New: SMITHEREENS: Reflections on Bits & Pieces

Gar Smith
Sunday March 03, 2019 - 08:14:00 PM

R.I.P.: Noted in Passing

One of Berkeley's oldest residents died in a tragic fall during last week's storms. A towering eucalyptus tree in the middle of the King Park and Pool playground lost its footing in the rain-soaked soil and tumbled to the ground with a crash and a thud that woke nearby residents.

Fortunately, the gigantic tree toppled during the night. Had it fallen during the day, the results could have been tragic because it came crashing down right on top of the adjacent children's playground, mangling several swings, ripping holes in the spongy groundcover, and crushing the surrounding metal fence.

The tree once stood more than 100 feet tall but Friday morning saw it sprawled across the play area, its massive base uprooted and work crews busily sawing the enormous trunk into refrigerator-sized chunks. The toppled tree was so huge that the sections of sawed trunk scattered on the ground rose over the heads of the clean-up crew working to clear the site.

By the time students began arriving at MLK Jr., the cleanup was already well underway.

The tree will be missed. But, given the odds that it could have rumbled down on a playground filled with children, let's give thanks that it missed.



Grumpy Trump Walks Away, Very Hanoied 

Poor Donald. The stage was set, the agreements confirmed, the papers already printed and waiting to be signed, and he winds up turning his massive back on Kim Jong-un's pudgy front, and walking away from a potentially history-making Deal. 

Pundits immediate went to work trying to suss out what went wrong. Trump's focus was fractured, for one thing. The Donald admitted he had taken some "executive time" during the intense meet-up with Kim—abandoning the nuclear negotiations so he could watch the live broadcast of Michael Cohen's House intelligence committee testimony. 

This might have left Trump unable to concentrate of the business-at-hand. Surely watching his former right-hand-man calling him a "racist, a conman, and a cheat" may have left Trump feeling a bit imperiled. 

I just heard Willie Brown on the radio and realized we both shared the same theory to explain Trump's sudden departure from Hanoi. Here it is: 

After watching Cohen's testimony, Trump approached the North Korean leader to ask for a favor and flew off in a huff when Kim refused to offer him political asylum. 

In Related News 

On February 26, KCBS afternoon newsperson Melissa Culross went on air to inform the Bay Area that: "Donald Trump is now on his way back to Russia." Quickly adding: "Excuse me . . . . The US." 

Send Trump a Billion Dollar Bill 

Donald Trump claimed he was "proud" to "take the mantle " for shutting down the government. This unprecedented, authoritarian act caused crushing economic chaos—especially for 800,000 federal workers. Since Trump has claimed "ownership" of the shutdown, he should be held liable for the consequences, including reimbursement of the $3 billion in "unrecoverable losses" he inflicted on the country. This could become a precedent to prevent any future presidential actions that would result in clearly predictable economic damage to the nation. 

MoveOn Petition: Make Trump Pay for $3 Billion Loss 

To be delivered to The United States House of Representatives, The United States Senate 

Donald Trump said he was "proud to shut down the government" but the Congressional Budget Office reports that Trump's 35-day shutdown left the US Treasury with an "unrecoverable" loss of $3 billion. Ask Congress to enact legislation calling for Trump, a self-styled-billionaire, to reimburse the Treasury in full for the $3 billion loss.  

To sign the petition, CLICK HERE or cut and paste the following link: 

A Swab for the Dubs? 

Kaiser Permanente's elevators currently sport an ad alerting riders that "Early Detection Saves Lives." But the following text had me doing a double-take. It read: 

"Win Warriors Tickets! Get your cervical cancer screening test during the months of February and March and be entered into a raffle for a chance to win Golden State Warriors tickets." 

I pulled a puzzled expression and pointed to the sign to see if any other passengers thought it strange. 

A young woman just laughed and replied: "A pap smear for the Dubs? Sounds like a good deal to me!" 

Another Strange Commercial Transaction 

During a layover in Panama City en route to Colombia, I popped open my laptop inside Tocumen International Airport and attempted to connect to the Internet. The promise of "free wi-fi" came with conditions. There were two ways to link in. Travelers could (1) register with a local wi-fi provider or (2) donate blood to a local blood bank. 

A notice explained that the offer was limited to passengers 18 and older. Sorry kids, no online Vampire videogames for you on this trip. 

Bible Libel 

It's no secret that the Holy Bible is filled with unholy acts and bizarre behaviors but hard-core evangelists might be flustered to discover that King James of England—the fellow behind the translation, editing, and revision process that produced the King James Bible—was openly gay. Several years ago, I happened upon a portrait of King James that raised my curiousity and a Google search left me google-eyed. 


Turns out it was well-known at the time. The monarch's subjects openly shared a common joke that proclaimed: "Elizabeth was King: now James is Queen." 

It turns out the familiar nursery school rhyme, "Georgie, Porgie," was a veiled reference to King James's young consort, George Villiers, the 1st Duke of Buckingham. 

