The Palantir Effect (coming)

I’ve been consistently since about 1992 when I joined Bay Area Action, and 1994, when I founded Earthwise Productions of Palo Alto (aka Earwopa) questioning the role of corporations in society, corporations versus public sector, etc. I criticized, for example, that Council members, from the dias, seemed to be shilling for a particular company merely because it, in a pr move, was offering a demo of one of its products (an issue that is as recent as last night, same issue, same company). Later, I criticized council member Holman, an ally, for how she described a particular company that wanted to work with a developer to build housing here, and for her use of the term “company town”.

There is a more general question of how commissions and board function, and their composition; City Clerks office surveyed about 100 of us recently, current and potential commissioners.

I would welcome a more thorough discussion of the issues of Palantir in particular and the general set of topics.

And yes I am open-minded to seeing what any of these commissioners say or do in office. I know most of them, and respect them — putting aside the question of how much the feeling is reciprocated –and it is definitely a fair question, even posed indirectly as in here, about their dual loyalty. It is not slander to question public figures.


Does anyone else out there think the dialogue would be improved if the other 9 of you identify yourself by name? Why the cloak of anonymity?

Also: there is a Human Relations Commission meeting this week, Thursday; it might be interesting to continue this there. Do corporate executives on civic boards have problematic dual loyalties?


and1: maybe its because I am reading Barry Eisler spy stories, but as I walked north on High past Uni this morning, I crossed the street because of a group of four fairly tough looking guys, bearded, ski caps, flannel shirts — they looked like roadies or security for Lollapalooza. As I passed, I noted corporate laminates and I guess “Palantir security” and or ex-Military, and I relaxed slightly (unlike poor Docs, the Eisler character, and John Rain associate who is figuratively but not literally kicking himself becuase he did not check his “6” as he left the convenience store, in Bali, and did not give himself 2 seconds to respond to the sight of two guys wearing motorcycle helmets despite being dismounted and despite the heat). On the other hand, I couldn’t help but think of this, overhearing one of them say, perhaps to each other, perhaps recalling some previous conversation, “Good morning. We know who you are”. To be clear, I am not claiming that Palantir thugs are tracking me, or laying in wait, only that I heard them say “Good morning. We know who you are” to each other. Or maybe there is a private function rock concert or John Vanderslice event at the former Zebra Copy now part of The Shire.


2) Palantir were used by Saruman and Sauron for evil, right? Why not name your company for Elven bread? Lembas.

three days later: a couple more data points: 3) I did pop by 100 Hamilton, at Alma and thru the guards at the door attempt to make contact with the pr department of Palantir. The guard would not reveal the name of the person I would hope to hear back from. 4) as I was heading back to the rest of my life, I ran into Palo Alto Planning And Transportation Commission member Eric Rosenblum and asked if I could speak with him on this topic, the role of Palantir in Palo Alto governance and he said “I don’t think so” and hurried off (he had hardly slowed as I tried to step to his step).  5) I attended Thursday’s Human Relations Commission but did not try to meet Mehdi Alhassani, who in his application to that post described himself as Palantir’s “chief of staff” and referenced that there are 240 Palantir employees who live in Palo Alto. Any serious reporting on this topic would include actual interviews with those who I describe as having “dual loyalties”.  Also, Steve Levy did, in his column on this topic, delete roughly half of what I had posted. How do workers at Palantir, especially key employees, balance the expediency of reaching their exit (e.g., an IPO) with their version of volunteerism? How do they balance the famous libertarianism of their founders (e.g.  Peter Thiel) with their involvement in governance? Are they deliberately trying to pass themselves off as housing adovocates (as in, is that the limit of their involvement, or how do they balance that with the issue of Landlord’s rights, for commercial real estate, as in office space versus whatever)?  Is there a formal stance on Palantir and Palo Alto Forward (or another coincidence, or red herring? What initially caught my eye was the dissonance in the nature of their work and the mural by Dabs and Milo (ok, that and the hobbit fetish). Initially I thought of them as “Palo Alto’s hipster spooks”.

I have an internal file called “palantir rant” of things I started to put on the Steve Levy column and thought better of. For now I better ramble on


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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