Friday, May 31, 2013

Why We Should be Good

At a very basic level, being good means exercising self-control.  Ignoring your base "I want" because you realize the potential consequences and don't think they are worth the cost.That cost might be direct punishment, or merely ethical, i.e. the cost of living in a world where bad things happen.

You see a pretty woman and want to have sex with her.  But you don't knock her out and rape her because you recognize that it is bad and don't want to live in a world where that happens.  Or if you are a little bit less philosophical, don't want to risk going to jail for your crime.

Now people with power, particularly politicians, tend to have ways to get out of punishments.  As such, the philosophical reasons tend to become more important.   The more power you have, the less fear you have of punishment and the more important the philosophical issues become - as if you have such power you recognize that your actions have a much greater affect on the world.

But the stupider you are, the less likely you are to care about the philosophical issues, no matter how important they are.

The fact that in the modern world we have so many ethical rulers is actually fairly surprising.   So many people recognize, either consiciously or unconcisouly the importance of their actions.

That also means we should not trust the unethical rulers, even if they are good at what they do.  Drug using mayors, child raping Italian leaders, etc.  all fail to either recognize the affect their particular actions have on others around them, or fail to care.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Government's snooping on reporters.

First a little background.   The right to privacy in the US  has steadily been eroded over the past ten years.  Partly by the internet, partly by the fear of terrorism.

There are all sorts of new privacy laws we need:

  • Right to photograph cops, because after all, they are photographing us all the time.
  • The right to end a corporate online relationship(and kill their tracking of you-  and their data)
  • The right to SEE all the data they have collected on you 
  • Require a warrant to search emails (everyone expects them to be private despite the court ruling that they are not - look at how often people send incriminating evidence through them).
  • The right to have online photos of your removed or have the face distorted. - unless the poster has a signed permissions to use said photo.

These are just a few things that could and in my opinion should be set up.   Clearly privacy is under attack and we need to fight back.

Now lets talk about the federal warranted search of reporter's communications.  Th FBI was trying to identify the source of leaked information, particularly about a foiled terror plot involving the CIA operating in Yemen.

Originally it was clearly reporters should be given more respect when the government tries to snoop on them.  No longer.   The line between reporter and blogger and random citizen has begun to blur significantly.

The actual scandal is relatively small.  No reporters charged or even brought in for questioning.  No emails read or telephone calls listened to.   Just reporters telephone records obtained.  So they know who spoke to who, but not what they said.

It is a scandal and it is at the very least questionable behavior by the FBI.  But compared to what happens in Russia and China, it is not a huge deal.  There reporters get jailed or killed.

In my mind, the AP should in fact use government snooping.  Specifically, they should point out that they now have proof that the US government is snooping on them and try to kill the FISA Amendments Act.

They, unlike Amnesty International, can now claim that they have been concretely injured by the existing, known snooping, and therefore can sue to stop the FISA warrant-less wiretapping that Amnesty International failed to stop (in Clapper vs. Amnesty International) because Amnesty International could not prove they were being snooped on.

The AP can prove that the government was snooping on them and they can therefore claim the burden of proof has shifted to the government.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Why Government Should Fund Science.

One of the Republican Party's tropes is to kill government sponsored science.  They consider it to be a waste of money.   While they admit the obvious fact that scientific research is very profitable for the government (the Internet is just the most recent and obvious example), they think business can do it better. Instead of having the government fund research, they want business and non-profits, such as universities to do it. 

They base this trope on several false assumptions.

  1. Any science that doesn't make a profit and can't be funded by by a non-profit is not worth investigating.  They typically bring up moralistic examples (research into the sex lives of animals).
  2. Business are better suited to decided which scientific endeavors can make a profit.
  3. Businesses care more about profit than about anything else, and therefore will investigate all potentially profitable areas.
All of these assumptions are false, and they are not just small errors.  They are incredibly large errors.

Lets start with part 1.   There are a lot of science that can't make a profit.   I could talk about the endless number of orphan diseases (diseases too rare for cures/treatments to be profitable).   I could also talk about the big science questions that require HUGE expenditures to answer - such as the age of the universe.   These things are worthwhile even without a profit, yet for various reasons are not appropriate for for non-profits to answer.  Among other things, sometimes these huge expenditures need steady funding that can't depend upon non-profit.  Which brings us to part 2.

The biggest tech boons of the past 50 years derive from government funded initiatives.  But there is a corollary to this fact, which is more importantly: There was nothing stopping businesses from doing the research themselves.   The most obvious one is the internet, but the space program also counts.  Business could have created the internet, but failed to step up to the plate.  So businesses have demonstrated an INABILITY to fund key, profitable research. 

Government uses different standards to decide upon funding than businesses do. Businesses do in fact make good decisions.  They invest in a lot of valid scientific research, and ignore many bogus ones.  But so does government - and more importantly government invests in different technology than business does.

Business has a rather short timeline.   Small business has to make a profit asap.  If they don't, they change their business model right away, and if they can't get a profit within two years, they die.  Public corporations usually can't look further than 1 year, and die after six years or so of losses.  Private business can look three-four years ahead but will die after ten years without a profit.

A lot of science however takes decades. Most of the twentieth century owes itself to the scientific work of Nikola Tesla.   Make no mistake, Tesla made a lot of money - when he was young.  But he gave up his patents to save Westinghouse (which failed to work, GE eventually stole them).  But even after he lost the money, he proceeded to invent a multiple of advanced scientific devices, all of which took DECADES to become profitable.  He made discoveries related to radar, microwave ovens, computers, and even VTOL airplanes.  Business did not actually follow his research until decades after he died.  They had their chance and failed.

Goddard did his first rocket work in 1926, but it didn't really become profitable until the early1940's when the Germans turned them into a viable weapon of war.  That's more than a decade.  Not to mention it took over fifty years from Goddard's first rocket to the big business of satellites.

The internet started before 1969, but it didn't become truly profitable until 1990, and internet commerce didn't start for another 4 years.

Lots of big, profitable science takes many, many decades to make a profit.  That far exceeds the schedule that business  uses.  Worse, if you waited on these things, it would mean waiting for the results.   Some things you need to pay to do asap.   Which brings us to part 3.

Bad timing isn't the only reason why businesses miss profit opportunities.  Businesses tend to be moralistic.  They have to worry about PR and can't get involved in certain things.   Banks will reject financially sensible loans because they don't want to get involved in sex businesses.  Not to mention prejudice about gays, women, etc.   Business can't research how ducks have sex, even if the biochemistry is incredibly interesting and can lead to real scientific progress with actual financial awards.

