Monday, March 28, 2016

Bernie and the Democrats

The Bernie Sanders phenomenon is quite amazing and it reminds me of 1968, my youth and Gene McCarthy. I am very torn between Sanders and Clinton and only want to do that which will ensure our Congress gets straightened away and in working order again and that our Executive Branch gets a leader who can and will work with the Congress.
by Charlie Leck

I adore Bernie Sanders and have for many, many years, but can I support him in this race to the Democratic National Convention?

Naturally (those of you who know me, and have read my blogs for any time at all, will understand why I say “naturally”), I like a lot of Bernie Sanders’ outrageous goals. The Supreme Court’s “Citizen United” decision is one of the most damaging things that has ever happened in this nation and Sanders wants, somehow, to get that decision reversed. And, I agree with Sanders that the economic and political structure of our nation has become oligarchic and that needs to be changed very quickly. The staggering wealth of the one-percent and the enormous rate of poverty must somehow be related and must be somehow corrected. And, the uncontrollable spending on political campaigns, related to “Citizens United,” must be put back together in some reasonable, rational way – so that elections cannot be bought and sold in our precious republic.

Sanders has been proudly and typically an independent during his years in the Senate. By injecting himself into the Democratic Party primary process, he angered a lot of very well known Democrat big-wigs – like Donna Brazile, VP of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Brad Woodhouse, a former communications director of the DNC. For that reason, rather than on any ideological basis, the DNC wants Sanders stopped.

The reality is, however, that no third-party or independent challenger can beat the two established parties at their political games and contests. Sanders really had no choice but to run as a “Democrat.”

Democrats, however, ought to own-up to the fact that they have considered Sanders one of them and as a cooperating partner for the entire time he has been in the Senate.

Ralph Nader, who tried running for the presidential office as an independent, explains precisely why Sanders made the correct political choice in this matter.

“By running as a Democrat, Sanders declined to become a complete political masochist, and he avoided exposing his campaign to immediate annihilation by partisan hacks. Because if he had run as an independent, he would have faced only one question daily in the media, as I did: ‘Do you see yourself as a spoiler?’… His popular agenda would have been totally ignored by a horse-race-obsessed mass media, which would have latched on instead to a narrative in which Sanders was unfairly hurting Hillary Clinton’s chances against whichever Republican wound up with the other major-party nomination, as if any Democrat is automatically entitled to the votes of progressives.”
Bernie Sanders reminds me, in so many ways, of my entry into organized politics as a low-level ward chairman and protester against the Vietnam War in 1968. We adored the poet-politician, Gene McCarthy, and we thought he could take us to the Promised Land. Instead, in the end, we defeated the candidacy of Hubert Humphrey and allowed Richard Nixon to become the President of the United States; and you all know how that worked out (an unbelievable increase in the intensity of the Vietnam War and a sickly, sticky scandal called Watergate). OMG!

The difference here is the manner in which Bernie Sanders carries himself. He continues to assure the dems that he has enormous respect “for the former Secretary of State and U.S. Senator” and that he enjoys the debates with her about the nation’s future. And there can be no doubt about the fact that the two represent very different approaches to America’s future.

My most serious question about Bernie Sanders is this: Can he be an effective and successful executive? I don’t know! I worry about that. It will be easier for him if the Democrats can regain control of Congress. If the Democrats don’t regain such control, poor Bernie will be like a duck on a pond surrounded by eager sharp-shooters of the National Rifle Association.

Bernie, I love you. I agree with virtually everything you say; but, it’s just that you scare the hell out of me and I don’t want the dysfunctional and seriously crazed Republicans to gain control of the White House.

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Saturday, March 26, 2016

Sunday Morning Wisdom

Sometimes, someone puts it just right and says it all!
by Charlie Leck

I worked my way through the local Sunday morning newspaper and leafed through the Washington Post as well. Commenting on the current campaigns for the Republican presidential nomination, someone got it just right (it may have been Gail Collins). It was a reminder to both Mr. Trump and Mr. Cruz that this is NOT a campaign for junior class president

The level to which the Cruz-Trump fight has sunk is, indeed, hard to believe!

