Monday, November 30, 2009

Obama's Afghanistan Announcement



Obama and the Coming Year
by Charlie Leck

At any moment, perhaps even before I finish writing this, a very busy President Obama will make a statement about the war in Afghanistan.

Our President is trapped and he will need to grant the request of the military that more troops are needed in this strangest of strange wars. So what has taken so long for the President to make such an announcement?

Here’s my guess!
It is the couching of the President’s announcement that has taken so much time. Though the President will grant the request for 40,000 more troops for the war in Afghanistan, he really had to figure out from where to get them. Too many of our soldiers have been redeployed 2, 3 or 4 times. It is taking a toll on many of them and medical care for those who have been worn down and worn out have risen to astronomical levels. What then?

The President will set the terms and time for an end to military activities in Afghanistan. He will not simply accede to the requests for troops without setting down an end-date and a strategy for leaving Afghanistan. This President wants to be completely out of Iraq by the end of 2011 and out of Afghanistan at a date we will hear when he announces his decision to send more troops.

Iraq is one of the sorriest wars in which American troops have ever fought. It has been a wasteful shame to lose so many young Americans in a war without real purpose and mission. In Afghanistan there was somewhat more clarity about our mission and purpose – bringing down Osama bin Laden – but it unraveled into too many other unclear goals and missions. The military is not to be blamed for this. The ultimate blame lies strictly in the lap of the George W. Bush administration. Bush entered Afghanistan to track down and kill bin Laden. He failed in that mission and he failed to keep the goals of his military focused and clear.

President Obama will attempt to correct that serious error. It will be a difficult goal to accomplish, but that, I predict, is where he’s going.

The Mad, Mad Race to Christmas



That crazy time of year!
by Charlie Leck

The loveliest weekend of the year is gone again. The quiet calmness of Thanksgiving is a wondrous gift that human beings give each other. I found it a restful, pleasant time again. It would have only been improved if my friend, Fred, had been here to prepare and carve the turkey. As good as our bird was, it was far short of the accomplished way Fred both roasts and presents a turkey feast. He is very much a gourmet in his tastes for food. The man knows good food well.

Crazy that Fred has such sensitive tastes for food but doesn't care what wine he guzzles down with it. He swears by the boxes of wine he can pick up at Walmart for 3 or 4 bucks. I played with the idea of making a photograph of a box of wine look alluring and tasty. It would take a genius, I guess. I present my humble results here for you. The photo originated in Fred's kitchen. The loaf of bread was made by his own hands. My improvements make the bread look exciting, but not the wine.

Now we move into that really crazy time of year. The time that I call "the race to Christmas." The gorgeous wife is frantic already, urging me to put lists together and to begin racing from store to store for this gift and that one. We've made out massive checklist of all the folks for whom we wish to buy. It is of the size of a major corporation's end-of-the-fiscal year spreadsheet.

"What about Christmas cards?" She asks with little hope in her voice.

"Too late," I say. "We can't possibly get cards and get them out now. Too much to do."

She's got her eye on a Christmas tree already. It's uncut and she's negotiating it's purchase with an innocent owner who did not intend it to become someone's Christmas tree; however, in this area, as in so many others, money talks.

Four of the six kids will be here and so will the mother of one of our sons-in-law. Maybe my sister-in-law, too. Stockings will be hung for everyone and Santa has been ordered (not requested) to fill them to the gills with lovely this and thats.

Thanksgiving and the days leading up to it seem to be lazy, lovely days of anticipation and all the focus is on the dinner spread -- the feast -- and the table on which it will be laid out. These days leading up to Christmas seem much more like a race -- a mad, mad, frantic race that one can only lose and never win. Yet, here I am entered once more in said race and wildly wrapping gifts and making checklists and preparing boxes to be shipped to various places in the country.

For Fred I'll purchase a couple of good bottles of a nice French wine and send them with some splendid lamb chops and and a small roast. Fred won't let the season get him all riled up. He's in a good mode these days, determined to live out the rest of his days peacefully and he's tuned into the good and important things around him (with the exception of the wine he drinks).
There are lessons to be learned from Fred; and I'm trying to learn to measure the really worthwhile against the completely unnecessary.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

So, you think you know your town!



I’ve lived here a long time and I really pay attention, but I missed this one completely!
by Charlie Leck

We’ve got a real live saint living in our town. Her name is Purita and she’s sweet, lovely, attractive and she sings like an angel! Actually she doesn’t live here in our community; though she formerly did – up there on Pagenkopf Road. A few years ago, she and her husband moved to an adjoining village. We still count her as one of ours.

I had no idea what an extraordinary contribution Purita was making to our community until just a few weeks ago when someone quite inadvertently told me about it.

“You’re kidding?” I asked in amazement.

The fellow looked at me and cocked his head a bit as if he were a spaniel or labrador.

“Why would I kid? She’s been doing it for years.”

“How come I didn’t know about this?”

Well, again, the guy looked at me as if I were from outer-space, or something. How was he to know why I was so ignorant about this incredible woman and what she did every Thanksgiving Day?

“She’s a bit of a saint, you know,” he said in a gentle, off-hand manner, “and does her work quietly and she doesn’t want publicity.”

“But, there are plenty of us who’d like to help – to contribute.”

“Oh, she’s got plenty of people involved. Danny Dobozinski – you know, Dobo, from Dobo’s Café – he does all the cooking for her – sends over the turkeys and all the fixin’ and the pies. He even sends enough pies that every family can take one home. Along with all that, he sends cakes and other goodies. It’s a real Thanksgiving feast and the people who’ve been coming for years almost treat it like a family situation. They’re all glad to see each other again and to join together on such an important day.”

I was starting to get the picture, but I didn’t think my town had people in it who needed a place to dine on Thanksgiving.

“Oh, it extends beyond our town. People in surrounding communities are invited to come. It’s all absolutely free. If you’re on your own – lonely maybe – or not up to fixin’ your own dinner – or struggling financially – or just plain don’t want to go to all the trouble – they're all invited to come to the city hall to feast together. Some of the guests are local folks – well healed, but at the age where it’s difficult to do the whole Thanksgiving thing. There are Hispanics who don’t know all the traditions. There are some people who aren’t capable of putting together their own big dinner.”

“I want to help,” I said. “How can I help?”

“Don’t think you’re needed,” was the answer that bit pretty hard. “Purita’s got it all figured out. You don’t need to mess in everything you know. This might be one thing you just ought to keep your nose out of and let it run as it always has.”

That was pretty tough talk and it got me burned a little. There seemed to be all kinds of implications in that statement that I couldn't get hold of.

“Well, what if I just donated a little money to help Danny with the costs?”

“His whole family is involved. I think they can handle it okay.”

“Well, I want to talk to Purita, to tell her how pleased I am that she does this. What’s her phone number?”

“I don’t know. Let me call her first and ask her if it’s okay to give it to you.”

Well, I left the conversation feeling like I had some strange disease and had to be isolated away from this event. Was there some fear I’d mess it up?

A couple days later the fellow emailed me Purita’s phone number and said I could call her. So, I did. I told her how moved I was by what she does here in town. I asked if she needed help or whether I could donate some funds. Turns out she might have some need for drivers to get people to and from the dinner; and Danny might appreciate some help with the cost of the thing.

“It’s gotten pretty expensive for him,” she said. “Why don’t you check with him!”

