Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Community Food Shelf


     Photo courtesy of apium on Flickr
      Hennepin County Community College recently opened
      a food shelf on its facility. It’s manned completely by volunteers.

Ever work in a food shelf, dispersing the donated food that sits upon the shelves and in the refrigerators and freezers to hungry families? Believe me, it ain’t fun! It takes some sense of control and steadiness.
by Charlie Leck

It’s easy to kind of fall apart when you see the need. It hurts even more when you see the sense of pride that these hungry folks have. They don’t want free food. They don’t want to be visiting food shelves to ask for free food. The problem is, they’re hungry and they have hungry children. They realized they must swallow their pride. It hurts to look such a person in the eye, but you do it. You smile and greet them as equals, friends, members of the community; and you give as graciously and generously as you can.

Only seldom is there some blame to place on those seeking help. The blame goes mostly to the system (the organized government both local and national). Many who are willing and able to work, can’t – for one reason or another. It isn’t that they won’t. They can’t! Jobs are still scarce in America – especially jobs for the untrained.

And, as a food shelf worker, you often have to look into the eyes of hungry children – damned hungry children who are cuter than all-get-out and have no responsibility for any of this. Zero!

At a minimum, a third of the people fed by food shelves are hungry children – minimum!

A lot of the adults served by food shelves are disabled people and senior citizens with retirement income that won’t stretch far enough to handle housing, energy costs, clothing and food.

Some of these people get food stamps. Those government stamps just don’t stretch far enough to get a family through an entire month. Have you looked at the price of groceries lately?

Now Congress is in a debate about severely reducing the number of food stamps provided to low-income Americans. This debate is a god-danged shame! We’re talking here of only a relatively few pikers who take advantage of the system. Who we’re feeding are children, the lowest income families, the disabled and seniors with very low retirement benefits.

Please, for God’s sake (and I mean that), contact your Congressperson and Senators and tell them not to reduce the food stamp benefits provided to unfortunate Americans. A vote may take place any day, so make sure you speak up and speak out against any reduction in food stamp benefits.

Don’t know how to make contact with your Congressman?
Go to this list of Congresspersons! Select your representative and click on the name. All the contact information (address, email address and phone numbers will come up). Sending an email is probably the best and easiest thing to do. Tell them not to reduce the budget for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which is commonly known as food stamps. Tell them there are too many hungry people in America. Tell them, if they don’t believe it, they should volunteer to work for awhile in a community food shelf.

Find your local food shelf!
The second thing I’d ask is that you find your local food shelf. If you can’t volunteer time, please give generously. Either provide food for their shelves or just give them money so they can buy what they need.

I decided, a few years ago, with the help of our handy computer, to keep track of every penny I spend on groceries and beverages (including wine) and on dining out. Then I determined that I would give 10 percent of that amount to local food shelves and the food shelf downtown in my church. I give most of it to the local organization. If you do this, you’re going to be surprised about how much you spend on feeding yourself. I also make sure that this amount I give doesn’t impact the amounts I already give to charities and my church (in other words, doesn’t take away from those amounts of regular giving).

And, I decided to give some volunteer time to the food shelf; that is, stocking the shelves with the foods donated by various neighbors and grocery stores. I also help distribute that food to the families that come, searching for help.

I ain’t braggin’ my dear readers. I’m askin’ you to think about some kind of commitment to hungry people. No one should be hungry in America, but, unfortunately, there are many hungry people who need our help.



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Sunday, October 27, 2013

New Books Sound Wonderful!


I'm planning to buy a few new books. That interests some of my readers and I'll tell you about them here.
by Charlie Leck 

Near the end of my reading of the local newspaper, I came upon the book section and decided to pour another cup of coffee (with a dash of real cream and a dribble of English Toffee flavoring) and sit back and read with enthusiasm.

The Death of Santini
Pat Conroy, one of America’s favorite and most successful novelists, has written a memoir. The Death of Santini will be a must read for me. Conroy is a writer with heart, verve and attitude. His novels are delicious and I have a feeling this memoir will be as fascinating as his fiction. Conroy will be in town on November 12 to talk about the new book (Talking Volumes, 7 PM, Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul).

