Saturday, May 31, 2008

Wendy and Arne Speak with One Voice

How delightful to hear political unity from two wonderful Governors of different parties!
by Charlie Leck

What a delightful day! I popped open the morning paper and went immediately to the Opinion Page, as I always do, and saw the column immediately. My coffee tasted better than it has in months. I drank slowly and read the column with such pleasure. [The State We Love Needs Our Protection]

Wendy Anderson and Arne Carlson were two of my favorite governors in the years that I have lived here. I had the fortunate opportunity to engage in significant personal conversation with each of them – with Wendy back in the days when I served on the State Central Committee of the Democratic Party and with Arne over a period of years from 1967 through about 1975 when I was a rather close personal friend. They are both good and thoughtful gentlemen. What marked both of their terms of administration was the recognition that the good of the state always comes before the good of a political party.

How refreshing! I’ve not witnessed much of this kind of thinking lately – by leaders of either party.Thank you to these good men.To them I say that I hope we will hear more from you. Your unified statements on many other issues would be appreciated. What shall we do to restore our public education system? How shall we deal with improving our crumbling infrastructure? How can we build a modern, exciting and efficient transportation system? How can we regain our position as one of the most respected and admired states in the nation?

Get together more Mr. Governors! Please! Speak in a unified voice and give us the leadership we are so desperately lacking. This is too good an idea to let your voices fade away. Keep speaking!As for this particular issue, about which you wrote in today’s paper, I will support you advice to vote for the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment with all my might and I will urge everyone to vote for it.

“Minnesota is a state that the two of us have been proud to represent and serve for nearly five decades. The Minnesota we fought to protect through our public service is slipping away, but now we have a chance to protect it by voting for the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment.” [Wendell Anderson and Arne Carlson, former governors of the State of Minnesota]
My goodness, it is going to be a wonderful day!

Swiftboating Barack Obama

The party on the right will stoop to many dirty tricks in this year’s election!
by Charlie Leck

A few weeks ago, in one of my blogs, I guaranteed you that Barack Obama would be swiftboated – a new verb in the American lexicon thanks to the 2004 presidential elections. If you wish, read that earlier blog.

The big mistake that John Kerry made in 2004, according to the 20-20 hindsight pundits, is that he didn’t retaliate and attack his attackers as scoundrels, liars and political cheats. Kerry should have put them on the absolute defensive and exposed them for what they were.

Now the same kind of mud-slinging, lying attacks have begun on Obama. It will be interesting to see how he responds to them. The most awful so far can be seen on this video. It may send you running to the bathroom, to puke, but I urge you to view it anyway. Then take a look at SNOPES and its debunking of the lies in the video.

The ultra-right wing of the Republican Party is a very dirty, cheap and loathsome group of people. Though they claim to be devoted to Christ, they’re hearts are filled with hatred.

All of us who support Obama and are anxious to see him elected must make sure the people we know, who are likely to believe this stuff, get the real facts about each of these lying liars. We’ll have to keep checking in at web sites like SNOPES and others, like TRUTH OR FICTION.

The 2004 election was extremely close. John Kerry appeared to be the winner when Ohio exit polls showed him to be carrying Ohio in a big way. It was a shocker, and somewhat mysterious, to later find that he lost the state. Many political scientists say the swiftboat lies were enough to tip Ohio over to George W. Bush.

That is not the way we want our system to work. Each of us has to play a part in condemning the lies and liars who tell them in this year’s election.

We wish the press would be more vigilant in attacking these liars and exposing their low-down tricks, but we can’t count on that. Some of the press, like FOX, will actually encourage such behavior.

The Democratic Party ought to have a monitor in charge of listening to or reading these notorious loud-mouths, who will say anything to encourage a Republican victory. Guys like Rush Limbaugh should be carefully monitored each day and the American people should be alerted about every lie he tells.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Competition in the Global Marketplace

Corporate America gets it, while we the people and our politicians lag behind!
by Charlie Leck

The world really is flat! It is something we little folks are having a hard time accepting. It’s time to recognize reality. America will never be what we knew it to be when we were young.

Remember? Remember the feeling of greatness we had as Americans? My grandchildren will never know that same tremendous feeling. America simply stood at the top of the mountain and there were no competitors for our position at the spot. We were the “king of the hill” and no one could knock us down. No nation could mass produce quality goods the way we could. The entire world was our marketplace. The largest, most powerful corporations in the world were American and they depended on the skill and initiative of the American worker.

Our dollar ruled the world’s monetary system. We set the standard for the evaluation of currency around the globe. As our economy went, so went the strength of the world’s monetary system.

Then, a couple of years ago, Tom Friedman made the remarkable observation that the world had gone flat. Incredible fast transportation and instantaneous communications, including the Internet, had shrunk the world and brought us all on to a level economic playing field. You can listen to an MIT lecture by Friedman here. A description of the lecture, taken from MIT World, is reproduced at the conclusion of this blog.

Our nation no longer dominated in the field of industry and finance. Massive work forces in places like China and India had surpassed us in terms of initiative and energy. Nations in Europe, unified, were proving to be every bit as industrious and inventive as America.

The giant corporations were no dummies. They recognized the trend years and years ago – long before Friedman’s book – and they adjusted their approach accordingly. The large, successful corporations in the world are no longer American companies. They may keep their headquarters here, but they are global organizations and they are as at home doing business in Uzbekistan as they are in America.

The academic world and the corporate world have accepted the fact that the world has gone flat.

The only elements of our society that haven’t accepted the facts are you and I – the common, once-proud Americans. We, and the politicians in Washington, continue to think America dominates and still runs the show.

It’s time to get our heads up out of the sand! The rules of the game must now be rewritten and we must learn to be more cooperative internationally and more open to negotiation rather that dictum. If we are going to keep pace with the rest of the world, we’ve got to get a move on!

This includes every phase of life you can think of, including health care delivery and education. We’re being manhandled in those two areas and there are many others, like transportation, where we’re falling behind also. If you haven’t read THE WORLD IS FLAT, it’s not too late. You’ll see how correctly Friedman nailed this global situation.

If you were a betting man, would you put down money that the next great fuel system for automobiles, which won’t depend on non-renewable energy sources, will come from America? I’d take the rest of the field, as they say.

Welcome to a new world! I’m not pessimistic about it. Quite the contrary! I think it’s going to be exciting and my grandkids, if they think more globally and internationally, will enjoy the ride.

This is how MIT World,a mighty fine web site to look in on regularly, described the Tom Friedman lecture.
In his latest book, The World is Flat, Friedman describes the unplanned cascade of technological and social shifts that effectively leveled the economic world, and accidentally made Beijing, Bangalore and Bethesda next-door neighbors.” Today, “individuals and small groups of every color of the rainbow will be able to plug and play.” Friedman’s list of “flatteners” includes the fall of the Berlin Wall; the rise of Netscape and the dotcom boom that led to a trillion dollar investment in fiber optic cable; the emergence of common software platforms and open source code enabling global collaboration; and the rise of outsourcing, offshoring, supply chaining and unsourcing. Friedman says these flatteners converged around the year 2000, and “created a flat world: a global, web-enabled platform for multiple forms of sharing knowledge and work, irrespective of time, distance, geography and increasingly, language.” At the very moment this platform emerged, three huge economies materialized -- those of India, China and the former Soviet Union --“and three billion people who were out of the game, walked onto the playing field.” A final convergence may determine the fate of the U.S. in this final chapter of globalization. A “political perfect storm,” as Friedman describes it -- the dotcom bust, the attacks of 9/11, and the Enron scandal -- “distract us completely as a country.” Just when we need to face the fact of globalization and the need to compete in a new world, “we’re looking totally elsewhere.” [MIT World Lectures]

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

This and That from the Holiday Weekend

I was lolly-gagging and rolling on the floor with the grandchildren for the weekend and now it's time to catch up!
by Charlie Leck

Obama's Running Mate
While I was sitting near Geneva Lake, I read a piece by David Brooks about choosing a running mate. I won't go over it all, but it is interesting to think about that person Barack Obama might choose to run with him – to give him a better chance of winning the Presidency.

Bruce Springsteen seems silly, though he would be popular among an awful lot of people. Hillary Clinton would be popular among women, but she won't accept an invitation. Would you rather be Vice President of the U.S. or the Senior Senator from the State of New York?

The list of possibilities goes on and on; yet, here's what Barack Obama needs to do. He must choose someone who is popular and who is bright and who, most importantly, can campaign effectively.

I know who is on the top of my list. Don't guffaw and chortle when I mention his name. Give me a chance to explain where I'm going.

What about a Barack Obama and Michael Bloomberg ticket? Jesus, Mary and Joseph! What a great ticket that would be!

Bloomberg is the current Mayor of New York City and he is doing one helluva job.

