Monday, May 05, 2008

Terra Nullius

Swiss lawyers are elaborating the doctrine of vegetable rights. "A few years ago the Swiss added to their national constitution a provision requiring "account to be taken of the dignity of creation when handling animals, plants and other organisms." No one knew exactly what it meant, so they asked the Swiss Federal Ethics Committee on Non-Human Biotechnology to figure it out." In short, they are arguing that plants have inherent rights which humans can't transgress. It sounds ridiculous. Why should we care? But we should.

A 24 page PDF edition of the committee report can be read here. One of the arguments for plant rights is that vegetables are members of "collectives". But beyond that, each individual plant has inherent worth, rather in the way that men used to have. Therefore the committee concludes that "it is unanimously held that plants may not be arbitrarily destroyed ... the majority considers this morally impermissible because something bad is being done to the plant itself without rational reason and thus without justification."

But who is really being "empowered" by the Swiss committee's decision? Is it plants? No. It is bureaucrats. The point of vegetable rights isn't to give plants dignity but to transfer yet more individual human freedoms to activists and government officials.

Deciding that individuals had power over themselves and the things around them was central to the development of human freedom -- and human rights. The noted English jurist William Blackstone made the argument that property rights were the "sole and despotic dominion which one man claims and exercises over the external things of the world, in total exclusion of the right of any other individual in the universe". Whether one agrees or not, historically this was important because it marked the boundary between the power of the King and the power of the individual. In the world of absolute Monarchs, humans had no more rights than rocks or plants, a point we will return to later. The Swiss committee's decision, far from being progressive, is retrograde. In many parts of the world today a "homeowner" cannot make alterations to his house, even those of a nonstructural nature, without getting a permit.  Now the power of the permit is being extended to the flower-bed. Since the Swiss committee maintains that plants may not be disposed of without a rational reason, it must be asked who determines those reasons. Naturally it is the bureaucrats. The Weekly Standard describes the clear, bright line which determines vegetable rights.

The committee offered this illustration: A farmer mows his field (apparently an acceptable action, perhaps because the hay is intended to feed the farmer's herd--the report doesn't say). But then, while walking home, he casually "decapitates" some wildflowers with his scythe. The panel decries this act as immoral, though its members can't agree why.

The point of course, is that in a world of bureaucratically defined vegetable rights, the 'whys' won't count any more. All that need be done is to point to a rule in the book and the appropriate citation can be written with payment expected promptly for violations. And this necessarily has consequences for human freedom. When you don't even own the turnips in your refrigerator or the grass on your lawn what freedom do you actually possess?

The connection with property rights and freedom is an intimate one. The world before human property rights was not especially nice. The Aborigines of Australia -- lacking the Englishman's right to property -- were simply treated like one of the rocks. They were dispossessed of their lands -- and hence their rights -- by the simple argument that they had no property and that the British Crown on its arrival on the southern continent owned everything in sight. When the court decided in Mabo versus Queensland was that there was no such thing as terra nullius or "land belonging to no one" it was hailed as a landmark blow for Aboriginal Rights.

The point of legally empowering vegetables is not to give standing to a stalk of celery who might suddenly decide to appear in court, but to empower the bureaucrats and activist lawyers who will appear on their behalf. Today we already have spokesmen for Gaia. Tomorrow the lawyers from Brussels will be lawyers for brussels sprouts.

The Belmont Club is supported largely by donations from its readers.


Blogger Derek Kite said...

I've sometimes thought that these commissions are a way to keep useless people off the streets. Looks cleaner than having some semi educated twit in rags pontificating on the street corner.

I'm now beginning to see that starvation as a social mechanism has some value.

How about these idiots forced to actually grow some food for themselves, or starve.

The real problem is that they won't starve. Others, their betters in fact, will due to their stupidity.


5/05/2008 01:24:00 PM  
Blogger Jrod said...

Thank goodness this law was not on the books during William Tell's age. Only God knows how many apples were senselessly slain.

5/05/2008 01:26:00 PM  
Blogger Katchoo said...

