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.

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Apollo 11 on the Moon

Chinese rover successfully lands on moon…

Chang'e-3

Chang’e-3

Today, the People’s Republic of China became the third nation in human history to successfully land on the moon, behind the United States and the former Soviet Union.

The Chang’e-3 spacecraft, launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan, PRC on 01 December, just two weeks ago, will soon release the Yutu (“Jade Rabbit“) rover, a six wheeled scientific vehicle that contains an imaging sensor array, a telescope, an ultraviolet sensor and arms that can dig into the lunar soil up to 90 feet.  With a planned mission of three months, hopes are that the solar powered vehicle will live well beyond it’s life expectancy and mission time, much like other rovers have done.

Further, the next phase of the CNSA’s lunar program, Chang’e-5 is set to not only soft-land also, but has a stated objective to return to Earth with lunar soil samples, with a projected launch date of 2020.

Coming a long way since it first put a Chinese cosmonaut into space for the first time just ten years ago, the Chinese National Space Administration has clearly made leaps and bounds in putting the flag of it’s nation on another celestial body in a soft landing.

During the first EVA of Apollo 17, Eugene Cern...

Harrison Schmitt with the American flag and the Earth,400 000km away.

The last soft landing on the moon was by the Soviet Union’s Luna 24, which occurred in August 1976.  This mission was the third Soviet lunar expedition to successfully return lunar soil samples to Earth.  Four years before, Apollo 17 was the last manned exploration of the Moon, made up of Professor (and future United States Senator) Harrison Schmitt, and Navy Captain Eugene Cernan, known as “the Last Man on the Moon,” when his mission left the lunar surface exactly 41 years ago today, funny enough, when the Lunar Module ascended to meet the CSM at 10:54PM UTC.

“Sometimes, I catch myself looking up to the Moon and I wonder, when are we going back, and when will that be?”
— Captain James Lovell, USN (Retired)
Commander, Apollo 13

Why did I leave Business to become a Theorist…

Socrates-1-

The Death of Socrates

“…an unexamined life is not worth living.”
 — Socrates

It’s question I’ve gotten a lot when I’ve been bouncing it off the minds of my more intellectual friends…

“Why would you not get a graduate degree in business?”
“There’s more money in business.  You want to study philosophy?!”

I’ve asked myself the same questions a lot, particularly the last year or so.  Yeah…  you definitely don’t get a degree in the humanities or social sciences and expect to make a lot of money — but I found myself going “Businessmen and businesswomen are a dime a dozen in the world today.  Indeed, they’re going to be flooding the marketplace by the time I graduate,” which is true.  Not only do I have my past successes in business as armament on a resume, but I started looking to the future…

With my experience in business, I can still teach business if I so want to; however, I think teaching the basics of political philosophy and ethics in politics could be just as important to preventing the next financial or political calamity as any business professional could be, teaching the equivalent courses.  Indeed, studying our past mistakes and failures makes us better able to prevent another Lehman Brothers‘ or Subprime Mortgage crisis or S&L Scandal.  Teaching the values of a balanced approach to policy in business, and business in policy I think is just as important, as well.

My main goal since I was a kid was to teach — even when I went into the private sector for awhile, first in mortgages, then in security as a manager, now working for a Fortune 500’s Health Safety and Environmental Department while I continue schooling…   I realized that studying our political past and the successes and failures in it lend just as much understanding as studying the great economists and financiers of our past and present does.

If maybe one day, one of the students I inspire goes forth to be a little more ethical, and blows the whistle on an unfair banking practice, or other social justice issue, or even something as simple as being a little more ethical in his or her business practices by having a sense of social responsibility and social justice, but still being profitable in his or her business — I think I’ll have done my part.

