Friday, September 28, 2007

Quotations on War and Peace

My prayer for peace!
by Charlie Leck

EDIT NOTATION: This blog has been up for less than 24 hours and I have already had several requests for a copy of the document in more useable, printable format. Please go to this page to find a printable copy of the document. [29 September 2007]

“There is nothing more frightening than active ignorance.” Goethe

Would that George W. Bush were a reader! It is a foolish, wasteful wish. He is not. He is the fool and he governs over us. Had he been a reader, he might have stumbled over or upon some of these quotations

I have never published a blog more worth reading than the following quotations nor have I ever spent so much time posting a blog. Today’s posting represents many days work and constitutes my most significant gift ever to my readers; for I do consider today’s blog a gift. I offer them to you as a prayer – a prayer that this war and all war will cease.

Some of these quotes, though many years old, are very prescient about the conduct of the current war. Take, for instance, this comment from the famous Wisconsin Senator Robert M. La Follette: “If there is no sufficient reason for war, the war party will make war on one pretext, then invent another...after the war is on.” Or, consider the remarkable statement of the ancient Greek, Thucydides, in relation to today’s condition in Iraq: “It is useless to attack men who could not be controlled even if conquered, while failure would leave us in an even worse position...”

If you work your way to the end of this litany of quotations, you will find a few from the current occupant of the White House. The absurdity of including his comments with those of such persons as Thomas Jefferson, Plato, Einstein, Ayn Rand and Abraham Lincoln is quite delightfully profane.


“If you love this land of the free, bring 'em home, bring 'em home, Bring 'em back from overseas.” Pete Seeger (from Seeger's song Bring Em Home)

“Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president or any other public official...” Theodore Roosevelt

“This and no other is the root from which a tyrant springs; when he first appears he is a protector.” Plato

“Force always attracts men of low morality.” Albert Einstein

“Violence is the first refuge of the incompetent.” Issac Asimov

“The war...was an unnecessary condition of affairs, and might have been avoided if forebearance and wisdom had been practiced on both sides.” Robert E. Lee

“There is no way to peace. Peace is the way.” Mahatma Gandhi

“The worst crimes were dared by a few, willed by more and tolerated by all.” Tacitus

“Imperialism is an institution under which one nation asserts the right to seize the land or at least to control the government or resources of another people.” John T. Flynn

“Every war when it comes, or before it comes, is represented not as a war but as an act of self-defense against a homicidal maniac.’ George Orwell

“Right is right, even if everyone is against it, and wrong is wrong, even if everyone is for it.” William Penn

“The statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting the blame upon the nation that is being attacked, and every man will be glad of these conscience-soothing falsities.” Mark Twain

“It is frightening how the actions of a single leader can have such drastic effects on the prestige of an entire nation… All it takes is a single act of aggression to permanently wound a nation's reputation.” Ramman Kenoun

“We all have to be concerned about terrorism, but you will never end terrorism by terrorizing others.” Martin Luther King III

“Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism.” George Washington

“Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force...Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.” George Washington

“The executive has no right, in any case, to decide the question, whether there is or is not cause for declaring war.” James Madison

“Great is the guilt of an unnecessary war.” John Adams

“How strangely will the Tools of a Tyrant pervert the plain Meaning of Words!” Samuel Adams

“I hope our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us, that the less we use our power the greater it will be.” Thomas Jefferson

“I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.” Thomas Jefferson

“Nations, like individuals, are punished for their transgressions.” Ulysses S. Grant

“War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today.” John F. Kennedy

“He that is the author of a war lets loose the whole contagion of hell and opens a vein that bleeds a nation to death.” Thomas Paine

“The biggest lesson I learned from Vietnam is not to trust [our own] government statements.” Senator J. William Fulbright

“La vengeance est un plat qui se mange froid.”- Pierre Ambroise Francois Choderios de LaClos

‘Before the war is ended, the war party assumes the divine right to denounce and silence all opposition to war as unpatriotic and cowardly.” Senator Robert M. La Follette

“The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in the insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning but without understanding.” Justice Louis D. Brandeis

“One can...never create [freedom] by an invading force.” Maximilien Robespierre

“How vast those Orbs must be, and how inconsiderable this Earth, the Theatre upon which all our mighty Designs, all our Navigations, and all our Wars are transacted, is when compared to them. A very fit consideration, and matter of Reflection, for those Kings and Princes who sacrifice the Lives of so many People, only to flatter their Ambition in being Masters of some pitiful corner of this small Spot.” Christiaan Huygens (in Humanity)

“In all history there is no war which was not hatched by the governments, the governments alone, independent of the interests of the people, to whom war is always pernicious even when successful.” Leo Tolstoy

"To save your world you asked this man to die; Would this man, could he see you now, ask why?" W. H. Auden

“Peace is the virtue of civilization. War is its crime.” Victor Hugo

“There were no international terrorists in Iraq until we went in. It was we who gave the perfect conditions in which Al Qaeda could thrive.” Robin Cook (Britain's former foreign secretary who resigned from the British Cabinet over the Iraq War)

“War remains the decisive human failure.” John Kenneth Galbraith

“The more you sweat in peacetime, the less you bleed during war.” Chinese Proverb

“We have met the enemy and he is us.” Walt Kelly (creator of Pogo, 1913-1973)

"One is left with the horrible feeling now that war settles nothing; that to win a war is as disastrous as to lose one." Agatha Christie (Autobiography, 1977)

“Peace hath higher tests of manhood than battle ever knew.” John Greenleaf Whittier

“The belief in the possibility of a short decisive war appears to be one of the most ancient and dangerous of human illusions.” Robert Lynd

“Patriotism consists not in waving the flag, but in striving that our country shall be righteous as well as strong.” James Bryce

“The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders...tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger.” Herman Goering

“If a war be undertaken...before the resources of peace have been tried and proved vain to secure it, that war has no defense, it is a national crime.” Charles Eliot Norton

“A state of war only serves as an excuse for domestic tyranny.” Aleksandre Solzhenitsyn

“Strike against war, for without you no battles can be fought!” Helen Keller

“All those who seek to destroy the liberties of a democratic nation ought to know that war is the surest and shortest means to accomplish it.” Alexis de Tocqueville

“Peace is constructed, not fought for.” Brent Davis

“I venture to say no war can be long carried on against the will of the people.” Edmund Burke

“Rulers who want to unleash war know very well that they must procure or invent a first victim.” Elias Canetti

“No war by any nation in any age has ever been declared by the people.” Eugene Debs

“I can tell you this: If I’m ever in a position to call the shots, I’m not going to rush to send somebody else’s kids into a war.” George H. W. Bush

“I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

“War should be the politics of last resort. And when we go to war, we should have a purpose that our people understand and support.” Colin Powell

“I hope....that mankind will at length, as they call themselves responsible creatures, have the reason and sense enough to settle their differences without cutting throats...” Benjamin Franklin

“Those who give up essential liberties for temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Benjamin Franklin

“There never was a good war or a bad peace.” Benjamin Franklin

“When will mankind be convinced and agree to settle their difficulties by arbitration?” Benjamin Franklin

“Because I do it with one small ship, I am called a terrorist. You do it with a whole fleet and are called an emperor.” Saint Augustine in the City of God

“Today the real test of power is not capacity to make war but capacity to prevent it.” Anne O'Hare McCormick

“Since the end of the World War II, the United States has fought three "small" wars...we lost all three of them and for the same reason--hubris.” Andrew Greely (Chicago Sun-Times columnist)

“War is mainly a catalog of blunders.” Winston Churchill

“War is the unfolding of miscalculations.” Barbara Tuchman

“The dangerous patriot...drifts into chauvinism and exhibits blind enthusiasm for military actions… The dangerous patriot...is a defender of militarism and its ideals of war and glory… Chauvinism is a proud and bellicose form of patriotism...which equates the national honor with military victory.” Colonel James A. Donovan, Marine Corps

“Do not ever say that the desire to ‘do good’ by force is a good motive. Neither power-lust nor stupidity are good motives.” Ayn Rand

“In war, truth is the first casualty.” Aeschylus

“It is the job of thinking people not to be on the side of the executioners.” Albert Camus

“In the fall the war was always there, but we did not go to it anymore.” Ernest Hemingway in A Different Country

“No matter that patriotism is too often the refuge of scoundrels. Dissent, rebellion, and all-around hell-raising remain the true duty of patriots.” Barbara Ehrenreich

“Can anything be more ridiculous than that a man has a right to kill me because he lives on the other side of the water, and because his ruler has quarrel with mine, although I have none with him?” Blaise Pascal

“The terrorist is the one with the small bomb.” Brendan Behan

“After each war there is a little less democracy to save.” Brooks Atkinson

“No matter what political reasons are given for war, the underlying reason is always economic.” A.J.P. Taylor

“History teaches us that men and nations behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives.” Abba Eban

“Military glory--that attractive rainbow that rises in showers of blood – that serpent's eye that charms to destroy...” Abraham Lincoln

“The world cannot continue to wage war like physical giants and to seek peace like intellectual pygmies.” Basil O'Connor

“The tyranny of a prince in an oligarchy is not so dangerous to public welfare as the apathy of a citizen in a democracy.” Charles de Secondat, baron de Montesquieu, The Spirit of Laws (1748)

