Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Yoo's Who's In Your News

Those authoritative figures on your news shows are chosen from the ranks of professors, think tanks, and prominent figures in the field. More and more, we on the rational side are amazed to find that news shows have masses of right wing commenters, but a very slim line-up of real voices of reason. A look at the growing number of winger 'think tanks', and faculty taken from the discredited executive branch, gives a good idea for the basis for that imbalance. That experience in high office includes dirty hands makes a decided list toward the right in talkshow ranks.

Today WaPo editorialanimalist Ruth Marcus argues that John Yoo of the tortured torture memo logic really ought to be comfortable at his U. because it would be exclusionary to remove him. There's a great thought for you. Just because some one has betrayed the rule of law and violated basic standards of legal argument, that's no reason he ought not to teach law.

Here in North Texas, we are watching formerly reputable SMU lend itself to establishing a refuge for former war criminals from the executive branch, and have that same dilemma brewing.

Should those who advanced political goals of authoritarian, unconstitutional, criminal government be teaching law? Should the perverters of our laws be representing themselves as those versed in the exercise of power, albeit against the public interest, or as authorities to consult in setting future standards?

At WaPo, the winger editorial board thinks that's exactly who we need teaching and pontificating.

The March 14, 2003, memo "Re: Military Interrogation of Alien Unlawful Combatants Held Outside the United States" is an abhorrent document. Better known as John Yoo's torture memo, it is shoddy in its legal reasoning, outrageous in its far-reaching assertion of presidential power and repellent in its purpose -- to offer legal cover to U.S. personnel who commit torture.

Should this man be teaching constitutional law at one of the nation's top law schools? If he were being hired on the basis of that memo, certainly not. But he is already teaching at Berkeley's Boalt Hall, and he has tenure, which makes the matter far more complicated and argues, in the end, for keeping Yoo on the faculty.
.....Yoo was critical to the enterprise. His successor, Jack Goldsmith, described how the torture memos (there was an earlier one, in December 2002) gave government interrogators the "golden shield" to insulate them from being sued and to proceed with horrifying techniques such as waterboarding.

Edley, as Columbia Law School professor Scott Horton wrote, "is appropriately concerned about freedom of expression for his faculty. But he should be much more concerned about the message that all of this sends to his students. Lawyers who act on the public stage can have an enormous impact on their society and the world around them. . . . Does Dean Edley really imagine that their work is subject to no principle of accountability because they are mere drones dispensing legal analysis?"

Yet the message sent to students by dumping Yoo would be even worse: that some opinions are too dangerous to express. Lawyers are used to staking a foothold on slippery slopes, but this one, with academic freedom at issue, is too treacherous to risk. (Emphasis added.)

Shielding proponents of views "too dangerous", when those were the views of the war criminals that Yoo attempted unsuccessfully to clothe in legal terms, would militate for hiring polemicists to teach the law. Eliminating those who blatantly twist the law for political gains would certainly seem the point of removing Yoo from the faculty of a law school. Dangerous thought doesn't equate with politicized action.

Students learning law from a purveyor of unlawful opinions, manufactured for the absolution of a criminal executive and his cronies, just doesn't equate for me with academic freedom, but its opposite. The disgrace to our legal system that the White House has performed hardly seems a principal to pass on in any study of law ... except as a lesson in its misuse and misapplication. Professor Yoo might be asked to conduct a class in Destruction of the Rule of Law.

One very informed comment makes good points;
JohnWalbridge wrote:
There is a difference. I have tenure. Being in a controversial field, I am very grateful for academic freedom and the protections it provides.

However, in this case we are not dealing with opinions; we are dealing with ethical standards and illegal professional conduct.

First, Mr. Yoo was a knowing and willing participant in a war crime, torture. He didn't waterboard anybody himself, but he made it possible, and he very clearly knew what he was doing. We would have tried him if he had been a Nazi sixty years ago or a Serbian ten years ago. In a better world, he might now be defending himself at the Hague.

Second, this was a crime directly related to his professional responsibilities. Mr. Yoo is in a professional school, forming young people to be members of a profession where ethics is--or anyway is supposed to be--central. What he did, both providing legal justification for war crimes and not provided balanced advice to his client--the people of the United States of America, as it happens--are violations of the ethical standards of his profession.

Academic freedom is a strong protection, but it is not absolute. It should not protect me if I plagiarize or bully or neglect my students. And it should not protect law professors who fail to conform to the basic ethical standards of the legal profession. He's not like a biologist who doesn't believe in evolution; he's like a medical professor who used to sell illegal drugs.

