Monday, August 31, 2009

Why? Why is the United States, for Pete's Sake....

Why don't we, such a rich country, cover everyone?
by Charlie Leck

On Eric Black's blog today, he asks the essential question about health care in the U.S.. Why don't we cover everyone?

"As I rediscovered last week, many opponents of universal health care in the U.S. like to say, and applaud anyone else who says, that the United States has the greatest health care system in the world. There is basically no reasonable way to back this statement up with a statistic that measures health outcomes. Americans have shorter life expectancies, infant mortality rates are higher here, and perhaps most relevantly, those who measure the rate of deaths that could have been prevented by medical care show the U.S. system to be below many of the wealthy industrialized nations of the world.

"And, as everyone must know by now, ours is the worst system in the world as measured by cost efficiency."
That's the essential question. Read Black's important blog of today.

Seven Decades and None the Wiser

On the eve of my birthday, I slouch in wonder at how little I know and how baffled I am!
by Charlie Leck

I had the pleasure of being a guest at a remarkable dinner party on Saturday night (two evenings ago) at Two Pony Gardens. Chef Daniel Kline, who recently returned to Minnesota after working at some of the world’s most distinguished restaurants, prepared a remarkable four course meal that may have brought me more pleasures of flavor and taste than I have ever experienced in my life. Someone told me that Kline now plies his skills at a south Minneapolis restaurant call Tratoria Tosca. I’ve never eaten there, but the web page makes me want to try it. The dinner, however, was only one of the highlights of a totally remarkable evening. Though the evening’s setting was rustic and not always the most comfortable (there are some tiny, weak legged chairs, and some people sit on benches at the table, and half the crowd ate on a screened porch on a very chilly day), the surroundings and company were extraordinarily pleasant and enjoyable.

The company (that is, the other diners), with whom I sat and enjoyed this sumptuous feast, was the really amazing highlight of the experience. What absolutely remarkable people! I was trying all evening to tune in to so many of the conversations. It was like having one’s sense of curiosity absolutely over-stimulated.

Bob and Debby Wolk were at our table. A wonderful story about the Wolks and their generosity toward their neighbors recently appeared in the Minneapolis StarTribune. To celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary, they gave rain gardens to everyone on their southwest Minneapolis block. My goodness! The story is well worth reading.

Steve Kaplan was also down at our end of the table. It’s quite remarkable to lean one’s head in his direction to nosily listen in on some of his conversations. I’d like to get to know him better. Someone whispered in my ear that he’s the editor of a magazine I often go to for research and references – Minnesota Law and Politics.

Suzanne Weinstein, the owner of Coastal Seafoods of Minneapolis, was also off to my right. Before dinner, over cocktails, I got the opportunity to talk to her for a while about her exciting business. What a work-horse Suzanne is. The fish business isn’t easy and it really depends on immediate and constant attention. She makes lots of trips to the airport to pick up fresh fish. It’s one of my favorite places to shop in our region. If you don’t know about it, you should. I wondered, as I thought about it, if the proper plural isn’t really seafood – you know, ‘Coastal Seafood.’ Don’t worry about it, however!

Daniel, Suzanne’s husband, is a very gentle man and he was a marvelous guy with whom to chat. The two of them live in the same neighborhood as one of our kids and we only learned, after the dinner party, that they know each other quite well.

Carolyn Bell, a writer, photographer and teacher at the distinguished Breck School, wanted to know about my blog and ended up wondering if the correct plural shouldn’t really be Ad Astrae. Don’t worry about it!

Carolyn and her husband, Ed, were delightful dining partners and I leaned so much about the Twin Cities and life just because I was so fortunate to sit next to them. Carolyn quizzed me about the subject matter of my blog and I again found myself challenged to explain it. “Eclectic,” some of my friends refer to it, dragging out that over-used, hackneyed and questionable word. I guess it is. Don’t worry about it!

“Rage,” I told Carolyn, in trying to explain the blog. I should, more probably, call it my ramblings. It’s difficult to explain to anyone that these are just an assembly of my memoirs that my grandchildren may one day be interested in reading – when they are in that phase (one we all go through) that leaves them curious about the stock from which they came.

Carolyn took lots of photographs and I wish I had a few that I could share with you on this blog. Maybe later. Don’t worry about it, though.

Ed Bell is a realtor for CB Burnet and he is the quiet partner in this relationship and prefers to let Carolyn do the chatting. He holds architecture degrees from both the U of MN and Berkeley.

Lisa Ringer, the owner of Two Pony Gardens, was our hostess. She devotes so much of her life to trying to help others. She’s a real inspiration to me. The proceeds of the evening go to YELL (Youth Environmental Learning & Laws, as I remember it), one of her favorite charities. I wish I could tell you more about YELL. I know the organization brings kids out to Lisa’s farm and she teaches them about healthy, good, organic food and also about some of the secrets of growing good food and flowers. I’ll learn more and make it the topic of one of my future blogs.

An evening like this, where I was surrounded by new and exciting information and knowledge, just makes my head spin. I’ll be 69 tomorrow and I realize I’ve been at all this for seven decades now and there is still so much I don’t know. It excites me, however, to realize there are so many extraordinary and wonderful people in the world. I wish I had met more of those at Lisa's dinner party and I wish I could have learned more about those that I did meet.

So many fascinating people and so little time to meet them all!

If you’re a local, be sure to go to one of Lisa’s remarkable dinners. Another one is coming up on October 10th. You’ll be amazed by the food and also by the people who dine there. There's also a Dahlia Festival on September 19th. You can learn more at her web site.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


In days the unity will wear away and then the battle between the rich and the rest will start again.
by Charlie Leck

I sat and listened quietly to my radio yesterday. For some reason I didn't want to watch the Ted Kennedy funeral mass on television. It was easier just to listen, sitting here in the quiet and dimness of my study, as it played out on-line. What marvelous music! What elegance in listening to Yo-Yo Ma and Placido Domingo. What touching and meaningful speeches by his sons! What a lovely, peaceful moment in time.
"We do not weep for him today because of the prestige attached to his name or his office. We weep because we loved this kind and tender hero who persevered through pain and tragedy -- not for the sake of ambition or vanity, not for wealth or power, but only for the people and the country that he loved." [President Obama]
There was such unity for that moment -- that quiet, daring moment. In a day we'll need to return to the stupidity of politics and Republicans will be what they are and Democrats what they are, and the people will be caught up between them.

Ted Kennedy spent a good deal of time during his life seeking reform of our health care system, believing high quality medical care should not be the province of only the well-to-do. Here in our state we have a silly Congresswoman who shouts that we must not touch the American way of providing health care and medical services because it is absolutely the best in the world.

