It's the time of year when we see a lot of tin buckets on maple trees.
Even though it still feels like winter, something tells the maple trees to commence springtime.
Sap travels up from the roots to give renewed life to winter's naked canopy.
Each spring the sap is collected from the maple trees and boiled down into syrup.
It takes 40 gallons of sap to make just one gallon of pure maple syrup.
With so many maple trees up here, our village was named Sugar Hill.

A labor saving device is shown below.

Good thing the sap is boiled down

Easter season's chocolate taxpayers forwarded by Lisl

Things that make us dream of spring in the White Mountains:  Maple Sap, St. Patrick's Day, and Easter


And then I stop dreaming about springtime in March.
Reality in March is that springtime is still two months off in the White Mountains (Sigh!)
This is one of the windows next to my desk where I sit and type out Tidbits.

Looking out from my desk over Erika's elevator shaft (needed because she had 12 spine surgeries)

Erika cannot wait to get out into her garden with a hoe.
I can wait for that part.

What's the best thing in the world?
June-rose, by May-dew impearled;
Sweet south-wind, that means no rain;
Truth, not cruel to a friend;
Pleasure, not in haste to end;
Beauty, not self-decked and curled
Till its pride is over-plain;
Love, when, so, you're loved again.
What's the best thing in the world?
-- Something out of it, I think.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning (
The Best Thing in the World) ---

Funny Buttons for St. Patrick’s Day
(Be patient – loads slowly – but worth the wait!)



Tidbits on March 17, 2009
Bob Jensen

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On May 14, 2006 I retired from Trinity University after a long and wonderful career as an accounting professor in four universities. I was generously granted "Emeritus" status by the Trustees of Trinity University. My wife and I now live in a cottage in the White Mountains of New Hampshire ---

Bob Jensen's blogs and various threads on many topics ---
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Global Incident Map ---

If you want to help our badly injured troops, please check out
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Free Online Textbooks, Videos, and Tutorials ---
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Online Video, Slide Shows, and Audio
In the past I've provided links to various types of music and video available free on the Web. 
I created a page that summarizes those various links ---

IOUSA (the most frightening movie in American history) --- (see a 30-minute version of the documentary at )

Expert Financial Predictions (Jon Stewart's hindsight video scrapbook) ---
You have to watch the first third of this video before it gets into the scrapbook itself
The problem unmentioned here is one faced by auditors and credit rating agencies of risky clients every day:  Predictions are often self fulfilling
If an auditor issues going concern exceptions in audit reports, the exceptions themselves will probably contribute to the downfall of the clients
The same can be said by financial analysts who elect to trash a company's financial outlook
Hence we have the age-old conflict between holding back on what you really secretly predict versus pulling the fire alarm on a troubled company
There are no easy answers here except to conclude that it appears auditors and credit rating agencies appeared to not reveal many of their inner secret predictions in 2008
Auditing firms and credit rating agencies lost a lot of credibility in this economic crisis, but they've survived many such stains on their reputations in the past
By now we're used to the fact that the public is generally aware of the fire before the auditors and credit rating agencies pull the alarm lever
On the other hand, financial wizards who pull the alarm lever on nearly every company all the time lose their credibility in a hurry

Milton Freedman on Greed and Capitalism ---

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American Experience: A Class Apart [PBS Television] ---

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Community Video Education Trust ---

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Elizabeth Claro - Irish Dancing Champion ---

25th World Irish Dance Championship Ladies 17-19 years ---

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The Best of Free Online Radio Music
(my favorite commercial-free online music site) ---
Pandora (choose an artist like Enya) ---
Slacker (my second-favorite commercial-free online music site) ---

Gerald Trites likes this international radio site ---
Songza:  Search for a song or band and play the selection ---
Also try Jango ---
Sometimes this old guy prefers the jukebox era (just let it play through) ---
And I listen quite often to Soldiers Radio Live ---
Also note
U.S. Army Band recordings ---

Bob Jensen listens to music free online (and no commercials) --- 

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Online Books, Poems, References, and Other Literature
In the past I've provided links to various types electronic literature available free on the Web. 
I created a page that summarizes those various links ---

MIT OpenCourseWare: Major European Novels ---

Introduction to Security Edition 7, by Robert J. Fischer and Gion Green (Elsevier, 2004)
Note that this link provides a very generous preview --- Click Here
Parts could be used by students for free and other readers gainfully for no charge.

Free Online Textbooks, Videos, and Tutorials ---
Free Tutorials in Various Disciplines ---
Edutainment and Learning Games ---
Open Sharing Courses ---

IOUSA (the most frightening movie in American history) --- (see a 30-minute version of the documentary at ).
A Must Read for All Americans --- The Fact Accountant That Liberals Progressives Will Never Interview or Even Discuss
Jon Stewart, Chris Mathews, and Keith Olbermann would not dare interview David Walker
They do not want facts about the non-sustainability of $100 trillion in entitlement programs.

The most important article for the world to read now is the following interview with a former Chief Accountant of the United States:
"Debt Crusader David Walker sounds the alarm for America's financial future," Journal of Accountancy, March 2009 --- 

David Walker is a man on a mission. As U.S. comptroller general, he used the bully pulpit to fuel a campaign of town hall meetings highlighting the country’s ballooning federal deficit. The Fiscal Wake-Up Tour and the publicity it generated begat the documentary I.O.U.S.A. Walker hopes the film will do for fiscal irresponsibility what Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth did for global warming—mobilize new citizen activists and pressure politicians to act.

A year ago, Walker stepped away from the five-plus remaining years on his term as comptroller general and head of the Government Accountability Office. He had been recruited by billionaire Pete Peterson, a co-founder of the private- equity fund The Blackstone Group, to become president and CEO of Peterson’s foundation. The Peter G. Peterson Foundation, a nonprofit to which Peterson has pledged $1 billion, focuses on issues such as the deficit, savings levels, entitlement benefits, health care costs, and the nation’s tax system.

Walker talked with the JofA recently about the deficit and the financial crisis. What follow are excerpts from that conversation.

JofA: What did you hope to accomplish when you set out on your speaking tour and got involved with the documentary I.O.U.S.A., and what progress has been made on those goals?

Walker: I have been to over 42 states, giving speeches, participating in town hall meetings, meeting with business community leaders, local television and radio stations, and editorial boards with the objective of trying to state the facts and speak the truth about the deteriorating financial condition of the United States government and the need for us to start making some tough choices on budget controls, tax policy, entitlement reform and spending constraints. And the good news is that people get it. The American people are a lot smarter than many people give them credit for—especially elected officials

Well, a lot has happened since we started the Fiscal Wake-Up Tour. Two significant events would be the 60 Minutes piece, which ran twice in 2007, and that led to the commercial documentary I.O.U.S.A. (see a 30-minute version of the documentary at ). So there’s a lot more visibility on our issue, and I think that’s encouraging. The other thing that has happened is the recent market meltdown and bailouts of some very venerable institutions in the financial services industry have served to bring things home to America. The concept of “too big to fail” is just not reality anymore, and when you take on too much debt and you don’t have adequate cash flow, some very bad things can happen.

Here’s the key. The factors that led to the mortgage-based subprime crisis exist for the federal government’s finances. Therefore, we must take steps to avoid a super subprime crisis, which frankly would have much more disastrous effects not only domestically but around the world.

