Scrooge lives! In San Francisco!

Justin Keller wrote an open letter to the mayor and police chief, demanding that something must be done. There are homeless riff-raff cluttering up his streets! They are howling and lying down and collapsing in despair everywhere; why, one even leaned up against his car! The horror…

I know people are frustrated about gentrification happening in the city, but the reality is, we live in a free market society. The wealthy working people have earned their right to live in the city. They went out, got an education, work hard, and earned it. I shouldn’t have to worry about being accosted. I shouldn’t have to see the pain, struggle, and despair of homeless people to and from my way to work every day. I want my parents when they come visit to have a great experience, and enjoy this special place.

Yes, something must be done. Only I don’t think the solution involves hiding the “pain, struggle, and despair” out of sight of smug dudes with lots of money. It’s got to involve deeper changes that give poor people a living wage and an opportunity to better themselves that might also require fewer luxury cars for the wealthy.

If you want to seriously address the problem, you might try reading an open letter from the other side — Talia Jane writes to the CEO of the company that used to employ her. She was working in customer service for one of those tech startups. She’s spending 80% of her paycheck on rent, is living on a bag of rice, and is pouring a big chunk of her income into the expensive commute. She has a car but can’t afford to repair it.

So she wrote and published a letter describing the deplorable way her company, Eat24, treats its wage slaves (ironically, her company is a food delivery service, and she can’t afford to use it). As you might expect, her wealthy CEO was quick to respond, with a Justin Keller solution.

UPDATE: As of 5:43pm PST, I have been officially let go from the company. This was entirely unplanned (but I guess not completely unexpected?) but any help until I find new employment would be extremely appreciated. My PayPal is, my Venmo is @taliajane Square Cash is$TaliaJane. Thank you so much for helping my story be heard.

The very first comment on her letter demonstrates the deplorable moral state of tech dudes today. It basically says to sit down, shut up, and obey. Your boss is worth more than any of his employees.

Calling out the CEO because of his net worth is just stupid. The guy co-founded the company. He built it from nothing to what it is worth today. Of course he is going to be worth hundreds of millions if he is running a very successful company.

Nobody is worth hundreds of millions. Nobody. The life of the CEO making all that money is worth no more and no less than the life of the drunk homeless guy who offended Justin Keller by leaning on his car. The person who had the capital and the support to be able to go to college, make profitable connections, and get the investments to begin a startup is not working harder than the person who is doing two minimum wage jobs and getting periodically laid off by a volatile economy, and I am disgusted by these people who have failed to learn these basic lessons in life.

But greed and short-sighted selfishness and a lack of empathy seem to make up the recipe for financial success, which allows these oblivious parasites to foster more greed and short-sighted selfishness and lack of empathy.


  1. Bruce says

    Of course Keller makes some baseless assumptions. For all he knows, the guy who touched his car has a great education and was a hard worker, but other random events destroyed him financially. Keller is unaware how much chance and luck have helped him, but not those other people he sees.
    This is the biggest problem with Republican Calvanism. They assume that God made sure that everyone rich deserved it, and that everyone poor deserved to be poor. Under atheism, we see no basis for such magical thinking. This is why people of good conscience are morally obliged to think of the social justice needs of everyone else. We can’t pretend to believe 16th century religion is a valid excuse to be selfish.

  2. mond says

    This fits in perfectly with a previous thread about privilege.
    Add in a dogma of the free market society being a meritocracy.
    I am successful and therefore I merit that success and if those OTHER people were just did what I did then they wouldn’t be in street getting in my way.

  3. Ambidexter says

    I am telling you, there is going to be a revolution. People on both sides are frustrated, and you can sense the anger.

    Keller, if a revolution comes then chances are good that you will go up against the wall.

  4. says

    You’d think a tech start up type would be aware of at least one fellow tech start up type who crashed and burned, despite their wonderful idea and financial backers. I seem to remember the rate of new businesses that make their first 5 years in the US is pretty damn low.

  5. Dreaming of an Atheistic Newtopia says

    Oh, the horror…is there no end to the strife and suffering of that wealthy, white man? I mean, having to see the suffering of other human beings, spoiling his experience of life…..tragic, just tragic….and i’m sure he is also a victim of not being able to pat his secretary on the ass anymore, or having to avoid using certain slurs… These poor people, the terrible sacrifices they have to make…they must be the most persecuted people on earth, it’s almost like there is a war waged against them..what am i saying..of course there is, everything is stacked against the rich, white man! welfare bloodsuckers! feminist amazons! white genocide! political correctness!!!1!!!!!!1!!

