Category Archives: MONEY

Money – the Universal Religion

Good for the Gander

“I won’t go into a lot of detail but will list only some key concerns: the long-term fiscal and tax issues (driven mostly by healthcare and Social Security costs, as well as… “Jamie Dimon.

James “Jamie” Dimon is an American business executive, the good looking one in the picture. He is chairman, president and chief executive officer of JPMorgan Chase, largest of the Big Four American banks, and previously served on the Board …  March 13, 1956 (age 60), NYC, NY.

March THIRTEENTH the Day of FATEFUL PREDICTION: Those born on March 13 lead fateful lives, which in retrospect could be said to have turned around a few chance happenings. Most individuals born on this day strongly believe in predetermined occurrences, moreover, and are prone to making predictions about the world and the lives of others. There is something of the oracular about much of what March 13 people say. They often utter their analyses of the world and its problems with a kind of knowing finality.

Jamie is the Big Man on Wall Street and when he says that there is a big problem with the unfunded liabilities of Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid you best believe him. Jamie’s total compensation for 2016 is $23 million with a base salary of $1.5 million. JPMorgan and Jamie pay Social Security tax only on the first $118,000 due to the earnings cap.

Maximum Taxable Earnings:  2015 2016
Social Security (OASDI only): 15.3% $118,500 $118,500*
Medicare (HI only) 2.9%

N o   L i m i t

What’s good for the goose is good for the gander Jamie and JP should pay 1.500,000 x 15.3% = $229,500 in payroll taxes just like us regular geese.

ALL THAT GLITTERS IS NOT GOLD

US_Dollar

All that glisters is not gold;

Often have you heard that told:
Many a man his life hath sold
But my outside to behold:
Gilded tombs do worms enfold.
Had you been as wise as bold,
Young in limbs, in judgement old
Your answer had not been inscroll’d
Fare you well, your suit is cold.

I boarded a KC-130 cargo plane on August 15, 1971 for a free ride to Rio de Janeiro, with an intermediate stop in Panama. The next morning I reported to Howard Air-force Base operations and got a “sorry Charlie” no flight to Brazil today – Nixon closed the Gold Window – nobody knows what to do.

crook

I never liked ‘Tricky Dick’ after I stood on the curb to wave at his caravan from the Cincinnati airport when he was the 1960 Republican candidate running against JFK. My enigmatic mother had raised me to read body language at the attenuated level of today’s most sophisticated facial recognition software. I voted for George Wallace in 1968 as a protest vote in the Nixon-Humphrey presidential race. Although I was drafted twice in the Vietnam era, what really hurt was Nixon’s signature on my Honorable Discharge document.

 

I was serving my last six months of military service as a recruiter in the OSO (Officer Selection Office) in my hometown Cincinnati, Ohio, when an USAF sergeant touted space-available free air travel on MAC flights. All I had to do was drive to Charleston, SC. and get on a jet plane – the embassy-run – going on it’s weekly visit to the ten capitals of South America. All went well, the Howard AFB softball baseball team and I were the only passengers riding inside this empty 747 sized aircraft. Four hours later we arrived at the base and my only confusion was asking for directions to the BOQ which is called VOQ (Visiting Officers Quarters) in air force lingo.

 It wasn’t until Brexit, QE (Quantitative Easing), Lehman Brothers and the 2008 crash, that  I began to realize what Tricky Dick had done to the world economy 45 years ago. I got a ‘D’ in economics but after university I got an ‘A’ in new home sales because I knew enough about how-it-works to explain 100% financing, as no money down, to my first time home buyers.

However, the ‘invisible hand’ of Richard Nixon reaffirmed my lack of economic acumen when I took a liar loan (stated income) from Citi-mortgage in January 2008, using the naive thought that if the bank gives you the money it must be okay. When I should have gone with if you don’t need the money, it’s okay. Tricky Dick’s trick was to renege on the Bretton Woods Agreement.

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All the king’s men and all the king’s horses met at the George Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods, New York to let the US dollar be the world’s reserve currency as long as it was linked to gold, $35/oz in 1971. Truman, Eisenhower, and JFK played by the rules of the agreement but LBJ couldn’t pay for his “guns and butter” agenda of Vietnam and the ‘Great Society.’ Therefore, in 1965 and 1968 Congress helped him out by removing the 25% dollar/gold cover – every Federal Reserve Note issued they were required to have 1/4th of the denomination in bank vault gold.

This action allowed the Fed to print money to its heart’s content and enabled the politicians to spend it to infinity and beyond. The ‘Nixon Shock’ followed me to Park Ridge, Illinois Hillary Clinton’s hometown. I was hired by The Austin Company in May 1974 to watch while inflation went to 12% and the interest rate hit 21%. My East European co-workers opened Swiss bank accounts and contemplated the firm’s $100 offer if we bought a GM car, under the, “What’s good for General Motors is good for the country,” banner.

