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Who: Kimball Corson. Text and Photos not disclaimed or that are obviously not mine are copyright (c) Kimball Corson 2004-2016
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Obama to Hatchet Social Security
Kimball Corson
01/14/2013, Pago Pago, American Samoa

Obama to Hatchet Social Security

"According to inside-Washington gossip, Congress and the president are going to do exactly what voters elected them to do: they are going to cut Social Security by 3 percent. You don't remember anyone running on that platform? Yeah, well, they probably forgot to mention it.

"Of course, some people may have heard Vice President Joe Biden when he told an audience in Virginia that there would be no cuts to Social Security if President Obama got re-elected. Biden said: "I guarantee you, flat guarantee you, there will be no changes in Social Security. I flat guarantee you."

"But that's the way things work in Washington. You can't expect the politicians who run for office to share their policy agenda with voters. After all, we might not like it. . . ."

The Role of Profits in a Competitive Economy
Kimball Corson
01/13/2013, Pago Pago, American Samoa

The Role of Profits in a Competitive Economy

Most people mistakenly believe profits are the return on capital. Not so. Capital has its own separate return based on the value of its own marginal product. Profits are what is left over after all resources used in the productive process are paid what their marginal value to the process is. Profits are a something extra which has a key role in the economy that is properly grounded in change.

The purpose of profits in a truly competitive economy is to be an extra bit of money received that serves as an inducement for others to enter that industry. Profits attract more capital into that industry. Resources are thereby attracted away from industries that are just breaking even or actually losing money and induced into those with high profits. High profits tell entrepreneurs, capital and resource where they should go. They are a part of the system to create an optimal allocation of resources. In a stable unchanging and competitive economy where resources are optimally allocated, the level of profits in all industries will be zero. Labor and capital will both received a return equal to the value of their marginal values and there is no need for profits to exist to reallocate resources among and between industries.

Most conveniently, accountants don't really or often separate the return on capital from profits. They tend mistakenly to lump them together partly because the owner(s) of the business receive both so who cares. But they are not the same and their purposes are different. Most people therefore don't understand what profits are and what their purpose is.

When American businessmen moved their factories to China to take advantage of cheaper labor there, they received their usual returns on capital there but they acquired a large profit from what they saved on labor. That profit induced more businessmen to move production to China. Earlier, it was to Japan. But now Japanese wages and those in some other RIM countries have risen to levels where American wages are now again competitive.

What we observe is simply the competitive process working to equalize labor costs in the international world economy. Now, to save on labor costs which have risen in coastal Chinese cities, production is being moved into the more rural interior. The pursuit of profits results the better allocation of productive resources as profits work to equalize wages and thereby reduce the profits which induced the reallocations.

Profits can also be ill-gotten gains from taking advantage of natural monopoly elements in a market (large school districts and the market for teachers) or monopoly positions created artificially by establishing barriers to entry into markets. The AMA's restrictions on the number of doctors produced, thereby pushing their incomes above competitive levels and including an element of monopoly profit in those incomes. Competitive incomes would be those where all who could and wanted to went to medical school, all things considered.

That is what profits are and how they work in a competitive economy. That is also how they don't properly work in an economy with inadequate competition, usually because of legal restrictions which serve special interests at the expense of others or other what are called "barriers to entry."

Hegal, Marx and American Conservatives: views in conflict
Kimball Corson
01/13/2013, Pago Pago, American Samoa

Hegal, Marx and American Conservatives: views in conflict

There is a static theory of capitalism that laborers and capitalists interest are the same. That is the trickle down theory of economics that American Republicans and conservatives hold so near and dear. It is also called supply side economics. If the government will but cut their taxes and reduce the impediments of market regulation, the capitalists will invest, the economy will boom and the rising economic tide will lift all boats and improve the lot of everyone in America.

It is all a lie. The economic system does not work that way for several reasons. First, when taxes were in fact lowered and regulations reduced, American capitalists moved their production to China. They closed American factories, fired American employees and hired Chinese works for their new factories abroad. Saving much on labor, American capitalists became very rich and losing their employment, American laborers became much poorer. The distribution of income here became massively skewed in favor of the rich. The trickle down theory of supply side economics became the trickle up theory of economics that belies the core theory of capitalism in several important regards.

Secondly, and worse for the trickle down theory even in just the US, the consensus among economists is 1) many markets do require good regulation or they fail. We saw this recently on Wall Street in the financial markets for packaged mortgages. 2) studies now show that within the ranges we observe, lower or higher income taxes do not materially affect the level of aggregate economic activity. Where taxes are lowered, taxpayer have more money to spend, the government, less, and visa versa. This should come as no great surprise. Both of these notions cut strongly against supply side economics and the trickle down theory.

