John Oliver, Mumbai and the Battle of the Titan Hacks


John Oliver“A three-dot column,” the late Herb Caen, master of the form,  once noted, “is the stoop labor of the newspaper business.” And so vaya al trabajo:

Something’s happening here: Nice work by Daily Show alum John Oliver, who opened his gig as emcee of the annual Crunchies awards this week with a keepin’ it real puncturing of the self-importance and sanctimony of the SV-VC greed head crowd for their colonialist exploitation of San Francisco neighborhoods:

Why do you need an award ceremony in the tech industry? What more adulation do you — you already have almost all the money in the world. Why do you need awards as well after that? It is absolutely ridiculous.

“You’re no longer the underdogs. It’s very important that you realize that. You’re not the scrappy people that people get behind. It used to be that people who worked in the tech industry were emotional shut-ins who you could root for. Now those days are gone.

“You’re pissing off an entire city. Not just with what you do at work, but how you get to work. It’s not easy to do that.

Mumbai_local_trainIf it’s news, it’s news to us: Within that context, we keep waiting for the Hearst Chronicle to publish the definitive version of the defining story of their hometown, how high-tech imperialists are re-shaping the city, for better or for worse, politically, economically and socially. Having read very substantive takeouts on the subject by the New Yorker, the New York Times and Atlantic Wire, among others, which collectively provide a road map for the erstwhile Voice of the West, we perked up on Sunday when we read the lede of a P1 yarn that seemed more or less on point:


Which came first, the Google bus stop, the two-bedroom apartment for $10,500 a month, or the new place that sells organic fruit juice and nut milk for $12 per serving?

Alas, our hopes were quickly dashed, as we came to the stunning realization that the Chron’s front page story about the transformation of a neighborhood a dozen blocks from their office, and populated by people who ought to be reading the paper, was based upon investigative reporting by, wait for it.., a freelancer from Mumbai.


Chris Walker, 29, lives in Mumbai, India, with his girlfriend, who works in international development. He recently used San Francisco city government’s open data programs to map the bus stops of those controversial private shuttles that carry tech workers to their offices on the Peninsula and in Silicon Valley.

He also mapped the restaurants, cafes and bars that took out business licenses from 2011 to 2013. And he compared the city’s property assessment rolls from 2011 and 2013 and mapped where properties appreciated the most in that period. Surprise, surprise – they’re all grouped together in what Walker has dubbed “clusters of affluence.”

Surprise, surprise indeed. A nifty piece of work, but remind us again why it takes a guy from Mumbai to dig through “San Francisco city government’s open data programs” to find a hiding-in-plain sight scoop about the biggest story in town, while the local rag is content to offer a derivative summary of his work. Here’s a thought: while everyone else at Fifth and Mish is busy discovering the future, why not toss the Mumbai guy a few bucks to nose out more news from the here and now. And give him a hall pass to get out of the incubator.

Henry Waxman March 2013East Coast geniuses gaze West: The most interesting political story in California right now is the race to replace congressional lion Henry Waxman in the 33rd CD, so of course Beltway bloviators are bestirring themselves to weigh in with their own, very special brand of journalism, witness Roll Call hack Abby Livingston:

Just two weeks after longtime Rep. Henry A. Waxman announced his retirement, at least one campaign is moving quickly to build a campaign infrastructure to win the California Democrat’s seat.

Livingston presumes to bring her keen political insight to bear in service of her unsupported assertion that Wendy Greuel is dominating the organizational war by listing the entire campaign staff of the former L.A. City Controller, down to the guy who empties the waste baskets at night.


Turns out that state Senator Ted Lieu, Greuel’s chief rival, has a bit of “campaign infrastructure” himself, in the form of  top-rank California strategists (and Friends of Calbuzz) Gale Kaufman and Bill Carrick. We stipulate that Greuel’s hiring of fellow top-tier consultant (also an FOC) Ace Smith, whose name was one of 8,742 listed in the Roll Call piece, is important, and makes for an intriguing, and hopefully nasty, match-up in which the consultants will be more interesting than the candidates.

Memo to Abby: In the biggest skunking since the Super Bowl, Lieu won the first organizational skirmish of the contest, capturing the nod of district Democratic activists by a vote of 59-to-7 (at least Wendy made the extra point) a margin that all but ensures he will win the state party endorsement at next month’s convention.

Add Waxman: don’t miss David Rogers’s superb appraisal of the man’s career.

The 500-year drought: For our money, Paul Rogers at the Murky News is the best environmental reporter in California (Bettina Boxall of the By God L.A. Times comes in second) and his coverage of the drought, California’s most important story, is essential.

Latest example: Rogers dove into an obscure state data base about water usage and emerged with a wonderfully clear info graphic story that offers more significant and relevant information about the matter than 10,000 boring D.C./Sacto yarns about Jim Costa tossing John Garamendi into the Clifton Court Forebay, or the Delta smelt hatin’ on Fresno farmers, could ever do.

difidroneBe alert. Be very alert. During the ads between the biathlon and the curling, we leaped up from our Lazy Boy upon seeing the ominous headline: “Obama Considering Drone Strike on American Citizen.”

Heart racing, we collapsed back into the retro Woodmont High Leg Recliner reinvented club chair that Santa left us, relieved upon reading further to learn that the citizen in question was not Senator Dianne Feinstein. Whew.

But it’s Day 28 of the Difi Drone Watch, and we still constantly monitor the Internets for any word that might shed light on the mysterious disappearance and, according to Feinstein, perhaps fatal, crash on the streets of San Francisco of a drone that was peeking into her home.

In the name of public safety, the homeland and the distinguished residents of Presidio Terrace, we urge anyone with information about this shrouded-in-secrecy event to please contact us at calbuzzer@gmail.com. Discretion assured, more or less.




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There are 2 comments for this post

  1. avatar tonyseton says:

    The three-dot approach enables you to cover a lot of ground.

  2. avatar Opatrny says:

    Nicely done, Jerzy. Making Mr. Cohen proud.

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