SMITHEREENS: Reflections on Bits & Pieces

Gar Smith
Friday May 29, 2020 - 11:09:00 AM

Trump's Comeuppance? How Tweet It Is

Donald J. Trump is furious and the folks at Avaaz ("The World in Action") couldn't be happier. Avaaz, which describes itself as "a global web movement to bring people-powered politics to decision-making everywhere," finally tired of Trump's racist rants, misogynistic snubs, schoolyard-bully insults, and outright lies.

The straw that bent the camel's hump was two-fold: first was Trump's false complaint that voting-by-mail was tantamount to "election rigging"; the second was the fake news conspiracy tale that accused MSNBC's Joe Scarborough of murdering a female staffer in 2001.

Avaaz went straight to Twitter headquarters to lodge a complaint against Trump's Tweets and . . . it worked! "Twitter just took our movement’s advice and posted fact-checks on one of his tweets!" Avaaz huzzahed on May 27.

To absolutely no one's surprise, Trump immediately went buffoon-ballistic, threatening to shut down all of Twitterdom for daring to address his vile bile by adding a simple "Get the facts" link to one of his not-so-sweet Tweets.
Now the question is whether Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey will stand firm and continue to hold the Reprimander-in-chief accountable for his lies and libels? Avaaz wants to shower Dorsey with "a giant show of public support to go all-in on this direction." Avaaz claims to have held meetings with "top Twitter executives and we know they're listening."

Shortly after 1PM on May 28, the online petition topped 40,000 on its way to a goal of 50,000 signatures. On the petition's website, the names were flooding in at a phenomenal rate of two-per-second, with signees swarming from around the world. Clicks of support were coming in from as far off as Zimbabwe, Honduras, and the Arab Emirates. The whole world seems to be climbing onboard this tweet-storm. Here's the text of the petition to Dorsey "and all social media companies": 

We thank Twitter and its CEO, Jack Dorsey, for posting fact-checked corrections to false information. We encourage you to stand strong, and go further to issue independent, fact-checked corrections to everyone who's seen false or misleading content on your platform. 

Trump Hits Back; Clobbers Own Rump 

Meanwhile Trump has signed an Executive Order targeting social media companies, claiming that sites like Twitter and Facebook "have had unchecked power.” (I think this is an example of what psychologists call "projection.") 

The wording of Trump's order was not immediately released but was believed to ask that social media platforms be stripped of their liability protections, which would open them up to lawsuits for posting content that was erroneous or libelous. This would seem to be a case of "beware what you ask for" since the new standard would make Trump's Tweeting habits absolutely toxic to Twitter's newly nervous lawyers. 

The Bounty of Nature Is Springing Forth 

Have you experienced this? You're driving through the neighborhood on an "essential errand" when you are suddenly seized by an irresistible impulse to look quickly out the side window. What is it that is so distracting? In my case, its patches of red Bougainvillea! 

The intensity of the color is so stunning it's like a "visual shout"—a visceral impact that forces me to involuntarily turn my gaze from the roadway to the byway. 

Is there something deep in our DNA—an evolutionary leftover, perhaps—that triggers this automatic alarm response whenever we sense something that resembles a mass of floral gore? If so, that would explain why traffic lights flash red. 

The Point of the Speier 

Rep. Jackie Speier has spilled the beans on Capitol Hill "overnighters"—Congresspeople saving money by camping out in their DC offices. 

This raises an odd revelation: Apparently these DC offices (which are supposed to be "open to the public") can be locked from the inside. Just like hotel rooms. 

Bed sheets on the sofas may not be what taxpayers were expecting from their elected representatives but, at least, the poor pols (trying to survive on salaries of $174,000 a year—frozen since 2009) have not yet started planting tents on the office carpets. 

Political Auto-Autographs 

The previous item reminds me of one of my trips to Capitol Hill when I was a grassroots lobbyist. Walking down a hallway after one visit, I discovered I was about to pass the office of Sen. Ted Kennedy. 

I walked in and introduced myself to the friendly staff and asked if the Senator might be available for a quick chat with a non-constituent from Berkeley. "I'm sorry," one of the young staffers apologized, "but the Senator is not in the office at the moment." After pausing a beat, the clerk came up with the next-best offer. "Would you like to come inside and watch the Senator's hand-writing machine?" 

I couldn't resist. The staffer lead me around a corner to a nearby room and, sure enough, there was a mechanical apparatus about the size of a sewing machine vigorously moving a real pen over a real peace of stationary and leaving behind a robotic signature that looked just like the real thing. 

