The Berkeley City Council will vote Monday on whether or not to demand that Professor Yoo be charged with war crimes. Berkeley’s Peace and Justice Commission wrote five measures attacking Yoo, a Berkeley resident. To add insult to torturous injury, the city may decide to “demand” that Boalt Hall School of Law offer law students alternative courses to Yoo’s own. To which, we say: mind your own business, Berkeley City Council.

Talk about intervention. We’re having flashbacks of parent-principle conferences when high school Sex Ed got too “liberal.” Boalt Hall spokeswoman Susan Gluss stated our sentiments exactly:

“We respect the politics of Berkeley, home of the free speech movement, and their right to debate this issue,” Gluss said. “They can pass this measure, but it won’t have any bearing on the university’s policy.”

She also clarifies that no student is currently “forced” to take Yoo’s courses.

We thumb our nose at you, City Council.

Image Source: davidsilver under Creative Commons
UC professor under fire for White House memo [SF Chron]



Comments:
Patrick said:
Dec 8, 2008 at 12:49 am

I’m sorry, but the Clog’s nose thumbing isn’t good enough — this resolution is stupid, stupid, stupid, and nothing short of scathing ridicule will do.

The Council’s highly publicized vote (almost a year late) is childish political grandstanding in the first degree. It is designed to accomplish nothing more than an ego stroke. The truth is that if the “peace and justice commission” were really concerned about the well being of Boalt law students (of which I am one) it would take affirmative steps to address much more pressing issues. E.g., it could start by addressing the fact that TWO PEOPLE WERE MURDERED within blocks of the law school.

Exposure to Yoo’s ideas aren’t going to cripple a generation of lawyers, and it is nothing short of insult and paternalism to suggest that but for the Berkeley City Council’s intervention, the fine Boalt tradition would be derailed. Don’t worry about us. Rather, the city government get back to governing the city. Lord knows this place needs it.



yaman said:
Dec 8, 2008 at 12:49 am

Ugh. Berkeley City Council is annoying. I want to count the number of people who give the city council’s symbolic non-binding resolutions so much meaning that they devote hours to getting them passed, and decide how well their time could be better spent, you know, actually organizing and mobilizing people for effective ends. Movements can bring about effective ends through a City Council, but City Councils can’t fucking start a movement with a resolution. Thanks for proving that Berkeley is where jaded dissidents congregate to pass totally masturbatory symbolic resolutions rather than do something effective as activists.

And you wish there was actually some substance to these things sometimes. I wonder what will go through the minds of those pushing for this resolution if it passes. YES!!! WE FINALLY GOT THE PEOPLE OF BERKELEY TO DISAGREE WITH TORTURE!!! Seriously people? Seriously?



Patrick said:
Dec 8, 2008 at 12:49 am

*should read:

E.g., it could start by addressing the fact that TWO PEOPLE WERE MURDERED within blocks of the law school last year alone.



Atter Cob said:
Dec 8, 2008 at 2:03 am

Look, Yoo is entitled to his opinions, even if I think they are terrible. He’s also entitled to write a memo that tried to justify those opinions. It’s called free speech. If the government (City of Berkeley) makes it a crime for him to write a legal opinion then they just broke the first amendment. As for classes, students already have the freedom to take classes from whoever they want. Further, taking a class form someone you don’t agree with is a normal part of education — if you require that people opposed to torture have another alternative to Yoo, are you also going to require that racists have another alternative to profs that belive in civil rights? The city of berkley needs to remember what free speech and academic freedom really mean… they have to apply even when you don’t agree with the person, otherwise they don’t mean anything.



Jim said:
Dec 8, 2008 at 10:32 am

Who knows how many lives Professor Yoo and others in the Bush administration have saved by their vigilance against terrorists. He should be getting a medal.



Matt B. said:
Dec 8, 2008 at 10:50 am

I’m sorry, Atter, but this isn’t a free speech thing. There are all sorts of ‘legal opinions’ for which lawyers could be held accountable, notwithstanding the First Amendment (i.e., I could not suggest that my client commit murder and then claim First Amendment protection for it when he does, nor could Yoo write a memo about how to get away with torture, were torture clearly illegal).



