Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Benghazi and All the Reddening Faces

There’s a big story – about a hoax – that needs careful attention. I’ve been doing my due diligence reading, but I’m not ready yet to sit down and explain just what happened.
by Charlie Leck

My first inclination is to believe that the right wing invented a story about Benghazi that would embarrass and damage the reputations of both the President of the United States, Barack Obama, and the United States Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton. The recent news debacle at Sixty Minutes (the showcase news report of CBS) is becoming clearer and clearer with each passing day. There were lies told and there were failures to run truth-tests. We want to see clearly where these lies were birthed and who exactly (besides CBS) took to spreading and expanding them.

It appears to me that Benghazi will turn from a presidential and State Department embarrassment to a bright red face for the extreme conservative wing of the Republican Party. We’ll examine that possibility beginning on Sunday. I’ll try to have a full blog explanation of just what happened by Monday morning at the latest.

If you want to get out in front of me on this, you can order the e-book by David Brock and Ari Rabin-Hart, The Benghazi Hoax. Amazon is selling it for 99 cents.

You know, the right wing of the Republican Party will do anything to destroy the good character honesty of this administration and this president.

Have a great Thanksgiving weekend.


Why not become a follower?
If you read my blog regularly, why not become a follower? All you have to do is click in the upper right hand corner and establish a simple means of communication. Then you'll be informed every time a new blog is posted here. If all that's confusing, here's Google's explanation of how to do it! If you don’t want to post comments on the blog, but would like to communicate with me about it, send me an email if you’d like.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Lee Harvey Oswald did it Alone!

The question I’ve asked myself for the last fifty years is probably very much like the question some young man began asking himself in 1865, after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. How could such a loser – such a scumbag in life – have so altered the momentum and movement of history?
by Charlie Leck

Where were you on that day in 1963 – November 22, 1963 – when you first heard that John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the President of the United States of America, had been assassinated in Dallas, Texas? I don’t want to review my answer to the question. I’ve written about it before, here on this blog and in other places. Nevertheless, I will, to a certain degree, revisit some of that day in order to make a few points.

Let me just say that it was a debilitating day, weekend, week for me; and it took many weeks before I could resume anything like a normal life again.

I hadn’t voted in the 1960 election. I wasn’t old enough. I do remember the summer of ’60, leading up to that election. I was back in New Jersey after spending time in the southwest and in the great Midwest. I was uncomfortable in Jersey. My thoughts kept returning to the Midwest and I was anxious to go back there. I’d completed a satisfactory year in college. I liked the quieter, easier pace of Midwestern living.

Back in New Jersey, I worked in a factory days and played town ball a few times a week with a couple of semi-professional baseball teams in the early evenings. Both in the factory and on the ball field the discussion was often about the coming election. Richard Nixon was campaigning hard against John Kennedy. I hadn’t yet established a political stance and I didn’t know much about either of these guys. Kennedy was elegant. Nixon was workman-like. My old man was a Republican. My older brothers wouldn’t talk about the election and gave no indication about what they’d do, but I suspected they’d vote for Nixon.

I worked on an assembly line with another college guy. He was attending Drew University. He wanted to be a reporter. He liked Kennedy. He wanted to stage a mock debate over the lunch hour. He asked me to take the Nixon position. We did it as a lark. He was better prepared than I and he whipped me in every which way in our little, staged dispute; yet, the factory workers, who had happily gathered around us to listen to the debate, cheered and clapped and hooted for me and my positions on Nixon. It told me where my little, rural town in New Jersey stood on this election. My very temporary friend and I laughed about it when we got back on the line. We conceded that neither one of us really knew what we were talking about.

On the day of his inauguration, I became a Kennedy man. Within the first year of his presidency, I became a dedicated Democrat. In the fall of 1963 I enrolled at United Theological Seminary up in the Twin Cities of Minnesota. I was to study theology and prepare for a life as a clergyman in the very liberal United Church of Christ. John F. Kennedy was, at the time of my enrollment, one of the heroes of my life. I wouldn’t miss one of his televised press conferences. He handled the press with great genius, cunning and humor. His sense of humor was clever and dry. I tried to begin developing a similar approach to humor. JFK’s smile was genuine. His love of life was immense. I enjoyed the film clips of him on his sailing yacht, on the golf course, on the beach where he played with his children, and with his knockout-beautiful wife, Jackie. By mid-November, 1963, I was totally a Kennedy man and I was looking forward to the 1964 election campaign.

Then, in an instant, it all came to an end. A classmate came rushing into the lunchroom where many of us were gathered. He told us that the President had been shot. It appeared to be very serious. I had never experienced such a sense of foreboding and sorrow. The heaviness of it nearly crushed me.

The mother-fucking television could not be correct! It couldn’t be! No little, squirrely, know-nothing son-of-a-bitch socialist could possibly bring down this glorious, bright and handsome leader of the free world! NO!

