Are Killer Whales people?

Well, the more appropriate question is “Do Killer Whales enjoy the same legal rights in the US judicial system as humans?” I suppose it could be granulated even further. However one phrases it, we may get the answer before too long. A federal court in California is going to decide the question in the context of a lawsuit brought by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.) It has to be said that taking the legal route is one of PETA’s milder strategies. The lawsuit is attempting to prove that Sea World’s holding of five killer whales in captivity (at two different parks) constitutes slavery. My, what of rats’ nest of interesting questions immediately pops up.

To take the most curmudgeonly one first, if Killer Whales have legal rights comparable to those of humans (or at least natural born US citizens), do they have legal responsibilities as well—and can Tilikum thus be prosecuted for murder or manslaughter for the death of Sea World trainer Dawn Brancheau? Or will his plea be self-defense? Continue reading

Report: Super PACs raise $181 million from fewer than 200 people

As if we needed still more evidence that financial authority over national political campaigns is increasingly wielded by fewer and fewer really rich people, consider this exhibit:

Super PACs raised about $181 million in the last two years — with roughly half of it coming from fewer than 200 super-rich people.

That’s the news from a study called “Auctioning Democracy” jointly conducted by Demos, an organization that says it practices “advocacy to influence public debate and catalyze change,” and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. Both groups seek to strengthen, if not compel full disclosure and expenditure rules.

Super PACs’ power stemmed from the U.S. Supreme Court’s July 2010 SpeechNow.org v. Federal Election Commission decision. The Court’s Citizen United decision further strengthened corporations’ claim to personhood and weakened the requirement for full disclosure of donations to super PACs.

Politico’s Ken Vogel and Abby Phillip’s analysis of the study noted that

A relatively few wealthy backers are keeping super PACs afloat — and they’re saying so. Last year alone, individuals gave super PACs $63 million.

The news only worsens.
Continue reading

Time to kiss off online dating: a long-overdue farewell to Match.com

Recently I was e-mailed, via Match.com, by an attractive woman (to the extent that profile pictures can be trusted, anyway) named Kathleen. I love that name, and her profile made her sound like someone I’d be interested in talking to a bit more, so I replied. We exchanged a couple of e-mails and I was thinking that maybe I’d like to meet her in person.

Then she asked me if I liked skiing. I answered honestly. I love skiing, although I’m not great at it and I haven’t been on the hill since I annihilated my knees a few years back. I’d love to get back into it, though, but haven’t so far because I hate doing things alone.

I knew as I hit the send button that I’d never hear from her again. Continue reading