“The voice of protest...is never more needed than when the clamor of fife and drum...is bidding all men...obey in silence the tyrannous word of command.” Charles Eliot Norton

“We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

“Disarmament, with mutual honor and confidence, is a continuing imperative.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

“May we never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

“This world of ours...must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

“There is no glory in battle worth the blood it costs.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

“Together we must learn how to compose difference, not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

“We will bankrupt ourselves in the vain search for absolute security.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

“We seek peace, knowing that peace is the climate of freedom.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

“When people speak to you about a preventive war, you tell them to go and fight it. After my experience, I have come to hate war.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

“War settles nothing.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

“I think that people want peace so much that one of these days government had better get out of their way and let them have it.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

“I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

“How far can you go without destroying from within what you are trying to defend from without?” Dwight D. Eisenhower

“Preventive war was an invention of Hitler. Frankly, I would not even listen to anyone seriously that came and talked about such a thing.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

“Blind faith in your leaders or in anything will get you killed.” Bruce Springsteen

"The two aims of the Party are to conquer the whole surface of the earth and to extinguish once and for all the possibility of independent thought. There are therefore two great problems which the Party is concerned to solve. One is how to discover, against his will, what another human being is thinking, and the other is how to kill several hundred million people in a few seconds without giving warning beforehand." George Orwell (Nineteen Eighty-Four)

“A Patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government.” Ed Abbey

“No nation ever had an army large enough to guarantee it against attack in time of peace, or ensure it of victory in time of war.” Calvin Coolidge

“We...are not really free if we can't control our own government and its policies. And we will never do that if we remain ignorant.” Charley Reese

“You cannot be on one hand dedicated to peace and on the other dedicated to violence. Those two things are irreconcilable.” ~Condoleeza Rice (30 January 2006)

“There are a lot of people who lie and get away with it, and that's just a fact.” Donald Rumsfeld

“In war, we always deform ourselves, our essence.” Chris Hedges

“Allow the president to invade a neighboring nation, whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such a purpose—and you allow him to make war at pleasure.” Abraham Lincoln

“Force is all-conquering, but its victories are short-lived.” Abraham Lincoln

“I destroy my enemies when I make them my friends.” Abraham Lincoln

“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter, and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” Abraham Lincoln

“O, it is excellent To have a giant’s strength! But it is tyrannous To use it like a giant.” William Shakespeare (Measure for Measure, Act II, Scene ii)

“War is never a solution; it is an aggravation.” Benjamin Disraeli

“Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding.” Albert Einstein

“It is unfortunately none too well understood that, just as the State has no money of its own, so it has no power of its own.” Albert J. Nock

“Violence can only be concealed by a lie, and the lie can only be maintained by violence.” Aleksandre Solzhenitsyn

“War is not the continuation of politics with different means, it is the greatest mass-crime perpetrated on the community of man.” Alfred Adler

“True patriotism hates injustice in its own land more than anywhere else.” Clarence Darrow

“We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. When the loyal opposition dies, I think the soul of America dies with it.” Edward R. Murrow

“For it isn't enough to talk about peace. One must believe it. And it isn't enough to believe in it. One must work at it.” Eleanor Roosevelt

“They wrote in the old days that it is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country. But in modern war, there is nothing sweet nor fitting in your dying. You will die like a dog for no good reason.” Ernest Hemingway ("Notes on the Next War," published in Esquire Magazine, 1935.)

“The 1st panacea of a mismanaged nation is inflation of the currency; the 2nd is war. Both bring a temporary prosperity; a permanent ruin.” Ernest Hemingway

“I am a steadfast follower of the doctrine of non-violence which was first preached by Lord Buddha, whose divine wisdom is absolute... All forms of violence, especially war, are totally unacceptable as means to settle disputes between and among nations, groups and persons.” Dalai Lama

“The evils of government are directly proportional to the tolerance of the people.” Frank Kent

“In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way.” Franklin Delano Roosevelt

“The life of the nation is secure only while the nation is honest, truthful, and virtuous.” Frederick Douglass

“Wars are the hobbies of half-informed children who have somehow come into possession of the levers of power.” Fred Reed

“Our country is now geared to an arms economy which was bred in...war hysteria and nurtured upon an incessant propaganda of fear.” General Douglas MacArthur

“War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious… War is a racket. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.” General Smedley Butler

“There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights.” General Smedley Butler

“War is at best barbarism. Its glory is all moonshine...War is hell.” General William Tecumseh Sherman

“The military doesn't start wars. The politicians start wars.” General William Westmoreland

“Every government has as much of a duty to avoid war as a ship's captain has to avoid a shipwreck.” Guy de Maupassant

“The chief qualification of a mass leader has become unending infallibility; he can never admit an error.” Hannah Arendt

“I hate war for its consequences, for the lies it lives on and propagates, for the undying hatreds it arouses... “ Harry Emerson Fosdick

“The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false-face for the urge to rule it.” H. L. Mencken

“The power to declare war, including the power of judging the causes of war, is fully and exclusively vested in the legislature.” James Madison

“If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.” James Madison

“War is in fact the true nurse of executive aggrandizement.” James Madison

“We have war when at least one of the parties to a conflict wants something more than it wants peace.” Jeane J. Kirkpatrick

“A merely fallen enemy may rise again, but the reconciled one is truly vanquished.” Johan Christoph Schiller

“If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there'd be peace.” John Lennon

“The war on terrorism is akin to the war on drugs…unwinable, unless you kill everyone…or address the root causes.” K. W. Ibrahim

“Phony pretexts repeated often enough become real reasons. Things that...are not true become true in the public mind simply through endless repetition.” Lenny Bloom

“Whether or not patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel, national security can be the last refuge of the tyrant.” Lord Walker of Gestingthorpe

“The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.” Louis D. Brandeis

“The worst evils which mankind has ever had to endure were inflicted by bad governments.” Ludwig von Mises

“The guns and the bombs, the rockets and the warships, are all symbols of human failure.” Lyndon B. Johnson

“The de facto role of the US armed forces will be to keep the world safe for our economy and open to our cultural assault.” Major Ralph Peters, US Military

“You're not supposed to be so blind with patriotism that you can't face reality. Wrong is wrong no matter who does it or who says it.” Malcolm X

“The opinion of 10,000 men is of no value if none of them know anything about the subject.” ~Marcus Aurelius

“Look back over the past, with its changing empires that rose and fell, and you can foresee the future, too.” Marcus Aurelius

“The sinews of war are infinite money.” Marcus Tullius Cicero

“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.” Nelson Mandela

“Everybody's worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there's a really easy way: stop participating in it.” Noam Chomsky

“To some degree it matters who's in office, but it matters more how much pressure they're under from the public.” Noam Chomsky

“You never need an argument against the use of violence, you need an argument for it.” Noam Chomsky

"He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would fully suffice. This disgrace to civilization should be done away with at once. Heroism at command, senseless brutality, deplorable love-of-country stance, how violently I hate all this, how despicable an ignorable war is; I would rather be torn to shreds than be a part of so base an action! It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder." Albert Einstein

“The statesman who yields to war fever...is no longer the master of policy but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events.” Winston Churchill

“Never, never, never believe any war will be smooth and easy, or that anyone who embarks on the strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter...” Winston Churchill

“War is mainly a catalogue of blunders.” Winston Churchill

“During times of war, hatred becomes quite respectable even though it has to masquerade often under the guise of patriotism.” Howard Thurman

“War is a failure of human intelligence… [War] comes from an immature style of thinking where creativity and overview is scarce.” Patricia Sun

“War is the ultimate tool of politics.” R. Buckminster Fuller

“Terror is a tactic. We cannot wage ‘war’ against a tactic.” Ron Paul

“No one has deputized America to play Wyatt Earp to the world.” Patrick J. Buchanan

“A coward is much more exposed to quarrels than a man of spirit.” Thomas Jefferson

“They are nations of eternal war. All their energies are expended in the destruction of the labor, property, and lives of their people.” Thomas Jefferson (in a letter to President Monroe, 1823)

“War is an instrument entirely inefficient toward redressing wrong; and multiplies, instead of indemnifying losses.” Thomas Jefferson

“No one has ever succeeded in keeping nations at war except by lies.” Salvador de Madariaga

“The price of empire is America’s soul, and that price is too high.” Sen. J. William Fulbright (Ark.)