Well, Congresswoman, it is -- it is for people like yourself. There is no health insurance program any better than that which we provide for the members of the House and the Senate and for all other federal government workers. And those on Medicare (with an adequate supplemental insurance program), like I, are in pretty darn good shape. Ted Kennedy wanted every single citizen of the nation to have health care insurance like that -- no matter what his or her income might be.

But, please Congresswoman, you cause the poor, late Senator to stir restlessly in his grave by calling the American system the best in the entire world. In the year 2000, the World Health Care organization ranked the U.S. health care system as only the 37th best in the World. It ranked France as number 1, Congresswoman, followed by countries like Italy, San Marino, Andorra and Malta. Spain, Austria, Japan and Norway all came in way ahead of the U.S.. So did Columbia, Cyprus and Saudia Arabia.

We should be number 1, Congresswoman, I'll give you that; however, most people are unwilling to pay the cost of putting us in that position. Most people don't want to spend money to make sure every single, solidarity person in our nation gets premium health care when they need it and that everyone gets regular and consistent health care advice and examinations so they can stay healthy.

The wealthy want to pay less taxes and not more. We are a stingy nation, Congresswoman. If one did a world ranking of the stingiest nations on earth, we would finish way down on that last.

No one in the Republican Party is going to jump on the health care band wagon now, in memory of the late and wonderful Senator from Massachusetts. Believe me.

And now, with Ted Kennedy gone, there is going to be a huge vacuum among the Congressional team that wants to pass a good health care reform bill. And, the President has lost a great ally in this cause and effort.
"the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die." [Ted Kennedy]
How I wish it were so, but I am not optimistic. Rather, I am pessimistic! Meaningful health care reform? Stick a fork in the movement! It's done.

How I wish I could share the great optimism of his sons -- that the dream goes on! I just don't see the soldiers who are willing to go to the front lines as Ted Kennedy was time and time again. There isn't much courage like that in the Congress now and I don't think the President has it either.

Granted, the funeral yesterday brought me down somewhat and leaves me depressed for the liberal movement. Perhaps we can seek now and find other great heroes, but, at the moment, I do not see them.

Yes, as someone yesterday said of Teddy, "He was the soul of the party!" Indeed, he was the liberal movement's great heart and soul and we are now in disarray. Who will be our next champion? Who will lead us?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

When You Need Photos

What do you do when you really need a special photo for a paper or a project you are producing? I go looking for free, or public domain, photographs.
by Charlie Leck

I get questions very often about the photographs or drawings I use on my blog. People want to know where I get them.

Well, that can sometimes be a complicated question. I buy some (

There are a number of sources that will sell you photos for limited use. The higher the resolution the more expensive they are. For web use you don’t need very high resolution photos. I use some high rez photos in projects for customers (ads or brochures) and I need to pay more for those.

By and large, however, there are millions of free photographs available on the Internet – that is photos that are in the public domain and not copyrighted. If you use photographs frequently, you should know about those really good web sites that provide photos you can either copy, save or download for you own use. The Federal Government has lots of sites (like government parks or museums) that allow you to use the photographs. There are private sites that also allow you to use photographs – some in a limited way and others in unlimited fashion. I’ll list a lot of these web sites for you at the end of this blog.
However, I want to tell you now about a really neat web site with hundreds and hundreds of photographs you can download and use in pretty unlimited fashion ( All the photos illustrating this blog come from this web site. Of course, you should give credit to the web site when you use them. You mustn’t ever try to claim or even hint that they are your own photographs. Naturally, you must not try to copyright them in anyway.

One of my Facebook friends mentioned the other day that she needed some particular photographs for a project she had at work. It was one of the few times I’ve not found anything at Photo8. I had to look elsewhere and I ended up going out and shooting some photos for her myself. Normally, I can just look around on the web and find plenty of wonderful photos that are in the public domain.

If you want to see some of the web sites where I go to look for photographs, go to the listing that follows a few of these great photos from

photo courtesy

photo courtesy

photo courtesy

photo courtesy

photo courtesy This is a lamb and rice dish and I once used this photo on the Sheepy Hollow web site.

photo courtesy

Here are some suggestions regarding web sites you can visit when looking for FREE, public domain photographs (be sure to read the possible restrictions).

America as it Was (vintage postcards)

Congressional Pictorial Direcctory

Art Renewal (classic paintings)

Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Lib Beinecke Library at Yale University

Library of Congress (use with caution)

Burning Well

National Park Service

Child Labor in Am (1908-1912) photos of Lewis W. Line

Naval Historical Center

Easy Stock Photos

New York Public Library Digital Col

Every Stock Photo (need to sign up)

NOAA Photo Library

Famous Art Works

Pennsylvania Game Commission Photo Gal

Fashion Plate (pre 1914) UofWashington

U.S. Antarctic Program

Finally Creative (public domain images)

U.S. Census Bureau Newsroom


U.S.D.A. Image Gallery

Gimp Savvy Photo Archive

U.S.D.A. (Natural Resources....)

Google-Life Photos (restrictions)

U.S. Dept of Defense public images

Gov Watch (copyright free photos)

U.S. Dept of Defense Imagery

Heritage of the Great War

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Image Base (David N. Black)

U.S. Government Photo Portal

Images in the Public Domain (SRU)

World War II Poster Collection

Karen's Whimsy (pre '23 scans)

Logo Design Web (author's photos)

Old Book Illustrations

Open Clip Art Library (vector graphics)


Photos of the Great War

Photo Sleuth (Blog)

Pic Finder

Princeton On-Line

Public Domain Depot

Public Domain

Public Domain

Public Photos for Commercial Use

Republic Domain

Secret Museum of Mankind

Teacher Tap

Uncle Sam's Photos

U.S. History Imagines

Web Appers

Zorger (pre 1923 scans)

There you go! If you're looking for photos for your blog, or for your web site, or for your project paper, you should be able to find plenty of things that will work.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Pearls Before Breakfast

An experiment in perception, taste and priorities!
by Charlie Leck

An old friend (we go back about 55 years) sent me the most interesting email a couple of days ago and I want to thank him for it. Very early in the morning I read through it and then went back to it and read it again. Then I turned to the original sources and read them, too.

I could try to tell you the story, but I would be messing up the account as it was originally told in the Washington Post in 2007.

Let me do only a brief preface that I hope may encourage you to read the original. We can’t be rushing around so all the time. Once in a while we must stop to read something so curiously moving as this feature story by Gene Weingarten. (The following is mine, but I hope you'll go read the Weingarten story.)

