Should Puerto Rico become the 51st State? Yes.

American-and-Puerto-Rico-FlagConsider the fact that Puerto Rico has been a property of the United States since the 19th Century, and the citizens of it have been citizens of the United States since 1917.

Add to that the fact that they can vote in the federal election [the primaries, NOT the general, though], are subject to Federal law, and enjoy many of the benefits offered to citizens of the United States — such as diplomatic representation, protection by the United States Armed Forces and are able to come and go with ease from and to the mainland.

However, there are many things they do NOT enjoy: Puerto Rico has one Delegate in Congress who speaks for them, but is unable to vote in a tie-breaker situation; they don’t have electoral votes for the Presidency. This quite effectively disenfranchises United States citizens of Puerto Rico at the federal level.

Add to this the fact that a majority voted in a 2012 plebiscite (61%) for statehood, and that the statehood movement in Puerto Rico continues to gain steam — both in Puerto Rico and indeed, in our own government.

Said Dr. Ben Carson: “When you stop and think about it Puerto Ricans have been Americans for a century or more already,” “You’ve already paid your dues,” “There have probably been more patriotic Puerto Ricans than any other state. Look at all the contributions that have been made to America.”

He further went on to mention that Puerto Rico’s proximity to Cuba, and its position in the Caribbean make it ideal for granting full statehood to.

Moreover, the fact that Statehood would eliminate the limbo that Puerto Ricans find themselves in: citizens in fact, but do they have the same privilege? In a lot of ways, no — particularly at the federal level. When you further consider granting them statehood would effectively eliminate their current sovereign debt burden, become a means of tax revenue for the federal government and engage already-citizens of the United States in the political process of their own country, the usefulness and positivity of this prospect crystalizes into a solid “YES!”

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Russian Military lands in Ukraine… What now?

The Ukrainian President has been removed from office.

Former Prime Minister [and oligarch?] Yulia Tymoshenko has been released from prison.

…and Russia has begun an armed invasion.

Those are the images seen from the Ukrainian Crimean Peninsula today — Russian Spetsnaz gunships landing in civilian airports, Russian soldiers crossing the border on foot, and reports of telecommunications sabotage.

These events happening in just a matter of hours all begs the question: what’s next for the former Soviet republic?

Eurasian Union compared to the European Union

Eurasian Union compared to the European Union

With the so-called Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia, as well as Russian Chairman President Vladimir Putin’s brainchild of the Eurasian Union, which is billed as an European Union-answer to post-Soviet states; to which its own stated policy seems to be more a 21st century answer to the USSR than another EU — this apparent military takeover of a pro-West/pro-European Union nation seems to be more a politically self-serving move for Putin than an allied military entering to assist a nation to restore order.

General Wesley Clark, former Supreme Commander of NATO

General Wesley Clark, former Supreme Commander of NATO

Former NATO Supreme Commander General Wesley Clark states this is “an armed invasion.”  Ukraine’s Ambassador to the UN has said that his nation is prepared to defend itself, and urged the UN to support it.  This isn’t a nation who’s “friend” is entering to “assist” the government in Kiev.

So… what now?

Fukushima First Responders beginning to get sick…

Sea Hawk prepares to depart USS Ronald Reagan ...

Sea Hawk prepares to depart USS Ronald Reagan to deliver supplies to Japan. (Photo credit: Official U.S. Navy Imagery)

First responders to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear meltdown have begun exhibiting symptoms, illnesses and sicknesses that are tied to severe radiation exposure very recently — and not just Japanese and likely others, but US Naval first responders, as well.

More than 100 US military service members joined a lawsuit against the owner of the nuclear plant, the Tokyo Electric Power Company, also known as TEPCO, stating that the exposure they received, which was deemed as safe by both TEPCO and the Japanese government was indeed, NOT safe.

Indeed, one female enlisted sailor aboard the USS Ronald Reagan, that spent roughly a month assisting efforts off the coast of Japan, stated that recently, her menstrual cycle has gone awry, causing excessive bleeding and has also received a recent diagnosis of asthma.  Further, another sailor complains of lumps in his skin and in his jaw, along with stomach ulcers and unusual weight and hair loss.  Frighteningly, when he was tested for radiation exposure after being on the deck of the vessel, the Geiger counter “went crazy” when it scanned his hands — as he was the sailor who lowered the American flag that was given to the Japanese people as a gesture of friendship.  Having been flying during the disaster, it was likely the flag and rope were highly contaminated with radiation.

