Hasta La Vista

By Becky O'Malley
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 08:56:00 AM

Ave atque vale — hello and goodbye. That was a standard greeting in ancient Rome, which a roguish blogger once compared to a Groucho Marx ditty, “Hello, I must be going.” It was also part of the rites for the dead. -more-

Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Thursday February 25, 2010 - 08:57:00 AM


Berkeley BRT Proponents Follow Stalinist Model

By Satya Preeti
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 08:57:00 AM

In the 1930s, Joseph Stalin instituted a series of top-down reforms intended to speed the industrialization of the Soviet Union. These reforms came in the form of numerous five-year plans that completely reshaped the industrial and agricultural sectors of the USSR and were developed by top politburo officials who made decisions out of the public eye that had devastating impacts on many communities and individuals. The workers and peasants were powerless to resist these changes, and their lives were changed forever in deference to the “greater good.” -more-

Berkeley Pools Bond: A Final Chance?

By Charles Altekruse
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 08:58:00 AM

For nearly a decade, Berkeley has known that its public pools were deteriorating and needed replacement. Although we’ve expended considerable time, energy, and funds on assorted studies and band-aid solutions, the key players—especially the City Council and school district (“BUSD” on whose property the pools reside)—simply punted on the tough political choices. -more-

Suggestions for the Downtown Berkeley Streetscape

By Steven Finacom
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 08:58:00 AM

The city’s Downtown Streetscape and Open Space Improvements Process (SOSIP) has the positive potential to provide real improvements in Downtown but also the capacity to green-veneer Downtown development with little actual improvements for the public. -more-

Yoo Must Be Held Accountable

By Kenneth J. Theisen
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 09:01:00 AM

On Feb. 19, the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) finally issued its report on whether John Yoo and Jay Bybee should be held accountable for their actions associated with their role providing legal cover for torture and other crimes during the Bush regime. DOJ found that they are not very competent lawyers and that they engaged in “professional misconduct” by ignoring legal precedent and providing poor legal advice. But it did not hold them accountable for the crimes committed under the cover of their “legal” memos. -more-

Practice Disaster Preparedness 

By Norine Smith, Lynn Zummo and Charlotte Nolan 
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 09:00:00 AM

If you are not yet ready to care for yourself and your family in a disaster, and if your neighborhood is not yet prepared, it is time to start! If you and your neighbors are at some level of readiness, it is time to update and add to what you have already done: get more supplies, practice your family contact plans/drills and meet with your neighbors to initiate or improve preparations. We are establishing April 24, 2010, as “Let’s Do Something Day” for you, your household and your neighborhood to get better prepared. (See details later in this article regarding plans for that date.)  -more-

Berkeley Law Students Applaud DOJ Report

By Megan Schuller
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 09:01:00 AM

The final report of the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) released Friday found that former Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) lawyer John Yoo committed “intentional professional misconduct” and that Yoo’s colleague, former Office of Legal Counsel lawyer Jay Bybee, engaged in “reckless disregard of his professional obligations” in their rendering of legal justifications for the Bush Administration’s torture policy. There is no more room for verbal acrobatics or flourishes in discussing this issue. The report clearly states, “Yoo’s legal analyses justified acts of outright torture.” And in rendering these analyses, the OPR report concludes that “Yoo put his desire to accommodate the client above his obligation to provide thorough, objective, and candid legal advice, and that he therefore committed intentional professional misconduct.”   -more-

Reporting to U.N. Human Rights Committees

By Ann Fagan Ginger
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 09:02:00 AM

On Thurs., Feb. 18, Assembly Member William Monning (27th District–Monterey, Santa Cruz) introduced Assembly Concurrent Resolution 129 to make California the first state to file reports to the three U.N. human rights committees under treaties the U.S. has ratified. -more-

Tobacco Industry: ‘Give me your homeless, your poor…’

By Carol Denney
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 09:04:00 AM

When I first saw Berkeley’s new proposal for smoking restrictions in multi-unit housing, I couldn’t believe the loopholes. It exempts condos and tenant-in-common properties. It offers opt-out options for those who wish to continue smoking in their units. It refuses to identify secondhand smoke, which kills over 50,000 nonsmokers a year, as a nuisance, and suggests smoking sections, which most people know are a joke if the goal is clean air. It is a tobacco industry’s dream. -more-

Class Warfare, in Berkeley? 

