Category Archives: History

Charity Sucks

When I feed the poor,
they call me a saint.
When I ask why the poor have no food,
They call me a communist.

~ Dom Helder Camara

Most of us would agree charity is important. There are, after all, large numbers of people who need a helping hand at times and who, without help, would fall between the cracks of society and suffer needlessly; perhaps perish as a result.

But we don’t seem to ever ask ourselves why charity is necessary; why there are always millions who haven’t enough to get by comfortably. It’s understandable in the face of natural disasters and unfortunate accidents, but more difficult to accept when it’s merely the “way things are.” I haven’t always done so myself.

Shortly after my retirement from Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, I was asked to join one of my city’s local Rotary clubs. I knew many of the city’s leaders were involved in Rotary and I also knew the club I was asked to join held a yearly Cajun & Blues festival on Memorial Day each year that was wildly successful and raised a lot of money for the community.

I was happy to join and discovered one of Rotary International’s projects was to eradicate Polio—a worthy endeavor in my estimation. I became fairly active in my club, taking on the responsibility of using social media to promote our activities and volunteering for many of the club’s activities, including providing a full Thanksgiving meal at our senior center, assembling bicycles to give to children for Christmas, and spending an entire weekend (sometimes more) during the Cajun & Blues festival.

Nevertheless, I was somewhat uncomfortable with the realization that quite a few of the members of my club were uncomfortably conservative; some of them clearly harboring deeply bigoted concepts of entire groups of people I felt were undeserving of their scorn. After all, I live in Simi Valley, home of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and also known for the acquittal of the police officers who beat the crap out of Rodney King.

I celebrated my fourth anniversary with the club in October of 2016, though I had been attending breakfast meetings for nearly six months prior to becoming an official member (there was some kind of SNAFU that held up my membership.) I had long been uncomfortable with a large segment of the members and, after the election of Donald Trump, I decided I needed to use my limited discretionary funds for something other than rubber chicken circuit breakfasts and a glossy magazine I seldom had time to read.

I tendered my resignation in December and immediately started monthly contributions to five advocacy groups I felt were more aligned with the direction I wished to see society go in. Those organizations included Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, the NAACP Legal & Defense Fund, MALDEF, and the Standing Rock Water Defenders. The last of these stopped accepting donations when they were unceremoniously kicked off the land, and I replaced them with my local Democratic club, of which I had also become a member.

So . . . my point here is that, while charity is important because many are struggling and need a helping hand, it is also an indication (a powerful one, IMO) that something is wrong with our society. Why does such a wealthy nation have such a large population of people living on the razor’s edge of existence? Why are people like Jeff Bezos allowed to amass fortunes in the billions while others are left to starve on the streets? I know it’s the logic of capitalism, but I don’t think it makes much sense from a systems or holistic view of humanity and society . . . even of economics. At twice the national poverty line (~$50K/yr) Bezos’s worth of $110,000,000,000 would bring a reasonably comfortable level of income to 2,200,000 families of four (that’s approximately 8,800,000 people.)

Many are beginning to realize income inequality is deeply hurtful to a society. Large segments of the population can’t possibly contribute as much as they’re capable of when they’re struggling to stay alive and healthy. I’m of the opinion we have a hard time understanding this because we are not conversant in the language of systems; we don’t see the interconnections between all of us and our actions and how such large segments of our population who are under stress is stressful to our society as a whole.

Whether it’s Universal Basic Income or a shift to a more socialistic economic system, I believe something needs to be done to allow as many as possible to reach closer to their full potential as contributing members of our society. Until such time, I don’t see how we can truly call ourselves “the land of the free, and the home of the brave.” The status quo is anything but freedom enhancing, and its acceptance is hardly an act of courage.


I Stand With All People

I’ve been an atheist—meaning I don’t believe there is such a thing as God, i.e. a supreme being—since I was 15. I’m now 72. However, I was raised as a Jew and am bar mitzvah (a man of the commandments.) My ethics are fundamentally based on my Jewish background, especially given my four years of Hebrew school, with liberal sprinklings of Christianity and—later—Buddhism, primarily Zen.

I sometimes refer to myself as a Jewddhist, but my favorite designation—for fun—is Quantum Gestalt Humanist. Quantum for my belief in science and reality; Gestalt for my recognition of the totality, synergy, and systemic nature of the universe, and Humanist for my recognition of the beauty and value of my fellow human beings. Still . . . the ethics I recall learning, especially in Hebrew school, form the basis of these beliefs and feelings.

