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Topics - el jefe


the clean power plan (CPP) is obama's carbon dioxide regulation regime, which significantly restricts emissions from power plants, the source of more than 1/3 of US carbon emissions.  it is far and away the biggest effort ever made by the US to curb CO2 emissions.  obama issued the regulations under statutory authority granted by a creative but defensible interpretation of the clean air act. 

(important footnote: their argument relies on something called Chevron deference, which is a precedent saying roughly that, where the law granting authority to issue regulations is ambiguous, the executive gets the broadest authority consistent with the law.)

a few days after the rules were finalized, in august 2015, a bunch of coal companies and hillbilly states sued the EPA, saying the regulations are illegal and need to be struck down.  then in February 2016, the supreme court granted a stay preventing the rules from going into effect before a lower court rules on the merits.  (this was one of the last votes cast by a certain ideological fatass justice, who couldn't have died a week earlier for the good of the planet.)  in September 2016, a circuit court (middle tier of federal court system) heard oral arguments in the case, en banc.  we are still awaiting their decision, which could come any day.

then of course we were all stunned at the result of the general election, the winner of which was an anti-science climate conspiracist who plans to rescind the CPP.  worse yet, he appointed a fossil fuel industry shill (pruitt) to head the EPA.  worser yet, his appointee to replace the dead ideological fatass on the supreme court is openly opposed to the Chevron precedent that the CPP relies on.  worstest yet, climate "skeptics" now make up both sides of the pending lawsuit against the CPP, which gives them a lot of possible approaches to throwing the suit to the plaintiffs and thereby scrapping the regulations.


but it's not over yet.  the CPP cannot be simply and immediately disappeared by any course of action over which the administration has total control.

we are still waiting on the circuit court ruling.  they are probably going to rule (given how long they've spent chewing on it), and they are expected to rule in favor of the defense (even if said defense is now trying to lose) because the court is 7-3 democratic appointees, thus upholding the rules and allowing them to go into effect.  the trump administration could have, on day 1, filed a motion called a voluntary remand, basically saying the defense gives up and will rewrite the rule.  however, they curiously have not done that (incompetence?), and it is considered unlikely the circuit court would grant such a motion now at this late stage.  ....  if, as expected, the defense wins and the rules survive (for the moment), the plaintiffs will probably appeal to the supreme court.  I am guessing a voluntary remand by the administration is still a legal possibility at the supreme court as well, but iiuc scotus would have to agree to hear the case first.  and scotus could easily decline to hear the case, especially since there would already be a full en banc circuit ruling.  also, the administration could neglect to make the motion, for whatever reason they neglected to do it at the circuit court level.  or, they could make the motion, and the supreme court could simply dismiss it, if they feel the case is important enough and needs their input.  and, having dismissed the motion, they could conceivably rule in favor of the defendants (despite their best efforts to lose, lol), if, e.g., Kennedy decides saving the planet is more important than coal company profits.

the other big development happening right now is that trump and pruitt are beginning the process of rescinding the CPP.  this will not be quick or easy for them.  the law requires that they go through the same pain-in-the-ass formal procedure that obama had to go through to issue the CPP in the first place.  it will take at least a year, and can and will be tied up by law suits from activists, probably stretching it to several years.  with some luck, trump might be out of office and replaced by a democrat before the courts are done.

interestingly, they are not (yet) planning to go after the endangerment finding that underpins the CPP in the first place.  back in 2009, at the beginning of obama's term, the EPA formally determined that CO2 is a pollutant that endangers public health.  having made that determination, they have since been obligated by statute to regulate it.  reportedly, pruitt does not plan to try to reverse the endangerment finding, but to interpret it differently than obama's EPA administrator did, such that CO2 endangers public health when it comes from tailpipes, but not when it comes from smoke stacks....?  (seems nonsensical, but not surprising from an antiscientific shithead.  hopefully they legally commit themselves to this argument before someone explains to them how stupid it is.)  well, that would be subject to law suits over whether it "regulates co2", and if pruitt and trump lose, they'll have to rewrite the rule and make it legitimately better in some way 

pruitt didn't want to go after the endangerment finding itself, because he saw too many legal pitfalls.  they would have to go through a lengthy formal process for that as well.  assuming they could get career EPA scientists to say in writing "nevermind, CO2 is fine!  climate change is not a problem after all!", that new finding would still be subject to lawsuits.  and climate deniers are extra dumb if they welcome the prospect of putting climate science itself on trial.  it will force the federal courts to more or less unanimously say they're wrong.  even many conservative judges will be like "look, the courts run on evidence.  they have a lot.  you have none."  they will get humiliated much like the creationists.

btw, pruitt is getting flack from the climate conspiracists over this decision.  he's not being aggressive enough for them.  they want a full court press attacking every part of the CPP and its legal foundation.  they are also accusing him of slacking off and being more concerned with possibly running for the senate in oklahoma.


anyway, several unknown variables and moving parts here.  there are plenty of ways trump and pruitt could still screw up their attempt to undo the CPP.

