Friday/ House impeachment: now almost certain

Trump and his allies, and his propaganda TV network (Fox News) are engaging in a disinformation campaign, the likes of which I am sure, the United States has never seen. Has the country has ever had a President that deserves impeachment so richly? I don’t think so. Here is Trump tweeting his ‘innocence’ on Twitter for the nth time, and getting a smart response back from Congressman Eric Swalwell.

The House of Representatives approved the rules and guidelines for the impeachment inquiry into Trump on Thursday. I see there is already an up-to-date Wikipedia entry about the impeachment inquiry.

Here is the start of it:
An impeachment inquiry against Donald Trump, President of the United States, was initiated on September 24, 2019, by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.It began after a whistleblower alleged that President Trump and other top government officials had pressured the leaders of foreign nations, most notably Ukraine, to investigate former U.S. vice president and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter—abusing the power of the presidency to advance Trump’s personal and political interests. These allegations have been corroborated by testimony so far, by U.S. top-envoy-to-Ukraine Bill Taylor, Laura Cooper (the top Pentagon official overseeing Ukraine-related U.S. policy), White House administration official Fiona Hill, at least six additional White House officials, and many other witnesses. 

Wednesday/ the Fed cuts rates, again

The Federal Reserve on cut interest rates today, the third time since July. Chairman Jerome Powell says that they are likely done, for now. The federal funds rate is now at 1.50-1.75%, still a lot higher than the 0% of the European Central Bank, though.

Germany’s 10-year Bund yield is now at -0.35% (up from a record low of -0.61%), showing that investors there are still desperate for safe assets. They are really not confident about the economic prospects of the Eurozone.  Besides, Germans tend to hoard money in savings, instead of investing it.

‘How Germany Saves: The Federal Republic counts under the richest countries in the world. Even so, the average person benefits little from that. The problem: Germans hoard money, instead of investing it’. The donut at the bottom shows that Germans keep an astonishing 39.7% of their money in cash and deposits. Another 37.3% goes to ‘Versiecherungen’ which I believe would be capital life insurance policies or pension plans. Equities and equity funds: 8.7%. What do Germans save for (bottom right)? 23% Old age care/ insurance, 20% Emergency funds, 12% General purchases, 7% Discretionary spending, 6% Vacation & Travel, 4% Buy or Build a House, 3% Buy a Car, 3% Children or Family. [Source: Der Tagesspiegel newspaper online]

Tuesday/ the internet was almost the ‘cat-enet’

It was 50 years ago, to the day, that the first remote login from one terminal to another was done, on what was then called Arpanet. And so the internet was born, say the pundits.

Just in time for Halloween: Meihejia Funny Cowboy Jacket Suit, available on Amazon for US$16.

Research papers into the late 70’s referred to these linked terminals as the ‘catenet model’ (concatenated terminals). It was only in the early 80’s with the arrival of the Transmission Control Protocol/ Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) protocol that the term ‘internet’ was settled on.

And it would be until the mid-90’s, before the public-at-large would get drawn into the internet — by the likes of America Online and Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. Amazon (1997*), Netflix (2002), Google (2004), Facebook (2012) and Twitter (2013) would follow.

*The years the companies went public.

Monday/ the growing problem of wildfires

The Kincade fire, burning in Sonoma County near Geyserville, Calif., which burned through 10,000 acres within hours of igniting on Wednesday. [Picture from the New York Times online. Photo credit: Josh Edelson/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images]
Here we are again, with national coverage of the massive wildfires in California, and scenes of their total destruction. I’m not sure the preventive power outages from Pacific Gas & Electric have helped that much. (The largest ever: 2 million+ people without power for 5 days of intentional outages).

It seems it will take a combination of hardening PG&E’s electric grid (example: metal powerline poles instead of wood), aggressive cutting of trees & shrubs near power lines, and designating high-risk areas as out-of-bounds for new development or even for rebuilding.  The last few years, Governor Gavin Newsom and his predecessor have already poured an extra $1.2 billion into new planes, helicopters, more firetrucks and vegetation thinning.

Hurricane-strength winds (more than 80 mph), had made several of the fires spread rapidly, making them into blow torches that light up the tinder-dry vegetation.

There is going to be a pause in the winds on Tuesday, says meteorologists, but then they will come back with a vengeance on Wednesday and Thursday. [Graphic: Paul Duginski/ Los Angeles Times]

Sunday/ a thousand oranges and yellows

I chase myself out of the house for a walk before dinner these days. By 6.00 pm the sun is gone.

