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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Economic Stories of Relevance in Today's World -- July 31, 2011

Recovery Job Growth Concentrated In Low-Paying Occupations - Huffington Post - Arthur Delaney - July 26, 2011 - The Great Recession destroyed all kinds of jobs, but the not-so-great recovery has so far replaced the lowest-paying jobs at a much faster pace than higher-paying ones, according to a new analysis of Census Bureau data... Workers navigating the current labor market are facing a "significant good jobs deficit," said the National Employment Law Project, the worker advocacy group that crunched the Census numbers... Low-wage occupations saw job growth of 3.2 percent from the beginning of 2010 to the beginning of 2011, while mid-wage jobs only grew by 1.2 percent, according to NELP. During the same time period, higher-wage jobs fell by 1.2 percent. In other words, there are more new jobs for retail salespeople, office clerks, cashiers and food prep workers than for machinists, managers, nurses and accountants... To make matters worse, low-paying jobs pay even less than they used to, according to the report.

Even with debt, US not closing offshore loophole - Boston Globe Christopher Rowland - July 27, 2011 - Coincidentally, the aftermath of the tornadoes that tore through Western Massachusetts last month, causing an estimated $200 million in damage, offers a peek at the particular strategy on some insurance premiums that Neal and others say is unfair to US taxpayers... Many of the storm damage claims in Westfield, Springfield, and Monson will be paid by overseas reinsurance firms, most with large operations in the United States and headquarters in Bermuda and Switzerland. The foreign reinsurance companies are not required to pay federal income taxes on the estimated $30 billion a year they shift from American subsidiaries to their offshore affiliates... “It’s sophisticated tax avoidance,’’ said Neal, who serves on the House Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over tax matters. “Their presence is in the United States. Their post office box is offshore.’’... Tax specialists say it is just one example of the ways corporations legally move income from the United States to offshore accounts - and out of range of the IRS. The Congressional Research Service, a nonpartisan arm of the federal government, estimated last year that such shifting costs US taxpayers as much as $60 billion a year in lost revenue.

On the News With Thom Hartmann: General Electric Moving Its Entire X-Ray Business Headquarters to China, and More
- Truthout - July 28, 2011 - You need to know this. Meet the new plan – same as the old plan. The manufactured crisis continues. After the Congressional Budget Office - a world-class independent credit rating agency – and even members of his own Party, dissed Speaker John Boehner’s first debt-limit plan earlier in the week – Boehner revealed his new plan last night…and it’s pretty much exactly the same. The new plan cuts $915 billion from programs for working Americans – about $65 billion more than the first one – and it’s still only a short-term deal that doesn’t balance the budget and forces Congress to hit the debt ceiling again next year – in the middle of an election. The House will likely vote on this new so-called plan today – assuming Boehner can get enough Republicans to support it. That's a task that’s proven difficult over the last few weeks as because a Tea Party insurgency has split Congressional Republicans into two camps – one that wants to prevent a default – and one that actually wants to force a default. But what both camps have in common is they want this phony debt-limit debate to pop up again during the 2012 election – and hang it around President Obama’s neck – no matter the risk to the economy. Once upon a time – if a political party tried this same tactic – crashing the economy and hurting millions of Americans just to score political points – it’d be called treason. But today – it’s called the Republican Party platform.

Gerald Celente: 'Deal or no debt deal, the debt still exists'

The debt standoff continues and still lawmakers cannot come to terms on a deal. August 2nd is the day that the US is supposed to default and many are concerned on how this will affect the US's AAA rating. Gerald Celente, publisher of the Trends Journal, tells us the numbers don't lie.

Peter Shiff: Problem is the debt, not the ceiling

The country which holds more U.S. debt than any other, has hit out at the failure of Congress to reach a deal over its debt ceiling. China says the political deadlock in Washington threatens the entire global economy.

So far Republicans and Democrats have delayed a vote over limiting what the country owes, as they haven't agreed on rival budgets. They have until Tuesday to avoid a potentially devastating default. Earlier in the week, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Beijing to reassure Asian leaders, that America will not fall back on its debt payments. But Peter Schiff from investment company Euro Pacific Capital, thinks China could well dump the dollar as its main reserve currency.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Mesh - Local Alternative Internet Media - Please Support

I want to help local entrepreneur Alan Jackson (The President of the Jackson Group) push his multimedia network called The Mesh. This is a cutting edge form of media that includes both Audio and video presentations of different varieties under ITunes and Youtube formats.

As I talked with Alan tonight at our Future Economy Council meeting at the Conover Tavern, I asked Alan some specific questions during the informal part of our gathering and then Alan was asked to present this topic to the group. Alan's desire is for this network to bring recognition to the area and display the technological capacity that Hickory has to offer.

I left the Conover tavern and arrived home a little after 9pm and sitting here figuring out what I wanted to discuss, I have thought about how Alan has shown a desire to improve the area and he has taken steps toward doing just that. We need to support Alan's effort here. What can you do? You can give Alan's media network a chance. How hard is that? All you have to do is Download and listen.

This network currently offers many different programs and of course over time that is expected to grow. I have also had the good fortune of getting to know Houston Harris the owner of Pixelspace and Interopsis over the last few years and I have grown to respect his business formula. Houston has spoken in the past about his idea of Free Range Chicken Thinking. On The Mesh, there is a show that is dedicated to the discussion of the "Free Range Chicken" philosophy. by Houston and members of his staff in which they discuss the intricacies of this philosophy, which I previously written about on this blog in an article entitled "The Future Economy Council, Houston Harris, The Granary."
Houston talked about "Free Range Chicken thinking." He says he wants to be the oldest rooster in the yard. Their life is different from a coup raised chicken, they want to survive. They are lean, they have to move fast, they've got to find some food, they've got to run from that ax, eventually they will get caught, but the free range chicken has an attitude about survival. They adapt and try new things. Thinking is about finding those things and keeping your brain in this mode of what's new -- I can't be afraid of this.
Youtube presentation of Free Range Chicken Thinking

Free Range Chicken Thinking
- (Click link to open and listen or Right Click and Save to listen now or later)

The Hound - If we want to move this community forward, then we are going to have to support these efforts and help spread the word. Alan is attempting to create a marketplace of cultural expression and openness and it is our responsibility to participate, promote, and spread the word of this effort.

I am permanently linking to the Mesh in the "Interesting Blog Partners" link at the right of this page. It will be there in the future for all to see and over time I will personally enjoy collaboration, participation, and growth in this new media paradigm.

The Mesh Facebook Page - Go there. Like, Comment, and Leave Feedback about what Alan's Group is doing. I know Alan and listens and attentive to the needs of his customer base. What do you think of the content and what would you like see develop in the future

The Mesh Website - - The MESH is a new media online network, designed to produce and deliver unique content to computers, mobile phones, iPods, iPads, and any other device connected to the Internet.  Just like a traditional television network, The MESH has a series of programs and "shows" on a variety of topics... the difference is you can watch or listen to what you want, when you want, and where you want.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

National Debt Limit - Same Ole, Same Ole.

As I stated in my comments related to other comments related to the Economic Stories of Relevance on July 24, 2011:
What we are seeing is the "Greed is Good" paradigm played out where parasitic people in positions of power feed off of anyone they can without thinking about the consequences of sustainability for their host and thus themselves.
We have seen as much of this on the local level as we have seen it on the national or global stage.
That is why the immigrants have been brought into our nation. It lowers the amount of wage that "businessmen" have to pay to the workforce. That is the reason why we have offshored our manufacturing industry, because it too lowers the labor costs devoted to the workforce.
But what these idiots don't understand is that eventually this race to the bottom will destroy the host that they are feeding off of. In the end everything that is of this Earth is on this Earth. We have to create the abundance within a reasonable capacity of production. When we devote the abundance to the hands of just a few, which is actually about 1/10th of a percent, then we create a destructive, not a productive force. Just think, that is 300,000 people in the U.S., smaller than our Hickory Metro Area. We are devoting ourselves to what would equate to about 40 people in the City of Hickory. 40 people feeding off of 39,970, does that seem right?
We have lost the balance necessary to keep the machine of a productive and progressing mankind well oiled. You want to talk about a country that has lost it's moral bearings; there you have it.
I believe in capitalism, but what we see today is not capitalism. Profit is great, because it creates incentive. Raping people economically creates a disincentive. It is Hedo-Economics. The idiots at the top are destroying the marketplace. They sit at the top of the pyramid, but they are destroying the foundation below. I know so many people who are clueless and so many who were clueless and didn't realize how vulnerable they were and today they are scrambling. If it is going to be this way, then why should we even care? Why should we support the elite and their system of destruction?
Going back to January 2009, I spoke in two articles entitled C-O-N-S-E-Q-U-E-N-C-E-S and Hedo-Economics. In those articles I point to the rules of the Self-Annointed Elite who are never held accountable for their actions and never called out when they are wrong in their decision making process and/or serve their own special interests at the expense of the regular folks who are attempting to survive these times. Those two sets of rules are what have brought this nation to the brink that we stand upon today.