How does the economic crisis affect your message and the outlook for the kind of wide-scale changes you think need to be made?

What’s critical is that we take advantage of the teachable moment associated with the market meltdown and the failure of some of the most prominent financial institutions in the country to help the American people know that nobody can live beyond his means forever. And that goes for government, too.

We have a new president, and therefore we have an opportunity to press the reset button, and I hope President Obama will do two things: That he will assure Americans that he will do what it takes to turn the economy around. I think it is critically important that he also focus on the future and be able to put a mechanism in place like a fiscal future commission so that once we turn the corner on the economy, we have a set of recommendations Congress and the president would be able to consider about budget controls, tax reform, entitlement reform—things that are clear and compelling that we need to act on.

Individuals need to understand that the government has overpromised and under-delivered for far too long. It is going to have to engage in some dramatic and fundamental reform of existing entitlement programs, spending policies and tax policies. The government will be there to provide a safety net through Social Security, a foundation of retirement security, and it will be there to help those that are in need. In general, most individuals are going to have to assume more responsibility for their own financial future, and the earlier they understand that the better off they are going to be. They need to have a financial plan, a budget, make prudent use of debt, save, invest their savings for specified purposes and, very importantly, preserve their savings for the intended purpose, including retirement income.

I believe the government policies are going to have to encourage people to work longer by increasing the eligibility ages for many government programs. So if people want to retire at an earlier age, they are going to have to plan, save, invest and preserve those savings for retirement purposes.

You’ve called the current U.S. health care system unsustainable. How can the system be fixed without negatively affecting the care Americans need?

Our current health care system is not really a system. It’s an amalgamation of a bunch of different things that have occurred over the years, and it’s unacceptable and unsustainable. We spend twice per capita what any other country on the Earth does. We have the highest uninsured population of any industrialized nation. We have below average health care outcomes. So the value of the equation just does not compute.

We are going to need to do two things on health care. We are going to need to take some steps quickly to reduce the rate of increase in health care cost. We are also going to have to better target taxpayer subsidies and tax preferences for health care.

We are also going to end up needing to move toward trying to achieve comprehensive health care reform that accomplishes four key goals. First: achieve universal coverage for basic and essential health care—based on broad-based societal needs, not unlimited individual wants—that’s affordable and sustainable over time and that avoids taxpayer-funded heroic measures. Secondly, the federal government has to have a budget for health care. We are the only nationEarth dumb enough to write a blank check for health care. It could bankrupt the country. We have to have constraints. Thirdly, we need national evidence-based practice standards for the practice of medicine and for the issuance of prescription drugs to improve consistency, enhance quality, reduce costs and dramatically reduce litigation risks. And last, but certainly not least, we have to require personal responsibility and accountability for our own health and wellness in a whole range of areas including obesity.

What drives you?

Walker: My family has been in this country since the 1680s, and I have ancestors who fought and died in the American Revolution. So I care very deeply about this country, and I am a big history buff. I believe you need to study history in order to learn from it in order not to make some of the same mistakes that others have made in the past.

Secondly, I am only the second person in my direct Walker line to graduate from college. My dad was the first. Therefore, I am somewhat of an example of what someone can accomplish in this great country if you get an education, if you have a positive attitude, if you work hard, if you have good morals and ethical values.

My personal mission in life is to be able to make a difference, to try and make a difference in the lives of others, to try and help make sure our country stays strong, that the American dream stays alive, and that the future will be better for my children and my grandchildren.

Links to David Walker's videos, including his famous CBS Sixty Minutes bell ringer that is far more frightening and sobering than anything Rush Limbaugh is screaming about. You never, ever hear Keith Olbermann, Jon Stewart, Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, or Harry Reid so much as whisper the name of David Walker ---


The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools Al Gores. --
Herbert Spencer, English Philosopher (1820-1903)

Here are couple of economic crisis budget spending earmarks:  Gosh these are real stimulus priorities
The bill includes $5.8 million for the planning and design of a building to house a new Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the Senate. The funding may also help support an endowment for the institute. The bill also includes $22 million to expand facilities at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum.

But for many people, the science of climate change is not nearly as important as the religion of climate change. When Al Gore insisted yet again at a conference last Thursday that there can be no debate about global warming, he was speaking not with the authority of a man of science, but with the closed-minded dogmatism of a religious zealot. Dogma and zealotry have their virtues, no doubt. But if we want to understand where global warming has gone, those aren't the tools we need.
Jeff Jacoby, "Where's global warming?" Boston Globe, March 8, 2009 ---

But it isn't such hints of a planetary warming trend that have been piling up in profusion lately. Just the opposite.

The United States has shivered through an unusually severe winter, with snow falling in such unlikely destinations as New Orleans, Las Vegas, Alabama, and Georgia. On Dec. 25, every Canadian province woke up to a white Christmas, something that hadn't happened in 37 years. Earlier this year, Europe was gripped by such a killing cold wave that trains were shut down in the French Riviera and chimpanzees in the Rome Zoo had to be plied with hot tea. Last week, satellite data showed three of the Great Lakes - Erie, Superior, and Huron - almost completely frozen over. In Washington, D.C., what was supposed to be a massive rally against global warming was upstaged by the heaviest snowfall of the season, which paralyzed the capital.

Meanwhile, the National Snow and Ice Data Center has acknowledged that due to a satellite sensor malfunction, it had been underestimating the extent of Arctic sea ice by 193,000 square miles - an area the size of Spain. In a new study, University of Wisconsin researchers Kyle Swanson and Anastasios Tsonis conclude that global warming could be going into a decades-long remission. The current global cooling "is nothing like anything we've seen since 1950," Swanson told Discovery News. Yes, global cooling: 2008 was the coolest year of the past decade - global temperatures have not exceeded the record high measured in 1998, notwithstanding the carbon-dioxide that human beings continue to pump into the atmosphere.

None of this proves conclusively that a period of planetary cooling is irrevocably underway, or that anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions are not the main driver of global temperatures, or that concerns about a hotter world are overblown. Individual weather episodes, it always bears repeating, are not the same as broad climate trends.

But considering how much attention would have been lavished on a comparable run of hot weather or on a warming trend that was plainly accelerating, shouldn't the recent cold phenomena and the absence of any global warming during the past 10 years be getting a little more notice? Isn't it possible that the most apocalyptic voices of global-warming alarmism might not be the only ones worth listening to?

This means that the Modern Warming will probably remain cooler than the Medieval Warming (950-1300). It was 0.3 degrees warmer than the 20th century based on Craig Loehle’s study of 2000 years of temperature proxies. Willi Dansgaard’s 10,000-year reconstruction from ice cores shows the Roman Warming as warmer than the Medieval—but the two Holocene Warmings centered on 4,000 and 7,000 years ago were lots warmer than either. The IPCC rejects the cycle evidence. They have concluded that the variability of the sun is “too small” to account for the earth’s recent warming 1976-98. They want us to sacrifice trillions of dollars to displace fossil fuels based on computers that couldn’t even predict the current cooling.
Dennis Avery, "Natural Global Warmings Have Become More Moderate," Canada Free Press, March 8, 2009 ---

"... one of the most important and most prominent special actions, executed by the Palestinian revolution by sea, on the coast between Haifa and Tel Aviv. This action, which was carried out by a group of heroes and led by the heroic fighter Dalal Mughrabi, had a great impact on continuing events of the Arab-Israeli conflict."
Palestinian Authority Television (Fatah) March 11 2009 as quoted in an email message from
Jensen Comment
This "special action" was the March 11, 1978 killing of 37 innocent civilians on a hijacked bus. Bravo! There should be a special award from the United Nations on this type of heroism.

