Put This In Your Pipe & Smoke It

Barack Obama is the President of the United States and whether or not he plans to quit smoking is not our business. If you spend more than half a second caring about the Presidents smoking habit, or lack thereof, you should be hauled off into a darkened dungeon and shot for attempting to create an Idiocracy (read: High Treason). The consistent reports of people feeling that he needs to set such a healthy example for children is absolutely absurd.

It doesn’t matter if the President smokes a cigarette. If Obama can create peace in the Middle East, I’ll be the first person offering him a smoke and a light. This man is the President, and if he wants to smoke a cigarette because Congress has been dragging it’s fat, lethargic ass on some issue of national importance, you should turn a blind eye. He’s not a child, he’s not your boyfriend, he’s the President and you should excuse him as he’s been busy saving our overly critical asses from psychotic religious fundamentalists who want nothing more than to curb-stomp the civil liberties and personal freedoms you’re taking for granted.

There’s more than 200 years of tradition behind Presidents smoking in the White House. Maddison, Grant, FDR, and JFK were avid smokers. Hell, Grant smoked so much that people actually mailed him cigars when they heard that he was smoking a cigar during the Battle of Fort Donelson. In fact, Grant’s smoking habit was so prominent that it was used as a campaign theme. Due to FDR’s triskaidekaphobia, or fear of the number 13, he believed it to be bad luck to light 3 cigarettes with one match and even chastised a man in Hyde Park for doing so. On the eve of the Cuban embargo, Kenndy had an aide purchase nearly 1,200 H. Upmann Petit Coronas. Even Nixon, who wasn’t a regular smoker, would ritualisticly smoke a cigar with other forgien leaders in a gesture of respect.

Smoking used to be as American as apple pie. It was customary to offer guests a cigarette after a meal, and American Presidents were no different. The Eisenhower’s, in continuing a tradition started by Elanor Roosevelt, would offer coffee and cigarettes to their guests after meals. There were ashtrays, cigarettes and matchbooks embossed with the Presidential Seal, thanks to the Kennedy’s. They were complimentary for guests of the White House, Air Force One, Marine One, with each pack having a location specific engraving. It wasn’t until 1988 that Presidential Cigarettes were discontinued, and later prohibited in the White House by First Lady Hillary Clinton, “because of the atmosphere…and the age of the house, [and] the furnishings.” (a)

While I would certainly love to fault the extreme irony in relation to the Clinton’s and their use of tobacco in the White House, I have to reluctantly admit, that in keeping with the preservation of historical artifacts, we should continue to enforce the indoor smoking ban in the White House. Despite this, however, whether or not the President smokes really isn’t any of the public’s business. The transparency of government shouldn’t necessarily go so far as to tell the President how he is allowed to literally live his personal life. I don’t care what kind of cigarettes Obama smokes, whether or not he uses condoms, or if he prefers apples to oranges, and neither should you because it doesn’t really matter. If the man wants to smoke a cigarette once in awhile, that’s fine because there are far more important things to obsess over than the message he is sending to children when he smokes. If your kid sees the President smoking, tell them the truth: “The President just saved the damn world, but that still doesn’t make it O.K. for you kids to smoke.”

(a) BURROS, MARIAN , Hillary Clinton’s New Home: Broccoli’s In, Smoking’s Out, The New York Times, February 2, 1993
(b) Anthony, Carl Sferrzza, Our Presidents and Cigars: A White House Tradition is in Danger of Disappearing,Cigar Aficionado, Autumn 1993,
(c) “Alex”, Presidential Superstitions, Neatorama, March 10, 2008,

What’s Wrong with Public Transit?

This idiotic hubris that we as Americans have, the notion that we are some how better then everyone and everything that has or ever will exist has go to stop. If we Americans have any trait in them that separates us from every other human being,  it’s the ability to take credit where no credit is due, then feign ignorance when our faults are spelled out in front of our up-turned noses. Our economic collapse is proof positive that we have seriously screwed up somewhere, it’s proven by the falling stock market, and it’s proven by our need to debate whether or not to bail out one of our biggest manufacturing industries that didn’t listen to a change in consumer demand.

Don’t let anyone fool you, this is another bail out, not a loan. A loan would give us a return on our investment, and most of these companies are lax to do anything really substantial. Detroit really screwed the pooch this time: they gambled on S.U.V.’s and mass-marketing strategies in an age of rising fuel prices, urban sprawl, and cultural enlightenment. This mess that they’re in is their own damn fault and for them to ask anyone for a handout is more than laughably absurd, it’s down right insulting! We asked them for more smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles and instead, we got Hybrid Escalades on 22’s. Honestly, what the fuck is wrong with you? A pig is a pig, regardless of how man feathers you can tape to it, don’t try and call it a damn eagle when it’s still rolling in it’s own filth and oinking.