If these Swiss Lawyers live in an upscale neighborhood that will now go to seed, literally, because no one is allowed to mow their lawns or trim their bushes, then their property values are going to tank. And when that happens they will say, meekly, "Never mind!" and quietly drop the proposal.

5/05/2008 01:37:00 PM  
Blogger Derek Kite said...

This got my juices going.

In the 70's there was a 'back to the land' movement, where counter culture types would move to remote areas to live a pure life, or something. Nelson BC and environs was a prime destination due to it's proximity to the US border (dodging the draft and import/export business opportunities in recreational chemicals) and remote location.

By the time I moved to this area in the early 80's, the movement was fizzling out. I went to a hardware store for something and was looking at what was called at the time 'air tight stoves', a wood burning stove made out of 18ga blue steel. The salesman said they were called 'hippie killers'.

The counter culture types ran into an unforseen impediment called winter. After running naked in the bushes and wildflowers all summer, the gods took vengeance and turned the weather cold. They would pool their meager cash and buy a 'air tight stove' for around $70 or so, steal some plywood somewhere and put up a shack. There would be a dozen hippies in the little room huddled around a red hot stove when the bottom burnt out of the thing, killing them all.

The survivors went on into government, and outlawed the sale of these stoves.


5/05/2008 01:37:00 PM  
Blogger Benj said...

Forgive me for taking the thread in another but with N.C. primary coming up - the issues of wack law, bureaucracy and political corectness led me in this direction - Figure someone might want to follow...Found the following info on teh blog of a prof (KC Johnson) who wrote a blog/book exposing Nifong - the Durham prosecutor of the lacrosse team. Johnosn is an Obama supporter so you'll need to figure that in as you evaluate his longer post - but figured it still might be interesting for Clubbers to know Obama took the right stand on Nifong... No real surprise but figured some other folks here might be interested so forgive me for going off-subject///

Nut graph from Johnson's post: "Obama was, of course, the only presidential candidate of either party to support a DOJ investigation of Mike Nifong. (He did so in early 2007, joining only two other Democratic officeholders—New Jersey senator Bob Menendez and Long Island congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy. Eleven Republican members of the House, led by Walter Jones, urged a DOJ inquiry, though neither of North Carolina's two Republican senators did so.) Hillary Clinton remained silent on the issue, even though one of her constituents was among the falsely accused. And the third major Democratic candidate, John Edwards, hired as his official campaign blogger a guilt-presuming ideologue who maintained as late as January 2007 that an attack had occurred. Given that the state NAACP had championed Nifong’s cause, it’s hard to argue that Obama’s position on the lacrosse case represented political pandering on a racially charged question."

Here's a link -

5/05/2008 01:55:00 PM  
Blogger Teresita said...

...A farmer mows his field (apparently an acceptable action, perhaps because the hay is intended to feed the farmer's herd--the report doesn't say)...

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) are going to try to ram this through in America, except without the waiver for hay. If a farmer can't get feed for his animals, he won't breed animals for slaughter. Of course, they will have to have another meeting to decide if it's okay to murder lettuce and celery for humans, now that we all must become vegans.

5/05/2008 02:04:00 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Ideas have consequences, even (or especially) stupid ones.

Generally, Americans agree with T. Jefferson that the "Laws of Nature and of Nature's God" provide us with some kind of foundational guidance for thinking about our social and political plights.

Moreover, the foundational wisdom is useful in helping us determine what truths we are going to hold as self-evident.

One sees in the Switzerland news item a half-baked competing interpretation of 'Nature and Nature's God.' The Swiss version seems to rely on a pantheistic notion of the world, i.e. all creation is imbued with divinity, and even may constitute divinity itself. Attention to the rights of veggies is a logical consequence of a Gaia philosophy-religion.

What right does anyone have to squash a bug? Hindus and Jains answered this to their satisfaction many years ago.

Christians have a sophisticated theology of creation and humankind-in-creation, developed over centuries. But understanding that theology takes some effort, and some assent to resulting doctrine.

Which is like so, so old-fashioned.

5/05/2008 02:49:00 PM  
Blogger putnam said...

