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April 28, 2005

Comments

Hilzoy--

I agree that this is good news--I heard the story on NPR this a.m.

Complete with quotes from ornithologists describing how they fell to their knees weeping when they first saw it. There is something about the ornithologists love of birds that gives me greater faith in the human capacity for selflessness.

But here's my real question: why aren't you working on your talk for the NIH you told us about yesterday?

Well, I gave it. Such as it was.

That's different. In that case it's play-time, and you've earned it.

They're not really obsidian, though--more like onyx with the white stripes?

Hope is a thing with feathers.

Complete with quotes from ornithologists describing how they fell to their knees weeping when they first saw it.

I had that same reaction when I first witnessed a missile intercept at White Sands. The flash of light from all that kinetic energy being expressed as vaporized, glowing metal was one of those moments that puts the squeeze on one's tear ducts.

We all have this soft spot in us, I guess.

THE thing with feathers....sigh

Slartibartfast--

Sublimity comes in many forms, no doubt about it.

But I'm I right to suspect you are playing the philistine just a little bit here, for laughs?

Otherwise, you seem to be inviting quotations about the smell of napalm in the morning....

"fell to their knees weeping when they first saw it..."

Same reaction upon first seeing Bo Derek running on the beach in the movie "10."

Fell to my knees.
Weeping.

"fell to their knees weeping when they first saw it..."

Same reaction upon first seeing Bo Derek running on the beach in the movie "10."

Fell to my knees.
Weeping.

This has inspired me to keep my eyes open in case any Great Auks are still around.

It's coming right for us!

OK, so whose land gets constructively confiscated to give this admittedly very attractive bird a habitat?

Mr. Eiland--

I don't know, but it can move in with us if it wants.

Seriously--part of the NPR story was about the Nature Conservancy's role in buying up some of the swamplands in which it was found. They had bought some before it was found, and have bought more since, if I understood the audio aright.

Wonderful! and a lot more exciting than if a Dusky Seaside Sparrow showed up somewhere.

(paraphrase from memory) "The thing with feathers is my nephew. I must take him to a specialist." -- Woody Allen

Seriously--part of the NPR story was about the Nature Conservancy's role in buying up some of the swamplands in which it was found. They had bought some before it was found, and have bought more since, if I understood the audio aright.


Good to hear that. I have no problem with protecting endangered species--unless the method involves government telling a hapless landowner: "Guess what? You get to play landlord for the spotted cockroach, and you can't use your land for anything else!" There's a little thing called the Just Compensation Clause of the Fifth Amendment that should prevent that sort of thing, and the willingness of Congress, the EPA, and the courts to ignore it is one of the great legal scandals of the last hundred years.

Ivory-Billed Woodpecker?

Mmmm, that's good eat'n...

.


I'm kidding.

Mac, what was that movie about the endangered-species-of-the-month dining club?

Geez, M. Scott, talk about finding the dark cloud for every silver lining. If the bird was found in southeast Arkansas, the ongoing depopulation of that area should take care of the habitat issue.

Mac, what was that movie about the endangered-species-of-the-month dining club?

The Quinton Tarantino version of Dr. Doolittle?

rilkefan: The Freshman... starring Brando & Broderick. A riot.

rilkefan: The Freshman... starring Brando & Broderick. A riot.

rilkefan--

The Freshman, with Broderick and Brando?

Mac, those beautiful ivory bills whittle down into a right stylish toothpick for after the meal, as well.

More gamey than those Passenger Pigeons, though.

The Freshman was hilarious.

There's a little thing called the Just Compensation Clause of the Fifth Amendment that should prevent that sort of thing

If the value of a piece of property in an area with wildlife and one without it were the same, you might have a point. They aren't and you don't. You are arguing for one group (property owners) to be compensated, while another (people for whom the existence of wildlife is worth more than $0) is not.

So, felix, you're saying that the Constitutional prohibition on depriving property owners of the use of their property without either due process or compensation is irrelevant here? I mean, it's in there for a reason, no?

Let's try a substitution here:

If the value of a piece of property in an area with convenient shopping and one without it were the same, you might have a point. They aren't and you don't. You are arguing for one group (property owners) to be compensated, while another (people for whom the existence of a nearby Wal-Mart is worth more than $0) is not.

Still want to defend that statement?

Is there more than one? Or is this the last one?

Still want to defend that statement?