Fake News: Stenography and Re-writes 

The May 22 edition of the Chronicle's "News of the Day" slot of short updates began with a primo example of how the mainstream media can pedal official storylines that differs from reality. In this case, the Chronicle ended a report on US criticisms of China's economic, military, and human rights policies by praising Donald Trump's "get-tough rhetoric that he hopes will resonate with voters angry about China's handling of the [coronavirus] disease outbreak, which has left tens of millions of Americans out of work." 

A sizable number of critics (inside and outside the media) would argue that the disruption of Covid-19 is not something to be blamed on China but is the result of Trump's disastrous mis-"handling of the disease outbreak." 

On May 26, the Chron's "News of the Day" contained a report on the refugee crisis in Libya that ended with the following: Libya "descended into chaos following the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed Muammar Gaddafi." No mention of the US-led invasion and massive bombing of the country that lead to Gaddafi's overthrow and grisly murder. 

Trump's New Schoolmarm Scolds the Media 

When Trump's latest press secretary, the smart, articulate, and arrogant Kayleigh McEnany, greeted the Washington press corps in her debut appearance, she told the reporters, "I will never lie to you. You have my word." That turned out to be the first official lie uttered during her opening press encounter. 

McEnany, who has described herself as an evangelical Christian woman who works for "the man upstairs" (God, that is, not Trump), has proven herself to be a worthy successor to previous Press-Secs Sean Spicer and Sarah Sanders Huckabee—at least when it comes to lashing reporters with insulting dismissals and scornful slams. 

When reporters asked how Trump claimed to have unconstitutional powers to order state governors to open churches, McEnany's response was dismissive: "That was a hypothetical." She went on to school the press by asking THEM questions and dismissing them before anyone could answer. Then mocked them with a derogatory dismissal. 

Here's part of one testy exchange: 

Q So it’s the President’s view that those people should be jailed — the people you just mentioned? 

MS. MCENANY: I never said that. Those are your words, not mine. 

Q The President said — 

MS. MCENANY: But perhaps you should look into it and get me some answers. That is, after all, the job — 

Q The President did say that people should be jailed. So I’m wondering — 

MS. MCENANY: — that is, after all, the job of reporters, to answer the very questions that I’ve laid out, and I hope you guys will take the time to do it. 

Q It’s the job of the press secretary to answer the questions for the public. 

And, when asked again about the president's threat to force COVID-19-afflicted states to "open for business," McEnany replied: 

"Boy, it's interesting to be in a room where everyone desperately wants to see churches and places of worship stay closed." 

McEnany then invoked the First Amendment: "the same amendment that gives you all the same ability to ask me questions is there to have the freedom of worship so moms and pastors can go to their churches." 

In her most memorable gaff, McEnany held up copy of Trump's $100,000 "charitable donation" to the Department of Health and Human Services. The paycheck wasn't a sanitized copy—it was the actual check, drawn on the President's private Capital One bank account, complete with readable routing number. As the New York Times noted: "that information could be used to withdraw or deposit money, make online purchases or hack an account." 

On May 26, the Poynter Institute—"the world’s most influential school for journalists"—summed up the new press priestess' performance as follows: "McEnany’s arrogance is as evident as her incompetence so far and it’s a bad look not only for her, but the president she serves . . . . [W]ith more press conferences like Tuesday’s, it wouldn’t be surprising if this press secretary goes into hiding just like her predecessors." 

Happy Birthday Wavy Gravy 

Berkeley's Hugh Romney, aka Wavy Gravy, celebrated a birthday on May 15. (Was it his 83rd?) It's fair to say that WG is wise beyond his years. It takes grit, intelligence and a good bit luck to survive into the Wise Ages. As an Elder Statesman, Wavy speaks with the authority of someone who has defied authority. To pay proper tribute to our estimable Older, we might simply update a famous phrase from the Free Speech Movement, "Don't distrust anyone over 80." 

As America's best-known political/social activist and hippie clown, Wavy Gravy has served "breakfast in bed for 400,000" (at Woodstock), created a positive, nonviolent security service (the Please Force), rambled with the Merry Pranksters, nominated a pig to run as the Yippie Party's candidate ("Pegasus for President"), campaigned for the ideal White House occupant ("Nobody for President"), delivered food and medicines to some of the planet's poorest communities (via the Seva Foundation), founded a summer arts camp for kids (Camp Winnarainbow), and somehow found time to star in a pop documentary (Saint Misbehavin': The Wavy Gravy Movie). 

