The Beginning Of The End
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The Twinkie That Broke The Economy’s Back?

Can you hear that sound?  It is the sound of the air being let out of the economy.  Since the election, there has been a massive tsunami of layoffs and business failures.  Of course the company that is making the biggest headlines right now is Hostess.  On Monday, Hostess will be in a New York bankruptcy courtroom as it begins the process of liquidating itself.  Needless to say, Twinkie lovers all over America are horrified.  Many are running out to grocery stores and hoarding as many as they can find, and some online sellers are already listing boxes of 10 Twinkies for as much as $10,000 on auction websites such as eBay.  Well, there is really no reason to panic.  It is very likely that another company will purchase the Twinkie brand and continue to produce them.  In fact, it is already being rumored that a Mexican company may have the inside track.  But even though the Twinkie may survive, the failure of Hostess is yet another sign of how weak the U.S. economy has become.  Approximately 18,500 Hostess workers will be losing their jobs, and even if some of them are rehired by the company that takes over the Twinkie brand, the truth is that those workers will almost certainly be looking at greatly reduced pay and benefits.  Sadly, we are seeing this kind of thing happen all over America.  Large numbers of once thriving businesses are either shutting down or laying off workers.  Overall, the failure of Hostess is not that big of a deal for the U.S. economy.  But we may look back someday and remember Hostess as a symbol of the economic problems that were unleashed by the election of 2012.  Since November 6th, a wave of pessimism has swept over the economy and we are now seeing some of the worst economic numbers that we have seen in more than a year.  Many fear that we may have reached a tipping point and that things are only going to get worse from here.

Sadly, the reality is that Hostess is not the only iconic American company that is in a huge amount of trouble right now.  Sears just announced a loss of nearly 500 million dollars in the third quarter.  Sears has been bleeding money like this for a couple of years, and if they continue to do so it will just be a matter of time before Sears is headed for liquidation as well.

Can you imagine trying to explain the Sears catalog and Twinkies to future generations in a world where those things no longer exist?

Our world is changing at mind blowing speed, and the pace of change is only going to keep accelerating.

A few days after the election, I wrote an article about the huge number of layoff announcements that we saw after Barack Obama won.

Well, it has gotten even worse since then.  The following is a partial list of the layoffs and job losses that have been announced since November 6th…

Abbott Labs 700
Activision 30
Adventist Health 48
Airlines SAS 6000
AMD 400
American Cotton Growers 110
ArcelorMittal 20
American Independence Museum 4
Ameridose 790
American Airlines 4400 + 800 leaving voluntarily
American Coal 54
Atlantic Lottery Corporation 16
Assc Milk Producers 130
Aveo Oncology 45
ATI 172
Bankia 5000
Bechtel Power Corp 277
Bigpoint Games 47
Boston Scientific 1200
Brake Parts LLC 75
Brattleboro Retreat 31
Bristol Myers 500
Career Education 900 + Closing 23 Campuses
Cigna 1300
Citigroup 100
Commerzbank 6000
Consol Energy in W.V. 145
Covidien 595
Crouse Hospital Syracuse NY 70
Cummins 150
CVPH 27
DEP in Tallahassee FL 15
DuPont, Co. 64
Eagle-Tribune, Andover 21
Emanuel Medical Cente 24
Energizer Holdings 1500
Ericsson 1550
Exide Tech, Laureldale 150
City of Findlay, OH 39
First Energy 400
Gameforge Berlin 20
Gamesa Energy 92
GenOn Energy Inc 33
Glen Falls Hospital 29
Groupon 80
GT Advanced Tech 165
Harris’ Broadcast 17
Hawker Beechcraft 400 + Facilities closing
Hill Rom 200
Hills Holdings 300
HMX Group 567
Hostess 627
Iberia Airlines 4500
ICM of Colwich 25
ING 2350
Judson University 21
Juniper Networks 500
Kaiser Permanente 84
Kinetic Concepts 427
Kratos Defense Security 125
Lackawanna County PA 11
Lightyear Network Solutions 12+
Lonza 500
Majestic Star Casino/hotel 80
Major Wind Company 3000
Martha Stewart Living 70
Medtronic 1000
Mills Manufacturing NC 68
Momentive, Inc. 150
Monitor Group 235
Montco Behavioral Health/Dev 58
NBC 500
Nebraska Medical Center 38
Neovia Logistics Services 52
New Energy 40
Ormet 200
Panasonic 10000
PayPal 320
Penn Refrigeration 40
Penske Logistics 50
Pepsi 4000
Philips Electronics 218
Pierce Mfg 325
Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne 100
Research in Motion 200
Rheem Manufacturing 50
Sentry Foods 70
Shaw’s Supermarket 700
Shawano foundry WI 90
Smith & Nephew 770
Smithfield Packing Co. 125
Solel Solar Systems 140
Southeastern Container 15
SpaceX 100
SRA Intl Inc 222
St. Jude Medical 300
Stryker 1170
Sulake 60
Sun Media 500
TE Connectivity 620
TECO Coal Corporation 90
Texas Instruments 1700
The Providence Journal Co 23
TMX Group Ltd. 100
Turbocare 220
Turkey Point Nuclear Plant 277
Oce North America, Inc. 135
Turbocare OCE 220
UBS 10000
US Cellular 980
UtahAmerican Energy Inc 102
Volvo Trucks Pulaski County 300
Wake Forest Baptist Medical 950
Welch Allyn 275
West Ridge Mine 102
Westinghouse 50
World Media Enterprises Inc 105
WPS Health Insurance 600
Wright Patterson AFB 115
Wyodak Coal Mine 11
Xerox 2500

Sadly, the list actually keeps going.  You can view the remainder of the list right here.

