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Posted by on Jul 4, 2019 in Blog, Essays | 0 comments

July 4th, 2019

 

 

MY INDEPENDENCE DAY MESSAGE:  July 4, 2019

WHEN THE REPUBLICAN PARTY HAD A SOUL

 

I was there in the hall that night at the Dallas Convention Center during the 1984 Republican National Convention when Ray Charles belted out the greatest of all odes — “America the Beautiful.” What a gorgeous melody and moment.

I sat midway back in the audience, dead center aisle, one of the best seats in the house (I got media credentials, then tagged on an “ABC News” badge someone gave me, so I got total access throughout the hall, even to the stage area). I wept with joy.

I fondly remember those wondrous days of yesteryear so long ago when the Republican Party had a soul. Even those who disagreed with Ronald Reagan’s policies — and there were valid reasons for protest — *still* largely liked him and thought of him as a civil and decent man. How times have changed, especially on the political Right.

I love America — but I also loathe nationalism. I weep at the Star Spangled Banner when it’s done right — but acknowledge it’s a horrible anthem, inappropriate for its glorification of war and overt racism. I am lucky to be born in this country — but am often ashamed by it — its leaders, its people, and i’s policies. I’m acutely aware our prosperity was built on the backs of millions of slaves, indigenous people, and immigrants. I believe my understanding of my place in time as an American makes me a true patriot, even though I don’t consider myself particularly patriotic. Patriotism isn’t measured by the size of a flag. It’s reflected in ideas and courage and conviction about what our country should stand for and strive for.

For as many years as I can remember as a homeowner, we always put out the American flag on our doorstep. Strangely, it seemed out of place, on occasion, especially here in Las Vegas where money and corporations are worshipped, fame and celebrity are confused with wisdom, and where most citizens can’t identify the Bill of Rights. But we hung it out anyway. We were usually the only people on our block with an American flag outside. How odd that must seem given the Marxist leanings of the Dalla household.

This year, I elected to keep my flag indoors. My American flag will not hang outside. I will not partake in the politicization of my national holiday by a president who disrespects the U.S. Constitution, lacks a fundamental understanding of American history, and who coddles the world’s most despicable dictators. That’s not “American.” I will celebrate democracy when it genuinely means something. I refuse to be a part of any partisan parade or faux military spectacle. No, I won’t go along with the motions.

I will not allow this president to co-opt all that America stands for, which isn’t tanks in the streets and children locked in cages. I want not lend my name, nor presence, nor participation, to any 4th of July with that ugly message. It’s un-American.

Instead, I will reflect with admiration of that time 35 long years ago when our friends in the Republican Party were once good and decent people. Perhaps someday they will reclaim that marvelous pinnacle of political and moral authority.

I wonder. I hope.

Look at the faces of the people in this video.

My message to you all, everywhere, on this Independence Day.

 

 

__________

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Posted by on May 19, 2019 in Blog, Essays, Politics, What's Left | 2 comments

Attention U.S. Secret Service: There is a Madman Loose in the White House

 

These tweets by Donald J. Trump speak for themselves:

Hypocrisy Exhibit A:

 

Hypocrisy Exhibit B:

 

Hypocrisy Exhibit C:

 

Hypocrisy Exhibit D:

 

Side Note:  Just curious about Twitter and its terms and conditions:  Isn’t there some rule about threatening to kill people on Twitter?  What about when someone threatens to kill 81 million people?

 

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Posted by on May 9, 2019 in Blog, Essays, Politics, What's Left | 5 comments

So, You’re Still a Republican?

 

 

SO, YOU’RE STILL A REPUBLICAN?

Fine.

— Then, don’t you ever lecture me again on MORALITY.

— Then, don’t you ever lecture me again on your so-called “CHRISTIAN VALUES.”

— Then, don’t you ever lecture me again on TAKING PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY FOR ACTIONS.

— Then, don’t you ever lecture me again about GOVERNMENT SPENDING or FEDERAL DEFICITS.

— Then, don’t you ever lecture me again on PAYING YOUR OWN BILLS.

— Then, don’t you ever lecture me again on ADHERING TO THE U.S. CONSTITUTION.

— Then, don’t you ever lecture me again on following THE RULE OF LAW.

— Then, don’t you ever lecture me again about CIVILITY.

— Then, don’t you ever lecture me again about CRONYISM, NEPOTISM, or CORRUPTION.

— Then, don’t you ever lecture me again on PROTECTING THE COUNTRY FROM FOREIGN INTERFERENCE.

— Then, don’t you ever lecture me again on anything to do with RUSSIA.