Sometimes businesses care more about security than profit.  As in, they would rather maintain their existing business then try to create a better business model that undercuts their current one.  Worse, they are quite willing to legal (and sometimes illegal) monopolistic tactics to prevent others from doing it.  Look at Tesla and their business model.  Existing large corporations undermine new companies research, just as they undermine new business models.

Why?  Because the risk-reward is is MUCH lower to undermine something than to try something new.

People and organizations with large amounts of money care more about risk than about reward.   Not that hard to understand, the more you have to lose, the more you care about losing it.

Governments have several specific immunities to this kind of risk.  Usually they don't have to answer to anyone about specific programs - in part because they are often looked at as jobs programs, in part because they amalgamate so many programs that some are doing well even if some are doing it poorly.   In the US, the government has so much money that even large science projects take up such a small part of the budget that no one cares if they fail.

For all of these reasons, government should continue to fund science.  They don't always do it better than business does, but the different priorities of government allows it to make hugely profitable investments that the business world simply can not or will not make.

Now a couple of extra points.

  1. I am talking about funding science, not restricting research.  Funding is good, restricting is bad. Laws restricting research is about picking winners and losers.  They stop better technology by laws, not through money.
  2. Funding is not picking winners or losers. You can still win if your opponent is better funded.  Just ask Nikola Tesla.  General Electric and Edison had much better funding than Westinghouse and Tesla.  As a direct result GE strong armed Westinghouse, but they ended up using TESLA's inventions.   Nikola Tesla won the science, even if Edison won the money.   While it might be unfair to Tesla, the country as a whole came out ahead, despite Edison's attempts to push into using the wrong technology.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Why Conspiracy theories are always wrong.

Conspiracy theorists make a lot of rather simple mistakes.

Here are a set list of the mistakes common to almost all conspiracy theories

  1. They fail to take into account that in a free country, their are always intelligent, ethical people in government, the press, and most importantly the political party out of power.  They have huge motivations to expose the conspiracy.  And by intelligent, I mean more so than the conspiracy theorist.
  2. They fail to take into account that conspiracies break down over time.  The longer the claimed conspiracy, the more likely someone will have discovered it and proven it to the public.   
  3. They fail to understand that the more people in on the conspiracy, the more likely it will get exposed.
  4. Bosses usually have motivations to expose conspiracies done by their subordinates, but hiding one from your boss is MUCH harder than it is to hide it from random people not in the organization.
  5. They fail to realize that the conspirators know all of facts 1-4.

Lets start with some basic facts.  Few people will meet more than 100,000 in their entire lifetime.  One of those 100,000 people will be smarter than all the rest.

But the USA has over 300,000,000 people.  That means the smartest person you know, most likely has about 3,000 people smarter than them, in this country alone.   Quiet a few of them go into politics and some go into the press.

I guarantee you that there are people working for the government and for the press that are smarter than EVERYONE you have ever met.   That means if you can figure it out, they did before you did, and they probably predicted that you would.

Conspiracies break down over time.  First your opponent figures it out, and then they tell the world and the world believes them, because they get real, solid evidence (not bad video, not clearly faked documents, etc.)

In World War II there were several conspiracies.  The NAZI's tried to hide the fact that they were murdering Jews.  Hitler came into power on January 30, 1933, and the Soviets first started hearing about the Holocaust in June, 1941.   Eight years is all it took.   Yes, that's how long you can keep a major secret.   Note the Nazis were winning in June 1941.  The US did not enter World War II until Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, up until December of 1941, the Germans were crushing the Russians.  (source).    Multiple first person accounts were received describing exactly what happened

Similarly, the US began the Manhattan Project was first conceived in 1939.   The Soviets learned about it by December of 1944, eight months before the US drops the first A Bomb on Hiroshima.   They ended up with actual plans for the weapons, before the weapons were used.  Five years  is the max you can keep such a secret.

So, during wartime - when you can find patriots willing to die for their country by simply walking up to random people on the street corner - two of the most powerful countries in the world could not keep a secret for even a decade.

I absolutely assure you, that NO important secret that requires many people can be kept quiet for more than 20 years.  It will get out - and with solid irrefutable evidence.

So lets talk about bosses.  They have the ability to ask questions and fire the conspirators even without proof.  So if your boss (president, head of the IRS, whoever) doesn't know, you have to be so far above suspicion that there is ZERO chance that someone who is not your boss will suspect you.  That means the President of the USA must be in on any government conspiracy.  But he changes party.  Which means eventually he will not join it and expose it.  Then hold you up as the villain, blaming the entire other political party.

Lets talk about a non-government conspiracy.  Say for example Mrs. Obama decided that for some godforsaken reason, she wants her son to be President of the USA, even if failure means he gets thrown in prison for the rest of his life.   Keep in mind that being the son of an American, the ONLY benefit he gets is the right to be President - he would have been able to immigrate anyway and become a governor - just like Arnold Schwarnnegger.

At the very least, his mother must have been in on it.   Let's assume she also easily convinces Obamas father to be in on the secret (or maybe he wasn't present and she just tells him this.  So 42 years before I wrote this post, she falsely publishes a birth announcement in two Hawaii newspapers.  At some point, she also finds a way to add that info this Obama's father's immigration file.

She also gets one of her deer friends to confirm her lie.  She does all of this without telling Obama (why risk it?)   She then pays someone else to forge a fake short form birth certificate  (birthers claim this was a forgery).

But that isn't enough for her.  She must think so far ahead that she sees the birth certificate will be challenged.  So she pays off someone in the Hawaii's Health department to put in a real record of his birth in the records.   Then the Hawai Director of Health will confirm it as being real.

Somehow, this conspiracy genius, who has managed to get an old friend to lie about his birth, paid for a forged berth certificate, and also paid off the Hawaii government to get a real one, then FORGETS TO DESTROY THE FAKE BIRTH CERTIFICATE.   After all, if she has the real one, she doesn't need the forged one.

That is the minimum number of people.   It requires one friend, one criminal, and one member of the government to assist Mrs. Obama in the conspiracy.  And they all keep their mouths shut for decades.

All of this also requires that she gives birth alone, without anyone noticing it, Otherwise she has to hunt down the real birth certificate and destroy.

Also, there has to be some stupid reason preventing her from actually giving birth in the US.  It's not that hard to do it - illegal immigrants sneak into the USA every year to do it.  Not to mention wealthy Chinese people.

All for the minimal gain of having a black baby have the right to TRY to be president - back in the 60's when most black men have problem trying to vote.  She has no real motive to commit these major crimes.  The idea of her doing it is incredibly stupid.

