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Daily Archives: March 4, 2010


Smearing The Religious

This is a favorite pastime of many on the left, and libertarians of all stripes. When in it’s the nature of busting biblethumpers’ chops, I get it. I mean, The Great Flying Spaghetti Monster? That’s just funny. As for those who simply question religion, well there is certainly a lot to question. I’m Catholic, a religion with plenty of black marks in its history, some of which rival (if not surpass) the Nazis in sheer disregard for human life and dignity. So, again, I get it. But sometimes the criticism and ribbing is nothing more than outright bigotry, designed to stoke popular hate against those who are religious.

The Huffington Post offers one of those latter critiques in a post entitled “American Family Association: Stone To Death Killer Whale Who Killed Trainer” about the tragedy at SeaWorld:

The American Family Association, a religious right group, is urging that Tillikum (Tilly), the killer whale that killed a trainer at SeaWorld Orlando, be put down, preferably by stoning. Citing Tilly’s history of violent altercations, the group is slamming SeaWorld for not listening to Scripture in how to deal with the animal:

Says the ancient civil code of Israel, “When an ox gores a man or woman to death, the ox shall be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten, but the owner shall not be liable.” (Exodus 21:28)

However, the group is going further and laying the blame for the trainer’s death directly at the feet of Chuck Thompson, the curator in charge of animal behavior, because, according to Scripture,

But, the Scripture soberly warns, if one of your animals kills a second time because you didn’t kill it after it claimed its first human victim, this time you die right along with your animal. To use the example from Exodus, if your ox kills a second time, “the ox shall be stoned, and its owner also shall be put to death.” (Exodus 21:29)

SeaWorld has no plans to execute Tilly.

If you read nothing else other than the HuffPo piece, then the post’s title and implications make perfect sense. However, if you read the actual post being ridiculed by HuffPo, you may have a different opinion:

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.

Hmmm … actually, no. That wasn’t from The American Family Association, but instead from our very own Bruce McQuain. Here’s the AFA:

According to the Orlando Sentinel, “SeaWorld Orlando has always know that Tillikum…could be a particularly dangerous killer whale…because of his ominous history.”

The Sentinel then recounts that Tilly, as he was affectionately known, had killed a trainer back in 1991 in front of spectators at a now defunct aquarium in Victoria, British Columbia.

Then in 1999 he killed a man who sneaked into SeaWorld to swim with the whales and was found the next morning draped dead across Tilly’s back. His body had been bit and the killer whale had torn off his swimming trunks after he had died.

What about the term “killer whale” do SeaWorld officials not understand?

You see the difference? McQ honed in with that laser-like focus that only Army Rangers possess on the most salient fact of the matter, i.e. that this was a wild animal known as a killer whale, while the AFA chose the lesser fact of … oh right, the same thing. So, now you know: McQ is a biblethumpin’ m’OH-ron.

To be fair to HuffPo, the AFA did cite scriptures as guidance for how people should live their lives when everybody knows they’re just for displaying on placards at football games. How silly to think that religious people who believe in the same things as the AFA would look to the word of God as having some wisdom that might imparted.

But it’s worse than that. Whether or not you agree with the religious aspect of the advice offered by the AFA, the actual Bible quotes cited in the ridiculed post weren’t referenced as literal commands to action, contrary to what HuffPo would have you believe. Instead, they were cited as guidance (there’s that word again) in how people should live their lives:

If the counsel of the Judeo-Christian tradition had been followed, Tillikum would have been put out of everyone’s misery back in 1991 and would not have had the opportunity to claim two more human lives.

Says the ancient civil code of Israel, “When an ox gores a man or woman to death, the ox shall be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten, but the owner shall not be liable.” (Exodus 21:28)

So, your animal kills somebody, your moral responsibility is to put that animal to death. You have no moral culpability in the death, because you didn’t know the animal was going to go postal on somebody.