Even companies owned by Obama supporters are laying people off.  Just check out this excerpt from a report by CitizenLink

A corporation whose part owner gave $2 million to a group committed to re-electing President Obama announced this week that it will be forced to lay off more than 1,000 employees in lieu of the financial hardship imposed by the president’s signature health care law.

Overall, more than 100,000 job losses have been announced since the election.  It is almost as if the election was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  Everyone in the business community that had been hoping for something different now realizes that no change is coming.

Meanwhile, Obama continues to pour on even more rules and regulations.  According to CNSNews.com, the Obama administration has posted a total of 6,125 regulations on its reguations.gov website during the past 90 days.  Our politicians are clueless and they simply don’t understand what they are doing to the business community.

But of course this goes for politicians from both sides.  For decades we have been consuming far more than we produce and spending far more money then we bring in, and most of our politicians seem to be under the delusion that this can continue indefinitely.

The other night my wife had me watch a documentary entitled “The Queen of Versailles” that followed the lives of time share mogul David Siegel and his wife Jackie.  I found it to be a perfect metaphor for what America is going through right now.  David Siegel built the greatest time share empire the world has ever seen on a mountain of easy money and cheap credit.  At the beginning of the movie, David and Jackie were living the high life and were constructing the largest house in America down in Florida.

Well, things dramatically changed when the financial crisis of 2008 struck.  Suddenly nobody wanted to lend to David’s company and the house of cards started to crumble.  But even though they were facing massive financial problems, Jackie found it incredibly difficult to adjust her lifestyle.  She just kept spending and spending and spending.

It would be easy to pass judgment on David and Jackie, but the truth is that they are a perfect example of what this entire country is going through.  Thousands of businesses are failing, our economic infrastructure is being gutted, millions of jobs are being shipped overseas, our financial system has become a gigantic casino and we keep piling even more mountains of debt on top of the mountains of debt that we already have.  We have been living way above our means for so long that we don’t even have any concept of what “normal” is anymore.

If you have not seen “The Queen of Versailles” yet, I encourage you to do so.  Don’t watch it to laugh at the downfall of David and Jackie Siegel.  They are just trying to make their way in this world like all of us are.  Rather, watch for parallels between their lives and what the United States is experiencing as a whole.  As I mentioned earlier, I found their story to be a perfect metaphor for what is happening to this entire country.  You can find the trailer for “The Queen of Versailles” right here.

As the economy falls apart, it is going to be really easy to point fingers at one another and blame one another.  But what will really be needed is more love and compassion.  A lot of workers at Hostess and a lot of other good companies just lost their jobs.  The unemployment epidemic in this country is going to get a lot worse.  These people are going to need our love and support.

In the end, we are all in this together.  The coming economic storm is not going to be averted, but we can choose how we respond to it.  Hopefully the crisis that is coming will bring out the best in many of us.

18 Startling Quotes About The Incredible Destruction Caused By Hurricane Sandy

It is hard to put into words the absolute devastation that we are seeing along many areas of the east coast right now.  Boats have been washed ashore, homes have been razed, some coastal roads have been essentially destroyed, and large numbers of people are still trapped in their homes by flood waters.  It is being reported that more than 50 people are dead and more than 8 million people along the east coast have lost power.  Those without power might not get it back for a week or more.  In New York City, an all-time record storm surge of almost 14 feet caused incredible destruction.  It is going to take months for New York City to recover, and along the Jersey coast things are even worse.  Hurricane Sandy really did turn out to be “the worst case scenario” for much of the eastern seaboard.  At this point more than 15,000 flights have been cancelled, and nobody knows when subway service in New York City is going to be restored.  More than 4 million people a day use that subway system, and right now many of the most important tunnels are absolutely flooded with water. Sadly, this crisis is far from over.  The storm formerly known as Hurricane Sandy has moved inland over Pennsylvania where it continues to do a tremendous amount of damage.  The full extent of the destruction caused by this storm will probably not be known for weeks.

We have truly seen some unprecedented things during this storm.  For example, a 168 foot long tanker was driven ashore on Staten Island.  Right now the tanker is sitting on Front Street.

In the beachfront Queens neighborhood of Breezy Point, a massive fire broke out and burned just about everything that was not already flooded.  The blaze destroyed close to 100 homes, and by the end of the fire more than 190 firefighters were battling it.

Some areas in the West Virginia mountains have already had up to 3 feet of snow, and yet it just continues to fall.  When all of that snow starts to melt in a few days, tremendous flooding is anticipated.

The northeast has never seen a storm quite like this, and the ripple effects are going to be felt for years to come.

The following are 18 startling quotes about the incredible destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy…

#1 New Jersey Governor Chris Christie

“The devastation on the Jersey Shore is some of the worst we’ve ever seen. The cost of the storm is incalculable at this point.”

#2 MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota

“The New York City subway system is 108 years old, but it has never faced a disaster as devastating as what we experienced last night. Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on our entire transportation system, in every borough and county of the region. It has brought down trees, ripped out power and inundated tunnels, rail yards and bus depots. As of last night, seven subway tunnels under the East River flooded. Metro-North Railroad lost power from 59th Street to Croton-Harmon on the Hudson Line and to New Haven on the New Haven Line. The Long Island Rail Road evacuated its West Side Yards and suffered flooding in one East River tunnel. The Hugh L. Carey Tunnel is flooded from end to end and the Queens Midtown Tunnel also took on water and was closed. Six bus garages were disabled by high water. We are assessing the extent of the damage and beginning the process of recovery. Our employees have shown remarkable dedication over the past few days, and I thank them on behalf of every New Yorker. In 108 years, our employees have never faced a challenge like the one that confronts us now. All of us at the MTA are committed to restoring the system as quickly as we can to help bring New York back to normal.”

