Monthly Archives: May 2017

TRYING TO UNDERSTAND CLIMATE CHANGE – PART II

Accepting the existence of climate change shouldn’t be all that hard.  The difficult part is ascertaining whether it is really a crisis and practically what can be done about it either way.

So let’s start with the so-called Paris Agreement.  It was negotiated by representatives of 195 countries at the U.N. Council on Climate Change and adopted on December 12, 2015.  It deals with goals for greenhouse gas emissions, adaptation and finance starting in 2020.

In September 2015, President Obama and President Xi of China announced “ratification” of the Paris Agreement.  Now, almost 90 countries have signed the “treaty” and some 95 have ratified it, which accounts for about 66% of the world’s global emissions.

Ratification means acceptance, not contractual implementation.

Largest greenhouse gas contributors:

  • China: 20.1%
  • US: 17.9%
  • EU: 12.1%
  • Russia: 7.5%
  • India: 4.1%
  • Japan: 3.8%
  • Brazil: 2.5%

The goal of the Paris Agreement is to reduce fossil fuel generation of electric energy to 50% by the year 2050 and then eliminate it entirely.  No one knows if that is practical or can be accomplished.

China, the world’s largest polluter, alternately expresses the desire to accept modest goals for dropping fossil fuel generation while at the same time it continues to be the globe’s biggest coal user.

The only way to make any inroads towards meeting these goals would be to accelerate the use of alternative energy sources, particularly wind and solar as fossil fuel plants age, are decommissioned and have to be replaced.

Top energy policy makers and corporate leaders caution that it will be challenging to meet even the accord’s modest goals to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

Many companies have not even figured out yet how much greenhouse gas they emit, much less made plans to curb these emissions.  Rapid technological advances in areas like electric cars are not enough to stop the world’s long climb in oil consumption, let alone reverse it.

The financial framework, namely a carbon price or tax that would force industries to pay for the pollution they spew, has barely started to emerge.  And while tens of billions of dollars of green bonds have been issued to finance environmental projects, these are a pittance compared to the sums required to make a difference.

“It’s not a question of billions, it’s a question of trillions,” said Angel Gurria, the secretary general of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, speaking at the N.Y. Times Energy for Tomorrow conference.

The Paris Agreement, according to Gurria, was never imagined as the silver bullet for global warming.  Rather, the goal of the agreement was to stave off the most devastating effects of climate change by limiting the increase in global temperatures to two degrees Celsius, and to just 1.5 degrees Celsius if possible.

But even that may prove problematic.  If every country fully accomplishes its initial pledges, the increase would be closer to 2.7 degrees, according to Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency.  That misses exceeding the goal by over 30%.  In the next several years, countries are supposed to set additional goals for deeper reductions.

Fledgling exchanges for trading carbon emissions rights have attracted limited interest.  And the prices on those markets are well below the $100 a ton or more that experts say would force companies to limit their emissions of greenhouse gases.

The world needs “a big, fat price on carbon,” Mr. Gurria said at the conference.

“The market for carbon emissions has actually weakened in the months since the deal was approved.  It has gone from $9 after the agreement to $6—it shows us the market impact of the Paris Agreement has not been as strong as we all thought,” Fatih Birol, writing in the U.S. edition of the Guardian, said.

Carbon pricing, the mantra of all climate change proponents, causes more economic damage, according to Robert Murphy of the Institute for Energy Research, along with Pat Michaels and Paul Krafren-Berger of CATO.

In their book, “The Case Against US Carbon Tax,” they cite the experience of Australia which threw out a carbon tax after electricity price hikes and a struggling economy.  In British Columbia (Canada), it did not produce any significant reduction in gasoline usage.

Reliable estimates predict a carbon tax will show up on each US household to the tune of $2,500 to $3,000 per year for increased prices for electricity and in the marketplace for everything you buy.

“The era of fossil fuels is far from being over, even if the Paris pledges are fully implemented,” said Birol.  “Today,” he said, “the share of fossil fuels in the global energy mix is about 81%; if Paris goals are met, the share will drop to only 74%.  This is in part because even though renewable energy sources are finding their way into electricity generation, oil is still an important source of power for transportation and petrochemical production.”

If the Trump administration is successful in ratching up our economy to an annual 4% growth, we might be able to afford a carbon tax.  If the more realistic economists are correct in predicting a continuing 2% growth rate, we would have a lot of trouble implementing a carbon tax.