(From CONSEQUENCES - January 29, 2009) - Many economists are saying that our banks are insolvent, while politicians keep denying there is a systemic problem. They keep throwing more and more money towards these institutions without stopping to reassess the situation or demand accountability. Tell me what does empirical evidence make you think?
Capitalism has unjustly been put on trial. The problem is not Capitalism, it is Hedo-Economics. The people who have a Fiduciary responsibility to act in others best interest have not done so. We have seen political and business leaders act only towards their own material self-interests. This greed and subsequent poor judgment has led to the Recessionary consequences that we are enduring today. Yet, the perpetrators of misdeed are still in charge. Does that make sense?
We must learn from history. We are not going to solve the problems of our broken economy unless we demand positive values from our leaders! There must be transparency in the actions of people in power. When people break the law, no matter who they are, they must be held accountable. If they aren't, then we will continue to suffer. The laws of Common Sense are always in play and so are Consequences.
Is this not where we have traveled over the last 2 1/2 years. Think of all of the Bailouts. When Barack Obama came to office our National Debt sat at $10.6 trillion and has risen to $14.2 trillion in the subsequent 2 1/2 years. The seeds of this economic debauchery have been sown by both parties and the American people have been given no alternatives or choices when it comes to the leadership of our nation, because both parties are owned by the corporations that fostered these realities.

The average folks are blamed and it is programs that benefit the working class that are being targeted, while once again the wealthy have their interests toted by the politicos whom they own. I don't think the American people would mind sacrifice, if they thought it was going to be across the board, but the reality is that the government is doing nothing to put us back on a path toward Economic Development and Job Creation. All they are doing is buying time and making the economic issues we face much, much worse.

The problems that we face are these very expensive military excursions that we are involved in and the Free-For-All trade policies that are continually pushed by both parties. Another issue is Illegal Immigration, but if we had Economic Development it would not be the issue that it is today, but still it is a matter of principle and the Elite in our nation have shown that they have none.
(From Hedo-Economics - January 6, 2009) - Capitalism does not espouse any philosophies of lawlessness or anti-social behavior. To the contrary, for a marketplace to be created one needs to have a social network set up with rules and regulations. There have to be guidelines (laws) in order for the marketplace to function properly. Those guidelines have to be administered by a non-partisan body which represents all of the people who have an interest in the marketplace.
That is where the government has evolved. The government is supposed to be a non-partisan entity that allows the social network to function. The people (the social network, marketplace, citizens) are the individuals that should determine the laws. The government's job is to regulate and enforce the will of the people. As governments overstep their role, the marketplace gradually becomes more and more inefficient. Authoritarian governments do not have true marketplaces, but they do end up having black markets.
The Hound Knows that somewhere along the way our system has been derailed. Our system was never and will never be perfect, not because it was created or instituted by man, but rather because it is administered by man. We must not give up on our traditional social system just because it isn't perfect, the alternatives are much worse.

Instead we must castigate and shun the purveyors of Hedo-Economics. Greed is not good!!! Because their is no virtue in greed. It also isn't virtuous to punish everyone, because of what a few people have done to sabotage our way of life. We know the instigators and they must be held accountable. Under any system, if you arbitrarily allow anti-social behavior amongst a given class, then you will surely see that society devolve into chaos.
And that is what we see today. I heard Senator Lindsay Graham state that we need a Balanced Budget Amendment, but how would that solve a problem when the Constitution is constantly usurped today. The Gamers would find a way to get around that system just as they have done through the Patriot Act, The Transportation Security Administration, the Process of Obamacare, the limits to Free Speech, the overstepping of the Commerce Clause, and the constant battles versus those who want to confiscate guns.

This raising of the debt limit is all for political gamesmanship. In the end they will raise it at the 12th hour. How do I know this? Because that is what they always do. Will this save the country? No Way. We are going down, because we are in the midst of the perfect storm. Average Folks are clueless about all of this and really don't care except for the entertainment aspect related to the news. The Politicos are only out to further line their pockets. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. It is the final result that counts and that will be the same ole, same ole.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Economic Stories of Relevance in Today's World -- July 24, 2011

Will Republicans Make Congress Superfluous?  
by Paul Craig Roberts    

KINGSTON, NY, 23 July 2011 — The drama of it all! Will Congress refuse to raise the debt ceiling, forcing the US government to default and, thereby, immediately turning the “world’s only superpower” into a Third World country subject to an IMF austerity program? The markets are poised to explode upward in jubilation or collapse in despondency. Only in America could such fantasy dominate the news.

Does anyone really believe that the US government would default on its debt?

The debt ceiling/default “crisis” is nothing but political theater. The Republicans are employing scare tactics in their attempt to destroy the social safety net. The Democrats are playing along with the assault on “entitlements,” because it is what the majority of their large contributors want.

The presstitutes dish out the fantasy as if it were reality.

The US government will never default on its debt, because the government can print an endless stream of money to redeem its bonds. 

The Republicans would love to gut Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, food stamps, unemployment insurance, education, and any and everything that benefits ordinary people. But do they want to gut their wars?

Do they want to gut American financial hegemony over the world?

Do they want the US dollar replaced as world reserve currency and oil to be priced in a different currency than the US dollar?

Of course they don’t. And if the Republicans are not smart enough to have figured out these consequences of their refusal to raise the debt ceiling, someone will tell them before it is too late.

But in truth it matters not whether the debt ceiling is raised. The Bush regime, with the complicity of the federal courts and Congress, established that the president has essentially unlimited powers not bound by law when the country is at war. The president does not have to follow the Constitution or obey statutory law. He can ignore the laws against spying on Americans without warrants. He can ignore the laws against torture and against indefinite detention without presenting charges in a court. He can even ignore the War Powers Act. Obviously, the president can also ignore the debt ceiling limit.

If banks are too-big-to-fail, so is the US government. All Obama has to do is to declare a national emergency, set aside the debt ceiling limit on national security grounds, and continue to issue debt. If the Federal Reserve were to resist, which it never would, Obama would simply nationalize the institution. If US presidents can take over the steel industry, or bring the industry to heel with the threat, it can take over the Federal Reserve.

If Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling, the only consequence would be the further erosion of Congress’ diminished power. Obama would say, and the public would accept, that Congress was unable to do its share of governing and had left the troops without supplies, the dollar unprotected, and was casting away American power.

The final result would be that Congress, having already lost the power to declare war, would lose the power of the purse. Henceforth budgets would be determined by the executive branch, which would also determine the proportions of expenditures covered by taxes, by borrowing, and by money creation.

The Republicans would have made Congress irrelevant like the Roman senate under the caesars. 

P.S. The Summer Trends Journal will be sent out on Tuesday

©MMX The Trends Research Institute®

A New Surge In Job Layoffs
- Decline of the Empire - July 21, 2011 - Companies are laying off employees at a level not seen in nearly a year, hobbling the job market and intensifying fears about the pace of the economic recovery... Cisco Systems Inc., Lockheed Martin Corp. and troubled bookstore chain Borders Group Inc. are among those that have recently announced hefty cuts, while recent government numbers underscore how companies have shifted toward cutting jobs... The increase in layoffs is a key reason why the U.S. recorded an average of only 21,500 new jobs over the past two months, far below the level needed to bring down unemployment, which now stands at 9.2%... The cuts also reflect the shifting outlook of employers, many of whom had expected the economy to gain speed as the year progressed. Instead, growth has faltered. If the pace continues to disappoint, more companies will feel pressure to pull back. "Layoffs have played a big role [in weak job growth] over the last few months," said Mike Montgomery, an economist at IHS Global Insight. "The soft patch is more layoffs and nothing else to pick up the slack."... In May, U.S. public and private employers shed 1.78 million workers, the highest level since August 2010. Among those layoffs, 1.66 million were from the private sector [graph above].

