Saturday, October 31, 2009


All is quiet now.
by Charlie Leck

It is a rainy, bleak and chilly day. God didn’t give us an October in Minnesota this year. Perhaps we were being punished for something or other. We jumped right from September into Minnesota miserable and I missed out on my favorite month. There are not a lot of Octobers left for me, so it is painful to have let pass this one.

I generally live for October to roll around. In a normal October the days are pleasantly warm here, but not too warm. It is a time to roll out sweaters and chord slacks. The evenings are chilly, but not cold. The air is exceptionally different and a pleasure to breathe in. It’s perfect weather for walking, golf and yard-work.

This year there wasn’t a single round of golf in October. The leaves, wet and mushy, still cover the yard. It was way too rainy for much walking (the most rain of any Minnesota October on record). Hopefully, November will bring some dry days that will allow raking and tidying up around the house.

It is the last day of October as I write this – Halloween Day. I think back to this day in 1991, when we were moving into our newly constructed house. My wife was in New York, at a horse show, and missing all the fun. My sister had flown up from Dallas to help me set up the furniture and unpack the things for the kitchen. The moving company showed up with a large semi. I had told them to arrive in two smaller trucks because the driveway was not suitable for turning a semi around. The unloading started about mid-morning, just about the same time the snow began to fall. By noon, the snow was falling in amazing abundance. It was difficult for the movers to get stuff into the house without gathering a lot of moisture and we had to call off the unloading. There was already a foot of snow on the ground and the truck driver faced the daunting task of backing his rig down a winding, quarter-mile long driveway that went up and down charming little hillocks. Fellow-workers walked along side the trailer, indicating the edge of the road where there were a few serious drop-offs. They just made it to the gravel road that leads down to our house from the highway. Fortunately, the city had made its first pass down the road with a snow plow. The big truck managed to climb the hill that leads out of Sheepy Hollow.

With little work to do, my sister stood at the kitchen window and looked out into the heart and soul of a Minnesota barn-burner of a snow storm. It wouldn’t let up. Little kids would not be out trick or treating on this night. Our little seven-year-old was disappointed, but even she understood reality as the afternoon wore on and the snow wouldn’t cease. My sister excitedly worked the phone while it functioned. She called friends in Dallas and tried to describe the wonder of what she was watching. Eventually, the power lines and telephone lines fell under the weight of the snow. We trudged down to the farm to spend the night in the tiny apartment we kept in one of the farm buildings. It wasn’t awfully cold, so I didn’t worry about the water lines in the new house freezing. I wondered, though, how long it would be before that truck could return with our furniture. My dearest one would not miss out on the unloading adventure after all. It was sometime in the night when it finally stopped snowing. The official announcement from the airport was that thirty-one inches had fallen. At our farm we were sure it was a few more inches than that.

It had been a remarkable October up until that final day of the month. The carpenters and painters had been able to get full days of work in on the house. We were even able to begin some semblance of a yard and the driveway was fully groomed. I must have golfed a dozen times that October.

Remarkably, in a week the snow was gone and mild weather returned. Some final touch-up work on the house recommenced and the moving company returned with two small trucks and the remainder of our furniture.

That was nearly twenty years ago. The little one is grown up now and living on her own in the big city. My sister has gone to the stars. Mom and I now spend our Octobers here, in the same house, alone and anxious for Thanksgiving when children will return with children of their own.

Tonight, as always, no kids will venture down our long and winding driveway to trick or treat us. Nevertheless, we bought plenty of candy, as we always do, just in case – just in case this one time they decide to pay us a visit.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Degrees Keep Piling Up

I’m suffering from a bit of an inferiority complex because Delta Dog keeps piling up the degrees and honors!
by Charlie Leck

Don’t think me the fool! Give me some consideration – perhaps, even, support. I have a couple of degree certificates posted on the wall in my office. (I just noticed, now, that they are in need of dusting.) I take some pride in them and some comfort as well.

Now, however, I am beginning to feel somewhat like a slacker. The dog, you see, pushed on by the woman of the house, keeps piling up degrees. This week another arrived and he is insisting that I frame it and post it with his half-dozen others. When I snickered at the idea, he showed a few teeth and grumbled at me (that’s a stifled growl).

His latest achievement is a degree of commencement from READ – Reading Education Assistance Dogs.

I thought he had climbed to the very top when he received his DELTA DOG certification. It came with an academic cape, a leather bound diploma and a degree certificate meant for framing. It was immediately followed by a host of job offers that required him to fly to various locations in the United States on recruiting visits. Since no funds were included for me to accompany him on his flights to these cities, I refused permission for him to leave. He’s treated me rather coolly ever since.

Perhaps I should feel guilty about this, but I have finally made my feelings known to the top-dog of this house. I shall not stand for any more educational or continuing education endeavors by this creature. He is, after all, only a dog – a simple, uncomplicated animal that is supposed to be servant to me, his master.

This string of degrees has gone to his head, however. Because his wall is now covered with these degrees and other citations of achievement and excellence, he is beginning to feel that he is the resident-superior and that I am but a dismissible servant.

How’s that for a “man and his dog” story. Help!

Thursday, October 29, 2009


Chris Stephan, running for the City Council in my community, is NOT endorsed in any way by the Republican Party and he has been naughty to try to make people think so!
by Charlie Leck

I know a good Republican when I see one. The mayor of our town is a Republican and a danged good one. Wheelock Whitney, who lives out on Highway 12 in our community, is one of the most famous of the Republicans in our state – and he’s also a danged good one. My father-in-law, the extraordinary Lyman E. Wakefield, Jr., was so Republican that it was one of the most prominent things he listed on his resumé. Oh how he loved the Grand Old Party. Oh yes, and his daughter, my wife, is a Republican, too.

Several members of the campaign committee we’ve put together in this town are also Republicans – and not just in name, but, rather, they are sustaining, supportive, committed members of the Party. Our committee also has committed Democrats and a number of Independents.

In this election battle, which will be consummated on Tuesday, political party affiliation is not a matter of concern. City Council elections in our community have traditionally been non-partisan in nature and this has been an important element in the way our residents vote.

Chris Stephan has flaunted the Republican “flag” in the face of this tradition of non-partisanship. He has inferred that he is a candidate of the Republican Party by including the logo/emblem of the Republican National Committee on a campaign card he has distributed around town and on lawn signs he has posted in the yards of some of his supporters. When I saw this, I was stunned by this brazen act of deceit.

Shame on Chris Stephan for this very dishonest attempt to mislead the residents of the community! Shame!

Am I surprised by this dishonesty? Is John McCain a Democrat? No, I’m not surprised. Chris Stephan has a history in this community and it is not a good one. He has a very stained and questionable reputation. One only needs to flip through the thick files relegated to him and his civic naughtiness that are housed in City Hall. There you will be able to construct an image of the real Chris Stephan.

