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Who: Kimball Corson. Text and Photos not disclaimed or that are obviously not mine are copyright (c) Kimball Corson 2004-2013
Port: Lake Pleasant, AZ
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Are Elite Colleges Worth It?
Kimball Corson
09/25/2014, Pago Pago, American Samoa

The Value of Degrees Per Se From Elite Universities

In today's high-tech economy, we know it pays to get a college degree. What is less clear is whether it makes economic sense to attend an elite school with a high price tag. Does the earnings return from a diploma with the name of an elite institution stamped on it justify the higher expense, or is the reputation per se vastly overblown, at least when it comes to subsequent income earned?

The answer is it is hard to say. Here is why. Students who attend elite universities are likely to have higher earnings potential regardless of where they attend college for the very same reasons that they were admitted to those more selective schools in the first place.

The net conclusion researchers have come to is that student quality matters more than the university quality per se. But there are some qualifications to that. First, some universities, such as Harvard, do relatively little to improve their students. Smart in = smart out. Other universities, such as Chicago, MIT and some others, take in smart students but work them very hard so they are required to learn much more. Their formula becomes smart in = smart out + much learned. Secondly, a university can also matter by spending more on the cost of a student's education so the value added is greater which means more learned. High tuition can be an indicator here, but not a sufficient one.

Degrees per se from the institutions that push their students harder and spend more on their education can make their degrees per se more valuable, but the overwhelmingly dominant effect remains the basic quality of the student to begin with, including, importantly, the motivation of that student.

Another Piracy/Trouble Spot
Kimball Corson
09/25/2014, Pago Pago, American Samoa

The New Gulf of Aden

"The Gulf of Guinea is the most insecure waterway, globally," says Loic Moudouma. And he should know. Trained at the U.S. Naval War College, the lead maritime security expert of the Economic Community of Central African States, and a Gabonese Navy commander, his focus has been piracy and maritime crime in the region for the better part of a decade.

Moudouma is hardly alone in his assessment.

From 2012 to 2013, the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence found a 25% jump in incidents, including vessels being fired upon, boarded, and hijacked, in the Gulf of Guinea, a vast maritime zone that curves along the west coast of Africa from Gabon to Liberia. Kidnappings are up, too.

Note that both high piracy and trouble areas are off African coasts. Black Africa is too largely ungovernable by its indigenous populations. The Dark Continent.

A Death Near By
Kimball Corson
09/25/2014, Pago Pago, American Samoa

A Shocking Event

There are about 15 boats on moorings or at anchor in the harbor in American Samoa. Several have pick-up crews, a few have married couples aboard and some are single handed like mine.

Late yesterday afternoon, a sizeable police boat rafted up against Jack's boat toward the back of the bay.I don't know Jack's last name. I watched events with high powered binoculars. Those who boarded Jack's boat donned face masks, looked through the companionway hatch down below and then seemed mostly to linger on deck. Finally, a body was carried out in a dark wrap and the police boat took it away, while five crew members remained behind on deck in face masks. When, the police boat returned, they weighed Jack's anchor and hauled his boat off to the marine police station at the opposite end of the bay.

Jack died aboard. How he died we don't know yet. No one had seen him for several days. An autopsy will be done, relatives notified, etc. Jack wasn't that old -- my best guess is 62 or so -- and he was fit, but he drank too much. At parties where I had seen him, was always soused, but held his liquor fairly well. Still . . .

We are in a bit of shock here. Is that my fate? Not too likely. My routines are known by many whom I see, in one group or another, every day. Still, it is spooky. Of course we all have to go sometime. Even so. . .

Civilization Under Siege
Kimball Corson
09/25/2014, Pago Pago, American Samoa

The Assault on the Civilized World

The poor and oppressed are trying to enter and thereby inundate Europe and the US. They will not lift those countries in the numbers seeking to enter. They will sink those countries. They bring who they are and their problems with them. Rarely do they fit in well. Often, they over burden social services. They are expensive, even to be returned to their home countries. As I have said, there needs to be a balancing of interests: those of the target country and those seeking entrance. New arrivals need to be able to contribute something so as to be a net benefit to their new countries. Often, that is not the case and so presumptions get build in to the standardized situations and assessment goes out the window. Here is what is occurring in Europe which knows it and does nothing. They want to protect their prosperity.

