Monday, December 22, 2003

They Don't Call It Pixie Dust for Nothin'

Roy Disney wrote back today -
Dear Supporter:

I enormously appreciate your support and offer to be of help. Our opposition to both an entrenched CEO and directors at Disney has clearly touched a nerve. Letters similar to yours are arriving by the truckload.

We are deeply committed to restoring the Disney magic and want to ensure that the Company honors its heritage and stands for quality and integrity of its products and services for future generations to come.

Please stay in touch with us via our website - - - and we will begin to communicate with you regularly regarding our collective efforts to restore the magic.

Again, thanks for your continuing support and remember, it all started with a mouse!

Roy Disney

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes....

I'm a big Disney fan. Let me rephrase that. I'm a BIG BIG BIG BIG BIG Disney fan. I have embarressed people with my enthusiasm. Today a friend gave me the link to Roy Disney's Save Disney site. I sent Mr. Disney a letter that I thought I would share with you. To me this is right up there with the Dean vs. Bush show-down.

Dear Mr. Disney -

I have been a Disney enthusiast as long as I can remember. I was grief-striken when I heard that you were leaving the Board and extremely angry when I found out why. For my senior project at Mary Baldwin College in 1994 I focused on the Disney Company, researching the company history and analyzing five years of annual reports (plus those of three competitors). My report was a 90 page review of accounting, management, and marketing. The comparisons were easy - they were all basically, "Disney does it better and here's why..."

When President Frank Wells died in that helicopter crash and Eisner took over it worried me. I thought that a good bit of the quality that the Disney Company was experiencing in its management came from the differences between them. As the years wore on I became more and more disappointed with Eisner. Now, well, now we've got a fight on our hands.

You have my complete support. If you need anything, please do not hesitate to ask. By trade I'm an accountant who specializes in enterprise reporting and project management. I can analyze issues, write reports, do presentations, set up databases - all the sorts of things you might expect. Disney is number one on my "Top Ten Things That Make Me Insanely Enthusiastic" list. It is at heart a dream sprinkled in pixie dust and topped with mouse ears - as fragile and strong as a child's sense of wonder. If that's not worth saving, I don't know what is.

If you want to help you can email Mr. Disney at

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Will We Still Be America?

Below is an email that I recently received and my response to it. I get a little snippy about this sort of thing.

Will we still be the Country of choice and still be America if we continue to make the changes forced on us by the people from other countries that came to live in America because it is the Country of Choice???????? Think about it........

All I have to say is, when will they do something about MY RIGHTS? I celebrate Christmas, but because it isn't celebrated by everyone, we can no longer say Merry Christmas. Now it has to be Season's Greetings. It's not Christmas vacation, it's Winter Break. Isn't it amazing how this winter break ALWAYS occurs over the Christmas holiday?? We've gone so far the other way, bent over backwards to not offend anyone, that I am now being offended. But it seems that no one has a problem with that.

This says it all!

After hearing that the state of Florida changed its opinion and let a Muslim woman have her picture on her driver's license with her face covered this is an editorial written by an American citizen, published in a Tampa newspaper. He did quite a job; didn't he? Read on, please!

IMMIGRANTS, NOT AMERICANS, MUST ADAPT. I am tired of this nation worrying about whether we are offending some individual or their culture. Since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, we have experienced a surge in patriotism by the majority of Americans. However, the dust from the attacks had barely settled when the "politically correct" crowd began complaining about the possibility that our patriotism was offending others.
I am not against immigration, nor do I hold a grudge against anyone who is seeking a better life by coming to America. Our population is almost entirely made up of descendants of immigrants. However, there are a few things that those who have recently come to our country, and apparently some born here, need to understand. This idea of America being a multicultural community has served only to dilute our sovereignty and our national identity. As Americans, we have our own culture, our own society, our own language and our own lifestyle. This culture has been developed over centuries of struggles, trials, and victories by millions of men and women who have sought freedom.

We speak ENGLISH, not Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, or any other language. Therefore, if you wish to become part of our society, learn the language!

"In God We Trust" is our national motto. This is not some Christian, right wing, political slogan. We adopted this motto because Christian men and women, on Christian principles, founded this nation, and this is clearly documented. It is certainly appropriate to display it on the walls of our schools. If God offends you, then I suggest you consider another part of the world as your new home, because God is part of our culture.

If Stars and Stripes offend you, or you don't like Uncle Sam, then you should seriously consider a move to another part of this planet. We are happy with our culture and have no desire to change, and we really don't care how you did things where you came from. This is OUR COUNTRY, our land, and our lifestyle. Our First Amendment gives every! citizen the right to express his opinion and we will allow you every opportunity to do so. But once you are done complaining, whining, and griping about our flag, our pledge, our national motto, or our way of life, I highly encourage you take advantage of one other great American freedom, THE RIGHT TO LEAVE.

If you agree -- pass this along; if you don't agree -- delete it!

I figure if we all keep passing this to our friends (and enemies) it will also, sooner or later get back to the complainers, lets all try, please

Interesting. Did you know that America's official language was only narrowly voted to be English? It won over German by one vote. I'd heard that before, but for this response I found a reference. Personally, I've always used "Happy Holidays" in the Christmas season. I did it way before 'politically correct' was a phrase in the English language - because I'm polite and and considerate, because I have friends of various religions and opinions, because I never like to make anyone feel uncomfortable or left out. Truthfully, the only thing I can't tolerate is intolerance.

I can't criticize too much because I think that defining and defending one's values is one of the most important and human things that we do. But my values may look familiar - faith, hope, charity, fortitude, justice, temperance, and prudence. And my basic political values can be found here: the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Declaration of Independence.

Oh, and about "In God We Trust"? I pulled citation for this one, too. "...the regular use of "In God We Trust" on US coins did not begin until 1908, "In God We Trust" was not made an official motto of the United States until 1956, and the motto did not appear on paper money until 1957...the Declaration of Independence, and quite deliberately, the Constitution of the United States contains not a single reference to a deity or to divine inspiration. This was, of course, due to the genius of the founding fathers who saw in Europe and elsewhere the strife that had been engendered by the adoption of official religions in nearly all Old World countries. Yet we frequently see in letters to the editor and elsewhere the claim that the US was created and remains a Christian nation..." This is quoted from In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash but you can find this bit of history almost anywhere. We were founded on the principle of religious tolerance, remember? Maybe the founding fathers and I have a little bit in common...

Saturday, November 15, 2003

Dean for prez, definitely. Clark for Veep? Now THAT's the stuff.

For some reason, probably a by-product of dissertation-producing adrenaline (yeah, CmdrSue, I'll get right back on it after this), I've become convinced that the best way to get Dubya Q. Cokesniffer out of office is to go with a Dean/Clark ticket.

Why, do you ask? Well, the news that Clark's going to accept matching funds will mean that he's not going to have the bankroll to take on Bush in the pre-convention electoral season, and probably will be outspent 4-1. But why don't I just reprint what I entered in the Dean blog:

Re: Clark as VP

Of course, I'm a committed Deaniac, and if Dean is banana ice cream with whipped cream and hot fudge, then Clark is the cherry, but let me make a few pitches for Clark as Veep.

