Expectations low for saving capitalism

reichcommonwealthclub1115.jpgI’m roughly two-thirds through my first crack at Robert Reich “Saving Capitalism: For the many not the few”, an endeavor inspired by seeing the former Clinton cabinet member lecture two weeks ago in nearby Campbell, Calif.

 

I got there early and was cooling my heels on a crisp evening in front of the venue when I noticed Reich getting out of his self-driving (meaning he does it himself) car, a Lincoln I think.  A young couple approached him, as he was signing off to them via his hand-held.

“Do you mind if  I jump the line and greet you?” I said, and strutted forward with a goofy star-struck earnestness, hand-extended. I said I was a fellow Dartmouth alum, here to see the lecture, but not the super-exclusive pre-event event.

“I hope you keep your expectations low!” said the labor expert, professor, activist, filmmaker and author. He is supposedly 4’11” in height, so I presume he was making a light-hearted reference to that fact. (And indeed, he explains, in this case during a Q&A with the Palo Altan judge and provost LaDoris Cordell, his activism is partly explained in his self-concept to being bullied in his younger years).

 

I was so jacked up that I bought his book, joined Commonwealth Club and waited an extra 30 minutes to get his autograph. I counted out on my hands 11 words and rehearsed my bit:

If I run for Assembly, how could I earn your endorsement?

He said he did not know but suggested that I might indeed, laudably, run for public office. I ad libbed something about the Palo Alto and Cupertino race having two weak candidates. He assented to my query about can I reach him at his office.

For instance, somebody might mount a run for District 24 shaped around a series of Chataquas that teach the lessons of this book, or more generally (but pretty darn narrowly) about Reich’s work, or using Reich as a platform (see also “Inequality for All” an excellent documentary I saw recently here in town, he produced, and a source for some of the material in this current book, his twelfth).

My observation is that both declared, “establishment candidates” Marc Berman of Palo Alto and Mike Kasperzak of Mountain View have a similar flaw in that they are seemingly (and probably) beholden to builders. I counted 72 gifts from real estate interests in the first reporting period, to either candidate, and sometimes both. It looks like, consistent with ABAG, the builders are counting on getting their guy into this office, to push the building, in this area.

I’ll likely double-check this a few pages later, but I’m suggesting there could be a candidate who more obviously represents the “countervailing interests” necessary on local, regional and national levels to push back against the concentration of power which weakens our Democracy in recent years (in other words, but sometimes referencing Reich, I have tried to express a similar complaint, in three successive runs for Palo Alto City Council; I sent a draft of a white paper on this to Laurel Rosenhall of CalMatters, a non-profit that covers the Statehouse).

http://www.amazon.com/Saving-Capitalism-For-Many-Not/dp/0385350570

I name-check Robert Reich the Berkeley professor three previous times here in Plastic Alto.

robert-reich_200_280_80

In a 2014 essay called “Wooden Ships” I link to his site and plug his film; the post started as a John Wooden basketball reference and send-off to former council member Larry Klein then digressed to a series of thoughts about my campaign and briefly the example set by Reich.

“In This Picture Please Note that Weiss and His Drummer are Wearing Green” This was actually me publishing or documenting my responses to a survey of candidates from the Sierra Club and LCV about problems currently facing the Bay Area:

I would say it’s still consumerism and greed and the Seven Deadly Sins since time began. Now it’s Income Inequality as described by Robert Reich in his film, contributing factor. I think green-washing more than environmentalism has made more gains since 1992, and especially since David Brower died. I recall hearing him speak circa 1993 at Commonwealth Club, and taking my Dad and him greeting Mr. Goldman (funder of the Goldman Award) who he knew from the Jewish Mafia, and was introduced to. Also, War, this is a problem. I was the only candidate in 2009 or 2012 to try to link the War (Afghanistan, Iraq) to our local actions. Seven thousand dead. Lots of environmental damage as well. (100,000 plus foreign dead).

 

“Peets Don’t Fail Me Know”
Maybe I am out of bounds to picture (economist Stephen) Levy and Reich in a physical contest, although if Stephen is related to former Palo Alto Mayor (and another pro-developer voice) Leland Levy, I noticed and I think wrote about once his physical prowess at least in ping pong, (the night of the State of the City, at JCC). Reich, the former Clinton advisor, a current Berkeley professor and of course fellow Dartmouthian, is 4′ 11″ and has joked that he should not be addressed as “your highness” but rather “your shortness”, almost too much. In any case, I’d love to see Reich lecture here on “inequality” or any topic, maybe even at one of these Our Palo Alto shows.
At the recent lecture I also greeted Ladoris Cordell, introduced myself to her and noted that likely the last time I saw here she was introducing Ralph Nader at Cubberley (and I added that it conflicted with a Candidates forum such that I heard the intro, bought a book then raced up Middlefield for my actual event).