“This war is not necessary. We are truly sleepwalking through history.” Sen. Robert Byrd

“Criticism in a time of war is essential to the maintenance of any kind of democratic government.” Sen. Robert Taft,

“We first fought...in the name of religion, then Communism, and now in the name of drugs and terrorism. Our excuses for global domination always change.” Serj Tankian

“Petroleum is a more likely cause of international conflict than wheat.” Simone Weil

“All warfare is based on deception.” Sun Tzu

“War is only a cowardly escape from the problems of peace.” Thomas Mann

“Most wars are started by well-fed people with time on their hands to dream up half-baked ideologies or grandiose ambitions, and to nurse real or imagined grievances.” Thomas Sowell

“This president failed so miserably in diplomacy that we are now forced to war.” Tom Daschle

"What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?" Mahatma Gandhi

"We live in the time where we have fictitious election results that elects a fictitious president. We live in a time where we have a man sending us to war for fictitious reasons. Whether it's the fictition of duct tape or fictition of orange alerts we are against this war, Mr. Bush...And any time you got the Pope and the Dixie Chicks against you, your time is up." Michael Moore (at the 2003 Oscars®)

“Our enemies...never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.” George W. Bush

“Free nations are peaceful nations. Free nations don't attack each other. Free nations don't develop weapons of mass destruction.” George W. Bush

“Evil men, obsessed with ambition and unburdened by conscience, must be taken very seriously--and we must stop them before their crimes can multiply.” George W. Bush

“Why should we hear about body bags, and deaths...I mean, it's not relevant. So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?” Barbara Bush
on the Good Morning America show on ABC (18 March 2003)

“I dream of giving birth to a child who will ask, ‘Mother, what was war?’” Eve Merriam

Many of these quotations, but not all by any means, come from a web site called: Anti-War.Com

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Millard



I Promise! I will not grant sainthood to many people; yet, Millard was a saint!
by Charlie Leck

Back in mid-June of this year I wrote a blog about my father, called Great People, which drew more reaction and comment from my readers than any other I've written. As I was writing I kept thinking of Millard Ahlstrom, someone who crossed paths with me in my life for a short time. I dearly loved Millard and though we only had a half-dozen years to get to know each other before he died, he made as big an impact on me as anyone I know. Sometime ago I promised you an essay about Millard, so here I'll write about this unusual and wonderful man.

Somewhere in the heaven that Millard Ahlstrom so vividly described to me, he is allowed entry into that special room reserved for God's saints. Let me tell you what Millard was to me. He was…

…the kindest man I've ever known
…the holiest man I've ever known
…the most generous man I've ever known
…the finest pastor I've ever known
…the most charming preacher I've ever heard
…among the brightest men I've ever known
…a dear and wonderful friend

Let me tell you some things about this man, who was advisor to Presidents, Senators and Governors, and then I'll return to comments about my relationship with him.

A swede, he took his first independent breaths in a small home in Cokato, Minnesota, a small town just west of where we now live. That was in 1913. Quite naturally, the house was directly across the street from the Lutheran Church. He was a handsome child, indeed, and he would remain a handsome fellow right up to the last days of his long, long life. He was nearly 6 years old when he entered first grade in Cokato. One of his classmates was Marian Katherine Johnson. He claims that he occasionally pulled her to school on his sled. He would marry her 21 years later, in 1940. The local newspaper's headline, nearly a full page banner, screamed out the news: AHLSTROM CAPITULATES ("Surrounded on all fronts, he accepts dictatorial terms!")

By that time, Millard had graduated as the salutatorian from Cokato High School (1930); won the National Debate Championship with his partner, Kyle Montague (1934); graduated at the salutatorian from Gustavus Adlophus College (1934); and graduated from the University of Minnesota Law School (1937).

He set up a law office in Cokato in 1937; however, very reliable sources reported that he spent as much time in the Lutheran Church as he did in his office. Theological thinking intrigued him and he began to read serious theology.

The war delayed a plan to enter theological school. He served in the U.S. Army and Air Force from January, 1943, until March, 1946. He was still in uniform when he enrolled in Northwestern Theological Seminary in 1946. To make a living and support his family, which now included a son, he served as an interim pastor at the Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Saint Paul. Another son was born soon after he started the job. In 1949, after 11 years of higher education, he was ordained as a Lutheran pastor. He began his career as a circuit minister serving three Lutheran churches in rural Minnesota, making a 72 mile circuit each Sunday. In 1952, Millard began a remarkable career as the Senior Pastor of the First Lutheran Church in Saint Peter, Minnesota, and made a state-wide name for himself through his extraordinary preaching and teaching.

In 1959 he audienced in Rome with Pope John XXIII. In 1964 he was appointed to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission by President Lyndon B. Johnson. In 1968 he was appointed to the Minnesota Crime Commission by Governor Harold LeVander. From 1969 until 1983 he was the Professor of Philosophy and Religion at Lakewood Community College in White Bear Lake, Minnesota.

Late in 1992, long retired, married for over 50 years, and 73 years old, he agreed to serve as the interim pastor of a small Lutheran Church a mile or so from Native Oaks Farm. It was in December of that year, on a cold and snowy day, that he rang the doorbell of my house. I opened the door to see him standing there in khaki topcoat and a very snazzy dress hat that he removed the minute I invited him in and offered my hand. It was not such an extraordinary encounter for Millard. It was life-changing for me.

We were very close over the next 16 months. I wrote many long, thoughtful letters to him, usually in reaction to one of his sermons. We chatted both seriously and lightheartedly over coffee many, many times.

This was a man who could write things like Morning Glory ('Less is More')

Morning Glory on the garage wall
Give less lift to spirit when countless
Than when at sunrise
I saw three or four,
And found a shy one hidden

Singular girl is myriad,
Polygamy a deadly bore,
Banal the multiplicity of gods,
Pantheon trivial juxtaposed to Christ


His sermons combined elegance, simplicity and intellect as none I've ever heard. Each weekly message was carefully prepared. He believed that the 20 minutes granted to him each week to address them, by so many people as those gathered in the congregation, placed an enormous responsibility on him to carefully prepare and earnestly present. When his head bowed at the conclusion of his sermon, most always there was a tear in my eye, a lump in my throat and a gentle lightness in my heart. Most of the time Millard wanted to talk about living life in earnest, fully and in service to others.


He spoke often of heaven and tried to describe it to his congregation: "Mabel, dear, I have sat often with you, talking for hours, watching you knit and seeing how much you love it – those old hands acting young and strong and agile. Mabel, in heaven there will be a corner where you may go whenever you wish and knit as much and as long as you wish. And, Charles Leck, there will be a place in heaven set aside just for you and you may go there and write letters and essays to your heart's content and your hands and fingers and gentle mind will never tire."


I kept writing letters to him even after he left our little neighborhood and right up to the time he died. He would read every word of my lengthy epistles and reply so poignantly on nothing more than a postcard, always saying just the right thing. In one letter I said the following to him…

I don't want to dwell a great deal on this, but I miss your preaching enormously. The young pastor can sometimes rise to poignant levels though I sense he nderestimates his congregation. You know, we folks in the countryside are a bit simpler, less sophisticated, more shallow. Therefore, the sermons to which we attend must be kept on an elemental plane. Wow!

Millard wrote back on a postcard and said simply: "Listen harder!"


It was only at a gathering for his 80th birthday party that I learned how many people wrote regular letters to him. He had only time to respond briefly on postcards. Many of the people at the party spoke glowingly of how they loved Millard's cards and said that they save them as one would save treasures. One fellow, who had known Millard for many years, said that he had a collection of hundreds of the cards.

Some weeks I wrote to him more than once. Most letters were about simple things and simply because we were thinking about him. In May of 1994 I wrote to him about how much our youngest child, then ten, enjoyed getting postcards from him.

Cynthia certainly enjoyed your last couple of postcards. I protested about how she is always hearing from you. "How come he writes to you so much?" Her answer was simple: "He likes me!" When I put her to bed last night I mentioned that I was going to write to you in the morning. She asked that I be certain to tell you about our pileated woodpecker. I wondered why. "He said that maybe I would see one someday. Tell him!"

One time I wrote to him to tell him about a wonderful little book that I found in my Christmas stocking. It had sounded so much like Millard as I read it – the same faith, the same attitude, the same hopefulness and cheer. I went on for paragraphs telling him about the young man's fine, fine book and declaring how he would not believe how similar it was to his thinking. On a postcard he wrote back: "Oh yes, Kent was a student of mine. Fine boy! I am glad you read his good book. I shall write to him and tell him about you."


It seems he knew everyone and that everyone cared for him as surely and as deeply as did I.


Whenever I was with him I felt I was in the presence of both a common, decent man and a man of immense greatness and importance. Some of you who read this will know of Millard and are likely to have known him as well as I did or better. Wasn't he a wonderful, joyful person? For those of you who did not know him, I wish I could describe him better so that you could feel the power and strength of this little, frail, gentleman.


I dream of Millard often. They are simple dreams. We are having coffee together, discussing politics and how our little town is changing. He asks about Cokato and whether I ever get out there. The dreams are so vivid and seem so real. I awaken and feel blessed to have had another moment with him. Millard is in heaven and, there in the room of the saints, there is a little writing desk, reserved just for him, where he can find an endless pile of postcards. On the desk is a directory with the names of all of us – the hundreds and hundreds of us – to whom he regularly sent postcard messages. There in heaven he can write out these postcards to us just as often and as much as he wishes and he never grows weary and never runs out of things to say to us. My postcards come to me in the form of dreams about him in which he is still guiding me and challenging me to be greater in all things.


On one postcard to me he quoted the great Dakotah Native American, Chief Joseph. I keep a copy of the quote here on my desk: "The earth is the mother of all people, and all people should have equal rights upon it."


Millard, I hope you get to regularly read my blog page up there in heaven.