As many as 700 people are believed to have drowned in two tragic accidents last week during what may have been the deadliest weekend in the Mediterranean in history. On Sept. 10, traffickers sank a ship with 500 Syrians, Egyptians and Sudanese who were trying to reach Europe. More than 200 African emigrants are thought to have drowned only days later when their boat sank off the Libyan coast.

Tens of thousands of migrants attempt the perilous journey across the Mediterranean from North Africa to Europe each year. Paying smugglers small fortunes to be transported in what are often ramshackle boats, they hope to escape war or poor economic conditions and settle in the European Union. Many never make it across. This year alone, nearly 3,000 people are believed to have died while trying to reach southern Europe.

It seems poorer parts of the world are increasingly unable to govern themselves. Somalia becomes the devolved prototype. Such countries lack the capabilities, intelligence and developed resources of say the Scandinavian countries. They too persistently hover at the edge of tribalism in chaos. They send their populations fleeing as refugees. Those people too often become migrants without a country.

The core question is how to save such people from themselves. Answers are not forthcoming. The civilized countries of the world simple bar their doors and close their eyes to the chaos and incivility in the rest of the world. They don't see that they can do anything useful at a reasonable cost. The analogy here, although less extreme, is gated communities in the US to banish the riff-raff, at least from sight.

The problems of the world in general and with the poorer countries in particular are truly starting to over whelm us. Ebola is just the tip of the iceberg along one dimension. The Islamic State is a manifestation along another. Self governance worldwide is failing too much in too many places. Relatively successful countries are being pressed and pressed hard.

US Complicity in Israeli War Crimes
Kimball Corson
09/25/2014, Pago Pago, American Samoa

The Dicey Game the US Plays in Israeli War Crimes

Over 80% of targets in Gaza have been civilian according to the United Nations which has further identified most such Israeli actions as "war crimes" and "crimes against humanity," in line and accord with international law. The State of Palestine has had to suffer unwar related bombings of civilians and civilian structures and even of United Nations Refugee Camps as well as U.N. Schools in Gaza. In addition, over 50% of the Gaza population is under 18 making many if not most of the civilian victims legally still children.

With a negotiated ceasefire implemented, one might wonder what the next step is in the struggle for freedom. A de-militarized State of Palestine is out of the question as it must have the rights to defend itself in the face of Israeli aggression also in repeated violation of Article 149 of the "4th Geneva Conventions Relative To The Protection Of Civilian Persons During Time Of War." Israel has breached that convention of international law as well, as the entire world also witnessed during Israel's last offensive.

But is the US complicit in these war crimes? Many in the international legal community believe so. Indeed, the US is hyper sensitive to the issue and is trying to negate any linkage of complicity. For example, it delayed and temporarily cut off arms shipments to Israel during periods of maximum offensive aggression against the Palestinians by Israel. The State Department has generated propaganda for the world press during such periods, implicitly trying to deny complicity. The Obama administration has spoken out against the atrocities to further aid the effort. However, the world legal community well knows many if not most of the weapons used to kill Palestinians are US made and provided. It is hard to escape that fact. The UN and others are and have been gathering evidence.

World legal opinion is against the US on its complicity in Israel's war crimes, crimes against humanity and violations of Article 149. Legally, the US is a party to the crimes and the genocide. It leaders might yet in the distant future have their day of reckoning in an internal court of law. Bush and Cheney still do not dare to travel to Europe. Arrest warrants remain outstanding for them. Perhaps some US styled extraordinary rendition without the torture would do the trick here.That would remove Cheney from the scene and from publicly and privately recommending all out war in Iraq, as he is.