First of all, I think Clark as Dem nominee wouldn't work, because he hasn't shown strength outside the South, his campaign his been woefully underperforming, and his acceptance of matching funds means that if he is the nominee he going to get crushed by Bush's 3-1 spending advantage (could end up being 4-1).

But Clark has been the best Dem since Graham to go after Bush on the national security issue; he's been hammering that Bush's lack of leadership has hurt us on the war of terror, and he's gotten in some great lines. When Bush blamed the "Mission Accomplished" banner on the sailors, his response was "Did the sailors tell him to wear that flight suit and prance around on the aircraft carrier?"

As Dean's veep, he bolsters Dean in the South, he gets to hammer Bush and Cheney with the benefit of our grassroots, and he won't be giving Cheney a footrub at their debate like a certain senator whose name rhymes with Schmoe Bleiberman.

Dean's got the best shot at beating Bush of all the Dems, but the addition of Clark as wingman would make Dean an even more potent force. And since Clark/Dean have been very light on each other during this campaign season to date I'm thinking they realize they fit together as well...

Fine, you say, what about Clark/Dean? Doesn't work as well, Dean just brings his negatives as veep, so if Clark does win it, he'll have to choose someone else (Gephardt?)

Of course, if Clark DOES manage to win the Dem primary, to me it'll be like getting a Gamecube for Christmas. Slightly disappointed it's not an Xbox, but it won't stop from playing into the morning...

BTW, I'm in my thirties, I'm just very, very immature.

Friday, October 24, 2003

OK, Justice Scalia, you're gay...

I mean, we get it already. Sheesh, it's not like there's anything wrong with that...

Thursday, October 23, 2003

New Millenium Vocabulary

You know, it's funny, but I've been picking up new words for the new millenium. They've been out there, but they didn't mean much to me personally before. Here are two that I will carry forward into the future, remembering always how much they meant to me in the early 2000s.

Kakistocracy - I found this one posted in a co-workers cube. According to Heritage (via Government by the least qualified or most unprincipled citizens.

Antinomian - I picked this one up from the 10/22/03 Daily Show interview with Walter Isaacson. He said he had always wanted to use it in a sentence. According to Heritage (via Opposed to or denying the fixed meaning or universal applicability of moral law: "By raising segregation and racial persecution to the ethical level of law, it puts into practice the antinomian rules of Orwell's world. Evil becomes good, inhumanity is interpreted as charity, egoism as compassion" I also like the Webster's definition (via One who maintains that, under the gospel dispensation, the moral law is of no use or obligation, but that faith alone is necessary to salvation.

Obviously the world has seen these things before, because there are already words for it. I guess the more things change the more they stay the same....

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Maybe it's time to look at those Iceland brochures again...

...when Onion articles are more accurate and informative than what you'd find in your average mainstream media outlet.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Everyone Here Is Treating Me Real Well....

I knew that the military liked conformity, but writing the soldier's letters home for them seems like a bit much.

ABC News reports:
Each letter was signed by a different soldier, but the words were identical: "Kirkuk is a hot and dusty city of just over a million people. The majority of the city has welcomed our presence with open arms. After nearly five months here, the people still come running from their homes, into the 110-degree heat, waving to us as our troops drive by on daily patrols of the city. Children smile and run up to shake hands and in their broken English shouting, "Thank you, Mister." ... In an e-mail to ABCNEWS today, the commander of the battalion, Lt. Col. Dominic Caraccilo, said the "letter-writing initiative" was all his idea.

On the one hand I know a lot of people who hate to write letters or feel that they can't express themselves. But on the other hand I think that it would have been a lot better if the Lt. Col. had written the letter, signed it himself, and then offered it to the soldiers to INCLUDE in their letters home. The way it was done smells like a rat. It makes me wonder if there was some sort of pressure applied to the guys to 'be a good soldier' and send this letter home. I hope not because honestly I would want to kick the a** of anyone who treated them that way. They are in a difficult enough spot as it is.

We Americans like to think of ourselves as 'the good guys'. I can't imagine what a gruelling ordeal the soldiers are dealing with in Iraq. So if they were welcomed in Kirkuk (which the ABC News article leads me to believe), then I'm glad the battallion got a chance to feel like the good guys. Politically I wish they weren't there. For their safety I wish they weren't there. But really, Lt. Col. Caraccilo, don't try to pull the wool over our eyes and don't put words in their mouths (and letters). I'm sure that Amy Connell's son could have penned a much more poignant letter if he had just written, "Mom, I feel like a hero..."

Monday, October 13, 2003

It's not just you, part two...

An interesting article in about how the middle-class dream is dying. You'll need to view an ad in order to see the article but it's worth it. You can buy Elizabeth Warren's book here.

Friday, October 10, 2003

Lord, he's even a bigger asshole than Limbaugh...

Hey everyone, Rumsfeld's ducking questions. After three years of acting as if Rumsfeld's assholery was somehow endearing, wouldn't it be nice if the press grew a pair and started calling out Donald Ducker?

Thursday, October 9, 2003

Mellow Greetings, Citizen. What is Your Boggle?
Proving God Has a Sense of Humor

What did you say, Nevsky? "Oh, screw it. I don't live there." Well, Orrin Hatch has a nasty little surprise for you. Sort of like finding nuclear sludge at the bottom of your Christmas stocking. What is it? S.J. 15. If you don't like reading straight up congressional bills, has a great page where he pulls together the text of the bill, some articles, and a little commentary. Basically the bill is a proposal for a constitutional amendment changing that pesky little requirement for United States Presidents to be born here. Hatch would like to change the requirement to be 20 year citizens. How does this relate to Ahnuld? The Salt Lake Tribune says, "While the measure was not introduced with Schwarzenegger in mind, Hatch said the Austrian-born superstar would be a perfect example of why the constitutional amendment is needed."


Sorry, that was me falling on the floor. Remember a couple of weeks back when I said that we were waking up from loony land? I apologize. I was completely wrong. We have walked through the glass darkly, we have drunk the potion, we have gone down the rabbit hole, we are strangers in a strange land, we are.... how shall I say this? COMPLETELY POOCH SCREWED! I love science fiction but one of my basic tenets is that anything, ANYTHING that takes us a step closer to making it a reality is probably a bad thing. In case you missed it, the movie "Demolition Man" makes a reference to a Constitutional Amendment that allowed Ahnuld to become president. (In the movie it was number 61 I think but in reality this might be somewhere in the high twenties.) When life starts to imitate art - especially a Sly Stallone film - I begin to wonder if it is time to move to a deserted island....

Wednesday, October 8, 2003

My. Lord.

They did it. They actually elected Arnold Schwarznegger governor of California. Christ in a shopping cart, the guy wasn't even the best ACTOR on the ballot (Gary Coleman got 12,000 votes, btw). And even Jesse Ventura was the mayor of his 500-citizen-strong town before they elected him governor. Either Gray Davis was an even bigger dick than I thought, or you guys are NUTS...

Oh, screw it. I don't live there. At least we've been given a three-year respite from Arnold's shitty films...

Monday, October 6, 2003

She Said
(Response to "I'm keeping an eye on you corporate scumwads...)

Why won't McDonald's face the fact that their market share is based on being consistent? I squarely blame this McNugget fiasco on the same rats that changed my apple pie from deep fried to baked and my ice cream to frozen yogurt/ice milk/crud. Don't even START me on the fries. If we WANTED food that was good for us we wouldn't be at McDonald's anyway, you morons!

