By Cecil Hoge
In early January 2019 I headed down to a trade show in Nashville. It has been some time since I visited that town. Forty three years ago, if my sometimes faulty memory is correct. I will say the town has undergone some big changes.
No longer is the town the same sleepy funky place I remember. Yes, the main drag, Broadway, is still there and it is still filled with funky bars emanating funky country music just like they always did. There are more of them now and they seem to be tucked in every little corner on and just off of the main street. What seems to be a new innovation is the fact that now many of the bars and restaurants are also located on the 2nd or 3rd floors of Broadway. I guess they ran out of space for bars and restaurants on the first floor.
I would say that part of the town has become a kind of industry. I suppose it always was, but it seems to me there are far more bars and far more places with far more musicians that are trying to get some notice. And yes, a lot of them are very talented.
I remember many years ago wandering into and out of a lot sleepy music places. And each one had a singer or band going, but at that time, there were not that many. My visit way back then included a stop-over at the Grand Ole Opry, and as I remember it was a fine old place, but not very big. It was a little off of Broadway on 5th Avenue North. Today they seem to have moved. The Grand Ole Opry is now a couple of miles out of town off of route 155. I guess they needed bigger digs.
Since I was going to exhibit at a trade show in the Music Center, I stayed at a nearby hotel, The Omni. And it was a lot fancier than the hotel I remember staying in when I last visited. Actually, I think that was a motel a few blocks from the main drag where the quaint little bars and music places began the main drag.
Today the city is all growed up and there are a bunch of tall and serious looking buildings in places that once were just the outskirts of town. I am told that Nashville is not only a music center today, it is also a digital center, attracting all sorts of techies and start-ups and entrepreneurs. Yes, big changes is going on.
I can say that the town seemed pretty lively with people smoking cigarettes and things that looked like cigarettes on the streets, with people approaching you for handouts, with some folks walking a little askew like they had a few too many drinks. I got the impression of a junior Las Vegas without the slot machines and gambling. A little quieter, but a kinda roustabout city with lots of people roaming the streets looking for a good time and lots of establishments set up to take advantage of the booming marketplace.
When I came back from Nashville, I was devastated by an unexpected change. Little Joe’s was gone. And Pamela who used to take my order was gone and so was Linda or Melinda or whatever her name was. They were always kind to me greeting me like a long lost buddy when I came to pick up pizza or pasta or Chicken Francese. But when I came back, I naturally called for a special take-out order, but there was no answer…only a message that phone number was no longer in service.
I was distraught beyond words, so I cruised by Little Joe’s to see what was going on. Had they gone South for vacation? Were they closed for winter break? Did they fail to pay their phone bill? I was full of questions and when I cruised into the parking I saw a big orange paper sign scotched tape to the inside of the big window. It said “For Rent” and gave a phone number. I was crushed. What would happen to poor me and my wife. Where would we get our take out?
No worries, mate. I soon found out in the several years that I had frequented Little Joe’s several new take out joints had sprung up. It seems as fast something disappears something appears in its place.
But the demise of Little Joe’s was not the only change I noticed when I got back. The big new Fire Department building going up in place of the older smaller Fire Department building had changed just in the four short days that I was gone. When I left it was still looking like a barren construction site still underway. When I came back 4 days later a big boulder had been placed out front and a not so green lawn had been installed.
To say I was surprised is an understatement. I knew this new $15,000,000 facility was going up, but how they got that lawn and the big boulder in place was a bit of a mystery. Perhaps, they were brought in by helicopter? When I first heard about this, I was surprised to learn that the new building would cost $15,000,000. Now that I see the big boulder and the lawn in place, I can say that it was worth every penny.
I can only imagine the Fourth of July Parade when the Setauket Fire Department brings out their collection of beautiful red fire trucks. I am sure that 2019 is going be a banner year for Setauket and for the Setauket Fire Department.
It may be that every new year, we tend to think about new things and focus on them and wonder what they will mean for the future.
Speaking of changes in our little community, this summer I noticed ever expanding clumps of algae on the bay where I live. Algae first started appearing in our bay about 5 years ago. In the last few years, this algae would become quite visible on warm summer days when the tide was out. Then the bay, empty of water, but mostly covered with bright green colored algae, more resembled a golf course than than brown bay bottom of an empty bay.