I don't find any mention of this in the Swiss press, and I am skeptical of the Weekly Standards reporting.

More important to me was a local election where the conservative SVP party got even more seats. Also important is a pending initiative to drastically reduce the number of citizenships granted to immigrants from the Balkans (albania/kosovo). Front page article from the weekend: albanian gang shoot out in Wil, father and son murdered.

In Switzerland, Zürich and Geneva are the equivalents of San Francisco and New York. A lot of green/red ideas spew from these cities, but the citizens are more practical than the politicians.

There is also the Swiss system of initiatives that allows the citizens to make laws doing/undoing some of the brilliant ideas proposed by their representatives.

Take Pharma or Banking, the Swiss people have pretty consistently recognized the importance of their national champions in these areas.

Also, I think you need to understand that there is a big difference between Swiss lawyers and American lawyers. Not that they are better, just different.

As of 2009, anyone who purchases a dog will have to undergo "dog training". For each dog that you purchase you will also have to take that dog to a special dog course. Reason: All those idiots with Shepards, pitbulls and rotwielers have ruined it for the rest of us.

The Swiss are also very strict about the water system, with any building near a stream or river stricktly regulated.

In a very small and very rich country with a high population density (especially where the land is habitable), a high degree of regulation is to be expected. This ain't alaska!

So my guess is that there are a variety of factions supporting this legislation, and that a lot of it has been taken out of context in the US pressbmvkkh

5/05/2008 02:53:00 PM  
Blogger Arthur Dent said...

Ramones, Every time I eat vegetables it make me think of you (youtube):
East Berlin?

She was a really good friend, a really
Good friend to me, yeah. She was a really
Good friend, a really good friend to me, yeah

But they took her away tossed her in the bin
Now she's hanging out in East Berlin, ow-ooo

She had a very bad affair with some cat from
Hiroshima she turned into a head of lettuce
She eats Thorazine in her farina but they took
Her away tossed her in the bin now she's hanging
Out un East Berlin, ow-ooo

And everytime I eat vegetables it makes me think
Of you and everytime I eat vegetables I don't know
what to do....


5/05/2008 03:00:00 PM  
Blogger ADE said...

Not so quick, everybody.

Can't plant rights be used to stop Afghan farmers torturing poppies with razor blades?

No drug trade! Simple.


5/05/2008 03:02:00 PM  
Blogger Wretchard said...

We don't have to take the Weekly Standard's word for it. I've got a link to the report of the Swiss Committee itself. I too thought that it was to improbable to believe. But when I found the report what could I say?

I think Senator Obama's call to investigate Nifong is commendable. But to put it in perspective, he wrote his letter around March 25, 2007 (

To locate Obama's letter calling for investigation in the timeline, here's the sequence from Wikipedia.

Critics of the district attorney requested that Nifong be investigated, punished and disbarred for his actions in this case.[19] On December 12, 2006, it was reported that Republican Representative Walter Jones of North Carolina's 3rd district sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales asking for an investigation into whether Nifong committed "prosecutorial misconduct" and violated the civil rights of the three suspects in the case;[20] Gonzales stated that his office might investigate how Nifong had handled the case.[21] Critics have noted that police were instructed to "Go through Mr. Nifong for any directions as to how to conduct matters in this case." This was an unusual move for a prosecutor to order.[22]

On December 22, 2006, Nifong dropped rape charges against the three Duke lacrosse players after the stripper who accused them changed her story, saying that she was no longer certain whether she was penetrated vaginally with one or more men's penises. This also was a few days after it was revealed in court that Nifong had withheld evidence from the defense concerning the DNA tests performed.[23] Nifong came "under heavy criticism" for pressing ahead with what appeared to many to be a weak case without any physical evidence. The defense argued that the accuser had given at least a dozen different accounts of the incident, changing the number of attackers from 20 to three, and modifying the methods by which she was assaulted.[23]

On January 12, 2007, Nifong sent a letter to North Carolina Attorney General Roy A. Cooper asking his office to assume responsibility of the case.[24] This came just days after the accuser changed her story yet again, now claiming that Reade Seligmann was not involved in the alleged attack.[25][26] Previously she had accused him and two others of the alleged rape.[25][26]

On January 13 Cooper announced that his office would take over the case.[27]

On April 11 Cooper announced that all charges in the case would be dropped and that "based on the significant inconsistencies between the evidence and the various accounts given by the accusing witness, we believe these three individuals are innocent of these charges". He referred to Nifong as a "rogue" prosecutor.