My main criterion for a good McDonald's is that I can stop at one in any of the 50 states and get the same lukewarm cheap cheeseburger, moderately good fries, and a COKE. Is that asking too much?? Please, people. Stick with what you know how to do.
I'm keeping an eye on you, corporate scumwads...

As if there isn't enough to be outraged about, McDonald's revealed its plans for a new, leaner McNugget. Isn't that like creating an SUV designed NOT to create the impression the owner has enormous genitals? I'm not sure how the redesigned McNugget fits in with the obvious goal of maximizing profits at the expense of the lower classes, so let's just deal with the implications of the redesigned snack product. I'm wary about the switch to all white-meat, but I'm willing to go along with that if it means less grizzle consumption. If you McDonald's rat-bastards fuck with the breading, though, you will face my wrath. Believe that.

Sunday, September 28, 2003

BIG quarter coming up for people-powered Howard...

With the 3rd quarter ending, it's clear my guy for prez, Howard Dean, is going to clean the clocks of the other Dem candidates in terms of dough raised. As of 3pm today, the total figure was $12.5 million on the Dean bat.

On Monday, I'll be volunteering to help tally some of the mailed-in checks in order to get the numbers as high as possible before the end of the month (though the official deadline for reporting is October 15). I was told that there are thousands of checks that need to be counted, so lots of volunteers are going to be burning the midnight oil.

So as impressive as the numbers are now on the Dean blog, they're about to go much higher. $15 million is not out of the question, and that should finally quiet some of the more reasonable critics who concern themselves over Dean's electability.

He's gonna have about $15 million worth of that by the month's end.

Friday, September 26, 2003

It's not just you...

Atrios caught this press release the government tried to bury by releasing it on Friday.

"According to the official poverty measure, about 1.7 million more people were in poverty in 2002 than in 2001... "

Hope it gets in the news today.

update at noon

It's now on the front page of, along with this quote:

" Even before the data was made public, House Democrats charged the Bush administration was trying to hide bad economic news by releasing the numbers on a Friday when people are paying more attention to the upcoming weekend. In previous years, the estimates were released on a Tuesday or Thursday.
“Sounds like they’re trying to bury the numbers where people won’t find them,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y. “This is another clear example of political manipulation of data by the Bush administration to avoid the glare of public scrutiny about the country’s worsening economy.”"
Let's keep an eye on this, because who knows how long we'll see THIS story?

Sen. Frank Lautenberg has stated VP Dick Cheney still has financial ties to Halliburton, though Cheney denied this on "Meet The Press" last week.

With this investigation ongoing, do you still feel like giving Bush and Cheney $87 billion without a full itemized list, Congress?

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Oh, this is not good...

Remember that incident in Fallujah two weeks back where American soldiers accidentally killed 8 Iraqi policemen (that the Americans trained) and one Jordanian? Well, a military investigation has cleared the soldiers, and I don't see how this isn't going to cause more problems for the troops, especially since Fallujah has been a hotbed of soldier/resident tensions ever since riots in the summer were quelled by gunfire. Being cleared of all wrongdoing, even it is entirely true, in only two weeks just screams "cover-up", and it seems unlikely that the foreign press will be as neutral about this story as it has been in America.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Knock ME over with a feather...

Can we call President Horatio Cokesnorter a liar NOW? PLEEEEEEEEZ?

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Economics 101..... IN LOONY-LAND!
(My views on the current Jabberwocky) reports on Treasury Secretary John Snow's presentation to the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. Surprisingly, they managed to report this without a hint of sarcasm or any bursts of laughter. Why do I scoff? Come down the rabbit hole with me.

...Snow told global bankers and economists worried about the tide of red ink in Washington that the massive U.S. budget deficit would be halved by the end of 2008... He called the budget deficit an "understandable" consequence of the recent recession, and told delegates from 184 countries that it would be tamed through "ample growth" and "disciplined spending," having earlier ruled out any tax increases as "counterproductive." ...He offered few other details on how the United States would reduce the deficit, which the Treasury department has said reached $400.5 billion in the first 11 months of the 2003 budget year twice the total for the same period a year earlier. IMF managing director Horst Koehler acknowledged that the "sharp swing" in public spending in the United States had helped stimulate growth after the slowdown a point Snow also made, calling it "Economics 101."

WHAT??? WHAT??? I haven't read nonsense this good since "The Hunting of the Snark". Am I missing something? Is the whole world in on some sort of crazy contrariwise drinking game? (While watching these international broadcast is someone supposed to tell me, "Okay, this is the part where Snow will say the OPPOSITE of what is happening and that means we all take a swig. Oh man, look at the British. I think they're buying his story!!")

My suspicion is that this is all supposed to distract us from what is really happening. The rich have been getting richer (and paying less taxes) for at least a decade, probably more, and they are getting tax CUTS now. Am I sure that the rich are getting richer? The IRS put out a fascinating little report on the most Fortunate 400 in the United States. Oh, the lucky few. These are not the SAME 400 every year, just each year's top 400 in AGI (adjusted gross income). So keep in mind that this isn't the list of top asset holders, but income earners. The report covers the tax years of 1992 to 2000. During those 8 prosperous years the people jockeying for the top 400 increased their take by a net $30 billion (adjusted to 1990 dollars for comparability) which was just over a 190% increase. Meanwhile, all returns increased by $2.1 trillion, about a 90% increase. Let's break that down. $30 billion divided by 400 is an increase $74 million per return. $2.1 trillion divided by 125 million (an approximate number - feel free to check out and to quibble) is an average of $17,188 per return.

Meanwhile, what was going on in tax land? The Fortunate 400 had a tax increase of of $7 billion while overall the taxpayers increased their payments by $504 billion. But what was the comparison of taxes against income? In 1992 the Fortunate 400 had 29% of their income eaten by taxes (~$4.6 billion divided by ~$15.7 billion) and in 2000 it was down to 26% (~$11.8 billion divided by ~$45.7 billion) which is a CHANGE of a 11.9% REDUCTION. Meanwhile overall as a Nation experienced an increase from 20% to 22% which although a 2% net increase means a CHANGE of a 8.6% INCREASE. From a CHANGE perspective that is quite a gap, don'tcha think?

I'm thinking that according to the Economics 101 that I took in college, we need to get the workers (i.e., taxpayers) of America BACK to work so that we CAN experience growth. Are you listening corporate America? Stop sending our jobs overseas or eventually we - the richest country in the world - won't be able to afford to buy our own goods anymore. (An economy is a system, remember? If you took Econ 101 certainly your professor demonstrated how all of this worked.) And we DON'T need to CUT taxes OR see such a widening gap in the portion of income paid in support of our country by the "haves" and "have-mores". (My logic is that if we can pay taxes we don't qualify as "have-nots".)

Unless your endgame ISN'T to have the American economy recover. For the Snark was a Boojum you see... If you'll pardon me I need to go polish my vorpal sword. Snicker-snack, snicker-snack.
I've tried to add comments to the blog. Try to tell me if I was successful!

Sunday, September 21, 2003

Consider it Broughten

More soldiers have died in Iraq. The U.N. is no longer irrelevant. And, despite the fact that 70% of Americans believed it, W says that Saddam had no connection to 9/11.

