Saturday, February 28, 2009

5 Facebook Schemes that Threaten Us

This short blog is for my Facebook friends!
by Charlie Leck

I bought my computer through an outfit called Data Doctors – but that story is for another day. This weekend, Data Doctors gave me a warning that some scams are circulating around on Facebook and recommended I read a PC World story about how to avoid these scams that have seriously impacted several people.

I thought, if you dabble in Facebook, you might want to read the story, also. It’s getting appreciative comments from those who’ve read it [click here to read the PC World story]


The NY Times calls Toni Morrison’s book the best work of American fiction over the last 25 years!
by Charlie Leck

“Early this year, the Book Review's editor, Sam Tanenhaus, sent out a short letter to a couple of hundred prominent writers, critics, editors and other literary sages, asking them to please identify "the single best work of American fiction published in the last 25 years." The results - in some respects quite surprising, in others not at all - provide a rich, if partial and unscientific, picture of the state of American literature, a kind of composite self-portrait as interesting perhaps for its blind spots and distortions as for its details.” [A.O. Scott, in his essay cited below]
I found this essay by A.O. Scott a few weeks ago and I was a bit staggered by it (A.O. Scott’s essay on the best works of American fiction over the last quarter century).

You might like to look at the winners of the survey about which Scott writes in his essay.

Toni Morrison?
I had never read a thing by her – out of her how many popular books? – not a thing! I assumed she wrote mushy books for women! Why? I don’t know. Perhaps because she spells her first name with an ‘i’ at the end. Okay! Okay! Don’t jump me for that! I only now learn she won a Nobel Prize and a Pulitzer.

So, Beloved, Morrison’s novel of 1987 was the winner of the major survey – the great American novel. I thought of myself suddenly as an illiterate. Again, I’d never read anything by her.

I checked in with one of my children.

“Toni Morrison?” I asked! “What? Really? I’ve never read her? Where should I begin?”

“Oh,” my daughter said, “with Beloved, of course.”

So, I did.

Why, to my surprise, I discovered a writer – a really extraordinary writer with imagination and boldness! I love to find writers who sometimes create sentences that you just want to go back and read and read and read again and again. Morrison does that. A small novel like Beloved I would normally read in a long afternoon and evening. It took me days to read this very extraordinary story because I kept going back to make sure I understood. And, I frequently went back and reread sentence after sentence because they were so mysteriously beautiful.

Morrison is terribly quotable! She writes sentences that you want to record because they are both beautiful and meaningful. I include here some quotations from Beloved.

A shudder ran through Paul D. A bone-cold spasm that made him clutch his knees. He didn’t know if it was bad whiskey, nights in the cellar, pig fever, iron bits, smiling roosters, fired feet, laughing dead men, hissing grass, rain, apple blossoms, neck jewelry, Judy in the slaughterhouse, Halle in the butter, ghost-white stairs, choke-cherry trees, cameo pins, aspens, Paul A’s face, sausage or the loss of a red, red heart.“Tell me something, Stamp.” Paul D’s eyes were rheumy. “Tell me this one thing. How much is a nigger supposed to take? Tell me. How much?”“All he can,” said Stamp Paid. “All he can.”“Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?” [p. 235]


By the time he got to Mobile, he had seen more dead people than living ones, but when he got to Trenton the crowds of alive people, neither hunting nor hunted, gave him a measure of free life so tasty he never forgot it. Moving down a busy street full of whitepeople who needed no explanation for his presence, the glances he got had to do with his disgusting clothes and unforgivable hair. Still, nobody raised an alarm. Then came the miracle. Standing in a street in front of a row of brick houses, he heard a whiteman call him (“Say there! You!”) to help unload two trunks from a coach cab. Afterward the whiteman gave him a coin. Paul D walked around with it for hours – not sure what it could buy (a suit? a meal? a horse?) and if anybody would sell him anything. Finally he saw a greengrocer selling vegetables from a wagon. Paul D pointed to a bunch of turnips. The grocer handed them to him, took his one coin and gave him several more. Stunned, he backed away. Looking around, he saw that nobody seemed interested in the “mistake” or him, so he walked along, happily chewing his turnips. Only a few women looked vaguely repelled as they passed. His first earned purchase made him glow, never mind the turnips were withered dry. That was when he decided that to eat, walk and sleep anywhere was life as good as it got. And he did it for seven years till he found himself in southern Ohio, where an old woman and a girl he used to know had gone. [pps. 269-270]

Decimated but stubborn, they were among those who chose a fugitive life rather than Oklahoma… The forced move to the Arkansas River, insisted upon by the same president they fought for against the Creek, destroyed another quarter of their already shattered number.That was it, they thought, and removed themselves from those Cherokee who signed the treaty, in order to retire in the forest and await the end of the world. The disease they suffered now was a mere inconvenience compared to the devastation they remembered. Still, they protected each other as best they could. The healthy were sent some miles away; the sick stayed behind with the dead – to survive or join them.

The prisoners from Alfred, Georgia, sat down in semicircle near the encampment. No one came and still they sat… The Cherokee saw the chains and went away. When they returned each carried a handful of small axes. Two children followed with a pot of mush cooling and thinning in the rain.

Buffalo men, they called them, and talked slowly to the prisoners scooping mush and tapping away at their chains… Weeks later Pau D was the only Buffalo man left – without a plan. All he could think of was tracking dogs, although Hi Man said the rain they left in gave no chance of success. Alone, the last man with buffalo hair among the ailing Cherokee, Paul D finally woke up and, admitting his ignorance, asked how he might get North. Free North. Magical North. Welcoming, benevolent North. The Cherokee smiled and looked around. The flood rains of a month ago had turned everything to steam and blossoms.“That way,” he said, pointing. “Follow the tree flowers,” he said. “Only the tree flowers. As they go, you go. You will be where you want to be when they are gone.” [pps. 111-112]


Would I call Beloved the best novel of the last 25 years?

Well, I need to begin with some thoughts about which books qualify. What are the last 25 years? Books published in 1982 and after? Too bad, that leaves out Saul Bellow’s extraordinary novels, Herzog, and Humbolt’s Gift. Neither does Tom Robbins wonderful contribution, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, qualify in the time span. And, Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, isn’t American, is it?

Okay, let me get down to brass tacks. Remember, all of this is highly personal.

Beloved was wonderful, but I measure against it a few other works of wonder. In no special order of preference they were: The Things They Carried (Tim O’Brien); Gilead (Marilynne Robinson); and A Soldier of the Great War (Mark Helprin).

But, when I think about it, Beloved was more than wonderful. It was intense. It was rich with imagery.

That being said, I’m having a hard time listing others that are better. However, I don’t go along with some of the books that finished as runner-ups to Morrison’s novel. In the interest of full disclosure I’ll admit I haven’t read the Cormac McCarthy novel, Blood Meridian. Updike’s sequel Rabbit novels were okay, but never came close to matching Rabbit Run, which would be a hands down winner if it were published within the proper time span. American Pastoral, was fine, but I wouldn’t place it so high.

Marilynne Robinson’s book, Housekeeping, got lots of consideration. I haven’t read it. I’ll go back and do so. If it is better than Gilead, wow! I’m glad to see that The Things They Carried got some consideration.

Who knows? That Beloved is even considered among the best books of this last twenty-five years is compliment enough. It demands to be read. Morrison won the Pulitzer Prize for this novel in 1988. She won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993. In announcing the prize, the Nobel Committee said:

“She delves into the language itself, a language she wants to liberate from the fetters of race. And she addresses us with the luster of poetry.”
Toni Morrison is now planted in my mind as a sound and astounding author who deserves to be read and she has a lengthy bibliography for me to examine and from which to choose.

Okay! I've thought it through and I agree with the NY Times survey. Beloved is the best novel of the last quarter century! I buy it!

Friday, February 27, 2009

What the Heck is Facebook?

And why would I care? I don’t get it!
by Charlie Leck

Well, I broke down! I gave in! I created a Facebook account?