Danny’s a great guy, too. He has a wonderful café in the town just on our northern border. Man, what fabulous home-made baked goods they serve and sell over the counter. His whole family – his parents and siblings – are all very good people who contribute lots to special projects in our town. They’re very involved in stocking our food shelves so people can get food in emergencies. Danny always has a smile on his face and always has time for a long hello even though the café might really be jumping. He welcomed a little bit of help.
A couple of days before Thanksgiving, Purita asked me to stop over at City Hall to peek in on the event and listen in on some of the singing and celebrating that would go on after dinner.

I was pretty overwhelmed by it all. The hall was big enough, but there was a good size crowd of diners there. The food looked splendid and the volunteers were efficient and good humored and having a ball.

Purita gave me permission to take a few photos. I chatted with lots of people and found every story amazingly different. One local, long time resident of our community lost her husband a few years ago. The dinner is perfect for her. She loves getting out and meeting new people and enjoying the time with them. Another lady lives in one of our up-scale communities, but is alone and doesn’t find it much fun to do a Turkey dinner by herself. There were new residents to the area who were struggling to find work and settle in. What a great opportunity to meet new people and “network” as we call it. Then, there were some folks who couldn’t manage to do a dinner on their own.

Purita reaches out to all of them and wraps her love around them and makes sure they are invited to join in the big Thanksgiving feast. She urges all the volunteers to look out for folks who need a place to dine on this big, wonderful holiday.

At the end of the feast, Purita leads them in song. Her voice is so sweetly strong and brilliant that it brings tears to my eyes thinking about it.

“Oh, I could listen to her all day,” one fellow leaned over and said to me. “She’s a saint, you know.”

“Yeh!” I got the idea that he was correct. We have a saint right here in our town, pouring her love out on so many people. She brings them happiness and love.

“Let’ sing this one,” Purita said into the microphone. “It’s a perfect song for today.”

Her voice sends chills through me and, when I close my eyes, it is as if an angel hovers overhead with her gentle, protective wings spread above and around us.

“I see trees of green, red roses too,
I see them bloom, for me and you.
And I think to myself... what a wonderful world.

“I see skies of blue, and clouds of white,
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night.
And I think to myself... what a wonderful world.

“The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky,
Also the faces of people going by.
I see friends shaking hands, say how do you do?
They're really saying, I love you.

“I hear babies crying, I watch them grow,
They'll learn much more than I'll ever know.
And I think to myself... what a wonderful world.

“Yes I think to myself... what a wonderful world.”


She loves Purita and loves her Thanksgiving Days with her!


Happy to be with friends and enjoying a fine dinner!


Happy to be surrounded by friends and an angel!


Happy, kind volunteers who make it a great day!


Lining up for left-overs to take home!

The community room at City Hall is nearly full -- and certainly filled
with happiness and good feelings.

The songs weren't real familiar, but they still sounded pretty!


There were volunteers who did all the work with smiles on their faces.


By word of mouth and with simple, little signs like this one, people find out
about the Happy Thanksgiving celebration at City Hall. All it requires is
making a reservation ahead of time.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Keeping Grandpa Busy


This is grandaughter, Caroline, who, except when she bathes, never
removes her beloved stocking cap and no one tries to force her to.

Sometimes the blog comes in in second place! Like now, for instance!
by Charlie Leck

The grandkids are here – two of them anyway – the Chicago contingent – and grandpa has been kept very busy trying to juggle the demands of two vibrant, energetic little girls and his dog and wife. We’re handling it all, however, and we’ll be back on the air on Sunday morning with some more comments about my town and an extraordinary Thanksgiving experience I had here.


Grandpa's traditional job on Thanksgiving is to prepare a
giant platter of wonderful fresh lox. Voila!



Lovely Lisa, Anne's delightful daugher, prepared the spectacular green
salad for our Thanksgiving feast.


Grandaughter Anna relaxed and had a good time watching
everyone work to prepare dinner.


Mark's beloved, Kelly, brought the Thanksgiving pies
and her wonderous smile.



A volunteer from my town helps to serve up a spectacular
free feast for people who come together to share in a
special event.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving



This is such a wonderful day for special, clear thinking!
by Charllie Leck

This has always been the most wonderful day of the year for me. I adore Thanksgiving Day. Almost all of my closest friends and also my family count it as the best holiday of the year.
I hope y'all have a very nice, comfortable and peaceful day today and I hope that you are surrounded by happiness and love.

In 1918, in the small mining town of Bovey, Minnesota, Charles Wilden paid a visit on Eric Enstrom's photographic studio. He certainly did not stop to have his photograph taken. Wilden was a peddler, selling foot-scrapers; however, Enstrom saw something special in the man and implored him to pose for a photograph.

Today, the Enstrom family continues to sell the famous image. One can visit their home on the world-wide web by going to the following site:
http://www.gracebyenstrom.com/index.html

The original of the photograph hangs today in the office of the Minnesota Secretary of State.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Home-Town Kid Makes Good



He makes his community proud that he’s a part of us, but what looms in his future?
by Charlie Leck

In America, almost every little kid’s dream is to make it to the big leagues. I can attest to that. Yup, it’s a part of the American trilogy – “baseball, apple pie and the American flag!” The dream culminates in being named the MVP – the Most Valuable Player!

A hometown kid from our metropolitan community made it! Joe Mauer, of Saint Paul, was yesterday named the American League’s Most Valuable Player for the 2009 season.

Today, the entire state is busting its buttons with pride and happiness. Three cheers for the kid. He deserved it and it would have been “highway robbery” if it hadn’t been given to him. The great fear around here, of course, was that the award would have to go to a Yankee just because of their dominance in the news arena.

But Joe had just too good a season and distanced himself so far out ahead of all the other players in the league that there were just no other options.

So, what happens when a small-town, regular, good guy is announced as the winner of this grand award? On Monday, in Minneapolis, Joe showed up at the ball park to meet the press and hear the official word. Gathered there to greet him was his mom and dad and two full rows of his family, including grandparents, brothers and sisters-in-law and nieces (one of them wearing a blue Joe Mauer (#7) t-shirt. Also present were a number of his team-mates and local friends.

Of the 28 writers with votes, Joe was the top choice on 27 ballots. The one member of the baseball writers association who didn’t vote for Joe must have been out late drinking the night before the vote – and probably with the guy, Miguel Cabrera, for whom he voted. Cabrera had less than stellar public relations success this past season that saw him involved in a drunken spat with his wife and a trip to the county jail. Well, I guess that doesn’t make him a bad ball player, but it puts extra emphasis on the “aw, shucks,” down-home, kid-next-door nature of our entire state’s favorite ball player, Joe Mauer.

What kind of year did Joe Mauer have? Well, it started out disastrously. Joe missed all of spring training and a month at the beginning of the regular season with a serious back or kidney problem. When he returned to the team on May 1st and stepped up to the plate, he knocked one out of the park on his first swing and he was off and running for the rest of the year. He finished with a batting average of 365 (that’s a major league record for a catcher) and it won him his third batting title in his four years of playing. He also led the league in slugging and on-base percentage (28 home runs, 96 runs batted in, and 191 hits). These are unheard of numbers for a catcher and they carve out a place for Joe in the annals of baseball history and propel him ever closer to a guaranteed spot in Cooperstown (the Major League Baseball Hal of Fame). Oh, yes, Joe also won the year's Gold Glove Award as the best defensive catcher in the American League.

