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Trends in GOP Policy (or the Lack Thereof)

The modern GOP lacks cohesive goals for the day’s challenges.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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.

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.