I have repeatedly shown that what is offered as trickle down theory is actually trickle up theory in practice, skewing the income distribution, and making a fraud of the first theory which is so beloved by American conservatives. So, not only do they need the new supporting constituencies they have long alienated, as shown by the last presidential election, but they now also need a new economic theory to show labor's and capital's interests are the same and consistent with each other. In this latter effort, they run head long into Karl Marx who argues that is impossible.

We know very little about the economics of Karl Marx because, unlike in Europe, economists here refuse to study him because it is frowned upon by their corporate research sponsors. But Marx has much to say about our economic situation, having predicted the skew in the distribution of income, how new machines are increasingly displacing labor, how labor is being shoved out the labor markets and left idle, how capitalists are having more trouble finding buyers for their goods and what the likely consequences of all this are.

Marx took his cue from Hegel's theory of dialectics. Ideas compete and struggle against each other, are discredited in the process, but from such destruction emerges a new, more acceptable and vital synthesis of thought. He saw the same dialectical process at work in the economic world of materialism.

The basic conflict was between the activities of capitalists and those of laborers. While they cooperated well initially in the production process -- the first and most vital and successful stage of capitalism -- their interests seriously diverged, largely because of the desire of capitalists for more profit, which they got largely by two means 1) acquiring and using market power to take more of labor's share, and 2) displacing labor with capital or machines to reduce labor's share of the income from production and increase theirs. But there is a hitch here as we will see.

The second stage of capitalism, according to Marx, is the growing struggle between capital and labor leading to the mechanization of labor's work and the displacement of labor. This is his theory of surplus labor. Marx thought that the defining features of capitalism were the alienation of the worker, the exploitation of the worker and the recurring, cyclical depressions leading to ever more unemployment which would rise further as more machines replaced more laborers.

And the last stage of capitalism that Marx foresaw is what happens when labor is too much left idle and poor, and rich capitalists have most of the income, but also face seriously shrunken markets lacking buyers in which to sell an ever larger supply of goods. They will see their profits fall and their social position of dominance challenged. The ultimate consequence Marx predicted was Socialism where the state steps in to remedy the situation for the population.

The Marxian dialectic of materialism is proving to be true. The surplus of labor is growing. Future vindication of Marx will be redoubled in the coming decades, when, as is now predicted, substantially new robotics and computerization will displace many, if not most mid and upper level jobs. This will result, economist predict, in an even larger net displacement of labor from the labor markets, on top of what we already have, and a further skew the income distribution causing ever new and ever lower normals as we watch capitalism progressively fail. The problem of course is that Americans will not be able to buy the ever increasing production of new goods.

Marx got dialectical materialism and the surplus theory of labor much more correctly than we would like to believe. Now we await the further demise of capitalism he predicted and the consequences of that which he also addressed. The handwriting is on the wall.

That economists don't study Marx in the US is inane.

Preparing for Bad Weather Events at Anchor or on a Mooring
Kimball Corson
01/10/2013, Pago Pago, American Samoa

On Unsafe Boat Designs and Sensible Precautions for Very Bad Weather on a Mooring or at Anchor

The vessel pictured here is an unballasted, very light, "go fast" catamaran with exceptionally high freeboard (about 6 feet at the bow), a strongly rising sheer and a gaping wind scoop at the front end for its bow. It is sure to be swung directly into the wind by its freeboard and, in a strong enough blow, to be caught in the mouth and tossed up and around in an anchorage. Exactly the type of boat to avoid being near wherever possible when a major hurricane or cyclone is forecast. But note, not all cats suffer this design flaw that is problematic to other cruisers. Many have little freeboard, little sheer and hug close to the water in front

I have avoided being near light, big mouthed cats, as I call them, wherever I reasonably can. In some anchorages such as Pago Pago, you can't easily; in others, such as Vavau, Tonga, you can. With cyclone Renee coming into Tonga and slated for a direct hit, I actually changed moorings and did so for just that reason. Such a cat was too close by. The mooring I moved to did have a well designed cat not too far off (a St. Francis 44) which I correctly judged not to be a problem, especially as Renee was only a category one cyclone. It road out the cyclone well. Only one boat was tossed about during Renee, a light displacement monohull with frayed mooring attachment lines which broke. It damaged several other boats. Interestingly, one light displacement cat in the anchorage hung sizable enough truck tires down in the water from each hull bow as sea anchors in preparation. It did well and received kudos.

