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a) We like to start the day off with a heartwarming story of monkeys outwitting the law. In Murshidabad, in West Bengal, India, police arrested an orchard owner for shooting a female langur, a protected species, that was feeding on a tree. (Click here to see a neat picture of a female langur holding her baby). The dead langur's baby was suckling her and wouldn't let go. Police took the langur's body to their station, where the baby continued to suckle her. Officers allowed it to stay the night. During the night, 30 langurs from the mother's troop gathered on the roof of the station, "laying seige" to it, wittingly or unwittingly creating the diversion that made it possible for some of the monkeys to sneak into the station and take the baby from its dead mother. Here's the rest of the story (from Orange Today via MetaFilter):
Inspector Prabir Dutta told newspaper Pragati: "What we saw was absolutely touching. It was as if the monkeys had made up their minds to take charge of the orphan. One of the females in the group held it close to its chest and even offered its teats to be sucked. "The monkeys behaved in an exemplary fashion and impressed us with their show of solidarity. Human beings have a lot to learn from them." Later hundreds of local people carried the body of the monkey in a procession, chanting the name of Hindu monkey god Hanuman, before burying it on the banks of a river.
b) Not all "orphaned monkey stories" have as satisfying an ending. Sometimes the ending is rather ambiguous, as in this story via CNN.Com/World out of Brazil, where a game warden arrested a Dutch conservationist for sheltering 27 rare monkeys without a permit and took the monkeys from him. Marc Van Roosmalen, who lives in the jungle city of Manaus, 1,800 miles northwest of Rio de Janeiro, has discovered as many as 20 new monkey species in the last 16 years and regularly "saves" orphaned monkeys from backwoodsmen who have come upon them and are planning on eating them, a common practice in the Amazon. And it's not as if he hasn't been trying to get the needed permits -- he's been trying since 1996 but has yet to hear back from the bureaucrats.
c) Meanwhile, according to this story in the Raleigh (N.C.) News & Observer, "The campaign for district attorney of Burke, Caldwell and Catawba counties has become one of the state's nastiest in recent weeks. The four candidates in the Republican primary for the office have leveled allegations of wife beating, financial mismanagement and campaign misdeeds....'This is the worst election I have ever been involved in,' incumbent David Flaherty said. 'Don't be surprised if there are pictures of me shooting heroin or hanging out with monkeys turning up from other candidates.'" To paraphrase a joke you've probably heard before, "To accuse a politician of 'hanging out with monkeys' arguably is a slander against all monkeys." (08.02.2002)
FedEx sex? Do male prison inmates have "a constitutional right to procreate from prison via FedEx"? That's how the dissenting judge characterized the majority's holding in a 2-1 decision of a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. According to the L.A. Times, prison officials refused to let Wm. Gerber, a 41-year-old 3rd-strike convict, send a semen sample to a clinic in Chicago for use in inseminating his wife. The majority members of the appeal panel ruled that a male prison inmate has a "fundamental right to procreate" that "survives incarceration." Female inmates, however, do not have this right.... [more]
Animal rights law at Harvard Law School: Do animals have rights? Or what if the federal constitution were interpreted (5-4 by the U.S. Supreme Court?) or amended to give certain animals equal protection under the law? Might chimps, for example, become lawyers, legislators, judges, even governors? Some law schools, including Harvard Law School, have started to offer courses in animal rights law. Some so-called "animal-rights lawyers" (another new specialty) argue that, at a minimum, chimps and other primates are "persons" entitled to equal protection of the law, due process, etc. One question is: How make the courts recognize this right? One approach would be to amend the federal constitution. Animal-rights lawyers are more likely to try persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to interpret the federal constitution (perhaps by a 5-4 vote) to include chimps, etc., as "persons." Failing that, animal-rights lawyers presumably will try get individual state supreme courts interpret individual state constitutions to "cover" chimps, etc. It has been argued, at least rhetorically, by some folks that most citizens are "chimps." If they are, does it follow, as the night follows the day, that chimps therefore are entitled to citizenship? H.L. Mencken deflated this argument somewhat: he opined that while most citizens aren't chimps, many or most politicians are. If most politicians are chimps, then at least the law might recognize that chimps may run for public office, thereby legitimizing existing practice. Animal rights lawyers advocating chimp rights, many of whom are "pro-choice" on the abortion rights issue, are keeping their fingers crossed that abortion-rights advocates won't point out the irony of arguing that while a human fetus is not a "person," a chimp is one.
What would equal protection for chimps mean? Would they have the right to drive cars? Might there be "affirmative action" for chimps, to make up for past injustices against chimps? And how could we give chimps equal protection but not dogs? And what would equal protection for dogs mean? Dogs already work in police departments, for the military, on farms, in movies, on television, as guides, in retirement homes, in circuses, at golf courses. Dogs who work don't get paid (unless one counts the Purina Dog Chow and the L.L. Bean bed and the cloth squeaky bear, Mathilda's favorite toy, as "payment") and don't receive any so-called employment benefits (well, some get to sleep with the boss), and yet dogs have never sought to form unions and they're always happy and cheerful on the job. No reasonable person would doubt that dogs would perform similarly smilingly as lawyers, legislators, judges, governors, even as clerks at McDonalds. But one can only speculate as to what they would do in those positions. If dogs gain political and economic power, will they stop wagging their tails? Will they make us sleep on the floor, eat out of a bowl, stand on our heads, chase tennis balls and flying discs, and carry our own waste in plastic bags attached to our collars as we run around the lake? Will they "put us to sleep" if we become incontinent? In short, will they treat us like dogs? "So what?" one might reply. Many of us, yours included, have been treated like dogs by certain bosses. Would it be worse if a dog treated us like a dog? Again, some of the bosses who treat employees like dogs in fact are themselves "dogs," if you know what I mean. And as for the other stuff, heck, most human beings, even self-professed Christians, seem to have few or no scruples about incarcerating their brethren for excessively long periods of time under brutalizing conditions, about locking up old folks against their wills in nursing homes, about "pulling the plug" on incontinent old people, or about executing criminals (including lawfully-convicted "criminals" like Jesus Christ). Hell, I find it hard to believe we'd have anything to worry about if the Mathildas of the world were "in charge." But, and this is important, if we extend equal protection to chimps and dogs, we have to find a way -- in advance -- to counteract the argument that silly cat lovers surely will make, to wit, that cats are people, too.
Announcement. We've finally gotten around to launching our new webzine/blawg: BurtLaw's The Daily Judge:
It is not an online newspaper and is not affiliated with or intended to be mistaken for any existing or previously-existing newspaper or journal. Rather, it is a so-called "blawg," a law-related personal "web log" or "blog," one with a subjective, idiosyncratic, and eccentric sociological and social-psychological slant that focuses not on the latest judicial decisions of supposed great importance but on a) the institution of judge in the United States and in other countries throughout the world, b) the judicial office and role, c) judicial personalities, d) the great common law tradition of judging as practiced here and throughout the world, e) judges as judges, f) judges as ordinary people with the usual mix of virtues and flaws, etc. We link to newspapers and other sources in order to alert the reader to ideas, articles, stories, speeches, law books, literary works and other things about "judges" that have interested us and that may interest the reader.
We don't promote our blawgs, but readers of this blog and of our affiliated political opinion blog, BurtonHanson.Com, may be interested in it. We don't think there is another blawg quite like it.