Obama’s first mistake

In a post I wrote on election night, I said that “a part of me desperately wants to believe that Obama will be [a] breath of fresh air….[but] I remain profoundly afraid that he’s just not ready for the job.”   I didn’t vote for him, but I hoped that I was wrong about him not being ready, while fearing that I was right.  Today I got my first inkling that I might have been right.

In a front page story written by Joseph Williams and Bryan Bender which appeared in today’s Boston Globe, it was reported how President Obama is apparently ready to sign an executive order suspending trials at Guantanamo Bay, including the trials of the five suspected terrorists who allegedly masterminded the 9/11 attacks, as well as closing the facility altogether in a year’s time.  This is not surprising in itself; he said he would do that when he was running for office.

But here’s the sentence that froze the blood in my veins:  “Longtime advisers on the issue said Obama would probably establish a team to conduct a case-by-case review of the evidence against all 245 detainees remaining at the prison with the aim of sending as many as possible back home” (emphasis mine).

Sending “as many as possible back home”?  As in: let them go free?  Can someone please tell me why this would be a good idea?  The people held prisoner in Gitmo aren’t there because of overdue parking tickets, right?

Look, by all means review the cases as expeditiously as possible.  One can certainly argue that this should have been done already.  If you have evidence against them, try them.  If you don’t, release them.  That’s how our system of justice is supposed to work.  And admittedly, Gitmo has not always worked very well.

But it’s the “aim of sending as many as possible back home” part that’s really scaring me here.  My immediate problem with this is that the 245 are there because they are suspected al-Qaeda, Taliban or other foreign fighters who pose a threat to the United States.  This means it’s a safe bet that they hate America.  I think it’s also a safe bet that the years spent at Gitmo haven’t done much to change that.  So what do you suppose these guys are going to do upon their release?   Well, here’s a wild guess:  they’re probably going to engage in more terrorist activities.

Now I suppose it’s possible that the Globe reporters have somehow gotten it wrong.  There is also talk of relocating these prisoners to Kansas and or Pennsylvania.   This raises another thorny issue:  if we close Gitmo, where do we put them? It seems like nobody wants these guys.

All this really amounts to is a symbolic gesture from Obama (see, world? that bad man George Bush is gone!  It’s OK to like America again!)  Unfortunately, foreign policy isn’t about being liked, it’s about being respected, even feared.  People don’t attack you if they’re afraid of you.  If you have any doubt of that, ask yourself this: when was the last time Russia or China was attacked by terrorists (or anyone else, for that matter)?

I know this all sounds rather bellicose, but that’s just how it is.  Sure, the Bush administration cut corners and was ham fisted in some of its approaches, but stop to consider the difficulty of the job they had.  It would be nice if terrorists would all go around wearing Osama bin Laden t-shirts, but unfortunately, it just doesn’t work that way.  The terrorist’s stock in trade is secrecy.  Piercing that veil often takes extraordinary measures.  While you might not have liked the CIA’s tactics, you can’t argue with the results: there have been no terrorist attacks on American soil since 9/11.

This is usually the part where the hand wringers start whining about “torture”, which I always find ironic, given the amount of suffering the victims of the 9/11 attacks must have gone through before they died.  Come to think of it, what is the score on that account?  Let’s see, that would be: People Who Died on 9/11–2,985 vs. People Who Have Died at Gitmo: 0.

Yes, torture, in this case water boarding, isn’t very nice.  But last time I checked, neither is blowing up buildings and killing innocent people.  It amazes and disgusts me that some in this country have more sympathy for terrorists than for their victims.

In a nutshell:  if you have information about past or (more importantly) pending terrorist activities, I want our government to get that information out of you, by any means necessary.  Now since I’m basically a softie, I’m all in favor of giving you the chance to volunteer this information, well, voluntarily.  But if it turns out that the only reason you’re giving up this information is because it’s the only way you can think of to stop the pain, I’m fine with that.  Almost 3,000 people (maybe more) died on 9/11.  If subjecting you to some temporary discomfort will prevent that from happening again, then so be it.

Obama is off to a bad start with this one.  If he closes Guantanamo, he has made the world a more dangerous place for all of us.

-Smith

Get healthy, or else!

cheese-puffs

I read this rather disturbing article in the Associated Press today, in which it is reported that “Manchester is hoping to fight fat with a reward system that works like a retail loyalty card. But instead of earning credit for opening their wallets, residents will be rewarded for keeping their feet on the treadmill and their fridge stocked with healthy food.”

Now, on the surface, this might seem like a good idea. Heck, I could stand to lose a few myself, and who wouldn’t want to be rewarded simply for doing the right thing? But if you look a little under the surface, this becomes troubling.

First and foremost, I have a problem with the government sticking their nose into my personal life, no matter how benevolent the motive may seem. It’s a short but steep slope from “We’ll reward you for being healthy” to “Get healthy, or else!” Right now, they’re offering the carrot, but who’s to say that once we accept this latest incarnation of Nanny government that the carrot won’t be replaced with a big and expensive stick. For example, what’s to stop the government from offering two tax tables, one for people who meet its definition of “healthy”, and those who don’t. As an overweight man who loves to smoke, I know which table I’d be paying under.

“Ah Ha!”, you say. “Smith, you big fat smoker you, you’re a drain on the health care system! Look at me: I’m a non-smoking vegetarian who runs five miles a day! You and those like you should be like me!”

To which I say: that’s the price you pay to live in a FREE COUNTRY. (Remember that phrase?) You have to put up with my bad habits and I have to put up with yours. Chances are, you are not entirely vice free yourself. And even if you are, I have news for you: unless you get hit by a bus, you too will grow old and become a drain on the health care system. It happens to almost all of us. Your wonderful “healthy lifestyle” won’t save you in the end.

Those who believe in the Nanny government and who wish to control us realize that they cannot do so without uniting people against a common enemy. For Hitler, it was the Jews. For McCarthy it was the Communists. For Nanny government advocates, it is: Bad Health. These people feel they can enact all manner of government intrusion into people’s lives, as long as it is being done in the name of Good Health. Good Health has become our new Golden Idol.

And for some of you who were nonplussed at my recent post about the 2008 election, know this: this is exactly why I have never voted Democrat. It is why I remain profoundly concerned about the Obama presidency. This sort of thing is far, far more likely to occur in the United States under a Democratic government.

Says Timothy Armstrong, coordinator of the World Health Organization’s global strategy on diet, and quoted in the same article, “I haven’t seen any evidence that it works, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try it…as public health officials we really don’t have the luxury of waiting to see what works and what doesn’t. We really do know that, in terms of curbing the obesity epidemic, all of society needs to play a role”.

It takes a village, right Timothy? And naturally, this is being funded by (who else?) the taxpayers.

Just so no one gets the wrong idea here, let me state flat out that I realize that this program is benign and well meant. And yes, I realize it’s happening in England, but our two countries are so closely linked culturally that it’s no stretch to imagine it happening here. Just look at what the Boston Public Health Commission is trying to get away with. People are getting fatter (probably because they’ve stopped smoking). But I become deeply troubled when the government starts using its leverage to try to force me to live a certain way, because I realize how quickly and easily the can change from benevolent cajoling to a direct order. I believe that, deep down, the Nancy Pelosi’s of the world don’t really want to be agreed with, they want to be obeyed. Once people allow themselves to buy into the idea that Nanny government is taking care of them, anything is possible. “Get healthy, or else!”.

Now where did I put those Cheesey Puffs?

–Smith

“taking up a glowing cinder with the tongs and lighting with it the long cherry-wood pipe which was wont to replace his clay when he was in a disputatious rather than a meditative mood”–Dr. John H. Watson

Please visit my blog at murderofravens.org

Thanks a lot, George!

american-flag

I know this post isn’t going to be popular here, but it needs to be said. And before you mail me the letter bomb, try to bear in mind that I’m writing these words as a Conservative who is keenly and profoundly disappointed in the result of the 2008 elections.

I saw this coming two years ago. Don’t believe me? Then read this post I wrote almost exactly two years ago.

At the time, I honestly believed the Republicans would answer the wake up call. That they would learn a bitter lesson from the pasting they suffered in 2006. Obviously, I was wrong.

The farcical administration of George W. Bush has given the Democrats their most resounding victory in decades. In what can only be seen as an excoriating indictment not only of the Bush administration, but of the Republican party in general, America has elected an ultra-liberal Democrat with less than four years experience at the federal level. The Democrats have also achieved a stranglehold on both houses of Congress.

In the meantime, Sarah Palin can go back to honing her foreign policy skills by looking across the Bering Strait.

Republicans had their chance and blew it, big time. From January of 2001 until November of 2006, they controlled both houses, while also enjoying the luxury of a Republican president. They had the perfect opportunity to show the Democrats and Liberals alike how it was done. Instead, the Bush years will be remembered as a colossal failure, the arrogance of this administration exceeded only by its incompetence.