Because a number of people kept sending me emails telling me that I was listed as a friend on Facebook. Recently a new acquaintance from Luxembourg added me as a Facebook friend (Ff). I’d better see about this.

I heard the President has a Facebook account and so do lots of other distinguished and important people. I simply gave in!

So, now I’m on Facebook!

You know what? I haven’t the slightest idea what good it will do me or where I go from here with it. I can only assume Facebook is far too advanced for a person my age.

Maybe one of my Ffs, like Gina… or Spencer… or Patty… will help me figure it out. I keep hearing “it’s fun” but I guess I’ve got a lot to learn.

I’ll bet there’s even a book on the market called “Facebook for Dummies.” Can you imagine?

I created some kind of feed on Facebook today that is suppose to notify my friends whenever I post a new blog; so maybe a few of my Ffs will help me figure this out.

To those of my readers who think I’m an idiot for doing this, I think I concur!

I feel a bit like the book dealer at Majors & Quinn, when he wrote about joining Facebook on his blog (SOCIAL NETWORKING FOR INTROVERTS):

“God help me, I’ve started a facebook page… I can’t pretend to know how facebook works… Friend us, write on our wall, and watch as a cardigan-wearing introvert bookstore employee dips his toe into the world of social networking. It should be fun.”
The Pope, you know, to whom I never pay attention, has warned us that “obsessive” use of Facebook could isolate us from real interaction! I’ll be careful about that.

For the moment, I go to Facebook, log in and then stare at the page, wondering what I'm to do next. Pretty exciting.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Nonviolent Peaceforce

Mel Duncan, Minneapolis, is the founder of Nonviolent Peaceforce

Give Peace a Chance
by Charlie Leck

Tuesday evening we were the guests of friends who are significant supporters of the Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP). I’m embarrassed to admit that I had not even heard of NP before that evening. I came away from the organization’s little fund-raiser quite impressed. In addition to making a small contribution, I determined that I would try to spread the word about them.

[Be sure to visit the web site of Nonviolent Peaceforce!]

I find it difficult to believe how quickly America has been drawn into several wars in my lifetime that could likely have been solved much more easily, inexpensively and civilly through peaceful measures – it’s true of Korea, Vietnam, Granada and, now, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Paranoia is one of the great problems of the American psyche. We were irrationally threatened by communism and those fears catapulted us into both Korea and Vietnam. This is certainly true in the case of Vietnam, where our adoption of the “domino theory” at that time was totally unfounded.

Our nation continues to reveal its paranoia when it comes to terrorism and that plays right into the hands of the terrorist, who seeks to strike fear into our hearts, and therefore succeeds in his mission.

The idea, which eventually gave birth to NP, was born among a group of participants at the 1999 Hague Appeal for Peace and then became a reality when it was first convened in 2002 in Surajkund, India.

“Nonviolent Peaceforce is a non-profit organisation dedicated to creating an international peaceforce of civilians trained in nonviolent strategies.

Nonviolent Peaceforce responds to requests for help anywhere in the world, using proven methods of nonviolence to protect human rights, deter violence and help create space for local peacemakers to carry out their work. The need is great: it has been estimated that as few as 1,000 people trained in nonviolence could have prevented the violence and genocide that devastated Yugoslavia in 1998. [This emphasis is not in the original.]

Nonviolent Peaceforce represents the hope of many people for an alternative to massive military intervention. It is a key component in the development of a strategic, cohesive, nonviolent response to brutality and threats of genocidal violence.”
I put part of the above quotation in bold type because it strikes me as extraordinary. I intend to soon ask what sort of strategy could have been used in my ancestor’s homeland to accomplish this. In essence, the answer to that question would explain more to us about NP and what it is than any of their statements that I include here.

On first glimpse, I am impressed – impressed enough to put my name on the dotted-line and list myself as a member.

Though the work of NP is to foster nonviolence, danger constantly lurks for their workers. One of the organization’s trained peace-makers, Umar Jaleel, was recently abducted in the Philippines and work goes on to secure his release. A press release about that abduction tells us a great deal about the philosophy and heart of NP.

While we cannot begin to address all of the misinformation contained in media reports, we wish to clarify four important points:

1. Mr. Umar Jaleel is a International civilian peacekeeper working in the Mindanao region of the Philippines, not a “Muslim religious preacher.”

2. Nonviolent Peaceforce does not pay ransom.

3. Nonviolent Peaceforce relies on nonviolent activities. We do not use armed body guards.

4. The motive for his abduction is not known, nor is the affiliation, if any, or identity of his captors.

Mr. Umar Jaleel is an experienced peaceworker who has been involved in resolving community disputes among communities in Sri Lanka prior to being deployed to the

He is a learned man speaking 6 languages who was hired by Nonviolent Peaceforce in 2004 to support our work with vulnerable families affected by armed conflict in the Trincomalee district of Sri Lanka. Jaleel was working specifically with Peace Committees, religious leaders, local government officials and merchants to build capacities for resolving local conflicts and mitigating or preventing violence against civilians. He is a well-respected member of our team and the peace worker community.

As one of Nonviolent Peaceforce’s most experienced national staff in Sri Lanka, Jaleel was asked, in 2008, to become one of NP’s international fieldworkers for our Mindanao project in the Philippines. He is the third Sri Lankan to be deployed by Nonviolent Peaceforce to the Philippines, where he is working to improve Muslim-Christian relations and support local peace organizations and structures of peace to
consolidate the peace processes. His efforts assist to maintain a fragile ceasefire between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and various armed groups on the island of Basilan.

Nonviolent Peaceforce maintains excellent relations with the government of the Philippines, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the national police, local community and religious leaders, local and national NGOs in the Philippines and the various armed groups. Many of these armed groups are in negotiation with the government and are accepted by the government, as legitimate parties to the conflict. As a Sri Lankan peaceworker and a Muslim, Jaleel is widely admired and respected in the area of Basilan, where he is working. Though shocked at the news, Nonviolent Peaceforce is confident that he will be released unharmed, through the strong relationships with local communities and religious leaders who are extremely supportive of Nonviolent Peaceforce’s work there. Since this terrible incident, our friends are working tirelessly to secure Jaleel’s release.

An Incident Management Team headed by Nonviolent Peaceforce Mindanao country director Atif Hameed is coordinating the return effort in Mindanao. A Crisis Management Team headed by NP executive director Mel Duncan is coordinating the effort for wider NP.
In the coming weeks I’ll tell you more about NP and how they work. In the meantime, you might enjoy looking into the organization.

“Give peace a chance!”
Those extraordinary words were drummed into my heart and soul when I was a young man. The nation’s of the world need them drummed into their own hearts and souls.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Delightfully Simple Little Salad

The Minimalist has actually made me a decent cook!
by Charlie Leck

Sometime ago (18 months, perhaps) I discovered the Minimalist -- also known as Mark Bittman. He has a regular blog called Bitten that always provides wonderful recipes and cooking tips. I never miss it. Then, too, he produces wonderful weekly videos (The Minimalist) that show you how to cook lovely items in a minimal amount of time and with a minimal amount of work. I try the majority of them and most have been rousing successes. You can find the videos and navigate to their archives file by going to Bitten. I actually tried homemade crackers a couple of weeks ago and found out they're really simple and much fresher tasting then those you buy in a store -- and much, much less expensive. Remember, everything he shows you how to do is done easily and quickly -- but have a food processor for sure.

I struggle some in coming up with appropriate salads for a lot of my dinners. But, the other night, thanks to Mark Bittman, I had a smashing success with the salad I served with an extraordinary tomato based lamb stew. It's an idea I never would have dreamed of without this tip.

Sliced Oranges and Fresh Black Olive Paste
Don't snear at this one until you've given it a try because the zesty combination here is spectauclar and the contrast of the competing flavors is nothing short of captivating.

