Monday, June 30, 2008

FOX Slings Mud at Obama

FOX isn't reporting NEWS!
by Charlie Leck

Andy Driscoll, a fellow blogger, has asked me to join COLOR OF CHANGE and I'm going to do it. We have to try to stop FOX from so unfairly attacking Barack Obama. If you care about Obama's candidacy, I suggest you do it too. Here's the message Andy sent to me.

Dear Friends,

Right now, Fox News is trying to paint Barack Obama as foreign, un-American, suspicious, and scary. They're trying to send Americans the message that our country's first viable Black candidate for President is not "one of us."

I've joined on to's campaign to push back on Fox, publicly demanding they stop their race-baiting and fear mongering. If that doesn't work, then we'll go to their advertisers and the FCC. I wanted to invite you to sign on as well. It takes only a moment:

Here's what happened recently:

After Senator Obama won the nomination, he and his wife gave each other a "pound" in front of the cameras. Fox anchor E.D. Hill called the act of celebration a "terrorist fist jab." Then last week, a Fox News on-screen graphic referred to Michelle Obama as "Obama's baby mama"--slang used to describe the unmarried mother of a man's child. It was a clear attempt to associate the Obamas with negative cultural stereotypes about Black people, an insult not only to Michelle Obama but to women and Black people everywhere.

After each of the incidents mentioned, Fox issued some form of weak apology. But what does it mean when you slap someone in the face, apologize the next day, then slap them again on the third? It means the apology is meaningless.

These aren't one-time incidents--they're part of a pattern that continues no matter how often Fox is forced to apologize. Fox has a clear record of attacking and undermining Black institutions, Black leaders, and Black people in general.

If we don't push back now, we will see more of the same from now until November. Please join me in helping to bring an end to Fox's behavior.

In my added remarks, I accuse Fox News not only of racism, but of treason, since they proclaim to be a voice of America and fair and balanced in their coverage and anything but, undermining the core principles of our constitution and warping the First Amendment.


Do everything you can to support the candidacy of Barack Obama! It's important for America.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Letter to the Editor

Why no news?
by Charlie Leck

John Gibson, one of the organizers of the rally, memorial service and protest that I attended in Misissippi last week, writes to say the Neshoba Country Democrat, which purports to be a newspaper, gave the rally and protest no coverage. Its office is only two blocks down the street from where we (over 200 of us) gathered to remember Mickey Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman and a host of other civil rights workers who were killed.

"Just got through checking the internet edition of the Neshoba Democrat. No mention of the 44th Annual Mississippi Civil Rights Martyrs Memorial Service, but I didn't expect any from them. The justice rally at the Neshoba County courthouse involved around 200 people and was only a block from the newspaper office. I suspect you remember many similar non-coverage of civil rights activities that occurred back in the day. I guess the memorial service and the justice rally was not consistent with the message that the editor of the Neshoba Democrat wanted to promote.

"Why only Edgar Ray Killen prosecuted in the Neshoba murders case?

"Why no coverage of the 44th Annual Mississippi Civil Rights Martyrs Memorial Service by the Neshoba Democrat?"

John, why not organize a letters to the editor campaign, telling the editor and the general public what fine speeches and music they missed?

Here's some contact information for the Neshoba Democrat and a copy of a letter I sent off today (Friday, 27 June 2008):

Carver Rayburn
Associate Editor and Publisher

Debbie Myers
Managing Editor

Jim Prince
Editor & Publisher

Dear Editor:

I've enjoyed reading through your on-line archives. You feature many outstanding articles about the terrible civil rights murders in 1964 and a great deal of valuable subsequent information about the investigation and trials. Thanks for having that all posted.

I was disappointed, however, not to see any news coverage of the 44th annual memorial service and rally that took place last week end (21 and 22 June 2008).

I traveled down from Minnesota with my wife and one of my children to attend the events surrounding the memorial service. We gathered in front of the Neshoba County Courthouse on an absolutely spectacular, sun-shiny day in Mississippi. The music was grand and the speeches were eloquent and informative.

It appears that your paper did not have a representative at that gathering and I think it was a huge mistake not to. This is an important event to both many of the citizens of your community and veterans of the Mississippi civil rights movement all over America.

I urge you to give the event "close-up and personal" coverage next year and in ensuing years. The protestors at that event continue to wonder why it is that only Edgar Ray Killen was prosecuted and none of the others who were equally involved. "Justice for all" lies at the heart of the American-way and it doesn't appear to be happening in Neshoba County.


Charles H. Leck

Friday, June 27, 2008

Mississippi Blogging

Thanks to all the readers!
by Charlie Leck

An average of 5,000 readers came to my 3 blogs on last weekend's trip to Mississippi. I expect most of them read the blogs and for that I'm grateful. I'm even more grateful for all the comments, both positive and stern. These 3 blogs generated over 250 separate emails to me and I answered everyone of them.

The responses from so many of you and the questions you asked, will generate dozens of new blogs from me in the next couple of months.

The Right Wing is Sick

Listen to the right wing flap!
by Charlie Leck

It's ugly out there! Or as the Amish fellow told his daughter, in the movie, Witness, when he was putting her on a train: "Be careful out there among them English!"

I just listed to an audio clip of something very crude, said by Hugh Hewitt on his nationally syndicated radio show:

HEWITT: By the way, I -- I'm still trying to find two tickets to the Ohio State-USC game. And none of the USC people will give up their tickets to me. I'd pay fair price. They -- they know Ohio State's gonna slaughter the Trojans. They know that they're gonna slaughter the Trojans, and therefore they do not want me there at the bloodbath, since it's probably the last football game we'll ever get to see before the United States gets blown up by the Islamists under Obama. I -- I would like to see Ohio State slaughter USC. This is what I'm living for right now. I'm keeping -- all the bad news, I just focus on the Ohio State upcoming slaughter of USC. So if you are a USC fan willing to sell me two or perhaps even three USC tickets to the Ohio State game,, or if you're a Buckeye fan with those tickets back in Ohio, I'll trade you some Browns tickets. New York Giants, Monday night game? Think about it. Hugh Hewitt Show. [click here if you want to hear it for yourself]

Monica Crowley recently passed on an incredible smear of Barack Obama that she freely admitted she'd not researched or checked. [Listen to this crap!]

"…according to this genealogy -- and again, because I haven't done the research, I can't verify this -- but according to this guy Kenneth Lamb, Barack Obama is not black African, he is Arab African… And yet, this guy is campaigning as black and painting anybody who dares to criticize him as a racist. I mean, that is -- it is the biggest con I think I've ever seen."

You know, everyone in America should turn daily to Media Matters. There is so much crap being thrown around by the media (especially the conservative broadcast media) that we need someone to keep things straight for us. And, believe me, they also take on the broader mainline media as well and get them straightened out regularly. I simply don't let a day pass now without checking out Media Matters.

Right to Life

The Supreme Court Decides on Right to Life for Rapist
by Charlie Leck

I do not favor capital punishment in any case or as the consequence of any act. It is a simple matter! We haven't the right! It is a decision no person should make about another person.

Ross Douthat put me on to an extraordinary blog by Noah Millman called We All Deserve to Die. It's an extraordinary discussion of the justifications for the death penalty. If it's a question you are interested in, go to it.

I wonder if we ever collectively think, as a nation, that perhaps other nations are on to something when they resist the death penalty. So many of them do, you know. [see list] Nearly all of Europe has abolished capital punishment. So has Canada, Mexico, Australia and most of South America. China and Japan still use the tool.

I also wonder where all the "right to lifers" stand on the question of capital punishment.


I wrote a blog yesterday, for posting today, that got whacked by my computer. It won't open, as a computer message tells me, "because there are problems with the contents." I'll take that as a sign. It was pretty sarcastic and Karl Rove probably doesn't need any more bashing – or, more precisely, you don't need to read any more Karl Rove bashing. The whole point was that this effete failure has the nerve to call Senator Obama an elitist. Can you imagine?

