Categories
society

Trends in GOP Policy (or the Lack Thereof)

On healthcare: work against it. Criticize any Democratic efforts to enact sane policy. On the environment: work against it. Criticize any Democratic efforts to enact sane policy. On taxes and IRS funding. On immigration. On trade. On housing. On transportation.

The Party of No is alive and unwell. And in power.

It’s hard to understand how folks support a policy vacuum. It wouldn’t be hard to understand if they simply had an alternative, but they have no policy on areas that matter to everyone.

Healthcare

Their work to-date has been to undermine the ACA (failed repeals ad nauseum, cutting advertising, cutting the enrollment period, cutting navigator funding, zeroing the individual mandate penalty), block Medicaid expansion, add work requirements, and expand scam insurance.

While they have put out policy papers in the past, outlining plans for market-driven healthcare, they’ve never made any real effort to enact them.

Take two doses of stupid policy, then elect Democrats when you realize the Republicans screwed it all up.

Environment

Their work to-date has been rolling back regulations that make the air and water cleaner. They want to undo the already-late update to vehicle fuel efficiency (and one is sure that they’ll not take increased traffic accidents into account when they approve oil leases and seek to keep gas prices low). They have no plans for enacting carbon taxes. They have no plans for what to do when the oceans rise, the aquifers dry up, the storms grow, the crops die.

Best I can tell, they don’t even bother with policy papers here.

Taxes

Cut, cut cut, cut cut cut, cut × 4, × 5, …

Their revenue policy is something out of a drug den. “Just need one more tax cut to clear my head, then I’ll actually accomplish something,” says the drooling, stupified Republican congressional caucus.

Again, no real policy papers. Just enough wishful thinking to fill a thousand fountains with pennies.

Immigration

Get rid of it. Under Trump, this apparently includes trade and tourism, too.

Some Republicans still support some types of immigration, but they don’t agree on which, and the end result is complete paralysis.


Once upon a time, there was a conservative party that shared policy goals with the country. They differed in the way to get there, but that was okay. We can all agree that we want pizza, but disagree on toppings.

Over time, they splintered until some in their caucus outright denied that eating was even necessary. They denied that pizza was a food.

At some point, the people are hungry. They’ll vote for Democrats that will serve them pizza with anchovies and pineapple and gummi bears if it means they get fed. The GOP really needs to stop simply criticizing every Democratic policy goal as impractical and too expensive. They need to get back to arguing about toppings.

Categories
earth

Pruitt’s Data Rule and Deep Learning

(Soon-to-be former?) head of the EPA Pruitt has proposed a public data rule (RIN 2080-AA14). This could be a good rule, but it really depends on the implementation. This post focuses, briefly, on the implication for deep learning science in such a rule.

Briefly, deep learning takes normalized, record-based data and creates a mapping from input data to some per-record output determination.

Think of a phone book (the data) with individual listings (the records) and then some determination you want to do on those records. It could be something very simple (last name has n vowels) or something complicated.

The data itself may be public, but depending on the implementation of the proposed rule, making this secondary data public in any meaningful sense may be very difficult.

There are several challenges. One is simply the amount of records that may be used. Another is the trained network may be proprietary or non-portable or even dependent on custom hardware. There may also be situations where several neural networks act in tandem, each derived from a bulk of training data (some of which may itself be output from other networks), which would further complicate the data access requirements.

But there is also the question of whether the output would be public, even if published. Normally data is public when the individual measurements are available and the methodology behind those measurements is known. But there is a reasonable and inevitable blindness to the internal workings of deep learning. Trying to explain the exact function the machine has derived is increasingly difficult as complexity increases, and even if all the inputs and outputs are public, the transition function may be obscure.


Which isn’t to say that data, methods, and findings should not be replicated, peer reviewed, and subject to introspection. The EPA should, for example, draw a stricter line against carbon fuel companies and other chemical companies, requiring that more of their filings be public.

In the case of deep learning, not for the EPA’s sake, but for the sake of science itself, better rules for how to replicate and make available data and findings are needed.

Others have already pointed out the difficulty of studies predicated on sensitive personal data like medical records. But there is a general need to solve that problem as well, as the inability to examine such information may block important findings from surfacing.

This is similar to the fight over minors buying e-cigarettes online: opponents of e-cigarettes act as though there is a particular, nefarious plot by vendors, but we do not have anything close to a universal age verification system. Better to develop one for all the tasks that require it.

And so it is with the EPA rule: Congress should draft a law that allows all scientific data used by the government to be as public as is possible.

Categories
society

We’ll Always Have Paris

Err. Guess not.

President Bigly has announced the United States will withdraw from the landmark effort to keep earth habitable. This is a gift to Russia and China. Trump got no concessions. Pulling out is the worst possible deal.

The Paris climate agreement is symbolic from the US point of view. The economy will continue to transition away from carbon pollution, and while it may have done so quicker under Paris, the agreement was mostly about showing our commitment to cooperation on the world stage.

Thus, leaving Paris is all about showing we aren’t on the same page as the rest of the world, that we aren’t a dependable force for international action. And that’s a boon to regional actors that can use it to paint the United States as the decline that Trump himself represents.