Preview of things to come…
More than a few of you are wondering where my book reviews are. On our old blog site I was constantly reviewing books and, evidently, quite a few of you depended on that page to inform some of your reading choices. Sorry! The number of book reviews had grown to well over 100. It got to be an overwhelming task and I had difficulty keeping the page current and available. I'm promising here to do more reports to you on what I've been reading, but I'm not going to keep a running and current list. Very soon I'll write about Suite Français, the wonderful novel by Irene Nemirovsky (and superbly translated by Sandra Smith;) Bill Bryson's book, I'm a Stranger Here Myself; and Q School, a golf book by John Feinstein. I'll also tell you about a disappointing book by Mark Frost. I'm also planning a new quotations book for the coming year – this one on quotations about war and peace. I'll give you something of a sneak preview of that work in a blog that will be posted in the next few days. Then, one more blog in anticipation of the coming 50th reunion of my graduating class – explaining why I won't be there. It's a blog about one of my classmates and his remarkable adventures.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Regrets? I’ve had a Few!



You know, we wouldn't correct our mistakes even if we could!
by Charlie Leck

It's a fact, Jack! We made some terrible blunders along the way to getting here. Yes, we! I'm talking about you, you rock head.

Look around you! Life's not so bad. Oh, sure you're wearing too many years and, if you had it to do again, you'd eat better, get more exercise and be more careful about the sun. But, if you survey your lot, you're pretty happy. Look at the kids! They made it and they're pretty much okay. You love 'em like absolute crazy and now they're producing another generation of your genealogical lineage and you love those little grandchildren like no one else could believe.

Not bad, eh?

So why are you regretting that terrible mistake you made over 40 years ago – the one that would have taken you in another direction, toward another place that would have prevented you from getting to this place? And had you, those particular, wonderful little ones wouldn't be there, where they are.

You'll get yourself all screwed around if you keep thinking like that, so just knock it off. So you should have selected another major in college! Maybe you should even have chosen a different school. That big university would have been better! You shouldn't have fooled yourself into thinking you were in love when you didn't know the first thing about love! You should have accepted that job offer in that pretty little town up along Lake Michigan! You shouldn't have turned down that offer to move to the nation's capitol.

Don't be so stupid! Had you not made that string of mistakes that little kid would not be there now, crawling her way across that oriental carpet; and her sister wouldn't be there either; nor her mother and her sisters and that wonderful, loving person who sleeps next to you each night.

Combined, all the good and all the dumb things you've done along the way have led you here, where you now sit and look out at the tree tops and think of all those loving, beautiful beings that you created and can't imagine not being there.

So, stop already! Get over it! Sure you've made some bone-head, stupid mistakes. I agree with you. Some of them I can't believe. How could you do something that dumb? However, my friend, it's done and each of those grand mistakes, along with the one or two sensible things you've done, has led you here. It's hard to believe you made it in one piece.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Visitors to Minneapolis



Here's some tips on seeing the beautiful Twin Cities
by Charlie Leck

I was with an old friend yesterday. He and I worked together back when I was with the Bureau of National Affairs. Now, nearly 40 years later, he heads a large and respected company in Atlanta. He and his wife are coming up to the Twin Cities in October. It will be her first trip here. His wife has always wanted to visit our extraordinary art museums and the Guthrie Theatre. It's a 40th wedding anniversary trip for them. Unfortunately, it is precisely when I'll be visiting my grandchildren in Chicago. Nevertheless, he asked for some tips on what to do. I thought you might like to peek at some of the ideas I gave him.

He took my advice and immediately canceled the hotel reservations he had and booked himself into the Chambers Hotel in Minneapolis. This is a very unusual hotel owned by a good acquaintance of ours. He's poured his soul into it and his extraordinary, mind-blowing art collection as well. The concept combines an art museum with a small, comfortable hotel. What a perfect place to stay when their trip here revolves around art anyway. The service at the hotel will be magnificent and The Chambers Kitchen is also one of the finest spots in Minnesota to dine. Mind you, none of the experience is inexpensive, but my friend said he could afford it. If I were visiting Minneapolis, this is the hotel in which I would choose to stay.

I arranged tickets for them to see a play at the Guthrie Theatre. This is one of the world's finest theatre companies and its production facility is considered the finest in the entire world. There are four theatres within the building and there are also two restaurants within the facility that provide an opportunity to dine before the various productions. I made arrangements for them at The Cue before the play. They'll enjoy that. Of it our local paper has said: "Cue is one production that genuinely merits that greatest of all Minnesota theater traditions, the standing ovation."

The two of them love art, so I've recommended all three wonderful museums in Minneapolis:
(1) The Minneapolis Institute of Art;
(2) The Walker Art Center; and
(3) The Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota.
They'll have two full days for doing the museums and that may not be enough time to do justice to these three fantastic places, so I recommended them in the order listed here. If the weather is good, I suggested they include a leisurely walk through the sculpture garden at the Walker Art Center.

They really won't have time for more but, if they did, I'd suggest a slow drive along Summit Avenue in Saint Paul and another along Grand Avenue, just a block south. Then I'd also suggest they hire a cabbie and ask him to drive them around the five basic lakes in Minneapolis (Cedar, Lake of the Isles, Calhoun, Harriet, and Hiawatha). There are 21 lakes within the city limits of Minneapolis. Again, if the weather is good, a stroll down the Nicollet Mall, right in the heart of Minneapolis, is also a treat. On Thursdays a really attractive Farmer's Market sets up on the mall.

My sister-in-law owns an interesting, unique and enjoyable little gift shop just outside of Minneapolis, in Saint Louis Park. If they were in a shopping mood, they could go visit Shorty's Loft and drop our names and take a walk around Excelsior and Grand. My friend shares my passion for golf, so I'd arrange a visit to The Minikahda Club, a very private and very historic golf club that sits on Lake Calhoun and on the western edge of Minneapolis, on the way out to Saint Louis Park

I wish I could be in town to tour this couple around and show them the indescribable beauty of both Minneapolis and Saint Paul. I'm betting they have a great time anyway.

If they had lots of time, here are some of the things I'd recommend to visitors to our city…

A leisurely walk out on the Stone Arch Bridge
It is very near the 35W Interstate Highway Bridge that collapsed and you can see the gap in the big freeway.
Yet the view of downtown and the old mills is reason enough to take the wonderful walk out behind the Guthrie Theatre.

Do the theatre thing
Beyond the Guthrie, Minneapolis is loaded with fine theatres
presenting live performances of every sort you can imagine,
from classic to very contemporary productions.

A visit to the Minnesota Historical Society Museum
This is one of the most fantastic buildings I've ever been in.
In one direction it looks out on the State Capitol Building
and in the other over the Saint Paul Cathedral.

A visit to the Science Museum of Minnesota
It sits on the Mississippi River in Saint Paul and it's
a lovely, charming, modern museum.

See a Wild hockey game at the X..
Even if you don't like hockey, this is really an occasion
and you'll never forget the excitement and the
extraordinary arena in which it takes place.

Hoof a ride out to Wayzata and walk along Lake Street
This is a suburban community about 15 miles west of downtown
that sits on the north shore of beautiful Lake Minnetonka.
It will provide some fun shopping a half dozen good dining opportunities
from breakfast through dinner. Two of my favorite restaurants are on
Lake Street – Gianni's Italian Steakhouse and The Blue Point.

Visit 50th and France in Edina
This busy, suburban crossroad is just on the southwest edge of Minneapolis
and it's a lovely place to stroll and shop and grab something fun to eat.

Stroll along Milwaukee Avenue in Minneapolis
This is an old, restored, working man's neighborhood
originally built by the Milwaukee Railroad. It's a pedestrian
only street lined with magnificent trees of every sort.

Saturday Morning Farmers' Market
opens early on Saturday morning and provides lots of wonder sights.
It's just off Olson Memorial Highway, very close to downtown.

The Mall of America
is an absolute must if one is a shopping fanatic.
There is no mall in the world like it and there are now plans
to make it even larger. More people visit the MOA every year
than visit DisneyWorld.

A Paddlewheel Cruise on the Mississippi
can be great fun if your visit is during our good weather
season (May 15 through October 15).

For other exciting, evening dining I told them to try Cosmos at Graves 601 Hotel or the FireLake Grill House.
There's lots of good dining near downtown Minneapolis and that includes all of the following…
Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant
If you like Jazz, book yourself into the club setting for dinner.
Otherwise, the restaurant is exceptional even without the jazz.
Manny's Steak House
This is an honest to god, overwhelming steak house
with giant portions and a hefty price tag, too
McCormick & Schmick's Seafood
Right on the Nicollet Mall, across from Zelo's
you'll find this outstanding and very busy seafood
establishment. The prices are reasonable and good
food is guaranteed.
Monte Carlo Bar and Café
One can enjoy this very old style restaurant until late at
night and you'll be pleased with both the prices and the
quality of the menu items. It's basic and the choices are
limited, but you can count on any of the specialties of the
day to be wonderful. How's this for stability? This place
has been around for over 100 years.
Morton's Steakhouse
This is a national chain but it is really outstanding
and diners are never disappointed except with the
size of the check.
Murray's Restaurant
We really recommend this place. It's been around since 1946
and never disappoints. It's famous for its Silver Butter Knife Steak
and for its garlic toast; however, it has a very big menu with other
wonderful selections.
Oceanaire Seafood
Get great seafood here but not inexpensively.
This is another national chain but each of their restaurants
is done very locally and they are all top-notch. If you love
seafood, you'll love Oceanaire.
Palomino Restaurant and Lounge
Though it's a national chain, it gives you a real local touch and
you'll be delighted with the quality of their fare. We make it there
once a year for sure.
Solera's
This is a Tapas Bar & Lounge
and you can count on really tasty Spanish finger food
at a reasonable price
Vincent's Restaurant
You'll find this wonderful establishment right on the Nicollet Mall
and immediately across from Orchestra Hall. It's our favorite restaurant
in Minneapolis, but you'll find it very pricey.
Zelo
If you're looking for a solid restaurant with good food,
comfort, contemporary zaniness and reasonable prices
this may be the spot. We like it.