— Then, don’t you ever lecture me again about CARING FOR THE POOR AND THE ELDERLY.

— — Then, don’t you ever lecture me again about RESPECTING FAMILIES OF THE WAR DEAD.

— Then, don’t you ever lecture me again about CARING FOR THE ENVIRONMENT or PROTECTING ANIMALS.

— Then, don’t you ever lecture me again about HONESTY.

— Then, don’t you ever lecture me again about TELLING THE TRUTH.

From your deafening silence, your constant deflection, your incessant what-about-ism, and your self-imposed bubble of blind ignorance, you have made a clear choice, an appalling demonstration of precisely where you stand on all the important issues of the day, and it’s not flattering.

The bottom line is — you will NEVER lecture me again on anything.

 

— Nolan Dalla

 

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Posted by on Mar 29, 2019 in Blog, Essays, Las Vegas, Personal, Politics | 4 comments

Lyft’s IPO: Buyer Beware

 

 

Buyer Beware:  Why Lyft’s Current Business Model is Unsustainable and the Stock is Probably a Losing Long-Term Investment

 

A few hours from now, the rideshare company Lyft will go public.  Shares of stock will be offered on the NASDAQ.  A few people are about to become insanely rich overnight.

Lyft began operating in 2012.  In the seven years since, the high-tech startup has grown into the second-largest rideshare transport company.  Uber, which ranks first, enjoyed a four-year head start on their rival.

However, some analysts now believe Lyft’s long-term prospects are brighter given the number of cities where the company operates (300) and growth projections within those markets.  Certainly, Lyft will be an attractive investment for initial speculation in what’s been a booming American economy.  The timing of Lyft’s public launch couldn’t be better than now.

However, Lyft is beset with many questions and potential problems.  What are my credentials to make this statement?  Well, admittedly, I know nothing about the company’s ownership, its management team, its technology, or anything whatsoever to do with its finances.  What I do know is its current business model is badly flawed and hence, unsustainable.  Lyft can’t continue to operate as it’s now doing and expect to generate much of any profit for investors.  In other words, don’t expect dividends to be paid soon.  In fact, profits may never come.

We’ve seen this false hype before — high-tech stocks and even great ideas that seemed they couldn’t miss, go from boom to bust.  Anyone remember the late 1990s?  Apparently not.

Lyft is expected to sell 32.5 million shares at around $72 each in the initial public offering phase (IPO), taking place on Friday, March 30, 2019.  The company will instantly be valued at $25 billion, a remarkable degree of investor confidence for such a young company that has yet to produce a profit in any of its seven years of operations, to date.

Read that again — yet to produce a profit.

Sure, Lyft (and Uber) have set the stage for what seems like a transformative enterprise that could change how millions of people get around in urban centers.  Most of us have used the service and do find it appealing.  The convenience of simply pulling out a smartphone on any city street, typing in an address, and getting a car direct to your doorstep within minutes is an attractive feature.  Moreover, ridesharing doesn’t require the handling of cash since all transactions are done by credit card (which is already on file when the consumer signs up for an online account).  Finally, ridesharing fares cost significantly less than taxis and other means of private transportation.  And therein lies the problem.

Lyft and Uber have been competing in a heated rivalry, especially over the last year or so, which has really been great for riders, but bad for both companies and especially their drivers, which are not employees but independent contractors.  The battle to inflate market share has kept fares ridiculously low in some cities, which has resulted in drivers’ pay being cut.  Lyft has been able to weather financial losses until now, and the infusion of IPO capital surely will give the company a huge boost.  However, there’s simply no way to generate profits in the long-term based on any of the current numbers.

Why not?  :et me explain.

Presently, Lyft is losing money.  To make a profit, the company must either:

  1.  Raise prices
  2.  Reduce labor costs
  3.  Ramp up technology (which will reduce labor costs)

Sorry, riders — but paying $8.45 for a six-mile ride cannot continue.  That fare isn’t feeding all the mouths that need to be fed when it comes to operating a motor vehicle, maintenance, fuel, labor, customer service, management, marketing, insurance, and other associated costs.  Making up the current deficit and then generating a profit for shareholders will require implementation of one or more of the options above.  There’s a reason the taxi costs $12 while the Lyft ride costs $9.  It’s because the trip is somewhere between $9 and $12 in cost, and Lyft is undercutting the competition.

If prices increase to a level that offsets costs and generates profit, ridesharing won’t be nearly as attractive to consumers.  Right now, many people are turning to ridesharing because it’s cheaper than a taxi.  That won’t be the case if fares go up by a substantial margin, which is probably inevitable given the costs of driving in urban markets.

