Letters for January 19

Readers sound off on our music criticism, eminent domain, and the Birdland Jazz Club and Multi Culti Grill.

“Go Live in Boise,” Letters, 1/5

I’d Like to Stay in Oakland

It’s very nice of Eric Kolacek of Alameda to appoint himself as arbiter of Oakland criticism, but as an Oakland resident for the past thirty years I don’t need his approval.

I am older white man whose family has been seriously impacted by black crime and sociopathology here in Oakland.

Obviously there are blacks who are as outraged about this fact as we are and there serious stupid-ass white leftists who bend over backwards to make excuses for so-called “people of color” (talk about condescending terms.) 

There are also many former Oaklanders who left our not-so-fair city because of the ongoing crime and general pathology.

As far as illegals go, we should emulate the Mexican government, which routinely deports illegal Guatemalans from southern Mexico — actually millions over the years with no protest from the open-borders nutcases up here.

Why should we have to move to Boise to live in a safe environment?

Michael Hardesty, Oakland

Check Yourself

For anyone who might have been confused or misled by Erik Kolacek’s letter, I’d like to set the record straight. If, by reducing Boise to a “crap Teabag militia town,” Kolacek means to say that everyone in Idaho’s capital city of 400,000 is an armed, white racist uber-conservative, then he is wrong. My family is only one example of a racially integrated, liberal-to-radical group of peace-loving Idahoans. Like Oakland (which I’ve happily called home for three years now), Boise has its “warts.” However, generalizing about groups of people you’ve never met based on ignorant assumptions sounds like bigotry to me, Mr. Kolacek. It’s also a really lousy way to foster productive dialogue. So maybe you, too, should “STFU and keep your bigoted opinions to yourself.” Or better yet, check out the local weekly paper (http://www.boiseweekly.com/) and educate yourself, to counteract your persistent case of xenophobia.

Gretchen Jude, Oakland

“Sweatin’ to the Oldies,” Music, 1/5

Ageist Criticism

Nate Seltenrich would be out of a job if it wasn’t for fans’ enthusiasm, at any age! My husband and I were angered by his sneering ageist attitude in his review of the Cracker and Camper show.  Most of the music industry is barely making it.

We’ve both been working in music most of our adult lives and Nate’s damned lucky he can go to any concert for free. We couldn’t afford to go this year, and yeah, we work for a living, I don’t feel “fancy free” either. We’re … gulp, fifty and over, should we kill ourselves now? Have we sinned — allowing ourselves to age and LIKE music? Are we “worker bees” not supposed to go to concerts?

 I guess Nate won’t be going out when he hits the big fifty or so himself, “Too Old,” “you had to be there in the Nineties”? Like there’s nothing good as of … yesterday? His frequent references to age outline his hostilities. And ya, we don’t care if people “can tell” we’re having a good time! We don’t feel an adolescent pressure to snipe about those around us. Nate’s lucky we live in the Bay Area where it is thought to be okay to be yourself … at any age. Oh, yeah, isn’t it also people over fifty who continue to fight in the streets and go to jail to keep the Bay Area honest? Nate’s too self-occupied with being fresh to consider the history of the people around him that he’s slagging.

And the word “hipster” is older than anyone here, by the way; it’s from the Fifties Beat poets. Oh, but they’re so over — they’re dead, they don’t contribute anything to modern poetry? Bone up on musical history, dude.

Vivienne Luke, El Sobrante

“Profiting From Eminent Domain,” News, 1/5

The Hahn Side of the Story

I represent the Hahn family and I wanted to correct you on some of the mistakes that you have written publicly about my family. Let’s go back in time to 1988 when my father Alex Hahn operated the Acorn Shopping Center. He purchased the center for $1.9 million and at that time there was a 60 percent vacancy rate. My father Alex Hahn managed to fill the Acorn Shopping Center by 1990 to 100 percent no vacancy with national brand tenants such as KFC and Pizza Hut. Five years later we sold the Acorn Center back to the City of Oakland. A certified appraiser valued the property at $4.3 million, the City of Oakland offered $2.9 million. There was not much profit in this deal as your article suggested.