OK, let's try this again - now, Obama himself decided to do it.  He has no motive until he becomes a senator.  Then, at that point, he finds that his mother, for no known reason happens to have given him a birth announcement in two newspaper that make it look like he is an American.  WHAT A LUCKY BREAK!  So Obama himself, a Senator who could easily and legally become Governor of a major state, decides to do the following:

  1. First find someone to forge a birth certificate
  2. Find an old teacher/family friend and convince them to lie about his birth.  
  3. Pay someone to break into old immigration files and change his father's record to say Obama is an American born citizen
  4. When the truth still comes out, he has to pay someone to alter the Hawaii records.  Let's assume this is the same guy for #1 and #3
  5. He also has to hunt down and destroy any real birth record, not to mention pay off the doctor that delivered him..
As opposed to accepting a position as Hilary Clinton's Secretary of State, or some other similar position.

All of this has to be done by someone he trusts enough to commit multiple major felonies in his name. To be President of the USA, instead of the Secretary of State?  Worse, to be the first BLACK president of the USA?   The first one elected has to commit crimes to do it?  No way.   NO freaking way.   He would get caught, go to jail, and put back civil rights for decades.  No reasonable person that cares about this country would do it, and no one that doesn't care about this country would risk it.

Why not?  Because the person he pays to commit all these crimes will betray him..   In the first minute. Because the guy paid to do the crimes is either doing it for money or for political reasons.  If he is doing it for money, someone else (Trump) will offer more money.  If he is doing it for political reasons, the second he realizes Obama is willing to lie like that means he no longer believes in Obama - and betrays him.

The cost of the rime is all born by other people and it is physically IMPOSSIBLE for Obama to pay other people enough money to do the crime.

More importantly, he risks not just his career, but the future of the Democratic Party.   Hell, it makes more sense for a false-flag GOP non-citizen candidate to run for the Democratic primary than a real one.  

But it all comes down to risk vs reward.   For any small reward, usually the risk is worth it.  But the larger rewards always have risks that exceed them.   For a small reward, you can depend on anonymity, but not for the big ones.  You can easily still someone's wallet, but don't even think about breaking into the Federal Gold Reserve.  Why?  Because the security on your wallet would cost more than the wallet, but security for the Federal Reserve costs far less than it holds.

More importantly, Senators are smart enough to know that being the President's right hand man is almost as powerful.   Obama would have seen all the risks involved in this incredibly STUPID plan and instantly seen that being the President's Chief of Staff us far better,

But most importantly - all of this is done by the FIRST serious Black candidate for President.  No.   That title is too big for someone to try this stupid plan to get it.  The second black president, maybe.  But not the first.

And I assure the GOP would pay far more to uncover the issue than the DNC paid to cover it up.   Look at what they did in Benghazi when there was no cover-up.

Same thing for pretty much every other conspiracy theory.  People hiding aliens?  Not enough motive to do it.  Poisoning our water with fluoride?  Not enough reward for the risk.

President Bush causing 9/11?  Bullshit.   To much risk of impeachment for the relatively minor benefit.

Compare this with real scandals - the Fast and Furious gun running, the IRS scandal.  All of those are caused by INCOMPETENCE, with incompetent attempts to cover it up.

Never underestimate incompetence - and never think that your so called conspirators aren't just as incompetent.  

No, you CAN do these kinds of things in non-'free' countries.  China has no free press to investigate, nor any 'loyal opposition' party to complain and demand justice.  So who knows what goes on there.

But in the USA?  Not possible.  The Democrats or the Republicans would squeal on each other in an instant.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Why I believe the Banks, not Fannie Mae killed Housing.

Every once in while, I come across a news story that is so offensive, so evil, it makes me want to SCREAM!

 This is one such story.

It makes it clear and obvious why the banks are responsible for the housing issues, not Fannie Mae, or anyone else related to the government.

In Orlando Florida, a man had some issues paying off his mortgage.  So he wisely and prudently applied for and received a 'modification' of his loan.   Wells Fargo is, in my opinion, generally one of the better banks - note they actually did the modification. Wells Fargo agreed to accept a lower rate - commensurate with current rates - over a longer time.  He was told if he made four payments on time, then the lower rate would be made permanent.

Then his situation improved.

So, being a good citizen and a financially prudent man, he started putting a little extra into his monthly mortgage bill.  He also started paying it early.

Whereupon the bank foreclosed on him.

You see, the loan modification is a legal document.  His, like many others, expressly forbid people to pay extra money or pay early.  This in and of itself is within reason.  Banks lose money when you do this, and if interest rates have dropped even further they can't loan out your extra payments at the same rate you were originally paying.  So when they agree to give you a break, it is totally reasonable for them to say 'hey, no early/extra payments" with this special deal.

But a reasonable bank, would not have foreclosed.  I am sure that Wells Fargo foreclosed for some combination of the following:

  • Bureaucratic nightmare that tries to force irregular reality into perfectly shaped holes
  • Being a greedy, profit grubbing, house thief was too great a temptation
  • Literalists too stupid to think inside the box, let alone outside the box
But the bank did not have to foreclose.   What a reasonable corporation would have done is the following:
  1. Accept the check, but not cash it until the actual day the money is due.
  2. Mail him back a check for the over-payment(s)
  3. Along with a letter explaining that legally he can't pay more than the prescribed amount nor early, under the current contract
  4. Thank him for the effort and congratulate him on being a good customer
  5. Politely include a request to set up an automatic electronic transfer so as to prevent future problems
That is what a good business does, as opposed to what Wells Fargo did.

As I said earlier, Wells Fargo is one of the better banks.  They have not had the issues that Bank of America has.  So the fact that even Wells Fargo screwed up this badly is a fairly clear sign that the entire industry has major problems.

Most banks are bureaucratic nightmares, too focused on squeezing the last penny, who try to follow set rules, rather than think up new ideas, real customer service, or even good business.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Republicans Abandoning Capitalism

Tesla is an innovative small business.  They are creating electrical cars, something the big automakers repeatedly claimed was unprofitable and not worth their time.

Part of how they do it is by not paying dealers.  They sell direct to the customer.  You want a Tesla, you email/call them - or go to a Tesla owned show room.. No need to go through a middleman.

The problem is a whole bunch of car dealers don't like this.   They are afraid for their jobs.

Now a normal capable person, when faced with this dilemma, proceeds to up their level of service and advertise.  They sell cars from multiple companies and go out of their way to help you compare products and make the right decision.

If you offer a service that people find valuable, they will willing come in and buy direct from you, as opposed to online.

It is how Barnes and Nobles continues to operate despite Amazon.  They offer things that Amazon can't offer - among other things, instant free service for their e-reader, free WiFi for their e-reader, instant service (as opposed to waiting a week).

But the dealers in North Carolina are NOT reasonable. They don't want to offer things at a reasonable price, they want to overcharge you for what they offer.