The Republican party is supposed to be the party of small(er) government, low taxes, and a thriving economy. The idea was that if you gave corporate America free rein, it would result in prosperity and a robust economy, which in turn would result in a better life for the Americans who worked for these companies. This is an idea I have supported since I’ve been old enough to vote. I believe in the capitalist ideal.

But what we got instead was corporate CEO’s earning 7 and 8 figure salaries while simultaneously cutting employee benefits or eliminating their jobs altogether. Under eight years of George W. Bush, corporate America was given free rein, but it seems as though the only ones who benefited were the CEO’s and the stockholders. And now, even the stockholders are sucking wind.

We got two wars which will not end any time soon, due in part to this administration’s insistence on waging them on the cheap. Now we have an economy in shambles. All George Bush’s fault? Of course not. But these things happened under his watch, and the American people have laid the blame at his doorstep, while showing the Republicans the door.

Americans finally had enough, and gave corporate America and its Republican enablers a collective “Up Yours!”.

While I honestly don’t think we will become a Socialist state, as many alarmists have already predicted, we are no doubt entering an era in which the government, at the explicit request of the American people, will now play a greater role in our lives, for better or for worse. Big Brother Obama wants to “spread the wealth”, which is a nice way of saying he’s going to stick his hand deeper into our pockets. Under an Obama administration, I can certainly see us moving more toward the European model of quasi-socialism, with higher taxes and (perhaps) greater social services. National health insurance may not be that far off. Whether or not that can be accomplished without further decimating the economy remains to be seen. I’m not necessarily saying I welcome this development, but it’s coming just the same. And Republicans have no one to blame but themselves.

But in any event, at least I can say I was a witness to history. And it must be noted that Obama was not only elected by black America, but by white America. Surely that, at least, is something that might give one hope for the future. And I remain ever grateful that I live in a country where, when the election is over, the two candidates practically fall all over themselves trying to say nice things about each other, and the two parties at least try to work together. In many countries, the losers get taken out behind a wall and shot. Most importantly, I am grateful that I live in a country where the will of the people–even when I don’t agree with it–really does count for something.

America needs a breath of fresh air. Now that his election is a fait accompli, a part of me desperately wants to believe that Obama will be that breath of fresh air. I didn’t vote for him, but I do want him to succeed. We simply can’t afford four more years of Presidential failure. But as I watched him deliver his acceptance speech, I was struck, as I have always been, by his youth, and I remain profoundly afraid that he’s just not ready for the job.

I hope I’m wrong. I say: God bless Barak Obama. He’s going to need all the help he can get.

-Smith

“taking up a glowing cinder with the tongs and lighting with it the long cherry-wood pipe which was wont to replace his clay when he was in a disputatious rather than a meditative mood”–Dr. John H. Watson

Please visit my blog at murderofravens.org

I think these will sell well……….

It occurs to me that my one man rant against the tobacco prohibitionists (and let’s be real here, that’s just what they are) may get me into hot water some day. People who speak up for freedom usually do end that way. And make no mistake: this isn’t just about my right to smoke a pipe or cigar. It’s about a group of fanatics who have hijacked a legitimate health concern and turned it into a way to expand Nanny Government. The anti-tobacco movement has become nothing more than a group of disingenuous fanatics whose real goal is nothing short of the total prohibition of tobacco. Their moral standing is now no higher than that of the cigarette companies. Anyone who doubts this should click here, here, and ESPECIALLY here.

So it’s only a matter of time until they come after me. I honestly believe that at some time a little old fashioned civil disobedience is going to be needed here. So when the time comes, I thought it might be helpful to have a few items to sell so I can raise money to make bail. Or rather, so that my friends can raise money for me, since I’ll be in jail.

So I thought a t-shirt would be a nice touch. Revolutionaries look cool on a t-shirt. So scroll down and let me know what you think of mine. I think it will be a collector’s item one day.

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Keep going!

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TAH DAH!

This is the future

The anti tobacco movement is reaching new heights of audacity in their desire to curb personal freedom and turn law abiding citizens into criminals. As this newspaper article from the future shows, I will not go quietly.

September 13, 2040

Residents of a quiet Boston neighborhood were stunned to learn of the arrest and imprisonment of Stephen Smith, an elderly neighbor, on charges of tobacco possession. Neighbors expressed shock and dismay at the news that this seemingly respectable senior citizen had, in fact, been a secret tobacco user for many years.

“He seemed like such a nice old man”, said one neighbor who did not wish to be identified. “We never suspected he was a tobacco user. We thought he just smoked marijuana like the rest of us. I’m totally outraged when I think that he was putting the entire neighborhood at risk from his second hand tobacco smoke. How could he be so irresponsible? Everyone knows second hand tobacco smoke kills on contact.”

Neighbors became suspicious when they noticed an odd smell eminating from his pipe one day. Apparently Smith had devised a clever scheme to hide his tobacco use, mixing judicious amounts of the illegal leaf with the high quality marijuana he was often seen smoking in his beloved briar pipes. According to sources, he had been stockpiling tobacco for several years prior to its outlawing in 2013, the same year marijuana was legalized by then president Nancy Pelosi as her first act in office.

“It was the Latakia that tipped us off”, said an unnamed police source. “Nothing smells that bad. He kept putting more and more of it in his marijuana.”

Police raided Smith’s home in the early morning, dragging the elderly man from his bed as he was still clutching his briar. As he was being stuffed into the back of the police cruiser, neighbors could hear him shouting, “You can have my tobacco when you can pry it from my cold, dead fingers!”

If convicted, Smith, given his advanced age, would probably be able to avoid a lengthy prison sentence by voluntarily enrolling in a tobacco re-education program and remaining tobacco free thereafter. He would also have to register with the police as a Level 3 tobacco user, and avoid all contact with children.

He would still, of course, be permitted to smoke as much pure marijuana as he likes.

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Please visit my blog at murderofravens.org

Democracy? We don’t need no stinkin’ democracy!

Greetings from Loony Massachusetts, the second goofiest state in the country!

This one has me really riled up! It may seem at first like a local issue, but it is already happening in other parts of the country. The implications here are ominous, not just for smokers, but for the very concept of representative democracy.

According to an article in the Boston Globe yesterday, “cigarette sales at Boston drugstores and on college campuses would be banned under sweeping new tobacco control rules likely to win initial approval today from health regulators.” Furthermore, after a five-year grace period, the city would close cigar bars, which are the only remaining public establishment where people can smoke indoors. It would seem that the Public Health Commission finds the sale of tobacco products to be “incompatible with the mission of a drugstore.”

They did not offer any rationale for the closing of the few remaining cigar bars in the city. But then, they didn’t really have to, did they?. The Public Health Commission doesn’t like smoking. THAT’S the rationale. The sad truth is, in this city, they don’t need any other.

What I find more disturbing about this than anything is that a handful of non-elected bureaucrats believe that it is up to them to decide what the “mission” of a private business should be. What is genuinely troubling here is that the Boston Public Health Commission is answerable to NO ONE except the Mayor. They do NOT answer to the City Council, and therefore, by extension, they are not answerable to the people. They have complete autonomy to pass whatever laws they wish irrespective of the wishes of the people. Of course, they call them “regulations” rather than laws, but what’s the difference, really? The head of the Commission is for all practical purposes a dictator when it comes to any matter that she perceives to be a matter of public health. And yet these non-elected bureaucrats, who make no effort at all to hide their anti-tobacco agenda, are in a position to dictate that a private business cannot sell tobacco, even though tobacco is a completely legal product that is, by the way, still enjoyed by millions of people.

Their pitch that selling tobacco is incompatible with the “mission” of drugstores is nothing more than a red herring. Drug stores nowadays are, for all intents and purposes, glorified convenience stores. You can buy many, many things at a drug store that have nothing to do with medicine. In fact, you can buy a lot of things there that are quite bad for your health, such as candy, junk food, and tonic (what the rest of the world outside Boston calls soda pop). So is the Public Health Commission proposing banning the sale of those things in drug stores and college campuses? No, of course not.

This alone demonstrates the utter hypocrisy of the Commission regarding this issue. This is NOT about improving public health. That goal was achieved several years ago when Boston, and in fact the entire Commonwealth of Massachusetts, passed laws making it illegal to smoke indoors, with only private homes and cigar bars as the exception. Massachusetts is 99.9% smoke free. The public is in no danger from second hand smoke (not that they ever were in the first place).

This brings me to my next point. What I find even more disturbing in this article is the Commission’s stated goal of closing cigar bars within five years. It is unthinkable that in a free society that non-elected officials can, on a whim, CLOSE DOWN NOT JUST A BUSINESS, BUT AN ENTIRE INDUSTRY THAT IS SELLING A LEGAL PRODUCT!!!!

Sorry, didn’t mean to shout there, but this one makes me truly angry! They claim to be concerned about the health of the employees, but this is ineffable rubbish. Employees who work in cigar bars are almost ALWAYS cigar smokers themselves who not only were aware that smoking was allowed in these places, but in fact sought employment there for that very reason! If the Public Health Commission is truly so concerned about the welfare of these employees, it should reconsider its decision to throw those employees out of work.