I had never heard of this before.  I was about the right age (5) when they aired, and I did watch a lot of Mr Rogers when I was little.  so, it's very possible I watched one or more of these episodes and the political significance went over my head.

update to that ^^ blog post:  YouTube took down the two videos.  however, someone else reposted one of them, and if hasn't been taken down yet:

the swipes at reagan are clear and awesome swiftian satire.  the good stuff is about 15:00 to 23:45.

if true, this is highly wtf

I'm sure the spin will be "he was just kidding around, lighten up!" and "i'm sure it was in no way meant to intimidate Williams as punishment for just having argued with him on air".  it's a basic rule of gun safety: don't point it at anything you don't plan to kill.
- obama accomplishes the old progressive goal of (near) universal health insurance coverage, but does it by enacting a bill that borrows so heavily from old republican proposals that the left barely recognizes it.  still, it buys insurance for a lot of working class people, and makes insurance accessible for the first time for a lot of high-risk patients.
- for 7 years, the gop ran around in circles, screaming that obamacare was (somehow) the end of the world and had to be repealed or omg we're all going to die omg omg.
- trump surprises everyone by first winning the gop nomination then the fucking general election.  during the campaign he said he wanted to repeal the ACA, but also repeatedly made confusing comments suggesting he'd replace it with... single payer?  that of course is far to the left of the aca, and is what the left wanted all along before settling for the aca.
- ryan, mcconnel, and republicans of both establishment and tea party persuasion all said "yay trump", and then promptly ignored his health care comments, pledging to repeal the aca and replace it with a lecture about self-reliance and the magic of the free market.
- the same congressional republicans rolled out their aca replacement proposal, which, sure enough, replaces the aca mostly with a lecture about self-reliance and the magic of the free market, but with a sort of tapering off of public assistance for poor people, rather than an immediate cut.
- it is instantly rejected by more than enough republican senators to kill it, both on the right and the left.  and their positions on the subsidy cuts appear irreconcilable.
- the white house and congressional leadership get to work trying to sell the bill and ram it through congress as quickly as possible.
- iirc, gunnerj hates bullet points

that brings us up to speed

here's the new development I find interesting.  it appears all their efforts to pick up votes are aimed at moderates and even democrats.  they are possibly even writing off the tea party.  here is what has happened after the initial resistance to the bill:

- they've softened the subsidy cuts further, and actually made the tax credit semi-refundable (which means it actually helps people who weren't making enough to owe taxes in the first place)
- trump met with a couple democrats who want to negotiate drugs prices more rationally and straight up endorsed their proposal
- was it true that gunnerj hates bullet points, or did I confuse him with someone else?
- after initially telling the tea partiers he was ok with speeding up the medicaid roll back, trump has now backed away from it

nothing here should be construed as suggesting anything about this repeal bill isn't terrible, it's all just to analyze their strategy.  I find it interesting that they are possibly tacking centerward, a little bit.  I don't know if it helps them, though.  they will lose the tea party for sure, and I don't think they'll pick up any democrats, and probably not enough moderate republicans to offset the likely losses on the right.

what they might try to do is this: push a tea party bill through the house, and a more moderate one through the senate.  (though both are tall orders).  then the conference committee will work out a compromise that one or both of the tea party and the moderates not only dislike but find unacceptable, and then send it back for quick votes in both houses and hope everyone just sort of goes along with it.

why might that work?   supposedly, it is the case that people are often willing to vote for conference bills after voting against the initial bill.  the logic I've heard is that voters are dumb, so voting against the original bill allows them to tell the voters back home that they "voted against it", but voting for it in the final vote delivers for leadership and the president where it counts.  however, I am guessing the extent to which congresspeople attempt that two-facedness depends on factors like how closely the legislation is being watched, how much they care about the given issue, and why they care about it (to please voters?  to do a favor for interests?  honestly giving a shit?).   ....   however, those factors don't bode well for the bill in this case.  EVERYONE is watching this.  and say what you want about the tea party, but they are wide-eyed zealots who want to kill the aca completely as well as every dime of public assistance more generally, and will vote like they mean it.
hopefully someone here is a structural engineer or knows one or at least knows something about the topic.

my parents' house is having issues with the load - bearing basement walls.  the wall has a protruding (convex) corner, which supports one of the main I-beams supporting the entire house.  the corner is bowing inward and cracked.  obviously, this is really serious and needs to be dealt with asap.

based on some googling, foundation wall anchors seem like a reasonable and cost-effective solution.  but here are the structural engineer questions...