Here's Bittman's recipe for the salad:
a cup good olive oil
cured black olives, pitted
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (optional)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, more as needed
4 navel oranges, peeled and sliced into rounds
fennel seeds

1. In a food processor, combine olives and thyme, if using, with a bit of olive oil. Pulse machine once or twice, then turn it on and add remaining olive oil rather quickly; you want this purée on the rough side. Thin with more olive oil if necessary. (You can
refrigerate this for up to a month.)

2. Layer 3 or 4 orange slices on each plate, drizzle with a little more olive oil, top with a tablespoon of olive purée, and sprinkle with a few fennel seeds.

Now the Minimalist has posted a video showing him making this salad!

The cup of oil in the above recipe is very important. I made it another time and tried to hold back on the olive oil and I got chopped dry olives instead of a lovely paste. I've also tried the recipe with and without the thyme. It's much better with the herb. The recipe works better with a tasteful olive and not bland ones. I went to the olive bar and tried black olives until I found one with plenty of flavor.
I also have a couple of Bittman's cookbooks and they are wonderful.

Life without a Senator

Sometimes I moan about life without both U.S. Senators, but then we could have two and it might be worse….
by Charlie Leck

I occasionally get upset that my state has only one U.S. Senator representing it – it really doesn’t seem fair to you either, I’ll bet – and then I think of a state like poor Georgia, represented by Senators Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson, and realize that at least we’ve got one Senator. Georgia may as well have none. That’s true of Mississippi as well. The people of Mississippi may as well have no representation in the Senate at all – with Roger Wicker and Thad Cochran serving there.

Yikes, some Senators are really bad. Perhaps you don’t spend any time watching these guys in action or reading about them. Unfortunately, I do. Some of these Senators are laughable and you can only ask yourself how they ever got elected. David Vitter is one of these and proof that a “pretty face does not a good Senator make.” This guy tows, tows, tows the party line and I doubt he’s ever had a completely original thought in his life. Poor Louisiana, they’re worse off than Minnesota.

Some states should be ashamed of themselves – like the one that elected Richard Burr to the U.S. Senate. This guy is close to being empty headed and doesn’t seem to have any principles of his own upon which he’ll take a stand. Everything he says is pabulum fed to him by the national party.

And who mind you is Richard Barrasso who hides behind a door in the Senator Office Building with his name on it? Will someone please pinch him to see if there is life in him! Does he have a pulse? A brain wave?

You see what I’m getting at? We may have only one Senator sitting in the U.S. Senate compared to every other state in the nation with two, but our single Senator is a corker. She’s creative and has a solid brain to work with. She’s loaded with compassion and understands the needs of the American people at all income levels. Amy Klobuchar is a Senator par excellance! She has enormous potential and it is easy to visualize her in the White House. That’s not predicting that she’ll make a run, but it’s good to think you have a Senator with the ability to do it.

As for our Senator in waiting, it appears the Republican Party (RNC) just keeps pouring money into Minnesota in order to delay the day on which he’ll finally be seated. Politico reported that the RNC just handed over $250,000 for Coleman's legal fees. The Republicans have tried to raise money to support the Coleman legal expenses across a wide, diverse base of the population in Minnesota. That’s failed. They can only bring in money from the Minnesota Fat Cats and the national party coffers.

Oh yes, I forgot another good example. Better one Senator than having a guy like Roland Burris, the Senator from Illinois, representing us. Can you believe this guy is a Democrat? That funny Governor from Illinois – excuse me, former Governor – had just one more funny joke to play on his state! Many Senate leaders are now wondering whether they blew it by seating Burris.

Well, while we wait for Franken to take his seat, go catch up with what he’s thinking. Mark Green, of Air America Media, recently interviewed him and I saw the transcript published on AlterNet. [Go here if you’d like to read it.]

If you want to read a good blog on the Franken/Coleman recount,
read this one at Prairie Ponderings.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Modern Republicans are Separatists and Divisionists

It started under Dick Cheney and Karl Rove and it lingers on today!

by Charlie Leck
Yesterday I wrote the following blog for publication today... BEFORE I watched the live Presidential Press Conference yesterday following the Fiscal Responsibility Summit. This seems to negate a few of the things I expressed worry about in this blog. At first blush this appears to be a huge step in the direction of bi-partisanship in the Congress. I hope this initiative from the White House works. If most of the Senators and Representatives set aside their egos and
self-interests, it will.

It’s odd to hear congressional Republicans complaining about the Democratic Party, under Polosi and Reed, ramroding things through Congress. ‘Ey what?

At least the House and Senate leaders have made an effort to bring Republicans into the legislative planning process. That’s more than Republicans were willing to do in those days under George W. Bush when they controlled Congress with an iron fist and kept Democrats completely out of the loop. They approved everything that George W. Bush wanted and killed anything he told them to kill.

Don’t have a short memory here! The Republicans from 2000 through 2008 ran the most partisan Congress in the history of the United States. They showed no shame about it. It was part of their political revolution planned by Karl Rove and supported by its main cheerleader, Vice President Dick Cheney.

Those Republicans not only didn’t invite Democrats to participate in legislative planning, they gave the minority leaders the proverbial finger. Don’t forget this.

Contrast it with the current Democratic style that has sought out and virtually pleaded for Republican input into the current wave of legislation designed to stimulate the economy.

The Republican response may as well be orchestrated and directed by Rush Limbaugh and his “I hope they fail” attitude.

Republican legislators offer no constructive in-put into turning America around. They sit back and wait for the collapse so they can blame this new administration.

I note two things about this approach:

  1. It’s a big gamble on the part of the Grand Old Party.
  2. Shame on them! They’re a disgrace!

What has happened to the concept of “the loyal opposition?” Sheryl Gay Stolberg, writing in the New York Times, calls that “old school.”

A new attitude was rung in under the House leadership of Newt Gingrich who waged yearly sessions in the House as if they were wars rather than a process of rational legislative planning. As a result of the Rove-Gingrich approach, any legislator who breaks with the ranks of the Party will pay a steep political price.

No representatives in the House voted with/for the Obama stimulus plan. In the Senate, three Republican Senators voted for/with the Democrats, including the two Senators from Maine, Olympia Snow and Susan Collins. The two are both considered centrists. Arlen Spector, the Senior Senator from Pennsylvania also voted for the bill. I think Spector clearly saw how his state voted this year in the Presidential election and he went with the will of the people. We’ll have to wait and see what kind of political price they may pay.

There’s no question but that Obama has to take some of the blame for the lack of Republican involvement. He clearly should have involved Republicans much earlier in the bill's drafting process.

Snowe is a particularly bright and wise Senator. So is Spector. Obama would be well served to court them and work with them and to regularly seek out their advice.

One of the great accomplishments of an Obama presidency could be a restoration of the concept of “the loyal opposition.” It’s something he’ll have to work diligently on.

Monday, February 23, 2009

In a Quandary about all this Economics Jargon?

I’ve got a web site for you that is just plain fun, and you learn from it, too.
by Charlie Leck

I’ll be short and to the point today. I’m not big into economics and economics theory. So a few years ago, when I stumbled across the book, FREAKONOMICS, by Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt, I got a new look at economics and liked it. I couldn’t get enough of these guys.

Fortunately, they keep up a very regular and delightful blog: Freakonomics – the Hidden Side of Everything.

Go take a peek at their blog!

On 20 February 2009, for instance, Dubner wrote a very informative blog about Lawrence Lessig and his legal work. This is really worth taking a look at. Lessig, with Joe Trippi, has put together a web site called Change Congress, which simply seeks to keep Congress honest and productive. They recently launched a “donor strike against congressional candidates who don’t support campaign finance reform.” I just took the pledge to strike against candidates who don’t back such reform. You can, too.

The guys at Freakonomics will help you navigate through all the confusion about our current economic nose dive.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

My Readers are Obviously Readers

Images from web site of Three Cups of Tea

I was, indeed, trailing behind the vast number of my readers who have, long before I, read the wonderful book by Greg Mortenson.
by Charlie Leck

No blog of mine has ever brought as much response from readers as the one from a couple of days ago about THREE CUPS OF TEA, a book by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. Most of you wanted to know where I’ve been. “Are you just now reading this book that has been so acclaimed for over a year?”

