Greed, Empire, and Identity

Reading “No Name in the Street,” James Baldwin’s mid-70s memoir, and watching Ken Burns’ six-part documentary “The West,” I understand more clearly the brutality of America’s conquest of the West (which we justified in the name of American Exceptionalism), the lasting impact of the  incredible Gold Rush madness (which spread a passion to “strike it rich quick” that persists), and how deeply embedded is America’s unique affirmation of rugged individualism (which declares we are on our own, as individuals or as a nuclear family).

The recent #myeconomy Marketplace survey found that 79 percent of Americans believe that hard work plays a bigger role than luck in getting ahead. That result, which takes personal responsibility to the extreme, boggles my mind. 

While in France when that country was losing its empire, including Vietnam, Baldwin wrote that the attitude of the French police toward immigrants, “which had always been menacing, began to be yet more snide and vindictive. This puzzled me at first, but it shouldn’t have. This is the way people react to the loss of empire — for the loss of empire also implies a radical revision of the individual identity — and I was to see this over and over again, not only in France.”

Does that ring a bell? As the American Empire declines, America continues to define “leadership in the world” as the ability to impose its will, as with one “regime change” or another, whether with soft power or the military. And its police are far too often brutal and vindictive, as Americans lose their sense of being members of a White, Christian nation.

Baldwin also reflects on a visit with an old, formerly close childhood friend:

He seemed as little touched by the cataclysm in his house and all around him as he was by the mail he handled every day. I found this unbelievable, and, given my temperament and our old connection, maddening. We got into a battle about the war in Vietnam. I probably should not have allowed this to happen, but it was partly the stepdaughter’s prodding. And I was astounded that my friend would defend this particular racist folly. What for? For his job at the post office? And the answer came back at once, alas — yes. For his job at the post office.

That too rings a bell. Selfishness and self-centeredness reign supreme, as life becomes, as a passenger of mine said, “Work, buy, and die.” Report

The response to the first issue of has been encouraging.

The task now is to consider: how can this newsletter benefit drivers, passengers, and/or others? What kind of information would help drivers? What would be of interest to passengers, or others? I welcome your thoughts about those questions. (My notes about possibilities are at

The answers may influence the format of the newsletter. Options include: 1) Just doing a one-page handout with links to online articles and lists of resources; 2) Two different editions, one for drivers and the other for passengers.

In addition to considerable informal feedback, the following comments have been submitted on the website:

This newsletter is a light in a very dark world, putting forth more than just information; rather, we find understanding with regard to the taxi industry. I do think this newsletter well crosses boundaries and needs to be read in other cities of the United States, but let us start with San Francisco. Taxi Talk may just bring the taxi industry more customers.
–Herman Haluza, Editor, Transportation Perception

Thank you, Wade, great piece.
A spelling error you make here is of Kate Toran, not Kate Tolan

An excellent summarization of our current state of affairs with San Francisco’s taxi industry. Your keen insight and sound advice should be a must read for any professional taxi driver. Looking forward to your next posting.
–Hansu Kim, Desoto/Flywheel President

Very articulate writing. Thanks, Wade.
–Carl Macmurdo, President, Medallion Holders Association

Saw your newsletter and was quite impressed.
–Mark Gruberg, SF Taxi Workers Alliance

Congrats! Very good but too long.
–Mike Larsen, Literary Agent

Drivers at Yellow Cab are taking copies of the newsletter left at the dispatch window, where a sign reads: “Please consider: 1) Give to passengers. 2) Give $1 or more to [the dispatcher] for Wade to make more copies.”  Yesterday, the first day that sign was posted, it elicited $13 in donations, which is good. Previously, $210, including two $100 donations, had been contributed. Expenses to date equal $155. Small invoices for the website and listserv are outstanding. A frequently updated financial report is viewable by the public at

My primary goal is to raise money to cover operating costs. I plan to continue to work on this project pro bono about 15 hours a week.

As of 10/28, the website had received 301 views. Many of those views were prompted by posts on Twitter spontaneously tweeted by a number of individuals, including Kelly Dessaint, SF Examiner columnist, with whom I am communicating. Sixteen individuals have subscribed to the TaxiTalk,info Announce email list. Recently, several more people have signed the Limit “Ride-Sharing” Cars petition, bringing the total to 103. The passengers to whom I’ve given the newsletter have been very interested and supportive.

Those responses motivate me to persist with I hope to develop a presence on Twitter and Facebook soon and build connections with people in other cities.

Early next year, I’d like to help convene a series of public events, such as Passenger Appreciation Days and forums with guest speakers, including public officials. The overall theme of the forums could be “The Future of Taxis,” with a more specific topic each time. Do you have ideas for topics?

I’m working on a statement that presents my underlying philosophy and hope to circulate it for review and comment soon, before including it in the next newsletter. That piece is intended to provide food for thought. Space for contrary opinions will be provided in future issues.

Currently titled “Reforming the Industry,” it  presents a comprehensive plan for inter-related structural changes and specific projects. Many of the ideas presented are rooted in the principles that John Carver presented in his landmark book, Boards That Make a Difference.

I’m very open to working in a collaborative manner. Ideally, I’d like to eventually develop a team of co-editors, perhaps taking turns with responsibility for the final edit if and when we face a deadline.

In the meantime, I welcome your assistance. Help with graphic design would be appreciated, for example. Do you have photos or graphics to contribute? Other ideas?

To subscribe to a digital copy of the newsletter and receive it via email, visit

Likely no more than a few times a week, I’ll post to the TaxiTalk Announce email list: 1) reports on my efforts; 2) requests for feedback, advice, and help, and; 3) general taxi-related information. To subscribe to that list, visit or ask me to subscribe you.

