Friday, November 21, 2008

Italian Television Interview

I WAS INTERVIEWED YESTERDAY for a documentary on Italian television!

There was an Italian television crew in town this week continuing a series of interviews for a documentary on locally “prominent” Italian-Americans. I was called because I was an author and attorney. While in town they also interviewed a retired judge, a monsignor, and a restaurateur.

The chief judge for our district authorized the use of a courtroom in the Polk County Courthouse for my interview (getting a foreign film crew through security would have been impossible without that authorization). The interview lasted about 45 minutes. They also took a lot of background film of me walking through the courthouse.

The documentary is going to be aired sometime next spring in Italy. The producer is going to send a DVD copy back to the local Italian Cultural Center to make copies for those interviewed here.

I must say that the film crew’s English – broken as it was – was still a lot better than my Italian!

Friday, November 7, 2008

My Second Mystery is Coming . . .

FIVE STAR, MY PUBLISHER has just informed me that it will publish my next book, The End of the Line. It continues with the same characters in my first murder mystery, Murder Most Holy. Publishing timetables being what they are, the book will probably not be available for another year. Murder Most Holy is still available in paperback from Worldwide Mysteries, which is a division of Harlequin Publishing.

Here are some of the reviews for Murder Most Holy:

“This entertaining debut novel is reminiscent of Dylan Schaffer’s writing. … I’ll be watching for more books by this author.” Crime Spree Magazine

“Fans will enjoy this lighthearted whodunit and want more inquiries led by this noble threesome.” – Midwest Book Review

“It has just the right balance of logic, whimsy, and individuality. The characters provide the perfect blend. … a top notch mystery. Don’t miss this one.” – My

Just click on the picture at the left and you will be taken to the website where you can purchase the paperback.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Vote your conscience

AS I WRITE THIS there are only five days left before we must make a choice in what some are calling the most critical election in our lifetime. A Catholic organization produced the following video that I believe reflects the values of all people of faith, regardless of their religion. Please, before you vote, take three and one half minutes out of your life to watch and listen to this:

Yo, Adrian . . .

AS ONE OF THE FEW PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES fans in Iowa (my family is from Philly) I can’t help but to celebrate: Yo, Adrian, the Phillies did it!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Knights of Columbus to Sen. Biden: You don't know what you are talking about

September 19, 2008

Dear Senator Biden:

I write to you today as a fellow Catholic layman, on a subject that has become a major topic of concern in this year’s presidential campaign.

The bishops who have taken public issue with your remarks on the Church’s historical position on abortion are far from alone. Senator Obama stressed your Catholic identity repeatedly when he introduced you as his running mate, and so your statements carry considerable weight, whether they are correct or not. You now have a unique responsibility when you make public statements about Catholic teaching.

On NBC’s Meet the Press, you appealed to the 13th Century writings of St. Thomas Aquinas to cast doubt on the consistent teaching of the Catholic Church on abortion.

There are several problems with this.

First, Aquinas obviously had only a medieval understanding of biology, and thus could only speculate about how an unborn child develops in the womb. I doubt that there is any other area of public policy where you would appeal to a 13th Century knowledge of biology as the basis for modern law.

Second, Aquinas’ theological view is in any case entirely consistent with the long history of Catholic Church teaching in this area, holding that abortion is a grave sin to be avoided at any time during pregnancy.

This teaching dates all the way back to the Didache, written in the second century. It is found in the writings of Tertullian, Jerome, Augustine and Aquinas, and was reaffirmed by the Second Vatican Council, which described abortion as "an unspeakable crime" and held that the right to life must be protected from the "moment of conception." This consistent teaching was restated most recently last
month in the response of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to remarks by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Statements that suggest that our Church has anything less than a consistent teaching on abortion are not merely incorrect; they may lead Catholic women facing crisis pregnancies to misunderstand the moral gravity of an abortion decision.

Neither should a discussion about a medieval understanding of the first few days or weeks of life be allowed to draw attention away from the remaining portion of an unborn child's life. In those months, even ancient and medieval doctors agreed that a child is developing in the womb.

And as you are well aware, Roe v. Wade allows for abortion at any point during a pregnancy. While you voted for the ban on partial birth abortions, your unconditional support for Roe is a de facto endorsement of permitting all other late term abortions, and thus calls into question your appeal to Aquinas.

