Don’t believe your eyes

As Oakland residents grow more and more frustrated with the inept management of this town and fear more and more for their safety as they wake up every morning to headlines about shootouts and restaurant robberies and little kids being hit by stray bullets and the Mayor being desperate enough to ask for the help of the guardian angels, our leaders, thankfully, are stepping up to the plate and offering reassurances. The Mayor, at last night’s Silence the Violence Day at the Coliseum, said not to worry, things just aren’t that bad:

Mayor Ron Dellums said Wednesday there’s a perception that crime is on the rise in his city, but it’s not the reality.

The attitude is hardly limited to the Mayor’s office. Jean Quan staffer Sue Piper, in response to a post about local crime statistics, informed readers of one local listserv:

A word of caution about the crime stats– one needs too look a little deeper. One reason the crime stats are high is a significant increase in the reporting of domestic crime. The City has made a concerted effort to provide support systems and coordination to encourage victims of domestic crime– especially sexually exploited minors– to report to the police. And if you compare this past year to previous years, you will see that homicides are actually less.

On the other hand, burglaries, especially auto burglaries, are up.

So…which is it? Perception? Reality? Shall we take a look? Below, you’ll find year to date comparisons of reported Part 1 crimes in Oakland.

And by the way, if you, like Jean Quan, want to discount the reported domestic crimes from the numbers, since, as she’s constantly telling us, they’re being reported more, not actually happening more, feel free to subtract those figures from the aggravated assault totals. Year to date 2007, 317 of those 2184 aggravated assaults were domestic problems. This year, 326 out of 2455 were.

42 thoughts on “Don’t believe your eyes

  1. Max Allstadt

    I was hoping you’d chime in on that headline, V.

    Perhaps every time you have statistics that contradict what our electeds say, you might consider asking them for a comment before posting. They’ll probably decline, but if even one of them says “whups, sorry”, you’ll have done some good.

  2. alan

    By Jean Quan’s standards, unreported crime is just a technicality but not a statistic.
    There is definately ALWAYS unreported crime.
    Therefore, Quan must think that unreported crime is somehow victimless. What an idiot.

  3. Robert

    Hey V

    Violent crime is actually up 4.9%, not 0.5%, with your numbers. Puts a little different spin on things.

  4. TheBoss

    The only silver lining with the violence we’re seeing — and I very much hesitate even to call it that — is that much of the upsurge is probably one set of drug pushers attacking another. So, in some senses many of the victims are themselves part of Oakland’s great criminal underground.

    That said, there are always innocent victims, so increases in violence are never acceptable. And, Mayor Oswald Bates has shown in word and deed that he cares far more about the criminal elements than the innocents anyway.

    Imagine if that man had spent as much airtime bemoaning the tragedy that happened to that kid shot while taking piano lessons as he does talking up the virtues of the criminals among us. Sometimes I think he lives in a strange Bizarro world. Maybe he does.

  5. Jennifer

    I’ve had my apartment in Jack London Square broken in to in the last month (laptop and camera stolen), and our building has been hit by bike thieves. I understand this is happening in a lot of buildings in JLS. And our building is pretty secure with cameras, and management has added a couple more. We got used to having our bikes stolen from our less secure building when we lived in the Mission, but to actually have thieves in your home is pretty disconcerting. And to have City leadership not give a rip is even more concerning. At least in SF we could get the police to respond and feign interest — not here.

  6. oaklandhappenings

    It is encouraging that the homicide count has slowed down to about last year’s tally, after we went through the first 6 weeks of the year with 21 (a pace for over 150 for the year). As for the other crimes, it is good that auto-theft has gone down a bit, as well as rapes. As for aggravated assaults, I think that most of them have been limited to east, west and parts of North Oakland.

  7. jadada

    I moved to Oakland (and the U.S) from a North European Social Democracy and I am often baffled by Americans who think that problems like crime or poor health care are caused by “too much liberalism” or “socialism”. I fail to see any evidence of either socialism or liberal social politics in Oakland or the United States of America.

