SMITHEREENS: Reflections on Bits & Pieces

Gar Smith
Wednesday October 17, 2018 - 03:39:00 PM

Our Got-to-Have-It Economy 

Have you noticed how much of our economic activity is built around the promotion of addictions? Think about the major purchases Americans are encouraged to make in the course of a day. Tobacco. Alcohol. Gasoline. Sugary drinks. Opioids. Fast-food. And then there are all the click-bait temptations of social media—including Facebook, Netflix, streaming porn, etc. 

Let's give it all a name. How about: Addictionomics. 

When's the Last Time Washington Sent You a Gift Coupon? 

Speaking of TV: You want proof that government considers TV a powerful means of social control? In 2009, the FCC decreed that every TV set in the US would need to switch from analog to digital. That meant everyone was required to obtain a $50 Digital TV converter. In order to promote the change-over, the government handed out free "TV Converter Box Coupons" to millions of Americans. The coupon program cost the Federal budget around $500 million. 

When's the last time Washington sent you a $50 coupon – for anything

No More Wise Cracks, Please 

When I heard that two steel beams supporting the Salesforce Transit Center were cracked and failing, I told a friend: "I guess that ostentatious new design just wasn't all it was cracked up to be." 

Now I'm thinking: Since the site seems to be filled with more than one failing beam, maybe we should stop calling it the Salesforce Transit Center. New name: the Fail-Source Transit Center. 

Gen. Petraeus vs. The Wright Stuff 

Col. Ann Wright (US Army ret.), a well-known peace activist allied with Veterans for Peace and CODEPINK, makes lots of appearances in the Bay Area. But on October 2, she was in Washington, protesting the contested nomination of SCOTUS-wannabee Brett Kavanaugh. Here is Ann's report of a Classic Confrontation with former General David Petraeus complete with photos

"I was in the Hart Senate building talking with as many on the Senate staff—and Senators, if we could intercept them on their way to vote. The sign [that I had in my hands] was "I Believe Survivors! No On Kavanaugh!" 

I spotted retired US Army 4-Star General Petraeus—formerly head of US forces in Afghanistan and head of the Central Command (Middle East)—as he walked through the atrium of the Hart Senate building—no doubt on his way to lobby on behalf of some billion-dollar military industry. 

I stopped him saying "I’m a retired Army colonel." He said, "Oh thank you for your service." (1st photo) 

I said I was also a US diplomat who was on the team that re-opened the US embassy in Kabul Afghanistan 18 years ago. He said, "Oh thank you for your service." (2nd photo) 

Then I said, "In 2003 I resigned in opposition to the disastrous US war on Iraq that you were such a huge part of." 

"OHHHH," he said…. 

This is him walking quickly away!!! (last photo) 

Kavanaughty Behavior: A 7-Sentence Summary 

Brett Kavanaugh likes to be served IN a bar. ("I like beer.") 

Trump wanted him seated ON the bar (the High Court, SCOTUS) 

His critics argued his nomination LOWERED the bar. 

For lying under oath, fellow jurists called to have him DISBARRED. 

Meanwhile, millions of women wanted to see him BEHIND bars. 

Under the Constitution, Congress can impeach Kavanaugh—barring a lack of "good behavior." So, to have any chance of booting Kavanaugh from the Court, the Democrats need to flip 23 House seats in November—NO HOLDS BARRED. 

The Tweet of Doom 

I hated getting that nationwide Big Brother Presidential phone alert.  

What a chilling, authoritarian intrusion. 

But I did derive some satisfaction by pressing the glowing option that read: "DISMISS." 

I couldn't help thinking of the "Got Junk" trash-removal company and its slogan: "Just point and we'll make junk disappear!" 

Do they make White House calls? If so, I'd be more than happy to show up on the front lawn to give the Donald the Finger. 

WarSpeak: You Can't Make Drones "User-friendly" 

A copy of a proposed statement on militarized drones was passed along to Environmentalists Against War (www.envirosagainstwar.org). Initially inclined to sign on, EAW had to decline, noting: "As currently written, the draft accepts the continued use of drone weapons and appears to simply call for measures to accommodate their use."  


Instead of banning drones, using them in accordance with "humanitarian and human rights laws." 

Instead of banning drones, articulating "standards for their use." 

Instead of banning drones, subjecting their use to "robust risk assessment." 

Instead of banning drones, discussing the "common standards" on their "transfer, holding and use." 

Instead of banning drones, developing "international standards applicable to armed UAVs." 

Instead of banning drones, make their use more acceptable by  

"working to prevent and mitigate harm," 

"accounting for civilian casualties and unlawful killings," and  

"ensuring meaningful transparency, accountability, and oversight for these systems." 

(Consider, for a moment, what impact these "reforms" would have if they were applied to the use of nuclear weapons.) 

Earth Island Journal's Fall Issue Rises 

As founding editor and Editor Emeritus of Earth Island Journal (the quarterly magazine of Berkeley-based Earth Island Institute), I couldn't be prouder to see the Autumn 2018 edition—an issue that celebrates the words and wisdom of women. 

By my count, nearly 27 women contributed articles to this issue (including two women who reviewed two books written by two women). 

Maureen Nandini Mitra's editorial (about Tahlequah, a grieving mama orca) brought tears to my eyes while the grave implications of her suffering sent a chill down my spine. 

The headline on the Journal's cover read WOMXN and the Environment

But is WOMXN (an improvement on WOMYN) the best way to convey an expanded definition of womanhood?  

After all, X is an exclusive letter (as in "x-out" and "x-rated").  

Perhaps the better letter would be "O" since the circle is a symbol of all-encompassing unification and a feminine symbol as well. 

A better word might be "WOMON." But, when pronounced, "womon" sounds like a Jamaican lamentation—"Woe, mon." 

Perhaps the better-yet spelling would be "WEMON."  

"We" is inclusive and "mon" (French for "my") celebrates individuality in the midst of diversity.  

And there's a bonus: pronouncing "WEMON" would sound more like "WOMEN." 

Kudos to LaSalle 

In addition to drawing erudite observations far beyond the frame of the movie screen, long-time Chronicle film critic Mick LaSalle also creates verbal moments that prompt me to underlining passages. Here are two examples from the October 12 Chron

In a review of the Neil Armstrong biopic, "Last Man," LaSalle refers to leading man Ryan Gosling's "patented look of plaintive opacity." (Perfect.) 

And, in a review of "The Hate U Give," LaSalle starts with the broad observation "The worse things get, the better the movies get" before turning his focus on the film (in which he finds both fault and accomplishment) and concludes: "As movies go, it's not the usual smooth lie. Rather, it has the welcome clumsiness of truth." 

Haiku of the Day 

Our country's ruled by  

Oiligarchs and Coaligarchs: