SMITHEREENS: Reflections on Bits & Pieces

Gar Smith
Sunday September 09, 2018 - 05:35:00 PM

Algorithms Awry

Have you had this experience? You write to your elected rep about some foreign policy issue and you get a reply like this?

Dear Mr. Smith:

Thank you for contacting me regarding marine finfish aquaculture. I appreciate the time you took to write, and I welcome the opportunity to respond. . . .

I won't name the senator involved. 

RISE Up Singing . . . for the Climate! 

On September 8, a major demonstration and march will greet world leaders convening in San Francisco to address the challenges of climate change and the promises of post-carbon/post-military economies. Organizers of the Rise for Climate, Jobs, & Justice march are promising "the largest climate mobilization the West Coast has ever seen to demand Governor Jerry Brown and other elected officials take real action on climate change." 

Taking on the trappings of a Broadway show, the mass gathering will also debut its own hit tunes, courtesy of the Thrive Street Choir and Peace Poets. 

"We will gearing up for a Choral Flashmob—largest singing climate mobilization in history!" says GreenFaith organizer Kyle Lemie. The event will begin with the crowd kneeling to plant their hands on the Earth before rising to their feet and bursting into song. "Imagine 50,000 people singing this song together to start the march," Lemile grins. 

Here's a sample of what's to come: 


More info: and

Boeing: Bombing the Planet and Proud of It? 

The Boeing aerospace company is one of the major arms makers (and people-killers) on our planet. Perhaps you've seen the company's ads on NBC's Nightly News and on the Public Broadcasting Network. But have you looked closely at the imagery and pondered what Boeing's intended message is? Ostensibly, the advert is an invitation to watch an online history of "The Age of Aerospace." (You can watch all eight episodes here). 

The animated TV ad ends with the image of Earth, as viewed from space. The land below is covered with clouds, so you can't identify any specific spot on Earth. But what you can see is a large explosion of light that illuminates the clouds from beneath. What is that supposed to represent, Boeing? A raging wildfire? Carpet bombing? A nuclear detonation (perhaps from a B61-12 nuclear bomb equipped with a Boeing tail kit and delivered via a Boeing Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile)? 

WWW: The Weird Wild Web 

Strange things are happening on the Internet these days. For instance, a major federal website is renting out ads to the NRA crowd. 

I recently hopped over to—the official government website used to check the trajectory of a piece of legislation. I was searching for info on H.R.5515, the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act (aka the Pentagon War Budget), so I was surprised to find myself looking at a paid ad for the gun lobby. 

Smack in the middle of the first screen-page a photo showed a hand pulling a pistol from a holster, alongside the headline: "Where Can I Carry? Download Your Map To Discover Every States Gun Laws." The ad space was paid for by the USCCA—the US Concealed Carry Association. 

Here's an online video explaining why the Feds thought the USCCA's call for packing concealed weapons was a worthy enterprise to publicize on GovTrack: 


Trump's Trumped-up Media Survey 

Clicking your laptop to watch NBC Nightly News on August 2, 2018 would have unleashed an unexpected pop-up ad from the "Certified Website Of President Donald J. Trump." The ad annouced a "Mainstream Media Accountability Survey"—a public assessment of the Trump presidency that quickly revealed itself to be a partisan tool designed to buck up Der Trump's complaint that the "Mainstream Fake News Media" is biased against him. 

Let's look at some of the survey's 20 "fair and balanced" questions, shall we? 

"Do you trust MSNBC to fairly report on our presidency?" 

"Do you trust CNN to fairly report on our presidency?" 

"Do you trust Fox News to fairly report on our presidency?" 

"Do you believe that the mainstream media actually cares about working Americans?" 

"Do you trust the mainstream media to tell the truth about the Republican Party's positions and actions?" 

"Do you believe that the media unfairly reported on Trump's executive order temporarily restricting people entering our country from nations compromised by radical Islamic terrorism?" 

"Do you believe that the media is engaging in a witch hunt to take down President Trump?" 

"Do your believe that people of faith have been unfairly characterized by the media?" 

"Do you believe that the media has been far too quick to spread false stories about our movement?" 

"Do you believe that the media has turned a blind eye to Planned Parenthood's worst actions?" 

"Do you believe that the media uses slurs rather than facts to attack conservative stances on issues like border control, religious liberties, and ObamaCare?" 

"Do you agree with the President Trump's media strategy to cut through the media's noise and deliver our message straight to the people?"
(At the end of the survey, visitors are invited to sign up for monthly donations to Trump—ranging from $35 to $2,700 a month. Worth noting: This solicitation appears to be a violation of>Federal law, which limits individual donations to Candidate Committees to no more than $2,700 per year!) 