But, the Scripture soberly warns, if one of your animals kills a second time because you didn’t kill it after it claimed its first human victim, this time you die right along with your animal. To use the example from Exodus, if your ox kills a second time, “the ox shall be stoned, and its owner also shall be put to death.” (Exodus 21:29)

If I were the family of Dawn Brancheau, I’d sue the pants off SeaWorld for allowing this killer whale to kill again after they were well aware of its violent history.

I’ve highlighted that last sentence because, in complete contrast to what HuffPo would have you believe, the AFA author never demanded, nor even suggested, that the killer whale or anyone else should be stoned. Instead, he suggested that the aggrieved party should sue through the civil system — and he’s right. There’s a doctrine known as the “one bite rule” which, while not exactly what people think it is, does pertain to domesticated wild animals in certain situations. And, in fact, the legal underpinnings hue quite closely to what the Bible scriptures say as far as assigning guilt is concerned:

Restatement [of Torts] § 519 states the general principle for liability, and § 520 provides several evaluative factors. Section 519 provides for strict liability for one “who carries on an abnormally dangerous activity” causing harm to persons or property even if he “has exercised the utmost care to prevent the harm.” Section 520 suggests evaluative factors to assist in determining if an activity should be termed abnormally dangerous, and includes (1) the degree of risk of harm; (2) the magnitude of that harm; (3) the inevitability of some risk irrespective of precautionary measures that might be taken; (4) the ordinary or unusual nature of the activity; and (5) the activity’s value to the community in comparison to the risk of harm created by its presence.

In short, when a known dangerous animal is mixed with humans in that animal’s natural environment, there is a pretty good chance that the owner of that animal will bear blame for any harm that befalls another party, without any excuse (that is, with “strict liability”).

Of course, I don’t mean to say that the tragic death of the animal trainer was unequivocally the fault of SeaWorld or anyone else. There are plenty of legal doctrines (“assumption of risk” comes to mind) that could exonerate the owners of Tilly, despite the Restatement of Torts passage above. The point is that what the AFA suggests — that the animal should have been put down after it demonstrated it was not entirely domesticable — using scriptures as its guidance, shouldn’t strike anyone as particularly strange or outlandish. The common law quite agrees with that verdict. Indeed, if evidence were produced that the slain trainer was never made aware of Tilly’s violent tendencies, then the common law might very well find that SeaWorld is legally culpable for the death to the tune of several millions of dollars.

Getting back to the point, what the AFA argues is not that anyone (other than the killer whale) should be put to death, but that Biblical scriptures provide common-sense guidance (again with that word!) as to how to peaceably conduct ourselves as a community of mankind; the emphasis being on “common sense.” No one other than HuffPo claims that stoning is the appropriate penalty, or that the owners of Tilly should be killed, contrary to what HuffPo would have you believe. At most, the AFA author contends that SeaWorld should have used the Bible’s counsel when it comes to protecting human life from wild animal aggression, and that the victim’s family should avail itself of the civil court system for SeaWorld’s failure to do so. One can disagree with that presumption, but it’s pretty difficult to argue that anyone other than SeaWorld (or whomever) would have been better off for not disposing of the killer whale after the first death. Whether anyone is guilty in the eyes of God for that failure is not for us to decide, but it’s certainly not delusional to think that a mortal judge may arrive at such a decision.

Whatever problems one might have with religion, I just don’t see the utility in deriding people of faith for suggesting that their tenets have practical advice to offer. That goes double for harangues that have no basis in reality. With just a little bit of investigation, one would find that most religious texts offer an enormous amount of practical advice of the type that even the non-religious take for granted. There’s lots of goofy stuff in there as well, including prescriptions that shouldn’t be taken literally in this day and age, but that doesn’t mean the principles aren’t sound. When someone of a religious persuasion offers advice pertaining to those common-sense principles, and counsels adherence to those principles, then no fair critic would claim that such person is instead calling for a literal interpretation of ancient penalties. But then, HuffPo isn’t striving for fairness, but for bigotry.


