UC Berkeley law school professor John Yoo has long been known as the legal architect of the nation's torture program. And for the past few years, legal scholars also have suspected that he was behind the warrantless wiretapping program developed under President Bush. But those suspicions were not officially confirmed until a new report was released last week.
The report, prepared by five inspectors general of federal governmental agencies, revealed that Yoo wrote two informal memos in September and October in 2001, and a formal one in November of that year, telling Bush that he could order federal authorities to listen in on Americans' phone conversations without a warrant. Yoo was working in the Department of Justice at the time and was only one of three department lawyers who knew about the top-secret program. According to the Washington Post, Yoo's legal opinions on the subject became known in the intelligence community as "the scary memos." But Yoo's work on warrantless wiretaps failed to produce actionable intelligence in the so-called War on Terror, according to the report. And just as Yoo's torture memos were later repudiated and rescinded by succeeding Bush-era lawyers for being shoddy and downright wrong, so was his work on warrantless wiretaps.
Yoo, however, apparently will never be prosecuted in US courts — even though listening to phone conversations without a warrant and waterboarding prisoners are illegal under US and international laws. According to the Post and The New York Times, President Obama's Attorney General, Eric Holder, is thinking about launching a torture investigation, but the probe apparently will not target top Bush officials who developed the torture regime. That means Yoo also may remain at UC Berkeley indefinitely, because the university has said it will not attempt to remove him unless he's convicted of a crime.
California Is a National Joke
California reached a new low late last week when several large banks stopped honoring state-issued IOUs. The banks' decision added further insult to a state that is fast becoming the laughingstock of the nation. The move by the banks also means that taxpayers and private companies that received IOUs will have to wait until the legislature solves the budget crisis before they can cash them.
The banks' decision also triggered a black market on eBay and Craigslist in which unscrupulous vendors have been paying desperate taxpayers and businesses pennies on the dollar for their IOUs in hopes of making a profit when California is finally solvent again. The fear that this black market will get out of hand also prompted the US Securities and Exchange Commission to announce that it will attempt to regulate the buying and selling of IOUs, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Bad News for Oakland Cops
Oakland city officials learned that they will receive no more than about one-third of a federal grant needed to avoid laying off 140 police officers. Oakland had asked for $67 million over three years to pay for the 140 cops, but according to the Oakland Tribune, federal officials capped the amount of money each city can receive to no more than 50 officers per department. That means the city will receive a maximum of about $24 million over three years. And Oakland will be lucky to get that much because the feds received an overwhelming number of requests from other cities.
Oakland, meanwhile, also is attempting to hijack revenue from the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum that traditionally has gone to Alameda County. According to the Trib, Oakland plans to begin collecting an 18.5 percent tax on Coliseum parking. The only problem is that under lease agreements with the A's and the Raiders, the sports teams are allowed to deduct any such tax from their rent payments. Consequently, the amount of rent coming to the city and county will be reduced. The city will make up the loss by collecting the tax, but the county will be out of luck — and money. Not surprisingly, the county has decided to sue.
Speaking of lawsuits, ex-Oakland City Administrator Deborah Edgerly also is suing Oakland, alleging that Mayor Ron Dellums fired her because she had refused requests by his wife, Cynthia Dellums, to pay her cell-phone bill and to hire some of the mayor's cronies. Edgerly, however, has serious credibility problems and appears to be looking for a payout after she failed to land a job in a small town back east. ... The Oakland City Council approved a plan that calls for taller buildings in downtown, although it's unclear whether that will actually happen. ... In fact, according to a new analysis by the Chron, former Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown's 10K plan fell well short of its goal to add 10,000 new residents to downtown. The paper estimated that because of the housing crisis, only about 5,000 new residents had moved into the downtown area since 1999 — not counting all those who left. ... As for Brown, the attorney general sought to quell a mini-scandal in his bid to become the next governor when he returned more than $50,000 in campaign donations made by the friends and businesses of people that his office is investigating. ... In Fremont, Toyota threatened to close the NUMMI auto plant in a move that appeared to be designed to extract concessions from the United Auto Workers' union. ... And in Richmond, Chevron has decided to appeal a judges' decision that halted the oil giant's massive refinery expansion.
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