So Mr. Yoo ought to be fired.

There you have an excellent comment, and I will let it stand on its own, although you can read many more at the site, if you want to.

Berkeley has made an unfortunate choice, and at SMU we see something of the like happening. Our academic institutions are being stacked with the administration's detritus, a continuation of their shameful legacy.

It is dangerous indeed, that we have the right wing naming as responsible sources - the perpetrators of their criminal reversal of America's ideals and standards. We should be insisting that representatives of good standing of our country's best qualities, its best minds, be brought back into the public discourse.

The media receives a constant barrage of literature promoting morally defective representatives of the right. Schedulers for news and analysis need to be encouraged to represent sound, decent points of view, from those who persist in standards of conduct other than rightwing criminality. At present the upstanding are excluded, or counterbalanced by those prostituting our standards.

Academia in particular shouldn't be a shelter for despoilers of democracy.


Legacy growing for war criminals in the White House, from Froomkin:

I generally avoid mentioning unscientific polls here, but this one, conducted by Robert S. McElvaine on the History News Network site, is getting a lot of attention elsewhere. The 109 self-selected respondents are professional historians.

Kenneth T. Walsh writes for U.S. News: "History News Network found that 98 percent rated the Bush presidency a failure and only 2 percent saw it as a success.

"Even more deflating, more than 61 percent of the historians said the current presidency is the worst in American history. In 2004, only 11.6 percent of the historians questioned rated Bush's presidency in last place."

The New York Times editorial board blogs: "We take most unscientific surveys with a large grain of salt, and this certainly falls into that category. On the other hand, we like the idea of historians starting to think about the George W. Bush presidency, and how it fits into larger patterns of American history.

"We'd be interested in knowing more about the 1.8 percent of historians who regard this presidency as a success."

The unfit literally flocked to the right wing, and their mark has been made. The prosecution of these perpetrators of such great damage to the country needs to proceed as soon as possible.

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Blogger H. Candace Gorman said...

Like many others I am not interested in going the route of asking for Yoo to be fired because of the torture papers. We don't need to get into that slippery slope of firing tenured academics. I want Yoo (and many other lawyers in this administration) to be disbarred first. I don't think any of these schools would or could keep a disbarred attorney on their faculty. The disbarrment and firing should of course only be the first steps but the steps should be taken (and I understand that an investigation is under way regarding Yoo's law license). Eventually we will get criminal prosecutions either in the US or elsewhere... but first things first!

1:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I completely agree. Get the CA bar to disbar him, then he'll be a hermit crab without a dead shell in which to live. Let his fat-cat friends pay his bar tab, why should the taxpayers of CA? In my mind, UC Berkeley is stained by his employment there. Prospective students should be aware of this.

5:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, he should be disbarred.

He also should be fired.

Any alleged constitutional scholar who omits a discussion or even a reference to the Youngstown Steel opinions on presidential power during wartime is INCOMPETENT and clearly does not understand the subject of constitutional law.

Moreover, Yoo's "memorandum" reads like legal argument instead of what it supposed to be; an objective discussion of the existing law (not the law as our wildest barbaric fantasies would like it to be). Thus, I would fail him on that assignment.

ALSO, I would note that any lawyer who counsels his client to commit what clearly are criminal acts (Yoo doesn't seem to grasp the significance and binding nature of TREATIES on our laws).

FINALLY, had Yoo's writings merely been published in a legal journal as an academic exercise, it could be argued that neither the writing nor publication of such drivel could not and should not be the basis of firing the author.

However, Yoo counseled his client to commit egregious and barbarous crimes. Any claim that he was unaware his tortured legal analysis was used as a basis for setting the criminal and felonious policies of the USA in its phony war on "terra" is as disingenuous as his twisted legal opinion.

DISBAR, FIRE ... oh and tar and feather wouldn't be overstating the case.

7:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

... "that some opinions are too dangerous to express."

yeah, i kind of think that expressing the idea that water-boarding, for instance, is legally permissible under the united states constitution is "too dangerous to express" -- unfortunately, too dangerous for those who are tortured based on that opinion and too dangerous for the rest of us who are then left vulnerable to the blowback from the tortured, their friends and family.

the "danger" should have been to yoo in his being unemployable and ostracized for having expressed such an opinion, the "danger" should have been to the bush administration for their directing the production of this "memo."

yes, wapo editorial board, there SHOULD be some opinions which are "too dangerous" to express.

6:03 PM  

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