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Now I understand the ’73 Oil Embargo. The Saudi’s were paid in dollars and after Nixon debased the currency they raised the price from $2.50 a barrel to $25.00. Oil became liquid gold with an inverse relationship with the dollar. The more money the Fed prints the higher per barrel price of oil. That was true until 2015 when global GDP stopped growing and the demand for oil fell way below the supply.

My father made me a jitney, the forerunner of the go-kart. He put a lawnmower motor in my Red Flyer wagon and off I went cruising the neighbor at sub 20 mph speeds because he wisely installed a governor on the engine – no matter how much I put the pedal to the metal I couldn’t go above the twenty mark. So, you see what Tricky Dick did on August 15th, 1971 was remove the governor entirely – no more four to one ratio for gold backed Federal Reserve Bank Notes, just let her rip.

Follow the Decline of MONEY

money bridge

We Have Been Thrown Under the Money Bridge

The Emperor is always the last to learn that he is not wearing any clothes. America somehow thinks that September 11th, 2001 is Pearl Harbor II. America is worried that Lehman’s downfall on September 15th 2008 is the remake of the “Crash of ’29,” in 3D. Obama, the current emperor, thinks like FDR, that his government can save America with affordable health care, a free college education, and something called cap and trade. Unlike FDR, there are only merchants in Obama’s realm, all the farmers and manufacturers are living and working in China.

When Roosevelt said, “The nation that destroys its soil destroys itself,” in one of his famous “fireside chats” to share his solution for the 1937 dust bowl, he had a more balanced citizenry of farmers, merchants and manufacturers. The farmers had stopped making money after WWI (1914-1919), the merchant bankers had gone bust in 1929, the manufacturers had laid-off, 25% of their employees, and then in 1937 the topsoil of the Texas-Oklahoma Panhandle blew away, to once again reveal Coronado’s “Inland Desert.” FDR, like all the well intentioned emperors of America, tried to solve the problem but in the end only made it worse.

Obama, the merchant CEO, and Xi Jinping, the manufacturer-plantation overseer, are co-captaining the world’s largest super-tanker in uncharted waters. The co-captains are joined daily in the officers’ mess, by industry lobbyists, political party leaders and government technocrats, while the farmer crew cannibalizes the sea and soil, to keep the ship afloat. The earth is the iceberg and two-thirds of the problem lies below its surface. This is not a redo of ‘Titanic’ it’s the ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’ and Denzel Washington is under contract to play Obama. The evidence of impending disaster is everywhere, climate change, world hunger, US addiction to a corn obesity diet, desertification, over population, and the gaping disparity in rural-urban income.

Obama, the merchant CEO, has chosen to ignore the ‘Terrestrial Carbon Sequestration’ counsel of soil management experts and stick with the same merchant bankers who created the Lehman dance, while believing that this time, it will be different. The new FDR, thinks Roosevelt was using the “Farmer’s Almanac,” as a teleprompter when he delivered his “The nation that destroys its soil destroys itself,” quote. The tagline of the Obama administration is, “Yes, we won’t have inflation, even though we printed twice as much money, as we have in the bank.”

Xi Jinping, after his yearlong honeymoon with Obama, aboard the US-Sino Love boat, now thinks that the U.S. married China only for the dowry. After all China had sustained itself for 5,000 years, suffering only occasional bouts of indigestion, brought on by the unintended consequences of governmental actions. China and President Xi wouldn’t even be talking to President Obama, if ‘Tricky Dick’ hadn’t made that cold call on Chairman Mao. Can you blame Xi and the Chinese government for their skepticism when the U.S. never gave China the time of the day, until Wall Street collapsed? Then again Xi had no choice but to accept the co-captainship, because those no good Yankee merchant bankers had already sold China a bunch of ‘too big to fail’ banknotes.

Marco Polo, the first Yankee peddler who visited China, went back to Venice, bearing the technological advancements of printing, gun powder, and paper money, along with silk, the rude produce of the land. However, 600 years later, the Chinese emperors started losing faith in welcoming foreigners, after the British, under the banner of Yankee Imperialism, waged their “War to Sell Drugs.” China holed-up in her ‘mansion’ until those pesky Yankee traders, dangled the baubles of the Asian Tigers in front of Deng Xiaoping. As Professor Jiang has noted, from that day forward the Chinese farmer stopped making a living.

I think the boys up top need some help from down below. Yes, they are our leaders, our only hope of saving the world from itself. Yes, they are well intentioned, well educated, well respected and well thought of, and they still need our help. They could have used some pre-marital counseling, but as in most shotgun marriages there was no time for that. How do we tell the boss what he should do? How do we, in the ‘new top down world order’ speak up? How do we tell the co-emperors that they aren’t wearing any clothes?