If you've gotten the idea that I love the Twin Cities, you got it right!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Do We Support Mukasey?


Before you jump on the Michael Mukasey bandwagon
by Charlie Leck

Michael Mukasey appears, on the surface, to be an acceptable nominee for Attorney General; however, before you jump on his bandwagon, check out this editorial from the NY Times. There are certain questions Mukasey must be asked. He musn't be rubber-stamped. And, there is some unfinished business regarding the on-going Congressional investigation into the involvement of the Justice Department in the last election.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The War Was Always There



The Four Great Issues in the United States
by Charlie Leck

As Hemingway wrote over 70 years ago: "In the fall the War was always there, but we did not go to it anymore!"* So it is when I list the crucial, vital issues facing America and Americans in the next election. The horrible war is there, but I'm not going to it here. Beside the war, here are the great problem issues that politicians must face and solve in America?

  1. Poverty and the disappearance of the middle class in our nation threatens economic stability
  2. A new isolationist and anti-immigration movement threatens our leadership position in the world
  3. Health care equality is not an option but a constitutional right
  4. Curbing the hatred of the Christian right is vital in order to preserve an open and free America

We are still a year away from making the decision about who we'll vote for in the next national election, but let me say, without drama but with certainty, that this may be the most important election in which any of us has ever cast a vote. I have listed above the four great issues that I will use as a litmus test for the candidates. Where they stand on these matters will dictate how I vote.

Curbing the hatred of the Christian right

You can be certain that I will not vote for any candidate who is sympathetic to the right wing of the Christian faith. These are dangerous people. They are motivated by hate, rather than the love recommended by their Christ, and they teach that hatred to young children. The viciousness of the propaganda I receive from them makes me shudder in fear and nearly weep in sorrow that they so poorly understand the sacred man to whom they claim to commit their lives. We must find a constitutional way to curb the hatred promulgated by this group within our society. They not only do great harm within our nation, but they also depict us unfavorably around the world. The Christian right has no sympathy for those of us who are humanist or universalist Christians. Exclusivism is dangerous in any format. It is frightening in matters of faith. Those of you who share this concern about the pressure that the "right" puts on candidates and elected officials ought to know about PEOPLE FOR THE AMERICAN WAY (founded by Norman Lear, Barbara Jordan and other outstanding Americans). This organization is a watchdog that tracks the political activity of the Christian Right and reports it.

Health Care Equality
America ranks very low among developed countries when it comes to the distribution of health care. I'll leave for further debate the quality of that health care. My concern here is that a huge percentage of Americans do not have high quality health care available to them because of its expense. Now, it's fine if a fellow American cannot afford a BMW and must settle for a Ford Taurus. That is capitalistic democracy at work. High quality health care, by rights of our democracy and according to the written guarantees of our republic, should be affordably available to every citizen of United States. To me, this is an absolute! There are no exceptions! In a two year period, a neighbor of ours, who headed a health care delivery company, earned nearly 200 million dollars in stock option bonuses. It is only one of many such examples in America. What's the point? You figure it out!

Ending the new isolationist movement and the anti-immigration movement
Opposing the immigration of certain elements (certain people) is nothing new in America. There is a history of it. Italians have faced it and so have Germans, Irish and Asians. Awful and terrible things were said about these peoples in an attempt to keep them out of the country. Today the hatred is turned against those from the Middle East and especially toward Muslims. People I normally admire for reasonableness and rationality seem to lose both on this issue. Again, we must realize that our nation was built on the openness of its borders. This is not written on the Statue of Liberty: "Come if you are white, Anglo Saxon and protestant!"

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door."

Don't dismiss it! This is part of our rich history. It is what made us the greatest nation in the world. If we abandon this spirit, we become just another among the common nations of the world. We will have no right to leadership. We will lose the great respect and honor that has been bestowed upon us. Most frighteningly, we will abandon the challenge of our founding fathers. The religious right intends to frighten people to death on this issue. They are hate-mongering and even telling giant fibs. They speak without substance!

Restoring a balance of wealth
There are probably more diplomatic ways to say it, which won't so offend the radicals on the far right, but the wealth of the nation has become too unbalanced. That is the same as saying that the middle class has lost its position of eminence and power. It is an elementary principle of sociology that a culture needs a strong, diverse and respected middle class. If politicians know what is good for us, they will legislate the middle class back into a position of such respect and strength.


If you are looking for a list of issues on which to judge the campaigning politicians in the next year, I recommend this one to you. Print it out! Post it on the refrigerator. See how the campaigners stack up on these issues.

*In Another Country (1928)
"In the fall the war was always there, but we did not go to it any more. It was cold in the fall in Milan and the dark came very early."

Texas Turns Against the War



The Lone Star State has paid a big price
by Charlie Leck

Here's to Texas. It paid a huge price in the lives of its young people in the war in Iraq. We salute the state and pay our respects to the more than 375 who have died and the more than 2,000 who have been wounded. Only California, a much more populous state, has paid a bigger price.

Now Texans have had enough. A large majority of Texans are saying enough of this nonsense. Welcome aboard Texas! Let's not only put an end to this horror, but let's build a system to prevent it from happening again.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

General Petraeus and Secretary of State Colin Powell



Is there a comparison here?
by Charlie Leck


The TV was on in the background during the testimony of General Petraeus before Congress last week. I sat down in front of it occasionally and took in the general, watching his eyes, his chin, his lips and his hand gestures. My impression was good. He's a bright, talented and straight-forward guy. I said to myself: "No way he'd carry the water for a guy like George W… no way!"


Go back to the performance of Secretary of State Colin Powell before the United Nations 5 years ago. I was a big Powell guy and thought he might even make an outstanding President. He had those steady eyes and straight-forward way. He could be trusted. He'd never carry the water for George W… no way!


This is what bother's be about the Petraeus testimony. How do we know? It's so easy to be duped.


I wanted some Congressperson or Senator to have the guts to ask him – right out: "General, don't you think this was in its inception the dumbest damned war in the history of mankind?"


Why didn't we get to the essential questions? "General, doesn't it look like a cage full of idiots planned this war and the occupation of Iraq?"


The closest we came to an essential question was asked by Senator John Warner when he queried whether the war was making us safer.


"Sir, I don't know, actually!"


That undermined the Bush rationale quite significantly. The general just didn't know if all this effort, this money and these lost lives was making us any safer. The Bush line has been that it is better to fight them over there. Better for whom, Mr. President? Better for the little children of Iraq? Better for the families who are now homeless? Better for our general image around the world?


I fear that General Petraeus was fronting for President Bush. I sure didn't see any signs of it; yet I fear it anyway. Colin Powell was fed misinformation before his speech to the United Nations. Was Petraeus similarly treated before he testified before Congress?


On this one, don't expect the newspapers to give you hard hitting opinion on the General's testimony. This is a time to hit the blogs. You should have all your favorite and trust worthy blogs bookmarked so you can turn right to them. You'll get better information from Slate.Com and Salon.Com then you'll find in the best newspapers in the country.


Here are some of the Blogs I like to check out occasionally:


Michelle Malkin

The Huffington Post

Classically Liberal

Daily Kos

America Blog

Andrew Sullivan

Swampland (Joe Klein)

The Big Question (Star-Tribune)

Blog of the Moderate Left

Media Matters

Russ Douthat at the Atlantic.Com (unfortunately you need a subscription to this one)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Why Do We Hurt the People We Care About?


Dating a high school cheerleader!
by Charlie Leck

Another blog about my 50th high school class reunion
and why I won’t go! This one is a difficult one to write,
but I think it’s good for my soul to write it.

Don’t ask me why we hurt people we care about? I did it a lot when I was young and I’m afraid I continue doing it occasionally. Let me start somewhere else.

Holden Caulfield had nothing on me. Remember him? The Catcher in the Rye? He was pretty messed up and confused. He really did dumb things. His mind was in chaos. Things were happening too quickly for him. He couldn’t have made a solid, sensible decision no matter how hard he tried. His brain was tongue tied.

When I was sixteen I was a real mess too. I couldn’t figure anything out – not chemistry, algebra, French or human relationships. Enough people certainly made friendly overtures toward me, indicating their interests in friendship; yet, I was always confused by it. I often looked at myself in the mirror and wondered how anyone could want to be my friend. I would rather have sat in my room and listened to my cheap, tinny radio play the top 25 songs of the week. I tried to study, but nothing made sense. Conjugating verbs in French was a mystery I couldn’t handle. What is this business about the value of X? What the heck is a chemical compound? You think I jest, but I don’t.

