Last night, I attended a meeting of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party's Resolutions Committee to speak on behalf of a resolution I wrote. The resolution calls for the University of California and California State University endowments, and institutional investors California Public Employees Retirement Systems and California State Teachers' Retirement System to divest from fossil fuels within five years.
And I wore clean underwear to the meeting. Just to spite Fox News.
The reasons behind the resolution are simple. Climate change caused by burning of fossil fuels is the greatest challenge facing the next few generations of humanity. Efforts to legislate solutions have often been stalled by fossil-fueled politicians; hence, a movement has sprung up to divest institutional funds from fossil fuel companies, popularized by Bill McKibben in his Rolling Stone piece on global warming's terrifying new math.
The "warm" argument for divestment points out the morality. It's not primarily an economic strategy, but a moral and political one. Just like in the struggle for civil rights or the fight to end Apartheid in South Africa, the more we can make climate change a deeply moral issue, the more we will push society towards action. Fossil fuel divestment, explicitly modeled on the successful anti-apartheid movement, has been endorsed by Nelson Mandela. If it's wrong to wreck the planet, than it's also wrong to profit from that wreckage. At the same time, divestment builds political power by forcing our nation's most prominent institutions and individuals (many of whom sit on college boards) to choose a side. Divestment sparks a big discussion and gets prominent media attention, moving the case for action forward.
The "cold" argument for supporting divestment recognizes that smart institutions will get out of the carbon bubble before it bursts. Investors are now beginning the long ugly process of grappling with the fact that the unburnable carbon in fossil fuels will create stranded assets, i.e., assets worth less on the market than on a balance sheet. One estimate has 55% of investors' portfolios exposed to risk. Standard & Poors warns of oil firms' credit downgrades. The Motley Fool sees fossil fuels as modern asbestos stocks.
And getting on the fossil fuel divestment bandwagon is smart politics. The Fossil Free website shows over 250 colleges and universities have movements calling for their endowments to divest from fossil fuels. Give them a reason to enthuse about Democratic Party action.
Of course, Fox News doesn't like the fossil free movement. A Fox News host claimed that those of us who want to divest from fossil fuels don't want clean underwear. My retort, via Twitter: "hey @FoxNews - I wear clean silk lingerie and I support #fossilfree divestment. But no one who believes the BS you spew will ever see it."
Since Ventura County became the first Democratic party in the nation to call for fossil fuel divestment last week, we've been joined by other Democratic clubs in California. If you're interested in doing the same, here's a template resolution:
WHEREAS, almost every government in the world has agreed that any warming above a 2°C (3.6°F) rise would be unsafe. We have already raised the temperature 0.8°C (1.4°F), which has caused far more damage than most scientists expected - a third of summer sea ice in the Arctic is gone, the oceans are 30 percent more acidic, and since warm air holds more water vapor than cold, consequences of inaction will result in devastating floods and drought;
WHEREAS, scientists estimate that humans can release roughly 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and still have some reasonable hope of staying below two degrees, while proven coal, oil, and gas reserves equal about 2,795 gigatons of CO2, or five times the amount we can release to maintain 2 degrees of warming;
and WHEREAS, California's institutions of higher education and pension funds should encourage only those investments that allow students and retirees to live healthy lives without the impact of a warming planet, and thus campaigns to divest from fossil fuels have begun at campuses within both the University of California and California State University systems;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the (your county) Democratic Party calls upon the University of California and California State University endowments, and CALPERS and CALSTRS institutional funds to immediately stop new investments in fossil fuel companies, to take steps to divest all holdings from the top 200 fossil fuel companies as determined by the Carbon Tracker list within five years, and to release updates available to the public, detailing progress made toward full divestment;
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Democratic Party send a copy of this resolution to the Governor of the State of California, Board of Regents of the University of California, Chancellor of the California State University system, and officials at CalPERS and CalSTRS, asking support for divestment from fossil fuels.
I'm very pleased to report that the Los Angeles County resolutions committee passed my fossil fuel divestment resolution unanimously - one committee member stated "You had me at the first 'whereas' clause." It'll go on to the full party meeting next week, where I'm told that it'll probably be approved on a routine basis. And I'll wear clean underwear in support...but won't post pix to prove it.
About 500 students are currently blockading entrances to the University of California Board of Regents meeting at UC San Francisco this morning, where the Regents are scheduled to vote on a budget that presumes a 24 percent across-the-board increase on UC tuitions over four years. Picketing students have pledged to shut the meeting down.
