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Category Archives: History

The Irony is as Thick as the Karma

Venceremos Brigade-FBIWhen I returned from a two-month working journey to Cuba in 1973, the FBI showed up at my door with questions about my trip. I had been a member of the sixth contingent of the Venceremos Brigade, and a small part of my education for the trip was the admonition to politely refuse to speak with them, which is what I did.

It was a short, pleasant conversation. I told them I wasn’t going to answer any questions and they asked me if I was sure. I said “yes” and they said “have a nice day” and left. That was it.

My years of activism had brought me to the attention of many law enforcement agencies, chief among them the LAPD and the FBI.

All to say, there’s been little love lost between me and these organizations . . .

Yet I’m really looking forward to what James Comey has to say.

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Triple Blast From The Past!

I have been learning Photoshop for a while now and, although I’m not doing much of anything constructive with it, I do like to play around and give a little substance to some of my thoughts and ideas. Most of what I’ve done has been shared on Facebook, which has been my primary conduit to the world, along with this blog.

However, I think it’s time I started sharing my work, if only as a way to preserve it a little better than Facebook does. Usually, I’m thinking about making a statement and using PS to do it. Here’s one I posted today, with the comment “Triple blast from the past! Three memorable alticons deliciously blended into one. 

Nambian Covpepe

Good for . . . nothing.

I should also point out that, for the past two months I’ve been posting on Facebook on behalf of the Simi Valley Tourism Alliance, and I’ve felt it necessary to use PS several times to create useful graphics to include on some of these posts. This was especially true because, even though I specified in my proposal to them that members of the Alliance would be responsible for providing much of the content, that has yet to happen and I’ve been required to create almost all of it. It’s not difficult . . . but it most definitely is time consuming.

PS – I was in a hurry on this one, so didn’t take the requisite time I would have needed to change those “F”s in “P”s. Nevertheless, I think it makes the point I wished to make.


Free Access to “A People’s History”

A People's History

A Classic . . . and Important . . . work!

Most historians in the U.S., as far as I can tell, tend to believe in the “Great Man” theory of history; the belief that history can be largely explained by the impact of great men, or heroes; highly influential individuals who, due to either their personal charisma, intelligence, wisdom, or political skill used their power in a way that had a decisive historical impact.

Howard Zinn’s classic, A People’s History of the United States, takes the exact opposite view; that history is made by the people, the masses, the average working man and woman who comprise the body politic, and whose lives tell the story of a society’s development. Individuals are seen as products of the society in which they grew and came to prominence, representatives of the people or oppressors of the people, but not apart from the “salt of the Earth”.

If you ever wanted to read this wonderful book, but haven’t gotten around to it, or you’d like to be able to peruse it before taking the plunge (it is a formidable, but entertaining, read) you can find the book in its entirety at History is a Weapon. I believe this particular book is more important than ever, as we become more and more politically active and strive to wrest control over our government, which has been hijacked by vile white nationalists, religionists, and science deniers. I’ve included the link to the book below.

http://www.historyisaweapon.com/zinnapeopleshistory.html


Thanksgiving: Passover For Indigenous People

Passover is a very meaningful holiday for Jews. During the seder, the ritual dinner that’s served that evening, the story of bondage by the Egyptians is recounted and thanks are given for their release after a series of plagues are visited upon the slaveholders, culminating in the slaughter of first-born Egyptians and the successful escape via Moses’s parting of the Red Sea.

Turkey Unfriended

Oops!

Thanksgiving has been a meaningful holiday for we “Americans”, first celebrated in 1621 but not officially until 1863, when President Lincoln declared it a national holiday. It was meant to celebrate the good fortune of the original Pilgrims, as well as that of all of us who came to live in this land.

Much as we have learned Christopher Columbus’s “discovery” of America wasn’t exactly as benign and wonderful as we were led to believe (certainly when I was growing up in the 50s and 60s), we now know the generosity of those indigenous people who provided for that first Thanksgiving we now celebrate, was rewarded with hatred and genocide.

I can’t speak for everyone but, as far as I’m concerned, Thanksgiving is now a holiday in which we celebrate the love of family and friendship, as well as remember how deeply racism, nationalism, and white supremacy are rooted in our national identity. In this time of deep despair over the backward direction our nation is heading, it’s more important than ever to pay attention to a history that includes everyone, regardless of ethnicity, national origin, or any other distinguishing characteristic, as well as seek what objective truth there is, absent favoritism, nationalism, and whataboutism.

I hope everyone has – or had – a wonderful holiday, filled with love and generosity of spirit. I also hope everyone remembered – and remembers – we are far from blameless and sometimes we have – and do – stumble on our journey toward a “more perfect union.”