I went to my one o’clock Old Testament class. Herr Doctor McCallaster stood before us, behind his lectern. He suggested we all sit silently and pray and meditate. After ten minutes, or so, someone knocked on the door and then opened it slightly. The messenger spoke in hushed words with the professor. He returned to his lectern to tell us that the President was dead. He began to speak in tones so tender and compassionate. I don’t remember what he said, but, whatever it was, it had healing qualities. Somehow he related it all to the great stories of the Old Testament, but nothing, in the end, really made sense.

Nothing would make sense to me for weeks. I knew that millions of people were feeling exactly the way I felt in these days following John Kennedy’s death. I was as low as I had ever been or ever would be in my entire life. I sat glued to the television for the funeral and burial. I remember the John-John salute to his father so clearly that it is as if it were yesterday. I cried like a baby and the pain and agony of the moment were overwhelming.

I was both stuck in desperate despair and terribly, terribly angry. Who was this miserable son-of-a-bitch who could do this to our nation? How could it happen?

Robert Stone, in the NY Review of Books, summed Oswald up brilliantly in his review the Norman Mailer’s book about the assassin [Oswald’s Tale].

Lee Harvey Oswald, as he appears in Oswald’s Tale, was a loser’s loser whose chance of fame would always be proportional to his willingness to self-destruct. He would never prove a lover or a hero; his options were only shades of villainy, something which he naturally failed to understand. In the Marine Corps, he was just another one of those mouthy sea lawyers full of pseudo-intellectual yammer about their far-out politics, one of the revolutionaries who would go to Russia when they got out. The difference between Oswald and the rest was that he actually went. And then, instead of skulking home when his money ran out, he insisted on staying, even to the point of making a superficial suicidal gesture when he was asked to leave. He was determined to achieve the status of “defector.” This was a man whose only gift was the wit to compound his mistakes exponentially. A man to turn a personal fuck-up into a national disaster and make his problems everybody’s.”

Quite early in his book Mailer, almost regretfully, writes:

“It is virtually not assimilable to our reason that a small lonely man felled a giant in the midst of his limousines, his legions, his throng, and his security. If such a non-entity destroyed the leader of the most powerful nation on earth, then a world of disproportion engulfs us, and we live in a universe that is absurd. So the question reduces itself to some degree: If we should decide that Oswald killed Kennedy by himself, let us at least try to comprehend whether he was an assassin with a vision or a killer without one.”

Vincent Bugliosi, a successful prosecutor (Charles Manson) and an immensely successful writer [Helter Skelter] of the most successful crime book in publishing history (over 7 million copies sold), has an interesting take on Oswald. He talks about the man’s great desire to do this awful deed without help, with no support, as a way of showing up the American system for which he (Oswald) had absolutely no love.

Bugliosi also talks about Oswald’s great love for Fidel Castro. And, one must remember that Oswald was a declared communist. He had early defected to the Soviet Union. He wasn’t very welcome there during the short time he lived there, but it was clear that this was Oswald’s chosen political mode. Then one must remember that shortly before his assassination, Kennedy made an appearance in Miami and spoke forcefully to the Cuban people and urged them to rise up against the dictator. It angered Oswald to no end. This has been established by entries in Oswald’s journals and in interviews with his widow, Marina.

However, I think it is Norman Mailer [Oswald’s Tale] who catches the reasons for Oswald’s actions better than anyone else who has written about this strange and very insignificant little man: “It was the logic of his life!” Kennedy represented everything and everyone who Oswald hated. If he could bring down the man on his own, with no help and no support, it would be his crowning and defining achievement. It would be worth whatever happened to him as a result.

Indeed, Lee Harvey Oswald was “a loser’s loser.”

The odds that he could succeed that day were overwhelmingly slim. Nevertheless, the meaningless little prick was able to do it against all those odds. Because there were so many impossibilities in the story of this assassination, it would quickly birth all kinds of conspiratorial tales. It is almost, even now – fifty years later – impossible to accept that one low-down, slimy, and miserable little, nearly meaningless man could have done this.

In fact, he did! He did it fifty years ago today and there are some of us who have quite literally never gotten over it.


Why not become a follower?
If you read my blog regularly, why not become a follower? All you have to do is click in the upper right hand corner and establish a simple means of communication. Then you'll be informed every time a new blog is posted here. If all that's confusing, here's Google's explanation of how to do it! If you don’t want to post comments on the blog, but would like to communicate with me about it, send me an email if you’d like.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Come On, Liz!

So, what changed in the last 55 year about being gay or lesbian? It isn’t anything about being gay or lesbian, but society is growing up about the whole matter (with a little bit of help from science).
by Charlie Leck

It’s kind of a shame that the Cheney girls are having a bit of a falling out now. I wonder how their dad feels about the whole thing. You know what I’m talkin’ (writin’) about, don’t you?

Dick Cheney, the former Vice President of the United States used to have a bad-ass attitude about homosexuality (that’s gays and lesbians) until he found out his daughter was one. Then he was forced to sit back and ask himself a couple of questions and have a quiet, reasonable conversation with his wife about the whole business. Dick Cheney is a bright guy and he put the pieces together. He discovered that his daughter had a built-in sexual attraction to other women rather than men. He realized that it wasn’t her fault; and, it wasn’t his fault or his wife’s fault either. There are some pieces that no one’s put together yet and we just don’t know why this happens, but it does. If you give it real hard thought, you realize there is no blame and no fault here and there doesn’t have to be if we can also get it into our heads that there is no wrong in all of this – that it’s okay and we don’t have to condemn anyone or refer to anyone as a sinner or pervert.