Tomorrow I hope to post a blog about education among minorities in America. I've read hundreds of pages of reports, analysis and opinions of which I'm trying to make some sense. This is a serious situation. It's going to take something revolutionary to deal with the problem. [Charlie Leck]

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Dining on Crow

The organization may have lost touch with the people,
but it put on a grand show two weeks ago!
by Charlie Leck

Mississippi, Politics, Social Justice, or other ranting and raving
Today's blog is about golf. If you've come here to read about Mississippi, politics, social justice or any of my other rantings and ravings, please scroll down or go to the archive index at the left! I occasionally slip in a blog about golf, an activity with which I'm entirely enthralled. You'll just have to forgive me for this. If you're not interested, take a day off.

Tech Problems! Blog down morning of 25 June 2008…
I've received a number of emails this morning from readers who could not bring up my blog site; that is, it wouldn't load! This happens occasionally and, fortunately, quite rarely. I use Google's 'Blogger' service and it does sometimes crash for a few moments. It's rarely longer than that, so try again in a few minutes and you'll probably find it working.

Serve it up! Without the feathers if you don't mind! And make it a bit on the well-done side. Oh yes, may I have a heap of ketchup on the side?

I wrote some nasty things a couple of weeks ago about the USGA (the United States Golf Association) and how it seems to have ruined the U.S. Open Golf Championship [see blog of 12 June 2008]. I used some impolite terminology about the idiots at the top of the organization and ranted on about how these snobs just don't get it. Well, somehow, in this year's Open Championship at Torrey Pines, they managed to pull off something special. I expect it was quite accidental and by shear chance and thoroughly through the herculean efforts of one, Tiger Woods.

Now, in honesty, I must give Mike Davis some credit, too. He gets it about course set-up and this year's Open was just fine. The course was remarkably difficult, but fair at the same time. Congratulations, Mr. Davis, you saved the rump portion of the USGA.

Praise for the Open was pretty universal, though often reluctant. The organization is liked by the people of golf about as you like the big kid at your child's school who is always pushing around and banging the heads of other children (including your own kids). The USGA was once a praise-worthy organization. Of late it's gotten into the big money business and runs itself and its golf championships like the big oil companies run the nation.

Yet, in spite of all of this, it was a great U.S. Open Championship. The Rock versus the wounded, angry, hungry Tiger! You can't write fiction as perfectly exciting and compelling as this championship.

Bring on that crow! I want to get it over with!

By the way, the conservative estimate on the street is that the USGA made about 50 million on this year's Open after a gross of about 100 million, so they certainly aren't going to miss my annual dues.

How great was this Open? Plenty of pundits and top-notch commentators were comparing it to the 1913 Open Championship at which the shy, demure amateur, Francis Ouimet, knocked off the greatest professional players in the world – an Open made famous as The Greatest Game Ever Played by Mark Frost.

This was, indeed, a U.S. Open for the ages! A marvelous Father's Day!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Minnesota Morning

From here I can see so clearly!
by Charlie Leck

The United States of America is, and was founded as, a conglomerate (union) of governments that rule over their individual states in manners that conform to the overall constitution and subsequent laws of the federal government. All of the people of this nation, though citizens of individual states, are one people under a common flag and are each promised the same guardianship of our rights by the constitution. And each of us is granted the same basic rights to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness;" and, I might add, we are also guaranteed "justice for all!"

Citizens of this extraordinary government like to think that it is the greatest nation on earth. But, is it?

We have the bad habit, in this country, of thinking that anyone who questions this is unpatriotic; when, in fact, our founding fathers established the union in a manner that encourages such regular examination.

From here – from this lovely, rural place – from this loft up near the tops of the trees – I can see the blue of the sky that goes on forever, arching above us all – arching above the 50 extraordinary and distinctive states of the nation.

An occasional bird flutters by and a squirrel bounds from limb to limb of a gigantic basswood tree. The birds – so many dozens of them – are singing their varied songs to me, managing, somehow, to make a symphony out of their strangely different offerings.

This is an extraordinary place to think and write.

This is a Minnesota morning. The air is cool and clear. I have the doors at each end of my study, which lead out on to separate decks, thrown wide open so I can feel the gentle and cooling breezes and hear the sounds of the forest that surrounds me.

I feel refreshed and invigorated.

Mississippi is yesterday. The little hovels are only a memory. The wee, poor ones are far from sight. The horror of unpunished murder recedes from memory. I am home and home is good and dear.

I think we have justice here. We are not pure. Our history is as tainted as that of many states. We pushed the Sioux unfairly and illegally from the land that was his – land that had been given to him by the Great Spirit centuries and centuries before we arrived in our covered wagons and carrying our weapons.

Yet, we've become a good and just state and we are alert to miscarriages of justice and the basic unfairnesses of the law.

A human can not kill another human here, as he might an animal, and not pay for the brutal act. The courts are strong here; yet also fair. Fairness is a good and noble word in Minnesota – a concept and sentiment held in near reverence by almost all of us.

It is good to be home; yet a part of me remains behind in Mississippi. Dear, lovely people – people I would like to know better and with whom I would like to be friends – are seeking and fighting for the kind of justice that is common and taken for granted here.

Yesterday, on a little hillock in Longdale (northeast of Philadelphia, Mississippi), I sat in the shade of some huge river oaks and listened to the "roll call of the martyrs of the Mississippi civil rights movement." It was an astonishing list of 50 people who had been slaughtered in Mississippi and whose murderers have gone unpunished.

Did you hear me? Are you an American? Do you brag that this is the greatest nation on the face of the earth? Do you say, as I have said, that this can not happen here?

It would not happen in Minnesota. It, according to the Constitution of our Federal Government, is not supposed to happen in Mississippi. It is not supposed to happen in any state. Tell that to James Chaney. Tell that to Emmett Till. Tell that to any of the dozens who died there while the justice system of Mississippi utterly failed them!

The good people there seek justice still. Their voices ring from Mississippi to Minnesota – from Mississippi to Washington, D.C.; yet, there is no swelling answer to their pleas for simple, rightful and deserved justice.

In cannot happen in America!

It has!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Whatsoever a Man Soweth

Our caravan of cars was headed to the gravesite of James Chaney, to pay respects to him, when, near the cemetery, we passed this home and this flag in its yard.

...he will surely reap!
by Charlie Leck

It was hot yesterday in Mississippi. That must come as startling news. A bright, blue sky covered us from horizon to horizon and the sun had a clear shot at us. And, it was on target, boring down upon us everywhere, causing folks to hunt for whatever shade they could find.We gathered at the Lauderdale County Courthouse in a rally for justice. We were the Veterans of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement and we were joined by a large number of residents of Mississippi who believe justice has not been provided by the state in the gruesome murders of a host of black folks – over 50 slaughters and no indictments.

It was, of course, June 21, and this was the 44th anniversary of the murder of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner. No one in the case has ever been tried for their murder by the State of Mississippi even though they have two extraordinary confessions that directly implicate approximately 18 people and indirectly implicate a number of others as coconspirators. [You can read the confessions, word for word, in my blog of 21 January 2008.] One fellow was convicted of manslaughter in the case in 2005 and sentenced to 25 years. Mississippi thinks that’s good enough. It’s difficult to believe that any other state in the nation would allow such injustice.

Between a hundred and two hundred folks gathered for the rally. They were black and white. Spirits were high. The speeches were moving. The music was inspirational and played on our emotions.

It was tough on me when we drove, with the caravan, far out into the countryside to visit the gravesite of James Chaney, the young man from Meridian who was murdered so brutally along with Goodman and Schwerner. As we approached the cemetery, we passed by the home of a man who stood in his yard scowling at us as we passed. In his graying undershirt and faded jeans, he stood under and leaned against a big tree that towered above him. Even from a hundred yards one could see that his eyes were filled with rage and hate – more animal than human. A confederate flag flew from a pole very near where he stood.

Chaney’s tombstone stood elegantly and proudly in the tiny cemetery. A monument noting his mother’s grave was immediately next to his. Even in death, James Chaney cannot rest in peace. A picture of him, that had adorned the monument, was dug out and destroyed. The stone has been broken and knocked down several times and stands now with the aid of steel braces. I could feel the utter inhumanity of man crawling on my flesh as I stood looking at the monument.

