Monday, February 28, 2005

Praying for Snow

Today Tony Snow is scheduled to undergo a colectomy, removal of his cancerous colon which may necessitate a permanent colostomy bag. As undignified as that may seem, you can live without a colon and, God willing, he will for many, many years. I have read that Fox Radio is making accommodations to allow Tony to broadcast from his home. I salute the FNR management for extending flexibility, concern and kindness to a wonderful man who deserves no less.

When he hosted Fox News Sunday and especially in his personal remarks at the close of each program, Tony Snow's humanity, humility, honesty and good humor elevated the dialogue in his interviews and during the often heated panel discussions. I will never forget the emotional tribute his obviously dear friend, albeit political adversary, Juan Williams paid him on their final broadcast together. As a high profile public figure, Tony is disclosing information of the most private nature that may help others prevent or beat colon cancer.

The power of prayer is palpable to the believer and Tony has spoken movingly about his faith. My friend Edie, who is battling a cancer recurrence, is grateful for and deeply comforted by every prayer on her behalf. I do not doubt that Tony, his family and his medical team will appreciate all the prayers and support we can muster throughout his treatment.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Squatters Libertas

I should have seen it coming. And I blame Hugh Hewitt.

Once upon a time there was a collegial group called the Northern Alliance Radio Network. They shared center-right conservative views, Saturday airtime, and a would-be benefactor named Hewitt who promoted their websites and let them guest host his radio show. Hugh generously chronicled the NARNians in his recent book, Blog. Sometimes, though, he wields a poison pen.

Nobody ever says, "When I grow up, I want to be one of the Pips." Everyone wants to be Gladys Knight, including the NARNians. A few of them have been singled out for their own special spotlight. One carved out a kitschy niche in the publishing world. Some earned international notoriety by taking down old media elites whilst typing in their Fruit-of-the-Looms (hence the phrase legal briefs).

In the background, the remaining NARNians keep singing and swinging loyally in synchronized syncopation, for which they deserve our appreciation and, yes, applause. Yet Hugh mocks them, calling them names when they already have so many. For Chad, a.k.a. The Elder, he coined a new nickname, Peeps, obviously Hugh’s misheard reference to the Pips.

So what do Peeps and his peeps do to cope with Hewitt’s demeaning taunts? They drink to forget. They go looking for a fight. They try to prove that they’re good enough, they’re smart enough, and doggone it, people like them a whole lot better than Al Franken.

This month the fun boys four of Fraters Libertas (which is Latin for the Marx Brothers) looked out into the invisible blogosphere, saw nothing, and claimed it as their own. According to St. Paul, the Fraters’ visionary not the city, the virtual state of Minnesota is now their domain to parcel out like some kind of high tech star registry. I think they call it FLAB, which stands for Fraters Libertas Annoyance of Blogs. Or maybe it is FLUB for Fraters Libertas Underwear Bloggers. You know, one of those catchy acronyms that no doubt will inspire logos and merchandise. And, in this case, interstate rivalries.

What’s to keep me from launching my own CLUB (California Library Union of Blogs)? Or picking my own SCAB (Southern California Academy of Bloggers)? Heck, I could even recruit Hugh Hewitt, Roger L. Simon and Generalissimo Duane. I might proclaim myself the Queen of SHEBA (She who Blogs Anonymously) or the Baroness of my WOMB (Women’s Order of Maternal Bloggers, i.e. Maters Libertas). Every blogger is potentially a squatter.

National Review Online already staked out its territory. Once Kathryn Jean Lopez and her homeboys learn that the boundaries have changed, do you think they will be satisfied with a measly corner? Naturally the government will want to reap a financial benefit. Rand McNally will rush to print maps of the Ethernet. The nightmare scenarios are limitless.

Come on, guys, please stop the madness. Think about the consequences. Do you really want to lead any organization that would accept you as members?

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Put Your Green on Red features an online directory created by its President Raven Brooks to rank companies according to their political affiliation(s). On Brooks' scale, 0% is purely Republican, 100% is purely Democrat, and the white middle is a neutral zone. The website's name reveals its mission statement, although Brooks is performing a service equally instructive for the GOP-inclined.

The fledgling list is far from comprehensive but reflects an early dominance of scarlet and miniver. I was not surprised to find Starbucks ranked at the top. I was pleasantly surprised that Trader Joe's, my favorite specialty market also frequented by hippies and yuppies, is in the neutral zone.

Bluish boycotters have Costco in their corner, but will they trade their weekly specials at Target, Wal-Mart and K-Mart for bulk buying? Will Urban Outfitters hipsters transfer their spending loyalties to the Gap and Old Navy labels?

I am happier than ever to be a customer of Amazon, another welcome surprise. Finally I understand why Barnes & Noble never stocks my favorite conservative authors. Now my husband will really savor the flavor at his favorite chain restaurants, Olive Garden and Outback Steakhouse. Heck, I'll even let him supersize at Mickey D's.

