My father boasts that he is the only person ever to have walked out of Disney World with his family and asked for his money back.
We children have less rosy memories of the episode.
We arrived at the Magic Kingdom from frigid Chicago, ready for a day of fun we had dreamed of for months, when we discovered hour-long lines in front of nearly every ride. My dad quickly decided that standing for hours in the sun was not going to happen.
The three of us–I was eleven, my sister was eight and my brother was five–bore the walkout with bewildered fortitude. But when we finally drove out of the parking lot in our family’s beige-brown Volkswagen van, the tears just exploded. We understood why Dad had done it, but we could not hide our disappointment. With my prized camera, I snapped a picture of the dome of Epcot Center, receding in the distance, a paradise lost.
Fortunately, Dad had a backup plan: Sea World Orlando.
For some reason, the lines there were quite reasonable. And we loved it. I still vividly remember James Earl Jones’s voice pronouncing “the legend of Shamu,” the choral voices singing the praises of “the beluga–the white whale,” the dolphins and all the rest. When I saw the same animals in the wild in Alaska, some eight years later, I could not forget the place where I had first seen many of them.
Enter Richard Bloom, Democrat, my representative in the California State Assembly.
I first met Bloom when he was still the mayor of Santa Monica, right after he had fended off a bizarre crusade to outlaw circumcision in the city. He was on hand at the Third Street Promenade to light the Hanukkah menorah. I told him I am a conservative Republican who appreciated what he had done. He went limp, like he did not know what to do with himself.
Evidently, he has found something to do in Sacramento. Assemblymember (he eschews Assemblyman) Bloom is the author of AB 2140, the so-called “Orca Bill,” which would make it illegal to “Hold in captivity, or use, a wild-caught or captive-bred orca for performance or entertainment purposes.”
Bloom’s bill is, in turn, motivated by the documentary Blackfish, an award-winning documentary that criticizes the captivity of killer whales. CNN broadcast Blackfish in a desperate attempt to boost its flagging ratings–and it worked for a while, becoming the most-watched film on CNN in 2013. The network’s anchors flogged it incessantly, and celebrities canceled Sea World appearances, creating a public relations nightmare for the park.
Sea World contends that the film is both unscientific and sensationalist–and some critics agree.
“I’m of course not going to claim that Blackfish is entirely inaccurate or useless,” Smith said, yet added: “This film doesn’t leave much room for free-thought, and instead assaults the naïve viewer with an incomplete perspective while also encouraging a flawed view of zoological facilities and animals in general.”
One thing is certain: Bloom’s bill would have destroyed Sea World, killing thousands of local jobs (both directly and indirectly) and depriving the San Diego area of untold millions of dollars in tourism revenue and tax receipts. In a state suffering the fourth-worst unemployment in the nation, Bloom’s bill came at the worst possible time.
It was easy enough to Bloom to sit in Sacramento and Santa Monica and drop the legislative hammer on people who live hours away–and who tend to vote Republican.
Perhaps, in retaliation, San Diego’s delegation could have proposed shutting down the iconic Santa Monica Pier, since it creates local water pollution that threatens wild dolphins, among other species.
Thankfully, there was no such tit-for-tat, and Bloom’s bill was tabled.
Afterwards, Bloom couldn’t stop whining, complaining that “much of the conversation has been fueled…by fear and invective and misinformation.” He should know, of course.
It’s ironic that a politician who has faced down outsiders armed with fear and misinformation–in the circumcision debate–is using similar methods in his crusade against Sea World, regardless of the science or of the consequences for his fellow Californians.
There are two problems here. One is a twisted leftist notion of nature, which leaves no room for human beings.
Back home in Santa Monica, for example, one of Bloom’s constituents is trying to ban pony rides at the local farmers’ market on the spurious basis that they amount to animal cruelty. (Thankfully, common sense still prevails among many Santa Monicans, and an online petition to keep the ponies around has more signatures.)
The other problem is the ideological rigidity of Democrats like Bloom, whose shortsightedness and appetite for control are magnified by the knowledge that they face little Republican opposition. They fashion themselves as majordomos of the nanny state, rather than representatives of the public interest.
Perhaps, one day, Sea World will be forced to let the killer whales go. Better to kick out self-serving, job-killing politicians like Bloom first.
Photo of Bloom: Steve Yeater/AP