Trump’s Phoenix Rally

I only watched a portion of (P)resident Trump’s speech in Phoenix last night. I can’t stand listening to the man. I did, however, see excerpts as they were shown during Lawrence O’Donnell’s MSNBC program, “The Last Word”, and what I heard was disheartening, to say the least.

I know I can read it if I want to, but I don’t really want to. I saw enough of his lying, self-aggrandizing bullshit to last me a lifetime. Today I came across this little snippet of Don Lemon of CNN, recorded last night as he opined on what he had just heard. It’s worth a listen.

We truly are going down the rabbit hole with this insanely unqualified train wreck of human being actually “leading” the Executive branch of our government. While I’m beginning to gain some modicum of confidence most everyone is learning how to ignore him, I’m not entirely satisfied we’ll come out of this safely . . . or ever be whole again.


The Regimental Repp and the POTUS

I seldom wear a tie any longer, but I used to wear them frequently and I have dozens still hanging in my closet. I learned a long time ago that the regimental repp stripe tie originated in England and there is a significant difference between English and American ties of this type.

Very briefly, the history of the designs harks back to when the British realized bright red uniforms were not the best way to engage on a battlefield and they changed to olive drab in order for their soldiers to be a wee tad less conspicuous. In order for the different regiments to distinguish themselves when in dress uniform, they each transferred their regimental colors to their ties.

There is a fundamental difference between ties from England and ties from America. In England, the stripe goes from the left shoulder, over the heart, and toward the right hip. In America they’re the exact opposite. There is a difference in meaning with the use of color as well, in that here in the U.S. the colors don’t mean anything. In England the colors signify either an element of the armed forces or a boarding/prep school.

Over the years I’ve been struck by the fact that our Presidents – at least the last three of them – most frequently wear English ties. This is also true of our PEEOTUS as well. Notably, the two Presidents prior to these four seldom wore regimental repp ties from England. I put the attached graphic together after looking through hundreds of photos of all six of them to illustrate this “discrepancy.”

Last Six Presidents

The Last Six (including the illegitimate one) Presidents

I have no idea why the change and I also have no idea why this is so. Perhaps American manufacturers are now making ties with the stripes going from the left shoulder, but I’ve seen nothing to convince me that’s the case.

I know this is trivial, but it’s been floating in the back of my mind for some time. I’ve found it a taste ironic these men go to great pains to wear American flag pins on their lapels, and I often wonder why they’re wearing ties the symbolism of which evokes merry old England. Where’s their patriotism?

More about these ties at http://bit.ly/2iuQ6nu


The Rise of Homo Avarus

Homo Avarus - Greedy Man

Any Doubt This is How it Will Play Out?

I think it’s time we recognized there is a new species of primate in the neighborhood. We, of course, are quite familiar with our own species, Homo Sapiens (Wise Man), currently recognized as the only non-extinct species of hominid in the genus Homo. However, recent events make it quite clear there is a huge number of so-called humans who are not “wise” at all; they are self-centered and, apparently, lacking in decency and empathy for anyone not exactly like them.

These people just elected the most unqualified, inept, and uniquely hateful man to the highest office in the land, President of the United States. Only a few days after the election, his “victory” is already resulting in a significant uptick in hate crimes and bullying. He is appointing some of the worst people to ever disgrace public office in our country, and he is planning on actions that will set our progress as a people back 50 years.

This is, of course, what was always meant by the slogan “Make America Great Again.” By great, we know the real meaning of that slogan to be “let’s take America back to the 1950s, when people we don’t like (those of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, disabled people, and other “others”) were relegated to the background and expected to stay there and quietly accept their positions as second-class citizens . . . or not.

What he has proposed, and what he is no doubt beginning to set into motion will be the greatest reversal of progress on human rights within our country we’ve seen in quite some time. His administration is already preparing legislation that will make it possible to discriminate against people because of their “religious objections” to their lifestyle. He’s floating names of Cabinet posts and department heads that are an absolute nightmare for anyone with a working brain and a conscience; Ben Carson for Secretary of Education, Sarah Palin for Secretary of the Interior. It feels almost hyperbolic to take those appointments as serious and well-reasoned.

I suspect he, and those he will have in his administration, have been emboldened by people who are either reasonably clueless or who are so selfish and incapable of empathy, they just don’t care how much destruction this man will wreak on the most vulnerable. As long as they get back their “sense” of control and privilege, how it affects others is of no consequence.

Although I think this represents a tragic misunderstanding of how interrelated we, as both citizens and non-citizens, are in keeping the economy strong and growing, a singular lack of empathy seems to be the driving force behind his popularity and (what I hope will turn out to be) pyrrhic victory. For these reasons, I suggest we recognize a new species of human, one that is solely concerned with itself and only interested in the well-being of others if it directly affects their safety and comfort. In other words, Homo Avarus; greedy man.