Technically, the Paris Accord may be a treaty, but it is non-binding to encourage more country participation.  Two-thirds of our Senate would have had to approve the accord as a binding treaty.  Not likely, so it’s all a lot of window-dressing.

My Conclusions

  1. We unquestionably have climate change, but I’m not sure it’s a crisis. A significant number of credible naysayers question the accuracy and validity of the computer models used by the proponents.  If the science was so exact, 90% or more of the scientific community would subscribe to the crisis state.
  2. If you check out my blog in the archives of 7/2/14, you’ll be reminded that we have been warned before about impending doom many times from various causes. There was the ice age, before fossil fuels, the population explosion that would leave everyone starving, the banning of DDT was necessary to save the world, but millions in the tropics died of malaria and in the 20’s when the world was getting colder and we were told we all would freeze to death.
  3. I’m not sure we can count on a couple hundred countries that have ratified the Paris Accord to accomplish their commitments. Will we be alone?  There is no penalty for missing the targets.
  4. There is a ton of data which clearly demonstrate the ability to reach even the Paris goals are impossible.
  5. When our economy can sustain something near 4% annual growth, only then can we consider agreeing to these lofty goals.  Until then, we have higher priorities:  more jobs and more investment in infrastructure.

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THE BENEFITS OF HAVING FRIENDS

Friendships have been an important part of my life and I have been fortunate to have been able to hold on to several from the different chapters of my life.

So I found an article by David Brooks in the New York Times an interesting exposition on the subject.  Here’s an excerpt of what he had to say:

“If I really had a lot of money to give away, I’d want to affect a small number of people in a personal and profound way.  The big, established charities are already fighting disease and poverty as best they can, so in search of new directions I thought, oddly, of friendship.

“Ancient writers from Aristotle to Cicero to Montaigne described friendship as the pre-eminent human institution.  You can go without marriage, or justice, or honor, but friendship is indispensable to life.  Each friendship, they continued, has positive social effects.  Lovers face each other, but friends stand side-by-side, facing the world — often working on its behalf.  Aristotle suggested that friendship is the cornerstone of society. Montaigne thought that it spreads universal warmth.

“These writers probably romanticized friendship.  One senses that they didn’t know how to have real conversations with the women in their lives, so they poured their whole emotional lives into male friendships.  But I do think they were right in pointing out that friendship is a personal relationship that has radiating social and political benefits.

“In the first place, friendship helps people make better judgments.  So much of deep friendship is thinking through problems together:  what job to take; whom to marry.  Friendship allows you to see your own life but with a second sympathetic self.

“Second, friends usually bring out better versions of each other.  People feel unguarded and fluid with their close friends.  If you’re hanging around with a friend, smarter and funnier thoughts tend to come burbling out.

“Finally, people behave better if they know their friends are observing.  Friendship is based, in part, on common tastes and interests, but it is also based on mutual admiration and reciprocity.  People tend to want to live up to their friends’ high regard.  People don’t have close friendships in any hope of selfish gain, but simply for the pleasure itself of feeling known and respected.

“It’s also true that friendship is not in great shape in America today.  In 1985, people tended to have about three really close friends, according to the General Social Survey.  By 2004, according to research done at Duke University and the University of Arizona, they were reporting they had only two close confidants.  The number of people who say they have no close confidants at all has tripled over that time.

“People seem to have a harder time building friendships across class lines.  As society becomes more unequal and segmented, invitations come to people on the basis of their job status.  Middle-aged people have particular problems nurturing friendships and building new ones.  They are so busy with work and kids that friendship gets squeezed out.

“So, in the fantasy world in which I have a lot of money, I’d try to set up places that would cultivate friendships.  I know a lot of people who have been involved in fellowship programs.  They made friends who ended up utterly transforming their lives.  I’d try to take those sorts of networking programs and make them less career oriented and more profound.

“To do that, you have to get people out of their normal hunting grounds where their guard is up.  You also probably want to give them challenging activities to do together.  Nothing inspires friendship like selflessness and cooperation in moments of difficulty.  You also want to give them moments when they can share confidences, about big ideas and small worries.

“So I envision a string of adult camps or retreat centers (my oldest friendships were formed at summer camp, so I think in those terms).  Groups of 20 or 30 would be brought together from all social and demographic groups, and secluded for two weeks.  They’d prepare and clean up all their meals together, and eating the meals would go on for a while.  In the morning, they would read about and discuss big topics.  In the afternoons, they’d play sports, take hikes and build something complicated together.  At night, there’d be a bar and music.