This having been said, I’m interested to know why the mainstream media isn’t covering this heavily, in America.  I find it very interesting, actually.

JPMorganChase plans, axes Twitter Q&A after #Ohsh!t moment…

JPMorgan1

JPMorganChase Vice Chairman Jimmy Lee was all set to use their official Twitter account, @JPMorgan to answer questions posed to the banking giant using #AskJPM.  The seemingly innocuous move turned immediately to panic as apparent distrust, anger and indeed simple trolling immediately took over the hashtag.

Several hours later, JPM retracted the idea.
Image

Why did this become such a problem?

Aside from simple internet trolling, public confidence in America‘s banking system remains low — and indeed, possibly even contemptuous.  Even I stopped myself from submitting the following question:

“Why did you purchase new jets and hangars for them while you received $25 Billion of my money? Wasn’t it because you were in trouble and needed help? Or was it because you screwed America, and you knew it and wanted to get away with it again? #TARPFunds #BankingCrisis #AskJPM

I still don’t trust the banking system — particularly after having worked in it for several years from the mortgage backed securities side.  Consumers get ripped off at every opportunity, and while improvements have been made, it’s a system of ethics and thought that drives the industry to produce “more, more, more; and damn everything else!”

…like any rabidly for-profit market, I guess.

China’s call for a “De-Americanized” Future?

317b5967cf5b1b4ca8849bfa3f7f89e52a4d4aeeWhile this would, no doubt, be disastrous for the American economy, which is vastly based on the “full faith and credit of the United States government” of the United States dollar — could China’s own less-than-impartial statement that the future of the world should be “de-Americanized” have a point?

Partisan infighting in Congress, on top of massive trade deficits with China and Japan (among others) are threatening the faith the world has in the US government’s ability to pay the debts it has already racked up — even in simple interest payments on Treasury Bills and other things.

While there’s yet been a default on any obligation of the United States, if partisan gridlock doesn’t change in Washington, could it be an inevitable future?

Those on the right say our borrowing to fund the government and to pay our obligations say this is an unsustainable model do have a point.  Borrowing forever with no intention to fix it will only result in a catastrophic failure — sooner or later.

However, liberal economics specifically state that when the economy is in a recession, or otherwise growing at an anemic rate, that it is the government’s duty to pump money into the economy to ensure that consumer confidence remains high and that people spend — particularly during problems like high unemployment or lower consumer confidence, the two silver bullets to economic futures.  When people are scared (fiscally speaking) they withhold money; and not spending money grinds the economy to a halt.  Very effectively.

Are both goals mutually exclusive?  I don’t think so.

While a plan to begin to work down our debt obviously needs to be in place, because consumer confidence still hasn’t fully recovered from The Great Recession, this is where [neo?]liberal economics comes in.  Adaptive economics, in particular.  The economy “running itself,” particularly without any regulation, obviously doesn’t work as much as an authoritarian, centrally planned economy.  A government buffer helps “prop up” the economy, while the wheels of the private sector continue to spin.

It’s a mess, but it’s one we can fix — if we come together and work the problem… and not just point fingers — and America can still be a leader in the world.

China signals Lunar Landing within Decade…

…we were done with the moon, ANYWAY — STUPID MOON!
  — Jon Stewart

In a spot from The Daily Show four years ago, Jon Stewart pokes fun at the fact that India found water on the Moon, that the United States missed in the last forty years of exploration.  “Billions of gallons of it.”

Jon Stewart: “…I didn’t know NASA had a base in India!”
Aasif Mandvi: “THEY DON’T!  This is the Indian Space Research Organization!”

Parody aside, the latest space news is that the People’s Republic of China, the rising super-power directly challenging the United States’ unchallenged military presence on, above or AROUND the world, is now setting it’s sights on a lunar landing.

Launching its own [uninhabited] test space station, designated Tiangong 1 (Heavenly Palace 1) in 2011, the Tiangong Space Program is China’s attempt to place a large, modular space station in orbit by the beginning of the next decade.  From here, Chinese cosmonauts can conduct their own research and development, as well as support it’s own lunar program, free from the stranglehold the United States and it’s allies has had on Space for the last half-century.