I was totally convinced that I was one brain-dead dude. Convinced! The only class I enjoyed was literature. The only activities I found enjoyable were public speaking, debate and drama. They made sense to me because one could then play this game of make-believe. Reality blew my mind!

One of my problems was that I was always falling madly in love with girls who were out of range. I was in the drama club with one of life’s most spectacularly beautiful girls. June Lillian Reinertsen was Norwegian and I was left breathless every time I looked at her. She was a year older and a senior when I was a junior. We were in one of the school plays together and worked closely. Sometimes I’d walk to play practice with her and she’d be so kind and nice to me that it confused me. I cannot tell you how much courage it took to ask her to go have a burger and a soda after play practice one night. Very kindly she explained that there was this fellow – a college guy – who she was dating and it wouldn’t seem right to snack with me. They were going steady!

“You’re a great guy, Charlie, but I can’t go out with you.”

It was okay.

Sure it was okay! Like getting slammed to the turf in football practice by Bob Hoffman was okay! On the football field he was one of the meanest, strongest guys you’d ever meet. I can’t tell you how many times he slammed me to the ground. That’s how it felt when June said she couldn’t even have a burger with me. Oh well, how could you date a senior anyway? I didn’t even drive yet.

It seemed a rule of life that all the really beautiful girls had boyfriends who were a few years older. To my little, confused mind it didn’t seem fair. But, as I learned later in life, there is no justice in matters of love and the heart. I developed a guiding principle I have followed faithfully since: “Life is not fair!”

As my junior year played out, along came Gloria. I’d just been dumped by a freshman girl, but that was okay. I deserved it. Gloria was a senior and a cheer leader and she had the most beautiful smile I had ever seen. She sent signals that she liked me. Wow! A cheer leader liked me. She was tall and muscular and very athletic, but that’s okay because I was tall and strong. We hung around together after basketball games. The gym would close and we’d go outside and stand in the cold, night air, chatting. One night, after one game, while we stood together in front of the school, she leaned forward and kissed me. That gave me the nerve to ask her to go for a burger. I didn’t drive yet. We walked over to the burger place near the school and I had enough money to buy her a malt, a burger and some fries. She laughed heartily at almost everything I said. My god she was nice. I looked at my watch and panicked a bit. My brother was to pick me up in the high school parking lot and drive me home. It was okay. She’d call her parents. I ran full out across the length of the campus to the parking lot at the south end. My brother was waiting, but he was cool.

It took a couple of weeks for me to ask her out. We’d go to a movie and, afterwards, somewhere for a snack. My brother agreed to drive. He brought his girlfriend along, but they disappeared when they dropped us off at the movie in Netcong. It was a great night and we had a good time. We’d been seeing each other every day at school and the vibes were really good. We kissed again a few times and I thought it was a wonderful thing to do. I had dated a younger girl for a while and we had kissed, but it was sort of like saying goodbye to your sister when she went off to college. Kissing Gloria was like saying “hello” and “I’m really glad to see you again.”
At night, in bed, I’d think about her. I could hear her laughter and see her giant smile. My, she was a lovely girl. I wondered why she didn’t have an older boyfriend. She was too special not to. Her lovely kisses were certainly nice, but laughing with her was as wonderful as anything I had ever known.

One day I told my brother I wanted to take her to a basketball game and then out for pizza. Would he be willing to drive?

“She’s Negro, you know,” my brother said.

“What?” It seemed such an odd thing to say.

“She is. Don’t you know it?”

“No, she’s not! She’s South American! Or Italian, I think, or, maybe, Greek!”

“No, she’s not! Look how dark she is.”

“Wait a minute! What does it matter? I like her. She likes me. She’s really nice.”

“Mom doesn’t think it’s a good idea!”

“What? Mother has never even met her!”

My god! It hit me like someone shot me! Was there no end to the problems of romance? Here was someone with whom I just liked doing things. It was great fun to be with her. She made me feel adequate. I didn’t feel adequate very often. She drew me out of my bedroom. She made me feel as if I was someone with some kind of worth.

“Are you saying mother doesn’t want me to see her?”

“Yes!”

America was a strange place then! I guess it still is.

I felt as if I had died. I made up some lame excuse. Gloria pretended that she understood. We remained friends right up until her graduation. I remember kissing her cheek on her graduation day and there were tears in my eyes.

In my year book she wrote: “Remember the good times we had!”

Gloria, dear, forgive me! I don’t care what you are or were! You were beautiful and you were so nice to me. I had so few friends who understood me and I didn’t need to lose one of them the way I lost you.

May I say it gently? I really liked you, Gloria. I really liked you! You were a lovely friend.

Gloria, of course, won’t be at the class reunion. Too bad! Maybe if she would be there I’d go, so I could kiss her cheek and say I’m sorry.

I had a lot of good friends in that class ahead of me.
That’s the class I should have been in. I remember a
lot of those kids: Janet Bigg, the wonderful Finnegan
sisters, Jackie Cleland, Tommy Esposito, Stan Woods,
Sue Smith, Tony Santella, Chip Salmon, June Reinertsen,
Joel Mitchell, Adele Hopler, George Johnson, Ted
Neswald, Sandy Green, Lolly Nash, Trev Murphy, Jerry
Hunsicker and good old Nocker. That was a wonderful class.

I must write about the Finnegan sisters sometime. They
were then, and probably still are, among the nicest
human beings on earth. If I were to list all my best friends
in life, they would be on the list.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Poverty is Unnecessary



Poverty in America is Shameful
by Charlie Leck

The following was written nearly a year ago (22 October 2006)
but read by very few of you because, at that time, I had only a
few readers visiting my blog on another site. I wanted to post
this blog here for more of you to read.

"The poor will always be with us," said Jesus (Mark 14:7).

I guess! It seems that way. Yet, Muhammad Yunus, a 2006 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, says, "Poverty is unnecessary."

Would that it were so!

In its citation of Yunus as a prizewinner, the Nobel Committee claims that lasting peace cannot be achieved in the presence of poverty.

I have always had the lingering, lurking belief that a great deal of the unrest, civil war and terrorism in the world is rooted in poverty. Is it so difficult to believe that poverty must sometimes become so unbearable that it causes the birth of ferocious anger?

Our nation is now waging a war on terrorism. Our strategy and methods will not win the war. Oh, we may win a victory here and there – destroy a terrorist cell or an infamous terrorist leader. However, in a world of ravaging poverty in the face of astronomical wealth, there will always be anger among the poor and a hatred of the rich.

Muhammad Yunus strives "to make poverty a museum artifact." Read about him. You all know how to Google. I tend to believe he is correct. The Scandinavians claim to have eradicated poverty in their countries. Only psychological poverty remains; that is, poverty by choice. With a will to do it, America could do the same. It could also be a reality throughout North America. It would take great, wise and creative leadership, but it is a possibility and not a fantasy. My conservative friends will begin, at this point in my argument, to raise howls about socialism and communism. No, that's not where I'm going. It could happen under creative capitalism. There needs only a will to accomplish it.

We have an enormous amount of poverty in America. It is one of the most shameful characteristics of our great nation – that we would allow such a deficiency to exist.

As comfortable, wealthy folks, we are encouraged to give to charities and non-profit organizations that provide handouts to the poor. Send a few cans of soup to the food-shelf. In a great nation of remarkable economic genius and of powerful entrepreneurs, isn't there some more effective way to attack poverty – to grab it by its roots and to pull it forever from the soil of the nation?

If Muhammad Yunus can come up with the ingenious idea of a microcredit bank, can't we come up with some ideas also?

Are we serious when we say we want to fight terrorism and eliminate it? Do we mean it when we say that urban violence must end? These are fights that tanks and guns will not win. They are battles that the creative, economic mind could solve. It is a war that America could wage with great creativity and at less cost than the current war in Iraq. And, in waging such a war, America's international friends would take great notice and we would return to a place of world leadership again.

Jesus may be correct. However, we should make sure that only those who choose to be poor would remain so anywhere in our nation and in the world.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

You Can’t Unbite the Apple



The President will speak tonight
by Charlie Leck


The President will speak tonight. This morning, my wife suggested I not watch it. She doesn't want me to get too stirred up. I don't blame her and the TV would be in danger.

I am very gloomy about the projections of hundreds of thousands of deaths by massacre if our troops were to pull out of Iraq. Are you old enough to remember all of this from Vietnam? Why do we do these things? How do we keep getting ourselves involved in useless, wasteful wars?


One local radio personalityput it quite well the other day. He said: "You can't unbite the apple!"*


It expresses the problem we have now in Iraq. It is a warning that President Bush should have heeded several years ago. It's a warning future presidents should carefully heed.


We are now mired in horrendous problems in Iraq. Two years will not solve them. Neither will four years or 10 years. Recently some experts have talked about us staying for decades in the basic role of occupiers.


This is all on our plate now because we took a bite of the apple. Unfortunately the entire mess was based on dishonesty or certainly, to put it in the kindest possible way, because of misinformation.


We went to Afghanistan to get Osama bin Laden. We didn't get him. We went to Iraq to get Weapons of Mass Destruction that weren't there.


When we bit the apple we ruined Iraq's entire infrastructure and its economic engine. Under the present circumstances it is not possible to get them totally rebuilt.