“You couldn’t build a close friendship in that time, but you could plant the seeds for one.  As with good fellowship programs, alumni networks would grow spontaneously over time.

“People these days are flocking to conferences, ideas festivals and cruises that are really about building friendships, even if they don’t admit it explicitly.  The goal of these intensity retreats would be to spark bonds between disparate individuals who, in the outside world, would be completely unlikely to know each other.  The benefits of that social bridging, while unplannable, would ripple out in ways long and far-reaching.”

Rosemary Blieszner, professor of human development at Virginia Tech and a longtime friendship researcher said:

“I couldn’t help noticing how many of the elders I spoke with had benefited from living in retirement communities and nursing homes—the very destinations so many people dread.  They can provide proximity, shared activities and a larger pool of prospective friends.

“With strong evidence that friendship does, indeed, help save lives and promote health, social workers and researchers wish we could pay more attention to its central role.  Are there better ways to help elders stay in touch with the friends they care about, or meet new ones?  We’re all willing to drive relatives to doctors’ appointments; driving them to spend time with friends may matter as much.”

I’m not sure about David’s idea for adult camps or retreat centers, but my friends have come from public school, youth sports, summer camp, college, travel and shared work experiences where the seeds of common values and goals are recognized and encouraged to build trust and mature.

It’s been a very fulfilling part of my life which has added zest, color and expanded experiences to my small, narrow corner of the world.

I hope it has worked for you, too!

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THE HARDEST JOB IN THE WORLD

It’s graduation time so, once again, I’ve asked me to give a commencement address:

I’d like to talk to you today about the hardest job in the world, which is, very simply, looking for a job.  Whether you’re doing it now for the first time or will be in the future, it’s a tough task.  It’s demanding and emotionally draining.

You have to be honest with yourself.  Are you looking for a job, really looking, or are you hoping a job will come looking for you?

In today’s marketplace you can’t rely on what comes your way from placement offices, career fairs or internet message boards, you need to be pro-active; you need to aggressively seek out opportunities.

Let me be clear, you can’t feel entitled.  It can be frustrating and demoralizing.  Remember, you’re not alone.  It is not terminal and everyone survives.

So here are a few hints about how to go about looking for a job that may help you.  These are some of the things I learned as a job seeker and then as an employer.  We’ll talk today about:

  • Your Resume
  • The Cover Message
  • Research 1
  • Research 2
  • Interview Questions
  • Resume Nitty Gritty

Your Resume

  1. Make sure it’s easy to read, not too cluttered with content or small type.
  2. Include a photo at the top—a good head shot by a pro. Make sure it’s closely cropped in a square, rectangular or circle; women can consider an oval.
  3. Do not include a statement about what you’re looking for—that belongs in the cover.
  4. Keep it simple—no long explanations.
  5. Include your email address and phone number, as well as a website, if you have one. A home address is not necessary.
  6. One page is enough, until you get much further along.

(See the Addendum at the end, Resume Nitty Gritty, on what to include or not on a resume.)

The Cover Message

  1. Whether it’s an email or snail-mail, it should include a statement about what you’re looking for (which can be adapted for each prospect) and the highlight of what you bring to the table.
  2. Keep it short and punchy.
  3. A typical job opening attracts dozens or hundreds of resumes. In order to stand out, you need to consider being audacious.  Let me give you an example:  “I got a job once because my cover letter said “They say good men are hard to find.  Don’t let this one pass you by.”

Research 1

  1. Interview all your relatives and friends of your family to seek advice and counsel. If you’re interested in engineering, find adults who have experience in that or allied fields.  The same is true for healthcare, business, communications, any field you’d like to know more about.  Ask about their career history, how they got started, and what advice they can offer.  Ask them to critique your resume.
  2. To find a job opening, make a list of companies who you might like to work for because of reputation or product/service and, of course, by niche categories.
  3. Find the highest company executive in the area you think you fit or direct an email or snail-mail to the president. Send out six to 10 letters per week and follow up with a phone call.  Another approach is to make contacts with the same list.  “Can you give me 10 minutes of your time to give me some career advice”?
  4. Use the facilities of your school career center as well as social media, internet job boards, employment ads in daily newspapers, trade journals, LinkedIn. Look everywhere for leads.

Research 2

If you get an interview, use the internet, the library or anything else to find out as much about the company or organization as you can.

Interview Questions

If you want to know about benefits, do not make that your first question.  Make it your last.