That last bit proves, if nothing else, that W really doesn't listen to the 'focus group' of the American public whether it is in his favor or not. In March he told we 30% that we were wrong to question the attack on Iraq, and now he's telling the 70% who thought it was justified that they are wrong, too. Now that we are in too deep, losing too many casualties, and stretched thinly enough with both troops and equipment to keep logistics officers mumbling in their sleep at night.

My opinion? What is happening is that reality is finally crashing down. The unreality started with 9/11. It was beyond our scope. Things like that don't happen here. But that sense of being detached from reality was, for me at least, definitely extended with events like the passage of the Patriot Act. Any one of our Founding Fathers would have denounced it as the UN-Patriot Act since it clearly violates so many of the founding documents of our country. (Oh, you know, the Bill of Rights, the Constitution - tell me if any of these ring a bell for you....) By September of 2002 I wouldn't have been fazed if the news had announced, "Santa Claus is having an affair with the Tooth Fairy. Film at 11." It was all so freaking weird anyway.

But oh, how the mighty have fallen. There will be no aircraft carrier landings today. No swaggering declarations to, "Bring 'em on!" The reality of the world has quite clearly said, "Consider it broughten."

(For those of you who aren't fans of cheesy teen films like I am, the title of today's post is from the movie "Bring It On".)

Friday, September 19, 2003

Survival of the Misfittest

It had to happen eventually. After watching so many disasters and crises on TV while they were happening to others - floods, storms, blackouts - I knew I had to get mine eventually. Hello Isabel. The odd thing to me is that after living on the Gulf Coast on and off for over 10 years I was never there for a hurricane. Perhaps having noted that oversight the tropics sent a nice storm straight up through Central Virginia. Yesterday about this time my power failed. My husband is a Red Cross volunteer so he was out racing around preparing for the worst. I was home in charge of the pets and supplies and lucky enough to have a friend come over who refused to be ruffled by the whistling wind. ("It's just going to be a big rainstorm.")

Once the power went out we creaked open the old game chest and selected RISK, one of my childhood standards. As the rain continued and the sun went down, we lit candles and earnestly continued our game. I observed that from what I could see it was basically like a Louisiana spring storm. Odd for here, but not scary. We secured the pets in the basement, checked in with the Red Cross on when the eye would come through, and braced for the worst. It was about this time, around 10pm, that I really started to get the tingle. A current racing through my body that screamed, "I want to watch CNN and the Weather Channel". Just as throughout the night we laughed at ourselves for our Pavlovian response of automatically flipping light switches as we walked through rooms WHILE CARRYING FLASHLIGHTS (d'oh!), I could tell that in my mind 'emergency' and '24-hour news channel' are inextricably linked. Somehow it didn't "feel" like an emergency if I wasn't hearing the play-by-play commentary, seeing the fancy graphics (perhaps spinning the storm on it's path or projecting rain fall by color coding), and all while logged in to the internet to cross-check their data with the National Weather Service.

By midnight I said to my friend, "I'm starting to feel like play time's over and I want my power back." I wasn't overly upset, but jonesing for my modern conveniences. It made me realize how much the texture of my life has changed in the past 10 years. Although I was concerned about everything in my freezer melting or the batteries for the radio running out, what obsessively occupied my mind was how I could check on the emergency. I've become an information junkie, strung out on sound bites and color coded charts. Back in the day, Thomas Jefferson was quoted as saying, "I cannot live without books." I'm thinking that if ole TJ were alive today he would say, "I cannot live without the Internet." Information, communication, inter-relation all across our nation; the Internet is a book without covers, without a final chapter, without boundaries. And, some would point out darkly, a book without an editor.

So I lapsed into withdrawal without my CNN and internet connection. I remembered all of the times at work when we would laugh and say, "Gosh, I wonder what we used to do before all this technology!" Now I was thinking, "Egads, what will we do without all of this technology!" I still had telephone service, water pressure, and my cell phone battery was fully charged. I had canned food, a week's supply of water, and a gas grill for cooking. On so many levels it couldnt' even have been called "roughing it". It lasted a few minutes less than 24 hours. My friend had gone home at first light, so I was playing RISK solo and fighting out the struggle for world domination among yellow, green, and blue when the magical sound of the house turning on occured. In a split second my mind frame went from, "You know, I think I can see why I played this game as a kid" to "Oh boy! I can get online now!" Pavlov's dog never drooled so well...

So what I've learned from Hurricane Isabel is that the real crisis I just experienced was the realization of how dependent I have become on modern technology. It wasn't enough to reach out and touch someone (on the phone), I wanted to see their hurricane tracking radar and listen to their 'experts'. But once I logged in, I quickly saw that I was not the only one. One news story reports that, "Richard Staublein, 42, drove his family 13 miles for their first meal in a day, a breakfast at McDonald's in a Richmond suburb - and waited 50 minutes in a line that spilled into the parking lot. Many in line had not eaten because they lost power and were unable to cook. 'I left the house around 8 a.m. and when I got here the line was already a killer,' Staublein said." Thank God, I thought, I'm not the only one. And if a bigger emergency happens I might develop a nervous tic and mumble about leading expert's opinions on the color coded charts, but at least I will be able to feed myself.

Now, if you'll excuse me I've already set the four clocks in this room (microwave, coffee maker, stove, and VCR), but there are at least another seven in the house blinking away. And I would like for things to get back to normal as quickly as possible.

(For those who were ACTUALLY affected by the crisis of Hurricane Isabel, my prayers go out to you and your family.)

Thursday, September 18, 2003

The Witches of Baghdad

I have to agree with Hans Blix that there is some witch hunting afoot. You would think that we are more advanced than that. But the amusing thing about history is that each era thinks that it is more advanced than the previous, while the whole of human history can best be summarized as, "The more things change the more they stay the same..."

But how do we know that it is witch hunting? Because it was the rhetoric and emotion that moved people to support the attack on Iraq. The facts were sketchy and the logic non-existant. My bottom line back in March was that we were ignoring the United Nations and our traditional allies. (Ok, England was in, and I still wonder about their motivations. British Petroleum interests?) I don't like war, but if the international community had agreed with our administration that war with Iraq was necessary I would have accepted it. After 9/11 my prayers soon concentrated on not having our nation act too hastily or with too much anger. Our pursuit of Bin Laden and strike against Afghanistan were fairly much accepted and supported by the international community, so I accepted it. But Iraq? It seemed to me that the Bush administration was taking advantage of their carte blanche license to make war as the emotional dust from 9/11 was still settling.

So how goes the witch hun- er, war? Most news stories agree that we are over committed and taking continuous casualties while we try to rule over a fractured society that seems equal parts terrorized and terrorist (I think that depends on how they take the current occupation and anarchy - whether it scares them or pisses them off). So for a war that we "won", keeping the "peace" is proving difficult - and expensive in the lives of both Americans and Iraqis. I'm sure I can rest easy that the oil wells are safely guarded, however, and that all the gas-swilling automobiles of the West can continue their daily banal errands.

