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Posted by on Nov 11, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Personal, What's Left | 1 comment

My Veterans Day Story

 

 

VETERANS DAY STORY

First, allow me to salute the fine men and women who have risked their lives for this nation on a special day intended to remember all those who served, and especially those who sacrificed.

I have two short military-related stories to share, which aren’t anything on the scale of real veterans who served in the armed forces. But the stories, I think, are poignant. At least for me, they still hold meaning all these years later.  I feel the need to write them down and remember.

I.

In high school, I joined a military youth organization called the Civil Air Patrol, which is an active organization within the federal government that closely aligns with the Air Force.

We met and trained weekly at the Dallas Naval Air station, which was a Navy base on the edge of Mountain View Lake, attached to the huge Vought aircraft plant. Vought Industries made Corsairs (I think), which were used in Vietnam. The Vought factory had opened during WW2 and was a huge defense plant. [See the photo below of an actual KENNEDY MOTORCADE in front of the plant, that is now entirely forgotten by history.]

It closed down in the 1980s, but when I was there, it had Navy and Air Force personnel, including my unit of the Civil Air Patrol. I made it all the way to Corporal (about as low as it gets in rank).

I was seriously thinking about a career in the military. We did everything soldiers do so far as training goes. I even got a radio-telephone operator’s license (that was my “specialty”). We marched, saluted, had inspections, and I got a real taste of military life.

One weekend, we got an assignment I will NEVER forget. One weekend per month, we stayed overnight on the military base and did the usual training associated with night security. We had a barracks, just like you see in the movies. Part of the building had not been cleaned in at least 5-10 years.

This was in 1977, and the Vietnam War had ended just a few years earlier (the last American troops left in 1973). There were lots of Vietnam-era hardware around, and that was the basis of our training materials.

As a grunt, that Saturday, I was told to go up to a room in the barracks, one of many, and with my colleagues help to sort through piles, and I mean PILES, of old Air Force uniforms, mostly fatigues, but even a few flight suits. All the fatigues had blue name tags stitched into the green fabric. We were instructed to take knives and REMOVE all the names from the old uniforms. There were hundreds. They were to be sold as scrap to Army-Navy stores as military surplus, which was a thing back then. So, I stick a sharp knife into the cloth and cut the thin threads, and peeled off the last name of a soldier who had served, many in Vietnam.

After you see another Smith, Wallace, Gonzalez, Wilson, Kramer on a uniform, it becomes routine. We were all just dumb 14 and 15-year-old kids, and we began making jokes about some of the last names, especially if they sounded weird. “Hey, look at this one!”

I still remember his name to this day, and it’s been 43 years. His name was Col. Sandbach. He was an Air Force Colonel, retired I think. But he served as our CAP commander. Col. Sandbach was making inspections and heard us laughing. He heard us making a game out of the work we were doing, ripping name tags off of Air Force uniforms.

The colonel walked in and we snapped to attention. Ten-hut!

He asked what we were laughing about, and we told him. Then, Col. Sandbach listened, and then quietly spoke:

“You boys know some of those fatigues you are holding in your hands are from men who didn’t come back, don’t you?”

“Show them some respect.”

With that, he turned and walked out of the room.

I will never, never, never forget the shame of that moment.

 

II.

In 1986, I was out of college and not sure what to do with my life. I actually enlisted in Marine Corps Officer Candidate School, but when they tested me and found out I was colorblind, they removed me from the flight school and told me I had to go to ground school, which was all fine with me.

I took the PFT, passed all the exams, and then was slated to go to basic training, in San Diego, I think. But then, the USMC ground school, which only had two classes for officers per year, was canceled, and I was told I’d have to wait at least 6 mos, and probably a year to get in. So, I went on with my life and moved to other things.

It’s a curious thing to think about forks in the road and forecast where you might have been and the person you might be had you taken a different path. Sometimes, things are just beyond our control.

Who knows? Perhaps I and many others who took different forks on the path of life might have worn uniforms that years later were inventoried by kids in a barracks, laughing and unaware of the sacrifices of the men (and women) who had once worn the cloth

 

My thoughts on this Veterans Day 2020 with a salute to those who actually served and sacrificed, in some cases, everything.