1) will foundation anchors be good enough, given that the portion of wall in question is not just a foundation wall, but in particular supports a major I-beam?

2) my dad (who's being a little irrational, imo) is worried that if he has an engineer come and look at the house, he might condemn it on the spot (based only on this one, apparently fixable foundation problem?).  is this a realistic concern?

any help is appreciated.  my parents have very little retirement savings but they do have this house.  their retirement plan is to sell the house, move into something much smaller, and live off the proceeds.
this is a 33 year old discussion hosted by some Columbia law professor, discussing powers and decision making in regard to covert ops and conduct of war.  it is part of a series.

it's impressive in that they got several relatively big names to attend, from all three branches of government, including a former president (ford).  some has-beens, some rising stars with their careers ahead of them.

curiously, despite the closeness in time (< 10 years later), relevance of some of the material, and the presence in the room of several watergate players, the topic of Watergate never comes up.  guessing it was on people's minds but too soon and too sore a topic.

also, this discussion was oddly prescient in several ways, because president reagan was soon (if not already) abusing many of the powers discussed.
says they are bad and have to stop.  (which is somehow a controversial statement).  in a break with longstanding US practice, obama refrained from using our veto to protect them.

next someone should also bring a resolution to the floor giving Palestine full membership status, essentially giving them recognition as a state, as far as the UN is concerned.  and obama should not veto that either.
can't find a thing for it
yes, already

because I have to, to put 2016 out of mind

though I just made myself more miserable by remembering that incumbent presidents get re-elected about 3/4 of the time
the prevailing narrative during the campaign was that there's no way trump can win, given how he is breaking all the rules of politics.  and since he won, the prevailing narrative has been there's no way that just happened, given how he broke all the rules of politics.  ....  I have been thinking it requires less of a rewrite of the laws of political physics than the punditry generally is saying.

here is a list of things that Very Serious People all think they know about politics, with comments on how well each model fits trump's candidacy.

1. politics is unpredictable. 

you really never know what will happen, no matter how good you think your models and data are.  this is not the first time an election has shocked people and it won't be the last.  I wish everyone could remember this sagelike insight as well as I do, and stop presuming to know future political events.  but, alas, you guys won't knock it off.  at any rate, trump obviously fits this model.


2. the polls are the best predictors of who will win

contrary to the narrative that "lol the polls were wrong lol", they weren't off that much, quantitatively.  and during the primaries they were absolutely right.  primary polls clearly and consistently predicted trump would be the nominee.  people just refused to believe it.  ...  and in the general election, clinton's popular vote win looks like it will be about 2%, which is actually reasonably close to the final rcp average of 3.3%

that said, there was a large systematic polling error in rust belt states, big enough to lead everyone to call the wrong winner in several of them.  hence the "mixed" verdict on this point.  the polls were wrong and wrong by enough to predict the wrong president.  let's just not get carried away and be like "polling is dead!".  it mostly worked and is probably fixable.


3. campaigning matters

donald created some doubt here.  he ran a late, underfunded, half-assed, and mostly unprofessional campaign.  clinton ran a well-funded, modern, professional campaign.  and trump won.  ....  I don't conclude that campaigning doesn't matter.  but it seems to matter less than people had been thinking.  apparently it can be outweighed by other factors.

bad fit

4. american voters are absurdly loyal to their political brand or tribe

half the gop hated trump.  and they all voted for him anyway.


5. voters care about how much they agree with your positions

trump got nominated by the gop despite being against half their orthodox positions, and having a history of being against most of the rest.  then during the general he started taking muddled, undefined positions on everything, such that no one knew whether they agreed with him or not.

still, clinton's tone deafness on free trade, and trump's rare clarity on it, may have flipped the rust belt.