The nation was very surprised when Dick Cheney showed up on television with a smile on his face and a sense of peace in his soul to tell the world his daughter, Mary, was and is a lesbian. He was pleased his daughter was going to marry another woman and that she was going to have a companion and be loved the way her mother and father loved each other. Hot damn, that was nice! It made lots of people reevaluate their own condemnations and nasty feelings and references. He went on doing his job as Vice President and everything was just really okay.

Dick Cheney has another daughter. Her name is Liz and Liz was proud of her father and she loved her sister, too, and she was happy for her sister and her life’s companion. She visited with them and their childrfen in their Virginia home and there was understanding, support and joy shared all around.

What a great story about an important and fine American family!

Well, wouldn’t you know, politics has messed it all up! It can happen. It has happened and it will continue to happen. In order to succeed in politics we often have to change our stances and alter our behavior. We have to nudge ourselves a little right or a little left. We must become a little more religious than we really are. We have to say nice things about people we don’t really feel to keenly about and we have to say nasty things about people we just really, in our hearts, admire. It’s just one of the damned bad things about politics and I would like, one time in my life, to vote for someone who hasn’t made those alterations or changes to his opinions in order to please a portion of the electorate he is chasing.

Take Mary Cheney’s sister, Liz, for example. Liz wants to run for the U.S. Senate out there in Wyoming (her father’s home state, where he is very famous). I refuse to believe Wyoming is as blatantly stupid as Liz seems to think it is. Liz, you see, has changed her tune on same-sex marriage and the right of gays and lesbians. Now she’s sayin’ that gays have been given too many rights too quickly and maybe we all oughta (that’s Wyoming for ought to) back off a little bit.

It’s hit the papers. Mary’s read it and it has taken her aback. She saddened and a tad bit angry even though she knows that politics is at the heart of it. Mary’s kids are a little confused about their auntie and Mary’s dad is layin’ low, trying to hide his embarrassment and keep his mouth shut.

And, the people of Wyoming are a lot brighter than the credit Liz is giving them. They know damned well about Mary and her wife. They know about the former Vice President. Most of them were even proud of him for backin’ up his daughter and for supportin’ her. By God, family is important in Wyomin’ and you better’in hell stick up for and with your family if you at all want to win the hearts of the folks from Wyomin’.

And, the people of Wyomin’ are learnin’ just like the rest of the nation that this business of bein’ gay and bein’ lesbian is not a matter of moral choice a’tall. It’s about what’s inside you and about the inclinations given to you at birth and it just ain’t the moral or immoral choice of anybody! No, sir!

Dick Cheney damn well knows it. So does his daughter, Mary, and so does his daughter, Liz. And standin’ up for that and being honest about that – and supportin’ father and sister – is one heckuva lot more important than being elected to the stupid U.S. Senate.

Come on, Liz!


Fifty-five years ago I thought, because my parents said so, that being a homosexual was both sinful and maniacal. The church said so, too.

Lois and Ellen lived up the street from us and I would see them walking down Budd Avenue just about every single day. They liked each other an awful lot. Even a little kid such as I could tell that. Lois dressed pretty much like a man. She always wore man’s slacks and a man’s shirt and tie and a man’s hat; but it was pretty clear that she was a woman. They were always plenty kind to me and Lois would often stop by in our backyard and thrown a baseball around with me for a little bit. Ellen would stand by and watch and laugh at us.

I knew what was going on even though I was a little kid and didn’t know hardly anything yet. And I liked the way they were kind to one another and cared for one another. I felt better about them and their kind ways than I did about several couples in town who were always mean and unloving to one another. I was very confused inside about what was right and what was sinful.

My dad liked Lois and Ellen, too. He’d often talk with them in our old general store and he laughed with them. And, when they left, he never once said anything nasty or bad about them to me or anyone else.

In high school, a kid I admired an awful lot and with whom I wanted to be a good friend, was a homosexual. We didn’t use the word “gay” back then. I didn’t know about his inclinations. I just thought he was one of the guys. He was bright and funny and he said clever things all the time. I wanted to be like him. He didn’t care that much for me because he thought I was nothing but a jock. It took us fifty years to find out we liked each other and for me to find out he was gay. It never mattered one little stitch to me about that. We became pretty good friends and I’m damned glad of it and I’m glad he’s free today to be whatever he wants to be and to love whomever he wants to love. And I’m glad he knows now that I’m more than some stupid jock. He’s what he is and I’m what I am and we respect each other for it and we enjoy one another’s company without being all uptight about it. That’s the way it should be.

Throwin’ somebody under the bus for political reasons just ain’t right. It ain’t, Liz!



Why not become a follower?
If you read my blog regularly, why not become a follower? All you have to do is click in the upper right hand corner and establish a simple means of communication. Then you'll be informed every time a new blog is posted here. If all that's confusing, here's Google's explanation of how to do it! If you don’t want to post comments on the blog, but would like to communicate with me about it, send me an email if you’d like.

