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 … Read the rest

Playing Well With Others

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

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 … Read the rest

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

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 … Read the rest

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.

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.

Rickards-Velocity-of-Money-1024x380

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!

Rickards-Misery-Now-Index-v-Great-Depression-1024x305

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 … Read the rest

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.

Rickards-Velocity-of-Money-1024x380

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!

Rickards-Misery-Now-Index-v-Great-Depression-1024x305

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 … Read the rest

What Microsoft’s Layoffs Mean for You

Although Microsoft no longer gets the gushing, media-fawning attention that Google, Facebook and some younger, more ‘hip’ tech companies do, it is still a gigantic, hugely profitable industry giant.  Microsoft employs more than 130,000 people and has annual revenue of nearly $100 billion, profit margins of about 20% and their stock is up more than 21% since they named a new CEO in January.  And yet, they’re laying off 18,000 people.

What’s up?

I think the leadership at Microsoft sees trouble on the horizon.  They’re looking back at the last five years and all the money the Federal reserve has pumped into the economy, much of which has gone not to Main Street, but WallStreet, where it has been lent out to big companies (like Microsoft), who’ve used it to go on a mergers and acquisitions spending spree.  Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia is one such example.

In fact, there has been more than $700 billion dollars of mergers and acquisitions in the United States so far this year.  That’s the most since the high-flying days before the 2008 Great Recession, and likely to set an all-time record by year’s end.  Insiders will even admit that they’re taking advantage of inflated stock prices and virtually ‘free’ money to buy up weaker competitors.

So what’s the problem?

Microsoft’s massive layoffs, (despite great margins, fantastic sales growth and a soaring stock market), suggest management is worried about the future.  They have good cause to worry, because the Fed has already hinted they are … Read the rest

Although Microsoft no longer gets the gushing, media-fawning attention that Google, Facebook and some younger, more ‘hip’ tech companies do, it is still a gigantic, hugely profitable industry giant.  Microsoft employs more than 130,000 people and has annual revenue of nearly $100 billion, profit margins of about 20% and their stock is up more than 21% since they named a new CEO in January.  And yet, they’re laying off 18,000 people.

What’s up?

I think the leadership at Microsoft sees trouble on the horizon.  They’re looking back at the last five years and all the money the Federal reserve has pumped into the economy, much of which has gone not to Main Street, but WallStreet, where it has been lent out to big companies (like Microsoft), who’ve used it to go on a mergers and acquisitions spending spree.  Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia is one such example.

In fact, there has been more than $700 billion dollars of mergers and acquisitions in the United States so far this year.  That’s the most since the high-flying days before the 2008 Great Recession, and likely to set an all-time record by year’s end.  Insiders will even admit that they’re taking advantage of inflated stock prices and virtually ‘free’ money to buy up weaker competitors.

So what’s the problem?

Microsoft’s massive layoffs, (despite great margins, fantastic sales growth and a soaring stock market), suggest management is worried about the future.  They have good cause to worry, because the Fed has already hinted they are … Read the rest

Failure to Communicate

My children’s teachers send notes home with the textbooks asking for my estimation of their books in several categories. The Wife was visibly relieved when I quickly volunteered to review, comment and sign on the 53 different forms brought home by the seven enrolled there. Now I suspect she intercepts the children before they bring the books to me. Here’s why:

I know that what the teachers want is my assessment of the physical condition of the book so that when my kid drops it in the kitty litter, runs over it with his bike, spills Ramen on it, leaves it at soccer practice when it starts raining, uses a corndog as a bookmark, or allows #11 to use it to write the one word he knows in 37 different crayon colors and then seal his work with his unique “day old chocolate milk” mark, that I’ll be on the hook for it’s degradation from “fair with binding that appears to have propped open the garage door in three different families” to “are you kidding me?”.

However, I use the forms to send my feedback on the curriculum itself. I comment on science books that teach modernist theories contrary to the Catholic faith, math books that fail to explain the theory of “zero” or “infinity”, or history books that regurgitate Yankee propaganda about the War of Northern Aggression. My expectations are not unreasonable; it’s not like I expect them to explain to 8th graders the travesty of the 17th Amendment, … Read the rest

My children’s teachers send notes home with the textbooks asking for my estimation of their books in several categories. The Wife was visibly relieved when I quickly volunteered to review, comment and sign on the 53 different forms brought home by the seven enrolled there. Now I suspect she intercepts the children before they bring the books to me. Here’s why:

I know that what the teachers want is my assessment of the physical condition of the book so that when my kid drops it in the kitty litter, runs over it with his bike, spills Ramen on it, leaves it at soccer practice when it starts raining, uses a corndog as a bookmark, or allows #11 to use it to write the one word he knows in 37 different crayon colors and then seal his work with his unique “day old chocolate milk” mark, that I’ll be on the hook for it’s degradation from “fair with binding that appears to have propped open the garage door in three different families” to “are you kidding me?”.

However, I use the forms to send my feedback on the curriculum itself. I comment on science books that teach modernist theories contrary to the Catholic faith, math books that fail to explain the theory of “zero” or “infinity”, or history books that regurgitate Yankee propaganda about the War of Northern Aggression. My expectations are not unreasonable; it’s not like I expect them to explain to 8th graders the travesty of the 17th Amendment, … Read the rest