Smithereens: Reflections on Bits & Pieces

Gar Smith
Tuesday October 09, 2018 - 09:46:00 PM


The Trade War between Washington and Beijing may have claimed an unusual victim—a Chinese automobile. China had been planning to introduce its first automobile to the domestic US market by the end of this year. The ongoing tariff battle between the two argumentative world leaders (a case of "He-Said-Xi-Said"?) has likely derailed the US debut of China's new SUV, which would now cost much more, thanks to White House tariffs.

Recently, Beijing signaled its intention to change the name of its new made-for-America vehicle. It was originally named the Trumpchi GS7. (According to London's Daily Mail, "Trump" means "best" in Chinese while "chi" stands in for "China.")

Suggestion: If Beijing really wants to rankle Mr. T, maybe they could attach a bigly bulldozer blade to the front and call the van a "Muellermobile." 

Tales from the Berkeley Boatyard 

I recently found myself at the Berkeley Marine Center—the Marina haven where vessels are hauled out for maintenance and repair. Bottoms need to be scraped and repainted and this is where it happens. I was pleased to learn (from one of the resident workers) that the BMC is an "eco-boatyard," a rarity on this or any other coast. (All pumps converted to provide renewable RD99 diesel fuel.) 

Boat-owners are an eclectic sort. One of the boaters whose vessel was undergoing maintenance that day happened to be Stephanie Hollyman, a retired mainstream journalist and the author of the 1988 book, "We the Homeless," a collection of photos Hollyman compiled while crossing the nation's backroads in a car over the period of many months. 

Another boater turned out to be an audio engineer named Richard Page. When we exchanged names, he replied: "I know your name. I taped you about 20 years ago." 

Page's company, Conference Recording (www.conferencerecording.com) has been around so long that its catalog includes "32,585 recordings from 1,387 conferences." That day, Page was looking forward to recording a performance of 'Requiem for the Homeless" with the Berkeley Community Chorus and Orchestra, the Berkeley Women's Community Chorus, and First Church Berkeley Choir. 

Derailed: The Long, Strange Trip of the OAT BART Parts 

Another interesting boatyard personality was a gentleman whose name and occupation must remain secret in order to share his inside story of aquatic chicanery involving—would you believe it—local mass transit. 

Here's the tale: The elevated metal tracks built to connect the Coliseum BART station with the Oakland International Airport were manufactured by a steel plant in China and shipped across the Pacific to the West Coast. Like most commercial vessels, the Chinese ship made stops at three West Coast ports—San Diego, Oakland, and Seattle, in that order. 

My anonymous source recalled how he had watched the ship's arrival at a port in Oakland. He stood on the pier and looked on as the conspicuous long steel rails were lifted into the air to allow the containers to be moved off the ship. 

After this work was done, the metal rails were carefully replaced atop the remaining containers and, to the observer's surprise, left the port—taken back out to sea, undelivered. 

He remained mystified by what he had seen until a rare coincidence revealed what had transpired. Sometime later, while driving north to do some maritime work in Seattle, he spotted an approaching convoy of large tractor-trucks heading south. From a glance, he knew immediately what they were carrying—the missing steel rails for the BART-to-OAK shuttle system. 

Rumor has it that an agreement had been struck with the Teamsters Union to first have the shipment delivered to the port in Seattle and then pay to have the rails trucked back down to the Bay Area for installation—a costly 856-mile, 15-hour drive. 

Salesforce Mystery Solved 

Update on a previous item: Thanks to some helpful sleuths at the San Francisco Chronicle, we can confirm that the letters racing around the huge lighted display inside the new Salesforce Transit Center are, indeed, poems. The shortest poem lasts 20 seconds while other "poems" can go on for 90 minutes. The longest poem (by Edith Arnstein Jenkins) takes five hours and 20 minutes to screen. (The Transit Center must be anticipating some long delays.) 

Here's another option for the Transit Center to consider: borrow some words from Grant Faulkner, the Berkeley-based cofounder of 100 Word Story

Brett Kavanaugh's Supporters in Russia 

In a bizarre crypto-conspiratorial twist, Brett Kavanaugh—Donald Trump's controversial Supreme Court nominee—has reportedly received a boost from the SVR, Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service. The news broke in a Russian-linked website (WhatDoesItMean.com) that claims to represent the work of a band of secretive Russian nuns, the Sisters of Socha Fall. 

On September 17, their website posted the first of a series of reports attacking Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, the former classmate who has accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault. 

According to the Russian-sourced intel, the whole controversy is nothing more than another Deep State plot designed to topple Putin's favorite political poodle. It must be said that the Socha Fall crew excels in connecting dots. (More often than not, the wrong dots, but they are great dots.) According to http://www.whatdoesitmean.com/index2659.htm>this September 17 report, they went looking for grime and they hit pay-dirt. 

