Who’s In Charge?

Several friends have posted pictures of their cats today and it reminded me of a funny anecdote. I have a cat at my office. She is very regal and pompous. She also kills whatever critters are about, which is nice because that’s why I adopted her.

Occasionally, my Wife is kind enough to stop by and clean the office. While She is sweeping or vacuuming, my cat, whose name is Catarina, (or just ‘Cat’ for short) , will find the highest perch she can and then stare down on my Wife, often without moving for several moments. The Wife says that it makes Her feel like a servant to have someone watching over Her every move like this.

A Coach’s Dream

I can’t believe I forgot to share this! #2 won several awards at the end of the season, and has since had a dozen (or more!), colleges after him to play football. (I’ll let him make his formal announcement). It’s not every kid who gets called, “A coach’s dream”. Plus, he’s maintained a 3.9 GPA despite all the worries certain academics had about his homeschool background. I’m proud of you Andrew!

My Three Sopranos

One of the unexpected benefits of my Fed-funded sabbatical was learning to sing.  I discovered that one of the other guys  taking a break from real life was a classically trained baritone singer.   I thought that singing occasionally might be a great way to escape, so to speak, from the routines of the day and asked him if he’d be willing to spend some time working on it with me.  He was thrilled, and with some ideas from “Singing for Dummies”, we began a journey that would last about 18 months and change my life.

I had always sung in church, or at least, did what I thought was singing, but Scott helped me to overcome that disability.  Twice a week we met in the music room and worked on posture, breathing, expanding the chest, utilizing head voice…all the other things every novice studies on the path to singing (better).  I learned that singing was not just speaking more loudly and slurring words together, but an entirely different function of the body.  Eventually I was able to lead with some confidence our fledgling Catholic group in singing a few well-known hymns and chants at our weekly meetings.

But the real payoff came when I got home, and it wasn’t my conscription into the choir; one night I heard one of my boys singing Tantum Ergo or some other chant he’d heard at Church and stopped in my tracks while he effortlessly sung the notes an octave or two above how they had been written and realized there was substantial raw talent there.  I quickly  had him run through some songs I knew he was familiar with and found that #5 was truly gifted.

Soon I had the entire family in the living room singing various songs they were all familiar with, and trying to listen to the individual voices.  Through a process of elimination I discovered three sopranos with amazing natural talent.  #5, #6 and #7 all had such pure voices it could make a hardened career criminal cry-or at least get goose bumps.  So I mentioned it off-handedly to our pastor, and the choir nazi, both of whom urged immediate, formal evaluation.

The next afternoon the three candidates and I went to the church and found the two men waiting nervously for us.  They started out with a few basic exercises and I could tell from the size of their eyes that both men were delighted with what they were hearing.  Within minutes we agreed on a practice schedule and their enlistment into church service.

What follows is their first-ever public performance.  When they hit their first notes perfectly and in unison, every waking person in the church turned to see just where that sound had come from.  Enjoy!

Playing Well With Others

Several years ago during my time at ClubFed our kids were forced into public school. Sheriff’s deputies arrived at the house where The Wife and the kids were staying temporarily and told her she’d go to jail and the kids would go into foster homes if she didn’t put them in school within 24 hours. So our children, who had known nothing of public school life, found themselves in the jungle that is public school culture.

#2, age 17, is universally liked. He’s simply got one of those pleasing personalities and even temperament (unless he’s gotten less

#2
#2

than 8 hours of sleep). Even on the football field opponents who’ve been run over or knocked out of the game will return with a smile and thank him for the experience.  I heard a story related about him recently that I simply had to share.

Several years ago during my time at ClubFed our kids were forced into public school. Sheriff’s deputies arrived at the house where The Wife and the kids were staying temporarily and told her she’d go to jail and the kids would go into foster homes if she didn’t put them in school within 24 hours. So our children, who had known nothing of public school life, found themselves in the jungle that is public school culture.

For #1 and #2, that meant high school, and the boys suddenly found themselves in a demographic, social and ethnic mix unlike anything they’d ever experienced (and these were boys who’d navigated the subway in Mexico City and the back alleys in rural Guatemala without a problem).

Anyway, the story goes that #2 was in class waiting for the teacher to begin when another student, a young black man, arrived to class and, seeing a friend, said loudly, “What up, my nigger?”  There’s nothing particularly unusual about that greeting in my experience, except the teacher thought to take issue with it.

“Why is it acceptable for you to speak to your friend in this manner when it would be wrong for me or a white student to use that language?”, the teacher asked.  The kid responded in what I have learned is the canned response, “Because he’s my brother, and you know, that’s how we talk to one another.  You’re white.”

The teacher, flustered by the answer and now uncertain of herself, looked for support from other students in the class.  Knowing Andrew to be well mannered, polite, and docile, asked him, “Andrew, if one of your friends showed up in class, how would you greet him?”  Andrew thought about it for a moment, shrugged, and said, “I would just say, ‘Hello, friend'”.

The class burst out in laughter at that, no one more so than the black kids, who spread the story after class such that from 9th to 12th grade, black students would see Andrew and greet him enthusiastically with “Hello, friend”!  Although it’s been two years since the boys attended that high school, his reputation follows him to this day; just recently Andrew was sent on a trip to Walmart and encountered a black kid he vaguely recognized at the other end of a long, deserted isle, waving furiously and yelling loudly, “Hello, friend!”.

Why does the economy seem so strong but feel so wrong?

Jim Rickards is the Financial Threat and Asymmetric Warfare Advisor for the DOD and Central Intelligence and he recently reviewed a report by senior intelligence officials that estimated the greatest threats to the United States. At the top of the list was no Muslim terrorism (of any flavor), but instead, imminent economic collapse.

Jim Rickards is the Financial Threat and Asymmetric Warfare Advisor for the DOD and Central Intelligence and he recently reviewed a report by senior intelligence officials that estimated the greatest threats to the United States.  At the top of the list was no Muslim terrorism (of any flavor), but instead, imminent economic collapse.

There are eight slides he used to drive this point home in a recent interview.

The first slide shows the declining impact of $1 of federal spending on the economy:

Rickards-Bang-for-Buck-Spending-1024x482

A lot could be said about that but the results are obvious. Fifty years ago the Feds could spend a dollar and it would generate $2.41 in economic value, while today, that $1 of spending results in only 3 cents of economic value.  This is because of fraud, waste, abuse and spending money on programs that ensure votes rather than generate growth.

The velocity of money-the rate at which money moves through the economy-is also falling sharply.

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We’re nearing a point not seen since the 1920s!

And the so called misery index, which measures a combination of inflation and unemployment, is worse than it was in the stagflation days of Jimmy Carter.  Not if we rely on the manipulated government data, of course, but on the estimates by economists not on the government payroll.

Rickards-Misery-Index-1024x482

These numbers are also worse than the Great Depression!

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The Fed’s debt to capital ratio has gone up nearly 400%, from a pre-2008 high of 22 to 2 to a current ratio of 77 to 1.  This means that for every dollar on hand, the Fed used to have 10 dollars in debt.  In order to finance the recent bailouts and spending, the Fed has had to borrow far more money, which means we now owe $77 for every $1 on hand.
Rickards-Fed-Debt-to-Capital-Leverage-Ratios1-1024x447

The Fed is not the only one who is overextended.  Private banks have grown their debt as well-since they can borrow money essentially free, they are encouraged to do so.  Taking on more debt can be rationalized when you’re growing-not unlike a homeowner borrowing against a house that is rapidly appreciating, but in this case banks are taking on debt 30 times faster than the economy is growing.  This is what precipitated the Great Depression.