If labor costs are cut, which means driver’s pay is slashed, rideshare companies won’t be able to attract new talent, nor keep those the drivers they have.  Uber and Lyft have been in a war to the bottom to see which company can pay its independent contractors less, presumably in an attempt to make their balance sheets look good.  With high turnover, rideshare companies are now bombarding social media channels desperately trying to attract new drivers, even offering so-called incentives to sign up.  Check your Facebook feed after visiting the Lyft page sometime and see what pops up.

Ridesharing is still a relatively new phenomenon and many drivers may be fooled into thinking it pays more than what’s actually accrued after time, investment, fuel costs, and wear and tear on personal vehicles — not to mention the inherent risks that go along with working odd hours driving on the streets (crime, traffic tickets, auto accidents, and so forth).  As the word spreads that many Lyft drivers make barely above minimum wage, it will be increasingly difficult to find the gullible.  Furthermore, the low rate of pay (which based on my personal experience varies between $8-14 per hour, and that’s — before taxes and zero benefits) will inevitably discourage better drivers and attract people of lesser quality.  Seriously, who can live in cities like New York, Washington, San Francisco, or Los Angeles on $11-an-hour?

Poverty-level wages, essential to profits, will attract marginal people — both in quality and character.  Increasingly, expect to see problems (like Uber sexual assaults, which have risen significantly).  There’s simply no way to attract a viable workforce paying $11 an hour with no benefits.  It’s a lettuce picking job behind the wheel.

Investors may be attracted to the company’s high-tech prospects, which could be on the horizon.  The most revolutionary component of ridesharing of the future is autonomous vehicles.  If Lyft (and Uber) can convert cars into a driverless experience, that eliminates significant labor cost.  Inner-city transportation would never be the same again.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, just yet.  While the technology does exist and the rideshare giants undoubtedly would chomp at the bit to convert to driverless cars if given an option, nevertheless, significant legal and practical objections do remain.  How many cities and states will allow hundreds or perhaps thousands of cars to be driverless and how long would this process take?  Additionally, what happens when a driverless car kills someone, as happened last year in Phoenix?  Accidents are part of the equation and are bound to occur (even if they aren’t caused by technical malfunctions).  Will city and state governments allow this controversial new technology on the streets?  Perhaps the biggest hurdle of all — what about consumer confidence and traditional habits?  Will riders get into a car that doesn’t have a living person as the driver?  Sure, high-tech might make driverless cars statistically safer and perhaps these concerns shall be overcome.  But I’m not convinced that either Lyft or Uber will be able to convert to a driverless vehicle fleet, not anytime soon.  Any investor would be a fool to think this is the game changer that will suddenly make rideshare companies profitable.

Hence, rider fares must increase (jeopardizing profit), labor costs must be reduced (jeopardizing profit), or high-tech must become the lifesaver for Lyft and Uber (probably the only viable option).  Then, add the uncertainty of gas prices now at a historic low (when adjusted for inflation), rising automobile acquisition and repair costs, and other economic uncertainties, and it’s impossible to imagine a better climate for ridesharing companies that right now nor how things will improve.  If Lyft and Uber can’t make a profit in these extraordinary conditions, how will they make money when the inevitable slowdown or downturn occurs?

This isn’t to say Lyft and Uber are doomed to fail.  To the contrary.  Ridesharing is here to stay.  It’s great for consumers.  But it won’t be nearly the bargain later on when operating costs and shareholder expectations create pressure to raise fares.  A ride from the airport can’t be delivered at $12 when the actual cost is higher.  It’s unsustainable.

No doubt, Lyft is going public at the ideal time for their owners.  Uber will likely be following suit, soon.  Unfortunately, those who invest in all likelihood have never driven for the company, seen the day-to-day operations, nor done the math.  I have.

Those who buy shares in these companies early and then hold rideshare stocks could end up in a riderless investment, with no idea when to bail out.  Short-term, Lyft could be an attractive investment.  But as reality sets in, no one knows where the profits will come from.

My advice is, don’t get in.

__________

 

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Posted by on Mar 25, 2019 in Blog, Essays, Politics | 5 comments

We Don’t Need the Mueller Report to Prove Trump Colluded, Conspired, and Covered Up

 

 

We don’t need the Mueller report to prove that Donald J. Trump colluded with the Russians and committed obstruction of justice.

The evidence on this is overwhelming and incontrovertible.  We have video and audio.  We have eyes and ears.  We know what we’ve seen.  We know what we’ve heard.

We’ve seen Trump — the candidate — make a personal plea to the Russians to go after his political opponent.

