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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Wake Up to two of my favorites - Max Keiser interviews Gerald Celente

(Prologue) - Do you really want to know what is happening with our economy? Here is the interview that pretty much sums it up. These two gentleman along with Bob Chapman and Catherine Austin Fitts are the people that I pay attention to the most when it comes to the current economic realities facing our nation and the rest of the World. Watch this interview. This is the real news. If you don't believe it, then by all means take notes and go check it out. You will see that the Kumbaya garbage we hear on the Boob Tube is just propaganda. Are you making preparations to face the new economic realities? I hope you are.

Join the JOURNALISM 2.0 alliance!!! - The Old media is Dying - They call them TV programs because they are programming YOU!!!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Where Do we go from here? - Citizens for Equity in Government


As we pause in our day-to-day organizing work, we would like to pay homage to the passing of fellow organizer and community worker Joseph Hill who passed away on February 4, 2011. We will miss his timely comments concerning our struggle for democracy at the local level (even from his death bed). Condolences go out to the Hill family.

Over the past year, we have been uncompromising when it concerns justice, human rights, our values, our children, our families and the development of our community.

We will continue to make a positive difference on behalf of our poor and minority citizens in Hickory, NC as we aspire to achieve democracy at the local level. Local government is the tier of public authority that citizens first look to solve their immediate social problems. It is also the level of democracy in which the citizen has the most effective opportunity to actively and directly participate in decisions made for all of society.

Poor and minority citizens have lost their community swimming pool due to the arrogance of city council and a lack of democracy at the local level. It is public knowledge that they made the decision and will build a new pool in a distant “central location”.

Professional citizens with expertise offered other alternatives but were denied. The city of Hickory spent over $26,000 of taxpayer’s dollars to hold surveys and hearings of what citizens wanted. Citizens asked for and voted on four (4) district pools, much to no avail. Still no democracy at the local level… Legal strategy is being explored. Leaders have been jailed while trying to prevent the demolition of the pools.

We must now appeal to the progressive elements of the Hickory community if we are deliberately being denied access in the decision making process. Because of these “invincible fences”, we need help in relieving our powerlessness.

Historically, we lost our democracy in Hickory in 1970 when the voting process was changed from the pure ward system of electing officials to the modified ward system of electing officials. This was to ensure that only the right kind could be elected. We lost again in 2000 when our majority minority ward was redistricted out. We are now in a process of redistricting from the 2010 census. Democratically, we are still at the mercy of the few. If one person is about democracy, everyone is about democracy!

If you are interested in helping to end this destruction of poor and minority representation in Hickory, join our coalition and meet with us Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 6:00 pm in the Ridgeview Branch Library, 706 1st Street SW in Hickory or call 828-308-4669.

Date:February 24, 2011
Contact: Billy Sudderth (828) 308-4669

February Rant - Critical Thinking

This is what the Hickory Hound tries to be centered around. One of the original stated ideas and goals of the Future Economy Council was to move towards an organization of people who would come together from various positions of the political and cultural spectrum and work together to discuss, initiate, implement, and produce common objectives that will benefit the community. That is the importance of Master Capacity Building. We are connectors, who utilize our individual characteristics, personalities, and personal skills to bring people together to make those common objectives realities.

That is what I have tried to do by bringing you these predictive capacities about weak signals in and of the future. That is what I have tried to do by talking about people like Gerald Celente, who always states that "Current Events form Future Trends." In this age of constant change and uncertainty, it is very important to be able to walk through this minefield with skills and knowledge that can help you cope with constant chaos. That is what will keep you mentally steady and helps one be adaptive and nimble and thus resilient in this current age of uncertainty and constant evolution of changing realities.

We are currently going through a great period of Transformation at every level of Society. Most people are reluctant to deal with the seismic shifts in evolutionary realities that we are constantly witnessing over a daily basis. It is hard to get people to deal with and open up to the fact that the World's realities are no longer stable. Problems must constantly be dealt with to keep issues from becoming overwhelming. Look at the Dictators in the Middle East. Do you think that they thought that they would be overwhelmed by revolutionary movements in a matter of weeks, when they have controlled their nations for decades?

Rick Smyre of Communities of the Future states that there are 4 stages of true transformation: 1) resistance - where people will not accept new ideas being introduced, because of defense mechanisms related to anxiety associated with risk aversion, 2) hmmm? - the stage where people willing to accept progress and evolutionary changes start to look at a subject from different viewpoints and how ideas can work, 3) aha! - when the people willing to accept transformation begin to comprehend new realities and how those realities can be brought to tangibility , and 4) of course - the point at which acceptance of the new reality is achieved... there is no way to shortcut this process.

The reality is that our species is evolving. No one can tell you exactly what will happen, but we have seen an advance in computerization and technology, we have seen an evolution towards dependence on convenience and material desires, we have seen a 6 fold increase in worldwide population in one century, we have seen a battle between forces who desire individual liberty versus those who desire social control...

There are other forces at play in this tug of war, but there will always be a struggle between what most of us desire as "Good" versus the differences that we all interpret differently as evil. I do foresee a melding of the human into what will be part machine. The technology will evolve and eventually be biological instead of mechanical. In my opinion this will be good to the extent that it enhances us as individuals and the quality of our lives, but it will be bad if it is utilized to control us as animals and/or property of the elite.

The one thing that I do know is that we are headed towards some really tough times. There are some of us that want to bring the whole World up to the scale of quality of life that many Americans enjoyed in the past, but there are others that view these people from the Third World as subhuman and view the poor in our nation as subhuman. They feel that we are pawns to fulfill their purposes and they do not want to share the technological goodies with Average Ordinary People.

There is more than enough room on this planet and it is time to stop thinking that Ordinary people don't have value. We all have value. Think about the people you love, don't they have value to you? Haven't they played a role in your life? Everyone you see wherever you go has value to someone. Do you think that an elitist who doesn't even know you or your loved ones should be treating you or your loved ones like a disposable pawn?

This is the Force of Good versus Evil that I have alluded to. We are all going to have people that we don't want to work with; people that we can't stand. That is human nature. But, when we work towards bettering society and not playing the "Us versus Them" game, then we enhance our Ecosystem and thus we make the World a better place for ourselves and everyone in the system. It generates positive momentum. It is going to take this sort of mentality, of working together, to get out of this Depression and start growing economically, culturally, and as a society once again. I hope that you will keep this in mind the next time that you have a chance to help someone out. I know that the people who read this blog are, for the most part, critical thinkers. It is time to get the people we care about to start thinking this way too.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Who's in Charge around here?

Fed dictator Bernanke needs to be toppled - Paul B. Farrell - Feb. 15, 2011, 12:01 a.m. EST -
Fed boss Ben Bernanke is the most dangerous human on earth, far more dangerous than Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s 30-year dictator, ever was. Bernanke rules a monetary dictatorship that will trigger the coming third meltdown of the 21st century.
Ben Bernanke: The U.S. Leninist? - Paul Amery - Seeking Alpha - February 22, 2011 -
Should Ben Bernanke dust down a copy of the collective works of Lenin?

According to the instigator of Russia’s 1917 October revolution, “the surest way to destroy a nation is to debauch its currency”.