Chris Stephan has no business running for office in this community just like he had no business implying that he is an endorsed candidate of the Republican Party. This fellow continues to astound me with his brazenness time after time.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

October in Iraq

How many deaths will it take 'til we know, that too many people have died?
by Charlie Leck

I remember the day in autumn of 1964 (Or was it during the winter months of 1965?) that I decided I had to go out on the streets to protest the war in Vietnam. I was sitting in an ethics class in graduate school. Our ethics professor was highly admired for his fairness and openness. He didn’t make sweeping judgments and pronouncements; but on this particular day he was troubled and his mind seemed in chaos. We had spent the previous two weeks or so talking about Dietrich Bonheoffer, the German theologian and pastor who had stood bravely up to the policies of Adolph Hitler. It had been an emotional study and a tear was shed here and there when we considered how Bonheoffer had been executed in a German concentration camp only a few days before American troops had arrived to liberate the prisoners.

Our professor rose to the lectern on that extraordinary day and announced that he wanted to outline a history of the current war in Vietnam. He proceeded to present us with all the evidence any thinking man would need to determine that several Presidents of the United States (Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson) had made ignorant and foolish decisions about the involvement of our nation in the civil struggles in that faraway Asian nation.

I and my fellow students were held spellbound by the lecture. I hesitate here, wondering if I should outline the extraordinary statement of that day. So many of my readers are young and don’t remember the diplomatic mistakes and misjudgments that led us into the internal affairs of the Vietnam nation. The French, before us, had made serious misjudgments about Vietnam and, somehow, they convinced us to pick up their fallen and failed strategy. It was Eisenhower who agreed, but John F. Kennedy picked up the misguided Eisenhower policy and ran with it as well.

President Lyndon B. Johnson was in the White House on that day when I sat and listened to the kind, Herr Docktor arrive at his own conclusion that war was not only misguided diplomatic policy but that it was totally immoral. We had no right to be propping up such an unscrupulous and dictatorial regime as the one that ruled in South Vietnam.

“Only cowards – and I have been one – could support in mind and in action such an unfair, unjust and destructive war policy as the one being conducted by my own nation – the United States of America.”
What makes me think now of that day 45 years ago?
The war in Iraq has taken an ugly turn in the last few days. Many brave, young American soldiers have been slain. October has actually been the “deadliest” month for the American military since the war began. So far, just this month, 53 military personal have died.

I will never forgive President Bush for dragging us so unnecessarily and foolishly into this war. I am quite certain that there was a high degree of dishonesty involved in justifying our invasion to the American public and to the international community. The questions in Iraq are as complicated as were the questions in Vietnam. Basically, however, they come down to: How can we now leave? What happens to the nation we have so badly battered? Will the leadership that assumes power be even more cruel and selfish than the one we displaced?

If you are old enough you will remember the same questions were asked about Vietnam. The war dragged on for years, and thousands and thousands of more people died, as we debated just those questions. Today, in a peaceful Vietnam, beauty and order have been restored. It is a prosperous nation and its future is hopeful. In America there was an unspoken confession that we had chosen the wrong approach. We had allowed the ghost of communism to frighten us far beyond the realms of reality.

Is the same thing happening in Iraq? Is there an American leader courageous, bright and moral enough to step forward with a call to end this preposterous, ignorant and immoral war?

“The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind – the answer is blowing in the wind!”

“How many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?
Yes, 'n' how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?

Yes, 'n' how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind,
The answer is blowin' in the wind.”
[Bob Dylan]
And then, there is Afghanistan! What kind of nation are we?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Coming down the home stretch and I’m hobbled, sore and tired, but still running neck and neck.
by Charlie Leck

Portrait of a small town election
So the metaphors get mixed! There’s worse going on in my brain than that. It’s whirling, dimming occasionally and plenty confused.

We are, indeed, approaching the wire. Election Day here in this wonderful, little town is next Tuesday. Today the gloves drop and the sides really start going at each other. Typically our opponents in these elections start sending out all their smelly mailings about now, telling tales that aren’t true. Facts and accuracy have never been big with these guys. Their tactic is to frighten the voter into coming over to their side.

It comes down to lower taxes
Everyone wants lower taxes; yet everyone wants their services to either stay the same or, actually, improve a bit. The gravel roads should get graded more often, the pot holes ought to be fixed in the tarmac roads, and the traffic ought to be monitored and controlled better out on the Highways. People are driving way too fast past my house and why can’t a patrol car be more visible out here? When we’ve got a security problem, we want the police to show up in moments and not in a half-hour. Why aren’t ordinances enforced better? Couldn’t some no-parking signs be posted on my road?

So it comes down to a debate about taxes and services. Our opponents in this election are out promising dramatic cuts in our community taxes. To do this they are going to dramatically reduce spending by cutting back on services – even by abolishing our police department in favor of a County Sheriff who would roam around out here on occasion.

How do we make voters understand that such cuts in taxes also would impact the resale value of our homes and property? Values on real estate take into account the quality of the services in a given community.

How do you communicate issues in a small town?
We can’t go to the radio and television! It’s futile to run newspaper ads because you can’t say enough in them. We tried to hold an open house, to invite people to come have coffee and talk about the issues with our candidates. It never works. John Smith gets home from work and he’s tired and the kids have got math homework on which they would like some help. There’s a Major League playoff baseball game on TV and mother’s going off to a Tupper Ware party.

So, you stuff mail boxes with letters and cards and brochures and fliers and hope people read your material. My fingers hurt from sticking postage stamps on envelopes and peeling labels off of sheets to transfer them to letters and postcards.

It’s about all one can do.

Courtesy, consideration and dialogue with community leaders
From our point of view this election is all about behavior and communications. We believe that a resident ought to be able to appear before a town commission or the City Council and be heard out in a polite and receptive manner. These guys who want to sit on the council are angry, brash and basically impolite. They’d rather ridicule those with whom they disagree. They laugh at and scorn people who take sides that oppose them on an issue before the Council. We don’t think town councilpersons ought to be gruff and rude. These guys are known for their boorish snicker. One of them has a hard time putting a sentence together and most of his sentences contain an obscenity or two. The other guy has violated one city ordinance after another and dared the community to try to enforce its laws. Both of them are libertarians who believe they as individuals are more important than we as a community. I don’t go out on a limb to say these things. My comments are backed with an incredible amount of their past behavior in the community. (I wrote about the behavior of one of these guys in my blog a couple of days ago.)

Then you sit back and hope you don’t let your community down
This is the most important election in which I’ve ever voted in this small town. I’ve been involved in politics out here for 30 years and I’ve never seen such unqualified candidates as those whom we are now opposing. We’ve had a lot of good people out working on this campaign and we can only hope their hard work pays off. Otherwise, the character of our community is going to change an awful lot and the inmates are going to be running the asylum.

Monday, October 26, 2009

What gives with Amy?

Minnesota Senator Klobuchar gave up on the public option in health care reform many, many months ago and I don’t understand why!
by Charlie Leck

A huge majority of the people who elected Amy Klobuchar to the U.S. Senate wanted significant health care reform when they cast their votes back then; and they continue to want it today. It’s even likely that a majority of all Minnesotans of every political persuasion want ‘real’ health care reform.

We, in this state, are smart enough to know that 'real' health care reform isn’t going to happen without a public option in the legislation.