Did you know that Ford's father, Ralph G. Blasey, Jr., handled black money operations for the CIA? Did you know that Dr. Ford's Undergraduate Internship Program at Stanford is linked to the CIA? Or that the individual who started the program, psychiatric professor Dr. Frederick T. Melges, was a key player behind the CIA's notorious MK Ultra mind-control experiments? Did you know the collapse of the Western banking system in 1982 was only averted when the CIA redirected vast sums of Colombian drug money into the US to keep Fort Knox afloat? And, in a subsequent report, Dr. Ford is linked to Hillary Clinton, the Clinton Foundation, and General Dynamics. It's a miracle that George Soros' name never crops up. 

Radio Ads that Comply and Defy 

A current radio spot for the Juul—a smokeless, multi-flavored e-cigarette that resembles a thumb-drive—features a closing word of warning: "Juul is for adult smokers. iI you don't smoke or vape, don't start. Nicotine is addictive!" 

Good advice since "Juuling" can lead to cancer. 

The warnings began to appear in print and broadcast ads in June after Juul Labs' CEO vowed that the San Francisco-based company wanted "to be part of the solution in deterring minors from ever trying Juul." 

The company pledged to spend $30 million on ads to warn children and young adults about the dangers of vaping. But there is an odd (and borderline sinister) twist to the Juul ads now being broadcast. 

The "closing warning" is followed by a moment of silence and the voice of a different male announcer who asks: "Did you just hear that previous announcement?" The question is followed by a dismissive laugh and the observation that "you might be skeptical." The commentator then goes on to explain that the mint-, mango- and cucumber-flavored vape-sticks offer a "refreshing" experience and concludes by urging listeners to "Give Juul a shot!" 

So what we seem to have here is a single ad that has been designed to sound like two separate ads—a case of complying in effect while defying in fact. So, let's give Juul a shout. 

Meanwhile, the California Department of Public Health's Tobacco Control Program has been hyping the dangers of vaping with eye-catching placards placed atop gas pumps around the Bay Area. One placard from StillBlowingSmoke.org flashes the message: "Thousands of Flavors. Same Addictive Nicotine. E-cig flavors make tobacco addiction easier than ever." Another gas-stop placard from FlavorsHookKids.org shows a carton of Vanilla Caramel labeled "Vaporfi Bites" alongside the warning: "This Is Not Ice Cream. It's Flavored Tobacco." 

WarSpeak Watch 

American culture is awash in images of brutality and violence. Our cultural tilt towards command-and-control attitudes is expressed so often in our language that we barely notice it. As a result, WarSpeak shows up in the strangest places. 

The UNIFY International Peace movement recently called for millions of Earth-dwellers to stand up for peace by sitting down to pray—on September 23, all around the world, whenever the local clocks strike noon. The event was part of a three-day (Sept. 21-23) "global synchronized meditation." 

The event's promotional video asks what we could accomplish with the $1.7 trillion that the world wastes on war every year. But the message is muzzled by the video's militarized language. Note the highlighted wording in Unify's message which invites participants to "unleash the fury of organized dance parties," and "Take aim at your neighbors with radical acts of compassion like buying someone a cup of coffee or providing a meal . . . ." 

"At a time when fear & hate threaten to divide us, it's up to the people to come together under the banner of peace, compassion, and joy and ignite a peaceful revolution . . . . Go to Unify.org now to enlist . . . . & receive your first mission." 

Here's the video: 


Download an App and Fight for Peace 

In related news, Search for Common Ground (www.sfcg.org), an apparently good-hearted group based in Washington, DC, hopes a downloadable app can create a "global social movement and [mobile] game that forges action (oriented) heroes." 

The stated goal is to "search [for] and end violent conflict" but the name of the downloadable app is "Battle for Humanity" (www.Battle4Humanity.com). Gamers are invited to "conquer violence, hate, and injustice in real time and in real life. Once a mission is complete, gain points by uploading the proof (a picture of the heroic deed)." The reward comes in the form of "a custom 'Battle Filter' and pre-populated hashtags, connecting you with other heroes around the globe." 

SFCG notes that conflict is inevitable but "violence is not" and explains how they work with people on every continent to "end violent conflict" by helping adversaries to "act on their shared interests in order to build a sustainable peace." 

But the serenity of this overview is shattered by the language in the invite to join this hand-held contest to secure global peace—language that seems to have been chosen to appeal to a military-minded American audience. Here is a sampling: "Let the Battle begin!" Prepare for "Operation Wage Peace" by entering a "Battle Zone" where you can "fight against violence, hate and discrimination" and "enlist" to "fight for humanity" by putting "power in play" and entering "Beast Mode" to become "a new breed of warriors" who are "brave, kind and bold." 

Note: This information was based on a version of the game that was being beta-tested earlier this year.