congresswomen has been used as invented political fodder for the sole use of discrediting of opponents; it's a non-sequitur comprised of wishful fantasy writ large.

As if the reactions of the last week weren't bizarre enough, comes this:
A top House Democrat said the attack on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) should change how members of Congress are screened at airports.
Ponder that just a moment. What possible connection could there be between a shooter in the parking lot of a shopping center, and how members of Congress are treated in airports? The piece continues:
“I really believe that that is the place where we feel the most ill at ease, is going through airports,” Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), who serves as assistant minority leader in the House, said on "Fox News Sunday."

Clyburn called for the Transportation Security Administration, which administers airport security checkpoints, to interact “a little better” with the Capitol Hill Police.

“We’ve had some incidents where TSA authorities think that congresspeople should be treated like everybody else,” he said. “Well, the fact of the matter is, we are held to a higher standard in so many other areas, and I think we need to take a hard look at exactly how the TSA interact with members of Congress.”
Aside from the fat that we all feel "ill at ease" at airports, I'm still failing to see any connection whatsoever. Clearly, he bristles at Congresspeople being "treated like everybody else"; I love it when the truth spews out unexpectedly. The piece concludes:
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) was shot in the head at close range outside a grocery store in Tucson, Ariz., while holding a public event on Saturday. She remains in critical condition in an Tucson hospital. Gabe Zimmerman, a 30-year-old aide to the congresswoman, was one of six people killed in the attack.

Noting that local law enforcement were installed outside his South Carolina home after the attack on Giffords, Clyburn said the House may need to “beef up the funding” for individual members’ budgets so they can coordinate improved security arrangements with local police.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) said she was reluctant to attach a cumbersome layer of security to House members.

“I’m concerned about putting up more walls between myself and the people that I represent,” she said on Fox. “I want to make sure that we’re looking at it, that we’re making an appropriate response, that we as members are being smart in our interactions.”

McMorris Rodgers said she wasn’t concerned about her security. “I feel that the Capitol Police do a great job of warning us, of helping us and our staff be smart when we’re out in the district,” she said.
I'm still puzzled as to how Rep. Clyburn makes the connection between an assassination attempt and how members of Congress are treated at airports. Perhaps he doesn't realize that members of our Armed Forces are also treated "like everyone else".

Personally, I would put far more trust in a member of our Armed Forces than a Member of Congress, regardless of the situation.

Perhaps he doesn't realize that he, too, is a citizen, and as such, is subject to the same laws as "everyone else". Methinks Rep. Clyburn's pomposity is on full display.

In fact, the chances of a member of Congress being killed in office are extraordinarily low:
At least 60 Members of Congress have died of something other than natural causes while in office, according to a Congressional Research Service report from 2002.

Of those, most were killed in automobile or plane crashes or committed suicide.

At least 10 were killed:

* Sen. David Colbreth Broderick (D-Calif.) was killed on Sept. 16, 1859, in a duel.

* Sen. Edward Dickinson Baker (R-Ore.) was killed on Oct. 21, 1861, in a Civil war battle.

* Rep. Johnathan Cilley (D-Maine) was killed on Feb. 24, 1838, in a duel.

* Rep. Cornelius Springer Hamilton (R-Ohio) was killed on Dec. 22, 1867, by an insane son.

* Rep. James Hinds (R-Ark.) was assassinated on Oct. 22, 1868.

* Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (D-N.Y.) was assassinated on June 6, 1968.

* Sen. Huey Long (D-La.) was assassinated and died on Sept. 10, 1935.

* Rep. Spencer Darwin Pettis (D-Mo.) was killed on Aug. 28, 1831, in a duel.

* Rep. John McPherson Pinckney (D-Texas) was assaulted and killed on April 24, 1905.

* Rep. Leo J. Ryan (D-Calif.) died from gunshot wounds received while visiting an American religious commune in Guyana on Nov. 18, 1978.
I can find no statistics on members of Congress who survived assassination attempts, but there seems to have been some 13-14,000 people who have served in either the House of Representatives or the Senate in our history. We've lost five to assassinations; a pretty small number. The loss of any life is tragic, even more so when it's at the hand of a killer. However, we're not exactly amidst a tsunami of assassinations and the worst thing we can do is to overreact and allow the actions of a single madman dictate policy.

