According to this blog's sub-headline, there is someone who blogs from San Francisco. However, I do not know who they are, and so even though it may not be completely unique to the blog to discuss what's going on out here, my perspective - as a lifelong New Englander visiting the Bay Area for the first time - surely counts for something.
This is the first time in my life that "The Bay" has meant not Narragansett or Casco, but the Bay really deserving of the definite article - that of San Francisco. It is quite lovely here, and though I've only been here two days, I have already traversed quite a bit on foot.
Sunday, I went to the St. Francis Soda Fountain for brunch with my friend Poep Kwan (who I am staying with in the Mission) and a few other friends from college. All five of us got omelettes and enjoyed them thoroughly, and Bobby Bertolucci, who was about to get on a plane to Baltimore, calmed his nerves with a $3 Manzanita - champagne and apple juice. It's also nice to be able to order banana bread with your eggs rather than toast.
Sunday afternoon, Poep Kwan and I walked through the Mission towards downtown, took a trolley car to North Beach (where he might have been the only San Francisco resident on the car save for the two jokesters running the thing), and walked, huffing and puffing, up Telegraph Hill to the base of the Coit Tower. The view was beautiful, cloudy haze be damned.
We ended up going back to Mission via the Union Square area and strolled by all the museums. A stop in the ridiculous Sony store (part of an entire mall owned by Sony, I think) made me feel at home - San Francisco, for all its hipness, I realized, is no less in the belly of the beast that is American consumer capitalism than anywhere else. They had sold out of the new Playstation 3s, but PS3 paraphenelia was available.
Consumer capitalism or no, I was glad to see that the politics for which this place is known are alive and well. When I strolled through Berkeley yesterday, there were signs everywhere for a 12-2 rally to protest police brutality, perhaps relating to the recent incident at UCLA where police repeatedly used a taser gun on an Iranian-American student. Alas, it was about 2:30, and my previous dilly-dallying at the bookstores of Telegraph Avenue meant I had unwittingly missed the action.
Also interesting is the local response to own of the area's own politicos - Rep. Nancy Pelosi - making good. Editor Tim Redmond of the San Francisco Bay Guardian makes a convincing case in this week's issue that along the rise to power, Pelosi has lost touch with her leftward constituents - in his words, "Pelosi's not one of us". Redmond says the concerns or questions as to whether she will bring "Gay Marriage and Burning Man" to Washington are a bit misplaced:
Then of course, there is Pelosi's failed candidate for Majority Leader, Jack Murtha - a longtime hawk who is pro-life and apparently against more stringent ethics rules for congress - not exactly a liberal, even when compared to Steny Hoyer.
Just look at her record. Pelosi was weak on the war and late in opposing it. She was the author of the bill that gave that well-known pauper George Lucas the lucrative contract to build a commercial office building in a national park. She worked with Republicans such as Don Fisher of the Gap on the Presidio privatization and set a precedent for the National Park System that the most rabid antigovernment conservatives can love.
Just this week Bloomberg News reported that Pelosi is working with Silicon Valley venture capital firms to weaken the post-Enron Sarbanes-Oxley law, which mandates strict accounting procedures for publicly held corporations.
And just a couple of weeks before the election, she told 60 Minutes that same-sex marriage is "not an issue that we're fighting about here."
I think it's pretty safe to say she's never been to Burning Man.
But most disturbing to me in Redmond's whole litany is the notion that she might work to weaken Sarbanes-Oxley. Though the lords of capital may whine about it, the fact is that even that law will not eliminate much of the funny business that goes on on Wall Street. That this is an early piece of the Pelosi agenda - along with the more positive but safe pieces that she is pumping, like cheaper prescription drugs and a higher minimum wage - is an unnerving possibility.
As Pelosi has risen to power in the American political system, she will do some catering to the interests that rule over American politics. But given the Democratic majority that got her there, as well as her very left-leaning district, perhaps she is susceptible to some pressure from the left. Thus, it is a good sign that this pressure began as early as Nov. 9 in her district, when the new group Mandate for Peace rallied outside her San Francisco office.
As to whether the voters also gave Speaker Pelosi a mandate to weaken accounting rules for major corporations, we'll leave that for moneyman in chief Rahm Emanuel over at the DCCC to decide.