About a week after the Obama letter, 60 Minutes would win the Peabody award for "exposing" Nifong. So the destruction of Nifong was pretty much complete at around the time Obama wrote his letter.

That doesn't make it wrong. In fact it is commendable. But I don't know whether it made much of a difference at that point since Nifong was practically crashed and burnt by that time.

5/05/2008 03:03:00 PM  
Blogger Pascal Fervor said...

Am I allowed to say I told you so yet? Nah. Much too soon for most club members.

There are so many other other species prevalent on this planet, now that we've permitted the übermenschen to install themselves in those bureaucracies, ultimately what rights may a human individual hope to be honored?

At our Mad-hatter's tea party, they'll have the tea bags supercede us. "No room for ünterhomosapiens."

5/05/2008 04:25:00 PM  
Blogger RattlerGator said...

Very good point about KC, Wretchard.

He's one of those good guys who still can't quite come to terms with the virtual certainty -- and I mean certainty -- that Barack Obama would have hung those lacrosse players, too.

Of that, I have very little doubt.

One of my greater disappointments concerning that situation was going off on the absurdity of it all and having a good friend, a black lawyer from North Carolina who hates Duke -- like most North Carolinians, black and white -- ask me why the heck it was so important to me.

I was amazed that I even had to go beyond the obvious injustice, but it was clear to me that any prosecutor capable of that level of crass opportunism would casually do similar injustices to black defendants who are caught up in the criminal justice system far more often than those Duke students.

The fact that the Governor and Attorney General of North Carolina couldn't (or wouldn't) do anything about it was equally disturbing.

Defending plants? Yeah, right.

5/05/2008 04:33:00 PM  
Blogger Teresita said...

Rattlegator: He's one of those good guys who still can't quite come to terms with the virtual certainty -- and I mean certainty -- that Barack Obama would have hung those lacrosse players, too.

He must have learned something from that near-miss when he almost hung the lacross players, but sent a letter asking them to investigate the DA instead. Because a few days ago in the Sean Bell case (where the black kid went down under a hail of 50 police bullets), Obama said, “We’re a nation of laws, so we respect the verdict that came down,. Resorting to violence to express displeasure over a verdict is something that is completely unacceptable and is counterproductive.”

5/05/2008 05:26:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

This is to be expected.

Give vegetables and fruits positions in government and sooner or later they will start protecting their own and advancing their own agenda.

After all, the nuts have done this for years.

5/05/2008 05:43:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

So what about germ rights? They're living creatures, too, aren't they? How dare we innoculate against polio and smallpox and measles, killing off all those defenseless colonies of microbes that are only trying to reproduce and grow up to be the best little germs they can possibly be.

I'll bet germs are probably different colors, too, if we could just see them, so there's also a racism angle that you don't get with plants which are mainly just different hues of boring seasick green.

5/05/2008 06:03:00 PM  
Blogger PapaBear said...

The more of these regulations there are, the more jobs are created for people's nephews who are otherwise worthless in the private economy.

There are also more incentives created for private individuals to be on good terms with their local politicians. You need to have somebody in government to call to iron out difficulties that they themselves create

5/05/2008 06:12:00 PM  
Blogger Benj said...

Thanks to T. for making the point (Jobnson starts off w/ O.'s response to the Bell case.) - Wretch is right that O shnouldn't too get too much play for his position. But I'll admit it's the kind of small detail that seems telling. Especially when you compare O's response to Hill's , say, or that of the republicans in N.C. A small bit of evidence suggesting the guy is not a hustler, but rather someone w/ pretty good instincts re race matters...And someone who will do the right thing though not in a show-offy way...