(In fact, this widely-cited quote was a 1930s paraphrase by Keynes – Lenin’s actual words, in an interview from 1919, were: “the simplest way to exterminate the very spirit of capitalism is … to flood the country with notes of a high face-value without financial guarantees of any sort”)

The astonishing leap in commodities prices that started in September last year coincided with the announcement of a second quantitative easing programme by the US Federal Reserve.

A chart of cotton futures shows that the price of the raw material began to take off almost to the day that the Fed’s chairman stated in Jackson Hole that his institution was ready to take “unconventional measures” to stimulate the economy.

Hidden Inflation In Supermarket Prices - Mark Ames - Higher Price, Less Product

18 Sobering Facts Which Prove That The Middle Class Is Not Being Included In This “Economic Recovery” - The Economic Collapse Blog - February 21, 2011

Have you heard the news? The stock market is absolutely soaring and according to the U.S. government and the Federal Reserve we are in the beginning stages of a robust economic recovery. Yippee! The S&P 500 is up 6.8 percent so far in 2011, and the stock market recently hit a two and a half year high. So shouldn't we all be celebrating? Well, if stock market performance was an accurate measure of economic health, then Zimbabwe would have had one of the healthiest economies on the entire globe during the last decade. But just like Zimbabwe's stock market was artificially pumped up with "funny money" that was rapidly being devalued, so is ours. All of the "quantitative easing" that the Federal Reserve has been doing is pumping plenty of money into the financial markets and is helping to inflate a false stock market bubble, but it is doing very little to alleviate the suffering of the U.S. middle class. In fact, when you take a closer look at the numbers you quickly find out that the suffering of the middle class is getting even worse.

According to Gallup, the unemployment rate is now over 10%. The number of Americans that have given up looking for work recently set a new all-time record. The number of mortgages in foreclosure tied a record high during the fourth quarter of 2010. Gas and food prices are rising rapidly. The number of Americans on food stamps continues to increase every single month.

Yes, right now the economic situation is not in free fall like it was a couple years ago. We should be thankful for that. Periods of relative stability such as we are enjoying now will be few and far between in the years ahead. This "bubble" of economic calm is a great opportunity that we should all be taking advantage of.

However, those that are hoping that this is an economic "turning point" and that things will soon be back to "normal" are going to be greatly disappointed. This is about as "normal" as things are going to be ever again.

Even during this time of relative economic stability, the U.S. middle class is still being ripped to shreds. If there are those among your family and friends that are somehow convinced that the U.S. economy is recovering nicely, you might want want to show them the following 18 very sobering facts....

#1 According to Gallup, the U.S. unemployment rate is currently 10.3 percent. When you add in part-time American workers that want full-time employment, that number rises to 20.2 percent.

#2 According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of job openings in the United States declined for a second straight month during December.

#3 There are currently more than 4 million Americans that have been unemployed for more than a year.

#4 The number of Americans that have become so discouraged that they have given up searching for work completely now stands at an all-time high.

#5 Gasoline prices in the United States recently hit a 28-month high.

#6 During the 4th quarter of 2010, 4.63 percent of all U.S. home loans were in foreclosure. That matched the all-time high, and it was up significantly from 4.39 percent in the 3rd quarter.

#7 It is estimated that there are about 5 million homeowners in the United States that are at least two months behind on their mortgages, and it is being projected that over a million American families will be booted out of their homes this year alone.

#8 Almost 14 percent of all credit card accounts in the United States are currently 90 days or more delinquent.

#9 The average credit card rate in the United States had increased to a whopping 13.44 percent at the end of 2010.

#10 Americans now owe more than $890 billion on student loans, which is even more than they owe on credit cards.

#11 Average household debt in the United States has now reached a level of 136% of average household income. In China, average household debt is only 17% of average household income.

#12 U.S. life expectancy at birth is now three years less than Canada and four years less than Japan.

#13 New home sales in the state of California were at the lowest level ever recorded in the month of January.

#14 43 percent of all mortgages in south Florida are currently underwater.

#15 Prior to the most recent economic downturn, there were usually somewhere around four to five million job openings in America. Today there are about 3 million.

#16 When you adjust wages for inflation, middle class workers in the United States make less money today than they did back in 1971.

#17 One out of every seven Americans is now on food stamps.

#18 One out of every six elderly Americans now lives below the federal poverty line.

You know things are bad when articles start popping up in the mainstream news instructing us how to interact socially with the hordes of unemployed Americans that are out there today. A recent USA Today article entitled "What not to say to someone who is unemployed" listed some of the things that you should not say to someone that does not have a job. The following are some of their suggestions on what NOT to say....

"Hey, have you found anything yet?"

"How's the search going?"

"You just have to pound the pavement."

"Something will turn up."

"It's tough out there."

"Other people are going through the same thing."

"Maybe you're asking for too much money."

"Maybe you should go back to school."

"There are plenty of jobs out there."

I am sure most of us have heard things like this at one time or another. It can be a soul-crushing thing to have others like at you in pity because you don't have a job and you can't pay the mortgage and feed your family.

Most unemployed Americans are not lazy. The vast majority of them desperately want jobs. But the U.S. economy is not producing nearly enough jobs today. As noted above, the U.S. economy currently has about 3 million job openings, but approximately 20 percent of the workforce wants to find a full-time job. The demand for jobs is far, far, far greater than the supply.

Unfortunately, this is the legacy of decades of bad economic decision-making. The U.S. economy should be able to provide work for every single person that wants it, but because of the choices that have been made that will never be the case again.

The middle class in America is being ripped to shreds right in front of our eyes and very little is being done to stop it. Desperation is rising across the nation. More Americans slip into poverty every single day. It is almost as if a cloud of gloom and despair has descended upon the U.S. economy and every single month the situation only seems to get darker.

Monday, February 21, 2011

An Economy Out of Control

(Prologue) - In the previous article related to the Food Crisis, you noticed the Hockey stick style increases that have taken place over the last couple of years. This is caused by speculation related to the flooding of the financial system with Digital Dollars. These dollars are not filtering through the economy. These dollars are being used by the banks to purchase derivative investments, which have a multiplier effect on commodities.

The following article from "The Economic Collapse" Blog shows charts very similar to those Hockey stick exponential increases in Sugar, Wheat, Coffee, Cotton, and Beef. The Federal Reserve Has created this mess because of Ben Bernanke and Wall Street's obsession with deflation. Instead, we are seeing hyperinflation in the commodity markets. This is the result of cheapened money that is becoming worthless.

The following charts show the level of government spending, the National Debt, the increase of Interest owed on that debt, household debt, the aggregate of all debt, Unemployment and the Duration of Unemployment, the increase in the Cost of Living (CPI) since the Federal Reserves inception, the increase in the Money Supply, and the increase in the Cost of Oil.

In my opinion, we aren't going to see a constant increase in prices. What we will see is a bumping against the Price Point-Demand ceiling. An example was when oil hit $147+ per barrel in September 2008. Consumers could not afford to pay for energy at these inflated prices and so they adapted down and changed their habits. This reduced demand and subsequently the investors in the Oil derivative markets rushed to get out of the collapsing market. Oil fell to $40 per barrel as a result, but we have seen a steady march back up to the current levels around $90.