In contrast to the cat pictured here, my own boat has little freeboard, a low, aerodynamic and water shedding topside, a deep draft and has 8,400 pounds of solid lead in the base of the keel six feet down. All on an LOA of under 39 feet. It is hard to have it thrown around, even in a very nasty blow. However, the issue is not just displacement -- or more importantly, the lack of it as with the boat pictured -- it is also not having large and relatively flat surface areas against which high wind pressures from a weather event can apply.

I have now been aboard and ridden out being directly in the eye of four hurricanes/cyclones (two category one's, one category 2 and one category 3), as well as many more that came close to one degree or another. I also rode out on board the 2009 Tsunami in American Samoa which killed 112 within two miles of me, including in the bay and including a nearby cruiser. The lesson I learned from all these experiences is that all nylon rodes or mooring attachments in the 1/2" to 1" size range are inadequate and undependable in serious tsunamis and anything over a category one and a half or two blow. More is needed. Nylon stretches and breaks too easily, whether three strand or double braid.

During the tsunami, all such nylon rodes and attachments broke and only all chain rodes and heavier lines (over 1 1/2") held. Many boats were thrown up on land and three were tossed up on the dock. Many more boats were sent flying about the anchorage, hitting and badly damaging other boats. It was a similar situation with Hurricane Jeanne ( category 3 with $7 billion in damages in Fort Pierce, Florida) which I also experienced firsthand some years back, as one of the four direct hits I mentioned. Being hit by another boat or the shoreline is your real threat from serious bad weather events when not underway. We all understand being blown ashore, but too few understand the dangers of being hit by another vessel that has broken free and especially by design is too easily blown about.

My anchor set and all chain rode held during the tsunami, and at the helm under power, I was able to dodge six boats flying about, but was still hit squarely by two that I was unsuccessful in avoiding. My boat was significantly damaged by one, a Chinese long liner, and I have not yet been able to get to Fiji for adequate repairs (as I have been pinned down well over a year awaiting trial of the two felons on probation who attempted to rob and murder me aboard. Trial is set for January 29, 2013, knock on wood.)

I suggest these as words to the wise if a seriously bad weather event is expected:

1) Where you have a choice in anchoring or mooring, get as far away from light, big mouthed cats of the variety I describe as you can. Cats generally have a bit of a history for winding up upside down, especially in serious weather.

2) Also, avoid all vessels with excessive freeboard. All blow around too easily.

3) Likewise, avoid boats that only have nylon rodes and mooring attachments in the size range I describe. Look for all chain rodes.

4) Avoid boats especially with frayed nylon lines and that are light displacement.

5) Additionally, with moorings that have chains to bottom blocks, it is often worthwhile to remove your anchor, stow it, and shackle your own all chain rode directly to the mooring chain at the buoy or float. That provides a solid connection, albeit one with less give and ultimately no stretch.

6) Finally, whenever your chain rode has been significantly and badly stressed, replace it, even if the links seem fine. Much metal fatigue is not usually apparent, but still a problem. It results too in earlier rust, from my experience. The same should apply for mooring chains as well, I suspect, if budgets can manage it.

All these measures are worth the effort for peace of mind to many. Some boats go airborne or are driven about much too easily, depending on their design and attachment means. Avoid them like the plague for they are your real danger in an anchorage with a seriously bad blow - much more than a shoreline. In fact, some shorelines are actually rather benign.

A Parliamentary Government With Proportional Voting for the United States
Kimball Corson
01/10/2013, Pago Pago, American Samoa

A Parliamentary Government With Proportional Voting for the United States

The founding fathers looked upon the adventure posited by their newly drafted Constitution as a sort of grand experiment. It had no real precedent. No earlier guide. They were not sure it would work. They all but joked about it. Surely the adventure would fare better than the misbegotten Articles of Confederation.

It was a system clearly designed for a slow-paced, agrarian population well dispersed across the countryside. It spread governmental power and had checks and balances galore. It was a government that was designed to do little unless most everyone agreed. A fight against a Hitler would do, once enough of us came to a mind to do that. It was an experiment, but it was a cautious one that too much assumed life in America would stay the same. It didn't, after a while.

The industrial revolution came and discombobulated things. New farm equipment and technology markedly kept increasing farm output to the point where a large rural population for farming was no longer needed. At the same time the industrial revolution facilitated and accelerated urban life. Therein was the dual rub; it was our government's undoing, if you will.

Washington and Jefferson both worried that our constitutional system of government would likely not work if the American population became urbanized around great cities that were also money centers. It appears they were correct. The Constitution does not even clearly provide for a national, central bank or anything like the Fed. That need was not expected to arise, although it soon did, and was the subject of much debate among even the framers.

As our population shifted from a more rural and farm setting to a synergistic and fast paced urban one, our needs in regard to government changed. Much more governmental action and intervention was required. The executive branch and our presidents became much more powerful and indeed with little help were able to address smaller matters where most realized the full machinery of government was simply to unwieldy. That plugged some of the gap, but only some.

