SMITHEREENS: Reflections on Bits & Pieces

Gar Smith
Friday October 11, 2019 - 04:11:00 PM

Don't Despair. The Bureaucrats Are in Charge

During a live October 8 press conference conducted to prepare 800,000 California residents for power outages that might last up to a week, a portly PG&E spokesperson assured everyone that the giant utility (and bankrupt felon) was dedicated to "solutionizing" the situation.

It's looking like the abbreviation PG&E has come to stand for Performance Gaffes & Emergencies.

Gov. Gav Gives Public Banks a Boost

After a long legislative struggle powered largely by "grassroots people power," California Governor Gavin Newsom has signed AB 857, the Public Banks bill. Cities and counties across the state can now create their own, independent, locally-run banks free from the marketing mindset of Big Buck Banks like Citi, Chase and BofA.
AB 857, stewarded by Assemblymembers David Chiu and Miguel Santiago, won the support of more than180 organizations—including labor unions, environmental groups, economic justice advocates, the California Democratic Party, and cities and counties statewide.
As the California Public Banking Alliance proudly notes: 

With no motivation to maximize profits, and no legal mandate to funnel profit to shareholders, local public banks can return monies to the cities and counties who deposit money in the banks. Public banks can divest from fossil fuels, fund climate change mitigation projects and climate change infrastructure management. They can make affordable housing truly affordable. They can work with community banks and credit unions to promote local small businesses.
Whether we look at Germany’s
Sparkassen network of municipal public banks—a major driver of Germany’s green economy—or the Bank of North Dakota, which returns 18% per year to its state and dodged the entire foreclosure crisis—we can see the ways that public banks can transform our economy.
The hope is that this historic win in California will be duplicated in other states across the nation. 

For more information, you can view the AB 857 Fact Sheet, the FAQs, Endorsements, and Resources page.  


Tell Governor Newsom: 'No More Fossil Fuels'

With the success of the Public Banking initiative, it looks like we're on a roll. So let's put it to the Ultimate Test by petitioning the governor to decarbonize CA. 


With the Trump administration waging an all-out assault on our planet, we are experiencing increasingly harmful impacts from the fossil fuel pollution that harms our environment, health and wellbeing. And now Trump wants to open more than 720,000 acres of California land to climate-cooking oil production, quake-causing fracking, and methane-generating gas-extraction. 

CREDO Action has a message for Trump: "With the growing national enthusiasm for climate justice and legislation like the Green New Deal, California has an opportunity to do what it does best: Lead the way." And towards that end, CREDO Action has a new online petition that asks the governor to: 

"Take transformative climate action to phase out oil production in California, by stopping new fossil fuel projects, dropping existing projects, and rolling out setback limits that phase out oil production." 

Truth in Political Advertising — Sort of … 

The (somewhat) good news is that California has passed a law outlawing "deep fakes" in election advertising. A "deep fake" can create a false video image of someone saying/doing something they never said/did. Like this notorious deep-fake of Barack Obama calling Donald Trump a "dipshit." 


Strangely, the new state law doesn't ban these fakes completely. Under the new law, they can be widely broadcast up until 60 days before an election. Presumably that would allow time for public watchdogs to identify and nullify the deep-fakeries. 

Facebook v. Fakebook: How We Just Got Zucked 

Well and good, California. But how do we deal with plain old-fashioned "fake news"? 

CNN was clear on the issue. It recently refused to air two of three Trump campaign ads because they included unfounded accusations that Joe Biden and his son had been found guilty of corrupt activities involving Ukraine. 

Things turned out differently after Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was invited to the White House for a sit-down with Donald Trump. 

Shortly afterwards, Zuckerberg ordered that Facebook's "Rule 13" banning "claims debunked by third-party fact-checkers" would no longer apply to ads "expressing the opinion or agenda of a political figure." 

Next thing we knew, the Trump reelection campaign was writing Facebook a $1.5 million check to post all three ads—including ones that Facebook's own fact-checkers had previously rejected as fake news. 

Needless to say, the optics were not good. 

The Daily Kos responded by posting a petition accusing Facebook of giving politicians an "open season to repeat lies." 

Trolling Greta  


Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg has been in the news a lot lately but not for nothing. Let's face it: the whole frickn' planet's in an ecological tailspin, for Gaia's sake. Since 1970, more than 60% world's animals have disappeared. (That's never a good sign.) So I was shocked to discover a bitter and burgeoning anti-Greta backlash brewing in the world of online angst. In disturbing and growing numbers, the Internet's trolls and conspiracy theorists have turned on Thunberg. 

