An open letter to Senator Jeff Flake: a constituent’s plea regarding the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh

Dear Senator Flake,

It is not often that I feel compelled to write to my Senator, but I have an overwhelming need to reach you with a critical message before you meet with the Judiciary Committee tomorrow morning.

I implore you to be the voice of reason, civility, common sense, truth and decency with your vote tomorrow and I urge you to vote no on the approval of Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination for the Supreme Court of the United States.

I know you believe and I agree that this process has been nothing but terrible; rushed and mired in partisanship, deceit, and withholding of information. Both sides have made serious errors in judgement and action and there is plenty of blame to go around. However, I hope that every Senator with any sense of decency and common sense agrees that when evaluating a life-time appointment to the highest court in the land, every bit of information should be investigated and all information should be shared before any nominee is given a recommendation or a vote. That has yet to happen in the Judge Brett Kavanaugh nomination process.

I had the opportunity to view today’s hearing. I feel that Christine Blasey Ford is a very credible person and gave very compelling and brave testimony today. Her story merits further investigation. I feel that, once again, Judge Kavanaugh did not answer the straightforward questions asked of him but that he does believe he did nothing wrong. One thing that I was struck by is Judge Kavanaugh’s repeated reference to the written statements provided of “not recalling” and “not remembering” the alleged incident. In no way do those statements equate to refuting, exonerating or not corroborating Ms. Ford’s testimony. What we have now boils down to “he said, she said” and I don’t know how you can interpret the truth given the current information.There needs to be further investigation into the details and possible witnesses or attendees at the location of the assault before a decision on Judge Kavanaugh’s fate is made.

So Senator Flake, I urge you to vote no. If things proceed along party lines Judge Kavanaugh will be confirmed, but his nomination and these proceedings will forever be tainted and will forever be a devastating and horrific stain on our Supreme Court. I know the pressures you are under to vote yea or nay but tomorrow – more than ever – we need a maverick in the US Senate and specifically on the Judiciary Committee. I know you would never deign to try and fill the shoes of your friend, the late, great Senator John McCain, but we need you to embrace that same spirit now.

I wish you wisdom and peace as you make your decision on your vote tomorrow. Ultimately, we may learn that Judge Kavanaugh is not guilty of the charges levelled against him and then a yea vote might make sense. But we need to dig deeper and spend a few more days at least to determine that outcome. I pray that you, Senator Flake will be the voice of reason and truth and will stand up for the real values of the United States, that you will put country first, and will at the very least vote no to delay this process until a time when most good hearted Americans feel comfortable that the truth is revealed and justice has prevailed.

Most sincerely,

Jeffery Bialek


God can heal the pain, but only righteous action can rebuild trust

The past month of news reports and new revelations have been filled with much frustration, pain, and prayer for me. After much reflection and prayer, I felt compelled to write a response to the lastest column from Archbishop John C. Nienstedt, Archbishop of the Diocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis:

What follows are my thoughts on the latest stories we’ve heard and the reaction from our local church leadership:

It is very disappointedly and with a heavy heart that I acknowledge the Archbishop continues to miss the key sentiments and underlying feelings of the faithful as he continues to address the Diocese in this way. The Catholic faithful and I have not lost our faith and belief in a merciful God, in the distinction between right and wrong, nor even in our hard working parish priests who toil every single day to bring the love of Jesus Christ into their communities. The faithful know that a few horrible men who abused their position and the trust of their flock in ways too horrific to imagine can not take away from the noble purpose of the greater Church and the duty of each person to live the life that Jesus calls us to. 

However, the faithful have been shattered and left desolated by church leadership in the handling/mishandling of these few men who behaved so egregiously. These priests have been dealt with in ways that do not protect young people, restore trust, or inspire concrete actions; actions that should have taken place years ago. I think most of the faithful prayed and persevered through the painful years of unfolding misconduct and cover-up within the church. I think most felt the worst was behind us, that we could move forward, that we could trust again. The media reports over the last month have not only shown that that is not the case, but further illustrate the lack of concern and the real priorities of the Archbishop’s office. The refusal to share or further investigate evidence brought forward to church leaders, the additional payments to known offending priests – payments that come from the faithful’s donations to their church, and the lack of communication and admission of responsibility remains both arrogant and reprehensible.

