.John Yoo Again Reminds Us of His Charms

UC Berkeley law professor didn't intend for torture to migrate, Chevron rakes in record profits, and the Mojave Desert will soon power Bay Area homes.

University administrators would surely like the world to think of UC Berkeley as the place where Nobel laureates do some of the most important work on the planet, or where a new, multi-million dollar parallel computing research center is being established, or even where new discoveries in the world of octopus sex are being unearthed. (It’s more sophisticated than arm-wrestling, in case you haven’t heard.) Unfortunately, the world now thinks of Cal as the place where the man who justified torture for the Bush administration has tenure. Yes, Boalt law professor John Yoo made the headlines once again last week, when another one of his secret torture memos was made public. The memo, which was drafted in 2003 argued that military interrogators aren’t subject to international law, and that even if they were, the president can just declare international and domestic laws invalid anyway.

Of course, the events of last week hardly changed anyone’s opinion of the good professor. But they reminded people who have been focusing on a post-Bush world that history’s judgment is inevitable, and that one of Cal’s leading lights helped lead the country into a moral sewer. Perhaps more aware of this than he would like to be, Yoo has been trying to launder his image by participating in a lengthy profile for Esquire magazine, which will be published in June. Esquire has released some excerpts of Yoo’s remarks, however, and now we know that Yoo never intended for torture to “migrate” to Iraq or Afghanistan, and that his legal analysis was always meant to apply solely to Al-Qaeda suspects in Guantanamo Bay.

Unfortunately for Yoo, Vanity Fair has just published excerpts of a military log detailing the effects of Yoo’s approved torture techniques on one such Gitmo suspect: “Detainee began to cry. Visibly shaken. Very emotional. … Detainee bit the IV tube completely in two. … Began crying hard spontaneously. … Urinated on himself. Began to cry. Asked God for forgiveness.” John Yoo: making the world safe for Gitmo torturers everywhere.

Chevron wants in on the Yoo story

And it’s not just Cal that gets to enjoy Yoo’s legacy; Harper’s Magazine reported last week that Richard Haynes, the man who served as Donald Rumsfeld’s lawyer and commissioned the now-infamous memo, has taken a sweet job as general counsel for Chevron. In fact, last week was particularly rough for the San Ramon-based oil giant, as executives were summoned to Capitol Hill to explain why gas prices are so high, and why, despite record profits, they should still enjoy billions of dollars in tax breaks. It couldn’t have helped that Chevron CEO David O’Reilly’s compensation package was announced at the same time; O’Reilly stocked away $45 million in salaries and stock options for 2007. While Chevron execs were trying to spin this away, news broke that an independent geological expert recommended that the oil company pay up to $16 billion to indigenous Ecuadorans, as compensation for twenty years of environmental devastation. All that, and Chevron still had time to sponsor Tiger Woods’ World Challenge Golf Tournament. Now, that’s a busy international oil conglomerate!

We like moths, not sex hormones

As if the city of Richmond didn’t have enough to contend with — what with the vast Chevron refinery and all — now it has to deal with moth-crippling sex hormones. Or at least, it did until the City Council joined Albany, Berkeley, Emeryville, and Oakland in opposing the state’s plans to spray the pheromones in hopes of wiping out the dreaded light brown apple moth. After officials doused the counties of Monterey and Santa Cruz last year, more than six hundred people reported a variety of nasty illnesses, and city leaders around the East Bay are increasingly determined not to let the same thing happen to their citizens. So far, state officials are just as intent upon letting the hormones loose upon the land.

Solar power starting to work

Just in case you thought the news was nothing but torture, pollution, and hormones, word comes that the Oakland company BrightSource Energy has signed a deal to give us electricity without having to destroy the Earth or start wars in the Middle East. Under the deal with Pacific Gas and Electricity, BrightSource will use mirrors in the Mojave Desert to concentrate sunlight, heat up a good head of steam, and turn enough turbines to light 375,000 Bay Area homes. Let’s hear it for good news!

Three dot roundup

If you’re looking for a different sort of power, BART has finally finished a deal with Peet’s Coffee to operate caffeine kiosks in the downtown Berkeley and Pittsburg/Bay Point stations. If these coffeeklatches take off, expect to see more at stations around the East Bay. … Finally, UC Berkeley officials have tapped Mike Montgomery, who resurrected the basketball program for the hated Stanford, to be the new men’s b-ball coach. Word is his new strategy of waterboarding his opponents’ point guards will bring Cal back to glory. Oh wait, that’s John Yoo again.


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