#3 Hoboken, New Jersey Mayor Dawn Zimmer

“The Hudson River came in and filled half of Hoboken like a bathtub”

#4 Little Ferry resident Leo Quigley

“I looked out and the next thing you know, the water just came up through the grates. It came up so quickly you couldn’t do anything about it. If you wanted to move your car to higher ground you didn’t have enough time”

#5 New Jersey resident Montgomery Dahm

“I mean, there’s cars that are just completely underwater in some of the places I would never believe that there would be water.”

#6 Mobile home park resident Juan Allen

“I watched a tree crush a guy’s house like a wet sponge.”

#7 Angela Valenta, mother of 9-year-old Angelo Valenta

“He kept saying, ‘Am I going to die?'”

#8 U.S. Representative Bob Turner

“I, along with many other Breezy Point residents, lost our homes last night and I am grateful that my family and I are safe after this destructive storm. I hope you will join me in lending a hand to those who were less fortunate and keep everyone impacted by this storm in your thoughts and prayers.”

#9 Long Branch, New Jersey resident David Arnold

“The ocean is in the road, there are trees down everywhere. I’ve never seen it this bad.”

#10 New York resident William Yaeck

“I am looking outside of my sixth-floor apartment, and I see that a new lake has formed in the parking lot adjacent (to) my building”

#11 Motel owner Peter Sandomeno

“There are boats in the street five blocks from the ocean”

#12 West Virginia meteorologist Reed Timmer

“It’s 3 feet of heavy snow. It’s like concrete”

#13 Maryland State Police dispatcher Bill Wiltson

“It’s like a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs up here”

#14 Con Edison spokeswoman Sara Banda

“This is the largest storm-related outage in history”

#15 John Miksad, senior vice president for electric operations at Con Edison

“This will be one for the record books”

#16 New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg

“Clearly the challenges our city faces in the coming days are enormous”

#17 New York Governor Andrew Cuomo

“You want to talk about a situation that gets old very quickly. You are sitting in a house with no power and you can’t open the refrigerator”

#18 National Weather Service meteorologist Joe Pollina

“It was an extremely devastating and destructive storm, hopefully one that people will only see once in their lifetime”

So what will this storm ultimately cost the U.S. economy?  Well, Fox News is reporting that the total cost could reach 45 billion dollars.  Others estimate that the economic toll may be even higher than that.

But one thing is for certain – at a time when layoffs are already surging, this is definitely not going to help.  The U.S. economy is showing lots of signs of slowing down again, and this storm may have just nudged us even farther in that direction.

Hopefully we will have some time to recover before the next major crisis strikes, but with the election coming up early next week that does not seem too likely.

These 12 Hellholes Are Examples Of What The Rest Of America Will Look Like Soon

Do you want to see where this country is headed?  If so, don’t focus on the few areas that are still very prosperous.  New York City has Wall Street, Washington D.C. has the federal government and Silicon Valley has Google and Facebook.  Those are the exceptions.  The reality is that most of the country has been experiencing a slow decline for a very long time and once thriving cities such as Gary, Indiana and Flint, Michigan have become absolute hellholes.  They are examples of what the rest of America will look like soon.  60 years ago, most Americans were decent, hard working people and there were always good jobs available for anyone that was willing to roll up his or her sleeves and put in an honest day of work.  But now all of that has changed.  Over the past decade, tens of thousands of manufacturing facilities have shut down and millions of jobs have left the country.  Cities such as Cleveland, Baltimore and Detroit were once shining examples of everything that was right about America, but now they stand out like festering sores.  The “blue collar cities” have been hit the hardest by the gutting of our economic infrastructure.  There are many communities in America today where it seems like all of the hope and all of the life have been sucked right out of them.  You can see it in the eyes of the people.  The good times are gone permanently and they know it.  Unfortunately, the remainder of the country will soon be experiencing the despair that those communities are feeling.

The following are 12 hellholes that are examples of what the rest of America will look like soon….

#1 Gary, Indiana

Gary, Indiana was once a great industrial city.

Today, it is one of the ten most dangerous cities in America, and the population has fallen by about 50 percent.

The following is from a recent Daily Mail article….

Frequently rated one of the ten most dangerous cities in the United States, Gary once boomed with jobs and opportunities but now faces the acute difficulties of America’s growing rust belt, with 22 percent of families in the once-great city now lying below the poverty line.

This modern American ghost town began life as home for workers at the United States Steel Corporation plant until economic competition from abroad forced a 90 percent job cut.

It is hard to describe what is happening to Gary without using the word “depressing”.  You can watch a great video that shows what Gary, Indiana looks like these days right here.

This is what happens when industry leaves and there are no jobs.  Gary has become a wasteland and there is essentially no hope for a turnaround.

The following is how James Kunstler described what he experienced when he traveled through Gary, Indiana recently….

Between the ghostly remnants of factories stood a score of small cities and neighborhoods where the immigrants settled five generations ago. A lot of it was foreclosed and shuttered. They were places of such stunning, relentless dreariness that you felt depressed just imagining how depressed the remaining denizens of these endless blocks of run-down shoebox houses must feel. Judging from the frequency of taquerias in the 1950s-vintage strip-malls, one inferred that the old Eastern European population had been lately supplanted by a new wave of Mexicans. They had inherited an infrastructure for daily life that was utterly devoid of conscious artistry when it was new, and now had the special patina of supernatural rot over it that only comes from materials not found in nature disintegrating in surprising and unexpected ways, sometimes even sublimely, like the sheen of an oil slick on water at a certain angle to the sun. There was a Chernobyl-like grandeur to it, as of the longed-for end of something enormous that hadn’t worked out well.

Sadly, Gary is far from alone.  There are a whole host of other formerly great U.S. cities that are degenerating into hellholes as well.