6.a. there is a political price for lying

6.b. ...or being inconsistent
6.c. ...or being really offensive

all three had a limited effect on trump, despite him being guilty on all in the extreme

terrible fit × 3

7. voters care about your qualifications

clinton has a lot.  trump has none.  yet trump won.

the only reason I don't give this a "terrible fit" is that many republicans think being rich is inherently qualifying, in that it shows the free market has deemed you worthy, which is presumed to imply some merit.  therefore, those voters might still be said to care about qualifications, at least under that stretched interpretation.

bad fit

8. voters like a fresh face

this is a theory I've heard in years past, but which is possibly under-discussed this year.  I'm taking "fresh face" not necessarily to refer to someone who was previously a complete unknown on the national stage, but who was at least new to national politics (indeed, people who are complete unknowns have trouble getting off the ground due to lack of name recognition). 

this theory fits our recent presidents to varying degrees, but generally well.  barack obama, bill clinton, and Jimmy Carter were all national unknowns a few years prior to their presidential runs.  dubya and reagan were both known nationally for various reasons (both former governors of major states; also, bush's daddy had been president; reagan was a former actor, anti-communism activist, and previously failed presidential candidate), but still felt relatively fresh as potential presidents.  bush sr. and nixon, as previous vp's, were really the only recent ones who had been old news.

otoh, look at all the recent failed candidates.  romney, mccain, gore, dole, and mondale were all stale, old news.  all previously well-known on the national stage, as potential presidents.  only kerry and dukakis were semi fresh faces.  (and maybe McGovern in 72?  idk)

trump, if nothing else, was a pretty fresh face to consider for the white house.  the man is a walking novelty bomb.  hillary clinton as president was possibly the stalest idea in recent political history.  she didn't even lay low long enough between the end of her tenure at secretary of state and starting her campaign.  there wasn't a long build-up of anticipation before a normal - length campaign.  she started the buzz waaayyy too early, back around the 3-year mark.  possibly she was worried about clearing the field of primary challengers, and the plan may have succeeding in keeping out other big names besides bernie and o'malley.  but it also had the effect of making it feel like she had been running for president forever, and making everyone too tired of her to get excited.

excellent fit
suppose some hypothetical person who shall remain anonymous planned badly and ended up having to bike home from work in the cold, dressed too lightly for it.  as he rides, he wants to get home quickly, because the low ambient temperature is lowering his body temperature.  however, as he rides faster to get home asap, wind chill makes the air feel even colder, thus lowering his temperature at a higher rate.  help guapo anonymous hypothetical guy keep his temperature as high as possible!

his initial body temperature is T0, and the ambient temperature is Ta.  assume he generates no heat internally, and thus merely cools off according to newton's law of cooling.  assume wind speed in the rest frame is 0, and that the relative speed, v, of wind incident on the bicyclist is equal to that of the bicyclist himself relative to the rest frame.  this effectively lowers the ambient temperature for the bicyclist, due to the wind chill effect, which may be modeled with the "australian apparent temperature" formula (lumping together the 0.33e and -4 into a constant, k).  the distance home is D.  the bicyclist's speed may be assumed to be constant (extra credit if you let it vary).  also, this bicyclist is a badass who can go at any arbitrary speed.

1) set up equation(s) and solve for the bicyclist's body temperature as a function of time.

2) determine what speed the bicyclist should travel at, to maximize the lowest value his body temperature obtains at any point in the trip.
Arts and Entertainment / the walking dead
Spoiler (click to show/hide)
I'm not sure that it hasn't happened before, but I want to come up with and discuss possible examples.  I am assuming the most powerful person in the world is going to be the executive or autocrat of a/the hegemonic power of the time.  mostly, these are queens/empresses regent/regnant.

the best candidates I can come up with are:

1-4) Sobekneferu, hatshepsut, nefertiti, and twosret all of egypt
5-8) empress regents Lü Zhi, wei, Xiao Yanyan, Cixi
9) empress regnant wu zetian
10-13) any of the four empress regnants of the Roman and byzantine empires
14) Catherine the great of russia
15-16) Isabella I and Joanna of Spain
17-19) Jane grey, Mary I, Elizabeth I of England
20) Mary II of England & Scotland
21) Anne of GB
22) queen Victoria of UK
23-24) queens regent of france, marie de' medici and Anne "of austria"

list of queens regnant

for 1-9, I don't know whether each relevant polity was a superpower at the time of the rule.  the early Egyptians had sumerian, akkadian, and hittite rivals, and internal division at various times.  no sense of what was going on in China and when.  any of these could be valid examples, as far as I know

for 10, the one possible Roman empress regnant is poorly attested and didn't rule for long, if she ever did.  for 11-13, I don't know whether the byzantine empire was more powerful than the caliphate or ottomans at the relevant times.

for 14, don't think russia was a superpower at the time.