In order to do that, they need exclusive licenses from the car manufacturers.  Which they have from most manufacturers.

But not Tesla.  Tesla won't play their game.

So the dealers in North Carolina talked to their state congressmen.  They bribed, oh, excuse me, contributed to campaign finances, of the Republicans running the state house.  Whereupon, those same Republicans have passed a law banning direct car sales to consumers, claiming it is 'unfair'.

It's not the only Republican controlled state to do so- Texas won't let Tesla owned 'showrooms' offer test drives, sell the vehicles directly - or even quote a price.  Tesla is already suing the state of Texas over this law - and attempting to have it overturned by the Texas State Senate.

Why exactly it is unfair for car companies to directly sell to consumers, while it is not unfair for Apple, Amazon, and a hundred other internet based businesses is not clear.
All I know is that the GOP in North Carolina has sold their principles out.

They are attempting to kill a new technology company that can someday save the American Car Industry, all to keep alive a dying business model.

No, the GOP has a whole is not abandoning Capitalism.  But no one is calling these state level Republicans "RINO'S"

Because the GOP as a whole considers capitalism to be a secondary issue, less important than getting themselves elected.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Yes the Boston Bombers were Terorist.

In a previous post, I asked Are The Boston Bombers Terrorists.   The answer is yes.  Not because they bombed, but because they wrote a note and confessed to the government that they were doing it as retaliation against the US government, not because of hatred for the American People.

Once again, terrorism is not the use of bombs, or taking prisoners which others called "Hostages".

It is the:

  1. use of violence 
  2. against non-combatants 
  3. for political purposes.   

 This note confirms the political requirement, making it terrorism.  Without it, we just had a criminal.

Not that it matters, he is still going to be tried and convicted by a civilian court, because that is a right everyone in America gets.  (Unless Martial Law gets declared).

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The IRS scandal - T-Party/Patriots tax audits

The IRS illegally concentrated on conservative groups trying to declare themselves as tax free groups.  They looked for groups with the words "Tea Party", and "Patriots" in their name, as well as for any group that objected to government' taxation. They did so at low level management and below.  High level managers were apparently kept in the dark about this program.

They claim it was not for partisan reasons., but instead was because they had these new political organizations popping up, and they wanted a way to find those that objected to taxes and therefore should have their taxes double checked to make sure they were obeying the law that they themselves objected to.   

Perhaps the IRS is lying and it was really done for partisan reasons.   I don't know.

But you should in fact consider the following.

Under US federal law, followed by the IRS law, all political action groups HAVE TO PAY TAXES.  There is NO legal way for political organization to avoid paying taxes.  

What certain groups do is get around this by claiming they are social welfare groups.  For example, you could claim to be teaching people about guns, rather than a gun lobbying group.

So before you get all upset about the IRS targeting conservative political groups, the real problem is that they didn't target liberal political groups.

If you have ANY stated political claims, you should get extra IRS scrutiny when trying to claim you are a social welfare group as opposed to a political group.

The problem is not the auditing, but the apparent partisanship.   They could and should have done everything they actually did - and also target with the words "Occupy" in their names and with stated goals of overturning our banking system.

If they had done that, this entire fiasco would never have happened.  We would have said "Look, they went after both conservative and liberal groups, equally, it wasn't partisan."

Why didn't they do it?

The IRS was too politically naive to understand how it would look. They were too stupid to realize they were only going after conservative groups.  They were honestly trying to go after tax cheats by looking at people that said they objected to taxes.

Their main problem was that they did not think about appearances, not that they had evil goals.  In fact, if they actually were evil, all they had to do to cover their tracks was add the word "Occupy" to their memo about Tea-Party/Patriot, do a couple of half-hearted investigations of a few liberals groups as cover, and they would have been safe from the charges currently being bandied about.

Or better yet, actually do a full investigation of the Occupy groups along with the T-Party groups and they would not only be without sin, but wearing the white hats in reality.

This is a scandal.   But just a tiny one.  Whether it was done intentionally or accidentally, it was done by incompetent people.

I am not afraid of incompetent people.  Over time, they will always be discovered and fail.

Compare this with the Bush partisan hiring scandal in the Justice Department.  The DOJ scandal was done by much more competent people.  Worse, they took steps to cover their tail - but in the end were caught.   Eventually some admitted that they were hiring and firing people based on political reasons.  They refused to hire/promote liberals and intentionally fired people because they were liberals.    You can read the official report (investigate and written up by a Republican) here.

But I digress. The DOJ is not the IRS.  It's not as if the IRS targeted liberal groups under George Bush.

Oh wait, they did:  They targeted liberal churches for being political, while at the same time ignoring conservative churches for doing practically the same thing.  Not to mention targeting the NAACP

This is a scandal, but a minor one, that has happened before and will happen again.  The people involved should be yelled at and reminded that appearances matter.

In addition, any settlements, fines, and/or punishments given out to those groups should be double-checked and reversed if they were found to be more severe than warranted.  As for reparations for legal fees and efforts, I think the free publicity for anti-government groups should be considered sufficient compensation.  Any organization worth their tin foil hats should be able to come out far ahead from this event.

It is not surprising that the GOP is trying to turn this relatively minor scandal into a big thing.  Particularly as the conservatives groups were already upset about taxes (which is why of course the IRS targeted them in the first place).

Did the IRS screw up?


It is a bid deal?


Monday, May 13, 2013

Printable Guns

The age of the printable gun has arrived.   For now, printable guns aren't that big a deal.

The machines to print them are still relatively expensive (over a grand), and therefore uncommon.

But that will change, their price is coming down.   While we have some time, within 5-10 years, that time may run out.

So let's assume a thriving community of millions rep-rap devices easily and cheaply available for less than $500.

Right now the Government is trying to block the downloading.  I don't think that's a good idea.

So, there are the following issues:

  1. First amendment (on top of the 2nd)
  2. The infeasibility of blocking the information because it is now also available in servers outside of the USA
  3. The fact that the new plastic guns often look like toys.  (Resulting in cops shooting kids with actual toys because they thought they were printed guns)

Now let's talk about possible real solutions to prevent widespread possession of downloaded guns by criminals, depressed people, the mentally unstable and children.

Note that last category.  Children, even  pre-teens , will be perfectally capable of building a gun in this situation.  While you may want adults to be able to print one out, as well as your own possible kids, what about others?

Very few people will be willing to let EVERY SINGLE kid in junior high school have access to a gun printing device.

Especially as they may leave them around for their younger kids to play with.

So here are some reasonable legal solutions to this coming problem.

