Friday, December 28, 2007

An Insider’s Look at The January 3 Iowa Caucuses

AS I DRIVE THROUGH THE STREETS OF DES MOINES it is hard to miss the campaign buses and network news vans that are covering the campaign for the Iowa Caucuses. Unfortunately, outside of Iowa not too many people understand what a political caucus is or how it works. So here is a quick primer on the caucuses adapted from a column I wrote for The Wanderer:

First, a caucus is simply a precinct meeting where party members do more than pick a candidate. They also select delegates to county conventions, who will in turn select delegates to go on to district, state, and national conventions. They will also discuss items for inclusion into the party’s platform and will elect precinct committee people who will organize the local party infrastructure.

Second, in some areas up to 200 plus people will attend a single precinct caucus. Anyone who will be 18 by Election Day 2008 may participate and you can go to either party’s precinct caucus by simply claiming to be a member of that party.

Third, and most important, as far as presidential preferences go the Democrats and the Republicans conduct their caucuses very differently.

In the Republican caucus, each participant is given a piece of paper and told to write down his presidential favorite. Those ballots are counted and the results called into to county and state headquarters where the totals are added together to produce the resulting state-wide totals. In many respects it is similar to a primary election held within the caucus meeting. Republicans then go about their other business without regard to presidential preferences.

Democrats, on the other hand, tie their delegate selection process to presidential preferences. Thus, Democrat caucus attendees will be asked to divide into presidential preference groups. Any candidate with 15% of the caucus attendees is considered viable and that group will be allowed to elect a proportion of the precinct’s delegates to the county convention. Any candidate group with less than 15% is considered non-viable and will not be allowed to elect a delegate. However, those attendees will be given the opportunity to re-group.

During the re-grouping, minor candidates can join together to produce an uncommitted group which, upon reaching the 15% threshold, could elect a delegate, or they can join with another candidate to augment that candidate’s strength. So for the Democrats, the attendee’s second choice can be as important – and sometimes more important – than his first.

The differences between the parties can also impact the results in other ways, too. For example, since Democrats divide pre-determined numbers of delegates by presidential strength, a candidate who can attract an additional 100 voters in one precinct will not be as competitive as another candidate who can attract 20 additional voters to five separate precincts. The effect is much like the Electoral College where the winning candidate needs to have his support spread throughout many states rather than concentrated in only a few.

This presents a problem for candidates who courted the college vote. Since most college students live in precincts surrounding dorms and off-campus housing, they could affect only a small number of delegate races without upsetting delegate selections in the vast majority of precincts. A big win in one precinct will only shift the delegate count in that precinct. Since the results are reported by delegate count only, the student effect state-wide could be limited.

Republican students, on the other hand, will have their strength added to the party’s state-wide totals. Therefore, no matter what their numbers – big or small, concentrated in one area or not – their numbers will be reflected in the final results.

So a little strategy: Like any election, this is a numbers game and you need to produce the numbers to have any hope of winning. Thus a good organization that can identify and turn out your supporters is a must.

For Democrat candidates, however, you must be concerned with second choices. If, for example, you are supporting a candidate who may not have enough participants to form a viable group, where do you go?

Four years ago former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) cut a deal with the supporters of Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) to support one another in precincts where one was not viable. The deal worked to Edwards’ advantage who used Kucinich’s support to take second place.

This year those second and third tier candidates will not want their supporters going to either Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) or Sen. Barrack Obama (D-Ill), since a good Iowa finish could propel either to other early victories and a quick wrap of the nomination. So it might make sense for them to urge their supporters to go to Edwards. He has the poll numbers in Iowa to put him in a position to win, but he doesn’t appear to be a threat anywhere else. Thus, he could be useful as a way to stop Obama from catching fire and to tarnish the image of Hillary’s inevitability.

The Republicans just need to turn out their supporters; they have no problems with second choices. However, there is a bit of strategy here, too. Social conservatives and Evangelicals who make up about a third of the Iowa party base are rallying around former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. Huckabee’s rise seems to be the result of several factors, not the least of which is the unimpressive showing of the great conservative hope, former Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.).