Monday, November 18, 2013


Don’t care about sports? Care about this and give it its due consideration and respect! The University of Minnesota women’s hockey team lost a hockey game over the weekend. The fans of the team, including my wife and I, can’t stop cheering for them. Here’s why?
by Charlie Leck

I’m telling you, that was some run! I don’t know whether a streak anything like it has ever been produced in sports – certainly not in hockey, my friends.

The University of North Dakota defeated the Gopher’s women’s hockey team yesterday (Sunday) by a score of 3 goals to 2. It’s done. It’s over. The pressure is finally off the women; but what they did is absolutely historic and mind boggling.

The women won 62 consecutive games without a loss. It is the longest winning streak in college hockey (men or women). At the conclusion of this game, the fans stood and applauded and applauded and cheered and cheered. Praise, gratitude and love rained down on the Gopher women. Last season they were the national champions and had a record of 41 wins and zero defeats. It is an accomplishment that boggles the mind.

The winning team on Sunday tried to celebrate in proper and jubilant fashion, but they were overwhelmed and set politely aside as the Gopher fans in their home arena dampened the feeling of defeat and then put it out all together. This was no loss. This was a moment to celebrate their historic and amazing accomplishment.

Bang! Bang! Bang! North Dakota, a great hockey school, scored all three of their goals in the first period; and they were all scored by freshmen who hadn’t been in college and around for the Gopher’s historic run last year. The meaning wasn’t there for them and they didn’t understand the wild celebration of joy that surround the Gopher women. The victorious team just stood by there in Ridder Arena, on the U of M campus, and watched the celebration of love that surrounded the team they just defeated.

The Gophers played heroically after those first three goals were scored against them and they fought valiantly in trying to pull defeat out of the jaws of victory.

This morning I pour out a heart full of love to this team for what it accomplished and how beautifully and graciously they did it. They made collegiate sports history that may just stand unequaled forever.

Ski-U-Mah! Rah! Rah! Rah!


Why not become a follower?
If you read my blog regularly, why not become a follower? All you have to do is click in the upper right hand corner and establish a simple means of communication. Then you'll be informed every time a new blog is posted here. If all that's confusing, here's Google's explanation of how to do it! If you don’t want to post comments on the blog, but would like to communicate with me about it, send me an email if you’d like.

Friday, November 15, 2013

George Gershwin was Incredible

Though he only lived 38 years, the remarkable music and genius of George Gershwin will last forever. I was reminded of that again last night!
by Charlie Leck

I had a great date with my wife last night. She took me to a jazz concert – Gershwin in Paris. We had a wonderful time. I don’t know how it could have been better. The music was glorious and was provided by musicians from 11 years of age (Emma Taggart) to the remarkable Irv Williams at 94 and still making mellow and beautiful on his saxophone. It was one of those evenings that just went by so very, very quickly. I got lost in it and was reminded again of the genius of George Gershwin and his brother, Ira.

I was also reminded again that, given the brevity of his life, Gershwin composed the music for an enormous number (15) of Broadway musicals. Among them were…

Nice Work If You Can Get It
Strike Up the Band
My One and Only
Show Girl
Lady Be Good

Of course, he and his brother, two years older, were probably most famous for their opera, Porgy and Bess (1935). It’s amazing to realize that this particular work was a commercial failure. Today, it is regarded, world wide, as the finest of all the strictly American operas.

Among a number of orchestral pieces, George Gershwin is most famous for American in Paris and the remarkable Rapsody in Blue.

In Brooklyn, Gershwin was born into a Russian Jewish heritage. Thirty-nine years later he died in Beverly Hills, California, of a brain tumor. If you were to take a look at his creative achievements in that period of time you, as I did, would shake your head in wonder and disbelief. The man had style in his living and he had a particularly identifiable style in his music. His love for jazz was deep and he carried it over into his classical compositions and his creations for the opera and Broadway theater as well.

My purpose here, however, is to write of last night’s experience and to tell you that the concert sponsored and staged by the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum was a grand and lovely success. It is part of the Arboretum’s series called Four Seasons of Music. You can find out more about the series by looking here on the Arboretum’s web site. Don’t dilly-dally, however, because each of the four concerts in the series will sell out.

Bruce Henry was the main vocalist last night and he is a clear professional with a brilliant and well trained voice that has a remarkable range. He’s performed with the best because he’s one of the best. Denis Evstuhim and Ivan Konev were the duet pianists and they were brilliant. Both of them have classical Russian training on the piano. They play delicately, but with rare and appropriate power.

But there were some startling and remarkable surprises in store for the audience last night and the full-house crowd responded enthusiastically and cheerfully to both of them. After a very casual preconcert performance by accordionist, Dan Newton, and a few piano and vocal presentations of some of Gershwin’s American in Paris composition (while a very nice photographic exhibit of Paris was splashed on the walls behind the performers), the first surprise was presented.

