– 2018-12-08 12:42:05
Smithereens: Reflections on Bits & Pieces
By Gar Smith
Shifting the Narrative
At 4:30 AM on December 3, the Highway Patrol surrounded a Tesla Model S speeding down Whipple Avenue at 70 mph with is driver blissfully asleep and inebriated. The driver, Alexander Samek, a Los Gatos executive was cited with “Driving Under the Influence.” (An easy-to-beat rap, since he wasn’t driving.)
Tesla immediately took a lot of grief, with critics pointing to the incident as an example of careless social-and-automotive engineering. The negative press was so intense that Tesla initially didn’t even bother to issue any statements in its defense.
But here’s a thought: Consider how this incident might have played out if the driver had, say, suffered a stroke.
Suddenly, Tesla would be hailed for creating a life-saving technology and Elon Musk might be announcing a new auto-update that would not only drive the car in the case of an incapacitated driver but could sense the emergency and change course to head for the nearest hospital.
Anyone feeling a little bushed after all the 24/7 coverage of the demise of George Herbert Walker Bush? (At least the excessive coverage provided some relief from watching the surveillance video of Washington Post reporter Jamal Khashoggi walking to his doom at the entrance to the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.)
Granted, GHWB was a likable guy, with real “hero” cred. Shot out of the sky during WWII, he returned to skydiving to celebrate his 75th, 80th, 85th and 90th birthdays. (By contrast, GWB now dabbles in oil painting; Jimmy Carter builds houses for the poor; Bill Clinton continues to wince at the name “Monica Lewinsky”; and Barack Obama is successfully surfing the Blue Wave and basking in Michelle’s popularity.)
But now, with Bush’s mortal remains having crisscrossed the land by air and rail and now safely laid to rest at the presidential library in Texas, it’s time to reconsider the less-ennobling portions of Bush’s “legacy.”
Mehdi Hasan recently offered one such unglossed recap in a recent posting on The Intercept.that bore the headline: “The Ignored Legacy of George H.W. Bush: War Crimes, Racism, and Obstruction of Justice.”
Here’s a brief summary:
Bush started a war on Iraq based on a “mountain of lies,” falsely claiming that “250,000 Iraqi troops and 1,500 tanks stood on the border, threatening the key US oil supplier” when satellite images showed an empty desert. The US committed war crimes in its “shock and awe” attack on Iraq’s infrastructure and civilian population. And there was the illegal, covert Contra War against Nicaragua, the Iran-Contra “affair” which lead to a criminal investigation and Bush’s pardons of his political cohorts.
What’s the Difference?
There are many differences between Donny Trump and Poppy Bush (actually it’s hard to find much in common) so here’s a quick, disrespectful Q&A:
Qâ€”What’s the difference between George HW Bush and Donald J Trump?
Aâ€”Bush gets to lie in state for two days.
Trump gets to lie in statements everyday.
A PR Dispatch from The White House 1600 Daily
On November 29, 2018, a White House press release announced the following:
“Yesterday morning, First Lady Melania Trump joined Eric Bolling, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen at Liberty University in Virginia for a town hall on opioids.
â€œWhen I took on opioid abuse as one of the pillars of my initiative BeBest, I did it with the goal of helping children of all ages,â€ the First Lady said. To a full stadium of students, she explained the scale of the problem and how each person can make a difference. More than 130 Americans die each day from opioid overdoses. Last year, those overdoses accounted for over 72,000 deathsâ€”more than any previous year on record.”
Let’s parse that proclamation, shall we?
Note to Malania: Do the math. If opioids kill 130 Americans a day, the total would be 47,450, not “over 72,000 deaths.” And the White House 1600 Daily editors apparently didn’t notice that Melania misspelled the name of her signature initiative. It’s Be Best, not BeBest.
Another Daily Dally
A more disturbing note in the 1600 Daily dispatch involves the First Lady’s claim that “children of all ages” are opting to become underage addicts. Children aren’t abusing opioids: it’s mainly adults, with a growing number of teens being drawn in. Children, kids and toddlers aren’t active, intentional abusers: too often the problem begins with mothers addicted to drugs while their children are in the womb. Some children mistake pills for candy and some children actually receive a doctor’s prescription for addictive painkillers.
The kids aren’t “abusers.” They are victims of a profit-driven addiction industry that churned out 241 million opioid prescriptions in 2014 alone.
Instead of preaching to children, Mrs. Trump should be railling against the real abusers: people like Purdue Pharma’s “OxyContin billionaire,” Richard Sackler. Sackler is also a major financial donor to Donald Trump and the GOP.