The Cartographer of No Man’s Land
This is a first novel by P.S Duffy and it has some special appeal for me. I’m trying to plan a solo trip to Nova Scotia this summer. This World War I story is set in both that section of Canada and in France. The protagonist in this story would be a man that parallels my father’s approximate age and time, so that makes the book a double temptation for me. The story sounds like it will be both emotional and complex. The author will talk about the book on November 6 at a book store in the neighboring village of Wayzata. I’ll try to make that gathering.

Stealing Sugar from the Castle
is a new book of collected poetry by Robert Bly. Bly is a local treasure and a nationally recognized poet of extraordinary talent. He’s also quite aged now and not nearly as sprightly (or dangerous) as he once was. Those who know his poetry will understand what I’m talking about. Bly has always been a man of deep emotion and occasional fits of self-doubt and depression.
Recently, at an evening gathering at the University of Minnesota, Bly read some of the poems from the new book. At one point he read…
“Each of us deserves to be forgiven, if only for
Our persistence in keeping our small boat afloat
When so many have gone down in the storm.”

Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney in the White House
is a non-fiction work by NY Times reporter, Peter Baker. This review caught my eye immediately. I’ve always wondered about the real story behind the working relationship between Bush and Cheney. The answers may lie in Baker’s work. He was close to the action in his days as a White House correspondent. How closely was power shared between these two? That’s the question I’ve always wondered about and now, after I purchase this book, I’ll gain some insight.

I’ll stop into the local bookstore tomorrow afternoon, or make a drive over to Garrison Keillor’s wonderful bookstore in St. Paul, to pick up copies all four of these very interesting sounding books. If you read any of them, let me know what you think. You can put it in a comment here or send me an email as explained in the Why Not Follow Me paragraph below.

Alice Munro, Nobel Prize winner
I had not even heard of Alice Munro before she was awarded the Nobel Prize a couple of weeks ago. I read a lot of the praise for her and so I ordered a couple of her collections of short stories. In the last few days I’ve read about twenty of the stories and I find them quite wonderful. There are readers who would classify them as women’s stories. Whether they are such or not, they are brilliantly written and easy to read; and they are able to paint those wonderful visuals in one’s mind as they are read. I recommend her. I have in front of me right now a collection called Vintage Munro, published by Vintage Books in 2004. I purchased it for a buck through the ABE web site.



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Saturday, October 26, 2013

Thanks to Every Single Vet Who Ever Served



I get a little tired of the people on Facebook who tell me to click the like button if I really appreciate America vets – or if I really love Jesus – or if I agree that kids should say the Pledge of Allegiance everyday!
by Charlie Leck

Appreciating the Vets
I have lunch nearly every Monday with my former neighbor and old friend, Charlie Crosby. Charlie, 86, is all alone in his house now and he’s struggling with the early stages of Parkinson’s in his old age. I’m trying to talk him into moving into some assisted living situation. He can afford it. That’s not a problem. His children want him to do that too. I worry about him living alone.

We nearly always lunch at the Legion Club. It’s his favorite place. And he always has the same lunch – the Commercial –without the gravy! He also always has a small glass of Chardonnay.

Only vets can be members. There, one gets to listen to their stories of valor and bravery in Europe, the South Pacific, Korea and Vietnam. Of course one appreciates the vets. I get tired however of those people on Facebook who are always asking you to “like” if you appreciate the veterans – or if you love Jesus – or if you are loyal to America! Or if you are committed to the Pledge of Allegiance! Give me a break!

Stop it already! If you really appreciate veterans do something important for them. Lobby to get them better benefits and medical care. Work for better benefits in your own state and community. Demand we do something about the terrible and untreated syndromes these vets face when they step away from war. Work to improve their opportunities for employment.

Then, of course, you could also work to stop frivolous and unnecessary warfare. Join Women Against Military Madness. Support candidates with reasonable views about the military-industrial complex. Don’t just ask for silly plucks on the like button all the time!