What this is about is no less than Prohibition through the back door. As things stand now, there is certainly no shortage of smoke free bars in Boston, for the simple reason that they’re ALL smoke free. So why can’t there be a few places where people who enjoy smoking (and there are many, many of us still out there) can do so? I can think of no rational reason to eliminate the city’s three or four remaining cigars bars except anti-smoking zealotry. A handful of anti-tobacco zealots, not satisfied with banning smoking in bars, restaurants, and workplaces throughout the city, want to stamp out smoking altogether–under the now disingenuous pretext of “public health”– by outlawing the last few places where people who like to smoke can do so in a welcoming environment, while not in any way inconveniencing non-smokers.

But the real danger in all of this is not the further harassment of smokers here in Boston, although that certainly is an issue here. What is happening here is nothing less than the erosion of representative government. As I stated before, the Public Health Commission does not answer to the City Council. What this means is that I can get on the phone and talk to my city councilor until I’m blue in the face, and even if he or she happens to agree with me, the councilor cannot do anything. This is not how representative democracy is supposed to work. When a handful of appointed bureaucrats can trump the power of the people’s elected representatives, then democracy begins to die a slow death.

This may not generate a lot of ire in the populace, simply because, once again, it’s only the smokers who are getting shafted, and no one really cares about what smokers want, right? But just remember, if a handful of non-elected bureaucrats can take away my rights today, they can take away your rights tomorrow.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, I’m off to smoke a cigar in the privacy of my own home. While I am still allowed to by the Public Health Commission, that is.

–Smith

“taking up a glowing cinder with the tongs and lighting with it the long cherry-wood pipe which was wont to replace his clay when he was in a disputatious rather than a meditative mood”–Dr. John H. Watson

Please visit my blog at murderofravens.org

Sorry, Sarah

I know this viewpoint will not be popular here, but then, one of the things that has made America such a great country is our freedom to disagree reasonably. It is in this spirit that I offer the following post.

I had something all written and ready to go about Sarah Palin. But I knew she would be speaking at the RNC last night, so I thought it only fair to hear what she had to say before pulling the trigger.

Speaker after speaker took the podium. Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, Linda Lingle, and Mike Huckabee all extolled her virtues. I began to wonder if anyone else was seeing the irony here: all four of these people are more qualified to hold the office of Vice President than the person they were praising.

Now don’t get me wrong, here. Sarah Palin gave a hell of a speech. I can see why people like her. Hers is a great American success story: Beauty Queen. Hockey/PTA mom. Mayor. Governor. VP candidate. Americans, and women in particular, have reason to feel proud of her and her accomplishments, even if one doesn’t agree with her politically.

What I particularly admire about her is how she didn’t simply choose to ride her good looks to wherever they might take her. She was determined to use her obviously considerable brain power, and entered the dirty, male dominated world of politics, and has been wildly successful. In my mind, she gets full kudos for that.

But strangely, the feeling I got deep in my gut as I listened to her is the exact same one I get whenever I hear Barak Obama speak, in spite of their obvious differences. In both cases, I am aware that I am listening to a person of exceptional intelligence, gifted oratory, and vast personal charisma. It is obvious that both Palin and Obama have bright political futures. I will even go out on a limb here and say that either one might make a fine president….some day. But not on this day. Today both are still a little too wet behind the ears for my liking.

I find the argument that she will attract disenchanted Hillary supporters puzzling. No two people could be farther apart politically than Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton. (Interestingly, they hold the same position on the death penalty–they are for it–but there’s not much overlap after that.) Unless voting for a female candidate is THAT important to someone, I can’t imagine a Hillary Clinton supporter voting for a pro-life, pro-NRA, pro-creationism candidate, regardless of her gender. In fact, if there are any former Hillary supporters out there who are considering voting for Palin, I would be genuinely interested in hearing from you.

Whenever I have objected to Palin’s lack of experience, it always seems as though someone’s immediate response is, “Well, what about Obama’s lack of experience?”. My answer to that, as I have stated above, is simply to point out that had I any intention of voting for Obama, that argument might have some relevance. But since I don’t, and for exactly the same reasons, that argument is a non starter, at least with me.

So it’s not that I don’t like Sarah Palin. I do, up to a point. I don’t agree with her on issues like sex education and teaching creationism in schools, but that’s a subject for another post. It’s not that I think she’s a bad choice, simply that there are better, more experienced ones.

Even if you support McCain (as I do) you have to ask yourself: if Sarah Palin had been running in the Republican primary, would you have even considered voting for her? Even for a second? The answer is surely no. Why not? Again, NOT because she’s a bad candidate, but because there were better ones available to vote for.

With this in mind, I would feel much more comfortable with someone like Joe Leiberman, Rudy Giuliani, or Linda Lingle as second in command. The phrase “a heartbeat away from the presidency” is a bit melodramatic in some cases. Neither Bill Clinton nor George W. Bush were likely to die in office. But John McCain is 72, and not a very healthy 72 at that. If he is elected, I have little doubt he will be re-elected. If he doesn’t live to 80, then Sarah Palin, with little executive experience and no experience at all at the federal level, will be the leader of the most powerful nation on earth at a time when we need the most experienced leaders possible at the helm.

McCain’s experience vs. Obama’s lack of it is what McCain had going for him. With another, equally experienced running mate, he might have buried Obama with this issue. But not now. While from a political point of view the move has merit. Bearing in mind that the one thing we all have in common is a desire to see McCain elected, I think we all should be concerned that his choice could leave his ticket vulnerable to the very criticism that has been quite rightly aimed at Obama.

Is this really what American politics has come to? Barack Obama names as his running mate a man who is the very embodiment of the old boy Washington scene he claims to deplore. Can there be any doubt that Biden’s skin color played a role in the decision? Boston Herald columnist Howie Carr labeled Biden “the first white male affirmative action hire in history”. Can their be any doubt that Palin’s gender played a major role in McCain’s decision?

I’m still voting for McCain, but I’ll be praying nightly he lives another eight years.

–Smith

“taking up a glowing cinder with the tongs and lighting with it the long cherry-wood pipe which was wont to replace his clay when he was in a disputatious rather than a meditative mood”–Dr. John H. Watson

Please visit my blog at murderofravens.org

Yet Another Rant

More things that puzzle, perplex, and just plain piss me off.

In yet another sad and infuriating case of political correctness trumping over literacy, Dallas County Commissioner Kenneth Mayfield was ordered by a judge to apologize for calling the central collections office that is used to process traffic ticket payments a “black hole”. It seems the judge doesn’t realize “black hole” is a scientific term for a well documented natural phenomenon. My question is: how did this moron ever get to be a judge?

As if I needed another reason not to vote for Barrack Obama, there’s this little beauty: “I don’t understand when people say ‘We want English only’. Instead of worrying about whether immigrants can learn English–they’ll learn English–you need to make sure your child can speak Spanish!” I have some news for the good Senator. First of all, most public school curricula require taking at least a few years of a foreign language. If you go to any government buildings, and most shopping malls, all the signs are printed in English and Spanish anyway. But more importantly, last time I checked, this is an English speaking nation. English is our lingua franca. Anyone who doesn’t understand that a language is an important part of a country’s national identity simply isn’t qualified to be the leader of that country.

On a similar note, here in loony Massachusetts, the MIRA (Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy) recently was on Beacon Hill, advocating full “civil and human rights of all illegal immigrants”, according to a column Michael Graham wrote in the Jewish World Review. Evidently these people either have poor grasp of the English language, or the law, or both. Let me help by giving the definition of illegal: “forbidden by law or statute.” Hard to understand? Too ambiguous? I don’t think so. Furthermore, here in Massachusetts, illegal immigrants can recieve free medical care, access to our public schools, subsidized housing, and, by the way, jobs that pay a lot more than they’d earn back home. More than one Massachusetts town, Cambridge to name just one, has declared itself a “safe haven” for illegal immigrants, vowing to not cooperate with federal authorities. Do you know what this is called in most countries? Treason. And what’s truly bizarre about this is that if I light up my cigar in a Cambridge restaurant, I become a criminal, and rest assured, that law is vigorously enforced. I guess some criminals are better than others.

In two separate article today, I read how the Catholic church is threatening to excommunicate a splinter group that has ordained three women priests. Also, the Anglican church has forbidden an openly gay bishop from attending the Lambert conference. Now, certainly people can disagree as to the various merits of each position, but it seems to me that, in an age when these churches are losing members in droves (at least in this country) things like this demonstrate that organized religion seems more committed to its own destruction than all the Richard Dawkins and PZ Myers in the world combined.