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Posted by on Nov 3, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Politics, What's Left | 0 comments

Why Either Outcome is a Win for Progressives

 

 

I’ve been asked what I’ll do if Donald Trump wins re-election.

Easy answer.

I’ll continue doing what I’ve done my entire adult life, which is to fight for the things I believe in. That’s also true of Joe Biden wins. The fight doesn’t end, no matter who wins or loses. The strategy is just a bit different given who’s in power.

One very cynical (but realistic) way of looking at a Trump victory is as follows: Trump winning would be an absolute bonanza for progressives. It would be the best thing possible for the far-Left. How is this so? That sounds absurd. Here, I’ll explain.

A Trump victory absolutely ensures worsening divisions, graft, cruelty, and hardship. A Trump victory guarantees another economic crash, and probably a depression. Want evidence? Look at history when conservatives get their way — conservative economic policies (deregulation, tax cuts, etc.) ALWAYS fail. Conservative economic policies, when unchecked, ALWAYS crash the economy, at least eventually — proof in 1929, 1987, 2008 (all after long periods of conservative dominance of government and economy).

Even without COVID, most analysts saw a “correction” coming.
Trump’s so-called economic “boom” was due to bust. It was already slowing down. So, add in all the ingredients — including more trade wars and crippling national debt, not to mention (okay, I’ll mention it —– the incalculable cost of COVID nationally and globally, which will be paid by taxpayers at some point) — and the United States economy will certainly CRASH like an egg rolling down a mountain. Slow steady growth (like under Obama-Biden) was the ideal recipe for success. Pumping the patient with steroids — tax cuts, giveaways to the rich — might look good for a short period by inflating markets, but then the real cost of abuse will become evident, and the pain will be real. This was an economy addicted to steroids and hooked on opioids.

The horror of a Donald Trump second term would be so calamitous that the predictable backlash could be political instability and perhaps even a revolution. Part of me welcomes this possibility. Another part of me is terrified of that level of discord and chaotic aftermath. But the bottom line is — it’s inevitable in a post-Trump America. 100 million disenfranchised Americans, their lives in ruin, WILL do something about it. A crashed economy, authoritarian crackdowns on protests, loss of civil liberties, international instability, environmental disasters (which might be inevitable, no matter who wins), staggering levels of corruption for Trump and his cronies, government agencies dominated by Trump-loyalist flunkies, a warped judiciary (especially on corporate crimes), more SCOTUS appointments, expanding corporate power and influence at the expense of the working class, depressed wages (especially for the lower class)…..the list of Trump disasters is endless and incalculable.

Accordingly, if the system can’t take another stress test, it likely means a progressive tidal wave, certainly in 2024 if we make it that far. It fundamentally changes the Democrat Party from a centrist, corporatist, milquetoast coalition into a far more laser-focused party that will champion real progressive causes. If it doesn’t, then progressives will form a new party and Democrats will be left in the dust. And working-class America, the true victims of Trumpism, will largely embrace those Leftists ideals in the same way an entire generation of Americans — black and white and young and old — all flocked to FDR’s New Dealism during the 1930s and became proud lifelong Democrats. America saw what happened when Hoover and Republicans destroyed the economy, ruined millions of lives, and they NEVER forgave that party for it. The same would happen if Trump wins re-election.

Indeed, the best way to win is to lose. Sometimes, letting the other side win and govern proves all our points and gives evidence to our warnings. Then, we come in and pick up the pieces.

My only fear is — there might not be any America that remains, as we know it, *if* Trump wins. That’s the real fear. The disaster might be so catastrophic, that we cannot recover and no ideologically-driven agenda can return us from ruin.

Nonetheless, if this election does not go as we hope, progressive ideas shall continue to endure and thrive as a younger generation gradually takes over and recognizes the arc of history always bends towards advancement, despite the reactionary forces intent to slow the inevitable.

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Posted by on Oct 26, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Politics, Video 1, What's Left | 0 comments

An Intelligent Conversation (Podcast): How Does the Media Impact Us?