And if you love Jesus so much, do as he did and get out there and feed the hungry and get care for the ill and shelter those without homes. That’ll prove how much you love him – not some simple click on a like button on Facebook.

Jesus, I’m sorry, but all this dung gets to me after awhile. I don’t have to pluck like buttons to prove my faithfulness to you or loyalty to flag or country!

The photo above is of Charlie Crosby at the Legion Club! And here’s another photo of one of his vet friends who stopped by to show him a clipping. Both were taken on my iPhone.





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Friday, October 25, 2013

The President Should Have Stopped the Snooping!



Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, was rightfully angered when she learned that the U.S. National Security Agency was listening in on her phone calls. In fact, that is only the beginning of our nation’s inquisitorial snooping and intermeddling.
by Charlie Leck

An examination of the documents leaked by Edward Snowden makes it clear that the telephone conversations of 35 world leaders were monitored by the National Security Agency (NSA).

Officials in government, including the White House, were asked by the NSA to share their “Rolodexes” so the agency could include more and more phone numbers of international political leaders on their “to be snooped list.”

It seems likely that the President of the United States would have known of such intrusions into the conversations of his fellow heads-of-state. If he didn’t, it is a failure on his part.

For this, our favor among the nations of the world had dropped significantly. That’s too bad because President Obama had worked so hard to raise our prestige among international leaders. Now, in one-fell-swoop, he has allowed all the results of that effort to disintegrate.

At a White House press briefing the other day, spokesman Jay Carney answered a question by saying: “The revelations have clearly caused tension in our relationships with some countries, and we are dealing with that through diplomatic channels.

If you’d like to read an excellent story about this matter that appeared in The Guardian, you can find it here. The reporter is James Ball.



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Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Disappointing Presidency of Barack H. Obama



I looked forward to two extraordinary and great terms with Barack Obama as President. Have I been disappointed? Yes.
by Charlie Leck

For eight years, the President of the United States, Barack Obama, has taken a fierce and angry amount of criticism from conservatives in politics. This president, for reasons I am afraid to confront, has been held in loathing by many people on the right edge of American political thinking. And, that’s too bad. It is one thing to disagree with a president, but it is quite another to hold such awful feelings of loathing and disdain.

One thing for which this president must be given credit is the manner in which he rises above this hatefulness that comes from the opposition.

When I think about the weight of the criticism with which this president has had to deal, it causes me to wonder if I should go ahead and add mine to the pile.

In truth, and as a liberal, I have not been pleased with the Obama presidency. Don’t misunderstand! I have liked him personally and I have admired many of the things he has done. I adore the first lady and think she has played her role in White House theatrics perfectly. She is not only beautiful, but she strikes me as kind, caring and generous. However, the President, himself, has not turned out to be the liberal that many of us on the left side of the political spectrum had hoped he would be. Sometimes, as in the case of giving up quickly on a single-server national health care plan that he talked about in his first campaign, these shifts toward the right have been because of political realities. However, there have been other shifts and policy decisions that I just don’t understand. Let me just put them broadly under the category of personal freedom and privacy.

President Obama has been a significant disappointment when it comes to protecting individual rights and one’s individual privacy. Wikileaks has certainly made this clear to everyone in the nation. The President did not interrupt, when he could have, plans to so broadly invade the communications and activities of private citizens in America and abroad. There will be plenty of moderates who will attempt to justify these policies as protective actions on our behalf. The question becomes: just how much protection do we, as citizens, want and how much of our freedom and privacy are we willing to give up in order to have such protection and security? I do not remember that there was ever any debate about such a question.

Now we hear about international leaders, even allies of America, raising the same questions about such invasions of their own privacy. The telephone call from Germany’s head of state, Ms. Merkel, is evidence of the international disapproval of such activities. The President’s reply to Ms. Merkel’s complaint ought to be given some thought and analysis. He told her that the United States “is not” monitoring and “will not” monitor any communications of the German government. Take notice: The President did not say that our government “had not” monitored the communications of the German administration under Ms. Merkel.