As Jackie Gleason used to say, “Excuuuuuuuuuuse me!”

How shall I pay for my sins?

Here’s a possibility! I have, stacked on my desk, 10 copies of THREE CUPS OF TEA. They are available, totally free, to the first 10 of you who ask for a copy. I’ll even pay the postal charges to get it to you.

I have only one condition:
Read it and then pass it on to someone else to read! Maybe that’s two conditions! Nothing more though! Email me at and ask for a copy and I’ll send it… if you are the 20th requester I’ll just buy 10 more copies. I think it is just that important. Put your address in your email so I can mail it to you.

Remember, read it and pass it on to someone else!

This is a very, very special book and I want Americans of all sorts and types to read it. I’m trying to play a little part in encouraging that.

I gave a copy to another friend this afternoon and this was his idea: “I’m going to sign my copy with my name and address. After I read it, I’m going to give it to my friend, Shiela, and ask her to read it and sign her name and address and pass it on and ask each person who gets it to put their name and address in it… it would be wonderful some day to find out just how far it’s traveled and how many names it gathers!” [If that kind of thing fascinates you, you should know about Book Crossings.]

Good idea, Rod! Do it!


Saturday, February 21, 2009

This Woman of the House is a Fraud!

Thank goodness there is a truth squad following Representative Michelle Bachman because the woman is not only loopy, but she's also a fraud.
by Charlie Leck

Okay! Okay! I'm ready!

"My name is Charles Leck and I am from Minnesota."

Whew! It's a relief to spit it out and own up to it. It's somewhat embarrassing and also quite shameful, but it's better to get it out than to keep it all bottled up inside.

This is the state that sent Michelle Bachman to Congress. Sorry! The only redemption I can find in this revolting development is that she is not my Congresswoman!

Here's the amazing thing about Bachman. She's a fraud! She says things that are patently untrue. I think she does all her issue research by listening to the Rush Limbaugh radio show.

Because quite a few people believe her, she's also dangerous.

Thank goodness a few people are keeping a close eye on her and pointing out her lies when she tells them.

A blog called is one of them. If you have Minnesota connections you might want to check in with them from time to time. Go ahead! Create a bookmark for this blog somewhere.

So, what's Michelle been up to lately? In a local radio interview up here on the tundra she vented about President Obama's stimulus plan. It had to be, as Keith Olbermann characterized it, one of the craziest political interviews in the history of the nation.

Here are some of the zany things sweet, little Michelle said in that interview...

Billions, she claimed, are going to ACORN
that community organizing group... "This is the community organizer in chief paying off his best friends."

Socialized Medicine is decreed by the bill
and a national rationing board, rather than your doctor, will make decisions about your health care. "It's breathtaking what they have done!"

The Obama administration is going to redraw congressional district boundaries
and will set up an insurmountable Democratic majority using the "mother lode" of data from the census.

We're running out of rich people because of Obama
so there really isn't anywhere for him to find all the money to fund this bill. "Under Obama, Big-Evil is anyone with a combined income of $100,000 or more."

Do I need explain?
Now, my readers are generally a very highly educated, well-read, perceptive and intelligent group of people -- except for you, of course, Fred -- and I really don't need to explain the fraud behind these wacky comments by Representative Bachman; however, for Fred, I'll break them down.

Billions to ACORN, a community organizing group that seeks to make sure the generally underrepresented (poor, homeless, minorities) get out to vote, is something totally untrue. No funds are ear-marked for ACORN. The only bit of truth in the statement is that some grant money could go to the group if they apply for it and have their grant application approved. A spokesman right from Bachman's office put it this way:
"...there is no precise provision that a certain amount of money would go directly to ACORN. However, the $2 billion that was passed in the final stimulus bill will go towards the Neighborhood Stabilization Program from which ACORN will like receive money."
Oh, that's quite a revision of the Representative's initial statement that billions will go to ACORN. Yet, in actuality, ACORN may not receive any moneys at all because all eyes will be on any approval of their grant applications and the pressure will likely cause those applications to be denied.

Socialized medicine isn't even national health care. Not yet! The inspiration behind these Bachman statements come from Betsy McCaughey, a former Lieutenant Governor of New York who is now receiving significant remuneration from America's drug companies and who makes all kinds of wild-ass comments about impending socialized medicine. In fact, there are no provisions in the bill to set up a new health care system. There are significant funds allocated for research into the best and most effective means for delivering high quality health care to all Americans.

The census? My goodness, Representative Bachman, even a beginning civics student learns that it is the states that draw congressional district boundaries and not the federal government. You dodo!

We're running out of rich people! I don't need to explain the stupidity behind this statement even to Fred. The multi-million dollar bonuses just keep coming, even to the CEOs of companies that are on the brink of failure -- regard Merrill-Lynch!

Now, listen all you incredible jerks up there in Bachman's congressional district, and get this straight: You're at fault here! You elected her in spite of blatant evidence you had before you that she is an idiot with a dangerous loud mouth and loose tongue. Now, pay attention to her so you can come to grips with just what a dope she is and how dangerous it is to have a person like this running loose in Congress. Get it figured out and make sure this is her last term of office. I don't care about Democrat or Republican, just no more idiots -- please!

And you in the Democratic Party, pick a good candidate to go up against her and then just tell the rest of us where to send our money.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Tomahawk Missiles Won’t Solve Afghanistan Problem

A gentle, kind man from Montana has got far better weapons than the expensive weapons of war!
by Charlie Leck

I just finished (10 minutes ago) a remarkably interesting and inspiring book and I thought I needed to tell you about it; though most of you are probably way ahead of me on this one.

First, let me tell you about how I came across it.

As Christmas was approaching, I was out shopping for gifts for the children and grandchildren. I’m more and more into buying unusual books these days, hoping I can find something just so appropriate for one of the kids or another in particular. As I was sifting through a counter of books, I overheard a clerk promoting a volume to a couple of interested customers a few paces away. He was nearly effervescent in his praise, saying something like this.

“I’ve never heard of anyone who hasn’t been inspired beyond measure by the reading of this book!”

Beyond measure? I remember that fastidious phrase.

I watched carefully to see the particular book he was waving at them as he spoke, and then, after they had dispersed, I sidled on over to take a peek.

Three Cups of Tea – One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace… One School at a Time, by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin [Penguin Books, New York, 2007 (first published by Viking Penguin in 2006) paperback].

Mortenson? Mortenson? Oh yes, I'd heard of him. He was speaking at my wife’s high school alma mater at a breakfast affair in a few weeks . We tried to get tickets to hear him. Sold out! Great excitement, and all, about his appearance.

I read a few of the promotional blurbs within the first pages of the book.

“Greg Mortenson represents the best of America. He’s my hero. And after you read Three Cups of Tea, he’ll be your hero, too.” [Mary Bono, U.S. Representative (CA)]

“Mortenson’s book has much to say about the American failures in Afghanistan.” [New York Review of Books]

“The Astonishing, uplifting story of a real-life Indiana Jones and his remarkable humanitarian campaign in the Taliban’s backyard.” [Penguin Books]
Yup! Yup! Yup!

Listen! I could tell you a lot of wonderful things about my read, but here’s a leader: I held on to this book with as much intense interest as I do when I read a John Grisham thriller. And, I do believe that Greg Mortenson, a regular, frumpy guy from Montana, is one of my new, special heroes.

I’ll tell you another thing, and that’s that I do hope President Obama has been reading this book, but I don’t believe he has. We’d do something other than increase our troop strength in Afghanistan if he had.

In a Nicholas Kristof column of 13 July 2008,(It Takes a School – Not Missles), he wrote about Mortenson and his astonishingly successful work.

“Since 9/11, Westerners have tried two approaches to fight terrorism in Pakistan, President Bush’s and Greg Mortenson’s.

