Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Windsong Sunrise


I present a few photographs for you while I travel!
by Charlie Leck

I'm vacationing! While I travel in Europe, I'll post an occasional photograph or two for you to just remind you that I shall return to blog some more.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Faithful Friends


“How could you have possibly done that?” A visitor asked us that question upon hearing about some of the adventures taken by my wife over the last 30 years!
by Charlie Leck

What, in heaven or on earth, is more cherished than faithful friends? There is nothing like someone you can count on through thick and thin.

We just had house guests who stood in significant awe of my wife and some of her accomplishments in the horse world -- especially what she managed to do in the coaching and four-in-hand world.* They wondered how she could ever have pulled off some of the adventures on which she went or how she could have managed to do some of these things in such a short time period.

I just needed to tell these visitors about Elise and Lisa. They’re pictured here on a trip with us nearly 30 years ago. Without them none of the fantastic journeys we took could have happened. We would have missed out on a lot of fun and we would not have these incredible memories today.

As I pack to leave for France, I’m thinking of them and how grateful Anne and I are to what they so faithfully and loyally did for us over the years. No one could have better pals than these two.

I’ll resume blogging (mostly about politics) on September 12.

*For those of you who are curious, Wikipedia has this entry about Fairman Rogers, the author of The Manual of Coaching, and a brief description of coaching and four-in-hand driving.

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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Freedom and Democracy in Bohemia


Alexander Dubček: “He understood all the principal social and economic problems and the tendencies of his period, and he understood that everything must change.”
by Charlie Leck

One of the most important books I have ever read (important to me, that is, but perhaps it wouldn't be to you) is Mark Kurlansky’s account of the most powerful year in my life: 1968 The Year that Rocked the World. [Ballantine Books, New York, 2004]

“There has never been a year like 1968, and it is unlikely that there will ever be one again…

“What was unique about 1968 was that people were rebelling over disparate issues and had in common only that desire to rebel, ideas about how to do it, a sense of alienation from the established order, and a profound distaste for authoritarianism in any form. Where there was communism they rebelled against communism, where there was capitalism they turned against that. The rebels rejected most institutions, political leaders, and political parties.”

The turbulent times of the 1960s were reaching their climax in 1968. The 60s, I have always contended, began in the late 1950s with civil rights crises in the American south when the government forced the integration of public schools and universities. Further, I have argued that the 60s came to an inglorious end in 1970, when the nation was shocked by the savage killing of college students by National Guard troops at Kent State University.

In Prague, the homeland of my maternal ancestors, 1968 was as chaotic and insane as it was in America – or France – or Italy – or Germany – or Brazil – or Poland – or Russia – or Israel – or China. That year in Prague changed the Czech nation and rocked Europe and America. Pete Seeger’s extraordinary folk song, We Shall Overcome, was being sung by college students all over the world and in dozens of languages. It had begun as a civil rights song, but it grew to become a song of protest and revolution the world-wide. Students in Prague, in 1968, knew it well.

Students in Bohemia (I shall call it that here, instead of Czechoslovakia or the Czech Republic because it was Bohemia to my family and will always be Bohemia in my mind) were rebelling against the dominance that the Soviet communists had in the politics of their homeland. Prague was afire with hope that communism would be banished and freedom and democracy would live.

Alexander Dubček became the leader of the Czech Communist Party on 5 January 1968. Today it is regarded as one of the most important days in Czech history. Then, no one imagined! He took office at the age of 46. Several years before, Dubček had been appointed to head a commission that looked into government abuse during the decade of the 50s. Dubček was to later write that he had been “dumbfounded by the revelations of what had been going on in…” It was the beginning of the end for the head of the Czech government and Antonin Novotnŷ.

No one has ever quite figured out why the Soviets accepted Dubček’s rise to power. Under normal circumstances they would have opposed his pledge to clean up the party. The new leader of the party and head of the government was a strange fit with the rising courage of the youth who pleaded for revolution; however, the young people liked Dubček. Ludovit Stur, one of the radical Czech revolutionaries of the time, would write this of Dubček many years later: “He understood all the principal social and economic problems and the tendencies of his period, and he understood that everything must change.”