My bank returned a check of mine today and marked it “insufficient funds”. Does that mean me or themselves?
Blan McBride

So where does that leave us? The writer and philosopher Laurens van der Post, in his memoir of his friendship with Carl Jung, said, "We live not only our own lives but, whether we know it or not, also the life of our time." We are actors in a moment of history, taking part in it, moving it this way or that as we move forward or back. The moment we are living now is a strange one, a disquieting one, a time that seems full of endings.
Peggy Noonan, "Declarations: Six months after the collapse, a 'pandemic of fear'," The Wall Street Journal, March 13, 2009 ---
See "The End" at

And while you are at it, you might read another book published the same year as Hayek's book was: The Great Transformation by Karl Polanyi. It is Polanyi who is truly in the tradition of Adam Smith in that he incorporates ethics and sociological considerations into his economics. Smith was a moral philosopher before he was an economist. Hayek was used as a spokesperson by the ultra-conservative anti-Keynesians of the time. Life magazine even put out a cartoon version of Hayek's book. Academics might want to get a fuller picture and read both Polanyi and Hayek to understand two major currents of thought at the time.
Sue Ravenscroft, Iowa State University

Speaking of students, though, there’s an awful lot of money being spent to drive tuition revenue. $879 million was spent by U.S. colleges and universities on advertising in 2008, according to TNS Media Intelligence. Of that amount, $294 million was loaded into TV advertising; $282 million was invested in online advertising; print garnered $154 million; $90 was pumped into radio; outdoor advertising raked in $59 million. Now all of a sudden my annual five-dollar loss in the NCAA March Madness basketball pool at my old firm doesn’t seem so bad.
Rob Nance, Publisher AccountingWEB, Inc.

Jensen Comment
Some of the really tough decisions for universities involve tradeoffs between increased numbers of students on Pell grants that will strain research budgets due to increased instructional costs, especially for first-year students.

 But the worst is yet to come for colleges and universities.

 As part of his four-point pledge, President Obama promises that the massive 2009-2011 Federal aid to states for education, energy subsidies, and health care cannot continue with trillions in spending deficits exploding exponentially each year. He pledges to greatly cut back on 2012 deficit spending after his progressive launch of social and education programs. In part this is because he will be up for re-election in 2012.

States should use the breathing room provided by the stimulus package to mute and spread out baseline spending cuts and/or tax increases they will need to make, to restructure programs, and to allow for orderly decision making. But they cannot count on it to substitute for these difficult decisions."
"What Will Happen to State Budgets When the Money Runs Out?

Donald J. Boyd, February 19, 2009, The Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government  

 Jensen Comment
Of course there is the more likely prospect that progressive political pressures will remain so great that the unrestrained deficits compound exponentially. This, however, will most certainly make matters much worse in the long run. Even the liberal press is beginning to turn on President Obama’s progressive and deceitful gamble with the economic future of the nation.

Real Estate Nobody Wants
Sharon Little says she was shocked to find out she was still listed as the owner of a rental property on a busy Cleveland street. She walked away from the house in 2006 when she declared bankruptcy. Since then, thieves have stripped the house of siding, copper plumbing, and even windows. She found out her name was still on the deed only when she got a summons last October to appear in housing court. "Eventually, they're going to tear this house down," Little says. "Somebody's going to have to foot the bill, and frankly I think it should be the bank because it's their house. It's not my house really, so ..."
Mhari Saito, "Banks Refusing to Take Back Foreclosed Properties," NPR, March 8, 2009 ---
Jensen Comment
The former owner doesn't want the property. The mortgage holder forgave the loan but does not want title to the foreclosed property. The city by all rights should take title to the property for back taxes, but the city knows nobody will even pay the back taxes on the property. These properties are like hazardous waste sites without the hazardous wastes. It's simply that the value of the property is less than the cost of property taxes, maintenance, and insurance with no improvement in the property's value in sight.

As the liberal press turns:  And you thought Rush Limbaugh could be rough on Obama
Among people I talk to there's a growing sense of frustration, even panic, over Mr. Obama's failure to match his words with deeds. The reality is that when it comes to dealing with the banks, the Obama administration is dithering. Policy is stuck in a holding pattern. . . . Why do officials keep offering plans that nobody else finds credible? Because somehow, top officials in the Obama administration and at the Federal Reserve have convinced themselves that troubled assets, often referred to these days as "toxic waste," are really worth much more than anyone is actually willing to pay for them--and that if these assets were properly priced, all our troubles would go away.

Paul Krugman, The (Gasp) New York Times, March 9, 2009 ---
Krugman is a liberal Princeton economics professor with a Nobel Prize who hated the guts of George Bush and had nothing but praise for Obama until now. What's going wrong Paul? You just gave up your chances of appearing on Keith Olbermann's Countdown.

Last month, in his big speech to Congress, President Obama argued for bold steps to fix America’s dysfunctional banks. “While the cost of action will be great,” he declared, “I can assure you that the cost of inaction will be far greater, for it could result in an economy that sputters along for not months or years, but perhaps a decade.”

Why do officials keep offering plans that nobody else finds credible? Because somehow, top officials in the Obama administration and at the Federal Reserve have convinced themselves that troubled assets, often referred to these days as “toxic waste,” are really worth much more than anyone is actually willing to pay for them — and that if these assets were properly priced, all our troubles would go away.

This is the same A.I.G. that, unable to honor its promises to pay off other financial institutions when bonds default, has already received $150 billion in aid and just got a commitment for $30 billion more.

The truth is that the Bernanke-Geithner plan — the plan the administration keeps floating, in slightly different versions — isn’t going to fly.

As the liberal press turns:  And you thought Rush Limbaugh could be rough on Obama
With our financial house on fire, Obama makes clear both in his speech and his budget that the essence of his presidency will be the transformation of health care, education and energy. Four months after winning the election, six weeks after his swearing-in, Obama has yet to unveil a plan to deal with the banking crisis. What's going on? "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste," said chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. "This crisis provides the opportunity for us to do things that you could not do before."

Charles Krauthammer, The (Gasp) Washington Post, March 6, 2009 --- Click Here
The Washington Post edited Krauthammer's columns for 15 years and called his weekly column "independent and hard to peg politically.

Forget the pork. Forget the waste. Forget the 8,570 earmarks in a bill supported by a president who poses as the scourge of earmarks. Forget the "2 trillion dollars in savings" that "we have already identified," $1.6 trillion of which President Obama's budget director later admits is the "savings" of not continuing the surge in Iraq until 2019 -- 11 years after George Bush ended it, and eight years after even Bush would have had us out of Iraq completely.

Forget all of this. This is run-of-the-mill budget trickery. True, Obama's tricks come festooned with strings of zeros tacked onto the end. But that's a matter of scale, not principle.

All presidents do that. But few undertake the kind of brazen deception at the heart of Obama's radically transformative economic plan, a rhetorical sleight of hand so smoothly offered that few noticed.

The logic of Obama's address to Congress went like this:

"Our economy did not fall into decline overnight," he averred. Indeed, it all began before the housing crisis. What did we do wrong? We are paying for past sins in three principal areas: energy, health care and education -- importing too much oil and not finding new sources of energy (as in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the Outer Continental Shelf?), not reforming health care, and tolerating too many bad schools.

