PERSEID METEOR OUTBURST!! (August 11-12)

Yes–all capital letters for this post as this theatre of the sky should be a Five-Star production.

Every year in August, Earth passes through a stream of debris from Comet Swift-Tuttle, source of the annual Perseid meteor shower. The shower is beloved by sky watchers. It is rich in fireballs and plays out over a two-week period of warm, starry summer nights.

This year’s display is going to be even better than usual. “Our models predict an outburst on Aug. 11-12 with peak rates greater than 200 meteors/hour under ideally dark skies,” explains Bill Cooke of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office. “That’s about twice as many Perseids as usual.”

In ordinary years, Earth grazes the edge of Swift-Tuttle’s debris zone. Occasionally, though, Jupiter’s gravity tugs the huge network of dust trails closer, and Earth plows through closer to the middle. This appears to be one of those years. Experts at NASA and elsewhere agree that three or more streams are on a collision course with Earth–hence the outburst.

Observing tips: Go outside between midnight and dawn on the morning of Aug. 12th. Allow about 45 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark. Lie on your back and look straight up. Perseids can appear anywhere in the sky, but their tails will point back to a single point in the constellation Perseus: sky map. Increased activity may also be seen on the morning of Aug. 13th.

Got clouds? NASA is planning a live broadcast of the Perseid meteor shower overnight on Aug. 11-12 and Aug. 12-13, beginning at 10 p.m. EDT. You can also listen to radar echoes from the Perseids on Space Weather Radio

Administrative Rule-Making Needs More Examination From Wisconsin Legislature

Without doubt this will be the least sexy blog post of the week.  After all, how many people will be sitting over dinner lamenting the lack of accountability in the administrative rule-making process in Wisconsin? But I can not over-state how important the topic is for the people of this state.  The process of government may not in and of itself make headlines, but the consequences of not achieving the highest standards in that process does make for unwelcome news.

The messy outcome over manure spreading regulations by the Department of Natural Resources is proof that a flawed process will deliver harm to the citizens of our state.  In what many have found to be simply stunning the DNR scaled back proposed rules regulating factory farms’ manure spreading amid complaints from the dairy industry.

I know something about the rule process as I had experience in the early 1990’s as an Administrative Research Assistant and Committee Clerk for a co-chairperson of JCRAR (Joint Committer for Review of Administrative Rules).   I also know how the residents of Kewaunee County who have fouled drinking water from large farms must be feeling.  After all, Representative Lary Swoboda came from that county and we worked to meet the needs of the First Assembly District.  Swoboda would be livid with the recent DNR action!

Administrative rules have the power of law, and are made to insure that signed legislation has the ‘nuts and bolts’ to function properly. For decades there was a very consistent manner for the formulation and review of rules allowing for both state agencies and the public to have input and time-lines in order to address concerns and mold a workable final result.  State agencies had fine and skilled employees with background and expertise in a wide range of fields to provide common sense rules that would allow for policies passed by the legislature to be implemented.

In 2011 the state legislature reworked how the promulgation of administrative rules would occur, allowing for a governor to have much sway in the final product.  We are now witnessing problems with that process.

One of the parts of the 2011 change allowed for broad summaries of agency proposals for regulations, known as scope statements, to be signed off by the governor.    That sign-off needs to now happen before an agency can start drawing up the rules.  I have always opposed power-plays by any governor, including my own party, when Jim Doyle did not return the naming of the DNR Secretary to the board.  It is in that line of thinking I much opposed giving Governor Walker too much control of the rules process,  knowing it was a wrong-headed move.

In fact, the 2011 law features an 18-step, multi-year process that basically starts and ends in the governor’s office, and is weighted too heavily for the economic whims of special interests.  As we have seen from the manure issue the needs of average folks who want to have clean drinking water have taken a backseat to the needs of large corporate farms.  To top it all off the Walker Administration over the years has also insisted the DNR streamline its review process so it won’t take so long to let companies pump groundwater, or develop wetlands.

By allowing the governor to have a  scope statement sign-off means the partisan motives are very much in play and the experts in the agencies take a minor role to campaign contributors and the political needs of those in power.  It is a dreadful way to draft administrative rules.

True conservative Republicans–in the mold of Tommy Thompson in his famed days as the  GOP minority leader–should stand up to Walker and demand more accountability in the rule-making process.

This debate about administrative rule-making must not be a partisan fight.  Instead we need to be of one mind about the need for good government.  There should be no room for light between the parties when it comes to the way the rule making process needs to work in state government.

There are always political battles to be fought.  But should not the process of government be left above the fray and outside of the skirmish lines?  Should not the larger framework of the process of government supersede the internal disputes we have as members of competing parties debating policy ideas?

As I said at the start this is not sexy.

But as the recent headlines prove what I write is definitely not irrelevant.

World Growth Woes Makes For Best Sunday Newspaper Read

Thought-provoking article from front page of New York Times.

One central fact about the global economy lurks just beneath the year’s remarkable headlines: Economic growth in advanced nations has been weaker for longer than it has been in the lifetime of most people on earth. 

The United States is adding jobs at a healthy clip, as a new report showed Friday, and the unemployment rate is relatively low. But that is happening despite a long-term trend of much lower growth, both in the United States and other advanced nations, than was evident for most of the post-World War II era. 

This trend helps explain why incomes have risen so slowly since the turn of the century, especially for those who are not top earners. It is behind the cheap gasoline you put in the car and the ultralow interest rates you earn on your savings. It is crucial to understanding the rise of Donald J. Trump, Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, and the rise of populist movements across Europe.