When we bit the apple we gave international terrorism exactly what it was looking for; that is, a perfect excuse to use violence to keep American pinned down, exhausting its military forces and wasting its funds.


When we bit the apple we miscalculated the time and effort it would take to get in and out of Iraq.


Now the military experts have told us the utter and complete truth we were not told before we bit the apple; that is, that it may take another 10 years or more of military involvement in Iraq to solve the incredible problems we created there. To repeat, the military tells us that hundreds of thousands will die if we leave.


Not since that time in the Garden of Eden has such a Pandora's Box been opened by taking a simple bite of the apple.


*Don Shelby on WCCO Radio!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Bookstore Experience


Long, tall girls in bookstore aisles
by Charlie Leck


When I do accountings of my favorite places to spend time, bookstores always finish way up on top of my lists. There is a lovely, little bookstore in a town very nearby. It sits in such an enviable location, looking out on the waters of Lake Minnetonka, that one can hardly think of any more wonderful place to browse through books. It's only weakness is that it doesn't have sprawling room and when wants to stretch out and stay a while, thumbing through book after book, it isn't the place to visit. Unfortunately, at times such as that, when a large inventory and big amounts of space are absolute requirements; one is forced to visit the big box bookstore further in toward town and just off the Interstate Highway.


I went to the big box store yesterday in search of some of the travel books of Bill Bryson. I've written about Bryson in this blog space. He's become one of my favorite contemporary authors; however, I've not yet read any of his travel accounts.


I strolled through the big front doors of the store and aimed myself in the general direction of travel and geography. I approached the aisle and was about to make a hard left turn into the travel section when, fortunately, something ahead distracted me (or attracted me in an intriguing kind of way) and I hesitated at my turn. I dread thinking of what might have happened if I had made the turn at full speed and encountered what I observed there when I hesitated.


Lounging before me, taking up the entire aisle, and then some, were two ladies of my acquaintance from a little spot we all call our country club. Mind you, they are not ordinary ladies. They are two of the tallest ladies I know and when they decide to lie about in a bookstore aisle they are sending a message with certainty: "This aisle-way is closed! Please use detour!" Around them were scattered a dozen or more books that they had examined, or were intending to examine. It would be safe for me to add here, if they don't happen to stumble upon my blog, that they were in what one might call their Saturday morning mode. In other words, they did not have that usual country club look with which I am most familiar. They had not on themselves even a mite of make-up and their heads of hair were not coiffed one tiny bit. They wore jeans (denim) of the most faded and comfortable sort – something totally banned at our little club and so, naturally, something I had never seen them wear before. Each also wore some kind of dull, gray, tattered sweatshirts that one would normally only be allowed to wear when bathing the Saint Bernard.


These long, tall ladies, so comfortably overwhelming the entire aisle of the travel section, had not the slightest idea that I stood there, looking down upon them in their quest for information. I was disappointedly wishing that I had my camera in hand because it would have made one of the finest candid photographs in the history of modern photography; and had it not gotten me world-wide fame it would certainly have won me many hearty back-slaps from folks around the club. I toyed with the idea of ignoring them and moving on without a word; however, I am not known for such graciousness and gracefulness, so I laughed robustly and pointed at them in their repose.


"Girls! You are about to travel somewhere!" I am also known as something of a creative and talented detective. My deductive powers are enormous.


They looked up and their cheeks immediately flushed. The first thing I noticed was their sense of relief that I was not carrying with me the camera for which I am so well known at our little club.


I must interrupt my ramblings here to point out, in case you haven't already sensed it, that this whole picture is something to which I give hearty and unreserved approval. I know of nothing more comfortable and enjoyable to do. Lounging in bookstores is extremely acceptable. One just does not want to be discovered doing it or interrupted while in such a state of relaxed concentration. It is a very private and personal moment. I can make my point by relating to you that the girls disappeared shortly after I learned from them that they planned to roam around in the rural, small villages of Spain, southern France and Italy.


I went off to chat with a lady at the information desk. I had only time to tell her she looked terribly familiar and to learn from her that we went to the same church in downtown Minneapolis. I then circled around to the other entrance into the travel aisle to explore some of Bryson's offerings and noted that the long, tall ladies had tidied up their formerly staked out territory and had disappeared completely. It was no doubt due to my discovery of them in such intimacy. My poor and boorish behavior embarrassed me to no end and I immediately sat down in the middle of the aisle and mournfully pulled out 5 or 6 different volumes of the travel writings of Bill Bryson. I was able to begin chuckling immediately and my feelings of guilt were assuaged. The little hideout was now mine.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

A Seemingly Infinite Mess



I have avoided this film for long enough!
by Charlie Leck


Okay! I confess forthwith! I swiped the title from Wesley Morris and the Boston Globe. I couldn't resist because it says it so perfectly. It being the incredible mess in which the United States of America is now involved in the nation of Iraq. Morris used the phrase in his review of the documentary film, No End in Sight.


My wife has been bugging me to see the film for over a month now. Here's the problem: she's always busy! Don't blame it on me. I don't have a host of horses comin' after me. Nor do I have all those sheep and little lambs begging to be fed and looked after 7 days each week. I don't have a boss who insists I work on a Sunday morning at 6 o'clock and keeps me impressed in servitude until the sun has gone down. Yet, I am bright enough to know that the romance of all her work is going to keep you, my faithful readers, much more sympathetic to the plight of my betrothed than to me, the starving writer.


So, I shall go see the film on my own, some afternoon during the coming week. After all, how long can one put off seeing a film that has an average rating of 4.9 stars out of a possible 5 stars on Google's movie web site [ http://www.google.com/movies ]. That's based on reviews in the Chicago Sun-Times (Roger Ebert), the Boston Globe, Entertainment Weekly, GuideLive, and the Chicago Tribune. Only GuideLive gave it less than the maximum 5 stars (4.6).


The NY Times said of it: "This essential, infuriating documentary calmly and thoroughly chronicles the incompetence and arrogance in the early days of the American occupation of Iraq, which set the stage for what was to follow." A.O. Scott, who reviewed the film for the NY Times, wrote: "It's a sober, revelatory and absolutely vital film."


The documentary is the brain-child of Charles Ferguson, a former Brookings Institution scholar. Ferguson has a doctorate in political science. The thesis of the film, which every review I've encountered says he proves, is that there are no correct choices left in shaking ourselves of the disaster we alone created in Iraq. Very poor planning led to very poor results. The invasion was superbly planned and run. Running the nation following the invasion was another question all together and there was no real plan. We made two essential and devastating mistakes that cost us the war. First, we dismantled the Iraqi military and that left, as Ferguson points out, "nearly a half million armed men with no one to serve." Then, Paul Bremer's de-Baathification program made the intelligentsia of Iraqi society – the teachers, librarians, curators and engineers – jobless.


No matter what the public relations program of George W. Bush says, the chaos of Iraq has not subsided. Now, we are in an absolute no-win situation – a situation with which no nation on the globe has any interested in assisting us.


All the reviews show, and all my friends who have seen the film agree, that the arrogance, incompetence and stupidity of George W. Bush and his team is remarkable. History will not forgive this administration. It is astonishing that such a large cadre of loyalists remains committed to him and his desperate hope for victory in an unwinnable situation.


The common theme in all the reviews of No End in Sight is that it is a depressing and devastating look at Iraq and the mistakes we made there; yet, it is a vitally important film for each of us to see. I have avoided it long enough.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Lutein



Lutein, the wonder supplement
by Charlie Leck


Do you know what Lutein is? Hmm. Very interesting. Neither do I. Or, at least, I didn't until very recently. Now, I feel it is one of my callings to introduce you to Lutein and all the benefits it might provide you. However, allow me to do this in a quite round-about way.


My story begins sometime over five years ago at a very formal ball in a very formal ballroom. I was all packed up in an outfit called "white tie and tails." I happened to own such an outfit because I was at one time in my relative youth elected into a fairly distinguished gentlemen's association called The Coaching Club. One of our silly traditions was to own a common suit of daytime clothing and a common set of white tie and tails (handsomely tailored in New York). The fact that this is one of the most ghastly ensembles of men's clothing that the mind could devise is quite beside the point. As a matter of fact, it is not at all the point and has nothing to do with what I am getting at here.


It was a committee of The Fifties Club that put this particular ball together and anyone invited to it was to feel overwhelmed with gratitude. Properly, I was. We were! Said committee, however, had several very zany ideas for this ball; one of which was to assign you to a dinner partner of the opposite sex and seat you far away from the woman with whom you actually came to the ball (my wife). Another of the committee's ideas was a dance card filled with the names of ladies one needed to seek out at particular times and with whom one was expected to dance. Quite fortunately, most of mine were with ladies in excess of 80 years of age who found it difficult to rise from their chairs let alone waltz around the room with me, and so they declined.


Back, however, to my dinner partner and to the matter of Lutein. I sat with a very charming lady of approximately my age who was the wife of the CEO of one of the world's wonder companies in medical device invention and manufacture. During the evening she explained to me the wonders of Lutein, especially its benefit in preventing macular degeneration. Her salesmanship impressed me totally.