According to Charlie Eaton, one of the organizers of the protest and co-author of a report released this week that charged the Regents with employing exotic financial instruments that doubled the UC system's debt load over three and a half years, as of 8:45AM PT only a third of the Regents have made it inside the building. About 100 students are inside, according to Eaton.
UC System has some highly questionable investments
by Brian Leubitz
During the bubble, many large institutions got a little greedy with their investments. They wanted lots of return, but no risk. And that's what Wall Street was selling in some of their shadier business "growth areas." One such shady areas of Wall Street was the interest rate swap market. And the University of California system got sucked in:
Over the last decade, the UC Board of Regents has engaged in risky deals with Wall Street banks called interest rate swaps. Banks sold swaps to the university and other public institutions as insurance against rising interest rates on variable rate bonds. Under a swap agreement, borrowers such as the university paid a fixed rate to the bank in exchange for the bank paying the university a variable rate based on the markets' interest rates for borrowing.
Now these swaps have turned out to be losing bets. UC is taking huge losses because interest rates plummeted following the financial crisis of 2008 - allegedly in part because of illegal manipulation by the same banks that sold the swaps - and have stayed at record lows. Swap deals already have cost UC nearly $57 million, with $200 million more in losses anticipated. Of the $250 million UC expects to receive from Prop. 30, some $10 million a year will go to swaps payments unless the deals are ended. (SF Chronicle Open Forum)
And some of the shadiness doesn't even come from Wall Street on this deal. UC Leadership, including the regents and upper management, are riddled with Wall Street connections. And to this day, this is true. For example, Peter Taylor, UC's CFO, was at Lehman and helped arrange some of the swaps.
Californians have entrusted UC leadership with both money and the education of California's future leaders. It is about time they opened up to California about what is really going on in the books.
This week's budget endgame presents leaders in the Senate and Assembly with a rare opportunity to stand up for the California Master Plan for Higher Education by challenging the financial incentive that UC campuses now have to enroll non-resident students in place of Californians.
UC describes this policy as though it were self-evident: each campus gets to "keep" the money it generates from non-resident students. But until 2007, out-of-state tuition revenues went to the UC system as a whole, and before the 1990s they went right back to the state. So, we have here a relatively recent policy change in which UC's central administration is giving individual campuses the incentive to compete against each other for the non-resident students by giving them the entire revenue difference, which is currently in excess of $20,000 per student -the amount by which out-of-state tuition exceeds the sum of in-state tuition, plus state support. This policy change explains why some mature UC campuses such as UC Berkeley and UCLA for example, now expect to have undergrad enrollments that are over 35% out-of-state at the same time that some younger campuses will struggle to exceed their present 2%. The expected result of this competition for non-resident students will be a growing budgetary disadvantage for those campuses that bear the brunt of UC's enrollment responsibilities under the Master Plan.
There is no reason for Democrats or Republicans in the California legislature to acquiesce in UC's decision to provide a lower budgeted quality of education to students on campuses that enroll a higher proportion of California residents. Legislators could easily demand that UC pool the $20,000 in surplus funds it collects from out-of-staters for the purpose of reducing the funding gaps among campuses. This demand could be tied to UC's annual Memorandum of Understanding with the state about the funding of in-state students.
Why not, for example, get UC to agree that any difference in net enrollment revenue brought in by non-resident students be redistributed to the campuses on an equal per student basis without regard to the proportion of non-resident students on that campus?
At the University of California's request, the Governor's budget proposes to:
1. Shift $2.5 billion of existing state-supported debt onto the University of California's books for capital projects paid for through State Lease Revenue Bonds.
2. Let UC take on more debt without legislative oversight in the future.
UC management's proposal would kill essential state oversight of borrowing and take unnecessary risks that would leave taxpayers and students on the hook. By rolling $2.5 billion of existing state-supported debt into UC's budget, UC's Wall Street management executives claim they could use the University's superior credit rating to refinance the debt and save money this year. In fact, UC's credit rating is only a notch higher than the State of California's.
Under this proposal, UC would be allowed without Legislative approval or even notification, to use General Fund dollars for any capital projects, not just to pay debt on the restructured bonds.
That hotel UC is pushing for at UCLA?Paid for with your tax dollars!
