SMITHEREENS: Reflections on Bits & Pieces

Gar Smith
Thursday October 17, 2019 - 10:00:00 PM

Favorite Soundbite of the Week

KCBS and Chronicle commentator Phil Matier offered the following during a live radio discussion on the Fate of the Republic:

"On one hand, you've got the Democrats over on one side singing 'We Shall Overcome' and Trump's up there on center stage like Meatloaf, singing 'Like a Bat Outta Hell!'"

PS: For those unfamiliar with this deranged ditty, here's a sampling of the lyrics:

The sirens are screaming, and the fires are howling
Way down in the valley tonight
There's a man in the shadows with a gun in his eye
And a blade shining oh so bright
There's evil in the air and there's thunder in the sky,
And a killer's on the bloodshot streets
And down in the tunnels where the deadly are rising
Oh, I swear I saw a young boy down in the gutter
He was starting to foam in the heat

Looking for that Perfect Grift? Check Out This Impeachment Merch 

Donald Trump has made no secret of the fact that he wanted a Big Wall and it looks like he's going to get his wish. The walls are closing in on him and he may soon be relocating to new quarters with nothing but walls—no windows, no porch, no gold-coated toilets. 

If you're in the market for a going-away gift, The People's Email Network (PO Box 35022, L.A., CA 90035) just might have what you're looking for. Here's their pitch: 

"Welcome to your headquarters for Trump impeachment advocacy gifts, where you can get everything you need to demonstrate your support for ridding our Oval Office of the most terminally vile person in American political history."  

And here's a list of some of their Trump-dumping inventory: 

• Lock Him Up/Impeach Trump popcorn boxes 

• Dump Trump bumper stickers 

• Trump the Fraud bumper stickers 

• Trump Resistance bumper stickers 

What's Shakin'? 

Just in time for the 30th anniversary of the Loma Prieta Quake, the state has announced a new quake-alert system called "MyShake." In addition to the fashionably accessorized name, what does this new phone app offer? Thanks to modern seismic science, we now can download an application that sends early warnings about any imminent earthquakes measuring 5.0 or more on the Richter Scale. Depending on the distance between the fault-slip and your mobile device, the warning could give you a few precious added seconds to prepare. 

A report in the Chronicle suggests that the device could prevent people from walking into an elevator, only to become trapped when a quake strikes. But that assumes you are not already inside an elevator. In most cases, it would seem, a quake alert might not allow time for doing anything other than what you would do if a quake struck without an early warning—i.e., trying to dive under the nearest, sturdiest table. 

MyShake sends out a text warning along with an alarm-beep. But you then have to extract your Smartphone from purse or pocket and look for the text message on the screen. Critical seconds could be lost. 

Here's a better idea for the App-Masters to work on: Instead of a text, your handheld device sounds an alert and then shout out the only information that really matters in the moment: "Quake in five seconds!" "Quake in 30 seconds!" 

Did Garry Trudeau Just Tip His Hand? 

Garry Trudeau's October 13 Sunday edition of Doonesbury featured a six-panel predictive vision of the next presidential swearing-in ceremony on January 20, 2021. The Oath of Office has been changed, however, and the new president swears to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States and, excepting official White House announcements, will forswear the use of Twitter for as long as I may serve, so help me God." 

But what struck me was the second panel, which showed the hand of the new POTUS resting on a Bible. 

No, it wasn't the discordant image of a US president promising to uphold the "separation of Church and State" by swearing-on-a-Bible. Instead, it was that (to my eye, at least) the hand depicted resting on the Holy Bible appeared to be feminine. Was Trudeau slyly predicting that our next president would share the White House with a First Husband? 

Then I noticed something else about the cartooned hand: it was devoid of nail polish. 

In hopes of uncovering Trudeau's secret choice, I scoured Google for images of all five female candidates—Kamala Harris, Tulsi Gabbard, Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren, and Marianne Williamson—and was surprised to discover that none of the candidates appear to have accented their cuticles. Not a single red-nailed contender in the bunch. If true, this would mark another welcomed break with tradition—and that's the unvarnished truth. 

Flocking to the Flicks 

Once again, it's time for the Berkeley Video and Film Festival (the 28th edition!), so start making plans to set aside some time between October 25-27 and November 1-3 to catch your choice of 60 award-winning independent films—including Internationally acclaimed and Oscar-nominated documentaries. (Bonus: many of the filmmakers will be present for Q&A's with the audience.) 

The festival begins with a "Film School Frenzy" at 7pm on Friday, October 25, featuring selections from the USC School of Cinematic Arts and there's lots to chose from thereafter. (The complete list is available online at BVFF.) And here's one guaranteed crowd-pleaser for the crowd's pleasure: Hippie Family Values. It screens on October 26, 7:30 with director Beverly Seckinger in person. Here's a trailer: 

All screenings will be at the East Bay Media Center's Performance Space in Downtown Berkeley's Arts District (1939 Addison Street: 510-843-3699). Tickets are available online, at the door, or via Eventbrite and Sunday screenings are FREE! 

This Lerner Is a Teacher 

Back in 1965, Rabbi Michael Lerner served as a member of the Free Speech Movement's coordinating committee before getting himself indicted by Nixon's Justice Department for organizing anti-war demonstrations at U of Washington. Over the past half-century, he's written 11 books, including "The Left Hand of God: Taking Back Our Country From the Religious Right." And now. Rabbi Lerner has written a new book, Revolutionary Love: A Political Manifesto to Heal and Transform the World (University of California Press). 

