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"I Thought I Could Swing It"

On the strange life and presidency of Calvin Coolidge:

The Coolidge family never wasted words. John Coolidge simply notified his son that President Harding had died in San Francisco a few hours earlier. Calvin Coolidge calmly got dressed and walked across the street to a general store where he contacted Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes by telephone, drank a Moxie beverage, and left a nickel to pay for it. Coolidge then walked back across the street to his father’s home.

PUBLISHED: June 19, 2014
LENGTH: 11 minutes (2811 words)

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Our favorite stories of the week, featuring New York magazine, San Francisco magazine, Cincinnati Enquirer, The Awl, and Salon.
PUBLISHED: June 13, 2014

My State of Emergency

Reflections on life, death, and Obamacare inside Oakland’s main trauma ward.

Working in the Highland ER means knowing the backstory of a part of Oakland that most of my friends and neighbors will never see. In my car, stopped at a red light, I find myself unconsciously filling in the bios and medical histories of passing pedestrians. A cane, a limp, a cough, a tremor: A city’s problems, often anonymous and impossibly abstract, gain context in the faces and lives of my patients. Urban violence is personified by the 19-year-old boy, shot square in the chest during a drive-by, whom I pronounce dead in the trauma bay. Domestic violence takes the form of a woman coming in for the fourth time this year, now with a dislocated shoulder and a broken wrist. The sexually trafficked 15-year-old, the homeless alcoholic, the diabetic with schizophrenia—the list goes on, and the tapestry of societal malaise is woven tighter and tighter.

PUBLISHED: June 4, 2014
LENGTH: 9 minutes (2440 words)

The Thin Blue Privatized Line

Unsettled by the reality that the cops can't help them, Oakland residents are hiring private patrols. Crime is down. But is the cure worse than the disease?

Picking himself up, Ward was approached by Rico Thomas, the 26-year-old security guard who had stumbled upon the break-in—and would soon draw a gun and shoot the suspect with it. Thomas had become a beloved fixture to the Upper Dimond and Oakmore residents who had hired him to patrol their streets months earlier. He would later tell police that his scrap with Ward happened in a flash: Ward lunged at him with an iron pry bar, he said, and tried to kill him. The two men wrestled, and then Ward ran away. But instead of heading downhill, the easier escape route, Ward ran uphill after the SUV, perhaps hoping that it would stop.

PUBLISHED: June 3, 2014
LENGTH: 18 minutes (4707 words)

'Let’s, Like, Demolish Laundry.'

A look at the highly competitive world of laundry startups:

In early October, Washio opened up shop in San Francisco. Not surprisingly, the area around Silicon Valley was already awash in laundry disrupters. In addition to Prim, there was Laundry Locker, along with three other locker-technology-enabled businesses: Sudzee, Drop Locker, and ­Bizzie Box. There was Sfwash, which offered ecofriendly cleaning on top of pickup and delivery. There was even, briefly, a service called Your Hero Delivery, whose driver-founders dressed like superheroes. (“At the end of the day, did we really want to spend our whole lives schlepping dirty laundry?” one of them told PandoDaily of their decision to fold. “No.”) Another upstart was about to launch: Rinse, whose founders described their business to a Dartmouth alumni newsletter as “an ‘Uber’ for dry cleaning and laundry.”

Metzner knew someone in common with the founders of Rinse, so he decided to give its CEO, Ajay Prakash, a call. Just to let him know his company was coming to San Francisco. And so forth. “It was, you know, a perfectly civil conversation,” says Prakash, which may have been what Alan Arkin termed a “business lie.”

PUBLISHED: May 21, 2014
LENGTH: 22 minutes (5545 words)

Forget CSI

Faith in the forensic system—in large part due to Hollywood's heroic portrayals of forensic investigators—is at an all time high. But despite its invincible aura, the actual system is deeply flawed and at times flat out fraudulent.

In San Francisco last year, a police technician pleaded guilty to stealing cocaine from a crime lab, leading to the dismissal of hundreds of criminal cases that depended on evidence analyzed at the unit. In 2012, a Minnesota lab was temporarily shut down after a report found deficiencies in virtually every aspect of its operation, including dirty equipment, inadequate documentation, and ignorance of basic scientific procedures. In Houston that same year, a lab technician was found to be fabricating results in drug cases; about one out of every three reports he submitted was found to be flawed. District attorneys in the area were told that up to 5,000 convictions in 36 counties could be in jeopardy. Similar failures were uncovered in Colorado Springs, Colorado; St. Paul, Minnesota; Chicago; and New York. Even the FBI has performed atrociously shoddy work.

PUBLISHED: April 30, 2014
LENGTH: 18 minutes (4647 words)

'Your Feeling of Autonomy Is a Fantasy'

A remarkable inside look at the hope, desperation, and financial realities for startups and founders working in San Francisco and Silicon Valley:

All the while, Martino’s ultimate warning—that they might someday regret actually getting the money they wanted—would still hang over these two young men, inherent to a system designed to turn strivers into subcontractors. Instead of what you want to build—the consumer-facing, world-remaking thing—almost invariably you are pushed to build a small piece of technology that somebody with a lot of money wants built cheaply. As the engineer and writer Alex Payne put it, these startups represent “the field offices of a large distributed workforce assembled by venture capitalists and their associate institutions,” doing low-overhead, low-risk R&D for five corporate giants. In such a system, the real disillusionment isn’t the discovery that you’re unlikely to become a billionaire; it’s the realization that your feeling of autonomy is a fantasy, and that the vast majority of you have been set up to fail by design.

PUBLISHED: April 23, 2014
LENGTH: 42 minutes (10559 words)

How Airbnb and Lyft Finally Got Americans to Trust Each Other

From Airbnb to Lyft to Tinder, the sharing economy is rewiring the way we interact with each other.

In about 40 minutes, Cindy Manit will let a complete stranger into her car. An app on her windshield-mounted iPhone will summon her to a corner in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood, where a russet-haired woman in an orange raincoat and coffee-colored boots will slip into the front seat of her immaculate 2006 Mazda3 hatchback and ask for a ride to the airport. Manit has picked up hundreds of random people like this. Once she took a fare all the way across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito. Another time she drove a clown to a Cirque du Soleil after-party.

AUTHOR:Jason Tanz
PUBLISHED: April 23, 2014
LENGTH: 15 minutes (3980 words)

The Complete, Complicated History of San Francisco Housing: Tech, Rent Control and Prop 13

Cutler investigates the complete history of the Bay Area’s housing crisis—from technology and rent control to California’s Proposition 13:

Earlier in the summer of 1978, a cantankerous former small-town newspaper publisher named Howard Jarvis led a “taxpayer revolt” as property prices were soaring, threatening to throw home owners out of their homes because of rising tax bills. Jarvis’ idea was to cap property taxes at 1 percent of their assessed value and to prevent them from rising by more than 2 percent each year until the property was sold again and its taxes were reset at a new market value.

Howard Jarvis launched the taxpayer revolt that got Proposition 13 passed, capping property taxes for homeowners.

One argument that Jarvis used to rally tenant support for Proposition 13, was that he promised that landlords would pass on their tax savings to renters.

They didn’t. They pocketed the savings for themselves.

PUBLISHED: April 20, 2014
LENGTH: 51 minutes (12893 words)