That said, Jared Lochner has, compliments of the 24/7 coverage of this massacre, become some sort of macabre celebrity, with his disturbingly grinning face popping up, endlessly, on every computer screen and TV in the country. This sort of saturation coverage often spawns other lunatics who long to see their own creepy faces grinning back at America. For a certain length of time, at least in the short term, I do believe that it would be prudent to provide Representatives, Senators, and Supreme Court Justices with an enhanced level of security. Whether this should be permanent is a good subject of discussion.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Chantix Days Four and Five

I've begun the two per day regimen and I must say that this Chantix is really quite remarkable, the "Urge" has become quite manageable; almost as though it's not really there. I'm down to no more than a handful (meaning 5 or 6 maximum) of smokes per day by simple "procrastination". If I feel a mild urge, I simply put it off for a while, saying to myself "maybe in an hour or two". This is also helping to break "routine", whereby one smokes at certain times, or as a punctuation, whether you need to or not. I'm sure everyone who smokes understands what I mean.

As for the side effects, well, nothing Earth shaking to report. Some nausea, but I get some nausea from other medications that I'm taking, so it may not be attributable to the Chantix. I'm now taking all the meds with food which is a good practice anyway. My sleep has been restless, but that has been the case for some time now. What has changed is I awaken frequently, feeling wide awake, but seem to go back to sleep rather quickly. I'm having some pretty bizarre dreams, but they're rather entertaining - I think. I can't say that I remember much about them, but then again, I haven't felt particularly terrified either.

That's about all I can say for now except that this program does take some effort on your part, but, from my limited experience, somewhat less than anticipated. Cigarettes are a two-pronged addiction; one physical dependence and one habitual. Chantix is quite amazing at the way it almost removes the physical withdrawal, but the habitual side is up to us.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Lie That Will Not Die

Mark Twain is reputed to have said "A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes."

There's some solid wisdom in that statement, and the aftermath of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords tragic encounter with a madman that left six people dead, is testament to that wisdom.

While the location was still an active crime scene, and before anything was known of the suspected shooter, pundits and much of the media had already determined that the cause of this tragic incident was "incivility in our political discourse". The local sheriff, Clarence Dupnik, using nothing but his own opinion as a basis, claimed that Arizona had become a "Mecca for racism and bigotry".

On the very afternoon of the shooting, Sheriff Dupnik, kicked off the despicable process of blame and character assassination that has continued to this day:
“Let me say one thing, because people tend to pooh-pooh this business about all the vitriol that we hear inflaming the American public by people who make a living off of doing that,” the sheriff said during a press conference. “That may be free speech, but it’s not without consequences.”

During an interview earlier in the day that aired on MSNBC via local NBC affiliate KPNX, Dupnik declared that “it’s time that this country take a little introspective look at the crap that comes out on radio and TV.”
From there, the loathsome extrapolation game was afoot, and the sun had not yet even set on the horrific shootings. On the afternoon of January 8, mere hours after the incident (3:22 PM Eastern) , New York Times Columnist, Paul Krugman wrote:
We don’t have proof yet that this was political, but the odds are that it was. She’s been the target of violence before. And for those wondering why a Blue Dog Democrat, the kind Republicans might be able to work with, might be a target, the answer is that she’s a Democrat who survived what was otherwise a GOP sweep in Arizona, precisely because the Republicans nominated a Tea Party activist. (Her father says that “the whole Tea Party” was her enemy.) And yes, she was on Sarah Palin’s infamous “crosshairs” list.

Just yesterday, Ezra Klein remarked that opposition to health reform was getting scary. Actually, it’s been scary for quite a while, in a way that already reminded many of us of the climate that preceded the Oklahoma City bombing.

You know that Republicans will yell about the evils of partisanship whenever anyone tries to make a connection between the rhetoric of Beck, Limbaugh, etc. and the violence I fear we’re going to see in the months and years ahead. But violent acts are what happen when you create a climate of hate. And it’s long past time for the GOP’s leaders to take a stand against the hate-mongers.

On January 8, while the sun still stood tall in the Arizona sky, Sheriff Dupnik opines his state to to be a "Mecca for racism and bigotry", and all but accuses "the crap that comes out on radio and TV" for the incident by saying “That may be free speech, but it’s not without consequences.”

Meanwhile, almost simultaneously, Nobel Prize Laureate Paul Krugman seals the deal by indicting, trying and convicting a nebulous "climate" and "rhetoric" for the murders and all but names Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh as co-conspirators. He does so in a scant three paragraphs of sanctimony prefaced by "We don’t have proof yet that this was political, but the odds are that it was."

