Smithereens: Reflections on Bits & Pieces

Gar Smith
Saturday August 01, 2020 - 03:03:00 PM

We're living in a revolutionary era (with Donald Trump standing in for King George). Racist statues are being toppled from DC to SF. Even Abe Lincoln and FDR are being called out for their racist failings (Abe ordered the 1862 mass execution of 39 Dakota men while FDR ignored Eleanor's pleas to sign a federal anti-lynching law). But if we're going to topple statues and call for renaming US military bases and high schools, we might also want to consider renaming our weapons of war.

Take tanks, for starters. The Sherman Tank, one of our best-known combat vehicles, honors the memory of Union Army General William Tecumseh Sherman. But, as the History Engine notes, Sherman "forbade the entry of African- Americans into the army. Sherman did not hide the fact that he was a white supremacist." (Sherman's legacy is probably safe for the moment. It's too much trouble to topple a tank.) 

And I'm not suggesting we rename our aircraft carriers (named after American presidents and including the USS Abe Lincoln, the USS Theodore Roosevelt and the over-budget/under-performing USS Gerald Ford). These massive naval vessels mainly exist to enforce compliance with Washington's program of Global Empire so it wouldn't make sense to rename them after anyone who wasn't a warmonger. Perhaps our aircraft carriers and battleships could be put to better use if they were simply decommissioned and home-ported to provide onboard shelters for America's 40,000 homeless veterans

But here's something we can do: Isn't it past time the Pentagon reconsidered Army Regulation 70-28 and stopped naming its helicopters after native nations vanquished by the Army and the US Calvary? Apache. Black Hawk. Chinook. Comanche. Kiowa. Lakota. Sioux. This is probably not the best way to commemorate America's "Indian Wars"—which raged for 148 years. 

John Lewis and the Free Speech Movement 

For decades, in and out of politics, John Lewis was an advocate for "Good Trouble." So it's no surprise that he reached out to the students who were arrested and beaten for occupying Sproul Hall during what became known as Berkeley's Free Speech Movement. 

Earlier today, while thumbing through a thumbdrive filled with copies of old documents, I came across a letter of solidarity that Carl Lewis, then chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), had written to the young protesters in Berkeley. The letter, written from SNCC's New York office on December 3, 1964, reads: 

"We wish to express our support for our brothers and sisters at the University of California in their fight for full free speech on the university campus. 

"University administration attempts to curtail the activity of the Friends of SNCC are an attack on the civil rights movement in the deep South. 

"We are shocked at the brutality used by police against the students who sat in at the University's administration building. Police brutality in the South is nothing new to us—but what is happening in the so-called liberal community of Berkeley? 

"Students have the right to participate in political activity on and off the campus. We know well the attempts by administrators on the campuses of Southern Negro colleges to break the civil rights movement by not allowing students to meet and advocate ideas on the campus. Now university administrators in the North are borrowing these same tactics. Such denial of students' rights—North or South—is an affront to the ideals of American democracy." 

A Surprising Legacy of Slavery 

During the Alabama celebrations of the life of Congressmember John Lewis ("The Conscience of the Congress," "The Boy from Troy") one of pastors presiding over the funeral service offered an appeal to the Almighty that began: "Dear Merciful Master…." 

Given that one of the underlying power chords of Lewis' anthemic life was the righteous rebellion against White Masters who imposed enslavement on generations of kidnapped Africans, a plea directed to a "Merciful Master" struck me as a bit discordant. 

Speaking as a former Boy Scout Troop Chaplain, this served to remind me that there are uncomfortable similarities between many religions and the slave-master relationship. In the case of Christianity, suffering believers pray for relief from an "Almighty lord" while remaining as docile as "flocks of sheep" in hopes that a "jealous god" (Exodus 34:14) will someday admit them to the "Kingdom" of Heaven. 

The Mendacity of Mitch McConnell 

And then there was Mitch McConnell's performance at the Capital Hill ceremony held to honor John Lewis' life. Mimicking a display of mourning, McConnell praised John Lewis' life while standing in the way of Lewis realizing his dream—a bill to restore a voting rights act that Trump has ridiculed and McConnell has vowed to block. 

In honor of Lewis' long struggle for equality, Democrats have renamed the bill the "John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act." In Lewis' last month on Earth, Mitch McConnell told John Lewis what he thought of the bill. He disparaged concerns over the GOP's long record of placing roadblocks between voters-of-color and the ballot box as nothing but "voter-suppression nonsense." 

The reality is, voter suppression has exploded across Republican-controlled "red states" since the fateful day in 2013 when Supreme Court conservatives stripped protections from the 1968 Voting Rights Act. 

Following the Capital Hill ceremony Democratic Congressman James Clyburn told CNN: "Trump and the Senate leadership, Mitch McConnell...if they so celebrate the heroism of this man, then let's go to work and pass that bill. Words may be powerful, but deeds are lasting." 


US Veterans Place Ad Calling Trump a Traitor 

The American people need relief, support, and protection. Instead, the Trump Administration is failing to lead. It appears that the only thing that Trump has succeeded in achieving is … failure. 


CREDO Exposes AT&T's Upgrade Charade 

Last week, AT&T customers received an alarming email headlined: "UPDATE NEEDED." The note warned customers that their phones were no longer "compatible with the new network and you need to replace it to continue receiving service." But, as CREDO (the phone company with a conscience) recently revealed, it was all a scam. 

The truth is, AT&T's planned network update won't happen until February 2022. 

"As a mobile provider that was founded on doing good," CREDO stated, "we pride ourselves on treating our customers with respect." 