Have at least three or four questions ready to ask your interviewer; i.e.:

  1. How many people have you hired in this position and what has been their track record?
  2. How often do you have a performance review?
  3. What’s the most interesting project you’ve ever worked on?
  4. Who owns the company (if it’s private)?
  5. What is the highest position someone who started in this job has risen to?\
  6. If you’ve done your research, you should have two or three questions about the company, their products/service or the industry.

Finding a job is a job, a hard one.  You have to work at it.  Chances of it falling out of the sky are not good.  It may happen by chance, and sometimes it does.  To rely on happenstance, however, I think, is too risky.  I wouldn’t do it.  My advice to you is, “Don’t depend on it.”

The best way to predict the future…is to create it

Resume Nitty Gritty

Hiring managers get tons of resumes—make yours stand out.  Do not include:

  • Your objectives—you’re already applied and it’s in your cover.
  • Unrelated work experience doesn’t need to get itemized. You can summarize in a sentence, i.e., waiter, camp counselor.
  • Marital status, social security number or any personal data
  • Hobbies, religious preference
  • Blatant lies—too risky if caught
  • Your age—graduation dates
  • Too much text—not enough white space
  • Time off—to travel, raise a family
  • References—available on request
  • Inconsistent formatting—everything in the same order
  • First or third person
  • An old email address like “bearlover@” or “cutechick@”
  • The words phone or email
  • Current business contact info email, etc.
  • References to social media sites
  • Use Times Roman – easiest to read; San Serif – hard to read; or fancy fonts like script
  • Be careful with descriptive words/phrases like “go getter”. Think outside the box – achieved
  • Reason why you left your last job
  • GPA unless you just graduated

Don’t give in to discouragement.  It won’t help.  Get lots of exercise and keep up social interaction.  The entry level jobs are the hardest.

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THE PHOTOGRAPHS IN MY MIND – PART II

As I told you in Part I last month, I stopped taking pictures on our trips because taking pictures was distracting, we never looked at them and they were cluttering up my desk.

So here is the second part of the series that I wanted to post before my memory fades completely.

Barge Trip around Dijon, France – What a delight busing 60 miles northwest of the mustard seed capital to start our welcoming journey downstream.

The meals featured local wine, produce and cheese at each lunch and dinner; wholesome and delicious, each day there were one or two tours into local villages and bikes you could use on your own.

Because of all the locks, you could walk faster than the barge moved.

It was a great trip with wonderful people!

Alaska – A basket full of vivid scenes, including the old river towns, glaciers, whales, Mt. McKinley, Denali National Park, totem pole carvings, fresh fish, lush greenery, helicopter and flight seeing.  You had to catch your breath at every turn.

Holding one of the cuddly Iditarod dogs, canoeing on crystal clear blue lakes and watching the glaciers calve up close were all special treats.

It’s a state of enormous beauty.

Yosemite – Winter or summer, is equally special.  Start with a stay at the Ahwanhee Lodge, a concrete structure that looks like it’s all logs.  The dining room looking over a great meadow with snow-covered hills in the distance is one of the great places to dine in the world.  The overall ambience and the hiking are all terrific.  Come winter, there’s also skiing and all sorts of snow sports.

Chile to Argentina – One of the best all-day trips I can ever remember.  It involved two boat lake crossings and three separate buses that all seemed to connect on time.  Each mode of transport took us through varying country scenes right up to our final stop in Bariloche, Argentina.

The town sits at the foot of a popular ski mountain.  We were there in July.  We took the cable car up a little more than halfway, then a tractor-like van to the top, and then hiked a short distance to the restaurant.

Following lunch we had a problem getting down.  It was snowing.  They finally got a jeep to get us back to the cable car and the end of a wonderful day.

Quebec and Toronto – They’re as different as two cities closely in the same country can be.  Toronto is a gleaming, modern city bustling with energy and commerce.  Quebec is a portfolio of picture postcards which seems like France must have been like this in the 18th century.

In Quebec, The Chateau Frontenac Hotel sits on a hill overlooking the whole city and the port full of cruise ships.  The winding cobblestone streets with quaint shops complete the picture.

Maui – Flying into my favorite sandwich isle gives you a great picture of the West Maui mountains on one side and Mt. Haleakala, the dormant volcano, on the other side of a lush green valley of sugarcane and agricultural products.

There’s so much to do, and it’s all picture-perfect—swimming, snorkeling, boating, tennis, golf on fabulous courses, hiking in all kinds of terrain, as well as vegetating around the beautiful beaches and the pools at great hotels.