I recognize that you struggle with your conscience on the issue, and have said that you accept the Church’s teaching that life begins at conception – as a matter of faith. But modern medical science leaves no doubt about the fact that each person's life begins at conception. It is not a matter of personal religious belief, but of science.

Finally, your unwillingness to bring your Catholic moral views into the public policy arena on this issue alone is troubling.

There were several remarkable ironies in your first appearance as Senator Obama’s running mate on the steps of the old state capitol in Springfield, Illinois.

His selection as the first black American to be the nominee of a major party for president of the United States owes an incalculable debt to two movements that were led by people whose religious convictions motivated them to confront the moral evils of their day – the abolitionist movement of the 19th Century, and the civil rights movement of the 20th Century.

Your rally in Springfield took place just a mile or so from the tomb of Abraham Lincoln, who in April 1859 wrote these words in a letter to Henry Pierce:

“This is a world of compensations; and he who would be no slave, must consent to have no slave. Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God, cannot long retain it.”

Lincoln fought slavery in the name of “a just God” without embarrassment or apology. He confronted an America in which black Americans were not considered “persons” under the law, and were thus not entitled to fundamental Constitutional rights. Today, children of all races who are fully viable and only minutes from being born are also denied recognition as “persons” because of the Roe v. Wade regime that you so strongly support. Lincoln’s reasoning regarding slavery applies with equal force to children who are minutes, hours or days away from birth.

The American founders began our great national quest for liberty by declaring that we are all “created equal.” It took nearly a century to transform that bold statement into the letter of the law, and another century still to make it a reality. The founders believed that we are “endowed by [our] Creator with certain unalienable rights,” and that first among these is “life.”

You have a choice: you can listen to your conscience and work to secure the rights of the unborn to share in the fruits of our hard-won liberty, or you can choose to turn your back on them.

On behalf of the 1.28 million members of the Knights of Columbus and their families in the United States, I appeal to you, as a Catholic who acknowledges that life begins at conception, to resolve to protect this unalienable right. I would welcome the opportunity to discuss these issues personally with you in greater detail during the weeks between now and November 4.

Carl A. Anderson
Supreme Knight

Friday, August 29, 2008

Sarah Palin: Straight Talk Express Co-pilot

"We knew through early testing he would face special challenges, and we feel privileged that God would entrust us with this gift and allow us unspeakable joy as he entered our lives. We have faith that every baby is created for good purpose and has potential to make this world a better place. We are truly blessed."

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin the day
after giving birth to a Down syndrome child.

* * *

The Straight Talk Express now has a co-pilot: Sarah Palin, conservative, pro-life, 44 year-old first-term governor of Alaska. Like John McCain, Palin has a reputation of being a maverick herself; running on an ethics platform, she defeated incumbent Governor Frank Murkowski in the 2006 GOP Republican primary than went on to top former Democratic Governor Tony Knowles in the general election.

She was nicknamed “Sarah Barracuda” during her high school years because of her intense play while she was captain of her high school basketball team. The team won the state championship when she hit a late free throw. She has a degree in journalism from the University of Idaho then worked as a sports reporter for an Alaskan television station and was runner-up in the 1984 Miss Alaska contest.

Her husband, Todd, is a commercial fisherman. She and Todd have five children, two sons and three daughters. Her eldest, Track, is an infantryman scheduled to be deployed to Iraq next month. She is serving her first term as governor and is the former mayor of her hometown, Wasilla.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

California Supreme Court Rejects Doctors' Rights of Conscience

Here's a story that will upset those who believe that the First Amendment protects our right to follow the dictates our conscience:

In a major decision likely to re-draw the battle lines of the gay rights movement, the California Supreme Court Monday ruled against two doctors who declined to artificially inseminate a lesbian.

The doctors, who are Christians, strongly believe that children should be raised whenever possible by a mother and father. To that end, they did not want to participate in the deliberate exclusion of a father as sought by Guadalupe Benitez and her partner, Joanne Clark. Instead, the doctors paid for a referral of Ms. Benitez to other fertility specialists who did not have any moral objections to administering the treatment, and she now has three children. Nevertheless, Ms. Benitez was so offended by the doctors' stance that she sued them under California's sweeping civil rights laws.

Monday, California's highest court unanimously ruled that the state's civil rights laws offer virtually no exceptions for people of faith. Unless the ruling is eventually overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court - which only hears about one percent of all the cases appealed to it - or is modified by the gay-friendly California legislature, its implications appear to be far-reaching. For instance, the ruling probably means that, regardless of their beliefs, everyone in the state's wedding industry must service gay weddings, California family law attorneys must handle gay adoptions and same-sex divorces, and so on.