Irv Williams
94 year old Irv Williams was introduced to the audience and he came delicately out on to the stage carrying a saxophone that seemed as big as he was. This master and terribly popular local performer out did himself. What crystal clear and remarkable music he makes. Williams is “a legend of the big band era.” He’s played with and for some of the best jazz vocalists in American musical history, including the legends Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughn. He thrilled the crowd. He may not be as powerful as he once was, and he needs a little time to get from here to there when he comes out on the stage, but, when he sits down with his shiny, gold instrument in front of him, he makes very mellow when he begins to play.

Emma Taggart
I was personally blown away by the piano presentation by 11 year old Emma Taggart. She played two pieces by Debussy, who had such a remarkable impact on Gershwin’s skills, and then Three Prelude by Gershwin. Well, I sensed that the audience was in awe. Taggart played like a well-honed and experience professional who had been doing this for decades. She was delicate and light on the keyboard, but with great definition and strength. She began playing at age four and at age nine won the International Piano Festival Performance Award at the International Music Festival in Italy. She has a neat little list of other international and national awards she’s also pulled down. I just can’t imagine!

John Blanda
Then, just for fun, you can throw in the post-concert performance by a local high school student by the name of John Blanda. A piano student over in Maplewood, he presented a solo piano performance of his own arrangement and interpretation of the music of George Gershwin. What a treat! Strong, powerful and delicate, all at the same time, Blanda was extraordinary and was the perfect exclamation mark on a really great evening.

The entire event, which began with some lovely starters and a very nice wine bar, was beautifully planned and very comfortable.

The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum is a very special place and we’re more than proud to be members and contributors to this important and beautiful institution. Thanks to all of you folks over there for a fabulous evening. If you’d like, pay them a visit on-line.

 I took this snapshot in the summer of 2008 when we took a significant walk through the huge arboretum property. It is a remarkable way to spend a nice summer or autumn day. There is a tour vehicle that allows one to ride through large parts of the park, but the best way to see it is on foot. The big central building on the grounds houses a really good restaurant and a number of exhibits and art work that is really worth taking a look at.

This project of the University of Minnesota in one of our state's treasures and we are always urging friends to visit and join.


Why not become a follower?
If you read my blog regularly, why not become a follower? All you have to do is click in the upper right hand corner and establish a simple means of communication. Then you'll be informed every time a new blog is posted here. If all that's confusing, here's Google's explanation of how to do it! If you don’t want to post comments on the blog, but would like to communicate with me about it, send me an email if you’d like.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

America’s Housing Style is Changing!

       This photo comes from the website of North Texas Kids!

It appears that major changes are taking place in America’s metropolitan communities. The problem of sprawl seems to be solving itself because we’ve simply reached the breaking point that makes living further and further away from one’s job too expensive.
by Charlie Leck

An article in this morning’s local paper talks about the cost we pay in order to move around in relative convenience; that is, roads and transportation. Early on, mention is made of the organization, Transit for a Livable Community. I support that organization! We’ve been slow to show some sanity about transportation in our communities here in America. We’ve ignored the European model because we didn’t think it would work here. Now, when we talk about creating a coast to coast, national, high-speed train system similar to those in Europe and Japan, the ultra-conservatives call it spending. The liberals call it an investment. 

Actually it is both. In the long run it makes sense. Those of my age won’t profit or benefit from such an ambitious plan, but it will make the nation a better and easier place for my grandchildren and they will be proud that grandpa advocated for it.

The thrust of the story is that transportation (the cost of moving around) has become nearly as expensive for Americans as their housing. In less than ten years the gap between housing costs and transportation costs has narrowed dramatically. It costs a lot of money to build those roads and bridges.

A lot of this cost hit us because of the way our metropolitan areas sprawled outwards, creating suburban communities far away from the main work centers. That, as I understand it, has slowed dramatically in most large metropolitan communities and the fashion now is to live as close to one’s work as possible. Minneapolis is experiencing a huge renaissance in residential building near the downtown center.

In the last eight or nine years, the cost of transportation for households has risen by about 11 percent. In our metropolitan area that jump would have been even more had we not constructed a rather significant light-rail system that moves people from the south into the downtown area. Another system moves people smoothly up along a northwest corridor. In a matter of months a system will open that will move us between the two major metro centers here. In fact, we need more such rail systems and the far removed southwestern suburbs are crying for one. Any new systems meet resistance, however, because they will have to alter the face of communities through which they must move in order to get to those distant suburban communities.

We must understand, however, that transportation costs are not going to decrease or even stabilize. The cost of gasoline and the cost of automobiles are going to rise, rise, rise, even though this news story says they have decreased in the very recent months! It makes more sense to look at long term patterns and they show us that gas costs are going to go up.
This morning’s story also tells us that “the AAA says the average cost of owning a sedan is $8,946” and I expect that means annually.

Recent statistics show that people are getting more comfortable with less house, less land and less of a drive; and all of that adds up to less spending on living and transportation. It’s something that just had to happen, isn’t it? One can live only so far from one’s work! One can go only so far for the privilege of owning more land around one’s home! One can devote only so much time to driving to and from one’s work. There comes a limit; and, in most communities, that limit has been reached.

