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Monday, October 23, 2017

How To Handle Anthem Protesters



One thing can be said about the Chinese: they certainly know how to stand up for their anthem. Did you know that in some parts, one can be imprisoned for up to 15 days for refusing to stand? But then again, would you expect anything less from a communist country?

What I love about the United States are the freedoms that we all enjoy. On the most part we are free to do whatever we wish to do, and nobody can force us to do anything against our will. Or at least, that is the standard that we should all strive to achieve.

But wait! What was it a prominent US politician said last week concerning our national anthem?
"The NFL has decided that it will not force players to stand for the playing of our National Anthem. Total disrespect for our great country!"
What kind of country would we be that claims to espouse freedoms, and then compel everyone to stand for the playing of the national anthem? Can you see the irony in such a concept? Shouldn't we be better than communist nations that force an artificial and contradictory nationalism on their people?

I know -- I know. I can't stand the likes of Kaepernick who misuse our beloved symbols in their misguided protests based on fuzzy statistics. But I also cannot be the one to throw a stone and compel them to comply with the rest of us, as what would that make me?

I also ask you to reconsider your positions on this matter. I know that a majority of you are offended by the actions of several football players, but if you truly value our freedoms, can you be that person to throw the stone of compulsion? Is that the type of patriot you really want to be?

It's bad enough that those in high positions in our government are pushing this issue -- urging the NFL to force their players to stand and going so far as to threaten their tax status. Even today, it was said: "Two dozen NFL players continue to kneel during the National Anthem, showing total disrespect to our Flag & Country. No leadership in NFL!"

It's bad enough that the press kindles the fires and keeps this whole thing going for ratings and distracting us from real news.

We don't really need to add to this mess, ourselves. Can we really be that upset about 24 players who won't stand up for the anthem? How could it possibly hurt us? Out of millions of patriotic Americans, this 24 is hardly even a blip. What do we get out of yelling for their coercion? A false sense of patriotic self-righteousness?

Rather, all this getting worked up is unproductive -- especially when there are much bigger issues to worry about.

I have an idea. Let this story die. During the anthem, the cameraman can focus on the other 99.9% of people who are standing. Why should we give Kaepernick any attention? It all went away last year (even when he continued his protests), and it can go away again.

We can get on with life, get back to watching football, and celebrate the fact that we live in the land of the free, and the home of the brave.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Global Warming: Bill Nye vs. Neil deGrasse Tyson



Let's talk about global warming. A couple of nights ago I watched the first episode of Bill Nye Saves the World on Netflix, and I got annoyed.

This is what I see. I do not doubt the existence of global warming. I also do not question the idea that we humans have been contributing to rising temperatures. But, wow, people can be so annoying about it!

There's one camp that chooses to believe that global warming doesn't exist at all. This tends to include conservatives who are really more concerned with the costs of cutting pollution than anything else. These people rely on obscure reports to support their beliefs (such as one or two years of increasing ice in the arctic), while at the same time ignoring tens if not hundreds of more reports to the contrary (such as decades of decreasing ice in the arctic). It's easy to get annoyed with this camp, especially now that they may have control of our government.

There's another camp that is just as annoying: the oh-my-gosh-we're-already-too-late-to-do-anything-about-it-and-we're-all-going-to-die-and-we-should-still-turn-off-all-our-lights-at-night camp. No matter the cost, we all need to switch over to renewable energy and make corporations pay. Really?

Where is the camp that prefers to take a more reasonable and realistic approach and come up with real solutions? Fortunately for us, this camp exists, and they're already hard at work. I have full confidence that we will find the solution with plenty of time to spare -- that is if we can keep those other two camps at bay.

Enter in Neil deGrasse Tyson's Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. I have already written a review here, but I'd like to revisit the global warming episode (#12. "The World Set Free"). Three years ago, I called it my favorite episode of the series. It's possibly the best presentation I've seen on global warming. Despite how much Tyson like to take little pot shots at religionists, this one episode was free of that, free of politics, and it simply presented the facts. It even demonstrated what's already being done, and what can be further done to effectively counter global warming at a relatively low price.

In other words, I strongly recommend that you catch it (still on Netflix right now).

And now I come to Bill Nye's version. Let me save you time, and recommend that you skip it -- that is unless you want to see what irritates me so much about the ultra-save-the-planet camp.

Bill did present a couple of ideas supporting global warming. Heating water in an experiment caused it to rise (barely). He presented one (count on my hand here -- one) example of water rising in Venice. He did explain on a really high level about how carbon gases (rhymes with glasses) traps heat, ... and that was about it. Nowhere near enough facts to convince anyone.

He spent the rest of the time whining and complaining about "deniers." He even spent a full minute (in the "Bill Takes a Minute" segment) giving a really heated rant about how stupid people are for ignoring all this stuff, and then when the minute was up, he caught his breath and said, "I feel better now." At the very end of the episode, he had everyone in the audience chanting, "I'm tired of talking about global warming, and I'm not going to stop until everyone listens!" Bill is tired that no one is doing anything about it!

Now, let me tell you how unproductive this episode was. Getting angry never convinces anyone except for those who already believe what you're trying to say. Bill's cute rants is nothing more than a variation on "preaching to the choir."