It is a cold, stark morning in January. You are about to catch a metro subway at a station in Washington, D.C.. As you are rushing to your train, you hear the wonderful strains of a violin. It causes you to slow your pace just a bit; yet you have places to go and important things to see and do. Over near the entrance to the station you see a young man and his violin. He is wearing jeans and a warmish, long sleeved shirt and he has a baseball cap on his head. It’s out of your way, but you walk over to drop a few quarters in the violin case at his feet. Though the music stirs you, you move on to your train and your day of sightseeing. Over a thousand people passed by the violinist that day. He gathered up about $60.

Two days later you are in Boston and a friend invites you to a concert. "It is sold out," he says. He has two tickets worth well over $300 dollars. You accept his kind invitation.

When Joshua Bell, considered one of the worlds’ greatest musicians, walks out on the stage, he is welcomed by thunderous and sustained applause. You think he looks familiar. Only days earlier you had an opportunity to listen to him for 75 cents. You rushed by him even though he stood in the chill and played some of the most remarkable pieces ever written – and he played them on a violin worth more than 3 million dollars.

You had refused to stop, to smell the roses, because you had, you know, priorities. What was it? Oh yes, breakfast with that pretty secretary to the third assistant to the Secretary of the friggin’ Council on the Preservation of Morning Doves.

Now your heart is soaring as you remember the concert in Boston. Never had you heard anything so splendid and moving. You remember that, during the concert, for a brief instant, Joshua Bell was smiling coyly at you, remembering your face, and remembering the quarters you tossed to him.

Be sure to read Pearls Before Breakfast, by Gene Weingarten, in a 2007 article in the Washington Post. There are also some videos at this site and you can watch all of those even though you've such important other things to do. Perhaps you'll catch a glimpse of me.

Oh yes, Weingarten won a Pulitzer for this article. And, in 2007 Joshua Bell won the Avery Fisher Prize recognizing him as the best classical muscian in America.

Remember, smell the roses!

Thursday, August 27, 2009


I am recommending this extremely important and moving article!
by Charlie Leck

I was riveted this week by a story in the NY Times Magazine. Yes, riveted. Entirely rapt by it and I cannot too strongly recommended it to you. The story appeared in a special issue of the magazine called SAVING THE WORLD’S WOMEN. The story itself, written by Dexter Filkins, is titled A SCHOOL BUS FOR SHAMSIA.

It is a disturbing story and it made me wince from time to time, but it must be read and it must be understood.

“The attackers appeared in the morning on Nov. 12 of last year, as the girls were walking to school. The men came on three motorcycles, each one carrying a driver and a man on back. They wore masks. Each of the men riding on back carried a small container filled with battery acid. The masked men circled for several minutes as the girls streamed to school. Then they moved in.

“Shamsia Husseini and her sister, Atifa, were walking along the highway when they spotted the men on the motorbikes. Shamsia, then 17, was old enough to be married; she was wearing a black scarf that covered most of her face. Shamsia had seen Taliban gunmen before and figured the men on the motorcycles would pass. Then one of the bikes pulled alongside her, and the man on back jumped off. Through the mask, he asked Shamsia what seemed like a strange question.

“‘Are you going to school?’

“The masked man pulled the scarf away from Shamsia’s face and, with his other hand, pumped the trigger on his spray gun. Shamsia felt as if her face and eyes were on fire. As she screamed, the masked man reached for Atifa, who was already running. He pulled at her and tore her scarf away and pumped the spray into her back. The men sped off toward another group of girls. Shamsia lay in the street holding her burning face.”

Sometime ago I wrote about the book, THREE CUPS OF TEA, by Greg Mortenson. I was so moved by the book that I offered to send a free copy to anyone who would ask me for it. The offer still holds. It is the story of Mortenson’s all-consuming mission to build schools for children, including girls, in remote areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan. He was able to raise enormous amounts of money for his project and he began to build them.

Though Mortenson has been successful beyond his dreams and beyond the expectations of most skeptics, the whole idea of girls attending school stood in opposition to tradition and the mores of the tribes of that area. The ideas of equality for all women, held in the more advanced civilizations of the world, are not part of the lives of undeveloped Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Though Filkins’ story is disturbing, it is also hopeful and boasts of great successes brought about by American influences and American money contributed by thousands and thousands of people.
I think it would be a shame if you didn’t read A Schoolbus for Shamsia.

[Read my original post about Three Cups of Tea]

[Read the follow-up blog about Three Cups of Tea]

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Health & Wealth

Let's pass a health care bill out of the Senate in the name of Teddy Kennedy!
by Charlie Leck

It was in 1980 that Ted Kennedy said: "Let us resolve that the state of a family's health will never depend on the size of their wealth!" It was at the Democratic National Convention that he spoke those words and he burned them on the hearts and minds of so many of us who listened to him.
"Finally, we cannot have a fair prosperity in isolation from a fair society. So I will continue to stand for a national health insurance. We must -- We must not surrender -- We must not surrender to the relentless medical inflation that can bankrupt almost anyone and that may soon break the budgets of government at every level. Let us insist on real controls over what doctors and hospitals can charge, and let us resolve that the state of a family's health shall never depend on the size of a family's wealth."
The Senate must act now to reinstall a strong public option in a health care bill and pass it in the name and memory of Senator Edward M. Kennedy.

I remember a night in, perhaps, 1969 or 1970, in a crowded ballroom in a St. Paul hotel, when Kennedy strode rapidily and elegantly through the doors and roared up to the podium. He was a man who'd lost two brothers to assassin's attacks; yet he was brave and unflinching. It was on that exciting night that I was able to put a real-life definition to the word 'charisma.' I'd never seen or felt anything like it. He was electric and he sent a charge through each single person in the massive crowd. I felt it clearly. I believed in him, in spite of his problems and his weaknesses, and I thought our nation would be so well-off under his leadership.

Leaving the podium, he passed down the center aisle and I reached toward him with an open hand. He shook firmly with me, as if we were making a bond or a pact, and his eyes made solid contact with mine. I saw such courage residing there and a belief in himself that I've never seen, up close, in another person.

Aah, but the years pass in such a steady, unrelenting manner. The more we try to hold on to them and slow them down, the more rapidly they fade into another year. And now, Ted Kennedy goes to the stars where he shall rest with his brothers.
"Attired with stars, we shall forever sit,
Triumphing over Death, and Chance, and thee, O Time"
(John Milton)

To: The President of the United States of America

From: Charles H. Leck (just an ordinary, average, tax paying citizen)

RE: I think I found, along the way, something you appear to have lost!