No one knows quite what political party Bloomberg belongs to. He started off as a Democrat. For convenience sake he switched over to the Republican Party. For the same reason, he became an Independent.

Here the facts about Mayor Bloomberg, He's bright! He's well spoken! He correct-on on most issues! He's successful! He's rich! He knows how to set goals and get things done.

Bloomberg is widely admired. Should he one day become President of the United States, our nation would perform well under him.

The fact is – personally – he would have been my first choice for the office this year. Here is a GREAT ticket for 2008 – OBAMA & BLOOMBERG!

Blogs I should have told you about
Ross Douthat, in his Atlantic Monthly blog, ponders the issues in picking both the Republican and Democratic Vice Presidential candidate. There are some good thoughts. A commenter, after reading Douthat's opinions, builds a strong case for picking Senator Jim Webb of Virginia. It's a choice I wouldn't mind.

Stan Fish was great in explaining why he should be a candidate for the University of Colorado's new professorial chair that must be occupied by a political conservative. Isn't that absurd? Smith exposes the University of Colorado for its simplistic stupidity. Sound interesting? Read it here.

Freakonomics, one of my favorite blogs, was posing some pretty interesting questions about what it means to be average and some of the psychology of advertising. It isn't mind bending, but it is interesting.

Why the polygraph is not allowed as evidence in the courtroom
Dick Cavett's recent blogging has been about the lie detector test he so handily manipulated to the dismay of famed legal defense attorney, F. Lee Baily. If the topic raises your curiosity, go take a look.

Buddies in Georgia
I haven't seen their faces in 50 years; yet I spoke with them on Memorial Day. They want me to return to New Jersey for a 50th year reunion of our high school graduation this coming Thanksgiving weekend. My wife and I looked at each other and shook our heads. No weekend is more important in our annual lives than Thanksgiving. The kids come home and they bring the grandkids. We have all sorts of young traditions. We celebrate our wedding anniversary. One of the grandkids celebrates a birthday. We always drive over to the community of Excelsior and we wander down the street, as a family, doing our Christmas shopping. We end the day at an extraordinary chocolate shop and buy gifts for uncles and aunts and cousins all across the country.

I understand that a 50th high school class reunion is a very special and rare occasion, but I haven't many years left to enjoy these wonderful Thanksgiving weekends with my family. I'll write something special and send it back to the reunion as a message of greeting and good cheer.

Getting back to work
The vacation is over. Now comes the period of recovering from the break.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Recharging the Batteries

Remembering, mourning, celebrating, and resting up! The things of a Memorial Day weekend...
by Charlie Leck

It feels strange and uncomfortable to go 4 days without posting a blog. For those of you who come here regularly, I apologize. A need for a vacation and some time with family has taken me to Williams Bay, along the shores of Geneva Lake, in Wisconsin. I've had a few days of restfulness, doing virtually nothing whatsoever. This is my first visit to this area and I'm finding it quite beautiful and interesting.

A little visit to the Chocolate Festival near here, a ride out on to the lake in a tour boat, hearing about the history of this place as a summer home for Chicago's wealthy business tycoons at the turn of 19th into the 20th century, and lots of good dining and sleeping is recharging my batteries and getting me ready to launch into the political fight throughout this summer and autumn.

Readers have requested I continue to write more personal, biographic essays and I will be doing that, too. Other readers have asked that I catch them up on my recent reading and recommendations about books. That, too, is coming.

I've finished several books on the Bin Laden family and the creation of the person who is Osama bin Laden. I'll soon be summarizing those for you and fleshing out the personality and general religious freakiness of that strange international terrorist. I'm now reading Jane Smiley's book about 13 ways to look at a novel. Quite good and I'll tell you about it.

Today, Memorial Day, I've spent some hours thinking about my dear, recently departed sister and considering how the pain of her loss keeps coming back to me everytime I think of her. I'm doing a memorial book about her that will be ready by Christmas time. Memorial Day celebrations always get my wife and I thinking about the family and friends we've lost and we chat about them and remember how much they meant to us and how much they contributed to making us what we are.

Look for my return to the blog world on Wednesday, 28th of May. I hope you all had a good Memorial Day weekend.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Striking Out Might Casey

Twas' Me What Struck Mighty Casey Out
by Charlie Leck

I received the above photograph from my brother yesterday and it brought back to mind the awesome poem about MIGHTY CASEY AT THE BAT, which we enacted on a sunny Day in May, nearly 60 years ago, at Chester Public School in New Jersey. Zeb Robbins played the part of Mighty Casey and Teddy Gilliam was my catcher. Bobby Thompson was the daring umpire. The girls, of course, were not allowed in the little play; however, if truth be told, Liz Metzger could out-throw and out-hit us all.

Please understand that this is a quickly written draft and my very sincere and heart-felt apologies to Ernest Lawrence Thayer!

There was no joy in Mudville on that cloudy, cheerless day
When a big buffoon, named Casey, showed his feet were made of clay
Whilst the cloudy-cover thickened and thunder shook the stands
I stood so proud upon the hill and doffed my cap to all the fans

T'were nearly 60 years ago when I were called into that game
To face the Mighty Casey who tried to smear my name.
As I threw some warm up pitches to my frightened catcher, Teddy,
The fans threw back abuse at me and all their boos were steady.

Our nine had come to Mudville to play 'em for the crown
And we had 'em where we wanted – one out to get and them two down
When Nasty Flynn had got to third and Blake stood down on second
And Hub, our crazy manager, did at me wildly beckon

Zeb played that much feared batter on that day in May back then
And thousands roared and hollered, as I strode in from the pen,
Mocking me and all my playing mates, who cowered in the field.
Old Casey spat a wad at me from which I quickly reeled.

The sweat drizzled down from me and caused my eyes to sting
Whilst Casey looked so much at ease and gave his bat a swing,
Banging the massive hunk of oak atop the tiny plate,
And I writhed a bit in fear at his fearsome look of hate.

The crowd begun to holler for me to throw that purdy rock
So Mighty Casey could swat it up, right at the Mudville clock.
And so I did with all my might and closed my eyes as well
And felt the breeze stir in my face from Casey's potent yell.

"Weren't my style," said Casey as he let it pass him by
And all the town heard the umpire's clear, resounding cry.
"Steerike," screamed Bobby Thompson, calling pitches on that day
And the rowdy crowd rose up as if the ump they'd slay

I took some speed off a second pitch that Casey let pass too,
Whilst Bobby called out loud and clear that it was now strike two
And the crowd cried out to kill the ump and throw him in the ditch
But Casey waved 'em off and signaled me to pitch.

Casey's eyes grew cold and stern and looked out at me with spite,
That caused me to tremble there and say a prayer in fright
But gods ne'er hear or care what low-rank players ask
Yet, on that heroic day, in the angels' sight I'd bask

Whilst muses sang so sweetly, I fired a bullet to a giant standing there
And he n'er saw the blur a-comin' 'til in Teddy's glove it did tear
Whilst Casey swung, far too late ,and behind the clouds the sun did hide
And gasps and groans is all'st I heard from Mudville's sullen tide

Mighty Casey had stuck out on that well-known day in May
And all the fame came down on him alone that strangely funny day
Whilst I was the feller that slung the ball with my fearsome, mighty arm
And should be known to all around as old Charlie who caused the harm

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Change! Change! Change!

What is Obama talking about?
I hope he means to put Democracy back in the hands of the people!
by Charlie Leck

Over 70 percent of the American people want the war ended – now! Over 80 percent want it ended soon. The President's approval rating has dipped below 20 percent and that of Congress is below 30 percent. A huge percentage of the country cries for something to be done about health care costs. Most people want to see vast improvements in our public education system. A majority wants our immigration policy to be revamped from top to bottom. A large majority of the nation agrees that we need a large investment in repair of our infrastructure and that we need to build a modern, high-speed transportation system.

So what?

That seems to be what both Congress and the President are saying to us. The 2006 elections were a clear sounding of the will of the people. The 2008 elections will probably send an even more unambiguous message.

That's the way a Democracy or, to put it more precisely, a Republic is supposed to work; however, it is not working that way at all. Why?

The people, if they haven't lost control, are losing control. Corporations – huge, global, powerful and incredibly wealth companies – are calling the shots. Lobbyists crawl like mega-packs of wolves through the congressional office buildings in Washington. Most of them represent these companies. On behalf of their clients they are directing campaign contributions into the coffers of Senators and Representatives. They bet on both horses, believe me; though they tend to wager more heavily on one more than the other.

The will of the people be damned. These guys have got to get elected and they've got to play the game by the rules laid out for them by Corporate America.

Does that mean that Democracy is dead?

No, it's not dead, but it's gingerly hanging to its life and it's been given up for dead. The body and mind appear irresponsive. ("Irresponsive!" Is that correct word usage? Sure!)

In an 1809 debate over Rechartering the Bank Bill, Thomas Jefferson said something quite interesting.