Now, having destroyed millions of lives by promoting the over-prescription of opioids, Sackler has announced plans to rake in millions in new profits from his latest creation. As the Financial Times put it: “Purdue owner Richard Sackler [is now] listed as inventor of drug to wean addicts off painkillers.”
And that’s the ultimate genius of capitalism: Create a Problem and Sell the Cure.
A Breath of Fresh Error
When we type the wrong word in a quick email note we can (sometimes) blame AutoCorrect. But it’s harder to live with errors that are recorded as part of the public record.
Once, at a conference on “war and the environment,” I shared a Biblical tale with a large audience, describing Samson’s “scorched-earth” attack on Philistines. Later, when I looked at the video, I realized I had mucked up and claimed Samson had attacked “The Philippines.”
And I recently listened in stunned disbelief when I was flinging numbers around in an online webinar and I announced that there were “993” members of the United Nations.
No way, Norway. There are only 193 UN members.
I can’t blame those slip-ups on AutoCorrect. (Alzheimer’s, maybe.)
Good Guys with Guns, Part 1
The NRA may to have to rewrite its classic gun-wielding defense: “The only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” A slew of recent news reports suggests that we need to add the qualifying sentence:
“Unless the cops show up.”
On Thanksgiving night, police in Birmingham, Alabama claimed credit for saving lives during a shooting incident that wounded a 12-year-old girl and an 18-year-old man. Upon arriving at the Riverchase Galleria, police opened fire on 21-year-old Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford, claiming that he had “brandished a gun during the seconds following the gunshots.”
Twenty hours later they issued an apology. It turned out that Bradford, a law-abiding US Army veteran, had not fired the weapon and had legal permission to carry a concealed firearm.
Apparently Bradford was a “good guy with a gun.” When shots rang out, he drew his weapon in response to a threat. But when the cops saw a black man holding a gun, they opened fire.
Lesson learned: Even if you’re a proud member of the NRA and you try to be a “good guy with a gun,” there’s a good chance the cops will show up and take you down. Lesson two: Bradford’s tragic death would seem to void the rationale behind “concealed carry” laws.
Good Guys with Guns, Part 2
On November 7, a trained Marine vet named David Long opened fire on a crowd of college students inside the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, California. Long killed 11 and wounded many more. Press reports noted it would have been worst but for the quick arrival of two armed police officers. Sheriff’s deputy Ron Helus was wounded by five of Long’s bullets. Nearly a month after the shooting it was revealed that Helus would have survived had he not been the victim of “friendly fire.” Helus was shot in the heart and killed by the other responding officer, a member of the California Highway Patrol whose identity has not been disclosed. The CHP’s Coastal Division has only described him as “a consummate professional, well-trained, military background.”
In an odd statement, Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub assured the press: “We believe that Sgt. Helus was clearly not the intended target of the CHP officer.” He called Helus’ death “a tragic detail” that was “unavoidable” and, despite the source of the fatal shot, Ayub insisted “Long alone was to blame for Helus’ death.”
A Tip on Toners
Used to be, when your printer’s toner cartridge started to run out, you could give it a vigorous shake and it would be good for another month.
No more. Today’s cartridges are designed to shut off prematurely while there’s still lots of ink inside. If you’ve got a Brother printer, here’s a work-around that can revive your cartridges. Look for a small round “window” on the side of the toner case. This is part of the engineered “shut-down” system. As long as no light can pass through the window to a sensor on the other side, the cartridge will operate. Once the toner level falls past a certain point, light will flash from one side to the other and the cartridge stops working.
Here’s the fix. Cover the window with a small square of opaque tape. With the sensor disabled, you can resume using the cartridge. In my experience, that small patch of tape will keep a cartridge going for at least another month. Here’s a video:
Three Strikes and You’re Grout
The handwriting is on the wall. In this case, on the walls of the bathrooms in the Berkeley Main Libraryâ€”and on tiled restroom walls across this great nation.
Make that “Grout Nation.”
I can’t speak for the walls in the ladies’ rooms, but for untold years, restive mens-room ruminators have been inscribing tiny messages on the thin lines of grout between the ceramic wall tiles. Look closely or you might miss them.
In the Berkeley Main Library, the messages can tend toward the literary with notes that read: “The Grout Gatsby,” “Grout Expectations,” and “Grout Caesar’s Ghost!”
But there are other entrees as well. Take a look and see what you find. Here are a few new sightings:
“Make America Grout Again,” “Trump is Groutesque,” and “Feeling immature? Don’t worry, you’ll grout of it.”