We search via Google and Yahoo on all four of our HP computers. I don't think I can give up sipping on a Venti Coffee Frapuccino Light as I run errands in one of our family's Fords. I still refuse to shop at Ralphs and Vons until they lower their prices. Dittos for Target due to their wrong-headed ban on the Salvation Army.

Color-blind shopping may be easier for Republicans who are used to subsidizing art and media produced by those who have contempt for us and our values. If Democrats are determined to politicize everything, including the businesses they patronize, the movement responsible for the Cold War slogan better red than dead will paint its followers into a cramped indigo corner. Call it the cut-off-your-nose-to-spite-your-foes blues.

Can you hear me now?

Monday, February 14, 2005

One of the Good Guys

During today's Special Report, Brit Hume announced that Tony Snow is about to undergo surgery and treatment for his newly diagnosed colon cancer. Tony and his wife Jill have three school-aged children. His mother died of cancer at age 38.

Tony Snow is one of the class acts in radio and television. Even when I'm thoroughly exhausted at the end of my work week, I drag myself out of bed to watch his Saturday Weekend Live show on Fox News Channel. My whole family misses his unabashedly personal touch on Fox News Sunday and Friday gigs substituting for Hume. In fact, my husband nurtured a grudge against Chris Wallace for most of his first year as Snow's replacement.

If you want to send your words of prayer, encouragement and appreciation, you can reach Tony at or

My Funny Valentine

Night and Day
by Cole Porter

Like the beat beat beat of the tom-tom
When the jungle shadows fall
Like the tick tick tock of the stately clock
As it stands against the wall

Like the drip drip drip of the raindrops
When the summer shower is through
So a voice within me keeps repeating
You, you, you

Night and day, you are the one
Only you beneath the moon or under the sun
Whether near to me or far
It's no matter darling where you are
I think of you day and night

Night and day, why is it so
That this longing for you follows wherever I go
In the roaring traffic's boom
In the silence of my lonely room
I think of you day and night

Night and day under the hide of me
There's an oh such a hungry yearning burning inside of me
And this torment won't be through
Until you let me spend my life making love to you
Day and night, night and day

as sung by Fred Astaire to Ginger Rogers in The Gay Divorcee

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Grammy's Unsung Songwriters

Tonight you are invited to celebrate the 47th Grammy Awards, which like other such media ceremonies is political – as in Democrat Party political – and a lagging indicator of cultural excellence. The prizes seem inspired less by artistic merit and more by the perceived need to satisfy quotas and IOUs, plus the winners are often predictable, safe choices from mainstream radio.

I haven’t listened regularly to Top 40 since the advent of punk, which begat new wave, which begat alternative, which begat the slow death of the most vibrant and interesting trend in rock ‘n’ roll over the past thirty years. I still watch music videos regularly, 99% of which are oldies showcased by the VH1 Classic shows We Are the ‘80s and Alternative, a throwback to MTV’s late lamented 120 Minutes.

Clearly I am not the typical Grammy Awards viewer.

This year I will be watching for one very special reason: Brian Wilson, whose truly legendary album Smile is nominated in the categories of Best Pop Vocal Album, Best Engineered Album, and Best Rock Instrumental Performance. In his heyday, Brian was notoriously competitive and still might value one or more Grammy Awards, but Ray Charles’ final release is nominated in two of the three categories and the Recording Academy loves to honor the recently deceased. Furthermore, the Academy recognized Wilson February 11, 2005, as its MusiCares Person of the Year and presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to the Beach Boys in 2001, factors Academy members may have considered while casting this year’s votes.

One reason the Grammys have a credibility problem is that Wilson’s daughters Carnie and Wendy received more Grammy nominations in their defunct trio Wilson Phillips than their father has as a solo artist and with the Beach Boys, whose only nomination was for Kokomo from the soundtrack for the movie Cocktail, a throwaway song for which Wilson was not in any way responsible as he had already left the band he founded and fostered. Wince.

The show I wish I could see was Friday night’s Academy tribute to Brian Wilson by fans including Darlene Love, Neil Young, Earth Wind & Fire, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and the Backstreet Boys. I’m guessing the highlights were Jeff Beck’s guitar performance of Surf’s Up/Surfin’ USA and the Barenaked Ladies’ medley of their own Brian Wilson and Brian Wilson’s ‘Til I Die. Sigh.

Another reason the Grammys lack credibility is that year after year the Recording Academy nominates dead artists, lip-synchers, rappers, and has-beens, while overlooking some of the most gifted and prolific songwriters in modern popular music. As comedian Red Buttons might say, Neil Finn, Martin Gore, and Paddy McAloon “never had a dinner.”

