SMITHEREENS: Reflections on Bits & Pieces

Gar Smith
Saturday August 03, 2019 - 07:06:00 PM

That's the Spirit

Street Spirit, the feisty 21-year-old monthly tabloid ("Justice News and Homeless Blues in the Bay Area") just finished up the month of July with an "International Issue" that featured a report on the International Network of Street Papers. The INSP, which encompasses more than 100 publications in 35 countries in 25 languages, held is annual conference in Hanover, Germany and Spirit editor-in-chief Alastair Boone was on hand to bring back a report.

As the pressures of social inequality continue to rise around the world, Street Journalism has provided a "communications life-raft" that dispossessed urban dwellers can cling to. According to Boone, "The are around 25,000 vendors who sell INSP-member papers globally each year and 4.6 million people read the papers worldwide." As a result, sidewalk sales of these publications "has put over $30 million in the pockets of the vendors each year."

Today, the Street Spirit has come up with a brand-new fund-raising angle. What is this novel idea? A novel.

In addition to the monthly collection of news, essays, artwork and poems, Spirit vendors are now offering copies of Eastern Span, an illustrated "noir novel" by local writer Rick Paulas about life and debt in a gentrifying Oakland—where dive-bars and homeless encampments strive to survive in an economy dominated by powerful developers. It's being offered on a sliding scale of $5-10.and you can pick up a copy from your local Street Spirit vendor. 

Simple Truth: Mixed Message 

On July 28, the Sunday Chronicle announced its weeklong "San Francisco Housing Project" with a front-page headline that read: "Tough questions, no simple answers." Readers were then directed to explore a 16-page "How You Can Help" supplement. On the cover of the supplement was a headline that read: "The solution to homelessness is simple: a house." 

Home, Sweet Cell 

On July 27, a long line of protesters gathered outside the downtown Verizon store on Shattuck for the National Day of Action Against 5G. The potential "rollout" of Fifth Generation (5G) wireless transmitters has raised a lot of hackles—and many concerns. In 2011, the World Health Organization labeled wireless radiation a "possible human carcinogen" and a 10-year, $25 million National Toxicology Program study found "clear evidence" that exposure to wireless radiation was linked to cancer. 

Despite these warnings, the Federal Communications Commission has not updated its radiation exposure safeguards since 1996 and the Telecommunications Act (largely written by industry lobbyists) dictates that no expansion of the wireless grid can be blocked for public health or environmental reasons. 

The demonstrators at the Verizon outlet had a simple request: A moratorium on the installation of 5G antennas until the technology is proven safe. 

Ironically, this was the same day that TIME magazine published a feature story on the "5G revolution" and the Internet of Things (IoT). 

According to TIME, the advent of "automated attentiveness" (a euphemism for robotic surveillance) would allow electronic home devices to closely track the behavior of every inhabitant. The upside: "smart homes" would know when to play your favorite music, which TV stations to turn on (and when), and refrigerators would scold you for consuming too much junk food. (There was no mention of known health impacts that can range from cancer and neurological harm to brain abnormalities and reproductive failure.) 

There was only one hint that the IoT (which is predicted to trigger $123 billion in sales by 2021) might be a boondoggle rather than a boon—a graphic showcasing nine "evolutionary step[s] in true automation." They included Smart Showers, Health Sensors, Robotic Kitchen Arms, 3-D Printers, and special "Tech-free Rooms" designed to "block wireless signals, giving residents a place to disconnect." 

These electromagnetic "safe rooms" (also known as "Faraday cages") would protect human bodies from constant bombardment by powerful beams of electromagnetic radiation. 

And that, my friends, is what's called "The Genius of Capitalism": You create a problem and then you sell the cure. 

The Boys Who Said No: News Good and Sad 

Six years in the making, "The Boys Who Said No," a documentary about resistance to the Vietnam-era draft, is moving closer to completion. In March, Berkeley filmmaker Judith Ehrlich finished the "fine cut"—which includes more than 1,300 photos and segments of archival film clips. That meant the biggest remaining challenge was raising $80,000 to purchase song rights. 

That challenge was made a lot easier, thanks to singer and resistance-icon Joan Baez who has "contributed her performance rights" to more than a half-dozen songs, including Carry It On and Kumbaya

Sadly, the project has suffered an unexpected loss. One of the key movers behind the enterprise, producer Christopher Colorado Jones, died after an accident on June 29. According to the film's advisory committee, Jones (who was the initiator of the project in 2003) died "from a head injury" after he "fell from a ladder while adjusting a Pride flag on his home on the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising." 