An additional financial burden of $2.5 billion in outstanding debt would put a squeeze on UC's budget at a time when programs and jobs are being cut. It would also allow UC to take on even more debt without Legislative oversight. Transferring repayment of state-supported debt currently paid by the State to UC would not shield UC from future market volatility. Higher interest rates could increase debt service costs and divert already limited funds away from normal operating costs and core academic programs.
Runaway Debt Creates Pressure On Budget Greater debt, future market volatility, and rising interest rates could create pressure on a limited pot of money. Higher education debt service costs in CA have already doubled in a decade, from $516 million in 2000 to $1.1 billion in 2010. Without adequate Legislative oversight, UC would be at risk for runaway debt.
If this is so bad for California's taxpayers why is this still on the table? This is a good question for Governor Brown and his staff. His office is the only current entity pushing this privatization bill. Anyone with any policy sense who reads the proposal sees immediate red flags. Anyone who remembers the Enron scandal or who has suffered at the hands of Wall Street over Main Street can see that this is a bad idea for all of California's taxpayers.
Call the Governor and tell him no to UC's debt privatization 916-445-2841 Tweet him at @JerryBrownGov #CABudget
Meg Whitman just spent $100 million in her bid for Governor of California, $91 of which came from her own pocket. It disgusts me that a candidate who claims she can get California on the right track injects into her campaign millions of her own wealth to fuel her own ambitions and propaganda. What could come of that money? Surely, enough to ease some of problems facing hardworking Californians. For students, this money could actually place importance on the value of our education. It made me wonder what this money could do for the student who couldn't return to college this fall because of a reduction in his financial aid, about the student who couldn't pay the latest UC fee hikes, and about the student whose family cannot afford to send her to college at all.
Attorney General Jerry Brown, on the other hand, knows the issues facing parents and students, starting two public schools in Oakland in his tenure as Mayor. He understands the value of an education and how to engage students with all interests. Brown whole-heartedly agrees that more attention must be due to California's public school system in order for it to survive. Similarly, we must also turn to leaders like Mayor Gavin Newsom, whose City and County of San Francisco shines in California as the epitome of innovative ideas and pragmatic solutions put to practice.
As young people become more disenfranchised by California's political system, it is crucial to change the status quo that is tearing our state apart. Those who place personal ambition over proposing legitimate solutions to fix California must be stopped. As a student who fears the loans awaiting her upon graduation, I highly trust Brown and Newsom's abilities to help students like myself gain affordable higher education.
One of Mayor Newsom's main priorities as a candidate for Lieutenant Governor is to get the public education system back on track, by increasing the quality and accessibility of schools within the CSU and UC systems. He understands every student's desire for a quality education without being penalized by endless fees, finding themselves ineligible for state grants, and carrying a heavy burden of loans upon graduating. Higher education should be accessible to all, regardless of financial background. How else will California move forward with the leaders of tomorrow if they can't afford the rights to an education?
While shaking up San Francisco, Mayor Newsom made unprecedented progress in promoting an affordable and accessible higher education by launching "SF Promise," an initiative that guarantees an college education, with financial support provided, at San Francisco State university to all qualified San Francisco State Unified School District students. Projects like this, which benefits hundreds of students, can easily grow at the state level, spurring enrollment in colleges across the state.
The partnership of Brown and Newsom in Sacramento will bring the Golden State out of a depression it suffers on all levels. Our state will thrive once again through job growth, environmental protection, reduced crime rates, clean energy expansion, a strong education system, and so much more that will rebuild California.
Students of California, this is our election to win. We can no longer sit and watch as unqualified persons are elected to office only to serve private interests. By mobilizing by the thousands, we'll be able to fight for our rights as young people looking towards a brighter future. By electing Gavin Newsom for Lt. Governor, we'll have our voice heard on the UC Board of Regents and CSU Board of Trustees, strongly fighting for affordable education for everyone. No more will students forego a higher education or be prevented from returning to school. Please join students from across the state as we build the movement to reform California at www.studentsforgavinnewsom.com.
Manisha Goud is the Los Angeles Regional Director for Students for Gavin Newsom. Join Students for Gavin Newsom on Facebook at www.facebook.com/studentsfornewsom.
(AB 32 is important for a number of reasons... - promoted by Brian Leubitz)
Imagine if Toyota made this statement:
"It has come to our attention that, due to faulty gas pedals, a small number of our cars have killed or injured a small percentage of our customers. However, to recall and repair our cars to address this problem would simply be too costly, especially in this difficult economy. So we are delaying a recall for one year, after which time we will re-evaluate the economic climate and decide whether conditions are favorable enough to initiate a recall. We ask for your patience and understanding during this time."
