Friday, May 30, 2008

Haven't We Seen This Film Before?

Marty Lederman

There's a UC Berkeley alum in my household, and so we're frequently inundated with promotional materials from the University.

Last week we received the latest issue of The Promise of Berkeley, a big glossy production designed to tout the accomplishments of members of the University community. The Spring issue includes a piece promoting the close connections between Cal Berkeley and the U.S. government here in D.C. "A number of Berkeley's faculty have held positions in past presidential administrations or worked closely with presidential candidates," it boasts. And so the Promise of Berkeley asked six faculty members -- "three from each side of the aisle" -- to "reflect on their time in Washington, what's at stake in the 2008 presidential election, and what Berkeley means to them."

The Dems profiled are, not surprisingly, Chris Edley, Bob Reich and Janet Yellen. The editors apparently had a more difficult time finding prominent Republican officials on their faculty: The chose Dan Schnur (a Poli Sci lecturer who worked on McCain's 2000 primary campaign), Sandy Muir (a speechwriter for Bush 41), and, you guessed it . . . John Yoo.

Now, it's one thing to decide not to challenge a tenured professor's job security, notwithstanding substantial evidence that he facilitated war crimes (a decision of Chris Edley's that I supported here). But it's quite another to give that faculty member pride of place -- because of his government service -- in a publication intended to encourage alumni contributions by stressing the laudable public service of one's faculty members. Did the editors of The Promise of Berkeley really think that including John Yoo in their brochure would result in more robust alumni donations? My sense is that this is tone-deafness of a very high order -- but what do I know?

In any event, the editors asked John whether he would consider another stint in Washington, and this was his response:
Public service is an important responsibility, especially for those of us who are members of a public university. Moving to Washington for a few years can be very disruptive to a professor’s research plans and personal life. But I think that it is important we make a contribution when our government calls. Personally, I would not want to hold again any of the jobs that I have held, not because I disliked them, but because it would feel like watching the same movie again.
So, a question for our readers: Which movie best captures the Office of Legal Counsel between September 2001 and September 2003? (Perhaps I'll list some of the cleverer suggestions here in the text.)



"Nightmare at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue"


"OLC Strangelove, or How We Learned to Love Torture"

starring "Freddy" Yoo.

I can't think of the right movie for those times. But it would be a prequel to Judgment at Nuremberg

Wag the Dog. Absolute Power. Apocalypse Now. Quiet Rage.

(I was going to say Judgment at Nuremberg, too).

It's not a "clever" suggestion, but one that's so obvious as to be almost tautological -- All the President's Men. Attempting to justify illegal activities by advert to national security, White House pressure on the DoJ to fix the Executive's problems, DoJ inability to act with effective on the Executive's orders[orders that caused some to resign, and that the Executive eventually had to rescind in response to public pressure], the privilege claims, etc...


Hands down. Amongst other things, the unanimous opinion of my friends that have watched it is that this is the one movie you will want to watch only once.

For those not familiar with that work, may I suggest Kubrick's "Paths of Glory".... And Yoo's not the Kirk Douglas (Col. Dax) character.


" The Little Rascals"


Alice in Wonderland.

The Last Days of the American Empire

The Godfather, with John Yoo as Tom Hagen.

the "unforgiven" .. but in title only ..the plot doesn't fit ..

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

the gang that couldn't shoot straight

Well Berkeley appears to be your typical California academic place, a comfy even sybaritic place consequently they are as spineless, as flabby as any other academic institution in that state, cowardly really if you recall their stance or rather the lack of in the Oppenheimer affair or more recently when they obsequiously took scolding orders from that half-educated California half-wit of an actor.

The Oppenheimer affair was particularly bruising, bruising so bad they figured head in the sand is the best way to handle these things thus their strange silence on Yoo.

I don't see them particularly well connected with the Washington centers of power- Pepperdine, a rather mickey mousish academic institution further south is far more ambitious in that regard.


Migraneur, please have my babies.

On the basis of impossible suspension of disbelief, my vote's for: Radioactive Dreams.

Once all those responsible actually have to talk, I suspect we'll feel like we're watching Rashomon.

There's a UC Berkeley alum in my household, and so we're frequently inundated with promotional materials from the University.

Last week we received the latest issue of The Promise of Berkeley, a big glossy production designed to tout the accomplishments of members of the University community.

Then there are those of us who recycle all correspondence from Berkeley without even opening it.

I joined the Cal Alumni Association as a Lifetime member and was disgusted with the first issue I received. Fire John Yoo.

The Big Lebowski

How about this medley of De Palma (Brian, silly, not Lisa'a bro!) flicks:

"Wise Guys"
"The Untouchables"
"Mission: Impossible"
"Casualties of War"

Your mission, Balkinites, is to recast members of George W's Administration in the starring roles.

First prize is one week blogging with Lisa's bro; second prize is two weeks blogging with Lisa's bro. There are no consolations.


Actually, Brian DePalma is a remote cousin. However, I have no contact with this person nor do I wish any after his reprehensible slanders of the troops in Casualties of War and then the execrable Redacted.

I cannot think of a movie to which the Yoo situation applied. This is the first major war where the Executive consulted with attorneys on how to fight a war. I doubt anyone would pay good money in the future to see a movie about DOJ debates parsing inscrutable statutes.

Seventh Seal, scene: the improbably jocund templar decked out in fine black garments taunting the Grim Reaper over a chessboard, during a ride along a ridgeline, before Reaper has a chance to clear all the pieces away and trudge with scythe to the rim once again to dance along, following. Actually, if ML's household member ever yearns for a chilling feature about the blindness of the middle ages, molting away before the brilliance of the renaissance, set somewhere in Europe, this old artfilm might make an interesting hour's entertainment, plus providing a few lessons on how history often appears written by moralists in pursuit of perhaps misguided and poorly perceived aims.

And, as for the publicity aspect, I would suspect some enterprising former politician from WA-DC encouraging the chancellor to foster the sort of extreme offsetting in the publication's centripital metaphor selected for this fundraising effort. It is a public university, ahem.

Psycho or Silence of the Lambs

Reservoir Dogs.

Marathon Man, with Professor Yoo as lawyer for the dentist.


Alice in Wonderland...

...Yoo as Humpty Dumpty:
"When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less."

...Yoo as White Queen:
"Alice laughed: "There's no use trying," she said; "one can't believe impossible things."
"I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

Oh come on! John Yoo's movie is obviously "Rendition." That movie is all his, and I think he should star in the sequel. Berkley should fire John Yoo for treason and he should go crawl back under whatever 3rd world fascist rock he crawled out from under. I used to say that all the time about Gonzalez, but it applies just as well to John Yoo.

Another vote for Wag The Dog.

Or there's Il Consigliori (1973).

Well, maybe it's not a movie you want anyway; how about a slogan. How about "L'État, c'est moi".

Or maybe an essay: Orwell's immortal Politics and the English Language". In which Orwell observes:
Consider for instance some comfortable English professor defending Russian totalitarianism. He cannot say outright, ‘I believe in killing off your opponents when you can get good results by doing so’. Probably, therefore, he will say something [convoluted that ends up meaning the same thing]"
I can't think of a better summary of Yoo's boss's defense of torture: it's OK if you can get good results by doing so. It was Yoo's task to find a convoluted formula to say that.

Movie, slogan, essay; I suppose movies remain the art form of our times. So perhaps one more try; how about All The President's Enablers. Oh wait, that movie hasn't been made. Yet.

Anal fuck fest #4

There should be more readings like this. Yesterday I found a blog whose content was a reading about Generic Viagra.

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