Of course I do. If you want to have a reasonable policy, you can't ignore externalities, and you can't ignore that the things you do on your property affect the value and use of mine.

Claiming that one class of people must be compensated for things (for example, land-use restrictions to protect endangered species) that affect the value of their property while ignoring that their actions affect (and have negatively affected, for decades) the value of everyone else's property is nonsense.

Wasn't thinking about The Freshman - the film I had in mind was French or British. I'll add TF to our list - after the Godfather Trilogy I guess.

rilkefan: The Freshman is a good one to add to your list immediately following The Godfather series because in it Brando resprises/characatures his Vito Corleone character in one of the great send-up performances in Holloywood history. The Freshman is a real hoot.

...or even caricatures...sheeesh!

...or even caricatures...sheeesh!

Of course I do. If you want to have a reasonable policy, you can't ignore externalities, and you can't ignore that the things you do on your property affect the value and use of mine.

Whether what I do on my property affects the value of your property is utterly irrelevant to the question of whether government must, under the Fifth Amendment, compensate property owners for depriving them of the use of their land. It's less than irrelevant -- it isn't even the same topic.

You guys talk and talk about the miracle of a bird thought extinct and found still to be alive, all the while you're ignoring the dodo in the oval office.

boy, I could go for a condor-egg omelot right now.

Let's just hope the Viagra-like properties of the ivory bill don't come to the public's attention ...

... whoops, too late.

Bill Clinton swears by it, though. An old Arkansas remedy.

If we compensate people for seizure of land for highways and strip-malls (which we do), surely we can find it in ourselves to compensate for easements and other agreements to conserve habitat for rare species and ecosystems. While future generations will have no difficulty locating a Wal-mart or nail salon nearby, it'd be a grand thing if they could also observe even a fraction of the magnificent beauty this country once was.

It's less than irrelevant -- it isn't even the same topic.

Only if you limit the definitions involved to those that support your case, which is a circular argument.

But I'm I right to suspect you are playing the philistine just a little bit here, for laughs?

Check.

If the value of a piece of property in an area with wildlife and one without it were the same, you might have a point. They aren't and you don't. You are arguing for one group (property owners) to be compensated, while another (people for whom the existence of wildlife is worth more than $0) is not.

Not at all--the procedure would go as follows:

--endangered species is discovered on private property;

--government buys the property from the owner for the fair market value of the land as it stood before the endangered wildlife was discovered;

--those who value endangered wildlife now can rest assured that the critters have a home paid for by the taxpayers.

Simple, and fair--unlike the version where the private landowner bears the entire cost of providing a home for the wildlife, which violates the spirit (and, IMO, letter) of the Just Compensation Clause of the Fifth Amendment.

You guys talk and talk about the miracle of a bird thought extinct and found still to be alive, all the while you're ignoring the dodo in the oval office.

If GWB was typical of the dodo--and their nemeses likewise representative of GWB's political enemies--there would be thousands of four hundred year old hunter skeletons scattered around Mauritius--with live dodos wandering around them--and a visitor would probably hear the voices of their spirits muttering, "I can't believe those stupid f#%$ing birds killed us!"

Lily -- who knows? Their lifespan is supposed to be around 15 years, so it's safe to say that there must have been at least two long after they were presumed extinct. But how many are still around, I have no idea.

So at what point does one decide to try to trap them and take DNA (stem-cell?) samples in the hope of recreating the species?

So at what point does one decide to try to trap them and take DNA (stem-cell?) samples in the hope of recreating the species?

Just before eating, I'd think.

I know, overdone. But one should always cook avian species well-done.

Not at all--the procedure would go as follows:

--endangered species is discovered on private property;

--government buys the property from the owner for the fair market value of the land as it stood before the endangered wildlife was discovered;

--those who value endangered wildlife now can rest assured that the critters have a home paid for by the taxpayers.

No, the process goes something like this:

-- Species is not endangered

-- Government builds roads and other infrastructure in area to subsidize developers.

-- Government leases or sells land, mineral rights, timber rights, grazing rights, etc. in area at far below actual value to further subsidize development (and disrupt free markets).

-- Habitat of species is destroyed and species is now endangered.

-- Individuals involved in above steps claim their property rights are being violated by attempts of government to mitigate effects of above, ignoring the fact that their long-term and wholesale destruction of the environment has, in effect, imposed huge externality costs on the rest of the population for which no compensation was ever given.