We’ve seen Trump — both the candidate and the president — repeatedly deny that he had business dealings in Russia.

We’ve seen Trump — the president — lie boldly and incessantly when asked if any of his aides and/or family members secretly communicated with officials working in coordination with the Russian Government.

We’ve seen Trump — the president — viciously attack those connected to the investigation, fire those who could do him harm, ridicule and intimidate witnesses, and threaten his own former associates who gave their cooperation.

We’ve seen Trump — the president — fuel the incendiary fires of a so-called “Deep State” conspiracy, deliberately and actively trying to discredit a federal criminal investigation.

We’ve seen Trump — the president — openly admit to firing former FBI Director James Comey after he fumbled his excuses and couldn’t get his (entirely fabricated) story straight in a nationally-televised interview.

We’ve seen Trump — the president — demand loyalty pledges from prospective appointees to the Justice Department.

It’s all there, in blood orange.

No number of lies, no amount of deflection, no degree of masquerading, no barrage of name-calling alters the fact that on July 27th, 2016 candidate Trump stood before television cameras and actively encouraged foreign powers, including Russia specifically by name, to hack into his political, Hillary Clinton.

“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”

In other words — go for it.

It’s all right here:

 

No candidate has ever so brazenly solicited the help of a foreign government in a presidential campaign.

We just don’t know all the facts, yet.

What we certainly do know is that about a year prior to Trump green-lighting Russian meddling, hackers affiliated with the Russian government penetrated the Democratic National Committee’s network, stealing large volumes of data and then maintained that access for about a year.  The timing of this nesting of potentially-damaging information is critical.  Shortly thereafter, thousands of Russia-backed social media accounts began sprouting up and spreading propaganda and disinformation, attacking Clinton while exhibiting a clear preference for Trump.

What we certainly do know is that George Papadopoulos (later convicted) joined the Trump campaign as a special adviser.  A short time after joining the campaign, Papadopoulos knowingly met someone who had connections to Russian government officials.

What we certainly do know is that Donald Trump, Jr. received an email from a Russian expatriate professing close ties to Moscow with allegedly “incriminating evidence” against Hillary Clinton.  “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” the email stated.  The younger Trump replied that same day: “If it’s what you say — I love it.”

Both during the campaign, and as president, Trump used surrogates, including campaign aids, advisors, and even his own family to create secret backchannels of communication with the Russians that couldn’t be deciphered.  Jared Kushner, the president’ son-in-law was one of those directly involved.

What we certainly do know is there’s a cesspool of troublesome circumstantial evidence that remains unexplained.  Why has Trump never criticized Russia for meddling in the election, nor for any of a myriad of other international violations and transgressions?  Why did Trump openly take Putin’s side in front of the entire world while when asked about the comprehensive assessment of American intelligence agencies that Russia had indeed meddled in the 2016 campaign?  Why does Trump go after virtually every other political leader on social media, but remains silent when it comes to anything connected to Putin and Russia?

Yes, there was collusion.  Yes, there was obstruction of justice.  Yet, we still don’t know what Trump knew, how much Trump knew, or anything about Trump directing his associates to break the law.  Despite the investigation’s findings, to borrow the late Sen. Howard Baker foreshadowing phrase from 1974’s Watergate proceedings, we must continue to ask:  What did the president know and when did he know it?

I was not surprised by the Mueller report’s “conclusions” — at least what we know, so far.  Keep in mind, few details pertaining to the president’s conduct have been released yet.  Let’s also remember Trump backtracked from his public statements that he’d agree to be interviewed in person by Mueller’s investigative team.  Trump’s awkward flip-flop probably saved him from perjuring himself, which would clearly have been an indictable offense.  Trump’s echo chamber of delusion probably means that he wouldn’t know the truth about much of anything, anyway.

Another legal battle is certain to follow, as to the actual details within the Mueller report and what information will be available to the American people.  Don’t be misled by the smokescreen of professed transparency.  Mark my words — Trump and his legal team attempt to block every facet of discovery related in any way to his conduct.  He will use every trick in his ghostwritten book to stonewall potentially damaging information.  There’s certainly dirt in there.  Trumps’s background, character, and conduct are way too jaded to believe otherwise.

Indeed, the disinformation campaign has already ramped up into high gear.  Trump’s sycophants are claiming a victory.  But Trump’s own hand-picked Attorney General William Barr’s four-page summary-letter included this public statement:

“The Special Counsel states that ‘while the report does not conclude that the President has committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

“…..it also does not exonerate him.”