On 27 January 1968, a shop appeared in the center of the old, historic center of Prague that became a regular haunt to the Czechs who discovered it. It sold newspapers from all over the world – from both socialist and capitalist countries. There was also a reading room where customers could sit and browse the papers and sip on coffee. Local newspapers also flourished because censorship was halted under Dubček. It is the only place in the entire Soviet bloc where it both happened and was allowed. The corruptions of earlier Czech regimes were exposed.

By the time the Soviets realized the magnitude of what was happening in Prague it was too late to turn things back. Freedom had been tasted and it was like fine wine or perfect beer. The people were not going to give it up.

In America, students were taking to the streets in protest against both the war in Vietnam and the nation’s racial prejudice and injustice. Both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, candidate for the presidency, would be murdered within months of each other in 1968. The names of famous radicals were well known all across the land – Abbie Hoffman, Stokely Carmichel, Hewey Newton, Bob Moses and Bobby Seal.

In Poland the people were hearing about the movement toward freedom in Czechoslovakia. Young students led the protests that cried out for such freedom for themselves. They held up signs that announced: “Poland awaits its Dubček!”

All the Soviet satellite states were looking to the Czechs with great hope.

“How could it be happening there and not here?” That was the question asked by the youth in Poland.

Poland would move, over the next three decades, toward autonomy and freedom from communism.

German students rushed into the streets and paraded with signs that proclaimed their desire for a reunited Fatherland. They wanted the wall to come down and the influence of Soviet communism removed from the eastern half of their divided nation.

“Why do the Soviets control our eastern lands?”

The Spring of ’68 brought unrest to France as well. Both students (protesting their inability to get high quality educations) and the labor unions (looking for both better working conditions and better wages) took to the streets of Paris. Life would soon become unbearable in Paris during 1968.

However, as Kurlansky writes, Prague was the place to be; for only in Prague was there optimism. While the young of other nations were encountering road blocks, Alexander Dubček was declaring that freedom was within reach.

“Democracy is not only the right and chance to pronounce one’s own views, but also the way in which the people’s views are handled, whether they really feel they are participating in making decisions and solving important problems.”

The Soviet Union was still looking hard and nervously over Dubček’s shoulder. They contemplated moving against him, but the strengths of the people’s demonstrations were causing the Soviets to wonder if it wasn’t already too late.

Amazingly rock n’roll came to Prague along with American blue jeans and the culture of the hippies.

By summer it became obvious that the Soviets might invade and put an end of Dubček’s leniency. In June, thousands of Russian troops marched into Czech lands on what they said were maneuvers. The Czech people demanded they be removed. Dubček worked patiently and slowly and within a few days the troops withdrew. All around the world newspapers were writing about the back-down of the Soviets and Czechoslovakia was prematurely proclaimed to be a free land. Within a short time students from around the world were pouring into Prague to join in the celebration.

“Prague,” a writer in the New York Times wrote, “seems like the place to be!”

However, in August, the Soviets, having had enough, sent troops and tanks into the Czech lands and advanced them toward Prague. They were hoping a show of force would calm the youth movement and cause the Czech government to oust Dubček. However, my brethren had tasted freedom and a slice of democracy. They refused and stared the Soviets down and demanded they remove their military forces. Russian orders arrived for the troops to remain. The soldiers stared at the people and the people gawked at the troops.

Governments and political bodies around the world denounced the actions of the Soviets. Even the communist parties of Italy and France demanded that the Soviets withdraw. The Czech people had come too far and they were not turning back.

Dubček was called to Moscow. He was threatened and sent back to his homeland to normalize things. The Soviets did not understand the strong will of the Czech people. The standoff would continue.

In another era, Dubček and his nation would have been crushed, no matter the cost of human life; however, 1968 was different. The focus around the world was on justice and equality. The young roamed the streets, carrying placards that proclaimed their message and demanded the rights that humans deserved. Worldwide television was reporting it all to every developed nation in the world.

The troops in Prague were recalled and once again pulled back across the borders. It was an immense victory – probably the most significant 1968 political and social victory of all. It wasn’t total victory, however, because the Soviets continued to meddle for a time and the Czech Central Committee was slow in instituting the kinds of reforms for which Dubček called. The reformer was dismissed from the Communist Party in 1970 and his replacement dismissed the reform movement as silliness; and it probably was mad to think a democratic and human face could be put upon communism. It would take another couple of decades before the Czech government could shed communism and really became one that was of the people.