Monday, August 18, 2008

A Letter to Congress . . .

My wife recently received a copy of this Burlington, Iowa man’s letter to his senator and I thought I’d pass it along:

Honorable Tom Harkin
731 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington DC, 20510

Dear Senator Harkin,

As a native Iowan and excellent customer of the Internal Revenue Service, I’m writing to ask for your assistance. I have contacted the Department of Homeland Security in an effort to determine the process for becoming an illegal alien and they referred me to you.

My primary reason for wishing to change my status from U.S. Citizen to illegal alien stems from the bill which was recently passed by the Senate and for which you voted. If my understanding of this bill's provisions is accurate, as an illegal alien who has been in the United States for five years, all I need to do to become a citizen is to pay a $2,000 fine and income taxes for three of the last five years. I know a good deal when I see one and I am anxious to get the process started before everyone figures it out.

Simply put, those of us who have been here legally have had to pay taxes every year so I'm excited about the prospect of avoiding two years of taxes in return for paying a $2,000 fine. Is there any way that I can apply to be illegal retroactively? This would yield an excellent result for me and my family because we paid heavy taxes in 2004 and 2005.

Additionally, as an illegal alien I could begin using the local emergency room as my primary health care provider. Once I have stopped paying premiums for medical insurance, my accountant figures I could save almost $10,000 a year.

Another benefit in gaining illegal status would be that my daughter would receive preferential treatment relative to her law school applications, as well as 'in-state' tuition rates for many colleges throughout the United States for my son.

Lastly, I understand that illegal status would relieve me of the burden of renewing my driver's license and making those burdensome car insurance premiums. This is very important to me given that I still have college age children driving my car.

If you would provide me with an outline of the process to become illegal (retroactively if possible) and copies of the necessary forms, I would be most appreciative. Thank you for your assistance.

Your Loyal Constituent,

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Congratulations Dan and Thanks from Iowa

AS A FORMER SCCA RACER I’ve been a bit biased when it comes to how I think about race teams and drivers. Naturally, in my humble opinion, they are the best athletes and team managers, always fan friendly and never haughty or rude (well, almost never!).

Anyway, my faith was rewarded this past weekend with Dan Wheldon’s victory in the Iowa Indy 250 in Newton. Wheldon and his team, Target/Chip Ganassi, donated the winning purse to flood relief here. In case you’ve lived in a cave for the last month, Iowa has suffered its worst flooding in years, taking lives, ruining crops and destroying homes. The winner’s $35,000 check will go a long way replenishing needed relief funds. But it didn’t stop there. Wheldon’s teammate, pole sitter Scott Dixon, who finished fourth, also donated his winnings.

That’s a class act, the kind you regularly find in motorsports. Thanks to Dan, Scott, Chip and the whole Ganassi gang.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Murder Most Holy's new paperback edition

TODAY THE PAPERBACK EDITON of Murder Most Holy goes on sale from Worldwide Mystery. Check out the new cover on the left, and click on it to be taken to the Worldwide site where you can purchase the book. This book has had good reviews, so please check it out. While you’re at it, you might want to check out my new web page at

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Summer of 1787

I HAVE ALWAYS THOUGHT OF HISTORY as a riveting story, not as a dry recitation of dates and facts. The story of how the U. S. Constitution was written is one such story and it is marvelously told by David O. Steward’s The Summer of 1787: The Men Who Invented the Constitution.

From fishing rights on the Potomac River to Shays’ Rebellion, Steward tells the fascinating story of the events leading up to what we now call the Constitutional Convention and the dramatic interplay among men of diverse backgrounds whose work in Philadelphia laid the bedrock that our nation was built upon.

School children are taught only the bare bones of what happened in Independence Hall that long summer of 1787. Steward, however, paints a much fuller portrait of what transpired. The Summer of 1787 tells the story of men, some great, some not, who argued the meaning and purpose of government and in doing so took on the great political and cultural questions of the day. Men, who only years earlier had declared that all men were created equal, now wrestled with the question of slavery and representation in Congress, as well as other issues that would tear them apart. It was not an easy task and in the end they did not all agree.