If anything, this presentation is likely to do more harm than good. Think about it. If you were to present something with very little facts, and then rant like a lunatic and call everyone "deniers" if they don't listen, how would you expect to be received? Yeah, people would tend to believe anything other than what's coming out of your mouth.

Most of all, I take offense at Bill Nye's claim that nobody is doing anything about it. That's just a bunch of crock. What planet is he not living on? How can he deny evidence to the contrary? Come on, Bill! Open your eyes and see what's going on in the good old USA.

On my last road trip out west last August, I passed by many wind farms that weren't there a couple of decades ago. More and more people are turning to power their homes with solar energy, and are choosing to buy fuel-efficient cars. People are experimenting with solar-cell roads and sidewalks that can gather energy over a large area while providing electricity, warmth, and even light.

Conservatives that we would expect to be greedy fuel consumers turn out to be green powerhouses, such as George W. Bush's Texas nearly-self-sustaining ranch compared with Al Gore's 20-room power-sucking mansion.

If no one is doing anything, then why are carbon emissions from the USA decreasing over the past decade?

A lot of people may choose not to believe in global warming, but you know what? I think our scientists will find an answer, and there will be enough of us to implement solutions, and everything will turn out okay, and ultimately, "deniers" will wonder what all the fuss was about.

That would be a great outcome! Bill Nye may get so angry at "deniers" for being so stupid that he collapses under a tree, but Neil deGrasse Tyson would clap his hands and praise humans for prevailing in the end.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Come On, Netflix -- I Was Watching That


Dear Netflix Executives,

What are you doing? When I joined several years ago, I saw a vision: on-demand viewing -- movies, TV shows, documentaries -- anything I wanted to watch at anytime at one low price.

Of course I understand that my dream is currently unobtainable, thanks to the greed of producers and studios. The current cable model has been a boon for those types: one very expensive price for a large selection of crappy shows most people aren't interested in, just so we can catch some specific shows on Disney, HBO, or AMC.

I really thought that Netflix, or something like it, would one day present a much more attractive and larger model -- one where movie producers would be paid according to how many views they get rather than being part of a package deal.

Overall, I think so far you've done pretty well providing a large variety of shows. I also like some of your Netflix Originals, such as "Stranger Things" and the MARVEL shows.

But now you are basically giving up on FOX? Without warning, I lost "House" and "Bob's Burgers," and gosh-darn it -- I was watching those.

Then I hear you want to move toward showing 50% original content? I'm all for original shows, but you're beginning to move away from my dream. This is all translating into fewer choices for me, which translates into less value in the Netflix brand, while increasing the value in Hulu and other competitor services that dab in the licensing market.

Sure, I'm just one person out of thousands who are upset about FOX leaving Netflix. I probably won't be leaving just yet, but I would urge you to take a closer look at what your customers are watching. Are they watching Netflix originals 50% of the time? If so, then sure -- go ahead with your goal. If not, you might want to rethink holding on to the major networks.

I will also hold out for my dream. Right now, who delivers what content is in flux and is really a big mess for us consumers, but one day, I think someone will figure it all out, and then I will gladly drop all other streaming providers and pay up to $50 a month to have everything I want coming from one source.

Just think about it. Do you want to become just another network? Or do you have bigger ambitions?

Monday, March 13, 2017

Can We Get Trump to Stop Daylight Saving Time?



It's that time of year when we push our clocks ahead an hour, forcing most of the nation to wake up an hour earlier. If you're anything like me, you live to see the day when this outdated practice comes to an end.

Yes, I know many of you love Daylight Saving Time. It brings one extra hour of sunlight in the summer, and gets more people outside, and all that great stuff, but I believe it all comes at several costs that far outweigh the benefits.

More and more, people are getting fed up with the practice. Recent Rasmussen polls show that only a third of Americans believe that Daylight Saving Time is worth the hassle. Many even hit the petition sites such as Moveon.org, petitions.whitehouse.gov, or other. Yet year after year, these cries are ignored. That's why I will suggest a new approach, which just might work with our current president.

But first, why again is DST so bad? Here's a quick list of problems and issues:
  • Heart attacks increase for a week after the time change in the spring. They also decrease slightly in the fall, but the net is more heart attacks overall.
  • Traffic accidents increase the few days after the time change in the spring.
  • It interrupts everyone's sleep cycles, contributing to sleep disorders.
  • It can decrease productivity.
  • It increases depression in the fall.
  • It has been shown to actually increase energy costs of air conditioning and gas.
  • It complicates timing issues worldwide, making international commerce a little more difficult.
  • It robs an hour from farmers who can't very well make their animals and plants wake up an hour earlier so that they can beat closing time at the markets.
  • And finally there's that hassle of remembering to make the change, and sometimes showing up an hour early or late. If it hasn't happened to you at least once in your life, you're not human.
Here are two fun videos that go into more detail as to why DST is such a silly idea.






So what can we do about it? How about a Twitter campaign? Think about it. I'm talking inception. Send Trump, our Tweeter in Chief, a bunch of anti-DST tweets, and after reading enough of them, he might think it's his own idea, and then perhaps he'll write us a good executive order.

I figure it's worth a shot. What have we got to lose?