Jones refused the draft in 1967 "for reasons of conscience" and served nine months in a Federal Prison Camp. After his release, he became director of the Agape Foundation, which promoted nonviolent activism. He moved to San Francisco in 2012 and organized a reunion of draft resisters that became the genesis for the documentary. Jones' friends and colleagues are asking supporters to secure Jones' legacy by offering contributions to guarantee completion of the film by the end of this year. For more information, see


Trump's "Fake News" Terrorists 

Darn Ol' Trump continues to falsely characterize four progressive female congressmembers as "pro-terrorist" and "anti-USA" ISIS-sympathizers. 

But even Sen. Mitch McConnell has been moved to warn that these tweeted tirades can no longer simply be dismissed as "disgraceful" volleys of "fake news." Quoth Mitch: "Words do matter." 

This is serious: Trump's slanders contain precisely the kind of language that can get people killed. 

Without facts or specifics, Trump broadcasts the accusation that four elected congresswomen are engaged in "anti-American" activities, adding that: "If they don't love America, they can leave." (Translated from Trumpspeak that means: "If they don't love me, they can leave.") 

In fact, all four legislators have all been preoccupied performing the job they were elected to do—including crafting and passing an impressive number of progressive bills aimed at challenging costly military excursions abroad and preventing the erosion of human freedom at home. 

At the same time, Trump has tweeted nothing about a real-life terrorist now awaiting trial for a potentially deadly serial bombing attack directed at government officials. 

A Real Trump-loving Terrorist 

Last October, Cesar Sayoc set off a federal manhunt when he mailed packages containing pipe bombs to a host of Democratic targets. So why hasn't Trump mentioned this real domestic threat to America? Because Sayoc loves Trump. His lawyers have described him as "an ardent Trump fan." He is such an over-the-top Trump supporter that the media dubbed him the "MAGAbomber." 

Sayoc's saga recently took a weird turn when his legal team revealed their defense strategy. They are claiming that it was Donald Trump who drove their vulnerable client to commit illegal acts, arguing that, "In his darkness, Mr. Sayoc found light in Donald Trump." 

"In the lead-up to the 2018 midterm election," his lawyers argued in a sentencing memo, "Mr. Sayoc became increasingly obsessive, paranoid and angry. His paranoia bled into delusion and Mr. Sayoc came to believe that prominent democrats were actively working to hurt him, other Trump supporters, and the country as a whole." 

The lawyers pointed to exculpatory evidence, including the fact that their MAGAnoid client was "connected to hundreds of right-wing Facebook groups," many of which promoted the idea that "Trump's critics were dangerous, unpatriotic and evil." They further pointed out that Trump had "specifically blamed many of the individuals Mr. Sayoc ultimately targeted . . . ." 

The legal team all but named Trump as an unindicted co-conspirator who not only prompted Sayoc's explosive-laden reprisals but also provided him with a hit list. 


Sadly, Cesar Sayoc is not the only terrorist inspired by Trump's hate-filled tweets. In November 2008, three militia members who plotted to bomb a gathering of Muslims in Kansas, asked for a lenient sentence because they had felt urged to action by Trump's anti-Muslim rhetoric and the Christchurch shooter who attacked two New Zealand mosques in March linked his murder spree to Trump, who he described as a "symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose." 

But Isn't Treason a Capital Offense? 

After a 16-year lull, US Attorney General William Barr wants to resume the execution of federal prisoners. 

But has Barr thought this through? 

US Code 18, Article 2381 is explicit: "Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death." 

Surely the House Democrats are aware that Article III, Section 10 of the Constitution clearly states: "Congress shall have power to declare the punishment of treason." 

This makes Trump's reelection bid a matter of survival—perhaps, literally. It may be that the only way Trump can avoid jail is to win a second term. 

On Your Marks, Get Set . . . Blow! 

Did you know there was a calendar date that honors whistleblowers? The Chronicle recently celebrated July 30 (National Whistleblowers Day) by offering readers a chance to win reserved seats to an advance screening of Official Secrets, a powerful political thriller staring Keira Knightley as Katharine Gun, the real-life British intelligence specialist who tried to blow the whistle on the US/UK plot to fake an excuse to invade Iraq. 


It turns out that there's not just one day set aside to honoring whistleblowers but three. We've got a National Day, an International Day, and a World Day for whistleblowers. Here are the details: 

International Whistleblowers Day (March 24) is hosted by an international network of "lawyers, investigators, journalists and anti-corruption experts" who stand ready to investigate complaints of wrongdoing and pledged to "work with you to achieve corrective action and justice." Any reports of corruption, public health threats, environmental dangers are welcome and come with a promise that: "Our highly respected partners use the most secure technologies available to protect your identity." 

World Whistleblowers Day (June 23) is an international observance whose goal is to raise public awareness about the role of whistleblowers in combating corruption. WWD defines a whistleblower as any "person who exposes any kind of information or activity that is deemed illegal, unethical, or not correct within an organization." 

National Whistleblower Day (July 30) commemorates the date in 1778 when the Continental Congress passed a resolution honoring ten sailors and marines who were jailed after revealing that their commanding officer, Commodore Esek Hopkins, had tortured captured British soldiers "in the most inhuman and barbarous manner.” 