It is clear that satellite surveillance and drone surveillance of individuals and governments has increased significantly during President Obama’s terms. This is something a liberal might have expected under the administrations of George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon. It is not what we expected of President Obama. Were we simply na├»ve? I imagine we were!

Most of us (the liberal side of American politics) are also disappointed with the development of drone warfare. Drone attacks here and there have revealed a military attitude about the cheapness of life. So what if a few innocent individuals lose their lives in such attacks against important enemies of the American way? President Obama, as Commander-in-Chief, has been a rather ardent supporter of the drone way of military attacks. At the very least, much more consideration and discussion should have been given over to the humanity of such attacks and the American legal right to conduct such attacks in other nations.

I cried joyously on the night that Barack Obama was first elected to the Presidency. I am not hesitant in admitting that. Nearly seven years later, I am confused about the success of this President and I have been made clearly aware of just how centrist he is. Many times centrism is wishy-washy nothingness; and in many cases during this administration’s governance it has been just that.

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Afternoon Update:
This afternoon, having already posted the above blog, I read this paragraph from a letter written by Rainer Maria Rilke, the German poet, in 1916. It got me thinking...

"Outside of poetry and art, security is only and every achieved at the cost of the most inescapable limitation. This diminishment consists of choosing to be satisfied and pleasured by a world where everything is known and where preoccupation with self is both possible and useful. But how could we want that? Our security must become a relationship to the whole, omitting nothing."


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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

No One Hates it More Than I



I suppose it’s time to throw in the old grammarian’s towel and give in to modern usage and stop making a fuss about it. President Obama convinced me of this last night. A lot of my friends, with relief, will say, finally!
by Charlie Leck

Oh, how rankled I get when I hear someone use the wrong personal pronoun. There are these very odd radio guys here in the Twin Cities who are forever saying things like: “Well, the coach certainly knows that better than me!”

I turn toward the radio in my car when I hear that and I scream: “…knows it better than I… better than I… better than I do, stupid! There’s an understood verb there, stupid. It’s not better than me do!”

I’ve got a golf course friend who is always correcting my lays and lies. He can’t stand it when I say, “I lay three.”

“No, no,” he’ll say, “you lie three.”

“That’s what I said,” I’ll respond, “I lay three.”

Yet, this golf course fellow will still constantly say things like: “Nobody hits it better than him!”

OMG! I can’t stand it. It’s like someone scraping fingernails across sandpaper. I scream out for mercy!

“Better than he, goofus! No one hits it better than he… better than he… better than he does!”

Well, it’s over! I quit! I promise! I won’t do it again. Not I!

President Obama made a speech yesterday about the early computer hitches in the web site of the Affordable Health Care Act (that many people are calling Obamacare). The speech was all about his frustration caused by the problems they are having in rolling out this new health care law. In his speech, he said…

“Nobody is more frustrated than me!”

“Oh, my! Mr. President… sir… uhm… Barack… uhm, Mr. President, you graduated from Columbia and Harvard. You were the President of the Law Review. Sir, it is I. I mean, it is not supposed to be me. It is I… as in ‘nobody is more frustrated than I. The understood (but silent) verb, sir, is ‘am.” So, sir, it is ‘no one is more frustrated than I.’ Sorry, sir!”

However, I did not cry out. I wept silently for the truth. My daughter, the English teacher, tried to explain it to me.

“Popular usage,” she said, “over time, gradually changes the laws of grammar.”

Can you imagine! Can you imagine? Shakespeare wrote thusly: “It is I, Portent, your noble servant!”

Out on to the stage strolls the great actor, before the luxuriously clad, opening night audience at Shakespeare Theatre in Avon, on Stratford, and he says…

“Hey, Portent baby, it’s me, your dang butcher, baker and candlestick maker, kiddo, and I’m here to do watcha want me to, anyhow!”

As a kid, I’d often come banging into the house after a ball game or an afternoon playing war games in the cemetery, and hear my mother cry out, “Who is it?”

“It’s me,” I’d reply with a shout.

