Saturday, June 30, 2012

Supreme Court of the United States



I had promised you a blog today all about the SCOTUS decision regarding the Affordable Health Care Act; however (and this is not meant to be a joke), I am not feeling well this morning. When I have no energy to write, something is indeed wrong.
by Charlie Leck

“Light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to see the sun.”
                                                                        [Ecclesiastes 11:7]

I’m sitting, waiting for this morning’s sun to rise. It is always a pleasant experience. The above verse from Ecclesiastes was in a morning email from Sojourners.

For those of you interested, Bloomberg Law sponsors the SCOTUSblog, which is extremely helpful in keeping up with news about the Supreme Court and has some interesting insights into the courts most recent headline decision.

I shall return to blogging when I am feeling better.

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Thursday, June 28, 2012

My Pessimism!


I was dead wrong; and I could not be happier about it!
by Charlie Leck


In my most previous blog I predicted, with great boldness, that the Supreme Court would declare the entirety of the Affordable Health Care Act to be unconstitutional. Ten minutes after the release of the court’s decision this morning, which declared the constitutionality of the law, I received a text message from one of my readers: “Such pessimism is unlike you!”


I predicted the law would go down by a 5 to 4 vote, assuming Chief Justice John Roberts would side with the conservative justices on the bench even as he almost always does. Roberts was the surprise. He moved over and voted with the 4 progressive members of the bench.


A great deal of reading needs to be done by a host of legal experts before we’ll have a complete understanding of the decision’s full meaning. Hang on to your hats!


The Republicans have greeted the decision as you might expect – with promises to repeal the law and replace it with something better. It is possible to make the law better and there is no doubt about that. That is somewhere, however, that I expect the Republicans will not go. Their real goal will be to put in place a law with no teeth and no guts.


ABC took a statement from Congresswoman Michel Bachmann...


“I am deeply disappointed by the court’s decision,” Bachmann’s statement reads in part. “Today’s Supreme Court decision raises the stakes for the coming months. Since Congress passed Obamacare in 2010, I have made its repeal my top priority. … I disagree with the court’s ruling and expansion of government power under the commerce clause. Government should never have the right to tell Americans what they must purchase.”


Soon Bachmann will be talking all about repeal. That won’t happen in this Congress and she’ll need to wait until after the election (and hope that she can win in her district against a tough opponent, Jim Graves).


The Speaker of the House is fit to be tied. Mr. Boehner is promising swift congressional action. (Don’t bet on that!)


This remarkable and comical encounter was also reported by ABC News...


Pelosi proceeded to a hastily-called Caucus meeting to go over the decision with Members. On the way she ran into Congressman George Miller. The two hugged and had this exchange:
Pelosi: What a great victory!
Miller: You bet your ass.
Pelosi: I did. (both laughed at her joke).

We’ll know much more about the court’s decision tomorrow and I will write about it on Saturday morning.

Supreme Court and the 2012 Election



The Supreme Court will play a part in determining the outcome of the 2012 national elections; yet it is not yet clear how resounding the court’s impact will be.
by Charlie Leck

As I write a draft of this blog, it is approaching 7:00 A.M. [28 June 2012] on the east coast. In another few hours, at precisely at 10:00 A.M. (EDT), I am quite sure a bell will ring at the Supreme Court, signifying a decision is forthcoming. My prediction is that today is the day for the decision about the health care law that was established a couple of years ago. The rest of the day, then, will be filled with analysis about the impact of the court’s decision. How will this decision effect health care for the uninsured (mainly lower income people)? How will it impact the coming election?

I don’t need to wait. I know already that the 2012 presidential election is going to be powerfully influenced by the Supreme Court of the United States and the decisions it has made over the last three years. Never has there been a court that has reached so deeply into American politics! Never!

And never has a court shown so blatantly its political leanings and disposition.

In its edition of this morning, the Washington Post has called for the resignation of Justice Scalia, exclaiming that he is far too partisan to be on the court – that his bias too deeply impacts his decisions.

“Justice Scalia is nothing if not intelligent; his unpredictable approach to certain issues, especially free speech and criminal law, mark him as a less-than-doctrinaire conservative. And surely even the court’s proceedings can use a dash of humor every now and then.
“But his lapses of judicial temperament — bashing “a law-profession culture, that has largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda” in a written dissent, or offering views on this and that in sarcastic public speeches — detract from the dignity of his office. They endanger not only his jurisprudential legacy but the legitimacy of the high court.”

I could also send you this morning to opinion columns in the same newspaper by E.J. Dionne and/or Dana Milbank that offer exceptional arguments about Justice Scalia’s dangerous impartiality.

