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Here I am.

The first musing.

My mother has told me countless times that ever since I began speaking, I have not shut up. While I know she meant this in the most loving way possible, it is not a trait that is unique to me. The Millennial Generation, as we are now aptly and notoriously known, have a tendency to make our voices heard whenever WE want, and not necessarily when anyone else is listening. Jean Twenge wrote in her 2006 book, Generation ME, that those of the Millennial Generation and late Generation X members have a certain sense of confidence about themselves and a tolerance for others. Of course, there has to be some negative traits which most millennials are now known for, of which are a sense of entitlement and narcissism. Do not blame me. I am just the messenger. These findings are backed up by various personality tests that have been given to members of various generations by sociologists. While some may say that this is a bad thing or that it is not true, it does not have to be a bad thing. A healthy dose of narcissism can make people more inclined to aim for higher goals and accomplish more of them. As for the sense of entitlement, I never really thought it applied to me but now here I am, starting up a blog with the goal of having people read my thoughts, acting as if the world wants to know what I have to say or think. Pretty entitled.

I am not here to say that I agree or disagree with some of the opinions that people have toward our generation. I am coming here to have an outlet for my random and not so random musings about a variety of topics from a millennial’s point of view. Whether you are a millennial yourself or not, I hope you find something in my blog relevant to your life. I added the mindful part to the blog title because I believe I was taught to think critically in my upbringing and schooling. While people say that millennials are just mindless drones, glued to LCD screens and social media without a care for the rest of the world, I find myself largely separate from that group with tons of thoughts and opinions (some more well thought out than others) on a wide range of issues.

The blog was not exactly my idea. A couple great friends of mine and I are always thinking of and discussing different things to do to kill the time when we are bored and ways to improve our fulfillment in our own lives. Over a few drinks, as I tossed around the idea of wanting to write a book at some point in my life, but fearing that I could not because I would have no clue what I could write about that could make up a whole book, one of these great friends threw out the idea of starting a blog about all of the random yet relevant things that we as a group talk about seemingly without end.

So here I am. I am always open to discussion and discourse on the content of my posts. I just ask that it is productive and not spiteful if you should find yourself in disagreement. I hope whoever finds this blog will find it relevant to their lives and that everyone can take something from it. At the very least, I hope you find it entertaining.

Abraham Lincoln: Not the Great Emancipator

Since the Civil War, many historians have regarded President Abraham Lincoln as the great emancipator of African American slaves. However, scholars like W.E.B. Dubois began to question this notion based on the character of Lincoln throughout his life.

Since the Civil War, many historians have regarded President Abraham Lincoln as the great emancipator of African American slaves. However, scholars like W.E.B. Dubois began to question this notion based on the character of Lincoln throughout his life. Some have referred to him as a typical politician and accuse him of taking credit for the emancipation of African American slaves when he himself was against it altogether. Abraham Lincoln should not be regarded as the Great Emancipator of African Americans because he was not an abolitionist when he was elected president and because he did not choose to act on slavery until he was urged to by fellow Republicans in Congress at the time.

At the time Lincoln took the office of the presidency, he was not regarded as an abolitionist. Wilbert Jenkins argued in Climbing Up to Glory that “Lincoln held a mixed record on the issue of black freedom at the time he took office.” For example, while he disliked slavery, he represented a slaveholder in a case of a runaway slave, eventually, he lost the case. In his early years as a congressman, Lincoln drafted a bill that would end slavery in the District of Columbia but the bill was worded in a way not a offend slaveholders and only called for the gradual emancipation of slaves and not the immediate emancipation. Clearly, Lincoln was on the fence in regards to his own opinion on the institution of slavery as he did not want to damage his image in the mind of white slaveholders in an effort to not lose any votes. In addition to the particular wording of the bill, Lincoln also called the law to a referendum so that it would go into effect if a majority of voters supported the law. In doing this, Lincoln could not receive any political backlash and at the time, must have known that the law would not pass because only white men were allowed to vote. However, if it did, he could cash in on the success of the law but is not, his political career would not take a hit. Adding more mixed positions to Lincoln’s view of slavery is the fact that throughout the 1850’s, Lincoln was consistent in opposing the spread of slavery into the new territories but he never did anything to advocate for its abolition in the Southern states. Continue reading “Abraham Lincoln: Not the Great Emancipator”

On Finance: Control Expenses

Decide want vs need. Tips to getting on top of your finances and budgeting your way to financial success!

