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Originally published Sunday, October 27, 2013 at 5:31 AM

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Living on shaky ground, swimming against the tide

The Wrap by Ron Judd

Seattle Times staff columnist


There’s bad timing, and then there’s Woodland Park Zoo bad timing.

On Tuesday, a majority on a zoo-picked panel of experts opined that three current elephants should remain at Woodland Park, rather than be released to retirement at a sanctuary, as animal activists have urged.

It’s a disappointing blind spot for an institution that has in many ways been a leader in treating captive animals humanely. Still, most weeks, the report probably wouldn’t have been dinner-table conversation.

Then along came Thursday’s TV broadcast of the damning captive-orca documentary “Blackfish.” And by week’s end, Woodland Park undoubtedly found itself lumped, in the minds of some locals with the scurrilous animal-entertainment scoundrels who run SeaWorld.

Fair? Not really. The zoo at least seems to be listening to panel recommendations about captivity improvements. But it’s still captivity, and the common underlying principle is unavoidable: Both institutions are scoffing at the growing understanding that there may be no humane way to keep captive extremely large, peaceful mammals that possess intelligence we have not yet begun to understand. And both are vainly trying to swim against the tide of reason and evolving public opinion.

Good luck with that, folks.

More shaky common ground:

Just Listenin’: Germany’s spy chiefs were said to be headed to Washington, D.C., to express outrage over NSA phone-tapping of German officials. We feel your pain, dudes, but seriously, if you need to get a message to President Obama, you can just speak directly into your schnitzel.

Speaking of Angela Merkel: Please raise your hand if you were shocked — shocked — to learn that people living in the shadows and given carte blanche to listen in on anyone, without warrant or cause, invariably will choose to do so.

Seriously, Though: Not sure what her beef is. She has the rare distinction of being the first European leader to be groped by one U.S. president and snooped on by another.

Not That You Need One, But: Still looking for a reason to vote no on Mayor McSchwinn in the Seattle mayoral election? At a candidate’s forum, Hizzoner once again blew off the duplicitous double dealings in Sacramento of his backroom biz partner, NBA–franchise huckster Chris Hansen, by repeating the hedge funder’s laughable non-excuse excuse that he “got caught up in the heat of the moment.” Yes, it’s OK to judge a candidate by his imagined friends.

A Safe Room for Captain Brylcreem: Mitt Romney’s latest mansion has a secret room with ample file storage space, blueprints reveal. It’s where he’s going to store his secret, mystery, never-revealed, detailed plan to fix the U.S. economy.

Proving That Everyone Has to be Good at Something: Seattle is the source of more trending “hashtag” topics than any other city populated by bored, unmotivated, listless hipsters in the U.S., according to a report. #OurParentsMustBeSoProud.

And Finally: Even as Patty Murray and Paul Ryan sat down to continue carving up what’s left of social services, Boeing, formerly of Seattle, announced it will renew its partnership with Lockheed Martin to build the “next-generation” long-range bomber for the Air Force — a potential $55 billion contract. Nice to see the Cold War still keeping those assembly lines moving 24 years after it ended.

Ron Judd’s column appears each Sunday. Reach him at or 206-464-8280.


About The Wrap / Ron Judd

"The Wrap" appears on Sundays, highlighting the absurd and providing the punch line to the week's news headlines.