I was travelling today in the Land of Oz, having a simply wonderful time. It is a spectacular place with just oodles of things to do and see. But, you know that don’t you? For you have been there recently also. I know that, Mr. President, because I found something there that I believe you lost or left behind.

While visiting Oz, I had the pleasure of meeting up with Lion. What a marvelous character! I gave him a couple of bucks and asked him to sing his famous song for me. It was great fun to listen to him.

What makes a King out of a slave?
What makes the flag on the mast to wave?
What makes the elephant charge his tusk, in the misty mist or the dusky dusk?
What makes the muskrat guard his musk?
What makes the sphinx the seventh wonder?
What makes the dawn come up like thunder?
What makes the Hottentot so hot?
What puts the "ape" in apricot?
What have they got that I ain't got?
At that point in the song, the entire listening crowd rose up and shouted together: “Courage!”

I chatted with Lion at great length and the conversation slowly turned around to you and we found that we shared common opinions of you – that you are a charming and quite dashing fellow with all sorts of possibilities, but that you seemed to have lost your courage. And Lion felt that you had indeed lost it on a recent visit to Oz, where you were confronted by a gaudy gathering of folks at a Town Meeting who scared you quite silly.

Sure enough, Lion took me to the spot where the town meeting was held and there, in a little back room, I found your courage lying on the floor and trying to hide behind a little pile of boxes and old bumper stickers over in one corner. The bumper stickers had been discarded by someone. They all said: “Yes we can!” The boxes contained apparently unwanted copies of your book, The Audacity of Hope.

Well, I gathered up your courage and brought it back for you and I have it right here in my home if you would like to reclaim it.

After all, sir, what good is a Lion or a President without courage? That appears to be the key question these days.

Dorothy supplied the answer to that question, of course, when she said” “Why, no good at all!”

Get hold of me if you’d like your courage back!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Let’s move those Senators who are on the fence!
by Charlie Leck

According to counts by Democracy for America and Open Left, there are 45 U.S. Senators prepared to vote for health care reform that includes a public option. There are more than another dozen who say maybe.

These are Senators who are watching the polls and are not swayed by the phony, staged shows that have been put on at recent “town-hall meetings.”

I’m going to list here for you the Senators who have said they’ll vote for the public option bill. If they are from your state, email them a thank you. Then I’ll list for you those Senators who are on the fence and saying “maybe” to this question. They are watching the polls and trying to see which way the wind is blowing. If these are you Senators, you need to communicate with them and ask them to support real health care reform that includes a public option.

If we can get four (4) -- just four -- more Senators to commit to voting for a public option, then we might be able to give our President back his courage.

These are the key Senators, who have said maybe and on whom we should concentrate:
Baucus (MT)
Conrad (ND)
Wyden (OR)
Carper (DE)
Tester (MT)
Lincoln (AR)
Nelson (FL)
Warner (VA)

Our President is starting to waver and some experts say he’ll come back to the public option legislation if he can see he has a favorable count in the Senate. The House of Representatives is not a problem. A public option bill can pass there.

Those Senators who have said they’ll vote FOR a public option:
Boxer (CA)
Feinstein (CA)
Bennet (CO)
Udall (CO)
Dodd (CT)
Kaufman (DE)
Isakson (GA)
Akaka (HI)
Inouye (HI)
Harkin (IA)
Burris (IL)
Durbin (IL)
Kennedy (MA)
Kerry (MA)
Cardin (MD)
Mikulski (MD)
Levin (MI)
Stabenow (MI)
Franken (MN)
Klobuchar (MN)
McCaskill (MO)
Hagan (NC)
Dorgan (ND)
Shaheen (NH)
Lautenberg (NJ)
Menendez (NJ)
Bingaman (NM)
Udall (NM)
Reid (NV)
Gillibrand (NY)
Schumer (NY)
Brown (OH)
Merkley (OR)
Casey (PA)
Specter (PA)
Reed (RI)
Whitehouse (RI)
Johnson (SD)
Webb (VA)
Leahy (VT)
Sanders (VT)
Cantwell (WA)
Murry (WA)
Feingold (WI)
Kohl (WI)
Rockefeller (WV)

Those Senators who are on the fence (maybe):
Begich (AK)
Lincoln (AR)
Pryor (AR)
Carper (DE)
Nelson (FL)
Bayh (IN)
Landrieu (LA)
Snowe (ME)
Baucus (MT)
Tester (MT)
Condrad (ND)
Nelson (NE)
Wyden (OR)
Warner (VA)
Byrd (WV)

If you are a supporter of a public option in health care and your Senator is on the fence, please communicate your wishes to him/her.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Democrats are Lining Up Against the Prez

More and more of us are coming out of the closet on health care reform and some are real headliners!
by Charlie Leck

Okay, folks, here they come. Democrats of every sort – the people who supported President Barack Obama – are coming out en mass to let the President know that his health care plan will be a failure if it doesn’t include a public option.

The latest big-time Democrat is Terry McAuliffe, former Chair of the National Democratic Committee. That puts the last two former Chairs of the Party in opposition to the recent actions of the President.

“If we don’t have the public option,” McAuliffee said, “we are wasting our time.”

Dozens and dozens of big time Democrats are going public and telling the Prez he is wrong on this issue – that he backed down when he shouldn’t have.

And now, a very recent poll by SurveyUSA indicates that a whopping 77 percent of Americans want a public option included in new health care legislation.

This more and more shows that the town-hall meetings organized by the Republicans are a sham and were intended to distort the truth about what Americans want.

The President of the United States simply misread the pulse of America! He misread it badly.

It appears that many of the major polling organizations are currently out on the street conducting polls among Americans. If the polls keep going this way then many Republicans are going to end up with egg on their faces. Keep your eyes on news reports about these new polls.

Make sure your opinion is heard.

Let your Senators and Congresspersons know about your position on this matter.

This comment is in this morning from Paul Krugman:
"But it’s hard to avoid the sense that a crucial opportunity is being missed, that we’re at what should be a turning point but are failing to make the turn."

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Day at the Farmers Markets

Everywhere there are lovely, pretty people, flowers and produce!

When the Season is at its Glorious Freshness, it is time to go to the Farmers Markets!
by Charlie Leck

Eating Fresh and Local and Community Supported Agriculture are two concepts that are sweeping the nation. They both make such sense. All of you who care should be tuned into the CSA movement and I hope you know where local farmers markets are held in your area.

Not only can you buy wonderful fresh foods at these markets, but you can also have a lot of great fun. In addition, you almost always bump into people you know and with whom you enjoy spending a few minutes chatting.

