Monday, September 15, 2014

Antigovernment Group Tries to Organize Mass Shutdown of Ports of Entry on U.S.-Mexico Border



[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

A self-described coalition of antigovernment groups is hoping to organize yet another attempt at shutting down the U.S.-Mexico border at major commercial crossings this weekend, calling the event “Shut Down All Ports of Entry”.

Previous attempts at shutting down traffic at key border crossings this spring have ended in spectacular failure—notably radio host Pete Santilli’s attempt to shut down the crossing in Tijuana with bikers, as well as the “Border Convoy” last month, which culminated in a only a brief interruption at Brownsville, Texas.

But this particular attempt, scheduled to take place Saturday, has set off warnings among law enforcement personnel, including a local sheriff’s office in Texas and Border Patrol officials, who say they are prepared for just such an attempt.

A spokesman for event told Hatewatch that, despite concerns, the protest will not be violent or involve any radical behavior. “We have told everybody that’s called, keep your military gear, your rifles, and that stuff at home,” Rob Chupp said in a phone interview. “This is not a military operation, this is a peaceful protest.”

The group’s Facebook page details their plans:
We are a representation of Americans who are unsettled and deeply concerned with our current Administration, in all branches of Federal and State governments. Our mission is to Shut Down, every United States’ Port of Entry on the Southern Border, until our Goals are met.
The website and a message at the group’s hotline asserts that the protesters will remain in place until their demands are met. There are eight “non-negotiable” demands, including the termination of all medical and financial for non-documented immigrants.

According to a report from Robin Abcarian of the Los Angeles Times, both the California Highway Patrol and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency are aware of the planned protest.

“CBP has contingency plans ready to put into place in the event of any protest or a temporary blockage of traffic at our international border crossings,” CBP spokesman Ralph DeSio told the Times.

A report from a southern Texas TV station also warned that “militias” were planning to block traffic on the international bridges this weekend, and quoted Rio Grande Mayor Ruben Villarreal as he voiced his concern.

“What can we expect? I don’t know. The unknown becomes an issue that we really got to prepare for,” Villarreal said, noting that any shutdown would have significant impacts on businesses:  “If they’re here to block traffic, to be a hindrance between traffic and the port of entry, that causes a problem. It’s a huge safety issue.”

However, Rob Chupp, an Indiana man who participated in the border militia watch at “Camp Lone Star” in Texas last month, insists that there are no militias directly involved in the protest.

"We are not a militia group,” Chupp told Hatewatch. “None of the organizers or the event staff is part of a militia. We have housewives, I’m a business owner. That’s who we have. We don’t have militia.”

Chupp claims that authorities are well aware of their plans and have actually been supportive: “We’ve talked to Homeland Security, Border Patrol, Texas Rangers, and for the most part, everybody’s on board with us,” he said. “Border Patrol is happy that we’re doing it. We have sheriffs that are telling us, ‘OK, here’s where you’ve gotta go, this is what you’ve gotta do. Don’t worry about this port, this is a better port.’ So we have a lot of support across the board.”

The shutdown protest appears to be the brainchild of a California woman named Stasyi Barth, a self-described 41-year-old disabled housewife and mother of three from Lake Elsinore, who says she has become increasingly concerned about immigration and decided to organize citizens to stop it.

However, while they describe themselves as “coalition” of Patriot groups, Chupp could not name any other organizations that have actually signed on to support their Saturday protest. Instead, he indicated that people involved in other Patriot groups such as the Oath Keepers and anti-immigration groups such as Overpasses for America would be there as participants.

“We’re coming together as The People,” Chupp said. “We’re not coming together as any particular group. We don’t want to say, OK, here’s this group and this group and this group. … Because once you start naming this person or that person, it becomes about them. We want it to be about our national security and our sovereignty. It’s about the people in general.”

Barth said that the plan is for participants to simply arrive at the border, get in the requisite traffic lanes, and then turn off their cars and walk away.

