I found the exchange of viewpoints about the Cuba issue fascinating, as was the issue [June 2007]. I would point out, however, that Alarcon's interview was not enlightening, as Manny Gonzalez says, it was standard communist boilerplate. Nothing was actually said. Dr. Heres's letter was more to the point—openings to communist countries are one-way streets. No communist government allows free exchange of ideas. The Berlin Wall was to keep people in the communist paradise, not to keep them out. Ever read The Bridge at Andau? That having been said, I support lifting the travel ban simply because I believe that if enough Americans travel to Cuba and talk with the Cuban people, it will undermine the dictatorship. And if we are there to spend money, which we will do, of course, people will have to talk with us. It is not a matter of creating jobs here—Cuba has virtually no national income and can't buy anything. It is a matter of undermining the Castro regime without saying that that is what we are doing. And by the way, Portugal and Spain were not brought into the EU because the EU "brought them up to par," as reader William Anderson says. They are still two of the poorest countries in the EU. They got in because they got rid of their dictatorships.
Let freedom ring!
Carson City, Nevada
Editor's note: We've always said the best way to change Cuba is to open the doors.
I recently attended an LPGA tournament and was enjoying a fine cigar as I followed my favorites around the course. Many others were smoking cigarettes and only a few were smoking cigars. I was careful to remain distant from larger groups of people for fear of offending someone. In one particular instance I was standing by the green, behind the main lines of fans and holding my cigar behind my back, not even puffing it due to the closer proximity of people. As I did so a woman passed behind me and literally ran into me, knocking my cigar from my hand and leaving a trace of ash on her arm. After some verbal abuse by her, I was shocked to have her husband confront me, saying to "control my cigar and I should not be smoking out here," followed by "it is a nasty habit."
Unfortunately, I was only able to recover enough to say, "If I can't smoke here, where can I?" This was followed by some more profanities by the husband as we all moved on to the next hole.
As we all know, the golf course is one of only a few remaining bastions to enjoy a fine cigar outside of one's own home.
For me this incident epitomizes "Enough is enough."
I enjoy your magazine, but who are you marketing to? The clothes, the cars and the accessories month after month may well be in Mr. Shanken's budget, but they're not in mine. Example, a pair of shoes for $1,695, or an $18,000 watch.
My favorite part of the magazine is the pictures of the readers and their friends and family in the back. As I look at them I wonder, How many of them drive the Ferrari? How many of them drive the Ford Escort? If they can afford the Ferrari, more power to them. If it's the Escort, well, I feel your pain.
I don't play golf with Michael Jordan, or rub shoulders with Mr. Limbaugh, or smoke the Habana Cohibas. And I don't care what they drive or wear when that stuff is way, way beyond my means. Like many of the people in the back of the magazine—your audience, by the way—I enjoy the Romeo two or three times a week.
Test-drive an F250, a Jeep Cherokee once, please.
Editor's note: Cigar Aficionado is for cigar smokers of all backgrounds and economic levels. Yes, we do cover affluent parts of The Good Life, but come to the Big Smoke sometime. You'll see Ferrari drivers rubbing shoulders with truck drivers. Cigars, truly, are for everyone.
How ironic that the greatest threat to the enjoyment of premium Nicaraguan cigars is not coming from newly elected Daniel Ortega. Instead, the U.S. Senate majority leader and the speaker of the House are threatening to do something that Ortega and the Sandinistas would never think of doing, i.e., imposing such a grievous tax on the enjoyment of premium cigars to the extent that thousands of workers in this industry would be adversely affected!
The great governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, spoke at a conference I was attending in Palm Springs. As I left the meeting room, I noticed Arnold was about 50 feet ahead of me. I yelled, "Hey Arnold, I have a cigar for you." He turned around, came back, I gave him the cigar, we exchanged pleasantries, shook hands, and he continued on to his SUV. One of his staff came up to me and asked for one of my business cards (I figured if the cigar blew up, they would know who to send to jail). Turns out it wasn't that at all, as a few days later, I got a nice thank-you letter from the governor.