A couple of years ago, after seeing my bay with increasing algae, cloudier water and less and less fish, I wrote a blog story entitled, “On the Deceptive Beauty of our Waterways” . In that story, I highlighted the fact that while our waterways look quite beautiful from a distance, when you got closer, it is apparent that our waterways suffer from some major problems.
Since I am concerned about the quality of the water where I live, I have been trying to join a organization called The Setauket Harbor Task Force. This group, led by our local New York Assemblyman Steve Englebright, has pledged to clean up and preserve the waterways of Setauket Harbor.
My house is located on Little Bay which leads out to Setauket Bay which leads out to Port Jefferson Bay which leads out to Conscience Bay if you go left and Long Island Sound if you go straight, which, if you keep going leads out to the Atlantic Ocean, which, if you really keep going that leads out to all the 7 seas of the world. So, you might say my little waterway is very well-connected.
Anyway, I wrote a letter to Mr. Englebright about what I considered to be the dire condition of our waterways. That must have struck a cord with Mr. Englebright because he came back to me and set up a meeting with him and George Hoffman, a gentleman who heads up the Setauket Harbor Task Force. That meeting turned out to be very congenial and thereafter, I had a couple of more meetings with George Hoffman in order to see what I might do to help the Setauket Harbor Task Force.
I will say I was full ideas about what might be done. I suggested setting up artificial oyster bars to filter the water. I discussed the possibility of raking up algae. I suggested planting reeds to encourage the return of fish, lobsters and crabs. I suggested seeding clams in various parts of our four bays. I volunteered to help organize a report on the history of our waterways since the arrival of Europeans. That was something Mr. Englebright thought would important in getting monies to support improving the waterways.
In turn, George Hoffman informed me of the different things he and the Setauket Task Force were doing to improve the quality of the water.
That turned out to be basically taking samples of water and getting them tested for the presence of vasrious chemicals. Apparently, that process only started this last summer and as of the dates I saw George, they had no hard data on what was in the water and so they had no theory or plan of what to do to improve the water. So I asked George to go for a ride with me so I could show him some the things I saw each time I went for a paddle.
So George came by my house and the first thing that I showed him was the condition of the water in front of my house. Before explaining what that was like I should mention my house is the very last place that the tide comes on the bay and that my bay empties out completely twice a day. That means that the tide literally picks up everything that is on the surface of the bay and brings it into my little cove which, as mentioned above, is situated at the very end of the bay.
As you can see from the picture above, the water does look really nasty at times. George was kind of shocked and immediately said that when they do testing the waters they never actually come into Little Bay itself. I mentioned that Little Bay is connected to Setauket Bay and whatever goes into Little Bay can come out and go into Setauket Bay. George thought about this for a while and then said that maybe it would be a good idea to take some measurements and water samples in Little Bay itself.
After that George got into my little inflatable boat and I took him for a ride. I asked him where they took measurements and samples of the water. George said at the mouth of Little Bay, in Setauket Bay, at the mouth of Port Jefferson Bay and at the mouth of Conscience Bay.
I asked George what about Port Jefferson Bay in the harbor near the electric plant where Stonybrook University pipes in its treated sewage. I mentioned it could pretty important to test the water there because Stonybrook University dumps in thousands of gallons of treated sewage each day and that might have an effect on the water quality. No, said George, they had never thought to do that because it was pretty far from Setauket Harbor & Bay. I asked what about Conscience Bay. No, George said, we never go there, because that also was too far.
Hmmh, I thought. I asked George if he realized that all these bays were connected and that any pollution that happened to be in any part of the four bays might also go to some other parts. Yes, of course, George said, we know it is all connected, but our mandate it to improve the water of Setauket Harbor.
George then told me about their immediate plans for Harbor improvement. Apparently, they had gotten a million dollar grant and the money would be forthcoming very soon. That money would used to dredge parts of the harbor, tear out the Phragmites – these are a special kind of tall reeds which we used call Pampus Grass and which are apparently a bad kind of reed that grows near the waster’s edge. The harbor improvement plan also included draining out the creek that leads under 25A into Setauket Harbor, installing a new bulkhead and creating a new park area where people can come and walk and see all the harbor improvements.