A young maple tree on my block. The shadows are already long at 5.00 o’clock. The highs these days are about 54 °F (12 °C), but it’s still nice to go outside and get some sun.

Saturday/ the District 3 race

Seattle’s City Council is about to get a big makeover, with the impending Nov. 2019 elections. Of the 7 positions, 4 have no incumbents.

In District 3 (mine), it is hard to say who will win.  Socialist Kshama Sawant is running for a third term, but garnered only 37% of the votes in the 2019 primary.

Her opponent, Egan Orion, is an events coordinator, web designer and leader of PrideFest, an annual LGBTQ celebration in Seattle. He’s fully embraced a unity message, campaigning on a message of “It’s not us vs. them. It’s just us.” (All this information about him from The Stranger weekly newspaper).

In a way, the race is a referendum on corporate citizen Amazon as well: Sawant is an outspoken critic of Amazon (tax them, and the rich, she says); Orion is backed by Amazon and other businesses.

Kshama Sawant (left) and Egan Orion (right). Picture from The Stranger’s website. KELLY O/EGAN ORION CAMPAIGN
Campaign poster for Kshama Sawant. Yes, everyone should have a home, but while rent control solves some problems, it creates others. Housing subsidies for low-income people might be better.

Friday/ dogs & cats, on Tik Tok

Young people are now flocking to the social media app called Tik Tok. (It is used to create video clips set to snappy music: clowning for the camera, falling down on your skateboard, shooting hoops, driving golf carts, stuff like that).

Trouble is, the servers are based in China, and regulators fear that the app could pose a national security risk (used to spy on American citizens, used in political influence campaigns, or even used by ISIS terrorists for propaganda).

Anyway – let’s see what the fuss is about, I thought.  My initial take: yes, as easy as YouTube to waste a lot of time on it. I stumbled onto a few cute animal videos (stills below), and I like those the best.

Cutie pie doggos. They evidently have a HUGE following, with 375,000 likes (the little heart icon on the right).
Stryker The Cat is a serval (Afr. tierboskat), a wild cat native to sub-Saharan Africa. In the video, Stryker appeared in the doorway, and spotted the chicken on the carpet (carpet with leopard spots, and on the balloon! LOL). It hissed loudly, and pounced on the chicken, growling as it sank its fangs into it. I trust Stryker is more than 50% domesticated!
Here’s one more. If looks could kill: Puma the mountain lion, facing off with the poor Sphynx cat, that does not even have a coat to protect itself from scratches and bites. 
Hiss-ss! Fang-gss for you! And then the Puma turned and walked away around the sofa.

 

Wednesday/ the Pike Motorworks Building

Wow .. the new Pike Motorworks Building looks quite nice, I thought as I walked by on Tuesday.

The black lettering used to say ‘BMW SEATTLE’, and it was a single-level BMW dealership and garage until 2013 or so, when BMW moved out. The property was then developed into one of the largest apartment buildings on Capitol Hill, with an acclaimed microbrewery called Redhook Brewlab in the old BMW garage space. The Pike Motorworks Building is now owned by Boston-based TA Realty.
Artwork on the apartment. Hmm. Let’s see. Yes, smelling a rose (top right), would send (intoxicatingly pleasant) electrical signals to the brain, as would biting into an apple (bottom right). And the brain and heart (middle right) are both part of the central nervous system. Does the brain send electrical impulses to the heart to make it beat? No. Hearts get their impulses from the sinus node, a small mass of specialized tissue located in the right upper chamber (atrium) of the heart.

Tuesday/ more gilled mushrooms

Another type of gilled mushroom has appeared in my backyard, and as far as I can tell, these are Amanita gemmata. (No touching! These are poisonous).

Just last week, so-called ‘death cap’ mushrooms (Amanita phalloides), were found on the campus of the University of Washington here in the city. A gardener found 40 mushrooms on the east side of Benson Hall and confirmed their identity with a campus mycologist.

This is a mature Amanita gemmata with its cap flattened out. The gills are closely spaced and the flesh is white.
The cap on this specimen is about three inches across, sticky and it has white ‘warts’. The more poisonous Amanita phalloides ‘death cap’ mushroom has a smooth flecked cap with no warts.

Monday/ more rain

More steady rain fell today. I see Seattle-Tacoma airport had measured 2.57 in. for the period from last Wednesday through this Sunday night.

We usually get a little less than the airport here in the city, so let’s say the city has gotten 2 inches or so.  (I really should get a rain gauge!). There is sunny weather on the way, but we may have to wait until Wednesday to get a lot of it.