“You get out of your car and take your keys with you,” she told the Times last week from her home. “You stand there and wave your American flag and try to get the message to D.C. that they need to close our border.”

Friday, September 12, 2014

Cliven Bundy Stumps on Behalf of Nevada Fringe Party Candidate



[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

Though he has been largely exiled from the mainstream media in the wake of his nakedly racist remarks following the armed showdown he led against federal agents, Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy manages to keep popping up on the political scene in Nevada, still spouting his far-right antigovernment “Patriot” views.

Most recently, Bundy made an appearance in Reno on behalf of Nevada Republican congressional candidate Russell Best, who is running for the state’s 4th District congressional seat under the banner of the fringe Independent American Party.

The incumbent, first-term Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford – who demanded federal action when Bundy supporters reportedly began stopping residents at roadway checkpoints near the Bundy ranch – is favored to win, according to race handicappers, against GOP candidate Crescent Hardy and Best.
Bundy’s speech to the Reno campaign gathering was a fairly boilerplate affair: “Basically, fight for liberty and freedom, and we’re fighting against a federal government that’s overreached,” Bundy told the crowd, estimated at about 50 people, at the Bonanza Casino.

Later, he again told reporters for KRNV-TV that he still wanted to see local sheriffs disarming federal agents in their jurisdictions – and warned that armed revolution would follow if they failed to act.

“I did speak for ‘We the People’ when we said take away the arms from the federal government,” Bundy said. “Later I thought of that and each county sheriff should be taking these arms away from these federal bureaucracy. I did say if we don’t do that, if we don’t rein back this federal government, then we the people are going to have to fight we the people, and that would be a revolution that I sure don’t ever want to see happen.”

Bundy admitted to feeling cooped up at his ranch, even as the crowd of his Patriot supporters has dwindled in the wake of an outbreak of infighting.

“I can’t say I really enjoy it,” he said when asked how felt about being a national figure. “I fight for freedom and yet I feel like I’m sort of locked up in the surroundings and not much freedom for me and my family.”

Bundy, his sons, and a number of participants at the ranch standoff remain under investigation by the FBI for their potentially criminal behavior during the standoff

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Washington State ‘Sovereign Citizen’ Plans Showdown Over His Property – But Only in Court, He Says



[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

 Self-described “sovereign citizen” David Darby wants everyone to know that he has no intention of getting involved in any armed standoffs with any law enforcement officers from Clark County, Wash., where he lives. He says he just wants his day in court – even though, whenever he has had one of those, he has lost.

Most recently, the 69-year-old Darby – a longtime antigovernment “Patriot” movement activist, dating back to the 1990s, and political gadfly – was informed by a Superior Court judge that his 4.7-acre property in rural Amboy would be put up for auction, following foreclosure proceedings brought against him by Clark County for failure to pay his taxes.

“It’s all constitutional,” he insists. “Everything I’ve done is constitutional. If it’s not constitutional, then all they have to do is prove it. And I will stop this. I will pay the taxes. But because they have not done this, I would not pay the taxes. And I cannot get this into federal court until I am hurt. So once they actually sell my property, I’ve been hurt. Then I will file in federal court.”

Darby has only a few days left to wait. The auction of his property is scheduled to take place between 8 and 11 a.m. on Sept. 16.

Darby, claiming that he is a “citizen” exempt from such duties, stopped paying his taxes in 2008, beginning a long-running dispute with the Clark County Treasurer’s office that culminated in 2013 with foreclosure proceedings on his rural home – a mobile home on raised blocks — and its accompanying wooded acreage.

However, as Darby made clear back then, he purposely forced these proceedings as part of his strategy to get the issue of his claims to a “land patent” on the property heard in a federal court. “I’ve been setting up the strategy to do this because no one has ever gotten sovereign ownership of land in the courts,” Darby said. “The only way to set it up was to go into foreclosure. … This isn’t about my land; it’s about the [state] constitution.”

Indeed, Darby claims that the current Washington constitution, passed in 1889, is not valid – and that the state’s proper constitution is actually one that was drawn up in 1878, when statehood was first suggested. He also characterizes this document as explicitly creating sovereign citizenship for state residents, as well as outlawing property taxes and liens on property.