“Mr. Bush has focused on military force and provided more than $10 billion — an extraordinary sum in the foreign-aid world — to the highly unpopular government of President Pervez Musharraf. This approach has failed: the backlash has radicalized Pakistan’s tribal areas so that they now nurture terrorists in ways that they never did before 9/11.

“Mr. Mortenson… takes a diametrically opposite approach, and he has spent less than one-ten-thousandth as much as the Bush administration. He builds schools in isolated parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan, working closely with Muslim clerics and even praying with them at times.

“The only thing that Mr. Mortenson blows up are boulders that fall onto remote roads and block access to his schools. “Mr. Mortenson has become a legend in the region, his picture sometimes dangling like a talisman from rearview mirrors, and his work has struck a chord in America as well. His superb book about his schools, “Three Cups of Tea,” came out in 2006 and initially wasn’t reviewed by most major newspapers. Yet propelled by word of mouth, the book became a publishing sensation: it has spent the last 74 weeks on the paperback best-seller list, regularly in the No. 1 spot.”
Yup! I kid you not. This is one book, unless you are a piece of concrete, you will never be sorry you read.

I’ll write more about it in the coming weeks – after you’ve had an opportunity to go through it.

“Mr. Mortenson found his calling in 1993 after he failed in an attempt to climb K2, a Himalayan peak, and stumbled weakly into a poor Muslim village. The peasants nursed him back to health, and he promised to repay them by building the village a school.

‘Scrounging the money was a nightmare — his 580 fund-raising letters to prominent people generated one check, from Tom Brokaw — and Mr. Mortenson ended up selling his beloved climbing equipment and car. But when the school was built, he kept going. Now his aid group, the Central Asia Institute, has 74 schools in operation. His focus is educating girls.” [Please read… the rest of the story (column)]
This book is, indeed, inspiring beyond measure!
"Here (in Pakistan and Afghanistan), we drink three cups of tea to do business: the first you are a stranger, the second you become a friend, and the third, you join our family, and for our family we are prepared to do anything -- even die." [Haji Ali, Korphe Village Chief, Karakoram Mountains, Pakistan]

Thursday, February 19, 2009


A protest in Meridian, Mississippi this
past summer (21 June 2008) about the lack
of arrests and convictions in the murder
cases of approximately 50 people all over
the state during the 1960s. I was proud to
join these folks in their protests.

How can so many murders go unsolved? The answer is quite simple!
by Charlie Leck

Below you can browse through a report released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on 12 February 2009. The report includes the names of 43 people who were “possible” hate crime fatalities, in Mississippi alone, in the terrible period before 1970.

I hope you will browse through it. At least scroll down so you can see how massive this list is -- so you will feel the impact.

The FBI claimed in 2006 that it would “identify and closely examine” each of these unsolved cases. You should note that the names of James Cheney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner are not on this list. I guess the FBI figures that case was solved when one lone person was imprisoned in 2005 on a manslaughter charge. More than a dozen men were involved in those murders and several of them are still alive and walking free.

How can so many murders go unsolved? The answer is quite simple. In Mississippi, in those days, the murder of “a colored” wasn’t taken seriously and a police effort to solve the crime wasn't undertaken with any earnestness. Do you think these kinds of murders of “whites” would have gone unpunished?

Late in 2007 and early in 2008, I wrote a great deal, here on this blog, about Mississippi and my experiences there during the hot, hot summer of 1964. Links to those blogs will follow the list below. I went back to Mississippi this past June for a memorial service, 44 years after the fact, for Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner. I blogged about that also, and those blogs are listed too.

The FBI list of names are as follow:

Date of Death: January 31, 1964
Location: Liberty

Date of Death: May 10, 1967
Location: Jackson

Date of Death: June 20, 1957
Location: Yazoo City

Date of Death: January 13, 1965
Location: Winona

Date of Death: October 13, 1961
Location: McComb

Date of Death: March 1, 1964
Location: Jackson

Date of Death: May-July, 1966
(circa James Meredith's March Against Fear)
Location: Natchez

Date of Death: June 25, 1958
Location: Yalobusha County

Date of Death: April, 1961 or 1962
Location: Taylorsville

Date of Death: 1964
Location: Canton

Date of Death: Unknown;
Body discovered December 24, 1955
Location: Tallahatchie

Date of Death: June 30, 1964
Location: Vicksburg

Date of Death: September 24, 1965
Location: Near Sturgis

Date of Death: September 30, 1962
Location: Oxford

Date of Death: January 11, 1966
Location: Sidon

Date of Death: October, 1959
Location: Philadelphia

Date of Death: February 27, 1967
Location: Natchez

Date of Death: October 20, 1963
Location: Clarksdale

Date of Death: May 7, 1955
Location: Belzoni

Date of Death: September 25, 1961
Location: Unknown

Date of Death: February 25, 1965
Location: Rankin County

Date of Death: January 7, 1958
Location: Ruleville

Date of Death: Unknown;
Body discovered on January 17, 1963
Location: Canton

Date of Death: November 6, 1964
Location: Pelahatchie

Date of Death: December 3, 1955
Location: Tallahatchie

Date of Death: October 12, 1959
Location: Clarksdale

Date of Death: August 10, 1964
Location: Cleveland

Date of Death: August 14, 1959
Location: Centreville

Date of Death: September 7, 1964
Location: Canton

Date of Death: April 25, 1959;
Body discovered May 4, 1959
Location: Poplarville, Pearl River County

Date of Death: November 1, 1959
Location: Corinth, Alcorn County

Date of Death: August 8, 1965
Location: Fayette

Date of Death: February, 1965
Location: Okolona

Date of Death: January 29, 1956
Location: Yazoo City

Date of Death: January 22, 1965
Location: Hinds County Jail, Jackson

Date of Death: April 27, 1958
Location: State Line

Date of Death: August 13, 1955
Location: Brookhaven

Date of Death: July 9, 1966
Location: Jackson, Hinds County, Mississippi
or Crystal Springs, Copiah County

Date of Death: June 26, 1964
Location: Ruleville

Date of Death: August 16, 1965;
Body discovered August 19, 1965
Location: Batesville

Date of Death: January 23, 1965
Location: Hattiesburg

Date of Death: February 28, 1964
Location: Woodville, Wilkinson County
or Natchez, Adams County


This is my daughter, Cynthia, walking along
Rock Cut Road, not far from the spot where
Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner were murdered
on 21 June 1964. We had gone there on
21 June 2008 to memorialize their lives and deaths.
It was a very touching and emotional moment for us.

These are the blogs I wrote, in 2007 and 2008, about my Mississippi experiences.



PART 3: SOUTHERN JAIL (3 January 2008)










On our visit to Rock Cut Road and the site where the three young
civil rights workers were murdered, we made a pile of rocks at the
place where they were gunned down. Protestors had come from all
over America and brought rocks with them from their home
regions. Many of us, who gathered there, had been civil rights
workers in Misissippi in 1964. I arrived there on 21 June 1964,
the day the young men went missing. We made this rock pile on
21 June 2008, 44 years after the killing and no one has yet to be
convicted of murder in the case -- though one man was sent to
prison in 2005 on a manslaughter charge.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Gentleman Jack

John M. Seabrook died last week and left something of a vacancy in the hearts and souls of all who knew him well.
by Charlie Leck

“He was a man who commanded respect, and excelled in countless fields, but will be remembered, for his humor, character, friendship, the love of his family and for maintaining the highest standards of excellence.” [Ben Baugh, staff writer for the Aiken (SC) Standard]
I’m in New Jersey today, sitting in the airport, ready to catch a plane back to Minnesota. I came here to attend yesterday's funeral for John M. Seabrook (Jack). It would have been unthinkable to not pay my respects to this extraordinary gentleman.

Jack died at his home in South Carolina on 11 February 2009. He was born in 1917 as the youngest of four children. As a boy he worked in the vegetable fields of his family farm, weeding and sorting various vegetables and flowers. The farm was not a simple family farm, but "one of the largest industrialized farms in the world, with interests in growing, canning and eventually freezing vegetables."