  1. Make it a new federal offense to print, paint or even posses a real working gun that is not painted/printed in a dark color.  Sorry, we need to protect the kids, you give up certain colors to be used solely by children.   This would be an add-on offense, counting as a separate felony for making it and for possessing it.  Similarly, they should continue to, by law, require a metal implant to aid metal detectors.  Printing, selling, or even possessing one without  such an insert would be an add-on felony., 10 years, no parole.   Why?  Because you do this only to hide a crime.
  2. Pass a law that states while you can legally download gun plans, the government has the legal right to track your IP address, and doing so is considered sufficient evidence for a federal warrant if that IP address is associated with anyone that is on the government's "can not legally buy a gun".  (Note, it's already legal for the government to track your IP address, this just makes it clear that a warrant is justified.)
  3. When such a blueprint is downloaded, the government has the right to send a message to the IP address daily for 3 weeks notifying the IP address that a gun has been downloaded.  This is to let parents know that their children may have done so. 
  4. Any commercial business that lets customers rent their 3D printers should legally be required to prevent people from printing guns without first undergoing a background check.  
  5. If you print a gun and then sell it, you need a license - even for a single gun.  Otherwise people could claim they only sold 1, when in fact they sold 1,0000.   This rule would only apply to selling printed guns, not to selling regular guns.
Note that this won't stop terrorists from printing guns and bring them onto aircraft.  Expect that to happen relatively soon.   We will need better weapon detection devices - I say devices that can smell gunpowder.

Warren's Idea to tie student loans to banking rates

Right now we give large banks a HUGE deal on interest rates.

The idea is to make it cheap for them to loan out money, so that they will do so.  Supposedly, the lower interest rates will trickle down to the people the banks loan out money.

Senator Elizabeth Warren (Senator from Massachusetts, driving force behind Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, oversaw TARP) wants to give students the same rate.

As per this article,  we  currently loan the money to the banks at 0.75%, while charging students almost  7.00%.   These loans are short duration loans to cover liquidity issues.   I.E.  give the bank $100 million to loan mortgage while they wait a couple of days to package them up and sell them to the Fannie Mae.

The banks get loans for hundreds of billions of dollars. (as per this report mentioned a peak of $150 billion 12 years ago, directly after the September 11th attack).

Student loans however exceed that number by quote a bit.  They are currently somewhere between $600 billion and $1 trillion. (Article about why it is so hard to tell)

Some people object to Warren's idea because of the cost.  Note that if the cost is so horrible, why do we give the banks the sweet heart deal?

Isn't the point of the Discount Window rate to encourage banks to loan money out?  Then why don't you want to encourage banks to loan money to students?

The quiet truth is we need to charge the banks more and the students less.

A solid rate of about 4% - higher than the 

Friday, May 10, 2013

A new solution to the NRA's 'gun registration fear"

The NRA has completely changed it's opinion on gun control.

At first they clearly stated background checks are acceptable.

That's OK, I myself have posted multiple times about guns (offering a couple of different solutions)

Now that has changed - they say it is unacceptable out of paranoid fear that the government will keep track of who has and who doesn't have guns.

The thing is that is not unconstitutional.  It is totally legal for the government to track who owns guns.

The 2nd amendment merely states we can't take AWAY the guns, not track who has them.

The NRA gun right morons claim that tracking guns is the first step in taking them away.

Nope.  We've seen it happen many times before - Japan, Germany, Russia,

The steps go this way:

  1. Get into power
  2. Change the rules to make it harder to remove you from power  (i.e. gerrymandering)
  3. Start abusing the rules you changed in step 2 to stay in power.
  4. Create a cadre of armed people willing to obey your command despite the abuses you did in step
  5. THEN start tracking the people you don't trust
  6. Then start creating laws to let you imprison the people you don't trust.

Tracking the people is not an early step.   It is a rather late stage.

It's kind of like saying you don't want to let doctors check your blood type out of fear that they will harvest your organs.

Any reasonable person puts the major limit much closer to the real problem, not so early in the game.

But too late, the NRA has control over enough votes to stop reasonable background checks.

So let's offer them some unreasonable ones.

I have previously talked about several ways to do background checks (private organizations approved by the states to check against a list maintained by the federal government, no checks for long guns, but substantial ones for hand guns, etc).

But how about if we let the NRA do the checking?  Will the NRA trust itself not to maintain a list of those people that checked?

If the NRA refuses to do the checking, how about the ACLU?  Or better yet, let EITHER of them check.

Have the federal government maintain the list of people forbidden from getting guns and each week on Wednesday send a copy of the list to the ACLU and the NRA.  

Let them charge whatever they want to check if you are on the list or not.  They must maintain an encrypted record of each check they do - using a public/private key system.   The private key is held by the store that does the request.
Of course, we would have to put in some penalties.   Specifically, have some random testing by the federal government and if they fail to reject appropriate people, the NRA or the ACLU gets fined.

Also throw in the right sue if someone forbidden from buying a gun uses one to kill or damage someone, then:

The person that was shot (or the heirs) may:
  1. Sue the store that sold the gun for $20,000 if they did not do a background check.
  2. Sue the NRA/ACLU for $20,000 if they did the background check but the NRA/ACLU failed to update their list within the last 13 days of the back ground check.
  3. Sue the US government for $20,000 if they failed to include someone on the list within 13 days days of being informed they belonged on the list
  4. Sue the responsible organization for $20,000 if they failed to report to the US government that someone was no longer eligible to purchase a gun - and why.
In addition, let's throw in some reverse checks - specifically make it clear that any federal judge can restore your right to own a gun, as long as they are proven sane and have no un-pardoned felonies.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

American Civil Rights

I was talking to a conservative friend of mine, and he said something that I feel needs to be countered.

Specifically he stated that (I paraphrase) liberals would never give up on the issue of gay marraige/rights because of civil rights.  He claimed that even if a huge preponderance of evidence showed that gay parents were worse than straight ones that liberals would still object to it.

I disagree.  If in fact the founding conservative arguments are proven right, I think liberals would abandon gay parental rights, irregardless of the civil rights argument.  As per the law, the interests of the child supersede those of biological parents lots of times.

(Note, that's not going to happen - the conservative arguments are full of crap, gays make just as good parents.)

It is easy to see why he would think liberals would ignore the facts.  Liberals dismiss practically out of hand those arguments currently being made by conservatives.  That's because those arguments are too often laughable and the people making them don't understand it.  We rarely bother to try and argue with the conservatives on these facts - it's like trying to convince a rabid dog that you own the shoe, no matter if the dog has it in his mouth.   They make inane statements that confuse correlation with causation, and reject obvious alternative explanations.  Among other things they confuse problems caused by prejudice against gays with problems caused by being gay.