How Your Social Security Money Was Stolen – Where Did the $2.5 Trillion Surplus Go? - - Introduction by David DeGraw, Reports by Dr. Allen Smith - The Social Security surplus revenue should have been saved and invested in public-issue, marketable Treasury bonds. These bonds are “good as gold” and default-proof. They are the kind of U.S. Treasury bonds that are owned by China and Japan, Bill Gates, pension funds, and every other serious investor that owns Treasuries. If the Social Security surplus had been invested in public-issue marketable Treasury bonds, as it could have been, and should have been, Barbara Kennelly would be correct in saying that the Social Security holdings are “as solid as what we owe China and Japan.” Unfortunately not a single dollar of the surplus Social Security revenue was saved or invested in anything. It was all spent, and, once money is spent, there is nothing left to invest... The government cannot, and will not, ever default on any of its public issue, marketable Treasury bonds because of the panic it would create in world markets and the damage it would do to the nation’s worldwide credibility. But Congress has the legal authority to default on its debt to Social Security, and, if it should do so, the outside world would probably view it primarily as an internal matter between the United States Government and its citizens. One of the least known facts about Social Security is that, although the government does have a moral obligation to pay Social Security benefits to those who have earned them, the government does not have a legal obligation to do so... In a 1960 ruling by the United States Supreme Court, the court ruled that nobody has a “contractual earned right“ to Social Security benefits. Section 1104 of the 1935 Social Security Act specifically states, “The right to alter, amend, or repeal any provision of this Act is hereby reserved to the Congress.” According to the above strong language, Congress could do whatever it wanted to do with regard to changing or even eliminating Social Security.

“Robo-Signing” Fraud Continues–Surprise! - USA Watchdog - Greg Hunter - July 20, 2011 - In April, fourteen of the nation’s biggest banks promised federal regulators they would stop robo-signing documents to foreclose on homes. This was part of a settlement to clean up the foreclosure mess caused by wild lending of the banks... Nearly 8 months ago, the banks were caught red handed fraudulently creating fake documents because they lost track of the originals in the haze of creating mortgaged-backed securities. Why is this still going on? More importantly, why aren't bank executives going to jail instead of letting them off the hook? Many have called this outright organized crime!!! The implications of this, to me, say the mortgage industry and bankers are panicked and desperate. It also signals the real estate market will not recover for many years... The story that follows is a must read from the Associated Press:

Gang of Six Plan Gives Tax Breaks for Wealthy, Social Security Cuts for Ordinary Workers - Truthout - Dean Baker - July 19, 2011 - Washington, D.C.- The budget plan produced by the Senate’s “Gang of Six” offers the promise of huge tax breaks for some of the wealthiest people in the country, while lowering Social Security benefits for retirees and the disabled. Despite claiming that they will "reform" Social Security on a "separate track, isolated from deficit reduction," the plan includes cuts to Social Security that would be felt in less than six months, as the plan calls for a new inflation formula that will reduce benefits by 0.3 percentage points a year compared with currently scheduled benefits. The plan also calls for a process that is likely to reduce benefits further for future retirees... It is striking that the Gang of Six chose to respond to the crisis created by the collapse of the housing bubble by developing a plan that will give even more money to top Wall Street executives and traders. By contrast, the European Union is considering imposing financial speculation taxes to reduce the power of the financial industry and raise more than $40 billion a year in revenue... The plan calls for substantial cuts elsewhere in the budget which are likely to cut into the incomes of large segments of the population, especially the sick and the elderly. The cuts it proposes to the military are just over 1.0 percent of projected spending over the next decade.

Federal Reserve audit highlights possible conflicts of interest - Washington Post - Neil Irwin - July 21, 2011 - For instance, William C. Dudley, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York who was a senior official there in 2008, owned stock of American International Group before the Fed bailed out the giant insurance firm. The GAO report did not mention him by name, but Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who spearheaded the audit, identified Dudley as the unnamed official described in the report... Lawyers at the New York Fed allowed Dudley to continue owning the shares while working on issues relating to the bailout. They concluded that for him to sell the shares immediately after the central bank bailed out the firm would be more ethically problematic than simply holding onto them and selling at a later date... Dudley “held shares in these companies as part of his personal portfolio that predated his service at the New York Fed,” a spokesman for the central bank said. “A waiver was granted allowing him to hold these shares based in part on the judgement that had he sold these shares immediately after the interventions it would have the appearance of a conflict.”

Too Big To Fail?: 10 Banks Own 77 Percent Of All U.S. Banking Assets
- The Economic Collapse - July 18, 2011 - The American people were promised that TARP and all of the other bailouts would enable the big banks to lend out lots of money which would help get the economy going for ordinary Americans again... Well, it turns out that in 2009 (the first full year after Congress passed the bailout legislation) U.S. banks posted their sharpest decline in lending since 1942... Lending has never fully recovered since the crash of 2008. The big financial institutions like Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase have been able to get all the cash that they need, but they have not passed that generosity along to ordinary Americans... In fact, the biggest U.S. banks have actually reduced small business lending by about 50 percent since the crash of 2008... That doesn’t sound like what we were promised... These “too big to fail” banks have been able to borrow gigantic amounts of money from the Fed for next to nothing and yet they still refuse to let credit flow to local communities. Instead, the big banks have found other purposes for all of the super cheap money that they have been getting from the Fed as Ellen Brown recently explained….

Burning Collapse....But Nothing to See Here - Charlie McGrath says it better than I ever could - July 21, 2011

Friday, July 22, 2011

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of July 19, 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 7/19/2011 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 Rev. Bob Thompson, Pastor, Corinth Reformed United Church of Christ

Special Presentations:
A. Presentation of Retiring Members of Volunteer Boards and Commissions - Mayor Wright presented awards to outgoing members of Hickory's Boards and Commissions.  Community Relations Council - David radke, Allen Mitchell Jr., Sherbia Jones, Alice Whitener. International Council - Dr. Marion Love. Parks and Recreation - Junior Hedrick. Public Housing Authority - Larry Pope, Citizens Advisory Committee - Agnes Wright, Library Advisory Board - Judy Ivester. Youth Council - Scott Hall,  Evan Denzer, Celia Clark, Kilby Church, Sarah Carter,  Morgan McCloud, Rebecca Sturgis, Haley Scott, Katie Keefer, Matthew Turner. (Sorry if I spelled some names wrong).

The Mayor reiterated that 200 people serve on various Boards and commissions, which is .5% of the Hickory Population of 40,010.

Consent Agenda:
A. Request to Approve Pyrotechnic Display Permit at L. P. Frans Stadium on September 9, 2011 (Rain Date – September 10, 2011) - The General Manager of the Hickory Crawdads Baseball Club has submitted a request to obtain permission to have a public fireworks display after the game on September 9, 2011, with a rain date of September 10, 2011. The North Carolina Fire Code requires a mandatory operational permit for the use and handling of pyrotechnic special effects materials. The Fire Inspection Bureau will inspect the pyrotechnics display area prior to the event to ensure compliance with all guidelines.

B. Amendment to Traffic Ordinance by Reducing the Speed Limit from 35 mph to 25 mph along 27th Avenue NE from the intersection with 13th Street NE west approximately 1,030 feet to the intersection with 11th Street NE, 26th Avenue NE from the intersection with 14th Street NE west approximately 1,740 feet to the dead end, 14th street NE from the intersection with 29th Avenue Drive NE south approximately 710 feet to the intersection with 26th Avenue NE, 11th Street NE from the intersection with 27th Avenue NE south approximately 340 feet to the intersection with 26th Avenue NE and 13th Street NE from the intersection with 29th Avenue Drive NE south approximately 880 feet to the intersection with 26th Avenue NE Under the City’s Traffic Calming Program, an application was received for a speed limit reduction along 27th Avenue NE, as indicated above, which primarily serves the Cloverdale residential area. Staff determined that a speed limit reduction from 35 mph to 25 mph would be acceptable, if the residents desired. The petition packages were received, were determined by Staff to be valid, and met the 75% signature requirement.