  6. coragyps says

    Does Keller have a Final Solution to this terrific problem of his? Sending all the schizophrenics and bipolar folks off to the FEMA camps instead of sending Republican patriots?

  7. says

    I shouldn’t have to see the pain, struggle, and despair of homeless people to and from my way to work every day.

    I think Petesh just got their answer from another thread. Lots of sociopaths in the world. Odds are this ass will never comprehend just how appalling his self-centeredness happens to be.

  8. says

    He built it from nothing to what it is worth today.

    I’m always impressed by these supermen who can apparently manage huge multi-million dollar corporations all by themselves. I would think they’d at least have to have someone managing the phones or something, but no. Did it all by himself. Didn’t get any help from anyone else. Pretty darn impressive.

  9. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    Anything that starts with “we live in a free market, … ” is usually an indicator of selc centered greed

  10. unclefrogy says

    wow just wow.
    I do not know what to say. I know it is very selective what gets exposed and not completely random and I would hope it is not representative but I doubt it.
    When I look back to other places and times when there was a great upheaval when there was a vast difference between the landed hereditary aristocracy and the poor powerless peasants like pre-revolutionary France or 1900’s Russia I see similar attitudes. Then I read this same attitude from “self-made” I made it on my own ignoramuses and I despair.
    Is it a question of if or is it becoming a question of when and where it starts?

    uncle frogy

  11. MJP says

    Nobody is worth hundreds of millions. Nobody. The life of the CEO making all that money is worth no more and no less than the life of the drunk homeless guy who offended Justin Keller by leaning on his car. The person who had the capital and the support to be able to go to college, make profitable connections, and get the investments to begin a startup is not working harder than the person who is doing two minimum wage jobs and getting periodically laid off by a volatile economy, and I am disgusted by these people who have failed to learn these basic lessons in life.

    I often point out that if people believe that multiple orders of magnitude in pay differences are reflective of skill or ability differences, they literally believe in superheroes. It’s utter nonsense to believe that human beings differ in ability by as much as they currently differ in pay.

  12. Dark Jaguar says

    The highlighted sentence is one of the most selfish, myopic, and heartless sentences ever spoken by someone who isn’t a Dickens villain.

    I thought of something last Christmas, as I was watching various incarnations of A Christmas Carol. Modern republicans (by which I mean republicans of the past 15 years or so) have forgotten the meaning of Christmas, and I mean that in the most Christmas special-y way possible. It’s painful to hear them go on and on about the presumed “war on Christmas”, and ONLY mention the trappings of it, not the substance. “Why don’t coffee cups have Santa on them?” “Why doesn’t this store have enough tinsel and Christmas trees all over it?” “Why don’t register jockeys wish someone a joyous season with my personal favorite specific phrase?” “Why don’t I see enough plastic mangers and babies on the lawns?” It’s like these people have NEVER once seen the Charlie Brown Christmas special or The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. I feel like I have to start paraphrasing specials AT the TV whenever I hear one of them whining about these things. “Christmas doesn’t come in a box, or under a tree! It’s not about tinsel or feasts or decorations! It’s something a little bit, more.” Frankly, they’re acting like the spoiled brats that needed to learn a lesson in oh so many Christmas movies from my youth. Never mind all the OTHER excellent points about not trying to alienate atheists or Jewish people. They aren’t even living up to the meaning of Christmas I had been taught all my life. The sad thing is this really is recent. I recall as a kid most religious people and right-wing politicians decried the commercialization of Christmas as a distraction from it’s true meaning. Yes, they’d often insist it was all about Jesus, but they would also say that it’s better to give than to receive, and that giving was best done to the homeless and desperate. Why isn’t Fox news talking about how people don’t line up to feed homeless at soup kitchens like they used to?

    Well, that brings me to my point. These same people who would talk about how important Christmas is are often the same ones saying the homeless are just a blight upon our fair cities, best swept away to make room for those who work for a living (read: those lucky enough to have a job that pays enough to live in that city).

    Anyway, that brings us to the often-spoken notion that we ought to DO something about it. So, lacking any other ideas, I submit we all need to dress up as ghosts and scare these people into generosity. I got it from some story I saw. I think it was Ernest Saves Christmas.