In the entire history of baseball, no catcher ever won a league batting title. Now, Joes has done it three times. If you're a baseball fanatic, think of the great catchers in the history of the game with whom Joe Mauer now stands: Yoggi Berra, Johnny Bench, Carlton Fisk, Bill Dickey, Thurman Munson, Roy Campanella and Walker Cooper. Oh, my goodness!

Joe is only under contract to the Twins for one more year. He’s due to make 12 million dollars this coming season. (I guess that blurs a little of that “aw-shucks” kind of feeling about him.) In 2011, he’ll be a free agent and it is frightening to think of what that might mean when New York (both teams) and Boston start bidding for his services.

Would Joe really leave his home-town to go to the Big Apple?
“Say it ain’t so, Joe!” Well, we began this blog talking about every little boy’s dream of playing in the big leagues and there is nothing bigger, and no dream sweeter, than pulling on the pin stripes of the Bronx Bombers. However, the New York City mentality doesn’t seem to fit Joe as sweetly as the Yankee uniform might. He’ll need to give the Twins a discount for his services and there aren’t many ball players who would even think about doing that. Joe Mauer just happens to be one of those few. It’s our only hope folks.

It’s going to be a wonderful 2010 season in the Twins new ball park, Target Field. An opportunity to watch Joe Mauer play this little kids' game.
Comments:
Already this morning a reader has sent in a link to Joe Christiansen's commentary in the StarTribune about whether the Twins can figure out how to keep Joe Mauer in one of their uniforms. You can also watch a video there with Joe's comments at the award ceremony.

Another tells me that the Mayor of Saint Paul has declared today (Wed, 25 November) Joe Mauer Day over in that city. Joe will be honored today in a special ceremony and he'll get a key to the city. [See a short story about that in MinnPost]
Still another tells me that only 10 players have won 3 batting titles as Joe has and among those 10 names 3 played for the Minnesota Twins -- Joe, Tony Oliva and Rod Carew. The others are Wade Boggs, George Brett, Carl Yastrzemski, Ted Williams, Harry Heilman, Nap Lajoie and Ty Cobb. That, of course, is not correct unless he amends it to American League players. Right off the top I see that Stan Musial is not on the list and he won 7 batting titles.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Proud Papa


Thanks to our friends and family for being so kind -- again!
by Charlie Leck

I’ve got a kid (our youngest) who is in her third year teaching in New York City as a volunteer for TEACH FOR AMERICA.

What can I say? My buttons are bursting with pride. She was an honors graduate from Colgate University in 2007 and she could be out in the world making the big and bountiful bucks.

Instead, she got turned on to TEACH FOR AMERICA and ended up being sent to Harlem to teach in an under resourced school up around 135th Street in Manhattan (Harlem).

But, this is not a blog about her; this is about the rest of our family and many of our friends. A couple of times now, when we’ve put out the distress call, they responded big time and came to her aid and I’m as proud and thankful as a guy could be about that.

A couple of weeks ago, through an on-line program called DonorsChoose.org, Cynthia put out this call.

"Reading, writing and history, oh my!

"Schools across the country faced dramatic budget cuts this year and for my 7th grade students this meant combining two classes into one in order to free up some much needed funds. As a result, for the 2009-2010 school year English and Social Studies have been combined to form Humanities. With only 4.5 hours a weeks in my classroom students are struggling to learn all there is to know about reading, writing and the history of the United States from the first civilizations through the Civil War.

"In an effort to increase student learning and help students make connections between everything they are learning we will be reading four historical fiction novels. Unfortunately, the school only owns two of these! With no money left for books I'm reaching out to you all for help purchasing the book 'Before We Were Free,' by Julia Alvarez. A story of a young girl growing up in the Dominican Republic during the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo, this book will give my students a better understanding of the central role democracy and freedom play in the U.S. and what life can be like without these things. In addition with a large number of Dominican students in my classroom it will give them a chance to learn about an often forgotten time of pain and terror in their own homelands.

"My students need 96 copies of the novel 'Before We Were Free' by Julia Alzarez in order to learn about government and freedom. The cost of this proposal is $668, which includes shipping for any materials requested and fulfillment."

Yesterday, she put out this message for all (many of our friends and family) who had responded and given.
“I can’t fully express how thankful I am about this project being fully funded. It was remarkable how quickly action was taken to ensure my students are able to grow as readers and thinkers, even in times of need. It has been a challenging year, but the speed at which this project was funded reminds me that people are there to help. I’m sure that my students will as thankful as I am when they first crack open their personal copies of ‘Before We Were Free!'

"In closing, I would like to give thanks a bit early this year to each of you who took an active step toward raising the level of education my 96 students will receive this year.

"With gratitude,
Ms. L”
DonorsChoose.org is a wonderful enabling tool for raising money for small and worthy projects. Get to know it! For now, though, know how much I appreciate what so many of you did.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Hitch Your Wagon to a Star


This is a fake, by the way, 'cause Sarah never appeared on a
Vogue cover. This phony photo made the rounds early in 2008.
And, oh yes, by the way, Vogue rhymes with Rogue.

Hollywood… er, I mean Washington seems ready to hitch its future to Sarah Palin!
by Charlie Leck

Did any of you know the first thing in the world about Sarah Palin before 2008? Come on, answer honestly now! I sure didn’t!

And now, there she is, tempting the Republican Party to latch on to her for a superstar ride to the top of the political galaxy! Wow!

I can’t imagine that the Republican Party will go for it, but who knows? You can bet they’re going to watch her carefully to see just how fully she catches on. Her book promotion trip is more like a rock star tour, attracting thousands of adoring fans. I can only hope that most of them will eventually read her book and see just what kind of loony character she is.

I think she proved her lack of substance when she chose the book sales circuit over fulfilling her term as Governor of her state. Is a run for the Presidency still a possibility for her? I just can’t imagine it!

There are an awful lot of people gushing over her right now, but I can believe that these folks have really examined her intellectual capacity or abilities to organize and lead a complicated election campaign – no less serve as President.

In another 15 or 16 months we’ll see the real potential candidates for the top job start to emerge. Will Palin be one of them? Someone book mark this blog so you can throw it back in my face, because I’m saying there is no way Sarah Palin becomes a serious candidate for endorsement by the Republican Party. That party has it weaknesses, but utter stupidity is not one of them.

Ross Douthat concludes a recent opinion column in the NY Times with this remarkably insightful comment about just this subject:
"This means that there are substantial political rewards awaiting the politician who becomes the voice of an intellectually vigorous conservatism. It probably won’t be Mike Huckabee or Sarah Palin. If Republicans are lucky, though, it will be somebody who shares their charisma — but who prefers the responsibilities of leadership to the pleasures of celebrity."
The title of Palin's book, by the way, is ROGUE, a term that was applied to her during the last Presidential campaign. Merriam-Webster's definition: "A deceitful and unreliable scoundrel!"

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Let the Debate Begin!


On 30 July 1965, at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library in
Missouri, President Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ) signed Medicare
into law. Former President Truman sits at the signing with LBJ.
Mrs. Truman is behind her husband and Vice President
Hubert H. Humphrey and Mrs. Johnson look on.

The Question of Health Care Reform: It is as important as was the Civil Rights Legislation of ’64 and the Medicare Legislation of ’65.
by Charlie Leck

The two bills passed, one in 1964 and the other in 1965, are as important and successful as any legislation ever passed in the United States Congress. I’m talking about the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Medicare bill of 1965.