We moved on to visit the site of his murder – the place where he and Goodman and Schwerner were gunned down by mad fools in the night. It was on Rock Cut Road, south of Philadelphia. The stories appeared so many places (most accurately in the book, We Are Not Afraid), so you don’t need it repeated here. At the spot where the three young men’s bodies fell, we piled rocks, some that had been brought from states all around the U.S.. I think there was a sense of closure for me – something I have needed for over four decades. I have thought about these three young men thousands of times since 44 years ago today, when I arrived in Canton, Mississippi, to begin my assignment in this civil rights struggle, and heard that they were missing. I have shed a river of tears for them since their bodies were removed from Olin Burrage’s reservoir near Philadelphia. There’s no doubt about his involvement in the murder. The evidence is overwhelming. Yet, Mississippi lets this rich, white man walk free.

At the beginning of day, when we gathered at the Lauderdale County Courthouse, I was struck by the words engraved in giant letters across the front entry: “Whatsoever a man soweth, he will surely reap!” If there is a hell, and if there is a just God, Olen Burrage has hard times acomin’ folks. "Hard times!”

I saw my daughter looking up at the words also. A smirky grin covered her face as she raised her camera and photographed the exclamation point to the lives of men like Burrage and former Neshoba County Deputy Sheriff Cecil Price, who still walk free as residents of Philadelphia.
[see correction of this last sentence in comments following]

I worry that there is no such God to reclaim payment from them. Do they lose sleep at night? Do they have nightmares? Do they have any sense of guilt? Can one man kill another totally innocent and beautiful human being and not feel the wrongness of his act?

Has a state, such as Mississippi, got a collective conscience? Will it be two hundred years from now when its legislature passes a resolution of apology and grief over the acts of hate of its former citizens? Why not now, when it would touch gently the wounds of so many of us who have suffered over the horrendous act committed on that dark night 4 decades ago?

It eases no pain, except that in my own heart, that I have held these three young men close to me for these 44 years. They are the great and everlasting heroes of my life and my soul constantly sings songs of praise to them.

It did me good today to see the spot where they fell. It is a sacred place and Mississippi should make it honored and protected land.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

George Washington is Dead

The Odds Were Against Me
by Charlie Leck

It was probably a thousand to one! Maybe it was hundreds of thousands to one; nevertheless, I was hoping to see George Washington III again and to shake his hand, or maybe give him a big bear hug.

We slid into Canton, Mississippi in the late morning. We parked the rental car in a spot right in the town square and climbed from it. The southern heat, humid and stinging, smacked us in the face and slid into our nostrils. We knew, now, that we were in Mississippi. The early morning stop for grits, sausage and eggs had been pleasant, while the day was still an infant.

Canton is all southern, all the time. The county courthouse is at the heart of the square and there are magnolia trees everywhere. The buildings that ring the square are almost all at least a century old and most have second floor balcony porches, with rocking chairs adorning them. Their design is delicate and intricate. You can still feel the slavery era here and sense the economic engine that it drove.

We walked the square and I tried to remember where I was arrested for jaywalking and where the sheriff’s office might have been. Which way was it to the railroad station where the City of New Orleans had deposited me? What street went out to the poor, motley black neighborhood where George Washington’s store was at its heart?

“Hey y’all!”

There were kind, southern greetings from owners of the retail establishments who had come out to the street for a gulp of the hot, scorching air. Some of them started friendly, chatty conversations with us.

“Where y’all from?… Minnesota?… I’ve got a friend from Minnesota…Well, they came back some years ago, to retire here. He was the principle of the school in Dassell, Minnesota for years and years…. His name was Moe… Ever heard of him?”

Moe is a well-known Minnesota name. We wondered. Big time politicians in the Democrat-Farmer-Labor Party! Achievers! Shakers!

We took some photos, trying to capture the southernness of it. A gentleman kindly directed us to the railroad station.

“Count seven of those American flags,” he said, pointing down a street off one corner of the town square, “and the station is just on the left right there. Nothing but a museum now, though.”

We looked down the flag decorated street and saw where the 7th flag waved and we thanked him as graciously as we could, failing to capture that sense of dripping politeness that only real natives of the south can project.

“I wouldn’t walk down there, however, if I was y'all,” he concluded as we moved away.

We wondered what he meant. Was it too hot to walk that far? Was it dangerous? We couldn’t seem to ask him why. We never figured it out.

Indeed, we found the station just on the left at the seventh flag. It certainly wasn’t a passenger terminal anymore, but it was still in remarkable condition. I went around to the old passenger platform and tried to remember the morning of June 22nd when we stepped down from the train. It was hotter that day, 44 years ago. Mississippi was searing. It was burning.

The signs were gone. There was no indication about where the “Colored Only Waiting Room” was nor where the one for the “Whites Only” stood. I tried to guess, but it was only that. It was a long time ago.

The water drinking-fountains – one for colored people and the other for white people – were also gone.

And, the museum was closed – even though a sign indicated it should be open – and so the hope of finding a photo of the station from the 50s or 60s was gone too.

We walked around to the front of the station and saw a small produce stand across the street. A black farmer was setting up, putting out fresh melons that looked scrumptious. We wandered over and I bought myself an ice-cold Diet Coke. Only 75 cents. The girls didn’t want one. They’d sip on mine.

The farmer and his wife seemed suspicious of us. We sure were different and talked funny. I jumped into a conversation anyway and told them I was back here for the first time since ’64, when I was a young man. It didn’t seem to strike a cord and make a wits bit of difference to them.

So much for being a civil rights hero!

I wondered aloud about George Washington’s grocery store and if they knew about it and where it might have been back then.

“Still there,” the woman said. Some curiosity appeared in her face. I took advantage of it.

“How would I get there?”

She pointed the way and I counted on the girls to understand what she meant by this turn and that.

“What’s the name of the street?” I asked her as sweetly as I could.

“Why, George Washington Street, of course,” she answered as if I was the dumbest thing ever.

I screwed up all the courage I could find within me and hopefulness soared from my heart.

“Ever heard of George Washington III?” I asked the question quickly and clearly. “He was a great guy to me. A wonderful fellow! He helped me out of some jams. I’d like to see him again.”

“He’s dead,” she said bluntly. No more.

I looked to her husband for help – for an explanation – for some possible correction. He nodded his head silently. I think he saw the lump rise in my throat and the instant tear that dashed from my eye. I took a long, quick draw on the coke. I thanked them and turned away with the girls and headed for the car.

It was clear to me. You not only can’t go home again, but you can’t go back in time either. It’s all moving so quickly -- ad astra!. There’s no point of turn around and it’s impossible to get off. We’re just rocketing onward.

We found the corner of George Washington Street and Martin Luther King Avenue. It was on the other side of the tracks. Curious, black faces stared at us as we drove by. We found a little grocery store where the woman had directed us. It was a brick structure. It’s not what I remembered. Across the street, and up from it just a bit, stood an old and abandoned, boarded-up building with a front porch. That seemed to be it, but Freedom House was not across the street and just up the road from it, where it was supposed to be.

The neighborhood didn’t look any more hopeful now than it did back then. It was still pretty run-down and the kids still looked oddly poor and improperly nourished. We saw no signs of friendliness and no cheerfulness.

I tried to find the home of Angelina Davis, the kindly woman who’d given up her bedroom for us in 1964. I got hopelessly turned around and lost and frustrated.

I needed to find the way out. We needed to move on toward Meridian. I was wondering if I should have come at all.
No George Washington III. No Freedom House. No Angelina Davis!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Redeeming Creatures

A book review
by Charlie Leck

I've read a number of wonderful books lately, such as Patricia Hampl's extraordinary memoir, A Florist's Daughter, and I should probably be reviewing these well known, best-selling books. Frankly, however, these works don't need me and you probably don't need me to reflect on them. I should also probably be telling you about Pam Houston, a wonderful writer I've newly discovered, and the Whitefish Review in which I found her. However, she'll have to wait.

I am haunted by a very good, apparently self published book I recently read, and I want to tell you about it. This morning, I just finished my second reading of it. You may want to get your hands on this book and read it yourself. I'll send a free copy, with no strings attached, to the first three people who respond to this blog and ask me for a copy. If you're one of the three, I'll respond to you, if you give me an email address, and ask for your mailing address.