Many students tend to think that because the Founding Fathers were all united in their desire for independence, they were also united in the shape and direction of the new nation should take. Nothing could be further from reality, and Stewart delves into the character of the men and issues that met in that convention hall to tell a gripping, fast-paced, and well researched story of the birth of the nation.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

ADF: Foreign same-sex “marriage” issue unresolved in New York

ALBANY, N.Y. — Although the New York Court of Appeals declined to hear an appeal from an appellate court’s decision holding that municipalities must recognize foreign same-sex “marriages” in the Empire State, Alliance Defense Fund attorneys point out that the final word has not yet been heard on the issue. The court reasoned that it could not hear the case because the lower court’s decision had yet to “finally determine the action.” Once that occurs, the Court of Appeals may again be asked to consider the case.

“The government should promote and encourage strong families. New York’s marriage laws do that; recognizing same-sex ‘marriages’ performed in foreign countries does not,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Brian Raum. “Foreign marriage laws should never trump New York’s public policy on marriage, which does not recognize unions between members of the same sex. Marriage is under attack because certain special interest groups are trying to reduce it to little more than a benefits system for emotionally attached couples without regard for the ramifications.”

The issue of whether the state should recognize foreign same-sex “marriages” is also being addressed by other New York courts. ADF attorneys are engaged in several other appeals involving the extension of taxpayer-funded benefits normally reserved for married couples to state employees involved in same-sex “marriages” that are otherwise illegal in New York.

“Any of these cases may find their way to New York’s high court. Until that happens, the issue will not be definitely resolved,” Raum explained. “These lawsuits are in different appellate divisions than the one declined by the New York high court Tuesday; therefore, they are not bound by that poorly reasoned appellate decision.
A copy of the friend-of-the-court brief ADF attorneys filed March 17 in the New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, in Martinez v. County of Monroe is available here.

ADF is a legal alliance defending the right to hear and speak the Truth through strategy, training, funding, and litigation.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The end of Reconstruction: The Day Freedom Died

ON EASTER SUNDAY 1873 approximately 80 black freedmen were murdered by white supremacists in the small Louisiana town of Colfax. That mass murder might have gone unnoticed except for a tenacious U. S. attorney in New Orleans whose attempt to bring the guilty to justice ignited a legal battle that resulted in the virtual undoing of Reconstruction in the South.

Journalist Charles Lane tells the improbable but true story of the event in The Day Freedom Died: The Colfax Massacre, the Supreme Court, and the Betrayal of Reconstruction.

After the Civil War many white Southerners resented the influx of Northern carpetbaggers and their political alliances with the newly freed black slaves. Those alliances resulted in a Southern Republican party that in some areas – aided by Congressional Reconstruction laws protecting black voters – could control local and state politics. To counter this, many Southern whites took to violence and intimidation to keep the freedmen from voting.

U. S. attorneys across the South, assisted by U. S. marshals and often times by army troops effectively used the courts to put down the supremacists and their allies in the Klan and similar organizations. That is until the Colfax Massacre and a ruling by a circuit riding Supreme Court justice pulled the thread which eventually led to the unraveling of the garment of Reconstruction.

This is a rich, well-researched, but sad story of life for the freedmen in post Civil War Louisiana. If you are a history or Civil War buff, or would just like to know why racial relations developed the way they did, this read is for you.

Friday, April 25, 2008

ADF sues school on behalf of Christian athletes club

LAKE CHARLES, La. — Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund filed a lawsuit and a request for a temporary restraining order against Calcasieu Parish Public Schools Thursday. School officials prohibited students of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes club from using school buses to attend an event even though the school does not prohibit other clubs from using the buses.

“Christian student groups shouldn’t be discriminated against because of their beliefs,” said ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman. “All student groups have the same First Amendment rights, and schools cannot deny benefits to one club while granting the same benefits to another.”

ADF attorneys pointed out in a letter to the school district that Christian students should not be denied transportation to the event simply because the club and event concern religious subject matter, especially when it allows non-religious clubs similar access to transportation. After school officials failed to respond favorably to the letter, ADF attorneys filed suit.

If the court grants the request for the temporary restraining order, the FCA club will be allowed to attend the May 1 event. Non-club-related activities for which the school has used its buses for approved field trips include movies, bowling, alligator hunting, and trips to the shopping mall.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Divorce, unwed parenting costs taxpayers $112 billion per year

DIVORCE AND OUT-OF-WEDLOCK BIRTHS cost U.S. taxpayers more than $112 billion a year, according to a study commissioned by four groups advocating more government action to bolster marriages.