    The problem – and this is obvious to every European I have ever talked with – is social mobility. Social mobility in the US is poorer than any other Western nation. In the Czech Republic, your birth social class has less to do with where you end up than the United States. The American Dream is nothing but a fantasy.

    There is nothing in particular wrong with American schools, for example. The schools are fine. People usually make choices that are intelligent given what options they have. And in the US, why would you study hard when there is absolutely nothing to be gained? You will be hard-working and poor or unemployed and poorer, if you were not born middle class or above.

    Crime, everyone but Americans know, is a direct result of poor social mobility. So are revolutions. Oakland and the US will not see a change for the better until the boomers that be end this ridiculous gridlock over Cold War propaganda. Unless the armed thugs organize and revolt.

  8. dto510

    Jadada – Where do you get the idea that America has less social mobility than ossified Europe? That makes no sense. And how does “everyone know” that crime is a direct result of poor social mobility? Does Oakland have the least social mobility in the Bay Area, giving us our record crime rate?

    Here’s the liberal social politics in Oakland: a police force that has been shrinking since the early 80s, tens of millions of tax dollars spent annually on “violence prevention” programs that produce no results but get funded anyway, and a culture of complacency among our elected officials that only further the waste and mismanagement that cripple Oakland’s government. French public-sector unions could learn something from Oakland’s SEIU 1021.

  9. jadada

    Social mobility in industrial countries is extremely well documented in international surveys. The United States and England have very similar social mobility structures – “ossified”, as you say. And worse than countries like Estonia and Czech Republic. It’s been in the news a lot, I am not sure where you’ve been?

    If you Google a little bit about crime rates and social mobility indexes, you will find that this connection is pretty well established. It would be very interesting to find a city-by-city comparison within the USA or even within Bay Area, please do post a comment if you find one!

  10. jadada

    (And I agree that it makes no sense to spend money on violence prevention programs if the root cause – social mobility – is not addressed.)

  11. jadada

    “When compared to some developing countries, however, such as Mexico, Brazil or Pakistan, US social mobility is in the same range.” (From article in link above.)

  12. dto510

    Jadada, that quote is totally out of context, referring only to the bottom of the social-economic scale where European countries help out more than the US. The source material for the article you provided does not make the claims that you attribute to it.

  13. jadada

    Isn’t the bottom of the socio-economic scale largely where crime problems originate? Or is it the middle class that’s shooting each other in Oakland?

  14. dto510

    According to the study quoted in the BBC article you posted to, lower-class income mobility is aided by welfare payments in Europe that have increased substantially over the last generation or so. Poor people aren’t as poor as their parents because their welfare checks are bigger. I don’t think that supports your argument, and this is an example of how it’s difficult to do statistical comparisons across countries, so it’s easy for people and the media to cherry-pick ‘Europe is better than America’ stats.

    Anyway, this argument is impossibly abstract. The bottom line is that Oakland has sharply higher crime than surrounding cities, that crime is on the rise, and criminals appear to be commuting to Oakland from Richmond and Hayward to go on carjacking sprees. Something is wrong, and it’s not the OUSD or welfare payments.

  15. Deckin


    Neither your comments nor the work you cite support your claim that there is stagnant social mobility in the US. In fact, the data in the article show exactly what one would expect on the assumption that social mobility is tied to attributes and skills that are themselves normally (in the sense of a normal distribution). If you look at their bar charts, you see they compare, at each quintile, the relative percentages who ended up in the top or bottom quintile after (I presume) some amount of time. You see basically inverted curves which demonstrate that it’s basically harder to get into the top or bottom as you get away from them in either direction. But that’s exactly what one would expect! If it weren’t that way, then we’d have pretty good evidence that fortunes are just as easily lost as gained. That wouldn’t be evidence of a merit based system whereby social success is at least to some degree the result of possessing rare attributes like skill and a hard working character. No, it would be evidence of either complete randomness in social movement, or active machinations by institutions to move people around. I know that the ‘randomness’ factor is a favorite of the left, but the evidence doesn’t bear that out. Hard work and ingenuity pays in this country, to a far greater extent than it does in Europe, it’s just that those traits are rare, and parents who have them tend to try their damndest to pass them on to their kids.It’s also rare to be such a massive screw up that your parents good fortune can’t keep you out of the toilet. So before one looks at these statistics, one needs to have a clear idea of what the null hypothesis is and what kind of data would be consistent with the favored view of a meritocratic socially mobile system.