We will continue to see this type of volatility in all essential commodities. The trend will be upward, because most commodities are priced in U.S. Dollars and those Dollars are losing value due to the expansion of the Money Supply. But their will be price breaking points, because most consumers are hurting. The one thing that is for sure is that markets such as these are not sustainable, because trust is being lost in the marketplace. Most people are at a loss for what to do. People are tired of getting ripped off by the banks. It is completely unrealistic and basically criminal that the banks are paying .5% to 2% on savings accounts and Certificates of Deposit, but it is not the time to put money in the stock market with the fraud that rampantly flows involving issues of transparency, ignorance and lack of enforcement of fiduciary responsibilities of market makers, the exorbitant fees that brokerage houses charge, and the volatility associated with not knowing what the government might do next.

Look at this Chart comparing today to the Depression of the 1930s:

What Is Wrong With The U.S. Economy? Here Are 10 Economic Charts That Will Blow Your Mind - The Economic Collapse (Blog)

The 10 economic charts that you are about to see are completely and totally shocking. If you know anyone that still does not believe that the United States is in the midst of a long-term economic decline, just show them these charts. Sometimes you can quote economic statistics to people until you are blue in the face and it won't do any good, but when those same people see charts and pictures suddenly it all sinks in. What is great about charts is that you can very easily demonstrate what has been happening to the economy over an extended period of time. As you examine the economic charts below, pay special attention to what has been happening to the U.S. economy over the last 30 or 40 years. The truth is that what is wrong with the U.S. economy is not a great mystery. All of the economic problems that we are experiencing now have taken decades to develop. Hopefully the charts in this article will help people realize just how nightmarish our economic problems have become, because until people start realizing how incredibly bad things have gotten they will never be willing to accept the dramatic solutions that are necessary to fix our financial system.

The sad fact of the matter is that we have been living in the biggest debt bubble in the history of the world over the last 40 years. All of this debt has purchased a wonderful standard of living for the vast majority of us, but all of this debt has also destroyed the economic future of our children and our grandchildren. Someday future generations will look back on what we have done in absolute horror.

The 10 economic charts posted below are meant to shock you. Most Americans today need to be shocked before they will be motivated to take action. Please share these charts with as many people as you can. Hopefully we can wake enough people up that something will be done about all of these problems while there is still time.

1 - Government spending is expanding at an exponential rate. As you can see from the chart below, federal spending is almost 18 times higher than it was back in 1970. Now Barack Obama has proposed a budget that would increase U.S. government spending to 5.6 trillion dollars in 2021. Just imagine what the following chart would look like if that happens....

2 - U.S. government debt is absolutely exploding. The U.S. national debt is currently $14,081,561,324,681.83. It is more than 14 times larger than it was back in 1980. Unfortunately, the national debt continues to grow at breathtaking speed. In fact, the Obama administration is projecting that the federal budget deficit for this year will be an all-time record 1.6 trillion dollars. Can we afford to continue to accumulate debt at this rate?....

3 - Unless something changes right now, the outlook for U.S. government finances in future years is downright apocalyptic. The chart posted below is from an official U.S. government report to Congress. As you can see, it is projected that interest on our exploding national debt is absolutely going to spiral out of control if we continue on the path that we are currently on....

4 - Household debt has soared to almost unbelievable levels over the last 30 years. The sad truth is that it is not just the U.S. government that has a massive debt problem. U.S. households have also been accumulating debt at a staggering rate. Total U.S. household debt did not pass the 2 trillion dollar mark until the mid-1980s, but now total U.S. household debt is well over 13 trillion dollars....

5 - The total of all debt (government, business and consumer) in the United States is now well over 50 trillion dollars. For the past couple of years this figure has been hovering around a level that is equivalent to approximately 360 percent of GDP. This is a debt bubble that is absolutely unprecedented in U.S. history....

6 - As tens of thousands of U.S. factories get shut down and as millions of our jobs get shipped overseas, the number of unemployed Americans continues to go up and up and up. As you can see from the chart below, there has been a long-term trend of increasing unemployment in the United States. In fact, there are about 3 and a half times as many unemployed workers in the United States today as there were when 1970 began. These jobs losses are going to continue as long as we allow our corporations to pay slave labor wages to workers on the other side of the globe. All of the major trends in global trade are very bad for the U.S. middle class. For example, the U.S. trade deficit with China for 2010 was 27 times larger than it was back in 1990. How long will our politicians stand by as our nation bleeds jobs?....

7 - The median duration of unemployment in the United States is in unprecedented territory. For most of the post-World War 2 era, when the median duration of unemployment in America reached 10 weeks that was considered a national crisis. Well, today competition for jobs is so intense that the median duration of unemployment is now well over 20 weeks....

8 - Since the Federal Reserve was created in 1913, the value of the U.S. dollar has declined by over 95 percent. One of the reasons given for the existence of the Federal Reserve is that the Fed helps control inflation. But that is a huge lie. The truth is that the United States never had consistently rampant inflation until the Federal Reserve took control. In particular, once the U.S. totally went off the gold standard in the 1970s inflation really started escalating out of control....

9 - Now the Federal Reserve says that the solution to our current economic problems is to print even more money out of thin air. The games that the Federal Reserve is playing with our money supply are simply inexcusable. Just look at what the Federal Reserve has done to the monetary base since the beginning of the recession....

10 - All of this new money is creating tremendous inflation. In particular, the price of oil is now ridiculously high. A high price for oil is very, very bad for the U.S. economy. Our entire economic system is based on being able to use massive quantities of very cheap oil.

Unfortunately, that paradigm is starting to break down and the consequences will be very bitter. Back in mid-2008, the price of oil hit an all-time record of $147 a barrel and subsequently the world financial system imploded a few months later. Well, the price of oil is on the march again and that is very bad news for the U.S. economy....

Needless to say, if the economic trends documented by the charts above continue the U.S. economy will be totally wiped out. The U.S. economy as it currently exists is unsustainable by definition. It is only a matter of time before we slam into an economic brick wall.

We have developed an economy that cannot function without debt, and at this point it seems like almost everyone is drowning in red ink. The federal government is massively overextended, most of our state and local governments are massively overextended, most of our major corporations are massively overextended and the majority of U.S. consumers are massively overextended.

The only way that the game can continue is for the Federal Reserve to print increasingly larger amounts of paper money out of thin air and for everyone in the economic food chain to go into increasingly larger amounts of debt.

But no debt spiral can go on forever. At some point this entire house of cards is going to collapse.

When that happens, there is going to be economic pain that is greater than anything that this country has ever seen before.

Someday we will all desperately wish that we could go back to the "good times" of 2011. A great economic collapse is coming, and all of us had better get ready.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Food Crisis -- February 19, 2011

Prologue - The following video can look scary if you don't have a clue about what is going on in the world related to the devaluation of our currency by the Federal Reserve and the domino effect of implications that this is having on the world stage.

We are in a period of extreme economic instability which has roots in issues that should have been dealt with long ago. It is time to prepare for this instability by building cushions. If we have more local food production and consumption options, then it will reduce the costs associated with the world wide network of food transportation and reduce the anxieties that we are seeing in other parts of the world. I think that people need look into buying food through local farmers and learn how to grow food in their yards and through container gardening.