Ever since Lincoln was shot, America’s farmers, manufacturers and merchants have tried to curry favor with the emperor and his entourage, by organizing themselves in associations. Alexis de Tocqueville, in 1835, came to the then 25 States, interviewed 200 business and political leaders, went back home and wrote his seminal work, “Democracy in America.” Tocqueville attributed America’s success in creating a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, to 1) associations of like-minded individuals, 2) a fresh start in the new world and 3) no interference from a powerful church. The United States and Mexico both were start-up constitutional democracies The Catholic Church divided the power with their colonial governments, whether they were democracies or dictatorships. Karl Rove’s Christian coalition is an example of the damage that can be done when religion is used to win an election. However, the power behind the Yankees, was their need to form associations of individuals united in a common cause. These networks of local citizens were then able to speak with one voice, on issues that were important to their members.

One such association, known as the Grange, after the end of the Civil War in 1867, helped the farmer get his fresh start after the two centuries of unintended consequences, caused by the slavery form of agricultural subsidies. The Grange actually was one of several adult education movements after the War and had contemporaries like the Knights of Labor and the Farmers’ Alliance. The National Grange of the Patrons of Husbandry, as it is officially known, was conceived by Oliver Hudson Kelley and several of his colleagues at the – believe it or not – U S. Department of Agriculture. The term “Grange” comes from England and means an old estate where a variety of agricultural activities were carried on. The mission of the Grange was meant to:

1) advance agriculture through education; 2) make farmers more aware of new farming methods and legislation that was affecting them; 3) improve the living and working conditions of farming families; 4) organize cooperative economic power; and 5) overcome their isolation. (Stubblefield, 1994)

The Grange had a rocky beginning, taking on and promising too much at once. They had their greatest gain during the depression of 1873, when farmers turned to politics to cure their political problems. By 1874, almost nine thousand Granges with a membership of 643,125 had been organized in twenty-four states (Woods, 1991). It declined thereafter, but picked up again in the late 1880s (Buck, 1913).

One of the Grange’s contribution as a movement was creating social and educational opportunities at the local, state and national level. They had some outside lecturers, but relied heavily on their own membership to interchange views, prepare papers, debates, and talks about issues of interest. It was less about getting knowledge from the “experts” than gathering information and forming opinions themselves, from the ground up through group involvement.

The Grange movement won several political battles for farmers. They strongly influenced the breakup of the power of railroads that set exorbitant prices for shipping crops and goods. This made it possible for farmers to actually make a living, instead of giving their earnings to the railroads to ship their produce. They conceived of and pushed for rural mail delivery, improved rural highways and greatly influenced the establishment and quality of rural schools. These are a few among many political accomplishments that the Grange was instrumental in bringing to the national, state and local debate.

Perhaps most unique as an organization of its time, the Grange was a forward-looking leader in the way that it handled membership and the participation of women. When the Grange was first in the minds of its creators, the men who were discussing it did not even consider membership of women to their organization. Caroline Hall, the niece of founder Oliver Hudson Kelley, told her uncle, “Your organization will never be permanent if you leave the women out!” (Gardner, 1949) The Grange went on to include women as full voting members, able to hold any of the sixteen offices in each local Grange hierarchy. Women became Grange masters, chaplains, secretaries, lecturers, gate keepers, etc. In fact, in order to begin a Grange, four of the necessary ten members had to be women. For many years’ women enjoyed many more rights and responsibilities within the Grange than in general American society.

Ask 10 people nowadays what the Grange is and they look puzzled. “Something to do with farms,” and “I’ve seen their halls,” is as close as they can come to defining the oldest agricultural organization in the country.

But in its heyday in the 1870s and in its strong community presence into the 1960s, the Grange was a force to be reckoned with. It was heralded for improving rural life even as some called it a cult. It was appreciated for providing halls and social gatherings that put the heart in some small communities.

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The farmers, after WWI, started abandoning the countryside for jobs in the cities, and formed associations of merchants and manufacturers, like Rotary, Lions, Kiwanis, and Toastmasters. The first three organizations were formed to help the individual business man succeed through the contacts and social relationships formed while performing community service projects. Toastmasters started out as a self-improvement (public speaking) offering of the Anaheim, CA, YMCA.

Zone Lion

At age fifty, following my mid-life crisis I joined Kiwanis, Lions, Toastmasters, and the late ‘30’s self-help group Alcoholics Anonymous. The Follett Lions Club was the Chamber of Commerce and the only non-denominational group in population 400, Follett, TX. ‘Vernie’ Schoenhals was the only farmer member and he was retired. We had the Texas A&M, PhD economist – I billed him as ‘the Alan Greenspan of the Prairie” – do an analysis on what the community could do to save itself from extinction. His well thought out answer was that we had a good transportation system – we could leave town by US 15 or hop a freight train. I could have called in a priest to give us ‘last rights’ but the Baptist majority wouldn’t have gone for it.