If we have learned anything about the events of January 8, it's that the now-established narrative of "uncivil discourse" as being even a contributing factor in this crime is patently FALSE.

The more that we learn of Jared Loughner, the more we see that he's a disturbed, delusional individual who was apolitical (in the way rational people understand politics), didn't watch TV or listen to the radio. He seemed to be a reader, who says that one of his favorite books is "The Communist Manifesto". Loughner appears to be a 22 year-old lump who had trouble getting and holding a job, displayed bizarre behavior and incoherent thought patterns. He had numerous encounters with law enforcement and seems to have been given some leeway by, you guessed it, Sheriff Dupnik, since his mother is a Pima County employee.

There is absolutely nothing in this kid's background to suggest that he was influenced by political rhetoric. In fact, it seems increasingly doubtful that he even exposed himself to it.

The upshot of the last week is that the tenor of political rhetoric, on the Right, has become unjustifiably, yet inexorably linked to the wanton murders of six innocent people, including a nine year-old girl. It will forever be an ancillary to this monstrous deed, based solely on conjecture, opinion, and outright fantasy. Rhetoric had no more to do with this crime than crowded freeways or the oil spill in Louisiana.

Is this not the height of irresponsibility; the very type of irresponsible, inflammatory, and over-the-top "discourse" about which the Leftist commentariat so piously now preaches? The hypocrisy is breathtaking.

While civility is a worthy aspiration, civility in political discourse is, and has been, the exception rather than the rule. This subject, however, can be discussed on another day and not as a component of a mass muder.

Six people are dead and 14 others are fighting for their lives. Let us not use this tragedy as a forum for sleezy innuendo and cynical political gain. This isn't about politics; it's about loss. Those who cannot see this simple truth are as pitiable as they are contemptable.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Must Everything Be an Ad Campaign?

There is, or should be, a simple elegance to a memorial service. As I previously stated, there was an air of rowdiness last night in Tucson that I personally found unsettling, but I'll not pass judgement. This was about them in Tucson, not spectators some 2,000 miles away.

This morning, I discover that the "Together We Thrive" meme, in addition to having its own logo, also had its own T-shirts that were distributed at the service. Why must even a solemn remembrance of the dead take on the appearance of a cheap ad campaign?

I don't know from where this exhibition of "branding" came, but I find it a bit tawdry. I would sincerely hope that this was not put together by the administration as a way of (not so) subtly politicizing the event. That would be meretricious in the extreme and unworthy of an American President.

The President's Speech in Tucson

I watched most of President Obama's speech last night and what immediately struck me was how raucous the crowd was. All of the cheering and whistling, even while he was talking! Geez, I expected it to be more sedate but it had the feeling of a campaign rally. I don’t blame President Obama for this, it was clearly the mood of the crowd which was distractingly unexpected. It was surreal.

As for the President; it was an excellent speech, delivered exceptionally well. Forgiving the increasingly annoying upturned chin, I’ll have to say that he gave the best speech he has ever given last night; he rose to the occasion and was presidential. Even the staccato nature of his speech was a bit less evident, though he did lapse into the “black preacher” speech pattern a couple of times – he seems to do that when he gets on a roll.

He did touch upon the disgusting political profiteering of the past days which touched a nerve in me, but he handled it deftly, admonishing that it is not an occasion for finger pointing and that political rancor played no part in the crime. That said, there were allusions to “civility” which seemed to contradict his admonishment.

All tolled, I’ll have to give the devil his due on this one; well done. As much as I disagree with the man, we are all well served by a President who can deliver on an occasion such as this, and he did so.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Chantix Day Three

Not much to report today; pretty much more of the same. No nasty side effects though I did have a peculiar dream last night, that I don't remember. Otherwise, I slept like a baby. I've also had no nausea.

About the "urges"; physically, I do think they're decreasing, though I still have the routine issue. When it comes to laying them down for good, I doubt that will be a major problem - lifestyle changes aren't nearly as scary as withdrawal. Though I'm allowed to smoke at this point, I have decreased my intake substantially, almost subconsciously.

This is the last day I'll be taking one per day - tomorrow, I'll be taking one in the morning and one in the evening.

Yellow Journalism and Ghoulish Political Profiteering

The shooting in Tuscon on Saturday was an act of indescribably senseless violence perpetrated upon innocents. It critically injured a member of the House of Representatives, killed a Federal Judge as well as five others, including a nine year-old girl, and wounded 14 others. Needless to say, I pray for the complete recovery of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and the wounded, as well as the souls of those who died as a result of this monsterous act.