Lerner, who has worked as a psychotherapist studying political and social movements as well as "studying the psychodynamics of American society (in part as principal investigator of an NIMH supported systematic study of the American middle class)" believes he has hit upon "a new strategy for healing and transforming our world before the life support system of the planet is destroyed and before reactionary white nationalism becomes the shaper of the politics of the 2020s and 2030s." 

So far, the book has been praised by Gloria Steinem, Keith Ellison, Cornel West, and Code Pink's Medea Benjamin. 

Lerner writes: "I think that my book will help many of my former allies understand the importance of broadening our movements for social change so that they are perceived as seeking not only economic and social justice, but also a world of love, kindness and generosity." 

Rabbi Lerner is about to embark on a nationwide book tour that begins in the Bay Area. Here are some of the key events. 

October 27: At 4 pm, Rabbi Lerner will host a reading and discussion at Book Passage in Marin County (51 Tamal Vista Blvd, Corte Madera).  

October 27: KPFA is sponsoring a 7:30 pm bookreading with the author at the Hillside Club (2286 Cedar St., Berkeley). 

These events will follow a special October 26 appearance at the Diesel Bookstore in Los Angeles (6:30pm to 7:30pm, 225 26th St, Santa Monica) where Lerner will be joined by investigative journalist Greg Palast (author of The Best Government Money Can Buy)

November 21: Lerner will speak at the International Association of Sufism at a dinner in his honor in San Rafael where the IAS will present the author with their annual "Humanist Award." 

The national book tour will include stops in: Ashland, Oregon; Cambridge, Massachusetts; Brooklyn, New York; Princeton, New Jersey; Portland, Oregon; Seattle, Washington; Boulder, Colorado; Denver, Colorado; Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Chicago, Illinois. 

KCBS Sends a Mixed Message on Drilling 

On October 5, KCBS broadcast a series of news reports featuring critical coverage of the Trump administration's plans to open up federal lands in California to oil drilling (including in the East Bay Hills!!). 

At the same time, KCBS began airing ads from a new client—Encore Oil. The ads invited listeners to "invest in your future" by subsidizing the expansion of the very fossil-fuel operations that are destabilizing the climate, accelerating mass-extinctions and threatening human survival. The ads promised 20 years of profits from investing in horizontally drilled wells and even claimed that income from such investments could be used to reduce an investor's federal income taxes. 

I sent the following email to KCBS: 

"Isn't your Ad Dept. listening to your News Dept? Not to mention the world's leading climate scientists, environmental organizations, and Greta Thunberg?" 

This new ad pitch ignores the latest International Panel on Climate Change warning that we may only have ten years left to avoid catastrophic disruptions in global weather—because of carbon pollution that is cooking the planet. How can KCBS be complicit in such misleading and dangerous promotions? I never expected to hear an ad for oil-drilling on the radio. I'm appalled to have heard this on KCBS." 

So far, KCBS has not responded but the Encore Oil ad appears to have been plugged. 

Prisons Are America's Biggest Book Banners 

The American Library Association and the National Coalition Against Censorship recently held their annual Banned Books Week and revealed their list of “The Top 11 Challenged Books of 2018.”) According to a report by Bay Area writer Bill Berkowitz, the leading institutional book-banners in the Land of the Free are the country's prisons, which routinely keep hundreds of titles out of the hands of jailed readers.  

Berkowitz cites a September 2019 PEN America report (Literature Locked Up: How Prison Book Restriction Policies Constitute the Nation’s Largest Book Ban) that found Texas prison authorities had banned Pulitzer Prize winning books by Alice Walker, Robert Penn Warren, and John Updike along with National Book Award winners Joyce Carol Oates and Annie Proulx and including Nobel Prize winners Pablo Neruda and Andre Gide. George Orwell and former Senator Bob Dole were also banished from prison libraries. Arizona prisons reportedly blacklisted Chokehold: Policing Black Men, a book that examines the effect of the criminal justice system on black men, while prisons in New Jersey and North Carolina banned Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. Both states lifted that ban after the ACLU sent them a briefing letter about the First Amendment. 

Where You Gonna Run To? 

Hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, tsunamis, famine, social unrest! We seem surrounded by harbingers of the Apocalypse. With temperatures and tempers rising, what are we supposed to do when someone yells "Fire! Head for the Exits!"? Where can we go? 

Weill, relax (a little bit): it turns out that researchers from the University of Otago have identified the best countries where people can hide if a global pandemic breaks out. Sorry: there's no defense against rising seas and killer heat in the report, but if you're just interested in avoiding The Plague, your best escape options involve the island nations—ideally ones without a lot of air-traffic. 

According to Nick Wilson, one of the co-authors of the report: 

"The risk of an extinctionlevel pandemic has probably never been higher, due to increasing population density and global interconnectedness but also due to advances in biotechnology. However, even without causing extinction, devastation from novel pandemic disease could still pose a threat of extensively or permanently curtailing human potential", 

The Top Ten best spots to evade global plagues include Australia, New Zealand, Iceland, Malta, Japan, Cape Verde, the Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, and Madagascar. 

Book your flights well in advance and carry your hand-sanitizer.