The Soviets blatant invasion of the Czech lands in 1968 spelled the beginning of the end of the Soviet Union. The economic system and the union of satellite nations was beginning to fall apart from the insides and its future was bleak. “The system inhibited change,” Dubček would say in his later memoirs.

As Kurlansky wrote in 1968: The Year that Rocked the World:

“By the end of 1968 the Soviets were worried, but they had not yet discovered how much they lost when they killed the dream of the Prague Spring… It is often forgotten that in 1968 Alexander Dubček was the one leader who was unshakably antiwar, who would not contemplate a military solution even to save himself – a leader who refused to be bullied or bought by either communism or capitalism, who never played the cold war game, never turned to the capitalists, never broke a treaty or agreement or even his word – he stayed in power, true power, for only 220 exciting days. They were days in which impossible things seemed possible, like the slogan written on a Paris wall in May: ‘Be realistic, ask for the impossible.’ After he [Dubček] was gone, no one felt that he had ever really known him.”

The activist movement didn’t solve all of America’s problems either. After 1968, the United States continued to fight the problems of racial injustice and of a war that was purposeless, meaningless and without any defined mission. It would be six more years before the U.S. military was pulled from Vietnam and freedom at last would come to that Southeast Asian nation.

I was a young activist in 1968. I walked the streets and sang the songs of freedom. I read the papers thoroughly each and every day. I needed to know what was happening in Berlin, in Paris, in Stockholm, and in Prague. How closely we all watched Prague and the young men and women who, during that time, owned the streets.

Today, the Czech Republican is a free and independent and democratic nation. The young, who carried the message and stood up to the tanks, are now old.

For all my adult life I have dreamed of a visit to Prague, to see the places where the young men and women protested against dictatorship and foreign intervention and pleaded for freedom and dignity. Next week I will go there and spend several days. I will walk the streets and listen to the ghosts of days past when the Czech Spring gave such hope to all the world. This is the land of my mother’s family – the Svejdas, Vavras and Doubreavas. They all proudly called themselves Bohemian and Prague was the capital city of their Bohemian nation.

My grandfather, Frank Svejda, and my grandmother, Emma Vavra, are often in my thoughts and I am excited about visiting the land from which their parents and grandparents came. I will visit the Charles Bridge and linger there and listen, to see if I can hear the voices and freedom songs of the ghosts – of those who won freedom in the demonstrations of 1968 – to the shouts and songs of those young people who marched across the bridge time and time again. And I shall also remember that members of generations of my family probably walked that bridge on occasion.

I guess, before I conclude, one should be reminded that it was also in 1968 that the first spaceship approached the moon. Apollo 8 flew around the moon on Christmas Day and sent back pictures of the earth from above and behind the moon. This remarkable mission was the first manned space flight to leave earth’s orbit and free itself of earth’s gravitational pull and enter that of another heavenly body.

1968 was such a remarkable year!

I sincerely hope that I have not taken too many liberties with Mark Kurlansky’s book (cited above). I knew I was walking a fine line and I vigorously attempted not to violate the original and copyrighted work of the author. If I crossed the fine line, I apologize.

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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Dawn


"The time at which the sun is 18 degrees below the horizon in the morning!"
by Charlie Leck

I was out early this morning, before sunrise, driving toward the east, in the open countryside.

It was dawn, that moment of twilight before the sun rises in the eastern sky. Darkness, which was just about to be wiped away by the illumination that was filtering up from beneath the horizon, was lingering and trying to hold on. The scientists say that this is “the moment after which the sky is no longer completely dark, formerly defined as the time at which the sun is 18 degrees below the horizon in the morning.”

At that incredible moment, which lasts only a matter of seconds, the earth and the heavens are so dramatically visible. In awe, I pulled to the side of the road, stopped the car, opened my window and shut down the engine.

The grandness and splendor of all the cosmos was so delicately visible out over the farm fields, meadowlands and wetlands. Forever and ever the heavens extended over and beyond me and my soul trembled as it realized it is so infinitesimally slight when measured against the fullness of things. I was dramatically and perfectly alert and I examined carefully the sharp detail of heaven and earth.