They were passed under the guidance of a guy who may have been the toughest S.O.B. ever to work in Congress and the White House. As tough and as crude as he was, he was a genius in the political process required to pass controversial legislation. He was the proverbial “horse trader.” As they say about great legislative leaders, “he knew how to count!” More importantly, he knew just how hard to twist a guy’s arm and that was sometimes right to the breaking point. They called him LBJ.

Oh for an LBJ right now, when the United States Congress will open debate on one of the most historic and important pieces of legislation ever to appear before it – the people’s right to high quality health care no matter what their economic status.

Just to define the ethical principle, it has never seemed fair to me that I should be able to afford medical and health care and advice from the finest doctors and institutions available and another person should not. That is the simple case in a nutshell.

There will be right wing jerks who will try to make it out as socialism or even vile communism! They should be laughed out of the halls of Congress; however, massive amounts of people, who do not truly understand the principles of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution of the United States, will believe them. Our right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” is a guaranty made impossible if we cannot care for our health! Period and exclamation mark.

The movement toward securing those rights began in the Civil Rights Act of ’64 and took the next step in passage of the Medicare legislation of ’65. Passing a health care bill that provides all people with an affordable public option SHOULD THEY CHOOSE IT, is the next step toward guaranteed, universal health care for all people. Such legislation would bring us one step closer to the modern world. It would inch us closer toward civilization and basic human fairness.

Lyndon Baines Johnson, for all his faults, understood that all Americans deserved to be a part of the great dream. My, how I disagreed with and fought the bastard over so many issues. Yet how tall he stood on that day when he said: “We SHALL overcome!” How proud he was the day he took pen in hand and stroked his signature over the Congressional bill, the Social Security Act of 1965, that guaranteed high quality health care to America’s senior citizens.

John F. Kennedy, before Johnson, had worked hard to pass the medicare legislation and so had President Harry S. Truman, but both had failed to work it through Congress. The master of the "hit upside the head" came in and led the blocking as the bill approached the goal line. It will take such a bold President, using all the wheeling and dealing powers at his disposal today, to get the American Health Care Reform Act passed during his tenure in the White House.
"At 2 p.m. on the afternoon of July 30, 1965 two planeloads of dignitaries departed Andrews Air Force Base in Washington for a flight to Kansas City, Missouri. In the lead plane, Air Force One, was President Lyndon Johnson and the first-rank of Washington officialdom. In the second plane were the second-tier dignitaries and the press. After arriving in Kansas City the group departed in a huge motorcade for the smaller town of Independence-a 20 minute drive from Kansas City. The group's destination was the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library in Independence, where Johnson planned to sign into law the bill creating the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

"During his prepared remarks, Johnson stood at a podium with President Truman at his left side. Near the end of his prepared remarks President Johnson turned again to Truman and offered to enroll him in the Part B Medical Insurance program. Johnson told him, 'They told me, President Truman, that if you wish to get the voluntary medical insurance you will have to sign this application form. And they asked me to sign as your witness. So you're getting special treatment since cards won't go out to the other folks until the end of this month.' Johnson then looked back over at Truman and said, 'But we wanted you to know, and we wanted the whole world to know,' at this point Johnson leaned over towards Truman, sticking his long hound-dog face right in Truman's, 'who is the real daddy of Medicare.' Truman mumbled his appreciation. Johnson then signed up Harry Truman as the first Medicare beneficiary." [from a 2003 Article by Larry DeWitt]
To read an incredible inside story about how LBJ managed the political deal, read the story cited above by Larry DeWitt. That article concludes in the following manner:
"The passage of Medicare would be one of the lasting achievements of Lyndon Johnson's presidency and a key enduring pillar of the Great Society. While the general outline of Medicare's legislative history had been well-known for some time, the recent releases of Lyndon Johnson's secretly recorded White House phone conversations throws some new light, and adds some additional nuances, to this broad story. We see, for example, more clearly than previously appreciated the key role that Wilbur Cohen played in the successful campaign for Medicare's passage through Congress. We hear Lyndon Johnson express the populist sentiments which inform his commitment to programs like Medicare. We see some of the ups and downs and uncertainties of the legislative process with a clarity that is lost in a simple listing of key dates of the passage of bills through the various stages of the legislative process.

"At the end of his presidency, Franklin Roosevelt was reported to have considered the Social Security Act of 1935 to be the proudest domestic achievement of his political career. It is unknown whether Lyndon Johnson saw Medicare as his. But one thing is certain which both Presidents had in common. Social Security would not have been enacted in 1935 without Franklin Roosevelt in the White House, and Medicare would not have been enacted in 1965 if Lyndon Johnson had not been President. They both were the indispensable right man for the right time."
The question now is: Do we have the right man for the right time?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Spectacular Lamb Shoulder Chops


This is not an actual picture of the chops I served. Had I known they
were going to be so wonderful, I would have taken photographs.


Shoulder meat from the lamb must be given some attention to enjoy it at a dazzling level!
by Charlie Leck

Here’s how to prepare fabulous shoulder chops!
On Thursday, my wife set out some lamb shoulder and arm chops to thaw. She suggested I prepare them for dinner if they thawed in time and she warned me that our butcher said that these were a bit inferior in comparison to the meat we sell our customers, so he had marked them NOT FOR SALE. It sounded like a challenge to me, so I decided not to rush them and to hold them for Friday evening instead.

Early Friday morning I prepared a marinade for the thawed chops. I mixed the following ingredients in a bowl as the marinade:

· Soy Sauce (quite a bit of it)
· Vinegar (ordinary cooking vinegar) – a few tablespoons!
· 2 Tablespoons of classic olive oil
· A healthy amount of ground black pepper corns
· A dash or two of salt
· A shake or two of paprika
· A third of a teaspoon of ginger
· 4 garlic cloves minced and mashed
· a third of a cup of red wine

I had already taken the chops out of the refrigerator and I was allowing them to warm up some. I took a sharp paring knife and cut little slits all over both sides of each chop. Two of the chops were from the shoulder and two were arm chops, which are cut from the top of the arm section of the lamb shoulder. If you’d like an explanation of various chop cuts from the lamb, go to this illustrated web page.

I put the chops in a single layer in a roasting dish. I then poured the marinade evenly over them and rubbed it in a bit. I sealed the dish with a plastic wrap and allowed them to marinade in the refrigerator about 4 hours and then turned them over and used a table spoon to drip marinade from the roasting dish on the tops of the chops. Then, I allowed them to marinade another 4 hours.

Three hours before cooking, I took the chops out and allowed them to warm to room temperature.

Here’s how I cooked the chops.
I put a little olive oil in a non-stick frying pan and got the pan and oil very hot. I then browned the chops very quickly on both sides and then put them in a roasting pan and put them in a preheated oven set at only 200 degrees. I allowed the chops to bake for about an hour and a half.

Anne had offered to prepare some fresh, wild rice. I also allowed some fresh brussel sprouts to warm to room temperature. I put the sprouts in a steaming dish, sprinkled them with a touch of salt and pepper and scattered some fresh raspberries on top of them and steam-cooked them to a nice tenderness.

I served the chops with a small French baguette and nice Italian Chianti wine. How attractive they looked served with the wild rice and the brussel sprouts and wilting raspberries.

