Election 2008: Super Tuesday Looms

January 30, 2008

repdemlogos.jpgHere’s an update on the 2008 race for the White House. Super Tuesday, February 5th is fast approaching and will make the race clearer or cloudier. Over 20 States are holding primaries or caucuses with large numbers of delegates at stake for the candidates of both parties.

On the Democratic side there are now only two candidates left, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. John Edwards has left the race as of today. All other candidates are out. Edwards managed to win 62 delegates and it will be interesting to see which candidate he now throws his support behind. John Edwards might make an attractive vice presidential running mate for either Hillary or Barack. This even though he was John Kerry’s running mate in the 2004 election. The present delegate standing according to CNN is:

Hillary Clinton – 232
Barack Obama – 158

For the Republicans it is a much tighter race and no-one has emerged as the dominating front-runner. Realistically  there are now only two contenders, John McCain and Mitt Romney. The delegate count from CNN is:

John McCain – 97
Mitt Romney – 74
Mike Huckabee – 29
Ron Paul – 6

The remainder of the candidates are either out of the race or have no delegates. Rudolph Giuliani is the latest to drop out of the race.

To win the nomination the magic numbers are, Democratic 2,025, and Republican 1,191. The question in the minds of political pundits is, will the nomination battle take place at the conventions, or will the nominee be decided prior to the conventions this summer? Super Tuesday will go a long way in deciding the nominations.

Deadly Precedent: Pres. Andrew Jackson Attacked

January 30, 2008


Above: Painting of attempt on Jackson’s life from U.S. National Archives. 

On January 30, 1835, the 7th President of the United States, Andrew Jackson, became the first to have an attempt made on his life. Elected in 1828 and serving his first of two terms “Old Hickory” as he was affectionately known, made many enemies for this stand on reform of the banking system and civil service patronage appointments.

Washington, D.C. was experiencing unusually damp winter weather in January 1835. South Caroline representative William R. Davis has just died. The president and most of the cabinet were attending the funeral of Davis which was being held in the Capitol building.

Andrew Jackson at 67 years of age was suffering from respiratory aliments and showing his age. After the service Jackson was walking through the Capitol Rotunda. He and his cabinet walked together through the crowd of spectators. Suddenly a man separated himself from the crowd and approached the president. He got to within three paces of the president, raised a small pistol, and pulled the trigger at virtually point-blank range. There was a loud bang, but nothing happened. The percussion cap had detonated, but the gunpowder failed to ignite. Immediately he pulled a second pistol from his coat, aimed at the president and pulled the trigger, but it too misfired. No harm was done to Jackson.

By this time the crowd had been alerted by the noise of the first misfire that something was wrong. Jackson, outraged that someone was actually trying to harm him, charged the assassin. The president began savagely beating him with his cane. With the assassin now on the ground and Jackson still assailing him, others rushed to assist him. Lawrence was taken away for interrogation.

The would- be assassin was Richard Lawrence, a former house painter. Lawrence had been stalking the President for several days. He had decided that the funeral service with its crowds and distractions would be an ideal opportunity to get close to him.  Lawrence apparently made a move to attack Jackson on his way into the service but couldn’t get close enough to him.

Richard Lawrence had asked the Jackson Administration for a civil service appointment and was denied. He also believed that the United States government owed him a substantial sum of money.  Lawrence told authorities that this money would enable him to assume his rightful place as the King of England. He was enraged because the President would not authorize this payment.  Finally Lawrence was convinced that Jackson had killed his father. These were the reasons for Richard Lawrence’s attempt to assassinate the president.

Lawrence was brought to trial.  During the one-day trial he repeatedly interrupted the proceedings, proclaiming that he was the King of England and Rome.  The jury acquitted him by reason of insanity.  Their deliberation lasted only five minutes. He was held at various hospitals and mental institutions for 26 years until his death in 1861. 

There was speculation that Lawrence was part of a conspiracy and even Jackson believed that Lawrence had been hired by his enemies to kill him, but there was never any evidence found to prove this.  After his behavior at trial it was obvious that he had acted alone.

jacksonstamp10c.jpgSmithsonian Institute researchers did a study on Lawrence’s derringers a century after the assassination attempt. Both guns discharge properly on the test’s first try. It was found the odds of both guns misfiring during the assassination attempt were one in 125,000.