Huckabee’s tortoise-like rise in the polls, from the low single digits in early summer, to now besting the long-time Iowa frontrunner, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, plays into the hands of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Sen. John McCain (R-Arz.). Romney’s strategy was to win Iowa and New Hampshire, the two early contests, to create his own image of inevitability and to off-set an expected loss in South Carolina where his Mormon faith is suspect. To affect that, he has spent a fortune in advertising, built the best organization, and took a commanding lead in the early polls.

Huckabee’s rise has given added hope to Giuliani and McCain. They have more-or-less abandoned Iowa, hoping for a Huckabee victory and waiting to take on a damaged Romney in New Hampshire where both have the funds to compete, unlike Huckabee who has only a shoe-string budget and can be expected to run out of money.

Predictions mean nothing in this game, but if my analysis is correct, look for Democrat Edwards to be the recipient of a lot of second choice votes. On the Republican side, look for a contest between the plodding tortoise and the hare’s organization; my guess is the tortoise, by a hair.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Blacklisted by history; was Joe McCarthy right?

RECENTLY I WAS LISTENING TO the Glenn Beck radio show and I overheard an interview with M. Stanton Evans, the former CBS news commentator about Evans’ new book, Blacklisted by History: The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy. Having known of Joe McCarthy only through the lens history as an anti-communist zealot who claimed reds were hiding under our beds, I decided to get the book to see if Evans could disabuse me of that notion.

I did, and he did.

First, it must be said that Evans is not without an ax to grind. He is a leading conservative pundit and is contributing editor to the right-of-center Human Events, not a disqualifier, just a statement of fact.

Blacklisted meticulously follows Joe McCarthy’s rise to the prominence, his fall, as well as the controversy about communist influence in the Roosevelt and Truman administrations long before McCarthy’s election to the senate. It must be remembered, however, that during much of that period, the Soviet Union and the United States were allies, it was only after World War II and the beginning of the Cold War that serious concern for communism took root in America. Thus, not surprisingly, Evans reports that communist and communist-leaning members of the government were able to influence war and post-war policies.

In that vein, Blacklisted details scores of policies that were so influenced. Two are of note. The first is the U. S. decision to back the pro-communist Josip Broz (who took the name Tito) over the anti-Nazi and anti-communist General Draja Mihailvoch in Yugoslavia. The second, much like the first, occurred in China where U. S. officials “tilted” the game in favor of the communist Mao Tse-tung and against the embattled anti-communist Chiang Kai-shek.

In a similar manner, Evans presents details about early musings by McCarthy, and documents what the senator actually said against what his critics said he said. He also follows the sometimes convoluted and sometimes well-organized attempt to discredit Joe McCarthy. One fault I found with the book was that Evans’ research and documentation was so detailed that some parts of the book became almost unreadable (read that: put me to sleep).

In the end, McCarthy seeds of destruction were planed by McCarthy himself. He had a style that could be off-putting and a few charges he made went over the top. His worst blunder was a senate speech attacking Truman’s secretary of state, General George Marshall, a man of immense stature in the eyes of the public; that set the time bomb ticking. It was more than an attack by a Republican senator against a Democratic administration. It was an attack on a friend and military colleague of Dwight Eisenhower. The GOP victory in the 1952 senate and presidential elections thus provided no cover for McCarthy; instead it put an angry man (on the McCarthy issue) in the White House with the political strength to stifle the now irritating senator from Wisconsin. McCarthy’s subsequent dispute with the Army and the hearings that resulted helped dig his grave deeper.

In the end, McCarthy was censored by the senate in 1954, where he served without distinction until his death in 1957.

But was Joe McCarthy right? Was there a communist influence in the upper circles of government, and, if so, how did that change the direction of the Cold War? Evans presents 663 pages of documented argument claiming McCarthy was right, while simultaneously condemning McCarthy’s critics. Was he right? The reader will have to decide for himself, but assuredly will never look at Joe McCarthy the same again.