Alas, I have lived long enough to witness far too many of these incidents; John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, John Lennon, as well as attempts on the lives of Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II. And this does not even include the Oklahoma City bombing, the first attempt on the World Trade Center, or the horrific attack on 9/11 which were acts of evil on a completely different level.

There are those who will say that these assassinations on Saturday are the signs of turbulent times, though the history of the United States is one of turbulence in itself. There are those who will say that the tenor of our rhetoric is a causation, though political rhetoric has always been heated and is no more so today than it has been in our past.

Most unfortunately, there are those on the left who have cynically used this heinous act as a means of controlling the speech of their political opponents. On Saturday afternoon, while bodies still lay in pools of blood and the tears of their loved ones still flowed freely, the cast of "those ultimately responsible" were being named; Sarah Palin, Talk Radio, Bloggers, Pundits, all from the right of the political spectrum.

Liberals blast Palin and 'rhetoric' following AZ shooting

Did liberals like Congressman Raul Grijalva, Arizona Democrat, Markos, Moulitsas, and Andrew Sullivan speak too soon for the sake of hoping that the Tucson shooter could have had a tea party or a right of center affiliation? From all of their statements today, both said and written, it sure seems like it.

"It is hard because you're in the middle of shock but at the same time you have to as members of Congress, our speaker, our leadership has to understand that the tone and tenor of what we say as elected officials and how we debate, and how that discourse happens has to contribute to a place where it is civil it is human and it is protective of each other," said Congressman Grijalva.

Mr. Grijalva made these remarks during a CNN interview at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, when conflicting reports about fellow Arizona Democrat Rep. Gabriel Giffords were being broadcasted. The Arizona Congressman was brought on to discuss the political ramifications of the shooting of not only Ms. Giffords but also more than a dozen others (at least 5 of whom have died).

"There is a lesson to be learned, and it's a horrible lesson, and it is that people listen to us. We need to set the example. That we can disagree in a way that is not mean spirited, hateful and so full of anger that people feel that they have some sort of permission to treat their elected officials as fodder. I don't think that's the way it should be. So, the lesson to be learned is that what we say matters and how we say it matters, and how act it absolutely matters."

Before much was known about Ms. Giffords's condition following the shooting at a Safeway grocery store in Tucson on Saturday, some liberals took it upon themselves to assume the shooter's motive, political affiliation, and that Sarah Palin's political graphic somehow encouraged the shooter to go on a rampage at a shopping center this weekend.

The Atlantic's Andrew Sullivan immediately tied in former Republican Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin to the Arizona shooter's motive. In a Saturday 2:46 PM post, he writes:
When a congresswoman is shot in the head in the very act of democracy, we should all pause. This is fundamentally not a partisan issue and should not be. Acts of violence against political figures destroy democracy itself, for both parties. We don't know who tried to kill congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (she appears to be still alive) and we should be very cautious in drawing any conclusions yet about why. But we can know that, whoever tried to kill her and for whatever reason, political rhetoric involving words like "target" and "gun-sights" is inherently irresponsible.

Keep in mind that, at this point, Jared Loughner's name was being misspelled by some of the media, and he was being described as an "Afghanistan war veteran", yet Sullivan had already alluded to Palin's "irresponsible" imagery as (at least) contributory.

Was this 2004 "targeting" map (below)from a Democratic Leadership Committee website "irresponsible"?   I don't think so; political campaigns have always used the "words of  war" - the word "campaign" itself is a military term.  The false sanctimony is what I find offensive.

During the ensuing days, the baseless accusations grew, becoming a hateful tool to disparage opponents, discredit political speech, and to even raise campaign money:

Given the recent tragedy in Arizona, as well as the start of the new Congress, I wanted to take this opportunity to share a few words with political friends in Vermont and throughout the country. I also want to thank the very many supporters who have begun contributing online to my 2012 reelection campaign at There is no question but that the Republican Party, big money corporate interests and right-wing organizations will vigorously oppose me. Your financial support now and in the future is much appreciated.

While discussing Saturday's shooting in Tucson MSNBC host Chris Matthews specifically names Mark Levin and Michael Savage.

"Every time you listen to them, they are furious. Furious at the left. With anger that just builds and builds in their voice and by the time they go to commercial they are just in some rage every night with some ugly talk. Ugly sounding talk and it never changes," Matthews said.