    As to social mobility and crime, you couldn’t be wronger. Take a look at China for a massive outlier to your claims about social mobility and crime. Easily one of the worst places historically for social mobility and consistently one of the lowest crime places in the world. In fact, virtually any Asian country violates your preferred correlation–think if India. I doubt there’s a single thing that explains all crime, and it’s probably much more sensitive to local cultural forces than ideologues on any side want to admit, but the state socialist response doesn’t meet the test. More likely Europe generally has lower crime rates vis-a-vis the US because it always has. But if you want to look at the European future, look at the suburbs of the major capitals and their crime trends to see what Euro-socialism and social mobility has to offer.

  16. Max Allstadt

    I for one, having lived abroad in Asia, and having been married to a Frenchwoman, anecdotally will say this:

    I have no doubt that social mobility in the US is behind most of Western Europe. Half of those countries have free universities for gods sake. My ex-wife’s uncle moved to France from an Algerian village, got a free education and is now making money hand over fist as a Lasik surgeon.

    Socialism has it’s drawbacks, but keeping the poorest of the poor above a certain level of despair by giving them free money is a well proven Canadian and European technique that keeps the poor from robbing the rich in restaurants.

    Americans like to say “but they’re economies are all screwed up, and they have more unemployment”. First of all, our economy is on the verge of eating itself because our all-holy “free market” doesn’t understand the definition of a healthy debt to equity ratio. Second, yeah, there are more unemployed Frenchmen, but they go spend there welfare on coffee, crappy wine and horse race gambling. It’s enough of a social life to keep them out of trouble. The only real crime problem they’ve got is due to ethnic strife that’s much newer there and less familiar.

    I still think we need more cops. I still think our social programs are often poorly evaluated, but rejecting every aspect of socialism outright is just silly.

    As for deckin’s comment about hard work paying off here better than in Europe, I think it often pays off too much in the US. Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy are obscene. Above a certain level of wealth, you oughta pay through the nose. What? You can’t afford to redo your bathroom in stingray-skin tiles for $200 a square foot because of mean old Uncle Sam? Boo fucking hoo.

    While we’re looking at European socialism vs. American capitalism, lets consider the happiness index. Danes are happy. Americans, not so much. Why? American culture tells us to expect too much. Danes don’t expect much at all. Guess what America, you can’t have an Escalade! Suck it up. The Danes have friends and leisure time instead of Escalades. Who’s got the right idea?

    Income inequality in America is at the highest rate it’s been at since the 20s. It’s disgusting. Every day when I drive from West Oakland to the hills to work, I see it. The trend has to be reversed, and for my money, the web could be the equalizer. The Tenessee Valley Authority, remember that from history class folks. Is that bad bad socialism, DTO? Well I think we should do the same thing with the Web, and with One Laptop Per AMERICAN Child.

    No the problem isn’t that Socialist principles are flawed. It’s that the touchy feely sentiments that attract people to this ideology impair their judgment. The result is horrible implementation and the kinds of non-profit board meetings where people sit around and talk about feelings. If we can demand transparency, if we can demand performance from these programs, then we’ll actually go somewhere. In fact, the American capitalist’s emphasis on results may be exactly the kick in the ass that Socialism needs.

  17. Deckin


    Interesting comment about happiness. The recent research definitely bears out your claim, but possibly not for the reasons you suspect. It turns out that ethnic diversity is quite bad for the happiness index. The happiest countries tend to be the most ethnically homogeneous–Denmark (at least until recently), Japan, Korea… The work of the sociologist Robert Putnam in this country on civic engagement (one marker of happiness) also bears this out. I know it’s part of the economic determinism that gets spoon fed around to think that economic considerations trump everything else in society (echoes of the gold old fashioned ‘means of production’ gambit), other factors are perhaps more important.

