Category Archives: News & Politics

Conservatism Will Lose

“Know thy enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles, you will never be defeated. When you are ignorant of the enemy but know yourself, your chances of winning or losing are equal. If ignorant both of your enemy and of yourself, you are sure to be defeated in every battle.”

~ Sun Tsu

For me, this quote explains why conservatives are eventually going to lose the “culture wars”. They consistently insist on ascribing thoughts and values to liberal and progressives that are figments of their overactive imaginations when, in fact, they are more often than not projecting. They don’t know their “enemy”, nor do they know themselves.

This isn’t to say they won’t cause a lot of damage, destruction, and even death as they attempt to control the narrative and impose their values on everyone. But I do believe their “causes” will never prevail in the long run, in large part because they’re clueless about not only our motivations, but even their own.


Bye Bye Twitter?

I first joined Twitter in March of 2006. At the time part of my job at Rocketdyne Propulsion and Power, a division of The Boeing Company, was to examine platforms described as examples of what was then referred to as Web 2.0, as well as new applications being referred to as “social media.” I was doing this as a member of the Knowledge Management team for the division, and as the Knowledge Management lead for the Space Shuttle Main Engine team.

In 2002, I had been leading the team that introduced one of the earliest “social media” applications to the SSME team and the organization as a whole. We didn’t think of it as social media at the time, however. Our main goal was to provide a tool (we called it an “enabler”) that made it easier to locate subject matter experts (SMEs) and facilitate not only communication between those seeking knowledge and those possessing it, but to capture that knowledge and make it easily accessible for others who might need it at a later date.

The name of the tool we purchased 1000 seats for was AskMe Enterprise. It was, if memory serves, based on a former website of the same name, but was now a proprietary tool meant to stay within the firewall of an organization. Rocketdyne needed something that would be useful internally and had no reason to use something that was open outside the organization’s firewall. In fact, given the nature of its products being open to the outside was anathema and a matter of national security.

At the same time, we were looking for a communications tool that provided one-to-many capabilities and short-form text sharing and publishing. There were several tools that were coming online around that time, including Jive and Yammer, but Twitter seemed to be the most interesting. Nevertheless, it took me something like six months before I could identify a use case for it. At the time it seemed merely a tool for non-productive jabber and gossip.

What changed it for me was when I found out the team preparing the Space Shuttle Orbiter for the next launch was using it to communicate their activities and progress. There were something like two dozen people who were working on various tasks that were independent in numerous different ways. If you’ve ever done project management, especially if you’ve used a tool like Microsoft Project, you know there are several types of dependencies between activities, e.g. finish-to-start (the most common). The Orbiter team, much like many of the teams that organizations (not just Rocketdyne) have to accomplish their work, would meet every morning to present progress and discuss how to proceed with remaining activities.

Twitter changed the dynamic significantly. Now, instead of waiting until the team gathered each morning, team members who were out in the field accomplishing tasks could communicate in real-time with their colleagues (all of them) when they had finished a task which was a predecessor to another team member’s task. All they had to do was Tweet. They didn’t have to compose an email, direct an IM to two dozen people, or make a phone call. They just had to follow each of their teammates.

This may seem a trivial thing, but if a predecessor task was completed at, say, two in the afternoon and that fact could be communicated to the entire team, anyone who needed that information to know where they stood in the flow of activities didn’t have to wait until the following morning stand-up to find out what their status was. Work on complicated engineering projects can be expensive and even apparently small savings of time could add up to saving tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars.

So, that was my introduction to Twitter. I never could get my colleagues at Rocketdyne to use it. I had a hard enough time getting them to use AskMe and soon after I accepted an early severance package in May of 2010 (as the Shuttle program was coming to an end) it became obvious without my constant agitating for its use it wasn’t going to survive. It didn’t.