Checks and balances across the three branches remained the stumbling block for substantial action which depended much more on consenses or at least carefully aligned majorities, no minority subversion and a sympathetic Court. Over time, as the issues became more complicated and our population increasingly less informed -- and now affirmatively misinformed by some political interests -- consensus, aligned majorities or the Court can not be depended upon and increasingly our constitutional system of government simply fails. It grinds to a halt. It does not act.

In the growing face of dissension and disagreement, the system and the Constitution we hold far too dear no longer serve us. The grand experiment of the founding fathers is collapsing. We now have ineffective "government by gridlock." We are unable to address national problems of the economy, the unemployed, graft, corruption and even enforcement of our laws. We face government by prison lock down. It won't work and isn't working. We too much blame the politicians, when it is more the fault of the structure of our government.

For discussion, here is what I propose instead. It is basically a unicameral parliamentary system with proportional voting that is more directly accountable to the people. The details follow:

100 parliament members would be elected nationwide for two year terms. Terms would be staggered by thirds. Proportional representation with the entire nation electing the single unicameral body (cannot be gerrymandered.) We would use a open party list proportional representation system where a party had to get five percent of the vote to have its members counted and with voters indicating their order of preference within a party list. Nevertheless, the number of candidates elected from the list being determined by the number of votes the list receives.

[e.g., Finland (open list), Latvia (open list), Sweden (open list), Israel (where the whole country is one closed list constituency), Brazil (open list), the Netherlands (open list). For elections to the European Parliament, most member states use open lists systems. The party list system is most common worldwide for proportional voting and for democracies. The bias is toward open lists.]

Members would receive a comfortable salary, but could receive zero money from any outside sources under pain of expulsion from Parliament. Each candidate for office would received a fixed sum from the government for his or her election or reelection campaign which could not be supplemented at all. Incumbents would receive 25 percent less in campaign funds. Other (including personal) financial campaign assistance being received would preclude a member or candidate from Parliament for a period of four years. No third party paid for ads would be allowed.

Parliament would be supreme and have full sovereignty, with no limits on its powers or authority, as in Canada. Parliament may make or unmake any laws as it deems proper, and no other political or private institution may undermine Parliament's ability to do so.

A president would be elected by a majority of Parliament from its members and serve at Parliament's pleasure. The President would appoint his cabinet secretaries who would serve at his pleasure and the pleasure of Parliament with a 65 percent vote by Parliament required to remove a cabinet secretary. Each could remove for any reason whatsoever.

The supreme and lower court could not review acts of parliament in regard to their validity and the supreme court is only to assure the applicable law was properly applied by the lower courts.

State governments would become administrative units run and controlled by parliament. Those units would serve at Parliament's pleasure, be under the cabinet secretary of the interior and also serve at that secretary's pleasure, but the state administrative units would have no separate constitutions and powers, nor be a part of any federalist system and would only be a part of the national system of government.

Laws would be uniform in their application or not as Parliament decides (hunting rifles ok in Wyoming, but not New York city) All law would be made by Parliament. None would be made by the states. Cities, as authorized by Parliament, could make local ordinances subject to approval by Parliament.

The virtues of this form of parliamentary government are
1) It is more directly accountable to the people.
2) It would be less corrupt as parliamentary systems are anyway.*
3) It would be much simpler.
4) It would avoid grid lock, with the chief justice to break any tie vote.
5) Single Parliamentary systems have generally provided higher quality representation for the public interest, in competition with private interests.
6) Most of the world's democracies have parliamentary forms of government.
7) Most of the world capitalistic economies have parliamentary forms of government.
8) No country has the messy, complicated and ineffective system we do.
9) It is faster and easier to pass and revoke legislation.
10) It has attractive features for nations such as ours that are ethnically, racially, or ideologically divided.
11) It is less prone to authoritarian collapse, coups and control by the rich.

*Parliamentary systems generally are associated with less corruption according to the World Bank.

Thoughts anyone or is this all too unthinkable for you.

America’s Health Care System is a Huge Failure
Kimball Corson
01/09/2013, Pago Pago, American Samoa

America's Health Care System is a Huge Failure

The other advanced countries of the world with national health care systems do much better than we do. We are the only advanced nation without a national health care system. Our works worse than any in terms of it costs and its results.

Americans Pay More and Get Worse Health Care than Other Advanced Nations

The Per Capita Costs of Health Care in the Advanced Nations

The average annual cost of health care per capita is about $3,000 in most of the modern world, but almost $5,800 in the US. Next, we have Switzerland, Iceland and France at just $3,000 coming in at second place, but still with the US almost double that. Finally, the other advanced nations have annual costs per capita of from $2,200 to $2,900, with most of the Scandinavian countries in that group, with costs less than half the US.

