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

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