Redeeming Creatures is a gentle theological work that attempts to explain some of the little mysteries of the scriptures. You won't gag on this theology. Nor will you on its language. The author, David Williamson, is a professional journalist and wields the pen very well. His thinking is down to earth and straight-forward, and so is his language. He tells us, on his blog, that he's an Irishman who's been transplanted to Wales. He refers to his blog as "shambolic" – disorderly or chaotic! More correctly, Williamson displays great diversity. As with my own blog, the world won't end if you don't read them; yet, with Williamson's blog, you'll be missing some very kind, thoughtful and helpful thinking about a whole host of subjects. And, you'll also be missing some very intriguing and good photography. But, back to Redeeming Creatures!

"On a superficial level, Christianity can seem one of the easier of the world's religions. We're not asked to pray a set number of times each day, there's not much ceremonial washing and no obligatory pilgrimages.

"But, actually, wouldn't it be easier to travel to a shrine on the far side of the globe rather than forgive a family member or a friend who's caused us to shed tears or thump a door in anger?"

This is the general theme of Williamson's view of Christianity and the difficulty of truly becoming a follower or disciple of our Lord. The author contends that Christians can actually experience God and his powerful love in a very real way. In this lovely, very real book he'll tell you how to do it.

"Christians are not supposed to come together to talk about God. They are supposed to come together to experience God's power and forgiveness."

According to Williamson, this concept of forgiveness appears to be at the heart of, and is the central them of, the gospels and the Christian message. Those who understand this message, and the reasons behind the crucifixion of our Lord, are called upon to be serious forgivers themselves.

"God has persistently pardoned humankind. Do the angels roll their eyes when time after merciful time He spares us the punishment we really deserve?"

I'm not as keen on the importance of the institutional church as Williamson is, but he is throwing a clear and relevant challenge at that establishment.

"The work of mercy is the message the Church has been given to proclaim."

Williamson talks about God as both the "inventor" and the "founder" of the church. He and I could have a good "go-around" about this concept. The "church" was not in the plan for the Christ, Jesus of Nazareth! It seems to me he rather deplored the idea of institutionalism. Small, gathered communities of people who would consider the new commandments he was giving to them – that seems more what the game-plan was! And, perhaps, that it what Williamson means by the Church.

The institutionalized church, by and large, mucks the whole thing up with its utterly silly ritual – something Jesus seemed to disdain. The Church of England and the Roman Church, I believe, are the farthest things from what Jesus intended. It is totally unfair to blame this modern hypocrisy on the original apostles. In historical fact, Peter is no more the founder of the Roman Church than I am. And Paul certainly had no intention of establishing such meaningless, empty, heartless places.

I need to ask Williamson what he means by the church and have him explain his fervor for it.

"The church is a many splendoured thing. Its diversity is as colourful and surprising as the human beings whom the Holy Spirit has brought together."

The author's voice comes from the heart and soul of "liberation theology." He clearly recognizes the foibles and weaknesses of the institutional church that seems, instinctively, to want to bind us again and again in chains. In that respect, he sees this institution as completely "human" and subject to man's sins and errors. Would only that the great fathers of the church understand this!

Here's the surprising strength of Williamson's treatise: He has a solid understanding of the Old Testament as well as the New; and he understands that the great message of the gospels cannot be understood clearly and completely without the help of the grand stories of the Old Testament.

"The book of Samson is the Beowulf of Judeo-Christianity. Not simply because both narratives concern the adventures of a warrior who is finally beaten by a force greater than any man, but because so much of the language of the Bible and the archetypes found in its holy stories spring from these three short chapters."

I'm not sure that I would concur about the defeat or "beating" of these two "warriors" but I know where Williamson is going.

"If we don't regularly return to the story of Samson we can't spot the allusions to it in the rest of the Bible, or even claim to have an accurate understanding of the tale's key events and messages."

I attended a Lutheran Church for a few years, because it was the only church in the neighborhood. I finally gave up on it because of what Williamson is saying immediately above. The church seemed to virtually give up on the Old Testament. None of the pastors who served there, save one delightfully ancient Swedish fellow, appeared to grasp the intertwined nature of these scriptures.

"If you do return to Samson, prepare to be shocked when some of your most fondly remembered moments are missing. Samson doesn't tell the boy who leads him up to the pillars to run for his life. No, the evidence suggests that he's flattened by the destruction which follows."

Williamson's chapter on Samson (again, the chapters are unnumbered and untitled), is brilliantly done and also delightfully enjoyable to read. That's a rare combination.

"It is this faith which enables him [Samson] to answer the calling to which he was born. Like Job, his sufferings have led him to call on the name of the Lord. But more beautiful than this final submission is the hope that the Christian reader finds in this most visceral of episodes. Samson stands in the same pose as we picture a man nailed to a tree. The death of Jesus also heralded the end to one kingdom. But now, in the midst of rubble and rainbows, we can rejoice in the one which is here and yet also to come."

In theological circles, they are called Petrine Epistles; that is, those letters of the New Testament that were written by someone other than Paul. I am pleased to see that Williamson gives them serious attention. It was another of my displeasures in my brief sojourn with the Lutherans. It seems they were aware there were epistles other than Paul's.

"When you open the book of James the steam rises off the pages. The writer is a man boiling with passion."

How true! These letters from James, John, Peter are among the most exciting writings of the Bible. Frankly, they are so powerful that many parish pastors and priests tend not to deal with them. These writers are all concerned that the message of Paul is but pabulum and there is a greater depth of faith in Christ than Paul is letting on. In these very early days, following the death of Jesus, there was not agreement between Paul and the disciples and one can sense the debate going on in the Petrine Epistles.

"He [James] is convinced his readers haven't grasped the scale of transformation involved in living the Christian life.

"This drives him nuts. His readers probably don't think they are particularly bad people. They are working and shopping – leading normal lives.

"But James is determined to make them realise that when God takes hold of you, normal life stops. And if you spend too much time thinking about money, he will shake you upside down until your credit cards and coins have fallen out of your pockets."

In the closing chapter of the book, our author comes round to his title and his entire thesis becomes clear to us. He nails the truth and it's exciting for those of us who have had the scales lifted from our eyes.

"God is redeeming creation, and we will spend eternity in his presence. But he wants us to live in this world where the brambles still have thorns and the nettles still sting. It is his desire that we will know him in time and space and experience him in action. We have been given the opportunity to be part of his rescue team for creation…"

"In James 1:26 he shouts: 'Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.'

"He closes chapter four with the warning that 'whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.'"

This book reveals an author who is in touch with both the enormous miracle of grace and the awesome responsibility which that miracle places upon us. In this book he enables the lay person to understand that one (grace) is quite meaningless without the other (works). He will take you traveling through both the Old and New Testaments to explain how and why the two are so inextricably intertwined.

This is a delightful, joyful book to read. If you wish, you can purchase it on-line.

"For reasons it's impossible to fully understand, the creator has resolved to rescue and redeem men and women from their lost wanderings in the realms of sin and destruction. This great, ongoing mission involved the death of his son, Jesus. Other than his love for us, we do not know why he would go to such lengths for our sake. But now, in this era of the resurrection, we should not expect our God to take any less interest in our lives."

You should understand, that I am, apparently, much more of a humanist than Williamson; yet, I have no trouble following his language of faith and I appreciate his concept of resurrection and hope. The well-grounded humanist (Tillich) is completely able to converse successfully with those who hold more fundamental and firm beliefs (Barth). Williamson, in his book, is successful in communicating with a wide range of Christians.

Though the book's illustrations, by Gustave Doré are wonderful, any overall and consistent sense of book design is missing. Some time spent with a book designer, who could have given the work a much more attractive and comfortable layout, would have been time well spent. On the other hand, the cover design is sumptuous and, I am guessing, is probably a photograph by Williamson himself. One must remember, the purchase price of this worthwhile book comes in under $10. Obviously, I recommend it to you.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The 50th Reunion

Dick Cavett in the Zone!
by Charlie Leck

My regular readers know that one of my favorite blogs, and one which I read with great regularity, is Dick Cavett's Talk Show. Sometimes it is wonderful and sometimes it is "out of sight." This week's offering is in the latter category! Don't miss it. Cavett, as he wrote this one, was "in the zone" and flying high.