Barn Sugar Speakers

I joined Sugar Speaker Toastmasters when Shelby returned us back to Houston, to practice my, “why you should drive fifty miles out in the country for a $12 gallon of goat’s milk.” Maybe I should have joined the Optimist Club but as it turned out, talking out loud to your friends and fellow members has similar benefits to AA and group therapy that Kiwanis, Rotary, Lions and the Optimists can’t provide. Around midway in my stay at Sugar Speakers, Toastmasters International, began promoting itself as the world leader in both communications and leadership skills training.

I didn’t pay attention or immediately buy into that leadership stuff because after all I was a graduate (barely) from the nine month officers’ training course offered by U.S. Marine Corps, at Quantico, Virginia. However, eighteen months in Middle Kingdom Toastmasters Club, in Zhengzhou, Henan Province, China, had proven to me that I only learned the steps, the rules of leadership. Probably because my higher power and most assuredly the USMC didn’t want me to endanger the lives of others under my command, I never went to war. I was terrified of standing in front of the 127 enlisted in my artillery battery, and saying, “Men, follow me!” I’d rather try to tell 127 anybodies about my latest and greatest idea and cower at the first raised eyebrow of disbelief.

My Toastmasters experience in China is different, no raised eyebrows, just a “what did he say look,” no matter what topic I was pontificating on at the time. But real leadership training, I got because I was the only Yankee Toastmaster in the club. The Marine Corps only taught me the dance steps but Toastmasters China I got to practice dancing in front of a live audience.

In China, I was not self-conscious about my dancing, communication and leadership skills because nobody from my cultural group was watching. There are 300 million young adults (80 percent women, average age 24) who hunger and thirst for the Toastmasters oral English communications and leadership opportunity. Why? So they can get a good job, make money and see the world.

The Grange Society is dead, domestically Lions, Kiwanis and Rotary are, ‘on the ropes’ only AA (recovery of self) and Toastmasters (self realization) are growing at home and abroad. At Sugar Speakers, the membership is comprised of merchants of service (engineers, consultants, accountants, insurance, etc.), while the membership of Beijing Advanced, On The Way and Middle Kingdom is primarily merchants of educational services and manufacturers of technology hardware and software.

“All things considered,” my goal is to introduce Toastmasters to Henan and Zhenghou Universities as the most effective and efficient way to learn to speak English fluently and while learning the international language, develop their communication and leadership skills. The college crowd can then bring the farmer population on board with Mandarin Toastmaster clubs. Think of it as a Grange Society with Chinese characteristics.

Help Is On The Way

Before graduation as a Marine Officer, membership in the Navy Federal Credit Union was required to pay for a $1,000’s worth of uniforms and sword – I really wanted the sword.  Come to find out that Hashgraph’s, first name brand customer, was CUNA, the 1,000 member, Credit Union National Association of which the NFCU was its biggest lender. Ipso facto, I became a near instant, after ten ‘youtubers’ on Bitcoin vs Hashgraph, believer in the genius of Leemon Baird.

Semper Fi

Turkey is the Suez Canal of China’s New Silk Road

Cry not for Turkey – they didn’t get in the European Union, the Euro and a Greek like collapse. They joined the wrong side, the German side, the losing side in WWI and won their independence. Turkey lost their Ottoman Empire that stretched from Baku to Venice, but was relieved of all Arabic speaking nation-states. After Ataturk, put the ABC’s in the Turkish language, the country became the Geo-political Rosetta Stone of the Mid-East.

Today the East (China) meets the West in Istanbul with their One Belt One Road Initiative. Railroads and pipelines, instead of camels, boats and planes are the new modes of transportation. Nobody likes nobody today, tomorrow or yesterday but they all like money. Egypt accepts everybody’s money that uses their Suez Canal. The same thing goes on in Panama, so much so, that China is building another canal in Nicaragua.

Now comes the Baku-Tblisi-Kars (BTK) railway – inaugurated with great fanfare by Erdogan alongside Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili, but also crucially Kazakh Prime Minister Bakhytzhan Sagintayev and Uzbek Prime Minister Abdulla Aripov. After all, this is about the integration of the Caucasus with Central Asia.

Erdogan actually went further: BTK is “an important chain in the New Silk Road, which aims to connect Asia, Africa, and Europe.” The new transportation corridor is configured as an important Eurasian hub linking not only the Caucasus with Central Asia but also, in the Big Picture, the EU with Western China.

The Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline, a deal brokered in person in Baku by the late Dr Zbigniew “Grand Chessboard” Brzezinski, was a major energy/geopolitical coup by the Clinton administration, laying out an umbilical steel cord between Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey.