Blacklisted by History: The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and His Fight Against America’s Enemies. M. Stanton Evans, Crown Forum, $29.95.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Coffeehouse Mysteries

I LOVE HISTORY, but – as a mystery author – I try to keep up with my mystery reading. I recently came across an interesting series that I'd like to recommend to mystery readers: the coffeehouse mysteries by Cleo Coyle.

As happens, I picked up "Decaffeinated Corpse," which is not the first book in the series, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. The main character is a coffee shop manager, Clare Cosi, whose ex-husband's friend develops a botanically decaffeinated coffee bean. One thing leads to another and Clare ends up in the midst of a murder investigation. It has interesting characters and plot and is worth reading (after my "Murder Most Holy" first, of course).

Monday, November 19, 2007

Des Moines Register Profile

THIS MORNING THE DES MOINES REGISTER published a short profile of me in the business section. You can read the article here.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

RFK Assassination

A SHORT TIME AGO I finished an interesting book on the Robert Kennedy murder. Since high school I’ve been interested in the assassination of his brother, President Kennedy, since there seemed to be so many open questions about it. But I never bothered much with the Robert Kennedy killing since it seemed like such an open-and-shut case; after all, Sirhan Sirhan was caught in the act, with the gun in the pantry still firing his gun.

Dan E. Moldea, in “The Killing of Robert F. Kennedy” presents a number of theories about the murder, including an inside look at things the official investigation missed. After exploring alternative theories, including one in which the senator was killed by a security guard assigned for crowd control, Moldea presents his own conclusion which, by the end of the book, may or may not be surprising. It was an interesting read for the history or conspiracy buff.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Parker in Paperback

YES, IT’S TRUE. Parker Noble and Murder Most Holy will be featured in a new mass market paperback late next year or early in 2009. World Wide Mysteries, a division of Harlequin Publishing has purchased the rights to Murder Most Holy for its mystery book club.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Interview with Parker Noble, Main Character in Murder Most Holy

Q. Thank you, Mr. Noble for taking time to visit with my blog readers today.
A. It is my pleasure.
Q. Before you joined the attorney general’s office, where did you practice law?
A. When I first graduated from law school I took a job in the legal department of a large insurance company.
Q. You defended insurance companies?
A. Yes, and I really wasn’t happy there. I was offered a job as assistant county attorney and began my public career representing the state in juvenile matters. Later one of my classmates called about an opening at the AG’s office, I applied and have been there ever since.
Q. How did you get the rank of Deputy Attorney General?
A. Another classmate was elected AG and offered me the job directing area prosecutions. The title came with the position.
Q, And just what is “area prosecutions”?
A. Most of the criminal work in the AG’s office is appellate; we defend criminal cases on appeal from lower courts. However, there are some cases that the AG’s office prosecutes in the trial court and that work is turned over to the team we call “area prosecutions.”
Q. So you have had experience prosecuting criminals all over the state?
A. Yes, I have.
Q. And your reputation was as a top-notch litigator.
A. I won’t dispute that.
Q. Then you didn’t get your judicial appointment and you quit the courtroom. Why?
A. I don’t want to talk about that.
Q. But you were kept on in the AG’s office.
A. I work with the state police now. I guess you would call me a liaison to the attorney general’s office.
Q, Is that how you get involved in solving murders?
A. I do what the work requires.
Q. And how are the police to work with?
A. As a prosecutor they can be your best friends or your worst enemy. They are friends because they work the same side of the street I do. They can cause trouble when they don’t quite grasp some of the legal or evidentiary issues a prosecutor needs to consider. They sometimes can get too involved in the case and lose some objectivity that, I hope, a good prosecutor can dictate.
Q. And how is working with Detective Stankowski?
A. Stanley is a good cop. He has a lot to learn, but his is a good cop. Sometimes he gets sidetracked with his women, but all in all, he’s a good cop.
Q. And Stan’s friend, Buffy Cole?
A. She’s smarter than she acts, but its hard to figure out if she is more interested in Stanley or a career. That’s the problem with women professionals . . .
Q. Speaking of women, who is Mrs. Skosh?
A. My landlady, why do you ask?
Q, Is she married?
A. It’s none of your business, but she is a widow lady.
Q. And you’re a widower.
A. I think we’re done with this interview. I need to get home to feed Buckwheat Bob.
Q. Your dog?
A. Right.
Q. Well, thank you for your time. Before you go, can I buy you a beer or something for talking with me?
A. No beer.
Q. Why?
A. Anybody who drinks beer will steal.