C. Amend the Traffic Ordinance by reducing the speed limit from 35 mph to 25 mph along FAIRWAY CT NE from the intersection with BLENDWOOD LN NE south approximately 180 feet to the Dead End, WHITNEY DR NE from the intersection with MARK DR NE west approximately 320 feet to the Dead End, BETH PL NE from the intersection with MARK DR NE west approximately 240 feet to the Dead End, JIMMY PL NE from the intersection with MARK DR NE east approximately 300 feet to the Dead End, ALEXANDER PL NE from the intersection with STEVE IKERD DR NE west approximately 150 feet to the intersection with STEVE IKERD DR NE, ANNETTE DR NE from the intersection with BROOKRIDGE DR NE east approximately 470 feet to the intersection with BETTY DR NE, WOODWINDS CT NE from the intersection with WOODWINDS DR NE west approximately 90 feet to the Dead End, RANDOLPH CT NE from the intersection with GLEN HOLLOW LN NE south approximately 90 feet to the Dead End, MAXWELL DR NE from the intersection with BROOKRIDGE DR NE west approximately 200 feet to the Dead End, GLEN HOLLOW CT NE from the intersection with GLEN HOLLOW LN NE south approximately 140 feet to the Dead End, HATHAWAY DR NE from the intersection with ELMHURST DR NE east approximately 240 feet to the Dead End, FLYNWOOD CT NE from the intersection with WANDERING LN NE north approximately 240 feet to the Dead End, PINECREST CT NE from the intersection with WANDERING LN NE east approximately 120 feet to the Dead End, TANGLEWOOD LN NE from the intersection with PINECREST DR NE west approximately 580 feet to the Dead End, RODEWAY CT NE from the intersection with TOUCHBERRY LN NE north approximately 280 feet to the Dead End, SHADOWOOD LN NE from the intersection with PINECREST DR NE west approximately 910 feet to the Dead End, ELMHURST DR NE from the intersection with WANDERING LN NE east approximately 2,650 feet to the Dead End, WOODWINDS DR NE from the intersection with WANDERING LN NE north approximately 2,530 feet to the Dead End, BROOKRIDGE DR NE from the intersection with WANDERING LN NE north approximately 2,640 feet to the intersection with STEVE IKERD DR NE, ALPINE CT NE from the intersection with PINECREST DR NE east approximately 140 feet to the Dead End, BERRYHILL CT NE from the intersection with WANDERING LN NE south approximately 400 feet to the Dead End, BETTY DR NE from the intersection with STEVE IKERD DR NE north approximately 860 feet to the intersection with STEVE IKERD DR NE, MARK DR NE from the intersection with STEVE IKERD DR NE north approximately 1,140 feet to the Dead End, BLENDWOOD LN NE from the intersection with BROOKRIDGE DR NE east approximately 1,090 feet to the Dead End, COULWOOD CT NE from the intersection with WANDERING LN NE north approximately 310 feet to the Dead End, FOXBORO LN NE from the intersection with PINECREST DR NE west approximately 870 feet to the Dead End, GLEN HOLLOW LN NE from the intersection with WOODWINDS DR NE east approximately 3,880 feet to the Dead End, HIDEAWAY CT NE from the intersection with PINECREST DR NE south approximately 280 feet to the Dead End, PINECREST DR NE from the intersection with WANDERING LN NE east approximately 7,640 feet to the intersection with WANDERING LN NE, STEVE IKERD DR NE from the intersection with BROOKRIDGE DR NE east approximately 4,900 feet to the intersection with SULPHUR SPRINGS RD NE, TOUCHBERRY LN NE from the intersection with PINECREST DR NE east approximately 610 feet to the Dead End, and WINTERFIELD CT NE from the intersection with ELMHURST DR NE east approximately 180 feet to the Dead End - Under the City’s Traffic Calming Program, an application was received for a speed limit reduction along Fairway Court NE, as indicated above, which primarily serves the Catawba Springs residential area. Staff determined that a speed limit reduction from 35 mph to 25 mph would be acceptable, if the residents desired. The petition packages were received, were determined by Staff to be valid, and met the 75% signature requirement.

D. Request by Hickory Fire Department Staff for Approval to Use Union Square on Thursday, September 22, 2011 at 6:00 p.m. to Present the Pink Heals Tour 2011 National Event “Welcome to Hickory” Opening Ceremony

E. Citizens Advisory Committee Recommendations for Assistance Through the City of Hickory’s Housing Programs. The following applicants are being recommended for approval for assistance under the City’s Housing Rehabilitation Program:
• William Barkley and Lauren Weaver Amount not to exceed $6,500 - 3921 North Center Street
• Lamar Haggins Amount not to exceed $6,500 - 2330 11th Avenue NE
• Cody Watts and Lauren Clontz Amount not to exceed $5,000 - 2341 13th Street Drive NE
• Jacob Gee Amount not to exceed $10,000 - 239 5th Street SE
• Tamara Hendrix Amount not to exceed $10,000 - 718 4th Street SE
• Joyce Brown Amount not to exceed $2,500 - 242 8th Avenue Drive SW
• Carrie James Amount not to exceed $2,024 - 221 3rd Avenue Court SW

The following applicants are being recommended for approval for assistance under the City of Hickory’s 2010 Urgent Repair Program for amounts not to exceed $5,000:
• Roger Beaver 315 5th Avenue SE, Hickory
• Marcy Wilson 1507 11th Avenue SW, Hickory

F. Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Funding Agreement with Community Ridge Day Care for FY 2011-2012 in the Amount of $1,900 - On January 26 and February 2, 2011, the City of Hickory Department of Planning and Development, under the auspices of the Community Development Block Grant Program, held two neighborhood meetings at Ridgeview Library and City Hall in order to grant non-profit organizations the opportunity to request funding for the upcoming year. The Citizens’ Advisory Committee reviewed the requests and approved funding for Community Ridge Daycare in the amount of $1,900 for the provision of low cost child care services for at risk children in order to enable parents to gain employment or attend school.

G. Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Funding Agreement with Exodus Outreach Foundation, Inc. for FY 2011-2012 in the Amount of $8,200 - On January 26 and February 2, 2011, the City of Hickory Department of Planning and Development, under the auspices of the Community Development Block Grant Program, held two neighborhood meetings at Ridgeview Library and City Hall in order to grant non-profit organizations the opportunity to request funding for the upcoming year. The Citizens’ Advisory Committee reviewed the requests and approved funding for Exodus Outreach Foundation, Inc. in the amount of $8,200 for the provision of shelter, counseling and rehabilitation services to chronically dependent and homeless men and women.

H. Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Funding Agreement with Hickory Soup Kitchen, Inc. for FY 2011-2012 in the Amount of $8,200 - On January 26 and February 2, 2011, the City of Hickory Department of Planning and Development, under the auspices of the Community Development Block Grant Program, held two neighborhood meetings at Ridgeview Library and City Hall in order to grant non-profit organizations the opportunity to request funding for the upcoming year. The Citizens’ Advisory Committee reviewed the requests and approved funding for Hickory Soup Kitchen in the amount of $8,200 for the provision of meals to the City’s homeless and/or low income population.

I. Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Funding Agreement with Inter-Faith Housing Development Corporation for FY 2011-2012 in the Amount of $28,000 - On January 26 and February 2, 2011, the City of Hickory Department of Planning and Development, under the auspices of the Community Development Block Grant Program, held two neighborhood meetings at Ridgeview Library and City Hall in order to grant non-profit organizations the opportunity to request funding for the upcoming year. The Citizens’ Advisory Committee reviewed the requests and approved funding for Inter-Faith Housing Development Corporation in the amount of $28,000 for the provision of the First-Time Homebuyer Program which offers qualified applicants up to $10,000 in assistance with down payment and closing costs toward the purchase of a home located within the corporate city limits of Hickory.

J. Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Funding Agreement with Aids Leadership Foothills Area Alliance, Inc. for FY 2011-2012 in the Amount of $8,200 - On January 26 and February 2, 2011, the City of Hickory Department of Planning and Development, under the auspices of the Community Development Block Grant Program, held two neighborhood meetings at Ridgeview Library and City Hall in order to grant non-profit organizations the opportunity to request funding for the upcoming year. The Citizens’ Advisory Committee reviewed the requests and approved funding for Aids Leadership Foothills Area Alliance, Inc. in the amount of $8,200 for the provision of quality services to people living with HIV/AIDS and HIV prevention education programs to the community at large.

K. Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Funding Agreement with Greater Hickory Cooperative Christian Ministry, Inc. for FY 2011-2012 in the Amount of $8,200 - On January 26 and February 2, 2011, the City of Hickory Department of Planning and Development, under the auspices of the Community Development Block Grant Program, held two neighborhood meetings at Ridgeview Library and City Hall in order to grant non-profit organizations the opportunity to request funding for the upcoming year. The Citizens’ Advisory Committee reviewed the requests and approved funding for Greater Hickory Cooperative Christian Ministry, Inc. in the amount of $8,200 for the provision of a free clinic to assist needy and indigent persons with medical care they may otherwise not receive, including dental, medical and pharmacy services.

L. Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Funding Agreement with City of Refuge for FY 2011-2012 in the Amount of $8,200 - On January 26 and February 2, 2011, the City of Hickory Department of Planning and Development, under the auspices of the Community Development Block Grant Program, held two neighborhood meetings at Ridgeview Library and City Hall in order to grant non-profit organizations the opportunity to request funding for the upcoming year. The Citizens’ Advisory Committee reviewed the requests and approved funding for City of Refuge in the amount of $8,200 for the provision of after-school and summer enrichment programs for local children.

M. Offer by Parcheggio, LLC to Purchase City Property Located on 6th Street Drive NW (Portion of Lot 10, The Pines – PIN No. 3703-14-34-2296) in the Amount of $19,000 - This offer to purchase is from Parcheggio, LLC (or its assigns) for the city-owned vacant .32-acre lot located on 6th Street Drive NW (portion of Lot 10 in The Pines). This property was donated to the City to be used as a future park, but the City has no plans for the property. The property is zoned R-2 and has a restriction to be used as a future park; therefore, the buyers would be restricted to use the property as a park or vacant land. The tax value of the property is $33,700. Staff recommends acceptance of the offer to purchase from Parcheggio, LLC and authorization to advertise for upset bids.

N. First Amendment to Wastewater Operations and Treatment Contract With City of Claremont to Include Management Services as Operator in Responsible Charge of the Claremont Distribution and Collections Systems - Since approval of the original contract, Claremont Officials have expressed an interest in employing the services of the City of Hickory Public Utilities Department to provide for the operator in responsible charge of their distribution and collection systems. The City of Claremont does not have staff that possesses the required credentials. This contract will allow Hickory to expand its services, provide for a long-term solution for Claremont’s wastewater needs, and potentially provide for assistance with the Hickory-Catawba Wastewater Treatment Facility Project. This contract modification will account for an additional amount of approximately $4,918 per month for 11 months annually. The City of Claremont will remain responsible for all capital expenditures and operation and maintenance of the distribution and collection system. The City of Hickory will not be required to hire additional staff.

O. Transfer of Cemetery Deed from Jeannie Poovey Jandrew and Husband, David Jandrew and Christopher Wayne Poovey to Glenn E. Link and Wife, Sylvia Diane Link in Oakwood Cemetery

P. Transfer of Cemetery Deed from Christopher Wayne Poovey to Jeannie Poovey Jandrew in Oakwood Cemetery

Q. Budget Ordinances
1. To budget a $7,000 insurance claim check from Victoria Fire and Casualty Co, Inc. in the Police Department Maintenance and Repair of vehicle line item. This payment is for damage sustained to a Police vehicle on 04-28-11. Check was deposited on 07-05-11.
2. To budget a $2,811 insurance claim check from Trident Insurance Co, Inc. in the Police Department Maintenance and Repair of vehicle line item. This payment is
for damage sustained to a Police vehicle on 06-19-11. Check was deposited on 07-01-11.

Informational Items:
A. Report of City Manager Berry’s attendance at the NC City and County Management Association Summer Seminar, June 22-25, 2011; registration - $225; hotel $665.67 ($181.59 reimbursed to City); mileage - $267.72; per diem - $42.50 (Exhibit IX.A.)

New Business - Departmental Reports:
1. Change Order No. 4 to Contract with Pizzagalli Construction Company in the Amount of $121,480 for the Northeast Wastewater Treatment Plant (NEWWTP) Upgrade - The NEWWTP Upgrade Project was initiated in July, 2010 at a cost of $21,569,383 for a complete upgrade of the facility. The current contract amount for this project is $21,876,417 which includes previously approved Change Orders Nos. 1 – 3. This project was established with a contingency fund in order to address unforeseen expenses that may arise, and Change Order No. 4 consists of 5 items that were unforeseen during design and project bidding as follows:
1) Clarifier No. 3 Grading Changes and Handrail $10,643
2) Headworks Area Revisions $16,497
3) Oxidation Ditch VFD Building Base Slab Reinforcement $1,449
4) Additional 8-Inch Gravity Sanitary Sewer Line $15,393
5) Oxidation Ditch No. 1 Structural Revisions $77,498
Total $121,480

The revised contract total to date will be $21,997,897. 

Kevin Greer addressed the Council on this issue. The project is 70% complete. These are unforeseen circumstances that have had to be dealt with through construction.  The change had to made because this is a sludge transfer building that moves bio-solids from the plant to the compost facility. There is a lot of piping and power that comes through this facility. The building had to be moved and grading around the tank had to be reconfigured. There were negotiations with the contractors that saved over $1,600.

The Headworks building had to be changed, because there is a knot of rock in this area. They raised the building by 2 feet. negotiations with the contractors that saved over $2,500. The Oxidation Ditch had to be reconfigured, because the estimations of the beams were slightly off. There was too much steel in too tight a spot. The contractor originally wanted over $126,142 and through negotiations the City saved over $48,000.
The Mayor asked why the engineers didn't know that we needed 1 1/4" to 1 1/2" between those rods (when they drew up the designs)? Mr. Greer stated that in this project, on top of this tank, there are about 400 yards of concrete and just over 10,000 lb of steel. On paper this works out perfect, but when you get out in the field the bars bend down at an angle to tie all of this steel together. This has closed the spacing.
The Mayor stated that what we are paying them for are things that are encountered clearly... When they drew this, they had it. Mr. Greer reiterated the above answer. The Mayor then asked why the company concedes anything during negotiations. Mr. Greer talked about the constructors put in a "Claim for Delay," but the city wasn't going to allow it, because they are 10 months ahead of schedule. The constructors conceded and agreed. The balanced of the money was the change in concrete. Alderman Meisner asked if there were awards written into the contract for finishing early. Mr. Greer stated, "No Sir." As a municipality the city cannot offer a bonus for finishing early unless it is a design/build project to which manager Berry stated that would be if it did not go out for bid. Mr. Greer stated, "Correct."  Manager berry stated that State statute does allow you to do this in some circumstances when something needs to be done in a certain period of time. Mr. Greer stated that Wastewater facilities do not, but a compost facility would.
Alder Patton asked how much the rock issue alluded to has thrown this project off. Mr. Greer stated that some rock was accounted for and it has stayed within budget, but unsuitable soils has thrown the project off. Mayor Wright added that it is good that we have a good relationship with the constructors, but there is an old saying in the construction industry that the profit is in the change orders. And this one doesn't seem too far off. So far we are 1/4%. Mr. Greer stated that we are $428,000 off (projection) due to change orders, which is 1.98% of the overall project. This is still not bad. The state percentage is 5%. The Council Unanimously consented.

2. 2011 Proposed Congressional Redistricting Boundaries - The boundaries of North Carolina’s Congressional Districts are proposed to change, putting most of the City of Hickory in a new district. The General Assembly defines redistricting as the process of redrawing the districts from which public officials are elected. Members of the United States House of Representatives, the North Carolina Senate and the North Carolina House of Representatives are elected by the voters, who live in districts. The North Carolina General Assembly is required to redraw all of these districts following each decennial census due to population changes and the need to maintain equal representation. The most recent census was carried out in 2010, so districts will be redrawn in 2011. This presentation will offer the chance to discuss how the proposed boundaries affect the City of Hickory.

Andrea Surratt made the presentation.  She focused on the Congressional districts which is done in conjunction with the census. North Carolina grew by 1.5% between 2000-2010. The General Assembly assigned the task to a committee. The committee produces a bill that is voted on and the sent to the US Justice Depatment under section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Once approved by the Justice Department it cannot be overturned by the Governor. The Maps are available at the General Assembly website. Congressional Districts 5, 10, and 11 are of interest (to Hickory). Ms. Surratt showed the details of the splitting of the districts.
The area along North Center Street and 8th Street NE now become part of District 5, instead of District 10. Those districts now change and must be balanced with 733,000 residents per district. There have been public hearings held and you can comment on the NCGA website. Senator Bob Rucco and Representative David Lewis lead the committee and will be receiving and discussing information through next week and from that point forward will take a vote. The District Map Viewer at the NCGA website shows the proposed boundaries. On the viewer you can click on tool boxes that allow you to vie US Congress, State senate, and House Districts.
Alderman Meisner stated that in a perfect world Hickory would have one representative and remain in one district.  It would give us a little more clout and afford us more representation, but it is understandable because we are in a party system and what they are doing is based on party. Alderman Seaver stated that you might have more clout to be in 3 districts. Mayor Wright stated that we are going to make more visits in Washington if this holds up. Alder Patton stated she doesn't think this is going to change and the Mayor concurred. Alder Fox stated that people are already confused with state Senate and all of the legislative boards  and this furthers that confusion in a climate where you don't have a lot of people voting anyway. She added that she wouldn't comment, because she feels that this will not change anyway.. The mayor stated that the State House is going to be complicated, because their are 100 districts scattered around 100 counties and we are a relatively populace county. when you read in the paper that representative such and such said (something) from Newton, people think that is their (Hickory) representative) and it is not. he added that he is going to look at the glass as half full when it comes to the Congressional race and we will have more people to ask to help us. Alderman Meisner stated that this is nothing new and we have been dealing with this for decades and it is something we are going to have to deal with. The Mayor stated that if their is any loss of clout it is a loss of clout within the district. Who knows, these things move in strange and mysterious ways.
The Hound discussed this issue thoroughly in my article:  
North Carolina Congressional Redistricting plan renders Hickory Irrelevant

In my opinion, the City is having the same power play played on them that they pulled on the citizens of Hickory a month ago. This type of gerrymandering is what our nation is now built upon and the reason that it isn't functioning well. Competition, which incumbents and status quoers are afraid of, is what is needed. They all want to qualify competition and game the system. 