At the rate Trump is making a mess, all the Democrats will need in 2020 is the slogan, “Make America as Good as 2016 Again.”

But, worse, as the reality of climate change continues, the Republicans will never divorce themselves from this strategic blunder of denying, stalling, and rescinding. They are cementing their place in history, under the rubric of fools at best and more likely under fiends.

Hedging risk is a natural move for politicians. The Republican Party is not hedging here. They are all-in on anti-earth and they do not seem to mind the future. That may be by design. For a party that yearns so strongly for the past, they may be seeking to become solely a member of it.

Categories
society

Welcome to the Trump Years

Officially, now, Donald John Trump the First is the 45th President of the United States of America. He has 1460 days to make America great again, which means:

  • Raising 30,000 people up from poverty per day
  • Legalize and stabilize some 7500 undocumented immigrants per day
  • Rehabilitate and release some 1500 state and federal prisoners per day
  • See 17,000 undereducated individuals achieve at least a GED per day
  • Employ or improve the employment of 11,200 unemployed or underemployed persons per day
  • Repair or replace 41 bridges per day, among other infrastructure improvements needed
  • Cut the carbon emissions another 1.25% per year to reach the 17% reduction from 2005 levels by 2020

And so on.

It will not be an easy task, and it will be all the harder for the resistance to greatness that the Republican party loyalists in Congress cling to. They seek not to address these problems with an eye to solution, but instead to focus on limited agendas to improve the bottom lines of a few corporations.

If President Trump truly wants to make America great, he will have to stave off the legislative assassins who will gut any real reforms he might seek.

Greatness is not a measure of the stock market. It is not found on balance sheets. It is quantifiable, but only in the quantity of humans who are prosperous. And prosperous not for a day, a week, a month, a year, or a presidential term, but for their lives. For their children’s lives. And on down the road.

If President Trump does not address the measures above, and others, he will not have succeeded in making America great. He will be held to that standard by history. He can either go down as another in a line of those he would say to, “You had four years, and yet you did not succeed.”

It is a weighty task. There is much to be done. But it is doable. It has always been doable. It will take a lot of work, but any president that is willing to put in the effort can achieve great things.

So, go ahead, punk. Make America great. I dare Trump. I double-dog dare Trump. What is Trump, a chicken? Bok-bok!

Whatever happened during the 2016 election, Trump is now president. He ran to make the country great, to shed the shrouds that have weakened us. Now he must perform.

Categories
earth

If Environmentalism were a Religion

One thing you hear from proponents of carbon pollution and climate change is that environmentalism is a religion. It’s a silly argument, of course, but to show how silly something is, it is often best to take it to its logical conclusion. This post is a short, simple attempt at that exercise.

Before that, do they really mean they believe environmentalism is a religion? What they seem to mean is that it constitutes an unchecked belief in the primacy of the environment, a faith-based worldview that prefers the maintenance of the environment, that divides actions into sins and acts of virtue on the basis of how they apply to the environment, etc. So, yes. They apparently do believe it is a religion.

What results would come from recognizing environmentalism as a valid religion?

Start with employers. Employers typically have to make reasonable accommodations for religious beliefs. So Environmentalists would get Earth Day (22 April) off. But is that all? There are quite a large number of days dedicated to specific environmental issues. Some are more notable than others, like Arbor Day (last Friday in April). Some wouldn’t fit the bill at all, like Bike-to-Work Day (third Friday in May), as taking the day off would defeat the purpose.

Employers also might be required to take pro-environment steps to meet the religious accommodation requirements. Now, a truck driver probably couldn’t force an employer to replace a carbon-fueled truck with a H-powered truck or an electric truck, but to the extent that they could make modest changes to reduce the environmental burden, it might be required.

To the extent that it does not present an undue hardship on the employer, an Environmental religion practitioner would have the ability to proselytize during work. Some states have passed laws that allow pharmacists to not supply certain drugs for religious reasons. Environmentalists might be able to use those laws or similar laws to refuse to sell environmentally harmful products.

It would also increase the cost of compliance across the business world. Lawyers cost money, and they would be needed to deal with the increase in issues related to the Environmentalism religion. Public employees may also have additional religious rights that various governments would have to make accommodations for.

It should also be noted that given the Hobby Lobby decision, which did not establish a sweeping revision, but may point to further rulings in the future, Environmentalists might gain the right to not pay for childbirth and related healthcare, if they believe overpopulation is a burden to society and an affront to their religion.

Beyond employers, other current and future laws protecting religious freedom would also cover an Environmentalist religion. School vouchers and tax credits could be used to send children to Environmentalist schools. They would be eligible to give invocations or prayers at government meetings.

There is a massive interplay of regulation that would also have to be considered. For example, if a drug company had an environmentally intensive manner for the manufacture of a drug, would an Environmentalist be allowed to violate the patent protection to have it manufactured in an environmentally friendly manner? The issues go on.

Environmentalism is not a religion, but if it were it would result in a number of changes in society that the people who currently, naïvely claim it is a religion would no doubt bitch about. The same applies to any other silly claim that some thing x is a religion.