Let’s go to the Sears eminent domain case of 2004. I need to remind you that the City of Oakland used eminent domain not necessarily for public use, but to retain the Sears Tire Center to make way for Forest City; the auto center is not even been built yet. Essentially, the forthcoming tire center is still a parking lot that Sears holds the entitlements to. My father and uncle were exercising their rights in defending themselves under constitutional law as an investor in Oakland, Calif., which bears the same legitimacy and rights as any community activist, artist, homeowner, a corporation, or a restaurateur whose business is thriving in Uptown. Alex Hahn purchased the two parcels in hoping to build a mixed-use complex. Therefore, half of our property was given to Sears at fair-market value dictated by the city but as a result of this eminent domain case we lost our ability to develop the site and our ability to sell at a higher price to a private developer or company that would have wanted to purchase the site. My family settled with the City of Oakland two years later, accumulating legal expenses in the amount of $100k and paying the tenant the remainder of their lease for $60k. I do remind you, prior to the settlement there was a real estate boom in Oakland, because of the proactive market rate urban infill development plans from the past Honorable Mayor Jerry Brown. If we retained the property without the first eminent domain proceedings the Hahns could have sold it for a much higher value than the settlement amount with the city. Since you also mentioned the Kwikway, I wanted to also the point out the fact that even Chip Johnson of the SF Chronicle stated that the Hahns had a case against the Oakland Planning Commission which could have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, but did not pursue. The Hahn family chose to work with the community.

My uncle and father invested in Oakland to provide a better life for their children and to fulfill their dreams in real estate investing in our city, because of the fourteen-hour late-night shifts they used to pull at the grocery store in some of the worst areas of Richmond and Oakland. Our City of Oakland with the budget deficits they are facing, investments in Oakland parcels and building projects should be encouraged and the success stories of investors in Oakland should be embraced rather than scolded. We don’t want the biggest bulk of the City of Oakland’s income, in which is real estate transfer taxes, to be floating off to other cities. Investors do invest in Oakland to make a return on investment, if they didn’t than why would one invest so much capital in the first place? On the notion of powers of eminent domain, in which my family is a victim of double jeopardy, I find it frightening to some extent that because of the Supreme Court ruling it gives the government more power to remove you from your own home or investment property in the name of economic development, thus another tool for the government to use and we inadvertently agree to, which may be precedence for the removal of more civil liberties we enjoy from the Constitution of the United States of America. I find it even more troubling that a progressive news media such as the East Bay Express would support eminent domain for economic development rather than supporting individual property owner’s rights? I do remind you that West Oakland is huge; there are plenty of locations that have better egress and ingress routes than my uncle’s property, but why is it his parcel being targeted? A larger corporation with more assets and purchasing power than the Hahns could ever dream of is actually pushing this as Forest City with the Uptown project was as well. So the big bad corporations still win in the end? It is peculiar that this centrist moderate is speaking as if he was a progressive and vice versa by the words you wrote in the article.

In this article you portray the Hahns in a somewhat negative light but you did not see my older brother Alan in action making negotiations behind the scenes while fighting cancer and even appearing in court after chemotherapy. He passed away at the age of 36 in 2008 leaving behind a wife and young daughter. There is a human face to the Hahn family that you did not know about and I wanted to share with you. My uncle Sunny, who is the primary subject of this article, used to work late nights in Richmond. He would work tirelessly trying to support his two children at a grocery store in a high-crime area. He would often be insulted by a small minority of that community that would make fun of his slanted eyes, his broken English, and some would cruelly say, “Gooks, go back to Korea.” All he could do was take this abuse, because if he said something wrong he knew that he might never see his family again. One evening he was working with my father Alex. Two men entered the store with 12-gauge shotguns and had them face down on the linoleum floor. My uncle Sunny actually put two ads in the East Bay Express when he used to run a restaurant back in 2001. My father Alex once told me how helpless he felt when he saw my brother Alan and my other uncle get robbed at the Giantburgers in broad daylight in 1996. He was waiting in the car for them and as they exited the store, two young men pointed weapons at them and took their belongings. My father dialed 911 while fearing the worse possible case scenario unfold in front of his eyes.

