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Editorial

Like the Map at the Mall Says … You Are Here

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In 2012, Bonnie Herzog, leading tobacco analyst for Wells Fargo, predicted electronic cigarettes will overtake tobacco cigarettes within ten years. In 2013 she confirmed that projection and said Big Tobacco will take over most of the market.

A competitive free market was not going to determine the winners or losers in the e-cig industry. With this kind of money at stake it was going to take the participation of one of the United States federal executive departments, the FDA, to guarantee the takeover.

On April 24th the FDA’s long awaited deeming regulations regarding electronic cigarettes were released. If these regulations go into effect as written, the number of legal e-cig manufacturers will go from about a thousand … to about five. The twenty thousand legal e-cig products will be cut to … around six. It will cost an e-cig manufacturer close to ten million dollars to file an application with the FDA for each e-cig product. Only Big Tobacco, who has already entered the e-cig market, can afford to jump through those hoops. There will always be e-cigs. Just not the ones I use. Just not the ones I buy from the vendors I like.

In short, the FDA’s 241 pages of provisions give the e-cigarette industry to Big Tobacco.

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Opposites, Fence-Sitting, and Trekking

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Opposites attract, it is said.  These days, I suspect opposites attract all right, and bunched up around their opposite poles, are two groups:  the totally apathetic and the absolutely certain.

The majority of us are less extreme, lumped in the middle somewhere, fence-sitters, undecided, waiting for more information to drift in and for the clouds of our doubt to clear -- waiting for something like clarity and confidence to bloom somewhere close to our decision-making abilities, our opinions, our beliefs.

Ignorance and apathy make mischievous, self-chasing twins that raise only dust clouds and smokescreens, when they can be persuaded to move at all.  Their opposite forces, ego and conviction, sweat buckets to ensure knowledge and action both corner the market and are locked all the way down.

Me, I usually buzz and flit around the whole length and area of those poles of attraction with an armload of bald facts and bare opinions.  Sometimes, I sport splashy, energetic layer cakes of logic, interest, fascination.  Other times, frankly, I'd be hard pressed to come up with an eighteenth of a half-baked hoot about anything.  Sometimes, bereft of answers and beaten down,  I refuse to play at all, completely rejecting the Catch-22, damned if you do, damned if you don't, concept of play -- my own Kobayashi Maru.

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A Bad Case of the -shuns

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There are still plenty of ripping, searing, wrenching, and devastating problems on this singular space ship which we call home, and equally important challenges all among its incredibly motley, and sometimes endearing, crew, too.  I get that.  This stuff is absolutely not news to me.  I learned to read quite a while back, using newspapers that -- dare I say it, even in irony? -- Adam and Eve used to cave-break their pet dinosaurs.

No, I have not slipped away in the night.  I have not yet been allowed to sublease my apartment at the Sanity Arms.  I have not yet checked out of the Human Hotel.  I am, by the way, still dawdling around here at the By-and-By B and B, hoping that someone will present a final statement and then, hang around long enough to help me make some sense out of the thing.

Comprehension comes later, I hope.  However, just now, I am trapped here, where life often feels like the waiting room for every tire installation joint I've ever inhabited:  Crap coffee, crap chairs, lava-esque (in summer) or icicle-bound (in winter).  It's the sort of a place with the kind of noise that makes fingernails on a blackboard seem soothing --  and where the place smells like it had its last change of air in 1639, by a galley mob fresh off a galleon, and where the ambience is an eye-crossing, nose-hair-depleting cross between gym locker stench, burning dog hair, and a berserk, shrieking offspring of sulfur and ammonia.  Still in diapers.

Does.  Not.  Compute.

