Quick Roundup 355

Monday, August 18, 2008

Jury Nullification

Diana Hsieh posted on jury nullification Friday and sparked a very good discussion I still need to finish. At issue are the conflicting demands -- made more frequent by the welfare state -- between supporting the principle of rule of law and not granting one's own moral sanction to bad laws.

I served on a jury about a year and a half ago, but didn't think to raise the issue here beforehand. There is a lot of good thinking about the issue over there and at least a couple of commenters bring up viable options to use in addition to nullification (should you decide it is a legitimate option) or instead of it (should you not, or are deterred from the option).

I was lucky. We got an open-and-shut case of a repeat offender. Although he was a well-coached defendant, he couldn't beat his DWI rap for several reasons, among them being that he was all wet, so to speak, in the police video of him shown to the jury.

We convicted him in short order, and then the foreman and I had lunch and a beer at the pub before going our separate ways.

What's Wrong with this Picture?

In the course of the ongoing "Spring Cleaning from Boston" this weekend, I ran across and ad (shown at the right) I'd intended to scan a little earlier this barbecue season.

In the spirit of friendly ribbing, I intentionally pun and ask the following question: Why did I skip this contest?

Plant Identification Time!

Apparently, the weeping beech I asked about last week wasn't challenging enough to my readers, so I'm taking things up a notch today.

This time, it's a weed. I've been fighting this (or these) ever since we first moved into a house in Houston -- which is at least a year longer than I've been blogging. (Click the image at left for more detail.)

The plant in question is a vine with a woody stalk, thorns, and tendrils. The leaves are shaped like elongated spades (as in the playing card suit). The vine grows rapidly from the ground, I suspect from an extensive root system which, in our case, extends beneath our back yard fence from a vacant lot full of these. (The picture below was taken only about two weeks after I hunted these down and mowed the yard.) Left unchecked, an individual shoot would grow vertically until it fell against the fence or a tree several feet above the ground, and then keep on going. My mother has had to deal with these, too, and aptly described them as "hell on wheels" when I told her about them. Typically, I have to cut a handful of these off at the ground (at the same few places, if I recall correctly) over the first few weeks of the summer and I'm done for the year.

I have encountered these myself in only one other location, a Greek restaurant in my home town back in July, where I was surprised to find them used as ornamentals on a trellis. Before I throw in the towel and ask Felder Rushing for help, what is this?

My apologies for not having a close-up of the leaves, tendrils, and thorns.

Update: Liriodendron and Jeff Montgomery write in around the same time to identify the plant as Smilax bona-nox, also known as "catbrier".

Insidious Government Expansion

While going through the paper this morning, I ran across an article about an effort to get more freeloaders to the polls by ACORN. As I scanned through it, the following passage caught my eye. Note the phrase in bold.

Few other voter registration drives here pay workers. ACORN said it has funding to get 35,000 voters registered in Harris County. Nationally, the group's various branches get funding from banks, foundations and individual contributors. ACORN is conducting the registration drive as part of a contract with Project Vote, a separate national group that advocates for the poor, blue-collar workers and minorities. [bold added]
Not to read anything into what is otherwise probably just another run-of-the-mill example of leftist bias in the media, but what else about this phrase stands out?

The very idea that a group pushing a deadly system such as socialism on the poorly-educated can be said (with a straight face) to be "advocating for" them is absurd and if it isn't biased, it is sloppy. But consider today's context for a moment. The welfare state has become so intrusive (and the resulting pressure group warfare so pervasive) that for an average Joe to think he has to band together with a pressure group for his own "protection", although incorrect, is understandable.

In other words, the pressure group warfare inherent in the welfare state feeds into the idea that "the poor" (or ethnic minorities, or students) have different interests than everyone else and so must band together and fight against everyone else. The welfare state here is making man's metaphysical condition seem different than it actually is.

ACORN is not just selling socialist snake oil to the poor. It is fostering the idea that the government does not exist to protect all individuals from the initiation of physical force by other individuals, but to aid in harming others on the alleged premise that life is a zero-sum game -- that our interests inherently conflict.

Not that "unity" is inherently virtuous, but for all the talk about "unity" coming from the left, this is interesting.

-- CAV


: (1) Minor edit. (2) Added plant ID.


Jeff Montgomery said...

Perhaps: Smilax bona-nox


Liriodendron said...

Looks like catbrier, one of the many spp. of Smilax.




Gus Van Horn said...

Jeff and Liriodendron,

Thank you both! This seems like a very strong possibility, indeed. A couple of interesting tidbits....

1. Wikipedia claims that the shoots of some Smilax species taste like asparagus.

2. It's funny that some of these are called "greenbrier". The first street I lived on in Houston bore a variant of the name.


Liriodendron said...

My guess is that the common name for this plant is relatively well-known in the south. I've never heard of it before. Could be any number of actual species of Smilax, I would guess, since the genus has about 300 spp.

But... come on Gus, you're going to have to make plant ID's more difficult than that! ;)

Gus Van Horn said...


Liriodendron said...

Just FYI, an excellent book for identifying wild herbaceous flowering plants in the northeast is Newcomb's Wildflower Guide, should you be interested when you get to Boston. :) The key is exceptionally easy to use and the illustrations are excellent. In college we affectionately referred to this book as "Newcomb til they glow!" The Peterson's field guides to trees and shrubs is also excellent and I believe that would have some woody vines in it. Amateur botanizing has long been a hobby of mine. There are a few plants in the northeast that would not be found in these two books but they would either be close relatives of the taxa found there or more rare plants.

I'm woefully inadequate on southern plants. I simply found this through a google search. To my knowledge there is no easy reference guide to the southern herbaceous flora, regionally speaking. There might be some state or county wide lists but I'm unaware of a good reference with keys that assists in identifying a wide range of taxa, such as this exhaustive reference for the north:


I'm pretty sure there isn't one for the south, but I could just be ignorant.

Gus Van Horn said...

I like plants and seem to have a green thumb due to an intuitive appreciation for them, if that makes any sense, but I didn't have a good starting point to explore this interest further.

So thanks for the book recommendation!