Hills and Silicon Valleys

Income disparity and inequality are hard to comprehend a lot of the time. There’s one place, though, where it’s catastrophically evident, and it’s California’s East Coast.

California has money. The GDP of California in 2015 was around 2.5 trillion (2,500,000,000,000) US dollars. In the same year, Canada’s GDP was only 1.5 trillion with the same population.

But if you stood in the office of the man who just paid $60 for an orb of raw water, you could watch a teenager get gunned down for wearing the wrong colours in the wrong neighbourhood.

Pasteurization is for poor people:

So there are a few different weird water companies floating around out there. Tourmaline Spring in Oregon calls its untreated water “sacred, living water” and Live Water in Maine calls its product an “ancient life source”. There’s a big demand for it in Silicon Valley, where as of writing this article it seems the Silicon Valley “Rainbow Grocery” could not keep stock up with demand for $US60 orbs of water from Live Water.

From Live Water’s website;

“In its natural cycle, water is infinitely chemically and energetically complex. Water goes down into the soil and becomes the perfect probiotic as it passes through microbes and microorganisms in the humus. It picks up bioavailable mono atomic elements and minerals that just can’t be replicated.”

The humus is the part of the soil filled with rotting and decaying organic matter. Usually it’s not used as a selling point.

Another company, Zero Mass Water, puts a $2,000 solar panel (plus a $500 installation fee) on your roof which makes an average of two to five liters of water daily, depending on humidity and sunlight.

Personally, my water bill is about $0.80 per 1,000 liters. It’d take 2,283 years for that solar panel to pay for itself.

But you’re not buying that solar panel, which would take 227 hours worth of working the Californian minimum wage, because it’s a smart financial investment. You’re doing it because you want the purest possible water available. Even though, without fluoridation and the trace minerals, it’s arguably actually less healthy than good tap water.

This obsession with the idea that human interference makes your drinks less healthy extends into milk as well. Raw milk has been an unfortunate fad recently in the Valley, as well as here in Australia, and the Weston A. Price Foundation — no link because I refuse to give them any of my web traffic — stands as a firm advocate of it.

The Center of Disease control’s official response seems to be gurgling screaming noises, enunciated by bureaucrats.

Pasteurization of milk is heating it to below-boiling-point for a few seconds. It kills most of the nasties in it, but it doesn’t actually change the nutritional content of milk in any significant way. Don’t drink raw milk. We invented pasteurization for a very good reason, it’s an important technology.

Unless, I guess, you’re so rich that even every exposure to nature has to be branded and manufactured for you.

Meanwhile, just down the road;

Oasis is a census-designated place in the Southern California county of Riverside, with a population of 6,890 people. Only 22% percent of houses were owned by their occupants compared to the national average of 63.6% as of 2016. The best guess of median income I can find of the area is under $25,000 per household.

You know what else is 22% in Oasis? The highschool graduation rate.

It has the 10th highest crime rate in the state, four places worse than Stockton. Stockton, for comparison, has a median household income of closer to $46,000 a year, and that still puts 24% below the Census Bureau’s poverty line. If you spent a year within Stockton city limits, statistically, you’d have about a 1 in 83 chance of being attacked, murdered or raped.

Forbes ranked Stockton as the most miserable place in the US, and Oasis is even worse.

It’s less than an hour’s drive from Oasis to Coto De Caza, where Real Housewives of Orange County is set, but even then that’s from how winding the roads are; They’re practically neighbouring counties. The median household income of Coto De Caza is $170,000. They recently won a civil suit to keep a school from being built in their gated community, because it would allow outsiders in.

They’re a bunch of exorbitant cocks

The Next Big Thing in Silicon Valley at the moment is chickens. Chicken farming is just… it’s a thing now. According to the Washington Post, this includes members of even the Google elite.

In fact, I’ll just quote this WaPo article on it:

In America’s rural and working-class areas, keeping chickens has long been a thrifty way to provide fresh eggs. In recent years, the practice has emerged as an unlikely badge of urban modishness. But in the Bay Area — where the nation’s preeminent local food movement overlaps with the nation’s tech elite — egg-laying chickens are now a trendy, eco-conscious humblebrag on par with driving a Tesla.

I’d recommend the whole article, I really would, but the long story short of it is that chickens are a cute way for the Bay Area elite to have home-grown eggs, and they spend the big bucks on breeding chickens with interesting coloured eggs — how else do you prove you grew it yourself?

CBS highlights Leslie Citroen of Mill Valley Chickens as being in the centre of this phenomenon, with ‘The Chicken Broker’ adding;

“I know people are just speechless when they hear what people down there are feeding their chickens, with the organic watermelon or the salmon, but I think that’s just a reflection…they probably treat their dogs the same way too.”