When I took my first bite, I wished aloud that our nice butcher was dining with us so that he could taste one of the most wonderful lamb chops I have ever eaten. Damn, it’s embarrassing and vain to say it, but they were absolutely spectacular.

I am certain that the key to this particular dish was cooking it very slowly and browning and sealing the chops first.

Lamb from Sheepy Hollow at Native Oaks Farm – there’s nothing like it!

Friday, November 20, 2009

AARP and I have parted ways!


Seniors, like this old coot, need real advocates in Washington to
protect them and represent them. AARP has failed at this!

The AARP and I have parted ways and good…
by Charlie Leck

This is my second break-up with the AARP and it’s my last ‘cause I ain’t ever goin’ back. You can take that to the bank!

A few years ago I dropped my AARP membership because of the stance they took on Medicare payments for prescription drugs, when they supported an asinine proposal by the Bush administration (the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003). Back then, it was referred to as Part D. The pharmaceutical companies reaped huge profits from the passage of this legislation and it has cost seniors an awful lot of money. AARP shocked and angered me when they came out in full support of this bill.
"According to advocates for universal single-payer coverage and others, passage of the 2003 law potentially marked the beginning of the end for publicly-financed Medicare and clouded the future of employer-provided coverage. AARP played a crucial role, much like today in the debate over health care reform. It's siding with free-market ideologues destroys its credibility as an advocate for seniors."
(Steve Lendman, AARP's Tradition of Betrayal)
For some reason, I renewed my membership a couple of years ago. Why? Probably because I am a dummy and I’m susceptible to the kind of propaganda AARP puts out to seniors.

I haven’t the slightest idea why. This is a nutty organization. Though they claim to be an advocacy group, they really aren’t. They are a terribly commercial endeavor operating in the clothing of a non-profit.

Here are some things you may not know about AARP.

From its beginning it has sold insurance to its members to earn royalties. Keep that in mind as we go on. “Insurance” is the key and operational word to remember.

AARP is probably the most powerful advocacy organization in America with an abundance of funds with which to work. The organization is headquartered in the nation’s capitol and operates out of a 10 story, 500,000 square foot building. Within that building, AARP employs a staff of more than 2400. It’s annual revenues exceed a billion dollars (60 percent of which comes from Medigap supplemental insurance sales).

An organization of physicians, which supports a national health care program (PNHP), is not very complimentary about AARP’s supplemental insurance coverage. “Some of these programs are total rip-offs.” PNHP also contends that AARP is “part of the problem and not part of the solution.”

If any of you seniors out there are waiting for AARP to take on some of the big national health insurance companies, you have a very long wait. What is it they say? "When we can play golf 365 days a year in Minnesota!" Hell will freeze over first!

AARP is now solidly part of the industry and not a watch-dog over it. AARP offers its members 17 different types of insurance and brings in hundreds of millions of dollars in profits from those insurance companies. This is important: AARP is a part of the insurance industry -- the industry that is so opposed to a public option in the new health care plan.

Add in its annual membership fees and you can easily picture a major corporation taking in incredible sums of money.

Do I want to keep my membership in such an organization in order to get an occasional discount on hotel/motel rates or on an infrequent dinner (before 6 P.M., please) at crummy chain restaurants?

AARP puts on a costume that makes it appear it supports national health care reform while, in fact, it works for the weakest possible legislation -- something that will allow it to claim we've had health care reform while the insurance industry and the drug companies suffer the least possible hit and seniors get no cost relief. AARP is not the nation's leading advocate for seniors; it is thoroughly in bed with those who are currently reaping mind-boggling profits from America's seniors and America's ill.

Seniors in the U.S. are ripe and ready for a real senior advocacy group. If someone puts a real one together right now, seniors would flock to it. Like I, seniors are leaving AARP in droves.

I know one thing: I'm flipping the bird at AARP and I will never again renew my membership in this rip-off organization.

Helen & Margaret and Thanksgiving


Helen & Margaret (photo copped from their blog)

What a good blog!
by Charlie Leck

I'm a regular reader of the blog called "Margaret and Helen." As a matter of fact, I'm hooked on it. The current blog is pretty cool and, I think, the only one of their blogs to which I have ever responded with a comment.

It's all about the "real" and normal American family! Read it and read the blog regularly. It'll help your innards and provide you with great regularity.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

PALIN GETS 5 MILLION UP-FRONT FOR BOOK


Thoughts from a high altitude -- from about 14,500 feet, on the way to Pike's Peak.

Oh, my! Can you picture, in your wildest imaginings, that Sarah Palin would be guaranteed five million buckeroos for writing a book?
by Charlie Leck

Oh my! Am I going absolutely batty? The world is topsy-turvy! The inmates are truly in charge of the asylum! There is no balance left in the universe. Sarah Palin is paid five million dollars for writing a book about herself. And, there are Rush Limbaugh type idiots who are going to run to the bookstore to pick up copies at full retail price. Have you seen the video reports showing long, long lines of people waiting to meet Sarah and buy her book? These are people, I guaranty you, who have never read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book, A Team of Rivals, or Gore Vidal’s book, United States: Essays 1952-1992. And, I know for sure that they’ve never read Doris Lessing or Tim O’Brien.

Going Rogue is the title Palin, or some clever marketing person, gave the new book. Who out there believe’s Palin really wrote this book? Oh, my!

Give me a break! In a Palin world, the inmates really would be running the asylum.

Have you listened to any of these recent interviews of Sarah Palin about her book and about her future in politics? Have you? If you have, don’t they frighten you? How about Glenn Beck as Vice President of the United States of America?

Give me a break.

Thanks to all those who wanted to know if everything is okay because I missed TWO days of blogging. I was traveling in Colorado and couldn’t get to a place civilized enough to allow me on line to write my blog. For instance, I had no blogging connections up there at 14,000 feet – only part way up to the top of Pike’s Peak. Oh my, what a lovely place!

Oh my! On a clear day you can see forever!


My buddy, Fred, warms up at the bar before heading to a table with his son, Adam,
and me. Fred, a native of Denver, introduced me to Luca d'Italia.

Had dinner in a marvelous Denver restaurant while out there visiting… I’d give it four and one-half stars. Oh my, what a wonderful place – called Luca d'Italia. The next time I visit Denver, this restaurant will be on my must “go back to” list. The same owner runs Mizuna, a French restaurant right around the corner, and I want to try that place as well. Everyone I talked to called Mizuna Denver’s best restaurant. At Luca D’Italia, I ordered the Pan Roasted Duck Breast with pumpkin risotto, fegato emulsion and cranberry conserva and, oh my, it was so wonderful. My host, Fred, had the Meyer Hanger Steak with short rib cannelloni, a saffron carrot puree and cipolini marmalata. The service was perfect and the setting was “nice enough.”


At Luca d'Italia, my pan roasted duck with pumpkin risotto,
figato emulsion and cranberry conserva

Visitors to Denver won’t have problems finding wonderful places to eat. Oh my, the town if filled with great dining spots. On a day when you aren’t prepared to doll yourself up and you just want to eat wildly, go over to Greek Town and try some of Pete’s establishments. Oh, my!

Just need to add that I also visited the Air Force Academy while in Denver. I was impressed. It doesn’t impress you the way West Point does, with old and deeply ingrained tradition, but it is still a spectacular place in a breath-taking setting. It’s worth the visit.


The spectacular Air Force Academy chapel in Colorado Springs.