Months ago, Senator Klobuchar was somehow convinced that no bill could pass the U.S. Senate with such a public option included in it. She wanted something rather than nothing. That’s what she told her constituents. That’s what she told me. Senator Klobuchar has learned well the art of political speak.

I think Senator Klobuchar gave up way too easily in an attempt to please the White House, which had also given up way too easily.

There are some matters on which one must stand to fight. Thorough, significant health care reform is one of those matters. What Senator Klobuchar wants to pass is not significant reform and I am not so sure that it is better than nothing. It tinkers with health care in America and that’s about it. What it does, as Howard Dean so perfectly explains, is set back real health care reform for more decades to come.

Make the Republicans the bad guys, Senator Klobuchar. Then we’ll be able to go to the nation and tell the people that it was they who kept America in the dark ages in health care, dozens of places behind other nations around the globe which manage to care for all the people all the time.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


Blackjack, a massive longhorn steer and one of our town's most famous residents.

A gross, wicked fellow wants to be a city councilman here in my town and I feel helpless to stop him!
by Charlie Leck

I was at the city hall here in my town on Thursday night. A number of people gathered there to chat about our town’s election that is coming up in less than two weeks (Nov 3rd). There I met a gentleman about whom I have heard a great deal but had never before had the opportunity to greet. He lives over on the east side of town, close to some pretty dense population – dense for our town, at least. Yet, even though surrounded by residential sprawl, he stubbornly continues to raise cattle of a prize winning variety.

A former neighbor of his has been much on my mind lately and I wanted to talk about the guy. On a night like this, when we were supposed to be discussing an up-coming election, this fellow wanted to know why in heaven’s name I wanted to talk about this dastardly, former neighbor now moved to a distant part of town.

“Well,” said I, “it’s because he just may get elected.”

“What,” the cattleman stammered in shocked surprise, “he’s not runnin’ for council, is he?”

“Yes, sir! He’s one of the candidates for office that we’re working so hard against.”

I’ll tell you, I may as well have taken a 16 pound bowling ball and slammed it into his gut. Both his mouth and eyes were popped wide open. He stammered a bit and then raised a massive, working man’s hand and covered his lower face with it.

“Well, I’ll be! You aren’t kiddin’, are you?” He was mumbling now and his voice was muffled behind his hand.

I shook my head, stood my ground and remained silent, watching the shock continue to rock him. He took his hand away from his face and put it up against the wall to steady himself.

“It’s hard to believe a… a… a fellow like that could become a councilman. I never figured he’d have such nerve. Why, he didn’t just abuse the ordinances of our community; he mocked them and never considered that they were meant for him.”

You see, this guy who was talking to me had lost a sizeable number of cattle – calves and steers – in that time when our current candidate had lived across the road from him.

He began the story quietly, about how the poisoned ground water made its way through the culvert that crossed under the road and seeped up on to his property; and how it moved on over to the Painter’s Creek waterway and moved on south through plenty of other lush farmland.

The guy across the street, the current candidate for office, was in the lawn service business back in those days. He worked with unfriendly, dangerous chemicals. The containers, in which these liquid chemicals were sold, called for proper recycling and disposal. You just didn’t send them off to the land-fill.

The cattleman shook his head at this point in the story and his eyes clouded over.

“Why, he was just buryin’ that stuff right there in his back yard, up against a wetland area, lettin’ it leach right into the ground water where it would naturally flow wherever the water took it – toward my place and on to that wetlands area southwest of me and eventually into Painter’s Creek.”

He gathered himself for the next chapter. He was biting on the inside of his lip now. His complexion had reddened somewhat. He cleared his throat and went on.

“I found a dead calf one day and a steer on another day. No explanation. Then one day a neighbor called. He’d seen one of my cows and her calf looking sickly. We drew blood. Sent it to the University. It was poison. No question in my mind where it was comin’ from. All the neighbors knew what he was doin’ – how he was diggin’ the place up back there and dumpin’ that stuff in there and coverin’ it up.”

I couldn’t say anything. I could only listen in a sad silence. I was trembling and trying to control my own anger. I wanted to tell everyone in the room to quiet down and listen to this story – this incredible, sad, awful story of misbehavior and malfeasance.

“On down the road, another farmer along Painter’s Creek was losing some cattle, too. Seemed mysterious. One day the critter was just fine. Next day it was dead. He had the University look at them. They couldn’t tell nothin’ though.”

The city brought charges against the guy. He had to clean up the mess. The lawyers involved reached a settlement out of court. They sealed it up so the public can’t look.

The guy closed down his lawn service and moved on to another part of the town. This time he was going to do some horse business. Of course, he didn’t tell the city that. He just said he was going to build a barn for his family’s own recreation. He built it larger than he said. The permits weren’t properly applied for. It was clearly going to be a commercial barn. It was built closer to the wetlands than the ordinances allowed. He also put it closer to his neighbor than any kind man would. When the neighbor protested, the bastard of a fellow thought it would be cute to put a livestock trailer load of hogs right over on the edge of the property line with his neighbor. He’d feed them in the trailer and let them unload their pig-shit right there so that they’d build up a mighty stink. That’d teach the neighbor to complain so much.

The city told the guy to stop his project – that the permits weren’t properly drawn and that he was invading the wetlands. There was a suit and a counter-suit. It cost the city a lot of money. Of course, the libertarians in the town were stirred into a rage.

“A man ought to be able to do what he wants with his own property,” they contend. “ Don’t need no communists telling him where he has to build and how big he can build.”

The cases were settled out of court. The settlements, as part of the agreement, were sealed and we can’t see what the sides agreed to.

Now the guy’s boarding stable is operational. It’s not very attractive. In fact, it’s down-right messy, but, you know, it’s a guy’s own property and he ought to be able to do what he wants with it. Too bad he’s got a neighbor who has to look at it. The guy’s pretty proud of himself. It cost him a few bucks, but he got away with it.

So, he’s running for city office. He wants to be a town councilman and make laws, and approve permits, and decide how the town spends its money. He’s running on the libertarian theme – you know, it’s my land, my life and I’ll do what I want with both. Neighbors and town be damned.

You know, there’s a mighty stink that comes all the way across town, when I think that this guy just might get elected, and the thought that anyone can be so inconsiderate and abusive to other people and to the land just makes me terribly ill.

I went home from the meeting at City Hall and had a drink. Then I kicked some furniture and swore out loud. The dog looked at me and cranked his head to the side at an uncomfortable angle. I took a step toward him and he scampered off with his tail between his legs.

How can such a bastard want to assume so important an office? How can so many people consider voting for him? This is my town. I love it here. Oh, my god!

Saturday, October 24, 2009


Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi will force law makers to remove the public option from their health care legislation! It’s a sly move that will allow the public to see who is responsible for no public option!
by Charlie Leck

Put the public option in the health care reform legislation and make Senators and Representatives who don’t like it make their moves to take it out. Let the public see who it is that moves against the public option.

National polls have clearly shown that a majority of Americans want the public option included in the legislation. Senators like Chris Dodd (CT), Harry Reid (NV) and Charles Schumer (NY) understand that. Schumer would rather lead with the public option than try to work it into a bill that doesn’t include it.