Much could be and will be written about him in the coming weeks and months. He touched so many lives and had such an enormous impact on so many people.

I wish I could say that we were close friends. We weren’t at all. He was a good acquaintance and I admired nearly everything about him. Until a few years ago, he would call me occasionally to ask questions about our carriage driving activities or to suggest something I should read or write about. I tell you this for cetain: We went to many exciting places to which we wouldn't have gone, and met many good and interesting people we would not have met if it hadn't been for this man.

There are several things that stood out about this man.

He was a gentleman!
I haven’t known many pure gentlemen in my life. I’ve always been curious about those I did meet and tried examining them to see what made them stand significantly straighter (in a metaphorical sense) than the rest of us. My wife’s father was a complete gentleman – in every way. Jack was even more so. No word ever seemed to stumble out of his mouth; rather, they flowed graciously from him. His face carried a perpetual, confident and genuine smile.

But, why not? This was a man easily at home with royalty and the ultra famous. I don’t believe the status of any person he met could unnerve him.

At a reception at a New Jersey horseshow, some 15 years ago, Jack beckoned to me from across the room and waved me over to him. He wanted to introduce me to HRH the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip. I may as well have been playing mumblypeg. I was at a loss for just what I was supposed to say or do.

“Well, I’ll be goshed darn, if it ain’t a real prince and all!”

Truly, I didn’t go that lame brain, but I sensed that Jack’s eyes were giggling at my behavior (or misbehavior) and I think that he called me over just so he could watch such a performance. Several years later, at Windsor Castle, I got to speak with the Prince again. Because of Jack’s mentoring, at a tutorial session subsequent to that surprise introduction, I was able to hold my own and act in accordance with decorum – just an ever-so slight tipping of my head toward the man and an acceptance of his hand for a shake only after he first made the offer.

“Good evening, your highness, how very nice to meet you again. Yes, yes – our common and wonderful friend, Jack Seabrook, introduced me to you years ago at a horseshow in New Jersey. You’re looking very well, sir!”

Another time Jack presented me with his business card. He seemed aggravated when I didn’t examine it, so I dug into my pocket to retrieve it. It listed the full addresses of each of his homes – in London, Vermont, New Jersey and South Carolina.

“You and Anne are welcome to visit anytime,” he politely told me. “Just give me some warning. Won’t you?”

He was a man of character!
If Jack told you he was going to do something or promised you a favor, you could take it to the bank. It didn't matter if it was a little thing (like sending an article from a periodical) or a big thing (like getting you tickets to the theatre), he did it. Several of his business colleagues spoke atg his lovely memorial service today, and they indicated he was always that way in matters of business as well.

He was talented!
There are so many things that Jack Seabrook did well that I can’t recount them all here. He was one of the most gracious and exceptional public speakers I ever heard. Of course, he’d had experiences in his life such as most men never even dream. In speaking, he could call on a reserve of thousands of interesting anecdotes from his life’s experiences. And, he was delicately, respectfully and wittily humorous. Jokes were never overpowering. Subtly in humor was Jack’s modus. A punch line was dropped in complete, unsuspecting surprise. You had to be ready and paying attention.

What a horseman he was!
How he loved to drive a four-in-hand to one of his big coaches. He steeds moved with such certainty and smoothness and Jack’s hands gave signals to them so subtly that the observer would notice only slight movements that didn't seem compatible with the enormous changes made in the behavior of his horses.

I once had the opportunity to drive his famous coach, the Nimrod, to my own four of horses when we were together in South Carolina. I needed to move the horses and coach and passengers over about a 13 mile route in a prescribed pace of time. In such a gracious and subtle manner, that no one ever noticed it, Jack coached me and encouraged me to make all the right moves. One of my horses threw a shoe and we had to pull up while a terrific coachman we’d brought along retrieved the shoe and reattached it. We’d lost valuable time and I was disappointed.

“We’ll make it,” Jack said to me. “I have the watch and I know precisely the pace we’ll need to drive. We'll find out how good your horses are. Pick them up.”

Jack set the pace for me and I was pleased with the speed and strength of the big horses out in front of me. In the end, we arrived 11 seconds late, but so close to my time that no one really noticed. A small band was playing and the mayor of the town was there to greet us. Sharing the box with him that day was one of the proudest moments of my life.

Jack was a founding member of the Carriage Association of America, an organization in which Anne and I each hold lifetime memberships. He was also a long time President of the Coaching Club of New York (founded in 1875 by Alfred Lord Vanderbilt). I also held a membership in that organization for several years, thanks to Jack, and wrote about resigning from it in a blog a few weeks ago. As well, he was a member of the exceptionally exclusive British Coaching Club.
"Many times, he traveled to England and Europe with his coach. He was a member of the British Coaching Club. His horses were always impeccably turned out and dressed. He was a gentleman who knew how to present a team. He was truly remarkable. He gave a lot to the world of driving, and will be remembered for that.” [Jack Wetzel, quoted by Ben Baugh in the Aiken Standard]
Jack was also an exceptional businessman.
In addition to commanding the company business – Seabrook Farms – in the great sandy loam of southern New Jersey, he owned several other companies and sat on the boards of several major corporations around the world. He was highly praised today for his extraordinary success over a period of 14 years as the CEO of I.U. Interntaional, a world wide untilities conclogerate headquartered in Philadelphia. Only rarely did he talk about these ventures. Once, when I was in his office, I was curious about a large model of a tanker ship. He explained that a company he held very strong interest in, Gotaas Shipping Corp, was making the state-of-the-art ship at that moment and, when it was completed, it would become the largest and fastest tanker in the world. He told me, too, about his ownership investment in Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines.

He graduated summa cum laude from Princeton in 1939 with a degree in chemical engineering. He retained a strong love for and bond with that University all his life.

His sartorial splendor
Jack possessed an immense wardrobe. Everything was tailored in the finest establishments. A very recent story about him described his love of clothing.
“He was known for his sartorial splendor, and was recognized by Esquire Magazine by being named to their Best Dressed Men in America list during the early 1960's as Seabrook made a powerful fashion statement with his extensive wardrobe as he was often seen in the finest tailored Saville Row suits.

“His sense of style and fashion were featured in Diana Vreeland's 1985 exhibit "Man and The Horse" for the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute as his wardrobe played a prominent role in the display. The fashion icon asked Seabrook to provide clothing and accessories to the exhibition that were evocative of 19th Century England from the wardrobe he was still wearing.” [Ben Baugh, staff writer for the Aiken (SC) Standard]
I’ve always considered Jack a bit of a snob. I think that comes from not knowing many people like he. From my world, some of his actions seemed snobbish, I suppose. From his perspective they were the actions and behaviors that were expected of him. To be candid, I not only admired him completely, but I envied him so very much. How much I would like to have his mannerly way of moving through life and his utter graciousness with people he met.

Snob or not, I loved being around him and I loved listening to him reminisce about his exceptional experiences. He could tell a story like no man I ever knew.

Now, this handsome and debonair gentleman has gone off to the stars. He may well reorganize things when he gets there and make the entire system a little better for his presence. He certainly did that on earth.

We had never had the opportunity to meet all his children until yesterday and it was an extreme pleasure to chat with each of them. They were as gracious as we all would likely expect the children to Jack Seabrook to be.

Goodbye, dear, gentle, gentle man. It’s been good to know you! In your company I had some of the grandest moments of my life.

That's me, on the left, with two of the people I most admire
in this world, Vicki Nelson Bodoh, a former President of
the Carriage Association of America and
Gentleman Jack Seabrook, who tried to teach me how to
wear a top hat but never could. We're standing in front of
the Newport Country Club, taking a break from a drive of
the Coaching Club that wandered out along the shore of
the Atlantic Ocean. Jack was the President of the Coaching
and planned some wonderful outings for us. Ms. Bodoh,
and her husband, Jim, were guests on our coach for the


[Ben Baugh’s story about John M. Seabrook in the Aiken Standard]

For those who want to read more about Jack,
the following story appeared on the web site of NJ.Com. It was taken from a story that originally ran in the Bridgeton News by Bill Gallo, Jr.