Perhaps, I thought, I was staring into the face of God – the divine is! I could see all that depth that goes so, so far beyond our own existence and reality.

It is peaceful and calming to accept one’s smallness – tininess – almost nothingness – before the grandeur of the heavens – before the almighty God that “created the heavens and the earth.”

And then the sun rose! The momentary glimpse of God was hidden by the blinding light of the day’s arrival.

“And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness… And there was evening and there was morning, one day.”

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Friday, August 26, 2011

Republicans Getting Frightened by their Choices


As Maxine Waters said: “The Tea Party can go straight to hell!”
by Charlie Leck

Washington Post opinion writer, Richard Cohen, bangs hard at Rick Perry’s candidacy for the Republican nomination to run for President of the United States:

“The Republican Texas governor clings to an ice floe of diminishing credibility, emerging in just about a week’s time as intellectually unqualified to be president.

I suggest you read Cohen’s entire piece. It makes Governor Perry look pretty foolish.

As Eugene Robinson suggests in his column, regular Republicans are worried about the choices they’re being given for the nomination. They still believe it will take a centrist to beat Obama and that’s not what the candidates out there right now are. I hope that theory is correct because it would be a disaster for this nation if someone like Ms. Bachmann or Mr. Perry were to win.

Michael Gerson, in a column titled An Unholy War on the Tea Party, writes:

“Now the heroes of the Tea Party movement, it turns out, are also closet theocrats.”

Gerson talks about the silly possibility that Bachmann and Perry are “dominionists,” whose “goal is the imposition of a Christian version of sharia law in which adulterers, homosexuals and perhaps recalcitrant children would be subject to capital punishment.

“But there is a problem: Dominionism, though possessing cosmic ambitions, is a movement that could fit in a phone booth.”

I’m well aware that Gerson’s column is an apology for both Bachmann and Perry and their religious beliefs. He waves off any idea that they would drag the nation into holy wars or punish those in the country who don’t agree with their religious views. Nevertheless, it’s interesting that the discussion needs to be held.

As for me, it’s enough that I don’t want religious freaks running the country and that’s precisely what I think Bachmann and Perry are.

Frankly, I’m with Maxine Waters, one of my favorite politicians, who told everyone: “The Tea Party can go straight to hell!”

You can watch a video of Waters tell the Tea Party off right here!

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Old Pictures

For a dear friend, I’m working through a huge batch of old photographs and doing repair and restoration work on them. Here and there they bring back grand memories.
by Charlie Leck

I’ll be working with old photographs for the next couple of weeks (surrounding a ten day trip to Europe). Flipping through photo after photo requires me to sit too much and I’m stiff and full of aches when I get up from the work. Yet, I’m reliving some wonderful memories and it’s all worth it.

Look at that – a 1985 golf trip that took me around Scotland to play some of the really famous old courses – the Old Course itself, Gullane, Muirfield, Prestwick, Carnoustie, Royal Troon and Turnberry. We also included one modern course in the tour when we played at Gleneagles* and stayed in the magnificent Gleneagles Hotel. Wow! What a wonderful time! Guys being guys! Great cigars! Marvelous scotch! Haggis! (Ugg! Well, not everything was so wonderful!)

Sometimes it’s great to sit down and sift through hundreds of old photographs and all the memories that come with them. Does it sound like an old guy talking? Yes, indeed, it does!

I’ve told you here before (several times) about one of the most wonderful blogs you’ll ever find on-line. It’s called Old Picture of the Day. I never miss it. It’s very creative, sometimes educational and informative and always fun. Lately I’ve come across a couple of wonderful old pictures I’m going to send to the blog along with a very short description of them.

*The spectacular Gleneagles Hotel was opened in 1924. It has been granted 5 red stars every year since 1985 by AA (Automobile Association of the UK). The 2014 Ryder Cup will be played there (on the PGA Centenary Course that opened in 1993). We played the King’s Course, designed by the extremely famous James Braid, on our visit there and we stayed in the grand, old hotel. Unforgettable!





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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Obama Did Libya Correctly!