The study was conducted by Georgia State University economist Ben Scafidi. His work was sponsored by four groups who consider themselves part of a nationwide “marriage movement” - the New York-based Institute for American Values, the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, Families Northwest of Redmond, Wash., and the Georgia Family Council, an ally of the conservative ministry Focus on the Family.

The Wisconsin Family Council has issued this press release in connection with the report.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Election of 1800 -- Adams vs. Jefferson

IN THIS PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION YEAR it is interesting to take a look at America’s first “true” presidential election: the 1800 race between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson that ended in an electoral vote tie between Jefferson and his running mate Aaron Burr. That story is masterfully told in Edward Larson’s A Magnificent Catastrophe: The Tumultuous Election of 1800, America’s First Presidential Campaign.

Larson, professor of law and history at Pepperdine, traces the story of how the rising political factions set two founding fathers on a partisan collision course, the fires of which were stoked by Alexander Hamilton and the French Revolution.

Adams was the incumbent Federalist president and Jefferson was Adams’ Republican vice president. Political differences between the two had begun years earlier over the role of the national government versus the role of the individual states and continued into Adams’ administration over relations with Great Britain (favored by the Federalist) and with France (favored by the Republicans), among other issues. While Adams tried to steer a more moderate course he was attacked on his flank by fellow Federalist Hamilton who attempted to engineer the election of Adam’s running mate, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, by manipulating the Electoral College vote.

At the time electors were chosen by a combination of methods; some states elected them by district, some by state-wide elections, and in some they were chosen by the legislature. When chosen, electors cast two votes without making any distinction between their vote for president and their vote for vice president. Banking on Pinckney’s popularity in the south, Hamilton sought to obtain enough Pinckney-Jefferson southern votes to put Pinckney ahead of Adams and into the presidency. Hamilton’s plan failed, but the electoral vote did produce a tie between Jefferson and Burr which was finally broken by the House of Representatives after thirty-six ballots in February of 1801.

The election had everything we find in modern elections: race, religion (Jefferson was accused of being an atheist), foreign affairs, and efforts in several states to “rig” the electoral vote.

And, of course, the reader must keep in mind that several years after the events in the book, Burr killed Hamilton in a duel.

A very good read for the history or political buff.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Court: 10 Commandment display constitutional

SEATTLE — The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled Wednesday that a six-foot granite monument inscribed with the Ten Commandments in the city of Everett does not violate the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Alliance Defense Fund funded a friend-of-the-court brief filed by Steve Fitschen of the National Legal Foundation.

“Americans shouldn’t be forced to abandon their religious heritage simply to appease someone’s political agenda,” said ADF Senior Counsel Glen Lavy. “The Ten Commandments should not be attacked just because someone might be offended by them. If someone is offended by the idea that religion is important to our society, then that person believes the opposite of what the authors of the Constitution believed.”

The Ten Commandments display was donated to the city of Everett in 1959 by the local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Eagles, a national civic organization. In its decision, the court cited the ADF-supported victory in Van Orden v. Perry as precedent for their decision.

“A passive monument acknowledging our nation’s heritage cannot be interpreted as an establishment of religion,” said Fitschen. “To make that accusation, one must harbor both hostility to the nation’s history and a deep misunderstanding of the First Amendment.”

A copy of the 9th Circuit’s ruling in Card v. City of Everett can be read at A copy of the ADF-funded brief submitted by the National Legal Foundation is available at

Monday, March 10, 2008

A Hillary-Obama Ticket??

THERE HAS BEEN A LOT OF talk these days about a possible Hillary-Obama Democratic dream ticket. How likely is that? The talk seems to be coming from the Hillary side leading some observers to suggest that it is a cynical attempt by the Clintons to “steal” delegates from Senator Obama. What do you think? That is the subject of the poll at the left.

Also, check out the offer of an autographed copy of my book. You can read more about it on my web page – just follow this link.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Hussein who?

SEN. JOHN McCAIN TOOK THE HIGH ROAD after one of his supporters disparagingly emphasized Barack Obama’s middle name, Hussein, during an Ohio campaign rally. Sen. Obama was named for his late father, Barack Hussein Obama, Sr., a Kenyan.

Radio talk show host Bill Cunningham repeatedly used “Hussein” in reference to the Democratic front-runner. The implied suggestion is that Sen. Obama is some kind of closet Muslim, or should be identified with Saddam Hussein. Unfortunately, there are some on the right who are now criticizing McCain for his apology.