“Scalia’s tart tongue has been a fixture on the bench for years, but as the justices venture this year into highly political areas such as health-care reform and immigration, the divisive and pugilistic style of the senior associate justice is very much defining the public image of the Roberts Court.” [from Dana Milbank’s column]

I’ve written here ad nausea about the court’s Citizens United decision and how it has changed the face of spending in U.S. elections. I won’t go there again. Instead, let me amble and ramble about, thinking of how powerful some U.S. Supreme Courts can be.

The power of the Supreme Court is immense. We have seen that when it was too liberal and now we are seeing it when it is too conservative. When it is more balanced, less political and more impartially contemplative, it functions more judiciously and effectively; and, even though it is still powerful, its power seems more contained and non-intrusive in political matters. When it is politically imbalanced it seems not to be the final arbiter of constitutional questions, but the chief creator of political direction (whether right or left).


Rather, what it shows is that the United States periodically redefines the role of the federal government in society, in a process that is both political and legal — and, sometimes, more revolutionary than evolutionary. In that sense, we do have a living Constitution...

“…In the 1930s, expanding federal power was innovative, promising. By blessing it, the court aligned itself with the wave of the future, in this country and globally. Ditto for the 1960s. Much of the legislation that resulted — from Social Security to the Voting Rights Act — was indeed progressive.

“Today, however, there is nothing new about federal intervention — and much evidence from the past 70 years that big programs produce inefficiencies and unintended consequences.

“The post-New Deal consensus about the scope of federal power has broken down amid national, and global, concern over the welfare state’s cost and intrusiveness — a sea change of which the tea party is but one manifestation. Obamacare itself, which has consistently polled badly, fueled that movement.

Now mind you, the swing is distinct in the current court, but it is only by a single vote. If there were one more more liberal justice in place of one of the conservatives, what we would have would be a remarkably balanced Supreme Court with a sensible and contemplative swing vote that could, depending of the issue, launch the court in one direction or another.

It does not take a historical genius to recognize that the country, and its politics most especially, has fared better in those times when the court was thusly balanced.

Such a swing back toward a more balanced court does not seem possible even should President Obama win reelection. The conservative members of the bench are young and vigorous and committed to remaining. On the other hand, with an aging couple of members on the more liberal side of the court, who almost certainly will need to be replaced in the next four years, an Obama defeat could see the nation supervised by a right-leaning court for at least a generation. Ruth Bader Ginsburg will turn 80 within the half-year. The moderate centrist justice Anthony Kennedy is 76 and many have hinted that he is considering retirement.

It is one more reason why an Obama victory is extremely important. Should a right-leaning President move into the White House then the country is going to be agonizingly different for many, many years even if he is only a one-termer; for he will, in that time, appoint at least two more justices to the court and they will both be of a conservative persuasion.

Oh, my!

Prediction:
Okay, I’m not a chicken. The Supreme Court, by a 5-4 vote, will strike the Obama health care legislation completely off the books – not just parts of it, mind you, but the entire bill will be found to be unconstitutional. The impact of this on the election will be immense. Angry Democrats will come out of hibernation and a very, very hot race will be on.


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Fred



I’ve some wonderful and faithful followers. You can see a list of them, including photos in some cases, in the top right corner of the blog. You’ll note that a number of these followers attach portrait photographs of themselves and that’s appreciated in most cases.
by Charlie Leck

In the case of one of my followers, Fred, it might have made sense not to include the photograph. Would you believe it? My wife thinks Fred is cute. Well, the fact that she did marry me says something about her taste, I guess.

I would find it more comforting if Fred would give me an idea of what kinds of subjects and which of my opinions upset him. Then I could do my best to avoid those matters. Fred, however, is one of my silent followers and, perhaps, that’s just as well.

I’ve gotten to know a few of my followers, like Tony, for example. Tony Rugare regularly posts blogs also. His gimmick is to be concise and exactly to the point. He’s good at that. I don’t think I ever fail to read his posts. He writes at http://rugaremusings.blogspot.com/. I don’t include a title of his blog because he has this habit of changing it so frequently. Check him out anyway.

Then there is a nephew of mine, Jim Leck, included among my followers. Unfortunately and very sadly, Jim died about a year ago. It was like a dagger to my heart. I always enjoyed his terribly humorous musings about my blogs. I’ve not been able to bring myself to remove Jim from my list of followers and maybe that’s okay. Perhaps Jim has access to a computer up there and maybe he continues to follow my posts.