 

 

Here’s our latest edition of the weekly podcast, “An Intelligent Conversation.”
A few topics we discuss include:
— Can we trust the media?
— Is the media fair-minded?
— Is the media biased?
— Which is better to be informed: print media or electronic media?
— Is social media a contributor or a distraction?
— How has media changed and how will it impact us in the future?
— Does the media have a responsibility to provide a public service, or are they like any other for-profit entity?
— What does a Biden win vs. a Trump re-election in 2020 mean for the media, and us, and seeking the truth?
0:05 – Intro
5:36 – Nolan’s first job in the media lasted only seven hours!
8:42 – Newspapers vs. other forms of media
13:15 – How has televised news evolved?
25:32 – Media has evolved into partisan cheerleaders
30:46 – Where’s the accountability for fake news?

34:12 – Walter Winchell and the history of American media as entertainment
45:57 – The peddling of misinformation
53:09– Has American media historically leaned conservative?
1:00:37 – What does it take to trust a particular news outlet?
1:09:01 – When was the last time you saw an American reporting live from a foreign country?
1:13:29 – Will the media remain the same after Trump leaves office?
1:17:53 – Can the public be convinced to consume news in a better way?
1:28:51 – What does the future hold for us?
Matt Lessinger and Nolan Dalla attempted to answer these questions and more in the latest edition of “An Intelligent Conversation.”
This unscripted conversation was recorded on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020 and runs about 90 minutes.

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Posted by on Oct 22, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Politics, What's Left | 0 comments

Sick of Politics? Yeah, Me Too

 

 

Everywhere you look on social media — everyone and everything is political.

Trump tweets. Pro-Trump posts. Conspiracy theories. Mindless memes. Vicious attacks on Trump. Links to politically-charged news articles. YouTube clips. Graphs with stats on everything from the economy to COVID. The common thread on most of what’s happening is unmistakable. It’s Trump. It’s all Trump, all the time.

Then, there are discussions and debates — screaming matches, actually. Acquaintances, friends, and even family members have yelled ourselves hoarse at each other in comments and replies, especially here on Facebook. Civil exchanges gradually break down. We get frustrated. Unable to take it anymore, we lash out. We post mean things, even vulgarities. And so, many lifelong relationships have been severed. Friendships have ended. Even parents and children and brothers and sisters stop talking in some cases. Lots of cases. Probably millions of cases.

This isn’t normal.

If you somehow remain undecided about this election and don’t know much about the issues, are confused by the major parties, and perhaps don’t like either of the candidates atop the ticket, let me try and make a very simple appeal to you that hopefully, you might understand. My appeal is as follows:

We can’t take four…..more…..years…..of THIS. We just can’t. So, let’s end it. Let’s end it on Nov. 3rd. Vote to end it.

You say that you’re sick of the political discussions and the arguing and the yelling and the tiresome rants and fog of partisan disinformation. Psst — let me tell you a little secret. Listen carefully….

So are we.

We’re sick of it. We’re sick of it all.

We’re especially exhausted by the petty theatrics, almost entirely created by one hopelessly insecure man craving constant attention.  Such theatrics have become, in a word, tiresome.

Instead, we want to wake up on a beautiful morning and not have to worry about the next big scandal that will dominate the news cycle. We want to watch the news and not hear “President Trump” in every sentence. We long for the time when our lives were filled with discussions and social media exchanges about food and music and shows and sporting events and cats and kids and vacations and all the things we love to exchange and share with family, friends, and strangers. We want to slam the OFF button on politics, at least for a time, and get back to the things that make our lives worth living, and that’s not Russian collusion or Hunter’s laptop or Trump’s latest Tweet target.

Let’s end this and end it now!

When I vote Joe Biden, it’s not because I think he can or will save the country. The problems, the divisions, the ignorance, the corruption, and greed, the selfishness, the deception…..it’s all so overwhelming that one man, one party, one election can’t possibly mop up the mess. The floor isn’t just dirty. The house is on fire. It will take more than Joe Biden or Kamala Harris or a Democratic Senate to fix our aches and pains and illnesses.