Speaking for myself, my dog gets chicken mince.

She also designs and charges tens of thousands of dollars for custom, optimized chicken coops, which are in high demand.

“I don’t think it’s really a fad, in a sense, I think it’s more of a life-style change that’s been slowly happening. People are kind of getting away from the concept of the separation of farm and food.”

Leslie’s services cost $225 an hour.

Again, the entire WaPo article in particular is worth a read, but I just want to finish this section on a quote from Leslie’s 19 year old son, Luca

“Being able to say you have chickens says, ‘I have a back yard,’ and having a back yard says, ‘I have space.’ And having space means you have money, especially when it comes to Silicon Valley real estate.”

Meanwhile, just down the road;

Hotel 22 isn’t what you’d expect from the title. Or maybe it is. The 22 bus route is the only one that runs 24 hours in Silicon Valley, which has made it a sort of unofficial homeless shelter.

Santa Clara – the county which encompasses Silicon Valley – has the highest percentage of homeless in the United States and the highest average household income.  In 2017, Santa Clara County estimated almost 7394 homeless people and 75% of them were sleeping outside, on sidewalks, in parks and under freeway embankment. More than any other major U.S. metropolitan area.

The 22 bus route goes through it all, past Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Apple headquarters. They aren’t for Google employees: Google employees have their own private bus services, GBuses.

A lot of these people have jobs. In a quote from Ray Bramson, the City of San Jose’s homelessness response manager;

“When you think homeless, you think of someone on the streets with no money, no job. That’s changed. Being employed no longer guarantees you can afford to rent here. People simply lack the sustainable wages they need to survive.

The state’s minimum wage was recently increased from $8 to $10 an hour. It’s a step in the right direction, but unfortunately the self-sufficiency standard is around $15.”

Another quote from Chris Richardson, director of programme operations at the homeless organisation Downtown Streets:

“You see camps of people sleeping rough just two miles from Sergey Brin’s (Google co-founder) house,” he says. “And the irony is, not even his engineers get paid enough to live here. We are trying to get tech billionaires involved in what we’re doing. They donate millions to good causes, but almost nothing to the local community they are helping destroy.”

City officials also just cleared out the Jungle, one of the largest homeless encampments in the US, to begin restoration efforts on the park. Only 175 people in the encampment were put into stable housing; the rest were forced to disperse into the surrounding neighbourhoods as suitable housing isn’t found for them in the richest county on Earth. Many of them have jobs. Some are even school teachers.

Critics have called the clearing out of homeless encampments in this manner as “a sad game of whack-a-mole”.

Facebook and Google have responded by building company towns, just like the good old days of the 1930s.

A Bunch of Blood-Suckers

Silicon Valley elite have started buying young blood to live longer.

The science is very real. Younger blood can reverse the effects of aging, and helps memory function as well as heart disease and all sorts of good things. It’s been known to slow the effect of Alzheimer’s as well. Apparently that’s good enough for Peter Thiel. Thiel, by the way, is my current front-runner for ‘most evil human being alive’.

At $8,000 a liter, it seems like you get a good deal.

Then you have Theranos.

Theranos was worth $9,000,000,000 – billion with a b — at one point for its revolutionary new blood testing technology. Two parts; First a lab device named Edison would reduce the amount of blood needed to a small fingerprick, as opposed to the painful vials they usually need to draw. The second was the nanotainer, to actually get that fingerprick of blood.

The board of directors largely comprised of former secretaries of state, such as Henry Kissinger. Yes, that Henry Kissinger. While the man might know a lot about the spilling of blood, it seems that nobody on the board had any background in the testing of it.

No peer reviewed studies were ever released for any of the technology. Many investors, including ones of over $100,000,000, have sued the company for fraud. Its valuation has dropped, and it’s hemorrhaging money and employees.

The company was doing blood tests for a while, certainly. Using mostly Siemens machines. Their other claims were either 1) Not medically possible or 2) Already been done for the past 20 years. The Wall Street Journal tore them apart.

Countless medical experts spoke critically of their promises with the company saying they needed to operate in ‘stealth mode’ to ‘keep their technological advantage’. These claims were reasonable enough to continue to attract investors. It’s been claimed that this is largely down to the charisma of its CEO.

Meanwhile, just down the road

Speaking of blood…

The Crips started in LA, and it’s here that they flourish. Since their founding in 1969, they’re estimated to have over 35,000 members. The Bloods came out of the Crips, and formed a rivalry against them to protect their neighbourhoods from the gang violence. It… well, in the words of a Vietnam soldier, “Fighting for peace is like fucking for chastity”.