Fair? Of course not.

That sounds remarkably familiar, felix:

1) Airport is built in remote area
2) Growth increases to the point where the land around the airport is now in high demand, noise be damned.
3) Developers and prospective occupants agree to grin and bear the noise in exchange for building rights
4) Neighborhoods spring up
5) The same people who said they could take the noise (or their replacements) sue the airport.
6) And obtain hefty settlements.

You don't know how to eat duck, Slart.

Lot of begging the question in your version, Felix--not to mention ignoring the fact than in a representative democracy, those people you claim are being ripped off would have been involved directly or indirectly in the process. On the other hand, it's nice to see that the "everything is the fault of the evil developers and corrupt government officials" school of thought still has some defenders--like the dinosaurs, it'd be a shame if future generations didn't have a chance to see them in action.

Lot of begging the question in your version, Felix--not to mention ignoring the fact than in a representative democracy, those people you claim are being ripped off would have been involved directly or indirectly in the process.

Pot! Kettle! Black!

On the other hand, it's nice to see that the "everything is the fault of the evil developers and corrupt government officials" school of thought still has some defenders--like the dinosaurs, it'd be a shame if future generations didn't have a chance to see them in action.

The Carnac thread is somewhere else. People who don't understand market failures and externalities should learn about them. They are important concepts, and one who tosses infantile insults at those who bring them up just looks petty and uninformed.

Only if you limit the definitions involved to those that support your case, which is a circular argument.

Well, no, your argument is only relevant if one ignores the distinction between me, who is not Constitutionally bound by the Fifth Amendment, doing things on my property which might affect your property's value; and the government, which is Constitutionally bound by the Fifth Amendment, taking or otherwise preventing me from using my property. Ignore it if you prefer, but it certainly doesn't make it any stronger.

(That said, if you genuinely feel that something I've done on my property has decreased the value of yours, you can take me to court for it.)

You also won't find me arguing against making developers internalize the costs of their pollution and other externalities. I don't know why you seem to think I would. Still has nothing to do with the Fifth Amendment, though.

You don't know how to eat duck, Slart.

Duck, duck, goose. My three favorite birds to eat.

Duck, duck, goose. My three favorite birds to eat.

You only say that because you've never tasted Ivory-Billed Woodpecker…

Duck, duck, goose. My three favorite birds to eat.

In that order?

Lot of begging the question in your version, Felix--not to mention ignoring the fact than in a representative democracy, those people you claim are being ripped off would have been involved directly or indirectly in the process.

Pot! Kettle! Black!

Hardly--the landowner might well have been nowhere near the scene when the insidious developers and corrupt government officials were involved in their dastardly deeds--assuming for a moment that I adopt your "Captain Planet"-based reality for a moment.

On the other hand, it's nice to see that the "everything is the fault of the evil developers and corrupt government officials" school of thought still has some defenders--like the dinosaurs, it'd be a shame if future generations didn't have a chance to see them in action.

The Carnac thread is somewhere else. People who don't understand market failures and externalities should learn about them. They are important concepts, and one who tosses infantile insults at those who bring them up just looks petty and uninformed.

Felix, it doesn't take mindreading to note what you're actually writing, and Phil's reaction to your comments suggests that you're the one bucking for a Carnac, not me.

The bottom line is that if a society wants to protect endangered species, it should foot the bill, whether it involves setting up a national park on land that is already public, or by buying private land. Your obsession with sticking it to The Man runs afoul of property rights protected by the Constitution, and of the basic responsibilities of society.

You only say that because you've never tasted Ivory-Billed Woodpecker…

True, but I'm not a fan of small, gamey birds. Too many bones. OTOH, a Caesar salad dressed with Ivory-Billed Woodpecker eggs would be a suitably sophisticated meal...

In that order?

Yup. I loves me some duck. Sorta like:

Hedley Lamarr: Qualifications?
Applicant: Rape, murder, arson, and rape.
Hedley Lamarr: You said rape twice.
Applicant: I like rape.

Anarch, A couple of years ago, didn't a guy from Wisconsin get busted for shooting and eating sandhill cranes? When they asked him what it tasted like he said it tasted a little like eagle.

Anarch, A couple of years ago, didn't a guy from Wisconsin get busted for shooting and eating sandhill cranes? When they asked him what it tasted like he said it tasted a little like eagle.

