The Observer reports: Every morning and every evening the fleet glides through the city, hundreds of white buses with tinted windows navigating San Francisco’s rush hour. From the pavement you can see your reflection in the windows, but you can’t see in. The buses have no markings or logos, no advertised destinations or stops.
It doesn’t matter. Everyone knows what they are. “Transport for a breed apart. For a community that is separate but not equal,” said Diamond Dave Whitaker, a self-professed beat poet and rabble-rouser.
The buses ferry workers to and from Apple, Facebook, Google and other companies in Silicon Valley, an hour’s drive south. They hum with air-conditioning and Wi-Fi. They are for the tech elite, and only the tech elite.
This month Whitaker, 75, and a few dozen other activists smashed a model Google bus piñata to pieces. They cheered each blow. The British and US governments may feel the same way, it emerged last week, when politicians in London and Washington accused Google’s Eric Schmidt and Apple’s Tim Cook of dodging corporate taxes.
The internet titans barely flinched. They denied wrongdoing and hit back at what they said were archaic tax codes unfit for the digital era. The defiance startled those unfamiliar with Silicon Valley’s power and confidence.
It did not come as news to San Francisco. The city knows better than anyone that technology companies like having things their way, whether it be taxes, transport or lifestyle. This dominance, critics say, has produced a cossetted caste which lords it over everyone else, a pattern established during the dotcom explosion a decade ago and now repeated amid a roaring boom. [Continue reading…]