Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Half a Loaf of Chutzpah

As a follow-up to last week's Chutzpah of the Week award, here is the San Francisco Chronicle report, again by Carolyn Jones, of how the Berkeley City Council voted on the measures introduced by the Peace and Justice Commission:

After an emotional, fiery debate over academic freedom and torture, Berkeley's city council passed a measure late Monday night imploring the U.S. to prosecute Berkeley resident and former White House official John Yoo for war crimes.

Yoo, a tenured professor at UC Berkeley's Boalt Hall School of Law, wrote the legal memos justifying torture while interrogating terrorism suspects while he served as Deputy Assistant Attorney general for the Bush administration in 2001-03.

"John Yoo took a material involvement in the deaths and torture of untold numbers of people," said city councilman Max Anderson, choking back tears during the council's debate. "The broken bodies, the broken spirits, the broken trust he wrought with his actions - that's why they call these crimes against humanity."

Yoo was not available for comment Tuesday.

The council stopped short of passing the full original measure, put forth by the Peace and Justice Commission, which called for the city to urge UC Berkeley to re-arrange its class schedule so no student would be required to take a course from Yoo.

While this was not all that the Peace and Justice Commission had desired, at least the message will get sent to Washington. The question of whether or not this will have any effect on what I have called "The Denial Presidency" is academic. I would like to believe that one of the lessons from the candidacy of Barack Obama is that, with enough persistence and strength of purpose, the voice from the grass roots can and will be heard. Those grass roots may have some misgivings about the current phase of "transition expectations management;" but they should not doubt the power of their voice. At the very least they may serve to remind the President Elect of the semantics of the adverb "together" that served him so well during his campaign!

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