"I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies… If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around [these banks]… will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered… The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs."


Deregulation was the watch-word during the Reagan administration and a great deal of it was carried out – because it was the wish of Corporate America. There had been no great hue and cry from the American people to deregulate banking, the airlines, and the security exchange.

It was one of the first clear signs that Democracy in America was giving away control to business and corporate interests.

Government is not irresponsive to Corporate America. It is not! It is, however, irresponsive to the will of the American people!

When the young people at the Barack Obama campaign rallies cry out about change, I am not sure they know what they mean. What kind of change? Most of them cannot answer. One of my daughters attended the recent rally in Portland, along the river, where Obama drew record breaking crowds. "Change" was the cry that came from all of them. Could they have explained what they mean?

I am yelping here about the specific change that must be made. Government must again be the representative of the will of the people – "of, by and for the people."

When Obama talks about change in America, I hope to God this is the kind of change he's talking about.

Has Obama the testicular fortitude to guide such change? I am not sure. Corporate America is deeply entrenched in the system and its money gets it heard. That will not be easy for any single American President to change.

Again, as a reminder, I urge you to read Moyers on Democracy by Bill Moyers. I also urge you to visit the Democracy Now web site a few times each week and, if it is on the air in your region, watch Amy Goodman's extraordinary TV show by the same name.

Moyers does an extraordinary job describing the perilous danger in which Democracy in America finds itself right now.

Reader's Reply
A friend, knowing what I was writing about today, sent me this quotation from the lips of Noam Chomsky:

"Does the US system work? Yeah, it works in some ways. Take, say, the last 10 years. One percent of the population is making out like bandits. The top 10 percent of the population is doing pretty well. The next 10 percent actually lost net worth, and you go down below and [it gets] still worse. I mean, it's such a rich country that even relatively poor people are still more or less getting by. It's not like Haiti.

"On the other hand, it's an economic catastrophe. The typical family in the United States is working, latest estimates are, about 15 weeks a year more than they did 20 years ago -- just to keep stagnating, or even declining, incomes. That's a success in the richest, most privileged country in the world? But it works. I mean, you and I are sitting here and we're not starving, so something's working. It's a little unfair in my case because I'm up in that top few percent who, like I said, are making out like bandits. But most people aren't. So it's a mixed success.

"…I don't see why we have to have a system in which the wealth that gets created is directed, overwhelmingly, to a tiny percentage of the population. Nor do I see a system that has to be as radically undemocratic. I mean, remember how undemocratic it is. A private corporation, let's say General Electric, is, in fact, just a pure tyranny. You and I have nothing to say about how it works. The people inside the corporation have nothing to say about how it works, except that they can take orders from above and give them down below. It's what we call tyranny.

"And when those institutions also control the government, the framework for popular decision-making very much narrows. In fact, that's the purpose of shrinking government. It's so that the sphere of popular decision-making will narrow and more decisions will fall into the hands of the private tyrannies.

"Could the system be different? Of course it could be different. This [the Internet] could remain what it ought to be: just a public instrument. There ought to be efforts -- not just talk but real efforts -- to ensure Internet access, not just for rich people but for everyone. And it should be freed from the influence of Microsoft or anybody else. They don't have any rights to have anything to do with that system. They had almost nothing to do with creating it. What little they did was on federal contract.

"And we can say the same across the board. There are a lot of changes that can be made. Now let's take, say, living wages. There are now living-wage campaigns in many places. They're very good campaigns, it's a great idea. But if you had a free press, what they would be telling you is the following, because they know the facts. If you look at American history, since, say, the 1930s, the minimum wage tracked productivity. So as productivity went up, the minimum wage went up. Which, if you believe in a capitalist society, makes sense. That stops in the mid-'60s.

'Suppose you made it continue to track productivity. The minimum wage would be about double what it is now. Now, to say that we should continue doing what was done for 30 years and what just makes obvious sense -- there's nothing radical about that. If you had a free press, this would be all over the front page. But you're not going to find it on the front pages, because the corporate media and their leaders and owners, they don't want that to be an issue. Well, you know, this doesn't have to remain. We're free agents. We're not living in fear of death squads. We can organize to change these things. Every single one of them." [from an interview by Adrian Zupp for The Boston Phoenix]

Another friend emailed me this comment by Henry Kissinger: "Who controls money, controls the world!"

A reader in Alabama sent me a statement by Jeryl Jones, who is quoted in Jonathan Coleman's book, Long Way to Go: Black and White in America.

"Now to answer the question 'Who runs America?' it's not so much who as what runs America. This is a capitalistic system. It's a materialistic system. We can boil down all the fancy rhetoric and say it's the Golden Rule that runs America. He who has the gold rules."

The continuing decline of the middle class
Oh, and before I leave you, another friend told me that Halliburton's stock value has nearly tripled since the beginning of the Iraq War. Chaney's net worth now is probably about a half-billion dollars.

In his book, Failed States, Noam Chomsky quotes Edward Wolff, who Chomsky calls "the leading specialist on wealth distribution.

"…'living conditions stagnated in the 1990s for American households in the middle, while rapid advances in wealth and income for the elite briskly pulled up the averages.' From 1983 to 1998, average wealth of the top 1 percent rose 'a whopping 42 percent,' while the poorest 40 percent 'lost 76 percent of their (very modest) wealth.' He concludes that even 'the boom of the 1990s has bypassed most Americans. The rich have been the main beneficiaries,' in a continuation of the tendencies that go back to the late 1970s. The Bush administration's dedication to wealth and privilege accelerated these tendencies, leading to a surge in 'corporate profits, professionals' incomes, gains from investments and executive compensation,' while, by mid-2005, 'average hourly wages for production and no-supervisory workers' had yet to rise to the low point of the 2001 recession. Census Bureau 2004 figures revealed that for the first time on record, household incomes failed to increase for five straight years. Median pretax real income was at its lowest since 1997, while the poverty rate increased for the fourth consecutive year, to 12.7 percent." [Chomsky, Noam: Failed States, Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt, NY, 2006, p. 212]

In the same book cited above, Chomsky, under a sub-heading, "A Clear Run for Business," (p. 241) details the immense gains made by American business interests under both Bush terms.

"The achievements of the first George W. Bush term included huge corporate profits while wages stagnated or declined, along with huge tax cuts for the rich to redistribute wealth even further upward than before. These were among the many policies benefiting a tiny minority and likely to create a long-term 'fiscal train wreck' that will undermine future social spending and transfer to future generations the costs of today's plunder by the very rich." [p. 243]

Chomsky begins the "Afterword" of his remarkable book with this equally remarkable sentence:

"No one familiar with history should be surprised that the growing democratic deficit in the United States is accompanied by declaration of messianic missions to bring democracy to a suffering world. [p. 251]

And, he closes his book with "seven simple suggestions" that our nation should immediately pursue in order to return to a Democracy that will be truly of the people.

  1. Accept the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court and the World Court

  2. Sign and carry forward the Kyoto protocols

  3. Let the U.N. take the lead in international crises

  4. Rely on diplomatic and economic measures rather than military ones in confronting terror

  5. Keep to the traditional interpretations of the U.N. Charter

  6. Give up the Security Council veto and have 'a decent respect for the opinion of mankind,' as the Declaration of Independence advises, even if power centers disagree

  7. Cut back sharply on military spending and sharply increase social spending

The biggest weakness for a Democratic Society is that it depends upon an informed public. For the last two decades, big business has run the information machine. They have used their immense wealth to organize a mass advertising campaign that distributes incredible myths to the public that they nonetheless believe and accept. Our public is anything but informed. It is completely gullible. It generally casts votes from ignorance rather than knowledge.

You think the big money wants change in America? You think they may spend a few bucks to stop Obama? You think they aren't right now dreaming up sleazy attack ads – like the recent ones on the magnificent Michelle Obama?

(Do you know that high speed trains, similar to those in Japan, France and Germany, could make the trip from the heart of Manhattan to the loop in Chicago in about 4 hours – 5 or 6 hours with stops on the way in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Cleveland? All without airport hassles. On such a train, the trip from Minneapolis to Chicago would be about two hours. By the time I get to and from the airports on a trip to Chicago my total time is over 5 hours. I've traveled those trains in Japan and France and I cannot tell you how marvelous and comfortable they are. America has a long way to go.)

Monday, May 19, 2008

Journalism in Corporate America

Am I being an alarmist?
by Charlie Leck

The LA Times review of the new book by Bill Moyers, Democracy in America, is extremely positive.

"There's a Jeremiah among us and his name is Bill Moyers… Noting that right-wing polemicists have long tried to tar 'fact-based reporting that undermines their worldview' as 'liberal advocacy journalism,' of which he is among the country's prominent practitioners, he responds, 'All I can say is that if reporting what happens to ordinary people because of events beyond their control, and the indifference of government to their fate, is 'liberal,' I plead guilty.'"