Now where do you suppose all that extra money paid in the US goes? Who pockets it? Shouldn't you know?

So Called Benefits or Results

So what do we get for all this extra health care cost? The answer is much less health care and much worse health.

Americans live shorter lives and experience more injuries and illnesses than people in other high-income countries. A growing body of research is calling attention to this problem. The U.S. health disadvantage cannot be attributed solely to the adverse health status of racial or ethnic minorities or poor people, since recent studies suggest that even highly advantaged Americans
may be in worse health than their counterparts in other countries.

The Inferior Health Status of Americans

Health care outcomes in the United States have been compared
with those of 16 comparable high-income or "peer" countries: Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. Historical trends dating back several decades were examined, but with a focus on the more extensive data available from the late 1990's to 2008. Over this time period, a strikingly consistent and pervasive pattern of higher mortality and inferior health in the United States is found in the US,
beginning at birth:

• For many years, Americans have had a shorter life expectancy than people in almost all of the peer countries. For example, as of 2007, U.S. males lived 3.7 fewer years than Swiss males and U.S. females lived 5.2 fewer years than Japanese females.
• For the past three decades, this difference in life expectancy has
been growing, especially among women.
• The health disadvantage is pervasive--it affects all age groups up
to age 75 and is observed for multiple diseases, biological and
behavioral risk factors, and injuries.

More specifically, when compared with the average for peer countries, the United States fares worse in nine major health domains:

1. Adverse birth outcomes: For decades, the United States has experienced the highest infant mortality rate of high-income countries and also ranks poorly on other birth outcomes, such as low birth weight. American children are less likely to live to age 5 than children in other high-income countries.
2. Injuries and homicides: Deaths from motor vehicle crashes, non-transportation-related injuries, and violence occur at much higher rates in the United States than in other countries and are a leading cause of death in children, adolescents, and young adults. Since the 1950's, U.S. adolescents and young adults have died at higher rates from traffic accidents and homicide than their counterparts in other countries.
3. Adolescent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections: Since
the 1990's, among high-income countries, U.S. adolescents have
had the highest rate of pregnancies and are more likely to acquire
sexually transmitted infections.
4. HIV and AIDS: The United States has the second highest prevalence of HIV infection among the 17 peer countries and the highest incidence of AIDS.
5. Drug-related mortality: Americans lose more years of life to alcohol and other drugs than people in peer countries, even when deaths from drunk driving are excluded.
6. Obesity and diabetes: For decades, the United States has had the highest obesity rate among high-income countries. High prevalence rates for obesity are seen in U.S. children and in every age group thereafter. From age 20 onward, U.S. adults have among the highest prevalence rates of diabetes (and high plasma glucose levels) among peer countries.
7. Heart disease: The U.S. death rate from ischemic heart disease is the second highest among the 17 peer countries. Americans reach age 50 with a less favorable cardiovascular risk profile than their peers in Europe, and adults over age 50 are more likely to develop and die from cardiovascular disease than are older adults in other high-income countries.
8. Chronic lung disease: Lung disease is more prevalent and associated with higher mortality in the United States than in the United Kingdom and other European countries.
9. Disability: Older U.S. adults report a higher prevalence of arthritis and activity limitations than their counterparts in the United Kingdom, other European countries, and Japan.

Since 1980, the United States has had the first or second lowest probability of surviving to age 50 among the 17 peer countries. Americans who do reach age 50 generally arrive at this age in poorer health than their counterparts in other high-income countries, and as older adults they face greater morbidity and mortality from chronic diseases that arise from risk factors (e.g., smoking, obesity, diabetes) that are often established earlier in life.

Finally, the US's large population of recent immigrants is generally in better health than native-born Americans. They give our averages a boost.

Do you still like the American health care system and think it is the best. If so, you need to learn and adjust.

Bell, Buddhists and Our Notions of Reality (Part XI)
Kimball Corson
01/09/2013, Pago Pago, American Samoa

Bell, Buddhists and Our Notions of Reality (Part XI)

Before trying to get a hopefully improved sense of string theory, having somewhat rather dumped on it before, perhaps unfairly, I want to stop and say a word about gravity, That is where we are really ignorant. Spectacularly so.

In physics, the graviton is a hypothetical elementary particle that mediates the force of gravitation in the framework of quantum field theory. However, no one even knows if such a particle exists. I doubt it and suspected the quantum physicists have gotten too used to particles explaining a lot. Of course, I don't know, but if I were a betting man . . .