Over in the House, Speaker Pelosi’s claim to have enough votes to pass a bill with the public option is just a bluff.

In both houses the leadership wants the public option in the bill so the public can see who it is that moves to take it out. When you do something like that against the majority will of the people, as an elected official you are going to sustain damage. This is true, for instance, of Maine’s Olympia Snowe. A majority of Maine’s citizens want the public option in. It will be interesting to see if Snowe shows leadership in getting it removed. It could place her in trouble in the far northeast.

See the NY Times article on this subject.

Friday, October 23, 2009


It’s flopping and flipping around, but there’s still a bit of life in it!
by Charlie Leck

Harry Reid, the top-dog Senator may drag a health care reform bill to the floor of the Senate this is close to death but not quite. Reid’s bill will include the public option that many progressives are demanding.

Here’s a NY Times Blog, Prescriptions – Making Sense of the Health Care Debate – by Robert Pear and David Herszenhorn that explains what Reid is up to. If you, like I, are intensely interested in this issue, go take a look.

Reid’s plan gives individual states the right to opt out of such a health care option. I’ve not made up my mind on it yet. More tomorrow.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

It’s Between Obama and Me

The President’s approval rating has taken the largest third quarter slip in history!
by Charlie Leck

According to a Gallup poll, President Obama’s approval rating dropped nine points from where it stood in the second quarter of 2009 to where it is now in the third quarter – from 62 percent down to 53%. It is the largest quarterly drop in approval rating in the first year of any elected President since these things have been measured. Harry Truman had a thirteen point drop between his second and third quarter in office (1945-46), but he was not elected to that term.

The pollsters found that the dominant issue involved in this dramatic drop was health care reform.

Don’t take that to mean that all those displeased folks don’t want health care reform; for, in fact, many of us who disapprove of Obama right now seriously favor health care reform. In other words, among that nine percentage point drop are many progressives who are seriously disappointed with Obama’s proposed health care reform package versus what he promised us in his campaign.

Does that mean we think Obama is less of a good man? Hardly! We think he is not as strong a President as we hoped he would be. The “Yes We Can” side of Obama has become more of a “I Don’t Think We Can” attitude in the current White House. Obama probably sincerely believes that his major compromises will still get us a good health care reform package.

Progressives don’t agree. What we’ll get will be very expensive and it will not be reform. The big pharmaceutical houses and the giant health care providers and the mega health care insurers will still be sitting in the cat bird seat. The American people will still be without a guaranty of total coverage at a reasonable and sensible cost.

It simply isn’t fair. It has cost the President our support.

Add to this a war in Iraq that appears to have no end game and a war in Afghanistan that is calling for 40,000 more troops and you have a recipe for a disastrous first term for a man we all thought would usher in a new era in American politics and history. I am too old a man to be fooled by these things. I remember Vietnam too clearly. I remember Richard Nixon too perfectly.

It’s the same old same old; and it will cost Barack Obama a second term. He will be haunted by chants from the other side: “No you can’t!”

I can remember no President in my life time who so wasted the ammunition he took with him into office.

Rest assured that I do not say this lightly. It makes my heart ache to admit it.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Fighting Untruth and Distortion

How to lead a local election campaign and get done all the other little things one must do!
by Charlie Leck

The city election, here in my town, is now two weeks away. I’m trying to lead this campaign for one of the candidates and help, as much as I can, another person who deserves to be elected.

Two city council seats are up for grabs. This whole thing has become very personal with me. I believe deeply that our adversaries do not deserve to be elected. More emphatically, I believe the two opponents would be dangerous in office.

What turns out to be so difficult to counter is the distortions of the truth that the opponents use to gather support. It isn’t just a matter of counter attacking and trying to get the truth out to voters who’ve already become convinced to vote against us, but it is the boiling anger that these untruths and factual distortions cause to rise up inside me.

I never dreamed a little campaign for 600 or 700 votes could be so time consuming and wear so on my nerves and energy. I lay awake at night trying to dream up some way of communicating to the entire village that the opposition is using disgusting scare tactics to garner votes.

They especially like to hearken back to an Open Spaces Study that was conducted here in town by a volunteer committee. It was a worthy task. It just didn’t turn out well because so many people didn’t understand what it was. It was meant to be a tool to provoke discussion about how we could set aside large sections of land in our town and protect those spaces from future development. Unfortunately, the plan included a map that showed one possible example of what might be done. Public trails were drawn into the map, showing my property and many neighbors’ property being crossed and cut up by these hiking and biking paths.

Now, the opponents in this campaign refer to this study as an attempt to grab land away from residents without either permission or compensation. Those who are now saying this know it is darn-well not true. There was never any idea of taking land from people, with or without payment. The idea was presented by some eager and enthusiastic residents of the community in order to look at one possible way our community could look in the future.

The two candidates I support had nothing to do with the plan. They were never in a position to vote on the plan because no vote was ever taken. The Planning Commission in the community shelves the whole idea as too ambitious and expensive. The plan was never presented to any official body for a vote. Yet, the entire community was riled up by this idea of a “land grab.”

Nevertheless, ouropponents in this campaign have taken this unsuccessful study and they are trying to attach it to the candidates I support. They do this knowing it is entirely untrue. No land in the community – mine or anyone else’s – was ever under threat from eminent domain. It is an absolute lie to now insinuate that it was.

I can think of nothing worse for a community than to elect to office a couple of out and out liars. And that is exactly what these guys are.

And, they are worse! Both are selfish, paranoid and warped individuals. One – the incumbent – can be seen on video tape, in council meetings – making the most outlandish and ridiculous statements that leave the audience both aghast and tittering at his foolishness.

The other has a history of lying to the city about development plans on his property and doing things to the land that were flat-out unlawful. He has no concern for the community at large, for his geographic neighbors or for the health and vitality of the land on which he lives. His behavior has shown him to be an ultimately selfish person.

Just this morning, a friend sent along a copy of a letter he is submitting to the local newspaper about these candidates who I so disfavor.

Dear Sirs:

On November 3rd, Independence will fill two open Council positions, choosing from four candidates.

Brad Spencer and Lynn Betts have proven themselves to be dedicated public servants. They were willing to appear at a candidates' forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters and submit their positions to public scrutiny.

By contrast, the other two candidates refused to appear, resulting in the forum's cancellation.

Lance Gyllenblad has proven himself unworthy to hold representative office, as evidenced by his outbursts in City Council meetings, fueled by conspiracy theories and captured on video for all to see on the City's web site. Chris Stephans has a history of flouting City ordinances and resorting to litigation against the City when held to account. The example he has "set" has cost Independence taxpayers thousands of dollars in enforcement costs. His candidacy is a mockery of representative government, save for anarchists.

Voters should remember that the election of local officials has more impact on their day to day lives than any other choice at the polls. I urge everyone to vote on November 3rd and to support candidates with demonstrated experience in promoting the public good who are not afraid to be judged on the merits.

Vote for Spencer and Betts.