[See my previous posts about why conservatives arguments so often fail to convince liberals - they believe in faith not science, so create arguments based on faith, not science. ]

To fully understand how and why we need to start by talking about Civil Rights.

Civil Rights are based on a core principle of American liberty.  Here, I quote, rather than merely paraphrase:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

All men are created equal.  That is the foundation of our civil rights.  That is, gays are not evil, not sinners, nor in any way morally inferior.  They are just as smart, just as nice, just as capable as anyone else.

That is where we get our civil rights - from the concept of equality for all.

If by chance, gays WERE somehow significantly less capable parents - that would significantly undermine one of the United States' Founding Principles.  This would run counter to our experience for the past 200 years.

In this nightmare world where gays are not as good parents, Civil Rights might survive one such blow.   Like I said before, the rights of children tend to over-ride the rights of parents.    This would be a horrible shock to liberals - and to America, but we can probably survive it.

But too many such shocks would cause a political upheaval, a political revolution equivalent to the American Revolution in political thought, if not military results.   We would need to ignore those self evident truths we declared independence to get, because it would mean they had been proven wrong.

But like I said earlier this is not reality, it is a nightmare world dreamed up by conservatives.

All men, INCLUDING GAYS are created equal.  They are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights.

This includes the Civil Right to get married.   To raise a family.   To pursue Happiness.

That means they are not worse parents and their marriage does not impair striaght marriage in any way shape or form.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Political Party and the Deficit.

The GOP and the DNC have competing claims about the deficit.  Let's take a look at the actual results.
(Source of most of my data)

Keep in mind that due to inflation, each succeeding President having a higher Deficit is not that bad.  But also keep in mind that we can totally eliminate the deficit, even getting a surplus.  It's called a Balanced Budget when the deficit is at (or near enough) zero.

Lets start with President Kennedy (D).  He had a deficit of $7 billion in his first year, $5 in his last.

Next came President Johnston, (D).  In his term, the deficit started at $6 billion, ballooned up to $25 billion in one year, but then he got it under control and dropped managed to eke out a $3 Billion SURPLUS.  Note that term, surplus.  You won't see it again till the word's President Clinton appear.

Then Nixon (R) manages to get elected.  It immediately becomes a $3 Billion deficit again.  He brings that Deficit up to $23 Billion two years in a row, before it drops back down to $6 Billion.

Gerald Ford (R) keeps up Nixon's record, boosting that deficit above $50 billion for all three of his terms, hitting $74 billion in his middle year.

Carter (D) gets it back down to $41 Billion, but ends it at $79 Billion.

Reagan (R) takes a page from Ford and immediately tries to doubles the budget deficit.  He starts at $128, gets it all the way up to $221 billion.  He manages to get it back down to $153 Billion.

George H Bush sees it reach $290 billion, but get's it back down to $255 Billion.

Finally Bill Clinton (D) gets into power, In his first year he has a $203 Billion dollar deficit.  It is also his worst year.  During his first 4 years, he slowly manages to bring it down to a $22 billion deficit.  The last time it was that low was back in 1974, under Nixon. 

But that's nothing.   In his next term he maintains a SURPLUS for all 4 years. In fact the surplus hits a high of $236 Billion dollars.  He ends his term with a $128 billion surplus.

Boom, we get hit with the disaster know as George W Bush (R).   George W Bush immediately creates a $158 Billion deficit.  He ends his term with a Deficit of of $1.16 TRILLION dollars - note that number does NOT include the Obama Stimulus act money which we are assigning to Obama)

Finally we get another Democrat.  Under Obama, the deficit immediately went up to $1.56 Trillion dollars  (Actually only $1.294 trillion, but we needed to also add in the money we spent in the last year of George Bush's presidency as part of the Stimulus Act).   But in 2013 he starts to eliminate it.  By 2012, he has it down to $901 Billion.  Yes, that billion with a "B".  As in lower than George W Bush's  best year.

A couple of obvious points.

  1. Of the past ten presidents, five Republicans and five Democrats, the only two that had a surplus are Democrats.  Note if you go back before Kennedy, every single president - Republican or Democrat had at least one year with a balanced budget.  Basically, the Deficit thing is a modern invention.
  2. Note, it's not that hard to balance the budget.   You look at how much you are spending, you ask the accountants how much your taxes should take in. Oh, you might be off by a small amount, but next year you just adjust the taxes up or the budget down. It won't work every year, but any year the economy grow more than you predicted, you have a surplus.  You should get at least one every 4 years.
  3. President's don't really have that much control over the Deficit.   Obama had to pay for Bush's economic disaster and also his wars, and to be honest, the war against Afghanistan is not Bush's fault.  Not to mention the fact that Congress controls the Budget.

Most interesting is the Modern invention of the Budget Deficit.   It is a direct creation of the Republican Party.  I know, you are saying "That's just liberal propaganda."

Nope, it's a fact admitted by the Republican Party.   They  deliberately increased the deficit as part of a plan to reduce spending.  The Democrats had a good plan called "PayGo" which required you to raise taxes every time you increased spending.  The Republicans tried to replace it with "CutGo" which refused to ever increase spending, instead cutting old spending whenever you introduced new spending.  Apparently it doesn't take inflation into account, or the concept of emergency funding (i.e. war/disaster).

But this plan is not new, it's old.   The entire concept is decades old.  Raise deficits than use them as an excuse to cut spending.

It started under Ronald Reagan with "Voodoo Economics"  the professed claim was that lower taxes on the wealthy would stimulate the wealthy to spend more money.  It failed of course, actually increasing the deficit.  

They realized they could use the deficit as a propaganda weapon to cut spending.  Which they actively pursued for quite a time.

The problem is that it didn't work.  Instead of saying "We need to cut spending", people said "We can live with the deficit".  Which they have done.

Honestly, right now the higher deficit is not a problem - for one major reasons:  Interest rates are low.

Frankly, given treasuries rates of of 2.83% per year for a thirty year bond (source)  we would be crazy NOT to borrow tons of money.

If someone offered me a loan at 2.83%, I would max out my credit rating and invest the money.  For me, that means mutual fund.

But for a country, investing means spending money on:

  • Education
  • Infrastructure
  • Scientific Research
  • International Aid 
  • Environmental Clean up
  • Healthcare for the working poor
The last one is key - by keeping the working poor healthy, we get healthier employees that stay working and paying taxes, rather than moving them to Medicaid/Medicare

Note that most of these things are the very things the idiot GOP wants to cut.  In effect, they are saying they don't want to invest, instead they want to spend our cheap money on pleasures:  tax-cuts (which Reagan proved do not increase tax income) and military spending (which often we don't need - see here.)

Friday, May 3, 2013

What does Religious Freedom Let you Do?

