SMITHEREENS: Reflections on Bits & Pieces

Gar Smith
Saturday May 11, 2019 - 11:53:00 AM

People's Park Anniversary Marked with a New Book

Berkeley-based Heyday Books has created a massive 50th anniversary tribute to the people and events surrounding the creation of People's Park, and recalling its bloody and brutal seizure by armed police, the helicopter tear-gassing of Berkeley during the National Guard occupation, and the eventual nonviolent liberation and reclamation of the park.

Heyday Books will host a special book-release party from 7-9PM at the Art House Gallery and Cultural Center (2905 Shattuck) on Saturday, May 11. On Wednesday, May 15, Heyday will stage a Peoples Park "Teach-in" from 7-9PM at the David Brower Center (2150 Allston Way). Speakers will include the book's editor, Tom Dalzell, and a host of activists involved in the battle for People's Park including—Michael Delacourt, Judy Gumbo, Ruth Rosen, Donovan Rundle, Dove Sholom Scherr, Jane Scherr, Dan Siegel, and Nacio Jan Brown. The event will be moderated by Steve Wasserman. Mayor Jesse Arreguin will be a featured speaker. (Note: some community members critical of the mayor's policies toward the homeless have signaled plans to be outside protesting "possibly as early as 6.") The Brower Center event is free but reservations are required. Contact Emmerich Anklam at Heyday Books.

People's Park 50th Anniversary Commemorations 

On Wednesday, May 15, the People's Park Committee invites the community to meet in front at Dwight and Telegraph in memory of Bloody Thursday, which took place May 15th 50 years ago. 


Berkeley Hosts Annual Peace Flag Event on May 15 

Members of the War Resisters' League, Courage to Resist, Vietnam Veterans for Peace and Berkeley's Peace and Justice Commission will host a public commemoration to honor anti-war activists past and present. The yearly Conscientious Objectors' Day will feature a raising of the peace flag on Milvia near Allston, in front of City Hall. The celebration runs from11:30-12:30 and will feature singers Nancy Schimmel and Max Ventura leading a chorus of peace ballads including "Ain't Gonna Study War No More" and the Phil Ochs' standard, "I Ain't Marching Anymore." Song sheets provided. 

The Aeroflot Syndrome 

Two horrific stories hit the news last week and they shared a chilling connection. First, an alarming United Nations report warned that 1 million species on planet Earth are on the brink of extinction because of human activity. The second was a report from Moscow detailing the horrifying crash of a Russian Aeroflot passenger jet that erupted in a flaming fireball as it careened down a runway. 

While the image of the damaged jet, half-consumed by flames was terrifying, there were other images that were even more nightmarish: scenes of passengers escaping down the evacuation slides—grasping their handbags and luggage. 

It's hard to accept but it's essential to grasp what this means: passengers in the front of the plane were more concerned about saving their possessions then they were about saving the lives of the people burning to death in the seats behind them. 

What does this say about our ability to respond to climate change and the mass-extinction of life on this planet? It says: We're doomed. 

While some humans are capable of exceptional acts of heroism—like the two young students who sacrificed their lives in an attempt to disarm campus gunmen—the majority appear to be more devoted to their material comforts and digital playthings than to any living thing in the world around them. 

Good-bye "Climate Change" 

Back in February, Andrew Kimbrell, an environmental lawyer and executive director of The International Center for Technology Assessment, posted a think piece called "Say Goodbye to Climate Change." Kimbrell argued that it was time to dispense with "the lame term 'climate change' (which was invented by a Republican PR operative)." In 2003, Kimbrell explained, GOP publicist Frank Luntz circulated a private memo proposing that growing public alarm over "global warming" could be side-tracked by substituting the phrase "climate change" to suggest "a more controllable and less emotional challenge." 

Now, Kimbrell argues, we need even more alarming and galvanizing terms to describe the potentially terminal threats facing the planet. Panic-inducing phrases like: "Nuclear Holocaust," "The Plague," "Acid Rain," and "Bioengineered Pandemics." Kimbrell suggests "Climate Chaos (or perhaps Climate Destabilization for those more academically inclined)." It appears that Kimbrell is not alone. 