It's an extraordinary story about his 50th reunion at Yale – and past beauties who had dimmed and sorry lookers who had become beautiful – and guys who weren't around – at all – anymore and the quickly clicking stop watch that's been placed on each of us.

My 50th high school reunion will be held this year. I decided some time ago that there was no way I would attend. I wrote considerably about it here. Then I changed my mind and realized there were a few people I had to see and chat with again about those olden, golden days. Then they scheduled the event for Thanksgiving weekend and I realized it would be impossible to travel east at that time. It's a big, traditional weekend here at our home and it's "a jag" my wife and I refuse to give up.

Back to Cavett. Those of you over 60 in years should be sure to read this one. It is extraordinary and you may find it meaningful!

And, you'll get to deal with words like "febrile."

"There were many classy-looking wives at the reunion, some of them second, third... and at least one fourth. (If at first, eh?)"

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

How News Should Be Reported

And, how it shouldn't!
by Charlie Leck

In this morning's New York Times [17 June 2008] there is an interesting story about the System of Rice Intensification (S.R.I.) and Doctor Norman T. Uphoff, a professor at Cornell University. I urge you to read it [click here]. Both Uphoff and S.R.I. are very controversial in that they claim to have discovered a simple system to double rice production around the globe – all without increased capital investment.

Some scientists call it all hog-wash!

Here's the point. The story is written under the bi-line of William J. Broad. Congratulations to Mr. Broad for some fine reporting. It's the way reporting is suppose to work. Broad gives us a very thorough look at S.R.I. and explains it completely. He also details the opposition. The entire story is carefully sourced.

This is the way I want my news. The New York Times is better at it than any newspaper in America – followed closely by the L.A. Times.

FOX News is absolutely the way I don't want my news. What a crazy operation!

I've had great appreciation for CNN until lately. They give free rein to Lou Dobbs to make a complete idiot out of himself and he's done it in spectacular fashion. What a blow-hard! How they can put him on in the most important "news" time period of the day, I just don't understand! He rants and bellows just like the folks over at FOX. Just understand this. It ain't news – no how!

Like Limbaugh and O'Reilly, Dobbs has a strong, vocal following. That following is so strong now that CNN is afraid of it. The cable network knows that Dobbs has gotten out of hand, but it can't do anything to control him. It's a bad situation.

My solution? Do more reading! Hit the Internet and visit all the good alternative news sights.

Monday, June 16, 2008

To Write Well

The blogosphere is not the place to search for great writing, though…
by Charlie Leck

Since about 1973, over thirty-five years ago, there has been nothing I would rather do with my quiet, private time than write. Around me, here in my study, are volumes and volumes of my letters, essays and both short and long stories. They amount to thousands and thousands of pages. I can't imagine that they are anything but an average sort of literary accomplishment; however, I can say the production of these pages has brought me enormous happiness.

Thousands of pages of my work, from between 1966 and 1977, including over one-hundred poems and 135 essays were lost during a hectic time in my life. They are not to be mourned by anyone other than myself; however, I would love to retrieve a few of those poems that were particularly meaningful to me.

A friend was visiting us a few weeks ago and shook her head in amazement at the volume of blogs I have been producing. She said that she couldn't keep up.

Blog writing is simple compared to my other efforts. A blog gets about two or three revisions – that's it. A serious essay may get written a dozen times or more before I am satisfied and put it aside as accomplished (only I would likely use that adjective to describe my final products). Yet, there is some brilliant writing on the blogosphere; Stan Fish is one example; Blair Hurley has a creative writing blog and he produces some good essays. I'm also pleased with the work of Cynthia Harrison. A blog called Writing Fiction supplies a lot of good advice for writers wanting to be published. Here's an extraordinary list of links for writers.

Years ago I read a book by John Braine, Writing a Novel, which emphasized the importance of reading great novels as a foundation for attempting to write one. He listed dozens of titles that one who is attempting to write must read in order to write well. Gullibly, I copied the list and began to read each one that I hadn't already read. I got hooked on reading and worked my way quickly through each one of them in less than a year. Was I ready to write the great American novel? Not by a long shot!

More recently I read Jane Smiley's intriguing work, 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel. Smiley talks about confronting 'writer's block' and deciding that she would defeat it by reading 100 of the great novels in one year. I mentioned that to a friend and expressed my amazement. His reply was that this wasn't such a great feat, but an easy exploit. Now wait! In 365 days that means she would be reading a novel each 3.5 days. That's okay, I suppose, if we're talking about The Old Man and the Sea. However, Smiley was talking about a more extensive, classic list of great novels. She displays her list in the front of her book; it includes authors like Shikibu, Boccaccio, Fielding, Balzac, Melville, Wilde, Joyce, Kafka, Proust and Nabokov. One doesn't casually rush through some of these authors in just a few days unless one is a genius. I'm not. Interestingly, one of Garrison Keillor's novels was on Smiley's reading list.

Frankly, it took me more than two weeks to read Smiley's work; though, of course, I had plenty of other things to get done during that two week period.

What admiration I have for extraordinary writers! These are among my current list of favorites. The list also gets regularly revised.

  • John Updike
  • Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
  • Mark Helprin
  • Richard Russo
  • Ernest Hemingway
  • Saul Bellow
  • Gabriel García Márquez
  • Thomas Hardy
  • Willa Cather
  • William Faulkner
  • Charles Dickens
  • Feodor Dostevsky
  • Garrison Keillor
  • P.G. Wodehouse
  • Tim O'Brien
  • James Dickey
  • Marilynne Robinson

These are coming just off the top of my head as I tap on the keys beneath my fingers. If I gave it thought, the list could go on and on. I am aware that there are not enough women on the list. I'm not sure that's my fault.

I just finished reading two books by women and both were brilliant and meaningful. They probably belong on the list. Patricia Hampl is a Minnesota woman – from St. Paul – and a brilliant, nationally recognized author. Her book, A Romantic Education, is one of the finest memoir volumes I've ever read. Her newest, The Florist's Daughter, is an absolute delight. One can tell that hours upon hours of writing and rewriting and revising each chapter were involved in this final product.

"Still holding her hand now, I glance away from the figurine my mother has become. I turn to the big window that is black and gives me nothing but my own face. Then I turn to the walls, the cartoon clock, the square calendar – the full compass of these days in the shadowy room. I'm waiting for light to break. It'll be another long night. The last one, probably."

My word processor doesn't like the above paragraph. It is filled with little green, squiggly underlinings that suggest revisions are necessary. Brilliant writing doesn't follow the rules of business letters or journalism editors. Great writing has heart, feeling and life.

The best two novels I've read in recent years?
Easy! Gilead by Marilynne Robinson and Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo.

The years are dashing by quickly; yet I continue to work on my writing skills. Nothing fascinates me quite so much as writing. In terms of reading, I've been stuck on non-fiction for quite some time. Now I must get back to the novel.

Is there a perfect sentence?
Gertrude Stein thought so and she pointed to one written by Hemingway.

"In the fall the war was always there, but we did not go to it any more."

Oh, gosh! I am filled with envy – and admiration!

"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. Then the electric lights came on, and it was pleasant along the streets looking in the windows. There was much game hanging outside the shops, and the snow powdered in the fur of the foxes and the wind blew their tails. The deer hung stiff and heavy and empty, and small birds blew in the wind and the wind turned their feathers. It was a cold fall and the wind came down from the mountains." [Ernest Hemingway: In Another Country]

Oh, gosh! Look how Hemingway repeated himself about the coldness of season. The newspaper editor would red-line it for deletion. For Hemingway the repetition was essential to emphasize the chill that overwhelmed him. The reader begins to feel the chill also and is penetrated by it.