There are three main resort areas.  In the north end is Kapalua, with the Ritz Carlton and a number of condos.  Below that is the old seafaring town of Lahaina and the Kaanapali resort area with half dozen hotels and condos.  Further south is the area we most favor.  It includes funky Kihei, Wailea with another half dozen hotels, and McKenna.

Mauna Kea on the big island – My first trip to this then rock resort was about 1975, presumably on a site inspection to consider holding a meeting there.

It was overwhelming.  The hotel features probably the most beautiful horseshoe-shaped beach in all of Hawaii and the open air corridors were a museum collection of Hawaiian artifacts.

Back again 2014, the beach is still spectacular.  The artifacts seemed to have thinned out a bit and the hotel is a little tired, but still a great place.

Amsterdam – A delightful and picturesque city built around canals (good tour), where bike and trolley transportation is readily available and walking is easy, particularly since just about everybody speaks English.

The Rijks Museum is outstanding and the Van Gogh is as good.

On our first trip we ate at the terrific Black Sheep restaurant, but it’s probably not there any longer.

It was adjoining the square where all the young folks hang out at night.

Dubrovnik – Who could ever forget the first sight of this great Croatian city by air or sea with round medieval battlements guarding the entrance and the city walls and ramparts streaming out behind.

It’s another great walking city with many historical and cultural sites among the non-grid, haphazard streets.

China – Wow!  A country feast of photographic memories.  In Beijing, there are indelible images of Tiananmen Square, the huge Forbidden Palace, half a dozen striking temples, the Summer Palace with lake and gardens, and, of course, the engineering feat of the Great Wall

And that’s only the beginning.  On to Xi’an with the awesome army of Terra Cota Soldiers, the almost western city of Shanghai, Guilin on the Li River with rounded hills like you see in paintings, and Yangtze River with the incredible dam that had 25,000 workers 24/7 housed in their own city.

My first trip to Beijing was in 1984 and the streets were packed with bicycles and a small city ambience.  I was overwhelmed when I returned in 2001.  The growth and energy was bursting out all over.

Hong Kong – Two parts of a city on what is now a beautiful, busy bay.  Both halves bursting with energy and commerce.  Restaurants and shops everywhere.  Exciting city to visit!

Berlin – Not sure what I expected, but it was a huge, pleasant surprise.  Modern post-war buildings interspersed among the traditional and attractive pre-war buildings and great stores.  Wonderful visit—would like to go back.

If my memory holds out, next month we’ll take another look at the photo gallery in my mind.

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CURRENT EVENTS

The First 100 Days

The Trump administration has muddled through the first 100 days, the so-called honeymoon period, with a series of stumbles, bumbles and contradictions.

It may get better, but in the meantime stop listening to anything and everything Trump, Spicer or any of the administration pooh-bahs say.  I really mean STOP LISTENING, just wait to see what they do and accomplish.

You’ll have less stomach pains and zero heart palpitations if you ignore all the Sunday talk shows, all the tweets, all the press briefings, and all the pundits analyzing and speculating on what anything means.

Here’s a quick summary of the first 100 days:

  • Appointed a new Supreme to the court, but left several hundred judgeships waiting to be filled.
  • Did the right thing by fulfilling Obama’s red line when Syria used gas they said they didn’t have on civilians. Why did they destroy only half of the airfield?
  • Lost out to the so-called Congressional Freedom Caucus on replacing Obamacare. They should more accurately be called the Self-Defeating Caucus.  It promises to be back.
  • Backtracked on a lot of campaign rhetoric on China, NATO, the Export-Import Bank, the CIA, as well as the flattering comments about Putin.
  • Proposed an austere budget that filled a lot of campaign promises.
  • Have yet to fill a lot of big executive branch administration slots.
  • Since the day President Trump took office, hundreds of far-left protestors have stormed congressional offices and town halls across the country, demanding that America’s duly elected president be investigated and impeached. They damaged property, disturbed other building tenants, trashed the restrooms, and screamed hateful and divisive rhetoric through bullhorns and loudspeakers.
  • He changed the soft stance of the Obama administration on foreign policy to a more muscular approach. He let our allies and our enemies know we will take assertive action—i.e., Syria, North Korea, Afghanistan—to demonstrate our commitment.
  • The Trumpsters have proposed a somewhat reasonable, albeit sketchy, tax reform plan that doubles the deductions for single and married couples and reduces the tax brackets from seven to three. It eliminates the amount and inheritance tax, reduces capital gain to 15%, and encourages corporations to repatriate overseas profits.  Just the first step in a long congressional massage.