But I do know Biden will restore some sense of *normality* in daily life. We will be able to go to sleep at night and wake up in the morning without worrying about what absurdity gets tweeted from the White House toilet at 5 am. Rather, we will get a breath of fresh air, a reprieve from the madness, a sliver of order from the disorder, and an opportunity to get back to those things we enjoy.

You are sick of politics? Yeah, me too.

Voting for Donald Trump in 2020 GUARANTEES that the political wars will continue. And, they may even escalate into ugliness we’ve rarely seen in this country. Voting for Donald Trump in 2020 means social media becomes even more toxic. Our public space won’t merely be crowded out by politics and arguments. It will be a monsoon. A flood.

Voting for Joe Biden in 2020 does not mean politics ends. But the volume will return to a normal decibel level. It means some measure of sanity and compromise. With Joe Biden, we won’t have to worry about raw dogging porn stars and payoffs, the president’s golf addiction, daily insults of world leaders, obsession with ratings and polls, and faux patriotism and faith wrapped in the flag and the Bible. Some people might call this “boring.” I call it normal.

Let’s vote for normal in 2020. Let’s save the country. Let’s save our sanity. Let’s save our friendships.  Let’s save our families.  Let’s save ourselves.

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Posted by on Oct 7, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Politics, What's Left | 0 comments

The Last Helicopter Off the Roof (A Final Plea to My Trump-Supporting Friends)

 

 

A desperate plea to the last of the die-hard Trump supporters — this is your final chance to get aboard.

 

I know a little something about helicopters and the final moments of dictators.

In 1989, I was 800 feet away from the helicopter that swooped Nicolae Ceausescu off the roof in Bucharest, while thousands broke down the doors and swarmed over and ransacked the Romanian Communist Party Central Committee Building.

Years before that, I sat next to a former Marine in a political science class and was fortunate to talk with him.  His stories from Vietnam were mesmerizing.  He’d once been assigned to one of the final helicopters to depart from the American Embassy which was evacuating everyone who could fit onto the aircraft.

Who else remembers watching those grainy newsreels from Saigon, and who can ever forget those still-haunting images of that one last helicopter departing from the rooftop, leaving hundreds and perhaps thousands of desperate and screaming Vietnamese people behind?

Now, in 202o America, we have reached our own helicopter moment.

Right now, this moment in time is the last Huey lifting off as a lifeline.  Soon, this final opportunity will rise slowly from the roof, then gradually become a fading speck in the sky, and finally, it shall be gone — forever.  It shall disappear.  There is no going back.  There are no more flights after this.  There will be no — more — helicopters.

This is your final chance.

—– We don’t care that you supported him in the past.

—– We don’t care that you still agree with many of his policies.

—– We don’t care that you’ve said and written things that made your allegiance to your party and devotion to conservative principles seem unwavering.

None of that matters now.

This is not a time nor a place for finger-pointing, nor accusation.

Rather, this is the time to recognize a dire situation for what it is and climb onto the helicopter.  We are extending our arms and hands and reaching towards you.  We welcome the opportunity to embrace you, even after the fights and the pain.  We want you with us.  We are pleading with you one last time — save yourself.  Please.

If my voice doesn’t persuade you, perhaps General Hayden’s will.  Please take just two minutes to watch this important video:

 

Get on board.

If you do not — I can only speak for myself, here — but you will have diminished yourself, perhaps beyond repair.  It’s your reputation and character and future credibility which are at stake in your decision.  Given the overwhelming amount of damning evidence which, perhaps secretly, you know to be true, should you still chose to ignore it all and cling to your selfish pride, well then that is something we shall not forget.  That is something most of us cannot forgive.

Mark my words — — days, weeks, months, and even years from now — we will remember who was there when it counted and who made the wise choice and who made the wrong choice.  And if you make the wrong choice, it means you are no better than him.  It means — YOU ARE HIM.

 

Now, today, at this minute, all that matters is you get onboard with sanity and leave the madness behind.  The engine is running.  The blades are spinning.  Lift-off is now.

There are no more chances.  The decision is yours.

 

 

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