I am reading a new Ralph Nader book “The Seventeen Solutions: Bold Ideas for our American Future”. I caught the first 30 minutes of his lecture at Cubberley Thursday, before sneaking out to make my own appearance at the Palo Alto City Council candidates’ forum scheduled with a slightly later start at City Hall chambers.
Here are the topics of the 17 chapters:
1. “Fundamental tax reform”
2. “Make Our Communities more Self Reliant”
3. “Give Science and Technology Back to the People”
4. “Protect the Family Unit”
5. “Get Corporations off Welfare”
6. “Crack Down on Corporate Crime”
7. “Create National Charters for Large Corporations”
8. “Restore Our Civil Liberties”
9. “Use Government Procurement to Spur Innovation”
10. “Reinvest in Public Works”
11. “Reduce Our Bloated Military Budget”
12. “Reengage with Civic Life”
13. “Invent New Tools for Reform”
14. “Organize Congressional Watchdog Groups”
15. “Get Congress to Have Skin in the Game”
16. “Enlist the Enlightened Super-rich”
Which denotes positive contributions towards progressive social change from George Soros; in a previous chapter, on corporate welfare, it mentions favorably T.J. Rodgers’ testimony to Congress.
17. “Get Back on the Field – Literally” which is about the negative effects of professional sports compared to participatory sports.
I have skimmed most of the book and lingered on Chapter 8, which sent me on a tangent tracking down, via the internet and Palo Alto libraries, Erich Fromm, and especially his book “The Two Freedoms” from 1941. I also found a 30 –minute archived video of Erich Fromm with Mike Wallace, from the nineteen-sixties.
There is a bibliography of about 100 books(Saul Alinsky, Jeff Clements, Cornell West, etc.), plus notes, although I didn’t see the actual Fromm citation – I found this book by cross-referencing’s Fromm’s mention in another Nader book. I find myself using indexes of books to guide my grazing – who has time to read cover-to-cover? — but was disappointed in this case that the Nader book is not indexed. In terms of having a desire to delve deeper into this work – Nader is quite erudite and inspirational – it occurred to me that it might be a fun project to try to create my own index. I would buy a stack of notecards and jot down and then alphabetize each proper noun I come across. Maybe it would be merely “First 100 Pronouns in Nader ‘Seventeen Solutions’ (2012)”. Now I am drawing a blank but there was something in there about “civic engagement” that reminded me and affirmed my notion of a political campaign as merely a starting point, not merely August 16 thru November 6, “pulling papers” thru Election Day – I’ve stated publicly that the timing of the Arrillaga Office Towers proposal alone would necessitate continuing opposition thru March at the very least (thru when Council might sponsor a referendum or special election). The closing chapter is called “”Commencement”” in quotes. As in, we have only just begun.
Slightly off topic, somewhere in my readings apropos of the election, I also am seeking the Jack London anthology which includes the short novel “Iron Heel” about totalitarianism. And Keynes and Galbraith (mentioned in Nader text, but not listed in bibliography; because everybody who is anybody was already read “The Affluent Society” now on my list).
Nader references Eisenhower which reminds me that I am meaning to make progress on Jim Newton’s Eisenhower biography – Newton is a Paly grad and editorial page editor of The Los Angeles Times – we worked together at the Daily Dartmouth. He was my editor and publisher.
Regarding the aforementioned Palo Alto City Council candidates’ forum, Jason Green of the Daily News / Mercury made me his lead in that he said I “came out swinging” in my vehement opposition to the Arrillaga Office Towers project. In general, although I don’t feel a groundswell of support, I am pleased that my thoughts on subjects such as planned community (PC) zoning, “residentialism” and Arrillaga – which I object to on process grounds and the project per se, as an example of the distinction between Democracy and the more troubling plutocracy – are at least part of the agenda and dialogue. Generally, however, the dialogue is pretty non-existent. There are fewer candidate forums, less press coverage and generally an apathy or maybe just the fact that the switch to even years (2011 to 2012) means we are dwarfed in significance compared to the more important choice of Obama over Romney – worse case scenario is that discerning Weiss and Schmid from Burt and Kniss might means that more inattentive people could be seduced by the slickness and disingenuousness of Romney, God forbid.
I am deliberately trying not to review Nader’s book but I also noticed that he quotes what he calls a Buddist proverb about “being the path you wish to travel” that I wonder if it is the source of Gandhi’s now popular “Be the change you wish to see in society”. At one point I believed that Al Gore’s book “Earth in the Balance”, by quoting Palo Alto psychiatrist and peace activist Project Victory’s Gary Lapid, was the source of this round of “Be the Change”. In Lapid’s account, a woman asks Gandhi to help her teach her child to stop eating so much sugar and he says come back in three weeks because he wants to personally go on a sugar free diet before he speaks to the topic.
Way off topic but in Jed Perl’s “New Art City” –which I’ve also skimmed and nibbled on, on and off for months, –there is talk of aesthetics and makes me ponder whether the difference I feel between what I potentially bring to the table — or rather, what spurs me to try not to be, to stand up to, speak out against — in Palo Alto discourse is more subtle than mere ideology, my sympathy with the underdogs and have-nots. I think of most of the discourse as being a piles of parroted platitudes –if perhaps by brilliant, effective and well-meaning people. For what its worth, I am generating a never-ending reading list, like the “sorcerer’s apprentice” — each book I crack makes me want to search out ten other sources. (I was also meaning to list the coursework, teachers and texts that were my education per se; at various forums, for instance, I have mentioned “Democracy is taught in Palo Alto schools in civics courses by John Attig, Clay Leo and Clay Henry”. As distinct from chance meetings with people like Budd Schulberg – “On the Waterfront” with whom I once shared an elevator ride, a pungent elevator ride rest assured).
If Democracy is like a sausage, mine is high fiber, due to all the books ground up therein. (I was working on a text about “Democracy is like making sausage” per se; check your local “Svayambh-PA” listings/index later).
It also occurs to me that win or lose Palo Alto needs an independent press that covers the developers closely, as a watch dog and not mere “real estate rags” and cheerleader organs; noting the distinction between (my) internet-style ramblings and journalism per se. Beyond the impact on policy, discourse and actual citizen’s lives, the campaign has provoked me to try to describe our world via these posts.
edit to add: I sat across the aisle in the front row from Ladoris Cordell at the Ralph Nader lecture, but resisted handing her the business card that announces this campaign and references this link (to wordpress, my campaign blog; the card was donated and completely at the volition of Terry Acebo Davis, former PAPC commissioner and my girlfriend). Cordell was to lead the q-and-a that Nader presumable gave after I had left the building; the Commonwealth Club event reminded me of my concert series at The Cub, most specifically of packing 370 people into the 300-cap room to hear rocker, label owner, politician and rebel Jello Biafra talk: realizing we had over-sold the house, we got permission to seat 70 on stage in the round on folding chairs.