Here are a few of the more civil examples: 

• "She is advocating for a colour revolution in China and Russia and lying her face off in the process." 

• "Does anyone have a link to info regarding the people who are using her: I read an article saying they are mostly linked to green tech companies." 

• "People are such mindless sheep. Even those who know better, who understand that this is just a green color revolution & a distraction, a fraud, another corporate psy-op, have taken the bait & post ad nauseam on Thunberg." 

• "We should definitely not fall for any cult of personality type thing." 

Even Donald Trump found time to re-tweet a claim that Thunberg was just an "actress" who was "getting the best education socialism can steal." 

Photos of the 16-year-old have been altered to paint a Hitler 'stach on her lip. She's been called an agent of the New World Order, and part of a plot "to lead us all to slavery." The vitriol has turned venomous with attacks accusing Thunberg of being mentally ill, an agent of ISIS terror, the daughter of a homosexual father with a German boyfriend, the offspring of a Satanic lesbian mother who abets teenagers seeking abortions and—worst of all—the secret granddaughter of globalist billionaire George Soros. 

USA Today recently ran a compendium of insults and threats directed at the young climate activist. The article included Greta's understated response: "It's of course annoying that people spend their time doing things like this when they could be doing something useful instead." 

If history is any guide, we will eventually learn that Project Whole Troll was orchestrated by the world's major coal, gas, and oil companies. (When it comes to conspiracy theories, two can play that game.) 

Apparently, God's Not Paying Attention 

As part of an early Christmas fund-raising pitch, the St. Labre Indian School in Ashland, Montana, recently mass-mailed an oversized 14-piece solicitation packet containing a half-dozen Christmas cards depicting cute Native American children in stereotypic feathers and moccasins. Ironically, they were shown praying to the same Christian god worshipped by the White invaders responsible for the genocide of the country's indigenous inhabitants. 

One card shows three native children in a manger worshipping a pale-faced baby along with a verse from James I:17: "All good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights…." 

The message in the solicitation letter had a much grimmer tone. It pointed to "Tommy," whose only living family member is his aging grandmother who can no longer care for him due to her declining health. And there's "Jenny," who "wishes her mom would quit drinking so she could return home," and "Cindy," who just wants "a house with a roof that doesn't leak." They are all trapped in "a world filled with unemployment, poverty, sheer desperation, and . . . hopelessness…." 

The message is discordant. Even after accepting "the White Man's God," why are so many Native Americans mired in poverty and misery? Instead of praying to the Heavenly Father for "every perfect gift from above," a solicitation package has been sent to thousands of complete strangers to announce: "Indian children … have no one else to turn to for help." 

Venezuela Embassy Protectors to Visit Berkeley on October 16 


During the high drama of Washington's repeated covert (and not-so-covert) attempts to replace the democratically elected government in Venezuela with a US-approved puppet—the self-proclaimed-president-in-waiting, Juan Guaidó—a group of American pro-democracy activists received the Venezuelan government's permission to enter, occupy, and protect the country's embassy in Washington DC. After 37 days of struggle protecting the Venezuelan Embassy—in the face of angry right-wing mobs in the street and the threat of an illegal US-government seizure of diplomatically protected sovereign property—Kevin Zeese, Dr. Margaret Flowers, Dr. Adrienne Pine, and David Paul were arrested by federal agents. The Embassy Four are currently fighting the charges against them and are on a West Coast speaking tour. They will be appearing at Berkeley's Fellowship Hall (1924 Cedar Avenue) at 6:30PM on October 16. 

Flowers and Zeese are from Baltimore and David Paul is from San Francisco. They will update the latest news from Caracas and explore what local activists can do to oppose the US blockade against the embattled country. The event is co-sponsored by the BFUU Social Justice Committee, the International Committee for Peace Justice & Dignity, the Task Force on the Americas and has been endorsed by the Alameda County Green Party. 

Make Trump Pay 

Remember how, on December 11, 2018, 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, some critics argued, why not hold him personally liable for reimbursing the billions of dollars in "unrecoverable losses" his actions inflicted on the country.
Earlier this year, I posted a MoveOn petition addressed to the House of Representatives and the Senate. It read:
"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."  

Want to sign this petition? Click here