The President should get rave reviews for this one, but, of course, he won’t!
by Charlie Leck

The genius from Minnesota, Michele Bachmann, has criticized President Obama for months for interfering in the turmoil in Libya. Gosh! John McCain has been criticizing the President for not using U.S. air power and ending the thing much sooner. A host of Republicans disparage the White House for being so indecisive and taking so long to make its decisions about Libya and other April Storm matters.

Now take a careful look at what happened in Libya.

We did not put our troops on the ground. How many more young lives would we have lost had we? How many kids would have come home disabled and disfigured?

We managed to get some of our allies seriously involved for a change! Getting NATO to be involved and leading the way was an enormous coup for the President! Don’t doubt that for a second! The leadership of France in this sticky and dangerous civil war has been inspiring and distinguished. I’m voyaging to France in a bit over a week and I’ll be sure to extend our nation’s thanks to the people who matter in all this – the common man on the streets who will pick up the bill for this expensive endeavor.

The President’s strategy saved us billions of dollars at a time when Republicans keep complaining about spending too much money! It seems funny to me that the party of the elephant and the tea bag doesn’t mind spending Trillions on war and military actions, but hates spending it on poor people and the education of kids who can’t afford to go to pricey private academies!

And now the tyrant, Gadhafi, is in hiding – squirreled away from his own people, who want him to pay dearly for all his crimes against humanity.

There are no sure predictions about what shall happen in Libya. There are complicated and dangerous times ahead for that nation. We can only hope that a democracy is established there soon. If it is not you may be certain that Ms. Bachmann of Minnesota will blame President Obama and assure us she could have done it all better because God would have been looking over her shoulder constantly.

It was on 21 December 1988 that Pan American flight 103 exploded in the sky over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 259 passengers and crew and 11 people on the ground. It was the miserable son-of-a-bitch from Libya who admitted responsibility for the crime against innocents – the same miserable despot who now hides from his own people.

The President did this one right and history will praise him for his decision making. Now, it is time for great diplomatic leadership to guide Libya toward democracy. I think our Secretary of State is up to the challenge.

Quiet down Senator McCain! Shut your trap Congresswoman Bachman! Allow diplomacy to quietly work toward the reconstruction of a democratic and free Libya. There are some matters in which we must present a united front and this is one of them! (If y’all know what that means!)

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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Bank of America may lose this client very soon!


I don’t like corporations getting involved in politics, especially when I’m a customer or investor!
by Charlie Leck

Quite by accident we’ve become clients of Bank of America. It was one of those DEALS where they bought a bank that had bought a bank in which we were clients. Suddenly we were clients of a financial giant rather than the little entity that we’d been associated with for years. I didn’t like it, but I pinched my nose and moved on. Our satisfaction rating of this banking giant keeps going down and down and now it has hit rock bottom.

I expressed my opinions here before about corporations that do business with the general public and give money away to political candidates. I don’t like it because I consider it my money that they are giving away. I don’t like it that they give money to politicians from any of the parties – my party or not my party! I don’t like it!

I stopped shopping at Target Stores long ago, because they gave money up here in Minnesota to a particularly offensive and cowboy type candidate for governor. Now James Mahoney, Director of public policy for Bank of America, has been caught on tape (see video below) promising Rick Perry, the radical, cowboy candidate for President and darling of the Tea Party, that his giant institution will be there for Perry.

Bank of America,” Mahoney says to Perry and the microphone, “We’ll help you out!”

Nation of Change has identified Mahoney as “a key national executive.” Of course, the bank is saying that Mahoney “does policy and not lobbying for the bank.”

That’s not all that Nation of Change says about Bank of America and Governor Rick Perry…

Over the years Gov. Perry has benefited greatly from Bank of America’s financial support, and it appears that largesse will continue as he seeks the presidency on a platform of — coincidentally enough — bank deregulation. His gubernatorial campaigns have received$125,900 from Bank of America’s PAC and executives since 2003. During the 2010 cycle alone, Perry’s campaign received $30,160 from the bank’s PAC and executives. According to Texans for Public Justice, Bank of America has also given generously Republican Governors Association, which Perry led until recently and just happens to be his largest donor, contributing $4 million between 2001 and 2010.