“We were already a state before they did the 1889 constitution,” he insists.

He claims he went through a complicated legal process of filing various affidavits and making public proclamations that resulted in him owning a “land patent” on his property.

“Anyone who buys my land has a big problem because I have a lawful title to my land,” he told a reporter.

Darby has been active in far-right circles in Washington state since the 1990s, when he was the Clark County representative of the U.S. Militia Association, a “constitutionalist” militia-organizing outfit directed by an Idaho man named Samuel Sherwood.

It was then, Darby told Hatewatch, that he first became interested in “common-law courts” and other sovereign citizenship theories. He says he was originally drawn to far-right “constitutionalist” legal theories by Sherwood and other far-right figures, but then became so thoroughly devoted to sovereign citizen theories.

“I found out about [sovereign citizenship] once I found out that the Constitution does not apply to U.S. citizens, it only applies to citizens of the United States of America, which ended in 1861 when martial law was instituted by Lincoln,” Darby says. “I’ve actually studied the law, the legislation, and I’ve been studying this now ever since those days, and I’ve figured it out for myself. It’s not that I’m listening to anybody else, I’ve figured it all out.”

Darby told reporter Tyler Graf of the Daily Columbian that anyone who buys the property will have to force him to leave. “We’ll have to see what happens,” Darby said. “I don’t plan on leaving. I don’t know what they’re going to try. … They know I am very serious about this. All I want is my constitutional rights protected, like every other citizen in Washington.”

That means the matter may eventually come down to a sheriff’s deputy arriving with an order to remove Darby. But Darby told Hatewatch that if matters get that far, he intends to leave peacefully.
“I’m not going to do anything radical or anything,” he avers. “I have no intention of anything like that.”

However, he said that things won’t get that far, because he intends to file a federal lawsuit against Clark County this week – as soon as they put his property up for auction: “I’m getting ready to file another suit, now that they’ve hurt me, in Superior Court,” he told Hatewatch.

Darby has written about his beliefs about sovereign citizenship at length and posted several lengthy exegeses on the Internet about them. According to a study published about his filings, Darby has claimed to have received financial backing from an anonymous East Coast organization.

Darby says he understands that people espousing sovereign citizen beliefs have gotten into armed standoffs and shootouts with law-enforcement officers over situations like his. Those people, he says, are not like him.

“The problem is that they don’t understand that the officers and all these are only doing what they’re told to do,” Darby says. “We understand that. We’re not going to have any armed confrontation. We don’t want anybody hurt. I would rather have my day in court. And that’s all I’ve ever wanted.”

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Border Militiamen Complicate an Already Volatile Situation Along the Border

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

Border militiamen like to tell the public that they offer a simple solution to a complex problem – putting “boots on the ground” along the United States’ border with Mexico as a way to deter would-be immigrants from making illegal crossings, or as they are more inclined to put it, “stopping the illegal invasion of America.”

But already, federal agents have found that their unsought presence in recent weeks on the border in Texas and Arizona is making a difficult job much more complicated and possibly lethal. In some cases, agents are drawing down on the border vigilantes, and in one incident actually fired upon them. Another confrontation involved bat scientists who happened to be gathering field data when they encountered the armed militiamen.

A recent Associated Press report from Christopher Sherman described an incident along the Rio Grande involving an outfit calling itself the Texas Militia, who showed up unbidden at the midnight arrest of a group of border crossers in a canal near the Texas river. At first, the story reported, the Border Patrol officers assumed the men were part of a state-run tactical squad, but then were stunned to find that these well-armed men had “no law-enforcement training or authority of any kind.”

“The situation ended peacefully with the immigrants getting arrested and the Border Patrol advising the militia members ‘to properly and promptly’ identify themselves anytime they encounter law-enforcement officers,” the story reported. “But the episode was unsettling enough for the Border Patrol to circulate an ‘issue paper’ warning other agents.”