With all of this and more in his rollicking resume, I'd like to pitch an idea to honor our "clown prince of the counter-culture." A simple, low-budget, high-flying tribute to permanently embrace Berkeley's self-anointed "Flower Geezer." 

I'll confess that I haven't looked into the legalities and logistics involved but let me just lay it out for public consideration. The pitch: Install a third street sign atop the post next to this hero's home at the corner of Berryman and Henry streets. The new sign would read (forevermore): "Wavy Gravy Way." 

California's DA Continues to Block Trump's Pro-pollution Plans 

On May 27, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed a lawsuit to block Donald Trump's rollback of Barack Obama's "clean-car standards." "President Trump’s failed leadership during this crisis is inexcusable," Becerra scolded, warning that Trump's proposed pro-pollution rollback would have "disastrous effects on our air quality, health, and the environment. His rollback kills jobs . . . . hurts public health . . . , makes our air dirtier. We can’t afford any of this right now. Not before this crisis, and certainly not during it." This latest lawsuit is one of more that 40 other climate-focused legal challenges that Becerra's office has filed against the administration. In nearly all these cases, Cal's Trump-thumping DA has either won outright or the case is ongoing. 

Here's a petition to back Bacerra's efforts: Stop Trump’s Clean Car Standards Rollback 

A Four-day Work Week? 

Recently, the Washington Post raised the question: "Will the coronavirus pandemic open the door to a four-day workweek?" The Progressive Chance Campaign Committee (aka Bold Progressives) hopes that's the case. 

"The world is watching New Zealand," PCCC notes, because it was there that "decisive early action, along with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s empathetic style of leadership, quashed the country’s coronavirus outbreak in fewer than 50 days." 

Last week. Ardern uploaded a video floating the idea of a four-day workweek. In her video, Ardern pointed out, "I hear lots of people suggesting we should have a 4-day week . . . . There's lots of things we've learned about COVID, and just that flexibility of people working from home, the productivity that could be driven out of that." The video has prompted expanded commentary on NZ's media screens. 

The Washington Post offered a list of positives: 

• One UK study found four-day weeks saw a 64% increase in staff productivity with 77% of workers claiming the new schedule led to a better quality of life. 

• One less workday would mean a 20% reduction in pollution from commuting. 

While it's not yet a hot topic in the US, a growing number of Americans are warming to the idea of a 4-day workweek—complete with three-day weekends! With this in mind, PCCC has posted a "testing the waters" petition to see if there's a community of interest here in the US. If you would like to chime in, you can sign on below: 

Sign the petition if you agree: During this coronavirus pandemic, the United States government and US employers should start considering the idea of a 4-day workweek and 3-day weekend. 

Lock Him Up 

Trump has tried to destroy Obamacare. He's trying to sabotage Social Security. He's conspiring to terminate food-for-the-poor programs. He's threatened to bankrupt the US Postal Service (so it can be privatized). He abandoned the Iran Nuclear Deal. He has threatened to leave the Open Skies Treaty. He's created a Space Force to assure the US will "dominate" space. He dismissed and fumbled his response to the COVID-19 threat, resulting in a failure to act that cost the lives of tens of thousands of Americans. He's threatened war with Iran, North Korea, Russia, and Venezuela (among others). He dismisses the health risks of using hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 cure while owning a small interest in Sanofi, the French company that manufactures it. He's claimed that he has a right to force governors to "open their states" for business despite concerns that relaxing safeguards will prompt a second, deadlier wave of viral deaths. He's jabbered with delight about a destabilizing "Super Duper" missile that he seems eager to launch. He's turned his back on the START Treaty that restrains the proliferation of nuclear weapons. And now we learn he's been talking up the idea of resuming nuclear weapons testing! 

How about initiating a new set of Impeachment hearings? If anyone deserved the unique honor of being impeached twice, it's Donald J. Trump. 

Pennsylvania Rep's Angry, Explosive COVID-19 Accusation Goes Viral 

Pennsylvania State Democrat Brian Sims has angrily accused his Republican colleagues of downplaying the risks of COVID-19 infections and calling for relaxation of health safeguards to allow businesses to reopen—while secretly hiding the fact that several Republicans had tested positive for the infection and were secretly in self-quarantine. 

In an emotional, profanity-laced 12-minute video, Sims charges that the Republicans knowingly lied about the dangers of COVID-19 and failed to don protective masks, intentionally putting Democrat House representatives (and their families) at risk for contracting the coronavirus by continuing to work in close proximity with Democrats on various committees. Here is a small portion of Rep. Sims' longer video.