The real problem with gravity is physicists think it is not a force that is emanating from our three dimensions. They think that the universe is really eleven dimensioned and that gravity is a key force in another set of dimensions. In our world it is a weakish sort of leaked force that too simply has spilled into our perception. We don't know much about it except it somehow relates to mass and its pull is inversely related to the square of the distance between the two objects pulling on each other.

Einstein also told us it warps and bends space in ways that make it appear that two objects are attracted toward each other. But is gravity really all about how objects cause space to be bent so that like two baseballs on a taut sheet they are "pulled" toward each other? Is it the behavior of space around objects that we should be focusing on instead of matter? We don't really know.

More interestingly, astronomers also know that something in the universe is exerting a strong gravitational force on things that we can see. They don't know what it is and they can't see it. When they measure the effects of this gravitational force, they estimate that the "something they don't know and can't see" adds up to about 23 percent of the "matter" in the universe, judging by how the matter we can see behaves. Even more baffling, something else that doesn't quite behave like normal matter -- which they unsurprisingly call "dark energy"-- makes up the rest of what is needed to account for the gravitational force we observe on things we can see -- a whopping 72 percent.

Gravity is a serious and powerful force. The problem is the amount of matter we can observe simply isn't enough to generate the kind of gravitational forces on the matter in the universe we can see. There is a huge discrepancy. Where is all this gravitational muscle coming from. Is it caused by matter accelerating in space? Or space reacting to all this accelerating matter? Is space causing it along the lines of Einstein's thinking?

For example, one alternative to dark matter suggested in 2011 by Dragan Hajdukovic at (CERN) proposed that empty space is filled with particles of matter and antimatter which are gravitational opposites. With different gravitational charges, the matter and antimatter particles would form gravitation dipoles in space. If these dipoles formed near a galaxy - an object with a massive gravitational field - the gravitational dipoles would become polarized and strengthen the galaxy's gravitational field. This would explain the gravitational effects of dark matter without requiring any new or exotic forms of matter.

Frankly, I think we are simply badly confused because we live in too small a part of the universe and because we don't really know nearly enough about gravity. A good and complete theory of gravity and how it operates should make all this dark stuff go away, I suspect.

Odds 'n' Ends and Tid Bits
Kimball Corson
01/08/2013, Pago Pago, American Samoa

Art should comfort the disturbed.
Art should disturb those comfortable
Art should roil those who need it.
Of course, some art just sits there and is.

International Comparative Data on Medical and Higher Education Costs -- Supports my arguments on the Scandinavian countries.

Avg annual cost of health care per capita is about $3,000 in most of the modern world, but almost $5,800 in the US. Then we have Switzerland, Iceland and France just cracking $3,000 as the 2nd highest, with, of course, the US almost double that and then with everyone else coming in between $2,200 and $2,900, including the Scandinavians.

Then, here is higher education costs around the world.

But N.B., top private US universities run about $52,000 per year for just tuition unless help is marshaled (Harvard, Chicago, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, etc.)

The GDP per person in Norway is over $90,000/ annum and only about $55,000 in the US. Why?

So How Are We Doing? (from a friend)

US ranked 31 of 74 in mathematics education,
US ranked 23 of 74 in science education,
US ranked 17 of 74 in reading
US ranked 49 of 224 in life expectancy
US ranked 3 of 178 in ease of doing business
US ranked 11 of 227 in GDP per capita
US ranked 13 of 111 in quality of life
US ranked 17 of 167 in degree of democracy
US ranked 61 of 163 in protecting the environment
US ranked 61 of 163 in freedom of the press
US ranked 85 of 149 in protecting global peace

I guess we are not so clever
as to want to be like us forever and ever.
We just think so.

Obama's Foreign Policy Break with the Bush Neocons
Kimball Corson
01/08/2013, Pago Pago, American Samoa

Obama's Foreign Policy Break with the Bush Neocons

That is what the debate is all about over Republican Check Hagel's appointment to Secretary of Defense by President Obama. Republicans are up in arms. They still won't concede the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were big mistakes. They still believe there were weapons of mass destruction. No matter how incorrect and simply wrong they have been, they seem to lose no credibility, at least among each other, but hopefully among the rest of us. Being factually correct doesn't matter. Being ideologically correct does. My take is that is a learning disability.

The controversy centers on Hagel's outspoken criticism of the war in Iraq, and Republican fears that the appointment would represent a clean break for Obama from the policies of the Bush years. And that is bad? Remember Bush Jr. on the aircraft carrier photographed under the "Mission Accomplished" sign? Have these Republicans no memories or abilities to assess, even after the fact?