BTK is just the beginning, considering the long-term strategy of Chinese-built high-speed rail from Xinjiang across Central Asia all the way to Iran, Turkey, and of course, the dream destination: the EU. Erdogan can clearly see how Turkey is strategically positioned to profit from it.

Of course, BTK is not a panacea. Other connectivity points between Iran and Turkey will spring up, and other key BRI interconnectors will pick up speed in the next few years, such as the Eurasian Land Bridge across the revamped Trans-Siberian and an icy version of the Maritime Silk Road: The Northern Sea Route across the Arctic.

What’s particularly interesting in the BTK case is the Pipelineistan interconnection with the Trans-Anatolian Gas Pipeline(TANAP), bringing natural gas from the massive Azeri gas field Shah Deniz-2 to Turkey and eventually the EU.

Turkish analyst Cemil Ertem stresses, “just like TANAP, the BTK Railway not only connects three countries, but also is one of the main trade and transport routes in Asia and Europe, and particularly Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan ports. It connects Central Asia to Turkey with the Marmaray project in Istanbul and via the Caspian region. Along with the Southern Gas Corridor, which constitutes TANAP’s backbone, it will also connect ports on the South China Sea to Europe via Turkey.”

Cry not for Turkey, she is in the right place at the right time.

THE SMALL TOWN ELITE AND THE PIANO BANK

mbg-gosport“With your project and two more just like it, I’ll be an expert.”

I designed the bank operations center for New Jersey National Bank, in Ewing Township which included lunch at Princeton University. I sensed that with two more bank ‘paper factories’ just like NJNB I’d be an expert in data center design. That was in the Autumn of 1978 and by 1981 I had personally interviewed hundreds of computer jocks and their fellow paper-pushers – euphemistically referred to as ‘end-users’ in the architectural design trade.

My job was to size up the bank to determine how big the future facility should be and layout the workflow arrangement of the various departments. As an EDP (Electronic Data Processing) expert I got to fly first class all over the country and even Singapore translating  bank assets into square footage. I’d take out my Case Western Reserve University TI statistics calculator to construct a linear progression analysis of constant dollar growth to physical bank data processing requirements.

NCNB in Charlotte is a good example of my expertise chicanery. Back then they had gone from 3 billion to 5 billion by gobbling out of state banks. Today, they have grown through acquisition to become known as Bank of America with $2.3 trillion  in assets. Back in 1980 the original BOA had two 400,000 sqft operations centers one in LA and one in SF. As an expert, I got to help evaluate how much our proposed 750,000 sqft center for Security Pacific Bank – now part of the BOA that began as NCNB and why it’s HQ ended up in Charlotte, NC. – by taking my rule-of-thumb TI pocket calculator and multiplying $300/sq ft X computer area + $100/sq ft x office area =  an easy $100 million.

liberace-on_stage_with_rhinestone_piano-760234On a snowy day in the winter of ’81 I found myself interviewing the computer jock mafia of Denver’s Central Bank & Trust Co. a subsidiary of Baldwin United. The Baldwin, in Baldwin United was my father’s employer for 25 years, the Baldwin Piano & Organ Co. in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The jocks’ machine room was in the rotunda shaped lobby of the bank – I searched my TI pocket for calculating the area of a circle, was it  A=πr2? So, I pivoted and asked them about the bank’s asset growth. “Well, we’ve gone from $838 million in 1973 to almost $9 billion today.”

“Holy Toledo Batman, what we have here is a whale in a bathtub” – that makes Baldwin Piano the bank, bigger than my last assignment with NCNB. Howzcum, I never heard of this outfit before?

main-streetGosport, Indiana in its prime

When I called Marion, aka my father, in Altamonte Springs, FL. to tell him the news he sounded worried. The bulk of his savings were in Baldwin United stock now trading at $50/ share and he was worried that CEO Morley Thompson’s financial engineering might come a cropper – could I check it out?

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Marion Benson Gregory was born on September 13, 1913 and I was born on his 30th birthday in 1943. Marion is my small town (Gosport population 700) elite because his father owned the poultry house and built the biggest home in Gosport in 1915 on 2+ acres. When he wasn’t candling eggs for his father he was hanging out at Herschel Walker’s radio repair shop. His electronics avocation led him to P. R. Mallory in Indianapolis to ride out FDR’s depression and a deferment from active duty in WWII.

teg-baby-sueMy sister Sue came along in 1946 to make the Gregory’s an upwardly mobile middle class family of an electrical engineer father and stay-at-home mother. We moved from the Circle-City suburbs to a countryside home in the 70 peeps Quaker community of Valley Mills that made for a 30 mile commute to P. R. Mallory. Marion brought Everett and Eva aka Marion’s parents to live downstairs off the living room.