  18. jadada

    Yeah, of course it’s true that in tyrannies ruled by an iron fist, social mobility vs. crime is irrelevant. The Chinese option – jailing and torturing everyone who disagrees – seems to be the direction the US has taken in recent years.

    There is quite a bit of research on these issues and real-life experience (free education and high social mobility leads to low crime) bears it out. I know many Americans hate hearing this stuff, but there it is. Many Americans prefer “faith-based” policy as opposed to policy based on facts and numbers, too.

    Usually in this discussion the next point that gets brought up is the “ethnically homogenous” idea – a polite way of saying, “In the USA we can’t have a good society because we have black and brown people”. This is based on ideas from the fifties about what an European country looks like. For the last ten years, those famous worlds-best Finnish schools have had a larger percentage of non-native Finnish speakers (ie immigrants) than American schools, but student success rate has continued to go up. Immigrants enjoy free university educations same as the rest of Nordic citizens, and continue on to good careers. Finland and Sweden both have African immigrants in high level positions in their governments – and the rest of the Nordics may, too, but I’m too busy to Google at the moment so you can check for yourself.

  19. jadada

    I came back to ask – you seriously have no idea about the whole social mobility/authoritiarianism/crime and unrest math? It’s very basic. Arguing about it seems very quaint, like something one would discuss in the 1700′s when actually having an organized society was kind of theoretical.

    This is one of the things that truly baffles me about American societal discussion – people don’t have the slightest notion about international comparisons, and studies, and facts. Everyone keeps belaboring the same points as if attempting to madly reinvent the wheel.

    Which brings me back to my original point: let go of the damned culture war! These are not questions of opinion, there _are_ actual functioning societies around the world. This “but those are foreign countries – the Free Market will solve everything – oops the Free Market doesn’t seem to exist, as humans make the decisions that make up the Free Market – well anyway we can’t have socialism – our problems just can’t be solved because they are so unique and no model from any other country can work here” is getting tiresome.

    It’s getting so problems can’t be solved because that would mean that someone has to admit they were wrong.

    Yeah, we need more cops in Oakland. More cops and more socialism!

  20. VivekB

    Max, you say that above a certain level, you ought to pay through the nose. What level would that be? Who makes that call? Is there no such thing as a meritocracy in your world?

    For the last 10 years, my real job has been to rescue and oversee large disgusting initiatives that are horrifically complex & political, typically where others have tried & failed. I’ve done it for 4 different companies in that timeframe. Everyone seems to think they can do it, and yet almost no one knows how to bring them in on time achieving the desired business benefits. I have a >90% track record, easily provable. And i’m not always right either, my abilities are in listening to what an organization really needs, and helping them get there.

    In that job, I’ve had folks working with me who think they are much better than they are, but just aren’t, no true burning desire to better themselves, and clock out at 5pm (assuming they were ever really mentally at work). They end up running these things into the ground within weeks of being left alone. Frankly, I *should* make much more than them, because otherwise they’d turn these companies into Oakland-land, where nothing ever gets done, it’s the same old story every year, and VSmoothe can just recycle her old blogs. Sound familiar? And if that means I can afford a stringray whatzit, well that’s my choice, because my abilities and work ethic versus the other choice is the difference between moving the ball forward and not moving the ball forward.

    I think the big reason we have a bunch of junior leaguers in City Council is because we don’t pay enough, and truly qualified candidates don’t bother as they can make much more elsewhere. I know $65K is a lot of money to most, but most people couldn’t do the job that needs to be done. Look in the private sector for folks who can do that job, and you’ll see what salaries really are for qualified people. Only by getting folks who can do this job will that group ever accomplish anything, and until we get qualifed folks, my vote is to dissolve the City Council and use the money to do any other damn thing that adds value.

    So before you post yet again how how we must repeatedly “soak those who make money”, “assault Piedmont”, “grab somebody else’s money”, take a good hard look around at how bad the Oakland leadership is, and accept that it’s where the road you’re heading down ends for everyone.

    Continue to piss ON the qualified people who would be willing to take a break from the private sector to do their civic duty and could actually help, and we’ll continue to have nothing. And Oakland’ers will continue to have the mediocrity Oakland’ers deserve.