Here is what Sen. McCain said: “I have repeatedly stated my respect for Senator Obama and Senator Clinton; I will treat them with respect. I will call them ‘senator.’ We will have a respectful debate, as I have said on hundreds of occasions. I regret any comments that may have been made about these two individuals who are honorable Americans.”

The election of a president is too serious to rest on name calling. The process should be respectful and dignified, and fought on the issues, as Sen. McCain has said.

Besides, there is more to criticize Sen. Obama for than his name. The American Civil Liberties Union gives him an 82% rating on its congressional scorecard, the second highest in the senate. Compare that to Sen. Hillary Clinton who only rates 67%. In that 82% there should be enough fodder to take down Sen. Obama, whatever his middle name happens to be.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

So Obama wanted to starve Terri . . .

TWO YEARS AGO I WAS appointed to represent a 42 year old black woman, severely retarded from birth, who was blind and deaf. She was kept alive with a feeding tube. The Iowa Department of Human Services wanted court permission to disconnect the tube. I visited the women at her bedside and interviewed the floor nurses in her ward. I filed an objection to the proposed action and during the court hearing the DHS representative, in answer to one of my questions, admitted that if the tube was withdrawn the woman would starve to death.

Fortunately, I won the case and the judge ordered the feeding tube to remain in place. Shortly afterwards I had a very pleasant phone call from Bobby Schindler, Terri Schiavo’s brother.

I was floored last evening when Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama suggested that he should have tried to block congress when it authorized federal jurisdiction for Terri’s case. Of course, from a candidate and a party that supports the infanticide under the euphemism of a “woman’s right to chose,” that should not have been a surprise.

Read the story here.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Is Easter really that early this year?

SO YOU THINK EASTER IS A BIT EARY THIS YEAR? Here’s a tid-bit I received in my e-mail the other day:

Easter is early this year. Easter is always the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox (which is March 20 this year). This dating of Easter is based on the lunar calendar that Hebrew people used to identify Passover, which is why it moves around on our Roman calendar. Based on the above, Easter can actually be one day earlier (March 22 – it’s March 23 this year) but that is pretty rare.

Here’s the interesting info: This year is the earliest Easter any of us will ever see for the rest of our lives! And only the most elderly of our population have ever seen it this early (95 years old or above). And none of us have ever, or will ever, see it a day earlier. Here are the facts:

1. The next time Easter will be this early (March 23) will be the year 2228 (220 years from now). The last time it was this early was 1913 (so if you’re 95 or older, you are the only ones that were around for that!).

2. The next time it will be a day earlier, March 22, will be in the year 2285 (277 years from now). The last time it was on March 22 was in 1818. So no one alive today has or will ever see it any earlier than this year!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Presidential first: Two Senators will face-off

MITT ROMNEY’S DEPARTURE FROM THE PRESIDENTIAL race presents an interesting historical first. Sen. John McCain will now become the Republican presidential nominee and will face either Sen. Hillary Clinton or Sen. Barack Obama in the general election.

This will be a historical first; two sitting senators will face each other in the presidential race.

My political science students are always surprised to learn that presidents don’t usually come from the senate. Governors and military men have been elected more often. In fact, only two sitting senators have been elected president: Warren G. Harding in 1920 and John F. Kennedy in 1960.* Harding’s opponent was Ohio Gov. James Cox (Franklin D. Roosevelt was his vice presidential running mate) and Kennedy’s opponent was Vice President Richard Nixon.

Immediately before they became president: William McKinley was governor of Ohio; Theodore Roosevelt was vice president; William Howard Taft was in the cabinet; Woodrow Wilson was governor of New Jersey; Harding was senator from Ohio; Calvin Coolidge was vice president; Herbert Hoover was in the cabinet; F. D. Roosevelt was governor of New York; Harry Truman was vice president; Dwight Eisenhower was former military; Kennedy was senator from Massachusetts; Lyndon Johnson was vice president; Nixon was a former vice president; Jimmy Carter was former governor of Georgia; Ronald Regan was former governor of California; the first Bush was vice president; Bill Clinton was governor of Arkansas, and the second Bush was governor of Texas.

That lists goes back to the 1896 election. You can follow the line of presidents back to George Washington and you’ll see the same pattern. Just an interesting bit of trivia you can throw into you next bar-stool conversation.

*Ironically, neither lived out his first term; Harding died in San Francisco in August of 1923 and Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas in November of 1963.