I’m dashing off a note to our managing representative at Bank of America, assuring her that I do NOT like Bank of America mucking around in politics and giving my money to Tea Party candidates. I'll send her a copy of this blog!

Many of you may be clients of Bank of America and, if you are, you might like to raise your voice against such a stupid use of your money.

Here’s Mahoney, on video, making his little promise to Governor Perry!

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Friday, August 19, 2011

Don’t Touch Social Security


You hear very frequent lies and misstatements out of the Republican candidates about how Social Security is bankrupting the nation. It just ain’t so folks!
by Charlie Leck

The next time someone tells you how Social Security is making the nation go broke, be sure to set them straight with the facts Here’s what Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Senator, and very outspoken, bright politician had to say about that recently:

“Social Security has not contributed a nickel to the deficit, it has a $2.6 trillion surplus, and it can pay out every benefit owed to every eligible American for the next twenty-five years. It must not be cut,” explained Sanders. “Instead of balancing the budget on the backs of working families, the elderly, the children, the sick and the most vulnerable, it is time to ask the wealthiest people and most profitable corporations in this country to pay their fair share.”

Sanders, who is obviously disappointed with President Obama, also said that he thinks the President needs a primary challenge to get his head cleared and to remind him why he was elected. I think it would be great if Sanders did it, but he has no intention to do that at all.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Perry Plunges into the Pool


Texas Governor Rick Perry made a big splash over the weekend after jumping into the presidential campaign and the waters have not even yet calmed.
by Charlie Leck

Well, I think the 2011/2012 campaign for the office of President of the United States could be very interesting (or, as Sgt. Schultz, of Hogan’s Heroes, used to say: “Verrrry InTEResting!”).

What if we got Obama versus either Bachmann or Perry for the general election? Can you imagine the swift boat advertising we’d get out of the Republican candidates?

We’ve gotten a good taste of Bachmann’s style in the past here in Minnesota and we’ve also gotten a national glimpse of her lately. It’s shoot from the mouth and don’t worry about the facts!

Governor Perry has been bragging about the enormous advances in civilization in Texas. Well, there certainly has been an explosion in the population of that state. Companies are rushing there to set up national and international headquarters. Wonder why? Texas has the highest percentage of its population working for the minimum wage than any state in the union (other than Mississippi). The unemployment rate is well over eight percent. The rich do very well in Texas. The other end of the scale has problems.

Perry is in hot water now over his comments about what the Fed Reserve Chairman should or shouldn’t do. It’s been a tradition in America to keep the Federal Reserve isolated from politics and political pressure. Perry was warning Ben Bernanke about some of the things he’d better not do. If he did do these things, Perry indicated that “we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas!”

Now, is that class?

Bear in mind that Bernanke was first appointed as Chairman by that former Texas governor, George W. Bush.

Sounds to me like Governor Perry likes to ride wild bronco style! The Tea Party folks are going to like Mr. Perry and that may hurt Ms. Bachmann. Social conservatives (those opposed to abortion for any reason and crazily opposed to any consideration of gay marriage) are going to love either of these candidates and they will each have to work hard to win over the very same base of support. So, Perry’s entrance into the race may hurt Representative Bachmann.

There will be plenteous mention of God in the campaigns of both these Republicans. We’ll have to return to a discussion of Obama’s former pastor in Chicago. Sometimes their campaign speeches are going to sound like revival sermons.

Obama will need to hire a squadron of fact checkers to defend himself against these two politicians. Both of them are very loose with the facts; and they never seem repentant when their misstatements (to be polite) are uncovered.

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Monday, August 15, 2011

H.M.S. Pinafore


H.M.S. Pinafore doesn’t sound like a production for the famous Guthrie Theater, but it wowed the heck out of me!
by Charlie Leck

H.M.S. Pinafore will run at the Guthrie Theater for only a short time more – until August 28. If you are a local and haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it to you.

I had the opportunity to see the production on Saturday night and it knocked me out. Wow! I’ve been a Guthrie Theater fan for a long, long time. When I heard they were doing this comedic opera, I thought that it didn’t really sound like the Guthrie at all. I imagine them doing more serious things – even more serious comedy. I’ve always thought of Pinafore as something your local high school might try in the way of musicals.