The second step in getting out of debt and becoming immensely wealthy comes from The Richest Man in Babylon. Once we have completed step one which states that we need to “Start thy purse to fattening,” also known as, paying yourself 10 percent of your income first, and then using the rest for living expenses, we can then “Control thy expenditures” or live below our means.

If we save 10 percent of our take home income, that leaves us with 90 percent to spend (No kidding). Controlling your expenses and keeping then at no more than 90 percent will enable you to never enter into debt to pay for things that you cannot afford at the time. Creating a budget will make this a much easier task, and will allow you to truly decide if an expense is a want or a need. When you do a budget, you can add things such as entertainment expenses and going out to eat so long as you do not go over your 90 percent allotment. This way you will not break your budget by going out to eat or doing something fun.

Keeping your expenses at a controlled level despite getting a pay raise and advancing in your career will enable you to save even more money. Do not fall victim to lifestyle inflation! It is extremely easy to just use any extra money on the latest trend or toward a new toy or hobby (Trust me, I’ve done it!). If you can overcome this, then that extra thousand dollars a month that you are making with your new promotion will go much further down the road than a new toy. That thousand dollars a month raise in a low cost index fund will grow over time to a significant amount of money. So think twice before splurging for something material now, because even better things come to those who wait and are smart with their money!

Slavery and Poverty in the Early American Republic

Slavery and poverty in the early American republic had more in common than people often realize while at the same time, were still two distinctly different things.

The early American republic had to contend with several issues on both domestic and foreign fronts. However, the effects of a highly impoverished working class and the dependence on slavery greatly affected the economy of the republic as a whole. In those days, slavery and poverty had both many similarities and differences. In particular, both slaves and the poor were dependent upon others for food and shelter in exchange for their labor. At the same time, the poor were considered free people and had a chance to move up the social ladder given the opportunity while slaves were considered property. Slavery and poverty in the early American republic had more in common than people often realize while at the same time, were still two distinctly different things.

First, slavery was similar to poverty during this time period in the fact that people of both social backgrounds depended upon someone else to feed them. Slaves were owned by a plantation owner and they worked in the fields tending to crops in exchange for food, shelter and clothing. People of poverty were their own free people yet just did not earn enough wages in order to provide for themselves. Public relief places were set up in many cities all over the country where the poor could go and essentially trade some of their service to the community for whatever it was that they needed, be it, food, shelter, or clothing. In this sense, the poor became slaves to the wealthy in order to survive. The charity to help the poor was set up to help them eventually be able to move up the social ladder by way of community service for food. This helped some of the time but it did not entirely solve the problem of poverty.

Poverty and slavery, while having some similarities between the two still had their differences. Poverty, unlike slavery was not confined to a specific race. Anyone in the American Republic could be impoverished. Race was not the criteria on which poverty was based upon. At the same time, some nationalities were more prone to poverty than others. For example, according to the survey by The Pennsylvania Society for the Promotion of Public Economy, 250 of the 480 people deemed as impoverished were of Irish descent (Rockman, 41). It was often believed that African Americans made up a large proportion of the poor in Philadelphia in the years of the early republic but the data shows otherwise. According to the same statistics from The Pennsylvania Society for the Promotion of Public Economy, African Americans made up roughly eighteen and a half percent of the poor population (Rockman, 41). Continue reading “Slavery and Poverty in the Early American Republic”

Colonial America: A Forgotten Era

The Colonial period of the United States is often a forgotten and less-spoken of period of history. This little known period of history had huge consequences for the native peoples that lived in the area that came to be the American colonies.

