It has taken the visit of a dictator to clean the mean streets of downtown San Francisco.
Once able to lay credible claim to the title ‘America’s most beautiful city’, since the pandemic it has degenerated into the poster child of American inner-city degradation, with iconic neighborhoods like the Tenderloin and South of Market swamped by the tented encampments of the homeless and the attendant rampant drug use, shootings, stabbings, ubiquitous street filth and general lawlessness, while city authorities and police have looked the other way.
Suddenly the squalor has gone – at least for now.
China’s President Xi is in town. So are other Asian leaders and the world’s media, for this week’s grandly titled Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Conference, the biggest international jamboree hosted by San Francisco since 50 nations gathered there in 1945 to establish the United Nations.
Why, even President Biden is paying a visit, primarily for talks with Xi. This hardcore Democratic city just had to put on its best face – and its most recent face has been an embarrassment to city, state, party and country.
So, before the ‘Monster of Beijing’ touched down on Tuesday in the City by the Bay, the homeless were rounded up and herded into shelters. Streets and sidewalks were steam-cleaned, public spaces tarted up, police patrols multiplied. Public defecation ceased, needles no longer littered the streets. Legal impediments previously cited as a block to doing any of this mysteriously evaporated, like San Francisco fog when a strong sun comes up.
There is something hugely comical about all this, something distinctly third world for a city – for a country – which is meant to be one of the most sophisticated, prosperous, and high-tech on the globe.
For decades squalid capitals in developing nations carted off the poor and gave their street fronts a fresh lick of paint before visiting US presidents and other world leaders cast their eyes on them. The communist bloc was a dab hand at doing the same before the Berlin Wall came down in 1989. And now San Francisco has joined their ranks.
Comical. But also pathetic.
Why should it take the imminent arrival of a global gathering and a communist dictator to clean up streets that should never have been allowed to descend into squalor in the first place?
Is it a fresh start for the city? Or just for this week? After all, look at the precedents: in the capitals of the developing world, once the dignitaries have gone the poor soon return and the paint quickly peels.
San Franciscans must be wondering if that same fate awaits their city too.
The city’s mayor, the increasingly ludicrous London Breed, who rightly faces a re-election struggle, claimed last week that the recent urban blight was just a ‘snapshot in time’. Quite a snapshot.
The unrestrained lawlessness under her watch, especially shoplifting and carjacking, has provoked a flight of retailers (Nordstrom, T-Mobile, Whole Foods, Anthropologie), undermining the downtown economy. They will not be easily lured back, without proof positive that this week’s changes are permanent.
Concerned citizens in other US cities – Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York – might be wondering what global party they could throw to entice a visit from President Xi and get their dilapidated streets cleaned up too. They should wait til they see the state of San Francisco by next spring before going to the expense of issuing invitations.
It is thought that one of the few positives that might come out of the Biden-Xi confab Wednesday is a Chinese agreement to crackdown on the export of compounds that go into fentanyl, the opioid to which so many Americans are addicted, which is way more powerful than heroin and which now claims the lives of more than 150 a day in the US.
The bloom is off its economy, rapid growth replaced by more pedestrian progress. Investors are fleeing as Xi becomes ever more authoritarian. Illicit capital flows leaving the country are now large enough to unsettle the yuan, China’s currency. The oversupplied real estate market – the biggest asset bubble in world history – is broken and awash with scandals. As a result, local governments are mired in debt.
China no longer generates enough revenue to pay for its massive military build-up, the burgeoning social welfare costs of its aging population or the funds it funnels (in expensive debt) to developing countries that sign up for its ‘belt and road’ initiative. Something will have to give.
As feared, the FCC has authorized Biden's Woke Takeover of the Internet.
FCC ADOPTS RULES TO PREVENT AND ELIMINATE 'DIGITAL DISCRIMINATION'
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— Benny Johnson (@bennyjohnson) November 15, 2023
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— R A W S A L E R T S (@rawsalerts) November 15, 2023
Biden judicial nominee Sara Hill “made history” by being the first Native American woman nominated to serve as a federal judge in Oklahoma
Today, she was unable to explain the difference between a stay order and an injunction when asked by Sen. Kennedy. pic.twitter.com/i6VsjXjvhk
— Greg Price (@greg_price11) November 15, 2023