SMITHEREENS: Reflections on Bits & Pieces

Gar Smith
Saturday February 16, 2019 - 03:33:00 PM

It's not everyday someone has a chance to make headlines with a headline. Bernie Sanders hit one out of the ballpark on January 29, when he wrote an op-ed with the following bold-faced title: "The Bad News Is That We Have a President Who Is a Fraud, a Pathological Liar and a Racist." 

"The good news," Sanders added, "is that American people are standing up, fighting back and are demanding fundamental changes in our economic and political system." 

Bern, baby, Bern! 

Putin's Puppet or God's Gonzo Gizmo? 

During an interview with the Christian Broadcast Network on January 30, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders channeled The Almighty. Reflecting that "God calls all of us to fill different roles at different times" (which sounds kinda like the "gig economy"), Sanders intuited that God Himself "wanted Donald Trump to become president." And, SHS proffered: "I think he has done a tremendous job in supporting a lot of things people of faith really care about." 

Isn't that an odd claim for a man best known for temper tantrums, bullying, greed, prevarication, fast-food gluttony, sloth (aka "executive time"), crotch-grabbing lust, and serial adultery? 


If true, SHS's revelation raises a disturbing legal issue. To wit: God Almighty clearly qualifies as a "foreign power." If He meddled in our electoral process to assure Trump's ascension, that would constitute a serious moral, political and Constitutional offense—a high crime from On High. 

Forget Russia. God's political interference in the 2016 election would be much more significant than anything the Kremlin might have perpetrated. After all, God is omnipresent and omnipotent. 

It may be time for Robert Mueller to slap Trump with some holy writs and drag him into a confessional. 

Towering Trump Effigy Dominates Italian Parade 

It you look at historic film footage, you'll see that Donald Trump and Benito Mussolini had a lot in common. They both loved to bellow, they both loved to agitate large crowds with partisan threats and insults, they both liked to stick their chins in the air and scowl at the masses. 

Now, an artist named Fabrizio Galli has created a towering, Il Duce-style Trump tribute—a 50-foot-tall moving statue that made its debut earlier this month at Italy's annual Carnevale Di Viargeggio parade. Galli's monolithic "God Emperor Trump" resembles a Marvel Comics villain on opioids. Il Trump's left hand sported Wolverine-like claws while his right hand brandished a sword festooned with blue Twitterbirds and the Latin phrase "Dazi Vostre" ("Your Taxes"). The sword's blade bore the Latin phrase, "Cazzi Vostri" (loosely translated as, "None of your fucking business"). 

If the Alt-right rumor mill were to start spinning the news that Trump wanted to rent this Italian automaton for his deferred DC Military Parade, I'd believe it. Here's a video: 


Trump's Notional Emergency 

MoveOn's James W. Garman notes that Trump's "national emergency" decree "has no grounding in reality. There is no humanitarian crisis at the border. This is simply a political ploy to rile up folks against a perceived racist threat." 

Congress and the American people need to resoundingly reject this dictatorial power-grab. If Trump can declare a "national emergency" to get a fence built there's nothing to prevent him from declaring a "national emergency" to head off a Democratic win in the 2020 Presidential race. 

MoveOn has posted a petition calling on the "adults in the room" to give Trump a "time out." You can sign the petition here

Congress Reclaims its Constitutional War Powers Role 

On February 13, the US Congress made history by choosing to flex its Constitutional "war power" authority. By a vote of 248-to-177, the House called for an end to US support for the Saudi-lead war in Yemen. 

Next step: Get the Senate to sign on. Next step after that: Demand that both chambers act to revoke the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) that allows presidents to unilaterally start new wars. Next step after that: Put an end to endless wars that have murdered millions while making billions for corporate militaristas in the US and around the world. 

It's not an impossible goal. Last December, the Republican-controlled Senate passed a similar resolution with every Democrat, every Independent, and 14 Republicans voting in favor. 

There's a petition to encourage this act of political courage. You can read and sign it here 


Back the February 26 Vote to Swat SWAT 

For six years, peace-and-justice activists have been protesting attempts to militarize the local police through an annual Alameda County weapons expo and a competitive COP-a-thon exercise called "Urban Shield." In response, a county task force recently issued a list of recommendations that calls for ending the event's mass-marketing of guns-and-grenades, rejecting the mass-acquisition of surveillance cameras and crowd-control devices, and ending military exercises that mainly serve to train cops to impose martial law. Instead, the task force is calling for the $5 million currently squandered on urban "war games" to be redirected to support health programs and social services. 

The Sheriff's Department, which wants to maintain its access to trendy weapons and war-in-the-city work-outs, is putting a lot of pressure on the county supervisors so it's important for the public to turn out and turn up the volume. 

There will be a public hearing on at 10:45AM, Tuesday, February 26, in the Alameda County Administration Building (1221 Oak Street, 5th Floor, Oakland). 

If you can't make it to Oak Street, you can email a message to the supes at this link

And here's a reminder of what "police militarization" can lead to. In 1999, the Pentagon staged a war-game in the Bay Area. It was called "Urban Warrior." The following video (shot from inside the war-game itself) reveals how the Pentagon's so-called "humanitarian" mission was actually a pretext for seizing the "urban battlespace." 


