Archive for 2013

Calbuzz Classic: Mega Thanks From Your Turkeys

Thursday, November 28th, 2013

Tom Meyer’s mandatory Thanksgiving turkey cartoon, featuring a big bird ogre whose cranium is festooned with hatchets, not only sheds a frightening bright light on the cartooning Calbuzzer’s just-below-the-surface sociopathic tendencies (which some day will likely result in us being quoted as telling some know-it-all, whippersnapper reporter that Meyer “was always a quiet loner”) but also offers a scary glimpse at the terrifying political threat that California’s  not-so-jolly giant budget deficit represents to Jerry Brown, who will have to  slay the awful monster if history is to judge as a success his gubernatorial second act.

And for those keeping score at home, that’s a crisp, three-year-old 100-word lede, three times as long as the traditional MSM  industry standard to which New Media over-the-hill guys thankfully no longer must adhere. But we digress.

Not since the Fifth Labor of Hercules, when another son of a famous political family was assigned to muck out the dung produced by a herd of immortal cows chewing their cuds in the Augean Stables, has a public figure faced such a daunting task as Brown. Even in a state familiar with chronic deficits — and with chronic, gimmick-laden “solutions” to them — the latest red ink estimate of $25.4 billion sent chills through denizens of the Capitol.

As a brilliant political analyst recently noted, Governor-elect Krusty will begin his term with policy options that are straitjacketed, both by a host of long-standing restrictions imposed by initiatives, and by a whole new batch of ballot measures just voted in by California’s have-it-both-ways voters – More services! Less taxes! – including Props 22, 24 and 26.

Add to that the disappearance of federal stimulus money, not to mention the pig-headed intransigence of Republicans to even rational new revenue ideas, and you’re left wondering why in the world Brown ever thought moving back to Sacramento would be a good idea at the ripe old age of 72.

During his campaign, Gandalf made few proposals to fix the budget, beyond a fuzzy promise to convene bipartisan kumbaya meetings, where sweet reason will allegedly replace the bitter ideological gridlock that grips the Capitol. Good luck with that.

“This will take all the know-how that I said I had,” Brown said the day after election, “and all the luck of the Irish as I go forward.” Indeed.


Pilgrims rout Indians – lead series 2-1: As we approach the end of our second full year of publishing, our Department of Green Eyeshade Performance Based Measureables and Obscene Year-End Executive Bonuses reports that our page view total is certain to exceed the number of votes won by Meg Whitman.

Given that our little enterprise seems in much better shape than her out-of-business campaign, and that we’ve managed this feat by spending a teeny bit less on expenses than her, we feel entitled to celebrate by indulging ourselves in that hoariest of journalism practices – reprinting our annual Thanksgiving message to readers. Herewith a slightly updated version:

As Calbuzz joins in our annual national celebration of gratitude and gluttony, we recall Arnold Schwarzenegger’s famous words of blessing for this special holiday:

“I love Thanksgiving turkey. It’s the only time in Los Angeles that you see natural breasts.”

With humble hearts and heaping helpings of snark, we want to thank the Calbuzz online community for all your support, encouragement, boorish comments and vicious critiques. We look forward to the next year, and hope you’ll stay with us for an exciting and entertaining ride with Gandalf  the Wizard, Prince Gavin, Lady Difi and all the other colorful characters who populate the ever-entertaining court of California politics.

Beyond that, we sincerely hope that on this joyous day, you’ll click on our ads a whole bunch of times, and that you won’t get a wishbone lodged in your throat while stuffing your pie hole. Also: take the Saints, give the points, and bet the under.

Our Department of Living History and Living Wills tells us that it was Abe Lincoln, not Miles Standish, who jump started this whole Thanksgiving thing.

Nonetheless, Calbuzzers of a certain age remember with fondness the Thanksgiving school pageants of years gone by, when pilgrim hats made of folded black construction paper oozed gooey globs of white paste at the seams, and Pocahontas was played by the smart girl in the front row who always had her hand up, and who ended up living in Newport Beach, botoxed to the max.

We leave you with our favorite commentary on that historic period, courtesy of Calbuzzer emeritus Mark Twain:

Thanksgiving Day, a function which originated in New England two or three centuries ago when those people recognized that they really had something to be thankful for – annually, not oftener – if they had succeeded in exterminating their neighbors, the Indians, during the previous twelve months, instead of getting exterminated by their neighbors, the Indians.

