SMITHEREENS: Reflections on Bits & Pieces

Gar Smith
Saturday May 02, 2020 - 03:36:00 PM

The Pandemic's East Bay Hot Spots 

The East Bay Express (currently reduced to a napkin-thin 16 pages) came up with some interesting figures on COVID-19 cases in the Oakland neighborhood. The EBX reported "more than half of the current cases coming from what the country describes as the 'Eden Area,' the unincorporated hamlets of San Lorenzo, Cherryland, Ashland, and Hayward Acres" — populated, in large part, by low-income and uninsured residents. The Eden Area, along with Castro Valley, Hayward, and East Oakland have "the highest rates of COVID-19 cases in the county." 

Will the Coronavirus Reinvent the World? 

It's a bit creepy to say it, but the coronavirus seems to have a "green" agenda. COVID-19 has been accomplishing transformations that eco-activists have been demanding for decades—reducing air and water pollution; slowing global heating by halting jet travel and auto traffic; crashing the profits of Big Oil, Big Coal, and Big Gas; thwarting the massive munching of meat by shuttering major pork plants; reducing human impacts on wild nature by confining billions of people inside their homes; causing the Pentagon to cancel global war-games; forcing the Navy to abandon nuclear-powered ships; and, last but not least, making Donald Trump look like the fatuous, frivolous fraud that he is. 

It's also creepy to realize that there is a powerful argument that the GOP's Trump-enablers could use to downplay and minimize the COVID-19 death count—but I can guarantee they won't use it. 

They could argue: "COVID-19 should be viewed in perspective. Sure, it's killed 62,000 Americans but, last year, tobacco killed 480,000." 

Tobacco is a commercial pandemic that Altria and other Nicotine Kingpins intentionally unleashed upon the world—a scourge that has proven deadlier than any virus. According to the World Health Organization, tobacco eventually "kills up to half of its users." That amounts to more than 8 million tobacco deaths a year. 

And why don't we see TV images of tobacco-sickened victims dying as they are hooked up to ventilators in hospitals from Wuhan, to Sicily, to Ohio? Because powerful corporations control the national news media and most of the planet's smokers (around 80%) live in low-income and middle-income nations. 

Planet of the Humans Generates a Heated Debate 

Planet of the Humans, the new Jeff Gibbs/Michael More documentary (featured in last week's Smithereens) has been watched by nearly 22 million viewers. The film has inflamed emotions, anger and outrage. Democracy Now! described the film as "misleading and destructive." Common Dreams called the film a "demoralizing" attack on the climate movement. The Nation called Moore "the New Flack for Oil and Gas." Naomi Klein called the film "damaging" and noted that while "there are important critiques of an environmentalism that refuses to reckon with unlimited consumption + growth. But this film ain't it." Environmental filmmaker Josh "Gasland" Fox characterized the film as "dangerous" and called for it to be taken offline. And then there are supporters like Michael Donnelly who railed against "highly-compensated, thoroughly-compromised Climate Warriors" who have nothing to offer "but pie-in-the-sky 'renewable' energy myths." 

There are many views and critiques erupting online. Phil Cafaro, a professor at Colorado State University writes to recommend the following reads: "The best critical view of the film is a long analysis from Ohio environmental activist Cathy Cowan Becker." While Cafaro views the film as "flawed in important ways…, I think it has value in opening up questions about the essential goals of environmentalism." He recommends this article from the Overpopulation Project. "And if you want a more conventional analysis of the film as a film, you can check out the review in Variety." 

Here are some other responses, ranging from eco-unfriendly to industry-friendly. 

Why Planet of the Humans is Crap

"Jeff Gibbs and Michael Moore wind up carrying water for people who want us to believe renewable energy is an illusion, or even a con," Tom Athanasiou, Earth Island Journal. 

Michael Moore Produced a Film That’s a Gift to Big Oil

"Planet of the Humans deceives viewers about clean energy and climate activists," Leah C. Stokes, Vox 

Mobilizing Climate Action in the Face of Planet of the Humans

"Michael Moore's new film is so full of weak analysis, misinformation, and misplaced invective that I worry it will cause more harm than good," Cynthia Kaufman / Common Dreams 

Hurry, See Planet of the Humans Before It’s Banned

"A stunning evisceration of so-called green energy and the people profiting from it," 

Myron Ebell, Competitive Enterprise Institute 

Rest Easy and Don't Bite Your Tongue 

Sleep-aid businesses are making piles of money today because millions of Americans are finding it harder to breathe at night. The Sleep Apnea industry is raking in breathtaking profits from the sale of Sleep Apnea Pills, Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) breathing masks, Mandibular Advancement Devices, and battery-powered tools inserted inside the chest to keep airways open "at the push of a button." 