People need to become more efficient with their resources during these times. Just think what that additional savings can me in a crunch and it is healthier in a number of ways -- Peace be with you!

Prices of Commodities at all time nominal highs include Arabica Coffee, Sugar, Beef, Wheat, and Cotton.

Cotton futures surge 12-fold in 6 months as prices hit peaks - Daily News & Analysis - Amritha Pillay - 2/18/2011

Beef industry battling grain prices, ethanol production - - ‎Feb 14, 2011‎

Arabica coffee close to 30-year peak - Financial Times - 2/18/2011

Grain prices surge Thursday - - - ‎Feb 17, 2011‎

Uncertainty Over Supplies May Keep Sugar Price Volatile - Daily Markets - ‎Feb 11, 2011‎

Desperate people will do desperate things!
Food price rises bring risk of new riots-France - (Reuters) - 2/17/2011 - France's agriculture minister warned the United Nations on Thursday that food riots like those of three years ago could break out around the world because of steep rises in food prices. ...

Food Riots Threaten Latin America on Surging Commodities in UN Assessment - Bloomberg - Nicholas Larkin - ‎Feb 16, 2011‎

Food prices push millions into poverty - Washington Post - Howard Schneider - ‎Feb 15, 2011‎ - Rising food prices pushed tens of millions of people into extreme poverty last year and are reaching "dangerous levels" in some countries, World Bank President Robert Zoellick said Tuesday as he released new data showing that the ...

Rising global food prices an 'extreme poverty' crisis
- Washington Times - Josh Brown - ‎Feb 15, 2011‎ - Skyrocketing global food prices have pulled more than 40 million people into “extreme poverty” and have almost reached the levels of June 2008, when the world was rocked by food riots. “The Bank's Food Price Index shows food prices are ...

Friday, February 18, 2011

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of February 15, 2011

This newsletter is about the Hickory City Council meeting that I attended this past week. City council meetings are held on the first and third Tuesdays of each Month in the Council Chambers of the Julian Whitener building.

At right of this page under Main Information links is an Hickory's City Website link. If you click on that link, it takes you to our city’s website, at the left of the page you will see the Agenda's and Minutes link you need to click. This will give you a choice of PDF files to upcoming and previous meetings.

You will find historic Agenda and Minutes links. Agendas show what is on the docket for the meeting of that date. The Minutes is an actual summary of the proceedings of the meeting of that date.

Here is a summary of the agenda of the 1/18/2010 meeting. There were a couple of important items that were discussed at this meeting and the details are listed further below:

Please remember that pressing Ctrl and + will magnify the text and page and pressing Ctrl and - will make the text and page smaller. This will help the readability for those with smaller screens and/or eye difficulties.

Invocation by Chaplain Lawrence Bolick of Spiritual Life at Abernethy Laurels Retirement Community

Special Presentations:
A. Presentation by Senior Firefighter/Staff Sergeant Patrick Auton to City Council the “Patriotic Employer Award” in Appreciation of the City’s Continued Support of Military Service Personnel - Sgt. Auton has served for 15 years. His group was tasked to provide air support for Helicopters and to teach Iraqis firefighting techniques. He talked about the support he received from his fellow firefighters and the department and how it went above and beyond.

The Hound would like to point to the above presentation as a moving event. Sgt. Auton gave a detailed explanation of what his duty entailed in Kirkuk, Iraq. You could tell that this guy is a solid gentleman and truly cares about this community and this country. He presented several awards to the Hickory Fire Department and the City. Fire Chief Tom Alexander stated that Sgt Auton has been deployed three times since he has been Fire Chief and he is grateful that he (Sgt. Auton) has been able to come back each time. When we have people who will go out and protect our liberties and our rights, then God bless them. Our community is honored to count this gentleman amongst us. I think everyone that was at this meeting this night would concur.

B. Presentation By Community Groups Requesting Appropriations from the City Council During the Next Fiscal Year Beginning July 1, 2011 - The Council will not take action tonight. Action will be taken when the Council considers the City’s annual budget in May or June. These presentations are made so Council Members can ask questions or make comments about the requests. Presenters will be allotted no more than five minutes to make their presentations to Council.

Organization Presentation By Amount Requested
Catawba County Economic Development Corporation - Scott Millar - $138,511.14 + Greater Hickory Marketing - $75,000
- Scott mentioned successes involving with Fiserv and Turbotech, the Bradington Young corporate Headquarters has relocated here in hickory. Greater Hickory marketing is associated with the Golf Tournament that will be held in June. Greater Hickory Marketing is the Rock Barn Classic Golf Tournament and it will revert back to being named the Greater Hickory Classic from last year’s Ensure naming rights. The budget request is $300 less than the year before. Allocations are made based upon the populations of the cities in Catawba County.

The Salt Block Foundation - Steve Mull - $100,000
- The SALT block has been in existence since 1986. 300,000 visitors come to the SALT block each year. City funds provide money for security guards and grounds keeping. The foundation operates three buildings on the SALT block campus. Provides a home for the Museum of Art, Science Center, The Choral Society, the Western Piedmont Symphony, and the United Arts Council. Pays building and Capital expenses. Along with the Patrick Beaver Memorial Library, these entities provide economically invaluable cultural resources for the entire Hickory region. Auditorium is used over 200 times per year. Moneys were used to replace the HVAC system, new lighting, and the roofs of two buildings.

United Arts Council of Catawba County - Jeff Neuville - $41,039

- Mr. Neuville is the President of the Arts Council. The amount of money is based on $1 per capita. The city has funded the UAC since 1984. This funding is important to the quality of life and the economic development in the community. For every dollar granted by Hickory, a minimum of $4 is spent on arts, science, and history projects in this community by the UAC. The North Carolina Arts council estimates that $24 is spent locally for every dollar spent on the arts. Mr. Neuville went over several projects that these funds were used for.

Hickory Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau – Ray Combs - $20,000
- Mr. Combs is the Executive Director of the HMCVB. Mr. Combs mentioned the Harley-Davidson Owners Group that will be coming to Hickory this August. The Bureau is under the umbrella of the Hickory-Conover Tourism Development Authority. The CVB will continue to be the marketing arm of the authority. They will continue to support and stimulate the local economy by tourism, business conferences, meetings, and sporting events. They have streamlined operations under the TDA. They network by attending meetings, advertising, and the internet. Generated over $7.5 million in revenue from over 6,000 room nights. The Convention Center was occupied 232 days in 2009, hosting over 100 groups and 100,000 people. The North Carolina Rose Convention was held here this year. Mayor Wright commended the CVB for reducing salary and benefits 10% over the past year. Events Mr. Combs mentioned that are coming to Hickory include The North Carolina Library Association, The NC Shriners, The NC Association of County Directors of Social Services, and The National Narrow Gauge Railway convention will bring railway enthusiasts from around the world.

Habitat for Humanity - Mitzi Gellman - $22,850
- This is the 16th year the habitat has appeared before the council. Since 2000, the number of people living in poverty has risen 50%. 20% of those in poverty are children. 18 qualified applicants are currently on their list. The average worker in our area makes $8 an hour as of the 2000 census, yet it takes $20/hour to support a family. The mortgage payments from a Habitat House cost less than rent.