Lou Dobbs and I actually agree on something

And that is that the Southern Poverty Law Center is cynically paranoid and into fear mongering. “Cynically” because its all about donations – no fear, no paranoia, no money.

Strangely silent during the “hate Bush” years, it has suddenly again found its voice now that a left of center government is in office and it can serve up its “right rage” paranoia.  However the SPLC never seems able to find any left wing hate (well except for a left leaning radio station that allowed some anti-semetic ranting apparently). Don’t believe me? Visit their website and type in “left wing hate”. Prepare to be inundated with instances of alleged right wing hate.  Even the recent crash of an airplane into a Texas IRS office by a guy who left a letter blaming Bush is spun into a typically right-wing attack.

And check it out when they actually do go after a minority group as a ‘hate group’. They rationalize their doing so by saying if we go after white hate groups “we cannot be in the business of explaining away the black ones.”   But they sure try:

Although the Southern Poverty Law Center recognizes that much black racism in America is, at least in part, a response to centuries of white racism, it believes racism must be exposed in all its forms.

But the question is are they left wing or right wing? In the world of the SPLC, every hate group is right-wing or unspecified.

Blaming Glen Beck, Michelle Bachman, Lou Dobbs and Sarah Palin for the rise is “right rage”, the SPLC claims:

“Another Oklahoma City is very much a possibility.”

Really? Like the rage of the Tea Parties, which DC police describe as one of the best behaved “protest” crowds ever?

Nope – it’s all about the usual nonsense with the “Patriot right”:

The growth of Patriot groups comes at a time when the number of racist hate groups stayed at record levels – rising from 926 in 2008 to 932 in 2009, according to the report. The increase caps a decade in which the number of hate groups surged by 55 percent. The expansion would have been much greater in 2009 if not for the demise of the American National Socialist Workers Party, a key neo-Nazi network whose founder was arrested in October 2008.

There also has been a surge in “nativist extremist” groups – vigilante organizations that go beyond advocating strict immigration policy and actually confront or harass suspected immigrants. These groups grew from 173 groups in 2008 to 309 in 2009, a rise of nearly 80 percent.

These three strands of the radical right – the hate groups, the nativist extremist groups, and the Patriot organizations – are the most volatile elements on the American political landscape. Taken together, their numbers increased by more than 40 percent, rising from 1,248 groups in 2008 to 1,753 last year.

Of course nowhere in this “report” will you find out the size of these new groups. Hundreds? Thousands? Or three nutballs who’ve splintered off from one of the other groups and put up a website? No telling. But do note, it’s all about the number of “groups”, not about the number of actual people involved in the “Patriot groups”. My guess is that would work toward badly diluting the paranoia the SPLC is trying to build.

Oh, and don’t forget the huge increase in violence:

There are already signs of radical right violence reminiscent of the 1990s. Right-wing extremists have murdered six law enforcement officers since Obama’s inauguration. Racist skinheads and others have been arrested in alleged plots to assassinate the president. Most recently, as recounted in the new issue of the Intelligence Report, a number of individuals with antigovernment, survivalist or racist views have been arrested in a series of bomb cases.

Of course the Ft. Hood and Little Rock Recruiting station killings were worse than any of that. There’s the Ft. Dix bomb plot and the Ft. Jackson 5 – none of them apparently worth mentioning. Nope – it’s all about the “radical right violence reminiscent of the 1990s” when it was Rush Limbaugh that was the cause.

And, let’s face it – as usual, these press releases come out from the SPLC just about the time it is pimping a new quarterly report, this one entitled “Right Rage”. It’s revenue generation time. What better way to scare up money than by scaring donors into opening their wallets.

~McQ


You can’t make this stuff up

Really. 

A 45-year-old woman, charged with ending a domestic dispute by killing her 26-year-old husband of five days, is a registered lobbyist for a group fighting domestic violence.

I mean the questions abound – 45/26, 5 day old marriage, she pops him – but:

[R]ecords show she is a lobbyist for an organization called the National Declaration for Domestic Violence Order; its Web site says the group is pushing legislation to create a database of those convicted of sex crimes or domestic abuse.