End of interview – – Murder Most Holy

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Brownback’s Ticket Home; Huckabee’s Ticket Up

KANSAS SENATOR SAM BROWNBACK’S anticipated withdrawal from the GOP presidential race may give former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee a first-class ticket out of Iowa on caucus night.

I have opined before that conservatives and evangelicals were starting to coalesce behind Huckabee. This became evident after his surprising second-place finish at the Iowa Republican straw poll in Ames earlier this year. It became even more obvious as his strong debate performances started pushing up his poll numbers. And the good news for the Huckabee camp kept coming: this week two major polls put him in the Iowa top three.

Senator Brownback – a Catholic convert – had been the other logical choice for evangelical conservatives, receiving a lot of attention from the right-to-life folks who will show up on caucus night. His departure leaves Huckabee – an ordained Baptist minister – their obvious next choice.

While it is too early for the Huckabee people to start whistling “Hail to the Chief,” the thought of a “President Mike” doesn’t sound too bad, does it?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Bella, The Movie

MY WIFE AND I RECENTLY HAD THE UNUSUAL opportunity to preview the movie Bella, which will open in theaters later this month. It is the story of a hot-shot world soccer player who through a tragic event has lost everything.

Mexican heartthrob Eduardo Verastegui is the ex-soccer player, now working as a cook in his brother's Mexican restaurant. After losing all, he finds redemption offering unconditional friendship to the young waitress his brother had just fired. Tammy Blanchard is the waitress who suddenly finds herself without a job at the most critical time of her life. It is a story about friendship, faith, and unconditional love.

I don't normally do movie reviews, but this one is a must-see. The winner of the Toronto Film Festival, the Heartland Film Festival, the Legacy Award by the Smithsonian Latino Center, and White House Honors from First Lady Laura Bush, Bella opens in theaters October 26.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Bridges of Madison County

WINTERSTE, IOWA IS HOSTING its annual Covered Bridge Festival this Saturday (October 13). Winterset, you will recall, is the setting for the book and the movie “The Bridges of Madison County.”

As part of the festival, the local library is hosting several local authors. We will be at the library from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. If you are planning on going to the festival, please stop by the library and say “hello.” If you are not planning on coming, but are in the area you might want to re-consider. It is a fun festival in a very nice community that will be rolling out the red carpet for its visitors.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Iowa Ruling on Same-Sex Marriage

LAST MONTH'S COURT VICTORY by gay marriage proponents may actually turn into a long-term plus for Iowa Republicans.

On August 30, a Polk County District Court judge ruled that Iowa’s prohibition of same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. In his sixty-three page ruling, Judge Robert Hanson opened the door for gay and lesbian couples but may have opened a Pandora’s Box of problems for the majority Democrats in the Iowa legislature.

The lawsuit was brought by a collection of gay activists against the county for its refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Included in the opinion was a finding that homosexuality is a “normal” expression of human sexuality, and that “marriage has evolved over time” and “is virtually unrecognizable from its earlier common law counterpart” due to changes in family and divorce (specifically no-fault divorce) laws.
Hanson concluded that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage “is not rationally related to a legitimate government interest.” The next day he stayed the effect of his decision pending an appeal to the Iowa Supreme Court.

Republican state legislators immediately called for a state constitutional amendment protecting traditional marriage. Democrats, who had earlier blocked such an amendment, said the legislature should wait until the Supreme Court rules, which could take until 2009.

Traditional marriage has strong support in Iowa. Democrats, on the other hand, have only recently taken control of the statehouse with many new members who have tenuous holds on their districts
Combine that with the other missteps, including the Democrats’ effort to repeal the central provisions of Iowa’s Right to Work Law, considered sacred with chambers of commerce and agricultural interests across the state, and the issue could spell doom for enough one-term incumbents to turn the House back to GOP control.

