SMITHEREENS: Reflections on Bits & Pieces

Gar Smith
Monday November 19, 2018 - 12:06:00 PM

Getting Money Out of Politics Could Start with This

The Blue Wave has erased the Red Tide in the House of Representatives. A new Congress means a new chance for change. It's time to clean House but, as The Intercept reveals: "Weapons makers are moving last-minute money to the Democratic congressman in line to chair the defense industry’s key House committee."

There's no defense for accepting money from companies that make a killing off killing. But now we have a chance to stop the weapons lobby from lobbing any more weapons. No more alms for arms.

World BEYOND War (WBW) has just launched an online petition demanding that the new House leaders (1) accept no further funding from the Weapons Lobby and (2) refund any donations they have already pocketed. The demand is especially urgent for congressmembers who may be chairing committees overseeing military spending and foreign policy. 

The following Democrats have been proposed to serve as committee chairs and fill other leadership positions. Next to each name is the amount of money they received from the Military-Industrial Complex for their 2018 election campaigns: 


Adam Smith $228,750 

Steny Hoyer $163,856 

Richard Neal $86,150 

Adam Schiff $80,445 

Jim Clyburn $69,500 

Nita Lowey $68,000 

Nancy Pelosi $50,074 

John Yarmuth $12,500 

Frank Pallone $11,000 

Diana DeGette $7,010 

Cheri Bustos $6,798 

Elijah Cummings $5720 

Barbara Lee $2010 

Hakeem Jeffries $2,000 

Jerrold Nadler $0 

For more information on which politicians are accepting War Lobby blood-money see the Open Secrets website

And you can sign the WBW petition here. 

(Full disclosure: I currently serve on WBW's Coordinating Council.) 

Blowing Smoke 

The TV newsfolk are blowing it big-time with their coverage of the crackdown on JUUL and other electronic smoking devices. Sure, it's great to report that regulators are considering a ban on a couple of targeted flavors, but every time there's an update on this growing threat to teenage vapers, the media winds up clouding the message and actually encouraging teens to start huffing. How? Each warning inevitably includes numerous, seductive, close-ups of teens sucking in the nicotine and unleashing astonishing clouds of addictive vapor that billow like some CGI special-effect from a Marvel Comics movie. These uncritical clips are turning every televised "warning" into an irresistible free ad. 

Seldom Heard Words 

On November 14, CBS Evening News anchor Jeff Glor interviewed former CIA Deputy Director (and CBS "national security contributor") Michael Morell. The topic: A stunning new report that—despite spending nearly $6 trillion since 9/11 and killing more than a half-million people in other countries—today's Pentagon was judged unlikely to prevail in a war with either China or Russia. 

Morell attributed the problem to the fact that China and Russia have spent their time and (considerably less) money preparing to defend their borders from foreign aggression "while we've been mired in 17 years of counterterrorism, counter-insurgency and unconventional war." 

When Morell complained that the situation was further aggravated by Pentagon budget cut-backs, Glor interrupted to note that the military's budget currently tops $716 billion a year while China spends $175 billion and Russia spends only $60 billion. "So what are we doing wrong?" 

Morell's excuse [as transcribed by this viewer] was illuminating: 

"Our competitors have a much smaller area of the globe to worry about. They worry primarily about the regions in which they live—and we're talking about Russia, China, North Korea and Iran. We have to worry about the entire globe because our interests are diverse. We are fighting this unconventional war every day that is eating up resources and eating up investment in our military so I think that is the difference." 

[Translation: The US, unlike our "competitors," is an imperialist nation that's trying to police the world—and failing.] 

Glor then turned to a topic usually ignored by the media: "There's a whole economy, as you know, built around the military and military spending," so how would Morell respond "to those detractors [Glor's word] who might say that this is just trying to sustain that industry and increase the money going to it." 

"At the end of the day," Morell insisted, "there wasn't anybody on this panel that was thinking that way."  

Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez's New Occupation 

On November 13, a band of activists from the eco-group Sunrise occupied Nancy Pelosi's congressional office and demanded creation of a Select Committee for a Green New Deal. As Ryan Grim and Briahna Gray noted in The Intercept, Pelosi established something similar in 2007 when she was House majority speaker. 

"Pelosi created the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, and assigned her ally, then-Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., who has a strong environmental record, to chair it," The Intercept reports. "The committee held dozens of hearings over the course of four years, until the Tea Party-led Congress, which took over in 2010, mothballed it. (The Republicans also got rid of the renewable plates and utensils Pelosi had introduced and replaced them with Styrofoam.)" 

There's bound to be more action on the Green New Deal in the next House, thanks to new faces like Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez. AOC, as she's been dubbed, surprised the Sunshine brigade when she marched boldly into Rep. Pelosi's office, exchanged high-fives with the demonstrators and proclaimed: “The way things are done has not been getting results. We have to try new methods.” 

AOC has called for “new leadership” in the House and has proposed promoting Rep. Barbara Lee to the House leadership post. 


While some critics have referred to the US media as an "echo chamber," has anyone noticed that two of our local weathercasters are virtual sound-alikes? To my ears, at least, KPIX's Paul Deano and Brian Hackney (who also anchors) are audio-clones, remarkably similar in tone, timing and delivery. Is there a word for such verbal dopplegangers? "Dopplesprechers," vielleicht? 

Pot-Shots during Joint Maneuvers? 

In a long (and on-going) international email debate about when or whether violence might be a necessary "last resort" for members of the anti-war pacifist community, Saskia Kouwenberg, a correspondent from The Netherlands, recently took an interesting step beyond the familiar "self-defense" argument. Kouwenberg wrote: 

"I can imagine situations in which 'violence' needs to be used to stop violence e.g. Rwanda, or gang warfare somewhere. But in those situations, why not shoot with tranquilizers instead of deadly bullets? I'd love to see a specially trained UN elite corps who are super-experts in stopping violence in nonviolent ways." 

Tranquilizer darts! 

What a brilliant techno-fix! Still quick-as-a-trigger and safer than tasers! 

But what if we took a further step and redesigned all military ordnance—bombs, grenades, shells, warheads and landmines—so that they were filled with psychedelic chemicals instead of explosives. 

Soldiers would no longer "fall" in battle. (They'd be too busy tripping and too buzzed to fire their weapons.) 

And peace marches would have two new chants: "Bongs Not Bombs!" and "Stoners, Yes: Gravestones. No!" 


Even the best of pro-peace-eco-activists can stumble into the brambles of WarSpeak. Our language is peppered with linguistic landmines—clichés based in conflict, anger, domination and machismo. Here's a recent example, from a respected long-time activist who appeared to channel Gen. George Patton when calling for: "an all out assault on climate change . . . ! We need to gear up like we did for World War II to make sure that, in the next 10 years, the whole planet is covered with windmills, solar panels, buildings are efficient, geothermal and Hydro power." 

As the reader who sent me this example of WarSpeak noted: "Big solutions without an authentic paradigm shift in thinking will only end up making the situation worse." 

Arnie's Antics 

Berkeley poet and peace-symbol provocatuer Arnie Passman is hip-culture fixture. Here, in his own words, is "AP" rapping on his storied hippie-Yippie career: "I was an editor with The Realist, for woo i wrote. i am fervormore working on my magnum oops—the 90-year history of radio humor." 

Arnie has penned four books, starting in 1971 with The Deejays (MacMillan). Over the past decade he's turned out: The Death and Birth of the Dollar (with celebrated artist, Art Hazelwood); Climbing Whateverest (40 years of collected poetry); and most recently, the epic poem, Occupy Your Nearest Country Club. AP will be reading from his concocted and recollected works at Redwood Gardens, 2951 Derby, Wednesday, November 28, 7:30 p.m. $5-20. Wheelchair accessible.