Howard Schultz, billionaire ex-CEO of Starbucks Coffee Co. has been making the rounds on morning shows and talk shows, announcing that he is thinking of entering the 2020 presidential race as a ‘centrist independent candidate’.
He is not off to a good start. Democrats fear he will draw away critical support needed to defeat Trump, from the Democratic candidate in a three-way race. Schultz also criticized liberal Democratic policy positions right out of the gate (healthcare for all, free college, more taxes on the rich).
Others say that a being a billionaire in the 2020 race is a non-starter – given how spectacularly out of touch the billionaire-in-chief in the White House and his billionaire Wall Street cronies are, with the plight of most Americans trying to make a living*.
*Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross ‘just did not understand’ last week why federal employees missing two paychecks would visit food banks, when they could ‘simply take out loans to pay their bills during this time of a liquidity crisis’.
Local burger chain Dick’s Drive-in was founded in 1954.
This Tuesday, they celebrated their 65th anniversary by offering burgers at the ‘original price’ of 19 c.
The regular price today for a 1/8 pound burger, is $1.60.
That means average annual burger price inflation was about 3.4%* for the 65 year span from 1954 to 2019.
*Very close to the average of the annual Consumer Price Indexes (CPIs) published by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics over the same period (3.5%).
The excitement is building: the State Route 99 tunnel is still on track to open to traffic next Monday Feb 4. This Saturday & Sunday, some 100,000 people are expected to take part in a fun run, a bike ride and a walk (that would be me), through the tunnel.
It’s been a long arduous time since Oct. 2011. That is when part of the south end of the Alaskan Way Viaduct was demolished to establish the south portal of the tunnel, and install the ‘Bertha’ tunnel borer. Then there was the breakdown of Bertha in Dec. 2013, after just 1,000 ft of boring. After all the setbacks, though, the cost overrun on a $3 billion project was only in the hundreds of millions. (These infrastructure projects are notorious for huge cost overruns. The Boston Big Dig started out as a $3 billion project, and ended up costing some $15 billion).
My friends and I ran out to Ozzie’s Diner in Queen Anne here in Seattle this morning for brunch. Some of us had ‘the house mess’: a scramble of egg, cheese & some veggies, on top a bed of hash browns.
Temperatures only got to 42 °F (5 °C) today, but this is absolutely mild compared to the frigid temperatures expected along the Canadian border in the Midwest by Wednesday.
A polar vortex will drive down nighttime temperatures at places such as International Falls, MN to a deep, deep freeze of -36°F (-38°C).
Was our solar system visited (in 2017) by a probe sent by an alien civilization? Astrophysicist Avi Loeb (from Harvard University in Cambridge, MA) explains why it is possible, in the January issue of the German magazine Der Spiegel. 1 The Intruder On October 19, 2017, the Pan-Starrs Telescope in Hawaii discovered a strange elongated cigar-shaped celestial body. It moved so fast that it could not be part of our solar system. It had to be a foreign object, and was called ‘Oumuamua (Hawaiian for ‘First Messenger from Afar’). 2 Strange Coincidence It is comparatively rare that asteroids from distant star systems get lost in our solar system. According to Loeb, the likelihood of seeing such asteroids through Pan-Starrs is somewhere between 1 in 100 and 1 in 100,000,000. 3 Flashes The brightness of ‘Oumuamua fluctuates: the object rotates and reflects, due to its special shape, different amounts of sunlight. The effect is so pronounced that ‘Oumuamua would have to have a bizarre, elongated form – something which does not occur in celestial bodies of our solar system. 4 Enigmatic Trajectory ‘Oumuamua shows a trajectory departure from that known for comets that leave a trail of gases (typically surface ice that evaporates). Also, neither a comet tail could be observed, nor did the rotation of the object change, as would be expected with loss of mass due to gas emissions. 5 Not Solar Powered For Avi Loeb, the only other assumption could be that the solar power (radiation pressure) affected the trajectory of ‘Oumuamua. However, this force is so weak that it could only affect bodies with a large surface area and tiny mass, such as a paper-thin sail. 6 Not Space Junk If such an artificial light sail or other object reached our solar system by accident, one would have to assume that in space such foreign artefacts would abound (which is not the case). So this possibility also seems unlikely. 7 Alien Mission Loeb therefore suspects that an extraterrestrial civilization has purposefully sent ‘Oumuamua as an exploratory probe in our solar system.
Early this morning the FBI arrested yet another Trump campaign adviser.
Later in the day, with airport delays reported due to Day #35 of the government shutdown, Trump gave in and surrendered to the insistence of the Democratic leadership that he open the government before discussions about border security can start. He got no money for his wall, and no concessions.
Remarked NBC reporter Peter Alexander: Question for the President- How can you cast this as anything other than a wasted five weeks of (financial) pain for Americans, caused by you?