Speaking of history, by the way, Michael Barone writes in this week's US News and World Report that we shouldn't be worried about how long it is taking to stabilize Iraq because everyone has always sucked at it. He says:

"...the Allied leaders who gathered at the peace conference in Paris were largely clueless about how to reconstruct the defeated nations after World War I. Jean Edward Smith's biography of Gen. Lucius Clay reveals that the first time he read the government's plans for post-World War II Germany was on the flight over there to take charge. William Manchester's American Caesar shows that Douglas MacArthur, however knowledgeable about the Far East, did not have clear ideas on how to rule postwar Japan. Clay and MacArthur improvised, learned from experience, made mistakes, and corrected them, adjusted to circumstances. It took time: West Germany did not have federal elections until 1949, four years after surrender; the peace treaty with Japan was not signed until 1951."

He says this after admonishing us that "those inclined to make straight-line extrapolations from the events of a few news cycles should read some history". Well.... Isn't that what our leaders should have done in preparation of invasion? Read some history? THAT old saying goes, "Those ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it." That would be the point of learning about all the mistakes we made in the past - that we can do BETTER now. So all that Barone is really saying is, "Well, here we go again...."

In closing, GB Shaw remarked: "Hegel was right when he said that we learn from history that man can never learn anything from history." Sounds like there will be witch hunting...
The blogs are agog over Bush's brazen admission that despite the constant implications by his administration, there was no Saddam-9/11 connection. Still, I don't see this outrage going anywhere, since Bush can still use the "well, Saddam is still a bad man" argument to justify his war. Though many are saying that misleading Congress on a war resolution is an impeachable offense, ultimately 2/3 of the Senate decides what an impeachable offense is, so that's not going to happen. But if Drunko the Clown is really that interested in coming clean to the American people maybe Peaceful Tomorrows should start calling him.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

I can see that this might start to sound like a "He Said, She Said", but I have similarly noticed Clark's entry into the race and I've got to say that I quickly became downright disappointed. He was interviewed on CNN this morning (by those obnoxiously perky pretty people they have working there at 7am). It turns out that he "doesn't remember" who he voted for in previous races. Do whaaaaa?

Ok, either he's been so amazingly UNinterested in politics to this point that I shouldn't trust him to have a clue about what is going on - and therefore I won't vote for him. Or he's LYING to me (which I assume) about something rather minor that he could as easily handle by saying, "I don't discuss that" like the guy from NBC news (good ole what's-his-cookie, the one replacing Brokaw) - and therefore I won't vote for him.

Yes, yes, I know. There are no honest politicians. Heck, I even think that there are times when it is politically important TO lie. That's that old thing we call National Security. Which means stuff more important than worrying about what the definition of 'is' is, I'll grant you, but is also a higher standard than the justifications used to do Easter egg hunts for weapons of mass destruction in the foreign countries of our choice. But even if there are no honest politicians, by definition, there should at least be politicians with enough sense to know WHEN to lie. I realize that sounds pretty sad, but think about it. We are really 'hiring' a president to act in our interests. Personally, I want my president to be intelligent, wise, judicious, and have a little of that uncommon commodity COMMON SENSE. I think that this "I don't remember who I voted for" line is completely lacking in sense. That said, I'm sure that if all of the candidates were suddenly stuck by the 'curse' afflicting Jim Carrey's lawyer in "Liar, Liar" it would be hard to say which politician would come out worst. Well, ok, W would come out a clear winner but after him....

Speaking of W, and his henchman Karl "Wormtongue" Rove, of course Clark isn't safe. McCain got run over like possum on the half shell during the last election. Say what you will about McCain, he's got military 'cred'. So the military angle won't do much for Clark. Darth Sidious and his minions will dig, cajole information, and if all else fails insinuate and gossip-monger on their way to smearing anyone who stands between them and the White House in 2004.

Alright, I'll go now. I definitely give points to Senator Edwards for fulfilling his promise to Jon Stewart and officially announcing his candidacy on The Daily Show. But in the end I still say GO DEAN!!!!
Well, it's official. Clark's in. As a Dean supporter, I would be lying if I said I wasn't a little nervous about it, but still I think it's a good thing for the Democrats if he gets involved. I don't agree, however, with the idea that being a 4-star general will somehow make him immune from Mr. Rove's spin machine. If Jesus was running for president and started turning water into wine and shooting cinnamon rolls out of his ass Rove would still probably find a way to paint him as soft on national security. Let's see how Clark responds to the inevitable attacks; right now his entrance just makes Graham look a little harder at his Senate benefits package and hastens Lieberman's inevitable demise.

But the presidential race DID just become a little more interesting.

Monday, September 15, 2003

I didn't think anyone still wondered why the U.S. was hated around the world, but fortunately Congress still has money left in its coffers to answer the question.

"The Bush administration spends $1 billion a year trying to polish the United States' image around the world, yet polls show anti-Americanism rising to record levels, especially in Muslim and Arab nations where the government is concentrating its efforts.

Now, a new report from Congress' General Accounting Office explains why the federal government's efforts at "public diplomacy" have been such a failure.

The report, released Sept. 4, concluded that the State Department's efforts have been scattershot and uncoordinated, foreign service officers charged with promoting the nation's image too often get stuck filling out paperwork, and one in five foreign service officers who are supposed to be helping America's image aren't fluent enough in the language of the country in which they're stationed. "

Oh, the reason we're hated abroad has nothing to do with the xenophobic disrespect evident in the Nimrod administration's foreign policy, it's because the foreigners aren't doing their job correctly.

Maybe I walked through a looking glass last week and didn't notice...

Friday, September 12, 2003

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I had a funny thought the other night and just have to share. Check this out - if you use some of the alternate definitions of "Fair and Balanced" (the FoxNews slogan) then you have "White and In Our Right Minds". Is this alternate meaning really what they are trying to say? I submit that it is. That's the crazy, disturbing mind-set of the neo-cons. I'm just pointing it out....
A couple of weeks ago there was a story of how Bush was cutting pay raises for federal workers to 1.5-2 percent. I guess one could argue that the huge deficits Bush created meant there was no money for pay raises...

Oh, wait, Bush said "Such cost increases would threaten our efforts against terrorism ..." [quote from above article]

Fine. After about a 45-second search on the FDA website, an organization that will have to deal with this salary issue, I found this page called Countering Bioterrorism

"The President's initiative on Countering Bioterrorism is comprised of a number of essential elements for which [the FDA] plays an integral role. One such element is the expeditious development and licensing of products to diagnose, treat or prevent outbreaks from exposure to the pathogens that have been identified as bioterrorist agents. These products must be reviewed and approved prior to the large-scale productions necessary to create and maintain a stockpile. Staff must guide the products through the regulatory process, including the manufacturing process, pre-clinical testing, clinical trials, and the licensing and approval process. Experts in these areas are needed to expedite the licensing and approval process for these products. This process is extremely complex and early involvement by staff is crucial to the success of the expedited review process."

So in order to save money to fight the war in terror, funds must be cut for fighting the war on terror. Maybe this makes sense to Bush...

BTW, about a week later Congress approved a 2.2 percent pay raise for themselves.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

I see today that six Republicans joined the Dems in the Senate to block the House's bid to change overtime rules. You'd think that by now certain rules for dealing with workers would be accepted, such as the 40-hour work week. I wonder what the Repubs in Congress will come up with next...

"By preventing legislation giving hard-working business owners the right to hire barefoot street urchins, the Democrats and unions are costing Americans valuable jobs in the up-and-coming horsewhip and gruel manufacturing industries. Oh, and we'll lose the war on terror, too."