More and more the past several years, my drive has shifted from a sense of being educated more in business to more a sense of social justice.  I learned I was more interested in learning about business for the sake of my OWN knowledge, than applying it toward something I could use in the future.  When I found myself studying political or social justice issues…  particularly the work I’m doing right now as a Research Analyst and Intern with The SERO Project…  this is the stuff that actually matters.   The fact I retain information from a Business Communication course doesn’t *mean* anything, aside from the fact I can write kickass resumes and letters.  Helping myself and my friends better themselves is an awesome thing to be able to do…  but, when it comes to social science and social justice… this stuff actually MATTERS.

I was lucky enough to grow up in a home in the top 5% of income in the United States.   I’m well taken care of, essentially, the rest of my life, even if I fall flat on my face a dozen times.  I’ve lived in some of the nicest places in the country — I’ve gone to some of the best schools our nation has to offer — including Eastern’s prestigious College of Business.  I have a family who’s always been there, and I have access to many resources and avenues the average person does NOT.  I’ve had everything I’ve ever wanted, essentially…  even if I had to wait awhile for it.  Studying and working on behalf of the social sciences, particularly social justice, I think is not only a calling, but a duty of mine to perform — and it’s something I’m loving more and more, and have more and more a passion for as the days go by.  While I don’t have a wish at this time to be directly “in” politics, I’d love to be a back-office player someday…  maybe a policy analyst, or a Chief of Staff who offers a sounding board to a legislator or other person who’s decisions matter — to be right there, in the thick of it, when the opinions and the research actually count for something OTHER than lining your own pockets.

This is what I’m going to do.  Let’s get it done.

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.

#2013Shutdown’s effect on Business and the Future of America…

Professor David Victor, Ph.D.

Professor David Victor, Ph.D.

One of my former (and future, no doubt!) professors from Eastern Michigan University, Dr. David Victor, posted this morning about a possible future oil boom for Iceland, noting that a recent survey and discovery shows Iceland sits on a *LOT* of the possible undiscovered oil reserves in the world, estimates place it at 13%.  With the thawing of the northern ice cap, and the North Atlantic Current keeping ice from marring up the major ports of the island nation, all of these things could conspire to bring a well-needed boon to it’s economy.

However, another follower on Facebook of Dr. Victor, the Chair of CitrinGroup, also threw in his two cents, stating that while the Chinese are courting and betting on future oil producers, such as Iceland, the United States, already suffering an anemic economy, is wasting it’s time on policy matters that in the grand scheme of things, don’t really matter.  I tend to agree.

The United States’ economy is JUST starting to  gain traction, while sitting fairly stationery and spinning it’s wheels, begging to move forward since the crisis began in the Subprime Mortgage market in 2007.  We’re finally starting to see forward momentum beyond the familiar numbers of “0.04% gains.”  People are beginning to feel confident in the economic system again.

However, when people see the Government itself can’t get it together and pay it’s OWN bills, that’s when people begin to hold onto their OWN money, going “What if I find myself right back in 2008 again?”  I admit, I found myself thinking twice when I made a relatively small purchase this morning, because the well-being of MY household budget is determined by the fiscal health of the Federal Government.

When recessions and slumps hit the nation, the Government is there to provide relief, to buffer the blow with benefits, stimulus and other some-such capital, by pumping money into the system.  However, if that money is cut off too soon, the economy can slump again.  Bad news breeds bad feelings.  Bad feelings breed either a binge on spending, or a lack of spending, more often, the latter.  When people stop spending, the economy grinds to a screeching halt — as we saw starting with the credit freezes of 2008.  While one can argue the merits of policy on both sides of the aisle, the latest budgetary and policy debate is doing nothing but killing consumer confidence, and indeed, making foreign markets question the stability of the American economy.

While Obamacare is certainly an expensive program, so was the F-35 Fighter — which estimates have the cancelled fighter costing as much as a trillion dollars — a number often attributed to the cost of Obamacare.  Oddly enough, I haven’t heard it mentioned once by Republicans on the Hill, even though it is now essentially a great waste of capital and expenditures.

Who’s right?  Who knows.  One thing I do know is — #2013Shutdown can be a death knell for the fragile traction the American economy took years to get.

