Did Four Cops Have to Die? 

Why did police brass tell the SWAT team to storm an apartment when a known cop killer was waiting inside?

In the wake of the tragic deaths of four Oakland police officers over the weekend, one of the most troubling questions was: Why did OPD officials order SWAT team members to storm an East Oakland apartment when a known cop killer was waiting inside to ambush them? Police brass knew full well that Lovelle Mixon, a 26-year-old parolee, was extremely dangerous. He had just gunned down two officers in broad daylight.

In fact, based on reports from earlier this week, police don't seem to have known whether Mixon was holding hostages. As it turned out, Mixon's sister was inside the apartment with him, and yet SWAT members stormed in anyway, breaking down the door and tossing in shock grenades, before Mixon opened fire with an AK-47 while hiding in a closet. Two more cops ended up dead, along with Mixon. You gotta ask: Why didn't police seal off the apartment and wait Mixon out?

The San Francisco Chronicle had an interesting story about how the tragic incident might affect future training of police officers. But one has to wonder whether Oakland police went by the book when they stormed into the situation. The story also hypothesized that police may have been concerned that Mixon could have harmed others. That may have been true, but police knew full well that he was extremely dangerous to cops.

The fatal shootings of Officer John Hege and Sergeants Mark Dunakin, Ervin Romans, and Daniel Sakai also shined a spotlight on California's troubled parole system. According to reports earlier this week, Mixon may have shot the first two officers because he didn't want to go back to prison on a minor parole violation. He was facing a mandatory six months for failing to show up to a meeting with his parole officer. Which begs the obvious question, is there any proof that supervised parole actually helps ex-cons adjust to life outside of prison? Or is it simply a system of strict rules that sets ex-cons up for failure? Or worse, is it a system that propels former prisoners to act rashly and do anything to avoid being put back behind bars? All of these questions need answers. We also need to know why a Little Hoover Commission report on the failings of the state's parole system and determinate sentencing was ignored when it was released in 2007.

More Signs of a Depression?

The bad economic news is relentless, isn't it? The latest is that California's jobless rate jumped to 10.5 percent last month, as the state economy shed 116,000 more jobs. It's the state's highest unemployment rate since the painful 1982-83 recession. About 4,000 jobs were lost in the East Bay alone in February. Experts also say it's going to get worse, because the underlying housing crisis is a long way from being over.

In fact, foreclosures are now so bad that they have driven down the Bay Area median home price to less than $300,000, the lowest in a decade. In Alameda County, 46 percent of existing home sales last month were foreclosures; in Contra Costa County, the number was a whopping 65 percent. It wasn't that long ago that the median price was above $500,000. At the very least, it's time to get your property reassessed for tax purposes, if you haven't done it already.

John Yoo, Continued

The National Lawyers Guild says it plans to file a legal ethics complaint against UC Berkeley law professor John Yoo, who wrote the notorious "Torture Memos" while working for the Bush Justice Department. The complaint is to be filed with the Pennsylvania Bar Association, where Yoo obtained his law license. The lawyer's guild has already filed an ethics complaint with the California bar against William Haynes II, former Defense Department counsel in the Bush regime. Haynes, who with Yoo's assistance helped authorize torture by military interrogators at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib prisons, is now a corporate attorney for Chevron in San Ramon. Perfect, eh?

Meanwhile, if Yoo is disbarred, it will place significant pressure on UC Berkeley to fire him (as if they needed more reasons). In addition, parts of a disturbing International Red Cross report on torture under the Bush-Cheney regime was leaked last week and it revealed the evil that Yoo wrought. Gruesome and horrific are two words that come to mind to describe what our country inflicted on prisoners in the so-called "War on Terror." The report also served as a reminder of the vital role that Yoo played. Remember that Bush and Cheney relied on his torture memos to carry out what can now only be described as war crimes.

Three-Dot Roundup

It looks like Democratic state Senator Mark DeSaulnier will be the East Bay's new Congressman now that Ellen Tauscher has taken a top job under Hillary Clinton in the state Department. ... Berkeley is now also looking for a new police chief, joining both Oakland and San Francisco. ... And the Chron and Tribune could be headed for some sort of merger thanks to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's efforts to relax federal anti-trust rules.

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