In America, the Radical Right has tried to expand the concept of Religious Freedom to mean anything any preacher has ever said. 

They love to use he words "sincerely held religious beliefs" as a get out of following the law card.  The problem is you can make up your own religion, putting in any crap you want - like the right to kill people portray your god in a photo/video - or even just cut your off in traffic.   They try to fix this obvious flaw by putting in limitations to prevent the most obvious abuses.  Obviously this leaves the less obvious abuses in place, and they think we are too stupid to notice.

At a lower scale, it would be possible to claim "my religion says it is a sin to pay taxes", or just "my religion says it is a sin to have any business relations with black people".   Don't like gays?  Have a preacher somewhere say that homosexuality is evil, then use it as an excuse to violate their rights.   Same for abortion, or healthcare in general.

Freedom of Religion definitely has limitations.  Obviously Freedom of Religion does not let you kill people that cut you off in traffic.   In addition it is NOT just the most obvious abuses that are limited.  We have a reasonable test for what is really a sincerely held religious belief and what is just made up bull.

So lets talk about what Religious Freedom actually means, starting with some definitions.

  1. Reasonable Accommodations.   This is a key legal concept not limited just to religion.  For example, the same concept is used in the Americans with Disabilities Act.   With regards to religion, it means that you force people to ignore their religion when a simple and obvious solution exists.  You can't make them work Saturday, taking Sunday off if their religion says they need to take Saturday off.   In effect, this rule says no to silly technicalities.
  2.  Religiously Required activities.  Here are things your religion requires you to do - take one day off a week, Confess your sins, observe the Sabbath, have a Seder on passover (including drinking alcohol and eating matzoh.).  These are extra important and need more protections
  3. Religiously Forbidden activities. These are things the religion expressly forbids you from from doing.  They may be sins, they may be a dietary restriction - such as kosher or Halal, or they may simply be rules - such as the Catholic Church's rules on condoms.  Again, these are extra important.
  4. Religious attitudes.  These are things that are not expressly forbidden, but are frowned upon.  For example, most churches frowns on excess nudity, but don't have actual rules forbidding it.   The Catholic Church may dislike strippers, but nudity itself not a sin, instead it is claimed the profession thrives on and creates the sin of lust.  As per the Catholic Church, if it is done without lust, it is not a sin - which is why parents may remove the clothing of their infants to bathe them.   By itself it is not a sin, even if it is RELATED to sinning.   Attitudes are not important - not to the law, and honestly not to the church.
Religious Attitudes are not sincerely held religious beliefs.   They look a lot like them, but are something far less important.   Compare them to the Required and Forbidden things.

  • Things that are truly required and forbidden are OFFICIALLY WRITTEN DOWN.   They are distributed to all churches/clergy as dogma, not merely discussed on the pulpit.  If it is that important, then we want to get it right, and leave nothing to chance.  We don't simply talk about it, the holy people get together and write down exactly what is forbidden or required.  More importantly, they are sure to put down exceptions (such as Orthodox Jews being forbidden from start fires on the Sabbath - unless the fire is needed by a sick person/someone freezing to death).
  • It is also written down BEFORE any laws about it were even discussed, let alone created.   While some 'religious' people play fast and loose with dogma, churches are not trying to game the legal system.   They are truly concerned about the spirituality of their flock and need to clarify things ASAP.  Long before someone writes a law, they write down the religious rules. 
  • Religious attitude are heavily argued and people that belong to the exact same religion/church will have different opinions on it.  If some want to make it forbidden/required rather than merely a religious attitude, a schism happens and a new church breaks off, with one group retaining an attitude, while the other WRITES DOWN the new differences and declare themselves a new religion.  Why do they write it down?  To show the world how they are different from the other one.  (See the multiple Episcopalian pro-gay rights right Conventions.)
  • What may only be a Religious Attitude in what religion may be a a Religiously Forbidden/Required act in another (obviously from the above statement).

Religious Attitudes are clearly not sincerely held religious beliefs.  If someone else in your church believes disagrees with you and you don't yell out APOSTATE and kick them out (or leave), then you have personally demonstrated that it is not a sincerely held religious belief. Instead it is a a religious idea that you are thinking about turning into a sincerely held religious belief.   Catholic priests may say anything they want, but only the Pope is infallible.

More importantly, it makes for a very easy test to pass.  If you sincerely and honestly believe it, then you are free to start your own church.   Nothing stops you from doing that - except social pressure, which should already be applied if you are trying to use your religious beliefs to break a law.

OK, now for the meat of the argument.

Reasonable Accommodation does not mean anything you want you get. If your religion requires you to spend 5 minutes praying every time you kill an animal, don't try to get a job at a slaughterhouse (at least not one that does not cater to your religion).

That also means if you religion does not let you fund abortions, then don't try to go into the insurance business - unless you expressly only insure people that believe in your religion.   Guess what - that includes self-insurance.  If your religion expressly forbids you from funding abortion, fine, you don't have to do so - your insurance company does.  That means you may have to give up the monetary savings of being self insured.  That is part of the price you pay for having your particular religious beliefs.   Religions have a long history of requiring their members to sacrifice freedoms.

What you expect OTHER people to pay the price for YOUR religious beliefs?  No.  You pay for your own religious beliefs.  You can't make me (or anyone else) pay for your beliefs.

If it isn't written down then it is NOT forbidden/required by your religion.   By not writing things down you are intentionally keeping it vague to prevent reasonable accommodations.  For example, orthodox Jewish rules expressly state that you can hire non-Jewish people to light fires.  This makes it quite clear what a reasonable accommodation would be for a Jewish business that was required to light fires every night for testing purposes.

So guess what - refusals to due business with gay weddings is not a religious right, it is just a prejudiced person attempting to use the false claim of religious freedom to over-ride other people's civil rights.  If was actually a religious belief you would have it written down someone.  That is not a very hard test to pass - write it down or shut up about it.

More importantly, once you write it down it gives actual evidence to the court.   They can examine it for loopholes (such as hiring other people to have contact with gay people.). More importantly, they can also examine it for consistency.    That is - if it lets you hire a gay man that is married to watch your kids but won't let you pay someone else to cater their wedding, the court can rule your beliefs are clearly designed to negate the law and are not sincerely held personal beliefs.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Why Abortion won't be solved, but other issues will be.

Note that this is a big one, so wait for abortion stuff down below.

One of the differences between the GOP and the DNC is that GOP routinely uses false arguments and abandon them left and right, while the DNC routinely sticks to it's real arguments unless an immense amount of proof shows them wrong.     Conservatives are loyal to the program, changing arguments at will, while liberals are loyal to the argument, changing programs at will.