  13. Artor says

    I used to work with a guy who seemed like he was barely holding his shit together. He drank before and after work, and had a bottle of tipple for his lunch and break times too. He would have been completely derelict, except that my boss gave him a job and overlooked a lot of shortcomings. I assumed that the guy had been a wreck his whole life, until I was assigned to help him out on a rush job one day and we got to talking.

    Turns out, he had 2 advanced degrees, 5 kids from the same woman, 4 of whom also had advanced degrees, and a career as a flautist in a large orchestra that traveled the world. He had played in every major city on the planet, and showed me a picture in his wallet of himself in a tuxedo, shaking hands with Mikhail Gorbechev.

    But his wife died in the car crash that mangled his hand, and he couldn’t play the flute anymore. He took to drinking, and lost his apartment in New York. He spent several years on the street, where he picked up a case of hepatitis. He probably would have died there in short order, except that my boss, an old friend of his, gave him a break and offered him work that he could manage in his state. that lasted for 10 years, until the hepatitis finally caught up with him and he died.

    So for all the rich bastards who have no sympathy for the filthy masses so far beneath their notice, I say: There but for the grace of Murphy goes YOU! How would you handle losing everything of importance to you? I would laugh to see a former Wall Street executive eating out of a dumpster, except that I’m not a heartless inhumane bastard like they are.

  14. Erp says

    The confusion of worth as in monetary value and worth as in ethical value. Note that safe shelter and support also must be available to those who can’t or shouldn’t work due to disability; a good safety net needs to exist as well as living wages.

    Santa Clara county the heart of the Silicon Valley a bit south of San Francisco has a huge homeless problem, over 7,000 people according to the annual census of homeless people. Palo Alto has over 150 (despite various attempts to force them out) though most hide. Many sleep in their cars so have a little bit of shelter though Palo Alto had attempted to make that illegal (it was already illegal in many of the cities around there though the 9th Circuit has ruled a similar LA law unconstitutionally vague [Desertrain v. City of Los Angeles 2014]) and does prevent them from parking/living at Cubberley community center (former high school so had plenty of bathroom facilities) now (this was an unofficial fairly well behaved encampment but too much for the nearby residents). Some of the car dwellers actually have jobs but aren’t earning enough money to live near their jobs. At least one of the carless homeless (or occasionally so) went to Stanford. As per another thread, I also know of another Stanford graduate who is now a union journeyman plumber, in his state that means, according to him, 10,000 hours of supervised on-the-job training as an apprentice; he works in a plumbers co-operative.

    See also for Palo Alto homeless, treatment of

  15. unclefrogy says

    thanks for the comment it reminded me of a great song “there but for fortune by Phil Ochs” and I just spent some time on youtube listening to a voice from the past
    uncle frogy

  16. photoreceptor says

    This selfish bastard reminds me of a similar event I heard of many years ago. Living in NYC as a postdoc, my wife got a part-time job at a public relations company, office on Park Lane. The director, a certain John, came in one morning and said to the staff “I was walking up Park Lane and as I passed in front of the church, I saw a bag lady sleeping on the steps. I just had to go in and speak to the priest about it”. The tone in his voice up to this point made my wife think he was feeling pity for the lady. But no, upon finding the priest he angrily said “how could you leave this person just lying there? Imagine what the tourists would think!” I see that deeply rooted greed and heartlessness are very enduring qualities.

  17. brianl says

    Try living here. Tech money has completely ruined San Francisco. Pretty much everything that made The City unique has been forced to relocate to Oakland (forcing out the long-term population there). This profit/net worth uber alles attitude is absolutely toxic to live in. I do not understand what’s keeping the bubble inflated this time. These companies are not worth what they’re valued. Neither is the real estate (450 square foot studios run $3500 a month).

  18. mond says

    Ironically, the digital technological revolution was going to make us all teleworkers. No need to locate geographical in one area like in the bad old analogue days. Think we might have been sold a pup on that one.

  19. laurentweppe says

    Scrooge lives! In San Francisco!

    Wasn’t Duckburg a mix between Eureka and San Francisco?
    Oooooh, you mean the other Scrooge!


    Under atheism, we see no basis for such magical thinking

    Tell that to the atheistic Randologists who may not believe in God but most certainly worship the Perfect and Always Fair and Meritocratic Invisible Hand.