But the issue may even reach into the presidential race. Marriage is a red meat issue with social conservatives who have felt shut out of the state’s Republican caucuses because of their dissatisfaction with the top-tier candidates.

However, one campaign has started to emerge as a possible rallying point for social conservatives. While former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was spending a fortune in campaign cash to win the Ames GOP straw poll, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who spent almost nothing, surprised observers with a second place finish.

That was followed two weeks later with a TV straw poll done at the Iowa State Fair. Romney took 36% of the GOP vote, but Huckabee again came in second with 17%, besting former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani who had 14% and Huckabee’s major social conservative rival, Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback who had only 4%.

The straw polls may not ordinarily seem too important. However, these may indicate that social conservatives may be beginning to coalesce behind Huckabee, an ordained Baptist minister who has been getting high marks for his debate performances.

Throw into the mix a dubious court ruling that traditional marriage is not rationally related to any governmental interest, ineptness by state Democrats, and you could have the stage set for an interesting political boomerang.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Mystery Writers Conferences

FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO ARE INTERESTED in mystery writing, here is an updated list of mystery conferences, courtesy The 3rd Degree, the publication of the Mystery Writers of America:

September 28-30
The Great Manhattan Mystery Conclave
Manhattan, Kansas

October 25-27
Cape Fear Crime Festival
Wilmington, North Carolina

October 26-28
Magna Cum Murder
Muncie, Indiana

October 27
Dying to Write 2 Conference
Washington, D.C.

November 1-4
Forensic University of St. Louis
St. Louis, Missouri

November 9-11
New England Crime Bake
Boston, MA

November 10
Murder and Mayhem in Muskego
Muskego, Wisconsin

February 1-3
Love Is Murder on Dark and Stormy Nights
Rosemont, Illinois

February 9
Murder in the Magic City
Birmingham, Alabama

February 28 – March 2
Sleuthfest 2008
Deerfield Beach, Florida

March 6-9
Left Coast Crime
Denver, Colorado

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Travel and Gardening Mysteries You'll Enjoy

A COUPLE OF MYSTERY SERIES YOU MIGHT ENJOY. Maddy Hunter is an Agatha Award-nominated author of the Passport to Peril mysteries. Emily Andrew is an Iowa-based tour guide whose overseas trips are filled with murder, madcap and, of course, Emily’s love interest, European detective Etienne Miceli. Emily is a cross between a Stephanie Plumb and Buffy Coyle. The series is enjoyable and available in paperback.

The Garden Mysteries are set in Charlotte where Peggy Lee, a detective’s widow, botanist and owner of a gardening center finds herself involved in solving local mysteries รก la Murder She Wrote. Another fund read, the series is written by Joyce and Jim Lavene and, as a bonus, includes gardening tips.

Don’t forget, I’ve posted the first couple of pages of Murder Most Holy on my MySpace page:

Monday, August 13, 2007

Ames, Iowa GOP straw poll winner

FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR MIKE HUCKABEE, not Mitt Romney, was the big winner in last weekend’s Iowa Republican straw poll in Ames.

If you aren’t familiar with the way Iowa’s GOP straw poll works, it is simple. The Iowa Republican Party hosts a giant all-Iowa party in Ames the year before the Iowa caucuses. All the presidential candidates are invited to attend and the party holds a straw poll of those in attendance. But it is more than a straw poll and political rally, it is a fund raiser; it costs $35 to vote in the poll.

Candidates criss-cross the state campaigning for support in the January caucuses. As they identify supporters they will offer to transport them to the Ames poll and pay for their ticket so they can vote. Mitt Romney spent millions competing here – he is on the air almost constantly – to finished first with 31.5% of the vote. Kansas Senator Sam Brownback spent thousands wooing Iowans and was hoping for a second place finish behind Romney. Huckabee spent virtually nothing and jumped from near obscurity to nudge Brownback from the second spot (18.1% to 15.3%).