The "day of reckoning" has arrived. And because "it is only by understanding how we arrived at this moment that we'll be able to lift ourselves out of this predicament," Obama has come to redeem us with his far-seeing program of universal, heavily nationalized health care; a cap-and-trade tax on energy; and a major federalization of education with universal access to college as the goal.

Amazing. As an explanation of our current economic difficulties, this is total fantasy. As a cure for rapidly growing joblessness, a massive destruction of wealth, a deepening worldwide recession, this is perhaps the greatest non sequitur ever foisted upon the American people.

At the very center of our economic near-depression is a credit bubble, a housing collapse and a systemic failure of the banking industry. One can come up with a host of causes: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac pushed by Washington (and greed) into improvident loans, corrupted bond-ratings agencies, insufficient regulation of new and exotic debt instruments, the easy money policy of Alan Greenspan's Fed, irresponsible bankers pushing (and then unloading in packaged loan instruments) highly dubious mortgages, greedy house-flippers, deceitful home buyers.

The list is long. But the list of causes of the collapse of the financial system does not include the absence of universal health care, let alone of computerized medical records. Nor the absence of an industry-killing cap-and-trade carbon levy. Nor the lack of college graduates. Indeed, one could perversely make the case that, if anything, the proliferation of overeducated, Gucci-wearing, smart-ass MBAs inventing ever more sophisticated and opaque mathematical models and debt instruments helped get us into this credit catastrophe.

And yet with our financial house on fire, Obama makes clear both in his speech and his budget that the essence of his presidency will be the transformation of health care, education and energy. Four months after winning the election, six weeks after his swearing-in, Obama has yet to unveil a plan to deal with the banking crisis.

What's going on? "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste," said chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. "This crisis provides the opportunity for us to do things that you could not do before."

Things. Now we know what they are. The markets' recent precipitous decline is a reaction not just to the absence of any plausible bank rescue plan, but also to the suspicion that Obama sees the continuing financial crisis as usefully creating the psychological conditions -- the sense of crisis bordering on fear-itself panic -- for enacting his "Big Bang" agenda to federalize and/or socialize health care, education and energy, the commanding heights of post-industrial society.

Clever politics, but intellectually dishonest to the core. Health, education and energy -- worthy and weighty as they may be -- are not the cause of our financial collapse. And they are not the cure. The fraudulent claim that they are both cause and cure is the rhetorical device by which an ambitious president intends to enact the most radical agenda of social transformation seen in our lifetime.

Instead of reducing government spending, just a few weeks ago he adopted the largest increase in government spending in world history through his so-called economic stimulus bill, which will only stimulate the increased welfare and Big Government that Obama believes in ideologically. Obama's new budget proposes the largest increase in Federal spending since World War II, an insane one-year increase of 33% over the prior budget, from $3 trillion in fiscal 2008 to $4 trillion for fiscal 2009. That whopping $4 trillion is the largest Federal spending total in U.S. history. Obama says in his budget message that we have arrived at this present crisis "as a result of an era of profound irresponsibility…." Does this wild spending increase to record levels sound responsible to you?
Peter Ferara, "Obama's Fantasy Budget," American Spectator, March 4, 2009 ---

A Stanford University Economics Professor's Lament
"Obama's Radicalism Is Killing the Dow:  A financial crisis is the worst time to change the foundations of American capitalism," by Michael J. Boskin, The Wall Street Journal, March 6, 2009 ---

It's hard not to see the continued sell-off on Wall Street and the growing fear on Main Street as a product, at least in part, of the realization that our new president's policies are designed to radically re-engineer the market-based U.S. economy, not just mitigate the recession and financial crisis.

The illusion that Barack Obama will lead from the economic center has quickly come to an end. Instead of combining the best policies of past Democratic presidents -- John Kennedy on taxes, Bill Clintonwelfare reform and a balanced budget, for instance -- President Obama is returning to Jimmy Carter's higher taxes and Mr. Clinton's draconian defense drawdown.

Mr. Obama's $3.6 trillion budget blueprint, by his own admission, redefines the role of government in our economy and society. The budget more than doubles the national debt held by the public, adding more to the debt than all previous presidents -- from George Washington to George W. Bush -- combined. It reduces defense spending to a level not sustained since the dangerous days before World War II, while increasing nondefense spending (relative to GDP) to the highest level in U.S. history. And it would raise taxes to historically high levels (again, relative to GDP). And all of this before addressing the impending explosion in Social Security and Medicare costs.

To be fair, specific parts of the president's budget are admirable and deserve support: increased means-testing in agriculture and medical payments; permanent indexing of the alternative minimum tax and other tax reductions; recognizing the need for further financial rescue and likely losses thereon; and bringing spending into the budget that was previously in supplemental appropriations, such as funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The specific problems, however, far outweigh the positives. First are the quite optimistic forecasts, despite the higher taxes and government micromanagement that will harm the economy. The budget projects a much shallower recession and stronger recovery than private forecasters or the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office are projecting. It implies a vast amount of additional spending and higher taxes, above and beyond even these record levels. For example, it calls for a down payment on universal health care, with the additional "resources" needed "TBD" (to be determined).

Mr. Obama has bravely said he will deal with the projected deficits in Medicare and Social Security. While reform of these programs is vital, the president has shown little interest in reining in the growth of real spending per beneficiary, and he has rejected increasing the retirement age. Instead, he's proposed additional taxes on earnings above the current payroll tax cap of $106,800 -- a bad policy that would raise marginal tax rates still further and barely dent the long-run deficit.

Increasing the top tax rates on earnings to 39.6% and on capital gains and dividends to 20% will reduce incentives for our most productive citizens and small businesses to work, save and invest -- with effective rates higher still because of restrictions on itemized deductions and raising the Social Security cap. As every economics student learns, high marginal rates distort economic decisions, the damage from which rises with the square of the rates (doubling the rates quadruples the harm). The president claims he is only hitting 2% of the population, but many more will at some point be in these brackets.

As for energy policy, the president's cap-and-trade plan for CO2 would ensnare a vast network of covered sources, opening up countless opportunities for political manipulation, bureaucracy, or worse. It would likely exacerbate volatility in energy prices, as permit prices soar in booms and collapse in busts. The European emissions trading system has been a dismal failure. A direct, transparent carbon tax would be far better.

Moreover, the president's energy proposals radically underestimate the time frame for bringing alternatives plausibly to scale. His own Energy Department estimates we will need a lot more oil and gas in the meantime, necessitating $11 trillion in capital investment to avoid permanently higher prices.

The president proposes a large defense drawdown to pay for exploding nondefense outlays -- similar to those of Presidents Carter and Clinton -- which were widely perceived by both Republicans and Democrats as having gone too far, leaving large holes in our military. We paid a high price for those mistakes and should not repeat them.

The president's proposed limitations on the value of itemized deductions for those in the top tax brackets would clobber itemized charitable contributions, half of which are by those at the top. This change effectively increases the cost to the donor by roughly 20% (to just over 72 cents from 60 cents per dollar donated). Estimates of the responsiveness of giving to after-tax prices range from a bit above to a little below proportionate, so reductions in giving will be large and permanent, even after the recession ends and the financial markets rebound.