Monday, September 8, 2003

Greetings to all, and thanks to Sue for inviting me!

I guess, like every other political-minded person, the thoughts stuck in my head revolve around the unmitigated nerve of President Nimrod Q. Idiot and his stand-up performance last night. (That's "stand-up" as in COMEDY, not "stand-up" as in honorable.) Probably too much to expect a mea culpa from him (too bad, I had LOTS of material ready were that the case) but to challenge the opposition party here and countries around the world to clean up his mess, how nervy can you get? Of course, the dolt is relying on the general human desire to alleviate suffering to keep the world from calling him on this and allowing him to stew in the mess he made, but are we EVER going to see this man held accountable for his criminal performance as President? EVER??????

Sue would perhaps vouch that I'm actually a good-natured soul. But LORD is this guy getting harder and harder to take...

This made me laugh, however... I think the doll is lifesize...

Oooo, a new blog entry! My adoring public insisted on more words. This week should see MANY more words from new team members for Thougths That Get Stuck. If thoughts get stuck in YOUR head, send them to me in an email and they might get posted here! :) If you want to see our Thoughts That Get Printed on T-Shirts check out The Pith Stop.

Saturday, August 2, 2003

Can All the Animals Find a Home?

by Winterwolf in 1999

“Of all the cities in the United States, only one city currently guarantees that no adoptable dog or cat will be euthanized. That city is San Francisco. And standing between life and death is the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.” (SFSPCA website)

On April 1st 1994, the San Francisco SPCA and the city’s Department of Animal Care and Control (hereafter referred to as SFAC) entered into an agreement named the Adoption Pact. Under this accord, the SFSPCA promises to find a loving home to every adoptable displaced dog and cat in the city. Such an achievement can only be regarded as a major milestone in the protection and care of companion animals. Richard Avanzino, the head of the SF SPCA in 1994, has since spearheaded a campaign to encourage all shelters around the U.S. to adopt a similar policy, assuring that creativity and devotion to the cause will prevail. Currently, there are 700 no-kill shelters of the 5,000 shelters nationwide. (El Nasser)

This idea has sparked a great controversy amongst the animal shelters around the U.S. and worldwide. The Adoption Pact has received a great deal of positive press in the past several years, and little public attention has been given to the concerns many shelters have presented. The San Francisco SPCA states that it will place all adoptable animals in the city, and the adoption percentages they present seem to indicate that this is true. There is increasing public pressure for many animal shelters to adopt similar polices. The same public that resists the idea of euthanasia due to overcrowding also requires that strays not damage their property, endanger their pets, or “suffer needlessly” in the wild. The Board of Directors at the local Albemarle SPCA, in Charlottesville, Virginia, is currently considering adopting the no-kill stance. However, many in the animal care community find fault with the concept of the “no-kill” shelter as it is presented by Mr. Avanzino and argue that these shelters typically present misleading placement statistics. Since many shelters are non-profit, donations are essential to continued functioning and growth. The annual adoption percentages are frequently viewed by the public as a representation of a shelter’s ability to place animals, and are therefore key to encouraging donation. The concern is that in the long-term, shelters that claim to be no-kill are not realistically dealing with the pet overpopulation problem and are drawing funding away from shelters that are forced to euthanize animals because of space constraints.

As a result, I have chosen to examine the San Francisco SPCA statistics as a representative of similar shelters and to compare them to those of the Albemarle SPCA for a similar year. In addition, I open the case that comparing the adoption success of shelters is a complex issue that involves a large number of confounding variables. This means that policy decisions should not be solely based on the results of a particular shelter, but rather viewed as the result of a number of variables.

Both types of shelters are ultimately limited by the threat of overpopulation. Legal guidelines and individual shelter policies limit the total number of animals that can be housed at any given time to prevent stress, spread of disease, and possible fighting. The San Francisco SPCA (SFSPCA) and many similar shelters present the public with amazing adoption statistics, that indicate that well over 90% of the animals they take in are in turn placed in “loving homes”. On the website for the SFSPCA, they presented the 1997 placement statistics that showed that only 1.6% of the 4,985 animals they took in were euthanized. By comparison, the placement rate of the Albemarle SPCA (which currently euthanizes to make space) in 1997 was approximately 50.39% for 4,765 cats and dogs. This would seem to support the claim that Avanzino’s placement program was in fact far more successful at placing animals in their jurisdiction. However, upon closer examination, there are several confounding factors that are typically shared by such shelters that over-inflate their success when compared to shelters that are forced to euthanize animals.

One of the most important distinctions that separates a shelter like San Francisco’s from most shelters stems from a fundamental difference in intake policies. Since both are faced with a greater number of displaced animals than homes, when cages are filled, they are faced with one of two choices: make room or stop taking animals until room is available. The no-kill shelters often close their doors and animals are placed on a waiting list that may require several months for an opening. This is not a real option for many owners who need to place pets immediately (moving, owner dies, etc.), strays that cannot be kept by the finder, and problem pets that are being destructive or aggressive. Typically, communities with no-kill shelters have a pound operated by animal control or another agency that is required to handle the overflow. The statistics for many of these shelters are therefore not driven by the need to accept all animals and allows time for adoption. Warren Cox, of the Dallas SPCA, said “It’s making the rest of us look like cold-blooded killers. And it’s turned into a heck of a fund-raising hype. There is no such thing as a true no-kill organization. You may not kill them yourself but send them to the next organization that will.” (El Nasser) Many community shelters serve as both shelter and pound (for local Animal Control offices) and therefore cannot turn away animals that are brought in. In addition, many workers feel that leaving “excess” animals on the streets only compounds the overpopulation problems that already exist by allowing them to breed, spread disease, devastate local wildlife, and suffer from exposure and injuries. In an article in the New York Times, Ingrid Newkirk, president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), stated; “But I do think that we cannot condemn the shelters that do euthanize, when there are animals who would be suffering on the streets if shelters couldn’t bring them in because they had no room. I don’t think there will ever be world peace, and I don’t think we will ever have a no-kill nation.” (Nieves)

A second factor that serves to mislead the public is the fact that many no-kill shelters accept only the animals that they define as “adoptable”. On its website, the San Francisco shelter relates, “The Pact states that if the City Animal Control Center is unable to find a home for any of its healthy dogs or cats the San Francisco SPCA will take the animal and guarantee to place him. The Pact also gives the San Francisco SPCA the ability to save the lives of thousands of treatable dogs and cats.” Given these statements, one would expect that all the animals entering the SFAC pound that were not returned to homes would arrive at the SFSPCA. However, the statistics they present for 1997 at their website does not support this. In 1997, SFAC took in 9,444 animals, and only transferred 2,177 to the SFSPCA. This represents 23.1% of the SFAC animals, while 29.7% of animals at SFAC were euthanized for various reasons, the largest category of which was “Non-rehabilitatable” (2,808 animals). These numbers directly disprove the assertion that all animals in San Francisco are given to loving homes. The key is in the application of the definitions of “adoptable” and “treatable”. Many no-kill shelters obscure their inability to place all animals by selectively choosing the most adoptable and thereby increasing their percentages. In addition, the SFSPCA does perform a few euthanasias each year, which they dismiss as “Non-rehabilitatable.”