A brother, Frank, is also included among my followers. It’s agonizing for him to read, what he calls, my drivel. Frank is a follower of Rush and he was also nuts about Sarah Palin. He thinks the Tea Party is just great (an abstergent force in America according to my brother) and that Bill Clinton ought to have been castrated. Why would anyone read me so regularly who finds me such an unpleasant glutch?

Sam Stern is another follower. He’s a neighbor just up the road. He is one of the best bloggers I’ve ever read. His problem is that he’s infrequent. He sometimes lets months pass without posting a blog. I expect he only wants to post about the most important subjects. The problem with that is that we forget about him and what he’s been saying. He drifts from our minds and that’s not good. There’s a nice bar between Sam’s house and mine and we meet there occasionally, over a pint, to lament the strength of the current Republican Party.

Plumb Bob is another infrequent blogger. He and Sam are probably busier than I – no doubt! Yet, Plumb Bob ought to be reflecting more often. He’s very sensitive and mysterious and I always come away from one of his blogs feeling as if I’ve read something very, very important – even though I’m not too sure what it means!

A couple of our town’s councilpersons read me regularly also. I expect it’s because they want to find out if I’ve been rabblerousing. I’m generally considered a trouble maker and I’m to be watched carefully in that regard. These two are wonderful public servants, however, and I would find it difficult to say bad things about them – difficult, not impossible!

David Williamson is a follower from Wales. He’s a damned good writer and also handy with sketch pencils. His blog, Van Peebles Land, is one I will not miss – ever!

Most of my followers, however, are mysteries to me. They have curious names and descriptions and I don’t have the slightest idea whether I please them or infuriate them. How about Leena Guha Roy who seems mad about her mom and dad and loves creativity both in the arts and in her personal life? She also loves to write. I hope I get to have a conversation with her some time.

Then there’s Nardo, Tork, Joey, Peter Moos and Genivaldo Martins Matos. It seems the latter writes an adult only blog (or so the warning leads me to believe).

Rich McConnell is an old high school buddy and he is as solid as a silver dollar. It’s always a better day when I get an email from him. Gina Mitteco is a wonderful, petit lady with whom I used to work (at 1000 Friends of Minnesota). Gina is as good a human being as you’ll ever meet and tough as hell for such a tiny person.

There are plenty more, including my wife and one of her school classmates from 40+ years ago, some people I met at the farmers’ market, a couple of political allies and a bill collector of sorts.

Fred, however, as you can see from his photograph is the strangest of them all and I don't want to cross him.


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Helen Philpot on Women’s Rights


Helen has one, though it’s 80 years old!
by Charlie Leck

Margaret and Helen don’t blog as much as they formerly did – an 80 year old broad has a right to get tired, I guess. I sure do miss those blogs, however, and I jump like an excited kid in a candy store when I see that one has been posted. That’s what happens when you’re a follower – you get notified when a blog you’re following gets posted.

So, a few days ago I noticed that Helen had written another blog. I blushed when I saw the title (Vagina is a Six Letter Word), but I rushed to it anyway. Wonderful! I laughed myself silly. You’ll find it here: http://margaretandhelen.com/2012/06/21/vagina-is-a-6-letter-word/


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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Hooray! Fritz and Arne Team Up Together



Wow! The news just came through on my computer. Former Vice President Walter Mondale and former Governor Arne Carlson are joining forces to defeat the voter ID amendment that will appear on the ballot this November. Hooray!
by Charlie Leck

What a dream team! Mondale and Carlson! It’s perfect and I am predicting big things right now. Count me in, you guys. I’ll donate some money to the cause and I’ll volunteer to work hard on stopping this foolish constitutional amendment. We don’t need it and it will prevent some people from voting and those will be people who already have enough problems getting to their polling places. [See StarTribune story about Mondale and Carlson joining forces!]

Josie Johnson
Well, on top of all this, it has also been announced that Dr. Josie Johnson will also join these two well known gentlemen and that makes me even happier. Dr. Johnson is a well known civil rights leader here in Minnesota and someone I have respected since I first met her in 1967. She is a former Regent at the University of Minnesota.

Tim Penny
Add to the team a former U.S. Representative from Minnesota, Tim Penny. He’s a distinguished political observer now and understands the heartbeat of Minnesota as well as anyone I know. Penny is a brilliant speaker with a quick wit and a cut-to-the-chase attitude.

At a news conference today the four made it clear that the amendment does not represent the best of Minnesota nor the heart and attitude of our state. We cannot disenfranchise voters by making the act of getting into the voting booth more difficult.

The former Governor spoke boldly today: “It terrifies me!” He made it clear that he believes the Koch brother are behind the measure and are trying to influence coming elections in anyway they can.