A little sunbreak from late Saturday afternoon, here by my house. It’s great to see the sun come out for a bit when there has only been clouds and rain all day. The red leaves are from my Japanese maple tree (Acer palmatum).

Sunday/ go Bokke!

The South African Springboks are through to the World Rugby Cup semi-final. They beat Japan’s Brave Blossoms 26-3.

Next up: Wales, on Sun Oct. 27 in Yokohama. The other semi-final is between England and New Zealand on Sat. Oct 26.

The Springboks are about to score another try here (try= touchdown), in the last 10 minutes of the game. Full back Willie le Roux is passing the ball to wing Makazole Mapimpi, and he went over and scored to bring the score to 26-3. No forward throwing or passing as in American football – that would be completely illegal in rugby! And no tackling, or holding someone back, if he does not have the ball. [Source: YouTube: HIGHLIGHTS: Japan v South Africa – Rugby World Cup 2019]

Saturday/ the Elliott Bay trail

Here are some pictures I took while walking along the Elliott Bay trail. Three of us went to go check out the new beach park by the new Expedia headquarters at its north end.

It’s about a half hour walk from Olympic Sculpture Park up to the new Beach at Expedia Group on the Elliot Bay urban trail.
This railway line runs under Olympic Sculpture Park. The maintenance trucks have been fitted with rail wheels to make them run on the track. The yellow and black sign (bottom left) has numbers on that indicate speed limits: F-Freight 25 mph, P-Passenger 30 mph, T-Transit 30 mph.
Here is part of a 32′ (10 m) tall totem pole next to the trail. It was carved by Tlingit Indians (‘Thu-lin-git’ with a hard g) in 1975 for Alaska Indian Arts in Haines, Alaska.
Here is the Pier 86 Grain Terminal, in operation since 1970. I looked up this bulk vessel’s name Nasaka on https://www.vesselfinder.com. It was built in 2014 and is sailing under the flag of Malta. Its recent ports of call were Rizhao, China and Shanghai, China – so it will probably head out there again. Check out those yellow ‘dinner plates’ mounted on the mooring ropes by the stern of the ship. They stop rats from running onto the ship (to chomp on that yummy grain). And that orange emergency vessel, yikes! Bet it would be a hair-raising, stomach-churning ride, strapped in & sliding down, to go bob on the ocean chop!
Here’s the newly landscaped Beach Park at Expedia Group, at the north end of the Elliott Bay trail. Nicely done: a set of contoured cement steps with a little bit of lawn in, and with crushed gravel, greenery and logs down below. (There is no sand on this part of the Sound’s water edge).
Another shot, this one looking more or less south. Just to the right of the cargo ships in the distance, are the red container cranes of Terminal 5 of the Port of Seattle. The embankment on the right in the distance is West Seattle. 
There were even some bluebonnets (genus Lupinus) in bloom. The bluebonnet is the state flower of Texas. 
Train coming! A Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) railway train, as we were standing on the Thomas St pedestrian overpass. BNSF operates one of the largest freight railroad networks in North America.

Friday/ another Grimm for my book shelf

I saw this Grimm’s Fairy Tales book in Hamburg and loved the pictures in it .. but it was so heavy, and a little pricey.
Luckily, Amazon had a used one for me that I could order (from a book dealer in England; shipping only $4), and earlier this week, it landed on my porch.

Childrens’ and Household Tales, from the Brothers Grimm. The book has been around a long time (gold medal award from 1965 on the cover). The stories inside, much longer. The Brothers Grimm, Jacob (1785–1863) and Wilhelm (1786–1859), were scholars best known for their lifelong dedication to collecting and publishing ancient German folk tales. Their groundbreaking books with these tales were published in seven different editions, between 1812 and 1857, and immortalized such unforgettable characters as Cinderella, Hansel & Gretel, Rapunzel, and Snow White.
Some of the Grimm’s tales start with beautiful double page color prints (that tell the whole story). The illustrator is Werner Klemke. I love the dark forest with the little bird, and the wily wolf, in Rotkäppchen (Little Red Riding Hood).
The Two Brothers. Once upon a time there were two brothers, one rich and one poor. The rich one was a goldsmith and black of heart, the poor subsisted by binding brooms, and was good and honest. The poor brother had two children, two twin brothers that looked as similar as two drops of water. The two boys would go to the rich brother’s house now and then, and sometimes got something to eat from the garbage.  ..
.. and much later in the story, there is a bear and a lion. I still have to get to this page! and besides, I don’t want to spoil the story for anyone.

