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Signs of San Francisco

I am in San Francisco right now with Adriana, who will be speaking on net neutrality at Vloggercon tomorrow with her Samizdata co-editor hat firmly affixed. Today, we will be attending Techdirt Greenhouse with fellow Samizdatista Hillary Johnson.

Upon arrival yesterday, Adriana and I went for a wander and took in the, er, sights. We passed by UN Plaza, where I snapped this nauseating image:

On the same pole, there is a sign warning vagrants not to peddle without a permit. Still, I would have loved to have taken a snap of the sign that Perry de Havilland and I spotted while driving around in San Francisco last year, which featured a beaming Asian-American woman with the following in bold letters:

Paying taxes really pays off!

Whenever I am in San Francisco, I cannot help but think of the great Ken Layne, who wrote in 1998:

San Francisco is truly the foulest place on earth. The nation’s most expensive city features $2,000 moldy little apartments, a filthy broken-down transit system, tens of thousands of bums on the dole, the nation’s worst newspapers, year-round crappy weather, and a local government that’s truly of and for the people. That’s because the people here are total idiots.

We are actually quite enjoying the weather, but the rest sounds about right to me.

19 comments to Signs of San Francisco

  • John K

    And the dingbats have just voted to ban legal possession of handguns in the city. Apparently they will all be safer when the only handguns in the city are owned illegally. Time for the San Andreas Fault to do its work.

  • N. MacAvoy

    But not before I hold up a few armored trucks, I hope. 😉 I assume the security guards in those things won’t be armed!

  • jk

    That’s a good put down of “The City by the Bay,” but South Park did one better in their smug hybrid episode.

    Alas, it is all true but the physical beauty of the place and the charm of what business is left still makes it worth visiting.

  • Richard Thomas

    I remember it for the trip across the bay, the cablecars (and the cablecar museum), chinatown, the sea otters, buildings high on a hill and Fisherman’s Warf. Also because it was cold enough to wear a sweatshirt in the middle of August.

    The politics may be awful but I’d like to go back someday.


  • permanent expat

    Did only two days rubbernecking in 1976…..never got to know it, but loved it. I’m sure it’s much changed since then & probably not for the better. Its history & that of the towns around the Bay is fantastic.

  • I like San Francisco.

    I have friends there. They aren’t very political, and generally very agreeable.

    Last I was there I spent a few hours playing bacci in Golden Gate park in the sun after having the what was reputed to be the best espresso in the city.

    Not bad.

  • Chris Harper

    Been to San Francisco once. Sat in a plane on the tarmac there for a full hour. While waiting to leave I asked the hostie for a bloody mary, and she introduced me to that foul tinned concoction called bloody mary mix.


  • tranio

    I agree with you about Bloody Mary mix. Come to Canada and try a Caeser mix, it’s called
    clamato. I often have it on planes as an aperitif, a little spicy and sometimes with vodka if I want to sleep later.

  • I could think of places that are a lot worse than San Francisco in terms of both climate and government. London is one.

  • Uain

    The problem with San Fransisco is that it is run by corrupt, self adulating, collectivist twits who delude themselves into thinking they are so much smarter and better than the anyone not in their insular clique.

    Wait a minute! Isn’t the UN is infested with the self same types? I guess such obsequience is fitting.

  • Brian

    All forgotten the League of Nations, haven’t we? And look how well that turned out.

  • Andy

    “The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco.”

    – Possibly Mark Twain

  • merovign

    Hey, it’s a nice place to visit if you’re in need of a laugh. Sort of a comedy version of “Moscow on the Pacific.”

    Legacy banking, tech business, and tourism are the only reasons it hasn’t collapsed into the sea already.

    I used to drive down there sometimes, but it’s getting too annoying.

  • avaroo

    I was in SF last week too. I found it a fabulous city although the panhandling was incredibly bad. They need a Rudy Guiliani to clean that up.

    Went down to Stanford in Palo Alto for a tour of the campus, what a wonderful school. Spent 3 days in Napa, wonderful. SF was very expensive (and I’m from NYC!) and there were tons of weirdos walking around the streets, but the people were very friendly. It was cool but not cold, you needed a jacket at night.

  • felix

    I was in SF last week too. I found it a fabulous city although the panhandling was incredibly bad. They need a Rudy Guiliani to clean that up.

    In other words free speech is great except when people say things you don’t want to hear.

    Do we really need two separate words for “libertarian” and “nazi”?

  • Do we really need two separate words for “libertarian” and “nazi”?

    And where did “avaroo” say he was a libertarian? You really are an idiot, aren’t you.

  • Paul Marks

    Due to the water (joining on to the Pacific) on several sides, I have heard that San Fransico is hardly ever very hot or very cold (which sounds good to me).

    Also sea breeze (again I am told) prevents the “heavy air” that so many places get (like most of Britian today).

    San Fransico was the number one city of the West Coast (of course those days are long gone), and the development of business their gave “progressive” types money available to be stolen.