While all of that sounded fine, I kept wondering what exactly would be done to improve the water quality. Of the one million dollars slated for the improvements, apparently $500,000 would go for the bulkhead, $250,000 would go to improve the town dock, $50,000 would go to dredge the harbor and the remaining monies would go to clean out Phragmites in the newly expanded park area and clean different drains leading into Setauket Harbor.
I could see how dredging might improve the tidal flow allowing water to go out and go in the harbor more freely. I could understand how cleaning out Phragmites might allow better reeds to grow and provide a home for fish and other sea life. I also thought clearing drains going into the harbor might also help, but it seemed to me that the plan for these monies was mostly focused on creating a new park, which certainly would be appreciated by local residents and visitors, but would not necessarily improve the present or future quality of the water.
I then asked George how they could improve the water of Setauket Harbor if they did not improve the water of all four bays. George was kind of silent on that question. I sensed it was a question he had not given much thought to. Not wanting to push my luck, I began to motor around and as I went, George would point out all the test spots where they took samples of the water. And sure enough, he pointed out the mouth of Little Bay, just in front of the old washed out bridge, a couple of spots in Setauket Harbor, the mouth of Port Jefferson Harbor and finally the mouth of Conscience Bay.
Here, I have to explain a little something about Conscience Bay. The mouth is right where there is a really big boulder on left just after where Port Jefferson Bay ends. If you go straight beyond the big rock and to the right you will end up in a little cove in front Jim Simon’s house, Long Island’s richest man. If you go to the left, you will enter a channel that leads to Conscience Bay.
I turned left.
As we began to motor toward the actual mouth of Conscience Bay I could see a kind of fog settling over George eyes.
“Where we going?” George asked.
“Conscience Bay,” I replied.
“I don’t think I have been here,” George said.
“You know,” George said a few minutes later, “this is really big.”
“It’s all connected George,” I said, “so anything here will go into Setauket Harbor and anything in Setauket Harbor will come into Conscience Bay.”
“I didn’t know it was this big,” George repeated looking around the broad bay surrounded by houses on shore.
I have to say I thought this was kind of shocking since George was in charge of cleaning up the waterways of Setauket Harbor. I realized that it was just sinking in to George that Conscience Bay was part of the waterway he had agreed to clean up. Who knew?
I have had a couple of other conversations and couple of short boat trips with George after that. We went with a lady scientist from Stonybrook one day and I told her about the clumps of algae I had seen and the discolored water I had seen and noted that it seemed to be red. She seemed a little dubious of what I was telling her. As we were motoring along I pointed out a couple of large clumps of algae. The lady scientist seemed very surprised.
I then pointed out some small areas of red discolored water and asked her if it could be red tide or some other kind of algae. She replied that there was no red tide in Setauket Harbor, but the small reddish areas looked suspicious.
It happened that about one minute later we passed a very large area of darkened reddish water…I would guess it was 30 or 40 feet by 100 or more feet long. The reddish, darkened color was distinctly visible and kind of ominous looking.
“What is that?” I asked. Both George and the lady were a little taken back by the sheer size of the reddish, darkened water.
When we came closer, the lady said yes, that does look some kind of algae. At the end of our ride, the lady from Stonybrook University said that it would be good idea to investigate what that dark red-colored water was.
It turned out that the answer was already on its way. The next day there was a lead article in Newsday about “Rust Tide” appearing all over Long Island. Apparently, it had been discovered this last summer (2018) on both the North Shore of Long Island and the South Shore. The article specifically said samples of the rust tide had been collected in Port Jefferson Harbor and Setauket Harbor on the North shore of Long Island as well as on Shinnecock Bay and Great South Bay on the Soputh shore of Long Island. It also went on to relate that Red Tide, a much more deadly form of algae, had been found in Northport Harbor, which is about 10 miles West of us.
I would like to interject a few words about red tide, which I first learned about when I rented a house for a month in the winter on the Gulf of Mexico in Englewood, Florida. Having seen seaweed and weird things in the water all my life, I never thought much about seaweed or algae washing up on a shore. But the year we rented a house on the Gulf happened to be a year when the red tide was present. I did not know anything about red tide when we moved into the very nice house directly on the Gulf of Mexico. Almost immediately after settling into the house, as is my custom, I decided to go for a walk on the beach.