I do not profess to know the correct solution. Bright light and great hope emanate from Rome in the person and the humble holiness of the wonderful Pope Francis! Despite this great example, it seems our local church leadership remains desperately clinging to tradition and hierarchy that doom the church to ever fewer faithful through continued distrust born of secrecy and disillusionment. However for the sake of the future of this local church, and ultimately the worldwide church, I do not believe a task force or a new Standards Board will address the deep pain, confusion, and loss of trust that the faithful now experience. It feels likes  a cleaning of the house, new leadership, a fresh look from those not currently and not involved over the past 5, 10 years may be what’s required to finally rid the halls of scandal and the taint of abuse and cover-up.

My prayers are for all that are affected by the mistakes of a few and the mistakes of more in their wake…and for the future of our church, may we all be guided by our Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. May all who lead this church hear the call of God, protect those in their care, and stand against evil and sin wherever and whenever it manifests itself.

Battling the horror of pancreatic cancer with my feet…

I just surpassed the halfway mark toward my goal with a little over one week left. Thanks to all who have pledged their support for my scenic loop challenge bike ride! Please join these wonderful people with your support in the battle against a terrible disease and support for those who suffer from the horrors of pancreatic cancer. Thank you!!

Jeff Bialek’s fundraising page


83 and sunny in October…in Minnesota!

Much like the weather today, so many things have been unexpected and little has gone according to “plan” in 2011. Thoughts of having more time for writing and musing certainly fell by the wayside early as troubles with our house continued to mount in number and expense. (Yes, who knew the 1949 house that seemed so solid when we moved in would turn in to our little money pit.)

Tales of family and friends struggling in this “economic recovery” grew as fast as the list of contractors we spoke with. No one seemed immune to the new reality, while all the while Nero fiddled…or at least our elected elite dug in their heels to produce a stunning new form of gridlock. It certainly gives the 24 hour media cycle plenty of tragic drama while the rest of the world twists and turns in the wind, waiting, dealing with the amazing fury that Mother Nature doled out across the globe.

All portents of things and further posts to come, I think… Amidst a very strange four days, storms hit hard and events progressively worsened on the homefront. It began with the eagerly anticipated new outdoor amphitheatre / Daughtry concert being washed out (the stage literally blown away), our newly painted and professionally cleaned basement taking in water, my car window smashed, my wife’s purse stolen, and credit cards run up in a quick twenty minutes as we enjoyed (briefly) our son’s friend’s five-year-old birthday party in a quiet city park and culminated with a surprise change of direction on the professional front. Suddenly, much like counting on a week of 80 degree temps in October, plans for the immediate future needed to be rethought.

Family, friends, and prayers helped, but once again it was music that allowed me to keep my sanity and perspective. U2 played with unmatched energy as the skies once again opened up and 50,000 soaked souls soared…and a week later Paul McCartney had the crowd thinking peace is still a goal worthy of pursuit. How could I not agree that all you need is love…

Then back to reality. But first the cliches come pouring out…seemingly all the more real, all the more critical to keep top of mind: Do take the time to enjoy the moment, each and every one you find yourself in. Don’t let stress consume you to the point of forgetting the big picture AND the little things. Don’t forget to dance. Give someone you love a hug. Every day. At least once. Give others a hand or a smile. And…get back to work.

Storms and the winds of change are inevitable…and plans can never be set in stone. The willingness and drive to get the ship back on course, perhaps a slightly altered course is the key to success, to sanity, and hopefully to happiness. Don’t necessarily stay the course, keep charting the course! For if you do, as a wise man I know always says, the best is yet to come.

I was in my senior year in high school…

And I still remember parts of that day in vivid detail. We had a social justice project with members from our sister school, though I can’t recall the project…I was looking forward to that meeting with anxiety and excitement as I thought I had finally figured out who my “secret admirer” was, the one who had been leaving me cards and who would make finding a date for the upcoming senior prom a real possibility, not the difficult proposition I was dreading…

All those feelings and thoughts went up in smoke with the sad events of that morning. It was the first national tragedy that I was living through with real understanding and it hit me especially hard. I was crazy nuts about NASA and space exploration, especially the shuttle program, and had all the stickers from each of the missions to date. I was so excited about the notion that a teacher would be launched on that day’s journey…something so historic and so inspiring.