Naturally, there would be a furious uproar. How dare a company attempt to put short-term economic interests ahead of people's health and safety? Yet this is essentially what the opponents of AB 32, California's nation-leading environmental legislation that seeks to reduce greenhouse gases in California to 1990 levels by 2020, are asking Californians to do. And since there is ample evidence that AB 32 would actually provide a needed boost to California's economy without harming small businesses, what AB 32 opponents are attempting to do is arguably worse.
Not wanting to appear pro-pollution or tone deaf to Californians' concerns about the environment, opponents of AB 32 -- like Meg Whitman and dirty energy astroturf front the AB 32 Implementation Group (an especially Orwellian moniker for a group that doesn't want AB 32 implemented) -- claim they are deeply concerned about the state of the environment in California. And they should -- Californians breathe some of the worst air in the nation, with 95% of Californians living in areas with unhealthy air. The top four most polluted cities in America when it comes to ozone (the primary ingredient in smog) are in California, with six California cities in the top ten. When it comes to the most polluted cities ranked by particulates in the air, the top three cities are in California, with six in the top ten.
As you all probably know, the UC Board of Regents voted on Thursday to increase student fees by 32% (15% for spring quarter and an additional 15% next year). In protest to the fee increase and a variety of other serious problems facing the UC community and public education in California as a whole, students have occupied school buildings throughout the state.
Below the fold is a press release from UC Santa Cruz students currently occupying Kerr Hall and Kresge Town Hall.
With the upcoming University of California walkout, we asked our Facebook community recently how the impending UC and CSU cuts were affecting them. The response was overwhelming:
Stephanie from SF State needed only two classes to graduate with her bachelor's degree. But one of the courses was eliminated - graduation will have to wait until next year.
A mother from the East Bay worried that her daughter couldn't enroll in a single class she needs and is about to lose her student status, her financial aid, and health insurance.
Sarah from UC Davis saw her tuition increase almost ten percent, while her mother, a state employee, just took a 15 percent pay cut.
UC Berkeley will be eliminating approximately one out of every ten courses this coming year. UC San Francisco will potentially have to reduce their faculty by fourteen percent because of the recent cuts. UCLA has reduced support to research centers by fifty percent. UC Irvine has completely stopped admitting students into their education program.
All across the state, we are choking off opportunity for hundreds of thousands of young Californians to build a better life for themselves and a better future for California.
And it's our fault. We've allowed our system of governance to de-fund and de-prioritize higher education, putting our state's economic future in jeopardy.
Let me be clear: I favor fully funding the UC system. Cannibalizing our state's future through cuts to education is the exact opposite of the kind of reform and long-term thinking we need from our leaders in Sacramento.
But the current resource-constrained situation forces us to make difficult choices about our shared priorities. We must protect our environment, provide universal health care and invest in infrastructure development. And therein lies our statewide dilemma.
We have a system in California that discourages thoughtful budget and financial planning, requiring a two-thirds majority every year to pass a budget that paralyzes our state. We have a complex web of ballot initiatives that further complicates the process.
Walkouts like the one currently planned will become more frequent unless we undertake systemic reforms and truly take California in a new direction.
We need to convene a constitutional convention and get serious about changes to the system. Until we do, we're jeopardizing our ability to be competitive in the global economy. Preparing our children for success in the 21st century necessitates investment in higher education not cuts to it.
In San Francisco, we have a robust rainy day fund. We drew down on our reserves to make sure not a single teacher in San Francisco was laid off when the recession hit. We created a partnership between SFSU, the school district, and the city to guarantee a college education to every public school 6th grader who wants one. And if their families can't afford tuition, we help with that too.
We operate with a limited budget in San Francisco, just like the state. But we managed to keep teachers in the classroom and promise every student a chance to go to college. We didn't raise taxes - we reformed the budget process and used resources in a smarter way.
It's time to shake up the system that's put our state in this mess. We need come together to fundamentally rethink how we govern California.
Nothing has ever come easy to the University of California Merced and that makes this Saturday's commencement of the first four year graduating class a profound moment for the San Joaquin Valley.
When First Lady Michelle Obama honors the class of 2009 by delivering the commencement speech, it will no doubt be time to take stock of how far this area has moved forward to educate its children. I will be there to applaud the graduates and the often ignored but always tenacious Central Valley community.
