Sunday, November 26, 2006

Puppy Love

There are some days when it takes something like a puppy to encourage a little "lightening up." Today was one such day. Too much turkey, too much family dynamics, too many holiday demands. The unconditional affection, playfulness and general optimism of a puppy is extremely therapeutic.

Above is my friend Najwa's new angel, Mavis.

Among the list of good things of this world, a puppy resides very close to the top.

Postscript on Mavis: Najwa says she's now twice this size. BTW this is that quintessential puppy post that anti-bloggers always cite as reasons why blogs are not to be taken seriously!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Postscript Re: Charity

Please read Linda's very well-articulated comments regarding the Dixie Chicks/Red Cross controversy in the comments section of that post. I want to encourage anyone with knowledge or opinions on anything I "rant" about to please respond--it is my desire to always continue dialogue and to hear information I may have missed or not been privy to. I thrive on passionate rebuttal, but as I've noted here before, I remove abusive comments (ones with personal insults)--which luckily have rarely occurred here.

I want to address something that Linda mentioned regarding my probable withdrawal from Red Cross donations. If I choose not to donate to the Red Cross, it does not mean that I would not find another way to process my charity. I have always tended to focus on smaller, more locally administered charities anyway, with the exception of the HSUS and the Democratic party. When Katrina hit, I sent my money directly to Noah's Arc Animal Shelter to help save abandoned animals. It is my feeling that the larger a charity gets (and this refers more to scope of services), the more difficult it becomes to administer aid, and to avoid political issues. One of my favorite charitable ventures is Pasadena Presbyterian Church's annual Alternative Gift Market, where people can select a charitable venture, such as building a well in an African Village, or purchasing clothes for women in battered shelters, or any number of 100% vested donations. I am looking into starting a market like that here in Portland.

Although I don't have the kind of cash I wish I did for charitable work, I would never cease to donate, but would merely find another venue to provide help to people in need.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Dialogue with the Red Cross

After hearing that the Red Cross refused a donation from the Dixie Chicks I wrote them a note voicing my opinion about that, and declaring that I would not donate to them in the future. They responded to me with a standard statement, and I responded to their response (conversation below).

I didn't expect to hear from them again, but this morning I found this little gem in my In-Box:

Pamela -- Decisions like yours should be based on facts, and not your assumptions based upon your residence in Hollywood. There was no offer of an unrestricted gift to support the lifesaving mission of the Red Cross. Should the Dixie Chicks ever decide to join most of our donors and make an unconditional financial donation to the American Red Cross, we would gladly accept it and put it to work towards our lifesaving mission.
American Red Cross Public Inquiry

This response, possibly written by an intern or someone who makes broad leaps in logic that indicates similar reasoning to that which a) refused a $1,000,000 donation, and b) accused me of ignorning facts even as they make an assumption that I lived in Hollywood (!?!).

It's always fascinating to see what button can be pushed to drive someone operating behind a curtain to lose his/her cool. In this case, as soon as this "representative" presumed my opinion would not be swayed, he/she lashed out.

Here's the preceding correspondence:

Contact Message:
-----Original Message-----

Subject: Future Donations

I have just learned that the American Red Cross refused a $1,000,000 donation from the Dixie Chicks for voicing an opinion about the President and his war policy. This inexplicable gesture on the part of the Red Cross absolutely floors me, and indicates to me that there is a clear partisan agenda that powers the charity of the American Red Cross.

Bearing in mind that the Red Cross apparently picks and chooses who is allowed to donate to them, and bearing in mind that the generosity of three intelligent, tax-paying, and law-abiding women would be denied charity based on their political beliefs-beliefs supported and encouraged by the very foundational principles of this country--I will never donate another cent to the American Red Cross. Not only have I, and my family, donated money to the Red Cross in the past, but my brother has donated his time and talent on various occasions.

By the way, I am aware of the so-called "conditions" that the Red Cross claim the band requested, and I am aware that you have instituted "sweeping changes" to the way you "allow" donations to be filtered. It all reeks of politics and partisanship, which is not only entirely counter to charitable work, but suggests a pernicious systemic dogma on the part of the Red Cross.

I trust this decision on the part of the Red Cross, made at a juncture when the popularity rating of the current administration was high, will have far-reaching implications as to whether people from the U.S. and abroad donate to the Red Cross, or whether they will select another organization which does not incorporate politicking when deciding whether or not to accept a donation.
Pamela _____

They responded with:

Dear Pamela:

Thank you for contacting the American Red Cross to share your concerns. Please read the STATEMENT OF THE AMERICAN RED CROSS CONCERNING THE DIXIE CHICKS' MOTION PICTURE below: Shut Up and Sing', a documentary about the Dixie Chicks currently in limited release in theaters, chronicles the controversy and aftermath instigated by the comment made by lead singer, Natalie Maines, about being "ashamed" that President Bush was from Texas. During the film, there is a brief assertion that the Red Cross did not take a "million dollar donation" from the group with an observation that the President of the United States is our Honorary Chairman.