Now it’s one thing to sit and bash these people for their stupidity and it’s another thing to do something about it. Now that Detroit has admitted it’s so completely screwed, let’s do something productive with this once in a lifetime opportunity. Sure, we can tell them to make hybrid vehicles that are smaller and more practical, but building personal vehicles alone will not solve this problem.  These are massive manufacturers, Americans need jobs, so let’s start building mass-transit systems.

Let’s face it, not everyone can afford a car, especially when most are barely able to afford a roof over their head. Blindly throwing money at this problem with the auto industry is only going to make things much, much worse. We’ve got these crooks right where we want them for once, and we can’t just hand them another blank check, a bulleted, action-item list and then tell them to, “Get out there and be somebody!” Instead, we should be demanding that they make something worth buying (or at least using), so not why force them to retool, and mandate that cities put in new public transit systems? Instead of building S.U.V.’s, Detroit could build buses and subway cars for the cities and towns that should have already expanded to a mass transit systems.

New transit systems don’t have to be the horrifying urban sprawls indicators that some would lead you to believe. We could free up highways and roadways, reduce polution, and create jobs by making mass transit systems a viable option for more people. If cities suddenly demand new public transit systems, someone will have to build the vehicle first, after that someone will have to opperate it. How many jobs could we create in one small town if there were just a few hybrid-bus’s running along several major roadways?

DC Metro is expanding it’s services to accommodate the rise in ridership with more trains, and a new line to Dulles, but the system map is still inefficient and it can take two hours to go from Shady Grove to New Carrolton.  In two hours, you can drive there and back, with time to spare. We shouldn’t have to go through DC just to cut across two counties, instead, we should build another line that connects the ends of the stations, like a circle.

The effect of getting people from “A” to “B” is exponential. Sure, having a nice car might get you some sex appeal, but if you can’t afford to put fuel in it, how do you plan to register the car or repair the car when it breaks down?

The End is Near: Start Bitching to the Right People

Your apathy will be the downfall of our entire society. Thanks to your ignorance on current events, our elected officials are allowed to run amok, doing as they please, with little repercussion. Were it not for the media which you regularly criticize, you wouldn’t even know what the officials you forgot to elect were doing with the money that you gave them for taxes.

I challenge any one with any grievance towards the political system, large or small, to write your representatives. Not an email, not a note, but an old fashioned, well thought out and properly edited letter.

Spend the thirty-seven cents it costs to buy a stamp, slap it on an envelope and mail it to their office’s, which, by the way, are all easily accessible on the Internet. It might sound archaic, but this is the best way to tell ‘the man’ what you really think about the country, state or county that you live in.

Think about it, your friends usually don’t know when you have a personal problem unless you open your mouth and say something, so how are your representatives supposed to know that the roads in your neighborhood never got plowed when it snowed?

Words have no faces or pictures. The only thing the written word has is the power to make you think. Based on your writing, someone can tell how passionate you are about something. If it’s something you feel that strongly about, why are you writing about it in a blog or complaining to your friends over diner? They might care enough to listen, but they probably don’t sit on any seat of power capable of doing anything about it.

There’s a fairly thought provoking focus on the Student Senate this issue and you’d do yourself a disservice not to read it. Keep in mind, however, that it’s up to you as the reader to draw your own conclusions. We’re a newspaper, we report the facts, you’re the reader, you’re supposed to react as a result of what what we’re reporting to you.

Your level of involvement in government will only take you as far as you let it. If you’re just upset that your neighbors have a rusting car parts in the middle of the yard, tell your neighborhood association if you have one; if you don’t, start a petition to create one.

If you think that the U.S. should get out of Iraq, write Congress and/or the Senate, don’t just go to the protest and pick up a button. If you think that you can do a better job than whomever is in office now, what’s stopping you from you from running for office? If you’ve got some type of idea on how to better run the government, speak up already!

This world thrives on rebellion and change. The Earth as we know it today was formed through a series of changes over time, and the most notable changes in society stem from one persons problems with society’s direction. Racism was defeated because enough people spoke out, women and minorities were granted suffrage through bitter protest. Nothing ever stays the same for long because change is inevitable, but sometimes, change needs a catalyst.

This article appears in the seventh (7th) issue of the Montgomery Advocate, the student newspaper of Montgomery College in Rockville, Maryland Wednesday, December 8th, 2005. It is an excerpt from my biweekly editorial and was posted with my permission.