There were even passionate letters twixt King-and-Duke. In one, King James wrote: "I naturally so love your person, and adore all your other parts . . . ." And appealed to: "my sweet child and wife [to] grant that ye may ever be a comfort to your dear dad and husband." 

Villiers penned similar notes, including the following: "I cannot now think of giving thanks for friend, wife, or child; my thoughts are only bent on having my dear Dad and Master's legs soon in my arms." And the monarch once dispatched a letter to the young Duke that declared: "Whether you loved me now . . . better than at the time I shall never forget at Farnham, where the bed's head could not be found between the master and his dog." 

So repent, thou gay-bashing preachers of intolerance! 

Stop Using the Word "Growth" 

In 1988, Edward Abbey famously observed: "Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell." 

Ann Pettifor, a fellow of London's New Economics Foundation, has an even stronger position on the term. "Please, never use the word 'growth,'" Pettifor pleads: "It was a word that was invented as recently as 1967 by a man called Samuel Britain and the OECD [Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development]. It wasn't in use before that." Every time you use that word, Pettifor scolds, "you're buying into a neoliberal concept, which is dangerous." 

According to Pettifor, economists used to express concern about the "level" of employment or the "level" of productivity. But the OECD came up with the idea that the economy should "grow by 4 percent" – i.e., to grow beyond its capacity. This path lead to debt and inflation, "for which the unions were blamed." 

It's fine to talk about "more employment," "more productivity" or "higher incomes," Pettifor says: just "don't use the word growth. 

So It's Time to Grow Our Vocabulary 

Progress has been made in the search for "growth-free" conversations—if economists would only adopt them. Here are two: 

In 1968, the Club of Rome came up with the concept of "degrowth." 

In 2009, Earth Island Journal minted a new term to counter neoliberal gtowth-based economics. The word was: "Shrinkth." 

Recent years have seen a flowering of catchphrases and popular movements all crafted to nudge us toward a less cataclysmic end. Among them: Small Is Beautiful. Power Down. Simple Living. Global Footprint. Carrying Capacity. Less and Local. Locavore. Green New Deal. 

And, of course, there's still that golden oldie: Zero Population Growth

Double-duty Words 

Speaking of the English language, did you know there are a few rare words that have exactly opposite meanings? An example? Take the word "sanction." Depending on the usage, the word can mean either "permission" or "denial." You can sanction someone for bad behavior. You can also sanction someone to do whatever they please. 

Such words are called "contronyms" (also known as "contranyms," "auto-antonyms," "antagonyms," "enantiodromes," "self-antonyms," "antilogies" and "Janus words"). 

"Oversight" can mean "supervise" or "overlook." 

"Left" can mean "left for somewhere else" or "left behind." 

"Dust," as a verb, can mean to cover with dust or to remove dust. 

According to the website MentalFloss, there are 14 such words, including: seed, stone, trim, cleave, resign, fast, off, weather, screen, and help. 

Well, I think I've found a 15th word: "Forge." 

"Forge" can mean to build something honorable —i.e., to "forge a respectable career"—but it can also describe an act of deceit—to "forge a document." 

Anyone have any other antagonyms? 

Trump Pays to Pop Up on the Mainstream Media 

It wasn't the kind of pop-up ad you would expect to see while tuning into the NBC Nightly News, but there it was—a fund-raising appeal from the Trump/Pence 2020 presidential campaign. 

A photo of Trump (with two thumbs raised) was paired with a donation square listing suggested contributions ranging from $35 to $2,700 to "Other." 

"The Fake News Media is out to get us," the ad proclaimed. And, to make it's point, the "Certified Website of Donald J. Trump" invited visitors to take a Mainstream Media Accountability Survey. It was clearly not intended to be an unbiased, scientific survey. Here are some of the 25 questions: 

Do you trust MSNBC 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 position and actions?  

On which issues does the mainstream media do the worst job of representing Republicans (Select as many as apply): Immigration. Economics. Pro-life values. Religion. Individual liberty. Conservatism. Foreign policy. Second Amendment rights. 

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

Do you believe that the media wrongly attributes gun violence to Second Amendment rights? 

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

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 believe that the media purposely tries to pit Republicans against each other in order to help elect Democrats? 

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

Do you believe that our Party should spend more time and resources holding the mainstream media accountable? 

The survey is an ingenious—and disingenuous—propaganda tool. It pretends to be interested in people's opinions but its line-up of leading questions is actually designed to instruct the participants what to think—about the media, about the Party, and about its fact-challenged leader's Reign of Error. 

Join the Movement to Impeach Trump

Do you think that Trump is unfit to be president and should be removed from office? If so, you might like to join a CREDO-hosted conference call with Rep. Rashida Tlaib and Alexandra Flores-Quilty from By the People. The goal: "to lay out the political landscape and what's at stake in this moment, why impeachment is important, and what our plan for action is."  

When: Thursday, March 7: 5 pm PT. 

Note: There's only space for 10,000 callers, so you'll have to RSVP by clicking here to get an email with notes about how to call in and a recording of the call after it's over. 

And please: Don't everyone talk at once.