The Colonial period of the United States is often a forgotten and less-spoken of period of history. Most people know about the perceived discovery of North America by Christopher Columbus and the Spanish and the period around the American Revolution but the years in the middle, which works out to be over two centuries is largely forgotten. This little known period of history had huge consequences for the native peoples that lived in the area that came to be the American colonies. This period forever changed the history between the native populations and the colonizing world powers such as England, France, the Dutch and Spain.

Cultural Differences Between Native Americans and Settlers

The first noticeable effects of the colonial settlements on the native populations were the resulting differences between their beliefs towards land ownership. The natives had no land ownership laws and everyone was entitled to their lands so long as they needed to work them to help support their tribe. The Europeans did have ownership laws which the natives did not understand. For the Europeans, land could be bought and sold whereas the natives shared their land with others. This eventually led to colonial expansion onto native lands in exchange for European technologies such as rifles and money. The Dutch and English had the most success in gaining Indians lands for their goods. The Dutch built up a prosperous fur trade with the natives. The Dutch wanted the fur that the natives were keen on trapping and collecting and they traded them European goods such as axes, knives, hatchets and kettles that the Dutch brought over with them. These tools were just as valuable to the Algonquians and Iroquois as they were to the European settlers. This resulting trade for these tools and weapons allowed some native tribes to become much more powerful than their enemy tribes. As the Dutch expanded their trading posts up the Hudson River, the Iroquois nation who previously only had access to such goods by way of the French on the St. Lawrence River were now much closer and more able to get the European tools and weapons at a cheaper rate. As the trade increased, so did tensions with the natives of the different Iroquois tribes. Alan Taylor notes in his book that “During the late 1620s the easternmost Iroquois nation, the Mohawk, improved their access to Fort Orange by displacing the Algonquian-speaking Mahican, who had lived around the post and had tried to control the trade.” This caused even more tensions because the Dutch, who wanted to continue to trade with the Mohicans who had been displaced, tried to stem the Mohawk assault. Rather than to risk any more profits, they accepted he Mohawk victory, which in turn recognized the Iroquois as their primary trade partner. To the Iroquois, Taylor notes, “Fort Orange functioned as an asset, and almost a possession, of the Iroquois, who acquired growing quantities of European weaponry.”[1] The Iroquois used this trading post as a means to get much more powerful than their enemy nations. In turn, they began to attack other nations and wipe out their populations. In addition, they seized French goods from westbound convoys to take to trade at Fort Orange. This increased regional tensions in the regions and led to more fighting. As French priest wrote in 1644 after attacks on French trading posts, “It is almost impossible to make either peace or war with these barbarians; not peace because war is their life, their amusement, and their profit all in one.”[2] A British priest also noted something similar and stated, “so enjoyable and easy is this warfare to our enemies.”[3] As it would then turn out, the Iroquois and French would become unusual allies as the French did not want the Dutch to profit off the natives and the Iroquois shared this wish. This led to the Iroquois ambushing incoming Indian convoys on their way to Fort Orange. Taylor notes that, “They [Iroquois and French] both tacitly worked to keep apart the best suppliers of furs (northern Indians) and of manufactures (the Dutch).”[4] However, this relative amount of peace in the colonies would not last forever. The Iroquois would go on to use the weaponry that they gained through trade with the Europeans to begin to annihilate their enemies. The reasons for this will be discussed later.

early-american-colonial-history-timeline-800
Timeline of major events in America and the controlling nations during the Colonial Era.

Continue reading “Colonial America: A Forgotten Era”

The Middle East Crisis: What United States Intervention in Syria could mean for Iran

Despite all of the recent struggles with the Syrian regime allegedly using chemical weapons on its own citizens, the real United States focus in the Middle East remains Iran.

Nuclear weapons proliferation continues to be a mainstay topic for the United Nations Security Council. In particular, Iran’s nuclear program is the current large discussion point. The West argues that Iran has goals of using their nuclear program to develop nuclear weapons while Iran asserts that their nuclear program is strictly for civilian purposes.

