Monday, February 7, 2011

Neo Nazi Movement Embraces New Pope

There is much celebration for the new Pope in Coeur d' Alene, Idaho. In Idaho is the United State's largest contingency of Neo Nazi groups. The new Pope, Benedict XVI, was a member of the Hitler Youth. The Catholic Church is quick to point out that Benedict XVI joined because it was mandatory not because he hated Jews. Although this is the Catholic Church's current statement on the issue; it has not slowed the Neo Nazi groups from celebrating in the United States or in Germany as they await their revival. Many Neo Nazi groups in Germany are younger generation and some do not even believe the Holocaust happened and that the Jews are making it all up. In the United States however the Neo Nazi groups believe and know it happened, many in the group are Catholic and many more are considering now joining the Catholic Church.

Some question the choosing of the German Catholic Pope because of his background. Some Hispanic Americans and Latin Catholics of the South and Central America feel slighted. Many thought that a Black Pope might have been a worthy idea to unite the World, but realistically the good ole' boy network couldn't let that happen. One thing is for certain no matter who was picked not everyone could agree so black or white smoke may not have been as important as who became the Pope. Some from Islam are happy with the selection, because the German Benedict XVI having been in the Hitler Youth, might have a severe disdain for the Jews as do all people of Islamic Faith as this is taught in their schools from a very early age. Some have asked is the Catholic Church trying to appease these groups to unite the Catholic Church or perhaps appease the International Terrorists since the fastest growing population in Europe is Muslim due to influx of people moving in and substantial birth rates.

The Catholic Church did pray for Nazi soldiers in WWII, just as the Catholic Church prayed for allied forces during the war. They had done well playing both sides and Benedict XVI was there to see it all and participate. It is for this reason that the Neo Nazi movement is overjoyed that they now have a Pope, which understands their calling and served in the Hitler Youth. Perhaps this might help a divided Germany come together or embolden the Neo Nazi movement in the United States to take over. Some Jews in the America are horrified and cannot believe the Catholic Church could make such a poor choice. Even as the Catholic Church plays down the Popes involvement in Nazi Germany both sides are emotional about the issue. How do you feel about the selection?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Wrapping Up the Cigar Boom

At age 98, the infamous cigar aficionado George Burns said, "If I had taken my doctor's advice and quit smoking when he advised me to, I wouldn't have lived to go to his funeral." While it's tempting for us to use Mr. Burns as the poster-child for the anti-anti-smoking movement which is gaining little ground against anti-smoking legislation in the United States, we would be hard-pressed to answer why the honor shouldn't go to Mark Twain, Peter Falk, Sigmund Freud ("Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar") or Rudy Giuliani. As more and more restaurants find themselves under regulation to prohibit smoking and many of the cigar bars from the last decade close their doors, it seems that today's cigar smoker is a bit lonely.

The cigar boom that swept the nation in the late 1990's has befallen the same fate as every other boom in history: it died and left a cynical, unhappy populace in its wake. In today's climate, it seems, not only is George Burn's doctor getting involved, but also neighbors, TV personalities and children.

However, those of us that have been in the cigar industry for years are not fretting. If you take a step back and observe the true nature of a boom, you realize it's simply a population getting excited about a new idea. The internet boom, the coffee boom, and the current wine boom are no exceptions. In a new age of information and technology where cultures and traditions all over the world are accessible with the click of a mouse, there's a lot of territory to discover. The culture of cigars had its turn, but it doesn't mean the boom is bust, it means the boom has allowed cigars to enter the cultural psyche of Americans and it will remain there even after the dust settles.

A perfect example of this phenomenon is the coffee bar. In the 1990's, a coffee bar was launched on every corner as the country realized Seattle not only had cool grunge but also iced coffee. There were actually two on every block if you include Starbucks. Low and behold, the hipsters got tired of coffee and moved onto cigar bars. Many of the nascent coffee shops were forced to close as the boom lost momentum, but I don't think anyone will argue that the coffee business is on its way out, it's just settled down. Today, coffee bars are part of our cultural psyche. They will continue to be frequented and enjoyed, if at a lower vibration than they were when they first hit the scene. The result is that today, it's easier to find better coffee.

The same is true for the cigar boom. As cigar culture entered the American mind, particularly the young American mind, there was a proliferation of cigar bars and internet businesses. Today, many of those have closed their doors, but the same great cigar bar that was there twenty years ago is most likely still around. Take a look at the police force of any major city. Detectives from New York to Denver surely didn't get the memo if cigar culture was dead. Indeed, business for your local cigar shop is probably better than ever. The boom is over, but cigars in America have entered a renaissance as a result. There are more high-quality, handmade cigars available at a cheaper price than ever before.

Of course, there is no telling how far the current climate of cigar taxation and smoking-bans will go. The momentum certainly hasn't waned, and the cigar industry will have to survive the onslaught before it can finally enjoy the new popularity it has discovered in the twenty-first century.

In the meantime, it's important for all of us to take a trip down to our local cigar shop and try something new. Only by continuing to invoke that feeling of spontaneity and discovery will cigar culture in the United States persist in growing and be recognized for its class, style and grace.