My best friend who I have campaigned with on two mayoral races and three city council races was recently shot twice while walking his dog in North Oakland. The first bullet shattered his femur bone in his leg and the young assailant was so emboldened that he walked up to my friend while he was in shock lying on the pavement, fired another round execution style to his forehead. I will stop there and only focus on the positive things we have done together in this last mayor’s race while campaigning and doing cleanups in the most dangerous neighborhoods of East Oakland such as 82nd and MacArthur, Sobrante Park and the 69 Village. I was honored to do a cleanup on Grand Avenue with True Vine Baptist church. If you could have only seen the hugs and accolades we received from our fellow neighbors that want job growth and believe in this city as we do.

Next time all we ask is if you do your due diligence as a journalist and gather the facts accurately. You did not attempt to call my father Alex Hahn and you mentioned his name in this article without even getting his side of the story. Your colleagues at the Express did a better job and even put him on the front page, but did not cover the joy expressed by citizens and city leaders at City Hall when Gene Hazzard, Alex Hahn, and Mr. Yu were pictured together as an unified Oakland, putting an end to the controversial Koreatown Northgate banners. Another respectable newspaper the Oakland Post did write about it and put the picture of the newfound friends on the front page. The Hahn family supports all investments in Oakland both big and small. We support our new mayor and the city council during this budget crisis. The Hahn family will do our best in providing job growth for our beloved Oakland. This city has truly some of the most remarkable people from all walks of life in some of the most beautiful neighborhoods that I still love walking and reminisce about the good times on the campaign trail when the sun sets over them.

Charles S. Hahn, San Ramon

“A New Day in Oakland,” Seven Days, 1/5

Education, Not Stadiums

When Jerry Brown was mayor of Oakland, there was little he did that I was pleased with (in fact, I sent him some letters written in Ciceronian Latin telling him so); but if he puts the nix on the city council’s plan to use redevelopment agency funds to build a new A’s stadium, he will get a thumbs up from me.

The proletariat doesn’t need more bread and circuses; they need public services, such as schools above the level of third-world countries (this is something we DON’T HAVE NOW). The city council could, if they chose to, put “redevelopment” money into college prepatory programs for children of poor families, so that our sorry education system can generate citizens fit for something better than “McJobs.” There is no reason (beyond the self-serving greed and cronyism of our civic leaders) why our young people can’t have educations equal to the best private schools. But (of course) spending hundreds of millions of dollars to build another expensive stadium (during a severe recession!!!), just so sports fanatics can watch overpaid jocks hit a ball with a stick, is to the local government the more desirable option.

Take note of our new mayor’s specious and hypocritical concern for young people’s education. She wants 2,000 people to act as VOLUNTEER mentors (“volunteer” means someone you don’t have to pay), but is reluctant to make any iron-clad commitment of city funds for education herself. I suppose she believes educated citizens should be willing, free of charge, to do the work their tax dollars were supposed to pay for. If she can make this fly, this will free up public funds for her and the city council to squander, which is their fondest wish.

The push to build a new stadium shows poor judgment in setting priorities. As a native New Yorker who grew up close to the stock exchange, it is downright STUPID. People can play ball in empty lots, but they can’t get Harvard scholarships there. The abandonment of education as a public priority is a major factor of the social degradation we are experiencing today.

To those who support the stadium plan: redevelopment agency funds are, in the main, money expropriated out of the public services budget to finance private concerns, which rightly is an ethics violation. The A’s are not a public agency; they are a private corporation. If they need money for a new stadium, they should apply at a lending institution for a loan, or otherwise raise the money themselves, since it is in their interest alone to do so. To the argument that the stadium would generate money for the city, that is a lie. All similar past efforts have turned into boondoggles with the taxpayer on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars in liabilities. At best, money already in circulation will just be redistributed from “here” to “there.” No wealth will be created; as Adam Smith (the Holy Ghost of Capitalism) correctly remarked, there is only one real creator of wealth, and that is honest work.