Hey, in a sort of “silver lining” to all of this, she could be the first entry.

Witnesses told police that Bridges was wearing a nightgown and a shower cap as she argued with Rankins on the sidewalk on North Avenue near West Peachtree Street around 10:45 p.m. Monday.

And moments later, witnesses said, they heard shots. They said she then “calmly walked away.”

Nightgown and shower cap out on the street? Sounds more like an attempted escape than an argument.

Truth is surely stranger than fiction.

~McQ


Obama’s market defying “magic” health care reform proposal

The media has essentially played up the attempt at bipartisanship and the call for immediate action from President Obama’s health care reform proposal yesterday given with the usual background of lab coated “doctors”.

The two things stressed by the media are nothing new. In fact, nothing in the proposal is nothing particularly new. But it does provide, in a distilled example, why it is so much blarney. But you have to get to the proposals themselves to understand that. So:

Essentially, my proposal would change three things about the current health care system:

First, it would end the worst practices of insurance companies. No longer would they be able to deny your coverage because of a pre-existing condition. No longer would they be able to drop your coverage because you got sick. No longer would they be able to force you to pay unlimited amounts of money out of your own pocket. No longer would they be able to arbitrarily and massively raise premiums like Anthem Blue Cross recently tried to do in California. Those practices would end.

So, first no pre-existing conditions, no ability to drop or deny coverage and unlimited payouts. But no ability to raise premiums (obviously without the fed’s say so) to account for the increased cost. A sure fire formula for financial health. Bring the sickest or those with the most chronic diseases on board, give them unlimited payouts and have no mechanism for recovering the cost they bring through premium increases.

Of course he’d have you believe this will work just fine in any government run system as well (the secret there is to cut payments to medical care providers). This part of the proposal should be known as the “big lie” because just like the spending rate of the US government at this point, it is an “unsustainable” program that will see private insurance go out of business within a decade or so.

On to number two:

Second, my proposal would give uninsured individuals and small business owners the same kind of choice of private health insurance that Members of Congress get for themselves. Because if it’s good enough for Members of Congress, it’s good enough for the people who pay their salaries. The reason federal employees get a good deal on health insurance is that we all participate in an insurance marketplace where insurance companies give better rates and coverage because we give them more customers. This is an idea that many Republicans have embraced in the past. And my proposal says that if you still can’t afford the insurance in this new marketplace, we will offer you tax credits to do so – tax credits that add up to the largest middle class tax cut for health care in history. After all, the wealthiest among us can already buy the best insurance there is, and the least well-off are able to get coverage through Medicaid. But it’s the middle-class that gets squeezed, and that’s who we have to help.

The reason federal employees get a good rate is they number over a million and can do what the rest of us can’t – buy their insurance from whomever they wish. However, individuals only buy 6% of health insurance and small businesses don’t bring those sorts of numbers to a pool. Essentially Members of Congress exploit the buying power of the high number of federal employees and with a few twists of their own, get insurance not available to the general public because of laws they’ve written. Unless there is the ability to sell insurance across state lines where insurance companies actually compete for business, that’s not going to happen with his proposal. And, by the way, there’s nothing in the Senate bill which includes the mechanism for these “exchanges”, and it is that bill he’s calling for to be passed. So this claim is all smoke and mirrors.

Notice too he plans on pushing a good number of people onto Medicaid – a government system funded and run by the states. As we all know, financially, the states are in excellent shape and this burden won’t have any effect on their future financial stability, will it?

Obama goes on:

Now, it’s true that all of this will cost money – about $100 billion per year. But most of this comes from the nearly $2 trillion a year that America already spends on health care. It’s just that right now, a lot of that money is being wasted or spent badly. With this plan, we’re going to make sure the dollars we spend go toward making insurance more affordable and more secure. We’re also going to eliminate wasteful taxpayer subsidies that currently go to insurance and pharmaceutical companies, set a new fee on insurance companies that stand to gain as millions of Americans are able to buy insurance, and make sure the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share of Medicare.

