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This blog is the work of an educated civilian, not of an expert in the fields discussed.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Next Victim of Yoo et. al.: Academic Reasoning

And Also: I serendipitous found an Israeli movie translated as "Jellyfish" in the movie listings ... the paper didn't say what it was about ... while struggling to find a movie worth watching. I looked it up and it sounded intriguing. It was both funny (laugh at loud at times) and touching.

One thing that bothers me a lot is when a matter is argued badly ... I can respect disagreements. For instance, I find it very understandable -- not to sound condescending in the least -- if someone thinks abortion should be illegal or same sex couples should not marry. But, if you are going to talk about how only those who do not choose abortion base their choices on religious and/or moral choices ... when numerous religions including those of people I know personally say just the opposite ... sorry no. And, "badly" includes certain extremes, like constitutional amendments to the federal constitution. If you have any respect for homosexuals, how can you support a guy who pushed for that?

[The shoe is also sometimes on the other foot -- the former deemed always to be hypocrites, the latter people who just hate gay people. Likewise, people I agree with can be snotty or use shoddy reasoning. We all do that sometimes, but some do it a bit too much.]

Brian Lieter has reached that point while responding to posts over at Balkanization on the issue of whether or not John Yoo should have his tenure stripped. And, damn it, the people in charge there should bluntly tell him. It is left to comments, not just mine (I had to restrain myself the last time when he implied that the fact Yoo acted in a partisan way is in some [****] way is why people want to strip him of tenure), to make the point. Mark Field (and company) did good work in this regard. MF repeatedly had to underline how BL was missing the point and playing games, though did so more politely than some might.

[Those interested can search for "Joe" here and here. And, without reference to BL, here, which is the first comment of mine on the matter. BTW, looking again, I find the attempts by the co-bloggers there to bend over backward to support the other side -- ML clearly leans that way anyway -- are at times taken to extremes. JB's helping by in effect saying "well didn't St. FDR do it too" is well answered by Dilan.]

After all, after Scott Horton spelled out a credible case that Yoo was complicit in war crimes, thus via a fair process very well might deserve investigation/removal, BL said such things were "obviously" irrelevant, since the only thing that "might" matter is an actual criminal investigation. MF finally snapped at one point* and more power to him. Now, the path of trying to have his law license stripped raised by some has validity, but as Glenn Greenwald noted yesterday, someone should investigate the guy. Given his cronies -- and Balkin knows this -- in government are doing all they can to keep him immune from prosecution, raising some "criminal prosecution" exception to tenure is a Catch22 fantasy.

But, those who try to suggest this is just about opinion and partisanship [verse, in MF's words, "speech acts" involving complicity in war crimes, something that apparently fails to horrify some any more] appear to know how to lie to themselves pretty well. As to the law license bit, this seems a bit questionable actually, if you are truly concerned with academic freedom. For instance, various lawyers were targeted in the McCarthy Era, leading to some important civil liberty rulings. They had their law licenses threatened (and criminal action is not the only way one can have had your license stripped or lose tenure, the strawman of alleged intelligent legal minds aside) because of their beliefs.

Crimes of moral turpitude should do the trick too, I reckon. You know, maybe being caught in certain homosexual acts or perhaps use of some sorts of drugs, even for medicinal or religious uses if not legal at the time. You get the drift -- the fact someone loses his/her law license very well in certain cases and era be not a very good reason why they could not teach law. An absolutist test that those who lose their license should not teach law (or, as one person noted, even be a law librarian) seems extreme and in some situations a threat to academic freedom. I think some supporting tenure for Yoo would probably agree. Nod to Sandy Levinson too on that point.

Oh well. Appears that Obama said something importune. His campaign is clearly toast since he obviously does not respect gun owners and religious believers. This is as depressing as half of the Mets games so far, including Santana being 1-2. Heck, it just might be a bit more important. Not the arguments -- no, a college handball tournament is more worthy of our concern than that -- the fact people still take them soooo seriously. As I said in a thread here, grow the heck up!

Anyway, yes, I think there is a good argument to strip Yoo of tenure, but if I am wrong, shoddy reasoning (and worse) and letting it go without much reply is not going to convince me otherwise. That is the road to people talking past each other, each cocksure they are right, and the other side is ignorant fools. Being on one side of that more than once, I find it a sad situation. Is this another victim of the current regime? It helps, surely.


* "Some of the arguments here just astound me. The same people who've been demanding a halt to the torture regime all of a sudden turn into Hamlet when the prospect appears of taking one small step for mankind." I concur Mark. I concur wholeheartedly. Dilan is a late edition to the party, but his comments on the First Amendment on that thread again uses his legal talents to good use.

Privileges as much as rights warrant deep responsibility. Think of marriage, the priesthood, lawyer/client, and so forth. Some here appear to want one but not the other, or do not want to defend one with anything that approaches argument worthy of their professions. By now this does not "astound" me but it does depress and anger me deeply, somewhat equally.