#2 Chicago, Illinois

There is something truly special about Chicago.  Most of America loved the Bears of the Walter Payton era, the Bulls of the Michael Jordan era and the Cubs of the Ernie Banks era.  Chicago is also known for great architecture and great pizza.

But these days “the windy city” is becoming known for other things.

The murder rate in Chicago is up 38 percent so far this year, and the recent spike in violence in the city has made national headlines.

As I noted the other day, there are only about 200 police officers in Chicago’s Gang Enforcement Unit to deal with an estimated 100,000 gang members.

That means that those officers are outnumbered 500 to 1, and more gang members pour into the city every single day.

The escalating violence in Chicago was detailed in a recent article in the Telegraph….

“This is a block-to-block war here, a different dynasty on every street,” said a dreadlocked young man heavily inked in gang tattoos who calls himself “Killer”.

“All the black brothers just want to get rich, but we got no jobs and no hope. We want the violence to stop but you ain’t safe if you ain’t got your pistol with you. Too many friends, too many men are being killed. We don’t even cry at funerals no -more. Nobody expects to live past 21 here.”

The victims and killers are mainly black males aged between 15 and 35, often with gang affiliations – but not exclusively. A seven-year-old girl, Heaven Sutton, was buried this month after being gunned down at her mother’s street sweet store. And last week, two girls aged 12 and 13 were shot and badly-wounded as they walked home from a newly-opened community centre.

If you are thinking of moving to Chicago, you might want to think again.

#3 Detroit, Michigan

I have written repeatedly about Detroit because it is a perfect example of what the rest of America is going to look like soon.

Once upon a time it was regarded as one of the top manufacturing cities the world had ever seen, but today it has become a total hellhole.

There are very few decent jobs available, poverty has exploded and crime is everywhere.

If you can believe it, 53.6% of all children in Detroit are living in poverty, and only 25 percent of all students in Detroit graduate from high school at this point.

And as I wrote about recently, justifiable homicide in Detroit increased by a whopping 79 percent during 2011, and the rate of self-defense killings in Detroit is now approximately 2200% above the national average.

Is it any wonder that you can still buy a house for $100 in some areas of Detroit?

The truth is that many areas of Detroit now resemble a post-apocalyptic wasteland.  Perhaps that is why one team of investors actually wants to turn some of the worst areas of Detroit into a zombie theme park….

Derelict areas of Detroit face being taken over by hordes of ‘flesh and brain-eating zombies’ if an ambitious business plan takes off.

Entrepreneur Mark Siwak wants to create live-action terror theme park ‘Z World’ on Motor City’s run-down and abandoned streets.

Customers would pay to be chased by professional actors and try to seek shelter in ghostly homes, factories and businesses.

You can see some great video of the “ruins of Detroit” right here.

#4 Stockton, California

Stockton is one of the ten most dangerous cities in America and it recently made national headlines when it declared bankruptcy.

Unfortunately, as spending on law enforcement has declined it has given the criminals a lot more room to operate in Stockton.  The following is from a recent Business Insider article….

The city has cut more than $90 million in spending over the past few years, specifically in its police department. The city has cut over one quarter of its police jobs, which has led to a “surge in murders,” and has created an “emboldened criminal element” in the city. According to police spokesman Joe Silva, the city has had 87 murders since the start of 2011, 29 of which have already occurred this year. In contrast, there were 35 murders in 2009 and 48 in 2010. With six months left in the year, there have already been more murders in the city since the start of 2011 than the two-year stretch of 2009-2010.

A while back in Stockton a billboard was put up with the following message: “Welcome to the 2nd most dangerous city in California. Stop laying off cops.”

#5 Flint, Michigan

Flint, Michigan is a city that Michael Moore has made famous.  Flint once supported hordes of middle class workers thanks to a thriving auto industry, but today it is a just a rotting shell.  It looks like a war went through it and nobody bothered to clean up the mess.

At this point, the murder rate in Flint, Michigan is worse than the murder rate in Baghdad.  That is how nightmarish things have become in Flint.

The following is from an article in the New York Times….

It’s not that the cops here are scared; it’s just that they’re outmanned, outgunned and flat broke.

Flint is the birthplace of General Motors and the home of the U.A.W.’s first big strike. In case you didn’t know this, the words “Vehicle City” are spelled out on the archway spanning the Flint River.

But the name is a lie. Flint isn’t Vehicle City anymore. The Buick City complex is gone. The spark-plug plant is gone. Fisher Body is gone.

What Flint is now is one of America’s murder capitals. Last year in Flint, population 102,000, there were 66 documented murders. The murder rate here is worse than those in Newark and St. Louis and New Orleans. It’s even worse than Baghdad’s.

Politicians love to go to Flint and make speeches, but things never get any better.  The following are comments that Joe Biden made about Flint, Michigan during a recent speech he gave to promote a jobs bill….

“In 2008, when Flint had 265 sworn officers on their police force, there were 35 murders and 91 rapes in this city. In 2010, when Flint had only 144 police officers, the murder rate climbed to 65 and rapes–just to pick two categories–climbed to 229. In 2011, you now only have 125 shields. God only knows what the numbers will be this year for Flint if we don’t rectify it.”

But don’t look down on Flint – these kinds of conditions are coming to where you live soon enough.

#6 West Philly

Did you know that 36.4% of all children that live in Philadelphia are living in poverty?

There are some sections of Philadelphia that are actually very nice, but there are others that look like society has forgotten about them for decades.

A recent article by Jim Quinn entitled “More Than 30 Blocks Of Grey And Decay” described the depressing conditions in West Philadelphia.  Quinn refers to his drive through this area as “the 30 Blocks of Squalor”….

The real unemployment rate exceeds 50%, murder is the number one industry, with drugs a close second.