  21. jadada

    “Economic mobility worldwide
    Using the ratio of an individual’s current income to that of their parent’s, the United States has much less relative mobility than other industrialized nations[1]. The income of our parents is a great deal more predictive of our own incomes in the United States than other countries[4]. France, Germany, Sweden, Canada, Finland, Norway, and Denmark all have more relative mobility than the US, while only the United Kingdom is shown to have less mobility[1]. According to this study done by Miles Corak, The United States ratio of relative mobility is 1, whereas the other countries mentioned with more mobility have a range of 1.25 (France) to over 3 (Denmark)[1].”

    Related video:

    You might also want to take a look at
    Income Mobility of Individuals in China and the United States

  22. jadada

    ( is good for stats. Turns out China has fewer people below the poverty line than the United States. So do Croatia, Germany, Netherlands, Thailand, Ireland, Hungary, Tunisia and Libya.)

    What does any of this have to do with Oakland? Nothing, if we believe the posters who believe that social mobility has nothing to do with crime, and anyway there is no social mobility in China so there, and the problem is socialism.

    I believe that due to a large formerly working class presence who is stuck in the no social mobility stratum of American society, Oakland will continue to have enormous crime problems for the foreseeable future. Increasing and improving the police force will help in the short term, but so would intelligent improvements to social mobility locally. If current programs are not working, it may be a problem that is simply too ingrained in American society to fix locally but it may also be that there is something wrong with the programs and there are intelligent, creative, effective solutions that are not being considered because our local politics has devolved into trench warfare.

    Finland is an example of a country with high social mobility and a violent culture and high violent crime rates. Alcohol seems to be a major factor in the crime rate, and organized crime is on the increase. It could be interesting to study incarceration and rehabilitation programs, education programs and the like, to see if anything is working over there that might be applied over here.

  23. V Smoothe Post author

    jadada –

    I’ve had enough of your wildly off topic posts. If you have something to say about Oakland, you’re welcome to say it. But if you want to discuss economic mobility in Europe, take it elsewhere.

  24. Max Allstadt

    ViveK –

    If I was to be king and draw the line arbitrarily somewhere, I’d probably start slapping massive luxury taxes on at around the 95th percentile of everything. Phasing them in would be probably the ideal way of making it work.

    In many countries throughout the world with more Socialist tendencies, there is still wealth, excellence, entrepreneurship, and innovation. As a matter of fact, our beloved free market America is falling behind. Our cars suck. The US airforce just went with a European made air-tanker. We still have some advantages here and there, but even IT faces ominous competition.

    Also, I won’t buy the racial argument until someone shows me a polyglot nation where the factions have roughly equal wealth but still can’t avoid strife. And no, countries in Africa with multiple tribes where everyone is desperately poor don’t count. It is always a have/have not problem. And while I’m making it a have/have not issue, I’ll reiterate that from a purely self interested level, the rich should try to keep the poverty level as low as possible in order to protect themselves from robbery and/or guillotines, because that really is what happens when it goes too far.

    V, I’ll take this back to Oakland with a segue that I think we might see more agreement on. If Kids First is going to happen, it needs to be accompanied by transparency and rigorous performance standards. No wait. It needs to be PRECEDED by these standards. I’m talking take-no-prisoners capitalist performance standards. If it really costs the Private Industry Council 5 times as much to do its job than another organization, they should lose the contract. Open books, google spreadsheets, etc. Let private charities compete for real for contracts that are easy to scuttle when there’s poor performance.


    I TOTALLY agree that we should pay our electeds more. They oughta be paid what private managers with similar fiscal authority get paid. We understand that we need to pay staff architects at CEDA competitive salaries in order to get quality, but good luck convincing a voter to authorize a pay hike for an elected. “Those guys are idiots, they don’t deserve a raise” will be the refrain. My solution is: a ballot initiative that implements the raise after the next election. If a council race doesn’t mean political power, but also $500k a year, people will fight for it. We’d actually probably have huge primaries, huge publicity too. Hell, if we really want to mimic corporate success, maybe we do life long terms with very easy recall. That’s what getting hired and fired is.