15 had to share power with her husband.  16 sounds like she never had much/any power, in practice, because she was declared crazy and locked up when her husband died.

for 17-19, england wasn't a superpower yet (?).  although 19 was very powerful within the country.

for 20-21, i don't know how powerful britain was at the time, or how powerful the monarch was within the country.  for 22, the UK was definitely the superpower at the time, but my sense is that by that point the monarch ' s position was almost as weak as it is now.

for 23-24, france was at or near the peak of its power, so these are possibly good candidates.
I just learned that, no, the Dutch didn't buy Manhattan island from the Algonquins for $24 worth of glass beads.  the price was ~$1000 in present day terms.  in retrospect, that still seems ironically low, given how much the property is worth today.  but since it was undeveloped wilderness at the time, and is only a few square miles, the price was actually reasonable.  the "lol, stupid indians" narrative mischaracterizes the deal.  for a people with a hazy concept of property, they did just fine in negotiating with the greedy capitalists.

also, the Aztecs didn't think Cortes was a god.  and the Romans didn't sow Carthage's fields with salt.  and Nero didn't fiddle while Rome burned.  and medieval knights were less like captain america and more like mob enforcers.

then there's that whole pile of american founding mythology.  our system of government is not a radical departure from the British one, so much as closely modeled on it.  and it wasn't designed to be awesome, so much as negotiated to satisfy the demands of the individual states.  and George Washington never cut down the cherry tree or threw a silver dollar across a river.  etc.  etc.

so my question is this.  are there any good historical stories (good = funny or cool) that aren't bullshit?
we were watching the olympics, and they played one of those mini bios, with him narrating about his life.  as i'm listening to him, i hear that he's nonrhotic, he does the no->nigh thing, and i *think* i'm hearing a little of the bahth/commahnd thing.  so i'm thinking he's from southeastern england, maybe london.  but then i pull up his wikipedia page to check, and it says he was born out in plymouth, devon.  so i'm thinking ok, but maybe he then moved to london and grew up there.  nope, also grew up and went to school in devon.

here is a sample of him talking:  Spoiler (click to show/hide)
is this a devon accent?  or is he affecting a london posh accent?  or what?

is there something in how he speaks that jumps out as southwestern england?  if so, what is it?
lock her up!
Politics and Current Events / ailes out?
holy fuck if this is true

eta: as a bonus, they say ailes loyalists who were quick to denounce the sexual harassment allegations (Neil cavuto, e.g.) may have put themselves at risk, legally and/or professionally
18 what I have been binge learning about lately.  I have decided it is essentially when the human race got interesting.  beginning of agriculture, permanent settlements, pottery, domestication of animals, trade, nontrivial political and social structures. 

before 12k years ago, or so, we were pretty much still cave men, hunting and gathering, using simple stone tools.  we had been starting to get non retarded about 40k-70k years ago, with "behavioral modernity"; the first clear signs of abstract thought.  art, planning, elaborate burials, a relatively abrupt jump in the diversity and sophistication of our artifacts.  there is speculation that some key mutation occurred around this time that made us smarter.  also, it may have been around this time that we spoke the first true language.

but still pretty primitive.  then the ice age ends, ~12kya.  we come out of some isolated ice age refuges, and spread out onto the grasslands that are springing up everywhere.  some people add wild grains to their diet.  then the climate says "JUST KIDDING!" and starts a new ice age.  this forces some people (natufian culture, in the Levant) to start deliberately planting and caring for grasses in order to have a stable food supply =>  start of agriculture.  that leads to a bunch of other things.  if you're going to watch your crops, you need to stay nearby and build better shelters => first permanent settlements.  if you harvest your food all at once but need it to last year round, you want containers to put it in => first pottery.  if you have an excess of grain, but not enough meat, and the people in the next village have the opposite situation, you figure out that it makes sense to exchange goods => first trade

so you have this unique period where it's still prehistoric, but people are starting to lead lifestyles that are not too unfamiliar to us.  some of their larger and more complex settlements (with common buildings, etc.) might be considered the first cities.  and it is right on the eve of other pivotal developments such as metallurgy and writing, which it created the need for.