“It is not,” my mom would holler back at the top of her lungs! “It is I! It is I!”

“No, no,” I’d scream back. “It is me! Really, mom!”

My mom, and Mrs. Call, my English teacher, eventually got me straightened away on the rules and made me see how much more beautiful it is to say “I.”  Yes, it is I, Mother, your loving son.

But henceforth, sweet, dear Mother, it shall be me! “It’s me, bitch! So what’s your gripe anyway?”

The President has utterly silenced me. It is he who has done this to me! No one is more aware of that than I.

“Now cracks a noble heart. Good night sweet prince.
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”
                                                                                             [Hamlet, Act V]



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Monday, October 21, 2013

Jubilee in the Rear View Mirror



The above is the title of a play by a quite unknown playwright. He wrote to me this past week and he got my attention. I’m intrigued by the work and want to know more about it.
by Charlie Leck

Garrett Mathews is a retired newspaper reporter. In retirement, he polished a two act play he had been working on. It, Jubilee in the Rear View Mirror, ran last year in Evansville. Well, that Indiana city would not be called one of the great centers of live theater, but it’s worth learning a bit about Mathews and his play anyway – especially, I think, it you have lingering curiosities about the southern civil rights movement in 60s.

I’m intrigued by what I’ve read about the play. For starters here’s what a local paper in Evansville wrote about it before its opening

“The drama is set in the fictional town of Jubilee, Miss., during Freedom Summer when hundreds of activists headed South to register African-American voters and to desegregate schools, bus stations and businesses. Beatings and arrests were common. The Montgomery, Ala.-based Southern Poverty Law Center lists more than 40 murders during the 1950s and ‘60s, including several at the hands of local law enforcement.
In the play, a young black civil rights worker from the North finds himself in a cell with a white racist who is behind bars for beating his wife,’ Mathews says. ‘The background comes from dozens of interviews I conducted with men and women of both races who risked their lives to challenge the deeply-rooted segregationist social and political structure in the South in the 1960s.
Before pressure was brought to bear, black children in department stores were not allowed to try on new shoes,’ Mathews goes on. ‘Salesmen traced the edges of their old shoes onto butcher paper and fetched an approximate fit from inventory. Many African-Americans who attempted to vote were fired from their jobs by white employers. Some had their homes fire-bombed by the Ku Klux Klan.’”

Mathews has read several of my blogs about my own experiences in Mississippi in 1964. He thought I might be interested in his work

One thing he said grabbed my attention…
In the theatre, the audience was divided into white and colored sections in order to set a mood for the play itself. Wow! That would have grabbed my attention had I been there.

Here’s something else Matthews told me in his letter; and I think you might be interested…

“For our educational pre-show, we videotaped African-Americans in Evansville and Greenwood, Miss., who talk about living under segregation until the movement took root. The two 28-minute DVDs are on YouTube at http://bit.ly/10ptx9Z. I hope you'll want to spread the word about them (The Greenwood piece includes a reading of a deposition filed by June Johnson after she was brutally beaten in Winona, Miss.) The idea was to immerse the play's audience in the time period. We showed the DVDs before the performance, at intermission and at the end after the cast fielded questions.”

I’m posting the two videos here so you may watch them if you like. The information is pretty basic for most of us who went through the era, but I can see how it would be surprising material for young people. Mathews said in his note to me that “…few young people have more than a second grade knowledge of the civil rights movement.” That’s sad, but quite true.



It appears that the play is going to be staged in Indianapolis in 2014. I’ve asked Mathews to keep me posted about this possibility. I’d like to go down there to see it.

Mathews is a graduate of Virginia Tech. He’s written a number of books. He, like most of us who worked on civil rights in the 60s, is a grandparent now. As a newspaper man he wrote more than 6500 columns. His work makes me curious. I may try to learn more about him.