But it was not always this way.  Once upon a time, West Philly was actually a thriving area and was full of middle class families.

So what happened?

That is a very good question.

According to Quinn, the physical decay in West Philly is matched by the social decay….

The once proud homes are in shambles. Bags of garbage dot the landscape. Most of the people who live here are parasites on society. Personal responsibility, work ethic, education and marriage are unknown concepts in this community. Even though more than 50% of the students in West Philly drop out of high school and the SAT scores of West Philly High students are lower than whale ****, the bankrupt school district spent $70 million to build a new high school/prison to babysit derelicts and future prison inmates. The windows do not have steel bars yet, as the architect was smart to put all windows at least eight feet above street level.

These days there is a lot of despair in “the city of brotherly love”.  It is so sad to see what is happening to what once was such a proud city.

#7 Cleveland, Ohio

Cleveland has always had a love/hate relationship with itself.  Many who live there call it “the mistake by the lake”, but the truth is that it was once a truly great city.

Sadly, today it is symbol of what has gone wrong with America.

There has been a steady stream of businesses that have left Cleveland and today 52.6% of all children that live in Cleveland are living in poverty.

There are not enough good jobs in Cleveland anymore, and so there are not enough workers to buy the tens of thousands of homes that have been foreclosed or abandoned.

So what is being done with all of those empty homes?

Unfortunately, they are being torn down.

The following comes from a recent CBS News report by Scott Pelley….

Across America, recession-fueled foreclosures and plummeting home values have left countless properties abandoned and vulnerable to looting. As Scott Pelley reports, the problem has gotten so bad in Cleveland, Ohio, that county officials have demolished more than 1,000 homes this year – and plan to demolish 20,000 more – rather than let the blight spread and render nearby homes worthless.

Does that seem right to you?

Should Cleveland be destroying tens of thousands of homes that families could be using?

Something has gone very, very wrong in this country.

#8 Camden, New Jersey

If you want to see what a hellhole looks like just visit Camden, New Jersey.

Although you will probably want to take an armed escort with you.

As industry has abandoned Camden, the gangs have basically taken over.  The “growth industries” in Camden these days are drug dealing and prostitution.

In an article entitled “City of Ruins“, reporter Chris Hedges described what life is like in Camden at this point….

There are perhaps a hundred open-air drug markets, most run by gangs like the Bloods, the Latin Kings, Los Nietos and MS-13. Knots of young men in black leather jackets and baggy sweatshirts sell weed and crack to clients, many of whom drive in from the suburbs. The drug trade is one of the city’s few thriving businesses. A weapon, police say, is never more than a few feet away, usually stashed behind a trash can, in the grass or on a porch.

Not that other cities in New Jersey are shining examples for the rest of the world either.

For example, if you want to get really depressed just drive through the bad parts of Newark some time.

#9 St. Louis

According to U.S. News and World Report, the most dangerous city in the United States is St. Louis.

If you have a death wish, just wander around the streets of East St. Louis at night.

There is a decent chance that someone will shoot you.

Things were not always this way in St. Louis.  But today things have gotten so bad that you can find packs of wild dogs roaming the city digging through trash and threatening children.

The following is from a report by the local CBS affiliate in St. Louis….

…Lewis Reed is sounding the alarm. “I’ve witnessed packs of dogs, 10 and 15 dogs running together, and I’ve seen all these dogs I’m talking about they don’t have collars, they don’t have tags, these are truly wild dogs,” he said.

Reed says stray dogs are terrorizing the north side. “It’s obscene that parents have to walk their kids to school, in some parts of the city, with a golf club to fend off wild dogs.”

This kind of thing is actually happening in America?

#10 New Orleans, Louisiana

The problems that New Orleans has experienced have been well documented.

But unlike most of the cities listed above, at least New Orleans has an excuse.  New Orleans permanently lost 29% of its population after Hurricane Katrina, and large sections of the city were essentially destroyed by that storm.

Even today, there are still some areas of New Orleans that look as if they have just been bombed.

It has been estimated that about 20 percent of the homes in New Orleans are still standing vacant, and poverty is rampant.  New Orleans will probably never fully recover to the level it was at before Hurricane Katrina hit.

#11 Oakland, California

Oakland has always been in the shadow of San Francisco, and the contrast between the two cities continues to grow.

Oakland has always been considered one of the more dangerous cities in America, and this year crime rates in Oakland are rising rapidly.  The following is from a recent article in the New York Times….

At the beginning of April, murders in Oakland were up 26 percent over a year ago, rapes were up 41 percent, and robberies were up 35 percent.

When Chief Batts arrived as a “change agent” in 2009, the police department employed 837 officers. It now has 635. The department no longer responds to burglaries that are not still in progress, and frequently does not respond to other calls for help.

So if your house has been robbed and the burglars are gone what are you supposed to do?

Due to a crippling lack of resources, the previous police chief decided that his department would no longer be able to respond to all crimes.

The following is a partial list of the crimes that police in Oakland are no longer likely to respond to….

  • burglary
  • theft
  • embezzlement
  • grand theft
  • grand theft: dog
  • identity theft
  • false information to peace officer
  • required to register as sex or arson offender
  • dump waste or offensive matter
  • loud music
  • possess forged notes
  • pass fictitious check
  • obtain money by false voucher
  • fraudulent use of access cards
  • stolen license plate
  • embezzlement by an employee
  • extortion
  • attempted extortion
  • false personification of other
  • injure telephone/power line
  • interfere with power line
  • unauthorized cable tv connection
  • vandalism

So what do you do if you are a victim of one of those crimes in Oakland?

That is a very good question.

#12 Baltimore, Maryland

If you can believe it, Baltimore was actually once a great city.

But today it has become a crime-ridden, drug-infested hellhole.

