Free Markets, Free People

Daily Archives: February 26, 2010

Predators being predators

Or in the case of the orca at SeaWorld, dolphins being dolphins.

I guess I’m always surprised at the surprise generated by a predator in captivity still acting like a predator.  The death of the trainer at SeaWorld while tragic certainly didn’t surprise me.  Here, read this:

Orcas, or killer whales, are the largest of the dolphins and one of the world’s most powerful predators. They feast on marine mammals such as seals, sea lions, and even whales, employing teeth that can be four inches (ten centimeters) long. They are known to grab seals right off the ice. They also eat fish, squid, and seabirds.

Now there are all kinds of theories as to why the “killer whale” did what it did, to include one which says it was just playing.

That could be, but whatever the reason it was an animal acting like it should. It kills things and eats them. It doesn’t moralize about what is or isn’t “good” or “evil”. It does what it is hard wired to do without thinking about it and certainly without concerning itself with the consequences. It certainly isn’t unreasonable to expect such an animal to act like it should.

Putting a 12,000 pound predatory mammal in a small tank and expecting it to be civilized, entertaining and safe because you’ve given it some training and feed it is what is unreasonable. While I regret the trainer’s death, I don’t blame the orca. And I have a sneaking suspicion the trainer wouldn’t either.

Which brings us to this:

Tilikum, nicknamed “Tilly,” is valuable to SeaWorld as a breeder and already has fathered several offspring, says dolphin-trainer-turned-activist Russ Rector of Fort Lauderdale.

“Tilikum is a monster. This is his third killing,” Rector says.

No Tilikum isn’t a monster. That’s a moral accusation that has no basis in reality.  If Tilikum was in the wild, he might be on his 3,000th killing.  And not a single one of the killings would have anything to do with morality.  Tilikum is a predator – and predators acting like predators aren’t doing anything immoral. They’re just doing what comes naturally.



Obama’s OFA targets right-wing talk radio

The campaign to push the health care reform bill has moved into a new dimension with Obama’s “grassroots” organization, Organizing For America, urging members to target right-wing radio shows and helpfully providing both tips on how to get on and talking points for those inclined to do so.

OFA has put together a handy helpful website to facilitate this campaign. It’s an interesting effort, but reading through the talking points, my guess is it will become quickly obvious to any listener who the OFA members are as soon as they begin their presentation of those points. Callers are encouraged to use those discussion points, but OFA reminds them that “the most important part of your call is your own story about why you support reform.”

Of course such a campaign costs OFA nothing except the cost of the website. And, as you’ll see at the bottom of that screen, they ask participants to submit their reports – I assume so OFA can refine their approach or at some point use the information in an attack on various right-wing hosts.

OFA provides a portal with which to listen to right wing shows (although clicking through, I saw various left wing hosts such as Ed Schultz, Bill Press, Stephanie Miller and Mike Malloy listed as well) and their call in numbers.

It’s a pretty cool effort – how effective it will be remains to be seen. Talk radio listeners are pretty savvy listeners and fairly quickly identify such efforts as disingenuous and tune them out. And call screeners will soon find a way to ferret them out. But listening for them for as long as this lasts should at least be entertaining anyway.



At what point does the media drop “unexpectedly” from its unemployment stories?

I mean, for heaven sake, it seems that weekly the “experts” are surprised by an “unexpected rise” in unemployment statistics.  This week was no different than the “unexpected rise” last week:

Unemployment claims filed last week rose unexpectedly, coming in at 496,000, up 22,000 from the previous week.

Taken with other discouraging news released this week — record-low January new home sales and a slide in consumer confidence — the new jobless claims number describes a slow and uncertain recovery.

Forecasters had expected 460,000 new jobless claims to be filed last week

The four-week moving average of new jobless claims — which smooths out volatility in the week-to-week numbers — rose 6,000 to 473,750.

Key phrase – “slow and uncertain recovery”. So a continued “rise” in unemployment, even to this weeks actual numbers, shouldn’t be “unexpected” in such a recovery. Why it is so important to predict what the next week’s unemployment stats will be anyway? As often as they’ve been wrong and seen “unexpected” numbers you have to wonder why they even bother. More significantly, given the track record, you have to wonder why the media even bothers with their numbers. The numbers are what they are. From those numbers we should be able to understand the condition of the economy. But I’m tired of seeing “unexpected” numbers every week treated as some sort of surprise by a group whose credibility was shot a long time ago.



Health Care Summit: The “I told you so” post

Ok, I’ll admit that it didn’t work out precisely as I said in my scenario in a previous post, and the Republicans did much better than I expected, however the result was exactly what I claimed it would be. A refresher with added emphasis:

Obama gets his moment recorded by the TV cameras no less. And mournfully he pronounces the Republicans as obstructionists who refused to negotiate in good faith as the great and wonderful Democrats have offered to do. And because of that, it is with a heavy heart and reluctantly he is forced to agree with the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that reconciliation is the only route left open to them to do “what is right” for the American people.

When I wrote my quick review yesterday, Obama hadn’t yet spoken. In his 10 minute wrap up which went on for 20 minutes, he finally got to the purpose of the summit.

I’d like Republicans to do a little soul searching to find out if there are some things that you’d be willling to embrace that get to this core problem of 30 million people without health insurance, and dealing seriously with the pre-existing conditions issue. I don’t know frankly whether we can close that gap.

And if we can’t close that gap, then I suspect Mitch McConnell, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner are going to have a lot of arguments about procedures in Congress about moving forward.

Or: “Ok, Republicans, time to join the team and show some real movement or we’ll do what we have to do procedurally”. And that, of course, is reconciliation. Greg Sargent heard the same message. Referring to that quote he says:

Unless I’m misreading that, Obama is saying that unless Republicans support comprehensive reform as Obama and Dems have defined it — dealing with the problem of 30 million uninsured and, by extension, seriously tackling the preexisting condition problem — they will almost certainly move forward with reconciliation.

What’s more, Obama also essentially accused Republicans of approaching today’s summit in bad faith — after they had sat there with him for six hours. He said that even after the public option was taken off the table, Republicans continued to use the same “government takeover” slur.

“Even after the public option wasn’t available, we still hear the same rhetoric,” Obama said. “We have a concept of an exchange which previously has been an idea that was embraced by Republicans before I embraced it. Somehow, suddenly it became less of a good idea.”

This accusation, combined with his assertion that Republicans need to do some “soul-searching” on whether they wanted to join Dems in tackling reform as they have defined it, amount to an unmistakable vow to move forward without them.


That’s what it was all about. And anyone who watched or listened to the summit know the Democrats didn’t offer a single concession (they repeatedly refused to scrap the present bill and start over – something the Republicans asked for as a means of crafting a bi-partisan solution, a process in which they made it clear they’d be very happy to participate). There was no real attempt at negotiation – just a listing of purported agreements. But the implication is those agreements should be included in the existing comprehensive plan the Democrats had put forward and not the new bill the Republicans desired.

So it was 7 hours of window dressing to get to the point of claiming that lack of progress on the part of the Republicans (in a month to 6 weeks) would leave Democrats no choice but to move forward without them. The only way they can move forward without them is via reconciliation, since they no longer have the votes in the Senate to pass the bill via the appropriate means.

Bottom line: while Republicans showed well in the summit, it was indeed political theater staged to justify reconciliation. But because Republicans did much better than expected, the justification is much weaker than it would have been had Republicans mucked it up. As a result, I think the Democrats have essentially failed in accomplishing their primary goal – justifying reconciliation and gaining the approval of the American public to do so.