This past Saturday, I sent out 10 tweets over the day, hoping that one would catch our President's eyes. I've even had some retweets. If you would like to join in the fun, check out Melorama2000 and retweet to your heart's content. Remember to look under "Tweets & replies" to see these tweets.

And if you make your own tweets, let me know and I'd be happy to retweet. Anything to catch our Twitter President's attention.

Here are the tweets that I sent, my attempt to channel Trump:
@realDonaldTrump The fake news isn't covering the heart attacks caused by Daylight Saving Time. Dishonest reporting! 
@realDonaldTrump The nation is sleep deprived. Daylight Saving Time doesn't help. Need more time in bed! Repeal DST! 
@realDonaldTrump Less than 33% like Daylight Saving Time. The majority wants stable clocks. Pick a time and stick with it! Executive order! 
@realDonaldTrump Daylight Saving Time increases depression in the fall. Repeal will decrease suicides. Stop DST! 
@realDonaldTrump Traffic accidents will increase next week because of Daylight Saving Time. Must protect our streets! Repeal DST! 
@realDonaldTrump Daylight Saving Time increases energy spending. Doesn't save money. Outrageous waste of time and effort! Stop DST! 
@realDonaldTrump Farmers hate Daylight Saving Time. Why do we do it? Time for an executive order! 
@realDonaldTrump China doesn't have Daylight Saving Time. Not even time zones. They are winning at everything! Stop DST now! 
@realDonaldTrump Daylight Saving Time increases heart attacks in the spring. Unacceptable! Must come to a stop.

Finally, here are two bonus funny movies.



Saturday, February 25, 2017

Should There Be a Market for Censored Movies?

Yes, you read the title correctly. Did you know that there are millions of people who would pay good money to watch movies and TV shows that have been edited for content?

Most of you will probably ask, "Why would anyone want to do that?" Let's go ahead and get this out of the way.

Say you want to show your kids this great movie, but you can't because of that one nudie scene, or the 100 F-bombs. Without censorship, you're out of luck. If only that one scene could be omitted or the F-bombs bleeped out! Would the movie be just as good with the nudie scene and cussing removed? In most cases, the answer is, "Yes."

Enter in the Mormon entrepreneurs. If ever there were a perfect target market for this magical censoring service, it would be the great state of Utah, where Mormons are taught to shy away from nudie scenes, cussing, and other things that bring on the "R" rating. Provide these millions of people the means to watch these cleaned-up movies, and they will pay money that Hollywood would likewise never see.

Censoring movies for TV and airplane family viewing is nothing new, but beyond that, there appears to be a dearth of censoring services. There's a reason for this, which I'll come to in a moment.

First, check out this commercial for VidAngel, the most recent attempt to bring voluntary censored streaming.



Here's how it worked (yeah -- past tense -- I'm getting there). These Mormon guys hired people to watch movies and TV shows to flag anything that might be considered offensive to anyone. Much like this famous scene from "Cinema Paradiso."



With each instance marked, a family can then choose at home what to filter out, and what to let through. For example, they could choose to let in nudie scenes, but bleep out the curse words. VidAngel has even enabled the ability to filter out Jar Jar Binks from the first three Star Wars movies!

Once the filters are in place, the movie will then stream with the "bad" stuff taken out. It works pretty well. I watched the latest "Mad Max" with my two boys with both curse words and nudie scenes taken out. It only removed less than a minute from the run time, and there evidently weren't very many curse words. We had a good laugh, though, when Max uttered a bad word and the soundtrack went silent.

But wait. Why the past tense, again? Because there's evidently an issue.

Directors and producers hate others censoring their art works. How would we like it if someone smeared brown paint all over the Mona Lisa?

But then again, who's suggesting that we censor the original product? I can download a picture of the Mona Lisa and do whatever I want with it using the Paint app, but none of my actions affect the original.

So, for the past couple of decades, different companies have tried to find ways to offer filtered movies, and each time they are shut down. The Family Home Movie Act of 2005 provides for the legal right for a company to alter a DVD for the purposes of presenting a censored version, but where can one go to enjoy this service?

Watch this video for an explanation of the current lawsuit against VidAngel (which is entertainingly narrated by Studio-C's own Matt Meese):



Now that you're caught up with the happenings in this market that you've probably never heard of before, you are sufficiently armed to enter the discussion. What do you think? Should this market exist? Is VidAngel in the wrong?

I personally enjoy the option of being able to filter out stuff that I don't want to see. Being able to edit out one or two scenes in order to enjoy the whole movie is very attractive to Mormons and other conservatively-inclined families. In other words, there definitely is a market.

For example, in November 2016, VidAngel offered a limited IPO and raised over $10 million dollars. VidAngel claims to have enough funds to take this battle all the way to the Supreme Court.

To me it seems a no-brainer. Why miss out on this pool of money waiting for the taking? Let the Mormons censor their own copies of movies they buy. It would only be more money for the directors and producers.

Currently, VidAngel is under an injunction that practically puts them out of business until the case is settled.

If you feel so inclined to stand up for this right, you can go here for more details, sign the petition, and even donate to the cause:

http://savefiltering.nationbuilder.com

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Trump's Landslide in Perspective

Oh, my gosh, President Trump! Could you please stop saying you won in a "landslide"? Today you claimed the biggest electoral victory since Reagan. Really?