Even though I haven’t been to schul since I attended a very familiar, yet very uncomfortable, Yom Kippur service about 20 years ago, I will always be a Jew . . . and not just because my parents were Jews, but because the world—especially anti-Semites, but even the ignorant and those easily swayed by propaganda—will always see me as a Jew; nothing more. Besides, I was raised to respect and stand up for the oppressed and, despite the actions of the Israeli government, with whom I greatly disagree, there is no place for any kind of bigotry in my world, and that includes anti-Semitism. There is a world of difference between being anti-Semitic and being anti-Zionist.

I hope the United States is the enlightened society I’ve been led to believe it is, but my confidence level is not very high and my Jewish angstometer is slowly flashing a soft, pastel red. Donald Trump has been stoking the fires of hatred since long before he was “elected” president. Incidents of anti-Semitism, as well as attacks on other minorities, have risen rather dramatically and there appears to be a correlation in the rise of these acts following every one of his rallies.

So . . . I want to make it perfectly clear I will defend Jews, including Hasidic Jews with whom I share absolutely nothing save for a long, somewhat convoluted history. At the same time, my “faith” in the interdependency of the human race and all life compels me to stand with everyone, especially the oppressed and downtrodden.

Unfortunately, age is starting to wreak havoc with me. I lift weights and work at staying fit, but I’m approaching 73 and it’s quite clear things are slowing down. I haven’t the stamina, nor the strength, I once had. I’m pretty sure I don’t have the intellectual capacity I once had, but I must continue to fight in any way I’m capable.

I’m planning on attending this year’s Women’s March next Saturday in downtown Los Angeles, not far from the place of my birth. I’m bringing my 18-year-old and a friend of hers who’s in town from the Bay Area, where she’s attending her first year of college. They both went with me last year. I’m hopeful my 16-year-old, who was problematic last year and had to stay home, will also attend. I wish I had the ability to attend the numerous events taking place locally, some as protest and some for electoral politics, but I still have to earn enough to supplement my retirement income (not as easy as it once was), and I also have to help my troubled high school sophomore get through the next two and a half years.


My "Daughter's" Project

My youngest daughter (I have two) is in the 10th grade in high school. Her history class is studying the French Revolution right now and, during the Thanksgiving break she decided she wanted to build a scale model guillotine for extra credit. She, of course, enlisted my help. It never even occurred to me that I could probably find something online that would suffice and, in fact, I just looked and found a couple of places I could have purchased a kit. Here’s a really simple one. Here’s another.

As it turned out, I think I jumped at the opportunity to re-arrange our ridiculously stuffed garage, so I could get to my woodworking bench and use all the tools I’ve purchased or was given over the years and haven’t used for nearly a decade. Amazingly enough, they all worked despite some rust and corrosion.

I took some pictures as I was going along, and finished it yesterday so she could bring it to school today. This afternoon, I came across the original note her teacher gave her with the “rules”, e.g. it must work, it can’t have a sharp blade, and it isn’t due until Friday . . . grrrrr. Frankly, I became a wee tad obsessed with pulling this off and I’m glad it’s done and gone. I was having a hard time doing anything else, even though there were periods of time in between gluing and when I needed to build up my confidence that I could pull something off. Sometimes it mostly involved my remembering how to do something.

I made the whole thing out of a plank of 3/4″ thick Pine and a hobby piece of 1/4″ Oak. Since most of the table called for 3/4″ square pieces, I had to use an old table saw designed for onsite carpentry. It belonged to a friend of mine and, even though it’s been in my garage for at least 17 or 18 years, it still belongs to him. I just get to use it. Some of the cuts I had to make concerned by fingertips greatly, but they all managed to survive.

At any rate, here are some photos.