Speaking of religious lunacy, in another dismaying example of Europe allowing itself to be bullied by religious fanatics, Great Britain’s Lord Chief Justice, Lord Phillips, said he was willing to see Sharia law operate in the country, so long as it did not conflict with the laws of England and Wales, or lead to the imposition of severe physical punishments. My question is: how are they going to do this? Sharia law is particularly harsh, including such punishments as flogging, stoning, the cutting off of hands or death. This is a steep, slippery slope that the UK finds itself on. If Muslims are allowed to be a law unto themselves, why not Jews, Christians, and Buddhists? All these groups have their own religious laws. But I have this quaint belief that those laws should be subordinate to the laws of the nation. To have it any other way is to invite sure and certain chaos. Now I realize that Great Britain has never codified separation of church and state in the way the United States has, but isn’t this going a little too far?

Proving yet again that brainpower is not exactly a hallmark of the dysfunctional Spears family, 17 year old Jamie Lynn Spears tells “OK!” magazine that being an unwed teenage mother is “the best feeling in the world”. Nice going, Jamie. That’s JUST the message teenage girls need to hear. I’m sure those girls in Gloucester who all got pregnant, allegedly as the result of a pact, will be thrilled to hear you’re having “so much fun.” Naturally, feminists and leftists breathlessly huff about the need for more sex education and teen accessible birth control, and perhaps they have a point (teenagers are having sex, whether we like it or not) but in addition to those things, how about instilling in teenagers more discipline, and a stronger sense of (gasp!) responsibility?

Sure, she may have the money to live in a fantasy world, but most teenage girls don’t, and their lives are irretrievably ruined when they get pregnant. They don’t realize the high cost of getting themselves out of the trouble that emulating your–and your sister’s–behavior will land them in. Babies cost money. So does detox. So does a divorce. If Jamie Lynn Spears wants to throw away her teenage years and have a baby, that’s her business. I just wish she’d keep her big mouth shut about it.

Speaking of which, you all have no doubt heard about Alex Rodriguez’s dalliance with Massachusetts hair dresser and former stripper Candice Houlihan. Now I’m not a prude. I realize people cheat on their spouses all the time. But what I find disturbing is Houlihan’s callous way of completely disassociating herself from any responsibility for her actions. “I know how it feels to be cheated on, it sucks,” she grouses. “But a couple of drinks later, I didn’t notice all that much.” Of course, it was the bartender’s fault! Now she’s all bent out of shape at the negative publicity she’s getting. “He’s the one who had the pregnant wife at home”, she huffed to the Boston Herald. You’re right, honey, A-Rod is an asshole, too. But you’re just as guilty here. You’re the one who screwed a married guy, remember? And you’re the one who went public about it. So shut your mouth and enjoy your fifteen minutes of fame. It’s sure to be the last you’ll ever have.

And so the insanity just keeps piling higher and higher. Until next time….

–Smith

“taking up a glowing cinder with the tongs and lighting with it the long cherry-wood pipe which was wont to replace his clay when he was in a disputatious rather than a meditative mood”–Dr. John H. Watson

Please visit my blog at murderofravens.org

The shakedown begins today

Normally, I don’t like to let other people speak for me, but today I read this column by Howie Carr of the Boston Herald, and it’s as if he had read my mind. This is one of those rare times when I can honestly say that I absolutely, positively agree with everything he says here.

But before I hand it off to Howie, I want to make a few points of my own. First, I am not trying to defend cigarettes. Anyone who hasn’t lived under a rock for the last forty years knows that cigarettes are bad for you. But it’s unfair and just plain wrong to keep picking the pockets of smokers simply because they have become a politically impotent minority. Funny how you never see anyone suggest an increase in the tax on booze.

It simply amazes me how proponents of this tax manage to say–with a straight face–that this increase will simultaneously decrease smoking and increase revenue. Those who think they can tax tobacco out of existence are sadly deluded on two counts. First, there are three things that humans have always done: drink, smoke, and gamble. They have always been willing to spend money to do these things, and they have always been willing to break the law to do these things. Laws prohibiting these things have never actually stopped them, merely driven them underground and into the hands of criminals.

Secondly, they are truly deluded if they think the government really wants to eliminate smoking. Tobacco taxes are an integral part of any state’s budget. Without tobacco taxes, there would be a serious shortfall that would have to be made up with–guess what?–more taxes.

But there is such a thing as killing the proverbial goose that lays the golden egg. You can push people too far, and, judging from conversations I’ve had with people, we in Taxachusetts may very well be at that point. Governor Tailpipe tells us that it will raise $1.74 million in new tax revenue. Yeah, for New Hampshire. Live Free or Die? Well, New Hampshire may not be free, but they’re a hell of a lot cheaper than Massachusetts.

Howie mentions that the vote was 93-52, with 33 Democrats joining the 19 lonely Republicans in our state House. Had there been a Republican governor in the Corner Office instead of Governor Tailpipe, a veto could have been sustained.

Where have you gone, William Weld? Our Commonwealth turns it’s lonely eyes to you.

-Smith

“taking up a glowing cinder with the tongs and lighting with it the long cherry-wood pipe which was wont to replace his clay when he was in a disputatious rather than a meditative mood”–Dr. John H. Watson

Please visit my blog at murderofravens.org

Greetings from loony Massachusetts!

One of the great things about living in Massachusetts is that it is impossible for me to pick up a newspaper and not find something that winds me up so much I want to blog about it. Unfortunately, I don’t always find the time to do so. So much insanity, so little time. And so, tonight I’m just going to wind up and let it fly. Here are a few things that are pissing me off right now:

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick: Don’t blame me, I voted for Kerry Healy. Unfortunately, the majority of people in this notoriously liberal state were sucked in by this fast talkin’ salesman. Where do I begin with this guy?

For starters, Governor Tailpipe is once again pushing legislation that would grant illegal immigrants the right to attend state colleges here at the substantially reduced, in-state tuition rate. He calls it a matter of “simple justice”. He really doesn’t seem to understand that the citizens of a state with one of the highest tax burdens in the country simply don’t want their tax dollars to provide free or reduced college tuition to someone who shouldn’t even be here in the first place. Of course, this should come as no surprise from a governor who also favors giving illegal immigrants drivers’ licenses.

With the exception of the Indigenous American Tribes (and even their ancestors originally came from Asia), everyone living in the United States is either an immigrant, or the descendant of immigrants. I am the descendant of immigrants. The difference is my ancestors did it legally. They got jobs, learned the English language, and became citizens. So the operative word here is not “immigrant”. The operative word is “illegal”. An illegal immigrant is, by definition, breaking the law. When you’re breaking the law you have few rights; at best you have privileges. You certainly don’t have the right to make demands.

Truth be told, I consider myself a moderate on this issue. I really don’t blame anyone for wanting to live here instead of a shit hole like Mexico. I’m all in favor of devising a system that can help foreigners become citizens, and thereby encourage others to do it the right way as well. But all that said, I don’t believe in rewarding people for breaking the law. Apparently Governor Tailpipe does.

Moving right long, the Governor is just giddy at the prospect of signing a bill that would increase the tax on a pack of cigarettes to $2.51 per pack, making Massachusetts number two in the nation in this regard, behind only New Jersey. Cigarette taxes are like crack to the politicians on Beacon Hill. The eternal problem for politicians is how to raise taxes without getting themselves booted out of office. Raising taxes makes the voters mad, and voters can send them back to the Dreaded Private Sector quite easily if they get mad enough. Enter the tobacco tax. For your typical rapacious politician, it’s like a gift from God: they get to stick their grubby hands even deeper into someone’s pocket and still look like heroes to the soccer moms, since it’s usually not the soccer moms’ pocket that’s being picked. Really, it’s almost too good to be true if you’re a politician.

There’s only one problem with this gutless, cynical bullshit: it doesn’t work. Politicians breathlessly tell us “It’s for the children”. But the money doesn’t go towards education, at least not in Massachusetts. It just goes into the general fund to balance the budget. But it sure makes the soccer moms happy to believe that “it’s for the children”.

They tell us that the goal is to raise revenue, and to encourage people to quit smoking. Sadly, the liberal lemmings in this state actually buy this argument. What seems to elude them is the simple fact you can’t raise revenue AND reduce smoking. It’s one or the other. You can’t have both.

And in fact, it’s probably going to be neither. People aren’t going to quit, nor will the state raise the revenue it’s hoping to, since people are just going to buy cigarettes in New Hampshire or over the Internet. God forbid they should raise the tax on booze a few cents, but they won’t: that would actually take some guts.

The sheer hypocrisy of all this lies in the fact that a few months ago, Governor Tailpipe, Senate President Therese Murray, and House Speaker Sal DiMasi held a joint press conference to announce that there would be no new broad based taxes in Massachusetts this year. Of course, they were careful to mention that the cigarette tax is not broad based. Apparently they’re not aware that in this country there are still over 150 millions smokers. Sounds pretty broad based to me.

Further bear in mind that most (although by no means all) cigarette smokers come from the lower end of the economic spectrum. I find it supremely ironic that while the Democratic Party in this state loves to trumpet itself as the liberal, compassionate hero of the poor and working class, compassion for the poor evidently goes out the window when they smell a fast buck.