Notes from Nader, McKibben and Hawkin 

On May 3, Ralph Nader picked up on Kimbrell's theme. In a short essay titled "An Open Letter to the Environmental Community," Nader argued: "It's time to change the words to meet the peril!" Nader's suggestions included: Climate Crisis, Climate Disruption, Climate Catastrophe, Climate Upheaval "or even 'Global Warming'." 

Environmental activist and author Bill McKibben already has adopted the graver term, "Climate Chaos," while author/activist Paul Hawken prefers the phrase "Climate Volatility." 

Kimbrell concluded his essay by inviting one and all to "join the Nomenclature Revolt and pick and use your favorite powerful term that appropriately depicts the dire crisis we face." Kimbrell wrapped up with a favored phrase created by anti-corporate crusader Richard Grossman who characterized our planetary peril as: “Toxic Furnace Syndrome.”  

In response, I emailed Kimbrell the following: 

Agreed: no more "climate change." (Dealing with the Bio-backlash of human misbehavior is not going to be as easy as changing clothes, changing cash, or changing TV channels.) It's hard to match "Toxic Furnace Syndrome," but here are some other options: Climate Collapse. Climate Calamity. Climageddon.
And this is more than just the climate. It's Planetary Extermination. Global Annihilation. Terracide.

Time for a Change on Climate Change 

Climate change has emerged as a leading issue for Democrats in the 2020 election. Presidential contenders Elizabeth Warren, Jay Inslee, Beto O’Rourke and Bernie Sanders all have produced programs to address the climate crisis. 

Because of the existential threat of global warming and extreme weather, citizens action groups are calling for a special presidential debate devoted exclusively to the issue of climate chaos. Toward this end, the Action Network has created a petition demanding that the Democratic National Committee host a formal "Climate Debate." 

So far, Elizabeth Warren appears to be the front-runner on the climate front, having declared that, if elected, on Day One she would sign an executive order halting all fossil fuel drilling on our public lands.  


Heroes of the House 

In a rare and welcome display of homegrown anti-imperialism, Congress has introduced a resolution (H.R.1004) to block Trump/Bolton/Pompeo from ordering US troops to invade South America. The "Prohibiting Unauthorized Military Action in Venezuela Act" was introduced by Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-RI-1) and now has 71 co-sponsors. Proud to report that 17 of the sponsors are from California. They include Barbara Lee, Ro Khanna, Anna Eschoo, Adam Schiff, Maxine Waters, and Jackie Speier (who signed up on May 9). 

Democracy Activists Trapped inside Venezuelan Embassy 

In a recent dispatch from Washington's embattled Venezuelan Embassy, World BEYOND War founder David Swanson revealed another classic Trump policy hypocrisy. Not so long ago, Trump argued that the elected government of Venezuela needed to be overthrown "because it wouldn’t allow in humanitarian aid." Now, in an attempt to expel a community of peace activists (including members of Codepink, Popular Resistance, and the ANSWER Coalition) legally occupying the embassy at the invitation of the elected Venezuelan government, the US government has deployed the FBI, the Secret Service, and local police to facilitate a siege of the building, preventing food and medicine from reaching members of the self-declared Embassy Protection Collective. And now, the government has ordered that all water and electricity to the building be shut off. 

DC Police Abetting Pro-Coup Demonstrators 

Lawyers for the Collective have filed complains accusing police and security personnel of ignoring crimes committed by anti-Maduro demonstrators while targeting nonviolent protesters for arrest. The pro-coup crowd has assaulted the occupiers and their supporters with verbal insults, threats, physical attacks, eye-blinding strobe lights, and blasts of high-volume air-horns. 

A week ago, when a 70-year-old supporter attempted to deliver a supply of toothbrushes to the Collective, he was pushed to the ground and beaten unconscious while the crowd mocked him. 

