“People whom fate and their sin-mistakes have placed in a certain position, however false that position may be, form a view of life in general which makes their position seem good and admissible. . . . This surprises us when the persons concerned are thieves bragging about their dexterity, prostitutes vaunting their depravity, or murders boasting of their cruelty. But it surprises us only because the circle, the atmosphere, in which these people live, is limited, and chiefly because we are outside it. Can we not observe the same phenomenon when the rich boast of their wealth-robbery, when commanders of armies pride themselves on their victories-murder, and when those in high places vaunt their power-violence? That we do not see the perversion in the views of life held by these people, is only because the circle formed by them is larger and we ourselves belong to it.” (Resurrection, Leo Tolstoy, trans. Louise Maude)

New Readers:

Please start reading with my first post "A Cup of Coffee". Originally posted on March 19, the archival date changed when I made corrections on May 13, which is the date under which you can find it now.

I'll learn to manage this all more smoothly someday, but at present I have at most only an hour online each day (that thanks to the San Francisco Public Library system, without which I would be lost).

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Mayor of Money

San Francisco has a long and rich history of corruption, and the current administration, that of Ed Lee, is no exception. The machinery of city government is up for sale -- or rather, has been sold to the highest bidder.  If I thought that being a San Franciscan should be a matter of pride, I would be outraged at the hypocrisy and the venality of His Honor and those who benefit from his patronage.  But a city as deeply avaricious, as superficially self-absorbed, and as blithely ignorant as San Francisco does not even have enough of a moral foundation to make it worth calling the city out on its multitude of sins against the woman, the man.

The Mayor at the time of the Great Earthquake in 1906, Eugene Schmidt, was a paragon of greed and graft.  My favorite example of his leadership is his selling of "French Restaurant licenses", which allowed the holder to operate a brothel unmolested by the SFPD.  The more things change, the more they remain the same.


Mayor Ed Lee's panegyric on the "Sharing Economy" is rhetorical nonsense.

The "Sharing Economy" is anything but.

Remember learning to share with others?  You probably don't, as I don't, because that lesson is one of the earliest we are taught.  You don't remember toilet training either.  They both happen so early in life that we have no concrete memory of learning those lessons.  Parents and teachers, however, know that both lessons are crucial to the development of human beings as social animals.  And sharing in particular is fundamental to the most basic virtues humans profess.  You might say that all morality begins with sharing.

Sharing is not trading.  If I have a peanut butter sandwich in my lunch box and trade half of it for your cupcake, we are not sharing.  If I give you half of my sandwich because you have no lunch at all, then I am sharing my sandwich with you.

If you are homeless, and I let you sleep on my couch, I am sharing my home with you.  If I sublet my apartment or a room in my house to you through Airbnb, we are not sharing.

If I rent my car and myself as driver to you through Lyft, Uber, or Sidecar, we are not sharing.

The "sharing economy" so eagerly abetted by our corrupt city government has nothing to do with kindness, charity, generosity, or hospitality.  The business leaders and their lackeys, such as the Mayor, try to wrap their activities in the mantle of those ancient virtues, but their business is not the sharing of things at all:  their business is the monetization of things.

Airbnb hosts and Uber drivers are not sharing anything.  They are making money off their assets -- a car, a room, or even their time.

No politician concerned with the people of his community would champion the ability of some people to earn a return on their assets over the opportunity for other people -- people who might have no assets -- to find work or housing.  Our city officials clearly do not care about people:  they care about money, which they call "the economy" and which they credit with "creating jobs." According to their mythology, the assets of the rich "trickle down" to the poor through the mechanism of "job creation."  You might say that this "Job Creationism" has about as much validity as that other kind of "Creationism."  The problems with this false logic are manifold, but I want to be very clear about one.

Capital does not "create jobs."  Money is not necessary for people to work.  In fact, it is labor, people working, which creates capital.

This truth is obvious to anyone who knows what has happened in this country since the "Reagan* Revolution." The increased concentration of wealth in the hands of fewer and fewer people, Reagan's goal and legacy, has not created jobs.  The idea that the rich invest in companies that create new jobs has been decisively disproved in a real-world experiment that has ripped American society apart and is leading to social tensions that may well erupt in violence.  It is in this atmosphere that we live today.

The living San Francisco will either rise up against the powers that be, as it did in 1934, or, having already been drained of so much of its life blood by the exodus to Oakland, Richmond, and beyond, it will die.  In place of the Grand Old Dame, of the Paris of the Pacific, of Baghdad by the Bay, will stand a very wealthy gated community, at whose gates tolls are charged to cross bridges into a jumble of towering architectural monstrosities, the soulless hive of worker bees tending to the bloated queens of capital.  That shadow city, the hulking ghost of the city that was will stand, that is, until the next big shake.

I used to say that "Willie Brown is not Mayor of San Francisco:  he is Mayor of Real Estate."

Ed Lee is not Mayor of San Francisco:  he is Mayor of Money.

*Actually, the old hack actor does not deserve to have his name attached to such a wrenching change in policy since all he did was shill for the business interests and wealthy individuals who wanted to Thatcherize America.