A similar effect will exacerbate tax flight from states like California and New York, which rely on steeply progressive income taxes collecting a large fraction of revenue from a small fraction of their residents. This attack on decentralization permeates the budget -- e.g., killing the private fee-for-service Medicare option -- and will curtail the experimentation, innovation and competition that provide a road map to greater effectiveness.

The pervasive government subsidies and mandates -- in health, pharmaceuticals, energy and the like -- will do a poor job of picking winners and losers (ask the Japanese or Europeans) and will be difficult to unwind as recipients lobby for continuation and expansion. Expanding the scale and scope of government largess means that more and more of our best entrepreneurs, managers and workers will spend their time and talent chasing handouts subject to bureaucratic diktats, not the marketplace needs and wants of consumers.

Our competitors have lower corporate tax rates and tax only domestic earnings, yet the budget seeks to restrict deferral of taxes on overseas earnings, arguing it drives jobs overseas. But the academic research (most notably by Mihir Desai, C. Fritz Foley and James Hines Jr.) reveals the opposite: American firms' overseas investments strengthen their domestic operations and employee compensation.

New and expanded refundable tax credits would raise the fraction of taxpayers paying no income taxes to almost 50% from 38%. This is potentially the most pernicious feature of the president's budget, because it would cement a permanent voting majority with no stake in controlling the cost of general government.

From the poorly designed stimulus bill and vague new financial rescue plan, to the enormous expansion of government spending, taxes and debt somehow permanently strengthening economic growth, the assumptions underlying the president's economic program seem bereft of rigorous analysis and a careful reading of history.

Unfortunately, our history suggests new government programs, however noble the intent, more often wind up delivering less, more slowly, at far higher cost than projected, with potentially damaging unintended consequences. The most recent case, of course, was the government's meddling in the housing market to bring home ownership to low-income families, which became a prime cause of the current economic and financial disaster.

On the growth effects of a large expansion of government, the European social welfare states present a window on our potential future: standards of living permanently 30% lower than ours. Rounding off perceived rough edges of our economic system may well be called for, but a major, perhaps irreversible, step toward a European-style social welfare state with its concomitant long-run economic stagnation is not.

Mr. Boskin is a professor of economics at Stanford University and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. He chaired the Council of Economic Advisers under President George H.W. Bush.

As goes the Dow so goes TIAA-CREF pension funding and career opportunities of our graduates who are not aspiring to public works jobs. Our graduates will be like atheists in coffins --- all dressed up with nowhere to go!

The Job Market Has Business Students Worried (Business Week slide show) ---

Jensen Comment
As goes the Dow so goes business opportunity, TIAA-CREF pension funding, university endowment funds, and career opportunities of our graduates who are not aspiring to public works jobs. Tenured professors who are no longer able to afford retirement will continue on into their feeble years instead of making way for new doctoral graduates.

Our college graduates at all levels will be like atheists in coffins --- all dressed up with nowhere to go in terms of careers!

Facing mounting criticism of a spending package packed with billions of dollars in earmarks, the Obama administration made a vow Sunday: This president will bring a halt to pork-laden bills.
"Obama budget director: We'll cut pork after '09 spending bill," CNN, March 8, 2009 ---
Jensen Comment
If you believe this, I have a great deal on ocean front property in Arizona just for you. I'll also let you have the Brooklyn Bridge for $5,000.

A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship.
Alexander Tyler. 1787 - Tyler was a Scottish history professor that had this to say about 2000 years after "The Fall of the Athenian Republic" and about the time our original 13 states adopted their new constitution.
As quoted at (where the debt clock in real time is a few months behind)
The National Debt Amount This Instant (Refresh your browser for updates by the second) ---


America, what is happening to you?
“One thing seems probable to me,” said Peer Steinbrück, the German finance minister, in September 2008....“the United States will lose its status as the superpower of the global financial system.” You don’t have to strain too hard to see the financial crisis as the death knell for a debt-ridden, overconsuming, and underproducing American empire . . .
Richard Florida, "How the Crash Will Reshape America," The Atlantic, March 2009 ---


The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of the blessings. The inherent blessing of socialism is the equal sharing of misery.
Winston Churchill
(Good thing Obama sent Churchill's bust back to the U.K. from the Oval Office and replaced it with a bust of Lincoln who wrote that Government should print all the money it needs without borrowing)

The Abraham Lincoln School of Finance
The government should create, issue, and circulate all the currency and credits needed to satisfy the spending power of the government and the buying power of consumers. By adoption of these principles, the taxpayers will be saved immense sums of interest. Money will cease to be master and become the servant of humanity.

 Abraham Lincoln (I wonder why this just does not work in Zimbabwe where Robert Mugabe adopted Lincoln's fiscal policy?)

The Abraham Lincoln School of Finance in Action
Zimbabwe's central bank will introduce a 100 trillion Zimbabwe dollar banknote, worth about $33 on the black market, to try to ease desperate cash shortages, state-run media said on Friday.

 KyivPost, January 16, 2009 ---

Who stands between the Obama and the Abraham Lincoln School of Finance?
If China won't lend trillions more to the U.S., Obama may have to print those trillions of dollars:  Watch inflation/trade deficits soar like a NASA rocket
The Chinese prime minister, Wen Jiabao, expressed unusually blunt concern on Friday about the safety of China’s $1 trillion investment in American government debt, the world’s largest such holding, and urged the Obama administration to provide assurances that the securities would maintain their value in the face of a global financial crisis.
Michael Wines and Keith Bradsher, "China’s Leader Says He Is ‘Worried’ Over U.S. Treasuries," The New York Times, March 13, 2009 ---

America, what is happening to you?
“One thing seems probable to me,” said Peer Steinbrück, the German finance minister, in September 2008....“the United States will lose its status as the superpower of the global financial system.” You don’t have to strain too hard to see the financial crisis as the death knell for a debt-ridden, overconsuming, and underproducing American empire . . .
Richard Florida, "How the Crash Will Reshape America," The Atlantic, March 2009 ---

If the snub of British PM Gordon Brown at the hands of President Obama and his wife weren't enough, now British Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell is saying that Downing Street is finding it "unbelievably difficult" to get hold of officials from Obama's administration. British officials can't seem to ever get past the administration's answer machines as they call here to try and coordinate plans for the coming G20 summit.
Free Republic, March 11, 2009 ---

Top federal regulators say they were taken aback when they learned that a California congresswoman who helped set up a meeting with bankers last year had family financial ties to a bank whose chief executive asked them for up to $50 million in special bailout funds. Representative Maxine Waters, Democrat of California, requested the September meeting on behalf of executives at OneUnited, one of the nation’s largest black-owned banks. Ms. Waters’s husband, Sidney Williams, had served on the bank’s board until early last year and has owned at least $250,000 of its stock.
Eric Lipton and Jim Rutenberg, "Congresswoman, Tied to Bank, Helped Seek Funds," The New York Times, March 13, 2009 ---
Jensen Comment
Maxine was once named the "most corrupt" legislator in the U.S. Congress. For nearly 20 years, taxpayers have funded her extended family's piggy bank.

