And speaking of being as mad as hell, the ferocious onslaught against the prime cultural demons du jour, tobacco and smoking, is fast reaching fever pitch, but mostly quietly so that its impact will hardly be felt except by those of us devoted to the pleasures of tobacco and smoking (and don't even think of substituting the pejorative, incendiary code word "addicted" in place of "devoted"; tobacco is NOT addictive in the only meaningful sense of the term; i.e., physically addictive as is, for instance, heroin, never mind the mountain of tendentious and massaged "scientific" studies to the contrary). Ever since the early '90s, at long last empowered by the publication by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of a fraudulent, statistically "cooked" 1993 study that declared so-called "second-hand smoke" (Environmental Tobacco Smoke, or ETA) to be a public health hazard, the rabid anti-smoking zealots among lawmakers, local, state, and federal, have managed to do everything short of proposing a Constitutional amendment to prohibit smoking and the sale and use of tobacco products; something they would have done years ago had they not the gruesome example of the effects of the Eighteenth Amendment to dissuade them from embarking on such a rash and foolhardy enterprise. Yet they've managed to accomplish the very same ends by other, more surreptitious means, even to the extent of the passing of laws in some cities that prohibit apartment dwellers from smoking in their own homes. And what's the lawmakers' most powerful weapon? Draconian taxation. You need money? Tax tobacco and smokers — punitively. No one other than the tobacco interests and smokers — a decided if fairly large minority — will object. In fact, people will think you're doing good and a good thing. Why, not only are you helping to protect the public from lethal second-hand smoke, you're actually helping to save the lives of smokers themselves who are simply too stupid or too trapped by their addiction to realize the dangers they're exposing themselves to, never mind the public. And just how draconian are these punitive taxes? As recently as ten years ago, we were paying $10.00 per 150g tin of roll-your-own cigarette tobacco (real, no-additive, 100% tobacco leaf, not the junk, adulterated tobacco scraps found in commercial cigarettes); enough to roll the equivalent of a full carton of commercial, manufactured cigarettes which was then selling for something on the order of $50.00 per carton. Today, that same 150g tin costs upwards of $25.00, and in some localities, as high as $46.00, 100% of the price increase due taxes imposed on the product and the sale. Our custom, English-blend pipe tobacco sold ten years ago for $23.00 a pound. Today, the price is $65.00, again, 100% of the increase due taxes imposed on the product and the sale. And we smokers are helpless. There's absolutely nothing we can do to change any of this. Our best hope today is that a thriving illegal industry will emerge to significantly undersell the still legal market. Beyond that, all we can do is rant and rave in impotent rage against uninformed public opinion, public stupidity, and the rabid zealotry of the anti-smoking powers that be. Ergo, this rant. That is all. As you were.