Steven Hill, author of RAW DEAL: How the “Uber Economy” and Runaway Capitalism Are Screwing American Workers, will be reading from his book:

  • Mon., Nov. 16, 6:00 PM, Mechanics’ Institute Library, 57 Post, Suite 407, SF;
  • Tues., Nov. 17, 6:30 PM, Diesel Bookstore, 5433 College, Oakland;
  • Wed., Nov. 18, 7:00 PM; Books Inc, 2251 Chestnut, SF;
  • Thurs., Dec. 3, 6:00 PM, Book Passage, 1 Ferry Building, SF.


Wade Hudson,
Publisher and Editor – October 20, 2005

To read the first issue of and initial readers’ comments, comment yourself, and/or subscribe to receive future issues via email, go to


  • The State of the Industry
  • The “Uber Economy”
  • Uber Alles
  • Tip to passengers
  • Tip to pedestrians
  • Tip to businesses
  • Tip to drivers
  • Zen Driving
  • Cabbie Joke
  • State Update
  • The Limit “Ride-Sharing” Cars Petition
  • City Update
  • About

Wade Hudson, Publisher and Editor

Checking In – 10/24/15

Saw “Truth” last night. Blanchett turned in another bravura performance. Well done, important movie. Not sure why audiences didn’t give it a higher rating. I was glad Blanchett finally summed up her case for why the controversy about the authenticity of certain documents was a diversion from the key question: did Bush basically go AWOL while in the National Guard? I may google that question and also Mapes, the 60 Minutes producer who was fired during the turmoil. I wonder what she’s been doing.

Otherwise, I woke up today well-rested, with a positive attitude, still inspired after having recently re-read “The Fire Next Time” for the first time in 52 years and having started Baldwin’s mid-1970s memoir, “No Name in the Street,” which I have not read. This morning, prompted by Amazon’s “Readers Also Bought” feature, I just bought “Notes of a Native Son,” which I also read in 1963. I’m hoping that Baldwin will inspire and guide me when I boil down my full autobiography, “The Search for Deep Community,” into a slice-of-life memoir, which I just started. The working title is “Faith, Love, and Action.” The first paragraph, which I just wrote, reads: “I escaped Dallas by the skin of my teeth in 1962. Mother wanted me to stay in Texas to go to college, but I was dead set on the University of California at Berkeley. To get her support, I had to give her an offer she could not refuse. The maneuver worked. Enormously excited, on a Greyhound bus, I left Texas for the first time in my life. Little did I know I was headed into a hurricane later known as “the Sixties” that would profoundly shape the rest of my life.” (reply YES to subscribe)

Please reply YES to this post if you want to receive occasional emails from me concerning my efforts to promote and help improve the San Francisco taxi industry. If you do, I’ll subscribe you to the TaxiTalk,info email list, a listserv powered by Electric Embers.

Also, please consider giving me feedback by Monday night, Oct. 19, on the latest draft of the first issue of the newsletter (see below), which I will make available to drivers to distribute to passengers, businesses, and the general public….

[To read more, click here.]

Checking In

DSC02381Now that I’ve received some good news from the taxi industry and my financial future is clearer and more promising, I plan to cut back on driving taxi so I can engage in taxi-reform organizing and write more. With Wade’s Weekly, once a week I plan take at least one hour to compose a stream-of-consciousness report like this. I’ll set the timer at 45 minutes and write the first draft, after which I will re-set the timer at 15 minutes and rewrite. And some weeks, I’ll probably post essays on specific topics.

Keeping in touch with you, my subscribers, is important to me. My interactions with passengers reduces my isolation and they are often very rewarding, in one way or another. And I have some good friends, and often talk on the phone with Mary, my sister. But otherwise, my life is rather solitary, which is fine, for I enjoy solitude. But over the years my exchanges with you have been very meaningful and I want to revive them.

Writers need readers. So it helps to know if you read what I write. Even a short one or two word comment is appreciated. In the past, I’ve tried to copy, paste, and post readers’ comments. But I may no longer do that. So if you want your comment to be viewable to the general public, please post it to the Web version at Regardless, I’ll try to reply to all comments individually (and catch up on old ones that are still in my Inbox.)

One instance of being gratified by having readers was last week when,at the Yellow Cab lounge, I circulated my Taxi Reform Survey Report  to drivers who were waiting to get a taxi to drive. That one-sheet, two-column piece reported on responses to a two-question survey (about Uber and the need for transparency in the sale of taxi medallions) that I had circulated previously. It was very rewarding to see almost everyone immediately read the Report intently. I also received positive feedback to the digital version that I circulated.

That response encourages me to produce a newsletter, titled Taxi Talk, that drivers could distribute to their passengers. As I see it, that newsletter could contribute to the development of an alliance of passengers, drivers, owners, community organizations, businesses, and others to promote and improve the taxi industry.

Possible methods include a Passenger Appreciation Day at which drivers who are musicians could perform and writers could read their work. Prominent performers like Michael Franti and Will Durst might participate as well. Another project might be promoting a public debate on current issues, such as whether the government should limit the number of cars-for-hire. (I’ve asked the Taxi Workers Alliance to organize that debate.)

On the personal front, I plan to invite some old friends to small dinner parties to catch up and socialize. In the past, I’ve tended toward larger affairs, but this time I envision parties of four. That way everyone can sit at the table in my small apartment.

So welcome back to Wade’s Weekly and thanks for reading. I hope we stay in touch during this fascinating moment in human history. Though postmodern nihilism is alive and well, as reflected in films like Black Mass and Sicario, many other phenomena, like Pope Francis and the Sanders campaign, are encouraging. Like Bob says, “We’ll just have to see how it goes.