Here, the guillotine is mostly finished and assembled. You can see I was making a set of stairs, which I hadn’t planned on doing, but my daughter insisted was necessary.
I made the blade out of plastic, so it’s incapable of cutting, the spacer out of some Oak I had to purchase to get the 1/4″ thickness I needed for a few pieces, and I made the counterweight out of a piece of 2×4 that’s probably been sitting in our garage for the last two decades.
If you compare the stairs to what I started with and have depicted in the first photo, above, you’ll note I ultimately ended with four steps. I think it was because I realized I’d made them too tall to begin with and had to scale them down. The steps and the table/platform are made of Oak and here the whole thing has been treated with Watco Danish oil.
Getting the blade to actually drop was a bit of a challenge because cutting the channels on the two uprights so the blade assembly would be able to slide smoothly up and drop fairly quickly down was challenging, and they weren’t quite as smooth as I would have liked them to be. Nevertheless, I got it done after a bit of trial and error.
We have a little squeeze toy I picked up at a conference a long time ago from Hitachi. It’s a Sumo wrestler and, unfortunately, his head has managed to depart his body, though we keep him around (why, I don’t know). My wife thought he fit rather nicely with the device, so here ’tis. Next photo is from the other side.
That’s All, Folks.

Thread by @djrothkopf: “Just got this via text: “You are a retarded kike. You dont want to win 2020. You enjoy complaining about Trump.” It was accompanied by this […]”

I want . . . no, I need to share this thread. Although I have been an atheist for most of my adult life, I was born a Jew and am bar mitzvah. I feel it is incumbent upon me to stand not only with my fellow Jews, but also with all those who suffer oppression, prejudice, and hatred. I am not a public figure, so I have not been attacked like David, but if this keeps up (and, especially, if Trump is re-elected) we can expect things to get worse, perhaps a lot worse. Don’t think it can’t happen because this is America. As David points out, America is responsible for the slaughter of our native peoples and the enslavement of Africans for centuries. Our hands are hardly clean. We need to be prepared for the worse, all while working to bring about a better world for all.


Thread by @djrothkopf: “Just got this via text: “You are a retarded kike. You dont want to win 2020. You enjoy complaining about Trump.” It w by this and other anti-semitic art. This is Trumpism. The instances of this & worse happening in my life […]”

Source: Thread by @djrothkopf: “Just got this via text: “You are a retarded kike. You dont want to win 2020. You enjoy complaining about Trump.” It was accompanied by this […]”


Black Then | The First Massive African American Protest in U.S. History Was Led By Children Marching Against Lynching In The Silent Protest Parade

It is clear to me that racism in America will not go away if white people do not stand up and denounce it as the destructive force it is. In order to do so respectfully and honestly, white people need to listen to the voices of people of color. Only by listening to their authentic voices; to their stories and their life experiences, can we even begin to understand how racism affects their lives and why it needs to stop if we’re to progress as a race . . . a human race, that is. Here’s an interesting story that was shared with me on Facebook. Though I would share it here as well.


First Massive African American Protest in American History (July 28, 1917) were children in New York City participating in the Silent Protest Parade against the East St. Louis Riots. Between 8,000 and 10,000 African-Americans marched against lynching and anti-black violence in a protest. The march was precipitated by the East St. Louis Riot of May and July of that year, which was an outbreak of labor and race-related violence that caused up to 200 deaths and extensive property damage. The Parade was organized by famous civil rights activist and first African-American to earn a doctorate (from Harvard University) W. E. B. Du Bois and the NAACP. The protesters hoped to influence President Woodrow Wilson to carry through on his election promises to African-American voters to implement anti-lynching legislation and to promote black cases; to the great horror of civil rights activists across the country, Wilson repudiated his promises, and federal discrimination actually increased during his presidency. It was the first parade of its kind in New York and the second public civil rights demonstration of African-Americans.

The paraders assembled at Fifty-ninth Street and Fifth Avenue and marched thirty-six blocks downtown to Madison Square Park. They were led by about 800 children, some no older than six, dressed entirely in white. Following the children were white-clad women, then rows of men dressed in black. The marchers walked wordlessly to the sound of muffled drumbeats. Despite their silence, their concerns were articulated on neatly stenciled banners and signs.

The banners and signs read: “MOTHER, DO LYNCHERS GO TO HEAVEN?; “GIVE ME A CHANCE TO LIVE”; “TREAT US SO THAT WE MAY LOVE OUR COUNTRY”; “MR. PRESIDENT, WHY NOT MAKE AMERICA SAFE FOR DEMOCRACY?; AND “YOUR HANDS ARE FULL OF BLOOD.”