I also urge you to get familiar with the organization called Transit for Livable Communities. They work to encourage more sensible transportation plans that will give people alternative ways to move around their communities at less cost. I’ve join as a member and I do contribute a bit of money to them each year. You might want to consider doing that as well.


Why not become a follower?
If you read my blog regularly, why not become a follower? All you have to do is click in the upper right hand corner and establish a simple means of communication. Then you'll be informed every time a new blog is posted here. If all that's confusing, here's Google's explanation of how to do it! If you don’t want to post comments on the blog, but would like to communicate with me about it, send me an email if you’d like.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Jimi Hendrix plays the National Anthem

Jimi Hendrix died way, way too young. He had so much more music left inside him!
by Charlie Leck

I watched an extraordinary documentary by PBS yesterday. HEAR MY TRAIN A’ COMIN’ is about Jimi Hendrix and his, unfortunately, short life. What a musician he was and could he play an electric guitar. The documentary was both wonderful and terribly sad. He lived far too short a life and had so many more songs inside him yet. I was blown away by the playing of the National Anthem at Woodstock in ’69. I shivered and trembled during this incredible rendition. You can watch a You Tube video of it here:

The Hendrix version of the National Anthem drew pretty heavy criticism from literalists and confused patriots. Since then, performers have taken great liberty when presenting the song at events, celebrations and festivals. The Hendrix performance goes above and beyond them all in beauty and meaning. You have to remember that it was ’69 and chaos ruled in America. It was the very reason for Woodstock. The anthem is a screeching, screaming, crying rendition for a nation divided and in peril; and for a flag in danger of falling. It was six o’clock in the morning at Woodstock and most of the crowd had gone off. The grounds looked like a battlefield that had been torn up and badly stained by war. Out, over it rang Hendrix’s National Anthem and the exhausted fans who remained were moved to tears or screams of pain and sadness. This is a moment well worth watching and it is much more visual and mysterious in the PBS documentary than on the You Tube video. I think it could be called a very special moment in music history.

You can watch the two hour PBS documentary on-line by just signing up with PBS (no charge) at


Why not become a follower?
If you read my blog regularly, why not become a follower? All you have to do is click in the upper right hand corner and establish a simple means of communication. Then you'll be informed every time a new blog is posted here. If all that's confusing, here's Google's explanation of how to do it! If you don’t want to post comments on the blog, but would like to communicate with me about it, send me an email if you’d like.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Minnesota Golden Gophers as National Champions

I’m talking football here (as advanced warning to those of you bored by the subject).. The U of Minnesota hasn’t had a nationally competitive football team since the 60s. Yup, the 60s, when we won a couple of national championships. The 60s when there were Gophers like Bobby Bell, Carl Eller and Sandy Stephens.
by Charlie Leck

Minnesota is one of the universities with a significant number of national football championships (7), but none of them in the last 50 years. Now, however, we’re proud of our boys who have won 4 straight games in the Big Ten and next play Wisconsin here in two weeks. We have dreams that football glory may return to Minnesota in the next few years.

I’m sure, however, that it will be nothing like the 1904 National Championship Gopher team that went undefeated and beat everyone on its schedule by a combined score of 725 to 12. That year the Gophers whipped up on Grinnell College 146 to 0. We also beat South Dakota 77-0. The closest game was one with Nebraska (16 to 12) and they were the only points the Gophers allowed during the entire season. We beat Wisconsin that year 28 to 0. Unfortunately, back then, there were no post-season bowls, no tastelessly elegant trophies and no general hype around the nation.

Bobby Marshall was a member of that 1904 Gopher football team. He played end. The Gopher sports web site tells us he was the first man of color to play in the Big Ten (back then it was called the Big Nine). He’s a member of the College Football Hall of Fame
This story about the 1904 Gophers’ football team was on a Fox Sports blog…

Dale Warner, was one of my favorite golfing buddies even though he was 17/18 years older than I. Dale loved his Golden Gophers. He played for them in the late forties after coming back from his time in the Navy. He was a teammate of such Gopher greats as Bud Grant and Billy Bye. And Dale could play a terrific round of golf. He was a pretty constant threat to shoot par, even in his seventies. We played Cyprus Point and Pebble Beach together and several other remarkable golf courses. I loved listening to his stories about his football days at Minnesota. Dale got me very excited about following Gopher football.

Great Gopher football players I remember?
How about these guys (besides Eller and Stephens, who I already mentioned)…

Tony Dungy
Matt Spaeth
Rickey Foggie
Ernie Wheelright
Marion Barber III (one of my all-time favorites)
Laurence Maroney
Darrell Thompson (all-time leading rusher with 4,654 yards)
Tyrone Carter
Bobby Bell (Outland Trophy in ’62)
Eric Decker (now a receiver with the Broncos)

Of course, there were some really famous Gophers before my time, including…

Bronko Nagurski (1929)
Bruce Smith (first player ever to win Heisman Trophy, 1941)
Paul Giel (1950-1952)
Bobby Marshall (1904-1906)
Pug Lund (1932-1934)
Leo Nomellini (1946-1949)
Bud Grant (team MVP in 1949)

 A great Minnesota Gopher football victory over the weekend has got me dreaming of Gopher glory here in the next few years.