UC Merced is now a 2,700-student campus. It has breathed new life and vitality into the San Joaquin Valley and given thousands of high school students a sense of purpose. This first graduating class will showcase how the Merced campus will continue to embrace San Joaquin Valley students and others who might not otherwise attend a UC campus.
During the University of California Board of Regents meeting today in Riverside, I explained to the Board why I think it's time all of us -- students, community leaders, bloggers, and education advocates -- reject further student fee increases. Simply put, I don't think it's appropriate to consistently shift the tax burden, year after year, to one of the segments of our society that are least capable of affording the costs.
Adjusted for inflation, student fees have more than doubled at the UC and CSU systems and more than tripled at the community colleges since 1990. When the state dissuades students from pursuing a higher education, we only rob ourselves of potential tax revenues in later years and increase the number of today's youths who will be tomorrow's prisoners or recipients of aid. To address our budget woes, we need to turn away from the easy fix of taxing students and begin the process to repeal the two-thirds legislative majority requirement to pass budgets and adjust taxes.
A transcript of my remarks to the board is below the fold, and you can also listen to audio here.
(Good as always to hear from our Lt. Governor. - promoted by Julia Rosen)
My job and your government's job are to protect your job today and tomorrow. California's legislators are left little choice but to swallow hard and accept a very bad budget deal put together in secret without any public hearings and public input, all contrary to the open meeting laws of the state. The tragedy of this budget is that it robs our ability to advance our values and expand our economy by insuring a well-educated workforce. The budget does not allow us to provide adequate resources for the least among us. The budget does not allow transportation, water, and sanitation systems to keep up with population growth. Sadly this budget will force us to abandon robust research programs that will create tomorrow's wealth.
The governor wants to be known as the green governor, the education governor, the reform governor, yet he has utterly failed to lead a budget process that in the remotest way advances any of these goals. There is no real reform of education, prisons, or the state funded healthcare programs in this budget. Yet it is in real reform that efficiencies and increased effectiveness is found and fair cuts can be made. A significant change is in labor contracts that are unilaterally altered, setting aside a long and honorable negotiation process between labor and management. Where is the effort in this budget to advance the green economy?
Unfortunately the budget that is to be voted on in the days ahead does nothing to position California for a quick return to a healthy and growing economy. In fact the budget hastens the starvation of our educational programs at every level, thereby directly and in many case irreversibly damaging millions of our children. The budget accelerates the financial decline of the University of California and the largest university in America, the California State University. California needs teachers, engineers, nurses, doctors, and every other job skill. This budget gets a D in meeting the educational needs of tomorrow's workforce.
(From our Lt. Governor... - promoted by Brian Leubitz)
In early January I proposed an accelerated medical education program at the University of California Merced designed to prepare high quality doctors and nurses for rewarding careers in the Central Valley. Yesterday at the UC Regents' meeting, UC President Mark Yudof committed to establishing a first class undergraduate medical education program at UC Merced, and he promised to continue the planning process for post-graduate medical education at the campus. The President's important commitment could be the important first step toward the accelerated medical school program I envision.
A medical program in the region will help address the serious health care problems of the San Joaquin Valley, home to the state's highest rates of childhood asthma and premature birth. A serious shortage of medical services exists in the Valley; there are 31 percent fewer primary care doctors, 51 percent fewer specialists, and fewer nurses than California as a whole. An estimated $845 million dollars is lost annually in the region when Central Valley patients drive out of the area to receive medical care.
The quality of education at the University of California (where I have been a graduate student since 2003) is plummeting. I hear from my friends at the California State Universities that things are looking equally bad there, too. Why are these proud institutions rapidly losing their reputation as world-class centers of learning?
Budget cuts. Every year since 2003, the budget for the UC and the CSU have been slashed. This year, it's worse than ever.
While the university administration and Republicans in Sacramento can blame the financial crisis for the free-falling budget, make no mistake.
The budget for California education has not been slashed because of the 2008 bank mess. The budget for education has been slashed because of the failed Republican ideology which says that all public money is "socialism."
Well, like you, I really like my "socialist" libraries, highways, fire departments, and universities. The anti-public Republican philosophy is bankrupt, and the damage from that philosophy is continuing to spread. Over the past five years, I've watched as the GOP has gutted the University of California.
The University of California (UC) has managed the two oldest and largest nuclear weapons labs since their creation nearly 60 years ago. Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) have been at the forefront of the research and design of all nuclear weapons in the U.S. arsenal. University employees even created the bombs that dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Over the last five years, the UC has partnered with such multi-national corporations as Bechtel Group and BWXT to continue managing the labs as a limited liability corporation.