5/05/2008 06:18:00 PM  
Blogger Katchoo said...

Mark, in Genesis 1:30 God gives us every green thing to eat (in fact he also gives every green thing to the animals to eat too). In Genesis 9:3 he gives every animal for man to eat. Later, when he chooses to himself a people who will be separate from the nations around them as a witness to God's holiness, he requires the people of that nation to eat only certain kinds of meat, and others he forbids.

But in every case, man is to be a good steward of these things, because wanton destruction dishonors the Maker of all, in the same way it dishonors you when some kids come by with spray paint and tag the boat you spent years building from scratch. All this was codified in the scripture long ago. The Swiss lawyers here are just reinventing the wheel, because they have chucked all our traditions and they have nothing remaining to guide them other than "it feels good".

5/05/2008 06:47:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...

Somehow, I'm reminded of a Tom Paxton song, Don't Slay That Potato.

5/05/2008 07:11:00 PM  
Blogger Teresita said...

Ade: Can't plant rights be used to stop Afghan farmers torturing poppies with razor blades? No drug trade! Simple.

On the contrary, it means Uncle Sam can't spray poppies anymore to halt the drug trade, because the pretty flowers might die! And then where would the Europeans get their smack so they don't have to focus on the encroachment of Sharia Law?

5/05/2008 07:47:00 PM  
Blogger Bleepless said...

You size bigots are forgetting our tiny friends, subatomic particles. Muons have rights, too!

5/05/2008 08:13:00 PM  
Blogger ADE said...

You're absolutely right, of course, Teresita. I'd conpletely forgotten that under the PC requirement of reverse racism, Funny Brown People are never required to obey Universal Declarations of Rights.

I propose we set up a Foundation - something with a universal ring to it, how about Plants for Peace? Hey, Tshirts with P4P logo. This is working, isn't it?

Next thing we do is get a government grant, global warming will swing it for us.

Then a conference in an exotic location, say the Amazon?

Don't forget to bring your bikini and a cut flower for your hair. Rats, I'm not getting it, am I?

Perhaps I'm a closet Plantophobe.


5/05/2008 09:33:00 PM  
Blogger Mad Fiddler said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5/05/2008 09:52:00 PM  
Blogger Tom R said...

... But in the beginning of the twentieth century the game of Cheat the Prophet was made far more difficult than it had ever been before. The reason was, that there were so many prophets and so many prophecies that it was difficult to elude all their ingenuities. When a man did something free and frantic and entirely his own, a horrible thought struck him afterwards; it might have been predicted....

But the way the prophets of the twentieth century went to work was this. They took something or other that was certainly going on in their time, and then said that it would go on more and more until something extraordinary happened. And very often they added that in some odd place that extraordinary thing had happened, and that it showed the signs of the times.

Then there was... Mr Edward Carpenter, who thought we should in a very short time return to Nature, and live simply. and slowly as the animals do. And Edward Carpenter was followed by James Pickie, DD (of Pocahontas College), who said that men were immensely improved by. grazing, or taking their food slowly and continuously;... after the manner of cows. And he said that he had, with the most encouraging results, turned city men out on all fours in a field covered with veal cutlets. Then Tolstoy and the Humanitarians said that the world was growing more merciful, and therefore no one would ever desire to kill. And Mr Mick not only became a vegetarian, but at length declared vegetarianism doomed ("shedding," as he called it finely, "the green blood of the silent animals"), and predicted that men in a better age would live on nothing but salt. And then came the pamphlet from Oregon (where the thing was tried), the pamphlet called "Why Should Salt Suffer?" and there was more trouble...

- GK Chesterton, The Napoleon of Notting Hill

5/05/2008 10:16:00 PM  
Blogger Mad Fiddler said...

What about all those heartless bastards that cut down then BURNED Marijuana plants, just for yucks?

But WAIT! THEY're the ones that started all this counter-culture "back-to-the-land" "Love-a-Tree" stuff. How could they...