Most shelters, especially those that serve as the sole animal shelter for a locality (like the Albemarle SPCA), take in any animal that is brought to them from their jurisdiction. These animals represent of a broad spectrum of physical conditions, ages, mixes of breeds and behaviors. Typically, animals with any physical disability or ailment are far more difficult to place, as most adopters prefer to avoid large veterinary bills that may result from specialized care or treatment that the animal may require. Older animals are also hard to place. Many prospective owners shy away from older dogs due to concerns about mortality, fear of potential training problems, and simply the desire to adopt a “cute” puppy or kitten. Animals that have been displaced because of behavioral problems like tendencies to stray, house soiling, etc. require care and understanding that many are unwilling or unable to provide. Dangers inherent in dealing with aggression problems make relocating these animals difficult and fraught with legal responsibilities. As a result, many of the shelter’s cages are filled with animals that will not find homes before the shelter is faced with over-crowding. At the Albemarle SPCA, local veterinarians recommended that cats and kittens that are released into custody be euthanized if they exhibit symptoms of upper respiratory virus. The shelter lacks the facilities to isolate and treat the cats for the required week to two weeks, and they cannot risk exposing healthy cats to this air-borne and potentially lethal disease. As a result of this disease, large numbers of cats are euthanized before they are given a chance at adoption, decreasing the adoption percentage. Another factor that affects the Albemarle SPCA’s adoption percentage is that the shelter offers low-cost pet euthanasia service to the public. These animals must be signed in and counted, but are not up for adoption, which skews the euthanasia percentage. Most no-kill shelters refuse to take these sick animals, and are therefore far less affected by the results.

A third confounding tactic that is often utilized comes from the interpretation of “loving homes” with regard to placement. One method used by many shelters is the transfer of animals to another shelter, rescue organization, or other group. Frequently, these are added to the adoption percentage, but in reality, they do not represent the placement of the animal directly in homes, but shift the onus to another group. In its 1997annual statistics, the SFSPCA does not divide its adoption percentage into this category, so it is impossible to tell from this report how much of the adoption percentage might be explained by this practice.

To adequately compare the SFSPCA to the Albemarle SPCA, we therefore combine the numbers of animals that are taken by both the SPCA and animal control and present the combined totals to determine the overall success of adoption in San Francisco. The statistics for the 1997 year were posted on the SFSPCA website as follows:

Disposition Number of Dogs and Cats Percent


6,568 53.6%
Returned to Owner (RTO) 1,549 12.6
  • Adoptable
  • Pit Bulls
  • Treatable
  • Underage
  • Non-rehabilitatable











12,252 100.00%

The results of this exercise show that the combined effort of the SFSPCA and SFAC still does not provide homes for almost one-third of the animals that were released to the two shelters. By comparison, the Albemarle SPCA, following its current policies of unrestricted intake from the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County, placed approximately 50.39% (a number that is lower than the true percentage if cats with upper respiratory, animals with biting histories, and pets brought in for euthanasia were removed) (appendix A). Given that the sample sizes were in the thousands, it is unlikely that given current policies and conditions either the San Francisco area or Albemarle County percentages would change significantly (see appendix C for calculated variance). It might also be noted that the SFSPCA handled a total of 4,985 animals in 1997, while the Albemarle SPCA handled 4,765 animals indicating that they handled almost the same number. As stated in the introduction, there are flaws in such a comparison, as will be approached in the next section. Since operating shelters vary in policies, community composition, legal obligations, size, funding, etc. from place to place, there are a wealth of confounding variables that occur when comparing any operating shelter to another. Given adequate time and money, it may be possible to construct a statistical analysis that would allow for a more accurate comparison.

Problems with Inter-Shelter Comparisons

One of the tendencies in determining the policies of animal shelters is to examine the success of a plan implemented by another shelter, like the current push for a no-kill approach, and to attempt to apply it. Frequently, these decisions result in problems or may prove ineffectual. By examining the broad range of adoption percentages (from reports of less than 10% to upwards of 90% at no-kill shelters) reported across the United States, it is easy to see how complex it is to determine what aspects can be directly associated with increased adoptions and which may play more important roles in improving percentages. Ultimately, the approaches chosen should also take into account maximizing the welfare of the animals in question, a fact that is sometimes lost in the desire to increase donations and public opinion by encouraging placement at any cost. For example, many people would state that to take a well-loved house pet and have them adopted to become someone’s yard dog (often receiving little attention and all too frequently provided with inadequate shelter and care) is a from of cruelty. Yet, it does count as a home for adoption purposes.

To begin with, there are a number of factors that shape a shelter’s ability to place animals. Among the most commonly cited is simply the need for more room. In a limited experiment, to be presented in the next section, I will examine this effect. Space is only a single aspect however, and it can be drastically affected by other influences.

Public perception and awareness are very important. In a telephone interview with Robin Lovett, Executive Director of the Orange County shelter in Virginia, she stated that adoptions have increased over the past year with a more aggressive advertising campaign coupled with efforts to improve the appearance of the facility. Shelters that seem in disrepair or dirty (often due to lack of funding for staff or improvements) are avoided as being unpleasant places to visit and often subject to public ridicule or scorn. The animals at these shelters face a much harder time in finding homes. Shelters that manage to convey a fun environment, however, prosper. The San Francisco shelter is a perfect example. In addition to the no-kill policy, the shelter provides “…airy, glass-walled ‘apartments’ with doggy futons, televisions, and throw rugs. Cats have elaborate jungle gyms to play in, potted grasses to munch on, and fish videos to watch on their televisions.” Every shelter would want a disposable income to indulge in such a fun and frivolous atmosphere for their residents. Yet increased traffic probably improves adoptions. Media also plays a key role in both educating the public and recruiting potential adopters and volunteers. A good reputation and positive publicity encourages trust in the shelter.

Adoption policies can greatly affect the annual percentage. Shelters that are more critical of the homes they place animals in are likely to suffer from a somewhat reduced adoption rate. In an effort to serve the animal’s best interests, many shelters have policies that include verifying permission with parents and landlords and some even examine the future home for suitability. Although this increases the number of applicants that are denied, many feel that it is more important to make sure that animals are placed in suitable environments. Cruelty cases resulting from inappropriate adoptions can be avoided. It reduces the numbers of returns caused by pets given as unexpected gifts, adopted in violation of leases or permission, and spur-of-the-moment adoptions.

Financial support plays an important role as well. Since many shelters are non-profit in whole or in part, the ability to hire and keep caring trained staff, implement programs, and simply feed and care for resident animals can be greatly affected by donations. Animal shelters with poor funding may not even have buildings, but are forced to rely on scattered volunteers to house animals and many shelters have very limited hours of operation, which further complicates potential adoptions. Shelters where donations exceed minimum operation costs can improve the shelter, much as Avanzino has done in San Francisco. During his time with the shelter, he developed donations to support the facility that now has a $12 million annual budget. The shelter offers programs like doggy daycare, numerous training classes, and programs to assist in veterinary care. (Nieves) It is in this area that many shelters that are required to euthanize fear loss of income to no-kill shelters. Ms. Newkirk, PETA president, was quoted, ”The people who are coming to fund the no-kill shelters obviously have high hopes and big hearts – and deep pockets. But every day, I pray that some of that money will go to the unpopular roots of the problem.” (Nieves)

Another major aspect that can affect long term adoption rates is the institution of a spay/neuter policy associated with adoptions. Most shelters require or perform sterilization of animals that are adopted from them. If shelters promote or participate in such programs, the adoption rate over time should improve, as the overpopulation problem is gradually diminished. There is little disagreement that spay/neuter programs are essential in the long-term solution to pet overpopulation.