Oakland city leaders need to get grounded as to what real economics is all about instead of jumping around from one ill-considered, get-rich-quick scheme to another. But hey, that would take intelligence, education, and integrity; and judging from performance, this is in very short supply with our so-called “government.”

James Fenton, Oakland

“The Cannabis Clean-Up Team,” Legalization Nation, 1/5; “Steep Hill Cleaning Up the ‘Bathtub Gin’ of Ganja: Pics and Links,” Legalization Nation Blog, 1/5

True Quality Control

There are many points brought up in these articles that I think demonstrate some major concerns about Steep Hill as a leader performing quality control of cannabis.

I am a co-founder of Botanical Analytics and our goal at Botanical Analytics is to advance the use of botanical medicines through science. Between myself and another co-founder, we bring over forty years of experience as scientists in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries to the analysis of botanical products. We strive to bring a pharmaceutical sciences approach to the quality control of cannabis in that we provide testing where the methods used are verifiable, the data generated are reproducible, and everything is open to review and audit by the client or a representative thereof (peer review).

Cannabis was approved by the voters of this state for medicinal use, not for recreational use. Taken a step further, the Guidance for Botanical Medicines published by the FDA states that “if a botanical product is intended for use in diagnosing, mitigating, treating, or curing disease, it is a drug.” Although cannabis is not regulated by the FDA, we believe it needs to be treated more like what it is legally approved for, a medicine or “drug.” There are well-established guidelines for botanical medicines and drugs, and cannabis needs to start conforming to the basic premise of these guidelines for it to reach the level of legitimacy it deserves. This means that all procedures and the data related to its production and analysis need to traceable, verifiable, and available for review by an auditor at any time. As the author asked Steep Hill, “If cannabis is medicine, shouldn’t it be standardized?” Our answer is YES and the guidelines for how to standardize already exist, of which transparency is fundamental.

Between the article and the blog posted on January 5, 2011, Steep Hill representatives claim that they are measuring cannabis flowers and cannabis produces, i.e. edibles, for potency using sophisticated analytical equipment such as high-performance liquid chromatography and gas chromatography. And they claim that they perform self-validation. We have similar sophisticated equipment just like most labs performing potency testing. We also have demonstrated the recovery, accuracy, and precision of the procedures we use to measure potency in flowers, edibles, tinctures, etc. We, and the FDA, call this validation, not self-validation, because it is objective, reproducible, and documented. Our data are not published in a peer-reviewed journal, very few analytical procedures are. What we have is a summary report and this report, along with the raw data, are available for review and audit by the client at their request. This is standard practice in the pharmaceutical, cosmetics, and environmental testing worlds. All data we generate are fully transparent and defensible. They have been challenged not only by ourselves (internal-validation), they have been challenged and verified by other laboratories (external- or cross-validation).

Botanical Analytics has worked with several people (clients) who have had the same samples analyzed by both Steep Hill and us. A majority of the data between the labs were significantly different. We find this quite disturbing. If the methods used to analyze samples are accurate, the data should be the same between the labs regardless of the technology used. We were asked by a couple of these clients to show our data and explain the results, which we did. In doing so, we demonstrated the calibration of the equipment and how we use internal and external controls to verify the validity of the data. These same people requested to review the data from Steep Hill but were denied. As corroborated by the East Bay Express, Steep Hill “will not disclose their methodology or the chemist who wrote and tested samples.” This is completely in conflict with the ISO 17025 and ELA certifications that they seek. Not being transparent leaves open the following questions: What is the validity of the data they are generating? And, does this type of behavior help increase the legitimacy of cannabis and provide a benefit to the community?