Right: Andrew Jackson on postage stamp issued by U.S. Postal Service.

James Dean: Shooting Star of the Movies

January 29, 2008

dean_ts_3.jpgThe recent tragic death of up-and-coming movie star Heath Ledger reminded all of us how mortal we are. Over the years many actors have died before their time. The most notable to my memory being the death of James Dean, an immense talent, who’s life was like a shooting star, brilliant but short

James Dean starred in only three feature films:

East of Eden, 1955: played Cal Trask and film was based on the John Steinbeck’s 1952 novel of the same name. The book has recently been on Oprah’s book club list and is experiencing a revival.

Rebel Without a Cause, 1955: played a rebellious teenager. This film defined him. His co-star was Natalie Wood who also died before her time in later years.

Giant, 1956: played Jett and had to age himself for the role. Co-stars were Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor.

Dean was killed in a car accident on September 30, 1955 while driving his Porsche at high speed. Alcohol and drugs were not factors, speed was. He was 25 years old.

He was the first person to receive a posthumous Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. This was for East of Eden. He received his second Academy Award nomination for Giant, also posthumously. He did not win on either occasion, but to be nominated two out of three starring roles is incredible.

jdeanstamp.gifJames Dean because of the rebellious characters he played in these films and his death in a fast car at a young age, has become a cult figure. At right is the postage stamp issued by the United States Postal Service in 1996 to honor Dean.

Like the song says, “only the good die young”, or so it seems at times.

Vince Lombardi: Super Bowl Coach Personified

January 28, 2008


I am a huge fan of the Super Bowl and of the National Football League (NFL). This Sunday Febuary 3, 2008 will mark the 42nd Super Bowl. This championship game started January 15, 1967 as a battle between the established NFL and the upstart American Football League (AFL). The AFL was a direct competitioner of the NFL. Eventually the AFL was merged with the established league. This merger took place after Super Bowl IV. Of the first four Super Bowls, the NFL won the first two, and the AFL the next two.

Today marks the day the Green Bay Packers hired coach Vince Lombardi so I thought I’d write about how this man had such a great impact on the Super Bowl. He was hired by the Packers on January 28, 1959. At the time the Packers were a losing team having finished with a 1-10-1 record the previous season. This was his first head coaching job in the NFL. For 4 years prior to this he was assistant coach of the New York Giants.

The first season with the Packers he lead them to a 7-5 record, and the next year to the championship game where they lost 17-13 to the Philadelphia Eagles. He won his first championship in 1961 when they defeated the NY Giants 37-0. In total his Packers won 5 NFL Championships (pre-Superbowl era) and the first two Super Bowls.

sbi_ringticket.jpgAfter the second Super Bowl Lombardi retired. He just could not stay retired though, and in 1969 he accepted a head coaching job with the Washington Redskins. The first season he coached the Redskins to their first winning record in 14 years. His overall coaching record now stood at 105-35-6 without a single losing season.

(above: Ring and ticket from Super Bowl I)

Vince Lombardi personified football coaching in the 1960s, and was perhaps the greatest coach in NFL history. Tragically, he died September 3, 1970 at the age of 57 of intestinal cancer. The NFL inducted him into the Pro Football Hall of Fame the next year. Most significantly, the Super Bowl Trophy was renamed the Vince Lombardi Trophy in his honor.

His beloved Green Bay Packers have appeared in four Super Bowls and have won three. This season they came close, but lost to the NY Giants in the NFC Championship Game in overtime.


Above: Lombardi Trophy, awarded to the winner of the Super Bowl Championship being held aloft by winning players. 

I’ll leave you with some quotes about and by Vince Lombardi.

“He made us realize that if the mind was willing, the body can go.”
— Forrest Gregg, Green Bay Packer

“He made us all better than we thought we could be.”
— Jerry Kramer, Green Bay Packer

Vince Lombardi Quotes:

“To achieve success, whatever the job we have, we must pay a price.”

“Once you learn to quit, it becomes a habit.”

“It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.”

“People who work together will win, whether it be against complex football defenses, or the problems of modern society.”

“The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined effort of each individual.”

“Winning isn’t everything – but wanting to win is.”

I think you’ll agree a lot of what he said made sense, not just to the sport of football, but to everyday life. Vince Lombardi was a truly remarkable man.

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