Failing to Act on Climate Change
Kimball Corson
09/25/2014, Pago Pago, American Samoa

400,000 March in New York City Today

All seeking a good global response to climate change. Rallies took place in in over 2000 cities in 166 countries. All in advance of a meeting of 120 world leaders, including President Barack Obama, who are expected to convene Tuesday at the United Nations in New York to discuss ways to tackle the growing threat of carbon pollution.

The White House has pledged to "show the world that the U.S. is leading on climate change, and to call on other leaders to step up to the plate," John Podesta, who serves as a counselor to the president, told reporters on Thursday. However, a recent study found that the world spewed more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere last year than ever before, primarily driven by China, India and the United States. And the top leaders of China and India announced earlier this month that they won't be attending Tuesday's summit.

Surprise! Those who most foul our nest don't want to help us clean it up. Without Indian and China, it will be hard to get anything useful done.
The march began around 11:30 a.m., at New York City's Columbus Circle just off Central Park. At times, it stretched more than 4 miles as marchers carried banners, signs urging reduced CO2 emissions. Good luck. Many of the people in the world live in India and China, the world's two most populous nations.

The Destruction of Judaism
Kimball Corson
09/25/2014, Pago Pago, American Samoa

Israel and Secularization Are Destroying Judaism

In 1965, 15 percent of Jews married outside their faith. To preserve the Jewish culture, religion and gene pool, such out marrying was a problem, but not a major one then. That has changed now. Israeli policies and treatment of the Palestinians have divided Jews worldwide. As a substantial consequence, Jews who marry outside of their faith has risen to over 70 percent now. To understand why, much broader background is needed here.

Many studies show that political differences are much more important in blocking marriage than religious differences. One even shows people with opposing political beliefs dislike the smell of each other and like the smell of those whose political beliefs are more similar to their own. The effect of political differences blocking marriages is quite strong, even relative to religious differences doing so. That fact is key.

Given that political differences block marriages, Israel is generating many such differences among Jews and thereby markedly contributing to the rise in Jewish out marrying. In turn, such rising out marrying is destroying the Jewish culture and more importantly, the Jewish gene pool which presently has a mean IQ one full standard deviation above the white mean. It is no surprise therefore that the percentage of Nobel prizes going to Jews in STEM subjects is much, much higher than Jews' percentage of the population. Out marrying is destroying that gene pool.

But Israel and its policies and treatment of the Palestinians are not the only factors destroying Judaism. Another is the decline of religion and rise of secularization, which is occurring more generally. Judaism is after all a God based religion and here the intelligence of Jews operates against them for they are among the quickest to realize a sense of community is not enough where it is based on fable and myth and not more rational bases.

Similarly, Jewish teachings are in moral conflict, like those of the Koran of Islam which significantly derive from them. The Torah, like the Koran, has not a few passages that are moral repugnant and alienating. The notion of being the chosen people is made to be self justifying and rationalizes too much, particularly in conjunction with the implicit notion of superior intelligence, the two then used to support the idea of being deserving of more than and from others. Much is systematized here in Torahic teachings. Manipulation of Jewish law by self-serving constructs and interpretations which fleshes out the Torah becomes transparent then to a keen, unbiased and intelligent eye. What could be gotten away in earlier times, no longer flies. Too much is known. This, along with the realization of the God myth, repels many Jews from Judaism.

Finally, there is the Jewish heritage of over reach and greed which we currently have observed in the land grabs in Israel from the Palestinians and by the top banks and institutions on Wall Street, which are predominately Jewish controlled. That too morally offends many Jews and they want no part of that that heritage and reputation. Indeed, it alienates many Jews from not only from Judaism, but also from their self identity as Jews, a matter that is easily correctable in a generation or two by out marriages.

All of these factors are destroying and atrophying Judaism to secularization and by out marriages to non-Jews, although many try consciously to hang on to a sense of Jewish community, often in reform temples, which ignore much of the Torah. That is a countervailing force. However, on balance, the loss over time will invariably and unalterably be to the Jewish gene pool which has given us so much, both by dilution and dissipation, I suggest.

Why Beer Billies?
Kimball Corson
09/25/2014, Pago Pago, American Samoa

O.K. So What Is Causing Americans Big Beer Bellies?