A neighbor, Sam Stern, and I visited a couple of markets in the Twin Cities area yesterday. We stopped by the Mill City Farmers Market and then went south to the Midtown Farmers Market where my wife, Anne, sets up a little booth to sell her Sheepy Hollow natural lamb cuts.

I wish you had been with us, but, since you couldn't be, I've arranged a little photo tour for you.

See the color!

See the people!

See the smiling faces!

See the pretty produce!

See the Persian treats and sweets!

See the flowers!

The Mill City Market is in the yard of the Guthrie Theater!

It's enough to take your breath away!

And, wow, what wonderful things to eat!

Sam buys a sweet treat for his sweet wife!

Sunshine and happiness everywhere!

Nice people everywhere!

And, even some hawkers using the big sell!

Saturday, August 22, 2009


Most surveys seem to indicate that a majority of Americans want some kind of public health care option. I do, too.
by Charlie Leck

I really don’t get it. Why is President Obama so afraid of retaining the public option alternative in his health care legislation? Why did he give up on it? There is something crazy at work here.
North Dakota Senator Kent Conrad who pushed hard to drop the public option in favor of a health care cooperative model, is hearing plenty of his constituents criticize him for this. They are letting him know they want some kind of public option.

This seems to be the case in nearly every state that voted for Barack Obama last November. Polls and surveys in those states show that as many as 75 percent (in some states) want the public option.

A recent Rasmusen poll shows very cool support for any health care reform legislation without the public option and strong support for bills that include it. If you look at the poll of just Democrats, support for any health care reform bill collapses without a public option.

This is a President who read the polls like a genius when he was running for office. What’s wrong now?

Something is seriously amiss here. Our President is listening to the wrong people and/or taking the wrong readings.

A Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey in Mid-June of this year showed that 76 percent of Americans wanted a public option.

A New York Times story in June reported that 72 percent of Americans wanted a public option in the new health care bill.

Doesn’t the President read? What is he afraid of? What kind of deals is he making?

Is this really the man we voted for?

Friday, August 21, 2009


I am not alone in attacking the President for walking away from the Public Option!
by Charlie Leck

The furious reactions to my blog of several days ago, President Obama is Sucking Wind, keep rolling on in. Many (meaning dozens) have continued to hammer me for labeling the Obama Presidency a failure as a result of its abandonment of the Public Option in Health Care Reform.

Well, this is just to further let you know that I don’t stand alone in this. There are many progressives in the country who have expressed disappointment, dismay and disdain for President Obama for backing away from one of the most important promises in his campaign. Paul Krugman writes about this in today’s NY Times.

“According to news reports, the Obama administration — which seemed, over the weekend, to be backing away from the “public option” for health insurance — is shocked and surprised at the furious reaction from progressives.

“Well, I’m shocked and surprised at their shock and surprise.

“A backlash in the progressive base — which pushed President Obama over the top in the Democratic primary and played a major role in his general election victory — has been building for months. The fight over the public option involves real policy substance, but it’s also a proxy for broader questions about the president’s priorities and overall approach.”
And that’s the nub of what I was trying to say in that much criticized blog, from which I am not going to back down. It really is a matter of the style of the Obama Presidency. Obama gave bi-partisanship a try. It didn’t work. No President in recent history has held all the cards that this one holds in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. He is not playing those cards well. As a matter of fact, he is playing those cards like a rank amateur.

Now, maybe the President is going to change his wimpy ways. The reaction from the left has been so thorough and determined that the President is feeling his entire term beginning to crumble. He must understand that he is not going to be able to please progressives, moderates, conservatives AND the blooming idiots way over on the far right side of the political spectrum. Even kindergartners in political studies understand that.

Krugman goes on to say:

“And let’s be clear: the supposed alternative, nonprofit co-ops, is a sham. That’s not just my opinion; it’s what the market says: stocks of health insurance companies soared on news that the Gang of Six senators trying to negotiate a bipartisan approach to health reform were dropping the public plan. Clearly, investors believe that co-ops would offer little real competition to private insurers.”
And, the President knows this; yet, he has the nerve and gall to propose it as a realistic alternative. Again, to repeat what Howard Dean has said over and over again. “Health care legislation without the public option is NOT health care reform.”

Get that into your silly heads; that is, what President Obama has now proposed is NOT, NOT, NOT, NOT health care reform.

We would be better off dropping the whole matter than accepting this President’s current plan for health care legislation.

Again, get this from Krugman, who is right on the mark in all of this:

“That said, it’s possible to have universal coverage without a public option — several European nations do it — and some who want a public option might be willing to forgo it if they had confidence in the overall health care strategy. Unfortunately, the president’s behavior in office has undermined that confidence.

“On the issue of health care itself, the inspiring figure progressives thought they had elected comes across, far too often, as a dry technocrat who talks of 'bending the curve' but has only recently begun to make the moral case for reform. Mr. Obama’s explanations of his plan have gotten clearer, but he still seems unable to settle on a simple, pithy formula; his speeches and op-eds still read as if they were written by a committee.”
And here is where our weak President is now – in a valley of conundrum and perpetual fogginess – in the way he deals with his opponents:

“So there’s a growing sense among progressives that they have, as my colleague Frank Rich suggests, been punked. And that’s why the mixed signals on the public option created such an uproar.

“Now, politics is the art of the possible. Mr. Obama was never going to get everything his supporters wanted.

“But there’s a point at which realism shades over into weakness, and progressives
increasingly feel that the administration is on the wrong side of that line. It seems as if there is nothing Republicans can do that will draw an administration rebuke: Senator Charles E. Grassley feeds the death panel smear, warning that reform will “pull the plug on grandma,” and two days later the White House declares that it’s still committed to working with him.

“It’s hard to avoid the sense that Mr. Obama has wasted months trying to appease people who can’t be appeased, and who take every concession as a sign that he can be rolled.”
George Lakoff, on Alternet, explains what thousands of progressives are now wondering:

“Barack Obama ran the best-organized and best-framed presidential campaign in history. How is it possible that the same people who did so well in the campaign have done so poorly on health care?

“And bad it is: The public option may well be gone. Neither Obama himself nor Senior Advisor David Axelrod even mentioned the public option in their pleas to the nation last Sunday (August 16, 2009). Secretary Sibelius even said it was 'not essential.' Cass Sunstein’s co-author, Richard Thaler, in the Sunday NY Times (August 16, 2009, p. BU 4) called it 'neither necessary nor sufficient.' There has been a major drop in support for the president throughout the country, with angry mobs disrupting town halls and the right wing airing its views with vehemence nonstop on radio and tv all day every day. As the NY Times reports, Organizing for America (the old Obama campaign network) can’t even get its own troops out to work for the President’s proposal.”
Why won’t we work for the plan the President is promoting? Because it is a bad plan – not just a flawed plan, but a seriously bad one.