But the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine has discovered a surprising cause of the basic breathing problem—people who are overweight and suffering from "fat tongues." When patients lost pounds, they found themselves breathing a lot easier. 

This, of course, opens up new commercial opportunities for the merchandising of tongue-slimming medicines and therapies. But if you are one of the millions of Americans suffering from "Plump Tongue Disorder" and you're looking for a cure, let me offer the following free exercise regime that you can practice at home to "slim your licker"—courtesy of Tongue Gymnastics specialist, Dr. M. Cyrus. 


Soon to Be a Major Motion Picture? 

Marvin X Jackmon has proudly announced the latest release from Black Bird Press. Tarik, a book based on a filmscript by Michael Satchell, presents a "historical fiction" treatment of the life of Tarik Ibn Ziyad, a charismatic African general who led an army of Moorish and Arab warriors to battle in Spain in 711 A.D. 

You may not have heard of Tarik before but you've heard of the famous promontory named in his honor—"Gibraltar." 

The book focuses on Tarik's relationship with his childhood friend—and later wife—Umm-Hakim, the aunt of Muhammad (her twin brother was the Prophet's father). This remarkable woman followed Tarik's march into Spain at the head of her own army. She was known as Al-Baydaa ("the White One") because she was her family's only fair-skinned daughter. 

Umm-Kahim's first husband was killed in the Battle of Yarmouk in 634 CE. Her second husband was killed in the Battle of Marj al-Saffar. After his death, Umm-Hakim took her revenge by "single-handedly killing seven Byzantine soldiers with a tent pole" on a bridge that still survives near Damascus and today bears her name. 

In the Battle of Uhud, Umm-Hakim stood at the front of a legion of Quraish women beating drums as she lead them into battle. (Wouldn't that be a "movie moment"?) 

Satchell spent 20 years working on the screenplay and now Marvin X has transformed the script into a book. Satchell still hopes Tarik's saga will make it to the Big Screen but, with an estimated shooting budget of $150 million, that's going to take some serious fund-raising. The publication of this "limited edition" of Satchll's book is part of that effort. Black Bird is offering the book for a donation of $99.95 (but "any amount will be appreciated"). In the meantime, a live reading is in the works. For more information, contact Michael Satchell at 

Trump Lies All the Time about Lysol and Grime 

The April 23, 2020 headline in The New York Times was succinct: "Trump's Disinfectant Remark Raises a Question About the 'Very Stable Genius,'" 

Trump's total failure to respond to the pandemic threat began in January. Thanks to his inaction, 1 million Americans have been stricken and more than 62,000 have lost their lives—most in the month of April, at the same time Trump was calling for a return to "business as usual." 

Could it be that Trump's become so unhinged that he's testing his kingly powers by suggesting that people-at-risk be injected with household disinfectants—and then waiting to see if anyone takes him seriously? (Sure enough, a number of Trump supporters soon started turning up in emergency wards after dosing themselves with home-brewed disinfectant cocktails.) 

Despite his utter failure to promote nationwide testing, to provide essential protective equipment for doctors, to secure ventilators for victims, and supporting fringe-movement/big-business calls to "reopen the country" while deaths were still rising, 

Trump continued to proclaim his administrative prowess. At one long March 9 press conference, Trump reportedly praised his leadership skills more than 600 times. The same news analysis that counted those 600 instances of self-congratulation also noted that Trump "expressed empathy" or called for "national unity" only 160 times. Nonetheless, the Republican National Committee is preparing a $1 million ad buy to hype Trump's "leadership." 

In response, has launched the first in a series of digital and TV ads targeting key voters in battleground states that tell the real story of Donald Trump's abject failure to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. Here is one of those ads. 


MoveOn is asking for donations to place this (and forthcoming) ads on TV screens across America. 

Trump's "Small Business" Relief Act: Who Really CARES? 

Congress passed a COVID-19 relief bill with emergency loans to small businesses. The money ran out within days, with many legacy small businesses left stranded. $300 million went to just 75 large companies. Trump's former ambassador Gordon Sondland landed a loan, as did other wealthy businessmen connected with Trump. Pulling the mask off these Loan Arrangers reveals a virtual Who's Who of corporate America. 

For a full accounting of the Big Bizzers who made out like bandits, check out Documenting The Trump Administration’s Mismanagement Of The Paycheck Protection Program During The COVID 19 Crisis at 

Trump's Rap Sheet 


Didja know that Donald Trump has been named in at least 169 federal lawsuits. reviewed a sordid trail of cases dating back to 1983 and ranging from "business disputes, antitrust claims, and … accusations that Trump's campaign statements are discriminatory against minorities." In addition, Trump's record shows that he has been sued by "celebrities, personal assistants, prisoners, people in mental hospitals, unions, and wealthy businessmen." And, since LawNewz only burrowed into US Federal Court records, "who knows how many others were filed in state courts…?" 