However, I kept a kind of love/hate relationship with Twitter over the years. There were times I didn’t pay much attention to it, and periods where I was quite active. Unfortunately, a couple of years ago, after nearly a decade and a half, I was permanently suspended after I suggested a certain former guy might benefit from a coronary episode (I was only looking out for his best interests!). I created another account, which I am still using. Actually, I created two more accounts, one of which was also suspended, but reinstated upon appeal, though I no longer use it. Now, instead of @rickladd I’m @retreado.

I really wish I still had my real name, but it looks as though Twitter may not survive the petty indulgences of the world’s richest 10-year-old. Toward the end, I found Twitter to be an invaluable source of news, not so much as a primary but as a pointer to in-depth analyses, opinion, and good, solid journalism. It was a great way to keep track of trends and what movers and shakers were thinking, as well as hints as to which direction developing issues might go in. If Twitter does go away, I will miss it, but it won’t be the end of the world. I’ve already created an account at Mastodon and am considering other apps. Time will tell. Frankly, I wouldn’t mind taking a break from the immediacy and constant movement of Twitter. I’m getting old and I appreciate moments of silence more than ever.


It’s A Mystery!

I really enjoy Jim Wright’s rants, especially when he gets riled up. He reminds me of a famous sports writer for the Los Angeles Times, Jim Murray who, sadly, passed away nearly a quarter century ago (kinda shows you how old I am). Jim Murray had a way of making and remaking a point without the reader getting tired of the exercise. Jim Wright has that same quality in the political world, IMO. I came across this post today and shared it with my friends and anyone else who might stumble across it – my posts are all public – and I thought I would share it here as well. I also added a few thoughts of my own that sprung out of Jim’s post and some of the resulting comments, most notably those suggesting the work of protecting against fascism is hardly over because of this one election. In fact, I vividly remember the “America. Love it or leave it” crowd that attacked those of us who were protesting the war in Vietnam back in the sixties and seventies, as well as the majority of Republicans since who want to restrict our freedoms and tell us what to think, who to love, and how to relate to the universe. My comments follow this Facebook embed.

The concerning part is there’s still a disturbingly large swath of the electorate who embrace fascism and authoritarianism and likely an equally large group of people who haven’t a clue what’s actually happening and merely respond to the right-wing propaganda that permeates our culture and vote reflexively, not thoughtfully.

My time on this planet is coming to a close, even if I live to be 100, but I still care deeply about the kind of society, economy, and environment we’ll be leaving those who come after me. While I have two daughters who are 19 and 21, and whose future matters a great deal to me, I would feel this way even if I was childless.

The forces of darkness are not soon going away; they’ll most likely never go away – at least not for generations to come. Therefore, we must be eternally vigilant as well as discerning in our choice of those we allow to have the power to make decisions affecting our lives and the lives of our fellow humans. This means paying close attention to elections at every level and for every office, as they’re currently the most impactful activities that determine how we live.

I honestly believe we need a socialist revolution, but I don’t see it happening soon, nor do I see it happening in the manner others have gone down. We’re not early 20th century Russia or mid 20th century China. Neither are we similar to Cuba or any other country I can think of that had a revolution and attempted to become a communist economy.

My knowledge of Marxism, which is admittedly incomplete, tells me that Marx and Engels did not believe a country could go from an agrarian or feudal economy directly to socialism. If you’re not familiar with their theories, they believed that human economic systems evolved and there was a progression from tribalism (primitive communism) to slavery, to feudalism, to capitalism, to socialism, to communism, to anarchy (which didn’t mean crazy-ass bomb throwing, but the absence of the coercive organs of the state, i.e. the “withering away of the state.”) Neither were these transitions/evolutions necessarily smooth or linear, but they were overall inexorable.

Materialistic Dialectics also requires us to understand the situation in which we find ourselves and our society in its historical context, not as some abstract notion of how things “ought” to be, but as they truly are; a seemingly Herculean task given the complexity of today’s world.