Zinke Blows His Top and Spills the Beans 

It's a little-acknowledged fact that the Pentagon exists, in large measure, to seize foreign oil resources—and control access to critical shipping lanes that provide the oil the US needs to power its wars for oil. 

Well, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke just let the oil-soaked cat out of the over-stuffed Pentagon bag. At a right-wing Freedom Conference meeting in Colorado in mid-August, a lefty infiltrator named Sallie Holmes stood up to ask Zinke why he refused to acknowledge the reality of climate change. 

Zinke was so flustered that he shot back: "You know what? You haven't served and you don't understand what energy is. I'd like to see your child have to fight for energy!" 

"So it's out there," Holmes observed (after being booted—and booed—from the meeting). "It's all about energy and that's why they need to pillage public lands"—and fight for energy by invading foreign lands. 

No Reign on His Parade 


Donald "Cadet Bone Spur" Trump's much-derided military parade has been postponed (after the estimated cost exploded from $12 million to $92 million). But the massive counter-demonstrations it prompted—including a peace parade, concerts and other activities planned to honor the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day (a date intended to commemorate peace and an end to war)—are still on schedule for November 10-11. More information is available at  

To further mark the passing of the "Trumparade," here's a look back at a 1967 Armed Forces Day Parade held in New York City. Worth noting: At second 26, a "colorful float" appears that is topped by an odd sculpture resembling a militarized cockroach. It also seems to bear an uncanny resemblance to Donald J. Trump. 


The Shocking Shucking of "Shock and Awe" 

First they came for Costa-Gavras's film Capital and now Rob Reiner's Shock and Awe has taken a hit. Both movies have been denied a theatrical release. 

I just watched the trailer for Shock and Awe and it appears to be a taut, well-scripted drama with a "star-studded" cast that is strong and "marketable." (Maybe not as stellar as Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep, but close.) See what you think: 


A search of the Chronicle's movie guide reveals no screenings of Shock and Awe anywhere in the Bay Area. Despite the fact that the film was officially released on July 13, a search of Rotten Tomatoes finds no mention of the film. The fact that the movie brought in only a bit over $77,000 in its first week of release suggests its screenings have been limited. 

I wrote a Daily Planet article about this apparent censorship problem back in 2014 when Costa-Gavras' Capital was refused admission to US movie theaters. 

From my conversations with distributors and local theater owners, it appeared that Costa-Gavras' film failed to gain screen time because the distributors failed to pony up sufficient cash to buy big ads in the local papers. This "entry fee," I was told, frequently determines what films are -- and aren't -- seen by the American public. It also explains why the same half-dozen, big-bucks, major-studio releases appear simultaneously, blanketing the Bay Area with scores of simultaneous screenings every day of the week. 

Shock and Awe looks like a timely and important film. But is the message too "toxic"? After all, it shows how the country was "lied into war" over a non-existent threat from Iraq -- and it shows how most of the US media went along with the charade without exercising the due diligence that is the mark of a free press. 

Sure, we are still living in the Age of Cover-ups but must this also apply to movie-going? Hollywood has been notoriously pro-war through most of its history but is Big Bro now putting a bigger clamp on filmmakers who raise justifiable questions about government power and manipulation? Has the Big Screen become part of the Big Scam? It is troubling that nobody in America can buy a ticket to watch this film in a movie theater. In the meantime, you can watch the film on DIRECTV. 

Who's Been Hacking the Pentagon?  

And the United Nations? 

In the course of researching a story about the growing US military presence on the African continent, I tried to tap into the Pentagon's official AFRICOM website. And I got the following alert: 


This website may be impersonating "" to steal your personal or financial information. You should go back to a previous page." 

I don't know whether this is a spoof or not but it sure works to discourage inquiring minds from exploring the activities of AFRICOM online. 

And it's not just the DoD's AFRICOM adventures that are currently off-limits. An attempt to track down some related information from The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights produced this result: 


Attackers might be trying to steal your information from (for example, passwords, messages, or credit cards). Learn more. 


Curiously, in the webpage's contact line, the url's security code—"https"—was crossed out in red font, alongside the words "Not Secure." 

As of August 28, ALL of the Human Rights Organization's web links continued to be blocked. 

Is Elon Musk All Thumbs? 

After a series of unexpected, destabilizing tweets, some of Elon Musk's close friends offered the following advice. "One good rule of thumb: Never make important decisions through Twitter." Given the way most people Tweet away the day on Smartphones, that advice should probably be described as a good "rule of thumbs."