Finally, the very nature of the community a shelter operates in plays a role in its success. In areas where the average income and education levels are higher, adoption rates should also be improved. Animals are more likely to be spayed and neutered, donations are more readily available, and more people will have discretionary income to support one or more pets. Cities are more likely to have a large pet population and more strays, causing increased population pressures in shelters and decreasing adoption percentages. Local customs can also play a significant role. Rural areas typically support the idea of keeping colonies of semi-wild “barn cats” to control pests. Virginia allows hunting with dog packs, increasing the number of stray hounds and beagles immensely in hunting season when many are lost.

In the last section, I will conduct a limited regression analysis of how available run-space may be associated with adoption percentages. By sampling from a variety of shelters, it would be possible to conduct a statistical survey that could help relate the strength of the association of many of the above variables to overall adoption improvements. Increased awareness of the relative importance of these factors would aid in developing plans for success and identifying potential problems. Each factor could be analyzed individually, or multivariate analysis techniques could be used to weigh relative importance.

Is Run-Space Associated with Increased Adoptions?

In conducting this experiment, I was limited in the amount of time and money that was available to conduct the survey. The sample statistics were gathered through phone interviews with area shelters. This survey was biased to the extent that selection was by convenience, and subjects were chosen from a handbook of Humane Society members. As such, it is recognized that it may not be truly representative of shelters at large. In addition, the sample size is very small (5 shelters), and therefore, unlikely to yield normal results. However, this problem is used to illustrate a possible approach to untangling the relative importance of some of the confounding variables. With adequate time and funding, the data collection could be refined to reduce error. In the state of Virginia, for example, all licensed shelters file an annual report to the state veterinarian providing basic intake and outcome data. This would be a valuable source document.

The study examines the effect of run-space on the adoption of dogs, since not all shelters handle cats. The shelters in the study are located in Central Virginia, and they operate under the same State and Federal guidelines. Each shelter is also the sole intake facility in its locality, providing some similarities. I transformed run-space into run demand to account for the difference in intake in each area. This figure therefore represents the number of dogs that would need to use each run over the year. Since dogs that were eventually returned to their owners would compete for run-space with those released for adoption, they were included in the total population for calculation of adoption percentage. Calculations for the graphs are given in appendix C.

As we can see above, these four data points indicate that there could be a strong negative association between adoption percentage and available run-space for incoming animals (allowing for a small sample size). In Orange County, where intake far outweighed available space, adoption percentages are low, supporting the hypothesis that more space reduces the need for euthanasia. If this relationship is accurate, then it illustrates a means by which no-kill shelters may help increase the number of overall adoptions in a community. Effectively, they increase run-space, and provide an alternative choice for owned pets that are displaced by circumstance. In the Charlottesville area, a no-kill shelter named Caring for Creatures operates in a neighboring county. The operators have not actively pursued misleading publicity as many no-kill shelters have, and provide a valuable alternative to those hoping for a home for their pet and capable of waiting for space. This phenomenon also would help explain how fostering, with adequate regulation, could conceivably improve overall adoptions as well.

However, in collecting even such a small sample, there is evidence of the complexity inherent in shelter adoptions. When the Harrisonburg County shelter statistics are included in the regression analysis, there is a significant change in the strength of the association.

The Harrisonburg County shelter possessed 38 runs (second only to Albemarle County in the sample), and took in 2004 animals. Yet their adoption percentage was only 32.63% of dogs taken in. It is possible that one or more of the confounding variables mentioned above played a key role in reducing the shelter’s adoption percentages. It may also be that this shelter represents an outlier, but without a suitably large sample size, this is impossible to determine. It is conceivable that with a larger sample size, the curve would prove to be more normal.

The number of no-kill shelters will increase in the United States and elsewhere in the world. If these shelters work with existing shelters that currently euthanize animals that they cannot hold, the overall adoption rates in these areas may increase. If, however, the shelters continue to compete for funding, the potential for tragedy exists. Shelters like San Francisco’s SPCA may continue to boom with televisions in every room and operating budgets that could pay the annual cost of 20-30 shelters like the Albemarle SPCA and served roughly the same number of animals. The key lies in honest representation of policies and statistics. The cost would be to drive smaller shelters to further financial hardship and thereby increase the numbers of animals euthanized in these facilities by increasing the effects of confounding variables above. Ultimately, spaying and neutering, coupled with aggressive education, remains the best way to guarantee that in the future companion animals will have the opportunity to have a home. The statistics indicate that although public image and fund-raising may be increased through favorably altering adoption percentages, the goal of saving lives can best be accomplished by developing a better understanding of the variables affecting adoptions.


Albemarle SPCA. Animal Disposition Record. 1997.

“A city where no adoptable animals are put to death.” Richmond Times Dispatch. 18 January 1999: A5.

El Nasser, Haya. “Animal Shelters going ‘no-kill’.” USA TODAY. 8 September 1997: A3.

Grahme, Betty, Director of the Nelson Co. SPCA. Telephone interview. 2 April 1999.

Nieves, Evelyn. “A Campaign for a No-Kill Policy For the Nation’s Animal Shelters.” New York Times. 18 January 1999: A1.

San Francisco SPCA. http:// www.SFSPCA.COM. March 1999.

Friday, August 1, 2003


Welcome to the online, real time, updated whenever the heck I feel like it BlogSpot of CmdrSue. Grab a soda, take a seat, and get comfortable. Right this minute I feel like I have a lot to say. But it's probably fueled by three cups of coffee and too much time spent on news websites in the wee hours. In case you came to this post to get an idea of who I am, let me cover that stuff for you.

CmdrSue (Commander Sue London) is actually my alter ego, created 20 years ago. I made the Commander up as a character for my series of Star Trek spoof short stories starring myself (as First Officer, Science Officer, and All Around Fun Chick) and all of my friends. Yes, that's right. I'm a bona fide GEEK. Really, there's a test. I am. A Major Geek, in fact. Check it out at I've accepted it and learned to live a fairly normal life. I still love to come up with campy, humorous stories and my sister, CmdrTal, and I will giggle long into the night over them.

In real life, where my name is still Sue, I'm actually a systems accountant and projects manager. In that capacity I've worked in both Federal and State government. Public service appeals to me because I need a higher purpose in my work. I love knowing that the end game of my work isn't profit but useful service for my fellow citizens. No, I'm not kidding. Some of us public servants actual get the warm fuzzies over that. Before my 'professional career' I spent some time working in restaurants and at the mall. I was also involved in two business start-ups because my Mom loves to start a business. (Three start-ups if you count the one when I was 7 years old, but I didn't do much for that one. Cleaned some shelves, I think...)

What I hope to do in this Blog is bring my humor, insight, and perspective to the events around us. I have been inspired by those Bloggers who have gone before me, including my brother the ZooKeeper ( who is also known to me as Captain Dave (oh Captain, my Captain!). So from here I will go forth and blogify. These are the voyages of the Blogger CmdrSue. My mission, to seek out signs of intelligent life in our news, our society, and our email. To boldly go... right where all the other Bloggers are going. :)