Source: Black Then | The First Massive African American Protest in U.S. History Was Led By Children Marching Against Lynching In The Silent Protest Parade


Four Boxes of Liberty Redux

I didn’t really care for the visual I created and posted yesterday, depicting the four boxes of Liberty, so I created another one. I thought yesterday’s was OK in depicting the concept, but I used really simple graphics of the boxes themselves. Last night I thought maybe I should use pictures depicting people—at least for some of them. So . . . here’s the new graphic. It’s much larger than the one I posted yesterday.

PS – You can use all of these boxes simultaneously, save for the last one. Even during a revolution, though, civil life has to continue and it’s quite conceivable all four boxes could be in play at some time.

I hope it doesn’t come to that, but I don’t see the Republicans and white supremacists (I consider them synonymous today) just fading away.


Four Boxes of Liberty

Just came across a concept I was unaware existed, though I have often thought of all four of these “boxes” we must use to “secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” Although the phrase has, apparently, been used lately by right wing extremist groups, I believe the concepts it represents are useful and correct.

The four boxes to be used in defense of liberty: soap, ballot, jury, ammo.

By engaging our fellow citizens in various ways and methods, e.g. newspapers, flyers, social media, blogs, and other methods of arguing our positions on issues, we are using the soapbox. When we vote, at least every two years, we are using the ballot box. When those who have attempted to usurp the people’s power or who have betrayed their oaths of office or otherwise show themselves unfit for office, we (sometimes) are able to use the jury box to convict and send them packing. Finally, should all other methods fail, as Americans (I would argue as humans) we are entitled; nay, we have no choice but, to bear arms in defense of our liberty and freedom.

You can read a little more about this concept here.


And They’re Still At It!

In case you were wondering if the forces arrayed against a woman’s right to choose are something that has arisen recently, here’s an old cartoon I found in my collection of clippings, papers, and photos I saved over my near quarter century career at Rocketdyne. It’s been sitting in a folder with a whole bunch of other stuff I thought useful to retain for 30 years. Seems to make it clear not much has changed, other than these people are more powerful than they were back then, not to mention Gorsuch and Kavanaugh.


‘Zero-tolerance’ immigration policy is big money for contractors, nonprofits

What truly sickens me (pisses me off as well) is that we are witnessing the transfer of billions of dollars of our tax money to the coffers of these very sick, hateful, and exploitative organizations. They are profiting handsomely off the misery and suffering of people whose lives have been upended in large part because of policies of the U.S. that have been carried out in Central and South America over decades.



I recommend reading Felix Greene’s excellent book, “The Enemy: What Every American Should Know About Imperialism.” Despite its being almost 50 years since it was published, it is still a wonderful exposition of how insidious imperialism is and how thoroughly our country (the U.S.) has infiltrated the economies and governments of many of the countries in the southern part of our hemisphere.


President Trump’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy under the direction of Attorney General Jeff Sessions is big business for U.S. companies — from private prison and tech firms to defense and security contractors — as well as nonprofits.Under bipartisan pressure, Trump signed an executive order Wednesday ending the administration’s controversial child-separation policy. But Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy, in which individuals who enter the U.S. illegally are prosecuted, will continue. All this comes as the country grapples with harrowing images of babies stripped from their mothers’ arms and children playing soccer on the grounds of abandoned Walmart stores along the Southwest border.

Source: ‘Zero-tolerance’ immigration policy is big money for contractors, nonprofits


Simple, Stupid, & Punny

I’m glad we decided to purchase Photoshop. I’ve been playing with it and sometimes I even get a little serious, spending some time learning how to use a tool I’m unfamiliar with. This wasn’t one of those times, though being able to select a small part of one photo and layering onto another requires a bit of patience and a reasonably steady hand. The latter I find difficult at times, as I have inherited essential (or familial) tremors from my mother, and there are times when I have a great deal of difficulty pointing and clicking in the right place. When I was back at Rocketdyne (2015 – 2017) there were times when I couldn’t easily log onto my computer in the morning because me hands were shaking so bad. At any rate, this here should be clear to anyone who knows a little Russian history and something about hand tools.

If you’ve seen one Russian, you’ve seen ’em all

PS – I’m not posting this for any reason other than I created it, it’s been shared on FB and Twitter, and I just want to have it somewhere that doesn’t disappear essentially forever. There’s nothing special about it, other than that it marks another bit of practice I had using Photoshop.


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