Obama right to go slow on Mideast plans

So Islamic State extremists are now cutting people’s heads off. That’s very bad. Clearly, these nutjobs want to outrage and frighten all of us.

Think about it. Osama bin Laden killed all those people and in the end, the long arm of the United States caught up with him. That will certainly happen again. The radical Islamists say that their behavior is justified because we are bombing them.

Of course, they are being bombed because they are killing with impunity. They are rounding up people with conflicting religious views and murdering them wholesale. How can any sane person justify this?

President Obama is taking his time. He is being honest, suggesting that this country has yet to develop a coherent strategy. At the same time, bellicose politicians are demanding action. They recognize that we are all outraged.

I have no doubt that in the end, it is going to take some kind of force to make the madmen stop but the last thing we need is yet another war. The level of abuse that the president has to take over all of this seems intolerable. Who in their right minds would want that job?


On another subject, there are times when corporations actually do the right thing. Sometimes the reasons they do so are self-serving. Sometimes they are strictly monetary. Sometimes the people at the top have personal reasons for their actions. Take CVS’s decision to stop selling tobacco products in their stores. As Teddy Roosevelt might have said, “Bully for them.

I really don’t care why they did it. I just know that they did the right thing and in doing so, they are leading the way. They are shaming their competitors into doing the same thing. I love it.

I mean, people have to look in the mirror some time, don’t they? Cigarettes kill people. The smoker might live 10 years fewer than he or she might otherwise have lived.

For some reason we as a society have been very permissive about letting people continue to kill themselves with tobacco. I can just see my mail. “Who are you, Chartock, the secret police? What right do you have to tell me what I am allowed to do?”

The answer, of course, lies in the societal price that we all have to pay. Let’s take a 48-year-old man with seven kids. Who is going to pick up the pieces after the guy drops dead of a heart attack? Who will pay hospitals that treated him? Will his family receive survivors’ benefits that we all kick in for?

What about all that secondhand smoke that we have to breathe, even outside our work places as we walk by? There is a lady who stands outside my workplace smoking and I have to pass through the gantlet. Once, I asked her if she couldn’t smoke somewhere else and she let me have it. I had no right to tell her to move, she said. I suspect we had some kind of passive aggressive action going. She certainly knows that people don’t want smoke being blown in their faces.

Smoking is an addiction. Most smokers will tell you that they want to stop but for so many of them, it’s just too difficult and they can’t do it. It now costs a fortune to smoke.

Hypocritical governments balance their budgets by charging huge amounts of taxes in an effort to stop people from smoking. So to CVS I send my personal thanks and a hearty well done. Now we hear about at least one case in which a new gas station complex is being held up because they sell cigarettes.

Good. Let me ask you this: would you want someone selling poison on your block? Would you want your kids anywhere near such a store?


Originally published in the Berkshire Eagle, 9/6/14

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