There are no problems with the way voting works in Minnesota and no one has been able to present any evidence that there is. This is all part of the right-wing attempt to control voting in such a way that its candidates would be most helped.

“This is a clean, solid, exemplary state,” Vice President Mondale said at the news conference today. He made it clear that the amendment is an attempt to discourage certain people from voting.

Minnesota has a long history of making it easier for people to vote and not more difficult. A higher percentage of eligible voters go to the polls here in Minnesota than in any other state and that has been true for many years.

And, of course, Dr. Johnson was able to reflect on times when all kinds of barriers were put before black voters to keep them from voting, including poll taxes and literacy tests. She sees the photo i.d. requirement as just another of those barriers.

The Minnesota League of Women Voters has asked the Minnesota Supreme Court to rule against the voter i.d. amendment and have it removed from the ballot. Secretary of State Mark Ritchie has told the court that ballots will be printed sometime right after August 27 and that it would be helpful to have a ruling by then.

The important thing to remember and stress if you have quarrels with anyone about this issue is that there is no need for such a procedure in Minnesota. There is no history of voter fraud here and no one can present credible evidence that there has been. Why, in that case, make it so difficult for some Minnesota citizens to vote?


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Monday, June 25, 2012

21 June 1964


Today is 21 June 2012, 48 years to the day that Michael Schwerner took James Chaney and Andrew Goodman with him on a visit to the burned out shell of Mount Zion United Methodist Church in Longdale, Neshoba County, Mississippi. Very late that night they were murdered out on Rock Cut Road, outside Philadelphia, Mississippi.
by Charlie Leck

I wrote this blog last Thursday and, because I was so busy all week here in
Mississippi, I am posting it only today; yet it’s contents are still important to all of
you who love justice and desire it be available for all human beings everywhere.


[21 June 2012, Meridian Mississippi]
I’m sitting in a very modest motel room, thinking about the emotions I felt when I arrived at Mount Zion Methodist Church this afternoon. I was slightly shocked by my urge to cry when I saw and read the big, bronze sign out in front of the church. They tugged at me (these emotions) and they pushed me to follow the journey that the three young civil rights workers made that day – from here to the spot where they were murdered. I would do it all by myself and at whatever pace I wanted.


Michael Schwerner had just returned to Meridian from the University of Ohio, where college students had undergone a week of training for the trip they would make to Mississippi, to work on the Voter Registration Project. Schwerner worked out of the COFO (Council of Federated Organizations) office in Meridian and he brought back with him from Ohio, Andrew Goodman, a young college student from Manhattan. Goodman was going to assist Schwerner with his work in setting up Freedom Schools and getting black citizens properly registered to vote.


James Cheney, a local black student from Meridian and Schwerner’s loyal and hard working assistant, had made the trip to Ohio and came back to Meridian with him and Goodman. Chaney had been working for Schwerner for several months. Schwerner’s wife, Rita, greeted them upon their arrival and had bad news for Michael. She told her husband that members of the Klan had burned down a church up in Longdale, where one of the Freedom Schools had been established. Though it was a Sunday afternoon and he had been driving most of the day, Michael took the two young guys with him in his ‘63 Fairlane stationwagon and they headed out on the 45 mile drive to Longdale. They wanted to consol the residents of the tiny area and get some information about the burning. It was, mind you, Andrew Goodman’s first day on the job.


I was, while the three young men drove up toward Longdale, aboard a train bound for Canton, Mississippi. I’ve written about my trip before – on several of these blogs – and about the lack of justice that has surrounded these murders.


At about the time my train (the City of New Orleans) was rolling through the darkness toward Memphis, the three young men were sitting in a jail in Philadelphia, Mississippi. They’d been stopped on their journey back to Meridian that afternoon for some bogus reason by a deputy county sheriff who decided to hold the three in the local jail until well after dark so that a group of Klan members would have time to plan their murders.


Late that night, Michael, James and Andrew were released from the jail in Philadelphia and sent on their way; however, about 15 miles before they would have arrived back in Meridian, a police car stopped them along Highway 19. Some Klan members, driving pickup trucks, joined the policeman at the stop. One of the Klan took over the steering wheel of the Fairlane and the three civil rights workers were put in the back of a police car and driven back into a very deserted area, on an old, rough, gravel road. The locals knew it as Rock Cut Road. There they were taken from their vehicle, lined up along a ditch at the side of the road and shot to death, one by one.


Before the sun rose, the bodies were hauled to a farm reservoir, just southwest of Philadelphia, and they were buried there by a bulldozer operator. Michael’s stationwagon was driven into a soupy swamp, where it was set afire and then sank nearly out of sight.