Summary:

They’ve been busy—probably busier than any other administration since FDR—more executive orders and legislation primarily rolling back regulations.

It was not quite as productive as his supporters hoped for, nor as disastrous as his detractors screamed.  He absorbed more than he expected he would have to and learned a lot more about government, which he minimized during the campaign and the transition.

With a little over 3-1/2 years to go, he’s going to have to slug it out to have any success with his agenda.  We live in the most interesting of times.  Keep your seatbelts on.  The roller coaster will continue.

Spain and England Threaten War

You might’ve seen that Brexit became official early in April.

Fully nine months after voters decided in a referendum to leave the European Union, the British government made it official by filing the paperwork for Article 50.

But what you probably didn’t see was that the very same day, the government of Spain demanded that Britain return Gibraltar, which is on the Spanish coast but has been a British territory for 300 years.

Spain also suggested (wink, wink) that it wouldn’t actively block Scotland from joining the EU should it decide to break away from the United Kingdom.

In the diplomatic firestorm that followed, Britain threatened to go to war with Spain should the country decide to take Gibraltar by force; and it had a few choice words to say about Scotland, too.

I couldn’t make this stuff up if I wanted to.

Now, I put the probability of actual armed conflict between England and Spain at zero.

This is 2017, not 1704.  It just shows you how bizarre geopolitics has become.

The Fed Could Gift Trump His Infrastructure Dreams

Starting in March of 2009, the Fed created money out of thin air and used it to buy mortgage-backed bonds and Treasury bonds.  Today, the Fed holds $2.5 trillion of Treasury bonds and about $1.8 trillion of mortgage-backed bonds.

They created this money to unfreeze the mortgage market and jumpstart the economy.  Whether or not they achieved their goals is a question for another time.  But, for the purposes of this discussion, the money was created, and the bonds purchased.

Once the money was created, it was bound to enter the U.S. economy eventually.

Before the crisis, the Fed held around $800 billion of securities.  Now it holds $4.5 trillion.

For the moment, the money is frozen in the form of bonds.  When the Fed either sells the bonds or simply lets them mature, the money will hit the U.S. economy.

But we could also take the opportunity to use the funds for a common purpose, like an infrastructure fund.

By law, the Fed can’t hold onto an “excess cash” balance, so periodically the Fed calculates its current and expected expenses, and essentially sends the rest of its cash stash to the U.S. Treasury as a gift.

Money printed by the Fed could land on President Trump’s desk wrapped in a bow.

Build a wall!  Build a bridge!  Repair a dam!  Replace the air-traffic control system!

Those might be the cries from the White House, calling for repairs and renovations to our nation that will also create jobs.  But, in my head, they all translate to one thing first:  Spend money!

We’ve been down this road, of course.  In 2009, we passed the American Recovery Act, pledging $800 billion for infrastructure spending and to create jobs.  Later, Congress added the language, “or to maintain jobs,” to the details.  But who’s keeping track?

We handed hundreds of billions of dollars to states, which used the funds to pay first responders, teachers, and other workers.  But we didn’t build or renovate much of anything—certainly not $800 billion worth of anything.

But we did accomplish something.  We added almost $1 trillion to our national debt.

In his first speech to a joint session of Congress, at the end of February, Trump reiterated his plan for massive infrastructure spending.  He also announced a massive tax cut aimed at the middle class.

The two ideas are at odds, unless we either divert funds from other sources to pay for the infrastructure, or earmark the gift money that the Fed sends the government for that purpose.

Once Congress gets their arms around how this works, the process should be simple.  And it won’t add a dime to the U.S. deficit or debt.

Big Band Jazz Concerts

If you liked the big jazz bands of yesteryear, like Duke Ellington, Woody Herman, Stan Kenton, Gerry Mulligan or Benny Goodman, you would enjoy the Los Angeles Jazz Institute weekend concerts May 24-28 at the Westin LAX.

Each of the bands rents or buys the music charts of the big jazz bands, so you’ll never know the difference.

You can buy a package for the whole weekend or individual tickets.  If you like big band jazz, you’ll enjoy this trip to the past.

You can check out the whole program at jazzinstitute.org.  They generally run two weekend programs a year; Memorial Day and mid October.

The Circus TV Show

Goes beyond the headlines to analyze the politics of what’s going on.  It airs at 8pm on Sundays on Showtime with three of the keenest observers we have:  Mark Halperin, John Heilemann and Mark McKinnon.

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