Let's do some simple math. For each election, take the number of electoral votes won and divide it by the total number of electoral votes possible. Then put them in rank order, and see where you stand, President.

Here is where you can find the raw data -- no spin -- no bias -- no adjustments for inflation -- no nothing but black-and-white numbers:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_States_presidential_elections_by_Electoral_College_margin

President Trump, do you see where you fall in the rankings? You are #46 out of 58. Why don't we put this on a graph?


George Washington wins the top spot for obtaining 100% 1st-choice votes. Also note where all the recent presidents are, from Ronald Reagan up to now.

Do you see where you are on the graph, Mr. President? You're all the way over to the right. So, where is this big landslide win? It appears to me that the only person you beat since Reagan was George W. Bush!

Seriously, Mr. Trump. You need to fire the idiot who keeps telling you that you won bigly, as those of us who can do math cannot be fooled by these shenanigans. You're only embarrassing yourself, and you're embarrassing our nation.

Yet, why should any of us care? You won the race! Congratulations! Now, can we move on?


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Yes, Virginia, It Is a Muslim Ban

Dear Virginia,

I understand why you ask your question, as we grown ups can't seem to agree on the answer. Let's take a close look, using the simplest language possible, and see if we can figure out for ourselves if Trump's executive order is a Muslim ban.

A long time ago, when George Washington and his friends got together and created the United States, they decided to fix things so that people could choose what religion to believe. The First Amendment of our Constitution tells us that we cannot make any law respecting an establishment of religion. That means no one can say, "Everyone has to be Christian," since that wouldn't be fair to non-Christians. And no one can say, "No one is allowed to be Muslim," since that wouldn't be fair to Muslims.

They created these rules to protect the minority. That last word is important. It means a small group of people that are different than most other people. Without these rules in place, people of one religion would get gifts, while other people are punished. Does that sound fair to you?

Now, do you know what a religious test is? That is when you ask someone what religion they are, and you use the answer to make a decision. For example, let's say I'm a Muslim and my friend is a Christian. We both want to come into the United States. The guy at the gate asks what religion we are. I say, "Muslim" and my friend says, "Christian." If the guy lets my friend in, but tells me to go back home, would that be fair? According to the First Amendment, it is not fair, because the gate guy established Christianity as a good religion, and Muslim as bad. This is also called discrimination.

So, remember that. A religious test is bad, because it ignores the First Amendment, establishes one religion over another, and causes discrimination.

What about Trump's order? Does it have a religious test? If you look at just the words, you won't find "Muslims are not allowed to enter the United States." This is why Trump and his friends keep saying, "It is not a Muslim ban." But why do people keep calling it a Muslim ban?

At first, all people from seven countries are not allowed to come into the United States for 90 days. There are a few exceptions, but those aren't important right now. All seven of these countries have Muslims in the majority. That is, most of the people in those countries are Muslims.

After 90 days, we'll start letting people in, but they have to come in a special order, and there's a limit at 50,000 people. Here are some words from Trump's order.
We will "prioritize refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality."
Do you see a religious test in there? Does it say anything about Muslim? No? Then maybe it isn't a religious test, and therefore not a Muslim ban.

But wait. What are these words right here? Let me make them real big for you.

... minority religion ...

There's that word again. "Minority," which is the opposite of "majority." If a refugee belongs to a minority religion, and they are fleeing religious-based persecution, then they will go to the front of the line. That means that if you belong to the majority religion (remember that majority is the opposite of minority), then you have to go to the end of the line, even if you're fleeing persecution.

And what is the majority religion in those seven countries? Yes, you remember! Muslim!

Okay, let's give this a try. My friend and I are fleeing persecution and we come to the United States. The gate guy asks my friend, "What is your religion?" He says, "Christian." The guy at the gate looks at his checklist, sees that Christianity is a minority religion, so he asks, "Are you fleeing religious persecution?" My friend says, "Yes," to which the gate guy says, "Welcome to the US."

Then it's my turn. The gate guy asks me, "What is your religion?" I say, "Muslim." The gate guy looks at his checklist, sees Muslim is a NOT a minority religion, so I fail the test. He doesn't even have to ask me any more questions, so he tells me, "Go to the end of the line, mister."

And if there happen to be 50,000 Christians fleeing religious persecution, how many Muslims are going to make it through the gate? I'll let you do the math. What is 50,000 minus 50,000?

Is there a religious test in Trump's order? Before you answer, let's look at one last thing. You're old enough to watch the Simpson's, right? Watch this clip on the FXX website, come back here, and then I will ask you some follow-up questions.

http://www.simpsonsworld.com/video/318791747605

In this clip, Sideshow Bob clearly wants to kill Bart Simpson. Toward the end of the clip (at about 1:05), he drives a ice-cream truck and says over the loudspeaker: "The following neighborhood residents will not be killed by me. Ned Flanders. Maude Flanders. Homer Simpson. Marge Simpson. Lisa Simpson. That little baby Simpson. ... That is all."

Did Sideshow Bob say he was going to kill Bart? If you look at his words, it's not in there at all, is it? All he did was omit Bart's name from the list. Is that really the same as saying, "I will kill Bart Simpson"?