I would also like to touch on the notion of cannabis safety, or more specifically, toxicity. There are essentially no toxicity or safely issues with cannabis. Ever heard of or read about anyone dying from cannabis? Even moldy weed? People definitely can get way too high and take time to recover, particularly from edibles. But this is potency and dosage issue, not a toxicity one. So the question here is, what safety issues are Steep Hill trying to address and are they doing it? In terms of microbiological contamination, all cannabis is covered in microbes because it is grown in the open air. This means that everyone is using cannabis “contaminated” with yeast and mold. If the concern is the intake of “contaminated” cannabis by immune-compromised people, then the only way to protect these people is to provide them sterilized cannabis. And the only way to create “sterilized” or “microbe-free” cannabis is to gamma-irradiate it as is done with the Dutch government-sponsored medical cannabis. Instead, a reference is made to the USDA and that a sample is above “USDA guidelines for microorganisms in agriculture products.”  This statement does not make sense. The USDA has specific acceptable levels of microbial burden on some products, but not all, and each specific level is specific to that product. There are no guidelines for an acceptable level of microbial burden on cannabis. What guidelines are being referenced here?  What are the acceptable levels in terms of safety and where did these values come from? Is this really even an issue? These same questions also carry over to testing for pesticides.

Quality control of cannabis is a very important thing and needs to be done for the simple reason that cannabis is a medicine by law. This is particularly true for edibles because the potency of edibles is hugely variable and the dosage needs to be better controlled. The main issue I am trying to raise is that quality control is about traceability, transparency, and validity. For example, if pesticides were never used during cultivation and the cultivation conditions were documented, why would pesticides even be a concern? Our goal is to enhance the use, acceptance, and legitimacy of cannabis. And help create a playing field that is level for all and viewable by all.

Eric TaylorScientist, Botanical Analytics

San Francisco

“The Birdman Strikes,” Culture Spy, 12/29

What About Potholes?

Berkeley government is a joke. If I were them I would worry more about the lawn watering overspray in the median of University Avenue. I am sure everyone experienced all of the potholes that were there before they resurfaced the street, yet the water continues to overspill the median causing weathering and potholes on the new road. Why didn’t they plant something that doesn’t suck up so much water? Well, again I guess the logic is something that challenges their agenda. Instead they pick on a guy who keeps the community finely knit. I would argue that there are other places for them to focus if they want to improve life in Berkeley.

Doug Lee, Oakland

The City Is Jealous

Greg Daniel is the problem here, not Mike Parayno. Qualities such as integrity, entrepreneurship, community-building, arts, and music should be esteemed to the highest degree. Parayno is about the only thing left in Berkeley which actually resembles Berkeley. He’s not hurting anyone. He’s helping to keep the neighborhood safer, because neighbors get to know each other. And he’s even providing a place where homeless people are welcome — they help recycle and clean up after the parties, btw. Plus, he’s giving young musicians valuable gig experience, and doing it all in a space where the age range is from about sixteen to sixty. And you want to harass him for that? Let’s face it: If the City of Berkeley knew how to put together a multicultural event half as good as Parayno’s, they would have done it. As for the birdhouse “business,” it’s not like he has a retail store. Just recycled wood which he crafts into one-of-a-kind artisan masterpieces. It’s not like he holds a gun to people’s heads and forces them to buy birdhouses. He doesn’t even advertise. All his business is word of mouth. I don’t think you could be more low-impact than that.Greg Daniel needs to stop being a repressive hater of culture and think about what’s best for the people of Berkeley. Matter of fact, they should be subsidizing the barbecues, which raise the quality of life index in that neighborhood.

Eric Arnold, Oakland

You Don’t Live Here

I noticed that all of the negative comments so far have been from people who don’t live in our neighborhood and who are reacting to events that happened elsewhere — they haven’t even attended Mike’s community barbecue to see if it actually compares.

Well, I do live in the neighborhood and I have gone to the party several times and had a great time. It’s not really noisy outside, the few immediate neighbors are involved in the party anyway, and Mike puts up a heavy sound-proofing curtain over the garage now that there’s live music inside. There is a mellow, friendly ambience and it’s very like an international block party. The fun goes on for several hours and people come and go; I haven’t seen two hundred people there at once.