quilting-bee

Marion became the wizard of Thompson Road when he brought home this monster metal box with a 7 inch TV screen and the whole neighborhood watched the 1948 Indianapolis 500. Child wise there was Nancy, Bud, Sis, Sue and me playing cowboys and Indians as seen on 7 inch TV.  Easter egg hunt and Halloween at the Society of Friends and sled riding down the only slope in the road. The quilting bee ladies added that Norman Rockwell ambiance to my childhood until June 1950 when Marion announced that we were all moving to the big city, Cincinnati.

sue-teg-rakeHOOSIER ECONOMIC MIGRANT CHILDREN IN CINCINNATI

I don’t know how Marion got the job with the Baldwin Piano & Organ Company. This was in 1950 way before Linkedin and Craig’s List. Marion’s WWII work experience involved developing electronics for the military which meshed well with Baldwin’s  1946, introduction of its first electronic organ (developed in 1941), which became so successful that the company changed its name to the Baldwin Piano & Organ Company.

baldwin-factory-exteriorAll sister Sue and I knew was that instead of seven kids in the whole village of Valley Mills, Indiana, we had over seventy kids in our one block of Mooney Avenue in the Cincinnati suburb Hyde Park. The house was bigger because it had a huge attic and equally sized basement. We toted our metal Roy Rogers lunchboxes containing one Esther prepared P&J and one boiled ham with sandwich spread, plus an apple to elementary school. Every weekday morning Marion fired up his ’49 Mercury sedan and drove off to work.

dwight-d-eisenhower-kennedyBetween Eisenhower and JFK, Baldwin went on strike and Marion started spending a lot of time traveling to Arkansas to set up cheap Open Shop factories in the Right to Work sunbelt. In 1959, Baldwin constructed a new piano manufacturing plant in Conway, Arkansas, originally to manufacture upright pianos. In 1961 Baldwin constructed a new piano factory in Greenwood Mississippi. Subsequently production of upright pianos was moved from Cincinnati, Ohio to Greenwood.

harveyMarion took me on a tour of his new office – no more engineering department lab bench but an elevator ride to a real office with a view. Sister Sue, Esther and I went along in our past expiration date Oldsmobile for Marion’s two week, not an option, vacation trips from Ludington, Michigan to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I was in Strength of Materials class, fumbling with my slide rule, when someone ran in and said, “Kennedy has been shot.” That weekend I got to see Ruby shoot Oswald live on our big 24 inch, still B&W TV.

maxresdefaultMarion announced over green beans, mashed potatoes and meatloaf that he was going to Tokyo. A month or two after his return with a six pack of Japanese woodcut prints, Yamaha-San aka Mr. Stinky Feet – no matter how we tried to convince him to leave his shoes on – showed up as our house guest.  Yamaha was on the leading edge in the use of transistors instead of vacuum tubes in their electronic organs. Marion had the unenviable task of addressing church groups on why they should pay more for an old technology Baldwin versus the Yamaha.

sigma-chi1946-1964 in Fourth Turning parlance is the kick-off generation of an 80 year, four generation boom to bust saga that proceeds through the 20 year stages of A High, An Awakening, An Unraveling and A Crisis. Marion, my ‘G.I. Generation’ father, with only two years of Fenn Business College, got himself out of Gosport, through Indianapolis during the War years, and well on his way to actualizing the American Dream. Sister Sue graduated from WHHS in ’64 and entered U of Miami allowing Marion to say that his kids had it better than he did. I found my sense of belonging living in the Sigma Chi fraternity house, where I no longer had to go to Sunday school or even church. I was free to smoke, drink and drive “here, there or anywhere.”

corvetteMy future in the 1964-1984 2nd Turning: An Awakening was looking good.

MORLEY, CARL & CHARLIE THE  BAD BOYS OF CINCINNATI

At Sunday school in the basement of the First Church of Christ Scientist, Norwood, we would discuss the Hegelian side of DIALECTICAL MATERIALISM. The teacher would tap the table with the meta-physical theme that the table was not real, only the idea of the table was real. Jesus was the physical manifestation of the spiritual, Christ like idea.

original-united-dairy-farmersAs soon as class was over Marion would pick us up and drive over to Carl Lindner’s United Dairy Farmers’ store for eggs, bread, milk, at least two half-gallons of ice cream and smearcase.

According to Ms. Costello, smearcase is a Pennsylvania Dutch term for cottage cheese. It’s from the word Schmierkase meaning soft cheese that can be smeared or spread.

Sister Sue and I always thought Marion was nuts with the smearcase request cause anybody could see it was cottage cheese. However, we were enjoying the Karl Marx or in the case of UDF, Carl Lindner’s material side of DIALECTICAL MATERIALISM. The ice cream tasted very real and Karl M. or Carl L. or whoever came up with the idea should be complimented.

