Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sunday Lexico-Neuroticism

Welcome to installment number two of the Sunday Lexico-Neuroticism series. This week's cringe is induced (actually, more like inadvertently approved) by Judge Patel, of our very own Northern District of California:
The proper focus is upon the detention faced by the petitioner and whether the same is a due process violation, not whether petitioner is likely to succeed in his appeals. A contrary rule would punish the petitioner if he chooses to permissibly appeal the decisions made by the IJ or the BIA. This Hobbesian choice, whereby petitioner must “choose” to stay detained indefinitely if he wishes to appeal an erroneous decision or accede to the IJ's determination and depart his adopted home, violates due process guarantees. Singh v. Sepulveda, WL 2242215 (N.D. Cal. May 29, 2008).
Unlike "concerted," this one is pretty glaring.  Personally, it really grates on the ol' nerves; it's like last spring's "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" advertising -- after the first sighting, you begin to see its twisted little face everywhere.  Which means that if this particular barbarism didn't get under your skin before this post, well, it probably does now.  

If the answer hasn't been disclosed on Monday, I'll share it with you.

Massive exception:  the foregoing is unlikely to apply to those of you who will willfully enter that 9th level of hell tomorrow Tuesday morning -- you don't have the capacity for a single new fact, nor, I venture, could you be an iota more tightly wired.

I might have been tempted to blurt some inspiring remark, but frankly, the whole affair looks too damn awful.  When the dust settles, as we Idaho Vandals are given to say, "Win or lose, there's always booze."

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8 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

so patrick, it's a little disturbing for you to be telling people they will be starting the bar tomorrow when it actually starts tuesday. you are no doubt going to send countless folks scrambling to double-check their dates. it's tuesday. we have a whole 'nother day to relax.

and what?..."to accede"?

7/27/2008 11:16 AM  
Blogger Patrick said...

Holy shit, I'm so sorry! Fixed.

7/27/2008 11:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even when people use the correct term, "Hobson's choice," they use it indiscriminately to denote any difficult choice. It originally meant a choice between taking something inferior or taking nothing at all.

Good luck on the bar, whenever it starts.

7/27/2008 12:29 PM  
Blogger Patrick said...

Winner, Winner, Winner!

Short answer: There is no such thing as a "Hobbesian choice."

Long answer:

Thomas Hobbes observed in the 17th century that life in a state of nature (i.e., life without government, where every individual has a right to everything) is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.* A brutish, government-less state of affairs is sometimes called a "Hobbesian state of nature."

Thomas Hobson, who was a contemporary of Hobbes, operated a stable in England. According to legend, Hobson kept his stock exercised by permitting his customers to choose any horse they liked, so long as they liked the horse closest to the door. Hobson's choice was between the crappy horse, and no horse at all.

Many people confuse the Hobbesian state of nature and the Hobson's choice, presumably thinking to themselves, "It's a really undesirable choice. It must be Hobbesian."

But as 12:29 wisely points out, "Hobson's choice" refers only to the choice between something undesirable, and nothing at all. A person who faces two undesirable options, or a difficult choice, faces a "Morton's fork," which is also known as a "dilemma." When no real choice exists at all (because all alternatives lead to identical conclusions), the situation is a "Catch-22."

Passages like the quoted judicial opinion, where the author is presumes to buttress his or her authority with the reader by using a clever historical reference, but ball it up, end up making the opposite impression. IMHO.



*You may have seen the original edition of Hobbes' "Leviathan" on display in the Boalt library last fall -- a pretty stunning piece of history to have in our midst.

7/27/2008 3:43 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I admit to being a Patel fan, but that aside, I still think you're reading this wrong.

As I read it, the prisoner will be deported in compliance with the immigration order (this is not a choice) or he may stay in prison and attempt to appeal (a choice, but an inferior one).

7/28/2008 8:18 AM  
Blogger Patrick said...

Laura, I'm a Judge Patel fan, too (as are all of us who had the ABS v. ACME Corp. fact pattern in WOA, whether we know it or not).

The main issue with the quoted passage is that it refers to something that just doesn't exist -- namely, a "Hobbesian choice." You are right that what kind of choice it actually is, though, may be somewhat up for grabs.

It looks (to me) like petitioner gets to “choose” to stay detained indefinitely if he wishes to to appeal. Alternatively, he can "choose" to accede to the IJ's determination and depart his adopted home.

You could probably paint that one up with a number of brushes, depending on the point you wish to make. If you want to call attention to the end result, which is a due process violation either way, the situation is a Catch-22; if you consider the issue to be that one of two undesirable alternatives must be chosen, it's a Morton's Fork; if the issue is that he gets to stay in the country, but in jail, or no stay-in-country at all, it's a Hobson's choice.

One thing is sure, however: no matter how one construes the choice, it sure isn't "Hobbesian."

7/28/2008 5:02 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Not that Wikipedia is the most reliable, but as a shorthand:

"On occasion, writers use the term 'Hobbesian choice' instead of 'Hobson's choice,' not confusing philosopher Thomas Hobbes for Thomas Hobson, but referring to a specific Hobson's choice offered by Hobbes. The philosopher's famous choice is of an armed robber's "your money or your life", with the serious claim that the person making the choice is fully free to choose either option."

7/28/2008 6:15 PM  
Blogger Armen said...

Oh I call BS on that. That's like people who claim that "I could care less" makes sense b/c it's sarcastic. Cringe.

7/28/2008 6:22 PM  

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