The following day I was in the health store buying an enormous supply of Lutein and I have, without fail, taken my prescribed dose every single day since the morning after the spectacular ball. I do not have macular degeneration or any symptoms of it.


Fast forward! In recent weeks I had the occasion to meet up with said lady again. This time it was at a lovely, rather formal picnic with lots of the kinds of people with whom one occasionally enjoys hob-knobbing. When I saw her out on a terrace and confronted her in mid-conversation with some other ladies, I profusely thanked her for her now years old recommendation to take Lutein. She looked at me oddly and asked me very seriously: "What is Lutein?"


I was aghast! I wanted to pursue the matter further, but the lady returned with haste to her previous conversation.


Excuse me!


I returned to the corner of the yard where my wife was discussing with some gentleman the physics and physiques of various breeds of jumping horses and I waited patiently to interrupt her.


"She doesn't remember a damn thing about Lutein," I said. "I've been taking this expensive stuff for over five years and she doesn't even remember recommending it to me. As a matter of fact, she doesn't even know what the shit is! Excuse me very much, Mr. Ramblestonstein!"


My wife giggled.


"But I've paid a fortune for the stuff over the years on her recommendation alone."


"You do not have macular degeneration," my wife said, smiling coyly.


"I've already mentioned that to my readers," said I.


The next morning – the one following the lovely picnic – I took my vitamins and included with them my daily dose of Lutein. I ambled off to my computer and went on-line in search of some information about Lutein. Low and behold, I found the Lutein Information Bureau and I recommend it to you.
http://www.luteininfo.com/eye



Monday, September 3, 2007

Sunday with the New York Times




The Roll of the News Media in America
by Charlie Leck


I had a bachelor's weekend this labor day. On Friday, my wife flew to New York City. She'll return on Monday evening. That means I could do whatever I wanted over the weekend.


Saturday was my 67th birthday. I can't believe I have already spent 67 years upon this earth. It doesn't seem at all possible, but every person in his or her late 60s or older is saying the same thing and young people are extremely bored by us continually saying it. But, this is not the point of this blog, so I'll move on.


The great thing about the weekend was a lovely, lazy round of golf on a perfect day on Saturday. I played with a friend and his wife at their private club. Great fun! I didn't have to rush home and we had a quiet, casual drink or two after the round and some hors d'oeuvre galore. I had arranged for a ride and didn't drive. I'm pretty adamant about the dangers of drinking and driving.


I slept late for me on Sunday morning and didn't rise until a few minutes after six. I made a fresh pot of coffee and headed for the Sunday New York Times. Nothing is more fun for me. Normally I have to rush through it – taking about two hours. On this particular day I had no reason to rush. It was three mugs of coffee and four hours later when I finally came up for air and decided it was time to turn to the Minneapolis paper. The question was: Should I take a walk first? I did. I have a long, winding driveway that's about a quarter mile long. I love walking down it. One can count dozens of birds and will probably encounter a deer as well – or a rabbit or two at the very least. When I walk alone I can stop as I will, rest and think. Then, when I'm prepared, I walk on.


When I returned from my walk, I turned first to Garrison Keillor's column in the Opinion Section of our local paper. I don't think his columns ever disappoint me and this occasion was no exception. On this particular Sunday he wrote in tribute of one of his journalism professors, Robert Lindsay, who was one of the contributors to the skills Keillor developed as a writer. It was an easy going, gentle, respectful column about his late teacher. Those of you who don't read Keillor every week are missing something very special.


There seemed words on every page about the U.S. Senator from Idaho and his escapades in a Minneapolis Airport restroom. I couldn't read a word of it. There are more important things to move on to. If there is any point to be made about Craig and why his resignation was required, it is the hypocrisy of the man. That is what brought him down and not the action itself. The American public is quite forgiving of dalliances. We saw that in the Bill Clinton case. We hate hypocrisy, however, and we didn't appreciate the hateful howling from Craig about homosexuality in America nor his strong stance against gay rights. Sara Whitman wrote on the Huffington Report [huffingtonpost.com]: "This is a man, who for his entire political career has worked in fervor against any LGBT issues on the table." As King Henry VIII might have said: "Off with his head!" Or, so to speak! The conservative blogger, Michelle Malkin, [michellemalkin.com] wrote about the double-standard of the Democrats. She brought up the sex-life of Barney Frank. She missed this point about hypocrisy and its importance here. Ed Morrissey, in his Captain's Quarters blog [captainsquartersblog.com], asked a popular question that's been repeated in many places: "How long before Craig checks himself into rehab or finds Jesus?"


E. J. Dionne compared the coverage that has been given to Leona Helmsley and the will she left behind, establishing a 12 million dollar trust for her dog, and Michael Vick's guilty plea in a criminal dog fighting case, to the lack of attention that has been given to a Census Bureau report that the number of Americans uncovered by health insurance continues to rise dramatically. Sicko indeed! He writes about the shameful veiling of the poor from sight. He makes a powerful case that the media could play a central role in casting light upon problems in our nation, motivating state and national leaders to solve these predicaments.


"Why is it that the poor – and, for that matter, the struggling middle class too – disappear in the media, barricaded behind our fixation on celebrity, our titillation over personal sin and public shame, our fascination with every detail of every divorce and affair of every movie star, rock idol and sports phenom?


Sometimes I get angry with all the conservative criticism of the news media. Maybe they have a point. Highlighting America's problems can't be left only on the editorial pages either. Action comes when they are featured on the front page and in powerful video clips on television. I understand that the media cannot be expected to be America's overseer. Stop! Stop right there! Yes they can! That, historically, has been the roll of the media and it is one of the important parts of its mission. I wonder what the journalism professor, Robert Lindsay, would think of this bold concept.


George Will wrote a column contending that war sometimes is the answer. I agree, but, as I have written here before, it should be the very, very last option and an option seldom chosen. In one's life time one should expect not to see one's nation entangled in a war. In my lifetime, I have seen our great nation involved in five major wars and several other brief military skirmishes. That's nonsense! It's absolutely sick!


The cost of New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina is something a lot of writers have addressed in the past week. When the tally is done it will show the cost has been astronomical; yet, so many problems remain and so many people are still left on the outside. This is a case that will be studied for the next decade, looking at misspent funds, corruption and downright piss-poor planning.


The question has been raised by many: Who will be the next Attorney General? Some have speculated that it might be Senator Joe Lieberman. Let's dismiss that out of hand. Senator Lieberman has a six year run ahead of him. If he were to accept an appointment to the AG's office, he'd have only slightly more than a year to serve. I know Joe and he's no dummy. My money is on Michael Chertoff.


A number of editorialists are writing about New York City and its brilliant mayor. I just got off the phone. My wife and I chatted about her long weekend in NYC. She's moving our daughter into a brownstone in Harlem as she prepares to teach for two years at the Thurgood Marshall Baccalaureate High School. My wife was impressed with the city and the atmosphere and attitude of New Yorkers. I'm mighty impressed by Bloomberg. I think he tries to rise above politics in solving problems. Good luck to him! Politics doesn't work that way.


Paul Krugman wrote about a Snow Job in the Desert. Krugman has got it right. The President is trying to apply campaign politics to the situation in Iraq. He's thinking he can convince the American public that things are okay now and, by showing 10 second sound bites of the situation, he can convince the American public that this has been a worthy war. After Krugman sent his piece in for publication the news came that President Bush landed in Iraq to meet with servicemen everywhere and with Iraqi political leaders in Bagdad. The President's strategy will have a short-term benefit for him and his popularity will rise a few points and the polls will show we should stay the course. Give it two weeks and everyone – including conservatives – will be crying that we should bring the boys home. Campaign politics will not work in salvaging the terrible mistakes we made in Iraq.


I've told you this before, but I'll repeat myself. Stanley Fish is the most brilliant political observer and writer in the country today. His sense of logic is brilliant. His common sense is superb. Fish gets it and he gets it right. He is not a liberal. He is not a conservative. He is a thinker and scholar. This weekend's piece in the NY Times is worthy of your attention: "Liberalism and Secularism: One and the Same." My liberal friends are right now raising an eye brow or two, wondering if I've gone mad. No, Fish has some words of wisdom for us about critical thinking and open-mindedness.


"In saying this, I am not criticizing liberalism, just explaining what it is. It is a form of political organization that is militantly secular and incapable, by definition, of seeing the strong claim of religion – the claim to be in possession of a truth all should acknowledge – as anything but an expression of unreasonableness and irrationality." [http://fish.blogs.nytimes.com/]


As much as I enjoy reading Fish, I must say he's correct here and I'm happy about it. Religion – especially Christianity – has lost its way and it has little to say in the political dialogue of the day to which we should listen. That's a tough statement, but I believe it.


Dick Cavett wrote strong words about obesity in America. He's made me feel guilty enough that I went and worked out today and resolved to repeat it every day until I'm just too old to do it anymore. Fat people won't like want Cavett wrote, but he's right on. Many Americans do treat the human body "as if it were a Strausbourg goose."


My look at the time! My wife will be coming home soon and the sink is full of dirty dishes and pots and pans. Here comes the difficult part about being a bachelor for the weekend. I must clean up or she'll kill me.


I won't be writing for 3 or 4 days. I'm off to an uncivilized part of the state for a bit of a vacation.