A Government Shutdown… what it means, and why you should care…

download“Due to the failure of Congress to enact appropriations for fiscal year 2014, Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell tonight directed agencies to execute their plans for an orderly shutdown of the Federal government.”

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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?

The Banking System isn’t getting better — it’s getting worse.

Having worked in finance for over half a decade, and now having been involved in high finance now nearly a decade, I’ve been exposed to now only the internal workings of how credit and finance works from the inside, but I’ve studied it extensively as a matter of interest, and I see a problem developing — some if it we all know about, the other parts, not so much.

While our individual finances are improving overall, I see a big problem developing with the same system that brought it down in 2007 — unregulated banking.

In the United States, from the 1700s to the early 1900s, there was banking crash roughly every 15 years.  With the institution of strong regulation, particularly after the Stock Market Crash of 1929, the United States entered a golden age of banking.

How can this be?  With over 100 years of 15 year booms and busts, why did it all of a sudden stabilize?  Regulation.  With strong, effective regulation, bank busts came to a halt.  Not a SINGLE widespread bank bust occurred for over FIFTY years in America.

While a majority of this process took place in the 80s and 90s, the arguable beginning was the Nixon Shock; a term attributed to the end of the Bretton Woods system in the United States, when Nixon unilaterally wrote off the US Dollar’s ability to be converted into Gold; the United States Dollar became a free-floating value currency, which caused the US Dollar to become a reserve currency in many nations of the world — massively increasing it’s value.  In the 1980s, this trend continued: deregulation became the buzz word.  With more risks, banks could make more money with the same hard cash in it’s accounts.

restore-glass-steagallThe most hardcore change, in my opinion came during the Clinton administration, when Congress approved the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, repealed by the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999, signed by Bill Clinton in November of that year.  This VERY important piece of legislation turned banking regulation on it’s head: Glass-Steagall was an instrument that separated Main Street banks from Wall Street banks.  In english, this means regular depositor banks (such as Bank of America, or Huntington Bank or Chase Bank) could play the stock market and make investments with depositor money that it otherwise barred from doing under the 1930s legislation, just like Investment banks and corporations can and do.

Seen as a vestige of post-Crash and pre-/post-World War II stabilizing legislation, it was, at the time, seen as unnecessary.  However, when deregulation began picking up steam in the 1980s, things happened in short order:

– The 1980s and 1990s Savings & Loan Crises: Savings and Loan thrifts were given many of the same powers as banks under deregulation legislation signed by President Carter in 1980; without the same regulations banks were subject to.  With the massive take-off of real estate lending, (outstanding mortgage debt was $700 Billion-ish in 1970, and nearly doubled to $1.2 Trillion in 1980), S&L’s took massive risks by lending out more money than they should have, on top of rising interest rates caused many institutions to fail.  This was failure to such a degree the United States had never seen.

– Repeal of Glass-Steagall Act: With the S&L failures still fresh on the minds of financiers and politicians, many argued further deregulation was required to avert such a disaster in the future.  Congress passed Gramm-Leach-Bliley and it was signed by President Clinton at the twilight of his Administration.  By the end of the next Administration (G. W. Bush), only EIGHT years later. the United States was reeling from the worst banking and credit crisis it had seen since the dawn of the 20th century, and it was spreading throughout the world.  The FDIC began publishing lists of bank failures every Friday, conducting raids on banks it or the State controllers deemed in danger of failing, or already had, legally — and, for the first time in history, the FDIC, the Federal Depositors Insurance Corporation’s funds went NEGATIVE from insuring lost depositor money.

All of these took place within 25 years of the beginning of banking deregulation in the United States — AFTER an over 50-year golden era for banking in the United States where bank failure was almost unheard of, to the point where bank failures and bank runs were becoming regular weekly news events on Friday nights.

Even more disturbing, the largest four banking institutions in the United States, the four largest banks (Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorganChase and Wells Fargo) are now THIRTY percent LARGER than they were in 2007!

How can the next banking crisis be softened, if not stopped?