Are there really Americans who are taking this stuff seriously?

Can you imagine what citizens of civilized nations are thinking?

Do these two candidates realize there are currently very serious and frightening international developments?

How can women in America take these two boobs seriously?

I am waiting for one of these two jerks to just lose it and start crying while the other goes on and on with: Naa... naa… naa, naa, naa!

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Friday, March 25, 2016

Jesus, Does Color Matter?

In this short blog, I’m going to take a step outside of politics even though there are really some juicy things going on right now – what with nude photos showing up of Donald Trump’s wife and Trump telling Ted Cruse to be careful what he says about Mrs. Trump or he, the Donald, would tell-all about Senator Cruse’s wife. What? Crazy stuff!
by Charlie Leck

And, I’ve had another eerie visit, here in my study, from the Thomas Jefferson (3rd President of the United States). I’ll tell you about that next time. In the meantime, think about this…

I had a conversation the other day, when I was in the city dropping off some canned-goods at my church’s emergency food-shelf, about the nationality characteristics of Jesus. A young fellow, who works at the church, was steaming because another employee had told him, in no uncertain terms, that Jesus was not really a white man, but was certainly a man of color. I sat the young man down, calmed him a bit and then asked why it was so important and so upsetting to him.

“Just cause it is! Jesus was a white guy. White like me!”

Wow! His face was red and his cheeks swelled and his eyes became like daggers! This was really important to him. I didn’t push my theories because I thought I could do the young fellow some serious damage and cause some discomfort. I let it go, trying only to reassure him a tad, telling him it was not an important issue.

“It doesn’t matter what color he was – not at all. What matters is who he was – and is – and what he means to us.”

Then I got home and found my mail, piled neatly by wife, next to my reading chair. I flipped through it casually and quite surprisingly came upon a story by Christina Cleveland, a professor at Duke University’s Divinity School: “Why Jesus’ Skin Color Matters.”

How could anything be so coincidental? And, I'd just told the young man it didn't matter.

The Bible tells us that Jesus was from Galilee. He was from the Middle East. He probably would have had an olive or olive-bronze complexion, brown eyes and dark brown or black hair. It’s probably accurate to say he was Caucasian, but he was very likely part of the dark variety.

Most paintings we see of Jesus depict him as Aryan and that’s because these painting were done by white Europeans who were quite subjective in depicting the subject.

Professor Cleveland has this very certain thing to say about the historical Jesus (which I can fully accept)…

“When people who were on the outskirts gathered, Jesus was among them – not only because he ministered to them but because he was one of them. As an ethnic minority, Jesus didn’t simply care about people who were victims of Rome-sanctioned violence, he was a victim of Rome-sanctioned violence. Jesus didn’t simply care about refugees, Jesus was a refugee. Jesus didn’t simply care about the poor, he was poor. To Jesus, ministry meant knowing from the inside the pain of society’s most marginalized.”
And, Professor Cleveland wants us to ask ourselves if we have a problem following and worshiping a dark-skinned Jesus.


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Sunday, March 20, 2016

Ad Astra is Open Again!

I’m back because I can no longer stand to stay away. The primaries are already beyond the half-way point and soon it will be time for the conventions – and then the campaigns and the election. I’m so frustrated by the antics of Donald Trump that I just needed an outlet to let off steam and a way to present thoughts about what’s going on!
by Charlie Leck

When I closed up shop almost a year ago, I had a couple hundred faithful readers and many others who came occasionally by; and I was very flattered by that. At the height of the 2008 political campaign I had as many as 5,000 readers look in on the blog. I closed down, as I said in that final blog, because…

“As the pre-election polling results of the 2014 fall voting began to pour in, I became very despondent and angry. I felt enormous sorrow that so many Americans were beginning to find nourishment in the words and opinions of ultra-conservative Americans who I felt were foolish and often questionably motivated. America’s dash to the right at a time when moderation and courage were so desperately needed unhinged me in a very thorough manner.”