On the other hand, here's an entire shelf full of excuses for kids to defy their parents when ordered to:

Cut the Grass...
Weed the Dandelions...
Prune the hedge
Shape the topiary plants (SLAVERY!)
Starve that poor little Bonsai Elm!

Of course, professional plant murderers like tree fellers are already targeted for punishment and shame.

Next, all the people who make their livelihood from the suffering of plants:

makers of flax & linen thread
cabinet makers
turners, carpenters, sawyers
paper makers & printers
artists painting on wood & canvas & paper
makers of Louisville Sluggers
saddle makers (they also use -GASP- LEATHER!)

Will we be allowed to eat only the fruits and seeds of plants? If so, then say goodbye to

sugar from cane or beets
et cetera

Obviously we have no right to wrest from the noble plant all those herbal medicines and all the processed Western allopathic pharmaceuticals.


5/05/2008 10:17:00 PM  
Blogger Mad Fiddler said...

What about all those heartless bastards that cut down then BURNED Marijuana plants, just for yucks?

But WAIT! THEY're the ones that started all this counter-culture "back-to-the-land" "Love-a-Tree" stuff. How could they...

On the other hand, here's an entire shelf full of excuses for kids to defy their parents when ordered to:

Cut the Grass...
Weed the Dandelions...
Prune the hedge
Shape the topiary plants (SLAVERY!)
Starve that poor little Bonsai Elm!

Of course, professional plant murderers like tree fellers are already targeted for punishment and shame.

Next, all the people who make their livelihood from the suffering of plants:

makers of flax & linen thread
cabinet makers
turners, carpenters, sawyers
paper makers & printers
artists painting on wood & canvas & paper
makers of Louisville Sluggers
saddle makers (they also use -GASP- LEATHER!)

Will we be allowed to eat only the fruits and seeds of plants? If so, then say goodbye to

sugar from cane or beets
et cetera

Obviously we have no right to wrest from the noble plant all those herbal medicines and all the processed Western allopathic pharmaceuticals.


5/05/2008 10:17:00 PM  
Blogger Utopia Parkway said...

The author of the article at Weekly Standard is a nut. He's apparently a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute. Wikipedia says the Discovery Institute is a U.S. think tank ... best known for its advocacy of intelligent design. Intelligent Design = Nut.

The author's interminable articles on the Terry Shiavo case a few years ago were an assault on reason. He was in favor of saving a vegetable in that case but is against the vegetables in this case.

I noticed that W doesn't quote him too much in his post. His explanation of the Swiss report: Our accelerating rejection of the Judeo-Christian world view, which upholds the unique dignity and moral worth of human beings, is driving us crazy. It all comes down to religion with this guy. Walnut? Pecan? Dunno but it's in the same genus.

I did look at the Swiss report. OK, there are some nuts in Switzerland too. Frankly from reading the report I can't really tell what its point or import is. Why was it written? It's not a law, it's just a report. (I wouldn't believe one word written by the nut at the weekly standard on this issue.) If you read through it there's a lot of we don't know's, maybe's and could be's. The report isn't unanimous on anything much, but there were some nuts and some sane people on the committee.

Just because there are some nuts in Switzerland that don't want to say definitely that plants have no sentience doesn't mean that the world is going to hell in a hand basket. I think you just got caught up in the nutty world of the author at WS. I don't think this will amount to anything.

One last thing, there is a kind of Germanic world view that I think the Swiss also subscribe to that looks askance at any sort of breach of the rules, any sort of actions that don't make sense. The sentiment in the report about it being bad to cut off flower heads for no reason was quoted in the WS article and by W above. I think this sentiment is more akin to being against breaking windows with rocks or painting graffiti in the subway than it is to giving plants a moral worth.

5/05/2008 10:35:00 PM  
Blogger putnam said...

Switzerland is a very "green" country, very densely populated. You can walk, with minor restrictions, on any all land anywhere in the country. In this sense, already there are no absolute property rights like you have in the states; you can't fence off your land with "no trespassing" signs.

In the alps farmers who hay will often leave little patches of flowers along the trail. There is a ban on picking Enzian and Edelweis because so many people have taken the flowers that you only find them on inaccessible rock faces. On the weekend you will often see dozens of people walking down the mountains with hands full of alpenrosen and wild flowers. In the forests, there are also dozens of people looking for edible mushrooms.