Our Secret Memo to Stephen Colbert 

Apparently, Late Show host Stephen Colbert has decided not to act on this Smithereens proposal, so we've decided to go public with it. The following document was sent to Colbert's staff on January 30: 

"Many of us are alarmed that Trump/Pence/Bolton are openly plotting the overthrow of the elected Venezuelan government. John Bolton even flashed a message that the US may be 'sending 5,000 troops to Colombia,' Venezuela's neighbor. Pence made a phone call to give Juan Gauido the green light to declare himself the new president and now the White House is acting as if Gauido is the legitimate leader of the country. 

"So how to we respond? Well, here's a proposal that could turn the plot into pudding: Have Stephen announce that—inspired by Gauido—he has decided to declare himself president . . . of the US. 

"Colbert has just as much a right to declare himself president of the USA as Guiado has to declare himself president of Venezuela. And the same arguments apply: Ameirca's current leader is corrupt, he was elected in a disputed election, his leadership has caused social chaos, the economy is in a shambles, and he has divided the country. 

"Such an announcement on The Late Show would demonstrate the lunacy of Trump's claim that a Washington-linked political upstart has the right to declare himself president. If Juan can run, why can't Stephen? 

"This exercise in political satire would shine a bright light on the tenuous claims being made by Trump and his fellow plotters. Hopefully, the resulting ridicule would undercut Trump's plan to topple Venezuela and hand its oil fields to ExxonMobil. 

"This could be a defining moment in the history of progressive, activist late night television. Please, Stephen, throw your Big Hat in the ring!" 

BART's Tunnel Vision Needs to Be Flushed 

On February 4, the Chronicle's Otis R. Taylor, Jr. presented a troubling image of BART's decay, describing the sight of an elderly BART passenger slumped a reeking pond of his own excrement. BART board director Mark Foley admitted there has been a "decline in the system over the decades.” 

Unnoted in the article was the fact that, it was nearly two decades ago that BART closed the restrooms in all of its underground stations. After the 9/11 attacks, the Department of Homeland Security declared BART's lavatories "terrorist targets" and ordered them shut. The rational was never clear. Wouldn't terrorists be more likely to target BART's public spaces—or the trains themselves? 

So let's solve BART's sanitation miseries while reducing the threat of bombings by unlocking the bathrooms! (PS: Thanks to the Chronicle for amplifying this call to "Liberate the Loos.") 

Trump Says He Lies Because He's Smart 

According to Newsweek, prior to delivering his State of the Union speech preaching unity and respect, Trump privately told a group of "TV anchors" that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer was a "nasty son of a bitch," former VP Joe Biden was "dumb" and the late John McCain had written a book that "bombed." 

But there was another quote that deserves attention: Trump's explanation of why he often says things that are misinformed, wrong-headed, offensive, or patently not true. (Fact check: According to a Washington Post count, in his first two years in office, Donald Trump managed to tell at least 8,158 lies.) 

"When I say something that you might think is a gaffe, it's on purpose; it's not a gaffe. When Biden says something dumb, it's because he’s dumb." 

So we now have Trump's word on it: He tells lies on purpose! 

(Of course, this alibi also could be a lie.) 

FSM Notes: From Berkeley to Hanoi 

On Feb 15, 2019, Barbara Stack, the dedicated steward who looks over the Free Speech Movement Archives (FSM-A), flashed word that had received its first online visit from a resident of Ho Chi Minh City. 

This prompted the following recollection from FSM-arrestee, FSM-A board member and military historian Jack Radey: 

There is a Vietnam Day button on display in the Hanoi museum on the war. I believe it was presented to the Vietnamese by Mike Myerson, previously head of the Ad Hoc Committee to End Discrimination—one of the first three visitors to North Vietnam after the bombing began. 

The button itself has an interesting history. The Berkeley DuBois Clubs (4 of whose members, including our own Steve Lustig and also Louis Lester of FSM ExCom, were part of the 5 member committee that put on the teach-in), decided to print up the button. But alas, as usual, we were short on cash.  

Susan Drexler was assigned to get the buttons printed, and was walking through the plaza, looking down in the mouth, when she ran into Lou Gottlieb, who I believe was teaching at Cal that semester (as well as being the leader of the extremely successful folk/pop trio, The Limelighters).  

Lou looked at her and said, "Sue, what's the matter?" She explained her problem. He said, "Hey, no problem," pulled out his checkbook and wrote a check for the whole $250 (a LOT of money in those days).  

And so the button was made, and sold, and one ended up in Hanoi. 

Book Note 

On January 1, we got word that The War and Environment Reader—an anti-war/pro-planet anthology I had the pleasure to edit—had been honored with the "Choice Award" from the American Library Association as one of the "Outstanding Academic Titles for 2018."  

The WER features essays from nearly 50 activists from around the world—including Medea Benjamin, Helen Caldicott, Daniel Ellsberg, Jone Goodall, Winona LaDuke, Jerry Mander, Vandana Shiva, Jody Williams and S. Brian WIllson. Given that more than 21,000 books were in the running, it was a pretty nice bit of news. 

Thanks also to the Foundation for Deep Ecology and our publisher, Just World Books.