That’s it folks. That’s what we elected to the Presidency. Unless he wakes up soon, we are doomed to four years of wasted, precious opportunity.

Unfortunately, Lakoff, in the column to which I refer above, builds a strong case in his argument that it is too late to revert now to a plan that will include a public option.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Readers rake me over the coals!
by Charlie Leck

I wish many of my readers would open commenting accounts with Google. It’s easy and doesn’t cost anything and then, when you don’t like something I write, or you do, you can make public comments on my post – rather than emailing comments only to me.


Several dozen of you toasted me for my rather harsh comments about President Obama’s failures on moving his original health care reform concepts through the Congress. One went so far as to call me a racist.


A woman from North Carolina wrote to tell me I “swung the axe on Obama too prematurely!” She’s confident Obama will find a way to again include a public option in his health care proposal. Well, this woman may be correct, but it will be no thanks to Obama. Howard Dean and other insightful Democrats may need to be credited for that. They came down hard on Obama after his far too compromising comments and Obama is reacting to their wrath.

A reader in Colorado scolded me with several email. Here’s one of them:

“maybe you're right...i hope not...i don't question your passion...i question your haste... a lot of people respect your opinion...i'm one of them... i, too, am unwilling to accept watered-down health care reform...i'd rather have none at all, for now... but, i consider this an obama failure, that's all...i didn't think of him as the messiah, so i don't feel betrayed...i guess that my attitude could, and probably will change...i'm just not ready to go there yet...“and again, i wish you'd give it, and him, a little more time before getting off the train...”
A reader extremely close to me wrote harshly: “Stop it already! Give him a chance!”

One of my own family wrote that I was being too unfair and too unforgiving. “You made me really angry – not at Obama either!”


A California reader wrote only a few words: “I know he can!”

It was a Mississippi reader who wrote: “I thought you were on our side. If this had been a white President, you wouldn’t have jumped off the band wagon so quickly!” I’d prefer not to comment on that one except to say: “I don’t know!”

There were also a number of people who wrote agreeing, but, unfortunately, many of them were my Republican friends who took great delight in my defection. They simply don’t understand the issues involved here. To me, Obama is acting too Republican and is too concerned about bi-partisanship and not about passing a much needed and much overdue piece of legislation.

Whatever! I won’t go on and on with these comments. I only beg you to be gutsy enough to put them out there in the public for other readers to examine. Nevertheless, thanks for all the emails.

In the meantime, I recommend you read this article from The Nation Magazine by William Greider: Is Obama Squandering Our Best Chance for Better Health Care?

Of course, my answer to that question in my last blog was “yes.” Read Greider and see what he says.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


It is a long, difficult race and the President is caving!
by Charlie Leck

Howard Dean is correct, you know. Without a public option in the health care reform legislation it is NOT really health care reform.

"Let's not say we're doing health reform without a public option," Dean said a couple of days ago.

Wisconsin's brilliant U.S. Senator, Russ Feingold, said it perfectly for me: "I am not interested in passing health care reform in name only... Without a public option, I don’t see how we will bring real change to a system that has made good health care a privilege for those who can afford it."

If there isn’t a public option, bag it all! Forget it! I’m off the bandwagon completely.

I bought into the Obama campaign believing he wanted UNIVERSAL health care. I settled for the compromise idea of a public option in competition with the private health insurance carriers. I ain’t settling for the idea of some silly, non-profit health care providers as an alternative to a public option.

Forget it, Mr. President, because it is NOT what you promised us and, without that promise being kept whole, sir, I am off the Obama team.

For me, YES WE CAN, becomes NOPE, HE WON’T.

The wild eyed, wonderful dream ends in this dark alley where the Republicans have beaten the pulp out of you and you are sucking for wind.

That’s the end of the massive dream, sir! That’s the end of the AUDACITY OF HOPE.

You gave in to the power of the corporate dollar and I’m not interested in you anymore. Good luck in the next election, sir. As for me, sir, I’m bored with people who abandon their election promises.

You want to know something, sir? I don’t think Hillary would have caved so easily. I think I made a very unfortunate mistake.

You seemed so wonderful, but, alas, it was just a fairy tale. The audacity of it all!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

From the editors of Ad Astra

Charles Leck on medical leave!

Charles Leck will not be able to post again until Tuesday due to a medical condition (not serious) that he has to deal with this week. Look for his next post on Wednesday (August 19 2009).

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Oh, Congresswoman Bachmann, how ashamed you must be of your son for volunteering to help America's kids!
by Charlie Leck
MinnPost: Rep. Bachmann's son joins Teach for America -- a member of AmeriCorps, an organization she berated.

StarTribune (Jon Tevlin): Bachmann's wayward son up and joins AmeriCorps

Huffington Post: Michele Bachmann's Son Joins "Re-Education Camp"

"I believe when it's all said and done, this service that -- I believe that there's a very strong chance that we will see that young people will be put into mandatory service. And the real concern is that there are provisions for what I would call re-education camps for young people, where young people have to go and get trained in a philosophy that the government puts forward and then they have to go and work in some of these politically correct forums. It's very concerning. It appears that there's a philosophical agenda behind all of this, and especially if young people are mandated to go into this...

"As a parent, I would have a very, very difficult time seeing my childen do this."
[Michele Bachman]
Our wildly crazy Minnesota Congresswoman (from the sixth district) must be feeling awful today. Her son has been accepted as a volunteer by Teach for America. Congresswoman Bachman has been saying terrible things for some time about AmeriCorps and Teach for America. She thinks they are part of the cabal of dangerous organizations in America. After all, they pretend to be service organizations, but they are really just in it for the big bucks – sort of like Enron and Halliburton.

Oh now, excuse me! The Congresswoman has no problem with Enron and Halliburton.

These kids, the Congresswoman pointed out, are getting paid good money and one can’t call this volunteer work.

I know how the lady feels. One of my outrageously selfish kids took the big bucks and joined Teach for America, too. Then she went away to live in New York City? Are there any of you out there aware of how much money it takes to live in New York City. Boy, did I get an education! And, I thought a college education was expensive!

A friend of my daughter, from high school, graduated from a fine New England college and also volunteered for Teach for America. She was sent to the Delta in Mississippi, where she was paid the starting salary of school teachers in that region. As you can imagine, she got rich very quickly. Down there in the Delta she was out nightclubbing it all the time, too – you know, living the big life.