In a 2013 article published by Reuters, the author asserts the point that despite all of the recent struggles with the Syrian regime allegedly using chemical weapons on its own citizens, the real United States focus in the Middle East remains Iran. The Atomic Energy Agency has said that Iran is set to “test about 1,000 advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges it has completed installing.” This means Iran will be that much closer to developing a nuclear weapon. The author states that America’s next step in Syria is critical to United States and Iranian relations. By setting a red line back in August 2013, President Obama may have made any red line with Iran more blurry. Obama then sending the decision to Congress may have made the situation more confusing since his red line had been crossed yet he is seeking international help in diffusing the situations yet is not receiving any. There is less pessimism than normal for upcoming summits with Iranian leadership because the people there have recently elected a centrist President that is far from the likes of the hard-line Ahmadinejad. The new President aims to patch up relations with the West in hopes to reduce economic sanctions that are stifling the nation’s economy. In the end though, the buck stops with the Ayatollah.

The crossing of the Obama’s red line in Syria and his lack of immediate response may embolden the likes of the Iranians if any future red line is set for their nuclear weapons program. Any United States involvement in Syria will set the tone for nuclear talks with Iran. If Iran is able to construct and successfully test a nuclear weapon, the entire dynamic of the Middle East will change. Sworn enemies of United States ally Israel, Iran’s previous President Ahmadinejad had publicly called for the annihilation of Israel. While the new President’s goals appear to be to patch up the nation’s relationship with the West in hopes of reducing sanctions to help their economy, no one can know for sure while the Ayatollah remains the supreme leader of Iran. Any action in Syria is critical to what Iran does in its talks with the United States and whether or not it does acquire a nuclear weapon (Edit: Nuclear talks between Iran and the United States resulted in an agreement, albeit, it is a very touchy political subject in the United States). While all of the talk is on the present situation in Syria, Iran is being overlooked as they come ever closer to being able to develop a nuclear weapon.

In the end, while all eyes are on the crisis in Syria, Iran’s capacity to develop a nuclear weapon is increasing everyday leading up to renewed meetings with the West. Their new President looks to ease tensions to decrease stifling economic sanctions but their hard-line Ayatollah may stay the course of Ahmadinejad and not back down from their nuclear program. Obama’s red line for Syria had huge implications for what will happen with Iran. If he backs down, it could make the United States appear weak but if he were to strike Syria, it may embolden Iran and other nations in the Middle East to retaliate on the United States. If Iran develops a nuclear weapon, the dynamic of the Middle East will change greatly as they will be one of the only nations in the region with nukes aside from Israel, India, and Pakistan. If they develop a nuclear weapon, the West will have a very hard time maintaining stability in the region and keeping Israel safe, in addition to the difficulty with the oil trade. Historically speaking, Iran has never had a healthy relationship with the United States, and developing a nuclear weapon would only increase tensions. That is why what the United States chooses to do in Syria is critical to what will happen with Iran’s nuclear program.

Chinese Manufacturing Outlook 2013

China has been a country that people were saying is set to pass the United States in terms of economic power. Over the past few years however, China’s economy has been slowing down. As recently as the September economic reports, there are signs that China may be reversing that trend.

In an HSBC manufacturing sector survey, which measures the value of China’s factory sector, figures rose to 51.2 in September 2013 up from 50.1 beating analysts’ expectations. Anything above 50 indicates expansion in manufacturing which means that the nation’s manufacturing sector is expanding after months of contracting. Experts say that this was made possible after authorities in Beijing announced a series of reform measures to increase economic activity. These measures included tax cuts for small business and other forms of stimulus to speed up railroad construction in the inland areas. HSBC China analyst, Qu Hongbin said, “We expect a more sustained recovery as the further filtering-through of fine-tuning measures should lift economic demand. This will create more favorable conditions to push forward reforms, which should in turn boost mid- and long-term growth outlooks.” In addition, improved demand in the slowly recovering United States and European economies also provided a boost for China. New orders for exports increased for September, following the trend in trade data from August. While the manufacturing sector enjoys this turn around, many analysts caution that the upswing may not last into next year as the Beijing leadership will have to increase their efforts in facing down other issues such as “overcapacity in some major industries, often poor allocation of capital, and a buildup in debt over the last few years.” The next Central Committee meeting for the Chinese Government is to be held in November and will lay out the economic reforms moving forward. Zhu Haibin, chief China economist at JPMorgan Chase said, “Addressing these problems in the coming years implies that the economic recovery tends to be limited.”

