About Me

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

Sunday, April 26, 2009

No "legal judgment rendered," NYT?

And Also: I found a book on the origins of "reasonable doubt" interesting, including its focus on how the rule helped jurors deal with their own moral concerns with judging others. But, as a certain Bronx book guy notes here, the conclusions didn't quite work for me.

Bullshit distracts with exaggeration, omission, obfuscation, stock phrases, pretentious jargon, faux-folksiness, feigned ignorance, and sloganeering homilies.

-- Laura Penny

I have been in the online debate world for years now, and it is as addictive as it can be tiresome, but one thing that repeatedly strikes me is how much b.s. there is out there. Of course, this is not only present online, but the strident tone can be found there in particular. For instance, how many more people will claim that Roe v. Wade is some risible opinion that no one should take seriously? Or, that it is so obvious that there is no constitutional right to possess a firearm. Not that the first opinion has problems or the second can be a reasonable (imho, weak) theory. No, it's all bloody obvious.

I admit I'm starting to get some torture overload.* I got Janet Mayer's book out of the library, but sort of don't feel like reading the damn thing -- the essentials, if not the details, were addressed in articles and blog posts. Shall see. But, then, via Slate's "Today's Papers" feature (and the hard copy), I saw this in today's NYT public editor column:
Exactly what constitutes torture continues to be a matter of debate and hasn’t been resolved by a court. This president and this attorney general say waterboarding is torture, but the previous president and attorney general said it is not. On what basis should a newspaper render its own verdict, short of charges being filed or a legal judgment rendered?

A major concern is that the previous administration provided a weak and perverted interpretation of said legal judgments. I'm left to checking out blogs and so forth to understand just how much, newspapers promoting a line that this is mostly some "policy" dispute as if Eric Holder said waterboarding is torture not as someone due to be Attorney General putting forth a legal judgment but as if he was citing his opinion on tax policy. No wonder people cry that giving "legal advice"** is not a problem.

It would not take much to -- repeatedly -- provide some context to why waterboarding is called torture (past prosecutions might be cited, for instance) or how other courts, torture experts (such as the person in charge of the matter at the UN), and so forth repeatedly "rendered" (ironic term in this context) a "legal judgment" on the matter. For instance, the Israel Supreme Court might be cited, or legal judgments from law lords in Great Britain. Or, something like this:
The state offered . . . testimony of confessions made by the appellant, Fisher. . . [who], after the state had rested, introduced the sheriff, who testified that, he was sent for one night to come and receive a confession of the appellant in the jail; that he went there for that purpose; that when he reached the jail he found a number of parties in the jail; that they had the appellant down upon the floor, tied, and were administering the water cure, a specie of torture well known to the bench and bar of the country.

Fisher v. State, 110 So. 361, 362 (Miss. 1926). Those first two nations have some experience dealing with terrorists, but perhaps a domestic cite -- this just one of many -- will be better for the more patriotic sort among us. The free press should educate, not promote ignorance.


* To further expand on the bs point, here's an article that suggests that we should not impeach Judge Bybee; in fact, arguing it probably would be constitutionally improper to do so. I respond here and here. Remember, this is not that it won't work, or that it is a bad idea pragmatically, but that we cannot do it. Or, we should not using lame ass reasons like it is just "political" (partisan) in nature.

** Aka "slipshod advocacy"