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Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Art of Mucking Out



Garrison Keillor has put out three volumes of “Good Poems” now. The latest came to us as a gift from nice friends. I’ve enjoyed it immensely, but came across one poem I just must share because of my many horse-friends and the years I spent mucking out horse stalls. I hope I’m not disobeying copyright law.
by Charlie Leck

I found a wonderful poem yesterday in a collection of poems gathered up by Garrison Keillor (Good Poems – American Places). This is a really terrific collection that I have enjoyed immensely. This one, The Zen of Mucking Out (by Maxine Kumin), I post here for my horse friends (especially Sam Stern) who know this stuff all too well (the poem is really nice). I have lots of friends who will understand it…

I never liked this stubbled field so much
as now
, Keats wrote John Reynolds
and in my upper pasture I feel the same

where the last two horses of our lives
are at their day-long work reducing
the lightly frosted grass of mid-October

to manure, and I at mine, my five-
foot fork with ten metal tines, the hickory
handle worn down by my grip

so many years it almost seems to sweat –
muck basket to wheelbarrow, fork
upended till I reach the mother bed

and dump my smeary load, the stop.
White pine embroidery to the east,
a narrow view of Pumpkin Hill across,

lissome pond behind me. One late
garter snake sits sunning on an outcrop.
From the highway the vigor of sirens

announces a world of metal and speed
beyond my blinkered allegiance
to this task. My fingerprint,

my footstep. My zen.



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Friday, October 18, 2013

What the Tea Party Really Is!



The last few weeks have been very difficult. They even became dangerous at times. If, however, we learn from this experience about what the Tea Party really is, the agony the nation was put through will be worth it.
by Charlie Leck

Goofy Senator Ted Kruz (Texas) decried the Republican U.S. Senators. He said they were “like an Air Force bombing its own troops.”

Kruz’s error is that he thinks he is a part of the traditional Republican Party. In fact, he is not. He chose to align himself with the Tea Party and that is an entirely different animal than traditional Republicans.

Americans must learn from this lesson. When they vote for Tea Party candidates, they are voting for right-wing extremists who have nothing to do with the traditional political entities. The true Republican Party is a party of conservative moderation. The goals make some sense and are worthy consideration and debate; and, those debates can be rational and sensible (even polite and considerate).

The Tea Party has been exposed in the last three weeks for what it is – for what it really is. I hope Americans can see this.



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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

This House is Out of Control



The headline question in the Washington Post this morning is: Who controls the house?
by Charlie Leck

The question is not about my house. That answer is clear in regard to my house and it ain’t me! The sweet lady who has grown old with me controls everything –even me!

Things should be so clear in the U.S. House of Representatives. They are not. When you look at the dizzying, wild, mucked-up situation, you are tempted to say: “No one is in control!”

The amazing thing is, you’d be correct! There is no one in control at the U.S. House of Representatives and that’s why we are having such a mess.

John Boehner would like to be in control. He sometimes thinks he’s in control. John Boehner is not in control.

There is speculation that the majority leader in the House, Eric Cantor, is the man in charge. It’s possible. Lord, let’s hope not, but it is possible.

John Boehner is dangerous because he just a fool and an oaf (see definition here)—synonyms are churl, boor, dolt and ninny).

Mr. Cantor is bright and smart as a whip. The problem is that he is also stubborn and determined – so stubborn and so determined that he is dangerous. Cantor is also a conceited cuss – much in love with himself and his abilities – and he thinks he can bring the current government down and replace it with another tomorrow. He doesn’t get it that he is not in England and that our system does not work that way.

The Republicans, under the lead of Eric Cantor (and not John Boehner) are doing great damage to the country while cannibalizing themselves. As Republican Representative Peter King (NY) has observed: “We didn’t get anything! This has been a total waste of time…. I think they think they won something. Whatever echo chamber they live in, they’re only hearing good things.

A Republican Senator from Missouri emphasized it even more: “The only reason the Democrats don’t look terrible is that we look worse!”

Who controls the House? No one! It is out of control!

The Republicans are determined to damage the nation! They’re hoping it might also do great damage to a President they abhor!

