The United States of Torture 

President Obama releases another of John Yoo's grisly torture memos, but neither the CIA nor the Cal professor appear likely to be prosecuted.

Last week was certainly a roller-coaster ride for the rule of law and for UC Berkeley law professor John Yoo. First, President Obama released another one of Yoo's infamous torture memos, despite the loud protestations from conservatives. The August 2002 document provided explicit, chilling details of the torture regimen that Yoo authorized while working for the Bush administration. Among the lowlights: Yoo said it's not torture unless you keep a prisoner awake for eleven days. Ten days without sleep — 240 hours, or so — is just fine. And, of course, the Berkeley prof told the CIA that they could waterboard a prisoner often, even though the United States prosecuted its own soldiers for waterboarding prisoners during the Vietnam War. In 2003, the CIA, following Yoo's advice, waterboarded one prisoner 183 times in a single month.

So will the Berkeley professor be prosecuted for violating federal and international laws? It doesn't look like it. Spain's top prosecutor said that his country's war crimes investigation should focus on the torturers themselves — the CIA agents and military interrogators — and not Yoo and fellow Bush-era lawyers. The Obama administration, meanwhile, is sending out mixed messages. The president said the torturers are protected by Yoo's legal opinions. Then, after his aides appeared to close the door on prosecuting Yoo, Obama said that any such decision would be up to the attorney general.

So is John Yoo off the hook? Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon said that his country's war crimes investigation will remain alive, but the chances of it going anywhere don't look promising. There is still a chance, however, that Yoo could be disbarred. An internal Department of Justice investigation that began several years ago is expected to conclude that Yoo and other Bush-era lawyers acted unethically when they approved torture and warrantless wiretapping. If that happens, then the Pennsylvania Bar Association, where Yoo has his law license, could begin disciplinary proceedings against him. UC Berkeley officials have said that Yoo's job is safe unless he's convicted of a crime, but it'll be interesting to see what they do if one of the university's best-known law professors loses his license to practice law.

Justice in the Chauncey Bailey Case

Finally, it appears there will be some justice in the assassination of Oakland journalist Chauncey Bailey. Murder suspect Devaughndre Broussard reached a plea deal last week with prosecutors in which he'll testify against Yusuf Bey IV, the head of the now defunct Your Black Muslim Bakery. According to both the San Francisco Chronicle and the Chauncey Bailey Project, Broussard has told prosecutors that Bey, his former boss, ordered him and another bakery associate to execute Bailey.

Bey has long been suspected of being the mastermind of the Bailey killing, but prosecutors were hampered by the mistakes made by Oakland homicide detective Derwin Longmire, a longtime friend of Bey's. However, Longmire is now on administrative leave and could be fired, while murder charges against Bey are reportedly imminent. Bey also allegedly ordered the execution of two other men and reportedly kept a hit list of people he wanted dead.

Is the Recession Over?

Or is the worst yet to come? First, the good news: Bay Area home prices may be stabilizing after two years of steep declines. But then came word that the state's jobless rate soared to 11.2 percent in March, the highest since 1941. So which is it, recovery or more recession? Unfortunately, the home price news appears to be the least reliable. National news reports say that there are still a lot of unsold foreclosed properties on the market, probably because banks have priced them too high. If those prices come down, then home values could drop more.

Good News on Global Warming

And finally, the Obama administration's Environmental Protection Agency announced plans to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, thereby putting intense pressure on a reluctant Congress. Moderate Democrats, especially those from coal- and auto-producing states, have shown no interest in capping fossil-fuel emissions. But the move by the EPA, which reversed a Bush-era policy and declared greenhouse gases to be pollutants, ensures that the emissions that cause global warming will be regulated in one way or another. The decision could force Congress to act, which is probably what Obama had in mind all along.

Three-Dot Roundup

Speaking of greenhouse gases, the City of Berkeley may adopt new global warming standards that could result in residents spending a bunch of money to make their homes energy efficient. ... One place to start may be your energy-sucking TV, especially if you have a plasma flat screen, because they use more electricity than refrigerators. ... Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, meanwhile, has jettisoned his Volvo in favor of walking and taking mass transit. ... By contrast, Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, the guy who's supposedly still working on that "model city," prefers to be chauffeured in a city-leased Lincoln Town Car that gets eighteen miles per gallon. ... So is the drought over? Well, East Bay MUD has decided to end water rationing, but the cash-strapped agency's decision may have been influenced by its desperate need to sell more water and balance its books. ... The UC pension plan, not surprisingly, is in the toilet. ... Former Oakland Raiders coach John Madden is now retired from broadcasting. ... And the East Bay Express is moving to Oakland's Jack London Square, after eight years in Emeryville and 23 years in Berkeley.


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