Fred, my host in Denver, made sure he took a photograph of me entering the Barry Goldwater Air Force Academy Visitors’ Center. Nothing needs to be said about why Fred thought that was so funny.

I'm trying to ignore my real subject today -- Sarah Palin has written a book. Really, a whole book with words and sentences and paragraphs and all. Roll out the typewriters and set the monkeys down to work… My fair lady! Oh, my!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Goodbye, Lou Dobbs and good....



Ding! Dong! The somabitch is gone!
by Charlie Leck

On his “show” (notice that I do not say "newscast") last Wednesday evening, Lou Dobbs abruptly resigned and made a statement that included these words:
“…leaders in media, politics and business have been urging me to go beyond the role here at CNN and to engage in constructive problem solving as well as to contribute positively to the great understanding of the issues of our day.”
I've written here a number of times about my distaste for Dobbs. He didn’t belong at CNN and he didn’t fit in. He was too bombastic and he opined with far too much malice and fury. I stopped watching him well over a year ago, but I kept reading about the wave of dislike of him that was flooding the executive offices at CNN. People were bombarding the news network with vows that they were boycotting those companies that sponsored the Lou Dobbs Hour.

I couldn’t be happier. Now I’ll switch on CNN once more at that first hour of the evening around here and, perhaps, hear real news again and not the kind of screeching I normally get over at FOX News and MSNBC.

An old, Hungarian friend of mine, gone now to dwell among the stars, could never quite pronounce my favorite “cuss” word. Instead, it always came out as “some-a-bitch.” This morning, when I heard that Dobbs is gone from CNN, I wanted to sing the well known refrain: “Ding! Dong! The wicked witch is dead.” However, my old pal captured my tongue and it came out much more poetically: “The somabitch is gone!”

Ding! Dong!

Dobbs dramatic fall began when he started to treat the silly notion that President Obama was not born in this country (the birther movement) with a degree of respect and as if it was newsworthy.

For those interested in good coverage of Dobb's resignation here's the NY Times story that appeared on Thursday morning (written by Brian Stelter and Bill Carter). On his blog, Media Decoder, Stelter provided full text of Dobb's announcement of his resignation.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Obama in China



It is in his visit to Asia that you will see why Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Prize!
by Charlie Leck

Our President, Barack Obama, is going to show you why the Nobel Committee decided to award this year’s Peace Prize to him. This is where he sparkles.

Our nation has been in a serious international slump for the last decade. Not very much of the world has held any significant degree of respect for us and our world policies. The Nobel Committee clearly saw that Barack Obama had changed that nearly overnight. Our President has won the attention and respect of nearly every nation in the world and they are looking to us once again with a degree of hopefulness – that we will lead both compassionately and wisely.

Watch our number one guy in Asia – especially in China – and see what you think of how he does.

If you’ve got any kind of age on you, what you must remember is how the world has changed in this 21st century. This, believe me, is not your father’s Oldsmobile. New world leaders are emerging and new economic and technological experts are coming from nations that were barely visible a decade ago. China, of course, is one of those nations. We need China to be a friend and not an adversary. We need China to help in solving world problems. There are good signs in China and there are also some worrisome ones. We must be able to talk and negotiate with China in good faith, as a trusted ally, and I think Barack Obama will create that atmosphere.

Watch him! I strongly recommend you get to the really good newspapers (NY Times) to follow Obama’s Asia travels very carefully.

P.S. The current political leader of China, carrying the titles of both General Secretary of the Communist Party of China and President of the People’s Republic of China is Hu Jintao. (Remember, Hu is his family name and Jintao is his distinctive name.) He has been in office since 2003 and appears to be very popular with the Chinese population. A large percentage of the Chinese people have begun to prosper under his leadership; however, this is a massive nation with a huge populace and there are still wide-spread pockets of unimaginable poverty. China’s educated population is among the most highly skilled and well trained people in the world. Just since Hu’s rise to power, China has developed an incredibly strong presence in Africa and Latin America and may have a stronger center of influence there than that of the United States. Though Hu will turn 67 in December he appears much younger and seems to be in strong, good health.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Really Good Money



Really good money is the stuff you screw someone out of!
by Charlie Leck

My wife has a language quite her own. I wrote an essay about that a number of years ago and I think it's worth repeating here. I find her sense of extra dry humor delightful and delectible. It's also great fun being married to someone who, when they speak, you want to listen carefully in order to catch all the little inuendo that might get away if you aren't attentive.

Let me recreate for you here the entire essay as I wrote it in approximately 1991.

Really good money, the best, the golden stuff, is the money you screw someone out of. Forgive that dangling participle, but the sentence works best that way. Also, that's close to a verbatim quote, which I must credit to my wife. She calls it Pitchfork Philosophy. She talks that way a lot. There's Fern Gully Philosphy and Guggi Philosphy and Bowling Philosophy. Don't ask me to explain them all. I'll just deal with Pitchfork Philosophy. It's "the stuff" farmers come up with while they're forking manure into a spreader. An hour or so of cleaning out cow barns, sheep pens or horse stalls can be pretty boring -- causing one to think in such a manner that we might assume one has inhaled too much.

So, that's from whence came this idea about "really good money" -- straight off the pitch fork. "Really good money, the best, the golden stuff, is the money your screw someone out of."

Well, let's be honest here! She was also up pretty late last night and rose at her usual early hour. So she's been running on empty nearly all day. And, it hasn't helped that she's also unusually ticked off. We went to another city council meeting last night and listened to politicians being politicians. There's nothing quite like a small town hack. They can lay it on heavier than a southern senator or a French baker. They were laying it on pretty thick last night.

It was obvious that they have an agenda they need to implement over the objections of a strong, large section of the community. So, they took to attacking the wealthy and how they get their money. When all else seems to be failing, get after those with the money. That always works. They attack trust-wealth and inherited money as particularly evil. Fees collected by lawyers come in as second most terrible.

Never mind that the motive for what these town legislators want to shove down our throats is surrounded with the pleasant aroma of real estate development money. That, you see, is good money. It's the money that comes about as a result of screwing your neighbor good. You know what I mean. It's that slick contented look on the face of the cat, just before she closes her eyes and drifts off to sleep, satisfied by the deep, full feeling in her tummy. Never mind the fish bowl is missing one goldfish!

"So," my wife said, "the money your mum gives you is bad. And the money you make from farm subsidies, so that your neighbors can eat cheap, is bad. But, screw the town and make happy some crazed developer who needs a new hamlet to pave over -- that's good money! Oh, pitch fork!"

She seethed a while over her hot vegetable soup, fueling up so she could go face another dirty barn. A chaw of crusty French bread and she was ready again to take pitch fork in hand.

"You know," she said seriously, "the really good money is the stuff you get and you're still able to look your neighbor right in the eye after you get it."

She was back to thinking and talking about the council meeting. She was startled by how few councilmen could look anyone in the eye. They always seemed to be looking out over the heads of the audience, at some far distant dollar sign, never focusing, in word or thought, on anyone to whom they spoke. (No danglers there, boy!)

Friday, November 13, 2009

GIANTS SPEAK THE TRUTH



Two quotes which speak volumes and echo in my soul!

by Charlie Leck

In reaction to the election victory we just celebrated, a neighbor emailed to me Margaret Mead's most well known quotation. How many times I've heard it! It is so appropriate to what has happened here in the last several days and I appreciate being reminded about it.

"Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has."
Oh my! I sent it on to the entire campaign committee. It was their hard and persistent work that won the day.