China may be coming to space-faring late, compared to the United States, Russia and India, however, let’s look at the current setups: The United States has a minimal space program, with NO current flight ability of it’s own.  Astronauts/Cosmonauts from the United States require the use of launch vehicles and equipment from the Russian Federation (and to a limited point, at this time, private companies such as SpaceX) to reach, resupply or restaff its interests aboard the International Space Station.   Indeed, another sign of the times is the massive cut NASA took from the President’s pen, through Congress, in appropriations.  The Space Shuttle was retired.  The successor to the Space Shuttle, the Apollo-inspired Project Constellation, was cancelled, leaving the United States military and government’s ability to reach out to the stars in limbo for the foreseeable future.

Indeed, this was echoed by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.  “NASA is not going to the Moon with a human as a primary project probably in my lifetime,” he stated.

However, he continued: “…and the reason is, we can only do so many things,”

While he didn’t specifically elaborate, it’s possible that NASA’s future plans could lie elsewhere — specifically, landings on asteroids, or even Mars, in relatively short order.

While the cancellation of the Constellation Project puts a American landing on Mars anytime soon in question, as Orion was designed with the intention of being capable of travelling to both the Moon AND to Mars, will American innovation and the memories of the Space Race of the 1960s embolden American spirit in an even broader space race?

“Intellectual Disarmament”

James Albaugh is president and chief executive...

James Albaugh, President & CEO of Boeing Integrated Defense Systems.(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

…a phrase coined by Boeing’s James Albaugh, should be a major concern for intellectuals, academics and theorists in the world, in my opinion.

The United States academic system, particularly the University-level education system, is among the best and brightest in the world.  Armed with more Ph.D.’s, Ed.D.‘s, J.D.’s, MBAs and MS’s than in some COUNTRIES, the University system in America is unique — and perhaps, even special.  But we’ve got major flaws that, if not addressed, could wind up becoming our undoing.

Right now, the US has one very special “weapon” in its arsenal.  And that’s the F-1 visa.  Our great nation allows students from other countries to come to our nation, study and achieve a quality education, and then return to their nation and, with any luck, achieve great things.  Not only does our economy benefit from this arrangement, by receiving the tuition and fees from the visiting student, but it would stand to reason the student also eats, buys music or engages in some other forms of recreation — even to a small degree.  All of these things come together to form a fairly beneficial process to both parties.

However, the problem therein lies that that’s exactly what happens.  Often, they don’t have an incentive to stay in the USA.  They receive their American education, and return home.  An education subsidized by American taxpayers.  Now, is there anything “wrong” with this… not “as such,” of course not.  America, in my opinion, has the duty and obligation to the world to be a place where those who want to raise themselves up in the world can come and do so.

But what incentive are we giving those hard working students to STAY in America?  Often, as soon as their Visa runs out, they HAVE to go home.  Other nations recall their students as soon as they finish their course of study.  Why aren’t we, as a nation, saying “Look, we’ve given you the tools to succeed… why not stay HERE, and let us help you succeed anymore?”

Albaugh put it very well: Other nations, be it the nation the student hails from, or others, see graduating students and are actively attracting them.  Why aren’t we, as a nation, offering foreign students and other intellectuals/academics an “easy in” to America, particularly after they’ve spent several years here already?  Will America continue to stay innovative if such  trends continue?

Between government cuts (particularly in Defense) and the hemorrhaging of talented minds that are educated here and otherwise leave — what could this hail in the future?

Russia — What’s happening?

English: Dmitry Medvedev and Vladimir Putin

English: Dmitry Medvedev and Vladimir Putin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Everyone’s concerned with things in the Middle East.  Be it Iran or Morsi’s Egypt… or even the Korean Peninsula.  Rightfully so, these could be hotspots for problems that America; and even the world, could find itself dealing with in the future if they’re not handled appropriately by the international community.

However, I look at one country — like many others, and wonder: What’s happening in Russia?

Over the past several years, Putin has managed to not only consolidate a considerable purse of power, but indeed, even a cult of personality that North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Un would even find respectable.  However, compared to North Korea, Russia is far more democratic.  …or is it?

Not only has Putin managed to skirt the constitutional term limits in office by playing musical chairs with his Prime Minister (and former President) Dmitry Medvedev, but he’s also begun exercising power by “popular decree.”