Many people would say, "No. It's not the same." But we all know what Bob intends.

It is clear that Bob wants to kill Bart. He had tried to kill him in an earlier episode, and from the first part of the clip, you can see that he's throwing darts at Bart's face, and his chest says, "Die, Bart, Die."

I want you to notice something else. Remember how happy Ned Flanders and Homer were when they hear their names on the no-kill list? Only Bart worries. And that's exactly how we grown-ups react when a policy has no effect on us. We're safe. We can travel in and out of the US as much as we want. Why should we care about people we don't know?

At the end, when you see Bart's sad face, that should help you to realize that what Sideshow Bob said was bad, even though it made so many people happy. If we can't protect the minority, then what good is our country?

So, does Trump's order have a religious test? Yes, Virginia. Yes, it does. You cannot determine a "minority religion" without first identifying the "majority religion," which is Islam. The moment the gate guy asks, "Are you part of a minority religion?" he is in violation of the First Amendment.

Plus, it is more than clear what Trump's intent is. A year ago, he campaigned on the idea of instituting a Muslim ban. That's what he called it himself. Then as it got closer to election time, Trump said he was backing away from the ban. However, we now know he just wanted to say it a different way. He told former Mayor Rudy Giuliani that he wanted him to show the "right way to do it legally." In a recent interview on CBN News, Trump even said how Christians would be given priority in applying for refugee status.

The intent is clear. The results are the same. Trump never backed down. For all intents and purposes, his order IS a Muslim ban. It prioritizes Christians over Muslims, and it is in violation of the First Amendment, and eventually will be struck down by the courts.

Is there a way to remove the Muslim part of the ban? Yes, Virginia. Yes we can. All Trump would have to do is remove the religious test. Cut out the "minority religion" piece, and he would then have a travel ban consistent with all other travel bans ordered by other presidents in the past. None of those bans had a religious test, and none of them violated the First Amendment.

Here is what the revised policy would say:
We will "prioritize refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution."
See? Just cut out that extra discriminatory clause, and it's perfectly fine. Nothing about minority religions and penalizing the majority religion. Now Muslims fleeing their own religion could be placed at the top of the list as well as Christians, and no religion is being placed over another.

Now, Virginia, wouldn't that sound much better?

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

We Must Resist All Ministries of Truth

Would you like to know which picture of Trump's inauguration is true? I'll show a cool analysis below to help determine the answer, but first, I'd like to talk about what's been going on lately.

In the book 1984, there is a scene where Big Brother announced one day that chocolate rations would be reduced from 30 grams to 20 grams per week, but 24 hours later announces that it was actually increased to 20 grams and the people celebrated in thanks to Big Brother. Here is an excerpt of what Winston recalls at this moment.
Was it possible that they could swallow that, after only twenty-four hours? Yes, they swallowed it. Parsons swallowed it easily, with the stupidity of an animal. The eyeless creature at the other table swallowed it fanatically, passionately, with a furious desire to track down, denounce, and vaporize anyone who should suggest that last week the ration had been thirty grammes. Syme, too-in some more complex way, involving doublethink, Syme swallowed it. Was [Winston], then, alone in the possession of a memory? (1984, Chapter 5)
When I read this book back in high school, I really thought it was impossible for this to occur in real life, but today, I'm not so sure. Now in the wake of a fake news plague, it's becoming more and more difficult to determine what's real and what's fake. Now that the existence of fake news has itself become news, the fake news outlets have somehow successfully convinced millions that even many real news stories are fake.

The sad thing is, in many cases, it really isn't that difficult to do one or two minutes of research and determine if any one news article is real or fake. Yet, people are more willing to accept what they want to believe as truth, and rely on others to do the "research" for them.

I shouldn't blame the people getting deceived. After all, who really has time to do all this research? We've got day jobs and kids to watch over. We send representatives to Washington to take care of things for us so we don't have to.

But it burns me up that people on both sides of the aisle are intentionally creating fake news to deceive people. It doubly burns me up when those people include our President Trump, his advisor Conway, and his press secretary Spicer.

Shortly after Trump was declared the winner, Trump and his team declared it a landslide. Wait, weren't we all watching the same election? You know ... the one where Hillary got more votes? The one where Trump just barely got a win in each of five battleground states that pushed him over the 270 votes needed? The one where his 306 was less than the 332 Obama got in 2012? What exactly makes 2016 a landslide? Am I the only one in the possession of a memory?

Of course, it doesn't matter how big his victory was. He's president, and no one can change that fact. But it's not enough for Trump. He not only has to win, but he has to win big. So, just like Winston's job in the Ministry of Truth was to change historical facts to match what Big Brother wanted, Trump is now going on this huge witch hunt voter fraud investigation to find enough votes to put him over Hillary.

WHO CARES?

I care that Trump cares, and I'm concerned how far he'll go to change the facts. But other than that, I'm just annoyed that this is all being blown out of proportion.

Okay, now that the long introduction is over, let's get to what you all really want to see. Which picture of Trump's inauguration is true? Before I begin, let me just say this: yes, Trump had a lot of people at his ceremony. It was huge! If we were able to compare with all prior inaugurations, I think we would find that Trump had a relatively large audience. For any opponents to say otherwise is just silly and twisting the facts.