Monday, February 4, 2008

State of the Onion

THE WHITE HOUSE KITCHEN IS THE BACKGROUND for a new mystery series that is part political suspense and part amateur sleuth. My friend Julie Hyzy has produced an excellent new series beginning with the just released State of the Onion. It follows assistant White House chef Olivia (Ollie) Paras as she becomes an unwitting actor in an international assassination plot during her campaign to succeed her friend as the top presidential chef.

The book starts quickly with a bang (or a bong), as Ollie uses an engraved frying pan, meant as a gift for her retiring boss, to stop a man being chased by the secret service across the White House lawn. One thing leads to the next as Ollie’s small bout of heroism gets her drug into to a murderous plan to sabotage the president’s mid-east peace initiative. As the unsuspecting Ollie dodges attempts on her own life, she is also being upstaged by her chief rival for the executive chef position; all under the nose of her secret, secret service beau Tom MacKenzie who is all but powerless to help her out.

A good, fast read for anyone who likes suspense in any genre. And the book has a nice bonus: an appendix full of informal presidential recipes.

A Berkley Prime Crime Mystery. Paperback.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Great Endorsement Game

I THINK IT STARTED WITH OPRAH. Then it was Shawn endorsing Rudy, though Rudy has endorsed McCain and so has the Governator, but Rush isn’t endorsing anyone. Teddy is supporting Obama and so is John’s girl, but Bobby’s kids are for Hillary. Edwards is out and not saying, and nobody is for poor Romney.

Got it? Well, in case you missed it, those weren’t the biggest endorsements of the year. What were? None other than Sylvester Stallone for McCain and Chuck Norris for Huckabee.

Now as the tea leaves start to point to a possible McCain-Huckabee ticket (Mac and Mike – how’s that for a bumper sticker?) I can just picture the closing session of the Republican National Convention. You know the shot, as the balloons and confetti drop the presidential and vice presidential nominees clench their hands in the air in a victory pose for their partisan supporters.

But this year, behind the candidates, not quite out of their shadows might be Sly and Chuck, also clenching their hands and posing for the crowd. Think of it: Rambo and Texas Ranger, together at last!

All you al Qaeda guys and border jumpers, you have been warned!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A New Look at General Custer

THERE IS, OF COURSE, A LOT OF MYTH about the life of George Armstrong Custer. He is chiefly remembered for his “last stand” at the Little Big Horn. But there is much more about the man that transcends the Indian Wars of the 1870s.

Custer, promoted from captain to brevet brigadier and later major general, was a brilliant Civil War commander whose troops were fearlessly loyal to him. He had the confidence of Generals Grant and Sherman and has been regarded as perhaps the most talented cavalry officer in the Union Army.

But life was different for Custer, now a captain again, after the war. Obtaining a commission as Lt. Colonel, he headed for the Plains and a new kind of soldering – leading troops known for their disrespect of him. There he found himself on the wrong end of a court-martial in a place where there were long lulls in the fighting and where he increasingly turned his attention to his beloved wife, Libbie.

All this becomes a well-told story in Custer; The Controversial Life of George Armstrong Custer, by Jeffry D. Wert. If you are a history buff, pick this one up.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Was Hillary the Big Winner in South Carolina?

WHEN BARACK OBAMA WON THE CAUCUSES here in lily-white Iowa it was because he was a presidential candidate who only happened to be black. Now, thanks to the Clinton “win at any cost” political machine, Obama is the black candidate for president; this despite his huge win in the South Carolina primary.

After years playing the race card to demonize Republicans, Democrats are now playing the race card on each other; or perhaps to put it more fairly, the Clintons have now used the race card to tag Obama in a sorry attempt to diminish the importance of his victory. I have to admit my bias: I have never liked Hillary Clinton, that said, her racial smear of Obama has to be the low point of an already very low career.

Simply put, Bill and Hillary have shown to their fellow Democrats what many of us on the other side of the aisle knew all along: That they are only out for themselves and will do anything to win; ethics and morality be dammed!

In the short run it might work, delivering the white primary vote to Hillary. But in the long run it could cost the Democrats. How many new, excited faces that are joining the Obama campaign will sit out the general election if Hillary’s racial pitch carries her to the Democratic nomination?

I teach political science. Last year I told my students that 2008 was colored blue and riding in on a donkey. But, I warned them to never underestimate the ability of Democrats to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. How ironic it would be if that defeat came because of a racial backlash