Six houses closed during the previous fiscal year. The Habitat is trying to renovate more houses as compared to building new houses. They are looking to stabilize neighborhoods. The first house built by habitat was in 1996. Over 100 sewer and water taps have been donated by the City of Hickory. 143 houses have been completed so far in Catawba County (over 80% in Hickory). Habitat is the banking interest in the arrangements and the qualifiers have to have good credit. It has been harder to get families qualified. 11 families are currently on the list. These families are under 80% of area median income and 7 are 50% under area median income. Qualifiers have to put 250 to 500 hours in building their houses. Habitat is putting more effort into making sure that they are building quality, energy efficient houses. Each house has $10,000 to $12,000 worth of volunteer labor in them. The money requested is about the same as last years request and will be used to fund 10 water-sewer taps. The Mayor stated that that effects 40 lives.

Hickory Downtown Development Association - Connie Kincaid - $50,000
- Addressed special events, the Farmer's Market, and Art crawls. There were four new businesses this year creating 109 new jobs. The North Carolina Department of Commerce awarded Swinging under the stars was awarded North Carolina’s best Downtown event.

Connie spoke about the 4/40 Destination Downtown program where Downtown businesses offer discounts on the 4th Saturday of each month.. Private investment was $328,000. Public Funding was $998,000 meaning that over $1.3 million were invested Downtown. Hickory Hops hosted 48 breweries and 2,263 people with an economic impact of nearly $304,000 to the Area. Connie talked about Swinging under the Stars and Art Crawls. She talked about Oktoberfest, candy crawl, tree lighting, Holiday events, and business development. She spoke of the castle of cans and the signature event of Octoberfest.

C. Presentation and Approval of Special Events Application for the Use of Union Square for the 2011 Farmer’s Market Season - Staff has worked with Farmer’s Market Board members, DDA staff and board members to determine how the Farmer’s Market can be located on Union Square and adjacent parking lot. As of the printing of the agenda, the specific layout of the Farmer’s Market was not available. This will be presented to City Council at the meeting.

Addendum Farmer's Market on Union Square - Several people addressed the Council before the Council deliberated on this issue. The information is detailed at the link and includes Youtube audio of the proceedings.

Consent Agenda:
A. Approval of 2011 Federal Legislative Agenda - City staff has prepared a Federal Legislative Agenda for 2011 which lists key issues and talking points to discuss with our legislative delegation City Council will use this agenda with our Federal delegation in Washington, DC. This item was previously discussed during the January 18, 2011 Council meeting, but no formal action was taken.

B. Citizens’ Advisory Committee Recommendations for Assistance Through the City of Hickory’s Housing Programs - Habitat for Humanity is being recommended for assistance under the City’s Housing Rehabilitation Loan Program for the installation of a new HVAC system in their new building. Assistance would not exceed $70,000.00 in the form of a 3% interest loan for a 20 year period. Funds are budgeted through the City’s former Rental Rehabilitation Program income received in FY 2009 and/or income received through the City’s Community Development Department Block Grant Program. Applicant Wade Haynes, Jr. of 1470 3rd Street Place, SW is being recommended for approval for assistance under the City’s 2010 Urgent Repair Program for emergency related repairs not to exceed $5,000.00. Funds are budgeted through the City’s Community Development Department funding received in FY 2010-11. The Citizens’ Advisory Committee recommends approval of the above applicants.

C. Transfer of Cemetery Lots in Oakwood Cemetery From John W. and wife Lana L. Teague to Nelda W. Eckard (Document Prepared by Attorneys Christian & Associates)

D. Budget Ordinance Amendment

1. To budget a $1,460.62 insurance claim check from Erie Insurance Company in the Library Maintenance and Repair of Building line item. This payment is for property damage sustained during a loading dock door repair.
2. To budget $61,701 of Local Government Revenue received from Catawba County in the Fire Department Overtime line item. This reimbursement is for overtime expenses paid out to Hickory Fire Department for staffing fire apparatus while rescue training classes were being conducted during the months of September 2010 through December 2010.
3. To budget a $2,516 insurance claim check from Trident Insurance Company in the Residential Sanitation Maintenance and Repair of Vehicles line item. This claim is for damage to a garbage truck on 12-28-10.
4. To budget a $297 check from United Beverages of NC, LLC in the Water and Sewer Pipes, Hydrants and Meters line item. This payment is for damage sustained to a fire hydrant.
5. To budget a $3,548 check from Trident Insurance Company in the Water and Sewer Maintenance and Repair of Vehicle line item. This payment is for damage sustained to an International Dump Truck on 01-01-11.

Informational Items:
A. Report of Mayor Wright’s Travel to Denver, Colorado From November 30, 2010 to December 5, 2010 to Attend the NLC 2010 Congress of Cities & Exposition; registration - $635.00; hotel - $1281.75; per diem - $363.50; mileage - $52.00; airfare - $362.90; airport parking - $20.00 - (Mayor Wright chose to reimburse the City for his hotel and per diem for November 30, 2010 and daily hotel parking for a total to the City of $397.05)

B. Report of City Manager Berry’s Travel to Raleigh, NC on January 20, 2011 to Attend the 2011-2012 NCLM Advocacy Goals Conference; registration - $75.00

C. Report of City Manager Berry’s Travel to Raleigh, NC on February 2 – 4, 2011 to Attend the 2011 NCCCMA Winter Conference; registration - $300.00; hotel - $270.72; per diem - $80.00

New Business - Departmental Reports:
1. Council Will Get a Sneak Preview of the Community Webportal - The Chamber of Commerce has led this initiative with a number of local organizations, including the City of Hickory. The webportal will be officially revealed at the annual Catawba County Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting on February 17, 2011. Mandy Pitts made this presentation. The whole goal is to bring businesses and people to our area. Pixelspace designed the search engine entitled "Start Something Here" around the ideas of Live, Work, and Learn. I can explain it to you, but I think it is best that you go check it out for yourself and experiment with it. So without further ado go check it out.

Recognition of Persons Requesting To Be Heard
Addendum Citizens Requesting to be Heard
- The link takes you to the addendum which details the presentation from Larry Pope's address to the Council involving his arrest in association with the destruction of the swimming pool in Ridgeview and its relation with the pool in West Hickory. The other address of the Council is by Jim Edmonds in relation to the Cell Tower that is being placed in the vicinity of Highway 127 behind Jenkins Elementary, Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, and the Hunter's Run neighborhood.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of February 15, 2011 -- Addendum Citizens Requesting to be Heard

The meeting on Tuesday Night lasted nearly 2 1/2 hours and was full of relevant information. I have already reported on the issue of the relocation of the Farmer's Market from the old Hickory Station Depot to the right side of the parking lot on Union Square. (Farmer's Market on Union Square).

The following presentations come from Larry Pope's address to the Council involving his arrest in association with the destruction of the swimming pool in Ridgeview and its relation with the pool in West Hickory. The other address of the Council is by Jim Edmonds in relation to the Cell Tower that is being placed in the vicinity of Highway 127 behind Jenkins Elementary, Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, and the Hunter's Run neighborhood.