Wednesday/ Trump gets a scolding

The House overwhelmingly (354-60) approved a resolution, that formally rebukes Trump, over his sudden and disastrous pull-out of American troops from northern Syria. (The damage has been done, of course — to America’s reputation, to the Kurds that had fought shoulder-to-shoulder with Americans against ISIS, and to the stability in the region).

‘All roads with you, lead to Putin!’ is reportedly what Nancy Pelosi told Trump at a meeting in the White House, when this picture was taken.

P.S. A recent blog post from Terri Kanefield explains a lot to me. Here is just the end of her explanation regarding the Mueller findings, and why impeachment then, would not have been viable.

Back when Trump appeared to be trying to goad the House into impeachment, it was when impeachment would have been basically about the Mueller findings.

With the Mueller stuff, Trump knew how to control the narrative because he knew the parameters. This was what the “impeach right now” people didn’t understand.

Legally, the House can keep impeaching. Politically, it would be insane. Imagine this: a prosecutor brings charges (obstruction of justice, for example) in June. The jury acquits. Then in September, the prosecutor says, “I have more evidence on that guy! Let’s have another trial!”

See how that looks?

The public was bored with the Russia investigation, and didn’t want to hear about things Trump had done before he was elected president. Scholars on impeachment say that traditional crimes are not what impeachment is about. Impeachment is for a president so abusing his power that removing him in the election may not be an option, or even possible.

If Trump had been impeached last spring, the Senate would have acquitted, and Trump would have declared himself Completely Exonerated.

The House would have looked silly impeaching again.

Trump knew once he was impeached and acquitted, he would would have been insulated from any additional impeachments.

In other words, he would have been untouchable.

Pelosi has decades of Intel experience. A lot of the Ukraine stuff happened in the open. What’s happening now is much more serious and compelling.

Pelosi waited for this or something like it to come out.

Check mate.

Either Pelosi got lucky or she knew what she was doing. Given that she’s the one of the most experienced and savvy people in politics, I’ll take Door #2.

Being a woman complicates this. People are less likely to assume she knows what she’s doing. 

Tuesday/ the euagarics are here

The gilled mushrooms (fancy name: euagarics) that usually pop out of the ground this time of year, have appeared again in my backyard.

The ones I have gotten so far, are not as red, nor as big, as years before. It could be because the soil has dried out these last two weeks. (That is about to change, though. The weatherman says we will get up to 2 inches of rain the next few days).

Gilled mushrooms are called euagarics by fungus aficionados. I believe these are fly agaric mushrooms (Amanita muscaria), even though they are smaller and not quite as big and red as ones I had last year.

Monday/ First Light’s art installation

Here is another picture from Sunday, of the art installation on the corner of 3rd Ave. and Virginia St. at the sales office of the future First Light condominium tower.

The artwork is a demonstration of the ‘curtain’ of cords and discs that will be installed around the lower floors of the First Light condominium building. The condo tower is only slated to open in the summer of 2022, though. A sign nearby says 60% of the units have been sold to date.

Sunday/ Alaskan Way viaduct: almost gone

I went down to the railing at the top of Pike Place Market today, to go check on the Alaskan Way viaduct demolition. Only some support beams for the now-demolished double-decker viaduct, are still there.

A few blocks away more of the new Amazon buildings are nearing completion, gleaming glass and steel on the outside.

Here’s the view looking south: no sign of the viaduct! Yay! (P.S. A pity that railway tunnel and line is still there, though. Just as I was leaving, a noisy coal train came chugging through, probably headed up north to the coal export terminal in British Columbia. We don’t like coal trains in Seattle. As the freight cars cross the roadways, motorists are backed up for blocks. And in a Nov. 2016 trial against rail company BNSF, scientists testified that a million or more coal particles per second come off of each rail car, dumping mercury, arsenic, and hundreds of other pollutants into rivers, lakes and oceans along BNSF rail lines. And then of course, somewhere all the coal will get burned, become CO and contribute to the climate change crisis).
Here are some of the remaining support beams that will be demolished, looking north from the same spot.
Here is what the corner of Blanchard St & 7th Ave looks like now. The two shiny buildings are Amazon Block 21. The oval one is McKenzie luxury apartments (1 bed, 1 bath: $3,000 pm). To the left rises Amazon Block 18, a 17-story office building. Quite a transformation .. not that many years ago, I would bring my Toyota Camry to the Toyota service station that used to be right here, in Block 21.
New bike lane, watch for bicycles as you cross, pedestrians! I wonder if the bicycle picture will eventually have to be updated to include say, electric scooters.
This is the nearby Amazon Block 20 tower that has been completed for a few months now. Amazon employees must have started to move into it.