A couple of months later, Arnold was in Minneapolis to headline for a fund-raiser for our great Governor Tim Pawlenty, who was up for reelection in 2006. This time I slipped him two cigars. This resulted in a longer thank-you letter.
Just as an aside, on two different occasions I gave a cigar to our infamous governor Jesse Ventura and never got a thank-you from him. Obviously, Arnold has a much better PR department.
Joseph C. Weis
Editor's note: We received a copy of this letter from Edward Makara of Montana to Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT). You all should be sending letters like this to your members of Congress:
Dear Sen. Baucus,
If this letter seems angry, perhaps it is since I certainly am. I hope it is not rude.
With all due respect, it appears neither you or your staffers are familiar with the smoking of premium cigars (i.e., cigars which are hand-rolled from whole leaves and contain no additives or preservatives). These cigars are already expensive and represent only 3.5—4% of cigar sales nationwide. The vast majority of users smoke between five and eight a week. The other 96% are machine-made stinkers which are loaded with preservatives, flavor enhancers and other additives to make them seem mild. Many of these have components other than tobacco (fillers, phony man-made "tobacco" wrappers, etc.).
I am a disabled Vietnam vet whose dwindling pleasures in life include lighting up one cigar a night (along with the obligatory libation). The average cigar I smoke costs probably in the range of $7.50 to $9.00. It is a great splurge for me (my only income is my disability benefit). Added costs would be a major disappointment. The internet is alive with stories similar to mine. Many from mom-and-pop cigar shop owners, many of whom will be put out of business.
Here come the angry parts: Didn't you folks learn anything from the luxury tax of the early '90s? The government paid out more in unemployment benefits from out of work boat workers and airplane salespersons than you collected from the tax. It was a pure example of making the left wing of your party happy by throwing them some red meat—tax the rich!
I'm sure this letter is a waste of time. When I listened to your statement, I realized there was little chance of moving you, especially after you invoked "the children." I doubt if you have ever seen a 16-year-old puffing on an $11.75 Montecristo Double Corona. I know I certainly haven't. There may be a few out there, but any number would be statistically nonexistent, and I bet you know it. This sounds like another case of class warfare politics.
Or perhaps it's "time-to-satisfy-the-health-nannies" time. Hey, wait! Both of these constituencies are satisfied. Silly me.
If you respond to me, please don't send me some pro forma warnings about the dangers of smoking or how this is a "health issue." I don't buy any of it. For your information, there is no scientific research that has ever been conducted using premium, hand-made cigars exclusively. I challenged a certain VA physician to find one. With this person's extensive medical software capabilities, not one could be found. Why do I mention this? Easy. Those who smoke machine-made cigars average five or more a day. Further, these smokers often (and in [the] case of smaller, flavored cigars, regularly) inhale. Smokers of premium cigars never inhale. I have never seen it nor heard of it in 30 years of smoking cigars, being around cigar smokers and attending cigar events.
Edward J. Makara
In your recent fine issue [October 2007], Mr. Tom Nelson of New Jersey wrote on the absurd smoking ban in Hawaii. Let me tell you about our sad experience in Honolulu. President Bush was in the city. One of his aides was in a lounge late at night at the international market. He was forced to go out into the street to smoke and was severely beaten and robbed. We were at a five-star hotel on the beach and at 2 a.m. I went outside for some ocean air. Because of the ban, an elderly lady went out to the sidewalk to smoke. A filthy beach bum started to hit on her and I had to send him on his way—at age 78.
Well, the local newspaper was filled with letters, all antismoking. Immediately I wrote an article and sent it to the editor. We pointed out the two incidents and asked him to print my pro-smoking article in all fairness. A full week went by, and nothing. I then called his private secretary and said we would gladly put in a half-page article in his competitor's paper at my expense. We would point out how biased his paper was, etc. Needless to say, the article was in the next day's paper.
For your information, many business bars and tourist stores had to close because of this stupid law. The great hotel we were at had dozens of Japanese cancel, cancel, cancel. Well, they were forced to open up a large area outside for smoking on the third floor. They gave in!