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As a matter of arithmetic, the slowdown in growth has two potential components: people working fewer hours, and less economic output being generated for each hour of labor. Both have contributed to the economy’s underperformance. 

In 2000, Robert J. Gordon, a Northwestern University economist, published a paper titled “Does the ‘New Economy’ Measure Up to the Great Inventions of the Past?” It argued that the internet would not have the same transformative impact on how much economic output would emerge from an hour of human labor as 20th-century innovations like electricity, air transport and indoor plumbing did.

It was a distinctly minority view in that apex of technological optimism. “People said: ‘Productivity growth is exploding, Gordon. You’re wrong; we’re in a new age,’ ” Mr. Gordon said. But as productivity growth slowed several years later, “people started to take my point of view more and more seriously.” 

He offers the example of the self-check-in computer technology that airlines use. When introduced in the early 2000s, it really did mean greater productivity: Fewer airline clerks were needed for every passenger. But the gain was more a one-time bump than a continuing trend.

Maureen Dowd Makes Donald Trump Look Smaller Than Usual

Here is how today’s absolutely must-read column by Maureen Dowd begins….

WASHINGTON — It is Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, 2017.

Donald Trump searches his drawer for a note from Barack Obama, something on heavy cream stationery with the White House insignia, maybe reiterating the Obama doctrine, “Don’t do stupid stuff.”

But there is nothing there.

That puts Trump in a huff. How dare Obama depart without leaving the customary handwritten good-luck missive?

He grabs his phone and tweets: “SAD!! No note from my predecessor. No Class Obama.”

The tweet doesn’t go through. Must be something about the White House secure communications, he thinks. He’ll figure it out later. Right now, he needs to savor the moment.

“I did it. My way. They said I was a dangerous, insane traitor, a threat to national security, a Siberian candidate in cahoots with Pooty-Poot. That spook for Hillary, Michael Morell, the ex-C.I.A. chief who dished up the flawed intelligence that helped get us into the Iraq war — which I opposed from the beginning, even if I said the opposite — called me ‘an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.’

“That reminds me, I need to give Vlad a ring today from the hotline and find out what I’m supposed to do now. Just kidding.

Read the rest here.  Trust me, you will want to!

More Proof Roger Ailes Is A Snake

The unseemly side of  Former Fox News chief Roger Ailes–which for decades has been no secret–did actually get worse as more has been exposed about his attempts to defame his enemies.

 “Ailes was … able to use portions of the Fox budget to hire consultants, political operatives, and private detectives that reported only to him … Last week … Fox News dismissed five consultants whom Ailes had hired to do work that was more about advancing his own agenda than Fox’s. One of the consultants, Bert Solivan, ran negative PR campaigns against Ailes’s personal and political enemies out of Fox News headquarters … A Fox News spokesperson confirmed: ‘Solivan was recently informed that his services were no longer needed.’ Solivan, who had previously worked for Fox News as a general manager of the channel’s website, did not respond to requests for comment.

“According to one highly-placed source , Solivan worked out of what Fox insiders called ‘the Black Room,’ an operation Ailes established around 2011 to conduct PR and surveillance campaigns against people he targeted both inside and outside the company. The ‘Black Room’ was located on the 14th floor of the News Corp building at 1211 Avenue of the Americas, a quiet part of the office that housed Fox News Latino and some marketing and promotions employees. Fox employees Ken LaCorte and Jim Pinkerton, veteran political operatives who’ve worked with Ailes since the 1980s, also worked with Solivan, the source said, adding that Ailes’s personal lawyer, and Fox contributor, Peter Johnson Jr. advised the team. (In an email, Peter Johnson denied any involvement in ‘Black Room’ campaigns, saying, ‘The only online campaign I’m aware of is yours attempting to create a truth from a fiction with this account.’)” 

SHOCKER: Donald Trump Plays To His Big Donors

This is the type of story that I love to see.  Pretending to be so different—but operating in politics just like the others.   God, I love this story.

After spending months scolding his rivals for being beholden to their financial backers, Donald Trump unveiled an economic advisory council this week – and filled it with some of his biggest donors. Of the 13 men – and they were all men – that Trump touted as economic advisers for their ‘unparalleled experience and success,’ five are major donors whose families combined to give Trump’s campaign and his joint fundraising account with the Republican Party more than $2 million. Two more have been pursued for campaign contributions. … ‘He is following the path he has said was corrupt: Raising large sums of money and then giving donors special access,’ said Trevor Potter, the president of the Campaign Legal Center and former chair of the [FEC].

But remember Trump is going to change the system!

(Cue the barfing.)

What Is Lower Than One Percent?

Donald Trump appears poised to set new lows for Republican candidates among nonwhite voters.

This week’s NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows Clinton far ahead among black voters, 91 percent to 1 percent. Yes, 1 percent. (Among all non-white voters, Clinton leads, 69 percent to 17 percent).

That finding isn’t an outlier. This week’s McClatchy-Marist poll finds Trump trailing among black voters, 93 percent to 2 percent. Clinton’s lead in the Fox News poll among black voters stands at 87 percent to 4 percent.

Republicans have been mired in or around single digits among black voters — and around 20 percent among nonwhites overall — for decades. But despite Trump’s bluster, the latest raft of polls suggests he is no closer to breaking through, even as nonwhites continue to grow as an overall share of the electorate.