Next, we come to James Fagan, the Democratic State Rep. from Taunton. Having evidently decided that lawyers and politicians aren’t despised enough, Rep. Fagan apparently decided to fix all that. In a bizarre speech delivered from the State House floor, Fagan argued against a mandatory 20 year sentence for the rape of a child under twelve. I’m not even going to try to paraphrase what this nitwit said. Click here and listen for yourself.

Now, in fairness to Rep. Fagan, the video that is circulating around the internet does rather conveniently cut in at just the right point to make him look as bad as possible. What the clip doesn’t show is Fagan setting up his remarks by stating that he is talking about a hypothetical defense attorney, not necessarily himself (although I rather suspect that Fagan, a defense attorney, would not shrink from those tactics).

But even if we allow for that, he still showed remarkably poor judgment in the way he presented his argument. Beyond that, there are still some rather disturbing issues here. First and foremost, Rep. Fagan feels that a twenty year sentence for raping a child under 12 is “draconian”. All sarcasm aside for a moment, when I first read this story, my first reaction was, “only 20 years for child rape? That’s pretty lenient.” Now perhaps this was just Fagan’s defense attorney instincts kicking in, but that leads me to the inescapable conclusion that Fagan is really just another lawyer/legislator, bending the rules to suit his trade simply because he can.

As tempting as it is to think otherwise, even a child molester in entitled to a fair trial. More importantly, the rights of those falsely accused must be protected. But the other issue is, what do we do with an eight year old victim/witness? Should she even be on the stand at all? While there is certainly room for debate here, I think most people would agree that a child who has already been violently traumatized once should be spared the further trauma of what would await her if her attacker ever had James Fagan for a defense attorney. This was, in fact Fagan’s point. But the fear of further traumatizing a child is a compelling argument for changing the way that child would give evidence, not for giving a child molester a cushy plea bargain to avoid a trial

Ironically, Fagan was the solon who proposed legislation to lower the blood alcohol limit from .08 to .02, which could put drivers who have even one beer or glass of wine during dinner over the limit. Luckily, this bit of nonsense never made it off the ground. I guess in the world of James Fagan, having a beer after work is off limits, but throwing a child rapist in jail for twenty years? Draconian!

Well, that’s all for now, but rest assured, in Massachusetts, there’s always more where this came from.

-Smith

“taking up a glowing cinder with the tongs and lighting with it the long cherry-wood pipe which was wont to replace his clay when he was in a disputatious rather than a meditative mood”–Dr. John H. Watson

Please visit my blog at murderofravens.org

Some Wore Green, a poem

Today May 26th, is Memorial Day. This poem is dedicated to all those who have served in time of war, and to their families who have suffered the pain of their loss.

Two by two and four by four
The brave young men all marched to war
Some wore green and some wore blue
And each one had a job to do.
She could merely stand and wave.
She told herself she must be brave,
That surely he’d return to her
And married they would be for sure.

Her true love brave in battle died.
With his last breath her name he cried.
Buried under foreign sand,
No more to see his native land.
She swore that with her dying breath,
If not in life, then fast in death
She would be joined forever more
To her true love who died in war.

She journey’d half a world away
To find the place her love did lay
With spirit steeled and visage grim
For that was all she’d left of him.
This thought alone consumed her mind
And yet his grave she could not find.
Until one day, so near despair
She met a man with long gray hair.
Bent and lame, a soldier old
Whose eyes still glittered, blue and bold.

“No more to weep, no more to cry
I know the place your love does lie.
I say to you by heaven above:
None fought so brave as your true love.
He was gallant, loyal, brave and true;
With his last breath he cried for you.
Just beyond that rocky hill
Lies your love buried, cold and still.”

She slowly climbed the hard terrain
Beyond which her true love was lain.
And when she finally reached the top
She felt her quickened heartbeat stop.
For there as far as she could see
Were gravestones to infinity.
All bore these words upon a plate:
“This one was sacrificed to hate.”

Past countless headstones carved the same
She ran and wept and called his name.
Long she searched, and long she tried,
Not finding him whose name she cried.
Too many deaths, too many tombs,
Too many crypts that held the doomed.
Forever more she’ll search the graves
To find the love she couldn’t save.
But silent stones forevermore
Will keep her love who went to war.

Stephen P. Smith

Please visit my blog at murderofravens.org

sometimes, you just want a cigar

One of the advantages of working at a smokeshop is that I get to smoke on the job.

I love smoking, I love tobacco, and I personally don’t give a rat’s ass who knows it. Personally I’m getting a little fed up with being vilified by society for indulging in one of life’s great pleasures, a pleasure, I would add, that is, at least for the moment, still completely legal.

A few random thoughts on smoking here:

Many people (non-smokers, naturally) paint the pipe, cigars, and cigarettes with the same black brush. This is utter rubbish. Comparing cigars to cigarettes is like comparing McEwan’s Scotch Ale or Sam Smith’s Taddy Porter or Old Peculiar Yorkshire Ale to Bud Light.

One drinks a good stout or ale for the flavor. The idea is to taste and enjoy the subtleties and complexities of the brew. The alcohol content, while significant, is of secondary import. But let’s be honest here: no one drinks Bud Light because it tastes good. The only reason to drink this misbegotten beverage is because you want to get drunk and it does the job, quickly and efficiently.

By the same token, no one smokes cigarettes because they taste good. The only reason to smoke a cigarette is to get that six-second-lung-to-brain nicotine hit that a cigarette provides. And just as one might drink Old Peculiar or Sam Smith’s because one appreciates the exquisite flavor of these brews, so one smokes a fine cigar (or pipe tobacco, for that matter) for the flavor. The idea is to taste the tobacco, as the leaves from various subtropical countries combine to form a complex panoply of flavors which intrigue and delight the palate.

I find it astounding that the anti-smoking zealots claim to be doing this “for the children”. Ah, yes, it’s always for the children, isn’t it? Has anyone bothered to take a gander at what the “children” are getting up to these days? Teenagers are binge drinking (usually Bud Light, not Old Peculiar), driving cars after binge drinking, using hard core drugs like cocaine and heroin, indulging in unprotected sex, and posting naked pictures of themselves on the internet. I guess this is okay, because-thank God-THEY’RE SMOKE FREE KIDS!!!! Where the hell are all the public service announcements aimed at discouraging this sort of behavior that can irretrievably alter-or end-their lives in an instant?

Actually, this isn’t even true. The smokeshop where I work is within walking distance of several colleges. Out of curiosity, I recently asked one of them why he had started smoking. I pointed out to him that he was too young to have ever seen a cigarette add on TV. In fact, the only information concerning cigarettes available to him from the electronic media (which is where teens get 99% of their information) was all NEGATIVE. Since this kid was old enough to understand the English language, he has been bombarded with nothing but adds telling him not smoke. So why does he? His answer was simple and to the point: “Everyone was telling me not to do it, so that just made me more determined to try it.” Ah, from the mouths of babes….

Here in Massachusetts, our feckless governor, Deval Patrick, recently held a press conference to announce that there would be no broad-based taxes. The people of Massachusetts, he said, were already paying enough, between soaring gas prices and an already hefty tax burden (they don’t call it “Taxachusetts for nothing, kids.) Okay, I thought to myself, I can get behind this. For once I thought I found myself agreeing with a Liberal, until I got to the last paragraph of the newspaper story. There it was revealed that Patrick intends to raise the cigarette tax by a dollar a pack. Evidently the cigarette tax does not fall into the category of “broad based tax”.

The truth, of course, is that tobacco taxes are the favorite method of politicians who are too cowardly to implement an increase in the gas tax, or alcohol tax, or any sort of tax that might actually get them booted out of office by an incensed and already overburdened electorate. Tobacco taxes are safe because they only affect a now politically impotent minority, and besides, it’s “for the children.” I find it supremely ironic that Liberal Democrats, who are supposed to be the party of compassion and the common man have no problem resorting to this most regressive of taxes when it suits their purposes.

Unlike cigarettes, cigars are not physically addictive. You don’t “Jones” for a cigar the way you do for a cigarette. This is because you don’t inhale cigars. As mentioned before, the idea is to taste the tobacco, and to this end one simply “sips” the tobacco into the mouth, lets it linger there for a moment or two, and then exhales it. While a small amount of nicotine does enter the bloodstream through the lining of the mouth, it is not in sufficient quantities to create a physical addiction. Rather, it is a gradual and relaxing process, which is why smoking a pipe or cigar is such an effective way to relax.

Which, now that I think about it, is what I need to do right now.

-Smith

“taking up a glowing cinder with the tongs and lighting with it the long cherry-wood pipe which was wont to replace his clay when he was in a disputatious rather than a meditative mood”–Dr. John H. Watson

Please visit my blog at murderofravens.org

tastleless, but funny

Sorry, folks, coudn’t resist posting this.