Here is the whole story: In 2003, following the controversy that erupted on a London stage, The Dixie Chicks' management approached the American Red Cross, asking for a promotional partnership for their forthcoming summer concert tour. There was no offer of an unrestricted gift to support the lifesaving mission of the Red Cross, as is customary with most donors. The Dixie Chicks' "offer" was actually in the nature of a business proposal, which called for the American Red Cross to publicly embrace a group of entertainers under fire during a widely publicized controversy of a political character. Since the American Red Cross-like other national Red Cross organizations around the world-- must operate within the bounds of its founding principles of impartiality and neutrality, the ongoing controversy made it impermissible for the Red Cross to associate itself with the band. The President's status as the Honorary Chairman of the American Red Cross was never a consideration in our decision. While the Red Cross maintains a National Celebrity Cabinet made up of 44 individuals, views expressed by our celebrity volunteers are those of the individuals and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, the American Red Cross. We have never engaged in a promotion with a celebrity during a widely publicized controversy. It is also worth noting that, prior to the controversy, the Chicks' management ignored two successive invitations from the American Red Cross to join the Red Cross National Celebrity Cabinet. Notwithstanding all the above, should the Dixie Chicks ever decide to join most of our donors and make an unconditional financial donation to the American Red Cross, we would gladly accept it and put it to work towards our lifesaving mission.

We hope this information is helpful.
American Red Cross Public Inquiry

And I said:

Dear Unnamed Red Cross Respondent:
While I certainly appreciate your explanation below, my critical thinking background sniffs out a good amount of equivocating and inference below. I cannot speak to whether the Red Cross extended an offer of membership in your "Celebrity Cabinet" to the Dixie Chicks' MANAGEMENT prior to the "controversy," but I can suggest that this fact would be erroneous to accepting or not accepting a donation at a later date, and seems to be somewhat of a diversionary tactic--something many Americans have come to know as characteristic spin.

You Say:
"There was no offer of an unrestricted gift to support the lifesaving mission of the Red Cross, as is customary with most donors. The Dixie Chicks' "offer" was actually in the nature of a business proposal, which called for the American Red Cross to publicly embrace a group of entertainers under fire during a widely publicized controversy of a political character."

My Response:
It seems entirely out of character for the Dixie Chicks particularly, or any other entertainer (particularly ones who had the savvy and exposure of the Dixie Chicks) with even the most minute knowledge of the entertainment business, to suggest a donation to the American Red Cross attached to some sort of business partnership or "endorsement." I grew up in Los Angeles and know something about entertainment, and I imagine that the gift might have been extended with a note that the American Red Cross could display their logo at Dixie Chicks concerts, which is a standard courtesy. But to suggest that the Dixie Chicks management demanded a literal endorsement from a Non-Profit Organization, one which featured the object of their controversy as Honorary Chairman, simply doesn't ring true. When one carefully reads your words, one notices that you use innuendo here: "... offer was actually IN THE NATURE OF a business proposal ..." I suppose you could inject that intent into any transaction with impunity. The remainder of that sentence reveals the subtext of your response.

Finally, I wonder if the Red Cross refuses to take donations from 99% of America's comedians who regularly enjoy profits from mocking the G.O.P. and the realm of politics in general, or from football teams that have players involved in legal actions (or even convictions) against them, or from corporations who pollute the environment or hire unskilled labor in third world countries and pay them substandandard wages? I wonder if your ethics extend into these gray areas, or if you just jumped on a hotseat bandwagon and decided to play it safe.

When a situation begs for financial relief, I will donate my money elsewhere, and will encourage my friends and family to do the same. Thank you for your time.

And their final note is the one captioned at the top of this exchange.Thought some of you might find this as interesting an exchange as I did.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


(above, cattle graze on grass)

I’m back to making an attempt at finishing my Sr. Thesis so that I can actually receive my diploma. In the meantime I’ll just link you up to some stuff I’ve been looking at that I have found interesting.

In regard to the recent election and the atrocious media spin. Read
this and tell me that there’s a “liberal media bias” in this country! Sounds more like corporate sycophants plugged into the corporate-run major media outlets to me.