Back then it was a broken Congress that drove me to such remarkable levels of anger!
And now has come Donald Trump and I have been angered even further by his boorish and childish behavior as he runs for the office of President of the United States, as if it were just another adventure into business – as if he could bamboozle and scam the voters of the nation as he has skinned so many people in business. Need an example? Begin with “Trump University!” He scammed plenty of people for millions with that little adventure and the corporation is facing current law suits over it.

Yet, even more, I have been amazed at the number of people who believe in this bag of air, this disgorger of manure, this narcissist of the most dangerous order!
Somewhere, somehow this dangerous human being must be prevented from taking over the highest office in the land as if it were just another business that he could suck dry of its resources and then declare bankruptcy and walk away.

David Brooks wrote in the last few days (and I am paraphrasing): “This is the office once held by Abraham Lincoln!”

It was in that office, during my life time, that men of remarkably high caliber toiled faithfully on behalf of the nation – FDR, Ike, JFK, LBJ, RR, Bush father and son, Clinton and, right now, Obama! Each and every one of them treated the office with generous and loving respect.

I’ve spent a lot of time, in the last year, with a brilliant and important book by David Brooks (The Road to Character). I only wish to hell that Donald Trump had sat down with it and slowly allowed it to penetrate his mind and heart. (But I’ll say, in absolute honesty, that I don’t believe Mr. Trump is capable of reading and understand this particular book or any book that requires contemplation and resolve to understand.) Donald Trump is the antithesis of the people Brooks chooses to highlight for us that we may understand better the actual road that takes us to a place of high values and enlightenment –Frances Perkins, Dwight David Eisenhower and Dorothy Day.

Donald Trump could not begin to understand the crucial virtue of moderation – the kind of moderation that was an important part of the character of President Dwight David Eisenhower. That President was fully aware of the inevitability of conflict. Dealing with conflict with moderation, as Eisenhower did, is so much more helpful and productive than dealing with it in the angry and bullying manner of Donald Trump.

I’ve always taken for granted that the voters of the United States were looking for men and women of great character when it came to the presidency. When I see the hundreds of thousands of people who are jumping on the Donald Trump bandwagon, I must step back and question my own assumptions.

No longer do I care about the political party. I care only that men and women of great virtue lead our nation to the destiny in which the founding fathers so deeply believed. Donald Trump will not do that because he cannot!

“Moderation!” It is one of the traits that people of great character will possess. And, this is how Brooks defined moderation in his brilliant book.

“Moderation is a generally misunderstood virtue. It is important to start by saying what it is not. Moderation is not just finding the midpoint between two opposing poles and opportunistically planting yourself there. Neither is moderation bland equanimity. It’s not just having a temperate disposition that doesn’t contain rival passions or competing ideas.
“On the contrary, moderation is based on an awareness of the inevitability of conflict. If you think that the world can fit neatly together, then you don’t need to be moderate. If you think all your personal qualities can be brought together into simple harmony, you don’t need to hold back, you can just go whole hog for self-actualization and growth….
“Moderation is based on the idea that things do not fit neatly together. Politics is likely to be a competition between legitimate opposing interests… Eisenhower, for example, was fueled by passion and policed by self-control. Neither impulse was entirely useless and neither was entirely benign….
Brooks uses Eisenhower’s Farewell Address to the Nation as a remarkable example of this President’s sense of moderation. Ike warned against hubris, celebrated prudence and he called for balance.

For even a brief moment, does this sound like Donald Trump? Trump would, I am certain, fail, in addition to the moderation test, every single other examination that David Brooks’ book establishes to measure great character! Probably none of the current candidates for our nation’s highest office would pass these tests; however, none of them would fail as miserably as Donald Trump does.

Donald Trump must not be allowed to attain this high office. America is too great for that. Good and decent people must begin speaking up and aloud against the terrifying idea that Donald Trump might be President.