I have written that researchers have found an increase of 54 percent in the incidence of abdominal obesity -- that is, beer bellies (women with an over 35 inch waist; men, over 40)-- from 2001 through 2012. Over the last decade, Americans have gained an inch of waistline, on average. Women showed the biggest increase in "beer bellies," with Mexican American and African American women leading the way But not a single group didn't show some increase. It is a much bigger health problem when your fat settles on your belly as opposed to your hips or your posterior, because you end up with a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes and other obesity-related ailments, for the same amount of weight gain.

Why is belly fat on the rise? Common wisdom holds that Americans are simply eating too much and not exercising enough, but science is revealing that the story is much more complicated. Lack of exercise and over eating isn't it.
The CDC researchers have found sleep deprivation as the likely main culprit. Not getting enough sleep alters brain patterns that prevent a person from feeling full after eating. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, a growing body of research has accumulated which supports the idea that sleep and weight are related. [I have always known that for me personally. I lose weight by getting more sleep.] Their report notes that sleep-deprived people may be too tired to exercise, and may also simply eat more because they are awake more hours and need the energy boost. Lack of sleep, they suggest, also disrupts the balance of key hormones that control appetite.

The CDC researchers also point to over-medication and endocrine disruptors as possible suspects in the growing waistline epidemic. Endrocrine disrupters are chemicals we are exposed to in our daily lives in products such as plastic bottles, food cans, cosmetics, cleaning supplies, and certain pesticides.

Get more sleep, a bit more exercise, avoid plastic food and water containers, canned food, cosmetics and avoid specialized chemicals. These are the steps in the correct direction to get a handle on your beer belly.

War Lovers
Kimball Corson
09/25/2014, Pago Pago, American Samoa

The US as a War Monger

Nothing better illustrates the bankruptcy of the Obama administration's foreign policy than our funding of groups that turn against U.S. forces or interests and use our own weapons on us or our current allies. Again and again we face the conundrum of being unable to determine who our true enemies and allies are. But we are undeterred. As I write, American weapons for Iraq are being used by the Islamic State against those the US would now support and aid.

Indeed our zeal now to fight the Islamic State is in large part due to the fact that, there at least, we know who our enemy is, even if we remain a bit unsure who our allies in the Middle East are or should be. We confuse easily. Worse, that zeal to engage ignores entirely expert assessments that our level of proposed commitment (no ground troops) is wholly inadequate. Indeed, some experts argue that even with ground troops we cannot win, just as we did not prevail when last in Iraq fighting a lesser enemy. We are the gang that cannot shoot or think straight.

Our erstwhile desire to fight is there, but with whom and maybe even against whom is problematic. The backfire potential is enormous as we have already seen. Our will to fight someone with someone for something is a neo-con wet dream cycle chasing after war profits for war makers.

This is but another sign of our deep down corruption. We could take care of all of us well for the price of these wars. Indeed, we could have a noteworthy social dividend. Again, our thinking is muddled.
____

This is what a coral reef at low tide looks like on a steep sided volcanic crater atoll. At the breakers -- here minimal -- the drop to the ocean floor beyond can be hundreds or thousands of feet.

Causation
Kimball Corson
09/25/2014, Pago Pago, American Samoa

Often Misunderstood Notions of Causation

A lack of understanding of the concepts of causation muddles many peoples thinking and makes statements like "correlation is not causation" ambiguous at best. Aristotle thought there were four forms of causation: material causation, formal causation, efficient causation and final causation. His distinctions are not as useful as they could be.. But here is the crude idea. Assume we have a bronze statute, as the effect, and we ask, what is the cause of it? Aristotle answers that question by saying:

1) The material cause: "that out of which", e.g., the bronze of a statue.
2) The formal cause: "the form", "the account of what-it-is-to-be", e.g., the shape of a statue.
3) The efficient cause: "the primary source of the change or rest", e.g., the artisan, the art of bronze-casting the statue, the man who gives advice, the father of the child.
4) The final cause: "the end, that for the sake of which a thing is done", e.g., health is the end of walking, losing weight, purging, drugs, and surgical tools.