Since I first had those simplistic thoughts, I’ve discovered that Pinafore ranks high among the live theatre crowd and it’s regarded as a classic. The Gilbert and Sullivan musical was first performed in London in 1878 at the Opera Comique. It ran for 571 performances. It’s been extraordinarily popular in both England and America for more than 130 years.

In addition to the spectacular set by Frank Hallinan Flood, I thought the choreography by David Bolger was perfect – and fun, exciting and dazzling. Andrew Cooke conducted the musicians and his renditions of the original music were done in an extraordinary contemporary flavor and it really rocked. The crowd loved it and gave the musicians a standing ovation at the curtain.

By the way, this production was directed by Joe Dowling, the Guthrie Theater’s Artistic Director. Thumbs up, Joe!

I’ve never seen people have so much fun at the Guthrie Theater. You could feel it with every laugh and the applause was always loud and spontaneous.

I’m no theater critic and I can’t review this play in any technical sort of way. I can only recommend it to you; and I do so – with great enthusiasm. I give it 5-stars.

Go to the Guthrie Theater soon. Have dinner first in their fifth floor, casual restaurant or splurge in the fabulous Sea Change restaurant on street level. It ranks with the “best nights out” anywhere in the nation.

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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sam’s Old Man


I met Irving M. Stern yesterday and that made it a very good day indeed!
by Charlie Leck

I posted a photograph of my old man on yesterday’s blog and it made me a feel a bit sorry for myself. I lost my mother while I was still a teenager and my father died not too many years after that. Looking at old photographs of him is helpful to me in that they bring back memories and important sentiments.

On Friday I had lunch with a dear friend – a guy in his fifties (I’m guessing) – and his father. I enjoyed meeting my friend’s father so very much. He was so alert, charming, bright and witty! How exciting to have your dad with you that far into your life – and it looks like he’ll have him for many more years.

Irv Stern, 83 years old, former mayor of St. Louis Park and a former Minnesota State Senator, sat across from me at lunch and his face beamed with delight and adventure. We chatted about old times in Minnesota politics. Irv was an intensely involved member of Minnesota’s Democratic Party – the Democratic Farmer Labor Party (DFL). Yet, he listed for me Minnesota two best governors of his life time (both Republicans): Al Quie and Arnie Carlson.

Much like his son, Sam, Irv is intensely interested in what’s going on around him and he likes to get to know people beyond the surface impressions with which most people are satisfied. He wants to know who you are and what you know and what you like and don’t. As he chats with you and asks his questions, you get the sense that he cares and that he will remember.

My friend, Sam, was very proud to see how well I got on with his father. When Sam and I go places together, people are always asking him about his dad and where he is and what he’s doing. There are always happy reminiscences about times they had with Sam’s old man. Now that I’ve met him, I can understand that enthusiasm a little bit better.

You make friends with a guy like Irv one day and you count it a very good day indeed.

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Saturday, August 13, 2011

Old Photos


Here’s a web site that I enjoy taking a look at on a very regular basis!.
by Charlie Leck

I’m a regular visitor to the blog, Old Picture of the Day. It’s managed and held together by PJM, an electrical engineer and photographer from Christoval, Texas. I’m forever grateful that he does this web site and I enjoy the interesting “old pictures” he posts nearly every day. These days he has so many readers and gets so many contributions of old photos that he has plenty from which to choose.

On Wednesday – just a few days ago – he posted an old photograph of my father that was taken in 1917. I was proud to see “my old man” featured there and looking so good. [click here if you want to see it] It’s quite different than the photo of him that I’ve used in today’s heading.

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National Health Care Future in Doubt


Conservatives won a major victory in Georgia when they argued before a three judge federal appeals panel against mandating health insurance coverage for all Americans.
by Charlie Leck

A federal appeals court in Atlanta has ruled, in a 2-1 vote, that the provision in the Obama health care plan that mandates that all Americans must obtain health insurance is unconstitutional. You’ll remember that an appeals court in Cincinnati upheld the provision in a separate case just this past June. [You can read this story about it in the Washington Post!]

This new decision sets up an argument before the U.S. Supreme Court on the matter.