-Smith

The Lynching of David Seanor

Has it really come to this? Have the forces of political correctness so taken over that we can’t even discuss the topic of race in this country without being labeled racist?

You may have heard of the controversy created when Golf Channel anchor Kelly Tilghman, in a moment of breathtaking stupidity, said that the only way to beat Tiger Woods would be to “lynch him in a back alley”, a comment which practically had co-host Nick Faldo scrambling for a crowbar to help her get her foot out of her mouth.

Nice going, Kelly. Given the number of black men who really have been lynched in back alleys, the remark was profoundly stupid, insensitive, and unfunny.

Not surprisingly, this caused a major uproar. Al Sharpton, the man who has never met a television camera he didn’t like, predictably called for her firing. Interestingly, Tiger Woods himself, acting with characteristic maturity, downplayed the whole incident, and accepted Tilghman’s apology. Tilghman was suspended for two weeks.

Enter Golfweek Magazine. Again not surprisingly, they ran an article on the whole sorry affair, and the cover of that issue (pictured above) featured a startling image of a noose.

This caused even more of an outcry than the story it was covering. Faced with (what else?) the threat of advertisers walking out the door, Golfweek fired editor David Seanor.

Am I the only one who sees a certain irony in all of this? Kelly Tilghman makes a stupid, racially insensitive remark, and gets off with a slap on the wrist. David Seanor attempts to examine not only this incident but also the larger issue of race as it relates to this overwhelmingly white sport, and he loses his job.

Seanor explained to the Associated Press, “Most people who are objecting to it—within the golf industry—are saying this episode was just about over,” Seanor said. “I think it’s indicative of how, when you bring race and golf into the same sentence, everyone recoils…I wish we could have come up with something that made the same statement but didn’t create as much negative reaction…but as this has unfolded, I’m glad there’s dialogue. Let’s talk about this, and the lack of diversity in golf.”

Now before you start sending me the hate mail, let me make something perfectly clear. Blacks have gotten screwed in this country for hundreds of years. The way blacks have been treated in this country is an evil blot on our history. Whites, at least some of them, have much to answer for.

But what is so very troubling about this is how when the subject of race rears its ugly head, rationality seems to be the first victim. Seanor’s heart was, from all accounts, in the right place. Golf is just about the most lily white sport there is–to this day there are country clubs which don‘t allow blacks–and this incident provided an admirable place to examine this issue. What we have here is a classic case of shooting the messenger.

Was David Seanor being provocative? Sure he was, but last time I checked, that’s what editors are supposed to be. Even if he did cross the line, what was warranted, at most, was an apology, and frankly, I don’t think he has anything to apologize for. As editor, his job is to intrigue the reader, make you want to read the article, and hopefully, make you think.

This has not happened here. Indeed, people seem to have stopped thinking. Sadly, it seems as though everyone is too busy focusing on the cover to actually read the article. Had they done so, they would have read a thoughtful exposition of not only the controversy in question, but of the issue of race in golf in general.

But even more troubling is how the notion of freedom of speech is being subverted by political correctness, which is in reality nothing less odious than censorship masquerading as benevolence. If the concept of freedom speech is to have any validity, then it must apply to everyone, not just to those who are saying what you want to hear. Not everything that is said is going to be intelligent, or kind. But the price you pay for being able to say or write what you want, is that you have to put up with everyone else saying and writing what they want.

As I read this story, all I could think of was the stories of David Howard, a Washington, D. C. mayoral staffer, and Stephanie Bell, a fourth grade teacher from Wilmington, NC, who both got themselves into hot water for using the word “niggardly“, a word which has absolutely no racial connotations except to the uneducated and hyper-politically correct. David Howard lost his job. Stephanie Bell was ordered to write a written apology and attend sensitivity training! This is what happens when political correctness replaces factual discourse.

As a strange little sequel to all this, I read in the paper yesterday that, when asked if Bill Clinton was the “first black president”, Barak Obama stated that he would have to “investigate [Clinton's] dancing ability” before he could “accurately judge whether [Clinton] was in fact a brother”. So, like any good American, I checked out the video.

The audience laughed. Hillary laughed. I laughed. John Edwards looked extremely uncomfortable, as well he should have. He knows damn well that if he had been that “witty” he’d be out of the race by now. You can check out the video here.

What is happening in this country is that this most cherished of our freedoms is being eroded by the twin forces of political correctness and advertising dollars. What Kelly Tilghman said was stupid, but she did not deserve to lose her job. In fact, it seems as though the Golf Channel wasn’t going to punish her at all until it was pressured by advertisers, resulting in her two week suspension.

Is it fair that David Seanor, whose only crime was a desire to report the incident and create dialogue, should suffer a worse fate than Kelly Tilghman? I think not. It bodes ill for us all if we cannot even discuss the issue of race in this country without being labeled racist.

-Smith

of cigars and turkeys

Thanksgiving has, in recent years, become a controversial holiday in some quarters. While most Americans are content to simply gorge themselves on the barnyard animal of their choice, some people choose to focus on some of the more unpleasant historical events surrounding this holiday.

I’m not one of them.

While it is true that I am not shy about ocaisionally courting controversy, on this subject I prefer to keep my world view as uncluttered as possible. To put it simply, I love Thanksgiving.

I love having a paid day off to spend with my family. I love going to my mother’s house to gorge myself on turkey (dark meat only, by the way, ’cause it’s the best), stuffing, mashed potatoes, and gravy. If you’re wondering why there’s no mention of vegetables, it’s because I don’t eat them. A slice or two of cherry pie, and some hot black coffee goes down nicely by way of dessert.

And finally, the best part: a cigar with my Dad, along with a wee tipple o’ the Irish (Bushmill’s Black Bush, for those of you who care about such things).

And I have much to be thankful for: family and friends who care about me and put up with me even when I’m being insufferable. I’m thankful that I live in a country where I have the right to openly criticize my government without fear of reprisal, and where I have the luxury of doing something as ridiculously self-indulgent as expressing my views on a blog, at a time when there are many living in parts of the world that are so dangerous that the citizens can’t even take it for granted that they will still be alive at the end of the day.

For all of things and many more, I am truly thankful. My warmest Thanksgiving wishes to all!

-Smith

“taking up a glowing cinder with the tongs and lighting with it the long cherry-wood pipe which was wont to replace his clay when he was in a disputatious rather than a meditative mood”–Dr. John H. Watson

Please visit my blog at murderofravens.wordpress.com

still smoking, and proud of it

I love smoking. There, I said it. It takes a certain amount of testicular fortitude to say this nowadays, but it’s just so liberating to say it out loud! I think I’ll say it again: I adore smoking!

To me, smoking a pipe or a cigar is one of life’s great pleasures, akin to a fine whiskey or wine, or a nice cup of coffee or tea. My fascination with the pipe goes back to my childhood, when “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” and “The Lord of the Rings” were among my favorite reading.

Whenever I fill my pipe–perhaps a Sasieni made back in the 1920’s out of briar that was 100 years old back then–with a fine matured Virginia, sit back, light up, see the ember glowing in the bowl, and taste the exquisite flavor, my mind and soul find peace. There really is nothing to compare to the taste of the Virginia, the feel of the warm briar in my hand, and the visual beauty of the finely grained wood. They all combine into one of the most satisfying sensory experiences known to man.

And yet, because I indulge in this pleasurable and completely legal activity, I am basically one step above a child molester in the eyes of the politically correct. In fact, I’m not sure that the child molesters are not held in higher esteem in those quarters.

The ridiculous extremes that the anti-smoking movement has come to is best illustrated by the case of Scott Rodrigues, an employee of the Scots company who was fired, not for smoking on company time, but simply for being a smoker. This sad story can be read here.

Of course, this should come as no surprise, as the Scotts company is run by a martinet named Jim Hagedorn. Scotts employees are urged to take exhaustive health-risk assessments. Those who refuse pay $40 a month more in premiums for their group health insurance.

Using data-mining software, company analysts scour the physical, mental, and family health histories of nearly every employee and cross-reference that information with insurance-claims data. Health coaches identify which employees are at moderate to high risk. All of them are assigned a health coach who draws up an action plan. Those who don’t comply get whacked for another $67 a month.

This is an unconscionable invasion of privacy.

Some argue that smoking drives up health care costs, and that is no doubt true. So do a lot of things. But the only ones who get fired are the smokers. Not the drinkers, not the overweight, not the reckless drivers. Just the smokers. If one is going to argue that health care costs should be the sole yardstick for social policy, then one could logically argue in favor of prohibiting any woman over the age of 40 from conceiving a child, since beyond that age the chances of having a high risk (and therefore, very costly) pregnancy increase exponentially. Clearly, no one is advocating such an odious policy, at least not yet. 28 States have passed laws prohibiting the firing of smokers just for being smokers, but sadly Massachusetts is not one of them.

So I was pleasantly surprised to find this article in the normally liberal Boston Globe. Of course the author, Alex Beam, has a history of being a little out of step with his liberal employers, which is, of course, why I like him. I’m just amazed he’s managed to keep his job this long.