The point is that nature is Switzerland is under a lot of pressure from humanity.

There is also very strong feelings towards animal suffering that have cost the farmers dearly. No longer can they keep calves in the dark their entire life so that the veal is lighter. No longer can they keep cows and horses tied up all day long in low, narrow stalls. Now barns have to be built with areas for the cows, pigs and chickens to move about.

Everything is also regulated to a degree unknown in the US. You have to register in the town you move to. Health insurance is mandatory, and the country is the most insured in the world (legal insurance is the one I am adding next).

70% of the People are renters living elbow to elbow in apartment buildings.

So when you say but to empower the bureaucrats and activist lawyers who will appear on their behalf I think that you do not fully understand the country and the legislators motives.

I will however concede that this committee report goes to far, but my reaction is that this is probably due to over-educated and under-worked doctors and scientists.

5/05/2008 10:51:00 PM  
Blogger bobal said...

Will we be allowed to eat only the fruits and seeds of plants?


You fool, that's the next generation.

5/06/2008 01:09:00 AM  
Blogger Peter Grynch said...

We thought that we would never see
A suit to compensate a tree.
A suit whose claim in tort is prest,
Upon a mangled tree's behest;
A tree whose battered trunk was prest
Against a Chevy's crumpled crest;
A tree that faces each new day
With bark and limb in disarray;
A tree that may forever bear
A lasting need for tender care.
Flora lovers though we three,
We must affirm the court’s decree.


Parody Joyce KILMER 1888_1918 - Trees

Michigan appellate court decision 333 N.W.2d 67
(Mich. App.1983)

5/06/2008 05:08:00 AM  
Blogger Marcus Aurelius said...

Reading through the comments leads me to a few thoughts.

Do we need to grant rights to plants to justify laws prohibiting the picking of wild flowers? Here in WI my understanding is it is illegal to pick wild orchids whether they are on your land or not. The justification being wild orchids are very touchy and rare plants (most require very specific growing conditions). In Switzerland it seems the idea (since all people can wander pretty much anywhere) is to preserve the pretty flowers along the walking paths for all to enjoy. They chose the case they discuss for a reason.

The board has no problem with Farmer Giuseppe harvesting his crops but argues about the deflowering of flowers (I am being literal here) is a no-no. Given the discussion it seems the aim is to preserve that which the public values and can not bring themselves to say the reason is anthropocentric.

Now this report still is troubling because it certainly seems the basis they use to ground their finding is vegetable rights. There will be those who will want to ape "sophisticated Europe" and will seize upon the vegetable rights thing. They will sniff at us about how sophisticated Europe protects the rights of rutabagas and nations like China, Saudi Arabia, and the United States do not.

As far as eating the fruit and seeds of the plants when it is noted we are eating the future generations we can just say we are helping the plants exercise their right to choose.

5/06/2008 07:43:00 AM  
Blogger Peter Grynch said...

When seedles grapes are outlawed, only outlaws will have seedless grapes.

5/06/2008 09:45:00 AM  
Blogger Mad Fiddler said...

it has been pointed out that there are many plants whose seeds only germinate after having passed through the digestive system of certain animals. Presumably the acids and churning soften the husks enough for the seedling to break free.

Seems there are species of pine in the Pacific Northwest the seeds of which will only germinate after having been scorched by a passing fire. It makes sense --- a seed untouched by fire will likely find itself in a forest in which the competition for light and nutrients is fierce. But a seed which has been singed by a fire will likely sprout in a place where it will enjoy more light and room, and even nutrients from the ash.

Whether you call it "intelligent design" or dumb mechanical chance, the slow crawl of time seems to find a balance beyond the reckoning of humans.

Who knows? Maybe with the passage of another few millions of years, a system will emerge in which humans actually thrive and prosper under smug, stupid, and corrupt bureaucrats.

5/06/2008 10:34:00 AM  
Blogger Peter Grynch said...

