Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Stockmar: Annoying – and healthy – facts

Steve turns in a smackdown today of the hysterical claims about health-care reform, and manages a still entertaining but more refined approach than I've seen previously.

This is how it's done, folks -- calmly, factually, confidently, with citations and good humor. Steve gets a cookie.

Editorial: Law should ban feeding bears

What do we do about a bear in the neighborhood? It's not an easy question for a thoughtful person. The bear is just doing its bear thing, and killing it for that is truly awful. Leaving it alone justifiably freaks people out, since they have no idea how to deal with it and are left to inflate the threat to the limits of their imaginations. So we try putting it back in its safer habitat, but it finds its way back because it's become habituated to humans, so its preferred habitat has changed. Problem.

The unnamed Courier editor, in good Republican fashion, advocates tort reform as the answer. Just "restore the immunity" of the state from suits by people who believe it's part of the state's job to protect them from animals, and it's all fixed. People who are maimed by bears must have been feeding them, we gather, so no foul.

It fascinates me how easy it is to blame the victims. The editor cites two cases in which people who were hurt won judgments against the state, infers that Game and Fish has to kill bears because it's afraid of more suits, and leaps to the conclusion that the law is the problem. These people won their cases because the court saw it as reasonable for them to expect protection from the state and the state did something wrong. That's not a political opinion, it's a legal ruling. It demands that the state do right.

So the editor twists this basic, practical problem to his own political end of reducing public access to the courts, essentially ignoring all the practical aspects. It's a stunning mental trick.

Lacking interest in any real problem-solving, the editor misses that Game and Fish is not talking about other options for these animals. There's more we can do than kill the bear, leave it alone or send it away. Right here in town we have an institution dedicated to the care of animals that cannot be released into the wild -- the Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary. We could be exploring the possibility of moving human-habituated bears into sanctuary as a "third way," perhaps involving some state funding to help. I'm sure there are other options available as well if we really care more about these animals than whether they're convenient to us.