Sunday, November 27, 2005

Please Donate Today!

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For the first time ever, the Salvation Army is featuring virtual Red Kettles online for their Christmas 2005 campaign. Their corporate partners include Target, which has banned the kettles from their storefronts, and Walmart, which still allows the wonderful bell ringers to collect donations the old-fashioned way.

From today until December 31, 2005, I am sponsoring my very own Red Kettle. Please click on this
link to donate as much as you can afford, early and often.

The Salvation Army has helped millions of Americans this year. Now you can help, too.

Thank you very much!

Friday, November 25, 2005

Strong Enough for a Man But Made for a Woman

A Woman Willing to Waste Money on Art Deco Kitsch

Black Friday is more than just a cool 70s song by Steely Dan that has been replaying on my internal jukebox all day. It is more than the busiest boxing day of the shopping season, although with pinpoint strikes I successfully acquired the two items on my most wanted list in less than an hour's time at deeply discounted prices - without waiting in line and with nary a tussle. I would like to brag about my brilliant strategery, but it was mostly luck.

Black Friday is the day when the colors of autumn turn from warm earthtones such as pumpkin, tan and sienna to red and green. Who says California has no seasons? Inflatable turkeys that adorned the yard are replaced by an inflatable Santa Homer Simpson - or is that only at our house?

The fiber optic Christmas tree is reassembled, the purplish-orange outdoor lights give way to flashing strands in primary colors, and we break out our finest linens. In our home, that includes paper towels designed by Mary Engelbreit.

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I have a substantial Mary Engelbreit collection, including the product pictured above. But, really, is this necessary? Must the Brawny man be a metrosexual, too?

Saucy Leftovers

If you are bored with yesterday’s leftovers, you might consider recycling them as shepherd’s pie. The traditional version would feature turkey, gravy and vegetables on the bottom of a casserole covered by a layer of mashed potatoes.

For a tasty departure from the traditional flavors of Thanksgiving, mix shredded turkey with the barbecue sauce of your choice - adding vegetables is optional - for your bottom layer. Spread with mashed potatoes and generously sprinkle grated cheddar cheese on top.

One of my favorites, Napa Valley barbecue sauce, is especially delicious with poultry or pork. The recipe below makes about 2 cups.

1 medium onion, chopped fine
1 c. ketchup
1/2 c. dry sherry (good drinking sherry, not cooking sherry)
1/3 c. water
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp. butter
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
½ tsp. salt

Saute the chopped onion in melted butter in a medium saucepan over low heat until translucent (for 10 minutes or so). Add the remaining ingredients, mix well and bring to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat. Add more salt to taste.

To make Napa Valley chicken, dredge chicken pieces in flour seasoned with salt and pepper, and sauté them in melted butter until golden brown. Place the chicken in a baking dish, smother in Napa Valley barbecue sauce and bake covered at 350 degrees for 1¼ hours. Naturally, I recommend serving Napa Valley chicken over mashed potatoes.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Birthday Blessings

Today is my brother Richard’s 65th birthday. As we are spending Thanksgiving with my husband’s parents and assembled siblings, nieces and nephews, we will celebrate with my side of the family on Saturday. Richard, who is deaf and has learning disabilities, has lived with us since his former caregiver, our sister, died unexpectedly two years ago. Although sometimes challenging, he is a blessing for which I thank God every day.

Another blessing is William F. Buckley, who turns 80 today. He is one of the towering figures of the 20th century, as influential in his own world-changing movement as Churchill, FDR, Reagan and Pope John Paul II. George Will’s column yesterday put his mentor’s achievements into historical perspective.

A Thanksgiving Warm As Snow

The most gifted writers of commentary possess intellectual clarity. The most persuasive among them transfer their clarity seamlessly to the reader.

Tony Snow has this rare gift and a disarming humility, a virtue he celebrates in his new column, Thanksgiving.

Tony was diagnosed with colon cancer nearly one year ago and I imagine that it must feel like the longest year to him and his family. If he thought ahead to Thanksgiving at all, it may have been to wonder if he would survive to see another. When you live with cancer, holidays become triumphant milestones. Today I am so thankful for Tony Snow's recovery.

Please read his loving tribute to the most American holiday and let his simple truths warm your heart. He is a national treasure.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Tigerlily, Our Fluffy Angel

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Today our beautiful baby Tigerlily went to her final rest at 7:30pm.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Wack Arnold's: Home of the Nothingburger

Over 33 Million Underserved

The good news is that Tuesday’s California Special Election is finally over. All the automated get-out-the-vote phone calls have mercifully stopped, although we did save our message from Ben Stein. “May I speak to the head of the household? May I speak to a Republican? A registered voter? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller. Bueller. Bueller!” [Seriously, Ben Stein did call us about Proposition 73, which would have mandated a waiting period and parental notification before termination of a minor’s pregnancy but lost.]