I think that instead of harassing Mike Parayno and depriving us of our community-building get-togethers, the city should simply devise a new type of permit that does fit the circumstances. Can’t we have a permit for a weekly event?

Regarding the retail license, there is no garish advertising or (as far as I can tell) increased traffic or anything else that we neighbors have reason to complain about. Instead, the artisanal birdhouses are unique and decorate that end of the block in a quintessentially Berkeley way.

Shauna Haines, Berkeley

Fiesta Time!

Good for Birdman. Shouldn’t the Berkeley cops be busting people for riding their bikes on campus or something? Leave this dude. Birdman, see you at the fiesta!

Steve Slatten, Sacramento

What About the Frats?

What is the difference of what this gentleman does and the frats parties that are held every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights? Berkeley gives the fraternities a pass, when they regularly have parties with crowds of fifty to two hundred underage kids drinking. And there’s over thirty fraternities carrying on. What have the frats been fined? Now I know why Berkeley has the reputaion it has.

Paul Ghysels, Berkeley

“Ten Best Movies of 2010,” Feature, 12/29

Poetry on Film

Thanks for recommending Mother. It was an acceptable film from Mr. Bong and had his usual technical savvy and shocking plot twists. Unfortunately, a lot of this is retread for him, particularly rehashing of Memories of Murder with gestapo-style interrogations scenes, mentally disabled suspect, and drunks at the singing room. I think he was trying to capture the magic of his past achievements and this is far from his best film. A much more memorable film with a very similar central plot line released in Korea this past year was Shi or Poetry. It also has the oft-overlooked color of the Korean small-town life and a mother investigating a murder with her son as the accused. What it doesn’t have is the glossy, alienating violence that tends to push viewers away from the characters and seems to be the thread that ties a lot of Kelly’s “best” pics for 2010. Instead, Shi pushes the viewer into the inner world of the central character and touches on her reflections of modern life, personal and shared pain, and understanding of beauty. Do yourself a favor and check out Shi.

Vince Rubino, Daejeon, South Korea

A Devastating War

Your reviewer has no idea of the enormous impact World War I had on the world.  Comparing it to America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may be PC, but trivializes the horror of World War I and grossly distorts America’s experience and actions in those countries. Every war we have fought since 1918 is rooted in the reverberations of the damage and destruction of World War I. If you go to France, visit churches in small towns and villages. Look at the memorial plaques. Long lists for small places. Last names repeated over and over: fathers and sons, uncles and nephews, brothers and cousins.  You will begin to realize the horror of a nation’s losing a generation and get some real perspective on the American experience.

Harold Borkowski, Oakland


The January 5 cover story, “Legal Limbo,” erroneously stated that one person had been convicted of violating the North Oakland gang injunction. According to city attorney spokesman Alex Katz, no one has.

In our January 12 Careers and Education story, “The Business of Art,” we mischaracterized Sydney Metrick’s experience. Her doctorate is actually in Expressive Arts Therapy, not psychology, though she does work with artists as a coach.  

Miscellaneous Letters

Dirty Tricks

Some of the people who are supposed to be protecting the United States from terrorism are instead committing human rights abuses. They not only watch their subjects; they torment them. The general public and even top government have no idea about the crimes being committed. To the lower level FBI and CIA operatives, the actual rare domestic terrorist in this country represents a bonanza of good fortune: job security. These agents get to eavesdrop and hostilely surveil dissidents and loners with the excuse that their victim might also represent a national security threat. Expert locksmiths, they can try to enrage the victim by routinely entering his dwelling to steal things and play little dirty tricks. They can use their technology, such as microwave bombardment, to deprive the victim of sleep in the hope that, in his desperation, he will say or do something threatening or unlawful. This will reinforce their excuse to stay on his case.

For the subject of their attention there is no due process, no chance to face their accusers in court, no excuse from the humiliation of their privacy being constantly violated, and no recourse from the lost sleep.

Edward Jimison, Castro Valley


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