And those kids heading for the reservations in South Dakota are in it for the big bucks, too. What a great time they’re going to have out there on the plains – on those beautiful reservations we established for Native Americans.

Congresswoman, they call these areas “under resourced!” That’s where they send these exciting college graduates. They serve in some of the toughest educational situations in America. And these grads go with a commitment to work harder than the average bear! These are among the best of America’s college graduates going off to work with kids. They try to teach these kids how to learn. They’ll rub shoulders with them and try to make them understand how important a college education is and how possible it is for them to go to places like Princeton, Lehigh, Colgate, Carlton and Stanford.

Ten percent of the graduates of Ivy League colleges and universities applied for Teach for America positions this year. Instead of complaining about that, Congresswoman, you should be leaping for joy.

Do you suppose, Congresswoman, they did that so they can get the really big bucks? Some of them took passes on scholarships to law school and business schools. Though you don’t believe our President, Congresswoman, a lot of these kids do. Yes we can! Yes we can!

I’m sorry you can’t share the joy and happiness that your son feels upon his acceptance to an organization as distinguished and wonderful as Teach for America. If you’re not proud of him, let me tell you, I am. I’ll never forget the pride I felt on the day my daughter told me she had been accepted into the Teach for America program. She graduated Magna Cum Laude, Congresswoman, and at the top of her class in her major field. One of her professors was begging her to go on to graduate school in that major field, to get her PhD. He said she’d be a brilliant academic and should be teaching at the college level. The professor talked to me and asked me to reason with her. I was proud of her then, too, but Teach for America was her number one goal and that’s all she wanted to do.

They sent her to Harlem, Congresswoman. They sent her to a school that is underfunded. She started her own little fund raising program among her family and old friends to raise enough money to buy books for her students.

Go ahead, Congresswoman, say it: “These damned selfish kids!”

My kid also conducted a fund raiser to get a projector for her school – one that could be connected to their computers and then used as a teaching device. The school couldn’t afford to buy one, so I and her mother, and her brothers and sisters and many of our friends and her friends contributed money to allow her to purchase such a computer.

“Damned selfish kids!”

I’m sorry you can’t rid yourself of that stiff rod that runs straight up through your body and makes you so rigid. Loosen up a little, Congresswoman. Don’t be such a tight ass! Give that kid a big hug and tell him how proud you are of him.

I’m not angry at you this morning, Congresswoman, as I usually am. I feel sorry for you. I feel sorry that you can’t enjoy this incredibly important moment in your son’s life. What a wonderful son you must have! He wants to help underprivileged children learn. He’s going to work hard. He’s going to teach. He’s going to mentor.

If I was anywhere near him, I’d give him a big hug and pat him on the ass and send him proudly on his way. But, that’s just me, Congresswoman – I’m just a hopelessly lost and confused liberal.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Golfer in Minnesota

Golf in Northern Minnesota's beautiful Lake Country. Photograph by Peter Wong. Read Peter Wong's Blog.

A major professional golf championship is being played in Minnesota this week.
by Charlie Leck

Minnesota has more golfers per capita than any state in the nation.

More rounds of golf are played in Minnesota, per capita, than any other state in the nation.

On Monday (yesterday), more than 25,000 spectators were on the grounds of Hazeltine National Golf Course to watch the practice rounds. Tiger Woods teed off for his practice round at about 6:30 AM. By the time Woods reached the 10th tee, there were about 10,000 spectators watching him. When he arrived at the signature 16th hole, the grandstands were full. So were they at 17 and 18.

All of this left one pundit to ask: “Doesn’t anyone work in Minnesota?”

I guess I would have answered him: "We work doubly hard all winter, buddy, when there's not much else to do (not true, really), and then we play all summer."

Minnesota is danged proud to be hosting the PGA Championship. Hazeltine, the course where it is being played, is about a 20 minute, back road drive from my house. I’ll watch it on TV this time, however. The knees have gotten pretty bad and the crowds too massive. Nevertheless, I share the pride of so many other Minnesota golfers. We want it to be a great championship event!

My golf club, Woodhill Country Club, where I get to play my golf on a course designed by Donald Ross in 1915 and adjusted by him in 1934. This is the 7th hole, which is pretty much as Ross designed it except for the growth of the trees. The putting surface on this hole is spectacular and very much a Donald Ross concept with a slanting green and a steep drop off on the right. I consider myself an A- student of Donald Ross' design work and I've blogged here a number of times about him.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Here’s what you should be reading this morning!

The Right Wing, which includes many Republican politicians, is really trying to put the big scare on ordinary Americans! There’s a lot of dirt and a lot of lies in their talk!
by Charlie Leck

Right here is what you should be reading this morning. And, after you read it, you should be figuring out some way to help your frightened friends and neighbors understand that most of what they’re being fed about health care reform is total bunk. Total!

This is a story by John Santore from Media Matters, one of the most unbiased and trust worthy non-profits in the world. I count on Media Matters to keep me straight on who is and who is not feeding me “crappy news reporting.” If you’re a news junkie, as I am, and you don’t regularly follow Media Matters, you are missing the boat.

Santore lays it on line in this particular story.

What is the goal of the current attack by the right wing?

“…the complete delegitimization of Obama and the wholesale destruction of the progressive movement he leads.”
In the last couple of weeks, Glen Beck, the popular radio talk show host, stated clearly the “Obama hates white people...” Watch the video!

If this isn’t a dishonest and contemptible attempt to frighten all the plain joe people in America, someone please explain to me just what it is.

This is only a teaser. I urge you to go ahead and read the entire Santore article. Just see what these hate mongers are doing to our beautiful country.

A top five web site
And friends, be sure to bookmark Media Matters for America and go to it very frequently. If I was asked to list the 5 most important web pages on the Internet, Media Matters would be on that list -- if not on the top of it!

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Incredible and Dirty Rotten Opposition

Remember the days when it was called the Loyal Opposition? Call it Fascism today!
by Charlie Leck

One day we will learn the truth about this movement that has sprung up in America in opposition to Obama’s plan to reform the health care institution. I predict we will discover that it is one of the dirtiest and most dishonest movements in the history of the United States. (More about that in my conclusion.)

The town hall meetings about health care have been sabotaged not by ordinary people who are opposed to the health care legislation in Congress, but this is a highly organized movement that has whipped up opposition by telling some of the most incredible lies we have ever heard in America. I think we will one day discover that this organizing effort was paid for by elements of the current health care industry that are scared to death that they are going to be financially damaged by the current legislation.

