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.


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.


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.