  25. Deckin

    I know Smoothe wants to move off of social mobility in Europe and globally, but I just can’t resist one last response. Jadada, you say that China has fewer people below the poverty line than the US. All I can say to that is WTF are you talking about??! Have you ever been there? Away from the coastal development zones (and even within them, to a very large extent), China is a third world country. I have family there, I visit there every year. There are hundreds of millions (no exaggeration) of people in China without indoor plumbing, literally no one (including residents of high end condos in Shanghai) can drink the tapwater, and health care in the countryside is non-existent. I could go on, but if this is your standard of proof in general, you’re not going to get much of a hearing.

  26. David

    Depends on how you measure poverty. The CIA’s World Factbook says that 12% of the U.S. population is below the poverty line, while 8% of China’s population is below the povery line. So while there are good arguments to be made that this is an apples-to-oranges comparison, “I go to China a lot and there is a lot of poverty there so WTF are you talking about??!” doesn’t quite cut it.

    There is at least one place in China where the tapwater is drinkable: the Olympic Village in Beijing.

  27. VivekB

    Max: what does 95th percentile mean?

    if its income based, i’m generally opposed as I believe that to be a reward for mediocrity.

    but i’m heavily in favor of steep sales taxes on all luxury goods, hell even fancy wines and cheeses and starbucks lattes and stuff most of us would buy. by steep I mean lets double the price by way of tax. You want a double-whip frappucino? $7 please, $10 if its a venti.

  28. Max Allstadt

    Income, Real Estate Transfer Taxes, Abolition of Prop 13 for Luxury Homes, yeah, all that. It’s not a reward for mediocrity, but a tax on those who have more than enough. And yeah, I’m sure you’ll totally disagree.

    Back to the notion that ethnic diversity leads to crime and strife… Singapore. I can’t believe I didn’t think of this earlier, because I freakin lived there from 85-91. It’s a Polyglot state, the national TV channel broadcasts in English, Malay, Hindi, Mandarin, and sometimes even Tamil. Some racial income inequality, the Chinese are richest. Low crime, low strife.

    Here’s a hypothesis for why: Singapore used socialist policies and created 85% home ownership. They taxed and redistributed the wealth in the form of cut-rate real estate. They took advantage of the climate to build cheaply. They took advantage of high density designs with service and social space at the base, allowing them to build small units. Today, any Singaporean over 21 can get a 99 year lease on a unit for as little as US$80K. The Socialized ownership allows the government to ensure that every building has a racial makeup that mirrors the population of the country as a whole.

    Homeowners, I’ll bet, are rather unlikely criminals. Peace between ethnic groups was achieved by giving away something that people really don’t want to lose. Scalable? Maybe. Feasible in the US? Doubtful. Successful? Amazingly so.

  29. jadada

    Economic mobility in my opinion has everything to do with crime in Oakland – but I see that several posters here think Oakland enjoys excellent economic mobility for the poorest of the poor, and economic mobility has no bearing on crime rates whatsoever. I would be interested in seeing any kind of proof for either of these claims, but I know I won’t. It’s enough to know in your heart that these are true.

    Fascinatingly, VivekB also Council Members should be paid more while, presumably, hardly anybody should pay any taxes.

    Best of luck solving Oakland’s problems on this kind of logic. I’ll be watching…

  30. Deckin


    I must admit, I did get a little exicted about the poverty in China thing, but calling it ‘apples to oranges’ is as much an understatement as mine was an overstatement. Poverty in the US means housing subsidies, free (if slow and uneven) healthcare, income transfers, free education and access to very cheap (by historical standards) consumer goods. Poverty in China (and again, this is all literal) means washing clothes in a polluted stream, drinking from water fed by that stream, no indoor plumbing, no hospitals for miles of impassable roads, on and on. Tell the multiple families living in caves (literally) who give upthat to move to a coastal city to work 16 hours a day in construction or a sweat shop and then live in unbuilt buildings along with 20 others using Sterno to cook their meals and receive absolutely no health care and no education for their children that fewer of them are poor than in the US.