What next?
Resting here on my reading table, I have a copy of Willa Cather's Sapphira and the Slave Girl. I shall crack the cover today and begin reading it.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Predicting the Future

The Strömberg Model
by Charlie Leck
Saturday morning: 5:00 AM

The phone rang at 4:15 this morning – a call from England. It was a startling way to wake up on a morning when we usually sleep until 4:30 or so. It's a Midtown Farmers Market morning for my wife and she heads out with the pickup truck and freezer unit at about 6:15. I shook the cob webs free and decided to catch up on a few of my favorite blogs. I'm behind on Freakonomics, one of my very favorite blogs, so I ran through the stuff I've missed out on there and came upon Justin Wolfers' June 13th posting, Election '08: Markets and Models. If you're a political junkie, as I am, I highly recommend you take this one in.

I was surprised to learn that one of the most respected scholars examining American politics is a Swede, David Stromberg. He is an Associate Professor at the Institute for International Economic Studies at Stockholm University. Wolfers says:

"The Strömberg model is, in my view, the leading quantitative election-forecasting model — both parsimonious and sophisticated. By building up forecasts state-by-state based on a slew of economic and political factors (details here), his model can
not only predict who will win, but also the likelihood that each state will be pivotal. In turn, this makes David's approach ideal for campaigns trying to figure out where to direct campaign resources."

The Strömberg Model gives the Democrats a 65 percent chance of winning the presidential election this fall and indicates they'll take 51 percent of the popular vote and the Electoral College by a 294-244 margin. The odds I like, but the closeness of the popular vote makes me uneasy. It is worth heeding some of Strömberg's reasoning.

Strömberg sees the Democrats doing well in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan and not so well in Florida. Strömberg feels it is too early to pay attention to opinion polls and that a few weeks after the conventions they'll make more sense.

"The Strömberg model also suggests that there is a one-in-four chance that the 2008 race will come down to the decisions of less than one-in-100 voters in just one state, a situation that would be similar to Florida in 2000, or Ohio in 2004."

It sounds like the following are key states that will get an extreme amount of attention from the campaigns:

  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • Michigan
  • Florida
  • Colorado
  • Virginia
  • California

The full article by Strömberg and Wolfers appeared in the Wall Street Journal.

Here's what makes me exceedingly nervous about the Strömberg report on the upcoming election:

"The most important factor highlighted by our analysis is simply the substantial uncertainty about the likely outcome in November. It is this uncertainty that leads us to suggest a strong Democratic performance, while still allowing for a 36% chance of a Republican victory.

"Alternatively phrased: Sen. Obama's lead is real, but shaky."

It's a long time from June to November and too early to get excited about all this stuff. There are so many odd things that will happen to both candidates and we've got the Fox News and Rush Limbaugh factor with which to contend. Ugh!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

What a Waste of Time

Forget that last blog! Don't waste your time!
by Charlie Leck

There are more important things for you to investigate. For instance, we've got to get to the bottom of this dap business.

That was not a typo! I didn't mean dam(n) business – as in whatever happened to Lake Delton. Lakes just don't disappear overnight, taking houses with them. Do they?

Dap is the now popular ritual of touching fists in greeting or in acts of a congratulatory nature – like Tiger and Stevie do when golf's greatest sinks a 78 foot triple-break sidewinder of a putt.

Right here, in Saint Paul, last Tuesday night, Barack and Michelle dapped each other on public television. A lot of us thought it was cute. Then, I read in this morning's paper, E.D. Hill of Fox News "recognized it for what it could be: 'a terrorist fist jab.'"

My god! Scratch that earlier insignificant blog. I've got to bring you this startling news. My son-in-law may be a terrorist. On the golf course a couple of weeks ago, after I hit a lovely approach into the first green, he dapped me. I know not what compulsion forced me to accept the dap and dap him back. Rest assured! I will have a profile run on him and alert the FBI to the possibility.

I wonder what it means when the sports guys, after a great achievement, leap from their feet toward each other and bump chests. I think it's a double-whammy dap wap and it spells trouble – with a capitol T and it's happening right here in River City folks.

Folks Respond:

Trouble, oh we got trouble,
Right here in River City!
With a capital "T"
That rhymes with "D"
And that stands for DAP,
That stands for DAP.
We've surely got trouble!
Right here in River City,
Right here!
Gotta figger out a way
To keep the young ones from doin' that dap!
Trouble, trouble, trouble, trouble, trouble...

Go to Media Matters and watch Colbert react to E.D. Hill's startling report. By the way, she's been fired for stupidity!

The USGA has Mucked it Up!

Our governing golf organization simply tries too hard!
by Charlie Leck

Father’s Day is always very special for me. For years I have made clear to my children what I would appreciate most on this day designed to honor fathers. That is, please leave me alone. I don’t want to be taken to brunch. I don’t want you all to come on over for a party. I don’t want gifts. Enough with the funny ties! No more framed photographs that I haven’t the space for anymore! Forget the ideas about a drive into the countryside.

It’s U.S. Open Day – the final day, if there is no tie! I want the house to myself so I can sit and watch quite as long and as much as I please.

There is a Stone Arch Festival in Minneapolis on Sunday. It sounds like great fun. There will be artists and great food and music and games! Enjoy it! But, leave me to the TV and I’ll grill a couple of brats and throw sauerkraut atop them with a large dollop of Stadium Mustard from Chicago. I will try not to miss a shot or a moment of this golf tournament that the USGA is trying so hard to ruin.

Yes, ruin!

Michael Campbell and Geoff Ogilvy and Angel Cabrera? Yes, that’s a question mark!

It seems the silly kings and queens of golf, out there in New Jersey, have boasted for years that they want their crown jewel golf championship to identify the best golfer in the world. Give me a break! These conceited, self-deceiving rubes have virtually ruined the championship event by trying too hard. Too much length! Too much grass! Too much speed! Too many silly shots!
These jerks have created monster courses – not good courses – and, in competition, they forced the equally foolish ruling idiots at Augusta to do the same.

The worm is turning and they don’t even see it! The PGA Championship and The Open (played in the UK) are storming past them to become the tournaments that truly identify the world’s finest – Woods, Woods, Mickelson and Singh at the PGA – Harrington, Woods, Woods and Todd Hamilton at the British championship.

The winners at the U.S. Open have become the guys who can, frequently by luck, most often avoid the phony bear-traps that the USGA lame-brains have laid out for the players. Mickelson calls the changes at the 13th tee “the biggest waste of money that I’ve ever seen.” The 6th hole will be a par 4 that measures up to 515 yards. Depending on the winds, some guys may not reach it in two. Grass around the greens will be stupefying length. The Open organizers say this brings out the great short games, but, in fact, it often brings in, too much, the element of luck. The speed on the greens will be fun to watch, but the health of the greens will suffer greatly unless there is some blessed rain.

I hate to watch the golf-snobs bobbing around the golf course with their great looks of importance glued to their faces. They think they’re showing the PGA how to run a ‘real’ championship. And, all the while, their event slides away into unimportance when it comes to highlighting the greatest players in the game. It seems, instead, the organization thrives on foment. It’s of no importance, but I’ve decided, after 40+ years of faithfulness, to give up my membership in the hoidy-poidy organization.

Jay Flemma writes that there is some hope for Torrey Pines and the viewers.

“Ironically, the flat greens, familiarity and lack of strategy may mean more birdies, more excitement and more roars from the gallery. The "restrictor plate" the USGA puts on a golf course is lessened this year, so this will be the true test of how good Davis is at set-up and whether he will avoid the mistakes of his predecessor, Tom Meeks.”
The NY Times story yesterday said that Mickelson’s criticism of the 13th tee placement is about the only criticism of the golf course that’s been offered this week. Nonsense! That’s because they only talk to USGA puppets and the players who feel they need to be politically correct. Most of the guys know they’re about to go to war and they’re just keeping their mouths shut.

Well, here’s hoping I’m all wrong because I’ll watch nearly every second of the TV production. I promised my wife I’d man her booth at the Farmers Market for her today, so I’ll miss the play this afternoon. However, I’ll have the video tape rolling.

I just don’t want luck to determine the winner – as it so often does in this event – and I want to sense that a truly great player has won the championship. Campbell, Ogilvy and Cabrera are wonderful players, but, sorry guys, I can't include them on my list of the best in the game.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

To Die: to Sleep; No More!