Larry Pope went into the process of his being arrested for the protest of the demolition of the Ridgeview Pool on February 7, 2011. He stated that he had met with the Police Chief on the previous Friday with a Letter of Recommendation asking the City of Hickory to locate the future proposed swimming pool, in which they are seeking Federal dollars, to be located at 4th St and 7th Ave SW. That would be totally accessible to the children of Ridgeview and Westmont. If the City was unwilling to do that, they asked that the City to give the Ridgeview Pool to the Ridgeview Community and they would come up with the money to refurbish it and have it open by this summer. The only thing that they would ask of the city is to provide the water free of charge and they would provide everything else as a community. If a letter of respose was received by 7am that Monday morning, then the protest would not take place. Neither one of those recommendations was accepted as far as they know because no letter was forthcoming.

Chief Adkins stated that he did deliver the message, but he doesn't know what happened thereafter. Larry stated that he told Chief Adkins and Major Deal that if it was necessary to go to jail for something that the community wanted to save, that he was willing to go...

Larry then added that what the HPD officials were telling the (Citizens for Equity in Government) was not coming from them it was coming from Mick and Rudy. Larry told them that they had a job to do and he did not blame them for doing what they had to do, because you can be put between a rock and a hard place in working for the City of Hickory and you have to do what the top folk tell you to do. He added that they were treated with kindness and courtesy and showed that they were human beings and citizens and taxpayers of this city. He says that hopefully the rest of the City (including Mayor, Council, and City manager) will follow after Chief Adkins, Major Deal, and Officer Lee in doing what is right, because he refused to stand up during the Pledge of Allegiance where it says "...and justice for all," because y'all don't believe in justice for all. It is justice for those who you want to distribute justice to... And not to the southside of the railroad tracks (neither the Ridgeview or Westmont Community).

What was reported in the Hickory Daily Record, about city officials saying that no one had contacted them about the closing of the pools, was not true. They (Citizens for Equity in Government) will do whatever they have to do to bring Democracy and Justice to this city.

Jim Edmonds was the next to speak in addressing the Cell tower issue brought before the Council at the last meeting. There were two articles in the newspaper, but what everyone is missing is that this Cell tower is a whole lot closer to Jenkins Elementary school than it is to the neighborhood. It is a couple of hundred feet from the school.

Last week, he presented about the Tower and the Superintendent and every member of the board stated that they were unaware of the request. Joab Cotton did call him later in the week and did say that the notice came in the mail at the beginning of the year after Christmas break. You can imagine at a school how a little letter did not get where it needs to be. The Principal at Jenkins, Stephanie Dischiavi, sent Mr. Edmonds a letter that arrived last Friday. It was summarized that the students of Jenkins are getting missed in this. The Principal was unaware of this issue until 5 days after the Planning Commission meeting was held that approved the construction of the Cell tower at that spot. The residents of Hunter's Run are on the clock and have 30 days from the time it was approved. Isn't it a sad statement that a school would have to spend tax dollars to appeal to Superior court to stop a Cell Phone Tower from being put adjacent to their campus, when they need money for text books and to hire teachers? Does anyone here think that it is a good idea for these elementary school children to be sitting under this tower 30 hours per week. This Council has got to do something. We're helpless. Y'all are our elected officials.

The Hound: Community, communication. Good Communication = Good Community. Bad Communication = Bad Community. Is anyone seeing a pattern here? Is anyone seeing a link or a common theme to the issues of angst and anxiety that we have seen over the last few years?

Who does the information belong to? Who is trying to control and manipulate the information we receive? Is all of this chalked up to misunderstandings? Isn't it a stretch to chalk every issue of miscommunication or lack of communication to coincidence. You would have to compartmentalize every issue related to the City of Hickory in order to do that. If you start rubbing your brain cells together and connecting the pattern, then you will see that we have a serious issue here and it is time for some accountability related to public information. Public Information belongs to the people. They should not have to jump through hoops to get it. It should be accessible. It is time to demand that the City of Hickory stop playing petty little games with information that belongs to the people.

The grievances against the hydra continue to mount. Isn't it time to reverse course. Why would anyone voluntarily choose such a self-destructive course, because in the end they are only hurting themselves, their reputation, their legacy, and their community is being hurt by their actions, not the other way around!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of February 15, 2011 -- Addendum Farmer's Market on Union Square

C. Presentation and Approval of Special Events Application for the Use of Union Square for the 2011 Farmer’s Market Season - Staff has worked with Farmer’s Market Board members, DDA staff and board members to determine how the Farmer’s Market can be located on Union Square and adjacent parking lot. As of the printing of the agenda, the specific layout of the Farmer’s Market was not available. This will be presented to City Council at the meeting.

Citizen Discussion about the Farmer's Market in Downtown Hickory

Jason Yates is the principal owner of the Olde Hickory Tap Room and the Hickory Station properties located in Downtown Hickory. He supports the market and it remaining Downtown, but does not support where it will be moved to on the square. He talks about the current negative impacts it has on his business. He mentions how many business owners Downtown have not even heard about the issue or the process.

Mike Robbins is concerned with how this is progressing. He supports the Market. He is the architect of the Depot and doesn't understand why the market needs to move. He also talked about how vehicles can park on the Plaza. There is a concrete shab under the bricks on the square. he doesn't want it moved to the city parking lot across from City Hall.

Meg Locke wants the market on Union Square. She said she had some harsh words towards those who lost the vote and are still arguing against this. She vehemently stated that she wants the market on Union Square. She believes that we have groups that can collaborate. She says she wants the council to make the farmer's market the most visionary group in Downtown.

Rob Bell is a building owner Downtown who does not want parking taken from Downtown. One tenant says that their clients aren't able to walk great distance. he says he is surprised that this was not advertised to business owners Downtown. Taxpayers Downtown should be part of the process.

Tyler Mills is a property and business owner and is not against the market on the square. She thinks everyone needs to work together. The market does not need to move off of the square. If it moves off of the square, then it is not part of Downtown. We need to work together to ensure that this market remains part of Downtown. It needs to remain part of the visual aspect of Downtown. If this does not happen, then businesses are going to suffer and property owner's are going to lose tenants and property values will decrease and everything will go downhill. She has been here for four years and she has seen it grow. This is part of the thriving aspect that they are trying to build upon. People need to get together and work together for a compromise.

Sam Glaberman of Union Square Emporium stated that Union Square is driven by events. It is important for the struggling businesses Downtown. The market is the best event that happens Downtown on a consistent basis.

David Crosby, the head of the Downtown Hickory Farmer's Market made the presentation regarding the Plan A option. He stated that 9 years ago they approached the City Council and asked them to support the Farmer's Market. He approached the farmer's market board last summer about how the market was expanding. They started out with 25 spaces, then 30, now they are up to 35, and they have a waiting list. They use a lot of local vendors from within the 50 mile radius of Hickory. Change doesn't come easy. He stated that not everyone is going to be happy. Parking is an issue on Wednesdays. They have heard what Jason (Yates)has to say. They have discussed utilizing the current spot 6 months a year and moving other parts of the year, but that looks bad to vendors. The recommendation is Union Square. They gain 12 spots at the Depot by moving to the right hand side of the Plaza of Union Square. 700 people come to the market on Saturday and 500 on Wednesday. He remembers when it was 300 on Saturday and 200 on Wednesday. The market attracts people from Conover, Marion, and Morganton.

