John McCaslin

After however many grueling months, campaign-weary presidential candidates, some flashing bigger smiles than others, one reduced to tears, can kiss snowbound New Hampshire goodbye — just as its hills are beginning to thaw.

It's now on to Michigan next Tuesday, for whatever that's worth to Barack Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and John Edwards given the Democratic National Committee stripped the state of its delegates owing to the state's earlier-than-preferred primary.

On Jan. 19, however, there's a Democratic leadership-approved vote — the Nevada caucuses, which are being ushered in by native son and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The uniquely early Western caucuses will be followed by the always significant South Carolina primary on Jan. 26, and three days later, the Florida primary — once again, a DNC-penalized (sorry, no delegates) contest owing to breaking party rules.

Primary-heavy Super Tuesday comes next on Feb. 5 ("High School Musical" opens that night in Washington, but we'll try to cover both), with primaries and caucuses from Alaska to American Samoa.

Locally, the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia will hold their Republican and Democratic primaries on Feb. 12, the only three jurisdictions to do so on that Tuesday. Otherwise, the remaining states and territories, including Guam and U.S. Virgin Islands, will cast votes all the way through June 3.

By then, if neither party knows its nominee, there are always the Democratic and Republican national conventions, which given the aforementioned are not the nominating contests they used to be. Democrats party first in Denver from Aug. 25-28, followed by Republican cocktails in St. Paul, Minn., Sept. 1-4.

Election Day this year falls on Nov. 4, and Inauguration Day — when all this "change" we've been promised will supposedly start taking place — is Jan. 20, 2009, little more than a year away. Hang in there, Hillary. And don't trust the pollsters.

Us vs. Them

As if there's not enough writing competition in town, we're told that lawyers — a dime (hardly) a dozen in Washington — now want to compete in the Fourth Estate.

The ABA Journal reports that Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn., will soon offer a first-of-its-kind "pen-ultimate" legal education: a joint degree program that pairs a juris doctorate with a master of fine arts degree.

From politics to community affairs, increasingly "lawyers have moved to the public arena to affect social policy," university Dean Jon Garon explains. "There's tremendous interest in writing books, articles and documents that open up new avenues of public dialogue."

The dean says that based on interest for the combination of law and writing, "We think this will really take off."

Taxed and taken

On the heels of collecting $2.7 trillion in taxes last year, the Internal Revenue Service is at "increased risk" of unauthorized disclosure or destruction of financial and taxpayer information, finds a just-concluded audit by the Government Accountability Office.

The congressional investigative arm says the IRS has made "limited progress" correcting 29 of 98 reported security weaknesses. For example, the GAO states, when it comes to accessing computer resources, the IRS does not always enforce strong password management for identifying and authenticating users, which could lead to deliberate misuse or fraudulent use.

While you slept

Poor Katie Couric "has spent her time gunning for a position that had been drained of its status and importance long before she got there," concludes the Atlantic's Caitlin Flanagan, in her probe of the CBS News anchorwoman's long day's journey into evening.

"And what she has learned, the hard way, is that her climb to the top has not been a triumph, but the act of someone who slept through a revolution."

Fear the turtle

It's not espionage, but smuggling sea turtle shells into the United States for which Chinese national Wang Hong will be sentenced Feb. 19 in U.S. District Court.

Wang in recent days pleaded guilty to one felony count following his arrest and the indictment of 10 other suspects in August for smuggling the Hawksbill sea turtle shells and shell products from China. Because the species of turtle is listed as "endangered" under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, Wang faces a fine of up to $20,000 and up to a year in jail.


John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on Townhall.com and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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