Little do they know they’ve been massively punked, and are about to find out just what kind of carnival barker they’ve put into the most powerful position on Earth. It’s going to get ugly, and it’s little consolation to know that those who enabled this man are going to pay a heavy price as well. Stay strong, my brothers and sisters. I was hopeful we were going to move forward, but that is clearly not the case. We are now faced with what may be the greatest challenge of our lives, certainly of my nearly 70 years on this planet. We need to figure out how not merely organize, but also how to educate and how to teach ourselves and others to sift through the mountain of garbage that passes for information and reporting via the mainstream media and even much of the virtual media we consume via Facebook and Twitter. We have an enormous job facing us, one I don’t expect to see the result of in my lifetime. <sigh>


When The World Almost Ended

 

Drop Drill

Drop Drills Were Part of School Life

 The Cuban Missile Crisis came up in a short conversation I had with my 14-year-old daughter yesterday. She knew little about it but was somewhat aware of the Cold War. 

The conversation, however, reminded me of several things that haven’t crossed my mind in a while. The first memory was of walking to a Dale’s supermarket in Panorama City, California where I lived in the 50s and where one of my best friends continued to live. 

I was 15 and he had turned 16 that year, so we may have driven, though I doubt it. What I do remember is the empty shelves, most all of the food having been scooped up by people expecting the end of the world. It was eerie. 

The other thing that popped into my mind was the frequent drop drills, which I suspect is similar to how kids today are trained to react in case of an earthquake. In retrospect, I find it amusing we were taught that crawling under our desks could protect us from a thermonuclear detonation nearby. Back then, there were lots of targets nearby, not the least of which was Rocketdyne, where I have worked most of the last three decades. 

Finally, I had long forgotten the monthly air raid siren drills. Once a month – as I recall, it was on the third Thursday – at 10:00 am, the sirens would blast for about a minute. Not sure when it ended, but it had to be a long time ago. At this point I’m pretty sure most of my friends have no recollection of these drills, as they never experienced them. 


Connecting From The China Hotel – 2002

This is another email I sent from the Sports Bar in the China Hotel when we were in the People’s Republic of China to adopt our oldest daughter. The time and date say it was at 12:43 AM on September 15, 2002, which means it was mid-morning on September 14 here on the west coast in the States. This was the day we arrived back in Guangzhou after a six-day tour or Beijing. We were still childless, but were flying the next day to Nanning, where we would have Aimee placed in our arms in a small conference room at the Majestic Hotel.

I sent this email to one of the moderators of the Yahoo Group we had joined, which was created for people adopting through the organization U.S. China Affairs (USAA). The Internet in China was pretty squirrelly back then and there was no access in hotel rooms, nor was there such a thing as a smartphone (at least not one that was widely available as a consumer item), so I would have to trudge down to the lobby and this small bar, where there was at least one (don’t remember otherwise) computer I could use for a little while. I was writing mostly for those who had yet to travel. The wait for us had been nearly two years. For others, it would soon get longer, though we didn’t know that at the time. I knew people were hungry for status whenever a group traveled, so I filled that void for a while.

Chinese Babies

In the lobby of the China Hotel, in Guangzhou, some of the 33 children – all girls but one, and a set of twins – adopted by 32 families in our travel group in September 2002. That’s Foosh on the far right, in the red top.

I reiterate. I am posting these in part so my daughters will someday be able to read them and fill in another blank, when they’re ready. They both know they’re adopted and are aware of everything we know (which isn’t all that much) about their lives before they joined our family, but these emails I’m posting run the gamut from mostly informational to fairly emotional and, perhaps, introspective. They’re not ready for that kind of conversation yet. Hopefully, these memories will be available online for them. I could just print them out but I want them to be on my blog as well. Otherwise, why do I have this thing?

Hi Rick:

We’re now in Guangzhou, and I’m in the Sports Bar in the China Hotel. Still can’t access groups, period; not just China33. My interest was more in reading just to see what was going on, but if no one else is communicating with you guys, this email can serve to let you know what’s going on. We’re finally all here; had brunch this morning at a wonderful restaurant which appeared (from the outside) to be located below a sports stadium, and Norman introduced the China team and told us what would be going on. The groups then split into two – one for the folks remaining in Guangzhou to go shopping, and the other for the folks who will be traveling tomorrow to get 70 minute foot massages for 80 RMB. Norman says they are top drawer and include all you can eat and drink. As for myself, I chose to come back to the hotel and relieve myself of a large amount of cash I’ve been carrying around and which Sara was more than happy to take off my hands. I also wanted to get in what I suspect will be some of the last reading I’m going to get for a while.