Found a little article on Comcast’s homepage which had some far-ranging implications. Tyson Foods, apparently the “world’s largest meat processor” was complaining about their really bad fiscal year, suggesting that it all has to do with the rising price of corn and suggesting that: “Quite frankly the American consumer is making a choice here. This is either corn for feed or corn for fuel, that's what's causing this." I sent out the link to a few folks with queries as to why cattle MUST consume corn and corn only (I always thought of cattle as grazers), wondering how many bio-fueled vehicles one is seeing on the road these days, and also wondering why corn has suddenly been defined as the only source of bio fuel. Here’s what we learned about corn—a highly subsidized farm product that often rotted away in silos—as feed: --on farming subsides. --more on farm subsidies
And this article speaks specifically to the year 2005, the largest corn crop in history.

One article on
cow feed. And another on the corn gluten feed that eerily seems as if an attempt at convincing the farmer is being made.

here’s an article on just one of a number of alternative ways to create a fuel source (thanks Marco). Imagine, too, that if it can be done with pig poop, human waste might work just as well.

In other words, there seems to be plenty of corn to go around, corn needn't be a cow's only source of nurishment, and Tyson is creating a spin (one which I suspect will be seeing a lot of in the very near future) that an alternative fuel source will create higher food prices. Google Agri-business profits and read about the record year many outlets have had. Maybe Tyson is feeling the effects of the movement to fresh, locally-grown foods.

The bottom line, as my little focus group concluded, diversify, diversify, diversify. Depending on one source of fuel, feed, hell, happiness, is patriarchal and foolhardy. As my brother, Marco, stated, “If there is only one important point to make about alternative (low or net zero carbon emitting) energy it is that no one source will or should ever replace oil and coal. Many sources, most efficient and appropriate for specific location, will eventually replace most oil and coal.”

Check out the
utter blather over at this blog. This post title: “Death to Germany,” and assorted babbling about the nerve of Germany calling US methods of torture into question, makes me wonder what is operating inside the skull of this particular blogger--all of it very ugly and aggressive. And to think this woman is named Pamela, UGH!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Just Stuff

More voter irregularities and ugly politicing--read how homeless people were coerced into representing a Republican candidate as a Democrat (thanks for this link, Don):

The elderly woman who lives across the street from me has put her house up for sale. Last week a moving van pulled up and I saw her standing there, very small and lost, watching the van pull away. Later that day, a Century 21 sign went up. Since then I haven't seen her, but have watched pieces of her life being examined by interested buyers. They pull up and read the color flyer. Dumpsters have come and gone, and gardeners have trimmed her vegetation. There is a young couple peeking around her premises as I type this. Their realtor drives a gold Cadillac, and they stand in the driveway in earnest conversation. Now they look toward my house and point around the neighborhood. I'm sad to see the old woman go--she's a writer and has this great east-coast accent. A few years ago her cranky husband passed away, and she's seemed sort of unleashed since then. Here's a prose poem I wrote about her:


When Agnes across the street gets a ride somewhere, she’s greeted by prolonged honks that bully her feeble frame out the door. Nearly every day it’s either the burgundy Buick Rendezvous, the gold Chevy Malibu, the dial-a-ride bus, or occasionally a cab (her splurge) summoning impatiently, let’s go lady!

Merle never let her drive his black Cadillac, proclaiming her hand-eye coordination inferior. When he died last year, she initiated her emancipation by unloading that car along with the cocker spaniel Merle used to fondly lead around on a ribbony pink leash. A former marine sergeant, Merle would report Agnes’ shortcomings as they strolled, periodically tugging at the dress socks that slunk down his angular calves. Agnes would mope along behind them, chastised, her head parallel to the sidewalk.

But after Merle’s wake we noticed her out more, registering the amplification of her presence, as if she’d been charged overnight—a diminutive lady-Prius. Her liberated smile reflected up and down the street. That’s when the reveille began. She bought something from all of us at the annual Four Seasons Homeowner’s Association Garage Sale—an astrology primer, commemorative bicentennial shot glasses, a bedside reading lamp—giddy-drunk with her own permission to do so, tossing out her dollars and quarters like confetti.

Agnes refuses to leave her 2,500 square foot house for a smaller place. The aqua paint has faded like her hair, but the small porch out front is adorned with valiant flowers in terra cotta pots. She hobbles like a wounded wren, scooting out the garbage cans midday every Thursday—although we’ve all offered to do it for her.

Several months back I noticed a robed man plucking at her landscaping. I phoned a neighbor, “there’s a man poking around Agnes’ front yard.” Then he reached for a newspaper and headed for the open front door. Agnes, it appeared, had taken up with someone.