I used to drive up to Baltimore all the time.  It truly is a “blue collar” city.  There are a lot of really hard working people there.

Unfortunately, there are not nearly enough jobs for everyone and a lot of people have turned to drugs and crime.

There are some areas of Baltimore that you really should never enter by yourself.  If you do go into them, you might not make it back out.

There was one incident in Baltimore earlier this year that was particularly disturbing.

One poor young man had gotten drunk and was apparently wandering around all by himself.  Some thugs approached him and they clearly sensed that he was vulnerable.  So they knocked him to the ground, stripped him of his car keys, his watch, his money, his cell phone and his clothes.

A crowd gathered around to watch, and instead of helping the man, several of them got out their cell phones and laughed hysterically while they recorded the incident with their cell phone cameras for YouTube.

What made all of this even sadder is that this happened right in front of a Baltimore courthouse.

What in the world has happened to this nation?

All of us that still love this country should be deeply saddened by everything above.

America is rotting from the inside out, and if we are ever going to find any solutions we need to start admitting how bad things have really become.

The truth is that our problems are not limited to one political party, one special interest group or to one region of the country.  The social decay that is plaguing America can literally be found everywhere.

For much more on this, please see the following four articles….

1) “25 Signs The Collapse Of America Is Speeding Up As Society Rots From The Inside Out

2) “70 Reasons To Mourn For America

3) “20 Signs That Society Is Breaking Down And That America Has Been Overrun By Psychos

4) “12 Factors That Are Turning The Streets Of America Into A Living Hell

So don’t laugh at Detroit or Cleveland or St. Louis.

The rest of the country is declining too.

If the city where you live is not a hellhole already, it will be soon enough.

11 Reasons Why America Would Be A Better Place Without Goldman Sachs

Would America be a better place without Goldman Sachs?  Of course it would.  The “vampire squid” of Wall Street does not care about the future of America.  Sadly, Goldman Sachs apparently does not even care much about their own clients.  What Goldman Sachs is all about is making as much money as humanly possible.  In the end, there is nothing wrong with making money, but there are constructive ways to make money and there are destructive ways to make money.  Unfortunately, Goldman Sachs seems to find the destructive path almost irresistible.  Greg Smith, the head of the U.S. equity derivatives business for Goldman Sachs in Europe, the Middle East and Africa made headlines all over the world on Wednesday when he resigned publicly from Goldman Sachs in a scorching editorial in the New York Times.  Smith said that he could “honestly say that the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it”.  Considering what we know has gone on at Goldman over the past decade, that is very frightening to hear.  So could this be the beginning of the end for Goldman Sachs?  And if it is, will America be a better place when Goldman is gone?

You would think that at some point clients of Goldman would become so sick and tired of the stories of corruption coming out of the firm that they would simply walk away.

Unfortunately, corruption is so endemic on Wall Street that Goldman Sachs really does not seem out of place.  The truth is that a lot of the things that are said about Goldman could also be said about JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup and Morgan Stanley.

But in recent years Goldman Sachs has truly become a national symbol of what is wrong with our financial system.  As the American people become fed up with institutions such as Goldman, hopefully we will start to see some of them disappear.

The following are 11 reasons why America would be a better place without Goldman Sachs….

#1 Even after all of the negative publicity we have seen in recent years, Goldman Sachs appears to not have learned any lessons.  The following is how Greg Smith described the three ways to get ahead at Goldman Sachs….

“What are three quick ways to become a leader? a) Execute on the firm’s “axes,” which is Goldman-speak for persuading your clients to invest in the stocks or other products that we are trying to get rid of because they are not seen as having a lot of potential profit. b) “Hunt Elephants.” In English: get your clients — some of whom are sophisticated, and some of whom aren’t — to trade whatever will bring the biggest profit to Goldman. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t like selling my clients a product that is wrong for them. c) Find yourself sitting in a seat where your job is to trade any illiquid, opaque product with a three-letter acronym.”

#2 Goldman Sachs is one of the too big to fail banks and those banks just keeping getting bigger than ever.  Back in 2002, the top 10 U.S. banks controlled 55 percent of all U.S. banking assets.  Today, the top 10 U.S. banks control 77 percent of all U.S. banking assets.  So if we couldn’t afford to let them fail back in 2008 because they were so big, why did we allow them to become even larger?

#3 The Federal Reserve shows great favoritism to big Wall Street banks such as Goldman Sachs.  For example, between December 1, 2007 and July 21, 2010 the Federal Reserve made 814 billion dollars in secret loans to Goldman Sachs.

#4 Goldman Sachs is at the heart of the derivatives bubble that threatens to throw the entire global financial system into chaos.  At this point, Goldman Sachs has over 53 trillion dollars of exposure to derivatives.

According to the New York Times, the big Wall Street banks completely control derivatives trading.  In fact, the New York Times says that representatives from JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America and Citigroup hold a secretive meeting each month to coordinate their domination over the derivatives market….

On the third Wednesday of every month, the nine members of an elite Wall Street society gather in Midtown Manhattan.

The men share a common goal: to protect the interests of big banks in the vast market for derivatives, one of the most profitable — and controversial — fields in finance. They also share a common secret: The details of their meetings, even their identities, have been strictly confidential.

#5 Goldman Sachs was at the very heart of the financial crisis of 2008 which plunged the entire global economy into a very deep recession.  In the years leading up to the financial crisis of 2008, Goldman Sachs was putting together mortgage-backed securities that they knew were garbage and they marketed them to investors as AAA-rated investments.  On top of that, Goldman then often made huge bets against those exact same securities which turned out to be extremely profitable when those securities crashed and burned.

The following is how the New York Times described what was going on at the time….