The end-times are so much on my mind!
by Charlie Leck

"Dying is fine, but Death, oh baby, I wouldn't like Death if Death were good!"
[e.e. cummings]


My sister, Jean of blessed memory, who died recently, was much more a mother to me than sibling. That's how I thought of her. It must be natural that the death of a sibling, especially such a close one, causes one to think much more of the approaching end of life and to 'work out' philosophically where one is at with these final moments; for I indeed find myself thinking of these things more than occasionally. I have begun to prepare my papers and possessions and I am writing out my wishes. Is this too mawkish? If you think it is, you are young reader.

Tonight I saw off a cousin, dear, beautiful Mary Ann, who came to visit us here in Minnesota for a couple of days, and I realized, as I kissed her goodbye, that she was much more a sister to me than a cousin.

Who have I ever loved more? Only my children, my step-children and my wife. Otherwise, I have loved this cousin as family – as a part of me – as I would love a dear, close, wonderful, favorite sister.

Tonight I took her and her husband to the airport, so they could catch a plane to L.A. to spend time with a son. She is a loyal Parisian now, having lived there for 45 years. I held her and kissed her and thought to myself that this might be the very last time that I would ever see her.

She is such a devout Christian. She left a message for me, in our guestbook, that she would pray for us each and every day. That's sweet. She thinks we'll be reunited in heaven. I don't have that faith. I see death as a wonderful period of eternal, beautiful rest. These moments of life, on earth, are much more important to me – when I can feel the softness of her skin and smell the aliveness of her body and listen to her astonishing laughter.

Edna St. Vincent Mallay said of death: "I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned."

I took no consolation tonight, when I held my cousin and said goodbye, that we would meet again in heaven. I had the heavy feeling that this was the last time I would hold her; for the years had slid by so quickly and they slide by now with ever increasing speed.

As I drove away from the airport, I bawled like a baby.

"I'm okay," I assured my wife, "I'm just frightened that I'll never see her again."

"Why do you feel like that?"

I was amazed at the simplicity of the question. Didn't she understand?

"Because, I'm so f…….ing' old," I shouted painfully.

Too many of my friends are dying around me. Too quickly do people fade away. A sister is gone!

My lovely cousin lives in Paris. I live nearly 6,000 miles away. Yet, it is more than miles that separate us. We are separated by the rapidly rising and falling tides of life. We are caught in them and cannot escape them.

She believes, so firmly, that we will be reunited in heaven. I believe that I will close my eyes and rest so peacefully – so extraordinarily peacefully – for all eternity.

Dear, sweet Mary Ann, I have never loved so sweetly – so innocently – as I love you. I am your big brother and I want to reach out and take every little, insignificant pain away. Where there is any sadness in your life, I want to take it away. I want to be with you often and I want to hear your lovely voice singing little bird songs in my ear.

When I finally lie down and go to sleep, eternally, remember that you, with my children and my wife, were on my mind and in my eye – and I brought back to memory those moments when we were such tiny ones and we loved each other so perfectly.

To use e.e. cummings, "i carry your heart with me (i carry it in my heart)."

I should like to write a book about you or poems like that about you – about the fierce love we had for each other, but I know that I couldn't explain your complex mind nor the depth of faith you have.

St. Paul told us that love is stronger than death. I'm not sure; for, you see, unlike you I do not believe the gospels are a perfect expression of truth, but only another attempt to grapple with questions! Death is certainly not to be feared because it is so positively and perfectly peaceful – a poor trade-off, I guess, for the wonder of being loved.

To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd.
[Shakespeare: Hamlet]

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

John Paul Caponigro

A blog for photographers!
by Charlie Leck

This particular blog departs from politics and the biographical memoir and concentrates on another of my significant interests – photography! If that's a subject that doesn't interest you, come back soon.

My intention here is to recommend a very significant blog to those of you who enjoy photography. It's a serious blog, called Illuminating Creativity, by John Paul Caponigro and I promise you that an enormous amount of information will be provided and posts are almost daily. There's a great deal of significant comment added by Caponigro's very talented readers.

"John Paul Caponigro, author of Adobe Photoshop Master Class and the DVD series R/Evolution, is an internationally renowned artist. A contributing editor for Digital Photo Pro and Camera Arts and a columnist for Photoshop User and, he teaches workshops both privately in his studio and at select public venues. A member of the Photoshop Hall of Fame, a Canon Explorer of Light, and an Epson Stylus Pro, his clients include Adobe, Apple, Kodak, and X-Rite. Learn more by visiting and get over 100 free downloads plus a free subscription to his enews Insights." [quote source]

Caponigro's links are alone worth the effort of going to the blog. He'll send you off to all kinds of fun, interesting and helpful places. Then check out the free downloads you can get that will be very helpful to your photography work.

If your photographic activities are important to you, get to know Caponigro!

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Great Love of My Life

This Svejda girl is so delectable!
by Charlie Leck

I believe I was 8 years old when I fell madly in love with her. She was a mere child of 6 years and I had no business feeling such affection for one so young; but, had it been you, and had you the opportunity, as did I, to look into her eyes and watch that magical smile spread across her face, you, too, would have fallen madly in love with her.

What can I say? Until I married Anne, I never felt such an attachment – no love had ever been stronger!

She came often to visit us – out in the countryside – from the big city of New York! We were just wee ones, so we were put to bed together and I found it difficult to sleep because I wanted to hear her talk on and on about her life in the big city.

I cannot paint a picture that would do her beauty justice – no description typed out here could make you understand how beautiful she was and still is. I care for her so much that I would have done anything to spend every day, for the rest of my life, in her presence.

She is here now – in this year of 2008 – and she slumbers at the moment like Sleepy Beauty herself in our little guest cottage. At 65 she is a beautiful now as that little, cute, wondrous girl was at 6. Her smile is still radiant. Her eyes glow with excitement and anticipation. Her mind swirls into thousands of possibilities.

I love her as madly now as I did then – when I did not understand the complexities of love and… and… and… all the rest!

I am so excited that she is here – in my town – on my farm – in my home – slumbering in our little tree-house accommodation.

She is my cousin. My mother and her father were siblings. Her dad died within hours of her birth. Her mom was heartbroken and devastated. My cousin spent a considerable amount of time with us, as her mother gathered herself and grew steady again.

So, we occasionally shared a room. We giggled and chatted into the night. I fell asleep beside her and awoke with her breathing softly next to me. We were wee ones; yet, I felt the excitement of slumbering beside one whom one loved so much.

As she drifted into sleep, I kept whispering to her.

"I love you," I said, again and again.

Two years younger, she was so much more mature than I.

"Yes," she said, "I love you, too. Now go to sleep!"

Now, she sleeps here. A husband lies beside her. He whispers to her that he loves her madly.

"Yes," she says, "I love you, too. Now go to sleep."

She lives in Paris now and has since before she reached legal adulthood. She's raised a large number of children – mostly boys – and they are each and all lovely creatures and intensely intelligent and kind. She owns a translation service. Her husband is an artist and artisan craftsman. We'll get to spend a couple of precious days together, looking at this place to which I have devoted my love and faithfulness – touring the countryside and visiting Minneapolis.

Most days are very good. I expect the next two to be spectacular.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Measuring Character

Golf will take a measure of the character of a person!
by Charlie Leck

"It is a question of fact whether a ball that has not been found after having been struck toward a water hazard is in the hazard. In order to apply this Rule, it must be known or virtually certain that the ball is in the hazard. In the absence of such knowledge or certainty, the player must proceed under Rule 27-1." [USGA Rules of Golf]

Somewhere I read once that golf will reveal the character of a person more clearly than any other sport. I believe that to be true and have had many occasions both as a player and as a rules official where I have witnessed one's character being revealed.

I was officiating at a boy's and girl's state championship tournament over the last couple of days. I thoroughly enjoy committing my time as a volunteer for these high school events. Working with kids is great. It's enjoyable to teach them. Most of them come to these events with a basic grounding in the rules, but few have been able to fine tune their knowledge of golf's complicated rules and decision books. I'm pleased when I can add to their knowledge.