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Morley P. Thompson, appointed president of the company in 1970. Having graduated from the Harvard Business School in 1950, Thompson had started out as a door-to-door piano salesman. His skill at shuffling money among subsidiaries to limit corporate taxes and generate acquisition funds won him a reputation as a financial “wizard.”

Thompson would not be satisfied with a mere sideline in finance; he wanted to fashion a major conglomerate out of the nation’s largest keyboard company. Under his guidance, Baldwin acquired literally dozens of financial services firms in the 1970s and early 1980s. At its peak, the company controlled over 200 insurance companies, banks, savings and loan institutions, and investment firms.

liberace-baldwinThe D. H. Baldwin Company, a musical‐instrument manufacturer that diversified into banking in 1968, has disclosed that it received approval from the Federal Reserve Board to acquire five banks in Colorado with total assets of $130‐million.

With the acquisitions, Baldwin, which owns the $396.6‐million Central Bank and Trust Company and the $305‐million Empire Savings Building and Loan Association, both of Denver, would have financial institutions in Colorado with some $830‐million in assets.

Morley had pulled the piano strings better than Liberace by tuning-up that $830 million into $9 billion, by the time I arrived on the scene with my sketch pad in 1981.

lead_960Two years later, the Baldwin Data Center in Lakewood, CO. was up and running – we had already toured several prospective clients through the facility.  Fred Gould, the facility manager, graciously took our banking prospects around, even sharing the scandal of the security guards making CCTV video tapes of the female employees on the jogging track. Fred, in private, shared the bigger scoop, he was looking for another job because Baldwin United was headed to bankruptcy. Things were not going well in Altamonte Springs either, Marion’s $50 shares were now worth 50 cents a share.

Architecture is a leading economic indicator – when architects and engineers have work – the overall economy is going well. My employer, The Austin Company, in 1983-84 was doing gang busters in bank computer centers and newspaper printing plants. However, my expertise in bank facilities was not enough to save Marion from losing his 25 years of life savings in Baldwin Piano & Organ profit sharing stock.

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The night before I was supposed to kick-off a study of a real bank, Mellon Bank in Pittsburgh, sister Sue called to say that Marion had had a heart attack and was no longer on the material side of DIALECTICAL MATERIALISM. Louise Hay, a Mary Baker Eddy on steroids, says that from the meta-physical perspective, a heart attack is caused by fears over career or money. Marion may have overdosed on smearcase but I vote losing  the loot at age 67 was what did him in.

salesman-496x300The Awakening, the 2nd Turning 1964-1984  left me disillusioned.  I threw my EMBA calculator out the window for a career in sales and marketing that was foreshadowed in Willy Loman’s Death of a Salesman.

THE BIG ZIMBABWEOSKI

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Where are the wheelbarrows? Every time in world economic history, when the government begins printing money exponentially the banknotes face value goes from one to a million, to a billion and in the case of the Big Zimbabweoski a trillion. Why have we not yet seen Americans waddling behind their Home Depot wheelbarrow full of dollars into Wal-Mart to buy groceries.

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The coming apocalypse, you know the one where Hillary stands between us and the apocalypse or she is the bridge to the apocalypse. Whether we call it the Apocalypse Soon or the Big Zimbabweoski, there should be people pushing wheelbarrows of worthless greenbacks. Germany’s Weimar Republic did the job in four years 1919-1923, we’ve been cranking out the ‘moolah’ since Nixon took us off the gold standard in August 1971. In the brief four generation history of money JFK realized that the ‘jig’ was up and tried to bypass the Fed with his EO #11.110.

jfk-in-officeJFK started printing his own money issued by the US Treasury, like Abe Lincoln’s ‘greenbacks’ during the Civil War. Five months after JFK was shot the Kennedy dollars were recalled, leaving the printing presses to the Fed. The Fed was limited to a 4/1 ratio of paper to gold. LBJ got the bright idea of spending 100 million a day in Vietnam which was peanuts compared to his $22 trillion (in today’s dollars) Great Society.

nixon-shock-smWhen, Tricky Dick took six more years to end the war the Fed was already maxed out on the $32/oz equals $128 of fiat, wheelbarrow money. The “Nixon Shock” closed the gold window, ended the Bretton Woods Agreement and opened the door to Zimbabwe land.

However, we have to go to the next generation 1982-2004, the Millennials, the 3rd Turning, the Unravelling and Alan Greenspan the “Great Unraveller.”

If You Can’t Do, Exponentiate

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Greenspan, the Mona Lisa of Central banks, responded to the flash crash of 1987, the Dot.Com bust of 2001 and the housing bubble by printing an additional 3.5 trillion paperbacks on the Nixon legacy of 1.5 trillion. Leaving the Fed in 2006 with, “Not to worry we can always print more money.” Which brings us to the 4th Turning, the Crisis 2005-2026 and the seven-year reign of Helicopter Ben Bernanke.