“Goldman was not the only firm that peddled these complex securities — known as synthetic collateralized debt obligations, or C.D.O.’s — and then made financial bets against them, called selling short in Wall Street parlance. Others that created similar securities and then bet they would fail, according to Wall Street traders, include Deutsche Bank and Morgan Stanley, as well as smaller firms like Tricadia Inc.”

Sylvain Raynes, an expert in structured finance at R & R Consulting in New York, said at the time that he was absolutely shocked by what Goldman was doing….

“The simultaneous selling of securities to customers and shorting them because they believed they were going to default is the most cynical use of credit information that I have ever seen”

#6 Goldman Sachs played a huge role in getting Greece, Italy and several other European nations into so much debt.  The following is an excerpt from an article by Andrew Gavin Marshall….

In the same way that homeowners take out a second mortgage to pay off their credit card debt, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase and other U.S. banks helped push government debt far into the future through the derivatives market. This was done in Greece, Italy, and likely several other euro-zone countries as well. In several dozen deals in Europe, “banks provided cash upfront in return for government payments in the future, with those liabilities then left off the books.” Because the deals are not listed as loans, they are not listed as debt (liabilities), and so the true debt of Greece and other euro-zone countries was and likely to a large degree remains hidden. Greece effectively mortgaged its airports and highways to the major banks in order to get cash up-front and keep the loans off the books, classifying them as transactions.

#7 Goldman Sachs is working very hard to help state and local governments sell off our highways, water treatment plants, libraries, parking meters, airports and power plants to the highest bidder.  Much of the time foreigners are the highest bidders for these precious infrastructure assets.

The following is how Dylan Ratigan described what is going on….

On Wall Street, setting up and running “Infrastructure Funds” is big business, with over $140 billion run by such banks as Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and Australian infrastructure specialist Macquarie. Goldman’s 2010 SEC filing should give you some sense of the scope of the campaign. Goldman says it will be involved with “ownership and operation of public services, such as airports, toll roads and shipping ports, as well as power generation facilities, physical commodities and other commodities infrastructure components, both within and outside the United States.” While the bank sees increased opportunity in “distressed assets” (ie. Cities and states gone broke because of the financial crisis), the bank also recognizes “reputational concerns with the manner in which these assets are being operated or held.”

#8 At the same time that Goldman Sachs is causing all sorts of trouble for everyone else, their employees are making crazy amounts of money.  During 2010, employees of Goldman Sachs brought in more than 15 billion dollars in total compensation.

#9 Goldman Sachs has way too much influence over the federal government.  There is a reason why it is commonly referred to as “Government Sachs”.  No matter who is the White House, people that used to work for Goldman and other big Wall Street banks always seem to be crawling around.

Last year, Michael Brenner wrote the following about the composition of the Obama administration….

Wall Street’s takeover of the Obama administration is now complete. The mega-banks and their corporate allies control every economic policy position of consequence. Mr. Obama has moved rapidly since the November debacle to install business people where it counts most. Mr.William Daley from JP Morgan Chase as White House Chief of Staff. Mr. Gene Sperling from the Goldman Sachs payroll to be director of the National Economic Council. Eileen Rominger from Goldman Sachs named director of the SEC’s Investment Management division. Even the National Security Advisor, Thomas Donilon, was executive vice president for law and policy at the disgraced Fannie Mae after serving as a corporate lobbyist with O’Melveny & Roberts. The keystone of the business friendly team was put in place on Friday. General Electric Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Immelt will serve as chair of the president’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.

#10 Employees from Goldman Sachs pour way too much money into our national elections.  In 2008, donations from individuals and organizations affiliated with Goldman Sachs donated more than a million dollars to Barack Obama.  This time around they are pouring huge amounts of cash into Mitt Romney’s campaign.

#11 Goldman Sachs is still a “vampire squid” as Matt Taibbi once so famously proclaimed in Rolling Stone….

“The first thing you need to know about Goldman Sachs is that it’s everywhere. The world’s most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money. In fact, the history of the recent financial crisis, which doubles as a history of the rapid decline and fall of the suddenly swindled dry American empire, reads like a Who’s Who of Goldman Sachs graduates.”

Once again, there is nothing wrong with making money.

And there is certainly nothing wrong with working in the financial system.

But there is a right way to do things and there is a wrong way to do things.

Goldman Sachs is doing things very much the wrong way, and America would be a better place without them.

The Federal Reserve Plans To Identify “Key Bloggers” And Monitor Billions Of Conversations About The Fed On Facebook, Twitter, Forums And Blogs

The Federal Reserve wants to know what you are saying about it.  In fact, the Federal Reserve has announced plans to identify “key bloggers” and to monitor “billions of conversations” about the Fed on Facebook, Twitter, forums and blogs.  This is yet another sign that the alternative media is having a dramatic impact.  As first reported on Zero Hedge, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York has issued a “Request for Proposal” to suppliers who may be interested in participating in the development of a “Sentiment Analysis And Social Media Monitoring Solution”.  In other words, the Federal Reserve wants to develop a highly sophisticated system that will gather everything that you and I say about the Federal Reserve on the Internet and that will analyze what our feelings about the Fed are.  Obviously, any “positive” feelings about the Fed would not be a problem.  What they really want to do is to gather information on everyone that views the Federal Reserve negatively.  It is unclear how they plan to use this information once they have it, but considering how many alternative media sources have been shut down lately, this is obviously a very troubling sign.

You can read this “Request for Proposal” right here.  Posted below are some of the key quotes from the document (in bold) with some of my own commentary in between the quotes….

“The intent is to establish a fair and equitable partnership with a market leader who will who gather data from various social media outlets and news sources and provide applicable reporting to FRBNY. This Request for Proposal (“RFP”) was created in an effort to support FRBNY’s Social Media Listening Platforms initiative.”