"A.I.G., Where Taxpayers’ Dollars Go to Die," by Gretchen Morgenson, The New York Times, March 7, 2009 ---
For details on credit derivative disasters see

Throwing money at education without a plan
The stimulus bill throws an unprecedented $100 billion at the nation's 14,000 school districts, but it subsidizes the status quo and demands little from recipients in return. The Milwaukee school system is receiving millions of dollars for additional school construction though it has excess capacity and stagnant enrollment. Detroit Public Schools, according to a recent Detroit Free Press story, "stands to reap $530 million -- $355 million with no strings attached -- from the federal stimulus package that will hand Michigan nearly $7 billion over two or three years. . . . In all, the state and local school districts could have at least $2.5 billion to spend as they see fit." (Our emphasis.) Detroit graduates a mere 24% of its students and has a history of corruption. Audits in 2001 and 2004 found $2.5 million missing or misspent, and the city's schools superintendent was fired in December for incompetence. How does shoveling hundreds of millions of dollars more into such a system advance Mr. Obama's reform agenda?

"Obama's Education Opening," The Wall Street Journal, March 13, 2009 ---

Obama is Not Raising Taxes on the Lower and Middle Class:  Yeah Right!
Watch your utility bill go through the roof as a hidden tax
"People are learning," says William Kovacs, vice president of environment, technology and regulatory affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (which has been cautious about embracing a climate plan). "The Obama budget did more to help us consolidate and coalesce the business community than anything we could have done. It's opened eyes to the fact that this is about a social welfare transfer system, not about climate." Truth is, any cap-and-trade system is a tax, even if Mr. Obama's plan has only started to force business proponents to admit it. The government sets a cap on how much greenhouse gas can be emitted annually. Companies buy and sell permits that allow them to emit. Customers bear the price of those permits. But the political question was always how that first batch of permits would end up with companies. Corporate support rested on the belief they'd be "allocated," for free. This would allow them to delay the day when they'd have to pass costs on to consumers, and ignore, for now, the "tax" question.
It didn't take long for the pols to figure out they could auction off permits and spend the loot. President Obama's auction bonanza would earn the feds $650 billion in 10 years, according to the administration's budget estimate -- and that's a low, low, low estimate
(meaning more power rate increases to come).
"The Climate Change Lobby Has Regrets:  Cap and trade is going to cost them," The Wall Street Journal, March 5, 2009 ---
Jensen Comment
In a way this is a regressive hidden tax. Often coal fired electric plants producing the most carbon generate power in the poorest/rural parts of the United States while natural gas, nuclear, and hydro generate power for the upper crust. For example, the land of Babylon, Las Vegas, gets its power from Hoover Dam --- no carbon problem above this enormous dam. I wonder if poor folks in Birmingham will ever catch on that they're being had with a regressive tax when they turn on their fans in the summer while the millionaires in Las Vegas get relatively cheap air conditioning.

What's worse is that power intensive companies will soon figure this out, shut down factories in Birmingham, and move the plants to Las Vegas, Houston, and even Los Angeles --- well maybe not Los Angeles since California is the least desirable place to locate business firms and executives at the moment because of high state taxation. Although real estate prices have come down in California, housing prices are not as cheap as housing in tax havens like Nevada and Texas.

"Obama’s last hope on housing," by Christopher Joye, Financial Times, March 3, 2009 ---

Make no mistake: President Obama’s $75bn housing plan is a policy disaster. It merely treats the symptoms of the calamity in an extremely costly manner via short-term interest rate relief and remarkably does nothing to prevent the next generation of borrowers experiencing the same problems.

The administration’s response also exacerbates the underlying dysfunction that is the root cause of the US’s housing market woes by, for example, offering defaulting borrowers scope to wriggle out of their contracts through the judicial system.

This will only undermine the enforceability of US mortgages and embed a new risk premium that will inevitably lead to higher interest rates and likely funding uncertainty.

By reinvigorating Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac without genuine reforms, the administration has demonstrated that it does not understand the fundamental flaws inherent in the US financing system, which precipitated this crisis in the first place.

There remains, however, hope that the more thoughtful decision-makers will search for superior long-term reforms. In this context, I was fortunate enough to be able to present a tractable solution to the US’s housing market problems at a summit in New York for Obama administration officials.

The plan I presented directly cauterises the US’s housing market dysfunction, delivers far greater and more permanent interest rate relief for distressed borrowers, allows banks to immediately recapitalise their balance-sheets with a $77bn cash injection, and costs taxpayers much less than the administration’s initiative. On all objective counts I feel that it is an unambiguous improvement on the administration’s alternative.

As I’ve noted previously, one of the most critical lessons from the global financial crisis has been that many households had far too much leverage, particularly in the US where the average borrower’s mortgage is now worth an astonishing 95 per cent of their home. The only genuine policy solution to the desire to deleverage is the development of external markets in housing equity – or ‘shared equity’ – which borrowers can use synergistically in combination with traditional debt finance.

Here’s how a government ‘debt for equity swap’ programme would allow distressed US borrowers to radically deleverage their balance-sheets:

Assume that the average ‘distressed’ borrower’s loan-to-value ratio is, say, 115 per cent. Under the debt-for-equity swap, the traditional lender would only write off 15 per cent of the value of their loan to bring the LTV back to 100 per cent (as opposed to writing off most of the loan). A similar write-down is anticipated in the administration’s scheme.

Yet instead of making a gift to lenders to temporarily cut borrowers’ repayments, the government would refinance 25 per cent of the reset home loan by swapping it with a taxpayer-funded ‘shared equity’ loan (this could be operationally achieved by having borrowers pay down 25 per cent of the reset loan).

Importantly, the shared equity loan carries no monthly repayments during its maximum 30-year life. In exchange, taxpayers receive half of the property’s future capital growth in lieu of interest when the home owner elects to repay the loan either on refinancing or sale of the property. The lender also owns no legal interest in the home since it is structured using a traditional mortgage contract; i.e. the owner retains control over what they do with their property.

The traditional lender is now left with a dramatically less risky 75 per cent LTV. They are also directly paid 25 per cent of the face value of their reset loan by the government and thus get the benefit of a significant cash injection – which is worth about $77bn – onto their balance-sheets.

The borrower is now only paying a full rate of interest on a home loan that is 65 per cent of its original value. They therefore benefit from a permanent 35 per cent reduction in their interest and principal repayments over the 30 year life of the package. In contrast, the lower repayments realised by borrowers under the administration’s proposal only last five years – after which rates are ratcheted back up, thereby raising the risk of ‘redefault’.

Assuming that house prices increase at a rate no greater than nominal gross domestic product during the next 30 years, which given the recent 25 per cent correction seems defendable, taxpayers could expect to earn a 5-10 per cent annualised, ungeared rate of return. This is patently superior to the 100 per cent losses that taxpayers will realise on their $75bn ‘gift’ to distressed borrowers under the existing plan.

How much would this cost? According to the Mortgage Bankers’ Association, 6.6 per cent of the circa $11tn of US home loans are in 60 days or more arrears. Assume that half of these borrowers go into foreclosure and need to access the programme. That gives $363bn worth of loans in distress. If the average LTV is 115 per cent, and the lender wears a 15 per cent write-down, a 25 per cent debt for equity swap would cost taxpayers roughly $77bn, which, coincidentally, is almost exactly the same size as the administration’s package.

Importantly, once the shared equity loans are repaid the government can recycle the capital to assist the next generation of households in distress. The $77bn equity fund could therefore be used to reduce the risk of families facing foreclosure in perpetuity. And since traditional lenders are minimising their foreclosure risk, they could ultimately contribute.