I’m placing my bets that the highest bench will uphold the Atlanta ruling by a 5-4 vote and that will give conservative Republicans a monumental victory on this matter.

The dream – my dream – of true national health care for the United States is still a long, long way off. It will come and become a reality in America, but it just won’t happen in my life time. Eventually, however, America will realize how out-of-step it is with the rest of the developed world.

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Friday, August 12, 2011

Middle Earth in American Politics


In Iowa, in the middle of America, the rush is on to blame all of America’s problems on Barack Obama and the Democratic Party; and Michele Bachmann screams the message the loudest!
by Charlie Leck

I didn’t care much for Tim Pawlenty when he governed Minnesota and I don’t care much for him as a presidential candidate; however, he looks like a genius when he is in direct debate with Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. Overall, the line-up of Republican candidates is awful. Mint Romney comes off looking like a genius when viewed and listened to in contrast with the others. Soon another strange character, who currently governs the State of Texas, will join the bag of blowhards who want to blame all the problems with America’s economy on Barack Obama.

This is the crux of the entire Republican campaign now; that is, that America’s economic problems belong to the Democrats. That’s a stretch, but we did hold margins in both houses of Congress prior to the 2010 election. What one has to remember is that it takes 60 votes and not 51 votes to pass anything these days in the U.S. Senate. Obama has been hamstrung during his first term. Consequently, he always goes snooping around in middle earth to see what he can get passed. Even more consequently, he comes off not looking very good as a leader.

You just have to listen to these Republican debates to see what the problem is. The candidates are stomping all over each other trying to be the one who is most against spending, for dramatic budget cuts and against any increased taxes.

All of this comes at a time when America needs rebuilding and restrengthening. It ain’t going to happen without increased revenues and then creative investments in America’s infrastructure.

And that is not a message the American voter wants to hear right now. He/she wants to hear that all of this can be done without it costing him/her a dime.

Therein is the problem. It will take a political genius to show Mr. and Mrs. American Citizen that they are wrong. It appears, however, that President Obama is going to put together some kind of mixed message that imitates what leading Republicans are saying. It will be a tragic mistake.

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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Obama Flailing Around in the Muddled Middle


President Obama is screwing up the incredible opportunity to lead that the American people gave him!
by Charlie Leck

Yesterday, on National Public Radio (NPR), I listened to Drew Westen, who had written a piece in the Sunday New York Times (What Happened to Obama’s Passion?) about how disappointing President Obama has been during these first three years of his Presidency. The NPR presentation was a remarkable discussion about Obama’s excruciating effort at compromise and cooperation and his failure at the leadership he promised in his 2008 campaign!

This is a discussion of about 17 minutes that is very worth listening to. I hope the President gets to hear it. Westen talks about the mistakes that the President has made by being such a conciliator – trying so hard to find middle ground and compromise. He contends that we had elected Obama to be a tough leader.

“He just couldn’t get himself to do it,” Westen contends. “We had just tried out the Republican ideas for eight years and they had been just about as collosal failures as you could possibly ask for…”

I agree with Westen’s take. Whether Obama can shake him out of this lethargy is a real question. The right wing of the Republican Party needs to be fought and beaten back. They can not be dealt with and we won’t find compromise with them.

The people, Westen explains, wanted a fix to this bad situation. It was only going to come through tough leadership. It was Obama’s weaknesses as a leader that led to the Republican victories in the House and Senate in 2010.

Obama keeps calling for common sense and compromise. How long will it be before he realizes that this is not possible in this political environment.

Westen commically quotes Sarah Palin: “How’s that hopey, changey thing workin’ out for yuh?”

Drew Westen is a professor of psychology at Emory University. I think he has nailed Obama’s weaknesses very accurately.

You can listen to the discussion here.

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Monday, August 8, 2011

Encore

So many of you (thank you very much) asked to see more of my photographs from my favorite file, that I was very flattered…
by Charlie Leck

Thanks for the nice emails about the photographs posted on my Sunday blog. So many of you asked to see more. Thanks.

And so I post a few of them here for you… They are in very low resolution so captions are sometimes not readable.












































































All the above photos are the exclusive copyrighted property of Charles H. Leck Associates and may not be used without permission.

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