And then the message came over the PA: A tragic accident involving the space shuttle, all presumed dead, pray for their souls and their families. I remember trying to hold it together all through the morning and was thankful for the meeting that afternoon which allowed me to be in the library where there was a TV and the coverage of the event…. I watched over and over as they replayed the launch instead of working on that project. And the tears flowed.  And they flowed more that night as the president addressed the nation. As usual, Ronald Reagan had great words for a nation in mourning…  I leave you with those and with the hope that the pioneering spirit of humanity and our great nation will never be extinguished:

The day they ‘slipped the surly bonds of earth’
Text of President Reagan’s Challenger speech
By the AP

President Ronald Reagan’s address to the nation after the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger, which killed seven astronauts. It was delivered from the Oval Office of the White House at 5 p.m. on Jan. 28, 1986.

Ladies and gentlemen, I’d planned to speak to you tonight to report on the state of the Union, but the events of earlier today have led me to change those plans. Today is a day for mourning and remembering. Nancy and I are pained to the core by the tragedy of the shuttle Challenger. We know we share this pain with all of the people of our country. This is truly a national loss. Nineteen years ago, almost to the day, we lost three astronauts in a terrible accident on the ground. But we’ve never lost an astronaut in flight; we’ve never had a tragedy like this. And perhaps we’ve forgotten the courage it took for the crew of the shuttle. But they, the Challenger Seven, were aware of the dangers, but overcame them and did their jobs brilliantly. We mourn seven heroes: Michael Smith, Dick Scobee, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Gregory Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe. We mourn their loss as a nation together.

For the families of the seven, we cannot bear, as you do, the full impact of this tragedy. But we feel the loss, and we’re thinking about you so very much. Your loved ones were daring and brave, and they had that special grace, that special spirit that says, “Give me a challenge, and I’ll meet it with joy.” They had a hunger to explore the universe and discover its truths. They wished to serve, and they did. They served all of us. We’ve grown used to wonders in this century. It’s hard to dazzle us. But for 25 years the United States space program has been doing just that. We’ve grown used to the idea of space, and perhaps we forget that we’ve only just begun. We’re still pioneers. They, the members of the Challenger crew, were pioneers.

And I want to say something to the schoolchildren of America who were watching the live coverage of the shuttle’s takeoff. I know it is hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It’s all part of the process of exploration and discovery. It’s all part of taking a chance and expanding man’s horizons. The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we’ll continue to follow them.

I’ve always had great faith in and respect for our space program, and what happened today does nothing to diminish it. We don’t hide our space program. We don’t keep secrets and cover things up. We do it all up front and in public. That’s the way freedom is, and we wouldn’t change it for a minute. We’ll continue our quest in space. There will be more shuttle flights and more shuttle crews and, yes, more volunteers, more civilians, more teachers in space. Nothing ends here; our hopes and our journeys continue. I want to add that I wish I could talk to every man and woman who works for NASA or who worked on this mission and tell them: “Your dedication and professionalism have moved and impressed us for decades. And we know of your anguish. We share it.”

There’s a coincidence today. On this day 390 years ago, the great explorer Sir Francis Drake died aboard ship off the coast of Panama. In his lifetime the great frontiers were the oceans, and an historian later said, “He lived by the sea, died on it, and was buried in it.” Well, today we can say of the Challenger crew: Their dedication was, like Drake’s, complete.

The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and “slipped the surly bonds of earth” to “touch the face of God.”

And so it begins…again…

It’s hard to believe that over 17 years have come and gone. Yet I’m going to try my hand once more at some formalized writing for public consumption…   Last time it was at an old word processor and involved a lot of printing, cutting and pasting – literally!  My aspirations were a little ahead of the technology and my resources then, while technology and the mediums available now have evolved far beyond my early aspirations.

Nevertheless, while behind the curve just a bit, I firmly believe it’s never too late to return to something you love and never too daunting to try something new. Resigned to the fact I am not to be the heir to Mike Royko’s esteemed columnist career, I guess I can still aim to enlighten, entertain, engage and evoke…all in the hopes of making some positive contributions to the discourse, to in some small way make this world a better place.

A LOT of water has flowed under the bridge since the last issue of The Underground was brought to light thanks to the River Forest Travel postal meter and the USPS.  I’m sure some of that water will trickle through the Blake blog from time to time.

The changes in media, news, music, politics, culture and the speed at which we process and try to take it all in are astounding. Those changes will make it all the more easy and all the more difficult for an old dog like me to find good fodder for my posts while remaining relevant, refreshing, and rewarding for the reader. And yet, I am excited and energized by the challenge and the opportunity!

So hello and welcome! Here I am again and this new experiment begins… I hope to bring a few of you along with me in the days and months ahead and trust we may all come away a little better for the journey…I am not sure what’s next, but I am looking forward to writing it!

May your days be merry and bright… and to all, for now, a good night!