Citizen Discussion about the Farmer's Market in Downtown Hickory

Alder Sally Fox was the first to speak to this issue and the fact that she was with a group that tried to attract a grocery store Downtown, but there were no interested companies. The Farmer's market has filled that void. Her tenant recruitment entity helped with the vision of the Farmer's Market. As a council person, she believes that the market can grow on Union Square and this will attract people and distinguish ourselves from other community's. Alder Patton, stated that she is on the Farmer's Market board and we are as a community and a nation being called to do things locally and eat fresh produce and be healthier. We do gain 12 spots, we can afford to walk across the street from the Depot. The Square does suit the majority of the property owners. We need to take the opportunity to be visible on the Square and take baby steps and maybe look at the whole square and maybe move some bricks out to do more on the Square and make more parking available. There is a time crunch.

Alderman Meisner addressed people aho have complained about events Downtown and not everyone is going to be happy. This adds to Doewntown. The Mayor has a strong sense related to property owners and their needs as far as parking. This is not permanent and if there are problems they will be quickly addressed. This is not something that can't be undone. The Mayor stated that merchants need to keep their employees out of the Downtown Parking Spaces and this is not a joke. Alder Patton stated that at the HDDA meeting this morning that one of the main issues was the people that were tying up those prime parking spots were employees of Downtown. The mayor said as a business owner he would be apprehensive, but kind of looking forward to this. Alderman Seaver asked why the vendors could not park on the bricks? It was stated that this was because of trucks and the effects that might have on the bricks and possible other (aesthetic) issues.

Alderman Guess had concerns about Property owners who have not been brought up to speed and this needs to be done on a temporary basis. maybe the permit time needs to be shorter. This was done in two weeks and more people need to be allowed to give their opinion. Atty. Crone clarified this is a special event permit effective from April 23, 2011 to November 24, 2011 and after that time they have to come back before the Council. Alderman Meisner stated that their is jockeying for these vendors and they can go other places. Alder Patton added that once they go to another location they stay there. Ald. Guess stated he was concerned about long time tenants and owners. Ald. Fox interjected that Union Square has lost two long time veteran tenants this year, because of the loss of people on Union Square. We need activity and to build a critical mass and that is not there and Ald. patton added that the Farmer's Market brings 1200 people per weekd. Ald. Guess stated that he wants to make sure that dedicated owners that have been around since before the Farmer's market are heard.

Four options were looked at and the map below is a rendition that can be altered to some degree. The Mayor stated that they are not going to let long time property and business owners suffer as a result of a decision they make.

The Hound saw a lot in this issue that is a microcosm of the problems that we see in Hickory in General. Everyone was, is, and will continue to be in support of the farmer's market and they enjoy the festival type atmosphere that it has brought to downtown. But, what we saw was a whole lot of angst is developing out of the details, that have not fully formed yet, that is causing parties with a similar mission to appear to be pulling apart at a time when it would be in their best interests to pull together.

First off, these people owe Alders Fox and Patton a great deal of thanks and respect for having a vision on this subject and following through on that vision and being persistent about the mission of the Downtown Farmer's market. The merchants Downtown need to work with these ladies to ensure that they don't screw up something that they are benefiting from. There is going to have to be some give and take in association with the current set up of the Farmer's Market as it stands today. The current infrastructure is not conducive to growth under the ideal of keeping all of the vendors together. At some point in the very near future this issue is going to have to be addressed. You cannot continue to have 100% growth in vendors and attendees without a reconfiguration of the infrastructure of the marketplace.

What everyone was arguing about is their vision of the marketplace. The marketplace is the people. The people are the participants who choose to come downtown and purchase the goods and services provided by the merchants downtown. It is understandable that the merchants have and the property owners have anxieties related to changes in the current set up.

I think that we saw a common thread related to this issue last night and all issues we have seen arise over the last several years in Hickory. The communication between "the City" and interested parties on issues such as these SUCKS!!! and the sooner the people who can't (or choose not to) communicate well are put in their place, the better off we are all going to be. I am not naive, I do understand that there will always be disagreements and you will not ever be able to get everyone on board, but providing solid information that people can understand tends to reduce these anxieties. When our leaders tell us that we don't understand an issue of interest that tells me that they aren't providing the relevant information and the laws of this State and this Nation enumerate that the information of the government belongs to the people. We must demand that we see a better relationship between the government and the people of this community.

Lastly, I have expressed my desire that we see a permanent structure be brought to fruition involving local agribusiness. At the same time that I see the benefits of creating this festival atmosphere Downtown, I also have a desire to see a year round farmer's market in a place that is more conducive to the access and needs of the customers. Downtown can still keep their farmer's market. No one needs to take that away from Downtown and I don't think anyone's mission involves ending the Downtown festival markets, but I think what the myopic, short term view related to this issue is is that it must be kept in its current format. Why can't this festival atmosphere and vision be a reality every day?

Why can't we have a serpentarium downtown like they have in Wilmington (Cape Fear Serpentarium)? Why can't there be a branch of the Science and Cultural Center on the Square? Call it SALT on the square. We are known for furniture. Why isn't there a historical furniture museum downtown? A place that shows fine craftsmanship and historical techniques of furniture making? We have a history with pottery in the area. Why can't we do this with pottery? We have artists in the area. Why can't we do this with art? I can go on and on.

I know why we don't. Because many of the people Downtown want to set out a niche for their businesses and they want a path of least resistance when it comes to competition. They want independence, but don't want any inconvenience and want to remain dependent on the City treasury for some of their funding to supply some of that convenience. It is unfortunate that business and economic realities just don't afford those types of mindsets. Yeah you as a business owner, property owner, or employee hate the parking situation, but you think that it doesn't pertain to you when you take up a space intended for a customer; because of convenience. You want more customers, but you don't want someone or something coming in that might sell something like you sell. You want rules and barriers to entry for potential business owners looking to move Downtown. Mast General store is an example of a top notch business who was expected to run through this maze. Why would they want to tolerate such interference? Whose loss was that? Mast or the people of Hickory?

I keep hearing that we need to work together. Some people are tone deaf and others have a hard time understanding what that means. It means that you have to compromise to build a consensus to move the community forward. I can give you example after example of people who have no communication skills. Half of communication involves listening and there are too many people in this community who keep chatting away, while others are speaking and trying to define their point of view. If you do this, then how the heck do you even know what these people have said. That is the definition of ignorance. These people that were speaking last night want the same thing... a better marketplace. They just have different objectives how to make that work. I know for a fact that they have 90% of the same objectives, but here they go again getting tangled in the web of the 10% of differences. That is truly a shame, but we have seen it time and time again in this community.

So let's start listening and communicating better in this community. See how those two words have the same root basis? Community... Communication, without one you cannot have the other.