I ran into her last August as she walked to the community pool, startling at my reflection in her bottle-fly sunglasses. She wore flip-flops with plastic daisies, pedals spread over her pruny toes. A Ralph Lauren one-piece under a terrycloth cover-up cradled her drooping breasts and falsely pregnant-belly. She lifted the glasses with a gnarled index finger, looked me in the eye and declared that she’d pre-paid her pool dues for ten years, had nine more left! Then she laid a bat-wing hand on my arm and asked if I’d join her sometime.

About a week ago the customary Agnes-honks rang with an insistent urgency accompanied by an ominous churning engine. Outside we saw the hulking red of an emergency vehicle, which instigated a concerned surge of us across the street. Grinning when she saw our clutch, she mocked our meddlesome concern: “You all thought I’d died, didn’t you?”

Wednesday, November 08, 2006



The Republican incumbent in Virginia is refusing to concede his senatorial race (surprise!). I see his point, he's the lone holdout for a Republican majority in the Senate. This quagmire is ironic on several fronts. One, oh how the Elephants bitched about the Dem’s call for recounts in Florida after the 2000 Presidential election. What with hanging chads, allegations of voter intimidation and fraud, and two outrageously obvious cronies (the Prez’s brother and Katherin e Harris, ambitiously salivating for a D.C. appointment) basically policing the recount, the Dems had some pretty good reasons to suspect favoritism if not out-and-out fraud. And remember how so many of us felt that electronic voting machines providing absolutely no paper trail were
a really bad idea? Well, here we go. Since the G.O.P. won’t concede this race, they’ll need a recount.

But first, let’s notice something about this Virginia Senate loss (yup, I'm calling it a loss)s—the Republican incumbent is the "gentleman" who referred to a Webb (his opponent) campaign volunteer as “macaca over there” (source: - GOP won't concede Virginia). Oh, and Allen is also the guy whose Jewish grandparents were a family secret, only revealed to him this year! Ouch, the karmic backlash of racism! Anyway, there is a 7,200 vote lead in the Virginia contest, a narrow margin yes (what is the matter with Virginians—they passed the ban on same sex marriage and domestic unions), but a margin that still, according to a CNN analyst last night, has never been made up in a state recount.

I’m not sure how much, if any, of Virginia polling locations utilize electronic machines, but my question is, how do you recount in the instance of electronic voting? Word is that the lack of a paper trail in electronic voting (you know they could provide a trail if designed to do so) was a budgetary concern, the machines simply don't accommodate this. Check out this
link for some reported problems with electronic voting during this election, and then think back to 2004.

I, for one, am glad to live in a state that votes with mail-in ballots.

It Was a Thumpin'

When I woke up this morning, I turned on the television, already feeling warm and fuzzy from many of the election returns the night before. I fixed my coffee while banter from CNN droned in the background. Suddenly, there seemed to be a glow of sunshine mounting in the Portland skies, skies that haven’t seen one iota of light for 8 days now—at that instant I turned to the television to see RUMSFELD RESIGNS sprawled in a lovely banner across the set! Were the heavens actually breathing a sigh of relief? I know I was. And wasn’t it merely days ago that the Prez spit that there would be categorically no changes to his cabinet? Ah, the vicissitudes of politics.

The Commander in Chief conceded this morning that, although the individual races were close (as close as they were when the Republicans declared resounding victories in 2000 and 2004?) “it was a thumpin’” at the voting boxes last night. I feel giddy knowing that the House, and probably the Senate will return to at least moderate Democratic control—which, while far from perfect, feels hopeful to me.

The results of the election indicate to me that certain Americans have finally taken notice of the unprecedented “untruths” and scandals that have dogged this administration. Even the most stubborn conservative cannot deny the continual exposure of
neo-con double-speak (we never used the phrase “stay the course!”). How much hypocrisy does it take before humans search their souls and examine what it is they believe in? Does it matter who someone loves, or how he/she express his/her sexuality as long as it is contained between two consenting adults? Does it ring profoundly false when so-called ministers of the Bible, ministers who have a direct line to the President and actively lobby against gay rights initiatives and drug intake, are revealed to use drugs and engage in gay affairs? Or when politicians from one party are again and again revealed to be engaged in sordid activities that are precisely counter to the politics and ethics they espouse? Sadly, the folly of dictating some sort of singular “morality” that delineates a narrow definition of acceptable expressions of love and sexuality, was not reflected in the initiatives of states who passed bans on not only same-sex marriage, but also same-sex domestic unions (allowing certain rights to domestic partners). How unfortunate that a perpetuation of rigid, trespassing dictatorial ethics remains active in certain parts of this country!