The resolution declared: "“it is the duty of all persons in the service of the United States, as well as all other inhabitants thereof, to give the earliest information of wrongdoing to Congress or other proper authority of any misconduct, frauds or misdemeanors committed by any officers or persons in the service of these states, which may come to their knowledge.” 

The first Congressional celebration of National Whistleblower Day took place in the US Senate Kennedy Caucus Room on July 30, 2015. Since then, the National Whistleblower Center (NWC) has held an annual celebration to honor whistleblowers and to declare July 30 National Whistleblower Day. On July 24, the US Senate unanimously passed a resolution to designate July 30 “National Whistleblower Appreciation Day.” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) introduced the bill on behalf of the Senate Whistleblower Protection Caucus. The US House of Representatives has also introduced a Resolution to recognize the day. 

Barbara Lee on the Case for Impeachment 

Rep. Barbara Lee writes: 

On Wednesday, July 24, former Special Counsel Robert Mueller testified before Congress, and here are the facts: 

• Russia engaged in widespread election interference in 2016 in an attempt to help Donald Trump win the presidency. 

• The Trump campaign welcomed and actively sought help from Russia during the race. 

• Then they lied and tried to cover it up, and President Trump made at least ten potential attempts to obstruct the investigation into his campaign’s corrupt behavior. 

Perhaps the most important fact to come out of Wednesday's hearings and the Mueller report is this: Trump was not exonerated from wrongdoing, and it’s possible he could be charged with a crime once he is out of the White House. 

Mueller could not indict Trump, but Congress can. The case for impeachment is stronger than ever. 

Impeachment is serious business, but so is the fact that we have a corrupt, racist, sexist, and reckless man in the White House. Trump continues to deny the facts and call Russia’s election interference a “hoax,” Mueller’s investigation a “witch hunt,” and the free press “the enemy of the people.”  

As long as Trump is in office and tearing our communities apart with his hateful rhetoric and harmful policies, I will do whatever I can to see that we hold him accountable . . . . 

ACTION: The President is not above the law. Add your name if you agree. 

Our Elections Are Still Not Secure 

On July 17, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) issued a warning: 

"Despite our intelligence agencies' certainty that Russia meddled in the 2016 election and are preparing to step up their attacks in 2020, the Trump administration has been pathetically—even willfully—slow in addressing election security. Now the Associated Press is reporting that machines in as many as 10,000 precincts will be running outdated, unsecure software. 

"Put simply, here's what that means: until November of next year, hackers will be able to find new vulnerabilities in our election equipment, and no one will be doing anything to secure them. And, because security requirements vary by state, and the federal government has yet to implement cybersecurity standards nationwide, some Americans' votes are much more vulnerable than others. That danger is urgent and preventable. 

"That's why I introduced the Protecting American Votes and Elections (PAVE) Act, which will mandate nationwide cybersecurity standards for our elections.  

I've also questioned the top federal election task force in charge of protecting our elections—the Election Assistance Commission—to learn exactly what steps it's taking to make sure that every vote, in every state, is safe from outside interference.  

"Free, fair, secure, democratic elections form the backbone of our democracy, and I will do everything in my power to guarantee their integrity. There's still time to act, but the clock is ticking." 

Say No to Undeclared Presidential Wars 

Thanks to the 1961 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a president can start a war anytime, anywhere he/she wants. This war powers act undermines our Constitution, triggers needless human suffering, and threatens world peace. 

Consider: The current "occupant of the White House" is precisely the kind of guy who would fail a background check to purchase a handgun. At the same time, he's been granted the power to command naval fleets, strategic bombers and nuclear-armed missiles. 

According to Robert Naiman of Just Foreign Policy: 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has a historic opportunity now to end the famine-causing Saudi war in Yemen. The House has passed the Matt Gaetz [R-FL]  

-Ro Khanna [D-CA] Yemen War Powers amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would end all US participation in the war.  

The House and Senate have both passed the Sanders-Lee-Murphy Yemen War Powers Resolution. The House and Senate have both voted to cut off US arms shipments to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for the war. 

ACTION: MoveOn has posted an online petition Urging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to end US support for the Saudi war in Yemen. You can sign the petition here

Postscript: On July 25, Trump vetoed three Congressional bills that would have blocked billions of dollars in US arms sales to Saudi Arabia. 

Heretical Haikus  

"Send her home!" they yell. 

Trump stays mum. He's no leader, 

He's a stampeder 

. . . 

Trump's vile strategy: 

Specialize in special lies. 

Fat fibs and whoppers. 

. . . 

Showers for hours 

Trump storms, rumbles and thunders 

Let's suspend his reign 

. . .  

The red-capped hoards say 

Trump deserves a second term. 

Make it a jail term.