Indeed, the story appeared only two days after another border-militia outfit calling itself “Camp Lonestar” posted a video on YouTube showing a group of border crossers swimming the Rio Grande, while the self-described member of the “citizen militia” shooting the video verbally harassed them and told them to go back to Mexico and cross legally. The crossers appeared to be two men and a woman, and the militiaman described the men as “coyotes” – human smuggling operators.



Last Friday in a wooded area near the border outside of Brownsville, a Border Patrol agent in pursuit of a group of fugitive immigrants fired four shots at a camo-clad militiaman who happened to appear in the vicinity. The man dropped his gun and identified himself as a militia member to the border agent.

An incident on the Arizona border
near Sonoita, in rural Santa Cruz County, last week was even more chilling. A group of scientists conducting counts of the bats occupying Onyx Cave was hit with a spotlight as they walked back to their vehicles in the dark, then shouted at in Spanish by men who identified themselves as militia members out “protecting the border.” After identifying themselves, the scientists walked back to their campsite and met the apologetic militiamen in person.

While the presence of border militias – which initially stumbled when they were announced last month, but have finally picked up steam in recent weeks, with as many as 13 different units reportedly operating on the border in Texas now – is ostensibly about making the border more secure, the presence of untrained, utterly anonymous gunmen with no accountability to anyone has been an increasing concern for law-enforcement professionals working the border.

Last month, officials at Customs and Border Protection issued a statement intended to warn the militias away: “Customs and Border Protection does not endorse or support any private group or organization from taking matters into their own hands as it could have disastrous, personal and public safety consequence,” the statement said.

“CBP appreciates the efforts of concerned citizens as they act as our eyes and ears. Securing our nation’s borders can be dangerous. Interdicting narcotics and deterring and apprehending individuals illegally entering the U.S. requires highly trained law enforcement personnel,” the statement said.
Right-wing radio host Pete Santilli spent time, while on his trip to Texas as part of the failed “Border Convoy”, with one of these border militias – namely, the participants at “Camp Lonestar.” Santilli took footage of the patrols of the border these vigilantes made in their vehicles.



The man claiming to run this militia is an Arizona man named Joe O’Shaughnessy, who Santilli had profiled on YouTube in an extended interview a few weeks previously. O’Shaughnessy said he and several others moved their border-watching operations to Texas in recent weeks as the call went up among his fellow antigovernment “Patriot” movement believers to try to stop the flow of refugee children over the Texas border.

O’Shaughnessy and several of his fellow “Camp Lonestar” participants described their activities to Santilli, and described their motivations for prowling the desert borderlands.



Most of these motives revolved around “patriotic” duty to defend the homeland, and a belief that the nation is being “invaded” by an “enemy.” Some cited the supposed presence of Middle Eastern border crossers, while others described at length the various foul diseases being transported into the United States by the child refugees.

Notably, most of them claimed that the Border Patrol officers they encountered actually welcomed their presence as “another set of eyes on the border.”

Other militiamen have made similar claims in other news accounts. In a piece by Maxwell Barna for Vice, a militiaman named Parris Frazier – the self-described leader of a border unit called Whiskey Bravo, which patrols a stretch of the border in Arizona – claimed that his men are friendly with Border Patrol agents.

“Every day when I’m driving to and from Sierra Vista down here to where I’m at, I get stopped, I shake their hands, and we talk, but we don’t really talk about what’s going on,” Frazier said, speaking from an area east of Nogales, roughly a half mile inside the Arizona border. “Every now and then I’ll ask a question and they’ll give me a nod yes or no.”

However, CBP officially maintains that heavily armed wannabe border patrolmen are not particularly welcome in sensitive areas where they are encountering dangerous situations on a daily basis.

And local law enforcement are apparently inclined to agree. According to the Los Angeles Times, when a border militia recently camped out near an international bridge to Mexico in Pharr, Texas, local sheriffs marked their presence by circulating a bulletin among each other warning of the men’s presence. Some sheriffs directly declined the militia’s help, while others simply remained silent.