Monday, February 14, 2011

21 Signs That The Once Great U.S. Economy Is Being Gutted

21 Signs That The Once Great U.S. Economy Is Being Gutted, Neutered, Defanged, Declawed And Deindustrialized - The Economic Collapse - February 13, 2011

Once upon a time, the United States was the greatest industrial powerhouse that the world has ever seen. Our immense economic machinery was the envy of the rest of the globe and it provided the foundation for the largest and most vibrant middle class in the history of the world. But now the once great U.S. economic machine is being dismantled piece by piece. The U.S. economy is being gutted, neutered, defanged, declawed and deindustrialized and very few of our leaders even seem to care. It was the United States that once showed the rest of the world how to mass produce televisions and automobiles and airplanes and computers, but now our industrial base is being ripped to shreds. Tens of thousands of our factories and millions of our jobs have been shipped overseas. Many of our proudest manufacturing cities have been transformed into "post-industrial" hellholes that nobody wants to live in anymore.

Meanwhile, wave after wave of shiny new factories is going up in nations such as China, India and Brazil. This is great for those countries, but for the millions of American workers that desperately needed the jobs that have been sent overseas it is not so great.

This is the legacy of globalism. Multinational corporations now have the choice whether to hire U.S. workers or to hire workers in countries where it is legal to pay slave labor wages. The "great sucking sound" that Ross Perot warned us about so long ago is actually happening, and it has left tens of millions of Americans without good jobs.

So what is to become of a nation that consumes more than it ever has and yet continues to produce less and less?

Well, the greatest debt binge in the history of the world has enabled us to maintain (and even increase) our standard of living for several decades, but all of that debt is starting to really catch up with us.

The American people seem to be very confused about what is happening to us because most of them thought that the party was going to last forever. In fact, most of them still seem convinced that our brightest economic days are still ahead.

After all, every time we have had a "recession" in the past things have always turned around and we have gone on to even greater things, right?

Well, what most Americans simply fail to understand is that we are like a car that is having its insides ripped right out. Our industrial base is being gutted right in front of our eyes.

Most Americans don't think much about our "trade deficit", but it is absolutely central to what is happening to our economy. Every year, we buy far, far more from the rest of the world than they buy from us.

In 2010, the U.S. trade deficit was just a whisker under $500 billion. This is money that we could have all spent inside the United States that would have supported thousands of American factories and millions of American jobs.

Instead, we sent all of those hundreds of billions of dollars overseas in exchange for a big pile of stuff that we greedily consumed. Most of that stuff we probably didn't need anyway.

Since we spent almost $500 billion more with the rest of the world than they spent with us, at the end of the year the rest of the world was $500 billion wealthier and the American people were collectively $500 billion poorer.

That means that the collective "economic pie" that we are all dividing up is now $500 billion smaller.

Are you starting to understand why times suddenly seem so "hard" in the United States?

Meanwhile, jobs and businesses continue to fly out of the United States at a blinding pace.

This is a national crisis.

We simply cannot expect to continue to have a "great economy" if we allow our economy to be deindustrialized.

A nation that consumes far more than it produces is not going to be wealthy for long.

The following are 21 signs that the once great U.S. economy is being gutted, neutered, defanged, declawed and deindustrialized....

#1 The U.S. trade deficit with the rest of the world rose to 497.8 billion dollars in 2010. That represented a 32.8% increase from 2009.

#2 The U.S. trade deficit with China rose to an all-time record of 273.1 billion dollars in 2010. This is the largest trade deficit that one nation has had with another nation in the history of the world.

#3 The U.S. trade deficit with China in 2010 was 27 times larger than it was back in 1990.

#4 In the years since 1975, the United States had run a total trade deficit of 7.5 trillion dollars with the rest of the world.

#5 The United States spends more than 4 dollars on goods and services from China for every one dollar that China spends on goods and services from the United States.

#6 In 1959, manufacturing represented 28 percent of all U.S. economic output. In 2008, it represented only 11.5 percent and it continues to fall.

#7 The number of net jobs gained by the U.S. economy during this past decade was smaller than during any other decade since World War 2.

#8 The Bureau of Labor Statistics originally predicted that the U.S. economy would create approximately 22 million jobs during the decade of the 2000s, but it turns out that the U.S. economy only produced about 7 million jobs during that time period.

#9 Japan now manufactures about 5 million more automobiles than the United States does.

#10 China has now become the world's largest exporter of high technology products.

#11 Manufacturing employment in the U.S. computer industry is actually lower in 2010 than it was in 1975.

#12 The United States now has 10 percent fewer "middle class jobs" than it did just ten years ago.

#13 According to Tax Notes, between 1999 and 2008 employment at the foreign affiliates of U.S. parent companies increased an astounding 30 percent to 10.1 million. During that exact same time period, U.S. employment at American multinational corporations declined 8 percent to 21.1 million.

#14 Back in 1970, 25 percent of all jobs in the United States were manufacturing jobs. Today, only 9 percent of the jobs in the United States are manufacturing jobs.

#15 Back in 1998, the United States had 25 percent of the world’s high-tech export market and China had just 10 percent. Ten years later, the United States had less than 15 percent and China's share had soared to 20 percent.

#16 The number of Americans that have become so discouraged that they have given up searching for work completely now stands at an all-time high.

#17 Half of all American workers now earn $505 or less per week.

#18 The United States has lost a staggering 32 percent of its manufacturing jobs since the year 2000.

#19 Since 2001, over 42,000 U.S. factories have closed down for good.

#20 In 2008, 1.2 billion cellphones were sold worldwide. So how many of them were manufactured inside the United States? Zero.

#21 Ten years ago, the "employment rate" in the United States was about 64%. Since then it has been constantly declining and now the "employment rate" in the United States is only about 58%. So where did all of those jobs go?

The world is changing.

We are bleeding national wealth at a pace that is almost unimaginable.

We are literally being drained dry.

Did you know that China now has the world's fastest train and the world's largest high-speed rail network?

They were able to afford those things with all of the money that we have been sending them.

How do you think all of those oil barons in the Middle East became so wealthy and could build such opulent palaces?

They got rich off of all the money that we have been sending them.

Meanwhile, once great U.S. cities such as Detroit, Michigan now look like war zones.

Back in 1985, the U.S. trade deficit with China was about 6 million dollars for the entire year.

As mentioned above, the U.S. trade deficit with China for 2010 was over 273 billion dollars.

What a difference 25 years can make, eh?

What do you find when you go into a Wal-Mart, a Target or a dollar store today?

You find row after row after row of stuff made in China and in other far away countries.

It can be more than a bit difficult to find things that are actually made inside the United States anymore. In fact, there are quite a few industries that have completely and totally left the United States. For certain product categories it is now literally impossible to buy something made in America.

So what are we going to do with our tens of millions of blue collar workers?

Should we just tell them that their jobs are not ever coming back so they better learn phrases such as "Welcome to Wal-Mart" and "Would you like fries with that"?

For quite a few years, the gigantic debt bubble that we were living in kind of insulated us from feeling the effects of the deindustrialization of America.

But now the pain is starting to kick in.

It has now become soul-crushingly difficult to find a job in America today.

According to Gallup, the U.S. unemployment rate is currently 10.1% and when you throw in "underemployed" workers that figure rises to 19.6%.

Competition for jobs has become incredibly fierce and it is going to stay that way.

The great U.S. economic machine is being ripped apart and dismantled right in full view of us all.

This is not a "conservative" issue or a "liberal" issue. This is an American issue.

The United States is rapidly being turned into a "post-industrial" wasteland.

It is time to wake up America.