Author & Speaker

Historical and Legal Commentary

Harper Lee, Misogynist

After all the fuss about the release of Harper Lee’s second/first novel, Go Set A Watchman, I broke down and read it.  My wife, after all, had purchased the book, so I was just maximizing the value of the family purchase. As I neared the novel’s end, my thoughts were in line with a number of…

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The Enduring Lure of Richard Nixon

Coming up to the 41st anniversary of Richard Nixon’s resignation from the Presidency (August 9), we find that he’s still part of our national culture, like a barnacle that simply won’t be scraped off. He was the heavy in the the first presidential election I remember — the jowly, borderline-scary guy who opposed the cool,…

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Nazi Fatigue

  I need a break from Nazis, Nazism, SS officers, concentration camps, swastikas, and the crazy guy with the toothbrush mustache.  Yeah, this guy.   They’re all powerful symbols, with deep back-story and instant cultural connections that are so useful to writers and movie directors.   And, to be fair, the Nazi era represents a…

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Madison on TV: August 1814

I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the slick trailer just posted for a new TV documentary on Madison’s flight from Washington in August 1814, one jump ahead of British troops victorious from the Battle of Bladensburg.  After fleeing across the Potomac and spending the night in Virginia, Madison made his way to Brookeville, Maryland to try…

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What's so bad about saying you were wrong?

I recently became fed up with the media reports about the presidential candidates and their “flip-flopping” on various issues.  For the rest of us, changing our mind is often described as learning, or even considering a matter more deeply. For politicians, we have made it a sign of weakness, weak-mindedness, or craven pursuit of political advantage.  Don’t get…

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Danger: Constitutional Convention Ahead?

I’ve got a piece today in the Baltimore Sun, warning of the dangers of a second constitutional convention, which a shocking number of state legislatures are proposing willy-nilly.  They need to stop and think. James Madison fought every proposal for a second constitutional convention, warning that it could be the scene of all manner of mischief.  He…

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Books and (Semi) Mass Media

Having published my book on James Madison last month (Madison’s Gift), I share one trait with most authors of a recently-released book:  A wistful desire that great chunks of the reading public will exercise their right to pay a modest sum to own my book. This desire to sell books makes authors willing to undergo…

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New "Hamilton" Show in NYC: HipHop Hooray!

Nah, I don’t listen to hiphop.  Not ever.  But Lin-Manuel Miranda is building a beautiful bridge between that music and old farts like me with his new “Hamilton” musical, which has opened for previews at the Public Theatre in New York.  I caught the show last night with the Girl of My Dreams, and was…

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The Emerging Indian Colossus

A 10-day visit to India this month kindled thoughts about a part of the world I have known only through novels and Merchant/Ivory movies. The ambitions and dreams of the place are huge.  Indian newspapers speculate avidly about a second Indian mission to Mars.  (Did you even know about the first one, completed just two…

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One Perilous Joy of the Season

I vividly recall the Christmas morning.  My father opened the book I had carefully picked out for him.  I hadn’t read it, but I thought it would be perfect for him, neatly matching his interests.  He looked at the spine, regarded the cover, and said, “I enjoyed this very much when it first came out.”…

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