Why not become a follower?
If you read my blog regularly, why not become a follower? All you have to do is click in the upper right hand corner and establish a simple means of communication. Then you'll be informed every time a new blog is posted here. If all that's confusing, here's Google's explanation of how to do it! If you don’t want to post comments on the blog, but would like to communicate with me about it, send me an email if you’d like.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Vote in Minneapolis

Minneapolis had a wonderful turnout in its election on Tuesday. The results are clear and they were youth driven. I think Minneapolis will be in very good hands. Go mayor-elect Betsey Hodges!
by Charlie Leck

In Minnesota,
50 of 57 school districts won voter approval for new or renewed property tax levies to pay for school operations. If you are concerned about deteriorating educational systems, this has to be good news. Is it that there is a revived concern about the quality of education in the state? Or is it just a sign of a vastly improved economy.

In Minneapolis
A new mayor and seven new city councilpersons were elected in Minneapolis. All of them would have to be called young and vigorous supporters of improving the quality of urban life. And, they appear to be supporters of a spirit of diversity and openness. Among the new council members is one born in Latin America, one born in East Africa and one born in Southeast Asia. The results make me optimistic about Minnesota’s major and very important urban center. I have always believed that our state is only as strong as this important urban hub. Minneapolis is truly one of our nation’s finest cities and this election makes me feel very positive about its future.


Why not become a follower?
If you read my blog regularly, why not become a follower? All you have to do is click in the upper right hand corner and establish a simple means of communication. Then you'll be informed every time a new blog is posted here. If all that's confusing, here's Google's explanation of how to do it! If you don’t want to post comments on the blog, but would like to communicate with me about it, send me an email if you’d like.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Tea Party ain’t no Party!

Be sure you understand, because the name they have chosen tends to fool one, that the Tea Party is not a political party and, because of the nature of political parties, never will be.
by Charlie Leck

Somewhere along the way the Republicans – that is, the pure and original type Republicans – have come to realize that the Tea Party is not a division of, or a part of, the Republican Party. And, with this knowledge in-hand, they have begun to declare their independence from Tea Partiers. Now the Republican Party is seeking to find its way back to a position of strength and credibility.

And I have come to realize that the Tea Party isn’t really a political party. Knowing this makes it easier to understand the Tea Party; and this calms some of the fears I had about it. Now I realize that the Tea Party’s big moment is past. It has already reached its pinnacle and it is now plummeting back down to some realistic place as a “once was movement” in American politics.

What is a political party?
One needs to understand the nature of a political party to see why the Tea Party isn’t one. I’ve been quite significantly involved in party politics since 1968. Comically, it was a rebellion against the sitting and contented Democratic Party that brought me into it. No need to tell the story here. It is enough to tell you that I was elected the Democratic Party chairman of a ward on the southside of Minneapolis and as a delegate to the state convention of the Democratic Party. In those two positions I began to understand what political parties really were and why they exist.

Political parties make sense and, I believe, that they should be seen as essentially necessary. Edmund Burke (1729-1797) played a significant role in founding the contemporary political party system in America. For not a second did Burke believe that parties could be perfect instruments. However, he did believe that parties could encourage a certain level of cooperation among people with common goals (key word is common). He thought they would encourage political leadership to rise above their own interests and factional interests to work for a common good through agreed upon and realistic strategies.

In the biography by Jesse Norman, Burke is depicted as a man of great political strength who believed government could be held to account by organized political parties. Yet, Burke also realized that such parties should never become overly partisan. If they did, Burke felt that they would then fail to understand the broader public interests that were at stake and they would lose their power.

Using Burke’s concept as a means to define political party puts the contemporary Tea Party outside that definition. The Tea Party, which began as a more open libertarian movement, has grown to be a closed and completely doctrinally partisan organization. In other words, there is no room within the Tea Party for dissenters and non-believers. This doctrine, however, does not match that of the standard Republican Party.

I came into the politics as part of a very strong protest movement against the War in Vietnam. In some sense, there was an idea that we could take over the Democratic Party and force it to view the war as we did. Instead, because our convictions were so singularly partisan, we merely split the party, weakened it and allowed for the 1968 election of Richard Nixon (over Hubert Humphrey) to the presidency. This, of course, as seen through the eyes of unbiased historians, was a disaster for America that set us off course for a couple of decades.

It is the kind of thing that the Tea Party is now doing to America. We will see some of the results of this in yesterday’s election results…

I need to make these notes… In Virginia, working on the gubernatorial campaign of his good friend, Terry McAuliffe, Bill Clinton recently said: “There are more of us who believe that working together is better than constant conflict.” That is the basis for the political party system. It clearly defines the nature of a political party. And Clinton has proven himself one of the most insightful commentators in the world on politics and politicians.

McAuliffe won big in Virginia yesterday because Virginia has a seriously weaken Republican Party, which use to be the majority party in the state. It no longer is by a long shot and isn’t even when one combines the party regulars with members of the Tea Party. And, the Tea Party is clearly responsible for this significant damage to the Virginia GOP. It is happening elsewhere.