I don’t have all the answers; I’m not even sure I have any answers. However, of this I’m reasonably certain – believing that capitalism is the zenith of human economic activity is foolish and counter productive. As well, we have a long way to go just to honor the principles on which the United States was ostensibly founded. Liberty and justice for all is still a goal; an apparently distant one at that.

Semper Vigilantes!


Use Every Tool Available!

I am 75 years old. I have been voting since July 4, 1968, my 21st birthday and the day of the California Democratic primary. My introduction to voting was to have the person I voted for assassinated the night I voted for him. I have never missed voting in an election, including any special elections.

I have been a socialist since my first vote so, in reality, I’ve never been able to conscientiously vote for someone who represented my actual views or for the system I would like to see implemented. Sure, there were socialists running for office but, lets’ face it, this is a two-party political system and I’ve never wanted to waste my vote.

My point isn’t to argue the validity of voting for the lesser of two evils or the value of the protest vote. I had my reasons, but I’ve always voted – always, and if you don’t get off your ass and vote I don’t know what to say other than I have no use for you. Not voting is akin to voting for the worst possible choice, IMO, especially when those who support the worst possible choice vote en masse every. damn. time.

Vote, goddam it! Just vote.


Simi Valley Elections

Candidates NOT to vote for in Simi Valley.
Who NOT to Vote For in Simi Valley

If you live in Simi Valley, CA here are all the candidates you DON’T want to vote for. I live in City Council District 2 and School District D. Here are my thoughts on the candidates I can and will vote for, as well as most of their opponents.

IMLTHO, the fact that Mike Judge is endorsed by the SVPD says nothing good about the police or Judge. Judge is full of anger and hate and has accomplished little as a member of the City Council. His opponent, Sean Weisman, is young, intelligent, and full of fresh ideas. He’s also in tune with changes people like Judge won’t even acknowledge, e.g. climate change.

Fred Thomas’s focus is almost entirely on a “safe and family friendly community”, which I interpret as a dog whistle heavily skewed toward policing and the status quo. Joe Ayala is a forward thinking, long-time union member and negotiator. He supports working people and their struggles, as well as sensible approaches to our housing, water, and climate crises and how the City can lead in addressing these critical issues.

Don Brodt’s approach to education I find incomplete, as he puts parents and students first, with teachers as an afterthought. From a systems perspective, this is both short sighted and incomplete. Kristina Pine, OTOH, is both a teacher and a parent, with two children attending SVUSD schools. Her approach to education is holistic and realistic.

Jacqui Irwin and Julia Brownley are proven leaders and have represented our districts well, IMO.

I’m voting for Jacqui Irwin, Julia Brownley, Joe Ayala, Sean Weisman, and Kristina Pine. I hope you’ll follow me in doing so.

PS – I suspect most, if not all, of the candidates attending this forum are MAGA Republicans, which should tell you more than I can about their suitability to represent our entire community, not just the people they agree with. Choose wisely, fellow Simizens.

PPS – I forgot to mention Brian Dennert for Parks & Rec. Brian’s done a great job in his term as a Director. I have no doubt he’ll do even more if re-elected. I’m voting for him as well.

#simivalley#california#NovemberElections


What Country Is This?

When I was younger people would fly the flag on specific holidays: Independence Day, Veteran’s Day, Flag Day, and a few more. That was the extent to which the flag was flown outside of private residences.

Public Law 94-344, known as the Federal Flag Code, states: “Traditional guidelines call for displaying the flag in public only from sunrise to sunset. However, the flag may be displayed at all times if it’s illuminated during darkness.” In my City of Simi Valley, CA there are dozens and dozens of flags flying 24/7, many of them not illuminated at night. Even stranger, there are also dozens and dozens of people who have installed flagpoles in front of their homes flying the flag.