  31. 94610BizMan

    So according to the Chron yesterday, we have had eight takeover robberies since April. How many take over robberies occurred in 2007?
    Irrespective of the total crime statistics, these high profile takeover robberies have a far greater community impact than when my next door neighbor’s exchange student from China was robbed at gun point walking from the nearest bus stop. For all I know about crime statistics, these all count as one armed robbery each.

    Most small retail businesses operate on very thin margins; hence, rather small drops in top line receipts, due to high profile crime, can mean financial disaster. I’m not convinced of the broken windows policing theory but I am convinced that another eight high profile take-over robberies between now and Christmas will mean disaster for many Oakland restaurants.

    Even if you believe that utopian social mobility and 95% marginal tax rates will eliminate crime neither will happen between now and Christmas.

  32. Max Allstadt

    You’re right about that. You know what would? Cameras. Lots and lots of cameras in restaurants. Good ones.

    Better yet, streaming webcams from every storefront on the restaurant rows. It has to be feasible. If every storefront had one, you’d be more able to track the perps on the way in and on the way out. Somebody oughta get businesses organized and do a group buy. I believe its perfectly legal for citizens to record the public right away in front of their property. It should therefore be totally legal if a bunch of them do it at the same time.

    If I was a restaurantuer in this town, I’d consider hollowing out something that looks very expensive, and putting a transmitter in it. Can’t be too tricky. Maybe will help you figure it out.

  33. VivekB

    Heh, yeh, Max & jadada, i totally disagree on a graduated income tax structure. Give every family a $75K full exemption on income taxes, everything else is flat tax. After all, why should I pay more on a marginal rate than anyone else, just because I am willing to push harder and longer and faster and not give up or breathe or stop to smell the roses, and some other idiot isn’t? Sure I can afford more than anyone else. I also travelled 5000 miles per week for my consulting job, which took 23 hours per week in/en-route to an airplane, AFTER which I worked 50 hours per week.

    Others don’t make as much as me? Boo freakin hoo, try working your ass off for a change, fly all over the country, don’t see your friends & families for weeks at a time, and see how suddenly mobility comes.

    You wanna talk economic mobililty? Let’s incentivize behavior that really gets to the heart of motivating what drives that – hard work. As said in a prior post, index this to hours worked. Every hour under 50 you work per week results in an additional 1% marginal income tax rate, or a loss of $1000 of your tax exemption.

    You want a sense of entitlement and not want to work hard, you suffer the consequences. There’s no free handouts to anyone in this world, least of all some poor guy who could be working morre but doesn’t want to and feels I should support him because i’m afraid of guillotines and being robbed.

    The scary thing is that I was the most liberal guy I knew when I lived in DC & NY. It’s moving out here, without changing my fundamental principles, where the same positions are suddenly ultra-right-wing.

  34. VivekB

    There was a letter to the editor posted on one of the yahoogroups today, I got permission to repost it here ( .

    some interesting snippets from it, and hopefully i’m not taking anything out of context.
    “With regard to the escalating problems of crime and/or nuisance street behavior in Oakland and San Francisco, there is one historically proven-effective approach to these and related social problems which city leaders seem unwilling to consider. This is the approach of public moral condemnation of immoral behavior.

    We maintain the delusion that persons whose characters are seriously compromised by immorality and depravity only need “opportunities” and various goodies handed out to them.

    we have fostered the moral collapse of these elements of society precisely by giving them lots of free stuff without asking for anything in return: such as work or moral behavior.

    it is not more opportunities and free stuff which are needed by the depraved and the immoral: it is a a greater collective moral condemnation of their immoral behavior and attitudes”

  35. John

    Vivek: OUCH!!! Your world and plan for everyone else to join it is pretty harsh – work a minimum of 50 hours a week, forfeit your family and enjoying life…or you will be punished! Does your graduated tax scheme work for minimum wage, retail, food and service workers as well?

    You ideas are quite elitist. If someone is not “on” all the time, if they are not pushing and pushing for that new project or insight, etc., then there is no equal place for them in the world. If a person isn’t like this (like you), then they are second tier and deserve only what the fist-tier folks say that they deserve. Pathetic.