Coldly and calculatingly doing everything politicos can to create the most advantageous conditions in which to run for reelection is not conducive for energy and/or idea generation, which is exactly what we need right now. The City can't take the moral high ground, because when they redrew the wards in Hickory "they just counted the numbers" and here goes the State of NC "Just counting the numbers." So our city officials checkmated themselves.  And Austin Allran, our Senate (hmm...hmmm) representative, as much as stated in the HDR that he didn't have a clue what was going on.

What is Allran doing down in Raleigh. He has held that position for nearly 26 years and been in Raleigh for over 30 and he doesn't have any idea what was going on? He told everybody to just get us a Republican majority and watch him work wonders. What has he done with that majority? Z-ro, Zip, Nada... He is either ineffective or clueless and I would presume it to be a combination of the two. No one in a governmental leadership position from Hickory had an idea about what was going on with this split of the City of Hickory. Where has Allran paid off for Hickory?

What Alderman Seaver fails to understand is this basically guarantees that no one from Hickory can get elected to the House of Representatives for the next decade and by that time, according to economic analysis, it looks as though we will be worse off than we are today. Surveys have stated that we will not begin recovering the jobs we have lost until 2021. Hickory's political clout is overwhelmed by this split of electoral population. Let's be frank, Congressman go where the vote are. There are 27,000 registered voters in Hickory Proper. This means that is split in two and that means 13,500 people are facing a swarm of 500,000 registered voters in the districts(extrapolating the numbers). The odds are long to begin with, having 2.7% of a delegation instead of around 5.5% is even worse and then when one looks at the split of the Metro it looks bad from another angle. Folks, this is not good.

I'm not like the Mayor. I am not going to attempt to psychologically outwit myself about whether a glass is half empty or half full. As a chef, would you think that would be relevant when I am cooking your food and eyeballing ingredients? I want to know exactly how much fluid is in that glass. If it is a 16 ounce glass does it have 8 ounces in it or not? That is what is relevant.

We need to get to knowing what the hell is going on around here and I honestly think that if people are too busy to be able to do there job as our representative, then they need to let someone else have a turn. This thing of people serving for generations is obviously not working.

Items not on the Agenda
The Council talked about The Zahra Baker Park Project for disabled children. Alderman Seaver stated that the Kiwanis have overreached and overshot their goal. This will allow to put in more equipment to help more disabled kids. They are going to have a swing that accommodates wheel chairs. They are still collecting money. Donations can be donated at the or mail a donation to the Kiwanis Foundation at P.O. Box 501, Hickory NC 28601. Mayor Wright stated that they are strongly encouraging donations to buy an engraved paver for $100. That shows community support. When they started this project they stated that this would be an all inclusive playground. There will be a surface that accommodates crutches and wheel chairs. It will make it easier for parents to get children close to the equipment. They are very happy with the progress. there will be further announcements.

Alder Patton spoke about the Community support and cooperation between The Farmers Market, The Cooperative Christian Ministry, and Tasteful Beans (Coffee Shop). The Farmer's market is donating leftover produce to CCM and it is being kept fresh through the help of tasteful beans allowing the use of their cooler. Alder Patton is excited about the collaborative effort between non profits and everyone here in Hickory and everyone wanting to make it better.

Alderman Guess spoke about the Martin Luther King Revitalizing the Dream Celebration held in Ridgeview that was tremendously attended. It was sponsored by the United way, The Young People of Integrity, Viewmont Baptist Church, and the Young Women of Distinction. He also mentioned Ted Ryan who was the City's first personnel director. The mayor lastly mentioned the passing of Gene Miller a former Principal at Hickory High School.

The Hound believes this is all good stuff. We need to do more of these charitable activities in the community and publicize them before and after the events take place. I am happy that something good can come from tragedy although I wish something like that never happened. The reason why we take care of children is because they are our future and our legacy.

As far as the farmer's market making donations, I think that is fantastic. Our nation wastes a lot of food and I am glad to see that some of that is be alleviated through a great cause.

The Hounds Closing thoughts: The reason why this newsletter came out late is because I have been dealing with a lot of "Stuff." My Grandmother who will be 97 on July 30th is living out her last days. So folks, I'm on my own and that can be overwhelming when someone who is the mentor that my Grandmother has been to me is dying. I have gone to visit her just about every day for the last month. It is my second time experiencing something such as this and I would never wish that I would have to again, but that is what makes life what it is.

The other reason is because I had some air conditioning problems here at the homestead. I scrambled around and got this place cooled down finally last night (whew!!!). Let's say a prayer and take care of people who don't have access to cooling devices. Sure would be nice to have a pool for the poor kids to use in this heat. Wouldn't It?!?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

July Rant - Can Hickory Be a Technology Hub

In this presentation, I wanted to speak directly to the followers of this blog. City Manager Berry has stated his desire that Hickory become a technology hub. In the following audio presentation, I explain one of the personal issues that I have faced in dealing with the city and another that others have expressed to me. These have all been given and confirmed as realities by several people I have spoken with.

Some may consider these issues small and trivial, but if you can't take care of these small issues, then how are you ever going to take the giant leap towards the desire of City Manager Berry?

I hope that you will take 10 minutes to listen and please feel free to let me know what you think.

The issues relate to being able to make online payments on the city's website. I have tried and you just can't get it done. I have also had people tell me that they couldn't fill out online surveys, because they couldn't find them. I went online and they were right. These surveys were nowhere to be found. How are you going to become a technology hub, if you can't build user friendliness into a website for the public or organize and run the city's website properly?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Economic Stories of Relevance in Today's World -- July 17, 2011

Why Banks Aren't Lending: The Silent Liquidity Squeeze - Ellen Brown, Truthout - July 15, 2011 - (This is a must read for small business people) - Where did all the jobs go? Small and medium-sized businesses are the major source of new job creation, and they are not hiring. Startup businesses, which contribute a fifth of the nation's new jobs, often can't even get off the ground. Why?... In a June 30 article in The Wall Street Journal titled "Smaller Businesses Seeking Loans Still Come Up Empty," Emily Maltby reported that business owners rank access to capital as the most important issue facing them today; and only 17 percent of smaller businesses said they were able to land needed bank financing. Businesses have to pay for workers and materials before they can get paid for the products they produce and for that they need bank credit; but they are reporting that their credit lines are being cut. They are being pushed instead into credit card accounts that average 16 percent interest, more than double the rate of the average business loan. It is one of many changes in banking trends that have been very lucrative for Wall Street banks, but are killing local businesses.

Greed, Excess and America's Gaping Class Divide - Rolling Stone - Matt Taibbi - July 13, 2011

What Happened to the $2.6 Trillion Social Security Trust Fund?
- Forbes - Merrill Matthews - July 13, 2011 - Well, either Obama and Geithner are lying to us now, or they and all defenders of the Social Security status quo have been lying to us for decades. It must be one or the other... Here’s why: Social Security has a trust fund, and that trust fund is supposed to have $2.6 trillion in it, according to the Social Security trustees. If there are real assets in the trust fund, then Social Security can mail the checks, regardless of what Congress does about the debt limit... The answer is that the federal government has borrowed all of that trust fund money and spent it, exactly as Krauthammer asserted. And the only way the trust fund can get some cash to pay Social Security benefits is if the federal government draws it from general revenues or borrows the money—which, of course, it can’t do because of the debt ceiling... Thus, the answer to my initial question is that the president is telling the truth now in the sense that he is conceding there’s no money in the trust fund to pay benefits; but he and other Social Security status-quo defenders have been deceiving the public for decades.