Here are five claims the opposition is making among voters that are absolutely false. Here also is the truth about those claims:
1. West Hennepin Public Safety (WHPS) has part time employees receiving full time enefits. FALSE. 10 full time authorized, 9 full time officers employed (1 is deployed to Iraq so actually 8 working) 2 admin full time staff/ NO PART TIME OFFICERS.
Benefits are prorated if would have PT. When we did have a part time officer, no benefits were paid and their hours capped at 1040 per year.

2. The cost comparison vs. Sheriff number quoted at $3.75/month savings (May 12, 2009 City Council meeting minutes) was for a home of about $500K value, Brad Spencer used “less than $50/year for an average 500,000 home in Independence” in my letter. Opposition saying the number is bogus. Here are the numbers, and we'll send them to anyone who wants to argue them. Chief McCoy calculated that number.

3. We are paying more than our fair share of the WHPS cost (versus what Maple Plain pays). Interesting argument that has never before been an issue to our knowledge. The formula is pretty standard, calculating call history, size of patrol area, number of homes, etc.. We would argue the split look s pretty fair to us but should the objector have a specific rational for their argument we'll look into it.

4. Lynn Betts is in favor of seizing property from private owners without (or even with) compensation for trails, open spaces preservation, protection or preservation of hardwoods, etc. FALSE. Lynn has never voted in favor of any property acquisition via eminent domain or similar. Much of the “proof” is from maps created as talking/discussion points during the Parks, Trails, Open Space plan that was scrapped several years ago. Also, that poorly labeled DRAFT plan was being created by consultants working with the Parks Commission which Lynn was not on at the time.

5. Consistently hearing about (and in one of “their” candidate statements from The Eagle) a huge pile of debt coming due in the next couple of years that will blow the budget away. FALSE. We could provide the actual debt outstanding and maturity dates as soon as we get them from the budget notes. The city issues serial maturity debt so it comes due in smaller amounts spread fairly equally over several years like most prudent cities do. There are no unusually large principal payments due in any upcoming year.
How am I expected to sleep at night for the next two weeks when the opposition is roaming around town telling whoppers like that? How shall I sleep in the future should these nare-do-wells get elected? How I love my town! How I hate to see selfish people take advantage of it.

And, it is so difficult to get to the other things I ought to be doing, though this morning I decided to take the time to get some short ribs browned and on the stove to cook for several hours. Perhaps a decent dinner tonight.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Top Secret NYC Information Revealed

Each commuter train that leaves NYC for the wider metro area secretly, but purposefully, leaves one-minute late!
by Charlie Leck

The idea is to help “the harried commuter” the NY Times says.

I ask: Where will it end?

Now that that same commuter knows that his train leaves one minute late he has been given another minute. Now the same train will need to leave two minutes late (the second minute will be a secret, of course).

My dentist already uses the same principle with me. If I make a 10:00 A.M. appointment, he figures me for 10:05. Since he does that, I figure I’m okay up until 10:10. After a while, he’ll make a 10:00 appointment for me and figure me for 10:10. That gives me until 10:15.

When I make an appointment with the electrician to come to my home to do some repairs for me, I make it for 15 minutes before I really want him there – 7:45 for an 8 o’clock appointment. He knows all this and figures he’s good to arrive up until 8:15.

So, now what happens when that NYC train pulls out 50 seconds after its scheduled departure time. Does the guy running down the platform, waving his arms and screaming obscenities have any right to complain that his train left before it was supposed to?

Again: Imagine where it will all lead – movie theaters, dinner reservations, voting place closings and Friday night kickoffs at the local high school.

In golf tournaments we have a cherished rule about tee times. If you’re not on the tee at your given time, you are disqualified. In team match play, if you show up within five minutes of that time and have a qualifying excuse (like, your wife had your first child on her way to drop you of at the course), you can join your group, begin play on the next tee. After five minutes, it’s just too bad that you couldn’t have managed your kid’s delivery more quickly because you are out of the event. When we say 5 minutes at these events, we don’t mean 6 minutes. We work by an atomic clock that is absolutely official. Now, however, with what appears to be a NY Times endorsement of the policy, we’ll likely stick a one minute buffer in all these times.

Much to my wife’s consternation, I follow this general principle when it comes to the gas levels on my car. When it “dings” and tells me I am dangerously low on fuel, I figure I have another 50 miles to go. The car manufacturer would certainly have built something like that in wouldn't he?

Of course, if the crew on my cross-country Delta Airlines flight followed the same practice I would be outraged.

I have a friend who follows this general policy when it comes to drinking and driving. He establishes the number of drinks he may have before driving, but always regards that number loosely and gives himself some flexibility. At that point, his friends begin arguing with him about taking his keys, but they have a one minute limitation on such arguments before giving up – and they often reduce that minute to about half as much because they feel harried and must catch the last commuter train to get home themselves, not realizing, of course, that they actually had another full minute to argue with said friend about driving after drinking. It’s all part of the same principle as we’re talking about in NY.

“Our schedule is firm – sort of!”

“We mean what we say – sort of!”

“I wouldn’t ever put you on – well, hardly ever anyway, then, don't you know? You betcha!”

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Minnesota Education Gap

This gap must be closed or eliminated!
by Charlie Leck

Here’s the enigma
The puzzling problem was framed this morning by an editorial in our local paper, The StarTribune,

“In Minnesota, the learning gap is substantial. Known for educational excellence, the state has one of the highest overall high school graduation rates in the nation – and simultaneously the highest dropout rates for some lower-income students of color."
There’s a significant social problem that needs solving. Minnesota is a state filled with bright, creative, kind and generous people. If any one state in the nation could tackle this problem and solve it, Minnesota is that state.

Let the challenge go forth – ring-a-ding-ding – and let it be highly rewarded. Minnesota, solve this problem!

Thinkers and Dreamers
You must present the answer to the state legislature. Show them how it can be done. Make it so clear that it would be political suicide not to pass a bill implementing your ideas.

Your reward
You will be rewarded with instant and eternal fame within the great state of Minnesota and, likely, throughout the nation.

Too important a problem to be left to educators
We need advertising geniuses, artists, business executives, engineers, librarians, factory workers, farmers, biologists, medical doctors, chemists and sports personalities all thinking about ways to close the gap to as close to zero as possible.

No problem too big to solve
Those who boast that there is no problem too big to solve, here’s your challenge.

An idea already brewing
And while you’re at it, read the entirety of the editorial in this morning’s paper and you will see there is an interesting idea already brewing.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Rush Limbaugh (Part VI)

[click here to visit the Pabst Photo Blog]

Rush is a Vogon and that explains everything!
by Charlie Leck

A fellow down the street was chatting with my wife on the telephone the other day and happened to wonder why she never listened to Rush Limbaugh. Darling struggled for the correct words to describe her low opinion of the ultimate radio idiot, but such a portrayal is not something that dances lightly off the tip of a lady’s tongue. It takes considerable dalliance with a formidable vocabulary to stammer forth the right, but not too profane, adjectives. Finally, in frustration, she could only ask why in the heck this seemingly clever neighbor ever listened to that enormous blowhard. Why?