Hagel rose to national prominence for his blunt criticism of Bush's policy in Iraq and his "realist" -- even skeptical -- outlook on the use of U.S. military force as a tool of basic foreign policy, a position now further vindicated by the mistaken Afghanistan War as well. Don't these Republicans ever learn? They are the problem with education in America.

Anyway, we will see what happens.

A Catholic Big Hat Speaks
Kimball Corson
01/08/2013, Pago Pago, American Samoa

A Catholic Big Hat Speaks

Bishop Bernard Fellay said Jews are the "enemies of the church" during a recent radio talk, but denies any anti-Semitic connotation to the rhetoric [help me with an explanation: we love our enemies?]. Here, he is pictured in 2009 during an ordination mass of the Society of St Pius X, which was declared "illegitimate" by the Catholic church. A cult within a Cult.

Fellay, discussing negotiations with the Vatican in 2012 concerning the Society's future, said the following during the address: "Who, during that time, was the most opposed that the Church would recognize the Society? The enemies of the Church. The Jews, the Masons, the Modernists."

Note his Catholic Big Hat is not a large or as white as the Pope's Big Hat. What would happen to their authority and bearing if Jesus made them wear baseball caps on sideways, speaking of modernists.

The Reasons for Our Declining College Standards
Kimball Corson
01/07/2013, Pago Pago, American Samoa

The Reasons for Our Declining College Standards

Students are inadequately prepared, in both grade and high school. They are too distracted in large part by their visual culture and their own company. They are unaculturated to deliberate careful thought and reading, almost requiring audio and visual stimuli to process information. This is a key reason. They lack the skill base to do serious higher level academic work. The worst of them, who still wish to attend some college, often go to a community college. If you have ever looked through a community college's semester course offerings, the overwhelming majority of courses are in English and math and are remedial. High school redone. Ironically, when finished, such students often wind up knowing their high school materials better than many four year students. Four year institutions tend to just mistakenly assume such work is not much necessary for their new students. This is our main Achilles heel.

Many college students do not expect or want to work hard. They simply want "the college experience" and of course, a degree at the end of four years. Girls, beer and parties have a high priority in creating their expected "college memories." Student faculty interaction is often abysmal to non-existent. I know a student who attended a large university and never in four years had a substantive conversation with a professor or teacher. Few such students have S.T.E.M. majors. They more seek to party, just get by and get their degree. They dominate the numbers.

Faculty get bad student ratings from students when too much work is required of them or the work is too hard. They complain. Administrations, eager to get and retain tuition fees, pay attention to those students. Then all play a cosmetics, cover-up game. Few people know that the SAT was adjusted in the 90's to give an almost 100 point boost to test recipients because the scores fell so far below the national goals. Grades have been similarly inflated. Less is made appear more. Appearances are to be maintained. All is made to look good, so long as the money flows are maintained and not compromised.

Worse, parents complain when their children are worked too hard. Universities hear from them. Again, the goal of administrators is to acquire tuition fees, expand enrollments and retain and hire new faculty. They are running a business. Parents must be satisfied as well or younger siblings and the children of friends may not matriculate.

The sad fact is many attend college who are not qualified intellectually or scholastically. This is really the first point, revisited from a broader perspective. It is clear that aside from the students at top colleges and universities, serious S.T.E.M. students and the top students in other institutions, most college students -- the overwhelming majority -- are not intellectually or scholastically qualified to do serious academic work. That is the sorry truth. All deny it, but it is clearly true. It is a truth we cannot face. The malaise of our high schools has been admitted into our colleges. We are in denial. The seriously bright students find their way regardless, however, and do so where others can't.

As a consequence of theses degradations, most who are qualified to judge them, realize that a four year college degree with average grades from a tier II, III or IV college these days is about the equivalent of a high school degree before WW II. Interestingly, that is just about how the labor market evaluates a typical college degree these days. College grads are often store clerks. Of course, those out of the top institutions and the top of other college classes and serious S.T.E.M. students stand on a different footing. They are capable of serious work and, sooner or later, even if later on the job, they usually get to it. They are the group which is slated to run things and lead us forward.

Our Central and Key Problem
Kimball Corson
01/07/2013, Pago Pago, American Samoa

Our Central and Key Problem

It is this: most of the problems facing our nation are economic problems or at best problems with strong economic aspects. Yet congressmen and the president are abysmal economists and, worse, don't politically like the answers they get from good, sound economists. (And, Oh yes, such economists are readily identifiable and could be easily assembled.)

This is a horrid and persistent catch 22 that threatens to sink our ship.

The Income Defense Industry Hard at Work
Kimball Corson
01/07/2013, Pago Pago, American Samoa

The Income Defense Industry Hard at Work

Trying to condition our thinking (note the declaratory, imperative mood):

"There will be no more increases in tax revenues as part of any debt or deficit-reduction deal, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declared in several interviews on Sunday.