I recently received an email that was chock full of lies, misrepresentations and misinterpretations about the House of Representatives’ version of the health care bill.

One minor example of all these lies is that “there will be a government committee that determines what treatments/benefits you get.”

That’s one of the stark, filthy lies told in this email! Yet it comes with a reference to the proposed bill itself: Page 30, Section 123 of HR3200. However, if you actually go to the House of Representatives’ file that is noted, and read for yourself Section 123, it doesn’t say anything like that at all. This is a big file, but, if you want, try it out: [Click here to go to HR3200 on the Library of Congress web site.]

The purveyors of these lies, of course, fully expect that the reader of the email will not bother to track each of the liar’s references to the House Bill. If one does track them, one finds each of them to be gross distortions of what is stated in the bill. And, there are a host of other citations that are being sent around to people. All of them are incredibly bad interpretations of what the document really says. Calling them misinterpretations is being charitable. In fact, they are out and out lies.

It is these kinds of fabrications that incite those who attend these town hall meetings. If one has witnessed community organizing in action and in real life, as I have, one can see the elements of such organizing in the meetings. This, however, is not honest community organizing. People are gathered, fed the lies, whipped to a fierce anger and then pushed to attend the meetings and urged to disrupt them.

Now, take one more step with me. Read and understand the definition of Fascisim that is given to us by one the America's most distinguished and highly regarded historians, Robert Paxton, who is also considered the leading scholar in America on the development of fascist movements. This is important to understand.

"Fascism is a system of political authority and social order intended to reinforce the unity, energy, and purity of communities in which liberal democracy stands accused of producing division and decline….

"Fascism is… a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion."
What you are witnessing in these very militant and aggressive town hall meetings against health care reform is a union between the Conservative elites in America and the crowd of common and ordinary people that these elites have frightened to death with lies about where change is going. This is a massive and impeccable job of organizing against an institutional change in the way health care is administered in this nation.

The “Conservative elites” mentioned above can be identified easily as those who would be most financially impacted by these changes in the system and the Republican politicians who consider them their constituents.

The Obama victory and the establishment of a more progressive political movement in Congress have shaken the Republican Party to its core. Those who run the conservative wing of politics in America don’t believe that this progressive movement can be unseated in the near-term future through the traditional electoral process. Therefore, they have turned to more aggressive and questionable non-democratic tactics.

Just in!
I just went to the AlterNet web site where I can get some remarkable 'alternative' news and they have headlined this story this morning: INSIDE STORY ON TOWN HALL RIOTS: RIGHT WING SHOCK TROOPS DO CORPORATE AMERICA'S DIRTY WORK! This is an article very worth reading.

These techniques all center around striking fear in the hearts and souls of common, every day, working Americans. There is only one actual way to do this of course. The public must be lied to. They must be told things about what health care reform will do to them that are absolutely not true. The lies read like this:

“Your health care will be rationed.”

“The Health Choices Commission will choose your Health Care Benefits for you. You have no choice.”

“Health Care will be provided to all non U.S. citizens, illegal or otherwise.”

“Government will have real-time access to individual’s finances and a national ID Health Card will be issued.”

“Government will have direct access to your bank accounts for electrictronic funds transfers.”
This is only a small sampling of the vast and extensive lies that the Conservative Elite is spreading among people in order to frighten them. When one reads the bill, there is nothing said about such things and it would be impossible to even mistakenly infer that such things MIGHT happen!

What we are seeing here is the most massive and extensively organized attempt to lie to and frighten the American people that I have seen in my lifetime. This movement is not just a coincidental amalgamation of various segments of conservative society. This is highly organized movement that is driven from a central force somewhere. Someday history will tell this story to our children and this moment will be correctly identified as America’s fascist flirtation.

Democracy can only be based on the truth. Without the truth, Americans cannot make the wise and important decisions that are necessary to drive a Democracy. Fascist movements do not care about truth or democracy but only about outcomes.
Just in!
The NY Times Primer on the Details of Health Care Reform was published in their newspaper today (Monday).

For now, read these two comments about how fascisim works and see if it doesn't sound familiar.
“Fascism combats the whole complex system of democratic ideology, and repudiates it, whether in its theoretical premises or in its practical application. Fascism denies that the majority, by the simple fact that it is a majority, can direct human society; it denies that numbers alone can govern by means of a periodical consultation, and it affirms the immutable, beneficial, and fruitful inequality of mankind, which can never be permanently leveled through the mere operation of a mechanical process such as universal suffrage....” [Fordham University: Modern History Sourcebook]

“...The Fascist State organizes the nation, but leaves a sufficient margin of liberty to the individual; the latter is deprived of all useless and possibly harmful freedom, but retains what is essential; the deciding power in this question cannot be the individual, but the State alone…” [Fordham University: Modern History Sourcebook]

Sunday, August 9, 2009

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor

Hooray for the Bronx!
by Charlie Leck

I was born in the Bronx – on Saint Anne’s Avenue – and I have a soft spot for people who come from the Bronx. I haven’t the slightest idea why. It’s just something that happens to all of us, I guess. We have an affection for the place where we came into this life.

So, I have a rather intense feeling of pride today because Sonia Sotomayor was sworn in as a Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. She took the oath yesterday (Saturday). What a great day for the Bronx. What a wonderful day for American Latinos – for Latinos!

I have a feeling that Sotomayor is going to be a great Supreme Court Justice! And, I have a feeling she is really going to surprise a lot of us.

First of all, she is going to be a very active Supreme Court Justice. Please note that I did not say “activist.” She will not be an activist judge. She will be an active judge. She will ask questions and enter into dialog with the constitutional lawyers who appear before the court. She’ll be active in writing decisions – both affirming and dissenting decisions.

The really big surprise that Sotomayor will hit us with is that she won’t be an excessively liberal justice. She’ll be very balanced. She’ll pay greater respect to precedent than many Justices do. It’s one reason why I feel Roe v. Wade (the abortion ruling) will stand pat as far as her opinion is concerned. Nevertheless, she won’t be a consistently liberal justice. Some of us will be disappointed with some of her rulings.

The thing that will amaze us about Justice Sotomayor is that she will be thorough and thoughtful in making decisions and those decisions, even when they disappoint us, will be soundly and completely reasonable. Unlike some current Justices, when she goes into court, she will be thoroughly prepared.

This is one classy, bright, well-educated and thoroughly balanced lady. She is one of the best Supreme Court picks in a long, long time. I’m extremely proud of her.

Go girl!

The NY Times has a brilliant multimedia time-line of Sotomayor's life that culminates with a video of her swearing in administered by Chief Justice John Roberts [click here to see it].