I’ve struggled here in the past to try to describe Limbaugh; and each time I’ve walked away with, at minimum, a serious limp. Now that the preeminent professional sports organization in the world has rejected him as a possible owner of a National Football League team, it might be time to revisit the subject and to try a final time to describe the big Rush.

So something draws me back to The Hitchhiker’s Trilogy by Douglas Adams for some assistance. I go specifically to The Restaurant at the End of the Universe and I flip through the pages until I come to the author’s description of Captain Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz, who was designated by the Galactic Hyperspace Planning Council to destroy “the so-called planet Earth.”

Adams tells us that Captain Vogon Jeltz had “a monumentally vile body.” This is some place to begin; however, primarily, one needs to remember always that Jeltz is a Vogon.

“It has been said that Vogons are not above a little bribery and corruption in the same way that the sea in not above the clouds, and this was certainly true in his [Jeltz’s] case. When he heard the words integrity or moral rectitude he reached for his dictionary, and when he heard the chink of ready money in large quantities he reached for the rule book and threw it away.”
The description of the Vogon people so perfectly fits the character of Rush Limbaugh that I am tempted to celebrate my achievement of finally devising an apt depiction of the talking, babbling baboon.

“…the average Vogon will not think twice before doing something so pointlessly hideous to you that you will wish you had never been born – or (if you are a clearer minded thinker) that the Vogon had never been born…. The average Vogon probably wouldn’t even think once. They are simple-minded, thick-willed, slug-brained creatures, and thinking is not really something they are cut out for. Anatomical analysis of the Vogon reveals that its brain was originally a badly deformed, misplaced and dyspeptic liver. The fairest thing you can say about them, then, is that they know what they like, and what they like generally involves hurting people and, whenever possible, getting very angry.”
A Vogon
Yes, that’s it. Rush Limbaugh is a Vogon. He has no sense of the aesthetic. Possibility, hope and optimism are not part of his way of life. Rampant destruction of the possible is primary in the Vogon’s thought pattern. And, the resultant destruction they visit upon people and institutions must, in the manner of the Vogon, be as ugly and disharmonious as possible.

It is not only Limbaugh who has come from Vogon to visit us here on the planet Earth; his fellow Vogonians, James Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, arrived here aboard the very same spacecraft.
It is the Vogon’s total sense of pessimism, hopelessness and negativity that attracts followers in huge numbers; for, you see, it is far easier to think in the black and white, simplistic and absolute forms of the negative than in the dazzling, blazing and colorful structures of the positive. It is easier to destroy the planet Earth than to establish it as a galactic wonder of the Universe.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Even though it seems I dwell on the insignificant, I know what's really important underneath!
by Charlie Leck

World Hunger! Peace in Afghanistan! Better relations with Iran! Universal Health Care in the United States! High speed rail transportation all across the land! I dwell, indeed, on all of these things and they are dreams that I wish I could see come true before I move on out among the stars.

Yet, all these issues lose their importance and vitalness when placed against the things that really matter in an old grandpa's life -- that is, his family.

Let me remind those I love that, although I seem consumed by issues too big for one man's brain, I care most for those who are of me. It is the children of my life -- meaning my own wife, daughters, step-children and grandchildren -- that matter so ultimately to me. Everything else is nothing when I measure it against the abundance of love I feel for family.

And today, when I think of that sweet little thing becoming a six year old, I need to remind her of this love I have inside me -- and I need to remind all of those in our family circle.

Happy Birthday, sweet one! I will love you forever and forever!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I’m Pleased You are Worried

The house, including my office is torn apart and I can’t get to my blogging machine! But here’s some important reading I recommend!
by Charlie Leck

I’m terribly pleased so many of you have contacted me about why there are such gaps between my blogs during this last week. Thanks for your concern and, frankly, I’m glad you’ve missed me.

Our house, including my office, is in shambles these days as the interior is all freshened up by hardwood flooring refinishers and now by painters who are repainting the entire interior. I’ve never had to live in such dust – a really, really fine, invasive dust. The poor painters have to clean it all off the walls before they can paint, of course.

I’ve lost my wireless connection here on my computer because there are drop cloths covering every opening and also over the top of our main computer where the wireless router is housed. So, it may be hours before I can even get this little notice posted. If you’re reading this, I’m back on-line.

Look for me to get back to my regular 6 days each week schedule starting on Friday morning. There certainly is plenty to write about.

In the meantime, here’s the most important bit of reading I can send you to… OF HEALTH CARE, WAR, COSTS & CONSEQUENCES. It’s by David Morris. Please read it.

A lot of big shots (like Mayor Ryback) are telling me the public option is still an option.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

I Shut ‘Er Down

Within five pages I closed up the book, set it aside and counted it a wasted 25 bucks!
by Charlie Leck

As I sipped on my first cup of coffee in the quiet of a weekend morning, I began reading a novel by a successful writer. It was published by Simon and Schuster. In the prologue, within the first five written pages, I came upon the following sentence.

“Brown’s wild, windblown hair and gray wiry beard, speckled with specks of blood, framed a expression that was both cold and haunting.” [sic]
No typos in the above, replicated sentence. That is exactly as it was printed on the page of the novel.

“Do I want to continue reading this?” That’s the question I quietly asked myself. What happened to the Simon & Schuster editor? Why weren’t these lapses and errors caught? What’s going on here? I paid $24 for this book and I expect more.

The gentleman’s beard was speckled with specks of blood! Amazing! It was “speckled with specks.” What else? Would it be speckled with long, smooth, curvaceous stripes of blood? If it is speckled, we expect that there would be specks.

The editor should have made the following change: “…speckled with blood…” Now that is plain and simple and accurate and readable.

Then we learn that the gentleman’s hair and beard framed “a” expression… Ooops! An editor slipped up again. How about his hair and beard framing “an” expression…?

It’s discouraging! Should I go on? What’s your opinion? I set the book aside and went to the shelves to find something else more worthy of my time. Too bad! Harold Coyle is supposed to be an awfully good writer. Simon and Schuster is a top-notch publishing house.

Yup! I just decided to look away. Too bad!

Friday, October 9, 2009

What Does Obama’s Prize Mean?

The Nobel Peace Prize goes to President Barack Obama.
by Charlie Leck

The announcement came as a stunning surprise and the questions were immediately raised by one and all. What does it mean? Why? Doesn’t it seem premature?

I found that I needed to carefully read the explanation from the Nobel Committee in order to understand what is going on here. You can go to this You Tube site to hear the Committee announcement. I’ll include the full text announcement below.

“He has created a new international climate. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play.”

“…for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperate between peoples.”

“Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts.”“Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future.”
And, in that final quotation you find the essence of the rationale behind the award. Even more so than he has in the United States, Barack Obama has captured the imagination of people all around the globe and given them hope for a new age of peace and understanding between peoples. Perhaps it came even more from his campaign for office than it has come from his actions after taking office.

What will be henceforth so very interesting is to see how the award may now actually affect and influence the actions of the President in matters of international diplomacy and our nation's military reactions to crisis.

Stay tuned!


The Norwegian Nobel Committee

The Nobel Peace Prize for 2009

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 is to be awarded to President Barack Obama for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples. The Committee has attached special importance to Obama's vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.