But also, Obama had many more participants at his ceremony in 2009. After all, he was the first non-white president. I would fully expect that specific day to attract more people. He really did have people going all the way back to the Washington Monument, while Trump did not.

Okay, first comes the picture that started it all. I'll go with the Reuters version, which I think is closest to the time Trump was sworn in (around 12:01), and it shows a few more people. Trump's inauguration is on the left, and Obama's is on the right. Doesn't look like Trump has that many attendees -- right?


Before I continue, let's study the so-called Trump picture. I zoomed in below. We'll pretend it is a real picture for now. Start at the top with the capital and work your way down. After the reflection pool, you can make out five chunks of crowd, marked in red below. Each of those chunks is a field (well that first one is one and a half). The last chunk ends right about at the big Smithsonian red castle building on the right. If you look at the marking in green, it outlines road barriers that barely touch the field. After that is a mostly empty field. Then the next field has all those white tents, and there is one more empty green field after that before we get to the Washington Monument.

In other words, if the Reuters picture is to be believed, Trump had two fields that were nearly empty, and one field had press tents, while Obama had all those fields filled with nothing but people.



Trump, however, experienced the view from the front. For this, I'll turn to one of the most awesome pictures I've ever seen in my life. The resolution in this picture is so great that when you zoom in, you can see amazing detail. If you haven't done so already, go to this link right now and prepare to be amazed:


I'll start off with an amazingly clear picture of Trump giving his speech. There is no way this picture is faked. Just click the picture to see it larger.


Here's one of my son's favorite zooms. 1000 Mel-o-rama points if you can find it!


Okay, let's take a look at the crowd as Trump would have seen it:


Impressive! Isn't it. It looks like it goes all the way back to the Washington Monument. Look at all those red hats! What a beautiful sight!

But wait a minute. Doesn't this picture contradict the Reuters photo? Does this mean that the first photo is fake? There's no way the CNN picture is fake. Perhaps Spicer was correct in threatening to take action against the media and hold them accountable for spreading false news.

Why don't we take a closer look? I'll zoom in past the reflecting pool, and let's see what there is to see. I invite you to expand this picture so you can see my markings, and also follow along on the CNN site.


Just like the Reuters' picture, I can see certain features here. I can see five chunks of audience marked in red (where the first chunk is one and a half fields). In green near the back, you can see the Smithsonian road barrier. And what are these areas I've circled in yellow? They are empty spaces! What?! Where did those come from? I invite you to zoom to all three areas on the CNN picture and check for yourself. You will then find that each of the empty spaces match the same empty spaces in the Reuters picture. The largest being the one in the very back. Let's zoom in as close as we can.


Adjusting for effects of perspective, that empty space in the back is easily one full field's length. Compare with the width of the last chunk of audience.

As far as I can tell, this awesome CNN picture corroborates 100% the Reuters picture. Unfortunately we can't see past the media tent in this picture, but why would anyone stand behind it when they could stand in the empty spaces in front?

It turns out the Reuters picture is real news and is entirely consistent with the awesome CNN picture.

Wow!

Now, just like the hidden arrow in the FedEx logo, once it has been seen, it cannot be unseen.

Hopefully going forward, Trump will do the right thing and lay off the media. Let Trump do his own thing, and let the media do what they will, but please, LET'S HAVE THE TRUTH! It is beyond easy to see through most of Trump's lies and he's not fooling any of his opponents.

As a fiscal conservative, I'm excited for what Trump can do for our economy, but if he's going to lie to us at every corner and turn around to punish the press for telling the truth, then we might as well be living in 1984 where "alternative facts" are reality.

What can we do to combat this? In the very least, refuse to be manipulated. Say it with me. I REFUSE TO BE MANIPULATED! I REFUSE TO BE MANIPULATED! Don't be the Parson who falls in line with everyone else when chocolate rations fall. Be just as Winston, and hold on to the memories of what is true.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Predicting Trump's First Term


It really happened. We elected a man with absolutely no experience into the highest office in our nation. What's going to happen next would be anyone's guess.

If you ask left-leaning folks, Trump will destroy our nation and become the next Hitler.

If you ask right-leaning folks, Trump will work miracles and Make America Great Again (TM).

Before I make my predictions, let me give a quick background about myself so you may understand where I'm coming from. I was raised a Democrat, but turned to Republican when I learned sound economic ideals. However, when it was clear that Trump was to be the Republican representative last January, I had my name removed off the Republican rolls and declared myself as Nonaffiliated. I generally hold to conservative economic ideals, and lean a little left of center on social issues. I almost consider myself now to be Libertarian, but I'm not quite there yet.

Okay. Now the predictions.

Since Trump has no experience, and has been both Democrat and Republican in the past, it's difficult to predict what will happen. The only thing I can predict with certainty is that the next four years will be interesting. Anyhow, I will do my best.

On social issues, I don't think Trump will be as bad as many of my left-leaning friends fear. For starters, Trump has already said that he's not going after gay marriage. I think four years from now, everyone's marriage will continue to be recognized in all 50 states. On the other hand, I wouldn't expect any further advancement in general gay rights. I don't think the LGBT community will lose ground, but I do think there will be a movement to help preserve the religious freedoms of those who do not agree with gay marriage.