The Crips started out as a community policing initiative in areas police refused to go into, because of racial reasons. Racial segregation was high, as well as the problems of income inequality. Redlining practices being made illegal in the 1940’s didn’t prevent their occurence. The black neighbourhoods became the ghettos, and its citizens were kept away from the wealthy white areas. The police didn’t help these areas; Their job was only to keep blacks within their own borders.

The Crips formed just four years after the Watts riots; when the black community, boiling under the surface, exploded in August of 1965. 4,000 members of the national guard were called in, and 34 people were killed over them. This is also the year Jim Crow laws stopped being enforced, far too late. Only the year before had Proposition 14 been passed, with an overwhelming majority of the vote, a law that would be deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1966. Proposition 14 was a constitutional amendment to make it legal to deny selling houses to black people again.

It can be said to be nothing but inevitable that the gang violence we see today was to be created in this crucible of poverty and discrimination.

One of the founders of the Crips said his intent was to start a positive youth group to “address all of the so-called neighboring gangs in the area and to (…) cleanse the neighborhood of all [the] (…) marauding gangs.'” History is rich with organized crime that started from community groups determined to police themselves where the state had failed them; the Yakuza and the Sicilian Mafia seem to share this common root.

Ironically, its founders disliked firearms and knives and believed that only fisticuffs demonstrated real strength. That legacy does not live on in the organization they founded.

The Bloods spawned out of the Crips, and their rivalry is hot, fighting for control of the neighbourhoods of Compton and San Bernadino. Walking down their streets in the wrong colours is a good way to get shot.

The Bloods memberships was in the thousands by the time of the Rodney King riots. $1 billion in property damage, 63 killed and 2,383 injured, and 12,000 arrests after officers were acquitted of beating a poor black man on camera. President George H. W. Bush said, “Viewed from outside the trial, it was hard to understand how the verdict could possibly square with the video. Those civil rights leaders with whom I met were stunned. And so was I and so was Barbara and so were my kids.”

I note this because, during this time, the Crips and the Bloods made a truce to fight a common enemy; The police. This is when the army was called in again.

Otherwise the police know not to go into those neighbourhoods. And when rappers talk about “Getting out of the ‘hood”, the actual geographic movement is a huge deal. Most of the people in a block owned by the Crips or the Bloods have never seen the ocean with their own eyes, despite being just an hour’s drive from the beach.

Compton might seem pretty far away from the Silicon Valley, and it is. It’s closer to San Diego than to Sacramento. But with Peter Thiel trying to start a new Silicon Valley in Los Angeles, the problems we see with Santa Clara might start popping up again, straight into Compton.

For more information, this documentary is available on Youtube and is… well it’ll ruin your day, but you won’t regret watching it.

4 thoughts on “Hills and Silicon Valleys

  1. I was born in California: San Diego. I lived in California — somewhere in California — until I was almost 30. I speak with some authority on this matter:

    Anyone who tells you that “California right now is where the rest of the country will be in 15 years” and phrases it like that’s a good thing is a fucking idiot, if you’ll pardon the language. This “progressive paradise” is run by one of the most corrupt legislatures in the United States, and the only reason they aren’t getting away with more is because they’re almost cartoonishly incompetent.

    If California now is where the rest of the country will be in 15 years, then where the rest of the country will be in 15 years is a laughing stock of the rest of the world, with unchecked poverty, unbelievable income disparity, overpriced, underdelivering public services, and swathes on land that could be developed into low and moderately priced housing but haven’t been because it’s going to cast shade on somebody’s backyard, leaving tens of millions homeless.

    California is not an example; it’s a warning. California also has enough money to convince everyone that it’s an example and not a warning. The only thing it’s an example of is the fact that well-funded corruption can convince people to buy anything.

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  2. Video you linked at the end is gone btw.
    Can’t speak to the gang stuff, and there will always be massively stupid scams wherever there are rich people.
    As to housing, and Google and Facebook making ‘company towns’, well, what would you prefer they do?
    It’s the local government who decided not to allow anyone to build more housing. And having more of something is how you make it more affordable. Subsidies and rent controls clearly don’t work in the long term. So big companies come in to fix where others failed. It’s not ideal, but it is likely better than them just not doing anything. If no-one builds more housing, things will not get any better.

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    1. The concern I have with this is going back to the “company towns” the United States has during the 20s and 30s (and probably before), which is only one step away from “company stores,” and only two steps away from employees being paid in “company scrip.”

      But like you said, what else can we expect? They need workers, and workers need housing. Company towns it is, then!

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