It'd probably go great as the middle layer in a house-cat saltimbocca...

Well, no, your argument is only relevant if one ignores the distinction between me, who is not Constitutionally bound by the Fifth Amendment, doing things on my property which might affect your property's value; and the government, which is Constitutionally bound by the Fifth Amendment, taking or otherwise preventing me from using my property

No, you are still missing the point. The government, by setting the rules, does allow property owners to take actions which affect the value of the property of everyone else. If you want to claim Constitutional protection, you should do so not just for those claims with which you ideologically agree. You are being quite selective in your outrage.

The bottom line is that if a society wants to protect endangered species, it should foot the bill

No, the bottom line is that if you take actions to endanger species without compensating me for the impoverished world those actions would force me to live in, you are doing precisely what you claim to object to. So stop it, OK?

You win some, you lose some.

rilkefan--

Yes, it would be sad indeed to have those Munchs destroyed.

On the other hand, I think pictures of Munch's pictures preserve more of the value of the original than pictures of I-B Woodpeckers do. So I rejoice more in the discovery of these originals, than in the loss of those.

(And in both cases we'll have to hope that reproductions suffice for the future).

Ironically, I doubt that a Munch tastes very good...

and the government, which is Constitutionally bound by the Fifth Amendment, taking or otherwise preventing me from using my property. Ignore it if you prefer, but it certainly doesn't make it any stronger.

All the Constitution says is the government can't take your property without just compensation. You (and many activist conservative legal scholars) may argue that any government regulation that diminishes the value of your property constitutes a "taking", but that is really stretching the fifth amendment. If the government demanded such rigorous protection of endangered species on your property that its value was reduced to zero then you could claim an effective taking.

However, diminuation of value does not constitute a taking and advocating such a radical reading of the Fifth Amendment would gut most if not all of the land use, zoning, and environmental laws of the last 100 years and would be disasterous.

And no matter what it costs, I hope we would find the money to save the Ivory billed woodpecker. I have been fascinated by this bird since I was in high school.

rilkefan: Ugh. Some people...

Also: just in case anyone is sitting around with extra cash, you can help the Nature Conservancy acquire Ivory-Billed habitat here.

M. Scott Eiland: If GWB was typical of the dodo--and their nemeses likewise representative of GWB's political enemies--there would be thousands of four hundred year old hunter skeletons scattered around Mauritius--with live dodos wandering around them--and a visitor would probably hear the voices of their spirits muttering, "I can't believe those stupid f#%$ing birds killed us!"

Why yes, that's very true.

I don't oppose Nature Conservancy as the concept is excellent, but I do remember them running into some problems that were documented in the WaPo's series entitled "Big Green". This link is the NC's response to the series. This is not to smear NC, as I root for an organization that takes new approaches to solving some of these problems, but I thought that I would pass this on.

I see now. Not only does felix not understand the difference between "the government" and "other property owners" -- and therefore between who is and is not constrained by the Fifth Amendment's prohibitions on taking property without compensation -- he doesn't understand who does and does not own things. To wit:

No, the bottom line is that if you take actions to endanger species without compensating me for the impoverished world those actions would force me to live in, you are doing precisely what you claim to object to.

What property of yours has been taken by the government in this scenario?

The government, by setting the rules, does allow property owners to take actions which affect the value of the property of everyone else.

News flash, felix: People can do things that affect the value of each other's property with or without a government. That has nothing to do with the Fifth Amendment.

If you want to claim Constitutional protection, you should do so not just for those claims with which you ideologically agree.

Oh, I do. I think the government should compensate anyone from whom they take or deprive of the use of property. Not just me. And why do you continue to think you know something about my ideology, just because I prefer a relatively loose reading of the Fifth Amendment? Do I need to establish my animal protection bona fides for you so you'll get off this track?

Here's a clue for you, by the way: You don't own any endangered species. If you're under the misimpression that you do, we'll revisit your own sanctimonius trashing of people who confine their housecats to the indoors.

Fredric: However, diminuation of value does not constitute a taking and advocating such a radical reading of the Fifth Amendment would gut most if not all of the land use, zoning, and environmental laws of the last 100 years and would be disasterous.

Well, the first part is exactly the issue at hand, so you're begging the question there; and it appears you're doing so by letting the latter part guide your conclusion. ("It would be bad if X constituted a taking, therefore it is not.")