This is flat out disingenuous. A) no refusal, no payment caps, no premium increases, B) shoving people into Medicaid (thus it goes on state budgets) C) government subsidies. All for $100 billion a year? It will cost that much a year just to set up the bureaucracy.

And the benefits you get from this brilliance?

The bottom line is, our proposal is paid for. And all new money generated in this plan would go back to small businesses and middle-class families who can’t afford health insurance. It would lower prescription drug prices for seniors. And it would help train new doctors and nurses to provide care for American families.

You have to love the line, “all the new money generated in this plan”. It is the ultimate “something for nothing” scam. All these new benefits with no cost. In fact, as we eliminate pre-existing conditions, control what insurance companies can charge and require they pay unlimited payouts, we can expand Medicaid, lower prescription drug prices and train new doctors and nurses – and it’s all paid for.

Finally, my proposal would bring down the cost of health care for millions – families, businesses, and the federal government. We have now incorporated most of the serious ideas from across the political spectrum about how to contain the rising cost of health care – ideas that go after the waste and abuse in our system, especially in programs like Medicare. But we do this while protecting Medicare benefits, and extending the financial stability of the program by nearly a decade.

The eternal promise of every shady politician – “not to worry, we’ll just go after the 30% waste, fraud and abuse in the system we presently run to pay for all of this. We promise.” They never have and they never will. They don’t know how and if they do, they haven’t the capability to eliminate it or, apparently, make a significant dent in it. The problem has persisted at that level since the program’s inception. So have the promises. In the meantime they’ll do everything in their power to cripple the private insurance industry and eventually run them out of business.

And if there is a “biggest lie” in what he said yesterday, it is this:

Our cost-cutting measures mirror most of the proposals in the current Senate bill, which reduces most people’s premiums and brings down our deficit by up to $1 trillion over the next two decades. And those aren’t my numbers – they are the savings determined by the CBO, which is the Washington acronym for the nonpartisan, independent referee of Congress.

Yeah, if you don’t consider the double counting, removal of the “doc fix” and any number of cheap accounting tricks that ended up putting Enron execs in jail. Paul Ryan took care of that bogus claim during the health care summit – it is worth your while to review his work.

Those are the Obama “proposals”. They essentially mirror the Senate bill which I and many others consider to be an abomination. This was Obama’s 31 or 32nd speech on the subject. Nothing has changed and the lies and distortions remain pretty much the same.

We have to hope that there are enough Democrats in the House that see that bill as something they can’t support. Obviously that’s the case at the moment (or it would have passed by now). Keep the pressure on, because the victory has to be in the House. The reconciliation nonsense is moot if it never leaves the House.

~McQ


Brazil says “no” to Iranian sanctions

So far this South American swing has been a real tour de force for Hillary Clinton – first she manages to anger one of our more stalwart allies by giving false Argentine claims legitimacy and now Ms. Clinton has managed to get Brazil to publicly refuse our attempt to increase sanctions on Iran.

Brazil.

We can’t even get Brazil to go along with us:

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva pre-empted Clinton even before she could make the case for new United Nations Security Council penalties. Silva is an outspoken opponent of sanctions, and his country currently sits on the Security Council, which will be asked to approve its toughest-ever penalties on Iran later this year.

“It is not prudent to push Iran against a wall,” Silva told reporters hours before meeting with Clinton. “The prudent thing is to establish negotiations.”

Clinton told a news conference she respects Brazil’s position but thinks if there is any possibility of negotiating with Iran, it would happen only after a new round of sanctions.

So that’s at least one no vote on the UN’s Security Council. China and Russia are no fans of the idea. That could mean up to 3 no votes. Yup, this sanctions thing is really taking off.

The U.S. officials said that despite clear differences at the moment, the Brazilians assured Clinton their current position was not “etched in stone.”

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private diplomatic exchange.

That’s diplo speech for “yeah, had a great time and I promise I’ll call you tomorrow”.

~McQ

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