Earlier this week, CODEPINK activist Ariel Gold was arrested for trying to toss vegetables to hungry activists in Embassy's upper-floor windows. Gold was arrested and charged with "throwing a missile at a building." 

The next day, Veterans for Peace president Gerry Condon was busted for trying to throw a cucumber to Popular Resistance activist Kevin Zeese, who was leaning out of a second-floor window. 

The Vietnam War vet was grabbed by police, roughed-up, thrown on the ground, punched, and left bleeding from a large wound on his head. One of his friends reported that Condon had been accused of throwing "a cucumber of mass destruction." Even more disturbing, while videos of Condon's arrest showed that he did not resist the officers. Nonetheless, he was charged with "assault" and "resisting arrest" before being rushed to a local hospital. 

From Kevin Zeese, inside the Embassy. (May 9: 5:41 AM): 

Our hope is the Venezuela embassy becomes a galvanizing moment for the movement and hundreds, then thousands and tens of thousands show up to support us. Over the coming days, our batteries will die and we will be silent. We will still be here, depending on our allies outside. 

Rage Against War? 

Militarism has not only infiltrated our language but the macho threat of force has even become embedded in the imagery of the peace movement.  

A recent example: an anti-nuclear campaign poster that prominently displays a clenched fist (a cliche so common it goes unnoticed) alongside another graphic that shows someone physically ripping apart a weapon. The message on the peace poster read: "Rage Against War." 

There are alternatives. Instead of a fist ready to deliver a powerful blow, how about two fingers spread in a peace sign? Instead of showing the bare-handed physical destruction of a weapon, how about a simple negation symbol (the slash-within-a-circle) stamped over the weapon, or a sign reading "abolished"? 

Instead of invoking “Rage”, how about inviting peace activists to "Resist" war? Rage can be a useful fuel for social change, but only when anger at injustice is channeled into constructive nonviolent action. To quote Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.:  

"It is purposeless to tell Negroes they should not be enraged when they should be. Indeed, they will be mentally healthier if they do not suppress rage, but vent it constructively and use its energy peacefully but forcefully to cripple the operations of an oppressive society. Civil disobedience can utilize the militance wasted in riots.”  

A Bill to End Trump's "War Orphan Tax" 

A previous Smithereens column mentioned how Trump's tax plan cut corporate taxes by nearly a third (from 35% to 21%) while nearly quadrupling the tax on some military families. Gold Star Families—families of soldiers killed "in service"—receive "survivor benefits" from the government. And these payments are considered taxable income. In order to offset the billions lost to tax-cuts for the One Percent, Trump introduced a so-called "Kiddie Tax" that jacked up the tax on income assigned to Gold Star war orphans from 10% to 40%. Now, freshman Congresswoman Elaine Luria hopes to help these families with a bill that would return the tax on survivors' benefits to the previous, lower rate. VoteVets has created a petition asking Congress to pass a law to reduce the egregious tax that Gold Star families are being asked to pay on the "income" of "survivor benefits." The bill reportedly enjoys broad bipartisan support. 

DeTweet Trump 

Twitter has long been Donald Trump's Trumpet and many people have been wondering whether Trump's tweeted insults, denigrations, and threats are even legal. After all, under Twitter Law, fomenting violence against one's perceived enemies would appear to be a violation of Twitter's content protocols. 

Twitter’s rules stipulate that the company's administrators “do not tolerate behavior that crosses the line into abuse”—including direct or indirect violent threats, harassment, or hateful conduct.  

Many of Trump’s tweets (which have included threatens to incinerate North Korea "with fire and fury") constitute blatant violations of Twitter’s Terms of Service. Trump has retweeted provocative images of journalists being assaulted and has promoted xenophobia, misogyny, and Islamophobia—including tweets that seemed designed to invite attacks on Ilhan Omar, a Democratic member of Congress. Finally, a new petition has been launched demanding that Twitter finally do what millions of Americans have been praying for: "Kick Trump off Twitter." Tell Twitter and Facebook it's time to make Trump respect the rules or give him the boot, a la Alex Jones.