Then, lately, I've been thinking again of how easily the United States seems to choose the course of war instead of reason and negotiation. I thought back to Bill Clinton's first inauguration and Maya Angelou's powerful poetry reading at that ceremony.

"History, despite its wrenching pain,
Cannot be unlived, and if faced
With courage, need not be lived again."

That's quite enough for a Friday morning blog!

Reading Recommendation

As President Obama prepares his decision about more troops for Afghanistan, here's a blog that has some wise things to say.
by Charlie Leck

Vietnam's Shadow, a blog by David Williamson at Van Peebles Land, is really worth reading. In light of the decisions President Obama is about to make regarding Afghanistan, I highly recommend it to you. Williamson is a good writer and a good thinker.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

AN EXTRAORDINARY PRAYER



Notes found in a box long unopened.
by Charlie Leck

I found a box upon a shelf in an infrequently visited closet. The box, which has traveled with me from place to place and life to life, had not been opened in years. I found, upon opening the box, a pile of notes to myself that I had hoped, when I put them there, I would one day find and shuffle through with some curiosity. They were about matters that, back then, I had thought important and that I had hoped, back then, that I would find important at that future time when I opened the box.

One is a note about a prayer that, back then, I thought terribly meaningful and inspiring. I still do, I guess, and so I'll share it with you. It was composed by a Danish theologian and philospher, Soren Kierkegaard.

"Father in Heaven! What is a man without Thee? What is all that he knows, vast accumulation though it be, but a chipped fragment if he does not know Thee? What is all his striving, could it even encompass the world, but half-finished work if he does not know Thee? Thee the One, who art one thing and who art all."
I cry out with Saint John: "I know Thee!"
"Now by this we may be sure that we know him, if we obey his commandments. Whoever says, 'I have come to know him,' but does not obey his commandments is a liar, and in such a person the truth does not exist; but whoever obeys his word, truly in this person the love of God has reached perfection. By this we may be sure that we are in him: whoever says, 'I abide in Him,' ought to walk just as he walked.

"Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word that you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new commandment that is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. Whoever says, 'I am in the light,' while hating a brother or sister, is still in the darkness. Whoever loves a brother or sister lives in the light, and in such a person there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates another believer is in the darkness, walks in the darkness, and does not know the way to go, because the darkness has brought on blindness..."

"...let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love."
Enough for a full day? Indeed!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

MY TOWN


A beautiful barn on Nelson Road at sunrise!

Let me give you a little tour of my town and, perhaps, you'll understand why I worked so hard for it during the recent election!
by Charlie Leck

Today's is a photographic blog -- a little tour of my town. (By the way, whenever I use this phrase, "my town," the emphasis should always be upon the second word (town) and not on the the first. If you try it both ways you'll see the big difference.

Back in '96 I wrote a book that I called My Town. It's a collection of essays I wrote about living here in this lovely place. I wrote about the birds...

"One awesome sight breaks into my contemplation. Dazzlingly bright gold finches are out in the heavy weather. Instinctively they understand how to use the full force of the wind. They fly here and there -- wherever they choose to go! People are off the lakes and golf courses. Police have barricaded those downtown streets that run beside the tall, glass skyscrapers and pedestrians are not allowed to walk near them. We keep an ear bent toward the radio for some unexpected warning about imminent danger. Yet, in my yard, the finches, swallows, jays, sparrows, blackbirds and cardinals continue on their merry way. Their understanding of aerodynamics has not been approached by the folks at NASA or Boeing or any other research facility. It is one of those wonders of the universe that I might have missed had I not looked out just now."
I wrote about Mary, the town clerk...

"Mary may be the most important person in Independence. The elected officials, with their changing ideas and ideals, come and go. The workmen, who plow the snow and mend the pot-holes, change with regularity. Mary, however, is at the center of order in the community. Without what she does, things would break apart. She is the City Clerk. It's not a fitting title. Chief Operating Officer would be more appropriate.

"Government is an ordering institution -- it provides the community with structure and a sense of organization. Without government, at any level, there would be turmoil and anarchy!

"Here in Independence, Mary is the government. The town's council-persons create chaos through the legislative process. Mary takes that discord and, with file folders and loose-leaf binders, she gives it all order. The council spends money and allocates funds. Mary writes the checks. The mayor and the council propose law, which by its language is distorted and senseless. Mary's pencil rearranges and repunctuates motions and resolutions and makes them intelligible. If someone needs a particular map or plat, Mary is the only one in town who can immediately produce it."

And, I wrote about the weather in winter...

"But, today it is very cold! So, I sit here in my library before a warming fire and look out at the blistering, blustering day. Oh, for a little store or cafe in the center of town with a pot belly stove and men sitting around a glowing fire, warming their toes and telling delightful lies about the triumphs of their youths. That's the kind of thing that could make this Minnesota winter bearable."
Today, though, I'll just let these photographs tell you the story of my town.

Our friends, the Albers' house on Turner Road


Sunset over Lake Robina on County Road 92 North


Entrance to Maple Ponds, a small residential community


Our local "watering hole," the Ox Yoke Inn


Peterson's Produce Farm, were good things grow!


Pioneer Creek, which meanders all through my town.


A very common scene in Independence


Lake Independence from the south.


Pioneer Creek Golf Course, a lovely, inexpensive public golf facility
in the southwest part of Independence.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Connecticut and America is for the Public Option



The Joe Lieberman Problem
by Charlie Leck

One could see this one developing from a million miles away. Joe Lieberman is one of the biggest problems the Democrats have got. He’s a former faithful member of the Party. He was spurned a few years ago and rejected as an endorsed candidate for Senate race. Angry at the rejection, he ran anyway – as an independent in a primary – and won. He counts himself as an “independent” now, but caucuses with the Democrats and even chairs the important Homeland Security Committee. There are plenty of Democrats who now want that committee chair taken away from Lieberman as punishment for his failure to stand with the party on so many issues.

Most significantly, Lieberman has come out strongly against any health care reform bill that includes a public option. If nothing else, Lieberman has some unusual set of testicles!

Just Liebermann's support -- just the support of one more U.S. Senator -- would likely be enough to get the bill through the Senate and on to a joint committee of both houses for a final rework.

In the state of Connecticut, it appears that approximately 70 percent of voters favor a national health care reform bill with a public option. Among Democrats the favorable percentage increases to over 80 percent and stays above 70 percent among independents. It fails to receive as favorable a percentage only among Republicans (33 percent favor and 55 percent oppose).

A Quinnipiac University poll, published on September 17 had this to say: “"Good news for Obama is that Connecticut voters trust him more than congressional Republicans (54 - 30 percent) to handle health care…" The results of the poll also appear to show that voters in Connecticut believe by an overwhelming margin that Republicans want Obama to fail on health care for strictly political reasons.

Now, let me ask you if you know which State it is that Joe Lieberman represents? Yup! You got it! I just don’t get it! What’s he up to?

Of course, it’s his last term in politics and he just doesn’t give a damn, but does he want to go down in history as theeeeeeee politician who killed real health care reform in America?

President Obama needs to take Joe to the wood shed – or, as it’s better known in Washington, he has to have him into the White House for a visit. Come on Mr. President, you need to remind Joe just how big you won in his home state and just how many of the people up there in Connecticut and all of New England want a public option provision included in this reform.