My husband Luis, a Toltec Indian from Mexico, became a naturalized citizen in January and this was his first election as a voter. As a conservative Republican in California, now he really understands how it feels to belong to a disaffected minority. His very first ballot looked more like a lottery ticket with a few lucky numbers but not enough to win the jackpot. With his usual élan, Luis accepted the results like a veteran Election Day loser, said “all righty then” and continued playing World of Warcraft.

State Republicans looked at all the repetitive TV ads, listened to the last minute blitz of GOTV calls, and sighed a collective yawn of stay-at-home apathy. “You call yourself a special election?” they harrumphed. “I’ve had way more special than you.” As was obvious Tuesday night, Arnold Schwarzenegger's politically diverse team failed him and his underwhelmed Republican base deserted him. The propositions he sponsored were conservative, but his campaign targeted moderates and took conservative votes for granted. Showing off Senator Tom McClintock as the token visible conservative is no substitute for conservative leadership at the top.

State Democrats are gleefully predicting the Governor's certain demise and who can blame them for taking their victory lap. They certainly paid for this outcome – or, rather, fronted the $100+ million to defeat Ahnuld’s slate of propositions. Public employee union members will be picking up the tab soon enough, though.

Proposition 75 would have required public employee unions to ask members’ permission to collect dues for political expenditures and watching its early lead evaporate was the first disappointment of the evening. Okay, that would have been very cool, but the existing federal law allows public employees to request in writing a refund of the political portion of their union fees. I voted and rooted for Prop. 75, but its failure and the failure of others endorsed by the Governator mean that nothing has changed for better or worse.

The second disappointment was Arnold’s concession speech in which, standing beside the wife who let it be known publicly that she never supported the Special Election, he thanked all those who opposed his ballot initiatives and promised to find common ground with those whom he was elected to vanquish. Sadly, he is small bark and no bite.

And thereby hangs Schwarzenegger’s tail. He promised to be the lion who would grab the entrenched establishment by the jugular, but he has governed like a lamb – and a part-time lamb at that. Normally, I would welcome less than full-time governance as a deterrent to overspending and overregulating. Unfortunately, the Sacramento machine runs practically 24/7 and an occasional watchdog is no protection at all. Plus, Arnold’s propositions were hardly compelling, hopelessly confusing and only half-heartedly defended by he who forced them upon the electorate. If he has lost ground and credibility, he can blame his own absence of leadership that doomed the unnecessary special election and cost him the conservative base.

Arnold has succumbed to the dreaded epidemic sweeping the GOP: elephantitis. That’s the disease that gives you mammoth ambitions until a hamster scurries nearby and scares you away [see Bush, George W.; Frist, Bill; Hastert, Dennis; et al]. The elephant is far larger and stronger than the little pest, but irrational fear renders him powerless. Those hamsters might be tiny, but have you noticed their disproportionately large accoutrements? They've got great big ‘uns, bigger than their brains. No steroid abuse for those Democrat hamsters. In politics as in bodybuilding, size matters.

I don’t think steroids are Arnold’s downfall. I suspect that Mrs. Governator is. How do you solve a problem like Maria, you might ask tunefully. I don’t think she is solvable.

My primary reservation when I supported Schwarzenegger and the 2003 recall election was the Clintonesque “buy one, get one free” deal – except that, with Arnold, you get the whole Kennedy-Shriver clan for free. Maria isn’t old enough to remember when the Kennedys were conservative. In her lifetime, her father was George McGovern’s 1972 running mate and her maternal relatives took a sharp turn leftward.

Special interests are Uncle Teddy’s core constituency - the very same special interests who run Sacramento, who were threatened by Schwarzenegger’s propositions and who mounted a winning offensive. The very same special interests who feel more empowered than ever after Tuesday's triumph.

During the 2004 election, when he still had momentum and so many Democrat incumbents were vulnerable, Arnold should have issued an ultimatum - work with me to reform the broken system or I will campaign against you in your home district. Clearly, with his mojo in a jar on Maria's nightstand, he was never going to play hardball with the Friends o' Ted. Instead of unloading his arsenal on them, he unloaded his problems onto the voters via the Special Election.

The preponderance of propositions in California is a symptom that the State Senate and Assembly are ineffective and out of touch - and now also a symptom that the Governor is ineffective and out of touch. Even prospective Democrat gubernatorial candidates Rob Reiner and Warren Beatty concede that ballot initiatives are not a substitute for good governance, although Reiner sheepishly admitted that he is still sponsoring one in 2006.