By Toni Mester
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 09:03:00 AM

In the 30 years since I moved to West Berkeley, politics in this city have changed. After serving on the Citizens Advisory Committee for the Bayer (then Miles Inc.) Development Agreement in 1991, I literally minded my own business and resurfaced in 2008 to find the political atmosphere even more toxic than I had remembered. -more-

A Sunshine Ordinance for Berkeley

By Dean Metzger
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 09:03:00 AM

Sadly the sun is setting on the printed Berkeley Daily Planet, but happily the sun could rise on open government in Berkeley. After three years of work, many disagreements and agreements, the Citizen’s Sunshine Review Committee completed its work in February 2010. With the urging of Mayor Bates and the City Council and the lead of The League of Women Voters, the Committee was formed with some 30 plus Berkeley residents and others participating and went to work.  -more-

Some Notes on Herstory and Humankind

By Helen Rippier Wheeler 
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 09:08:00 AM

In-group jargon refers to specialized language that is used by groups of like-minded individuals. The Global Language Monitor (GLM) is a nonprofit Texas group that analyzes and tracks trends in language. Its criteria are a minimum of 25,000 citations in the global media and breadth and depth of citations. -more-

Structural Unemployment

By Phil McArdle
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 09:07:00 AM

The current recession is having a cruel impact on American workers. Experts say it is unrealistic to hope the “structural unemployment” rate will drop below 10 percent in the near future; some think it may go higher. This is akin to saying unemployment is an insoluble problem. It means that our rich, technologically advanced economy cannot provide jobs for 10 percent of the population, and that the hopes and aspirations of millions will be put on hold indefinitely, blighted or destroyed. -more-

The Alameda’s Sensible Improvement Plan

By Alan Tobey
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 09:06:00 AM

I was not surprised to read Zelda Bronstein’s impassioned attack on another rational city plan to improve the safety and functionality of one of our neighborhood streets—this time the four blocks of The Alameda between Solano Ave. and Hopkins St. The plan would reduce the number of traffic lanes in each direction of this unbusy road segment from two to one, allowing for a separated left-turn lane and bicycle lanes.   -more-

Haiti: Blood, Sweat and Baseball (Apologies to Paul Farmer)

By Jean Damu
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 09:06:00 AM

Just two days after the Haitian earthquake, a disaster now recognized as one of biblical proportions, Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig stepped to the plate and whiffed. -more-

How the Daily Planet Won a Battle It Didn’t Choose

By Joanna Graham
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 09:05:00 AM

Thank you to Becky and Mike O’Malley for publishing the quirky, personal, engaged, and engaging Berkeley Daily Planet, bringing us for the last seven years news and views about the East Bay (but mostly about Berkeley). Without the Planet as it has been, with its full staff of reporters and columnists, I fear it may prove difficult for all of us to stay informed about what our city and other local institutions are up to. A large hole is about to appear in our collective knowledge—a dark hole in which much skullduggery can flourish. -more-

Response to CHO CEO Lubin

By Bob Brokl
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 09:05:00 AM

We had hoped that the selection of doctors, researchers, and scientists to run Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland might result in not only a better relationship to the surrounding community by CHO but a more reasoned and analytical approach to matters in general. Not the case, unfortunately, based upon the Commentary “Response from Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland” (Feb. 18-24, 2010 Daily Planet) signed by Dr. Bertram Lubin, the new CEO of CHO, and his comments and those of Dr. Alexander Lucas, in charge of the Research Institute, at their Feb. 16 community meeting -more-

Missing the Facts on Marin

By Preston Jordan
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 09:10:00 AM

In the Jan. 14 Planet, Zelda Bronstein relays that Berkeley's report on the Marin Avenue reconfiguration concluded that motorist speeds were not reduced (“Save the Alameda” ). This same result was found in Albany where I live. The untold story is that the number of motorists on Marin was significantly higher during the pre-reconfiguration survey in 2005 (22,453/day in Albany) than in the post-reconfiguration survey in 2006 (17,789 in Albany). Fewer motorists means most can and do choose to drive faster. -more-

The Spanish Health Care Model

By Kelly Thompson
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 09:09:00 AM

I am a constituent registered to vote in Alameda County and am writing to express my strong support of real healthcare reform legislation that would minimally include a public healthcare option and ideally include a single-payer system that could exist alongside a reformed version of our current private healthcare system. -more-

Health Insurance and the Antitrust Laws

By Ralph E. Stone
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 09:08:00 AM

Recently, the media have been reporting regularly about the Anthem Blue Cross plan to raise health insurance rates up to 39 percent in California. Anthem, by the way, is owned by WellPoint, Inc., an Indianapolis company. The main justification for the large rate increases, as much as 10 times greater than national health spending growth, is higher health care costs. But as U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius remarked, “It remains difficult to to understand how a company [Anthem] that made $2.9 billion in the last quarter of 2009 alone can justify massive increases. . . .” And WellPoint, Inc. reported net income of $4.7 billion in 2009. And a recent report found that the combined profit for the five largest health care providers—WellPoint, Inc., United-Health Group, Aetna, Humana, and Cigna—increased 56 percent in 2009 over 2008. Increased rates mean less coverage for a higher cost or possibly no coverage for those without means. -more-