As I watched, I noticed that one young man was struggling with both his game and with his temper. He was howling after every bad or poor decision that he made. His fellow competitors (as the rules book calls them) were showing some signs of embarrassment about the displays of anger. A bit later, after watching the young man slam one of his golf clubs deeply into the turf, I decided to chat with him. I explained to him why there was an etiquette section in the official book of the rules of golf. And, I told him that I could tolerate the testing of those etiquette standards quite a lot, but I couldn't abide attacking the golf course owned by our courteous and generous host. He listened to me with concentration and he politely apologized for his behavior. I was pleased that the young man's character had been challenged and tested and that the boy had passed the test. He would be better in the future as a result of it.

Later in the day I was called to the 4th tee of the golf course to chat about a rules problem. A young man, showing some embarrassment, explained to me that he was pretty sure he had struck a ball twice with his putter on the previous green. I asked him to explain and describe the incident. When he struck the ball with his putter, it had popped up a little bit instead of rolling straight away and he was pretty sure he heard and felt the putter strike the ball again.

I looked to the other players in his group (fellow competitors) and they shrugged, indicating they knew nothing of it. They had not seen a double strike nor heard a double hit. I looked back to the young man.

"Pretty sure?" I asked.

"Sure!" He answered.

"Under Rule 14-4, you'll have to add another stroke."

"Thank you," he replied, and I walked off the tee.

His mother was in his gallery and asked me what had happened. I asked her if that was her son I'd been chatting with.

"Yes," she said nervously.

"You can be very proud," I told her. "He's quite a good young man."

In another incident, a young man drove a ball far down the left side of the fairway. It struck a blacktop cart path and bounded high and forward toward a bridge that crossed a water hazard. Because I had been off, tending to a ruling elsewhere on the course, I had arrived back on the tee and saw the result of the young man's tee shot. We all spent the next five minutes searching for the ball near and in the water hazard. There was a relatively good chance the ball had entered the hazard somewhere, but there was not hard evidence. No one had seen the ball enter. I had queried the spectators about this. There were clearly other places, not in the hazard, where the ball could have been lost. The young man wanted to take a drop, under rule 26-1 (Relief for a ball in a water hazard). In good conscience, I couldn't allow it. The standard for such a thing is the quotation that begins this blog. We did not "know" nor were we "virtually certain that the ball [was] in the hazard."

The young man was not pleased, but he seemed to resign himself to my ruling. I drove him back to the tee to hit again. During the drive, I tried to explain the rule and my ruling.

It turns out his coach was very displeased and lodged a complaint about me and even indicated that I had said things that I certainly had not or ever would say (like, that the ball had to be found and identified within the hazard in order for me to rule it was in the hazard). No, I know full-well that that is not the standard by which one judges this matter. In fact, anyone who has officiated even a few tournaments on courses where there are water hazards, has had to deal with this question of an unwitnessed entrance of a ball into a water hazard. The basic question becomes this: Could the ball be lost anywhere else? In this particular case, there was no question in my mind but that there were other places it could be lost.

In fact, another rules official later did indeed find the ball in question, with the player's identifying mark, in play, with a very open shot to the green, and actually in an area where we had not been searching. The player was later told by the supervising official that his ball had been found in play. The young man, upset even 24 hours later, was still saying I could have handled it better. If that is true, I apologize, and I will search for ways to explain this ruling more clearly in the future. Nevertheless, I expected I might receive an apology from the coach, or player, or both. None was forthcoming.

Indeed, golf takes the measure of a person.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

An Appeal to Your Generosity

Help Send Civil Rights Veterans Back to Mississippi
by Charlie Leck

As you may remember, if you are a regular reader of this blog, I'm returning to Mississippi in a few weeks for a reunion of Veterans of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement. There are a number of the Civil Rights Vets who can't afford the trip or the costs while they're there. While there, we'll have a memorial service for the three civil rights workers who were murdered by the klan in 1964.

You could help out a great deal by making a contribution to (check payable to): Annual Mississippi Civil Rights Martyrs Memorial Service. That organization will use your contribution in a variety of ways – food costs, table rentals, porta potties, and housing and/or travel for veterans." I sent off $300 today. Anything you could send would be appreciated. Mail to:

c/o John Gibson
1028 CR 793
Brookland, AR 72417

Thanks so much!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Campaign for America’s Future

I found this new web site and you simply need to know about it!
And a few other remarkable items are listed for you also!
by Charlie Leck

I probably should have known about them, but I didn't. Mea culpa! Here's how the Campaign for America's Future describes itself:

We live in a remarkable political moment: precarious, yet potentially transforming. At the Campaign for America's Future, our daily work is to bring about the progressive transformation.

After three decades of conservative dominance in American politics, we Americans are threatened with economic disintegration, environmental devastation and international isolation.

The list of failure is simply exhausting: a disastrous Iraq occupation, a destabilized Middle East and Asia, the persistent threat of terrorism, a menacing climate crisis, an insecure and dwindling energy supply, unprecedented trade deficits, unchecked global corporate power, our broken health care system, a weakened pension system and an increasingly inaccessible higher education system.

But out of the ashes of this era of conservative failure comes an historic opportunity for progressives to salvage the American Ideal and shape this young century.

That's where we come in.

The Campaign for America's Future is the strategy center for the progressive movement. Our goal is to forge the enduring progressive majority needed to realize the America of shared prosperity and equal opportunity that our country was meant to be.

[read more]

I pride myself too much for being politically alert on the progressive side of the scale. Wrong! This extraordinary organization has been out there for quite some time and they do great work and have a fine staff. And, only now am I finding out about them.

If you're in the same boat, get on over to this web site, become a part of this organization and pay attention for heaven's sake!

Here are a few other items y'all should know about.

If you're a political junky, as I am, you should know all about Real Clear Politics, which is the most unbiased source of political information I have found. They refuse to take positions or sides and just give you the facts about campaigns as best they can figure them out. As the campaign for the presidency takes off, you'll want to know about this site.

Outstanding news sources, rather than "Corporate Newspapers," are difficult to find. I've promoted AlterNet to you quite a bit. It's a daily read for me. I also, when I have time, go to Slate and to Salon. Now I'll add truthout.

Slate runs reaction from women this morning to "Hillary's bizarro nonconcession speech." I think Mrs. Clinton is treading on very dangerous ground and putting her party in peril. She has some kind of strategy in mind, however, and I can only guess that she is receiving some counsel from her husband. The second part of the James Baldwin quote, to which Kim McLarin refers, is:

"I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually."

Congressman Sam Wexler has a book coming out in a few days: Fire Breathing Liberal! You think I won't buy this one? I've already pre-ordered it at Barnes and Noble. Go to Amazon or Barnes and Noble and do the same. This will be a rock 'em and sock 'em work and an important book. Wexler is angry and he wants to see heads roll! Here are the publisher's comments about the book.

Publisher Comments
"There's a reason The Nation, America's leading progressive magazine, named Robert Wexler the country's Most Valuable Congressman. It's the same reason right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh refers to him as disgusting. It's because for the last twelve years Wexler has been Congress's most outspoken liberal — taking on George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Alberto Gonzales, General David Petraeus, and, when necessary, even his own party.

In Fire-Breathing Liberal, Wexler brings readers onto the floor of the House and puts them at the center of some of the last decade's biggest controversies. He passionately describes how he defended Bill Clinton from impeachment and how he stood up against the Bush brothers when the butterfly ballots in his Florida district wrongly decided the 2000 presidential election. He also offers an honest and brutal assessment of the Iraq war and explains why he has become a leader in the movement to impeach Vice President Cheney. And, with warmth and wit, Wexler shares some of the funniest stories from the corridors of Congress, including how he became The Colbert Report's most talked-about guest.

This is a remarkably candid first-person account of recent political history that shows government as it has rarely been seen — by a Democrat in the middle of the storms."

I sent the following recommendation to members of my family and to a few of my best friends, so I thought I should share it with the rest of you:
Six Reasons Why Women are the Most Important Audience for Changing the World by Lisa Witter and LisaChen – an article republished by Truthout and originally published as a part of their new book, The She-Spot: Why Women are the Market for Changing the World – and How to Reach Them (published by Berrett Koheler). The article was originally published on AlterNet. Here's a review of the book by Powell's Books.

Come back again!