Who knows, indeed. It turns out this LawNewz investigation was published in 2016—nine months before the presidential election that Trump lost by 3 million votes. (That election should have been the subject of a federal lawsuit, as well.) 

The Most Outstanding Member of the Trump Administration? 

Donald Trump likes to boast that he has accomplished "more than any other president in history." Well, there is one area in which that claim has merit. Trump has hired and fired more members of his administration than any other leader—many, if not most of them, individuals that he had personally chosen for those positions. According to a recent Brookings Institute study, Trump's executive staff turnover has been higher than the five most recent presidents

When Trump sacked his National Security Adviser Michal Flynn—in the first weeks of entering office—it was just the beginning of what the Brookings Institute called an "avalanche" that saw 21 members of Trump's "A Team," booted out in just the first year of the Trump Era—a record 85% turnover of top officials. 

So let us pause and salute one of the most distinguished members of Trumplandia—Presidential Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham. Grisham followed in the muddy footsteps of such polarizing press provocateurs as Sean Spicer and Sarah Sanders. 

But Grisham stand alone at the only Trump flack who never routinely insulted or demeaned members of the Fifth Estate. 

How did Grisham succeed where others had failed? Simple: although she was a constant guest on Fox News, she refused to hold any formal press briefings—for a total of 365 days!—prompting CNN's Anderson Cooper to question whether taxpayers should be fronting Grisham's $183,000 salary. 

Trump's latest appointment, Kayleigh McEnany, comes to the position with a long history of making anti-science and racist wisecracks. In February, she assured Fox Business viewers that "We will not see diseases like the coronavirus come here." She later defended Trump's plan to hold mass rallies despite the advice of health adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci, by telling the press "The president is the best authority on this issue." 

On March 12, McEnany boasted that 1 million COVID-19 test kits had been distributed nationwide. Turned out, only 10,000 people had been tested. McEnany also assured the press that Trump had not terminated the "pandemic office" when, in fact, Trump had done just that. 

McEnany also railed against Barack Obama's "missing birth certificate" and once Tweeted: "How I Met Your Brother — Never mind, forgot he's still in that hut in Kenya." In 2017, she accused Obama of going golfing the day that Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was beheaded by terrorists in Pakistan. (Wrong: George W. Bush was president at the time.) 

After the long do-little tenure of S. Grisham, the advent of Kayleigh "The President Doesn't Lie" McEnany makes one thing clear: In Trump's Washington, things are back to normal. 

Don't Look at What's Around You—Look Up in the Sky 

While residents of Trumpanistan were dying by the hundreds, The Donald continued to blurt fantasies that the pandemic would "magically disappear by April" and publicly dithered over fantasies about miracle cures involving hydroxychloroquine (made by a French company Trump has invested in) and injections of Lysol and "healing light." When the states asked for protective gear, Trump was not there for the hospital workers on the front line. Instead of offering medical supplies and financial support, Trump offers distractions and dismissive insults. His latest distraction: claiming to "honor" doctors and nurses by ordering Big City flyovers by a dozen military jets. 

This tantalizing stunt was intended to suggest a link between domestic security and military weaponry (instead of drawing attention to the increasingly wasteful increases in military-industrial spending). In New York, Trump's fly-over stunt did accomplish one thing: it drew thousands of New Yorkers out of the safety of their shelters to gather outdoors and gape, open-mouthed, at the aircraft roaring overhead. Two teams of six fighter jets managed to turn thousands of gallons of jet-fuel into greenhouse gases and colored smoke as streams of toxic particulates descended over the city. (We now know that coronaviruses can latch onto particulates in polluted air, enabling them to expand their range.) 

Is American Health Care Part of the Problem? 

In May 2016, the British Medical Journal (BMJ) published an article with the headline: Medical error—the third leading cause of death in the US. There's even a word for this: "iatorgenesis," meaning a preventable adverse effect caused by medical error. 

The BMJ article estimated that as many as 250,000 deaths per year in the United States were caused by medical error. The medical profession in the US disputed these findings, with some arguing that medical errors only accounted for 5.2 percent of in-hospital deaths—no more than 35,000 deaths, tops. 

So it was disturbing to find an April 12 Chronicle article on "The Science of Coronavirus" that contained the following statement: "Most deaths occur from secondary bacterial infections, sepsis and kidney failure often exacerbated by strong antibiotics that can be toxic to the kidneys." 

A Double Plague: Coronavirus in a Time of War 

The next time you hear someone complain about the inconvenience of "sheltering-in-place," tell them to be thankful they aren't in Libya. The following video from the New York Times provides a wrenching look into the legacy of Washington's invasion and overthrow of that beleaguered country.