This is the notion of "causation" being about aspects of something. It is less interesting than some. It targets "why" as to one or another aspect. More to the point is the idea of causality or causation being the relation between an event (the cause) and a second event (the effect), where the second event is understood as a physical consequence of the first.

In common usage, causality is also the relation between a set of factors (causes) and a phenomenon (the effect). Anything that affects an effect is a cause of that effect. A direct cause is one that affects an effect directly, that is, without any intervening factors. (Intervening factors are sometimes called "intermediate factors or causes".) The connection between a cause(s) and an effect in this way can also be referred to as a causal nexus. This is a much more useful perspective.

Within this framework, we have --

Necessary causes:
If x is a necessary cause of effect y, then the effect of y necessarily implies the presence of x. The presence of x, however, does not imply that effect y will occur.

Sufficient causes:
If x is a sufficient cause of the effect y, then the presence of cause x necessarily implies the presence of effect y. However, another cause z may alternatively cause the effect y. Thus the presence of effect y does not imply the presence of cause x.

Contributory causes:
A cause x may be classified as a "contributory cause", if the presumed cause x precedes the effect AND altering the cause x alters the effect y. An experiment is implied..

Contributory causation does not require that all those x variables which possess contributory causation, experience or lead to the singular effect y. It also does not require that all those variables which are free of contributory causation also be free of the effect. In other words, a contributory cause may be neither necessary nor sufficient but it must be contributory, that is, be altering.

We badly muddle these notions in our every day thinking when we consider the idea of causation. It is a good idea to keep them in mind.

The Best of Jewish Principles
Kimball Corson
09/25/2014, Pago Pago, American Samoa

Jews Fight Unlawful Firing of Outspoken Pro-Palestinian Professor

Here are principled Jews at their finest, standing up for a professor's private, non-teaching related First Amendment rights.

Following the de-creation of Steven Salaita's job or position at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign after he was hired and, outside of the university context, spoke out in favor of the Palestinians and against the Israelis, a group of Jewish faculty, students, staff, alumni, and community members associated with the University issued a letter to Chancellor Phyllis Wise and the Board of Trustees protesting the de facto firing. These Jewish students, faculty and staff stand in support and solidarity with Steven Salaita and urge others to speak out with them to emphasize and strengthen their message to the university administration.

My hat is off to them.

The Koch Brothers Agenda
Kimball Corson
09/22/2014, Pago Pago, American Samoa

Koch & Friends in a Nutshell

What Koch & Friends -- and the Republican Party, they now very substantially control lock, stock and barrel -- now want is this in a nutshell (from the revealed Koch tapes and comments along the way):

- No minimum wage
- No social safety net (the homeless should "get off [their] ass and work"
- No EPA
- No Department of Education
- No Department of Health and Human Service
- No Center for Disease Control
- No government Social Security program
- No Medicare program
- No Medicaid program
- No Veterans Administration or hospitals
- No system of public education
- No student loan programs
- No clear air or water laws and regulations
- No state or federal parks
- The sale of of most all state and federal land
- Total deregulation of the economy and Wall Street
- No food safety programs
- No drug testing and approval programs
- No significant government beyond
-------- police and fire protection
-------- national defense
-------- coining and controlling the money supply
- Lower taxes
- Supply side economics and trickle down economics
- No Department of Health and Human Services
- No Department of Housing and Urban Development
- No Department of Transportation
- No Department of Energy
- No inheritance taxes
- No food stamps program
- No unemployment insurance programs
- No effort to help or control the economy

The general agenda is a 100 percent wrecking ball of government in favor of the rich and wealthy. It is the program of, by and for the oligarchs. While one or another Republican will deny he or she is in favor of any part of the agenda, they VOTE for what they are told.

If you don't think that Koch & Friends are enemies of America, think again. This is treason and sedition from within by misuse of money within the political process.