In a contest where candidates run against expectations as much as each other, Huckabee was the clear winner. This should be a big boost for his campaign, especially if it signals, as I think it may, that the conservative Evangelical vote is starting to coalesce around him.

One caveat: Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Arizona Senator John McCain, and former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson did not compete but did receive votes. It is also worth noting that anti-war Texas Congressman Ron Paul received 9.1%.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

A good character study . . .

HERE’S ANOTHER GOOD BOOK, but this one is not a mystery, but does contain some murder. It is “The Space Between,” Kali Van Baale’s award-winning first novel. It is, unfortunately, right out of today’s headlines. It deals with the aftermath of a high school shooting and follows the life of the mother of the shooter who also killed himself. If you are looking for a good character study, check out Kali’s book. Her web site is:

Thursday, August 2, 2007

A Good Writers’ Resource

I HAD LUNCH THIS WEEK with my good friend Jerry Hooten. If you are a mystery writer, or just a mystery fan, you ought to know Jerry. He’s a former federal lawman and weapons consultant who has been advised some of the biggest names in mysteries. One of Jerry’s frequent authors is Michael Connelly who acknowledged Jerry in his latest book, Echo Park, by naming a FBI sound tech after him! Do writers really do those things? Yes.

Anyway, Jerry has put his knowledge of crime, police procedures and writing into a useful site for mystery writers. He also publishes a monthly E-zine for writers. It’s fee; to sign up for it go to Jerry’s web page: While you’re there, check out his book, “Don’t Talk to Strangers.”

On an unrelated sad note, as I write this word is coming through of the Interstate 35 bridge collapse in Minneapolis. I have many friends in the Minneapolis area, including the three mystery writers who make up the Minnesota Crime Wave, Carl Brookins, Ellen Hart, and William Kent Krueger ( Naturally, all our prayers should be with the good folks of the Twin Cities.

Don't forget to check out my latest poll. This week it has some political overtones.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Three for the Road: History Between the Covers

THREE POLITICAL HISTORY BOOKS that I think you’ll enjoy, that is, if you enjoy history. The first is “1920 The Year of the Six Presidents,” by David Pietrusza. It is an interesting narrative about the election that was impacted by six men who either were or would be president.

The first was the incumbent president Woodrow Wilson who, despite his illness, still coveted the Democratic nomination for a third term. The second was former president Theodore Roosevelt who, until his death in 1919, was considered the leading contender for the Republican nomination. Third was Herbert Hoover, the Great Humanitarian, who was being considered by both parties and would himself be elected president in 1928. The fourth, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who at one time supported Hoover, was the 1920 Democratic vice presidential nominee; he would be elected president in 1932, defeating Hoover’s re-election bid.

Fifth and sixth include Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge, the Republican presidential and vice presidential nominees who won the election. Harding was inaugurated president in 1921 and Coolidge became president in August of 1923 when Harding died unexpectedly while on a political trip in California (interestingly, Hoover was at Harding’s side when the president died).

Of course the book contains interesting portraits of other notable political figures of the time, all of whom took some part in the events of 1920: William Gibbs McAdoo, General Lenard Wood, Harry Daugherty, William Jennings Bryan, Democrat presidential nominee James Cox, Wisconsin progressive senator Robert LaFollette, and Socialist presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs.

If you are a fan of history, especially of that era, this book will make an interesting read.

“A Glorious Disaster: Barry Goldwater’s Presidential Campaign and the Origins of the Conservative Movement,” by J. William Middendorff II, is the story of the ill-fated and ineptly run 1964 Goldwater campaign. Middendorff was an insider and lays bare the inside story of the “movement” that brought Goldwater to the Republican nomination only to be crushed by the Lyndon Johnson landslide. Its legacy, however, was the rise of Ronald Reagan and the conservative take over of the GOP. This is a good book if you want to understand the growth of the Republican Party since the Kennedy-Johnson years.