At dawn, my train was nearing the station in Canton. I had sat through the night, staring out the window into the dark Mississippi night, wondering what was ahead of me.


Now, 48 years later, I drove away from the church in Longdale and headed up the country road toward Highway 16 outside of Philadelphia. When I arrived at the stop sign at Highway 16, Philadelphia lay off to my right (west). An alternate and more popular route to Meridian is in the other direction, but the road is more isolated and darker than the highway. That may be why the young guys chose to go through Philadelphia, fatefully to be stopped and detained long enough to put the plan for their deaths together.


So today, I turned right into Philadelphia as well. I found the likely spot where the old jail was – near the Neshoba County courthouse – and I drove from there, as the three young men would have, over to Highway 19 and then south toward Meridian. I looked for likely businesses and buildings that might have stood there 48 years ago. There weren’t many. I tried to figure out the likely stopping point where the police would have pulled them over – just before they crossed the line out of Neshoba County. I followed the likely back road they would have been taken over and then I came upon the spot on Rock Cut Road (now called County Road 515) that I had visited four years ago. There, I stopped my car and climbed out.


Here, on that bank, above a deep ditch – while I stared out through my train’s window into the dark, dark night on June 21, 1964 – Michael, James and Andrew were shot down by a group of locals – some of which had no understanding of the origins of all this hatred they carried.


My legs weakened as I stood there. I wanted to climb down into the ditch and up to the top of the bank on the other side of it, as they did, but my legs wouldn’t move. I trembled and felt very ill. I was wracked with rage. In quiet sadness, I drove my car back out to the highway and only then saw that it had been renamed (the Cheney, Goodman, Schwerner Memorial Highway). I drove back to Philadelphia and found Hwy 21 and took it southwest until I found the pond where the killers buried the bodies in its big banks in the dark, dark night. The property is owned by millionaire Ollen Burrage and the setting looks far too beautiful for my likes. It is difficult to imagine that something so ugly was done here, but that was nearly 50 years ago. Burrage, certainly in on the crime, is an old man now and it's said he scoffs at those who seek justice, knowing he fully got away with his participation in the crime -- as did so many, many members of the Klan.


Slowly, I drove the 35 miles back to Meridian and up to my motel. I sat silently here in front of this keyboard and typed away as my anger and grief subsided.


Tomorrow we will memorialize this event again. I’ve been asked to speak. I have a speech, all prepared and sitting in my briefcase, but it is inadequate. I call my speech, quoting from the pledge of allegiance, With Liberty and Justice for All. ‘Tis a shallow promise. Justice here in Mississippi – remains unaccomplished.


Why no justice? It has been so many years. So many men were involved. Two confessed and named names. Yet, only one fellow was convicted and sent away for man-slaughter.


There are still a half dozen of the murderers alive and walking free. Soon they, like the others, will die as free men from natural causes. And also soon there will be none of us left. The killers, the civil rights workers, the FBI agents who rushed here, the local police who seemed only to pretend to work on the case and the families of those three boys soon will all be gone. [Afterthought on 25 June 2112: So too, the folks who put on this annual memorialization are aging now, consumed also with bitterness, rage and, possibly, paranoia; and the events of the weekend have missed a beat here and there this year and I wonder if it is worth ever coming back again.] I think it is time for me, too, to just let go and get on with other things of importance.




James, Andrew, Michael, I am not abandoning you. I will always carry this grief for you. I pray you will always be remembered as great heroes of the civil rights movement.


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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Comments to Grads



What the people of fame had to say to this year’s college graduates!
by Charlie Leck

One of my favorite features in the Sunday New York Times at this time each year is the review of comments made by the famous people who are invited to speak at college graduation ceremonies all across the nation. (By the way, I find it difficult to get through a Sunday without my New York Times. It is such an extraordinary newspaper to fiddle around in for an entire week.)

There are so many collegiate graduation ceremonies every spring that it is difficult for some colleges to find worthy speakers – and sometimes they don’t (find worthy speakers, that is).

Let me just reproduce a few of the more interesting and/or entertaining comments for you (as published in the NY Times). I tend to enjoy those comments that are the most candid and honest, like these… (I especially like the comment below by Michael Lewis.

[at Goucher College, from Ira Glass, radio host on Chicago Public Radio and National Public Radio…]
“I lost my virginity in one of the dorms here. Not recently.”