Obamacare is as good as dead, but Trump has indicated that Congress will not repeal without a replacement. This will undoubtably be dubbed Trumpcare, thanks to Obama's suggestion. I personally hope they will remove both the mandate (tax) and the requirement for employers to provide/pay. I also expect that they will keep out the preexisting conditions exclusion. Should even one group of people lose coverage with the change that's going to happen, it would kindle so much negative press that I predict that we have nothing to worry about on this topic.

Will true medical expenses decrease? We'll have to wait to see what the replacement is. My overall prediction is that the good parts of Obamacare will remain, and the bad parts will be replaced by things that may or may not work better. There will be at least one aspect that will prove to be disastrous.

We can expect that something will happen in the area of immigration. Undoubtedly, enforcement will be increased. I'm not too opposed to this, but get ready for prices in general to rise when US citizens refuse to work at the low wages illegal aliens are currently working for. I doubt that Trump will get his full wall, but for certain a portion of it will be made more robust. The Border Patrol will work with Trump and educate him on which holes need the most work.

I see no scenario where Mexico outright pays for the wall upgrades. The only way this can happen would be to institute tariffs that get a portion of the money back indirectly.

I fully expect to see H1-B visas become more restricted, if not repealed. Then we will watch good talent leave our country to the benefit of foreign countries.

The chances of a Muslim registry is near zero. I like to remind people that it was a reporter, and not Trump who came up with the idea.

However, there is talk of reviving the House Un-American Activities Committee to help combat Muslim terrorism. I'd put chances of this happening at about 10% in the next four years, and if it happens, our children will have the privilege of watching a real witch hunt. It's been a while since we've had a good one.

Trump has already backed off the idea of banning Muslims from entering the country, though he may push for banning certain countries from entering, similar to what Carter did.

I struggle to find anything Trump has said that can be considered racist toward black people, but I do have a concern that Trump's tendency to promote violence has and may continue to be interpreted as racism. We could see race relations become exacerbated, and see more protests similar to Black Lives Matter. There will be more highway protests and more protests in general.

Will Trump become a full-out Hitler, complete with concentration camps and thought police? I will predict with a confident 99% chance that this will not happen. I see no evidence that Trump is what one may call evil. Rather, I see that his controversial announcements are usually based on ignorance and not being afraid to say what's on his mind. I do predict that Trump will usher in a disaster from his ignorance, but he will be nothing compared to Hitler (or any other dictator for that matter).

Trump will try to silence his opponents, such as certain news outlets, but I predict that he will have zero effect. Oh, he'll successfully get people to condemn specific outlets (Buzzfeed -- you did it to yourselves), but any attempt to remove anyone's first amendment rights will fail. We may witness checks and balances counteracting the ignorance of Trump.

There may be a move to control the Federal Reserve. It's unclear to me exactly how much power Congress has, but I predict that the Fed will remain an independent power no matter what transpires.

I predict that corporations will flourish in the next four years. The stock market has already indicated that Trump is good for business. For the first time in decades, the corporate tax rate will decrease. Hopefully this will be counteracted by a raise in the capital gains tax back to what it was pre-Bush. This will be a move in the right direction, leading to a fairer tax structure. Hopefully it will lead to more employment and higher wages as well.

The part that concerns me the most is the area of foreign relations. Here, I believe we are screwed. Trump has no experience at all in this area, and yet he says that because of his big brain, he knows more about foreign matters than do experts already in the field. He also refuses to attend daily briefings on national security.

Obama has gone eight years without having a single foreign terrorist attack on our soil. (All terrorist attacks during that time have been from US citizens becoming radicalized, or otherwise emotionally disturbed individuals.) With Trump, however, I believe the chances of a foreign attack on our soil increase dramatically, especially after we lose our allies in the war against ISIS. We will see one, if not two attacks.

I am very concerned about Russia. I know Putin is planning something, and I know that he and his country have meddled with our past election, mainly through helping to barrage our social media with fake news articles against Hillary Clinton. Romney was laughed at four years ago when he said Russia was our number one threat, but I think we have yet to see what's in store for us. The election of Trump is a very good outcome for Russia, and it is very likely that Trump will fall into Putin's trap, and we will find ourselves as "allies" in a very undesirable situation. I would give this about two years until we realize too late who we've gotten in bed with.

Finally, I'd like to touch on the idea of unity in our nation. Over the past eight-plus years, I have witnessed the dividing of our country. Even as nice a guy Obama is, he unwittingly helped to further divide the nation with his rhetoric. We are desperately in need of unification of the people. Yes, we are conservatives and liberals who disagree on many topics, but we need help to realize that we're all still Americans. We can work together to find solutions that benefit all people. Obama failed miserably in this effort.

I sincerely believe that Trump has the power and gift to bring people together. He could use his wheeling-and-dealing talents to help both sides get what they want. He could really bring synergy into our government, and stuff can really get done. But will he do it? If his tweets are any indication, then we're in for another rough four years. Perhaps we just need to take away his Twitter account. Either way, the more Trump berates his opponents and does his one-up thing, the more he will push that divide -- and I'm not sure how much more divided our nation can become. It could be the last straw that leads to a civil war of the likes we've never ever seen.