Alone, with his brother Tim or with his erstwhile comrades in Split Enz and Crowded House, Neil Finn has written and performed the most gorgeous instant classics since Lennon and McCartney: One Step Ahead, I Got You, Message to My Girl, Don’t Dream It’s Over, Into Temptation, Love This Life, World Where You Live, Weather with You, Whispers and Moans among many others of note. The Finn Brothers’ latest collaboration Everyone Is Here was one of the finest recordings of 2004.

Martin Gore is the creative force behind Depeche Mode, the new wave band that elevated synthesized music from a Kraftwerk-like novelty to high pop art. De Mode’s string of catchy pop confections is especially impressive due to their nearly exclusive use of synthesizers and relatively spare arrangements. You can listen to almost any of their albums and imagine them as a lush orchestral production or performed unplugged with an acoustic guitar or piano. Unlike many of their contemporaries, their tunes transcend the kitschy electronica of the 1980s. Catch up with Depeche Mode, so to speak, and check out the song craft of People Are People, Blasphemous Rumours, Shake the Disease, Question of Lust, Enjoy the Silence, and Policy of Truth.

Unlike Finn and Gore, who scored high on the American charts, Paddy McAloon’s Prefab Sprout received little airplay here but attained success and acclaim in his native England. In 1991 Rolling Stone magazine compared him to Brian Wilson as examples of songwriting elites. Unlike Wilson, whose genius is in the music and production, McAloon wrote the lyrics and music but left the production mostly to Thomas Dolby, who did not always display Paddy’s jewels to their best advantage. His catalog is ripe for discovery by some enterprising musician, maybe a keyboardist, to bring to the pop audience. My recommendations are too numerous to mention, but here are a few: When Love Breaks Down, Appetite, Horsin’ Around, Desire As, Life of Surprises, Tiffany’s, Pearly Gates, Wild Horses, Jordan the Comeback, Ice Maiden.

Yes, I’ll watch the Grammys this year. By next week I will have forgotten who won and who didn’t. When I listen to my favorite music, I won’t care.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

A Model of Ownership

For an inarticulate man of allegedly limited intellect, President Bush sure can communicate big ideas as effectively as anyone in the public arena. The 2005 State of the Union speech will endure in the national consciousness not for its rhetorical flourishes but for the power of core beliefs plainly and lovingly expressed - and of course for the unforgettable, spontaneous embrace between two women who symbolized the cost of liberation, the toll of tyranny, and the common love of freedom.

Bush's style is that he eschews style. He is all heartfelt substance and action in a town that still yearns for the artifice and empty talk of his predecessor. Tonight the camera captured how much he has grown and all his Senate opponents could do was groan.

Left-leaning commentators adore complex solutions to national issues because they think we are too stupid to comprehend "nuances" without their brilliant explanations. To their consternation, Bush has developed a rapport with the average American that circumvents the increasingly irrelevant old media establishment, not as deftly as President Reagan but in his own endearing way.

Bush is so transparently sincere in his convictions that those who still insist he is a mindless puppet to Karl Rove’s Rasputin misread him deliberately. He knows his own mind, his soul, his values and so we have come to know him, too. Unlike his predecessor, he is the same man on Saturday night that he is on Sunday morning. He is as authentic on February 2, 2005 as he was on February 2, 2001.

One of my favorite truisms is this:

If you don't model what you teach, you are teaching something else.

As leader of the compassionate conservative movement, Bush models compassion admirably but some of us wish he were equally devoted to serving the cause of conservatism. In the SOTU address, he formally presented the two anchors of his second term agenda, freedom (foreign policy) and ownership (domestic policy). I would prefer to think that Bush is expanding the role of the federal government during a transitional phase while weaning future generations off Social Security, but government encroachment is never temporary. He has a Reaganesque gift for inspiring optimism and pride. Unfortunately, some of the policy details may be rather more Clintonesque.

Bush has been confident, courageous, vigorous, unwavering and even articulate in his mission to spread freedom. He understands the capacity of freedom to transform and unite people across ethnic, religious and geopolitical borders. He stuck by every single one of his foreign policy initiatives in defiance of the most acrimonious, sanctimonious personal attacks of my lifetime. He redefined the title Leader of the Free World. You could even say he owns it.

Since his re-election, he appears to feel liberated from the constraints of electoral politics. Does that mean he will spend some of his hard-earned currency on the economic initiatives that foster freedom and personal responsibility with the potential to transform and unite our own citizens? Will he stick around to sell them to the American people? Will he stick it to the Senate obstructionists already pronouncing Social Security reform DOA?

Last night I saw none of the tentativeness that left his first term domestic policy to flounder. He seemed empowered. He sounded like a leader. His ideal of an ownership society is as visionary and crucial to our long-range security as the Middle East plan for freedom.

I hope Bush asserts his presidential command to advance both proposals without concessions that could sabotage his noble aspirations. He needs to model what he advocates. Success is within his reach. Now he must act as if he owns it.