Steve Freedkin said:
Dec 8, 2008 at 1:23 pm

You did not simply write a memorandum expressing his opinion; he was the core enabler of a policy of torture — against the Geneva Conventions, against U.S. law, against morality, and to the near-destruction of the U.S.’s reputation in the world. Not to mention endangering U.S. military and civilians around the world by lending the White House’s imprimatur to torture as a legitimate function of government. If you consider the horrendous treatment of prisoners by the government under Yoo’s justifications, it’s hard to argue that he and the rest of those responsible should not stand to account. Or would you say the Nuremburg trials of the Nazis were childish political grandstanding? Would you thumb your nose at the prosecutors of those trials? While the torture undertaken by the Bush Administration under Yoo’s justification (since repudiated by the Bush Supreme Court, no less) were not as widespread as the Nazi atrocities, some of those actions were quite nearly as heinous, and have left several prisoners physically and mentally destroyed, and a number of them dead. Here in a country that believes in the rule of law and human decency, hell yes, we prosecute those things.



Steve Freedkin said:
Dec 8, 2008 at 1:23 pm

Oops … meant “Yoo” as the first word of the previous note, not “You.”



Atter Cob said:
Dec 8, 2008 at 8:01 pm

You can all complain about how terrible torture is, and I tend to agree. But an opinion is still an opinion and both you and Yoo are entitled to your opinions and to state them publicly without fear of govt reprisals. There is a difference between an opinion and action. For example, I could say “Bob is a jerk and in my opinion the world would be better if he were dead.” If a nutjob then kills Bob… did I commit a crime. Generally the answer is no because I did not order anyone to action, did not conspire to plan action, did not offer incentive. I just expressed my opinion and that’s pure 1st amendment rights. If I’d said “Tom go kill Bob” or “I’ll pay someone to kill Bob” then things are different. So Yoo said “he I think that it’s ok to torture people under these conditions, and I think it’s even legal.” Bush then said “cool, let’s do that” and then tortured some people. Bush committed the crime, not Yoo. Sure, Yoo might be a amoral sociopath… but that’s not illegal. And Bush can’t say “Hey Yoo said it was ok”… just like if I said “um, I think you could get away with killing Bob if you claimed he attacked you first” and then you killed him… you still are responsible for killing Bob and can’t try to say “well Atter Cob said I could.”



Anonymous said:
Dec 9, 2008 at 10:25 pm

This is not a free speech issue, although that argument is largely correct. This is a jurisdiction argument.

You know why the city doesn’t issue parking tickets to the cars parked on Piedmont in front of the stadium? Because that’s actually UC land – the city has no right to do so (I defy anybody to argue that the city would decline to issue tickets anywhere for any reason other than it being illegal). The UC is not subordinate to the city of Berkeley. The city has no more right to try to remove Yoo for supporting a position it opposes than it would to try to remove a Catholic or Mormon preacher for supporting Proposition 8.

The city council has the irritating tendency of constantly needing to be reminded of the insignificance of its place, as it seems to be perennially six sizes too big for its britches. If anything tangible whatsoever comes of this resolution, you can expect a resounding backhand from the state or the federal government reminiscent of the “unwelcome intruder” letter they sent to the Marines, followed by the city government falling over itself to backpedal and make ass-kissing apologies.



AngryJonny said:
Dec 16, 2008 at 12:10 am

If Harvard can distance themselves from Cornel West because he put out a crappy spoken word album, then surely UC Berkeley can distance themselves from John Yoo because he is crappy at his core competancy, which is understanding and interpreting the United States Constitution- That’s what the Supreme Court tells me.

I mean, sure, the guy’s prolific, published regularly, on a diversity of topics such as, war, the executive branch, rational war and constitutional design, the presidency… at times the defender of unprecedented concentrations of power in the executive branch on pragmatic grounds, at other times the opponent of the extension of civil rights to prisoners of war on the grounds of precedent… you’ve really got to admire how he just sorts of levitates without a leg to stand on…

Has there ever been a more counterproductive politics than the shrill scream therapy practiced at the berkeley city council? If only they had loudly enunciated some shrill denunciation of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq… perhaps we would never have gone to war.



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