Thanksgiving Day became a habit, for the reason that in the course of time, as the years drifted on, it was perceived that the exterminating had ceased to be mutual and was all on the white man’s side, consequently on the Lord’s side; hence it was proper to thank the Lord for it and extend the usual annual compliments.

Happy Turkey Day.


How Tech Elitists Are Pushing Out SF Middle Class

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

zuckerberg1By Hank Plante
Special to Calbuzz

I was asked to emcee a community town hall for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation recently at the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Community Center (or, as I call it, “The BLT Center,” since that seems to cover it all).

The topic was supposed to be about growing older as gay men in the age of AIDS.  Instead, what many in the audience really wanted to talk about was the housing crunch in the city.

And, in fact, it is easy to see why:  When I first began reporting on AIDS in the city in the early 1980’s, people who were ill could cut back to part-time work and still live here. That isn’t the case anymore. And they aren’t alone.

The biggest change I’ve seen in San Francisco in the last three decades is that artists, musicians, freelance journalists and others in the creative class could work part-time and still be San Franciscans, giving the city its texture. As they depart for Oakland or points elsewhere, they aren’t leaving their hearts there.

sfhousingAnd so we are seeing the beginning of an avalanche of news stories documenting the new class warfare in the city between techies and others who are fighting for every square inch of loft space, and perhaps for the very future of the San Francisco.

Why S.F. rents are national news: The economic and cultural implications of the conflict are drawing considerable national attention: in the last few months, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair and The Atlantic have all examined the phenomenon. The New York Times joined the chorus this week with its headline, “Backlash by the Bay:  Tech Riches Alter a City.”  The Times noted the median rent in S.F. is the highest in the country, at $3,250 a month for a two-bedroom.

But landlords aren’t sitting back as they become punching bags for all the bad press. The San Francisco Chronicle’s Nellie Bowles this week offered a soft and sympathetic look at a big meeting of landlords, many of whom were looking for easier ways to evict tenants living in rent controlled apartments. The “Rent Control Boot Camp,” as it was called, was held at Fort Mason — often called “Frat Mason,” according to the Times, because of all the young “tech bros” who use the facility and live nearby.

And no wonder housing is skyrocketing, when you have Mark Zuckerberg reportedly paying $10 million for a home in the once-edgy Mission/Castro/Noe Valley neighborhood – a house that CNBC reported “was worth only as much as $3 million.”

The new Gilded Age: Exacerbating the problem is the hubris of the techies themselves.

seanparkerNapster co-founder Sean Parker’s $10 million dollar fairytale wedding at Big Sur was one thing. The fact that the California Coastal Commission fined him $2.5 million for damaging the pristine spot only added to the excess. Parker later denied doing any “eco-trashing.”

And the techies’ arrogance goes back to the first dot-com boom in the late ’90s, when we reporters noticed a serious uptick in pedestrian accidents South of Market.  It seemed like the incidents involved one vehicle after another, being driven by a person with a Starbucks in one hand and a cell phone in the other, plowing into somebody at an intersection.

When the dot-com bubble burst, police told us the pedestrian accidents were cut in half.

Of course the current crop of techies may be safer since they’re on private Google buses and in Uber cars, isolated from the life that most city residents must deal with.

willieWillie’s warning: It also doesn’t help that the young millionaires (1,600 of them created just through Twitter) are largely uninvolved in the city’s charities and causes.

A few years ago, when I did a TV story called “Silicon Valley Cheapskates,” Philanthropist Dede Wilsey told me when she raised $190 million to rebuild the deYoung Museum, almost none of it came from Silicon Valley. So far there are few David Packards or Walter Hellmanns among the nouveau riche.

Former Mayor Willie Brown, in last Sunday’s Chronicle column, warned techies to start hiring locally or face a backlash. But the comments from readers were even more interesting, with some noting that typical San Franciscans don’t have the skills to do these 21st Century tech jobs. Others said the feud was simple jealousy. Still others said the tech boom has gentrified once dangerous streets and led to much-needed condos and apartments being built (albeit, at high prices).

HankPlanteIn any event, Mark Zuckerberg is already creating a few new local new jobs in the city, since his $10 million dollar home is undergoing millions of dollars in needed renovations.

Hank Plante is an Emmy and Peabody-winning reporter who spent 25 years covering San Francisco for KPIX TV.  He is the Palm Springs Bureau Chief of Calbuzz.

Update: The NYT story cited above, by Friends of Calbuzz Erica Goode and Claire Cain Miller, has generated over 1,000 online comments so far, making for an intriguing national conversation that may be found here.