After the assassination of Abraham Lincoln in 1865, an uneducated tailor who rose through the political ranks of Tennessee, Andrew Johnson, became president. Johnson was unique in the politics of the day. He was a Southern Democratic senator who refused to leave the senate when his state succeeded from the Union, and thus became a Northern hero. Later appointed military governor of Tennessee by Lincoln, he was the cross-party ticket balancer that was chosen as Lincoln’s running mate in 1864 when Lincoln’s re-election was in doubt. As president, Johnson was stubborn and was impeached by the house in 1868, but acquitted by one vote in the senate.

“The Avenger Takes His Place: Andrew Johnson and the 45 Days that Changed the Nation,” by Howard Means is the story of the beginning of the Johnson administration immediately following Lincoln’s death. As the Civil War was being brought to a close, the nation faced the difficult chore healing the wounds of war without dissolving into chaos. When Johnson inherited the presidency his supporters thought he would crack down on the defeated Southern “traitors” and enfranchise the former slaves. He was soon to prove them wrong on both points. Another good read for the history buff.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Tangerines and other Political Oddities

THE IDIOCY THAT IS PASSING FOR THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY these days has finally hit a new low: The Great Tangerine Conspiracy! Yes, apparently tangerines have something to do with global warming which is why Elizabeth Edwards, wife of Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, is now leading a boycott of that poor fruit. While the logic of Mrs. Edwards’ boycott escapes me, it is not the first time she has stirred the political waters lately. Recently she’s taken on Ann Coulter and Hillary Clinton on behalf of her husband who looks sometimes as if he might be better off with her spine. Senator Edwards, you will recall, was the candidate that led the boycott of debates sponsored by Fox News. This from the man who wants to be leader of the Free World and take on the likes of Kim Jong-il and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad but can’t face questions form Chris Wallace or Brit Hume!

I have to confess that I’ve had a problem with Mr. Edwards for some time. It started when he hired a pair of blatantly anti-Catholic bloggers, then, when their bigoted views became known, buckled to the pressure of Left Wing Wackos and refused to fire them.

I think the Democratic race right now is all going for nothing anyway. I’ll stick with my earlier prediction: Al Gore will be the party’s nominee for president next year.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Good Book on the Lusitania Sinking

I RECENTLY PICKED UP AN INTERESTING BOOK,"Lusitania: An Epic Tragedy,” by Diana Preston. If you are not familiar with the history, the Cunard Liner Lusitania was sunk by a German submarine off the southern coast of Ireland on May 7, 1915. The sinking of the ocean liner and deaths of some twelve hundred, including many Americans, pushed the United States out of neutrality into World War I. It is an interesting account of the tragedy and is told more in the style of a novel than a dry recitation of history. In fact, it was the basis of a recent television docu-drama about the sinking. If you are interested in history, particularly this period of history, it is well worth your time and effort.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Start of a New Blog

WELCOME. Several friends have suggested that as an author I should have a blog to go along with my web page. They say it will help increase sales and visibility, so here goes!

In addition to writing my murder mysteries, I also write an occasional legal commentary, usually of a conservative bent, for either a local or national publication. I’m also in Central Iowa, which right now is a political hot bed, with all the presidential candidates stumping for support in the upcoming Iowa caucuses. Today, Mrs. Edwards, wife of former Senator John Edwards, was in town at the downtown Farmers’ Market trading political spin for sweet corn. I tend to follow politics religiously, so I won’t hesitate to present a view or two and welcome yours.

My first book is a mystery, “Murder Most Holy.” It is the story of the investigation into the murder of a young nun in a Midwestern city where her father is a very opinionated and controversial newspaper publisher. The reviews have been good; you can see excerpts on my web page and many in full on the book’s Amazon page. The story is told in a semi-humorous fashion, and would be rated “PG” if it were a movie. If you are interested in a good, clean fun read, click on through the Amazon link and check it out.

If you are a writer, you might also want to check out my web pages since I have some interesting information and links for writers.

I also teach law and political science at Upper Iowa University. I have the summer off so I have a few extra hours to try to figure out how to run a blog. I am what the politically correct would characterize as “technology challenged.” In my book that means “computer illiterate.” But, I promise, I’ll try.
PS -- Don't forget to vote in my poll; should Michael Vick be suspended?