From a historical economic standpoint, China is critical to the economies of the United States and the rest of the world. Manufacturing and trade data from China is crucial to gauging how well the world economy is doing. The recent upswing in Chinese manufacturing and exports indicates that the world economy, namely the United States and Europe are having an economic recovery of their own in terms of imports and consumer spending. China is particularly important to the United States because they are continuously financing the debt of the United States government. To do this, they are creating a trade imbalance by artificially lowering the value of their money by printing more and increasing demand for US dollars and then turning and buying United States Treasury bonds to gain interest. The overall goal of this is to keep the United States trading with China because it is so cheap, thus increasing exports and Chinese industry. In return, China is helping to keep the United States government operating the way it is by lending the money needed to pay for the cost of government, the United States debt. Now, if this upswing in Chinese manufacturing does not last, you can look for the world economy to begin stagnating again until further reform measures are put into place. So do not expect China to stop buying United States debt or artificially creating a trade imbalance anytime soon as it helps their economy.

In the end, the upswing in Chinese manufacturing is a positive thing for the economies of many countries around the world, especially the United States and those of Europe. However, analysts do not expect it to last through to next year as other economic issues loom large for China. The takeaway is that China’s economy and the world economy for that matter will remain on shaky ground until China, the United States and the Eurozone nations all put through beneficial reforms to grow all of their economies. The bad news is that this is a lot easier said than done.

Global Energy Consumption

Global energy consumption continues to grow at an alarming rate. This affects geopolitical activities the world over. Something must be done.

With the global population increasing at an exponential rate, the energy demand will continue to rise just as fast. The current energy infrastructure will not be able to meet future demand unless it is expanded greatly. With energy as the underpinning of all modern day societies, it plays a huge role in the geopolitical make up of the world. Policy is shaped based around energy in one way or another; whether it be how to acquire more energy or how to cap demand in order to use it more efficiently. This increased demand for energy will create a crisis around the globe leaving nations fighting over what to do for more energy.

In an economy, energy is depended upon for economic production. Workers use energy to travel to work and to do whatever their job is. Energy is used in every sector of every modern economy around the globe. Energy is crucial to globalization. So as governments look to expand their energy supply to meet demand, significant changes must be implemented. According to a report by the International Energy Association, an “estimated $38 trillion dollars will need to be invested in the energy supply infrastructure between 2011 and 2035 to meet growing demand.” This demand spurs from three major things. The first is from increasingly advanced technology such as cell phones, computers and even smarter vehicles. Even though they are attempting to decrease the usage of fossil fuels, these newer high efficiency electric cars still use energy, and lots of it. The second is increasing populations all over the world. An increase in population equals an increase in demand for energy. The third much larger reason for such a huge increase in demand is the outgrowth of post-Cold War neo-Imperialism. Following the Cold War, the United States and other modern nations turned to underdeveloped countries to produce clothing and other products that we use every day for much cheaper than could be done in their home countries. This has helped some of these third world countries become more advanced but often at the detriment to their working classes. Nevertheless, increased industry in these nations has caused a greater demand for energy in order to keep up with the rising economic production as shown in the graph below.comparison-of-energy-consumption

To meet these rising energy demands, governments are going to have to come up with the funds to increase the size and scope of the energy infrastructure. Unfortunately, this probably means higher prices for energy heading forward. This is going to be difficult because of how bad the world economy has been. The working classes of various nations around the world are not at the present moment able to fund an effort such as an energy tax. What I think will happen and should happen is the companies that are operating in foreign nations should invest there to meet energy demands in those nations while at home, our private sector companies can invest in expanding the electrical grid through private investment.