I was so impressed with this article that I have added a link to Dr. Siegal’s blog over on my blog. I encourage everyone to read how one brave physician is putting his career on the line by standing up to the politically correct anti-smoking radicals.

Now, without further ado, I am going to shut off this blasted computer, fill my Sasieni Four Dot (that’s a pipe, for the uninitiated) with Peretti’s Park Square (a nice Virginia/Perique blend), fill a glass with Old Bushmill’s, and continue reading my Conan Doyle.

–Smith

“taking up a glowing cinder with the tongs and lighting with it the long cherry-wood pipe which was wont to replace his clay when he was in a disputatious rather than a meditative mood”–Dr. John H. Watson

Please visit my blog at murderofravens.wordpress.com

Immolatus est, a poem

I wrote this poem and posted it on my own blog when my son was deployed to Iraq. He’s home safe now, but there are still thousands of American soldiers over there, fighting and toiling so the Iraqi people may someday know what freedom is. This poem is dedicated to them.

Your room is as you left it.
The football jerseys of your heroes,
hang in your closet mutely awaiting your return,
forming a tapestry of red, white, and blue.
As the hour moves to vespers,
the dying light stains the glass,
the room glows red and gold.

In a land where the cross is kept always well hidden
you march the sand, while ever silently behind
Mohammed walks arm in arm with the black robed reaper,
carrying your blood in a grail of iron they balance between them,
waiting to cross your path and claim you for their own
as they spill your blood upon the sand.

The dying light illuminates the rosary and Bible you left behind,
not permitted in the land of Mohammed,
the land of wailing sand and wailing prayers
where you have gone to fight for someone else’s cause.
For it has always been and ever shall be
the bodies and blood of the Young that are sacrificed
to the hatred of the Old.

–Stephen P. Smith

Just wondering

I don’t know if you’ve ever seen this one, but I thought it was cute.

Wouldn’t you think that after a while they would get sick and tired of blowing themselves up for a hopeless cause? Just wondering here.

–Smith

“taking up a glowing cinder with the tongs and lighting with it the long cherry-wood pipe which was wont to replace his clay when he was in a disputatious rather than a meditative mood”

Please visit my blog at murderofravens.wordpress.com

“I am Iraqi”

Last Sunday, the Iraqi national soccer team defeated–astounded is more like it–Saudi Arabia by a score of 1-0, giving the people of this war torn country something it doesn’t get very often: something to smile about.

But this is more than just a victory in a sporting event. It’s a victory for all those, especially the people who have to live there, who decry the sectarianism which is rending this country apart. Midfielder Nashaat Akram said “This is a gift to the united Iraqi people, to the different spectrums of the Iraqi people.” Laborer Muhammed Hussein said, “They (the players) showed us what the real Iraq is and how we can work hard to be something. These players are what the Iraqis are”.

It is reported that t-shirts encouraging an end to sectarianism with the slogan “I am Iraqi” have sold out everywhere.

Of course, this is still Iraq, so it comes as no surprise that the day was also somewhat marred by sporadic bloodshed. Police shot some asshole attempting to drive a car bomb into a crowd in the south Baghdad neighborhood of Sadiya. Luckily the car exploded and no one but the suicide bomber was killed, which I guess made it a good day for everyone, including the suicide bomber.

Earlier in the day police stopped two Saudi Arabian nationals attempting to detonate cars packed with explosives in the eastern neighborhood of Zayuna. And I thought Yankees fans were sore losers.

But let’s focus on the good stuff for a minute:

In the northern Kurdish city of Irbil soccer fans waved the Iraqi flag, while dancing the debka, a traditional Kurdish dance, arm in arm in the middle of the street or atop moving cars, while In Kirkuk, a northern oil city known for its melange of ethnicities, Sirwan Rasheed, 55, a Kurd, said he erected flags in the team’s honor with friends of various sects and ethnicities — Sunnis and Shiites , Turkmen and Christians. Sounds kind of like Boston in October of 2004.

What’s important here is the example being set by this soccer team. The team’s leaders include both Sunni and Shiite Muslims, who work well together and talk publicly about overcoming sectarianism. People, especially young people, look up to sports heros, and the Iraqis are no exception. At a time when sectarian tensions between Shiites and Sunnis have worsened in the Iraqi government and on the streets, the soccer team, known as the Lions of the Two Rivers, may have some part in helping Iraqis understand the benefits of putting aside sectarian hatred and working together to make their country a decent place to live. Sports heroes are role models, and Iraq certainly needs a few of those.

The strife in Iraq, and the rest of the world, for that matter, will never end until the people living there decide for themselves to choose peace over war, to choose understanding over hatred, to choose life over death. Can a handful of athletes, who seemingly have already made those decisions, be a catalyst to peace?

I believe they can. After all, I’m a Red Sox fan. I’ve already seen one miracle.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I borrowed (pardon the expression) liberally from this article for this post.)

–Smith

“taking up a glowing cinder with the tongs and lighting with it the long cherry-wood pipe which was wont to replace his clay when he was in a disputatious rather than a meditative mood”–Dr. John H. Watson

Please visit my blog at murderofravens.wordpress.com

The Ring Thing

By now nothing that goes on in public schools should surprise me. We live in a through-the-looking-glass world where students are suspended for smoking cigarettes, but can get free condoms from the school nurse, where prayer is not allowed but t-shirts glorifying rap music and its odious messages are commonly worn, and where students graduate knowing how to TM while barely being able to read and speak articulately.

So why should it surprise me that an English school has forbidden a fifteen year old Christian girl from wearing a small silver ring that symbolizes her commitment to chastity until marriage? If you want the details, see this article here, although a Google search of Lydia Playfoot turns up quite a bit of material. Suffice to say, she has been told by the school to remove the ring or face expulsion.

I have two BIG problems with this.

First, this same school allows Muslim girls to wear their head scarves, and Sikh girls to wear the silver bracelets of their faiths. This I have no problem with. Freedom to express one’s religion is a basic human right. But hey, guys, point of order here: don’t Christians have the same rights as Muslims and Sikhs?

And perhaps more importantly, does anyone really think it’s such a hot idea to punish a teenager when she’s actually trying to do the right thing? Anyone who has ever been the parent of a teenager knows what a demoralizing experience this can be. There are just so many ways teens can screw up their lives: drugs, alcohol, sex, violence, gangs. No matter how hard you try to steer them away from these, many just blithely embrace some or all of these self destructive behaviors while regarding their parents as hopelessly out of touch simpletons. Any parent who can shepherd their teen to adulthood while keeping them in one piece has done something to be proud of.

Nowadays this process is harder than ever because there are just so many other influences on teens that parents must now compete with. Peer pressure used to mean the kids at school. Now, thanks to the Internet, it means kids all over the world. Kids are being urged by way too many people to make really, really bad decisions.

So in a world where teenagers kill just because they want to “see what it feels like”, it is refreshing to hear about a girl like Lydia Playfoot, who is actually doing the right thing and encouraging others to do the same. But instead of getting the praise she deserves, all she’s getting is a whole lot of undeserved aggravation. It is a sad indictment of our culture when a teenage girl is turned into a pariah for NOT having sex. The scarlet letter A used to stand for “adulteress”. I guess now it stands for “abstinence”.

In our increasingly secular world, there are many who find her extroverted brand of Christian faith cloying, but that is more of a reflection of our society than it is on her. I find it rather ironic that while the western world is predominantly Christian, Christianity itself is becoming ever more marginalized. Devout Christians are often looked down upon by the intelligentsia as rubes and simpletons. And yet in Muslim, Jewish, and other cultures, religious faith is still viewed as a virtue.

But one does not need to embrace orthodox Christianity to recognize the value of her message, or to be disturbed by the school administration’s attempts to squash that message, which should be regarded as a breath of fresh air. What parent in the world wouldn’t sell their soul just to hear their teen say, “Mom, Dad, I’ve been thinking about it, and I’ve decided not to have sex until I’m married. Is that OK?” In a world where so many influences are telling her to do otherwise, Lydia Playfoot is doing the right thing. Ring or no ring.

–Smith

“taking up a glowing cinder with the tongs and lighting with it the long cherry-wood pipe which was wont to replace his clay when he was in a disputatious rather than a meditative mood”–Dr. John H. Watson

Please visit my blog at murderofravens.wordpress.com

What I hate about the 21st Century

Nuke has invited me to play in his sandbox, and I couldn’t be more flattered and honored. So just to start things off, I thought I’d post this little ditty just so everyone knows where I’m coming from. I’m sure I’ll piss some people off, and hopefully I’ll make some people think. I’m delighted to be here. Thanks, Nuke!

The 21st century is now in its seventh year, and frankly, I don’t see a lot to like. Granted, I’m an avowed antiquarian, who smokes a pipe, uses a pocket watch, and prefers a fountain pen, but nonetheless I knew we were off to a bad start just by the number of morons who thought that the new millennium started in the year 2000. It’s always a bad sign when a significant portion of the population of an industrialized nation can’t even do simple math.