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"Børk, Børk, Børk"

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You know how the right has been constantly complaining about Obama's ballooning deficit? They have of course been wrong about that since the day Obama inherited Bush's $1.5t annual deficit and immediately slashed it by getting rid of private crony contractors. There has been a steady decline in budget shortfall ever since, and the latest numbers have set new records. The deficit for the first half of this fiscal year starting last October 1st was $413b, and this was a decline of $187 billion compared to the same time last year. These numbers were provided by the Treasury Department, so the Right will claim the numbers are fixed. They can't prove that, because math is just voodoo as far as the Right is concerned.

Further more, the deficit for March was only $37 billion, down from $107 billion in March of last year. This particular number was the smallest deficit for the month of March since 2000, (when another Democrat was POTUS).

The deficit is expected to be slightly more than more than 4% of GDP this fiscal year, a drop from a high of almost 10% of the GDP in 2009 at the end of the Bush Adm. This trend shows the deficit falling faster than in any year since the end of World War II, dropping from $1.1 trillion in 2012 to $680 billion. Conservatives had predicted a runaway deficit by this time with interest alone exceeding all possible tax revenue, and of course had Obama been forced to follow Bush's policies this would have come to pass.

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Deep Blue Reservations

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A funny thing happened on the way to the reservoir...  Not.

In fact, a lot of unfunny things have been happening on the way to absolutely everywhere, not just to the water supply.  But we might as well start there, especially as someone else led the way -- someone whose cup runneth over, so to say.

The musical question here, for which there are no chairs available on which to sit or catch one's breath, once the music stops, is this:  How much does 38 million gallons of water cost?  Another question tends to come up right away:  Why would anyone want to know?  Other questions follow, flowing right along from these initial queries.

If we're talking about money, the cost of the water might also depend on where you price it -- if there's a drought going on, say, or if there's a raging fire nearby that needs a good dousing, and so on.  These are all good questions, all very excellent angles worthy of consideration.  As is so often the case in life, some questions simply have no satisfactory answers.  This is one of those times.

The reason for the question in the first place, the cost of 38 million gallons of water, is because that is how much drinking water a city is dumping, of deferential respect for subscribers, owing to contaminants in the water.

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All Aboard the Thought Train, Cosmic to Mundane

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It was a night like any other.  I simply wasn't expecting to lose sleep.  It just turned out that way.  See, I wasn't out for blood -- hadn't even thought about it until the Internet brought it up in our evening exchanges, smug as ever, buffing its know-it-all buffer on my server, simultaneously pouty and coquettish, impossible to ignore.

Sometimes, you take a chance and you hop a thought train, not knowing where you might end up, or how you might feel when it's all over.  I was restless.  I took a chance.  And now, having ridden that train of thought all up and down the line, I'm still not sure how I feel about it -- how it all worked out, I mean.

The thing is:  I might have used those hours for something else.  I know, I know -- it's not like I was going to give Einstein a run for the money last night.  It's not like I would have written Beethoven's Tenth or anything.  Regrets are just part of the bittersweet terrain, when the moon is full, its light so bright, and the night so clear you swear you can feel the frosty moonlight thinly ice the air.

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Cupid's Calling Cards, Kiss Kiss.

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First, there was unorganized barbarism for the species, down to the individual, very-personal level.  It was very hands-on.  It was very messy.  There was a lot of complaining about the workaday dry-cleaning bill for the yak furs, and some wisecracks from the laundry about the stains on the goatskin leisure suits as well.

Then, in a burst of ingenuity usually reserved for the plunder of goods and riches from others, humanity figured out a way to step back a bit from the mess of mayhem-making, if not the abyss of going with our worser instincts:  We watched volcanoes fling great chunks of rock onto hapless hunter-gatherers in our midst, and, inspirationally thunderstruck, we immediately started building catapults, trebuchets, and other means of decimating people at a distance, such as telemarketing calls.

Slings and arrows of outrageous fortune had nothing on the march of human cunning.  Before long, we were able to drop large portions of mountainous regions upon distant enemies and hostile foreigners, not to mention the people right under the cave window who were completely clueless as to how to work the howling alarm systems on their Flintstonemobiles at half-past two-stones-and-a-clam-shell in the morning.

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