In New Jersey, Republican Governor Chris Christie easily won reelection. This in a state where only 38 percent of voters favor the Republican brand of politics. The Washington Post says this is “much more about the Chris Christie brand than the Republican brand.” It is true that Christie has kept himself clear of association with less than moderate Republicans.

Even in Alabama, a Tea Party candidate in a congressional primary lost out to a Republican moderate last night. The moderate Bradley Byrne defeat the Tea Party backed Dean Young. It provides significant insight to what is happening in American politics.

[As the day goes on, I’ll add more relevant examples – if there are any – from yesterday’s election results as they become known.]

What the Republican Party is discovering is that it needs more moderate voices and less intolerant, loud, boisterous and radically conservative voices.

A political party without a clear and reasonably common goal is not really a political party.

The Tea Party is a renegade movement and not a true political party. It is similar to the Eugene McCarthy movement of 1968. To this day, I believe the McCarthy movement was correct in its ideology back then, but it failed to establish itself in politics because it did not allow debate, discussion and compromise on its issues. It was only a very short time before I was eased out of my position as ward chairman and state delegate (and I can now see why). The Democratic Party had to return to its more lenient and flexible roots or die. Were we McCarthyites responsible for Hubert Humphrey’s election loss? Yes! We were obstinate and inflexible and clearly indicated it was our way or no way. We got no way!


Why not become a follower?
If you read my blog regularly, why not become a follower? All you have to do is click in the upper right hand corner and establish a simple means of communication. Then you'll be informed every time a new blog is posted here. If all that's confusing, here's Google's explanation of how to do it! If you don’t want to post comments on the blog, but would like to communicate with me about it,send me an email if you’d like.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Vietnam 50 Years Ago

It’s hard to believe that I was a young man who had just turned 23. One of the most historic and impactful events in our nation’s long narrative took place fifty years ago today.
by Charlie Leck

On 1 November 1963, a military coup overthrew the government of South Vietnam. The next day Ngo Dinh Diem was murdered. These were events that were supposed to lead to a new democracy and a glorious new era of freedom for the people of that nation. Instead South Vietnam was swallowed up by the war that followed.

I barely noticed. I had just moved to Minneapolis and I was studying disciplines far removed from American international policy. I hadn’t a clue, and hardly anyone did, that the murder had been arranged and was supported by a small, but powerful, faction within the administration of President John F. Kennedy.

At our school, I remember the voice of one meek but thoughtful professor was raised in warning.

“Uh oh,” he said. A year later he would be organizing street marches in protest against the war.

The collapse of the Diem regime led to one of the most horrible and controversial wars in the history of the modern world. U.S. military troops were eventually sent to the extremely unknown and mysterious nation. “Boots on the ground” is the current lingo for what happened. In addition to the ground forces, hundreds and hundreds of bombing sorties were carried out against the armies of North Vietnam. Thousands of young American men came home injured and changed forever!

Three weeks after the murder of Ngo Dinh Diem, President John Fitzgerald Kennedy would be assassinated in Dallas. President Lyndon Baines Johnson would then make the decisions that increased dramatically the number of American forces within Vietnam.

Division erupted in America – a division like it had not experienced since the Civil War. It was a terrible time. I have written often here about the chaos of the sixties. There were loud call to put “boots on the streets” in protest against this war without purpose, mission or meaning. Thousands of good Americans refused to go to war. Some of the names would surprise you. Why bring them up again? There is no reason.

What would have happened if Diem had not been overthrown? Who knows? Perhaps there would have been a peaceful settlement of South Vietnam’s political problems. And perhaps it would have been led by the Vietnam people themselves.

The divisions in America led to such suspicion, distrust and paranoia that, as a result, President Richard M. Nixon was virtually paralyzed in office. The right and the left so distrusted each other that Nixon was led into decisions of awesome stupidity by his fears of national deterioration. Spying on citizens, unlawful break-ins, bribes, hush money and voter tampering became incredibly common. Watergate is a word etched deeply in the modern history of America.

And South Vietnam would disappear. No resolve great enough could be mustered within the severely divided political atmosphere in America to win the war. It is a political divide between the right and the left that has not fully healed even to this day. Both sides still want to claim they were on the correct side in the years between 1963 and 1975. And, the divide was still clearly evident in George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq and throughout that war. The results in both wars were so similar. Destruction and despair were left behind the broad wake of our military action. Brave and patriotic heroes came home as physical and mental casualties of wars whose missions were never clearly defined.

Politicians had made thoughtless decisions and they had erred disastrously.

It all led to the awful and morose resignation of a sitting U.S. President – one of the most haunting days of my entire life.

Fifty years ago! How amazing!


Why not become a follower?
If you read my blog regularly, why not become a follower? All you have to do is click in the upper right hand corner and establish a simple means of communication. Then you'll be informed every time a new blog is posted here. If all that's confusing, here's Google's explanation of how to do it! If you don’t want to post comments on the blog, but would like to communicate with me about it, send me an email if you’d like.