On the matter of my observation about the assembly race, I sent a draft of a more pointed essay on the matter to a reporter who supposedly covers state politics. (I counted 24 of Berman’s donors with strong ties to the real estate community, and 48 such gifts to Kasperzak. Not much choice between them if you are no-growth or slow-growth or for the 99 percent real people not the 1 percent and vested. To agree with this criticism you would have to think, as I do, that the mainstream political party line that we need to build to accomodate the middle class is hogwash and instead we are building because the builders make bank off of it and the BMR allowances are a side-show and double-talk; the same stuff, that I’m wary of, is happening in SF under Ed Lee. As in how many more units do we have to build before the median price goes down and isn’t rent stablization a more direct way to help the middle class and poor?).

robertreichcampbellCA1115

 

edit to add: I just checked and the deadline is Feb. 26, 2016, plus 1,500 signatures and a $971 filing fee.

and1: When the Weekly wrote in January about Berman campaign, the vast majority of commenters said he was not qualified. I did say something about fixing to run, and also had three additional comments deleted by the Weekly.

 

 

 

3. My work overall is more about saving Democracy than Capitalism per se. Indeed, Reich made some comments about how people perceive the title of his book, how it goes over differently in the midwest than in Berkeley.

4. As of December 7, as in two weeks later, I am up to page 192 of Reich, that is to say through the first three chapters of the third part, “Countervailing Power”, and referenced such, obliquely today on a comment board about Palantir, a high tech privately held company that seems to hold undue power on local policy:

 

Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
3 minutes ago

Palo Alto needs, as Galbraith and SReich would say, a countervailing power to counteract the significant changes to the historic Democratic fabric of Palo Alto and American life: we need an Anti-Ron Conway to lobby an Anti-Ed Lee to lobby to tax and not induce the Palantirs and Twitter’s here and unlike SF.

The $450K wage serfs were sent here not unlike the Mongoose set lose in Hawaii to combat rats in 1883; not so much that it is ill-conceived but that it distracts us from the underlying implications of a surveillance society and the upshifting of wealth.

Democracy is being hacked, brah.

(I’m referring specifically, as #wwh? post would evidence, that to many people Palantir is an affordable housing advocate)

Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
3 minutes ago

Palo Alto needs, as Galbraith and SReich would say, a countervailing power to counteract the significant changes to the historic Democratic fabric of Palo Alto and American life: we need an Anti-Ron Conway to lobby an Anti-Ed Lee to lobby to tax and not induce the Palantirs and Twitter’s here and unlike SF.

The $450K wage serfs were sent here not unlike the Mongoose set lose in Hawaii to combat rats in 1883; not so much that it is ill-conceived but that it distracts us from the underlying implications of a surveillance society and the upshifting of wealth.

Democracy is being hacked, brah.

(I’m referring specifically, as #wwh? post would evidence, that to many people Palantir is an affordable housing advocate)

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About markweiss86

Mark Weiss, founder of Plastic Alto blog, is a concert promoter and artist manager in Palo Alto, as Earthwise Productions, with background as journalist, advertising copywriter, book store returns desk, college radio producer, city council and commissions candidate, high school basketball player; he also sang in local choir, and fronts an Allen Ginsberg tribute Beat Hotel Rm 32
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One Response to Expectations low for saving capitalism

  1. By limiting building in the face of a growing population, you drive up property prices and rents, making Palo Alto even less affordable for the working class and more a bastion for the rich. Government-funded housing would solve the problem , but there seems to be no taste for that in either Sacrcramento or Washington, DC.

    Thanks, for commenting, Brian. Your succinct statement, in 50 words, is very near the ethos of a special interest group here, Palo Alto Forward. But the counter-argument, and what has motivated me for five years of engagement or at least striving, and what would animate the campaign I am contemplating — running for assembly on a single-issue, notwithstanding about whether it is or isn’t consistent with Reich, or Reich would or would not approve of such — is that its a total fallacy, that in a situation that lacks what John Kenneth Galbraith would call “countervailing power”, where elites manipulate policy for their continued selfish gain, leadership claims to want to help a problem but they are merely trying to capitalize on it, and continue the status quo. What is more observable, I would argue, is that letting builders build what they will — to de-regulate and de-zone, or upzone as we sometimes call it — would enrich them, the builders, serve the needs of the one percent and make life worse not better for the middle class and poor. Now I admit I have not proven my case — and in effect I am calling out for instance Kasperzak and Berman — I’m calling them (self-serving), in essence, but I say where there is smoke there is fire and the 72 gifts from real estate special interests, who are arguably flooding this local race with cash, increasing their power, is part and parcel of what I’ve observed on a local (Palo Alto) level and what I think, consistent with Reich’s writings, about what is going wrong on a national and international level. And absent a more frank, more direct and more effective discussion of rent control, I doubt the sincerity of those who say we can build our way out of the problem by deregulation. Your analysis, with due respect, is superficial; you need to focus your microscope a little better or bump up the mag. It’s like me asking you what kind of pastrami that is on your page, those yummy-looking pink squares. – the editor

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