John Martin Seabrook, a New Jersey farm boy who became a corporate titan, influential sportsman and a man of impeccable style, died Wednesday at his home in Aiken, S.C. He was 91.

He had been a resident of Mannington Township for more than 40 years before moving to Aiken.
Mr. Seabrook, known as "Jack" to friends, was born on April 16, 1917, in Bridgeton, the youngest of four children. He worked in the vegetable fields of his family farm from the age of nine. His father, Charles F. Seabrook, and grandfather built a small Cumberland County farm into Seabrook Farms, one of the largest industrialized farms in the world, with interests in growing, canning and eventually freezing vegetables. The town of Seabrook in Upper Deerfield Township, where many of the company's workers lived, is named after the family. As a boy, Mr. Seabrook weeded onions, sorted flower bulbs in the farm's greenhouses and applied his early fascination with chemistry to soil testing and plant cultivation.

Mr. Seabrook graduated summa cum laude with a degree in chemical engineering from Princeton University in 1939; he remained an ardent supporter of his alma mater for the rest of his life. Upon graduating, he went to work at Seabrook Farms, becoming president in 1954 and building the company into one of the world's largest producers of frozen vegetables and prepared meals. Under his leadership, Seabrook Farms developed the boil-in-the-pouch method of cooking its popular frozen creamed spinach, as well as pioneering frozen entrees that would become known as "TV dinners." By 1959, some 25,000 acres of South Jersey farmland - including many acres in Salem County - were either owned or leased by the company. That same year, Mr. Seabrook had a falling out with his father, who maintained the controlling interest in the company's stock. His father sold the company and Mr. Seabrook resigned. He said that no crisis in his later business career came close to the trauma of losing the family business.

Mr. Seabrook soon regained his footing, however, becoming by the mid-1960's the chief executive of I.U. International, a utilities company headquartered in Philadelphia. As a leader in the business climate of the 1960's that favored conglomeration, Mr. Seabrook built I.U. International into a global corporation with interests in energy, mining, shipping, transportation and food products.

Mr. Seabrook's first marriage, to Anne Schlaudecker of Erie, Pa., ended in divorce. In the mid-1950's, he had a romance with the actress Eva Gabor, a frequent visitor to Seabrook Farms, who later used some of those experiences in her role as the cosmopolitan wife of a farmer, played by Eddie Arnold, in "Green Acres," the popular television series. He was also a regular at "21" and the Stork Club, in New York City. However in 1956, he bid farewell to his bachelor days by marrying Elizabeth Ann Toomey, a newspaper reporter whom he had met earlier that year, while aboard the USS Constitution, en route to Europe for Grace Kelly's wedding to Prince Rainier III of Monaco. Mr. Seabrook was a guest of the Kelly family; his future bride was covering the wedding for United Press International.

By the early 1960's, when Esquire Magazine first named him to its Best Dressed Men in America list, Mr. Seabrook was recognized as one of the country's most stylish devotees of the British Saville Row look. To accommodate his wardrobe, he installed a revolving dry cleaner's carousel in the attic of the 18th century farmhouse in Mannington Township where he and his family lived. An enthusiastic equestrian, Seabrook was equal parts horseman and clothes horse. When Diana Vreeland produced the exhibit "Man and The Horse" for Metropolitan Museum's Costume Institute in 1985, she asked him to provide clothing accessories appropriate to 19th century England - outfits that he was still wearing on a regular basis.

Mr. Seabrook had begun collecting and driving 19th century carriages when the sporting world had almost forgotten about carriage driving, and he was instrumental in reviving the sport of "coaching" in the U.S. He was a founding member of the Carriage Association of America, and was only the third American admitted to membership of the British Coaching Club, following William Tiffany and Alfred Vanderbilt.

He often conducted business from the box seat of a road coach. Richard Fain, who as a young executive worked under Mr. Seabrook at I.U, and later became the CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, recalled, "He would be holding four reins in one hand, a coaching whip and champagne glass in the other, driving four horses through farm roads lined with vegetables, remarking on the state of the crops, while simultaneously discussing how best to finance the five new supertankers the company was getting ready to order. Of course, the board of directors was along for the ride, both literally and figuratively." In his later years, his horses and carriages became a familiar presence in Newport, R.I., for the annual summer meeting of the American Coaching Club. On the rural roads surrounding his Mannington home, he was often seen driving his carriages with family and friends as passengers. For many years he took part in the parade of carriages, one of the most popular events in Winterthur Museum and Country Estate's spring Point to Point fund-raiser in Delaware.

After retiring from I.U. International in 1981, Mr. Seabrook continued as chairman and CEO of Gotass Larsen Shipping Corporation, successfully spinning off Royal Caribbean as a separate entity, before selling the remaining assets to the Barclay Brothers. He also continued as a director of Bell Atlantic (now Verizon), retiring in 1989 after 34 years, then the longest tenure as a director in the Bell System. He and his wife began to spend more time in Aiken where he pursued his interest in coaching and lent his time to preserving the Hitchcock Woods, a 2,000-acre urban park in the middle of Aiken. They moved there permanently in 2000; Mrs. Seabrook died in 2005.
He supported philanthropic causes throughout his life, many in the Salem County and South Jersey region. Among those was a key role, along with his late wife, in helping to found Woodland Country Day School outside of Bridgeton. Besides preservation efforts in Aiken, he also supported the Brandywine Conservancy, an organization dedicated to the preservation of natural lands in the Chadds Ford, Pa., area along the Brandywine River.

He also championed a number of causes to improve the lives of the underprivileged. One of those roles was his service as a member of the New Jersey Migrant Labor Board where he worked to improve the working and living conditions of seasonal agricultural workers.

Mr. Seabrook maintained a lifelong interest in New Jersey's agricultural heritage, and served as an informal advisor to the state's longtime secretary of agriculture, Art Brown. The last great enterprise of his life was devoted to ensuring that the nearly 2,000 acres he still owned in Mannington would be preserved as farmland in perpetuity. In November 2008, Charles Kuperus, New Jersey's agriculture secretary, announced it as the largest preservation deal in New Jersey history, saying, "This truly is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be able to preserve such a sizable portion of South Jersey's agricultural land base."

The preservation of the Seabrook property was a major milestone for Salem County, bringing the county's total of preserved land to 25,892 acres. The county now ranks No. 1 in preserved farmland in New Jersey.

"The county has lost a great citizen. He gave so much to the community but no greater gift than the preservation of his land for our future generations," said Freeholder Director Lee Ware.
Brown, who served as New Jersey's secretary of agriculture from 1982 to 2002, said one of Mr. Seabrook's greatest legacies will be the preservation of his Mannington farm.

Brown first met Mr. Seabrook in the summer of 1954 when as a college student he did seasonal work at Seabrook Farms. Brown later started working there full time in 1958, in charge of a number of projects.

"Of all the schooling I had, I thought that was the best school I ever attended - Seabrook Farms," Brown said.

Brown said he spoke with Mr. Seabrook often during his years as agriculture secretary and the idea of preserving his Mannington farm was a frequent topic.

"He wanted that land to be farmed forever. I know in his heart that he definitely wanted to keep it in agriculture, there was no question. It all turned out very positive."

"Jack should be remembered that way. He kept agriculture alive in Salem County. Everyone should thank Jack Seabrook for keeping it out of development although he faced strong pressures. He left a good legacy, not only in the past, but in the end he did get to keep his wish."

Mr. Seabrook is survived by his four children - Carol Boulanger, Lizanne Brooke and John Seabrook Jr., all of Manhattan, and Bruce Seabrook, of Miami - and by five grandchildren.
Services will be held Tuesday, 11 a.m., at the Deerfield Presbyterian Church, 530 Old Deerfield Pike, Upper Deerfield Township. Burial will be in the church cemetery.