A good friend from New Hampshire responded to my last blog, suggesting that I'm being a bit of an alarmist about the demise of our American democracy. I would response and argue that I am not. The democracy we have known in this country has been severely eroded and further deterioration is on the horizon. Unless, of course, we do something about it and there are possibilities – meaning the cup is half full.

In his most recent book, Moyers on Democracy, Bill Moyers has a great deal to say about Journalism and the "news industry" in America that ought to make us sit up and take notice.

"I wish I could say that journalists in general are showing the same interest in uncovering the dangerous linkages thwarting this democracy. It is not for lack of honest and courageous individuals who would risk their careers to speak truth to power -- a modest risk compared to those of some journalists in authoritarian countries who have been jailed or murdered for the identical "crime." But our journalists are not in control of the instruments they play. As conglomerates swallow up newspapers, magazines, publishing houses, and networks, and profit rather than product becomes the focus of corporate effort, news organizations -- particularly in television -- are folded into entertainment divisions. The "news hole" in the print media shrinks to make room for advertisements, and stories needed by informed citizens working together are pulled in favor of the latest celebrity scandals because the media moguls have decided that uncovering the inner workings of public and private power is boring and will drive viewers and readers away to greener pastures of pabulum. Good reporters and editors confront walls of resistance in trying to place serious and informative reports over which they have long labored. Media owners who should be sounding the trumpets of alarm on the battlements of democracy instead blow popular ditties through tin horns, undercutting the basis for their existence and their First Amendment rights." (Bill Moyers: Moyers on Democracy [Doubleday, New York, 2008])

That is pretty much all that needs to be said – except to emphasize something positive in all this. As newspapers and main-line broadcast news services become more controlled by corporations, a host of alternative news outlets have developed and they are producing some rather good reporting. For a time we called it the "underground news" and now we've settled on a more compatible tag, "alternative news."

There are extraordinarily good on-line news sources, such as AlterNet, Slate and Salon. My main news source remains the NY Times, but I never finish the day without checking in on AlterNet and I always get to Slate at least once during the week.

Moyers, in a speech before the National Conference of Media Reform, pleads for more alternative broadcast news sources and he expresses his fear that "this country is going to die from too many lies." That's strong stuff. In the speech he really plugs Amy Goodman's extraordinary TV show, Democracy Now. If you don't watch this show, you're missing one of the great ones. There is probably no more important broadcast source for alternative news. Watch this video in which Amy Goodman explains how "Democracy Now" began.

The Real News is another of these important alternative news sources. If it's not broadcast in your area, go on-line to watch its archived videos or subscribe to its podcasts.

Indeed, the nature of the local newspaper in America has changed. If it weren't for the sports section and the Sunday opinion pages, I'd drop my subscription to our local paper. I check in regularly with a local alternative, on-line news source call MinnPost. The writers there are much freer to tell the "whole story." As Moyers points out in the quotation above, it is difficult for writers these days to go to the heart of the story when, at the heart, they encounter large corporate interests that also have some stake in the news reporting business.

Take a look at Bill Moyers, talking about his book, on the Daily Show or watch this You Tube video of Moyers in a WNYC Radio interview.

I'm not suggesting you abandon your regular, normal news sources, but I'm urging you to expand your horizons and get different views and more expansive coverage. Had we strong, alternative news sources 5 years ago, we probably would not have gone into the Iraq War. An informed public would not have allowed it.

Next: Moyers on government that is non-responsive.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Is Our Democracy in Danger?

Have we become a Corporate State?
by Charlie Leck

Over the last several decades, there have been a number of outstanding historians, political scientists and sociologists, whose works I have read, who have expressed warnings about our democracy. They have cautioned us that a democratic state is a fragile, delicate object and always in danger of becoming what it did not intend.

How so?

A democracy is a government of the people, controlled by them and their choices at the ballot box. What happens if they choose very unwisely?

Let me use as a very simple analogy as an actual case in point that I had premonitions about as a small boy. I became fascinated, as a child, with the polity of the church as an institution. How could a boy become obsessed with such a subject? It's simply explained. I was attending a Protestant Sunday School program in my home town Congregational Church. My sister, with whom I was very close, was a Roman Catholic. She wanted to save me and I wanted to save her. I began comparing the two systems of church jurisdiction and administration. I observed how incredibly democratic the Congregational system was (is) and began thinking about how easy it would be to take over and control a local church in such a democratic system if the local entity was not ever vigilant against such a takeover.

A local Congregational Church controls its own facility and its own religious or faith perspective. It establishes its own credo and no outside force can object to what it does. In a small church, like the one I attended as a boy, it would be very easy to take control of everything that happens there. The members of the congregation vote on every matter and establish the administrative control of the church and could also vote on questions of faith. Move 100 new members into such a situation – let's say very conservative, evangelical and fundamentalist members – and they could wrest control from the liberal members who had previously established all policy matters. Suddenly the physical and spiritual church, with all its assets and holdings, would be controlled by the new group.

In fact, as I feared as small boy, such an event actually occurred at this small Congregational Church in Chester, New Jersey. It was not an instant transformation, but it happened over a number of years. On a recent, quiet visit to the church, sitting in worship, I was struck by the fact that the wonderful church of my childhood – a liberal, intellectual, conversant and dialectical group of people – had utterly disappeared. It had been replaced by a group who spouted verses of the Bible from memory without understanding anything about their historic context or their roots in mythology. It was a bland, empty-headed sense of faith that had totally replaced the extraordinary community of thought that I remembered as a boy. The congregation, on a very democratic basis, had simply been taken over by people with other and very simple viewpoints. The grand history of an important church has disappeared.

This is the danger that a democracy must also face. An entire democratic system – an entire nation – can be transformed if its people do not remain diligent, disciplined and wise in their voting practices.

There is no one I admire more than Bill Moyers. I pay attention to him and I learn from him. I read everything by him. He has a new book, Moyers on Democracy, and it contains the warning I have expressed above.

"We have fallen under the spell of money, faction, and fear, and the great American experience in creating a different future together has been subjugated to individual cunning in the pursuit of wealth and power -and to the claims of empire, with its ravenous demands and stuporous distractions." (Moyers, Bill: Moyers on Democracy [Doubleday, New York, 2008])

An enormous group of Americans have fallen under the spell of Corporate America and have bought into the idea that our hope for the future is intrinsically bound to the future of the corporate and wealthy class. The group listens intently to the babble of the corporate class and buys into their dream.

The following two, long sentences serve as a warning call to us about where America seems to be going – and, it is frightening.

"When the state becomes the guardian of power and privilege to the neglect of justice for the people as a whole, it mocks the very concept of government as proclaimed in the preamble to our Constitution; mocks Lincoln's sacred belief in "government of the people, by the people, and for the people"; mocks the democratic notion of government as 'a voluntary union for the common good' embodied in the great wave of reform that produced the Progressive Era and the two Roosevelts. In contrast, the philosophy popularized in the last quarter century that 'freedom' simply means freedom to choose among competing brands of consumer goods, that taxes are an unfair theft from the pockets of the successful to reward the incompetent, and that the market will meet all human needs while government itself becomes the enabler of privilege -- the philosophy of an earlier social Darwinism and laissez-faire capitalism dressed in new togs -- is as subversive as Benedict Arnold's betrayal of the Revolution he had once served."

It is time to reclaim America and reestablish it as a government of, by and for the people. Corporate American may not have America. The small ultra-wealthy class may not run the show here. Their enormous incomes shall not be sheltered from the same taxes paid by the rest of the American people.

There is a ray of hope and those of you who are thinking that I am unduly pessimistic, please know that I believe Americans will understand wherein that hope lies.

Go to the library and, for my sake, your sake and the sake of our nation and its hard-working people, get Bill Moyers book into your hands and read it cover to cover. Then tell you friends to get it. America must hear this clarion call that Moyers is issuing.

We must make sure America votes wisely this November. You must do your part in that.

I will write more about Moyers' warnings in the coming days. Next: the gaping hole in contemporary America journalism.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Might We Have Encountered Jesus?

One never knows when one might meet Jesus in the streets or in our own little church!
by Charlie Leck

"When Jesus entered Peter's house, he saw his mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever; he touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she got up and began to serve him. That evening they brought to him many who were possessed with demons; and he cast out the spirits with a word, and cured all who were sick. This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah, 'He took our infirmities and bore our diseases.'" [Matthew 8:14-17]

Here is the scene! On a dark, quiet evening, Jimmy Breslin, the famous newspaper columnist, and his wife were walking down a street in Manhattan. They were confronted by a poor beggar, seeking funds. Breslin took his wife's arm and hurried her by the man. Suddenly they paused. His wife was speaking sternly to Breslin. Meekly, Breslin returned to the homeless man and handed him a fiver. Breslin smiled at the fellow, bowed his head to him slightly and then turned and returned to his wife.