While walking I could see that there was various kinds of stuff that had washed up on the beach. As I walked along the beach, I noticed that I was having some issues breathing. And then I realized the closer I come to the water’s edge and the clumps of stuff that had washed up on the beach, the harder it was to breathe. I did not think much of it until I got back to our house and happened to watch a local news broadcast later that evening. I was surprised to hear them talking about a red tide and I was even more surprised to hear them say it was not a good idea to walk where red tide algae had washed up on the shore.
Some people, the TV announcer said, found walking near clumps of red tide algae could make it hard to breath. This shocked me. They went on the say that red tide had been associated with fish kills in recent years. Apparently, the algae that’s consisted of red tide, could also make it impossible for fish to breathe. All of this was very surprising.
Now that was a few years ago, but this last winter it was widely reported that Red Tide had again struck the coast of Florida and this time it was responsible for some really large fish kills, not to mention the fact that it also made it impossible for beach goers to go to the beach, since it made breathing difficult and sent some people to the hospital. So, in summary, red tide had already proven to be a serious problem in Florida.
So when I heard that the red tide was in Huntington Harbor, just 10 miles West of us, I realized that could be a really serious problem for us. In addition, it struck me as strange that it was some other scientist on the South Shore who had discovered this and that George Hoffman and this lady scientist from Stonybrook had been unaware of this independent testing and research. You would think that all the people who were concerned with the water quality would be talking to each other and sharing information of what they were finding. Apparently, that was not the case.
Having lived at my house on Little Bay for over 40 years, I had noticed some very disturbing changes in the quality of the water. Not only had the water gotten progressively cloudier and dirtier over the years, not only had algae begun to increase ever year, but also the number of fish, crabs and other sea life that I saw on my paddle or boating seemed to decline year after year.
There have been many studies and reports on why this may be so. The increased use of fertilizers and insecticides, the runoff from roads and storm drains, pollution from cars drifting down to road and washing into the bays, the increased use of detergents for washing, the increase of nitrates coming from the detergents one other chemicals, the leaching of sewers into the bays…these are all reasons that have been cited for the decline in the quality of water and in quantity of sea life in our bays. And while the reasons for these problems are fairly evident, the solutions are widely debated with different agencies and groups having different ideas and sometimes contrary solutions to the problems that most people agree are present.
Some people want Long Islanders to change out all the septic systems and replace them with cleaner filtering septic systems. This is no doubt a good idea, but since there over 400,000 septic systems in Suffolk County alone, it would take some time and cost an astronomical sum to do that. Other people want detergents and soaps and insecticides and fertilizers banned, but most people are found of cleaning their clothes, fertilizing their gardens and keeping bugs at bay.
A few days after showing the lady scientist and George Hoffman the “rust tide”, I again went out for a boat ride on our local waterways with George Hoffman and the lady from Stonybrook University. I told her about the article and about rust tide. Yes, she said, she had read the article and in fact she knew the fellow scientist who had conducted the testing. She said that she had called him and he had said that he would release his findings about what his test samples showed. That August of 2018.
What seemed clear about all of this was that there are various people, groups and government agencies all doing various things to improve the quality of the local waters, but apparently they never really talk to one another about what they were doing and so there was no unified and agreed solution for the problems that all of Long Island are all facing.
Since the late summer I have been trying to get in touch with George but without much luck. I did get an e-mail from him saying that he wanted to catch up early this winter. I returned the e-mail, left some phone messages and sent follow up e-mails and haven’t heard from him since. It does not look like I am going to be doing anything for the Seatauket Harbor Task Force soon. I will keep pestering George in the hopes of getting involved. I would really like to know what can and might be done to improve the quality of our waters. As things stand, I have the impression that our waterways are vastly degraded and almost nothing is being done to turn that around.
It will be interesting to see what happens this spring. Right now the waterways are clear of algae, as they are every winter and early spring, and the water is almost clear. I would hope, of course, that the problems that our bay has with water quality and diminishing fisheries will solve themselves naturally. That may be a little bit to much to hope for.