– Reconstitute a Bretton Woods-like system for the American economy: peg it with something convertible to stabilize the possible future crash of the US Dollar.  This would, in general, lower the value of the dollar, however, the dollar would be safe from a crash, or other cataclysmic disaster brought on by a perceived lack of confidence in the American financial system, which is all that currently “holds up” the American economy and the value of the US Dollar.

– Reinstitute a Glass-Steagall Law.  Banks shouldn’t be allowed to gamble with depositor money.  When banks buy futures or invest in trusts or mutual funds with depositor money, it’s the same as taking it down to the Casino and betting on a three-of-a-kind.  In fact, I’d be willing to bet on a CASINO win, over futures and stocks, at the moment.

Gag Order includes your Defense?

Courtesy drivebyplanet.com

Courtesy drivebyplanet.com

Ladar Levison started the email service Lavabit ten years ago; taking a significant amount of his adult life building his business.  While it’s understandable some in the government could be concerned over the use of non-government interceptable communications (is that even a phrase?) being used by terrorists or other people bent on causing whatever, this fact isn’t what disturbs me.

What deeply disturbs me, is he was forced to close, then under a gag order of the United States Government, isn’t allowed to discuss it at all — not even with his LAWYER.

Has it come to such a point where the United States will use legal scare-tactics to not only shut down threatening interests, but even deny those people (when they, themselves, have done nothing wrong) the right to not only defend themselves against it, but silence them?

I get that Lavabit was seen as a threat by the US Government, I’m not denying that.  Stuff like that CAN a threat.  It’s that they went after the owner, who has business interests in keeping people’s private information PRIVATE, and they essentially scared him into silence to such a point, he can’t even legally consult his lawyer.

Deeply disturbing.

This Day in History: 1945: Hiroshima Nuclear Strike

Today marks the 68th anniversary of the United States’ attack on Hiroshima with the nuclear weapon dubbed “Little Boy.” This, along with the strike of “Fat Man” over Nagasaki three days later are the only two uses of Nuclear weapons to date, and catalyzed the end of the War in the Pacific.

The Emperor Showa (a wartime photograph).

The Emperor Showa

Following the signing of the Potsdam Declaration by the United States, the United Kingdom and the Republic of China which called for the surrender of the Empire of Japan on 26 July 1945, the Empire refused the order by the allies and vowed to continue forward.

A few days later, the first bomb was dropped — on Hiroshima. The equivalent of 50,000 pounds of TNT blasted above the city, killing over 100,000. Three days later, with the Japanese licking their figurative wounds from the first strike, the United States Air Force dropped the next weapon on Nagasaki, killing an estimated 50,000.

With further strikes of the weapons of mass destruction possible, including the fact that the Imperial Japanese Navy now devastated to such a point it was unable to function effectively as well as plans to initiate Operation: DOWNFALL, an allied-planned and manned invasion of Japan, AND now a declaration of war by the Soviet Union, the Emperor of Japan, Hirohito (now Showa) ordered the immediate surrender of the Imperial Japanese Forces and unconditionally accepted the terms of the allied forces in the Potsdam Declaration, bringing the War in the Pacific and World War II to an end.

Signing the Instrument of Surrender on behalf of the Emperor was the Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu, aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.

Japanese Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu si...

Japanese Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu signs the Instrument of Surrender on behalf of the Japanese Government, on board USS Missouri (BB-63), 2 September 1945.

Afterward, the United States Military Occupation of Japan, which took effect immediately, lasted until 1952. The level of military devastation to the Japanese islands weren’t completely apparent until after the fighting stopped. Devastated infrastructure made caring for the Japanese nation very difficult, but was rebuilt by the efforts of the Occupation and the strong will of their new Japanese friends.

Today, the day is celebrated in Japan as a remembrance to those who died at Hiroshima, and to the valiant efforts to everyone, not just Japanese, who gave their lives to the battles that brought an end to World War on the planet.

In an age where just a few small weapons can destroy the world dozens of times over, those weapons brought about calls for global peace and calls for cooperation never before seen, so their usage would never again be necessary.