Friends may call at the church after 10 a.m.

Arrangements are under the direction of the Freitag Funeral Home, Bridgeton. Written condolences and tributes may be made to the family using the funeral home Web site,

In lieu of flowers, the family requests contributions in Mr. Seabrook's memory be made to Woodland Country Day School, 1216 Roadstown Rd., Bridgeton, NJ 08302, The Brandywine Conservancy, P.O. Box 141, Chadds Ford, PA 19317 or the Hitchcock Woods Foundation, P.O. Box 1702, Aiken, SC 29802.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The First 100 Days

A brilliant NY Times blog traces the first 100 days of 5 former Presidents, comparing them to President Obama.
by Charlie Leck

Richard Nixon was a familiar face on the national scene when he was inaugurated as President in 1969 – Vice President for eight years, a Congressman before that, and a failed election run for Governor of California. It was so unlike the fresh, unknown face of Barack Obama. Does one or the other guaranty more success in the Presidency? There was no greater failed tenure in office than that of Richard M. Nixon who resigned in disgrace.

Of Nixon, Roger Morris wrote the following:

“America had elected a familiar, reassuring figure to the presidency, only to find a stranger in the Oval Office.”
That comes from a wonderful blog section in the NY Times, called 100 Days, where you can read and chime in about these first 3 months of the Obama service as President. Those of you who remain excited about the possibilities of Obama’s leadership will enjoy keeping up. If presidential history interests you, this will be one of the finest blogs you’ll ever find.

Here’s how that blog explains itself:

About 100 Days
As Barack Obama readies to take the office of president, which of his predecessors offers the best model for getting off on the right foot? The 100 Days blog seeks to answer just that question during Mr. Obama's first three months in office. Five presidential biographers will discuss the early days of five 20th-century presidents – Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan – shedding new light on the struggles faced by those men entering the Oval Office and comparing their experiences with those Mr. Obama will face in his first 100 days.
For at least the next few months, put this on your must-read list.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Vikings May Leave Minnesota

The Vikings shop, slop, hop and pop for a new stadium – or else!
by Charlie Leck

A friend of mine likes to describe my blog as eclectic. Well, yesterday I gave you a definition of God. Two days ago I let you peek at my Valentine’s Day poem to my wife. Today we turn to the Minnesota Vikings and their need for a billion dollar stadium. Is that eclectic?

The front page headline in last Thursday's local newspaper was: STATE’S RED INK: $7 BILLION? The headline in the sport section declared that the “Vikings’ stadium frustration rises to surface!” An interview with the Vikings' spokesman made the threat to leave town very clear: "...we're about out of time!"
How to solve the stadium crisis, mid the financial crisis!
This town (Minneapolis) used to be famous for its deal makers. Oh my, we had some glorious big-hitters in the business community up here. When there was a major community need, they got things done and done well.

One has only to look at the Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA) to see evidence of this. The Dayton brothers (fore-fathers of the Target Corp) stepped up big on that one. They made sure that we had a first-class, big-league, state-of-the-art (if you’ll forgive the pun) art museum.

Then, only 10 minutes away, you can visit the Walker Art Museum and the fantastic sculpture gardens right next-door. This is our town’s modern, or contemporary, art museum. It’s special and spectacular. Give thanks to the leadership of the Crosby family (General Mills) and many of their friends on that one

Minneapolis and Minnesota go Big League
The Minnesota Twins major league baseball team started play in Minnesota in 1961. Our town and state were great before that and it was wonderful to live and work here, but having a major league baseball team put us on the map. Having major league baseball here also gave our economy a big, big boost. Don’t doubt that for a second.

John Cowles Sr. was at the center of bringing baseball here. He was the owner/publisher of the two Minneapolis newspapers at that time (morning and afternoon). Charlie Johnson, a writer for the newspapers, was the spokesman for the people who plotted and toiled to get the Washington Senators to move to Minnesota to become the Twins. Gerry Moore was the executive of the Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce and he put the full force of the chamber behind the effort to get baseball here. There were some powerful people in the Chamber, including my late father-in-law, Lyman Wakefield, Jr., who worked tirelessly to get Major League Baseball to come here. Billy Boyer was a powerful downtown businessman and he poured energy into the effort. So did our wonderful neighbor out here in Independence, Wheelock Whitney. Wheelock is as smooth as whipped cream and he impressed everyone in baseball who met him.

A medical doctor at the Mayo Clinic was also a surprising player in the deal. Minnesota was one vote short of getting the Senators to move here. A couple of the Yankee bosses were his patients. They planned on voting against the Twins. On the day a vote was to be cast, Doctor Bayrd Horton called his patients and told them how important it was for Minnesota to get baseball here. The Yankee vote came in for Minnesota that day.

On the 31st of October in 1960, Calvin Griffith, the owner of the Washington Senators, announced that he was moving his team to Minnesota. I remember Lyman, Anne’s father, telling us about the party. It was non-stop – a big time celebration.

I could give you a list of a dozen community leaders who poured efforts in making that day happen; however, that’s not the point here. Here’s the real point!

The Vikings are getting ready to pack up and leave!
Think I’m kidding? Then you’re a sucker, pal! They’ll play out their lease here – through 2011 (that’s 3 seasons) and then they’re gone – moving into a spectacular billion dollar stadium in Los Angeles.

Does it matter?
This is the crucial question that community leaders have got to consider. Is it important – no, is it vital – that our state and community has NFL football? Will our community be lessened if they leave? Will our economy suffer? Will anything beyond our image be damaged?

The crucial question is not the ailing economy. The real question is this: Are the Vikings worth a billion dollars to the state and community? That’s what it is going to cost to keep them here.

Why aren’t we hearing from the Greater Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce on this one? Where are the big time business leaders like we had in the past? They’re out there, but they’re not being heard. Perhaps they’re silent because they’ve answered that vital question already – calculating that the Vikings are not worth the money and the effort to keep them?

The Vikes have made it clear. They must have a new stadium – a billion dollar stadium. They’ll throw in a quarter of that amount. Add some infrastructure costs into the mix and you’ve got a billion dollar public investment that will be required to keep big-time football in the state.

Wheelock Whitney, of all those great community leaders I mentioned above, is still around and active and vocal. I’d like to hear Wheelock’s opinion about this. I trust his reasoning powers a great deal and no one I know loves this town any more than he does. Then I’d ask him if we still have the kind of community leaders who can step up and make it happen if the feeling is that the Vikings must stay in Minnesota.

As for Wheelock, he the great rock beneath of the Metropolitian Community College in Minneapolis. He's been responsible for some wonderful developments on that campus.

Where are the Pohlads on this stadium issue (the Twins owners)? How about Glen Taylor (the Timberwolves owner)? Where are Dick Kovacevich (Wells Fargo) and Lynn Nagorske (TCF) on this issue? What about Marilyn Carlson Nelson (Carlson Companies)? Pat Ryan (Ryan Companies)? Ed Philips (Philips Beverage)? Steve Sanger (General Mills)? Gregg Steinhafel (Target)? Warren Stanley (Cargill)?

What about 3M, Medtronic, Xcel Energy, United Health, Best Buy and SuperValu?

Again, Wheelock, have we got the kind of energetic community leaders who could keep the Vikings here if we determine that the team is valuable to us as a state?

Where does former governor Arne Carlson stand on this one?

Maybe this vital question has already been asked and answered by the hot-shot community leaders and that’s why there is only silence. "Let them go! It just isn't worth the price!"

These are tough times to raise a billion dollars and this is a tough issue; yet, the issue needs leadership and it doesn’t appear that anyone is stepping up to the plate.

Again, the first question is this: Are the Vikings worth an investment of a billion dollars to keep them here?

If the answer is yes, these great business and community leaders must step forward and lay out a plan to get that stadium built. We've certainly seen that there isn't any leadership coming from the Governor's office.

Are the Vikings a part of our future or just a simple story from the past?