SMITHEREENS: Reflections on Bits & Pieces

Gar Smith
Saturday March 30, 2019 - 02:23:00 PM

I recently spotted another sign that BART is becoming increasingly "streetified." 

Originally, a pristine refuge for work-bound commuters, BART has now become part of the extended urban stage. Today's riders routinely encounter any number of social justice intrusions—from homelessness, to hygiene, to high-heads, to homicides. 

And now, we've got anti-BART posters appearing inside the BART cars. 

Case in point: Numerous smaller-than-a-dollar-sized mini-posters can now be spotted calling attention to a recent "police homicide" on the BART system. The posters read: "Justice for Sahleem Tindel. Killed by BART Police. Joseph Mateu, Murderer." 

The first one I spotted was perfectly located. It was pasted onto a Vimeo ad that read: "How to reach your audience, everywhere, all at once." 

Warren Speaks Her Peace 

I first heard Elizabeth Warren speak on the UC campus in Pauley Ballroom when Warren was the keynote speaker at the 2010 Mario Savio Memorial Lecture. 

I found Warren to be warm, self-effacing, intelligent, engaging, intensely human, and fiercely committed to seeking out injustice and righting wrongs for people abused by the powerful, be they banks or political regimes. (You can see the video of the event by clicking here.) 


During her March 11 Town Hall appearance on CBS, Warren set an insurgent tone in the first minutes, spurning the programmed format of a two-seat back-and-forth conversation with Jake Tapper. Instead, Warren abandoned her chair, walked away from Tapper, and strode to the edge of the stage to get closer to the audience. That was body language with a message. 

Warren managed to greet nearly every questioner by name and fixed her stare on each speaker with the eager intensity of a puppy waiting for the chance to charge after a tossed ball. 

While Donald Trump's body language has all the allure of a parked truck (and his boringly repetitive hand-signs prominently feature the covert circled-thumb-to-forefinger evocation of the White Power movement) Warren raced about the stage like a wind-up toy, shooting off ad-libs and seasoned jabs while outlining a series of what seemed like around 40 progressive action plans. She owned the stage and had a bill-of-sale for the TV screen as well. 

When it was over, I turned to a friend and exclaimed: "Elizabeth Warren makes Ellen DeGeneres look like a wallflower." 

Why Warren Doesn't (Yet) Have My Vote 

Before Warren's Town Hall debut (in response to an invitation from Warren's campaign to suggest topics for the candidate to address), I sent the following note: 

Please support Tulsi Gabbard's call to challenge militarism. Stop "forever wars" and illegal "regime change" interventions. Challenge the Pentagon's wasteful—and unaudited—spending. Demilitarize our economy and foreign policy. Call out the powerful corporations that profit from war. Redirect Pentagon funding to support public health, education, safety, housing, and environmental restoration. Instead of Trump's "Space Force," call on the Pentagon to create an "Earth Force" that will respond to help "homeland communities" destroyed by hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, and drought. Instead of dropping bombs, the Pentagon could be planting trees. That would be a practical response to the goal of achieving "national security." 

Bernie Badgers the Bombmeisters 

After intense lobbying from anti-war organizations, Sen. Bernie Sanders, has belatedly added a critique of the Military-Industrial Complex to his political platform and issued a call for tapping military funds to finance much-needed social programs. On the same day that Warren made her Town Hall appearance, Sanders issued a critique of Trump's proposed FY 2020 budget that read, in part: 

"At a time when the U.S. already spends more on the military than the next 10 countries combined, Trump is proposing an $861 billion increase in base defense spending over a 10-year period. And he proposes to pay for it by cutting over $1 trillion from education, affordable housing, nutrition assistance and the needs of working families over a 10-year period. Trump’s proposed increase in base Pentagon spending could make public colleges and universities tuition-free over the next decade. This is a budget for the military industrial complex, for corporate CEOs, for Wall Street and for the billionaire class." 

Is Trump Targeting SNL or TLS? 

I think I just realized what's behind Donald Trump's ridiculous threat to have Saturday Night Live investigated for Alec Baldwin's mocking impersonation of the "Mango Mussolini's" White House antics: 

It's all just a plot designed to insult Late Show host, Stephen Colbert.  

Attacking Baldwin while ignoring Colbert? That's like seeing Glenn Close come that close to winning the Best Actress Oscar. That's got to sting.  

De-Nuke the Chron's Coms 

Do we need a campaign to denuclearize the Chronicle's comic strip pages? I'm pondering this out of concern about the psychological impact of Lio, the wordless comic strip kid who enjoys terrorizing classmates with giant robots, hanging out in graveyards with his pet squid, juggling skulls and femurs with the Grim Reaper, and making light of global apocalypse by fetishcising about atomic bombs. 