Entitlement my ass , I paid cash for my social security insurance!! - The Rumor Mill News Reading Room - July 14, 2011

How Globalism Has Destroyed Our Jobs, Businesses And National Wealth In 10 Easy Steps - :
#1 Globalism has merged the U.S. economy with economies that allow slave labor wages.
#2 U.S. companies make bigger profits by sending jobs overseas.
#3 Globalism has allowed foreign countries to dominate a whole host of industries that used to be dominated by the United States.
#4 Jobs and manufacturing infrastructure are being lost at an astounding pace and they are not going to come back.
#5 Workers without good jobs can't buy houses or cars.
#6 If American workers don't have jobs they aren't paying taxes.
#7 Instead of receiving taxes, the government must pay out money to our unemployed workers instead.
#8 As jobs and businesses leave our shores, many of our once great manufacturing cities have been transformed into hellholes.
#9 The United States ends up borrowing back most of the money that it sends overseas every single month.
#10 Foreign countries are using up some of the wealth that we send them every month to buy up our infrastructure.

Sadly, neither political party seems concerned about the effects of globalism at all. In fact, both parties continue to push for even more globalism. But large numbers of ordinary Americans are waking up. According to a recent Washington Post poll, only 36 percent of Americans consider "the increasing interconnection of the global economy" to be a positive thing. Back in 2001, 60 percent of Americans believed that the globalization of the economy was a positive thing. So maybe there is a glimmer of hope. But until fundamental changes are actually made, globalism will continue to destroy our jobs, our businesses and our national wealth.

The next big hit to the economy? - Yahoo News - Zachary Roth - The Lookout – Mon, Jul 11, 2011 - The recovery is weak now--but it could be headed for a major hit that will leave it even weaker... At the start of 2012, the extended unemployment benefits approved by Congress in December 2010, which cover a maximum of 99 weeks per person, will expire. Though the benefits are hardly lavish--a little more than $300 a week for most recipients--their total impact on the economy is huge, because so many Americans are currently taking advantage of them. Moody's Analytics estimates that when the benefits expire, $37 billion will be taken out of the economy, the New York Times reports. That's enough to exert a significant slowing effect--at a time when the recovery is already a long way from robust... Government benefits that go to poorer Americans, like unemployment insurance, tend to boost consumer spending more than other kinds of stimulus, because people living paycheck to paycheck have little choice but to spend the money, rather than saving it. So the disappearance of jobless benefits will take money out of circulation when economic growth is seeking to gain some traction.

A brave new banking system – while public is told banking system is healthy FDIC quietly grows troubled bank list by 180 and adds over 1,600 employees in the last two years to deal with bank failures
. - - The banking system in the United States rests on a very thin layer of faith and that faith has been shaken by the current financial crisis. The retail banking system is largely a facade that now latches on to taxpayer bailouts to fund speculative investments through their investment banking divisions. The repeal of Glass-Steagall has been an absolute failure for allowing this commingling of financial functions. I find it interesting that while we get a public stance that all is well on the banking front, we find that the FDIC keeps adding employees to handle bank failures and the number of problem institutions continues to grow. Of course this is the kind of information that is buried deep in websites and financial statements while most of the press focuses on distractions.

The Video Congress Does Not Want You To See

Friday, July 15, 2011

A Control Freak Nation


You are conditioned to have grass and trees in your front yard. Why are front lawns supposed to be reserved for something that provides no value. You should have a right to do what you want with your property as long as it is maintained in a neat fashion. I know the property next door to mine, with abandoned foundations for townhomes that have been there for three years, is not being taken care of and the overgrowth is constantly encroaching on my yard. Now that is a problem, because it has a big effect on my property.

This lady is growing food in her front yard and the Nanny State wants to tell her what she can and cannot have in her front yard. They threatened to put her in jail for 93 days. I wouldn't mind neighbors building cedar boxes and growing plants. It saves them time and money from not having to constantly mow and this lady's yard looks neat and organized to me.

We are in the midst of a food crisis in this country. People have no clue. The bread basket is in a drought. The Mississippi has seen billions of dollars of crops destroyed. Food commodity prices have skyrocketed. Can you eat grass?

What is wrong with having a vegetable garden in your front yard if it is organized and maintained? What is wrong with collecting water? We have seen several communities try and stop this. What they need to do is clean up abandoned properties. That is the biggest issue we face.

The world we are living in is obviously not working. The Powers That Be don't want you raising your own food. They want you forced to buy food from Grocery Stores and Restaurants ultimately controlled by Big Agribusiness. There is nothing wrong with Restaurants and Grocery Stores, but this country was built upon people producing and choosing their own sources of food. The Political Prostitutes and the Bureaucracy want to put a stop to all of this. It is time that we put a stop to their control freak attitudes. It is time that they butt out!!!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

What goes around comes around - JR Ewing style

(Two parts to this Dallas chain above) Related to an Oil Field that Cliff's Daddy said was stolen from him by Jock Ewing and this caused Cliff to pursue this property over the years. Control was eventually obtained by Cliff, but was eventually regained by Ole JR.

In life, no one should ever deal the deck of the cards of life in a high handed fashion. As some say, "What goes around comes around" and others, "It all comes out in the wash."

We all have our faults and flaws and when things become personal who knows what the outcome will be. Sometimes you win and many times you lose, but long memories never fade away. Remember that in all of your dealings in life. Some people are better at connecting dots than others.

And never-ever-never count your chickens before they hatch, because they're hatching all the time!!!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Economic Stories of Relevance in Today's World -- July 10, 2011

Geithner says hard times to continue for many - AP - July 10, 2011 - Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner (GYT'-nur) says many Americans will face hard times for a long time to come... He says President Barack Obama rescued the United States from a second Great Depression and will keep working to strengthen the economy. But Geithner says will be some time before many people feel like the country is recovering... Geithner tells NBC's "Meet the Press" that it's a very tough economy. He says that for a lot of people "it's going to feel very hard, harder than anything they've experienced in their lifetime now, for a long time to come."

The Fed Rearranges the Deck Chairs on the Titanic Economy - The International Forecaster - July 2, 2011 - World markets and especially US markets are in a state of uneasiness and it is only a matter of time before they degenerate further. The real question is will everything break loose between now and the end of the year? The answer in part is yes, and it is currently in process... “The President’s Working Group on Financial Markets,” along with elitist insiders normally have the ability to make the stock and bond markets do what they want them to. That is, at least on a short-term basis. We believe the market is being deliberately taken down by them in order to impress upon politicians that if they do not extend the short-term cash debt limit that the market will fall even further and that in turn will reduce their ability to get reelected. If you do not think that is possible then you have no idea what is going on. At the present time with about a month to the August 2nd deadline the two political parties are nowhere near an agreement. As we draw closer to the deadline investors will become more and more concerned and the market will trend lower.

Dollar’s Share Of Global Reserves Continues To Slide, Reserve Status Questioned - Forbes - Agustino Fontevecchia - Jun. 30 2011 - Attesting to the continued global loss of confidence in the U.S. dollar, the greenback’s share of the world’s reserve continued to slide in the fourth quarter of 2010, the latest data show. Interestingly, the trend can be explained entirely by valuation effects, with the trade-weighted dollar depreciating 4%% in that time frame... The U.S.’ share of allocated reserves fell in the first quarter to 60.69%% from 61.53% from Q4 2010. Central Bank reserves move slowly, but the slide in the greenback’s share, which Nomura suggests would be even steeper if China was included in the sample, has been very pronounced if one takes a longer-term window... A year before the latest data, Q1 2010, the greenback’s share stood at 61.64%, while in Q1 2001, ten years before, it stood at 72.3%. While USDs dominance was unquestioned a few years ago, it is anything but rare to speak of a move toward a multi-currency system, with the dollar still a primus inter pares [first among peers]. (Read Central Banks Dump Treasuries As Dollar’s Reserve Currency Status Fades).

BofA's Mortgage-Bond Pact Draws Challenge - Wall Street Journal - Ruth Simon - July 6, 2011 - In a court filing Tuesday, the group of 11 mortgage-bond investors, who call themselves Walnut Place but declined to identify themselves, said the parties that crafted the deal with Bank of America have conflicts of interest that raise questions about the fairness of the settlement accord... "Walnut Place has serious concerns about the secret, non-adversarial, and conflicted way in which the proposed settlement was negotiated and about the fairness of the terms of the proposed settlement," the group wrote in a filing in New York County Supreme Court. The filing also called the deal "inadequate."... Last week's agreement was struck by the Charlotte, N.C., bank and 22 institutional investors that include BlackRock Inc., MetLife Inc. and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Also part of the settlement is Bank of New York Mellon Corp., which as trustee for the bond deals is charged with protecting bondholder interests.