What was it that Mrs. Breslin said?

"Jimmy, that might be Jesus. Go back and be kind to him."

Indeed, Jesus told us that when we are kind to "the least of these, our brethren" we are being kind to him.

The front page of this morning's Minneapolis Star-Tribune has an account of a young autistic boy who has been barred from attending church by the parish priest. He's too disruptive and he may be a danger to people because he is such a big boy (6 feet and over 225 pounds). The parents, of course, in disbelief kept going to mass. The priest took out a legal restraining order, to keep the boy away. It's an interesting story. Read it for yourself. It leaves me a bit stupefied and I wish the priest had the common sense of Mrs. Breslin.

"Father, that may be Jesus! You'll meet him, you know, in the very strangest places."

One never knows. We know, from the gospel accounts, that Jesus would not have turned the boy away – ever! He gathered these, the least of these, snuggly around him and he poured out his love on them. Jesus was at home when he was with the suffering and those who had been slighted by life's unfairness.

What a lovely portrait photo of handsome Adam Race! When I look deeply into his eyes I think I see – well, don't laugh at me now, because I mean it – I think I see Jesus. Just perhaps, you know, it might be this man of boundless love.

Father, that may be Jesus!

Oh, my goodness, if my wonderful sister, Jean of blessed memory, were still alive, her heart would be broken! It was for these children of God, those like Adam Race, that she lived her life.

Now, Father, go on over to the home of Adam Race and look deeply into his eyes! Apologize to our Lord, embrace him and invite him home again, into his own house. Father, up there near your chancel, I believe I see a tear in the eye of the blessed, virgin mother.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Man the Life Boats

Edwards Joins Obama Team
While Republicans begin abandoning
the sinking ship, George W. Bush
by Charlie Leck

The Endorsement by Jon Edwards is a good thing; it was so good it reminded me why John Edwards was my first choice as the candidate in this race. I hope you heard the speech. If Elizabeth would endorse Obama it would mean even more than Mr. Edward's pledge – believe me! I don't think she'll do it. Senator Obama's commitment to National Health Care is not strong enough for her.

Over on the Republican side, party officials are telling congressional candidates to distance themselves from President Bush. My! Bush's approval rating is below 20 percent and it is likely to go lower as the economy continues to falter – food prices and gas prices are still rising.

These congresspersons have been so linked at the hip with George W. Bush that I just don't know how they can now actually distance themselves from him. They've given him everything he's asked for and they've taken sides with him on every appointment and every single issue that came before them in Congress during the last eight years.

What caused the sudden call to "abandon ship?"

A week ago, Wednesday, Travis Childers, a Mississippi Democrat, was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in a strong-hold Republican district. That defeat, along with two other significant Democratic victories in special Congressional races this year, spell trouble for the Grand Old Party.

The Republican strategy had been to link Childers as closely to Obama as they could. Now this victory raises questions about the efficacy of that line of attack.

You've clearly seen the game plan at work in the McCain camp. He is trying to distance himself on every issue possible, except for the war of course. His terribly staged and rehearsed speech in New Orleans, pledging that no such inefficient response to a national tragedy would happen under his watch, was like the cathedral bell tolling out the death of Bush's influence over the Elephant's work.

"They are canaries in the coal mine, warning of far greater losses in the fall, if steps are not taken to remedy the current climate… The political atmosphere facing House Republicans this November is the worst since Watergate and is far more toxic than it was in 2006." [Tom Davis, Republican member of the House from Virginia]

John McCain is suddenly an environmentalist! He's come out as a fighter against global warming. It's nice to have him on the team, but it sure took him a long time to join up. President Bush, he said, was wrong to avoid the truth about the warming of the planet for so long.

Representative Marsha Blackburn (Republican) of Tennessee said that her party needs to prove it is listening to the American people. Duh! Are you listening on the war, Congresswoman? Are you listening on national health care, Madam? Are you listening on rebuilding the American infrastructure? How about on taxing the wealthy more fairly and equally? You may convince us you're listening, but you won't convince us that you'll do anything about it. It will only be the same old same old.

How internationally weak our military is!
There's been talk about the world forcing its way into Mayanmar, to deliver assistance to the stricken cyclone victims. Naturally, the world would normally look to us to lead the way. Our military is already overstretched and we'd be incapable of providing the assistance. Way to go, George W.

Robert Rauschenberg
One of my favorite contemporary artists has died. I can't pass the day without making mention of him. I loved his ability to mix classical realism with modern abstract expression. Take a look at some of his things at this New York Times slide show.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

She Shouldn’t Have Said It

On a scale of 1 to 10 what would you call this comment
in terms of its racist nature?
by Charlie Leck

I slept unsteadily last night after reading what she said. In my mind, Hillary is done – toast – burned solid! She made a comment to USA Today that smacks of the kind of racism that we can't handle anymore in America. She told her interviewer that she was the candidate of the "hard working Americans, white Americans," and that Barack Obama just can't cut it with that crowd.

I hang my head in shame. This comes from someone who wants to be President of the U.S.A.?

Charlie Rangels, one of Hillary Clinton's biggest and most important supporters, reacted with distaste: "I can't believe Senator Clinton would say anything that dumb."

I think Rangels was charitable. My goodness, what was Hillary thinking? She just disqualified herself from the nomination. Even John McCain would not have said anything so utterly stupid.

The West Virginia vote is today. Hillary has polarized the voters there. She has allowed racism to be a dividing factor, instead of appealing to the hopeful and positive side of the residents of that state. In interviews with voters you can hear Hillary's voice in their comments. Several have come out and said it plainly: "I won't vote for him because he is black."

Shame on you, Mrs. Clinton!

Hillary will win big in WVA, but it is to no avail.

I could go on and on, but it makes no sense to do so. I'm out of here.

[Addition/Revision] A reader just alerted me to Bob Herbert's column (NY Times) about this incident. You may want to read it. He called the comment "a grotesque insult to African Americans."

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Number is Now 350

Morning and Afternoon have come and gone on Mother Earth
and it is now Dusk

by Charlie Leck

Today, I can do nothing more important for you than to send you to AlterNet to read this important article by Bill McKibbon who writes regularly for Tom Dispatch. Find out for yourselves and for Mother Earth what the new number – the important number – 350 means.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Rants and Rambles

Israel is 60 Years Old, Minnesota is 150
and I played my first round of golf of the year!

by Charlie Leck

The Gas Tax Holiday Issue keeps on going
A Republican U.S. Representative from Minnesota is blaming the Democrats for not doing something about the high prices of gas. They had an opportunity to adopt a national gas tax holiday, he wrote, and they blew it. What a jerk! Anyone with brains dismissed the issue as totally politically driven. Anyone with brains knows it would have created more problems and not solved anything. The conservative Wall Street Journal dismissed the idea on its opinion page early this week.

"There are few tax cuts we don't like, but his one smacks of poll-driven gimmickry."

The good Republican from Minnesota ought to talk to his leadership guy over in the White House about these gas prices. Loosen up on some of those reserves and prices will fall. Do something significant to reduce demand and use, and that will get prices falling, too.

Debra Saunders, writing in the San Francisco Chronicle, says that Clinton and her progressive friends "should love high gas prices, which prompt Americans to drive less and buy more fuel-efficient cars." [read the Saunders column]

I know I drive much less. I try to plan more in advance now when I go shopping. I had to fill up yesterday for the first time in weeks (and my car insists on premium fuel) and did it ever hurt. I'm going to be even more careful. Try to run a farm with several diesel engine tractors and do all the planting preparation work that needs doing at this time of year. Wow! No wonder food prices are up.

Israel is 60 years old and the whole mess won't go away
I heard Jackie Mason, the former rabbi turned comedian, interviewed on BBC yesterday. He thinks peace is still a possibility in the Middle East and for Israel. He cites the situation in Ireland, where people thought peace would never come, and says maybe "peace will break out in Israel too." It's not likely, Jackie. The situation is so much more confounding. There's no question but that Israel is one of the most successful democracies in the history of the world and probably more successful than the system in our own country. Nevertheless, a nagging sense of injustice still pervades Israel and it is the knowledge that this remarkable nation was created at an appalling price. Read the extraordinary book by the historian Ilan Pappe, a Jew, who tells the gruesome story of the nearly one-million Palestinians who were driven from their homes to make way for the creation of the new state. Villages were destroyed and, sometimes, villagers were slaughtered.

Granted, these were Zionists who cleared the land for what they thought would be an Israeli-Zionist state. Instead, we see a splendid example of a nearly perfect republic. However, the Palestinians cannot forget and they apparently cannot forgive.

And, no, I am not forgetting how America was established either. I'm not forgetting the natives who were driven from their homes and their land time and time again so that white people could establish their settlements. I'm not forgetting that the economy of America's southlands was driven by the obscenity of slavery.