Mad Fiddler has a point. Who cares if the California Condor goes extinct? Using genetic engineering, we can create four-legged condors that taste like chicken. Drumsticks for everyone!

Naval oranges are all mutants which would not exist if some farmer hadn't recognized their commercial value. How many cows would there be today if they didn't taste so good?

Lets classify all lifeforms into "symbionts" and "parasites" and then wipe out the parasites. I don't ever want the Feds to add the mosquito or the anthax virus to the Endangered Species List.

Embrace the change, stability leads to decay!

5/06/2008 11:20:00 AM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

Naval oranges would be the ocean-going kind sailing off into the sunset.

Navel oranges would be the sort with an innie at one end, showing where it tried to grow in upon itself looking for missing seeds.

Let's classify all lifeforms into "spellers" and "nonspellers" and see if that makes any difference.

5/06/2008 11:29:00 AM  
Blogger Peter Grynch said...

Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

5/06/2008 12:27:00 PM  
Blogger Marcus Aurelius said...


Only with difficulty.

An ESL colleague distributed a document that started off with proper spelling but slowly started to do away with redundancies in the spelling. That is, after a while C was completely out (S & K do just nicely: e.g. "The weather was not nise for it was kold out") eventually the document was readable only with great effort. I wish I could get a hold of that one again, bekuz it was funy to.

5/06/2008 12:53:00 PM  
Blogger luagha said...

MEIHEM IN CE KLASRUM, by Dolton Edwards, 1946. A brilliant piece. Easily Googlable.

5/06/2008 01:09:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

So then 2CM = E has as much scientific validity as its obverse.

You can get away with that argument in liberal arts, political science, or even psychology. But once you're in a field where measurements count or you're trying to get a recalcitrant computer to behave, you'd better have your P's and Q's straight, and your navies lined up in a ducklike row.

5/06/2008 01:17:00 PM  
Blogger Pascal Fervor said...

Marcus Aurelius: Is this what you are referring to?

A Plan for the Improvement of English Spelling -- by Mark Twain

For example, in Year 1 that useless letter "c" would be dropped to be replased either by "k" or "s", and likewise "x" would no longer be part of the alphabet. The only kase in which "c" would be retained would be the "ch" formation, which will be dealt with later.

Year 2 might reform "w" spelling, so that "which" and "one" would take the same konsonant, wile Year 3 might well abolish "y" replasing it with "i" and Iear 4 might fiks the "g/j" anomali wonse and for all.

Jenerally, then, the improvement would kontinue iear bai iear with Iear 5 doing awai with useless double konsonants, and Iears 6-12 or so modifaiing vowlz and the rimeining voist and unvoist konsonants. Bai Iear 15 or sou, it wud fainali bi posibl tu meik ius ov thi ridandant letez "c", "y" and "x" -- bai now jast a memori in the maindz ov ould doderez -- tu riplais "ch", "sh", and "th" rispektivli.

Fainali, xen, aafte sam 20 iers ov orxogrefkl riform, wi wud hev a lojikl, kohirnt speling in ius xrewawt xe Ingliy-spiking werld.

5/06/2008 02:14:00 PM  
Blogger Marcus Aurelius said...

Paskal Fervor,

Dat it.

5/06/2008 02:32:00 PM  
Blogger Pascal Fervor said...

Iu mean, Xat it.

5/06/2008 02:46:00 PM  
Blogger putnam said...

Wretchard said Swiss lawyers are elaborating...

Here is this list of members of the comittee:

It is interesting to note that not one is a lawyer. I realize that this is hard for an Ami or Aussi to fathom, but Switzerland is not nearly as litigious as they are.

Switzerland has been called a nation of tradesmen, but that is only partly true. A select minority makes it to the elite free universities, where they often stay until well into their 30's (like several other countries in Europe).

If you look at the members of the committee, they are all PhD's in things like philosophy, theology, ethics.

IMHO, these are the over-educated Swiss Brahmins. The Swiss lawyers also come from this pool, and they never seem to have to get down and dirty like the American ones do.

5/06/2008 10:19:00 PM  

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