One whale of a disconnect

I’m not someone who wants to see a killer whale killed just because it killed someone.  It’s what killer whales do, and of course Dawn Brancheau, the Seaworld trainer who was killed by an off-kilter orca yesterday, knew that well.  Still and all, there’s something not only circular but disturbing about the reasoning displayed in this AP article about the Seaworld tragedy:

Brancheau’s older sister, Diane Gross, said the trainer would not have wanted anything done to the whale. “She loved the whales like her children. She loved all of them,” said Gross, of Schererville, Ind. “They all had personalities, good days and bad days.”

In a profile in the Orlando Sentinel in 2006, Brancheau acknowledged the dangers, saying: “You can’t put yourself in the water unless you trust them and they trust you.” . . .

Howard Garrett, co-founder and director of the Washington-based nonprofit Orca Network, . . . . said Tilikum was probably agitated before Wednesday’s attack, possibly from some kind of clash with the other whales.

Gary Wilson, a professor at Moorpark College’s exotic animal training program, said it can be difficult to detect when an animal is about to turn on its trainer.

“One of the challenges working with any animal is learning to read its body language and getting a feel for what’s going on in its mind,” he said.

Right.  But here’s the thing:  If Dawn Brancheau wasn’t up to meeting that challenge–she who “loved the whales like her children,” and who knew their personalities, and the fact that they had “good days and bad days”–who is?  She was everything you would expect someone to be who is capable of “learning to read [an orca’s] body language and getting a feel for what’s going on in its mind.”

So is the job of killer whale trainer at Sea World one in which you acknowledge the distinct possibility that you could do everything right but still get killed doing it?  That would not make such a job particularly unusual; millions of people do such work, and have a lot less fun at it than Dawn Brancheau did at her job until the sad day when it stopped very hard at being fun.  And not all such jobs are all that more “serious” than the one that took Brancheau’s life, or as economically productive either.

I’m not so much a “there oughtta be a law guy,” as I said in a recent post where I uncharacteristically said just that.  I don’t think there is a need for a law here, either.  It’ s hard to imagine choosing to risk death so you can do a whale show. But if it’s truly a choice, so be it.  That means, however, that if orca trainers and those like them are going to at least be said to have made their potentially deadly career choices voluntarily, they’ll have to think more clearly than at least the Associated Press wrote in lining up those quotations and leaving the obvious contradiction they raise hanging.

UPDATE:  A tad more rigor at Overlawyered.

Well, at least we know the stimulus worked!

My friend Aziz Poonawalla, via Insty who, interestingly, links to the story guilelessly (I can’t buy a link these days–should I get a turban?), lays it right out:

Today is the one-year anniversary of the landmark stimulus bill which most economists agree has staved off a second Great Depression. The evidence that the stimulus has worked is overwhelming – the New York Times has an in-depth article looking at its actual impact on jobs, and an indispensable graphic showing a timeline of key economic indicators before and after its passage. There’s another beautiful chart based on job loss data from Dec 2007 to Jan 2010 which also makes the impact of the stimulus crystal clear. The recognition of the stimulus’ success isn’t just data-driven – Republican lawmakers who have publicly denounced it for political gain have been quietly and hypocritically scrambling for stimulus money for their districts – as documented by the Wall Street Journal and by the Washington Times.

The only real flaw in the stimulus bill was that it wasn’t big enough . . .

Aziz, Aziz, Aziz.  Where do we start with this?

  • How about the leap from “most economists agree” to the sole source of his authority for this breathtaking proposition–“the New York Times has an in-depth article . . .”  That’s it.  I don’t even have to find economists who don’t agree and with this and try to figure out whether they are or aren’t “most”–Aziz thinks the New York Times is actually a trustworthy source for this preposterous statement.  That actually tells me, in contrast, that the entire remainder of his article is not worthy of reading, because Aziz, who is not an economist, is not making  a serious attempt to objectively see if his central premise is correct.
  • Then there’s the fact that “most economists” didn’t agree what ended the first Great Depression until about 20 years ago (it wasn’t the New Deal, by the way).  The idea that “most economists” would agree “the landmark stimulus bill . . .  has staved off a second Great Depression” –and that they would have nothing to say about a trillion dollar deficit that has resulted–is, to any serious student of economics, truly laughable.
  • And what exactly do “all economists” say?  

    Read the rest of this entry »

Singing for our suffer

And they call economics the “dismal science“!

There’s no such thing as “underfunded” for our Uncle

Kenneth Anderson asks, are underfunded public pensions underfunded public pensions $2 trillion in “stranded” costs?

One question about these obligations is whether taxpayers will stick around to pay them, or instead will vote with their feet. . . . Many of these pension obligations have been incurred by municipalities and others by states, and in some cases the obligations are intertwined. But what happens if voters-taxpayers move out? The assumption has long been that taxpayers are stuck, on account of jobs and other circumstance. But query whether that is necessarily true as the baby boom generation retires.

That’s why the baby boom generation won’t ask us.  This will be will “resolved” by the stroke of a pen — the same moral hazard pen that bails out everything else; and why should state governments be worse than all the other failed states of corporate America?

Federalization, people.  We can run, but we can’t hide.  (Via Insty.)

The wealth in Commonwealth

If America — if the people of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts — need anything right this very minute, it’s what? Above the Law answers:

“A public law program will fill a conspicuous gap in the Commonwealth’s public higher education curriculum,” said UMass president Jack Wilson. “It will give our students the public law option that exists in 44 other states… . This is about students and about educational opportunity. It is not about which private law school may face more competition.”

Oh please. This is not about the students. And it’s certainly not about educational opportunity — unless by “opportunity” you mean the invitation to saddle yourself with tens of thousands of dollars of debt in exchange for a degree from an unaccredited law school in the midst of the worst market for legal jobs anybody can remember.

We all know what this is about: money. Lenders have it, the state wants it, the financial future of citizens of the Commonwealth be damned.

Right, mainly.  I mean, no one is making these people go to law school.  It’s not as if there already enough dummies out there with pigskins, and even we geniuses are barely getting by.

Still, though, the crass cynicism is breathtaking, no?

Talkin’ union

Mickey Kaus — no fascist — is the best popular commentator critically following what unions — not workers, or even necessarily union workers — are doing to this country, its key industries and its political institutions.

It isn’t pretty.

Attorney Ronald D. Coleman