I would like to mention that algae is also present in our local lakes and ponds. Above please find a picture of the normally very scenic Ward Melville Park Pond. The normal color is blue, but this summer it became dayglo green. Perhaps, we should change to name of the pond to Green Pond.
I would now like to move on to another subject, not related to our waterways, but related to other changes that are going on the strange times we live in.
I have to say that this seems like a particularly strange economic time. In our little town there is this local business that does quite well. It is called Renaissance Technologies. Last year, according to Bloomberg, this hedge fund did $4,600,000,000. That a lot for any business but in a town that has a few thousand residents that is simply amazing. The founder of this company, Jim Simons, was reported to have made $1,600,000,000 last year. And if I remember correctly, that was not by any means Mr. Simons best year. The year before he was reported to have made $2,100,000,000 and the year before that $2,200,000,000. So, by those metrics, last year was a kind of collapse in prosperity.
Now I am told Mr. Simons is a very prudent and thrifty guy who used to ride around in an old Nissan car that ran just great for him. I am not sure if Mr. Simons has traded in his old Nissan. Not all reports of Mr. Simons thriftiness are consistent. Three years ago he was reported to have bought one of the world’s largest yachts. We would not know about that here because it was reported that his boat was too big to bring into Port Jefferson Harbor, although we do get to seem some pretty big boats in here during the height of the summer season. Yachts of 100 to 200 feet long do come in here, but apparently those only belong to some of Mr. Simons’ employees and some other wealthy folks stopping by.
Whatever Mr. Simons is doing, it seems to be working. According to Wikipedia, his net worth is listed to be 21.5 billion dollars as of February, 2019. Good work Jim.
I did a little calculation comparing his company to mine. Last year we had gross sales of a little over 13 million dollars. We have 30 employees and that comes out to a little over $430,000 generated per employee. I did the same came calculation for Mr. Simons’ company, Renaissance Technologies. As mentioned above, they did a little over 4.6 billion dollars. And if it is true that they have about 300 employees – the number reported in Bloomberg, that would mean that they generated about 15.3 million dollars per employee. In other words, Mr. Simons’ business generated more per one employee than our company generated for all 30 employees of my company. Sometimes I get the feeling I am not in the right business.
Let me move on to the subject of taxes. So here is what is weird about the economy here. We have some of the highest taxes in the country. My own house, which is only three bedrooms, costs over $20,000 per year in taxes. That I am sure is peanuts compared to the taxes that Mr. Simons and his employees pay.
Anyway, I am grateful to live in this seaside community with easy access to the water and outlying beaches. What I think is weird is that each week our local newspaper carries a listing of houses that are in foreclosure. Some weeks, it is truly astronomical with an entire pull out section devoted to a printed list of properties in foreclosure. One week last summer, I took the time to count how many properties were listed. I did not try and count the listings on every page. I just counted the listings on one page and multiplied by the number of pages completely devoted to listing properties in foreclosure – I believe there 48 pages of properties in foreclosure listed in that issue. With the aid of a calculator, I came up with an estimate that over 3,000 properties were listed. That is just for the town of Brookhaven, which is part of Suffolk County, not all of Suffolk County.
Now, as mentioned above, Renaissance Technologies employs about 300 people. And I think it is fair to assume that most of those people make huge amounts of money. The company, if I understand the reports correctly, specializes in software and computers which track, through the use of algorithms, the mood of stock market and automatically trade stocks thousands of times a day, buying or selling according to daily conditions of the markets. I understand that their computers are some of the fastest in the world and are, perhaps, even faster than the computers of the New York Stock Exchange.
Bloomberg ran a story on their website referring to Renaissance Technologies is as “The company that makes money like no other”. At one time, it was reported that Renaissance Technologies accounted for 20% of the daily trades of the New York Stock Exchange. I have no idea if indeed that was true or is still true, but what seems to be absolutely true is that our little town has this immensely profitable business that literally affects that real estate values of our local community.
One of the partners of this company was Robert Mercer. He and his daughter, Rebecca Mercer, were backers of Brietbart News, Steve Brannon and Donald Trump. It would seem that Mr. Simons and Mr. Mercer have had some disagreements in philosophy and maybe those disagreements extend to other employees. Whatever the facts of the matter, it seems that Mr. Mercer is no longer involved in the daily operation of Renaissance Technologies. I understand that he has moved down to Maryland to be closer to the political action going on in our capital.