Wow .. not good, the riots in the streets in Caracas over the disputed presidential elections of 2018. By many accounts, interim president Nicolás Maduro stole the 2018 elections with widespread fraud and support from the military. He and his supporters are refusing to let the National Assembly’s declaration & swearing in of Juan Guaidó stand.
The Trump Administration declared support for opposition leader Guaidó (so not the dictator Maduro – a surprise. Why is that? wonder observers, given that Trump fawns over and supports dictators Putin, Erdoğan, Duterte & Kim Jong-un).
In the meantime, the citizenry has to deal with an utterly destroyed economy. Nine out of ten Venezuelans live in poverty, despite the country’s vast oil reserves. Inflation in 2018 was 1,300,000%. So your money there is not worth the paper it is printed on.
There is a report in my German newspaper of the greater horseshoe-nose bat that had made a comeback in the Hohenburg area in Germany – albeit only through sustained efforts of conservationists. They made sure the bats had suitable roosting places, and that enough cows were around to produce the dung favored by dung beetles that the bats like to catch in flight !
The US government shutdown dragged on into Day 32 on Tuesday, and come midnight, the deadline had passed for issuing another pay period’s checks to hundreds of thousands of essential government workers.
Trump had thrown a sham proposal on the table on Saturday, ‘offering’ to end the shutdown and to ‘protect’ DACA recipients (immigrant children). These are simply reinstating protections he had stripped from them in 2017. Other changes in the proposed bill with funds for his stupid wall, include massive reductions of the asylum rules in place for Central Americans.
A reminder: this manufactured ‘border crisis’ for the 2018 midterm elections had failed to impress the voters. And it wasn’t enough that the Trump Administration took kids from families seeking asylum, and lied to Congress about it. No – Trump & Senate Leader Mitch McConnell shut down the United States government. They impact and stress out hundreds of thousands of federal workers directly, including TSA officials and air traffic controllers, food inspectors, FBI investigators, federal court judges, environmental protection agents, and more. What a mess.
It was Martin Luther King Day on Monday.
Trump made a surprise visit to the towering civil rights figure’s memorial next to the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
He did not mention King’s name, and stayed for all of two minutes.
Here are my (amateur quality) pictures I took of tonight’s super blood wolf moon* as it went into eclipse. It’s the first total lunar eclipse visible across the entire United States in eight years.
*Super because it appears about 10% bigger than it really is; blood because of its coppery color (red light from the sun bent around Earth, reaching it); wolf because it is the first full moon of the calendar year.
I got a tetanus booster shot this week (recommended by the CDC to be done every 10 years for adults).
The vaccine offers protection against a troublemaker bacterium called Clostridium tetani. Its nearly invincible spore form can be commonly found in soil. So stepping onto a rusty nail with bare feet – or really any cut in the skin – can let the bacterium in. Once inside one’s muscle tissue, it can start producing tetanospasmin, a toxin second only to botulinus for potency. The toxin attacks the central nervous system. An early symptom of an attack includes spasming of jaw muscles.
The tetanus vaccine contains tetanus toxoid, a chemically sterilized tetanus toxin that stimulates one’s immune system to produce antigens that are able to attack and dismantle active tetanus toxin.
There have now been so many revelations about the Trump 2016 campaign’s collusion with the Russians, and so many pro-Russia, pro-Putin actions that Trump had taken in plain sight, that it really appears that the President of the United States can only be 1. an agent for Russia or 2. a useful idiot.
Writes Garrett M. Graff in Wired magazine: In short, we’ve reached a point in the Mueller probe where there are only two scenarios left: Either the president is compromised by the Russian government and has been working covertly to cooperate with Vladimir Putin after Russia helped win him the 2016 election—or Trump will go down in history as the world’s most famous “useful idiot,” as communists used to call those who could be co-opted to the cause without realizing it.
The days are slowly getting longer here in the Pacific Northwest.
It has not been ‘too cold’ (always a relative term: 50 °F/10 °C) and we have had a nice stretch of six days of dry weather.
The rain is coming back tomorrow, though, and will bring more snow to the mountains as well.
P.S. The traffic adjustments and volumes with the Alaskan Viaduct now closed, has not been too terrible at all.
Now there is political chaos on both sides of the Atlantic, with the historic defeat of Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal in the House of Commons today – and with the United States Government shutdown deadlock dragging on to Day 26.
Only time will tell what happens next, in both cases.
The Alaskan Way Viaduct (opened 1953) that runs along the Seattle waterfront, was closed at 10 pm on Friday night. It took traffic officials until well after 11 pm to get the revelers and the final vehicle off of it.
On Saturday, pedestrians had to be shooed off of what has now become a construction/ demolition site.
It will take three weeks to finalize the opening of the State Route 99 Tunnel below the Viaduct. We will know by Monday night how disruptive this period will be to commuters to downtown Seattle. Transport officials’ advice to the 250,000 commuters: shift your schedule/ walk/ bike/ take the bus/ train/ carpool / try the water taxi. Just do not drive in by yourself.