"Whether [political rhetoric] caused what happened in Tucson or not, it’ll cause the next tragedy," Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) predicts on FOX News.

Even the Sheriff who is investigating the case has chosen to get into the act:

Arizona Sheriff Blasts Rush Limbaugh for Spewing 'Irresponsible' Vitriol

The Arizona sheriff investigating the Tucson shooting that left U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords critically wounded had harsh words today for those engaging in political rhetoric, calling conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh "irresponsible" for continuing the vitriol.

"The kind of rhetoric that flows from people like Rush Limbaugh, in my judgment he is irresponsible, uses partial information, sometimes wrong information," Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik said today. "[Limbaugh] attacks people, angers them against government, angers them against elected officials and that kind of behavior in my opinion is not without consequences."

Clearly, the sheriff has some personal animus agaist Rush Limbaugh which is the only explanation for his picking his name out of thin air as a subject of scorn. The last time I heard, Limbaugh was not calling for violence of any kind, as has been the case for mainstream talk radio in general. As sheriff Dupnik lectures about responsibility, he may want to reflect on his own lack thereof in making political statements amidst a murder investigation that he is directing.

Rest assured that retreat from this sorry spectacle has already begun, but it's a perfect example of, as Mark Twain said "A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes". Alas, false accusations have a nasty way of sticking, even when the facts are made clear.

The sad truth is that all of the sermonizing about "irresponsibility" has been done in the most irresponsible, vicious, and libelous manner imaginable. Meritless attacks have been made against people for the sole purpose of soiling their reputation by portraying them as virtual "un-indicted co-conspirators", thus rendering whatever they say as suspect.

There is not a single outlet or pundit, on radio, print or internet, who is promoting violence against anyone on either side of the political spectrum. Even in "comments" sections, allusions or incitements to violence of any kind are disallowed and deleted by any outlet or site than is even remotely reputable.

This is politics by innuendo and yellow journalism at its very worst.

Where were these "responsible" jounalists and politicians when regular rallies were being held with scores of placards were being carried with images of President George W. Bush with gunsights and super imposed bullet holes on his head - for eight years? Have we forgotten that Bush was regularly characterized as Hitler with nary a peep of condemnation as the pictures of protesters paraded across our screens? Was there outrage when ABC's Julianne Malveaux stated of Justice Clarence Thomas, "I hope his wife feeds him lots of eggs and butter and he dies early like many black men do, of heart disease....He is an absolutely reprehensible person."?

Where were the denunciations of "a call to murder" when (then) Rep. Paul Kanjorski, D-PA made this exhortation regarding Rick Scott (R) on October 23, 2010?

"That Scott down there that's running for governor of Florida," Mr. Kanjorski said. "Instead of running for governor of Florida, they ought to have him and shoot him. Put him against the wall and shoot him. He stole billions of dollars from the United States government and he's running for governor of Florida. He's a millionaire and a billionaire. He's no hero. He's a damn crook. It's just we don't prosecute big crooks."

Mr. Kanjorski lost his reelection bid, but it did not stop him from, in the wake of the AZ shooting, waxing philosophically about the need for civil discourse in The New York Times:

"We all lose an element of freedom when security considerations distance public officials from the people. Therefore, it is incumbent on all Americans to create an atmosphere of civility and respect in which political discourse can flow freely, without fear of violent confrontation."

Ah yes. Now he's the poster boy for civility.

During the Bush years, dissent was "the highest form of patriotism", today, it is considered "hate speech" (depending on the speaker, of course). The tenor of our discourse has not changed; only the subject has. In terms of presidential "dissent", it has become far more civilized in the last two years than it was during the previous eight.

If we are to live in fear that an unbalanced individual may misunderstand pointed speech, then what other types of exhortations should we look to temper? Passionate sermons from the pulpit? Zealous sports talk radio shows? Spirited lectures at universities? Could not any one of these drive a weak minded, delusional, motivated individual to violent action?

These United States have always had a rough and tumble manner of politics; it's part of our history and national charcter. One need only look at pamphlets, political cartoons and editorials from the 18th and 19th century to see that gentility has never been a major part of our electoral system.

The point to remember though, is that power has passed from party to party, peacefully and without incident for 235 years. The murderous incident of January 8, 2010 is a tragic anomoly, surely not indiginous to the American political system, or a result of the tone of our discourse.

Let us not allow a yet-misunderstood act of senseless violence erode our right to speak our minds, freely.