The two biggest effects that we see in our local town is the recent appearance of million dollar cars in our little community…Lamborghinis, Ferraris, and super high end BMWs and Mercedes, for the more conservative Renaissance employees. The other result is the fact that our local area housing is amazingly high priced. The folks at Renaissance do not seem to be content with one house. They seem to buy up a cluster of two or three houses which they promptly tear down and rebuild into a more fitting single temple to their success.
So here I am in this little town of Setauket New York which according the Google, has a population of about 15,000 people. Yet, within this town are some really wealthy folks literally earning millions of dollars a year. And those people do not all work for Renaissance Technologies. We also have an amazing amount of doctors that seem to pull in a million or more dollars per year. Then there is the local Stonybrook University which has about 35,000 students in the next town over and some very wealthy professors. These days professors can be paid some pretty high salaries.
Speaking of professors, Mr. Simons began his career as a math professor. He was employed as a simple professor at Stonybrook University and then he got this idea he called “The Franklin Library.” It was a dictionary imbedded in a device the size of a calculator. Apparently, that device spurned the invention of other similar devices by Mr. Simons…a language translator, synonym dictionary, an electronic bible. Somewhere along the line, he got the idea to trade stocks and write algorithms to do that. So, from small acorns come large oak trees. His story is a true Horatio Alger story of success.
But at the same time, many of the people living on Long Island are unable to afford housing and are literally being kicked out of their homes.
I will give you a small idea about that. Two years ago, after we had rebuilt our front porch, one of the construction guys asked us if it was all right if a buddy of his took away some of the left over rotted wood from the old porch. Now the leftover wood we had was of no value as far as I could see, so I said great. Then we do not have to pay someone to take it to the town dump.
A few days later this not so well dressed shy guy came by to pick up the wood. He seemed to have several sweaters on even though it was a fairly warm fall day. I was curious so I went over to ask him what he was going to do with the wood.
”Burn it for heat,” he replied, then added, “It gets cold in the woods.”
This was shocking, so I asked “are you really living in the woods?”
”Yes,” he answered, “You’d be surprised how many of us there are.”
Where were they living, I asked. In the Pine Barrens, he replied. The Pine Barrons is a large undeveloped and heavily wooded area in the center of Long Island about 10 miles from where we live.
How did it happen that you are living in the woods, I asked. I have no place to go, he responded.
Then he told me his story. He had been working construction three years ago and the downturn in construction hit really hard. He ran out of money. His wife and kids ran out on him. He retreated to the woods and has been living there ever since.
The last time I spoke to him was the winter before last. Maybe his situation has gotten better since then. Perhaps, he has gotten a job. Perhaps, he has gotten housing and all is now well. I do not know.
I can only say that two winters ago he came several times to take the leftover wood. When it was all gone he stopped coming.
I will tell another story. This is the story of lady who had been married with a couple of children when the last child suffered problems while being born. The childbirth took several hours and for an extended period the child did not get oxygen. The result was that the child was alive, but comatose and unable to move any part of his body. Despite that terrible disability the mother opted to take care of this child at home. As you might guess this put a terrible strain on her marriage and within a few years her husband left her.
And as seems to be the usual lot in such separations, the husband found some reason not to pay alimony. I do not know if that was because he had no work or he was a bad guy or what. In any case, the lady was left without child support caring for a son who was alive but who could not move or speak.
This led to the lady trying to get work of any kind to support her kids. She worked for some time as a maid cleaning houses. She took odd jobs in stores to get an income. She worked for some time also as legal assistant to a lawyer, but unfortunately that good job did not last. And whatever income she was able to gather, even with some help from New York State, it was not enough to pay her mortgage on a timely basis. The result was that her house is now being foreclosed.
So, this lady and the homeless man I described are all living within 10 miles of Renaissance Technologies where many employees are multi-millionaires and some are multi-billionaires.
Yes, it is strange times in America.
Let me move on to some issues of this political moment. As now doubt you have heard, poor Theresa May is having difficulties getting the good people of England to make a clear decision about Brexit. She spent the last year and half putting together a deal that apparently no one in England wants. It seems that their country, like ours, is divided fairly evenly in political opinions and a little more than half of the people in England want to leave the EU while a little less than half want to stay in the EU. Discussions about this problem has been going on for almost two years and so far the results of the dispute is Nada.
