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?  

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Demogoguing disaster

From Michael Shaw:

This is a message to Anderson Cooper and CNN…

As American citizens concerned about the humanity of the Haitian people, the sensationalist and self-promoting tendencies of American media and the power of pictures, we urge you to: Please stop.

Read the whole thing!

Scared of the truth

Did you hear about this travesty in Haiti?

Earthquake victims, writhing in pain and grasping at life, watched doctors and nurses walk away from a field hospital Friday night after a Belgian medical team evacuated the area, saying it was concerned about security.

The decision left CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta as the only doctor at the hospital to get the patients through the night.

Truly awful.  But check out this subtle spin in an excerpt from that CNN article quoted by Instapundit:

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, who led relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina in 2005, said the evacuation of the clinic’s medical staff was unforgivable.

“Search and rescue must trump security,” Honoré said. “I’ve never seen anything like this before in my life. They need to man up and get back in there.”

Honoré drew parallels between the tragedy in New Orleans, Louisiana, and in Port-au-Prince. But even in the chaos of Katrina, he said, he had never seen medical staff walk away.

“I find this astonishing these doctors left,” he said. “People are scared of the poor.”

“Scared of the poor?”  General, they aren’t scared “of the poor” — at least not because they’re poor!


The early reports of looting came as United Nations peacekeepers patrolling the capital said people’s anger is rising that aid hasn’t been distributed quickly, and the Brazilian military warned aid convoys to add security to guard against looting.

Toronto Sun:

Next to burning corpses, young men fight over the goods they’ve looted from the crushed shops in the city’s downtown core.

They lit the bodies on fire, one man explains, to avoid spreading diseases. Thick smoke and dust hangs like a dense cloud.

The men hit each other violently as they fight over aluminum bowls and computer bags.

Riots erupt. The stores are ravaged.


Reports say scores of people went on the rampage in the town of Les Cayes, blocking roads, looting shops and shooting at UN peacekeepers.

The UN said its personnel had opened fire at some of the armed protesters.

For two days running, parts of Haiti have been erupting into violence triggered by the soaring cost of food.

Those doctors may not have done the right thing that night.  Or maybe they did.  Can we say, perhaps, that he who heals and runs away may leave to heal another day?  We weren’t there, and neither was General Honoré.  But he’s a military man.  I’m not one.  Doctors and nurses aren’t, either — they’re doctors and nurses.  They didn’t volunteer for martyrdom.

There’s nothing unique to a brick or shard of metal between your eyes that gets there via a poor man, as opposed to anyone else.  These medical people may or not be guilty of cowardice.  But as they surveyed the simmering crowd they decided to escape, it seems hardly unlikely that they were adding up the net worth of its desperate, madding members.

Cross-posted on Right Wing News.

Reluctantly, no

It started out, great this piece from the Worcester Business Journal about Attorney General Martha Coakley — the designated heir to Senator Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat — linked to by Instapundit:

We understand when politicians are busy. We deal with it all the time. After all, talking to journalists can be tedious and repetitive, especially when you’re running for office.

That’s why we wanted to give Attorney General Martha Coakley the benefit of the doubt when her campaign staff was initially stand offish after we approached them about setting up an interview for our story on the race to fill Ted Kennedy’s U.S. Senate seat.

But then we were put off several times by her staff. We suddenly got the feeling Ms. Coakley, a Democrat, didn’t want to speak with us, and the media in general.

At the end of the day, it’s disheartening to think that a potential U.S. Senator for the Bay State would be so reticent to speak to the media.

Ouch.  It’s at least equally as disheartening when professional journalists use the word “reticent” when they mean “reluctant,” as in “reluctant to speak” — as opposed to merely being … reticent.

(Someone had to say it.)

Best of 2009: “Was Rosen really right?”

This was posted on July 16, 2009.

Hm. Instapundit cites Randy Barnett, who writes:

When [Jeffrey] Rosen published his critique [of Sonya Sotomayor], I knew very little about Sotomayor. After forcing myself to watch much of the hearings, I wonder if those who criticized him then are having any second thoughts today.

I am having second thoughts about my own measured enthusiasm for Sotomayor, which was based on a selfish interest in a particular area of law plus what I believed was the range of options from this Administration, yes.

But do I have second thoughts about my criticism of Jeffrey Rosen (it’s buried in here; and no, I don’t think Jennifer Rubin meant me when she asked the question)?

No. Rosen’s article seemed rushed, and was based on very few specifics, and a lot of anonymous sources. The specifics were also very pedestrian. She was obviously vulnerable on Ricci v. DeStefano, but, well, “everyone” knew that — I am sure that that includes Randy Barnett. If her opinion in Ricci was that bad (and evidently it was!), why couldn’t Rosen give us six more such-a’s? That was his job as a reporter.

To the contrary, Rosen is to be criticized not only for pulling back from his original view so he wouldn’t lose out on invitations to all the right parties, but for writing such a damned lazy legal journalism article when in fact there may have been not only smoke but some fire to report. There’s a lot of that going around.

I also didn’t, and still don’t, think much of this slam by Jennifer Rubin, also cited by both Glenn and Randy:

The question is not whether Sotomayor will get through, but why the president felt so compelled to select her. If he was desperate to find a Latina, he should have found a wise one.

Talk about “wise.” I know wisdom is not the same as intelligence, but I don’t think Jennifer Rubin has the slightest inclination to make that distinction here.

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Attorney Ronald D. Coleman