After the excellent Kiwanis’-sponsored Palo Alto May Fete Parade (90th) and Fair(1st) Saturday, I had lunch with Council Member Karen Holman at Peninsula Creamery. As a convenience to our server, I had what she’s having, a BLT on rye with extra pickles. Actually she had six pickle chips and I had two as I thought I did not like pickles on my BLT and gave away mine to her. (We otherwise had separate checks and I paid my own way and did not try to bribe her, nor did I even bring up either TLPW456 – -the Save the Varsity Theatre campaign — nor music at Lytton Plaza, the two debates I am most known for talking about here; I almost make a joke about becoming a lobbyist in that I believe that the Gunn High School gym and the Cubberley Theatre should have nicer lobbies).
What we did talk about was the viral Youtube video about the talking dog, the one who enjoys bacon, especially “the maple kind.” She had not seen it but said she would open the link if I sent it to her. She had said that she could possibly live on a diet of vegetables and bacon, as a modified vegetarian.
Our conversation if not our meal per se was joined by Dennis Backlund of the City of Palo Alto, a planner and preservationist. We did not discuss that it was Dennis who saved the Varsity from worse desecration in 1995 when it was converted to a chain bookstore. (I think Dennis was an activist at the time, although Karen was not yet a Planning Commissioner; council voted narrowly to give the landlord a variance and permit the conversion of the historic and beloved theatre).
We talked about a small article in a local paper about what I call although the article did not “limited public forum” under which we the people have the right to stop, for example, a white supremacist from disrupting Palo Alto Players at Lucie Stern, in the house or in the lobby, and that I think it is the same doctrine that thankfully prevents us from being solicited on our way to catch our flights, at the airport; there “freedom of speech” is limited to a booth or counter so designated.
I said I saw something in The New York Times about Occupy protests at Lincoln Center in New York City being restricted even though the message of the protesters dovetailed nicely with the message of the performance. Actually, if you search the terms “Satyagraha” plus “limited pubic forum” I am only the third author to discuss this topic. “Satyagraha” is a work by Philip Glass and means “truth force.” It’s an opera about Gandhi.
Karen Holman was impressed that I recalled that Brown vs. The Board of Education, from 1954, was set in Topeka, Kansas, which we thought, us three, was the same city from which those rather mean-spirited church-goers sent a delegation to protest recently in front of Gunn High; I have no idea how to further connect the coincidence, even though I brought it up.
I did say that I would rather live in a country that, for example, permitted the Nazis to march or gather in Skokie, Illinois than one wherein a panel would discuss and decide who could talk and who would be gagged.
The talking dog is cute when he talks but I do not believe he is therefore a person, nor does he enjoy the First Amendment right to speak.
Similarly, at least in Plastic Alto logic, I do not think corporations are people. They should not enjoy the First Amendment rights.
Further Palo Alto should join Mountain View and many, many other local municipalities and issue a resolution about Citizen’s United, a Supreme Court case that seems to want to give corporations the rights that I enjoy and in their case (but not in mine) let them give millions and billions of dollars to affect elections and undermine democracy (more so than my two small pickle-chips).
Briefly put (and see Jeff Clements and his book “Corporations Are Not People” for a better description), in 2003, with Sandra Day O’Conner and William Rehnquist and not John Roberts nor Alito, the Supreme Court said corporations could not give unlimited soft money to influences elections. In 2010 the Supreme Court said the opposite, and many many Americans find this troubling, or a huge pernicious threat to the Republic.
It is quite a pickle.
edit to add: this is slightly off topic, but as a lagniappe I offer Palo Altan George Packer in The New Yorker, on Occupy “All the Angry People” from December, 2011.
edit to add, a few minutes later: if you are a lawyer or a teacher, you are probably giving me partial credit for my use of “limited pubic forum”. Wiki I think has a more thorough and more accurate set of distinctions. And to break it down I am comparing in a whimsical way the utterances of a dog, a dog owner, a giant-media-owned content service and device, the Supreme Court, a large web-based market for books, a prosecutor turned author and activist, a white supremacist, a local newspaper, past and present Chief Justices and Associate Justices, a local resolution on a national issue, an opera, some protestors, among others, and Yours Truly.
And last I found an author and activist in Detroit named Adrienne Maree Brown who wrote about Citizens United and calls her blog “the Luscious Satyagraha“.
edit to add, October, 2o12: I write about Citizens United briefly on my Palo Alto City Council campaign blog — I am running for office — “Svayambh-PA: Or, The New Residentialist Platform“. I also commented on Palo Alto Weekly article on such.