Feeds

Talking pets: Obama's guru wants animals to sue you

Making an Ass of the Law

SANS - Survey on application security programs

Obama's "regulation czar" Professor Cass Sunstein wants animals to be able to sue.

Animals can't reason or express themselves, naturally, so the litigation would be handled by human lawyers, acting as ventriloquists on behalf of the animal kingdom. Think Mister Ed the talking horse, crossed with Eliot Spitzer.

"Any animals that are entitled to bring suit would be represented by (human) counsel, who would owe guardian-like obligations and make decisions, subject to those obligations, on their clients' behalf," according to Sunstein. The Harvard legal scholar first proposed the argument in 2002.

"This doesn’t look good for hunters, ranchers, restaurateurs, biomedical researchers, or ordinary pet owners," says the food industry lobby group The Center for Consumer Freedom, which raised Sunstein's radical "rights" agenda. In Spain, activists have already proposed that apes be granted human rights.

Yet the Professor's proposal is fraught with practical difficulties. Ventriloquists have often seen their "animal" veer out of control: remember Rod Hull and Emu - or Bob Carrolgees and Spit The Dog? There would be chaos in the courtroom.

Objection!

"Objection!"

The proposal can be seen as part of a trend to fight political battles through the courts by playing clever tricks with the statutes or legal processes. A parallel move is the decision to give life-giving CO2 status as a "pollutant". Where do these perverse ideas come from?

Ever since the New Deal, when Roosevelt packed attempted to pack the Supreme Court to ram home legislation, it's been the preferred route for US activists seeking a short cut. But at bottom, it's fundamentally undemocratic and contemptuous of politics. Instead of taking your argument to the people, and using the powers of persuasion, a bit of semantic clever-dickery will do. The strategy shows little confidence in one's own arguments, and worse, little faith in ordinary people to make rational decisions. It's elitism.

But it comes at a time when private agreements are bypassing and undermining well established public settlements. Last November, Google was handed a monopoly on the future of digital book in a backroom deal that replaces public agreements with private fiat. Authors must now trust Google to do the right thing - a position the medieval citizenry had to adopt with the ruling aristocrats, because it had little other choice.

The law may often be an ass, but it's still an improvement on what came before - the whims of the "wise" - and we still need it to work. ®

Bootnote

Cass Sunstein co-wrote the authoritarian pop-policy book Nudge which was compulsory holiday reading for the UK Conservative Party last summer, by order of the Glorious Leader.

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Putin tells Snowden: Russia conducts no US-style mass surveillance
Gov't is too broke for that, Russian prez says
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Record labels sue Pandora over vintage song royalties
Companies want payout on recordings made before 1972
Judge halts spread of zombie Nortel patents to Texas in Google trial
Epic Rockstar patent war to be waged in California
Lavabit loses contempt of court appeal over protecting Snowden, customers
Judges rule complaints about government power are too little, too late
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Don't let no-hire pact suit witnesses call Steve Jobs a bullyboy, plead Apple and Google
'Irrelevant' character evidence should be excluded – lawyers
Edward Snowden on his Putin TV appearance: 'Why all the criticism?'
Denies Q&A cameo was meant to slam US, big-up Russia
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.