Obama has as President created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play. Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts. The vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations. Thanks to Obama's initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting. Democracy and human rights are to be strengthened.

Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future. His diplomacy is founded in he concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population.

For 108 years, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has sought to stimulate precisely that international policy and those attitudes for which Obama is now the world's leading spokesman. The Committee endorses Obama's appeal that "Now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges."

Oslo, October 9, 2009

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Wonders in the Tree House

When the city of Saint Paul was controlled by the mob!
by Charlie Leck

The projection from the guys refinishing the floors in our house is that we'll be able to move back in on Friday. That's the day my wife flies to New York City, so I'll be alone here during the move in. We'll probably wait until Monday to begin moving the furniture back in. The good news is that I'll be able to reclaim my office Friday morning and blogging will then become much easier.

As I am reminded again and again, there are often wonderful discoveries to be made even in moments of great inconvenience. Such happened yesterday in the Tree House.

The bookshelves in our little guest apartment are the resting grounds for some of the tackier books I read. Anything that falls into the category of mystery, thriller, spy or crime novels end up on the shelves up there. A couple hundred books are neatly lined up, according to author, on the shelves. Another hundred have been haphazardly piled on top of the shelved books because there isn't space left to shelve any more. There's all of John Grisham's work, most of John Sandford's novels, a dozen or so by Patricia Cornwell, all of Anne Perry. John LeCarre, Jody Compton, M.C. Beaton, Richard North Paterson, Dick Francis, Tom Clancy and a host of others. There's also a very nice set of all of Arthur Conan Doyle's work. Lately, I've been piling on these shelves all of the works of Daniel Silva as I've finished them. I have always thought that everything up there in the Tree House had been read.

Yet, I was standing there in the early afternoon yesterday, thinking about how I had to either put some more shelves in the big room up there, so I could more neatly shelve all these books, or I had to weed some out and get rid of them. About ten percent of the books are paperbacks, so I thought, perhaps, those could go. As I fidgeted with a few of the books, trying to find the appropriate spaces for them, I picked one up that didn't look at all familiar to me. Hmm!

It was a paperback by Steve Thayer called Saint Mudd. Thayer wrote an extradinarily good murder mystery call The Weatherman. I'd read it about 10 years ago and counted it among my favorites. Another of his books, Wheatland, which I hadn't liked, stood on the shelves, too. With certainty I realized that I had not read this other book that proudly proclaimed on its cover that it was by the author of The Weatherman. Hmm!

So, I sat down in one of the less than comfortable chairs that we keep up there and began to read. Three hours later I was approaching the mid point of the book and enjoying every page of it. The Twins game was about to begin on television and I sadly set the book aside in favor of the ball game.

Well, I want to recommend this book to those of you who fit into each of the following categories:

You like mystery stories!

You enjoy reading about the history of our own metropolitian region (the Twin Cities)!

You can handle a few explicit descriptions of sexual escapade and some raw language!

You like compelling 'who done it' surprises.

The setting is Saint Paul, Minnesota. The time is the early 30s and prohibition is coming to an end. The protaganist is a columnist for a cheap and failing city newspaper.

Even though I'm only half-way through this one, I am willing to tell you that you'll be captivated by this terribly good story that goes way beyond simple mystery. Thayer is a marvelous story teller and a very good writer. Certainly you'll be able to pick this book up for a song in any good used book store. Go for it!
What I realize now is that I've got to order the other four books by Steve Thayer that I've not read.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Living in the Tree House

Illustration by Stiles Designs. Visit the web site!

Making way for the hardwood-flooring boys!
by Charlie Leck

Running my life with less is what I’m trying to do this week.We’ve had to abandon our house. We won’t be able to get back in until, at least, the weekend. Our hardwood floors on the main level are being restored and refinished. They’ve not been attended to since we built our home in 1991. I had no idea what a mess it this process would be (is). There are massive amounts of extra fine dust everywhere – except on the newly sanded floors, of course, because those have been immaculately cleaned for the shiny finish that will now be put upon them.

In the meantime I can’t get to my loft-office to use my computer. My books and papers are all up there where I cannot go. I’ve got withdrawal shakes that this laptop computer, with no Internet connection, cannot cure. I’ll write this and then go off to a lovely little coffee shop (Crow River Coffee Company) in Watertown, where I can get wirelessly on-line to post this rambling.

Of course, I am worried that the world cannot get along without my vital postings. Afghanistan is a mess – the chaos that I long ago predicted – and the President is having trouble with the progressives in his party who don’t believe any real health care reform is possible without universal care or a public option at the very least.

Local Politics
I’m also supposed to be running a local political campaign here in my town. A scoundrel wants to be reelected to our city council and another scoundrel with a disreputable past wants to get elected. They’re both libertarian oriented guys who want to take government supervision out of just about everything. You know how these wingers think – that a property owner ought to be able to do whatever he wants on his own property – like draining his pickup’s oil directly on to the ground – or sticking a big out-building right on the property line in plain view of the house his neighbor just built so lovingly. They haven’t any regard for the wonder and importance of our natural wetlands and they think it is okay to randomly drain them, fill them and build upon them. Go ahead and do it when no one is looking. These guys want to get rid of our fine police department and they believe we could return to the vigilante days of volunteer deputies in charge of law and order with no supervision (or very little of it supplied by a county sheriff’s office that is 25 miles away). These guys don’t understand much about protecting the beautiful environment and open space that we have out here. They propose to allow property owners to make all the money they ever dreamed about, when they can chop up their land into tiny parcels where cheap, but profitable, little houses could be sticked together all over town.

So, our little town is under a serious threat right now. Winning is vital. I have a difficult time sleeping at night when I think about it. I push myself to do other things so that I can relax a little bit.

Fortunately, sports madness is consuming our state and this wonderful metropolitan region right now. The Twins finished the regular season tied for first place in their division and face a one game “play-in” this afternoon at 4 P.M.. The Vikes played the Packers last night and the whole state – and our neighboring state, Wisconsin – was crazy with anticipation while they waited for the nationally televised encounter. If you’re a football fan you know all about this passionate encounter between the Pack and the Vikes (with superstar Brett Favre in the middle of it). Our professional hockey team, The Wild, also started its season this week and this is, well, simply put, the State of Hockey you know.

I got lost in the Viking game last night and I expect to immerse myself in the Twins game this afternoon. That will mean a touch of relaxation for a while before the intensive work to save our town begins again.

Well, I’m about to put a last period on this rambling essay, but first I’ll take a quick glance at the newspaper.

The general population is getting more worried about this strange flu epidemic that crawls across the nation. A perfectly healthy little boy died from the disease a couple of weeks ago. He’d been loaded into an ambulance for a trip to the hospital and died before the vehicle could even begin the journey. He’s the seventh death from the disease in our state.

Support is growing to turn our horse race track, Canterbury Park, into a RACINO; that is, a combination racetrack and gambling casino that would provide huge amounts of income for the state government that might allow them to help the Minnesota Vikings build a new and wondrous stadium. It’s an issue I don’t care about one way or the other.

