John Yoo: Pariah or Pundit? 

Human rights groups file a legal ethics complaint against UC Berkeley's Torture Professor, while the mainstream media turns him into a newspaper columnist.

Is the noose tightening around UC Berkeley law school professor John Yoo or will the mainstream media protect the author of the infamous "Torture Memos" from prosecution by making him appear legitimate? At this point, it's anybody's guess. But one thing's for sure: It was another up and down week for the former Bush administration attorney who authorized torture, helped galvanize anti-American sentiment, and put our soldiers at unnecessary risk.

First came the news that the Philadelphia Inquirer had hired Yoo as an op-ed columnist. Yoo grew up in the area, and in his first column, he promptly attacked Barack Obama, criticizing the president for saying that he would consider appointing a new Supreme Court justice who empathizes with real people — instead of just viewing the law in the abstract. Hmm, Yoo opposes empathy. Why are we not surprised? Waterboarding — good. Caring about people — bad. Got it.

In more sane developments, a broad coalition of human rights groups and liberal attorneys has filed an official ethics complaint against Yoo with the Pennsylvania bar association, where he holds his law license. The coalition is seeking legal sanctions, up to and including disbarment, against Yoo and eleven other Bush-era attorneys for their roles in authorizing torture, including former Defense Department Counsel William Haynes, who now works for Chevron in San Ramon. The liberal activists allege that Yoo and the other Bush lawyers violated their legal ethical duties when they brushed aside US and international laws that make torture, including waterboarding, a war crime.

But will these complaints go anywhere when mainstream papers are paying Yoo and giving him a forum to spout his extreme right-wing views? Even the Oakland Tribune has gotten into the act. The paper published Yoo's first column as well, treating him as if he were some legitimate political voice instead of the disgraced public figure that he really is. In fact, the paper didn't even acknowledge Yoo's leading role in enabling the CIA and military interrogators to torture defenseless prisoners. It looks as if the paper plans to make the professor a regular feature on its op-ed page, too.

Is the Worst Yet to Come?

Despite reports that the economy may be rebounding, the number of homes falling into foreclosure nationwide took a huge jump in April. How big? About 32 percent higher than April 2008, according to the Associated Press. Not only is that a significant increase, but it's scary, considering that the foreclosure crisis was already well under way last spring. In Alameda County, there was a 72 percent jump in the number over last year. It's the second straight month of very bad foreclosure news. If this trend continues, then the slight rebound we've seen recently may be just a temporary blip on the way to a long, steep recession.

Is the East Bay Sniper Back?

If you still have wheels, try avoiding Interstate 680 in Fremont, because a sniper (or snipers) is terrorizing a section of the freeway. The Valley Times reports that up to 45 cars were hit. The California Highway Patrol believes the shooter or shooters used a BB gun or an air rifle. Let's just hope the CHP does a better job investigating the case than it did during the last freeway shootings five years ago. In early 2004, a sniper or snipers shot up a stretch of I-580 from San Leandro to Castro Valley, but the CHP badly mishandled the case and arrested a man despite having virtually no evidence. No charges were ever filed.

Oakland Police Fallout

Oakland police, meanwhile, experienced the first bit of fallout from the killing of four cops earlier this year. According to the Trib and the San Francisco Chronicle, the head of the department's SWAT team asked for reassignment after his officers told him they no longer had confidence in his leadership. The team members were angry that Captain Ed Tracey chose to remain at Highland Hospital with the first two officers who were shot and not lead the search for suspect Lovelle Mixon — who ended up killing two SWAT team members during an ill-advised raid.

A New Oakland Schools Supe

As for Oakland public schools, the school board is moving ahead with its plan to hire a new permanent superintendent. According to the Trib, the board whittled down the list of finalists to three, and plans to make a decision by May 22. However, the new supe won't have full authority over the district. That's because State Superintendent Jack O'Connell has refused to relinquish his power over the district's finances despite recommendations from state auditors that he do so. Will the board's decision to hire a new schools chief force O'Connell to finally return local control to Oakland schools? Or is the board creating false expectations by hiring someone who basically will have no authority?

Three-Dot Roundup

In a city known for horrific crimes, Oakland reached a new low when a 97-year-old woman was beaten to death in her home. Ivarene Lett is believed to be the oldest person ever murdered in the city. ... The BART board finally approved a long-awaited plan to finance a $522 million elevated rail line from the Coliseum station to Oakland Airport. ... Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums said he is not seeking a pay raise, despite a report to the contrary in the Chronicle. In fact, Dellums' staffers told the Trib that he plans to take a 5 percent pay cut in the form of a lump-sum payment. ... Meanwhile, the East Bay Express moved its offices to Jack London Square, at 620 3rd St., Oakland, 94607.

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