Indeed, when Putin was originally elected in 2000, he drastically restructured the governance of the Federation as such.  When he took office, there were 89 regions that had some form of independent governance.  Chechnya itself had a democratically elected President.   This changed under Putin, who essentially reshuffled their powers into seven (now eight) federal districts that aligned almost exclusively with the Army commands, with the heads of these regions enjoying powers similar to that under Imperial Russia.

Bribery, particularly when it comes to government contracts, went from “accepted” practice to near-standard practice.  In a poll conducted in 2010, 15% of Russians admitted to paying a bribe within the previous year.  Those are the ADMITTED numbers.

Moreover, the amount of bribes in the economy have skyrocketed from the equivalent of $33 billion to over $400 billion in the last decade, notably during the Putin Administrations.  Arguably a consequence of economic and legal mismanagement after Federation from the Soviet era.

Media has also become a major concern.  Two of the three major television outlets are owned and operated by the Russian Federation itself.  State owned, state controlled.  Further, ITAR and RIA-Novosti are state-owned as well, while Interfax is stated to not be.  Music and public expression is also a concern, as members of the band Pussy Riot were arrested and charged with “hooliganism,” stating that the band was trying to incite religious hatred and blasphemy.  The Orthodox Church has even called on the Russian government to “criminalize” acts of blasphemy.

Obviously, the external forces in government, as well as the will of Vladimir Putin, are a major concern.  Bribes fly back and forth, ambitious Putin-friendly commissars are installed as figurative regional-governors general, and the political freedom of the people continue to erode, all while the cult of personality that surrounds Vladimir Putin continues.

Why aren’t people talking about the political freedoms in the largest nation on the face of the planet being talked about more?

Social Justice in the Arab Spring claims another Government…

…for the second time in the same country.

English: Celebrations in Tahrir Square after O...

English: Celebrations in Tahrir Square after Omar Soliman’s statement that concerns Mubarak’s resignation. February 11, 2011 – 10:15 PM (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Morsi presidency has officially been toppled, according to the heads of the Army, who have surrounded Morsi’s palace with barbed wire, effectively placing him under house arrest.

Arguably one of the largest gatherings in history, the millions crowding in Tahrir Square to protest on the anniversary of Morsi’s ascension to Egypt’s presidency — his toppling comes just over a year after his election.

So, what made this democratically elected President so toxic to the Egyptian people just over 50 weeks after he took power?

His apparent hunger for power started almost immediately, culminating with him decreeing his having unlimited power to “protect” the Egyptian nation, which resulted in the Courts protesting his obvious grabs for more and more political power.  The national wounds of the Mubarak administration’s dictatorship still open and weeping, the people took to Tahrir Square once again to protest the figuratively hypersonic grab of power.

The Arab Spring is alive and well — the love of self-determination and Democracy in people in the age of information and social awareness won’t stop those who want it from getting it.

Trans-Pacific Partnership — what’s the deal?

Seal of the Office of the United States Trade ...I’m deeply disturbed by something Senator Elizabeth Warren has brought to the floor of Congress just recently.

The US Trade Representative is currently conducting negotiations on renewing a trade agreement with several allied nations, called the “Trans-Pacific Partnership.”  Historically, and even under the Bush Administration, this had Congressional oversight.  Apparently, under the Obama Administration — the Administration who’s buzzword is ‘Transparency,” that’s no longer the case.

The US Trade Representative is REFUSING Congressional requests for review — in any capacity, including “scrubbed” versions, with individual country names redacted, but the policy proposals visible.

Why would a treaty involving commerce, and indeed, including representatives from companies like Bank of America, Comcast, TimeWarner, be so secretive?

Indeed, the only Representative in Congress who’s SEEN the agreement, has said the following:

Florida congressman Alan Grayson.

“There is no national security purpose in keeping this text secret.”
 — Represenative Alan Grayson (D-FL)

Repeatedly asked for the text that Senator Warren refers to, she, and Congress, have been categorically DENIED.  Why is the US Trade Representative not allowing for either a) Public transparency or b) Congressional transparency when the only member of Congress YET to review it, says there is no concern for National Security?

“…’transparency would undermine the Trade Representative’s policy to complete the trade agreement, because Public Opposition would be significant.’   In other words, if the Public knew what was going on, they would STOP it.”
 — Senator Elizabeth Warren, quoting the US Trade Representative

“If transparency would lead to widespread public opposition to a trade agreement, then that trade agreement should not be the policy of the United States.”
— Senator Elizabeth Warren

See her speech to Congress here.