“How do they identify themselves? Do they have badges? How do we know who they are?” asked J.P. Rodriguez, a spokesman for the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office. “If they’re all just dressed in camos, it’s kind of hard to distinguish whether they’re law enforcement or not. … There’s a lot of potential for stuff to go wrong.”

Thursday, August 21, 2014

AFA Jumps the Shark: ‘ALS Challenge Kills Babies’



[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

 In recent weeks, it has seemed as if the American Family Association—already listed by the SPLC as an anti-LGBT hate group—has been on a mission to transform its public image from that of ordinary family-values advocates to a pack of wild-eyed radicals foaming at the mouth about their perceived enemies.

AFA spokesperson Bryan Fischer has been leading the way. In recent weeks on his radio program, Fischer has:
  • Declared it will be “the end of America” if Congress does not impeach President Obama.
  • Denounced anyone who uses the word “racist,” then insisted that Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder are “racists.”
  • Sided with radical Islamists in Iraq in calling Obama a “devil worshiper.”
  • Suggested on Twitter that accepting homosexuality leads to people to commit acts of necrophilia.
  • Said that LGBT people are inherently disqualified from holding public office.
  • Written an article in which he wonders if Robin Williams will go to heaven and insults Williams’s mother’s belief system (she was a Christian Scientist, Fischer says, and that is “a counterfeit form of religion that is neither Christian nor scientific”)
It’s not just Fischer, though. A couple of AFA analysts recently decried the recent editorial direction of Archie Comics, saying they now promoted “the occult and homosexuality.”

But as absurd as all these declarations might be, Fischer and his AFA cohorts may have been outdone in making such spurious claims. Kevin McCullough, a fellow AFA pundit who contributes at the organization’s commentary site, The Stand, recently published the following headline and article:


 The ALS Challenge is a wildly popular fundraising stunt for the ALS Association in which people are encouraged to pour a bucket of ice water over their heads, record it on social media and then challenge other people to otherwise join them or make a donation to the association.


The stunt has become an Internet sensation, with participants including movie stars, pop singers and politicians, as well as a wide range of others. It has also inspired some moments of accidental low comedy on the Web.

But according to McCullough, the fun and frivolity is overshadowed by his view that “this very challenge is contributing to the on going destruction of human life – intentionally.”
The ALS association is actively now funding embryonic stem cell research and admitting that they likely will continue to do so in the future.

The funding of embryonic stem cell research means that children are created and at their earliest stages of life they are destroyed so that the stem cells (from usually the base of the brain) can be harvested to perform tests with.

Embryonic stem cell research has proven zero percent effective in combating diseases like ALS and other neurological degenerative diseases.
Stem cell research has proven to be a controversial issue for years, with many conservative Christians, including the Southern Baptist Convention, viewing it as akin to abortion. The embryos used for the research are  fertilized in the laboratory, and there has never been a baby born or created in such conditions.

The ALS Association also claims to have produced substantial scientific research that, contrary to the AFA’s claims, indicates progress toward finding a cure for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, the progressive and fatal neuromuscular malady commonly known as “Lou Gehrig’s disease.”

ALS afflicts about 30,000 Americans, with about 5,600 new cases diagnosed annually. More than 5,000 people die each from the disease. The ALS Association reports that so far more than $31 million has been raised by the ice-bucket challenge.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Bizarre Early Morning Hotel Evacuation Ends in ‘Border Convoy’ Feud


[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

Pete Santilli insists that militiamen saved his life from drug cartels trying to assassinate him during his “Border Convoy,” a publicity stunt held earlier this month to focus anger about Central American refugee children arriving in the United States.

But his fellow participants are not so sure, leading to a far-right internecine feud between Santilli and his chief cohort in the convoy, a longtime Tea Party organizer named Eric Odom, who Santilli has accused of “co-opting” and “psy-opping” the event and smearing him with accusations of alcoholism, and Odom dismissing Santilli as a “borderline lunatic.”