Centuries later, the wounds remain and the ugliness will not wash away. Should we expect memories in Israel and Palestine to dissipate within 60 years?

The world's first nuclear war
Is a nuclear war at hand? It's a frightening thought. Israel has the capability. If enemy states in the Arab world develop such weapons, it is awful to think what might happen. It is getting more and more difficult to deny nations the capability of developing such weapons. It has become much more difficult to keep track of those who are trying. We know that Israel will not hesitate to retaliate.

John McCain will not solve the Israeli crisis
McCain does not have the touch or the savvy to solve the problems developing in the Middle East. Barack Obama may. Obama has a cultural and ethnic background that may allow him to see things from a different perspective. And, he is deeply compassionate. He is also enormously confident. He just may have the tools.

I keep waiting for Hillary Clinton to do the gracious and loyal thing.
Call her tenacious! Go ahead! Praise her for her tenacity. Go ahead. I want to see the graciousness and loyalty to the party she professes to love. Instead she hangs on and continues to scrap. She also continues to damage the party and its chances for victory in November. Hillary, a year ago I was in your camp and cheering for you. Today, I just want you to go away. Go back to the Senate and get to work and allow Barack Obama to begin healing the party. He'll need all the time he can get.

So, I played my first round of golf in seven months.
It's amazing to think back and remember how much I used to play. Here in Minnesota, I played from April well into November – and three or four times a week. Then there were two or three trips to the south in the winter to play a couple of rounds each day. Now I play very little. There's lots of reasons and not one of them has to do with my love for the game. That remains enormous. In a golf game we are able to truly discover a lot about a person's personal character by watching the temperament of the player. I adore golf and I had so many, many wonderful moments on golf courses.

Here it is, the 10th of May and it didn't get out of the 50s today and it spat cold rain at us all afternoon. I kept telling myself I was having great fun, but this morning I am stiff and sore from having played in such conditions. My foursome won, however, and that makes the soreness more acceptable. It is odd to play with such a high handicap, but it was still, nevertheless, great fun. As usual, the most enjoyable thing about the round was the people with whom I played.

Dinner with the most delightful people
We dined with some absolutely delightful people last night. There were nine of us. It was a thinking man's dinner and we were asked to do some mental exercises. We broke into two groups and discussed what Minnesotan had the most significant and lasting impact or influence during the 150 years of our statehood. Our group settled on the Dayton family, going beyond an individual. Our little trickery was acceptable to other group. The Daytons founded a major retail corporation here, which is now the Target Corp, and began the concept of returning profits to the community. They were terribly important contributors to the community in oh so many ways – education, the arts, health care and medicine and employment opportunities. [Here's a 2001 press release about an award to the family that will tell you a bit more.]

Both of the groups at dinner last night gave very serious consideration to the Mayo Family. The original brothers established the Mayo Clinic in Rochester and the subsequent children refined the institution and made it world famous and an extraordinary research facility. Now it is also a highly respected medical school. [You can read an interesting account of the Mayo family here.] The other group, however, settled on Norman Borlaug. As a professor of agriculture at the University of Minnesota, Borlaug became a "central figure in the green revolution," as it came to be known. Working with Mexican scientists, Borlaugh developed great new strains of wheat that allowed for vast increases in production. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970. The following statement was part of the presentation included in his introduction at the ceremony:

"In 1944 he accepted an appointment as geneticist and plant pathologist assigned the task of organizing and directing the Cooperative Wheat Research and Production Program in Mexico. This program, a joint undertaking by the Mexican government and the Rockefeller Foundation, involved scientific research in genetics, plant breeding, plant pathology, entomology, agronomy, soil science, and cereal technology. Within twenty years he was spectacularly successful in finding a high-yielding short-strawed, disease-resistant wheat.

"To his scientific goal he soon added that of the practical humanitarian: arranging to put the new cereal strains into extensive production in order to feed the hungry people of the world - and thus providing, as he says, "a temporary success in man's war against hunger and deprivation," a breathing space in which to deal with the "Population Monster" and the subsequent environmental and social ills that too often lead to conflict between men and between nations. Statistics on the vast acreage planted with the new wheat and on the revolutionary yields harvested in Mexico, India, and Pakistan are given in the presentation speech by Mrs. Lionaes and in the Nobel lecture by Dr. Borlaug. Well advanced, also, is the use of the new wheat in six Latin American countries, six in the Near and Middle East, several in Africa."

Our group had seriously considered Borlaugh also.

The evening drew to an end when one of the guests – a chap with whom I enjoy playing golf – told an interesting story about a college chum of his at Cornell University by the name of Chuck Feeney. The fellow became a mega billionaire after establishing a world-wide chain of duty-free shops. Quietly and anonymously he gave most of his money away to the great benefit of important charities, non-profits and foundations. The Irish writer, Conor O'Clery, followed the billionaire's activities, with full permission, for a couple of years and wrote a book about him that sounds simply extraordinary. It's called The Billionaire Who Wasn't. [Here's an interesting video production by Cornell University about Feeney and the book.] I'll read the book soon and tell you more about it.

Well, the Sun has broken out in the eastern sky. It's Mother's Day. I have an interesting gift to wrap for Anne. We'll have brunch with a couple of the kids at the very place we had dinner last night. Anne will be pleasantly surprised by the gift and a description of it will make for a good future blog.

Happy Birthday, Minnesota, as you celebrate your 150th today! And, Happy Mother's Day, dear. Enjoy your day.


Saturday, May 10, 2008

Limbaugh is Distasteful and Alice Walker is Delightful

Is Limbaugh the kind of man you'd want at your dinner table? What an ass! But, of my, what a delight is the lovely and quiet Alice Walker and I would invite her to our family table any time. I would love her to meet our wonderful daughters.
by Charlie Leck

Yesterday I wrote about the utter disdain I have for Rush Limbaugh – an ugly sort of human being who claims to be a super-patriot when, if fact, he spills the worst possible venom across the nation with his hate broadcasting.

The Washington Post published a story by Alec MacGillis and Peter Slevin (8 May 2008) that looks at Limbaugh's messing with the Democratic Party's primary in Indiana. From his broadcast booth Limbaugh urger "Chaos Votes" and called for Republicans to cross over and mess with the Democratic Party's process of choosing a candidate. What a patriot!

The story asks: Did Rush Limbaugh Tilt Result in Indiana? You could read the entire story; however, I can tell you that the conclusion they reach is that he probably did not.

Even as Barack Obama's campaign celebrated Tuesday's primary results, aides charged yesterday that they would have had an even stronger showing were it not for meddling by an unlikely booster of Hillary Rodham Clinton: the popular conservative radio host and longtime Clinton family nemesis Rush Limbaugh.

The impact of Limbaugh's "Operation Chaos" emerged as an intriguing point of debate, particularly in Indiana, where registered voters could participate in either party's primary, and where Clinton won by a mere 14,000 votes. As he had before several recent primaries, Limbaugh encouraged listeners to vote for Clinton to "bloody up Obama politically" and prolong the Democratic fight….

…Those looking for evidence of Limbaugh's influence pointed to Clinton's edge among Republicans in Indiana and North Carolina. In Indiana, 10 percent of Democratic primary voters described themselves as Republicans, a higher rate than in any state but Mississippi, and they went for Clinton by eight percentage points, according to exit polls. In North Carolina, they were 5 percent of the electorate, and went for her by 29 points.

…Edward Carmines, a political scientist at Indiana University, said that he concluded from the data that while Operation Chaos "existed to some extent, I don't think it was a major factor."

Limbaugh's ego is so enormous that he claims to have had an effect in Indiana when, in truth, that effect was probably miniscule.

The issue here, it seems to me, is that the FCC should have rules that prohibit broadcasters from "messing" with elections. Stating an opinion is one thing. Urging organized strategies to influence an election is quite another.

Limbaugh, however, is an enormous idiot and he won't consider the ethical distinctions here. He is one of those debaters who wins his points with loud, obnoxious babble that never ceases. Al Franken called him "a big, fat liar" in his book. I call him unbearable and self consumed – a low-down rat of a person. Rush Limbaugh doesn't care about America. He cares about Rush Limbaugh and the big bucks his vile mouth can make for himself.

Now, on the other hand,
as Tevia liked to say, we have the beautiful, kind and quiet woman, Alice Walker, who is the author of the internationally acclaimed novel, The Color Purple. Oh my, what a wonderful book. She has recently and very forcefully endorsed Barack Obama for President of the United States. Listen to her quiet, reasoned explanation for her endorsement in this You Tube statement.

Among the reasons she says that he will do well is this: "And then, he has those two daughters. When we have daughters we have to make sure the world is safe for them." As a man with four of those lovely creatures, I like that.