The Real Cause of the U.S. Debt Crisis: Spiralling Defense Spending - - by Bruce Arnold - July 3, 2011 - Contrary to Kleptocracy-scripted CNN newsbytes, the United States Debt Debate is NOT just the false choice between raising taxes on the few and rich versus lowering Medicare for the many and poor: What always goes unmentioned is MILITARY PORK.

Our Politicians Are Selling Off Pieces Of America To Foreign Investors – And Goldman Sachs Is Helping Them Do It - Before It's News - July 05, 2011 - All over the United States, politicians are selling off key pieces of infrastructure to foreign investors and big Wall Street banks like Goldman Sachs are helping them do it. State and local governments across the country that are drowning in debt and that are desperate for cash are increasingly turning to the "privatization" of public assets as the solution to their problems. Pieces of infrastructure that taxpayers have already paid for such as highways, water treatment plants, libraries, parking meters, airports and power plants are being auctioned off to the highest bidder. Most of the time what happens is that the state or local government receives a huge lump sum of cash up front for a long-term lease (usually 75 years or longer) and the foreign investors come in and soak as much revenue out of the piece of infrastructure that they possibly can. The losers in these deals are almost always the taxpayers. Pieces of America are literally being auctioned off just to help state and local governments minimize their debt problems for a year or two, but the consequences of these deals will be felt for decades.

The Tea Party and Goldman Sachs: A Love Story - - Robert Scheer, Truthdig - July 6, 2011 - In the midst of a jobless recovery, those same corporations are sitting on more than $2 trillion in reserves, refusing to invest in this country, as increasing percentages of their profits are garnered in tax-sheltered operations abroad. And the bankers who caused the economic meltdown have turned against President Barack Obama, who saved them; instead they favor a tea-party-dominated Republican Party that seeks to limit any restraint on corporate greed while destroying the ability of state and federal governments to bring some measure of relief to ordinary folk... The whole point of the tea party is to focus concern over our stagnant economy on something called “big government” while ignoring the big corporations that have bought the government as an accessory to their marketing strategies. Big government is big precisely because it now exists primarily to make the world safe for multinational capitalism, whether through a bloated defense budget, trade pacts like the North American Free Trade Agreement, or monetary policies that serve the interests of the largest companies... It was their lobbyists who got Congress to end sensible regulations of financial shenanigans, and now, with the new tea party members of Congress as their most stalwart allies, they are yanking the teeth from the very mild regulations that Obama got through the last Congress. As The Associated Press reported: “Congressional Republicans are greeting the one-year anniversary of President Barack Obama’s financial overhaul law by trying to weaken it, nibble by nibble.”... It is nothing short of demagogic for the Republicans to be complaining about the debt when it was the radical deregulatory policies that they pursued which caused all that governmental red ink in the first place. What a hoax to pretend that teachers’ pensions or environmental protections are responsible for a debt that increased by 50 percent as a direct consequence of the banking collapse. Yet they want to gut even the tepid regulations that became law under the Obama administration, foaming at the mouth about sensible regulation as job killing when it is the uncontrolled greed of Wall Street that is at the root of our high unemployment.

Economic Collapse a Mathematical Certainty - Top 5 Places Where Not To Be

Thursday, July 7, 2011

My letter to the UNC Board of Governors about the UNC-CH Football Scandal

Here is my letter to the entire UNC Board of Governors that I finished late last night and the response from Hannah Gage who is the Chairman of the Board of Governors of the UNC System. I did have two typos that I have corrected in this copied version, they are in red italics. I wish my proof reading were better at 2am (haha):

Members of the Board of Governors,

I am writing this letter to you to ask why you have let this scandal at the University in Chapel Hill become such an embarrassment to both the State and our University System?

You are the overseers of all of the institutions within the UNC System. Oversight is an inherent responsibility related to your position within the UNC System. You have a fiduciary responsibility to operate in the best interests of the citizens of this State and the Alumni of every institution within that system. It is your responsibility to be fair and just when questions of the honor and integrity of the system arise. It is my contention that as a body you have failed to properly exercise your authority towards accountability in relation to the out of control happenings with the sports program and administrative duties of the Chancellor and the Board of Trustees in Chapel Hill; and to a lesser degree, the Athletic Director and Football Coach that the school.

This matter should have been expedited a long time ago. As the weeks pass, we are treated to more embarrassing revelations and challenges of integrity related to the University in Chapel Hill. We see more and more lawyers entering the scene and most of those lawyers are high profile attorneys who graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill. We see them providing consultation to students of the University who have been charged with wrongdoing in relation to the Amateur Athletic Bylaws of the National Collegiate Athletic Association and academic improprieties which are supposed to ultimately fall under your purview, because you are at the top of the pyramid. You are ultimately responsible. You are the ultimate administrators and guarantors of the Bylaws of the UNC system.

Two questions: (Actually More) 1) Where is the money coming from to pay these legal fees? 2) Has anyone asked if these students can afford these fees? 3) If these fees are paid by someone else, is someone asking about the connections? 4) If these fees are being provided pro bono, then would this not be considered an extra benefit and therefore render these athletes ineligible to compete? 5) Are these attorneys all charging their standard rate or are they discounting? 6) And finally, how is it that all of these lawyers appear to be graduates, big supporters of their Alma Mater, and athletic boosters associated with UNC-Chapel Hill? Sure does seem like a conflict of interests to me... The recent cases of Michael McAdoo and Quinton Coples sure spring to mind in relation to the questions above. And there are certainly others.

By looking at the UNC system website, it is obvious that most of you have close ties to UNC-Chapel Hill. Most of you graduated from there. It doesn't take a scientist from Cape Kennedy to understand that there are definite conflicts of interest related to this issue and a fact that UNC-CH connected board members hold the numbers when it comes to any votes taken towards action on this subject matter and any investigations related to this subject matter. Tell me I am wrong. Is the personal interest related to UNC-Chapel Hill the predominate variable in this equation?

I hope that you don't think that I take pleasure in writing this letter to you, because honestly I don't. I understand that many of you feel that you have a vested interest in this representation of your University and the promotion of "The Carolina Way." Honest people will admit that this has never been reality. It was all a marketing ploy to justify elevating Chapel Hill above other similar institutions. Chapel Hill has always had something to be proud of in relation to its history as the first born of our fine university system. All of the grandiose promotion at the expense of others has been completely unnecessary and has led to a lot of resentment, not from the jealousy as many of the Chapel Hill vested surmise, but instead because of the arrogance and belittling that has been fostered, whether implicitly or explicitly, by the Powers That Be who are associated with UNC-Chapel Hill.

My questions to you are 1) Are there different sets of rules in relation to UNC-Chapel Hill versus the other UNC institutions? 2) If there are then why and how can this be justified? 3) If laws have been broken (Federal, State, Felonies, Misdemeanors) in relation to this scandal, is the BOG going to ensure that those infractions are fully adjudicated or is there going to be some sort of plea bargaining or immunity process? 4) Why has there been no independent investigation created to get to the bottom of all of this?

In the end, I believe that the release of the Notices of Allegations and Infractions is your final chance to act in accordance with your responsibilities as the Governance of the North Carolina University System. In too many cases, we see leadership in this State that wants to sit on their hands and wait for issues to be brought to them on a silver platter. Folks, that is not leadership. You may hope that this situation is minimized and just goes away, but the momentum has been building for over a year towards a negative conclusion. Do you really want to chance a disastrous outcome, while people see you sitting on your hands? What is that going to look like. What will the value of that perception hold?

I implore you to please do the right thing and expedite this investigation towards its conclusion, because this is harming the asset of University Higher Education in what has been looked upon as one of the greatest Higher Educational systems in the world. Do you really want to risk that over a Football Coach who has no ties to this State and a bunch of players who  chose the low road over doing the right thing.

What example are you setting for the future? What legacy are you leaving for the future generations of people who have ties to the State of North Carolina? Step up and do the right thing.

James Thomas Shell

Hickory, NC 28601
UNC-Wilmington 1989

The response of Mrs. Gage:

Mr. Shell,

Thank you for taking the time and sharing your concerns with us about athletics at UNC Chapel Hill. I can assure you we take this issue very seriously. The process is moving forward and we've been asked not to comment by the NCAA.

Thank you for your concern.
Hannah D Gage


If anyone would like to write a letter to the UNC Board of Governors, regarding this issue and your concerns, here is the e-mail listing to cut and paste when sending the letter to the entire UNC BoG :

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