Last week, a kind of a breakthrough occurred – Parliament voted down the deal that poor Theresa had been touting for almost two years and voted to delay Brexit. Previously, Theresa May had said I will only allow a delay over her dead body. Well, maybe, she did not say it quite that way. Apparently, Theresa has had second thoughts about being dead and therefore, with great reluctance she permitted a vote, which promptly occurred, to delay Brexit – the exact opposite result she was hoping for. Truly, she is a lady much spurned and yet, she carries on trying to bring her country a solution. Now that is perseverance.
Now the curious thing about this is that the EU has not said it would allow a delay, but given the wish/washy convictions of the EU, it is widely supposed that they will go along with an extended delay. So, once again, the can has been kicked down the road, although it is not quite clear if there is a wall at the end blocking the road.
Speaking of a wall, Mr. Trump has run into to some disagreement with Congress. They just voted down his power to declare a national emergency to build a wall. Mr. Trump promptly vetoed the bill. Now Congress and the Senate must try to override the President’s veto. That does not seem likely, so it would seem that Mr. Trump is back on track to build a wall. That also seems unlikely since lawyers all across the nation, of various party persuasions, are all standing by to contest the President’s right to declare an emergency to build a wall. So, you can say again the can has been kicked down the road and all are dissatisfied, just like Theresa May and all the good peoples of England.
Mr. Trump has not had the best of months. He went off to Asia to conclude a nuclear deal with his buddy, Kim Jong-un. Previously, he had described their relationship as a love fest. It did not take long for Mr. Trump to discover that Mr. Kim was not in a love fest mood. It seems Mr. Trump did not want lift sanctions and Mr. Kim did not want to give away the farm, or in this case, his nuclear arsenal. So, Mr. Trump, who has always said he is magic dealmaker, said he also knows when to walk out on a deal that is not right. He then promptly walked out on the deal, apparently even before the scheduled meetings were finished.
Thereafter, there was a little dispute about what actually happened, who volunteered to do what, who was going to give up what in return for what. The North Koreans said one thing and Mr. Trump and his guys said another. What was clear was that there was true disagreement on what to agree about. After Mr. Kim got back to North Korea, he said he was re-thinking this whole negotiating thing and maybe it was a good time to go back to shooting off missiles and improving nuclear weapons for a while.
This seemed to have an effect on the Chinese who had been hoping to conclude a trade truce with Mr. Trump. Apparently, seeing Mr. Trump walk out of his negotiations with Mr. Kim gave the Chinese second thoughts. They were thinking that Mr. Xi, the Chinese Emperor, might come here to sit down with Mr. Trump and have Mr. Trump walk out on Mr. Xi. Nobody walks out on Chinese Emperors. So the meeting that was supposed to take place at the end of March has been postponed “for three or four weeks”.
It was just another case of the can being kicked down. Now, personally, I have lot at stake with this particular can. Our company imports about 40% of our products from China and inflatable boats, for some reason I cannot explain, are among the products coming from China that are being tariffed. I find this strange because there is no American industry for inflatable boats and therefore tariffs on inflatable boats do not help or support any American companies.
I know Mr. Trump has said he just loves that fact that the Chinese are paying billions of dollars tariffs into the U.S. treasury. I am here to say that Mr. Trump is fibbing. The Chinese are not paying billions into the U.S. Treasury, American companies are paying billions of dollars into the U.S. Treasury. That is the actual fact Jack. No bucks being paid by Chinese folks, only bucks being paid by Americans. I am here to tell you that is true and though I have not paid billions of dollars in tariffs, I have paid over $150,000 in tariffs in just the last 3 months. So, I for one, would like to see the dealmaker make a deal.
I cannot say that I am optimistic about that. I think the most likely event is that the tariffs will stay in place and American companies will keep paying the tariffs and the can will be kicked down the road. In the meantime, I will hope the Chinese promise not steal American trade secrets and America agrees to remove the tariffs. But that is only a hope.
Whatever you can say about the present moment, I think it is true that big changes are coming and not all of them will be good.