"[T]he tax issue is finished, over, completed," said the Kentucky Republican, during an appearance on ABC's "This Week." "That's behind us. . . ."


The Difference Between Cuba's Economy and those of the Scandinavians
Kimball Corson
01/07/2013, Pago Pago, American Samoa

The Difference Between Cuba's Economy and those of the Scandinavians

A friend asked, so here goes:

Cuba doesn't use the capitalistic model for production on the front end (except in the underground economy). It uses the soviet style central planning mode for the production of goods and services, much like North Korea. Distribution of income (except for the underground economy in Cuba) is basically a fully socialistic model, with small handouts from government going to almost everyone.

The Scandinavian countries use capitalism, with no underground economy, to produce virtually all goods and services and then on the income distribution side also let capitalism likewise determine who gets what in the first instance EXCEPT then very high marginal and average, very progressive income taxes are levied on the the upper income and rich to generate a social dividend in revenue which is then used not for hand outs, but to provide health care for all, higher education for all qualified, new and well repaired infrastructure, care for the incompetent and very poor, excellent and cheap public transportation and other social advantages.

The system works very well. Of the ten most prosperous countries in the world in a recent survey, most were Scandinavian, but Canada, Australia and New Zealand fared well, too. The US did not make the cut although we are the richest country.

The friend then suggested, "Many Americans would view a move toward an economy similar to that of the Scandinavian countries as a move toward Communism." I respond: hardly. Not even close. Communism is where all means of producing goods and services are owned by everyone equally and collectively (e.g., coops) and everyone is provided for according to their needs. The word is grossly misused by Americans. Socialism -- another hugely misused word by Americans -- is where all means of production are owned by the state and everyone earns income in accordance with their skills and talents in working for the state. Cuba doesn't qualify to be communistic because of the private economy which is partially allowed. It is also not really socialistic for the same reason although the non-private sector is. It is very slightly communistic in seeing to it everyone get something from the state, if they need it.

The Scandinavia countries are not really closer to being either communistic or socialistic any more than America is. Our health care system has the rich or insured paying for the emergency care of the poor (an inept system of cross-subsidization or what Americans would call "socialism") and we have free public schooling through high school (More "socialism") We have collective public financing of infrastructure ("socialism," again). We just do a relatively bad job at too much. We are the only advanced nation that does not have national health care and, on average, we pay more for medical care and treatment and get less of it than people living in those other advanced nations. Greed runs amuck in the US.

The big difference between the Scandinavians and the Cubans (and us to a degree) -- beyond those described here -- is how widespread, quality, effective higher education and training, as well as resulting competence, is among the population. The Scandinavians broke the cycle of poverty long, long ago which still holds most Cubans captive.

A Discourse on Two Mindsets
Kimball Corson
01/07/2013, Pago Pago, American Samoa

A Discourse on Two Mindsets

Many Americans tend to be of the affirmative view that government is too noxious, impairs freedom too much and is too wasteful; that it should be much smaller; that taxes are anathema of sorts which just feed wasteful government; and that the income an individual has earned is properly subject to the view that "It is truly mine-- Really all mine -- and Nobody except me has a right to any of it." This perspective is asocial, isolatively individual and ill adapted to collective living. It is a view often rooted in fear of want and the further view that no one cares. It is self reinforcing and withdrawn. It is very much American, however.

A more progressive and contrary view argues the first view is myopic, dysfunctional and ignores too much, particularly the infrastructure the individual used to earn that income, the markets he similarly used, the educated workforce employed to that end, and too often government favors and benefits-- both morally proper and improper -- likewise used to acquire that income. The view likewise ignores the social compact among all of us in this country to live together, well, prosperously and peaceably, the virtue of a well educated, enlightened, well fed and healthy population, having a well maintained and modern infrastructure, having the incompetent poor properly cared for and of course the constitution which authorizes progressive income taxation. The rich in countries where this perspective dominates often view the high marginal and average income tax rates they bear as a small price to pay for all these benefits and the country they live in. This is more a Scandinavian viewpoint

The later view recognizes we live collectively, we are social beings, we should care for and about each other and we want a good life for all. The first view fails badly on all these points and is comparatively quite dysfunctional.

We are not able to well discuss these matters in America unfortunately without incivility raising its ugly head. Our political arena was just reduced to a public 'Fuck you" from the House Speaker who was re-elected to the position. Where are we to truly find our hope? That things must first become much worse before sensible dialogue can occur? I wonder. I find us a bit sorry. We are fallen, scared, grasping and isolated.


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