She's not worried about experience. She say's Obama has experience in what really matters and that is being helpful and compassionate toward people.

"We need to have leadership that is strong and compassionate. Compassionate leadership actually is strong… Weak people get us into nightmares because they lack self-confidence. He knows he has what it takes. I know he has what it takes."

Should you have the time, I suggest you read the powerful Open Letter written by Alice Walker, in which she explains her rationale for lining up with Barack Obama's supporters. It was published on the web site, The Root. Here are a few little snippets from her letter.

"I am a supporter of Obama because I believe he is the right person to lead the country at this time. He offers a rare opportunity for the country and the world to start over, and to do better."

"Imagine, if he wins the presidency we will have not one but three black women in the White House; one tall, two somewhat shorter; none of them carrying the washing in and out of the back door. The bottom line for most of us is: With whom do we have a better chance of surviving the madness and fear we are presently enduring, and with whom do we wish to set off on a journey of new possibility? In other words, as the Hopi elders would say: Who do we want in the boat with us as we head for the rapids? Who is likely to know how best to share the meager garden produce and water? We are advised by the Hopi elders to celebrate this time, whatever its adversities."

"Enjoy the miracle we are witnessing. Do not stress over its outcome. Even if Obama becomes president, our country is in such ruin it may well be beyond his power to lead us toward rehabilitation. If he is elected however, we must, individually and collectively, as citizens of the planet, insist on helping him do the best job that can be done; more, we must insist that he demand this of us. It is a blessing that our mothers taught us not to fear hard work. Know, as the Hopi elders declare: The river has its destination. And remember, as poet June Jordan and Sweet Honey in the Rock never tired of telling us: We are the ones we have been waiting for.


Friday, May 9, 2008

The Character of the Candidates

If you, in honesty were to vote just on the character of the candidates, who would you vote for? Be honest!
by Charlie Leck

Russ Limbaugh is a low-down sort of person. "Mendacity with a dash of condescension" is a perfect way to describe him. The talk show host inspires only one thing in people – hatred. He's not a true patriot and he doesn't understand patriotism. That so many people "tune him in" and "tune into him" frightens the bee-jeebers out of me.

I want to be inspired by someone of exceptionally high personal character, honesty and hopefulness. This year I am going to vote for a president who brings those traits along into the oval office. Whether man or woman, black or white, Republican or Democrat. It's vital to me and it's crucial to the U.S.A..

The gas tax holiday issue may seem like an insignificant one in considering this major concern of mine; that is, in establishing which candidate best represents these traits that I'm looking for. Wrong! This little issue is huge in allowing us a peek at personal character issues.

About this topic, Greg Mankiw, a professor of economics at Harvard, said something on his blog that we should all think about:

"Why, then, are candidates proposing the holiday? I can think of three hypotheses:
Ignorance: They don't know that the consensus of experts is opposed.
Hubris: They know the experts are opposed, but they think they know better.
Mendacity with a dash of condescension: They know the experts are opposed, and they secretly agree, but they think they can win some votes by pulling the wool over the eyes of an ill-informed electorate.

So which of these three hypotheses is right? I don't know, but whichever it is, it says a lot about the character of the candidates."

I think Mankiw had his tongue firmly planted in this cheek when he said, "I don't know," in answering his question about the motivation of the candidates.

This little political dance damaged Hillary Clinton and John McCain in a very considerable way. The public generally saw through the matter and realized it was a sham. Start with the fact that nothing could have been done in Congress by Memorial Day at any rate. Then go on to the fact that it is a bad idea. Now is not the time to encourage people to do more driving. That would only drive prices up even higher. Then think about the impact of losing that much income for the federal government – already in the deepest debt in the history of the nation.

It was a sham of an idea and I am proud the people saw through it. Hardly any polling agency concluded that a candidate's stand for a summer relief from gas taxes helped one iota.

Barack Obama was correct on this one. He would not jump to stump for it. He would not pander to such foolishness for the sake of gaining some votes. He did not go down the popular political trail.

This little tiny development says something gigantic about personal character. Mankiw put it this way:

"This issue is like the canary in the coal mine: No one really cares about the canary, but its condition tells us about deeper problems that lie below."

We need a President who will tell the American people what they need to hear, and what they must hear, and not just that which they will enjoy hearing.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Nation Building Right Here at Home

Friedman has nailed the truth to the wall and challenged America to respond to it!
by Charlie Leck

Sometimes the best I can do with a blog is to send you elsewhere. That's what I'm going to do today. The topic is nation building, right here in the good, old U.S. of A. We have a nation crying for investment and we are spending trillions in and on Iraq. There's no doubt we have some major responsibilities in Iraq after our criminal invasion of that nation; however, it is time we look hard at our own nation and see that it needs to be made whole again. It will require sacrifice, but I think the American people are ready for it.

Here's an observation from Tom Friedman in his latest column:

"…People want to do nation-building. They really do. But they want to do nation-building in America.

"They are not only tired of nation-building in Iraq and in Afghanistan, with so little to show for it. They sense something deeper — that we're just not that strong anymore. We're borrowing money to shore up our banks from city-states called Dubai and Singapore. Our generals regularly tell us that Iran is subverting our efforts in Iraq, but they do nothing about it because we have no leverage — as long as our forces are pinned down in Baghdad and our economy is pinned to Middle East oil.

"…We are not as powerful as we used to be because over the past three decades, the Asian values of our parents' generation — work hard, study, save, invest, live within your means — have given way to subprime values: 'You can have the American dream — a house — with no money down and no payments for two years.'

"…That's why Donald Rumsfeld's infamous defense of why he did not originally send more troops to Iraq is the mantra of our times: 'You go to war with the army you have.' Hey, you march into the future with the country you have — not the one that you need, not the one you want, not the best you could have."

I have some liberal acquaintances who think Friedman is wishy-washy and far too popular for their tastes. I think he's a brilliant observer and generally gets things spot-on. I really want you to read this column and, if you're smart, makes sure your Senators and Representatives read it too. I've already asked my U.S. Senators to read it.

Folks, there's no ignoring it! We must bite the bullet. It is time to rebuild America – bottom up; that is, our waste-water systems, a restoration of our water tables, reconstruction of our bridges and highways, developing alternative systems of convenient and efficient long distance transportation, modernizing and improving our educational systems from K through graduate schools and in both the arts and sciences, and making our health delivery systems more efficient and affordable to all people.

Now, don't let anyone call it wasteful liberal spending! It's not spending. It's investing in our nation and its future. Do and the economy will get on a roll again.

I am one patriotic, old geezer and I want to be able to say this one more time before I die: "Ain't America great?"

Please, please, go read Tom Friedman's column. As in the statement below, he has nailed the truth to wall and challenged America to respond to it.

"Sorry, we don't need a president who is tough enough to withstand the lies of his opponents. We need a president who is tough enough to tell the truth to the American people. Any one of the candidates can answer the Red Phone at 3 a.m. in the White House bedroom. I'm voting for the one who can talk straight to the American people on national TV — at 8 p.m. — from the White House East Room.

"Who will tell the people? We are not who we think we are. We are living on borrowed time and borrowed dimes. We still have all the potential for greatness, but only if we get back to work on our country."

And his final paragraph just makes me pop by buttons with pride because it deals with what our youngest is so involved in for the next few years of her life. John Kennedy's great question needs to be asked again by each of us: What can we do for our country?

"Look at the kids lining up to join Teach for America. They want our country to matter again. They want it to be about building wealth and dignity — big profits and big purposes. When we just do one, we are less than the sum of our parts. When we do both, said Shriver, 'no one can touch us.'"

I've decided, after receiving communications from two of my kids, reminding me of it, to add Margaret Mead's extraordinary words.

"Never underestimate that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world; indeed it's the only thing that ever has." ~Margaret Mead

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Obama Seems Worn Down

Hillary seems to be getting a second breath!
by Charlie Leck

This observation is not scientific and it is not documented by any sources. It's right off the top of my big head, which contains a pea-sized brain, and from the bottom of my heart, which some people have called dark and unfeeling, but which, I know, is enormously sentimental. I've endorsed Barack Obama. Oh hell, that's putting it too blandly. I'm a big Obama fan. I fell in love with him when I read his book, The Audacity of Hope, and then turned to his earlier book, Dreams from My Father, and read through that too. The books reveal something encouraging about Obama. He has heart and he has an enormous, open, intellectual mind.

I desperately want him to be the next President of the United States; yet, I know it's a long-shot! Why? Because, according to America's way of defining such things, he is a black man. No mind that his mother was white. He is a black man. No mind that his mother was a PhD of remarkable intelligence. Barack Obama is the son of a black man from Ghana. Never mind that his father was also remarkably bright and creative. All this makes him thoroughly black in America. No offense, my dear black friends, but that is utterly stupid. [Oh Christ, did I just say something politically or racially incorrect?] I don't trust America's attitude about the black man. I think, in the end, they'll turn against him. If I'm incorrect, I'll be the happiest man on earth.