    Beggers may threaten (sometimes), but the taxman is worse.

    Of course it is taxes as a percentage of the economy that matter. For example, New York may have have had one of the first State income taxes – but total (State and local) taxes were not widely above average as a percentage of the economy till the 1960’s (they started to get out of line with the tax hike of 1959).

    I know that California used to have some of the lowest taxes in the nation (as a percentage of the total ecomomy) – although things moved in a more “progressive” direction after the elections of 1938.

    The big subsidies of World War II and the Cold War period also shielded California somewhat.

    As for local spending.

    Back under Governor Reagan a choice was made not to let cities just go bust (part of the reason for the tax hike of 1967 – which Reagan spend the rest of his two terms trying to roll back a bit) and later Govenors have tended to make the same choice.

    Much taxation is State in California and then dished out to local governments – although this is not extreme as it is in Britain (where the vast majority of tax is raised centrally and the vast majority of local spending is mandated).

    The costs of housing in San Fransico are partly due to rich people being drawn to a nice place to live, but they are also due to rent control, zoning and other regulations.

    On poverty, I doubt that all the beggers are phony.

    If one factors in housing costs (which Federal government stats do not do correctly) California (not just San Fransico) has one of the highest percentages of poor people in the nation.

    Supposdly New York State has an even higher percentage of poor people.

    Back in the late 1940’s San Fransisco was still calculated to be the best city in the country for an ordinary family to live – that has not been true for a long time.

    High tax, high regulation places are O.K. if you are very rich (you can afford them), but if you are an ordinary working person – just stick to a visit.

    As to politics – hard though it may be to believe, the “moderate” (i.e. Democrat as opposed to Green) won the last election as Mayor of San Fransisco.

  • Paul Marks

    On the “world government institution” point.

    The L. of N. may have been won in President Wilson’s fantasy life (and that of his associate E.M. House – see the latter’s collectivist novel “Philip Dru Administrator” of which W. Wilson firmly approved).

    However, the League people did not really see themselves like that .

    The U.N. people (and their supporters – such as the people who decided what that sign should say) really do think in “world government” terms. Although they deny it when critics try and expose them.

    On the media point.

    It is true. As far as I know there is no “opposition” media in San Fransico.

    There is nothing like the New York Post, or the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal.

    Of course their are plenty of “radical” publications – but they think that San Fransico is not statist enough, not that it is too statist.

    There are a few libertarians in San Fransico – but there is no great general conservative population.

    In fact it is a object lesson in what happens when libertarians have to try and get along without a conservative population.

    Contrary to what Murry Rothbard and Karl Hess taught in the 1960’s winning over a leftist population is far harder than wining over a conservative one.

    Appeals against high taxes, gun control, rent control, zoning (and so on) have little chance of success when there is no general conservative population to try and convince.

    One needs a general population of people who work hard, have children, do not look to the state (sorry “the community”) as the source of their moralty and believe in voluntrary cooperation (via their church or in other ways) rather than statist activism (i.e. a real community not statism calling itself “the community”).

    In cities like San Fransisco one tends to get atomised individuals and the state. Families are not common, traditional churches are weak (and so on).

    Asking for civil society to replace the state in various fields does not sound effective when civil society has got weak.

    Of course libertarian activists tend to be much like leftist activists (few children, high percentage of nonChristians and so on), but that does not mean that libertarians can convice a leftist population.

    Convincing a conservative population is hard, but convincing a leftist population is harder. A leftist population is like the water under the Golden Gate bridge – it looks fluid (it is water) and accepting, but if you jump you will find it is like hitting concrete.

  • What is the rainbow flag for?

    Rainbow = gay pride? Alas, it’s San Francisco. Mixing this sign and this symbol in this city…does that mean gays are going to run the global government?

    Rainbow = the symbol of the covenant between God and Noah after the Flood (agriculture, seasons, day/night, no total destruction of all species, no flooding of the entire earth), when they *were* the “global government?” Well, even this peachy global government moment wasn’t enough to bring us nirvana. Read on: things went haywire toot sweet: Noah got drunk and passed out, and his son Ham took advantage of the situation and screwed his own mother and was exiled…then the Tower of Babel comes the very next page…the confusion of tongues and dispersion of peoples. Makes one long for the simplicity and purity of the olive branch moment before all of this.

    Rainbow = “Somewhere Over the Rainbow?” (Another gay fave…that wistful homosexual longing for a welcoming home, the euphemism “Friends of Dorothy.”) Yes, global government is somewhere is somewhere over the rainbow, meaning utopia, which means “nowhere.” Pipe dream and I wonder what’s in the pipe.

    So, homosexuality, drunkenness, incestuous rape, covenant promises of absolute safety, people of different languages and geography bound for conflict, longing for a fictional utopian home over the rainbow that doesn’t exist. Yeppers, that’s global government for you.