In no particular order here’s a list of things that are pissing me off about the new century.

Suicide bombers: Wait just a minute here, God told you to do what? Sorry pal, that wasn’t God, it was the voices in your head. About the only good thing I can say about these guys is that they can only ply their vile trade once. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of deluded souls out there who really think that God will be pleased with them for killing a bunch of innocent people. This leads me to my next point…

Guantanamo Bay: No, I don’t hate Guantanamo Bay, but I do hate listening to all the liberal bellyaching about it. To me, it’s very simple: if someone has information about a pending terrorist attack, and won’t give up that information willingly, then quite frankly, I don’t care what they do to him, as long as they make him talk. Sure, it’s unpleasant. So is killing innocent people with a suicide bomb. Am I really a right wing radical because I’d rather see a terrorist squeal than watch women and children die? If anything, Guantanamo should be expanded.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: Basically a shill for the Muslim theocracy that really runs Iran. The man says the Holocaust never happened, and then wonders why he has no credibility with the international community. And now he wants nuclear weapons. Anyone with half a brain in their head should find this somewhat chilling. Say what you want about the Cold War, in retrospect both the Americans and the Russians were the epitomes of diplomatic restraint. For all their rhetoric and saber-rattling, both sides in truth realized that blowing up the planet was a bad idea. Not so with Ahmadinejad. I really believe he would start a nuclear holocaust in the name of Allah. One way or another, he has to go. With any luck, the Israelis will do our dirty work for us like they have so many times before.

Kim Jong-il: Essentially the same rant here as for Ahmadinejad. Except I don’t think he’s ever denied the holocaust. But he is building up his military while his people are starving to death. Another one who has to go.

Barry Bonds: Even before the steroids scandal, he was widely known as the Biggest Asshole in Baseball. Now he will probably break the home run record set by Hank Aaron, an honorable man and gifted athlete who endured painful racial slurs throughout his career but played the game the right way. The day he breaks the record, every fan in the park should stand up and turn their back. They won’t, though.

The New York Yankees: I’m a Red Sox fan. I had to sneak that one in here.

Britney Spears: Those familiar with my writing knew I’d get to her sooner or later. It’s not that I hate her, as such. In fact, I kinda feel a little sorry for the little tart. But I hate what she represents: a whole generation of narcissistic teens and twenty somethings who seem to think that they’re entitled to get what they want, when they want it, and preferably not have to pay for it. If they don’t, the result is a temper tantrum. Naturally, teen girls idolize her, apparently without realizing that, unlike Britney, they don’t have the means of getting themselves out of the trouble that emulating her behavior will land them in. Detox costs money, girls. So do babies. So does a divorce. Furthermore, Britney, Paris, and company have turned the women’s movement completely on its ear. They now are easily the equals of men when it comes to boorish behavior. Was that the idea?

George W. Bush: Before you reach for the AK-47, you should know I voted for the guy. Twice. And I still admire his backbone in the face of adversity. But the fact is that through his mismanagement of both the budget and the Iraq war, coupled with an arrogant refusal to listen to the advice of others, he has single handedly delivered the Congress to the Democrats. The Presidency will probably be next. And before any of you “My-President-Right-Or-Wrong” types go reaching for the hand grenades, I would offer you this little factoid to consider: the country is now being run by Nancy Pelosi, Henry Waxman, and Ted Kennedy. Are you happy about that? Hillary may very well be our next president. Are you happy about that? Thanks a lot, George. This, of course, brings me to my next point.

Nancy Pelosi: Just making sure I piss off everyone here. Nancy Pelosi makes Hillary Clinton look like Margaret Thatcher. A liberal in the worst sense of the word, she is the ugly face of Nanny Government. In the world of Nancy Pelosi, I’m not allowed to smoke a cigar on the beach, but I CAN go to the nearest methadone clinic and get a free fix and syringe. In her world, my kid is not allowed to say a prayer in school, but he CAN get a free condom from the school nurse. And by the way, if I want to send that kid to college, I have to pay for it out of my pocket, while my tax dollars go to giving an illegal immigrant a scholarship. Thanks, Nancy. And thanks again, George.

Outsourcing: Tried calling customer service for Dell or Symantec lately? You get to talk to a pleasant chap with an almost undecipherable Indian accent who calls himself “Harry”. Now, believe me, I have nothing against “Harry”. Like me, he’s just a working stiff who’s trying to feed his family. I’ll bet Harry thinks outsourcing is a pretty nifty idea. But it seems to me that American companies that market the majority of their products to Americans, and make the majority of their money off Americans, should be employing Americans. Is this really such a radical concept?

iPods: This one will probably piss off more people than the ones about George Bush and Nancy Pelosi combined, but I don’t care. To me, it’s a generational thing. Kids today seem to think they have a God Given right to be entertained 24/7, and the iPod epitomizes this. That, along with the relentless marketing which implies that you are a lower form of life if you don’t own one, makes the iPod one of the most odious inventions ever. That, and the fact that I still can’t figure out how to work mine.

Cell phones: I hate these even more iPods. If the iPod symbolizes our culture’s need for non-stop entertainment, than the cell phone symbolizes our culture’s utter abandonment of common courtesy. God forbid someone should actually put the god-damned thing down for two seconds and have a real face to face conversation with someone. The Blackberry and the iPhone belong in the same rubbish bin. Which brings me to my next point:

Text messaging: I’ve actually had teens tell me that they would rather TM someone than have a real conversation, because of all those, like, y’know, awkward pauses. We are raising a generation of kids that are technologically savvy but have no real communication skills. Johnny can’t read, he can barely talk, but he sure can TM.

Nanotechnology: A nano is one millionth of a millimeter. Poison gas made with nanothechnology makes conventional gas masks useless. I don’t know very much about nanotechnology, but it scares the hell out of me. Somewhere out there someone is figuring out how to use this to create a more efficient way of killing lots of people at once. This seems like a rather high price to pay for sunscreen that doesn’t leave a white film.

Political Correctness: This is what the Nancy Pelosis of the world use to stifle free speech. Last time I checked, the First Amendment applies to everyone, not just those who are saying what you want to hear. Calling someone the “N” word is reprehensible, but pointing out the reason there are not more blacks in baseball is because most athletically gifted black youths gravitate to either football or basketball is not. People should learn the difference.

Rap “Music”: I think I hate this more than anything. Rap “music” has probably done more to contribute to the coarsening of American society than any single cultural influence. I know some will condemn me as a racist for saying this, but I do not think it is racist to deplore an “art form” that glorifies violence, misogyny, and irresponsible procreation. Rappers refer to women as “bitches” and “’ho’s”, and not only get away with it, but become stars. Yes, I know the First Amendment protects your right to rap. But it also protects my right to deplore it.

Global Warming: The thing I hate most about this issue is how it’s become completely politicized. The Liberal/Democrat types breathlessly gush about the need to save the planet. Until, of course, someone comes up with idea of planting a wind farm in their backyard. And, naturally, the Conservative/Republican types poo-poo the whole idea because they’ll be damned if they’re going to agree with anything the Liberal/Democrats say. Personally, I think there could be something to the idea, but now that it’s become a political issue, the truth will be the first casualty. In the meantime, the liberals will glom onto this one because it gives them another convenient excuse to expand the Nanny government. I have little faith that the government will be honest and forthcoming with this issue, irrespective of who’s in power. Which brings me to my final point:

The anti-smoking movement: If ever there was something that has brought the notion of Big Brother/Nanny government to full horrendous flower, it is this. Tobacco is a legal product that is enjoyed by millions, but by perpetuating the myth that even transient exposure to second hand smoke is dangerous, the anti-smoking crowd have created an environment in which I have seen my rights eroded, and seen myself degraded to basically one notch above a child molester simply because I enjoy tobacco. Yes, you heard me correctly: I enjoy smoking, as do millions of other people. I know there are risks, but that’s my problem, and my decision. You don’t want to smell the smoke emanating from my pipe? No problem. The fact is that both smokers and non-smokers can easily be accommodated. There is room in any town for smoking and smoke free establishments. But no, we can’t have that. Henry Waxman doesn’t like tobacco, therefore nobody can like tobacco. And now even employers are getting into the act. The Scots company recently fired an employee because he was a smoker. NOT for smoking on the job, mind you. Just for being a smoker! He was fired for engaging in a legal activity on HIS OWN TIME. Just remember this: if Big Brother can take away my pipe, he can take away your little vice, too.

So there it is: my take on the 21st century. Now, without further ado, I’m going to turn off the computer, light my pipe, wind my pocket watch, and spend the next hour reading something by Arthur Conan Doyle.

–Smith

“taking up a glowing cinder with the tongs and lighting with it the long cherry-wood pipe which was wont to replace his clay when he was in a disputatious rather than a meditative mood”–Dr. John H. Watson

Please visit my blog at murderofravens.wordpress.com

 

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