The AC Transit board of directors is considering cutting bus service by 15 percent or more because of ongoing budget problems, according to the Contra Costa Times. The planned cut comes on top of the agency's decision earlier this year to raise the basic fare 14 percent - from $1.75 to $2.00, making AC Transit one of the most expensive bus rides in the Bay Area. The cuts also come after East Bay voters approved a measure last November to tax themselves about $15 million annually to help offset the agency's financial problems. AC Transit officials promised voters at the time that the ballot measure would allow the agency to avoid a fare increase and service cuts. So much for campaign promises. The agency blames its budget problems now on a decline in state revenues, lower sales tax receipts, and rising employee salary and benefit costs. The agency, however, continues to defend its extensive and often unnecessary purchases of expensive Belgian buses.
Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants throughout the Bay Area will be offering free burritos for Teacher Appreciation Day on Thursday, May 7.
But a Spanish judge is taking the issue head on. First, in his big press conference last night, President Obama called waterboarding "torture." It was a significant moment, but then the cautious president stopped short of saying that the Bush administration had committed war crimes by waterboarding prisoners. He also characterized the legal opinions that authorized torture written mostly by UC Berkeley law school professor John Yoo as a "mistake." Again, not war crimes. Obama appears to be trying to have it both ways. But his argument is ethically and logically bankrupt. You can't acknowledge that waterboarding is torture, knowing both that the Bush administration ordered prisoners to be waterboarded and that torture violates US and international laws, and then not take the next step and acknowledge that the previous administration's activities were illegal. They were, of course, and it'll be interesting to see how long Obama tries to keep up this façade.
And, oh yeah, there's that mortgage fraud angle. First, let's start with the main news: A grand jury has indicted Yusuf Bey IV, the former CEO of the now defunct Your Black Muslim Bakery, on charges of ordering the murder of three men, including journalist Chauncey Bailey. According to both the Chron and the Chauncey Bailey Project, Bey is also charged with the special circumstance of multiple murder, making him eligible for the death penalty. The project also reports that Bey, who appears to have avoided prosecution until now because of his friendship with the former lead investigator in the case, helped convince bakery associates Devaughndre Broussard and Antoine Mackey to assassinate Bailey and the other two men by promising to "teach them how to file fraudulent loan applications that could reap hundreds of thousands of dollars." In late 2007, the project reported that Bey and other bakery associates were likely making money on similar mortgage fraud schemes during the housing boom. Now, that's what I call a story: the murder of a journalist, police corruption, and the mortgage/housing crisis all mixed into one. But that's not all.
The trial of ex-BART cop Johannes Mehserle is nowhere near to getting started, and yet his lawyer is already attempting a Hail Mary legal maneuver that has virtually no chance of success. Attorney Michael Rains has asked an Alameda County judge to disqualify county District Attorney Tom Orloff and his entire office from the case, and replace them with Jerry Brown's Attorney General's Office, according to the Chron. Rains contends that Orloff sent two Oakland cops to question and arrest Mehserle after the former BART cop had already lawyered up. Rains says that's a big legal no-no, because Mehserle can't be questioned after he has an attorney, unless that attorney is present. The only problem with Rains' argument is that the cops never got to Mehserle because he had turned himself in on charges of murdering Oscar Grant. So at best, Orloff ordered the cops to do something they shouldn't.
California voters appear to be on their way to turning down a package of ballot measures that political leaders had hoped would help solve the state budget deficit, according to a new poll. The Chron reports that the Field Poll shows five of the six ballot measures in the May special election running 9 percent to 27 percent behind. The only one that is ahead is Proposition 1F, which would prohibit raises for government leaders during budget deficit years. The poll results shouldn't be surprising. The measures both limit spending and continue taxes. Even the Democratic Party refused to endorse the cornerstone measure, Prop. 1A, last weekend. If voters turn down the measures, the state deficit will worsen by several billion dollars.
Jonathan Mann on the latest media spin.
Contra Costa County District Attorney Robert Kochly has backed off his plan to stop prosecuting misdemeanor crimes at least for now. At a Co Co County Board of Supervisors meeting yesterday, Kochly said that he would put off the plan until fall by personally taking a 10 percent pay cut and because three prosecutors in his office had recently left, according to the Contra Costa Times. Kochly had said last week that he was going to stop prosecuting many misdemeanor crimes because of a $1.9 million budget cut. But don't be surprised if the no-prosecution threat resurfaces later this year, because it's pretty clear that Kochly's pay cut and the loss of three prosecutors won't come anywhere near close to equaling the $1.9 million problem. Also, one unfortunate outcome of all this Kochly is apparently going to still prosecute minor drug cases, even though they're a serious waste of taxpayer money.
Schools are closing, people are freaking out, but here's a little tidbit buried in another series of front page stories in today's Chron: 36,000 people DIE every year from the flu in the United States alone. And what do we have so far one confirmed death in this country? Even in Mexico, ground zero for the outbreak, less than 200 people have died. This "pandemic" could turn out to be far less deadly than a typical flu season. In fact, it may be the mildest outbreak of "deadly" flu ever. Sure, there's a possibility that the outbreak might take a serious turn for the worse, but that appears to be a long shot at this point. And yet the mainstream media is treating it as if we are on the precipice of some sort of Armageddon. No wonder people are overreacting, and no wonder that more and more people are turning away from traditional news outlets. You can only cry wolf so many times.