Successful private and publicly markets in housing equity now exist in Australia, NZ, and the UK. Combined with the fact that leading academics such as Ian Ayers and Barry Nalebuff, Luigi Zingales, and Edward Glaeser have recently made similar calls for the US government to help borrowers swap their debt for equity, it is hard not to acknowledge that there is immense merit to this plan.

Nobody would begrudge the administration the opportunity to refine their response to this calamity. I just hope they have the humility and foresight to listen.

Can the investment banking failure be traced to a math error?
Recipe for Disaster:  The Formula That Killed Wall Street ---
Link forwarded by Jim Mahar --- 

Some highlights:

"For five years, Li's formula, known as a Gaussian copula function, looked like an unambiguously positive breakthrough, a piece of financial technology that allowed hugely complex risks to be modeled with more ease and accuracy than ever before. With his brilliant spark of mathematical legerdemain, Li made it possible for traders to sell vast quantities of new securities, expanding financial markets to unimaginable levels.

His method was adopted by everybody from bond investors and Wall Street banks to ratings agencies and regulators. And it became so deeply entrenched—and was making people so much money—that warnings about its limitations were largely ignored.

Then the model fell apart." The article goes on to show that correlations are at the heart of the problem.

"The reason that ratings agencies and investors felt so safe with the triple-A tranches was that they believed there was no way hundreds of homeowners would all default on their loans at the same time. One person might lose his job, another might fall ill. But those are individual calamities that don't affect the mortgage pool much as a whole: Everybody else is still making their payments on time.

But not all calamities are individual, and tranching still hadn't solved all the problems of mortgage-pool risk. Some things, like falling house prices, affect a large number of people at once. If home values in your neighborhood decline and you lose some of your equity, there's a good chance your neighbors will lose theirs as well. If, as a result, you default on your mortgage, there's a higher probability they will default, too. That's called correlation—the degree to which one variable moves in line with another—and measuring it is an important part of determining how risky mortgage bonds are."

I would highly recommend reading the entire thing that gets much more involved with the actual formula etc.

The “math error” might truly be have been an error or it might have simply been a gamble with what was perceived as miniscule odds of total market failure. Something similar happened in the case of the trillion-dollar disastrous 1993 collapse of Long Term Capital Management formed by Nobel Prize winning economists and their doctoral students who took similar gambles that ignored the “miniscule odds” of world market collapse ---

 The rhetorical question is whether the failure is ignorance in model building or risk taking using the model?

Also see
"In Plato's Cave:  Mathematical models are a powerful way of predicting financial markets. But they are fallible" The Economist, January 24, 2009, pp. 10-14 ---

The Short and Simple Video About What Caused the Credit Crisis ---
Also at
Ed Scribner forwarded the above video links

The White House this week was consumed by extreme interest in a celebrated radio critic, reportedly coordinating an attack line with antic Clinton-era political operatives who don't know what time it is. For them it's always the bouncy '90s and anything goes, it's all just a game. President Obama himself contributes to an atmosphere of fear grown to panic as he takes a historic crisis and turns it into what he imagines is a grand opportunity for sweeping change. What we need is stabilization—an undergirding, a restrengthening so things can settle and then rise. What we're given is multiple schemes, and the beginning of a reordering of financial realities between the individual and the state. The Obama people think they are playing big ball, not small ball, and they no doubt like the feeling of it: "We're making history." But that, ironically, was precisely the preoccupation of the last administration—doing it big, being "consequential," showing history. Watch: Within six months, the Obama administration will be starting to breathe the word "legacy." What they're up to will win and hold support, at least for a while, until the reaction. But is it responsible? Or is it only vain?
Peggy Noonan, "A Tragedy of Errors, and an Accounting After a crash, the Marines set an example," The Wall Street Journal, March 6, 2009 ---

Results of a 2006 Fox News Poll
Yes, that says 51 percent of Democrats and 34 percent of Independents didn't want President Bush to succeed...even though our nation was at war in Iraq and Afghanistan. I'm sure media outlets will be reporting this revelation real soon, and expressing their apologies to Mr. Limbaugh.
Noel Sheppard, "Most Democrats Wanted Bush to Fail in 2006 Poll, Will Media Care?" Newsbusters, March 9, 2009 --- Click Here

Liberals like Keith Obermann doubled Rush Limbaugh's audience:  Nice going Keith!
The far left has found a rallying point (allegedly planned months ago) accusing Rush Limbaugh of wanting the Recovery Act to fail so that Obama will fail. I'm no Limbaugh fan, but I can think back to when Keith Olbermann and many other progressives wanted the Surge in Iraq to fail ---
MSNBC's Olbermann, who never ever disagrees with Obama, was inspired by then Senator Obama's repeated 2006 claims that the Surge had zero chance --- 
At the time it was not clear that Surge success would not revive GOP hopes for the 2008 election. In order to destroy the chances of the GOP in this election, many liberals hoped the Surge would fail and, thereby, destroy the GOP. The Surge succeeded but the GOP managed destroy itself anyway. Abruptly, Senator Obama's criticisms of the Surge disappeared from his Website. I think Olbermann, who still keeps throwing shoes at former President Bush, still wishes the Surge had failed. His hate for conservatives runs deeper than anybody I can think of except, well maybe, not deeper than MSNBC's Chris Matthews.

I wanted the Bush policy on Iraq to fail because the war and the ideas it was based were in complete opposition to my basic principles about how The United States should use its wealth and power. . . . Not because I hate our country or hate the troops but for the exact opposite reason--because I love my country and I value the lives of the people sworn to protect it. If you opposed the war, I bet you feel the same way. . .
Lee Stranahan (Huffington Post) as quoted by James Toranto, Best of the Web Today, The Wall Street Journal, March 3, 2009

This notion that I want the president to fail, folks, this shows you a sign of the problem we've got. That's nothing more than common sense and to not be able to say it, why in the world do I want what we just described, rampant government growth, indebtedness, wealth that's not even being created yet that is being spent, what is in this? What possibly is in this that anybody of us wants to succeed? Did the Democrats want the war on Iraq to fail! . . . "You can't say, Mr. Limbaugh, that you want the president to fail because that's like saying you want the country to fail." It's the opposite. I want the country to survive. I want the country to succeed.
Rush Limbaugh, as quoted by James Toranto, Best of the Web Today, The Wall Street Journal, March 3, 2009
Jensen Quote
I did not include this quotation because I'm a big fan of Rush Limbaugh. Too often he fires from the hip. I think many of his criticisms are superficial and not adequately researched. But his audience has doubled thanks to efforts to squelch his freedom of speech.

Many media outlets wanted TARP to fail when Bush was still in charge ---

Something the media would not dare publish ---

The Way Financial Media Fraud Works
Video from YouTube (not sure how long it will be online)

From Jim Mahar's Blog on March 152, 2009 ---

YouTube - Jon Stewart vs Jim Cramer Interview Fight on Daily Show ---

While there was much hype in the days leading up to the show, the actual interview was pretty good. Jon Stewart vs Jim Cramer. Here is the link from The DailyShow for the entire episode.

It is also available (at least temporarily) on

Jon Stewart vs Jim Cramer Interview Fight on Daily Show ---

Some talking points:

* Stewart's main point seems to be that while Cramer and CNBC claim to be looking out for investors, in actuality they are are nothing more than entertainment at best and accomplices at worst.