Since the statement was released, Trump and his lackeys have ignored half of it.  They have falsely and repeatedly claimed the report “exonerates” Trump.  Is anyone shocked by this flagrant dishonesty?

No, the report does not “exonerate” Trump.  Apparently, they can’t read.

Let’s acknowledge that there was a conspiracy of some kind connected to the 2016 presidential election.  The Russians and its proxies used social media as a weapon to assist the Trump campaign.  That’s neither a hunch nor a hoax.  It’s a fact that’s been established by multiple intelligence agencies.  Even conservative pro-Trump media have retreated from their previous false claims the Russians “no impact on the 2016 election.”

Let’s also knowledge Russian President Vladimir Putin said he wanted Trump to win the 2016 election because he believed Trump’s policies would be more friendly to the Kremlin.

“Yes, I did.  Yes, I did.  Because he talked about bringing the U.S.–Russia relationship back to normal,” Putin said, standing alongside Trump at a joint news conference in Helsinki.

Trump denies all of this, of course.  Trump has falsely claimed on numerous occasions that Putin would have preferred to see his 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton, in the White House.  He’s completely delusional.

Let’s acknowledge that Trump met Putin that same day behind closed doors, demanding that no Americans be in the room, nor any official notes be taken of the discussion.  In all of American history and diplomacy, such a bizarre set of circumstances has never happened before.  There’s no reason for such secrecy, particularly while a criminal investigation was being conducted on the very question of Trump colluding with Russians, unless of course, Putin did have the American president on a chain.  It’s certainly a huge red flag.  This is entirely Trump’s doing at his insistence — not something the “fake media” created.

Let’s acknowledge Trump’s statements remain fishy.  And smelly.  His own actions and tweets baited the waters of suspicion.  A little truth from Trump might have gone a long way toward silencing critics and dissolving the many claims against him.  What else were we to think when Trump lied so many times about his surrogates meeting with Russians when the record showed that at least 16 Trump campaign officials were in direct contact?  [CLICK HERE]

Let’s also acknowledge Republicans apparently have no problem at all with foreign nations meddling in American elections.  In July 2018 the Republican-controlled Congress voted against protecting our national security by refusing to increase funding to counter high-tech espionage in future elections.  This is madness. [CLICK HERE]

What if before the Mueller investigation began we had a crystal ball?  What if we were told that 34 defendants would be charged with various crimes, including six close Trump associates, including his former campaign manager and disgraced National Security Advisor?  Would anyone claim the president had been “exonerated?”  Would anyone think this was a “witch hunt?”

Trump would have gone ballistic if the indictments would have been delayed until the very and and basically revealed he operated as a political mafia don.  Apparently, the timing of embarrassments is everything.

If nothing else, Trump has clearly exercised appallingly bad judgment and might be the most naive individual ever to occupy the Oval Office.

Trump and his defense team claim indictments stemming from the Special Counsel’s investigation didn’t prove collusion. since some of the charges were for crimes not directly related to Russia’s nefarious role in the 2016 election.  This is true.  But it’s also circumstantially relevant to our assessment of what really happened.  If all those Trump associates did nothing wrong, then why did they repeatedly lie about it so many times?

That Trump hasn’t been led away in handcuffs and paraded around in an orange jumpsuit doesn’t alter an irrefutable historical timeline.  It doesn’t erase what we have seen and what we already know — yet alone, things we don’t know and will gradually come out. History isn’t written in a flurry.  History is typically more of a slow trickle, like sandstone, carved out over time.

Twenty years ago, following a long ordeal, O.J. Simpson exited from a Los Angeles courtroom a free man and declared victory.  A “not guilty” verdict in the criminal trial happened because the evidence wasn’t there to convict and many say the prosecution did a poor job.  But the court’s verdict didn’t change the prevailing public perception and the fact he committed the crime.

Trump too, is exiting this legal round as a victor in the eyes of some.  But he still faces a gauntlet of legal hurdles ahead for a myriad of other crimes, mostly committed prior to taking office.  Barring an expiration on the statute of limitations, those charges will plague him to the grave.

We don’t need Mueller’s report to tell us what we know, what we’ve seen, and what we’ve heard, directly from Trump himself.

Trump is guilty of collusion with Russia and obstruction of justice.  As he wiggled out of legal troubles so many times in the past — in racial discrimination, bankruptcies, sexual assault charges, affairs, fraudulent business dealings, and fake diploma mill — his lawyers will continue putting in plenty of overtime to shield a guilty man from justice.

We don’t need a special report to know Trump remains a vile, dishonest, corrupt, incompetent, self-serving, vindictive, horror show for this country.

The evidence on this is conclusive.

__________

 

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