While problems trailed the convoy along its entire route through the Southwest, tensions culminated in an early morning panic whipped up by militiamen warning that the hotel in Van Horn, Texas, was surrounded by drug cartels preparing to ambush the convoy.

As the convoy described events in a press release, “most convoy members didn’t even know ‘Operation Secure Our Border’ Citizen Militia groups were watching over them for their own protection. But thanks to the quick and decisive evacuation ordered by the Texas Citizen Militia groups, convoy members may very well have been protected from potentially dangerous and deadly outcomes.”

However, Culberson County Sheriff Oscar Carrillo ridiculed the report and said it was most likely “fake.” “Nothing of that nature happened here,” he said.

According to the El Paso Times, Carrillo’s detectives interviewed several hotel owners in the area and could find no witnesses that the event had even occurred. Carrillo also noted that there was no Comfort Inn in Van Horn. (Odom now said that the press release misidentified the hotel. It was the Quality Inn in Van Horn, not the Comfort Inn.)

Santilli, however, has wasted no time denouncing Odom.

“This Border Convoy thing was an absolute bloody train wreck, by design,” he told listeners last week. “It was designed that way. It was designed to be train wrecked. You were designed to be co-opted. Your original concept of stopping buses was so powerful that it drew the likes of probably one of the most disgusting co-opters in the Tea Party and Conservative movement, in my opinion, and his name is Eric Odom.”

 

Santilli went on to describe Odom as a “functioning alcoholic,” and implied that he was a puppet sent in to wreak havoc with right-wing causes, saying “his job is to destroy” such efforts. He also decried the convoy’s organization, noting that its itinerary was kept a secret, which made it difficult for would-be supporters to join in along the way.

Odom, Santilli told his listeners, revealed his true character when the militia came knocking on their door, warning them they were about to be ambushed:
He was an enemy and a bastard. And when it mattered most, and we had to evacuate the hotel, and we had women in there, and we had innocent people that could have been harmed. Forget about who may or may not have surrounded the hotel. We were in a dangerous situation that the militia had deemed to be — that we were in a hot zone and we had to go. And at a moment, a critical moment, he said, ‘Look, I’m drunk right now. This is just too much for me to handle. I’m outta here. You guys are on your own.’ And he left and went back to his hotel room, and had us blocked in.
But while Santilli had concluded that the militias “were the true patriots of the day,” Odom offered Hatewatch a markedly different account of events.

“We had gotten in to the hotel at 2 a.m. from El Paso, and yeah, everyone had a couple of beers because it had been a long day, and there was nothing wrong with that,” Odom told Hatewatch. “My response when I came out was that I had only slept for two or three hours. I didn’t see any cartel around. All I saw was heavily armed militia guys in bandanas and AR-15s. And I didn’t want to leave the rest of our convoy there at the hotel. So what I said was that I was going back in to make sure that the rest of our guys were ready. And we’re going on to San Antonio.”

Odom said that the militiamen produced no evidence that they were being set up for an ambush by the cartels, and that he was hesitant to follow orders to bug out. But he stopped short of completely dismissing the threat. What he did say was that the panic created an opportunity for his group from Murrieta to separate themselves from Santilli and his militiamen.

“We just wanted to get away from Santilli and the rest of those guys that came with the militia as quick as possible, because that was derailing us from what we wanted to do,” Odom said. “We had a
different agenda that we wanted to accomplish, and it didn’t involve Pete Santilli’s show.”

Now that Santilli has taken to the airwaves to attack him and his fellow convoy organizers, Odom said he is trying to avoid responding and moving on to create new methods of protesting the border situation. He has issued a statement at the Convoy website addressing the “spin” created by Santilli, who goes unmentioned by name: “This individual runs a radio talk show and is desperate for attention and listeners, and has constantly sought to poison the well along the way.”

“Pete Santilli in my opinion is a borderline lunatic,” Odom told Hatewatch. “The reason that he’s on this personal campaign of fantastic lies is because we actually separated from him halfway through the convoy just to get away from him. He’s just taken it very personally, he’s obviously slandering and trying to defame me personally. There’s not an ounce of truth to what he’s saying.”