On March 19, for instance, Lio was shown happily pedaling his tricycle across his front yard hauling a cart carrying a small, nuclear-armed missile. Left behind on his door was a sign reading "Out to launch." 

Some people (myself included) tend to feel that nuclear bombs are no laughing matter. But Lio doesn't just play games with toy bombs: the strip frequently features drawings of nuclear explosions erupting in the background. While I haven't done a rigorous check, I'd wager that, to date, Lio has "detonated" more nuclear bombs that Kim Jong-un. 


NO-TO-NATO Protests in DC March 30 thru April 4 

According to the United For Peace and Justice (UFPJ) Coordinating Committee: "The threat of war hangs over the world. The NATO war alliance is at the center of that threat—from the seemingly never-ending wars by NATO powers in the Middle East, to the burgeoning, new nuclear arms race."  

Trump has called for a $750 billion surge in war spending—funded by cuts in social spending—at a time when NATO’s reach is expanding far beyond its provocative encirclement of Russia and now seeks its first South American beachhead in Colombia. Add in US military expansion across Africa (under the banner of AFRICOM) and you have around 1,000 US/ NATO bases installed in more than 70 foreign nations. 

While NATO pretends to be dedicated to a "peace-keeping mission," it has repeatedly breached international law to invade and attack more than a half-dozen countries including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Serbia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Libya. NATO's wars have targeted civilians and cities, adding to the growing global refugee crisis. 

The presence of US troops and weapons frequently violates the laws and sovereign rights of smaller nations and can impose devastating health and environmental impacts on nearby communities, exposed to aircraft noise and chemical pollution.  


NATO is coming to Washington DC in April to "celebrate" its 70th birthday and it will be met by an "unwelcoming committee" of anti-war organizations. The week-long span of protests will begin on March 30, with a "US Hands Off Venezuela" march by a broad anti-war coalition. 


No-to-NATO protests are being held around the world—in Belgrade, Canada, Norway, and Italy. In the US, the capitol protests will begin with a March 30 rally at Lafayette Park followed, on March 31, by an Anti-NATO conference and a Concert for Peace. 

On April 2, there will be a "Yes to Peace and Disarmament Counter-Summit. On April 4, the Black Alliance for Peace will host an evening summit to "End Militarism and War." Events continue through April 5, with a series of demonstrations, concerts, conferences, speakers, art displays and nonviolent civil disobedience. 

UFPJ notes that NATO's celebration of war constitutes "a special act of desecration" given that "NATO chose to celebrate itself . . . on the anniversary of the assassination of one of our country’s greatest champions of peace and social justice, Martin Luther King, Jr." A special event celebrating Dr. King is set for April 4 with a tentative march from the MLK Memorial to Freedom Plaza. 

For all the details on the various protests and events now being planned, check out these sites: 

PS: World BEYOND War recently hosted a No-to-NATO Webinar. One of the participants was Anna Maria Gower, Serbian-British artist now based in Berkeley. As a child growing up in Belgrade, Gower survived NATO's bombing of the capital. You can watch the webinar here. 

CODEPINK Calls Out California Congressman 

In his campaign literature, California Congressman Pete Aguilar (31st District, San Bernardino) is hailed as an advocate "for affordable health care and quality education," a politician who has "protected the health care of ALL Americans [and] . . . uplifted the voices of every American family." 

CODEPINK is not impressed. In the run-up to the 2018 election, CODEPINK reports, Aguilar's Peace Action voting record was only 18%—"the worst of all House Democrats." Moreover, Aguilar accepted "$173,000 in legal bribes from the Military Industrial Complex for his 2018 election campaign, the 7th highest amount among House Democrats." 

Let's Replace the "Selectoral College" with Real Democracy 

Elizabeth Warren and a growing crowd of progressives have joined the call to replace the Electoral College with direct, popular, democratic elections. 

The Bold Progressives organization makes a convincing argument by noting that, if our presidents had been chosen by popular vote: 

• George W. Bush and Donald Trump would never have been president. 

• The Iraq War would not have happened. 

• We would have made big progress on climate change and green energy. 

• Trillions of dollars wouldn’t have been squandered on tax giveaways to billionaires and big corporations. 

•The Supreme Court might have 8 justices appointed by Dems. (Roberts, Alito, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh were all appointed by Bush and Trump.) 

Here's the Bold Progressives' remedy: "Every Democrat running for president in 2020 should be standing alongside Elizabeth Warren in calling to eliminate the Electoral College so the popular vote determines the next president -- and pass a constitutional amendment to guarantee the right of every American to vote." 

There's also an online petition campaign calling for replacing the Electoral College.