AT&T, on the other hand, is known for its "long history of corporate greed and supporting Republican politicians and right-wing interests. They've donated millions to Donald Trump and anti-LGBTQ candidates and have worked hand-in-hand to help the NSA spy on Americans’ Internet traffic." 

CREDO, however, invests its profits to fill social needs, not private pockets. In any given year, CREDO pumps nearly $2 million into progressive campaigns that promote civil rights, reproductive freedom, climate justice, and more. And CREDO lets its customers vote to decide which do-good groups reap the monthly benefits. AT&T would prefer that you ignore CREDO's informative link: Here Are 8 Reasons to Drop AT&T. 

Fund the Post Office; Defend Democracy 

Remember the HEROES Act? This emergency bill was passed more than two months ago by the Democrat=controlled House. The legislation would direct billions of dollars to address the country's mounting health, economic, and education troubles. And the act also includes $25 billion for America's most beloved institution—the US Postal Service.  

The USPS is an indispensible service that may prove essential to assuring the survival of another cherished American institution—the right to vote. With many Americans loath to risk their lives standing in long lines waiting to vote during a deadly pandemic, the Senate needs to follow Congress' lead and fully fund the USPS in the next COVID-19 stimulus package. Sign the Petition: Demand the Senate fund the USPS


How the GOP's Covid-19 Bill Would Enrich the Pentagon 

Trump's inaction on health, homes, and harmony has brought the nation to a precipice where millions of Americans risk losing federal unemployment assistance and eviction protections, where more than five million people have lost health coverage in the middle of a rampaging pandemic, where armed US Militias have been ordered to invade US cities and attack US citizens (but only in "liberal, Democratic states"). States ravaged by rising Covid-19 infections and deaths need federal funding for testing but the aid isn't coming because the White House values the sales of heat-seeking missiles over the needs of relief-seeking Americans. 

Thirty-two Senators and 93 members of the Congress voted to cut Pentagon funding by 10 percent—a level of Pentagon disaffection that, until recently, would have been unthinkable. 

So what do we find when we dig into the GOP's 177-page "pandemic relief" document? How about a corporate wish-list soliciting $30 billion dollars for more spending on costly and needless Pentagon playthings—fighter jets, helicopters, and missile defense systems. (All this for a Pentagon that has already been granted $740 billion FY 2021.) At the same time, Win Without War notes, the Reap-publicans are "nickel and diming families who desperately need protections and benefits to put food on their tables and keep roofs over their heads." 

And why are Senate Republicans willing to give the Pentagon another $30 billion? Here's one rationale: to repay the military for the funds Donald Trump siphoned from the Pentagon's fiscal swamp to finance construction of his anarchistic/narcissistic border wall. 

Also included in the GOP's $30 billion menu: a $11 billion gift to repay contractors for money lost because of the Covid-19 virus (no auditable proof of losses required) and a $686 million add-on for the endless costs of the disastrous F-35 fighter jet (aka "the fighter jet that ate the Pentagon"). One of the projects would finance construction of a military vessel at a shipyard in Alabama, home state of Sen. Richard Shelby, chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. (Dare one whisper "corruption"?) 

Consider what that $30 billion could buy if it were spent on PPE and ventilators or shared to keep families protected from eviction and fed during a prolonged economic collapse. 

As Win Without War puts in: "Pandemic relief dollars should NOT go to the Pentagon FULL STOP." 

Speaker Pelosi has the power to block the GOP's corp-friendly bailout. In April, opposition to the "pandemic profiteering" embedded in the GOP's Covid relief bill lead to its defeat. We can do it again. We need to Defund the Pentagon and Defend the People. Tell Speaker Pelosi: Reject the GOP’s Giveaway to the Pentagon in COVID-19 Relief! 

The GOP's Covid-19 Plan: Billions for Weapons; Zilch for Workers 

Public Citizen president Robert Weissman also sat down for a close reading of the GOP's Covid-19 relief bill and reached this conclusion: "My reaction in a phrase: Are you kidding me?"  

Here's Public Citizen's list of some of the targeted provisions you could expect to find in the GOP's America: 

  • Presumptive immunity from lawsuits for corporations that adopt a written policy saying they aim to comply with governmental coronavirus standards. Just a written policy!
  • $1.75 billion for a new FBI building at the site of its current headquarters in Washington, D.C.—demanded by the Trump administration to prevent the site from being used for a hotel that would compete with the Trump International Hotel, which just happens to be right across the street.
  • A scheme to create a commission that would lead to severe cuts in Social Security benefits.
Weissman sums it up perfectly: "The half-baked, watered-down, corporate-handout proposal kludged together by Mitch McConnell and the Trump Gang is a travesty. Get serious and get to work on the bold, comprehensive coronavirus relief legislation the American people and our economy need." 

Here's a Capitol Idea 

The suit-and-tie denizens of Capitol Hill seem to have all the capital while the half-million-plus flatland residents of Washington, DC are living lower-case lives. It's just not fair. With 705,749 residents, the District of Columbia boasts a population larger than Wyoming (578,759) or Vermont (623,980) but, unlike these two privileged states, the District has no representation in Congress. While they pay taxes, the people who live in the Capitol of Democracy have no right to vote. In the heart of Democracy—no ballot boxes! Taxation without representation! But that could change. As Sen. Kamala Harris recently declared: “It’s time to grant DC Statehood.” 

"This broken, undemocratic system unfairly favors Republicans," the Daily Kos notes, "but if DC gets statehood, we would get TWO more Democratic Senators. That’s why Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump have vowed to sabotage DC Statehood." 

The solution? "An army of 10,000 supporters to sign our petition and force the Senate to PASS statehood." The Collective PAC's petition calls for extending the rights of citizenship to the disenfranchised people in our capitol city. 

A Closer Look at Trump's Threat to Void the November Election