Odom added that Santilli had said the convoy was going to Austin to try to steal some of conspiracist Alex Jones’s listeners by pulling a stunt in front of Jones’ office. “So this is exactly why we parted ways with him, and his RV went out on its own on the convoy,” Odom said.

Odom added about Santilli: “He leaves a path of destruction. Everyone that I’ve contacted that’s had anything to do with him has had the same outcome, where he turns on them for whatever reason to try to get attention and create controversy that he can go and try to sell people.”

Saturday, August 16, 2014

SeaWorld and Its Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Week


Boy, did SeaWorld have a week it would like to forget.
Shares of SeaWorld Entertainment plunged 33% Wednesday after the company's earnings missed Wall Street expectations.

The Orlando, Fla.-based company also conceded for the first time that attendance at its theme parks has been hurt by negative publicity concerning accusations by animal-rights activists that SeaWorld mistreats killer whales.
It was almost funny, watching the stock analysts like Jim Cramer scratching their heads.



"This is just an aberration. I've never seen a just, a complete collapse in EBITDA," Cramer said on "Squawk on the Street." "And they've got to do something. I don't know what they're going to do."

Cramer and his cohost both acknowledged what we call "The Blackfish Effect" -- the devastating power of Gabriella Cowperthwaite's documentary on orca captivity. "The documentary have to had played a big role," Cramer finally concluded.

Immediately SeaWorld responded with a PR move that had clearly been months in the making already -- it was going to expand the orcas' pools:
The company plans to upgrade the killer whale tanks at three of its theme parks, beginning with the San Diego location. The new enclosure in San Diego will be almost double the size of the current one, holding about 10 million gallons of water and extending to a depth of 50 feet. The company wouldn't specify the cost of the upgrades, only saying it would be several hundred million dollars.         
And ooooh!!! They'll also add some new exercise equipment:
The San Diego facility will include a "water treadmill" system letting the whales swim against a stream of moving water, allowing them more exercise but also opening the door to new research into how the animals burn energy. The system will be the first of its kind in the world, the company says.
And the whales will never use it, of course, unless coerced.

This is just plain old LAME. This just means these killer whales will have a larger acoustically sterile space to occupy.

These are the most acoustically sophisticated animals on the planet; their echiolocation, in the wild, is their primary sense. Sticking them in these pools is like putting a human in a plain white room. Making it larger doesn't help.


Naomi Rose, as usual, has the best insight:
Atchison and his execs also seem completely unaware of (or deliberately blind to) the fact that the plan to build larger tanks is a de facto admission that the current enclosures are inadequate. Saying otherwise makes the entire gesture insulting to anyone’s intelligence – it turns what could have been perceived as a better-late-than-never acknowledgment that they need to do better for these animals into a cynical waste of money. If the current enclosures are enough to allow the whales to thrive (as SW insists), then how can the company possibly justify the millions of dollars this expansion will cost, when it just admitted that 2014 has so far seen, and will continue to see, poor financial returns? On Wednesday SW said it would start a cost-cutting program to increase dividends for its shareholders and then on Friday it announced an extraordinarily expensive expansion program that will be paid for…how? How can this proposal possibly be justified except by an open, honest admission that Shamu Stadium is not adequate to safeguard the orcas’ welfare?

Rose has been saying all along that SeaWorld eventually is going to have to rethink its business model. It can't get away anymore with being a kid-friendly orca-circus theme park with a faux-educational front. It will need to become a genuine agent for conservation and education, and it will have to begin by rehabilitating its wild-born orcas and figuring out adequate living arrangements for its captive-born orcas. It will have to stop breeding. And it will need to assess its handling of all marine mammals, especially other dolphins.

 These corporate folks always express reverence for the market and say they listen when it speaks. Well, the market is speaking loud and clear: SeaWorld's old way of making millions off the exploitation of animals unsuited to captivity are over.