I voted no on Prop. 77, which would have transferred the authority to redistrict from the elected legislature to a panel of retired judges. I oppose term limits for the same reason. I firmly believe that voters should feel the consequences of their actions or inaction. If they elect lousy officials, they deserve lousy governance. Sometimes the consequences have to be really painful before there is a bottom-to-top correction, as evidenced by the 2003 revolt against Gray Davis.

Back then some Republicans counseled that the recall election would backfire on the California GOP – that the Davis disaster was a golden state opportunity to instruct the electorate why conservatism works better than liberalism. I admit they were right. In retrospect, I regret that I did not support Tom McClintock instead. Fairly or unfairly, more was expected of Arnold Schwarzenegger than of Gray Davis. More was promised. More of the same has been delivered, but this time the face of lousy governance is Republican.

For a world renowned action hero, Arnold's record has been more Clark Kentish than Supermanly. His concession speech heralded the era of conciliation and compromise, portending that re-election may be more important than fulfilling his original mission. If he moves even more to the left, election night 2006 will conclude as unsatisfactorily as 2005 did and with broader implications for all Republican candidates on next year's ballot.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Headline Grabbers

I'm a sucker for clever headlines, especially if the writing quality extends throughout the full length of the ensuing article.

Jeff Goldstein of Protein Wisdom and Tom Maguire of Just One Minute are two of the most interesting writers online and, lucky us, they toil in our right half of the blogosphere. I am having a rotten week - my beloved cat is gravely ill - but reading their headlines today made me smile.

Goldstein penned Swing Roe, Sweet Harriet, including in the title a typically self-aware, self-mocking disclaimer: (note: post not really about Harriet Miers per se; but somehow I didn't come up with this headline until just now. I blame ketamine and gin gimlets). If there were an award for excellence in headlines, it would bear Jeff's likeness. His imaginary vignettes are wickedly funny, too.

Just One Minute is currently my favorite blog. When we hear the phrase the Plame leak investigation, many of us think of Tom Maguire first and Patrick Fitzgerald as an afterthought. Maguire is the leading forensic journalist on the subject and a fascinating writer besides. I l-o-v-e today's headline: How Green Was the Room with Vallely?

In his Review of Right Wing Blogs, last week Jon Henke of The QandO Blog wrote that "in my opinion, Tom Maguire (along with Kevin Drum) is the quintessential blogger. JustOneMinute regularly combines both the attitude and the investigative aspects of blogging in a way that few others ever manage."

Henke's post prompted Brainster to add this comment: "I like Maguire’s writing a lot, but the Plame story lost its fascination for me ages ago. I feel like I’ve walked into a roomful of people discussing a Russian novel I haven’t read." I'm positive this is meant as a tribute to Maguire's gift for detail and for inspiring detailed threads. However, when you enter the Just One Minute maze, it helps to bring breadcrumbs.

Of Goldstein, Henke wrote, "[Y] ou know how you and your friends used to get into wandering, but interesting, all-night conversations about every subject imaginable—school, politics, jokes, sports, news, girls, philosophy, etc—in your younger days? Well, replace you with PJ O'Rourke, and replace your friends with a lot of drugs. Voila! Jeff Goldstein: a right winger somewhere between libertarian and libertine."

The Indigent Blogger of Vagabondia is not yet on Henke's list - and he may not be strictly right wing - but he should be.

Happy reading!

Friday, November 04, 2005

Nick and Nora Second-Guess Ness

On Monday's Hugh Hewitt radio show, legal sleuths Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing - Mrs. diGenova - uncovered an ulterior motive to explain why Patrick Fitzgerald is keeping his investigation of Karl Rove open and ongoing.

VT: And I'll tell you what else bothers me...

HH: Go ahead.

VT: ...that after almost two years, the prosecutor can't make a decision yet about Karl Rove? Does he understand how government works?

HH: We've had Andrew McBride and Andy McCarthy, two former Republican prosecutors on with great respect for Patrick Fitzgerald. Is is unusual, Joe DeGenova [sic], as a former United States attorney, to leave someone twisting in the wind this way?

JG: Oh, absolutely. In fact, it borders on the abusive. And it is inconceivable to me that he can't make up his mind that no crime was committed by Rove. What he's doing is he's isolating Rove to prevent him from being a defense witness for Libby.

HH: Expand on that. I don't understand that. I'm not a crimes lawyer.

JG: Well, by keeping him hanging out there, and by making him unable to talk or communicate with anybody, and holding over the head the possibility of indictment, he's making it very obvious that the last thing in the world he wants him to do is appear as a defense witness in the case.

Transcript excerpt courtesy of Radio Blogger.