Never let a crisis go to waste

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Bernanke took the Lehman Brothers baton and ran with it, putting his 4 trillion of paper onto the 4 trillion that Greenspan left. He got the handle, “Helicopter Ben” because in the 21st century you don’t need wheelbarrows to haul the fiat money door-to-door, you digitize it. However, when the 4 trillion went directly to the bourgeoisie 1% and zilch to the rest of us, Ben suggested dropping the printed material from the sky on the proletariat 99%.

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No helicopters and no wheelbarrows came under Ben. It’s up Janet Yellen to burst the Big Zimbabweoski.

 

OCCUPY FARMERS’ MARKETS

Milk March

When our sale of raw goat’s milk depended on Yuppie couples driving out to our farm fifty miles southwest of Houston the “invisible hand” of desperation slapped me upside the head with my MBA diploma. Granted, I was not an honor, or even a near honor graduate of Case Western Reserve’s Weatherhead school of business but Anala Goat Company’s on-the-farm sales of $200/week versus a $500/week feed bill foretold, a future going-out-of-business sale. Maybe with a catchy tagline e.g. “Had Milk.”

Shelby, the CPA Systems Analyst brains of the outfit, had already poured money, not milk, into building the dairy, buying the goats, dogs, cows, the land and equipment in order to obtain a Grade ‘A’ Raw Dairy License. In addition to rigorous monthly testing of our product, the Texas Department of Health limited sales to on-the-farm only. The delivery of raw dairy to retail stores, farmers’ markets, or even door-to-door was subject to all kinds of bad things like revoking our license.

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Over a double stack order of nachos and fajitas, I asked myself, “what would Gandhi do?” He said, mirror my ‘Salt March to the Sea’ by occupying the Houston Farmers’ Market. I learned at Case Western to look to Harvard Business School case studies for further guidance. Of course, I found zippo raw goat’s milk case studies but Gandhi’s protest of England’s Salt Tax led me to the Boston Tea Party’s, “taxation without representation” caper.

I admit, even as an architect, it was a challenge to connect salt and tea tax revolts to barriers to entry of off the farm sales of raw milk. After all, our neighbors trucked that nasty arugula and okra to the market, waving their ‘organic’ cred banners.

My third data point was the 1920 Prohibition Act.

Prohibition in the United States was a nationwide constitutional ban on the production, importation, transportation and sale of alcoholic beverages that remained in place from 1920 to 1933.

The sale of raw dairy has been Prohibited since 1912 to the present day. California never eliminated raw dairy from retail stores. Texas, Oregon and five other states allow on-the-farm sales only. I joined the Weston Price Foundation, listed analagoatcompany.com on their website www.realmilk.com and setup my 10 x 10 tent on Saturdays at the Houston Farmers’ Market.

Agrinomics

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Why pay this guy $15 for a gallon of milk when you can go to Wal-Mart and grab a Great Value jug for just $2.89? Truth is you need his raw – not pasteurized, not homogenized – goat’s milk more than he needs your money.

My Houston Farmers’ Market buddie, Bob Stryk http://texascheese.com/ and I were the two Raw Milk vendors at the market, until a knucklehead board member turned us in to the Texas Department of Health. Even though we were both visited monthly by Vince, the State inspector, our grade “A’ raw dairy license was limited to on-the-farm sales. My farm to market trip was fifty miles up the Southwest freeway. Bob’s sixty head of Jerseys grazed on his 310-acre farm 8 miles past Schulenburg, a 100 miles west out I-10.

BOB STRYKAfter our eviction, I bailed and shortly thereafter moved to China, while Bob relied on ‘drops’ at friendly driveways in Katy and Sugarland. At the market we charged $10/gal. Today, Stryk’s at the farm price was listed at $7.50/gal. That’s fresh raw Jersey cow milk, not pasteurized, not homogenized, pure not-adulterated, 100% digestible nutrient dense butter, cream, yogurt, milk and cheese.

organic pasturesThe raw milk movement (the largest form of  civil disobedience in America) is led by Mark McAfee of Organic Pastures in Fresno, California. Raw milk can be purchased legally on the farm and more importantly in stores. Organic Pastures’s raw milk, butter, kefir, cheddar, cream, and yogurt is available in over 200 stores in the Bay area alone, including Whole Foods. Brace yourselves, the fresh grass-fed 100% organic milk goes for $12.00/gal.     

Why pay the guy at the top $15for a gallon of milk? He’s selling raw goat’s milk the closest thing to mothers’ milk – any species of mammal, save Flipper the  dolphin, can thrive and survive on goat’s milk – but works harder than Stryk and McAfee. Their cows have four teats pumping out 8-10 gallons a day versus two teats and one gallon for the goat.