[at Princeton, from author Michael LewisMoney Ball, Blind Side, The Big Short and others…]
“People recently don’t like to hear success explained away as luck, especially successful people. As they age, and succeed, people feel their success was somehow inevitable. They don’t want to acknowledge the role played by accident in their lives… Recognize that if you have had success, you have also had luck, and with luck comes obligation. You owe a debt, and not just to your gods. You owe a debt to the unlucky...
“I was almost certainly less prepared for the marketplace than most of you. Yet somehow I have wound up rich and famous.”

[at the University of Pennsylvania, from Geoffrey Canada, Harlem Children’s Zone…]
“…My question to you is, do you care about those who won’t make it without real help? You have been at Penn preparing to enter the big game of life, and I have a most wondrous proposition for you. Come join our team. We’re losing. Yes that’s right, we’re losing.”

[at Southern Methodist University from Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary of State…]
“At those times when you’re absolutely sure that you’re right, talk with someone who disagrees. And if you constantly find yourself in the company of those who say ‘amen’ to everything that you say, find other company.”

[from Corey Booker, Mayor of Newark, NJ…]
“My dad would always tease me: ‘Boy, don’t walk around here like you hit a triple. You were born on third base, boy.’ I drink deeply from wells of freedom and liberty that I did not dig. I eat lavishly from banquet tables prepared for me by my ancestors. I sit under the shade of trees that were planted and cultivated and cared for by those who I will never know.”

Geez, some commencement speeches are worth listening to. If we had only been old enough and wise enough to know that we should listen; but we were young turks who thought we knew it all – even though we had it all yet to learn.

I remember not a word from the commencement addresses at my college and graduate school. I probably didn’t listen. Now if the speaker, a pretty woman, had nodded toward one of the dormitories and announced that she had lost her virginity in that residence, I may have sat up and listened.

Should I address a college graduating class, I think I might say this…

So you think you’ve learned a lot in your years here. [Here I’d snicker!] Well, let me tell you, you know nothin’ now compared to what you are about to learn in the coming years. You’re gonna learn that you should’a listened more carefully… and read more comprehensively… and practiced with greater seriousness. But don’t fret about it! You’ll figure it out soon enough because you’ll have to in order to survive. Life is gonna’ smack you upside the head and he’ll push all his chips into the center of the table and dare you to get into the game… or tell you to get out of it.

I’m tellin’ you straight, man! I’m tellin’ you straight. If you want to be a winner, you’ve got to give up yourself and get in the game. Push all your chips into the center of the table and say it proud: “I’m in!”

It’s somethin’ like what Jesus said: “He who loses his life will save it!”

Whatever that means!

I’m still tryin’ to figger it out! So, don’t ask me to explain it to yuh! But, I think he was on to something – or was he on something?

Well, I’ve got to make a couple of speeches in Mississippi in the coming week – a little different than a commencement address, however. I’ll be chatting with folks who have already pushed their chips into the center of the table and made all their bets. Some have won and some have lost. I’ll share with you next week some of the things I say to them about justice and liberty and the American dream. I am not, however, going to tell them where I lost my virginity.


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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Pensée overlooking the Golf Course



Most of us don’t want to know about it because it hurts us and gets us angry, but there is a world of unbelievable need out there and much of it is in our own communities.
by Charlie Leck

I sat for a while yesterday, over lunch, with a lady who was a perfect stranger until we chatted for the half hour we had to dine. I was doing some volunteer work for the state’s golf association and this lady was a spectator, out to watch her grandson play golf. She’s retired and tries to do volunteer work as often as she can. She works in a food shelf for the hungry in the little town where she lives, in the western part of the state. She laughed at a big story in the StarTribune that day that reported the success of current farms and the hundreds of thousands of dollars that farmers are making annually.

“Their equipment is so big and efficient now,” she said, “that they don’t need to hire much help. The farmers might be doing well, but small town America is in pretty bad shape.”

She told me how busy the food shelves are in little towns all around – that it’s difficult to keep up  and it’s difficult to find the volunteers they need to stock the shelves and give out the food.

“Thank goodness people are so generous. So many people would be starving if it weren’t for neighbors who constantly give food and money to us.”

She had a big smile on her face and a few tears in her eyes. She was aware of the conflicting values that were tugging at us both.

“We have lines now. It reminds me of what my folks told me of the depression years. The people are proud and humiliated. They don’t want to be there, but they have children who are hungry. This is America, mind you. This is America!” She looked down at her plate and shook her head.

"It's hard to believe, isn't it?" She saw the the question in my eyes. "That we can eat like this, I mean."

We didn’t talk politics. We didn’t have to. We both knew that politicians are just consumed by their differences right now – so much so that they can’t see reality. They won’t work together to solve the nation’s problems. The politicians call it “hand outs!”