This is why conservatives prefer money saving light bulbs that use less energy but do NOT save the environment over money saving blights that use less energy and do save the environment.  (source)

You see, unlike conservatives, liberals actually put forth their real arguments to support themselves. If they are proven wrong, they change their mind.  But it takes a LOT of evidence to do so.   Liberals come from a science background and science takes solid, thorough evidence.   Conservatives on the other hand are quite willing to suddenly change their arguments but keep their mind, even when faced with relatively weak counter-claims.

This leads to some confusion.  Conservatives think Liberals are far more hidebound than they really are, because the liberals keep sticking to their original arguments even after the conservatives think they disproved them.   The problem is conservatives often have no idea how much evidence it takes to actually disprove an argument.  Liberals think Conservatives are far more hidebound than they really are because they abandon their old arguments that they never truly believed in.  Note this is not a 100% thing, more like a 55%/45% thing.  There are exceptions - it is a generality, not a rule.

A prime example of this is the violent video game debate.  Conservatives want them banned because they don't like them and think they are immoral.   They put forth badly crafted theories that claim they cause violence.  Liberals look at their studies and laugh at how poorly done they are.  The conservatives sit in wonder thinking 'what will it take to convince the liberals', without having any idea of how ridiculous their studies are (outright confusing correlation with causation).

Simultaneously liberals try to tax sugar drinks, so the conservatives get all upset about 'excess taxes'.  But that's a fake issue - they really care about personal freedom.  So when the liberals switch from taxing sugary drinks to outlawing them, the liberals are so confused about why the conservatives don't like the new idea to outlaw them as opposed to tax them.

This dichotomy is mainly caused by the nature of the political parties.  The word liberal originally meant in favor of progress, while the word conservative originally meant in favor of the tradition.   As such, Liberals can easily abandon bad ideas and move on to new good ones.  But Conservatives can't do that, because the new traditions are the old liberal ideas.   Conservatives have a choice - either stick to your old ideas with new arguments, or accept the liberal ideas of the previous generation.   Eventually they do make the switch to the liberal ideas of the previous generation - but it takes a generation.  The old conservatives die out/retire and new conservatives that have adopted old liberal ideas move in (i.e. race-blind admission to universities is a prime example.)

Another reason why this happens is the core support systems.

Conservatism/traditionalism all have strong support among religious people.  Religion is about faith and loyalty, so this core value has become central to conservatism.  In a loyalty and faith based system, you keep your truth hidden and put forth many arguments that you may not care about.  

The problem with a faith based political system is that it tends toward sudden dramatic shifts.  There is no middle ground, to quote a conservative "You are either with us or against us."  Hence the concept of the "Republican In Name Only."   If you disagree just a little bit, you don't belong and are 'other'.

Liberalism is however founded on a more scientific thought process.   It is about making things better, not accepting things as they are.  As such, it needs discovery and tests, and sometimes negative results.  At the heart of liberalism is a scientific method, not faith.  It also requires a lot of significant evidence, thoroughly backed by science to disprove.  This makes it a little bit more accepting of moderation, changes become gradual, not sudden shifts. 

This is something conservatives never understood - they put together a tiny amount of evidence, build it into a mountain and are shocked that the liberals laugh at their molehill.   Simultaneously liberals stand in dis-belief as conservatives bring up new arguments for clearly dis-proven political ideas.

This has certain implications about how progress happens.  

First of all, again there are certain exceptions.   The Abortion argument will never truly be won by either side.  It will continue to be an issue for the foreseeable future.  As I have said before, Abortion is different - it is not a scientific issue.  Most of the other issues are.  It is theoretically possible to scientifically determine if gay marriage hurts regular marriage.   A massive double blind experiment could prove it either way.  Not so for abortion. 

I am NOT saying that the pro-life or the pro-choice's reasons are religious.  I am saying that the question itself comes down to when an embryo becomes a person and THAT is at best a philosophical question, totally unanswerable by science.   No amount of studies will ever prove the answer either way.  As such, pro choice can never be proven wrong, and the pro-life people will never abandon their core belief.

Only God can tell us who is right or wrong about abortion.   No studies can ever tell that.  Instead we are stuck arguing about what should we do when we don't know.

One way to summarize their arguments is:

Liberals say "We don't know if it is a person and the only claims for it are religious, so that makes it a freedom of religion issue and you can't force me to believe your religion.  QED abortion is legal."

Conservatives say "We don't know it's not a person, and no reasonable person can take the chance that our beliefs (religious or otherwise) are wrong.  Thus any sane government forbids abortion."

Abortion is an example of what to do when we can't know the right answer. 

But this differs from 99% of the other political arguments out there.  

Most other political arguments can be proven.   Unlike abortion, eventually we will find out the truth, it just may take a long time.   Battles about drugs (Marijuana legality), Marriage, economics, etc. can all be proven with decades of studies. When they are proven, one side wins.  When Conservatives are right, they need to painstakingly prove with impeccable science.  When they do this, liberals cave in. It might take 2 years, it might take 40.

But when Liberals are right it takes a very different path.  It needs to build up in a crescendo, slowly building strength among liberals, being repeatedly demonstrated to conservatives till a large majority laugh at the ridiculously, patently false ideas held by the old guard.  It usually takes at least 20 years to get the laws passed.  They need to wait for the old conservative guard to retire and the new ones to take over.

 It's what happened with a federal banking system (from the early 19th century), the gold standard, social security.  We pushed it through legislation, tested it for decades then watched the conservative opposition die out.   That's what is happening now with marijuana and gay marriage.  Give it another 10/20 years and these will cease to be issues.  Not because the liberals will convince the conservatives, but because the older conservatives will retire/die off.

Of course, this means that before that happens, their will be more ridiculous scenes of conservatives believing obviously false ideas.  Slowly they will realize that no one else agrees with them.  It happened with racism, rape, and Social Security.  Now it is happening with gay rights and marijuana.

Note this is not a 100% thing.  There are liberals that still believe in Communism - but none of them hold a national elected office. (Despite the lies spread about Obama). 

Also certain issues will not die, but simply slowly weaken.  Take Black/White Racism.  In the United States it was created in order to justify slavery.  It started back in the 17th century, but was strengthen by slavery until the mid 19th century.  When the good guys won the civil war, the real war against Black/White Racism began.  It took almost 150 years to get a black president, and Black/White Prejudice still struggles on, half-dead but still surviving.

That battle had to be won repeatedly.  Voting rights, educational rights, marriage rights, fought slowly.  But real progress was made.  Not like abortion where things swing back and forth.

Other wars were much shorter.  You don't hear people claiming that the irish aren't 'white' anymore, but they used to be considered a separate race, with racist laws hurting them.