Well, the first part is exactly the issue at hand

No, I have over 100 years of constitutional jurisprudence (takings law really began to become an issue early in the twentieth century) backing me up saying that mere diminuation in value does not constitute a taking. If you think that the courts have been wrong all these years that is fine, you are entitled to your opinion. But don't pretend that your point of view is mainstream. It is radical and would require extreme conservative activist judges to overturn years of established precedent.

The earliest zoning regulations (in the beginning of the 20th century) were created to protect the value of rich peoples' property. And with your radical redefinition of taking, I think you would find that although some of your hated government "takings" would be gutted, so would the cherished zoning that keeps suburbs "livable". Be careful what you wish for.

But don't pretend that your point of view is mainstream.

When did I do that? I know very well that it is not. If you took away any other impression than that, I apologize, but I think it's more due to you reading something I wasn't writing. Yes, I would like there to be more restrictions on the government depriving people of the use of their own property. No, I know it is not the mainstream position. Yes, I would also like polluters to be made to internalize those costs, and for the government to stop subsidizing land developers. (Who are often the least free-market free marketers of all; see my previous opposition to the government using their eminent domain power to condemn homes for the benefit of Wal-Mart.)

. . . I think you would find that although some of your hated government "takings" would be gutted, so would the cherished zoning that keeps suburbs "livable". Be careful what you wish for.

I'd be careful as well. Much of that same zoning -- in particular, suburban and exurban "snob zoning" that prevents certain population densities and multiple-occupancy residences, as well as anti-immigrant zoning that prevents certain numbers of persons from occupying a home, certain numbers of cars, etc. -- is what leads to exactly the kind of sprawl and environmental degradation that land use rules, EPA regs, and species-preservation regs are trying to mitigate. I'm not sure I see the merit in congratulating the government for helping solve a problem that it's in the constant process of exacerbating in the first place. (The Simpsons's take on this is the "Thank you for sending Lisa to save us from the moth you sent us!" syndrome.)

You and felix both seem to be under the misimpression that I'm prepared to defend things that, in fact, I oppose. Don't assume that because I disagree on how restricted the government should be under the Fifth Amendment regarding telling people how they can use their property that I'm in favor of all sorts of other garbage until and unless I say that I am, please.

Don't assume that because I disagree on how restricted the government should be under the Fifth Amendment regarding telling people how they can use their property that I'm in favor of all sorts of other garbage until and unless I say that I am, please.

Well, Phil you propose a radical reading of the Fifth Amendment (any government action that results in diminuation of property value constitutes a compensable taking) and seek to mitigate this unworkable interpretation with an equally radical and unworkable solution (developers and property owners should internalizes the costs of their environmental impact).

The subject of this thread (celebrating the discovery of a living ivory billed woodpecker) is a perfect case in point. What is the value of a species of woodpecker? Assuming that it even has a value in the marketplace how do you internalize that value? Who pays for the right to cut down the last piece of habitat and ensure the bird's extinction? How do you even identify that person? When does the impact become environmentally significant? The first stand of bottomland forest is certainly worth a whole lot less than the last.

This is a classic example of the tragedy of the commons. I am sure even the most rapcious logger didn't go into the bottomlands bent on killing the last ivory billed, he just wanted the timber. They all thought "there are plenty of woods available, they'll survive somewhere." Yet one day we turned around and most of their habitat was destroyed and there were no more birds.

There will be a massive effort to save the species now and plenty of money available to preserve habitat. Children will be donating quarters at school to buy land to save this bird. Considering the habitat and the nature of the modern logging industry, land that was practically worthless will suddenly be worth quite a bit because of this discovery (kind of a reverse of the ESA doomsayers complaint). Yet 60 years ago we almost let this bird become extinct. Obviously, something that was worthless (or at least worth less than the timber) is now worth much more. How do you put a price on that if it is something that can never be recovered?

You don't understand, Freder. The destruction of habitat is good for bird-watchers and other naturalists, because it makes more species rare, thus adding to the thrill of seeing one.

No one would be excited by this if there were tens of thousands of these woodpeckers.

No one would be excited by this if there were tens of thousands of these woodpeckers.

On the other hand, I would have loved to have seen one of the gigantic flocks of passenger pigeons described by Audubon and others in the 19th Century. Admittedly, I would have wanted to observe them from a little ways off and to the side, for reasons that are left as an exercise for the class. :-)

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