Utterly mind blowing that some black leaders in the country held back support for Obama because they didn't think he was black enough. Now, isn't that a lovely fix to get yourself into, due, of course, to no fault of your own.

Where am I going with this? This is not that into which I wanted to get. I wanted to observe that I am worried about Obama. He seems worn down. Some of his spirit and enthusiasm is gone. The North Carolina and Indiana returns are coming in as I write this. Video clips are showing Obama on the stump and Hillary rumbling wildly through Indiana and North Carolina. She seems fresh and excited, full of vim and vinegar and ready to go another 15 rounds. Obama seems to be hanging on, clinching in order to rest, waiting for the final bell to ring. The struggle over the issue with Pastor Wright took a lot out of him. He knows he has the decision in hand. He only needs to avoid a knockout. He'll win big in North Carolina and he is inching ever so close to the lead in Indiana.

It's not a great way to finish – tired and worn out, I mean; yet, the judges will award him the decision – and it may well be a split decision. (Excuse the boxing metaphors and terminology, but, if you read this blog regularly, you know I was reared on the artful science of pugilism.)

Split decisions always anger the audiences – the rowdy crowds who come to watch the fights – and they don't please the purists either. The Clintons will now put their Michigan/Florida strategy into 5th gear and that will be very divisive. One wonders if it's possible for the Democrats to carry Florida and Michigan in November. Can they possibly win the White House without those two states?

I'm a bit worried. Obama will win the nomination, but is he ready to get in shape for the real fight – the battle against the bull-headed, mauling, tough-guy, John McCain? I must warn Barack Obama that John McCain will not fight fairly. There WILL be low blows – swiftboat blows. It will be ugly and it will be dirty.

Get in shape Senator Obama. If you think Hillary Clinton was tough, you ain't seen nothin' yet! The Republican machine will be loosed upon you and you'll need to fight while bleeding.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

What about McCain’s Pastor?

I hope people look carefully at John McCain
and recognize that he's a highly flawed character!

by Charlie Leck

My title here, on this blog, is quietly shop-lifted from a Frank Rich column (NY Times). That column provides only one more piece of evidence that there is something squishy and rank beneath the surface with presidential candidate John McCain. I am as uneasy about him reigning over the land, as Republicans tend to do, than I am about the sovereign ruler, George Bush. Rich's column, which is essentially about the fellows John McCain is willing to put his arms around, raises a very troubling issue.

John McCain is a man who professes great moral character, extraordinary legislative ethics and boundless patriotism. I don't get it and I don't believe it, especially on the first two counts.

Let's dig deep when it comes to Senator McCain and let's get to know the real man. Had we, as a nation, done that with George W. Bush, whose approval rating is now at the lowest point of any President in history, we likely wouldn't have elected him. He was elected by such a scant margin that I am certain he would have lost had we realized how totally dull his mind is and how perceptive he is not. [Rearrange the verbs in that last sentence any way you want.]

McCain's ramblings lately on Hurricane Katrina and the disaster in New Orleans provide a good example of his double-babble and the slowness of his mind. Read it the way Frank Rich describes it

"Speaking of Katrina in New Orleans, he promised that "never again" would a federal recovery effort be botched on so grand a scale.

"This is all surely sincere, and a big improvement over Mitt Romney's dreams of his father marching with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Up to a point. Here, too, there's a double standard. Mr. McCain is graded on a curve because the G.O.P. bar is set so low. But at a time when the latest Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll shows that President Bush is an even greater drag on his popularity than Mr. Wright is on Mr. Obama's, Mr. McCain's New Orleans visit is more about the self-interested politics of distancing himself from Mr. Bush than the recalibration of policy.

"Mr. McCain took his party's stingier line on Katrina aid and twice opposed an independent commission to investigate the failed government response. Asked on his tour what should happen to the Ninth Ward now, he called for 'a conversation' about whether anyone should 'rebuild it, tear it down, you know, whatever it is.'

"Whatever, whenever, never mind."

If that doesn't sound like more 'George-Bush-cloudy-minded conversation,' I'll eat my proverbial hat!

If John McCain is coronated this coming January, I'll need to reassess my opinions about America's greatness. We'll also need to admit that corporate America controls the nation and the people are just hanging on tight.

Here are some tidbits
that cause me to question the myths we're being sold about John McCain – his "moral character, extraordinary legislative ethics and boundless patriotism."

It appears Cliff Schecter's incredible revelations about John McCain are sticking. McCain's use of the "c" word, in a burst of anger at his wife, says volumes to me about the man's stability. Schecter appears to hold solid source references on this one and the McCain campaign is trying to distance itself from the charge rather than refuting it.

McCain's acceptance of very sizeable campaign contributions from the discredited Swift Boat organization is all also carefully documented by Schecter

"According to the Federal Election Commission, 8,600 individual contributions of more than $200 each have been made to the Swift Boaters. McCain has gratefully accepted cash to boost his senatorial or presidential aspirations from 262 of these donors. Through February 2008, the contributions of these 262 donors added up to roughly $600,000….

'Granted, McCain took money from some Swift Boat donors before they contributed to that organization. But long after their ads defamed Kerry, McCain continued to take their money. He accepted almost $238,000 in campaign donations from Swift Boaters in 2007 alone."

We can count on it that the Democratic candidate for President will be swiftboated this coming fall. Hopefully the country will have learned from the cruel, untruthful and unfair attack on John Kerry, and we will not buy into such lies. [Isn't it amazing that such a verb, swiftboated, now exists in the American lexicon?]

Want to read an account of the Swift Boat Veterans and POWs for Truth and the scandalously untruthful charge they brought against John Kerry? This Wikipedia account it accurate and unbiased.

I listened to a video of a non-denial denial by McCain about his brawl with Arizona Congressman Renzi and it just didn't settle well with me. McCain has some anger management problems. Don't call him at 3:00 a.m. whatever you do! McCain and Renzi, according to McCain, remained very close friends and that's McCain's way of saying that the brawl didn't amount to much. Oh, by the way, in February, Renzi was indicted for extortion, wire fraud, insurance fraud, money laundering and for a conspiracy to embezzle money. Renzi ran McCain's Arizona campaign right up until the time the charges were made. That's just one more thing for you to think about.

Pastor John Hagee has endorsed John McCain. McCain got chummy with Hagee and thanked him for the endorsement until he found out that Hagee was quite worse than Pastor Jeremiah Wright in his nut-case pronouncements. Want to read a wonderful account by an atheist who infiltrated Hagee's spiritual organization in an attempt to get an up-close story about the culture and environment with Hagee's religious organization? [click here to read an excerpt from the book] Do you know about the whacko positions Pastor Hagee has taken? [Read about them and the McCain connection to Hagee by clicking here]

Paul Kane, writing in the Washington Post, reports that McCain used the f-bomb in a conversation with John Cornyn about immigration legislation. The comment was confirmed by several people who heard it.

"[Expletive] you! I know more about this than anyone else in the room."

Watch this Keith Olbermann video on McCain's anger and how nervousness about it extends even to leaders in the military.

To see how shaky McCain is as a thinker, watch this You Tube Video called "Ron Paul Exposes John McCain". Then ask yourself if you want this guy having such an enormous impact on our economy?

Watch how John McCain gets completely owned on Meet the Press.

"There's no reason for the United States to remain. The American people want them home. I believe the majority of Congress wants them home. Our continued military presence allows another situation to arise which could then lead to the wounding, killing or capture of American fighting men and women. We should do all in our power to avoid that. What should be the criteria is our immediate, orderly withdrawal. And if we do not do that and other Americans die then I say that the responsibilities for that lie with the Congress who did not exercise their authority under the constitution. For us to get into nation building, law and order, etc. I think is a tragic and terrible mistake."

The above is John McCain's statement about the war in Somalia. McCain said he doesn't see any comparisons between the two situations. I wonder if he sees no comparison in the nation building that is going on in Iraq and "law and order, etc." that is happening in Iraq. What? Huh? Would you repeat that part about the part where you said that thing about the thing?

As for Iraq, "I think it is a tragic and terrible mistake;" and I am quoting a less than distinguished American and U.S. Senator. Come on Senator McCain, get your thinking straight. You really don't know where you are, do you?

Watch this extraordinary video showing John McCain criticizing John McCain and how he claims to be a "straight-talker" yet gets all bound up in the area of the tongue and the brain that drives the tongue.

Okay, maybe I dragged this out too far and too long, but what I want you to understand, and what I want you to make sure others understand, is that John McCain is of the same intellectual type and at the same intellectual level as George W. We can't handle another four years of such empty-headedness. We've fallen far enough behind in the race for sanity in foreign and national political policy. We mustn't fall yet further behind.

Let's elect a President with a brain!