  20. carlie says

    I shouldn’t have to see the pain, struggle, and despair of homeless people to and from my way to work every day.

    Yeah! I mean, even the citizens of Omelas only had to go look at that once. Jeez.

  21. Pierce R. Butler says

    Caine @ # 9: … this ass will never comprehend just how appalling his self-centeredness happens to be.

    Yet he still appeals makes an appeal to others for sympathy for his own gripes.

    They just don’t make Rugged Individualists™ like they useta.

  22. numerobis says

    timguegen@6: startup founders who crash and burn tend to learn a lot and make lots of connections in that process, so they tend get back on their feet pretty fast — though they might suffer the indignity of becoming an employee, oh the huge manatee. Typically, at worst they suffer personal bankruptcy. Losing your dream tends to be pretty sucky too, and laying off all your employees (many of them friends), and etc. But it’s not like losing your wife and your career.

    Employees tend to do OK too for the same reasons, though they’re often not as highly connected.

    When I lived in the Bay Area circa 1999, most people were the standard wonderful human beings, but a significant minority were obsessed about making money. The latter were the ones with trouble moving on when the dotcom crash hit.

  23. A. Noyd says

    Can this society please stop taking what investors and a few guys at the tippy top make as the only measure of a company’s “success”? If the CEO makes more than he needs for 100 lifetimes and the mid- to lower-level employees are struggling to put food on the table, that should be the definition of utter corporate failure.

  24. says

    PS – sadly the US domestic tumbril industry has been gutted. But thanks the global economy you can be sure someone will make them and ship them over here when they’re needed.

  25. robro says

    So dude bro pops up here. I’ve been following this bit of inanity on my Facebook feed. My friends, who mostly live in SF and include numerous tech workers, are as flabbergasted as you.

    It’s nice to hear that we now know who to blame for San Francisco’s problems, particularly its housing and homeless problems. It’s good to know that it’s tech money, because now we can really zero in on the culprits. Thank goodness speculative real estate developers (many of whom don’t live in San Francisco), banking, and so forth have nothing to do with it.

    With respect to homelessness, it’s probably just as well that Ronald Regan isn’t mentioned at all in this context, or the war on drugs, or the failures of the US to deal with vets suffering PTSD long after the wars are over…nor the fact that the US creates so many vets in the first place.

    Also, it’s probably not nice to bring up our neighbors, such as Reno, NV, who are well known for putting homeless people on buses bound for SF.

  26. Bob Foster says

    Ah, San Francisco! I lived there for three years as a boy while my father was stationed in Korea. We lived in the Castro District, pre-gay influx. (Many years ago.) But I don’t recall seeing any homeless people or ‘riff-raff’ back then. We lived there because rents were cheap. It was a blue collar Irish-Italian neighborhood. The City had a welcoming vibe back then. People came from all over because they couldn’t take the shit they had to deal with back home in small town America. SF was the end of the line. Go any farther west and you were in the Pacific. It was a very cool place in the 60s. Very, very cool.

    I visited SF just last year and I didn’t like what I found. Moneyed assholes have have moved in and gentrified the old neighborhoods. Jobs that would be snapped up elsewhere go begging. Why? Because nobody making less than $250,000/yr. can afford to live there. Average people — teachers, postmen, shopworkers — have to commute from way out — from across the Bay, in the hills, even from the other side of the damn hills! And the commute is pure hell. One of the worst in the country.

    And the reason why these people are homeless is that people like Mr. Justin Keller have priced the long time residents out. Many of them have jobs that would pay more than enough to rent an apartment in most other cities. Justin and people like him have killed the cool vibe that was The City. Enjoy your Golden Ghetto, Justin!

  27. thecalmone says

    I would like to echo those in this thread who have pointed out the obvious: that sheer luck plays a huge part in most peoples’ lives. I have just emerged from a 3 year period of unemployment when I basically lived off the charity of my mother, notwithstanding 4 degrees (God help me…) and over 25 years experience in two different professional fields. I applied for over 600 jobs in that time and couldn’t even support myself with sessional teaching work, mostly in the non-profit sector. About 6 months ago I was contacted out of the blue by an ex colleague in my first industry (automotive engineering) and offered a job. My income tripled overnight, again by sheer luck and the fact that the multinational where I now work recovered from the effects of the GFC and international currency movements that took my job away in the first place. If I’d been in a different line of work – trade or profession – maybe I wouldn’t have gone through all of that.