I told the woman that my wife and I have given more to food shelves in the last year than we gave in the previous ten. I promised to give more. We had a beautiful, immense lunch before us and we sat in the clubhouse of a beautiful country club and looked out over the vast playing field of lush, green grass. She had these tears glistening in her eyes and I loved her for it. I rose and thanked her for her work and told her I hoped her grandson would play well. I shook her hand.

She nodded and thanked me for volunteering my time to help with the tournament.

I’m off to Mississippi in the morning. For a few days I’ll be surrounded by brave and loving people. It will be a good occasion when we’ll gather and sing songs about injustice and inequality. We’ll hold hands and ask the immense question: Why in such a wealthy and bounteous place is their poverty and injustice?

How can there be such gloriously beautiful fields of wonder and amazing beauty on which we can so peacefully golf a ball and, at the same time, such staggering need. I love the golf fields passionately. I cherish the wonder of the game. I also cherish the volunteers who work so bravely to feed and care for the poor and needy. The contrasts all came together at my little table yesterday and the nice lady (I didn’t catch her name) touched me pretty deeply.

Pensée… a reflection or thought (dictionary.com)


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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Is the Planet Lost?



There are experts who are saying there is no more than 100 years left for the planet as a place that can support its population – others give the wondrous place 200 years.
by Charlie Leck

Forgive me! I try to go light on Sunday mornings, but this is a subject we (and by that I mean all my brother and sister earthlings) can no longer ignore and avoid. Rush Limbaugh and his like be damned!

On March 1 of this year, a group of impressive experts gathered in Washington to discuss the dangers that our planet faces and how long it can survive as a place where humans can live and reproduce. Among other things, they heard from Meadows and Jorgen Randers, the authors of a book published 40 years ago, The Limits of Growth, which gave the planet very little time. Randers and Randers used computer modeling in an attempt to understand when our population might outgrow Earth and the natural resources it has.

What might happen to the planet after that time?
When the population becomes too large for the planet to support it, we would see a very “dark time” in which the population would plunge, the economy would suffer enormously and the general environment would crumple.

One of the things the gathering was told in March was that most of the data presented in the book by the Randers was accurate and matches, so far, the predictions that they set forth back then. Though you won’t enjoy it, you might want to read this report about the meeting that was published in the Smithsonian Magazine.

Now, fellows like Rush Limbaugh are going to pooh-pooh such reports as total nonsense, calling it Chicken Little rubbish; and therein lays the problem. How do we get an inattentive and uninterested population to listen to such dire predictions and take them seriously? Alas, I do not know! And neither does the group of incredibly bright folks who gathered on March 1.

There is also a remarkable analysis by the Wikipedia people on Wikinvest called Global Climate Change. I urge you to read it. It’s not bedtime reading, I assure you, and you’re not going to enjoy it, but it is time, for the sake of our grandchildren and great grandchildren, that we start facing up to things here on our planet.

The following comes from the Wiki analysis…

Scientists are predicting a number of adverse effects if the current global warming trends continue or increase in speed:
§ Melting polar ice caps will cause rising sea levels and coastal flooding; melting glaciers and warmer temperatures in mountain regions will lead to decreased snowmelts, intensifying worldwide water scarcity.
§ The influx of cold water from the poles will interact with the warming ocean water to cause oceanic temperature fluctuations across the globe, possibly causing global ecological damage as sensitive keystone organisms (plankton, for example) die in their new environments, leading to organisms that are higher in the food chain (tuna, for example) increasing in scarcity.
§ Warmer air and water would cause more intense weather patterns; for example, warmer water creates more powerful hurricanes as it allows more water to evaporate and creates faster winds, making hurricane season more dangerous.
§ Rapidly changing ocean salinity from polar fresh water could interact with the temperature fluctuations in the ocean to disrupt or even shift the Gulf Stream, an underwater current that is responsible for modern climate conditions. Were this to happen, weather patterns all over the world could "snap", changing drastically in a period as short as ten years. Worldwide climate shifts could have major effects on agriculture all over the world.

Quite sadly, as Jason Blackstock, in a recent article in Nature Magazine  points out, “researchers can’t regulate climate engineering alone. Political interests, not scientists or inventors, will be the biggest influence on technologies to counter climate change.”

Having been a relatively intense observer of the current political scene, I take Mr. Blackstock’s observation as very bad news.


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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Jeb Bush Speaks Out about Republican Party



Three cheers for Jeb Bush. He just elevated himself to a very high level in my eyes. The nation (yes, the nation – not just political wonks) need to hear him; for, in spite of heavy criticism from Grover Norquist, Governor Bush is right on!
by Charlie Leck

To understand what I’m talking about here, please read the Dana Millbank column in the Washington Post. It really is a very important piece about getting politics back to some sense of sanity again – and it appears a Republican might be the leader of the movement.

