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Immigration and Trade: Trump’s Iraq

President Donald Trump, our Markov-chain in Chief, had been an ill-weather critic of the Iraq war, and over time his criticism developed to the point where, in the face of intelligence that the Russian Federation acted to unlawfully tamper in the 2016 election, he claimed we cannot trust the intelligence community.

But Trump himself is cooking the books on immigration and trade. With respect to undocumented immigration and with respect to documented immigration from Muslim-majority nations, he is over-blowing the threats while ignoring the benefits. He pretends that the reality warrants his response, when it does not. And again on trade, where he sees an economic world very different from the one that exists. Taken together, this is Trump’s (first?) Iraq.

It will not be as bloody, and it may only be a fraction as expensive in direct costs, but it is still a major blunder supported only by faulty intelligence and an administration hell-bent on pursuing a policy while ignoring all the red flags.

Donald Trump would have (is having) the USA invade itself. In the wake of this invasion, there will be economic calamity. There will be huge disruption to the lives of many innocent people. It is an asinine vision from a cross-eyed administration that cannot seem to admit when it has made a mistake.

All the while, he is treating the budgeting process as a piggy bank ripe for the hammer. He is proposing a number of major spending initiatives and his only hope of paying for them is that the economy would grow so fast that the interstate highway system would develop stretch marks.

But that’s not going to happen. Worse, the opposite is sure to pass if we see the expected downturns in tourism, agriculture, construction, and other sectors that will be mauled by his anti-immigrant lunacy. The projections that this administration would have us believe excuse not paying for spending up-front will look like cruel jokes.

All the while, the debt grows, the politicians become more reluctant to spend correctly in the face of their past mistakes that were all caused by incorrect spending… This is not the path to a great America. They tried the austere path in Europe, and they’re still trying to figure out what’s what.

All the while, the likelihood of another recession grows. The inability to regulate industry properly makes recession worse. It makes the global threats of war worse. It increases the inevitable flow of economic refugees and helps guarantee a future of climate refugees.

We cannot afford to have an Iraq happen with every other president. Mistakes are one thing, but easily recognizable blunders need to stop. Trump’s immigration policy and trade policy are just that.

Thoughts on Steam Trade Holds (Escrow)

Valve is scheduled to roll out trade holds on non-mobile-authenticated trades. A look at the idea, why, and why people are upset.

Valve’s Steam service is set to roll out an escrow on non-two-factor-authorized trades. They are calling this a “Trade Hold.”

Alice wants Bob’s hat and Bob wants Alice’s key. They agree to trade.

Alice has Steam Guard Mobile Authenticator (SGMA), Bob does not. After the trade, they wait three days to get their items.

At this point, it’s unknown whether Alice could know at the point of trade whether she was risking the trade hold. It seems likely she will, and thus she could avoid it.

Problems with the system include:

  1. People without Android or iOS devices being unable to use SGMA.
  2. Automated trades via bots being unable to deal with escrow without major changes.
  3. People feeling that, generally, they are being disadvantaged due to a minority of users who fall for scams or install malware.

Valve has a scam/malware problem masquerading as a customer service problem. They have looked at improving customer service, but correctly realize that will not really solve the problem. They do need better customer service, but they also need to do more to address the problem of fraudulent trading. The escrow is supposed to be a pressure valve, to relieve some stress by limiting the damage that fraud traders can mete out.

Education of users is important, but simultaneously unrealistic short of Valve creating a trading simulator game that people want to play and it teaching them the hard-learned lessons of what to avoid. Users that would be helped by education either already educate themselves or will be a minority. Forcing education (e.g., through testing prior to granting trade privileges) would deter users from trading altogether.

Previously, Valve has used e-mail confirmations. This failed for hijacked accounts, because the users would simply have their e-mail accounts compromised in the hijacking. SGMA differs in that the likelihood of also compromising a mobile device is much lower.

If machine learning is mature enough, Valve may be able to leverage it to identify fraudulent trading patterns in a bulk of cases, in a manner similar to the credit card industry. It isn’t clear if it is up to this task, nor is it clear how easily Valve could implement such a filter. It seems reasonable to expect that will be a large part of their eventual strategy in fraud prevention.

What does not seem likely is Valve Customer Service becoming a peudo-law-enforcement agency. Investigating claims of fraud and trying to uncover the realities of events after the fact is just not in the cards for a video game services company. They will undoubtedly continue to seek to prevent the fraud.

It seems reasonable to say nobody wants to wait three days for a trade to go through, including Valve who will have to keep track of the trades. But Valve also does not want to have the volume of scammed items and problems sustain their current rates or grow. So they have to keep trying stuff, even if the community feels burdened.

Some minority of users may circumvent the protections of SGMA via emulators and desktop applications implementing the HMAC technology that SGMA uses. It’s a risk, and there doesn’t seem to be a easy way to avoid it, but that user count will likely stay small, sustaining the general integrity of SGMA/trade holds.

Why Merely Trade Carbon Emissions?

Some consideration about using the carbon trading model to solve other problems.

You’re sitting down with friends for a picnic, when you realize you didn’t pack enough of everything. You’re going to have to share. So you come up with an ingenious scheme to balance both the amount of food everyone gets and let people have as much of the food they like as possible, while remaining sensitive to any potential allergies or special dietary requirements. Congratulations!

This sort of solution is what Carbon Emission Trading (or Carbon Tax; the two are interchangeable for the purposes of this post) is supposed to be. If it were ever actually implemented, that is. We’re instead still gobbling away at the picnic food without considering what happens when the lake’s shore begins to move up to our comfy blanket.

But the question comes, assuming that emissions trading would work, why couldn’t we use it for other things? For example, could countries, cities, trade in things like poverty?

Of course, the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of US cities having to reduce poverty is the problem of cheating. Which may be one of the major problems with actual emission trading. It remains to be seen, but seems plausible that some of the measures to combat a problem would be more efficient than cheating. In that case, even when accounting for cheating, it may still be a useful scheme.

Which is sort of odd, that we might be okay with cheating in some cases. Especially if the city next door is actually paying their full poverty credit deficit, while the city down the block is hiding some of its poverty. But when we’re talking about things that don’t get enough attention, even caring enough to cheat may just be a step in the right direction.

And that leads to the other side of the issue: participation. Currently the USA does not have a carbon reduction plan any more sophisticated than a Texas governor’s. But a few individual states do have taxes in place for carbon. And many other countries do have reduction plans.

For the time being, it may be acceptable to consider non-participation to be about like cheating. And then, as participation levels build, most of the outsiders will join and meet their international and ecological obligations.

But the question remains, whether the same approach should be implemented for many more things. Whether we can make greater progress on big and small issues (the aforementioned poverty, but others that plague us like education and infrastructure investment, to smaller more public health type of problems such as light pollution) using different approaches than simply hoping that action will come.

One of the features of trading approaches would seem to be political cover. The politicians don’t directly institute restrictions, but only set them generally as part of a new market. In that respect, they can’t be as demonized as new regulations usually are.