As for you, my dear readers, you can ask Harry Reid, the leader of the Senate, to take Joe’s committee chairmanship away from him – and Joe can just see how much the people of Connecticut like that. Go ahead and sign the petition. I have.

Connecticut’s other Senator, Christopher Dodd favors a health care bill with a public option:
“Joe and I disagree on the public option,” said Dodd. “I and many others support a strong public option because it will save money, and it will introduce more choice and competition into an industry that badly needs both. And I’m optimistic Joe will join us.”
As Sam Stein points out in his Huffington Post blog, Lieberman is out of step with his Connecticut colleagues. Connecticut’s congressional delegation in Washington is going to support the public option and has already supported it in the vote returned by the House two days ago.

The pressure on Joe Lieberman at this moment is very intense. The leadership of both houses is leaning on him and the President will soon be calling if he hasn’t already. Pressure from citizens all across America must also be zeroed in on the Senator. That’s where you come in. Make sure Lieberman hears your voice. He must hear from hundreds of thousands of American voters.

And, oh, by the way
The State of Connecticut has a public option of its own within the state. At Media Matters, they’ve reprinted an ad from the Charter Oak Health Plan, which is just such an option for the citizens of the state. Take a look at and read the ad and you’ll see just how a public option would also work nationally.

Keep the pressure on Joe!
Let Joe know… you want him to support the President on this health care reform package. If you go to this site on Congress.org, you’ll find it very easy to send your own personal message to Senator Joe Lieberman.

Monday, November 9, 2009

“Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way” [Thomas Paine]



Where were the Republicans on Medicare in the 60s?
by Charlie Leck

I think a massive campaign ought to be undertaken to remind Republican senior citizens where their party was on Medicare when the idea was first advanced. They stood in the same rigid trenches in which they stand today in opposition to a public option in health care reform legislation.

Remember, prior to Medicare, about one-half of all seniors in the U.S. had no health care coverage – none. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why our nation’s insurance companies did not want to insure seniors. So, they made the cost so prohibitive that most seniors could not afford it.

When the idea of Medicare was proposed, the insurance companies, just like they have in these days, lined up four-square against the legislation and lobbied Republicans to defeat the plan. The Republican members of Congress got their talking points from insurance company lobbyists.

Conservatives, like Ronald Reagan, mightily opposed the idea of Medicare.

“If you don’t stop Medicare…,” Regan told a crowd in 1961, “you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it once was like in America when men were free.”

Oh my!

It was over 44 years ago that Medicare became a reality in the United States and access to health care was nearly instantly improved. The plan has allowed older folks to live longer and healthier lives. It is now, in fact, hailed as a great success. Medicare brought with it many side-bracket advantages along with its direct ones. For example, it led to the desegregation of southern hospitals.

Republicans were warning that Medicare would lead to socialism in America. What it led to was better health care for older Americans. Republicans fought the plan tooth and nail.

Barry Goldwater asked very sarcastically: “Having given our pensioners their medical care in kind, why not food baskets, why not public housing accommodations, why not vacation resorts, why not a ration of cigarettes for those who smoke and of beer for those who drink?”

Now, in historical perspective, Goldwater’s remarks sound much like the screaming idiots who have gathered at tea party rallies all across the nation. I could just hear Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachman asking the same question in her screeching, irritating voice.

There were Republican lawmakers who forecast a “Soviet-style model” in caring for seniors.

Those seniors ought to be reminded today of the Republican Party’s fanatical opposition to Medicare legislation and how, over the years, they have hatched one plan after another to end Medicare or, at least, privatize it.

Instead, Republicans are trying to frighten seniors by telling them that the proposed health care reform would mean a significant diminishment of their Medicare benefits. These attempts are out-right lies and there is not a word in the legislation that would either do that directly or cause it to happen indirectly.

If you’d like to see, point by point, the ludicrous arguments the Republicans have leveled against Health Care Reform with a public option, go to this release by the Chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor (Representative George Miller). There you’ll see each wild-assed charge put to a fact-check and refuted in the absolute.

By the way, what’s behind the sudden revival of the public option? Let’s tell it plain, now! The progressive wing of the Democratic Party just wouldn’t let up. They made it clear that the Party was going down in the next election if they broke their promise to the voters on health care.

When a few Congressional members came around and announced they were putting a public option back into the bill, the fragile lion in the white somehow found his lost courage and jumped back into the fray.

Way to go Howard Dean! You never stopped fighting.

Congratulations to the wonderful progressives who wouldn’t be quiet on this one!

Now let’s hope the lions in the Senate finds some courage, too.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Councilwoman Linda Betts


A scene in our wonderful town!

This is how local politics should work and it’s how I like it!
by Charlie Leck

Linda Betts in a town councilperson here in the community in which I live. I’ve watched her in action for a number of years now, attending a few meetings a year and watching nearly all the archived TV sessions. Sometimes a town council meeting can make great television, but most times it’s really boring stuff; but if you want to keep up with issues in your community you really ought to watch them.

For decades, I’ve been an advocate of Tip O’Neill’s well known concept that “all politics is local.” It’s right here in a local community that everything that eventually happens in Washington really begins. And, it’s here in town council sessions that matters are decided that most quickly and directly impact us. So, I like to see how those who serve on the council care for the community and the people who live in it.

Linda Betts has a proven record. She cares. She loves the community and she wants to do what’s best for the people who live in it. You can take that to the bank.

Here’s something very special about Linda Betts. She just went through an election that we all incorrectly thought was going to be very close. She was determined to get her views out to the public and to make sure people knew who she was and how much she cared about the community. So she hit the streets and knocked on doors and greeted people face to face.

“Here I am. Here’s what I’m like. Vote for me and I’ll do my best!”

One day she stopped to visit a home and had an interesting encounter. She had no idea who lived there when she knocked on the door, but it was on her route and it made sense to call even though it appeared, from all the opponent’s lawn signs in the area, to be a hopeless cause.

“Many times I have good conversations and meet delightful people – there’s always a chance they may change their minds.”

A familiar looking lady answered the door on this occasion, greeted Lynn pleasantly and invited her in. Once inside an extremely well-known fellow came around the corner and joined his wife and Lynn in the livingroom. It was the fellow we had all sort of dubbed as the arch-enemy. Even though he’s way up in his 80s, he’s a passionate guy, with fierce energy and a stern desire to remove Lynn from the council. He was the most outspoken supporter of the opposing candidates in this election. Lynn only told me that “an interesting exchange of conversation” followed.

“His wife seemed balanced.”

The most important part of my little story comes now. Following the election, when it was apparent that Lynn had achieved a “landslide victory,” she called me and thanked me for my help. There was something in her voice that I liked. Her “thank you” had a finality to it. That expression of gratitude was to say “all debts are paid off and the slate is clean.”

Lynn Betts is a strong and good woman. And, she’s her own woman. Here’s her only guaranty to those of us who worked for her in the campaign. She’ll work hard. She’ll always be pleasant and hear people out completely. She’ll study and understand an issue as best she can. Then, she’ll do what she believes in her heart is best for the community.

And sometimes that grumpy, old guy she unexpectedly encountered in his livingroom will be right on an issue and she’ll support him. Sometimes she won’t because she won’t believe him to be correct. Yet, she’ll hear him and others out completely and she’ll be considerate. That’s all a citizen could hope for and that’s why I’m glad she’s a town councilwoman here in this community.

"Yes, Lynn, all debts are paid off. The slate is clean. Do what you think is best!"