As classes are starting up again on UC campuses across California, the movement for a nuclear free UC is also starting up again. A new avenue to demand accountability from the university is emerging - students & alumni pledging to withhold post-graduate support through an online campaign, until the UC takes action:
Five reasons the UC should sever ties to the labs:
- The UC is implicitly endorsing non-compliance with the UN Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty by participating in the creation of new nuclear weapon technologies.
- The nuclear industry is notorious for its devastating environmental and health impacts.
- Nuclear weapons testing and waste disposal from the labs is a major factor in the ongoing genocide of Native American peoples today. The Nevada Test Site and the proposed waste disposal site at Yucca Mountain are both on Western Shoshone land.
- Bechtel Group, UC's lab-management partner, has a long history of irresponsible environmental practices and human rights violations. Currently, they are one of the largest profiteers of the Iraq War.
- UC holds no real control over research directions or policy at the labs nor does the funding they receive from the Department of Energy go towards anything but the labs themselves. Their management is in name only and simply acts as a stamp of legitimacy for the nuclear weapons, military-industrial complex.
Calling all UC students & alumni - take a stand now against nuclear development and corporatization at your school. Show the UC how you feel about being complicit in the nuclear industry by joining the "No Nukes at the UC" campaign:
(I added a photo of Sen. Yee joining the protest at UCSF. - promoted by Brian Leubitz)
The people who cook lunches, clean classrooms, and provide medical care at the University of California live in poverty. 96% of the people who do these important, necessary jobs are eligible to receive public poverty assistance. Many people working at the UC -- one of the world's most prestigious universities -- have to work two or even three jobs just to pay rent and put food on the table for their families.
I just got back from the picket line here at UC Santa Barbara, where I'm a teacher and graduate student. The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 3299 (AFSCME), which represents the 8,500 people who cook, clean, and work in health clinics across the University, today began a five-day strike after more than a full year of demanding a better contract with fair wages . There are about 100 or so workers and supporters at the main entrance to UCSB right now, demonstrating for a fair contract. Spirits are high, because everyone knows that the University simply cannot work without them -- so they're going to win a fair contract. It's just a matter of time.
As I wrote earlier today, the revelation that top-level officials in the White House actually debated what interrogation techniques to use on high-value targets, including torture, just sickens the stomach. In this context, it's clear that torture lawyer John Yoo was writing a document that was already written - a justification for the most heinous of crimes. That the Administration had to dip all the way down into the mid-level of the Justice Department, bypassing even the Attorney General, shows how difficult it was to find a cad willing to cover up their misdeeds, someone willing to disgrace the office and disgrace himself.
Yoo was a pawn bit none of this absolves him from blame. House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers would like a word with him. Attorneys for Ali al-Marri, a so-called "enemy combatant" at Guantanamo, are using the memo to make the legal argument that his detention was actually illegal, since the memo was eventually withdrawn after al-Marri was captured and detained based on its legal theories. The "footnote" contained in the memo, that a previous memo waived the Fourth Amendment with respect to "domestic military operations," is causing Administration officials all sorts of grief on Capitol Hill. (That worm Mukasey, by the way, wouldn't say whether or not the Fourth Amendment waiver memo has been withdrawn.)
At my home site I took a look today at John Yoo's recently declassified memo, which is more responsible for torture and detainee abuse at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and throughout American prison sites abroad than practically any other document.
If you're interested in weeping, you can read the 81-page memo yourself.
If a government defendant were to harm an enemy combatant during an interrogation in a manner that might arguably violate a criminal prohibition, he would be doing so in order to prevent further attacks on the United States by the al Qaeda terrorist network. In that case, we believe that he could argue that the executive branch's constitutional authority to protect the nation from attack justified his actions.
Kind of a "self-defense before the fact" belief, completely contrary to how the American legal system works [...] The closed loop here is self-perpetuating. The DoJ writes a memo saying that the President has virtually unlimited power in wartime. The CIA and the Pentagon then takes the memo and uses it as proof of legality for their crimes. So we have an executive branch validating the rest of the executive branch, essentially a one-branch government that writes, executes and adjudicates the law.
There is no question that John Yoo is a war criminal; he provided the legal theories that the executive branch follows to this day, even though the Defense Department vacated this particular memo in 2003.