Divided We Thrive -- United We Fall
Kimball Corson
09/19/2014, Pago Pago, American Samoa

Secession, the Civil War and the Red and Blue States

A new survey finds that one in four Americans are open to the idea of secession. The divide between the Red and Blue states seems irreparable. The split is multifaceted. Our Civil War in some regards never seems over. Did Lincoln make a mistake holding the Union together? The mental divisions remain. Texas and North Carolina will never be much like Massachusetts and New York. The divides are huge. They reach to habits, lifestyles, education and many other dimensions.

The Red states resent the Blue States and politically align with Republicans and the politically motivated Oligarchy. The Blue States think the Red States act retarded and have values which consign them toward being the way they are -- backward and at the bottom along many desirable dimensions of measurement. The Red States blow such assessments off. If the nation could be divided between Red and Blue states, it might make considerable sense. With adjustments, that could readily happen. Implicit in the survey results on being open to succession, that idea seems to be buried and be presently unspoken. I elect to give it voice.

The Red States resent the Blue States and want to be left alone to go their own ways. The Blue States, in turn, feel economically and socially held back and pulled down by the Red States, The economic and life style choices of the Red States make little sense to the Blue States, and the Red States detest much about the Blue states rather indiscriminately. A division I suspect makes considerable sense.

Total geographic proximity or contiguity seems not to be required or necessary. Our experience with Alaska and Hawaii proves that point. We could create alliances or have treaties to coordinate and cooperate between the two new nations where we chose, just as with any other country. Citizenship would be by state of residence with an adjustment period to elect and move before becoming by free choice locked in. The same could be true for corporations as to their states of origin and principal places of business. The federal system of government, so abhorrent to the Red States, could be continued by the Blue States and the Red States could revert to the Articles of Federation or whatever strikes their minimalist collective fancy. The political oligarchs, who are mostly conservatives, could go with the Red States and largely get what they want in these regards to prove or fail to prove their recommendations

It would be a grand test, in a way, on whether liberalism or conservatism -- in all the many dimensions of each -- would better serve the interests and advancement of its respective citizenry, although history and present analyses put the handwriting on the wall. It would prove which system and mindset is the greater fool, who could adjust best and which system best provides for its citizenry. I think such a test and assessment would be tremendously useful. The competition could prove useful as well and many conservatives would disappear from Congress and thereby eliminate our on-going governmental stalemate.

It is time to begin discussing the idea. The more I think about it, the better I like it.

Why We Look So Different
Kimball Corson
09/18/2014, Pago Pago, American Samoa

Why We Look Different

Evolution. Evolution favors distinctive looking faces. According to a new study, evolution has favored humans with distinctive facial features because it is beneficial for people to be able to recognize each other, and be recognizable.

"If everyone looked more or less the same there would be total chaos," said study co-author Dr. Michael J. Sheehan, a postdoctoral fellow in the University of California, Berkeley's Museum of Vertebrate Zoology. "It would be really hard to tell the difference between members of your family, different people at work, friends and neighbors versus total strangers, etc. Of course, it may still be possible to figure out who is who after talking with them for a bit but think of how taxing that would be."

The variety in our facial appearances is rivaled only by the variety of differences within the specie of canines commonly known as dogs, but we are still much more diverse. That is because others of us can only check one end of us, whereas dogs do both for other dogs. The need for diversity of appearance among dogs is thereby reduced. Or so I conjecture!

On Sucker Punching Fools
Kimball Corson
09/18/2014, Pago Pago, American Samoa

Low End for Profit Higher Education Again

For-profit education company Corinthian Colleges Inc. misled students into taking out unaffordable loans by falsely advertising job prospects, then used illegal debt collection tactics to force distressed students to pay up, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday by the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Corinthian owns Everest Institute, Everest College, WyoTech and Heald colleges, which collectively have more than 70,000 students and annually receive $1.4 billion in federal financial aid. The company is winding down all its operations in an agreement with the U.S. Department of Education.

Students attending for-profit colleges and universities should not be able to get federal financial aid for degree programs. That would nip this problem in the bud. Distance learning without faculty to interaction with is a sham and a fraud anyway.

 

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