A system like this is not cheap.  Apparently the Federal Reserve Bank of New York believes that gathering all of this information is very important.  In recent years, criticism of the Federal Reserve has become very intense, and most of this criticism has been coming from the Internet.  It has gotten to the point where the Federal Reserve Bank of New York has decided that it had better listen to what is being said and find out who is saying it.

“Social media listening platforms are solutions that gather data from various social media outlets and news sources.  They monitor billions of conversations and generate text analytics based on predefined criteria.  They can also determine the sentiment of a speaker or writer with respect to some topic or document.”

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York intends to listen in on “billions of conversations” and to actually determine the “sentiment” of those that are participating in those conversations.

Of course it will be those conversations that are “negative” about the Federal Reserve that will be setting off the alarm bells.

“Identify and reach out to key bloggers and influencers”

Uh oh.  So they plan to “identify” key bloggers and influencers?

What exactly do they plan to do once they “identify” them?

“The solution must be able to gather data from the primary social media platforms –Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, Forums and YouTube.”

Hopefully you understand this already, but nothing posted on the Internet is ever anonymous.  Everything on the Internet is gathered by a vast host of organizations and is used for a wide variety of purposes.  Data mining has become a billion dollar industry, and it is only going to keep growing.

You may think that you are “anonymous” when you criticize organizations like the Fed, but the truth is that if you are loud enough they will see it and they will make a record of it.

“The solution must provide real-time monitoring of relevant conversations.  It should provide sentiment analysis (positive, negative or neutral) around key conversational topics.”

Why do they need to perform “sentiment analysis”?

If someone is identified as being overly “negative” about the Fed, what will they do about it?

“The solution should provide an alerting mechanism that automatically sends out reports or notifications based a predefined trigger.”

This sounds very much like the kind of “keyword” intelligence gathering systems that are currently in use by major governments around the globe.

Very, very creepy stuff.

Are you disturbed yet?

For those of us that write about the Federal Reserve a lot, this is very sobering news.

I wonder what the Fed will think about the following articles that I have posted on this site….

*Unelected, Unaccountable, Unrepentant: The Federal Reserve Is Using Your Money To Bail Out European Commercial Banks Once Again

*Celebrating Independence Yet Enslaved To Debt

*19 Reasons Why The Federal Reserve Is At The Heart Of Our Economic Problems

*Is Ben Bernanke A Liar, A Lunatic Or Is He Just Completely And Totally Incompetent?

*10 Things That Would Be Different If The Federal Reserve Had Never Been Created

What is their “Social Media Monitoring Solution” going to think about those articles?

Unfortunately, this is all part of a very disturbing trend.

Recently, a very creepy website known as “Attack Watch” was launched to gather information on those saying “negative” things about Barack Obama.

Suddenly, everyone seems obsessed with what you and I are saying.

This just shows how the power of the alternative media is growing.

Not only that, but it seems as though the government also wants to gather as much information on all of us as possible.

For example, a new rule is being proposed by the Department of Health and Human Services that would force health insurance companies to submit detailed health care information about all of their customers to the federal government.

Every single day our privacy is being stripped away a little bit more.

But now it is often not just enough for them to know what we are doing and saying.  Instead, the “authorities” are increasingly stepping in to silence important voices.

One of the most recent examples of this was when Activistpost was taken down by Google.  We are still awaiting word on why this was done.

Sadly, the silencing of Activistpost is far from an isolated incident.

Hordes of YouTube accounts have been shut down for their political viewpoints.

Quite a few very prominent alternative media websites have been censored or attacked because of what they stand for.

So why is this happening?  Well, it turns out that the power of the alternative media is growing.  According to a new survey by the Pew Research Center for The People & The Press, 43 percent of Americans say that they get their news on national and international issues from the Internet.  Back in 1999, that figure was sitting at just 6 percent.

The American people are sick and tired of getting “canned news”, and they are increasingly turning to the Internet in a search for the truth.

As I have written about previously, the mainstream media in this country is overwhelmingly dominated by just 6 very powerful corporations….

Today, ownership of the news media has been concentrated in the hands of just six incredibly powerful media corporations.  These corporate behemoths control most of what we watch, hear and read every single day.  They own television networks, cable channels, movie studios, newspapers, magazines, publishing houses, music labels and even many of our favorite websites. Sadly, most Americans don’t even stop to think about who is feeding them the endless hours of news and entertainment that they constantly ingest.  Most Americans don’t really seem to care about who owns the media.  But they should.  The truth is that each of us is deeply influenced by the messages that are constantly being pounded into our heads by the mainstream media.  The average American watches 153 hours of television a month.  In fact, most Americans begin to feel physically uncomfortable if they go too long without watching or listening to something.  Sadly, most Americans have become absolutely addicted to news and entertainment and the ownership of all that news and entertainment that we crave is being concentrated in fewer and fewer hands each year.

The “news” that we get from various mainstream sources seems to always be so similar.  It is as if nearly all mainstream news organizations are reading from the same script.  The American people know that they are not getting the whole truth and they have been increasingly looking to alternative sources.

The monopoly over the news that the mainstream media once possessed has been broken.  The alternative media is now creating some huge problems for organizations that were once very closely protected by the mainstream media.

The American people are starting to wake up and they are starting to get very upset about a lot of the corruption that has been going on in our society.

But it turns out that the “authorities” don’t like it too much when Americans try to actually exercise free speech in America today.  For example, you can see recent video of female protesters in New York City being penned in by police and then brutally maced right here.

Are you sickened by that?

You should be.

What the “authorities” want is for us to shut up, sit in our homes and act as if nothing wrong is happening.

Meanwhile, they seem determined to watch us more closely than ever.

So are you going to be afraid to talk negatively about the Federal Reserve now that you know that they are going to be watching what you say on the Internet?

Please feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts below….

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