Fort McDumbfuck

I find myself wondering, “Are you cosplaying a post office?” “Is this a military installation; say, Fort McDumbfuck?” What are these people trying to say? That they’re more patriotic than the rest of us? I thought being patriotic meant loving your country enough to work hard, pay your taxes, raise your children to be honest, kind, thoughtful, decent people so the economy and the body politic are strong and resilient.

I guess that’s not good enough nowadays. I guess you have to become a jingoist and pledge your fealty to a person or persons who demand it rather than command it. I guess you have to be a little brain dead and incapable of critical, analytical thought. I have the feeling, as do many others, the people who are doing this now are all Trump supporters.

The conservatives and MAGAts (is there any difference now?) have ruined the flag for me. They’ve fetishized it. The flag represents the nation; it isn’t the nation. It represents the Constitution and the people who have served and sacrificed that we might enjoy the freedoms that, when you look at it historically, haven’t been available for all. Now I’m afraid it merely represents a gnawing desire to return to an idealized past that never existed, not even for the most privileged of us.

At the risk of being accused of harping on the subject, returning from taking my daughter to work I was once again struck by the number of flags, and flagpoles, that line the streets of Simi Valley. I tweeted the following after I returned:

Conservatives have no problem belittling others for “virtue signaling.” However, it’s just dawned on me that flying the flag 24/7 is another, somewhat ridiculous form of virtue signaling. I know what country I live in. I don’t need dozens of flags to remind me. What’s your point?

I’m afraid it’s probably time for a new flag. We can consider it right after we bury the Republican Party, the epitome of un-American values, if you can call what they believe values at all. Please vote accordingly this November 8.


It’s Not Inflation-It’s Greed

I’m old enough to remember paying $0.25/gal back in 1968. Adjusted for inflation that would be $2.10/gal today. Clearly, the petroleum companies are screwing us royally.

PS – This was a first for me (>$100) and it was at Costco, where had can be up to $0.50 cheaper than most anywhere else.


Let’s Try It!

Ever since I encountered Malcolm X’s writings in the 60s, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the phrase “by any means necessary.” I’m reasonably sure what Brother Malcolm was referring to was the right of the Black community to defend itself, violently if necessary, against any and all attacks on their rights.

I’m also pretty sure a lot of people interpret the phrase as a general call-to-arms and an incitement to violence. I beg to differ. I believe the phrase should be interpreted (ironically) literally, i.e. whatever works is what we do if we want to make positive, progressive change in this country.

We have a tool available to us and we don’t use it very effectively. I’m referring to voting. Historically, since the early 20th century, less than half the eligible population has voted in midterm elections. In 2018 it was 50%, for the first time since 1914.

If you don’t think there’s a correlation between voter apathy and the quality of representation we get, I’ve got a Louie Gohmert to sell you.

Voting is a “means” at our disposal. Protests, demonstrations, general strikes are “means” as well, but they’re not mainstream and, therefore, are far more difficult to pull off. The whole damn country votes on (or, thankfully, around) the same day every two years.

I know there are those who say voting doesn’t matter. I’m sure there are plenty of cases in which that’s true, but that doesn’t make it a universal truth. Regardless, when 50% or less of the eligible population bother to vote it’s much easier for a small but organized and cohesive group to take over the governance of your city, county, state, or federal government. Maybe even your HOA!

Please vote. Let’s give it a try. Make sure your friends and family know how important it is. Not just in this upcoming election, but from now on. From The standpoint of availability and feasibility, it’s the most “necessary” means at our disposal. Let’s wield it intelligently.


Viva La Revolución Cubana

May Day in La Plaza De La Revolución

Forty-nine years ago today I had the honor of marching through La Plaza De La Revolución as a member of the 6th contingent of the Venceremos Brigade. I got to listen to Fidel give one of his shorter speeches (only about 2.5 hours, if memory serves.) The USA has been exceptionally cruel to the people of Cuba. They deserve far better, as do we all.


Tuckums

THIS is the guy who’s complaining about the “declining masculinity” of the American male.

THIS GUY. LOL! 🤣🤪😆


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