They have forgotten how the system works. This President beat your man up good in the last election campaign and in the election itself. HE is the President and you must live with that. You Republicans are being as foolish as a selfish child who will stamp his feet and scream his lungs out until his parents, exasperated, give in to him and his demands. You deserve a spanking! I hope you get it in November 2014.

In the meantime, in our own house here on the edges of the metropolitan Twin Cities of Minnesota, we have no furnace (our furnace was removed two days ago) and winter is fast approaching. A new system is supposed to be installed and working by the end of today. It won’t be. Our HVAC company is still awaiting its delivery. A geo-thermal system is being installed out in the yard. It was supposed to be finished last night and ready for hook-up to the new heating system today. It was not. The drilling company hit some kind of snags. They left quietly last night without muttering a word to us. We must await their return this morning. It is still totally dark outside as I write this. I have two grandchildren who are coming today to spend four evenings with us while their parents slip away on a business/vacation trip. How shall we keep them warm?
This house is out of control, too! I have too much to worry about without having to worry about the crazies in the Republican Party as well!

Mr. Cantor and Mr. Boehner, you are both slugs who deserved to be thrown out of office. I hope, when November comes, you will be!



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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Pope Francis is a Wonder!


     I have this small sculpture in my home.
     It was sculpted by Patrice Nobile and cast by Sabastien Nobile.
     It is a model of a work they did for a Catholic Church in NJ.
     Both are French artists and, I am proud to say, family.

This Protestant must say that something wondrous has happened in the Roman Church. God has sent a leader who will save the old, crotchety institution from irrelevance.
by Charlie Leck

There is a remarkable story in the Washington Post today: “Breaking from Tradition, Conservative Catholics Begin to Question their Pope.” The story is by Michelle Boorstein and Elizabeth Tenety. The piece was first published on 14 October 2013.

I have said here before (on this blog) that Pope Francis is a new and remarkable kind of Pope. He is opening the eyes of all kinds of non-catholics and Catholics that we might see what the heart and soul of Christianity is all about. I have, literally, found myself tearing up over some of Francis’ actions and words.

The article I reference above includes a photo gallery that depicts some of the acts of humility of this pope and provides some of his more inspirational words.

The point of the article is that many traditional Catholics are beginning to worry about this Pope and some of the things he stands for. I would like to say to these Catholics…

“Give thanks! I believe God has sent you a man to save you from irrelevancy and to teach you again that Jesus, our Lord, was a man of humility and utter service to the broken and needy about him. Rules and dots and iota meant very little to him. Substance was everything. Now you have a Pope who would serve you as Saint Francis and Jesus would have. He humbles himself before God and man as servant of both. He shows us we can serve God in but only one manner; that is, by serving fully the least of our brethren.”

If some of my protestant brethren need convincing, I print here these words that Pope Francis recently delivered over Vatican radio in the days after a boatload of immigrants seeking peace and freedom in Italy were picked from the Italian waters and returned to Africa to face punishment and torture…

“In this world of globalization we have fallen into a globalization of indifference. We are accustomed to the suffering of others, it doesn’t concern us, it’s none of our business….
“…We are a society that has forgotten the experience of weeping, of ‘suffering with.’ The globalization of indifference has taken from us the ability to weep! In the Gospel we have heard the cry, the plea, the great lament: ‘Rachel weeping for her children . . . because they are no more.’ Herod sowed death in order to defend his own well-being, his own soap bubble. And this continues to repeat itself. Let us ask the Lord to wipe out [whatever attitude] of Herod remains in our hearts; let us ask the Lord for the grace to weep over our indifference, to weep over the cruelty in the world, in ourselves, and even in those who anonymously make socio-economic decisions that open the way to tragedies like this. ‘Who has wept?’ Who in today’s world has wept?

“O Lord, in this Liturgy, a Liturgy of repentance, we ask forgiveness for the indifference towards so many brothers and sisters, we ask forgiveness for those who are pleased with themselves, who are closed in on their own well-being in a way that leads to the anaesthesia of the heart, we ask you, Father, for forgiveness for those who with their decisions at the global level have created situations that lead to these tragedies. Forgive us, Lord!”*

The full text of the Pope’s radio address can be found below. This Pope, my friends, is truly a breath of fresh, wonderful air! He has come just in time to save the Roman Catholic Church from itself!