These are my predictions. Hopefully I'll be around four years from now to do a round of backtesting. What do you think will happen?

Reviewing Obama's Last Four Years


Four years ago, I made a series of predictions as to what was going happen during Obama's second term. As I do a little backtesting, I'm happy to see that the more disastrous of these predictions did not come to pass, while other not-so-bad predictions did. Overall, I was impressed with how mature Obama became, especially during his last year in office. But at the same time, I'm a little disappointed that the old divisive Obama came out even just a couple of weeks ago when he urged Democrats not to help Republicans in replacing Obamacare.

Okay, before I further diverge, let's take these point by point. I invite you to open my earlier post and follow along. We'll see if we can have a good laugh.


I'm going to claim a partial win for my predictions on Obamacare. It was nowhere near as bad as I said it was going to be, but there are definite pains. The "full force" implementation was delayed a year or two to help businesses get ready to pay, which helped smooth things out, and possibly avoided a recession. As many predicted, many businesses (mainly in the fast-food industry) did indeed take the route of cutting hours to avoid providing insurance. In fact, my son asked if he could work 40 hours this coming summer to save up for college, and was told "no" due to insurance concerns. His maximum is 30 hours.

Many people are still uninsured -- mainly those who are poor, but not poor enough to get subsidies. For these people caught in the middle, it really is cheaper to pay the $2,000 "tax."

Insurance companies were not forced to keep rates low, which is good, but it resulted in much higher premiums for everyone. Many are quick to blame the insurance companies, but the simple fact is that Obamacare did very little to reduce actual medical costs. If anything, it increased costs.

As for Atlas Shrugged sales, I can't seem to find conclusive evidence, but it seems its sales peaked around 2009, and its popularity seems to have declined since then. So, I was wrong there.


Unemployment: I'll give myself a big loss for that prediction. I still maintain that Obama delayed the recovery of our economy, and that it came back despite Obama's policies. But one thing that didn't happen was that he didn't come after corporations during his second term, so there were no real disasters, and no Triple Dip recession.

Of course, some of my friends will tell me that unemployment is still a bad problem (some people have stopped looking), and that I should claim a win. But no ... I said unemployment could possibly top 11% again, and that didn't happen. No matter how you spin it, we are definitely in a better position today than we were four years ago. Romney was also wrong on this point.



Deficit spending: I'll give myself a win. Obama prides himself in helping to bring down the deficit, but there has been only one year (2015) where our nation's deficit was lower than Bush's highest in 2008. People still debate whether the $1.4 trillion of 2009 belongs to Bush or Obama, but even if we give that year to Bush, we can see that Obama has still maintained record deficits over his entire eight years in office.

Thankfully, the Fed has acted responsibly in the last four years, ending Quantitative Easing and even raising interest rates in reaction to a better economy. Now, if only we can get that government spending down!


Military concerns: I honestly can't decide whether to give myself a win or loss. I think it was a mistake to pull out our troops so soon out of Iraq and Afghanistan. It may have been appropriate to reduce our presence, but our withdrawal probably helped ISIS to gain power.

Does Iran have nukes now? The official words seems to be "no," though they seem to have the capability and materials. I would call the evaluation of my prediction inconclusive. At least we're all still alive, and that's good.

Last but not least, there are all the social issues. Obama did get his tax hike on the rich. Yet, I have yet to see any benefit to me as a middle-class earner. My taxes didn't go down even one dollar, and my wages have hardly gone up. I'm also not benefiting from any new cool government programs. I'm still struggling to see how we middle-class families are benefiting. If anything, taxes on the poor have increased thanks to the new "I can't afford insurance" tax.

Immigration is exactly what it was four years ago. Obama tried an executive order, but that was shut down by the judicial branch.

I didn't mention anything about race issues four years ago, but I am unhappy to report that race relations seem to have deteriorated under Obama. His divisive rhetoric and praise of established criminals seems to have increased both white-on-black and black-on-white racism, and I fear we may live to see race riots. What I find very interesting is the fact that some black people are disappointed in what Obama failed to accomplish, as evidenced by a nice black woman who explained to me why she voted for Trump.

My biggest incorrect prediction was the one on gay marriage. Now, four years later, we may not have a federal law supporting gay marriage, but we do have a ruling from the judicial side that supports it. It's unclear how much Obama had to do with it, but gay people are happy and Obama is more than willing to take credit for it.

I'll try to end on a high note. I will truly miss Obama. Even though I disagree with most of his policies, I like who he became toward the end. I came to learn that he was always sincere on all human rights issues. He just went about things the wrong way. During the rise of Trump, Obama repeatedly stood up for religious freedoms (I know -- surprised?) and anti-discrimination. Most conservatives blasted him for his wise words, even though those words echoed that of another famous conservative, Lincoln.

Obama had good intentions. He tried to fix issues that he saw. Though he often went about it the wrong way, and caused other unintended consequences, he gave it his best shot. He had some success among the failures, and we survived. Obama remains a person I'd like to visit and just converse with for an hour (I don't drink beer). In the long run, I think he will be remembered for his good intentions and his good speeches.