Grover Norquist told Talking Points Memo that Governor Bush’s comments were “foolish” and “bizarre.”

Folks, that is Mr. Bazarro the First talking there – Grover Norquist. Norquist and his pledge have consumed the Republican Party and turned the Grand Old Party (GOP) into a walking and talking farce.

What is it that Governor Bush said? Well, here are some snippets…

"Ronald Reagan would have, based on his record of finding accommodation, finding some degree of common ground, as would my dad — they would have a hard time if you define the Republican party — and I don’t — as having an orthodoxy that doesn’t allow for disagreement, doesn’t allow for finding some common ground,"

"Back to my dad’s time and Ronald Reagan’s time – they got a lot of stuff done with a lot of bipartisan support,"

"I do feel a little out of step with my party on this,"

"It’s all about talking points rather than engagement,"

Now, let’s deal with the total picture and what Governor Bush was trying to get at… He was remembering a great political party that knew the art of compromise and had the ability to find common ground with other honest and sincere people of politics. He was remembering the days when bipartisanship was put before party. He was remembering a time when you would never allow people to suffer in order to gain a political advantage.

Three very loud cheers for Jeb Bush. He reminds me of the politics of yesteryear.

You might be thinking what has crossed my mind; that is, it’s too bad this Mr. Bush didn’t run for the Presidency this time around. Many people said the endorsement was absolutely his for the asking. I guess we better not deceive ourselves, however. Given the current climate of the Republican Party (a.k.a. the Tea Party) Bush would not have been able to talk the way he is now – as one with no hand in the game.

A day after saying what he did, Governor Bush tried to soften the pain of the blow that his remarks caused his party by twittering the following: “The point I was making yesterday is this: The political system is hyperpartisan. Both sides are at fault.”

If fact, Bush’s words were perfectly clear and it was very obvious what he was talking about (he singled out his party a number of times in those remarks). Frankly he should have let them stand without this attempt to soften their meaning.


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The Cotton Candy Man



This dude is the cotton candy man – and like no other!
by Charlie Leck

There are wonderful things in the world – (1) music, (2) the sunrise, (3) oysters with the one you love, (4) baseball in the afternoon, and, of course, (4) cotton candy.

And, you can go here to see the world’s greatest cotton candy man – the absolute greatest!
http://www.wimp.com/cottoncandy/

Whazzat great – or what? If you missed it, whaaaaat a shame!


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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Ron Paul Owns Minnesota GOP



Well, the title of this blog might be somewhat an exaggeration, but I wanted it to catch your attention so I might explain to you how deeply the Ron Paul libertarian political philosophy is penetrating into Minnesota.
by Charlie Leck

Headlines in the Monday morning StarTribune (newspaper of the Twin Cities in Minnesota):  RON PAUL DISCIPLES SEEK LOCAL OFFICES.

Ron Paul put together an organization in Minnesota that was very successful. Forget about national office and national ambitions. Ron Paul’s followers are looking to take over local governments and grow the Ron Paul philosophy from there.

Start with the fact that Ron Paul candidates will run for 26 seats in the Minnesota State Legislature.

Here are some blips from the story:

“A lot of the Ron Paul supporters are socially liberal and 180 degrees from the social agenda of a lot of GOP activists. This is just night and day,” said Carleton College political science Prof. Steven Schier. “If you’re going to grow the party that way, expect a lot of big fights.”

“Paul, who expects to send nearly 200 delegates and perhaps 500 supporters in all to the national convention in Tampa, talks often about efforts to “grow our movement” and bring the Republican Party back to “its limited government, liberty roots.”

What Minnesotans have to remember about Ron Paul is that he is quite liberal socially and there are many of his positions that I could accept and even endorse; however, he would never be able to pay for any kind of programs to promote or institute those liberal positions because he wants incredibly small government and almost no government spending. So, Ron Paul takes positions about more freedom, more free choice… without any kind of structure to support those positions. Rather, he depends upon the good will and kindness of the people.

If this is a confusing blog, I’ve accomplished my purpose; for Ron Paul and libertarianism, in general, is very perplexing – it is liberalism without any teeth and it is conservatism in that it argues for intensely small government.

How successful will the Paul followers be in their efforts to win positions in both local government and state government? My guess is that very, very few of them will win seats in county or state government slots. A number of them will win positions in town and small city elections. Mind you, I said these are guesses. I have nothing to support this conjecture – nothing at all! We’ll just have to see.


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