Republicans are all over Obama
The President foolishly threw himself into Chicago’s attempt to get the International Olympic Committee to bring the 2016 Olympics to the windy city. The Committee did not choose Chicago and somehow this becomes a vital catastrophe to the right-wingers. In his column this morning, Paul Krugman calls the Republicans “a party of spite.”

The President of Alina Health Care and Hospitals, one of the giants in the industry began a column that ran in today’s newspaper with a powerful couple of sentences. Then the rest of the column trailed off to mediocrity and seemed to avoid his own opener.

“I want everyone to have health insurance and access to health care service. Health care is a right, not a privilege. The United States is a country built on capitalism and self-reliance; yet compassion valued in equal measure. My neighbor who was laid off deserves coverage, the ingle mother without benefits deserves coverage, and the poor, disabled individual with a preexisting condition deserves coverage – plain and simple.”
Nevertheless, Kenneth H. Paulus, who wrote the above statement, makes it pretty clear he opposes a public option that would compete with his company.

Enough then!
"Enough then," as we say around here in Minnesota. Don’t worry, I’ll be back in my office by Friday and then I’ll be able to put together some respectable blog themes.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Twins Win

Win Twins!
by Charlie Leck

In truth, this is not one of my blogs. I'm going to send you on to Blog from the Moderate Left, to read a posting by Jeff Flecke about the closing the Metrodome. Flecke very cleverly calls it "the worst, most beloved stadium in Major League Baseball." Indeed, it has been a terrible baseball stadium, but, boy, did it provide us with a slug of memories. Yesterday's game, and the ceremony that followed it, was no exception.

Following Flecke's essay there is a video that highlights many of the wonderful moments in the stadium that we, here in Minnesota, simply call "the Dome." Even if you don't like baseball, you'll find Flecke's piece well worth reading (I think).

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Service to Community

Brad Spencer and his family

Why take on the hassles and inconveniences of running for office?
by Charlie Leck

I've written before, here on this blog, about my admiration for the Mayor of my town. He's a totally dedicated and honest man who loves his community and wants to serve it.

Local, community politics is a real hassle. Thank goodness there are people willing to tackle the job, put up with inconveniences and dedicate their time to making a small city run better. My hats are off to these people. There are lots of reason why I could never do it. I don't intend to do an accounting of those reasons here.

One angry fellow confronted me once, shaking a finger at me and letting me know what he said was the plain truth: "You don't run for office here in this town because you know you could never win!" That may be. I don't know.

I've always told myself that I don't run because I'm too thin skinned. I witness how hard these local officials work -- the time they put in that takes them away from their homes and families -- and then they reap tons of criticism for what they do. I couldn't take such personal criticism. I just couldn't handle it. For me, it's not worth it.

So now I'm involved in helping a local resident win office as a City Councilperson. He's not thin skinned. Though he has a lot of patience and concern for residents of the community, he's also a tough character who will not be afraid to take action after he weighs all sides of a particular issue.

He's proven his love for his community and his dedication to it. He is a long time Cub Scout leader. Boy, is that an important job. What an effect such a leader can have on the lives of kids. He doesn't just dabble at it. He works hard for his kids and he's determined to making scouting an important experience. He's also a member of the local sportsman's club. Such a club does more, you know, that just promote hunting and fishing. They're deeply concerned about the environment and the wild life that lives in our area. Our candidate is also a leader of a local lake association committed to keeping the lake, on the shores of which he lives, clean, healthy and beautiful. He also spent six years on the Planning Commission of our community -- most of them as the Chairperson of the commission.

Well, you've got to be proud to put in time for a guy like that and so that's what I'm doing. Getting him elected is about the most important thing in my life right now because our town needs some good sensible leadership to give our good mayor a hand.

The election is on November 3rd and I'll take great pride in voting for Brad Spencer and for the remarkably capable incumbent councilperson, Lynn Betts. I hope my neighbors will think about voting for the same two candidates.

Friday, October 2, 2009

I Fear the Far Right

The Atmosphere Created by the Crazy Right is Crazy!
by Charlie Leck

In a recent column by Thomas L. Friedman, “Where did we go?,” the author establishes the same fear that has plagued me lately. The atmosphere is crazy – nuts! Rational, sensible and calm debate has disappeared. Shouting, insulting and cussing is now the style in political disagreement. I have friends who send out the sickest emails that I could ever imagine possible.

It all sounds cute. Holler and scream and claim that the opponent is unpatriotic. Call the opponents liars and cheats. It’s an awful atmosphere and I am ashamed of such Americans. What happened to the old days when we could disagree and yet respect each other?

In the last few days, Tom Friedman has said what frightens me and what all of us choose to ignore.

“Others have already remarked on this analogy, but I want to add my voice because the parallels to Israel then and America today turn my stomach: I have no problem with any of the substantive criticism of President Obama from the right or left. But something very dangerous is happening. Criticism from the far right has begun tipping over into delegitimation and creating the same kind of climate here that existed in Israel on the eve of the Rabin assassination.”

I fear for our President. I’m sorry. I’m probably not supposed to say it. There are too many crazies roaming around in the world. There aren’t enough Secret Service agents to watch them. Too many of these crazies believe the President is a nutty guy.

I have never felt this fear before. Never!

I hope I am being overly dramatic. I’ll be the first to admit it in seven years, if nothing happens.

Friedman doesn’t linger on this fear he expresses. His major point is that we need to give our Presidents, whoever they are and with whatever party they are aligned, a true sense of legitimacy, so they can operate efficiently in governing the nation and dealing with world problems. That was standard operating procedure in America until the birth of the far left and far right political movements.

“Again, hack away at the man’s policies and even his character all you want. I know politics is a tough business. But if we destroy the legitimacy of another president to lead or to pull the country together for what most Americans want most right now — nation-building at home — we are in serious trouble. We can’t go 24 years without a legitimate president — not without being swamped by the problems that we will end up postponing because we can’t address them rationally.” [Thomas L. Friedman]

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Tenth Amendment to the Constitution

Part VII
Crazy Congresswoman Michele Bachman argues any kind of public option or government health care service would be unconstitutional.
by Charlie Leck

In yesterday’s blog I wrote about “a deer in headlights.” On the same subject, there is Michele Bachman.

Can anyone figure out how to turn off her microphone?

The Congresswoman from the 6th Congressional District of Minnesota is at it again. Lately she’s been arguing that the Supreme Court would throw out any legislation the Congress passes that attempts to nationalize our health care institution – or even federalize any portion of it (like a public option).

The Tenth Amendment:“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

Well, take a chaw on that one! Then think about the preamble to the Constitution and what it says:

“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
The old girl is going to have a hard time arguing this one in any kind of debate. All she’s doing is providing her challengers in the 2010 election with the ammunition they need to make her look like a ding-dong – if that hasn’t already be conclusively illustrated and established.

If you want to read about Bachman’s argument in extensive form, go to this excellent article in MinnPost by Eric Black, one of my favorite news writers.

"Is there no longer freedom of speech in this chamber, Mr. President?....Mr. President...MR. PRESIDENT?....You can turn my microphone off now."
- Michele Bachmann-May 16, 2004, Last day of 2004 Session