Doesn't the Republican party call itself the party of individual freedom and individual responsibility? I see that my definition of "individual" must be incorrect, that individual apparently means, "a person whose conduct we must rubber stamp."

My biggest pet-peeve initiative that thankfully did NOT pass: Letters home to parents of teens seeking an abortion. What an abominable infringement on individual rights. In a perfect world all parents are loving, supportive, and forgiving, and pregnant teens can turn to their family in a time of crisis to find a cocoon of understanding and assistance. That world simply is not an accurate depiction of how many families, including my own, work. Do we really trust all parents to be so kind and fair-minded that a letter home will create a warm and loving bond in which a teenager is encouraged to decide for herself to make a decision that is right for her? Are you kidding me—in my household a letter like that would have created havoc, incurred a scene of extraordinary drama (and worse from my father), and been entirely devastating to me. And I knew of many real-life pregnancy dramas that suggest a letter home to the folks is often not a good idea. And since when should health-care professionals become arbiters of some sort of state-dictated moral compunction anyway?

So, let’s see what is to come. Rummy is out. Katherine Harris (the madwoman from the hanging chad debacle in Florida) is big-time out. Nancy Pelosi is in, and while the sunshine only lasted for a brief period of time this morning (it’s hailing as I speak), there was a definitive glimmer of light when we needed it most

Friday, November 03, 2006

The Power of the Box Office

Toward the end of September of this year I purchased four tickets to the Dixie Chicks who are playing in Portland’s Rose Garden on 11/9/06. It was a bad time for such an extravagance—hot off of an expensive journey around Europe—but I went ahead and forwarded the money to be sure we got the best seats possible, because I enjoy the Chicks. This was to be my husband’s big birthday gift. The seats were not very good, and I was disappointed that they were located where they were, while still considered “top dollar” tickets.

Today, by chance, I checked the Rose Garden website only to find tickets for the same price as ours, in a far superior location. Puzzled I phoned the Rose Garden box office and was unceremoniously told that these were newly released tickets. When I questioned what that meant I was told that it is “industry standard” practice for promoters to release better tickets close to the date of a show, and to sell them to the lucky folks who hold out. As I maneuvered the site I discovered a large block of tickets (8 seats several times over) of these so-called special releases available. It seemed unbelievable to me that such a large amount of superior seats would suddenly become available to the general public rather than people who were forced to purchase inferior seats beforehand. Shouldn’t, at the very least, an exchange policy be in effect?

When I protested that it was unfair not to provide people who had previously purchased tickets— people whose money the venue was able to sit on and utilize for well over 6 weeks—the opportunity to switch out their lesser tickets for the far superior ones now being sold for the same price, the lady at the box office laughed at me. She told me in no uncertain terms that this was just the way it was, and I could buy the better seats, but they would not credit my other tickets back.

Does this seem unfair to you? I mean, should the best seats be held back for promotional purposes, and then released to fill seats that true fans were unable to procure?

I’m eager to know how any of you feel about this, and whether this has happened to you before. Why does the overpaid entertainment industry treat its customer this way? I have grown weary of the hassle of purchasing tickets to live shows (all this work to keep scalpers from getting tickets, even while they hold back tickets for their own use). As a fan of music, the energy of a live show is fast being overshadowed by substandard acoustics, ridiculously rigid and self-serving policies such as the one outlined above, and a lack of ability to negotiate the exchange that is standard in nearly every other market industry—namely being able to fairly purchase the best product at the best available price when you make the best effort to do so.

As I understand it, the artist isn’t getting the money for these promotional tickets, the venue and the promoters are. Does anyone know the mechanics behind this process, because I’m eager to understand it.

In conclusion, as a consumer, my experience with the Rose Garden, and unfortunately the Dixie Chicks, has been seriously compromised. If I fork out over $300 for tickets to a show only to find out far better ones become available to someone who buys their ticket 6 weeks after me because the venue has decided to release them for any reason, then I just won’t support the venue (and therefore any artist I admire that plays there). A live show is a big luxury in today’s economy. And if this is how all venues work (as the Rose Garden stated to me), then I’ll go to small shows with up and coming artists—artists who will better appreciate my presence. Bye bye Rose Garden, you clearly can’t live up to the promise of your “best available” tickets, so I’ll settle for listening to my music on my iPod and watching for televised performances by my favorite artists.


PS. I should clarify that these tickets that have been released are not "kill seats," tickets held until almost the time of a sold-out concert (generally with compromised views).

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Beautiful People

My dear friend, Randine, and her daughter, Sigi. Check out Randine's art at