    One day you may see how elitist and biased this view is. Could it be possible that a majority of people in the world simply want to live their lives and not a rat race? The problem is that there are a lot of people who believe as you do. You criticize those who have a sense of entitlement when, in fact, it is people with views such as yours who have a much stronger sense of entitlement. I am speaking here, of course, of the corporate elites and the knowledge and entrepreneur classes of earners.

    It is so often the case that these groups have worked and socialized with their own kind for so long that they simply can’t fathom a lifestyle that is not based on the perpetual pursuit of more, whether it is money, power, fame or whatever. They become oblivious to others who are not like them; or worse, they become scornful of others who are not like them or their friends. And their scorn is re-enforced because these classes believe their own successes to be self-evident examples of how the world should be, of how a person should be.

    Well, this is simply not true, of course, and my comments could naturally drift in the direction of discussing how and why there is such a huge and growing income gap in the world – I think it is because the first tier people (my definition) feel so completely entitled to all that money and have structured the exchange of money for services to their own advantage in this regard.

    Maybe one day you will be lucky enough to see that what you espouse is nothing more than this generation’s version of the Rat Race. Please don’t wreck the world for the rest of us while you are “doing your thing.”

  36. Max Allstadt

    Vivek, I’m with you on the public condemnation of immoral behavior. Now if only the people who run this town would adopt that attitude.

    My block has done quite well in the last two years because we’re doing just this. If somebody is drunk in front of my building at noon, at the very least, I tell them to go away. You can even do the condemnation gently: “please don’t come on my block drunk in the middle of the day and sit in front of my house”. I think this often embarrasses even the farthest gone wino.

    Back to cameras: My brother and I came home from Mama Buzz around Christmastime and as we walked down my block we saw a man sitting in a minivan. Then we say a local addict’s head pop out of his lap. She saw me and got up and out fast. I got out my cameraphone and took pictures. Of him. Of the John and his car. I did it so he could see that I was doing it. I didn’t know mini-vans could peel out like that.

  37. VivekB

    Max: Great story. I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but I have a whole how-to writeup on how to install Security Cameras around your house on the site. (there’s also a security system how-to, don’t get them confused)

    John: That plan was an extreme meant to illustrate a point, but it’s is no less harsh than telling me that the value of my willing to do that means that I have to subsidize others who don’t do that. I won’t call other people 2nd tier for working less if you don’t call me 2nd tier for willing to be “on all the time”.

    If my plan is elitist, then it’s driven by self-defense: My wallet is patently being attacked. because of my burning desire to get ahead, and the resultant benefit in terms of annual income. Your plan is truly the opposite – dragging down those among us who *are* willing to do that to move the ball ahead by any means necessary.

    Please John: Explain to me why my marginal tax bracket needs to be higher, and why I need to subsidize those not willing to work as much as I? Why are their lives more important than mine? Why are you engaging in class warfare on me?

  38. 94610BizMan

    Max you are right.

    Good cameras aren’t too expensive and the restaurants should all put them up. Perhaps instead of funneling city money to pet not for profits, some of those funds could go to the smaller restaurants for cameras. Furthermore, since these cameras come with IP addresses, maybe a not for profit could fund an internet based archive for the camera feeds.

    Several Oakland neighborhood associations have put in private neighborhood camera systems recently. The trick is to get the angles on the cameras so they just cover the streets and only the property of the folks who opt in. In a previous post, I was not too happy with the OPD’s response to private cameras. However, I’m fairly sure quality video of the next take over robbery would get a different response.

  39. apeman

    You comments sounds unrealistic to put it nicely – I was tempted to phrase it a little harsher, but…The point is that people NEED to work. Unless they plan on growing their own food, building their own houses, and providing their own energy sources for heat, etc. We have a compact with society that we provide value to receive value.

    There is a generation of Oakland that does not believe in that compact. They do not want to work, but will exist on entitlement programs and crime to receive societies values.

    Your point was somewhat vague, and I would be curious to hear exactly what you mean. Should we support those in society that choose not to work? Should we except criminal behavior because they want out of the rat race?