  


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Monday, October 14, 2013

The Solipsistic Tea Party



The Tea Party movement seems extraordinarily self-centered, selfish, self-interested and self-absorbed. Such an attitude could ruin everything we have thought of as America!
by Charlie Leck

My word of the day came through from Dictionary.com this morning – solipsism – and I found it interesting. It kept coming back to me as I sat back to read through the New York Times and then the Washington Post. The Tea Party movement would destroy Medicare and Medicaid and bring an eventual end to Social Security.

Word of the Day for Monday, October 14, 2013
solipsism \ SOL-ip-siz-uhm\, noun
   1. Philosophy. The theory that only the self exists, or can be proved to exist.
   2. Extreme preoccupation with and indulgence of one’s feelings, desires, etc.;
       egoistic self-absorption

America has been great and unique because it has cared!
There is no doubt that America has been a unique nation among the nations of earth. Over the years, others have followed America’s shining example. Now, many of those nations watch in wonder as the Tea Party tries to reshape America into something far different than the words engraved in the interior of Lady Liberty.

“Give me your tired, your poor,
your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

The quotation was taken from an 1883 poem by Emma Lazarus (The New Colossus).

France presented the remarkable statue to us as a gift. It was a response to the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. The French had been inspired by Lincoln’s courage and his tenacity and his utter belief that all men should be free and a part of the great dream that is America.

But now, the new far-right conservatives in America wish to attack the entitlement programs. Rather than viewing those who are not full participants in America’s wealth as “tempest-tossed,” they see them as dead-beats. What the Tea Party wants for America is frightening and revolutionary!

I have always felt it is the duty of the fortunate to help those who are less so. Now, the Tea Party members are rightfully going to cry out about those who are “dead beats” and “criminal” who are getting “helped” by the system. That complaint is justified, but it is one thing to arrange the system so that such people are cut out and quite another thing to cut out everyone because of those types.

America is unique! Long may it be such!

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Thursday, October 10, 2013

What the Right Wing in America Really Wants



Bernie Sanders is an independent U.S. Senator from Vermont. He is one of my everlasting heroes (my paladin) and always will be. If I want the truth on an issue, I turn to Bernie.
by Charlie Leck

There are an awful lot of people out there who are supporting the actions of the right-wing of the Republican Party. I’m fully aware that they do not know what they are doing and they don’t understand what this very radical political movement really wants to do.

Here’s a video of what Bernie Sanders recently said about just this subject. I pulled it from his Facebook page… (be sure to follow Bernie on Facebook).

“The truth is that the current government shutdown and the willingness of right-wing Republican extremists to default on the U.S. debt for the first time in American history is part of a right-wing ideological agenda which goes far beyond defunding the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).

“The Koch brothers, and their billionaire allies, want to end Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the E.P.A, the concept of the minimum wage and virtually every federal program passed during the last 80 years designed to protect the well-being of working people, the elderly, the sick, the children and the poor. Everyone should understand that their long-term goal is to move this country into an oligarchic form of society where the political and economic life of the nation is controlled by a handful of extremely wealthy families.”
 
Watch Bernie on a recent MSNBC interview discussing these issues.
https://fbexternal-a.akamaihd.net/safe_image.php?d=AQCx3UudnEK4ma4h&url=http%3A%2F%2Fi1.ytimg.com%2Fvi%2F8NHM8zCLkzU%2Fhqdefault.jpg%3Ffeature%3Dog&jq=100

When I read some of the things that a number of my Facebook friends say about their support of the radical right movement in American politics, it really frightens me. The changes this movement wants to bring about it America will be very far reaching and will have a dire impact on so very many people! Oh, my! Medicare, Social Security and the environment would be in big trouble under their plan. So would many other institutions we simply take for granted in America these days. Please try harder to understand what these fellows (like the Koch brothers) want for America. I find it hard to believe it is what you want!

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