Tomorrow, Linda and I travel with about 10 other families to Nanning, where we will perform a multiple gotcha at the hotel in the evening. I’d like to say I’m excited, but I don’t believe that word comes close to conveying the range of emotions I’m experiencing right now. No matter how hard I try to imagine what it’s going to be like for this 55 year old, childless man to shift gears – in an instant – so dramatically, I find it impossible to do so. I have chosen to put my faith in my lifelong love of children, my experience with my sister, who is 19 years my junior, and the knowledge that lesser men than me have risen to the challenge, to carry me through. Frankly, I’m not that worried, though perhaps that means I haven’t fully grasped the enormity of the situation.

As for Linda, I can only say she has strong maternal instincts and I’m sure she’ll do fine. Besides, she knows I sleep a lot less than she does, so she’s got a mule in the stable.

Well, that’s it for now. Feel free to post this message, either in its entirety, or edited as you see fit, for the rest of the family on China33.

When we come back from Nanning, no doubt the serious shopping will commence. I will inform you of our progress on the dresses. Take care.

Rick


Commemorating Humanity’s Brave Explorers and Pioneers

Yesterday was a very special anniversary. It marked the 29th year that has passed since OV-099, the Space Shuttle Orbiter Vehicle Challenger, experienced a catastrophic failure (what NASA calls a Crit 1 failure) during launch, which resulted in the loss of the vehicle and its entire crew. The day was also set aside to commemorate the loss of the Apollo 1 Command Module and its three-man crew during a test on January 27, 1967, and the loss of OV-102, the Space Shuttle Orbiter Vehicle Columbia, which disintegrated during re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere on February 1, 2003, experiencing another Crit 1 failure and the deaths of all aboard.

Challenger women astronauts

Judith Resnik and Christa McCauliffe a couple of days prior to the fateful launch of Challenger.

It was a day to commemorate the loss of these fine people; a day to spend a moment of silence reflecting on the sacrifice they made in their quest to advance the knowledge and, I’d like to think, the purpose of the human race. Truthfully, though I became aware of it on my rocket engine company’s website, I completely forgot about it most of the day and was only reminded when I saw the picture I’m sharing in this post. It’s a picture of the two women who were part of the crew we lost with Challenger’s destruction 29 years ago – Judith Resnik and Christa McCauliffe.

I came across the picture because Ms. Magazine posted it with some information about these two very special women. They pointed out they were the first women to die in space flight. Judith Resnik was also the first Jewish woman to go into space as well as the second American woman astronaut. Christa McCauliffe would have been the first teacher in space. The death of these women means a lot to me and it should mean a lot to you as well. They died in pursuit of greater understanding, of advancing science. They also were in pursuit of education for the youth of not just America, but the entire planet, as well as the noble goal of space exploration and the known and unknown treasures it promises for our species.

These two deaths are especially bittersweet for me, as they were the catalyst that launched what would become my first and, apparently, only actual “career”. Almost one year to the day after Challenger exploded, I began working for the organization that designed and built the Space Shuttle Main Engine and on the document that would represent their portion of the Space Shuttle’s return to flight . . . and service to our space program. I don’t believe I would have found that job were it not for the explosion of that vehicle. I am neither an engineer nor a rocket scientist and, had nothing happened, there would likely have been no need for me.Due to the nature of the document they were preparing to justify a safe return to space flight, they needed people who could work with engineers and rocket scientists and help them input the results of their studies into a document that would satisfy NASA’s requirements of scientific rigidity and organizational accuracy.

Due to the nature of the document they were preparing to justify a safe return to space flight, they needed people who could work with engineers and rocket scientists and help them input the results of their studies into a document that would satisfy NASA’s requirements of scientific rigidity and organizational accuracy. I had the appropriate skills (low bar) and mentality (high bar), along with the need to work wherever the hell I could. 🙂

At any rate, I ended up working for what was then Rockwell International’s Rocketdyne Division. It subsequently became a part of The Boeing Company, United Technologies’s Pratt & Whitney Division, and is now GenCorp’s Aerojet Rocketdyne. I worked there for 21 of the next 23 years, temporarily leaving in a somewhat ill-fated, but important, return to a family business before returning until my retirement in May of 2010. After nearly five years, I am back working there and am hopeful I can make a difference.

That my good fortune is somewhat a result of the tragedy that cost these two women, and five other astronauts, their lives does not go unnoticed. I hope I honor their memory each day I do my job. I will never forget their sacrifice, nor will I forget the connection their deaths have with my good fortune. I have few heroes in my life. These two are at the top of the list.


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