* It is interesting to see the discussion on Short Selling and the way that Cramer (and by inference other hedge fund managers) essentially lied to drive the price down. I would have to think the SEC might be interested in this.

* Stewart maintains that the financial media plays a role in governance. They dropped the ball.

* Cramer was good in admitting that success (year after year of 30% returns) changes our view and we forget that things go wrong.

* Line of the day from Stewart: "We are both snake oil salesmen, but I let people know I sell snake oil.:

* Line of the day from Cramer: "No one should be spared in this environment."

The whole interview (unedited) is also available. Here is the 3rd part:
Video from YouTube (not sure how long it will be online)

Bob Jensen's Rotten to the Core threads are at

Bob Jensen's Fraud Updates are at

One Way Real Estate Appraisal Fraud Operates
This scheme was greatly enabled by the ability to sell mortgages upstream at loan amounts based upon fraudulent appraisals that allowed loan balances greatly in excess of honest estimates of value.

"Real estate appraiser pleads guilty in mortgage case: Michael Gee faces up to 30 years in prison, $1 million fine," by Gary L. Wright, Charlottesville Observer, March 11, 2009 ---

Mooresville real estate appraiser Michael Gee pleaded guilty Tuesday in connection with his role in a mortgage fraud case involving about $15 million in loans and more than 200 properties.

Gee is accused in the indictment of participating in a house flipping scheme, where properties were purchased and then resold at much higher prices in simultaneous closings arranged by an attorney who knew about the scheme.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Martens said in court Tuesday that prosecutors believe the loss attributable to Gee is in excess of $2.5 million.

Prosecutors accused the participants in the mortgage fraud case of lying about buyers' income, providing false bank statements and tax returns, and paying bribes to local businesses and kickbacks to real estate agents and investors.

The defendants and others also were involved in preparing fraudulent real estate appraisals, according to the indictment.

Mortgage fraud has helped fuel the nation's foreclosure crisis.

Gee pleaded guilty to making a false statement to a bank. In exchange, prosecutors agreed to dismiss eight other charges, including bank fraud and conspiracy to commit mail, wire and bank fraud.

The maximum punishment for his crime is 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine. His sentence will depend on his record and the extent of his role in the crime.

Gee surrendered his license in 2005 during an investigation by the N.C. Appraisal Board.

Four of the other five defendants charged in the mortgage fraud case have also pleaded guilty.

Real estate agents Gregory Mascaro and Gregory Rankin and mortgage brokers Michael Pahutski and Jules Springs are awaiting sentencing.

Victoria Sprouse, a Charlotte real estate lawyer, has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to go on trial March 23.

Neither Gee nor his lawyer, Joseph Zeszotarski, would discuss the case as they left the courthouse Tuesday.

One of the largest bank failures in the subprime scandal was Washington Mutual (WaMu)
"Report and Recommendations Pursuant to Section 133 of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008: Study on Mark-To-Market Accounting," SEC, December 30, 2009, Page 133 ---

As more fully described in the remainder of this section, for most of the failed banks studied, the immediate cause of failure was the inability to become adequately capitalized. For some failed banks, the immediate cause of failure was the inability to meet depositors’ needs. Some failed banks that were closed due to liquidity also had inadequate capital, but others had adequate capital at the time of closure. Most notably, the largest bank to fail, WaMu, was well-capitalized according to the applicable capital adequacy standards at the time of failure.

. . .

General reports of fraudulent mortgage underwriting practices in the industry, as well as specific charges alleged against certain appraisal firms utilized by WaMu,195 only contributed to the uncertainty surrounding the quality of loans it held. For instance, news outlets reported that the stock price of WaMu fell as much as 14% after an analyst report released in June 2008 suggested WaMu was underestimating losses on home loans. (Page 133)

. . .

New York A.G. Cuomo Sues First American, Alleges Fraud, Forbes, November 11, 2007.
In its Form 10-Q for the quarter ended June 30, 2008, WaMu describes the case as follows: On November 1, 2007, the Attorney General of the State of New York filed a lawsuit against First American Corporation and First American eAppraiseIT. The People of the State of New York by Andrew Cuomo v. First American Corporation and First American eAppraiseIT, No. 07-406796 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. Filed Nov. 1, 2007). According to the Attorney General's Complaint, eAppraiseIT is a First American subsidiary that provides residential real estate appraisal services to various lenders, including the Bank. The Attorney General asserts that, contrary to various state and federal requirements and the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice,
the Bank conspired with eAppraiseIT in various ways to falsely increase the valuations done by appraisers eAppraiseIT retained to perform appraisals on Bank loans. First American Corporation and First American eAppraiseIT are not affiliates of the Company, and neither the Company nor the Bank is a defendant in the case.

Continued in over 200 pages of this research study mandated by Congress

Bob Jensen's threads on Subprime: Borne of Sleaze, Bribery, and Lies ---

Note especially the appraisal fraud in the case of Marvene ---

FTC Identity Theft Center ---

Identity Theft Resource Center ---

Bob Jensen's threads on phishing ---

Kids Think Auschwitz is a beer brand --- 2

A Learning-Based Use of Wikipedia
Students individually or in teams can be assigned writing projects for Wikipedia modules

But it's not only college writing which works on Wikipedia. After hearing about my class, a colleague in Biology recently created a class assignment where his students created a page in Wikipedia to define Dictyostelium discoideum. And we're not alone. Though some Wikipedians debate whether it is appropriate to use Wikipedia as an assignment space, there is a rapidly growing community of college instructors who are doing just that. And what has been surprising in students' attitudes toward Wikipedia? Though my evidence is anecdotal, in the years of teaching with Wikipedia I have found almost no difference in the range of opinions about Wikipedia held by student writers and those held by their - mostly - older teachers. I find that roughly the same proportion of people have concerns about reliability, open access, and information literacy among students and faculty, just as I find roughly the same number of enthusiastic adopters among teachers and students. But when I query reluctant students about how and where they formed their negative opinions about Wikipedia, they usually point to a classroom environment where they were penalized for using it as a source. They almost never have had an experience which encouraged them to move from simply using Wikipedia to writing for it. As we move from seeing Wikipedia as only a resource to an online intellectual community, students are more than ready to accompany us.
Robert Cummings, Inside Higher Ed, March 12, 2009 ---

Robert E. Cummings is assistant professor of English and director of First-Year Composition Program at Columbus State University, in Georgia. His new book is Lazy Virtues: Teaching Writing in the Age of Wikipedia (Vanderbilt University Press).




When all the grades are above average

"Grade Inflation Seen Rising," by Scott Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed, March 12, 2009 ---

A professor who has crusaded against grade inflation by gathering and publicizing data has released his largest analysis to date -- suggesting that grade inflation continues to be a broad problem across much of higher education. The figures may embarrass some colleges and renew a debate over whether students experience enough rigor.

The new analysis found that the average grade-point average at private colleges rose from 3.09 in 1991 to 3.30 in 2006. At public colleges and universities, the increase was from 2.85 to 3.01 over the same time period. The study also examines -- and seek to refute -- the idea that students are earning better grades simply because they are better prepared. The greatest increases in grades appear to be coming at flagship public universities in the South and at selective liberal arts colleges.

The study was done by Stuart Rojstaczer, a retired Duke University professor who created to document these trends. For this study, he significantly expanded the numbers of institutions examined, and the time frame.

In addition, Rojstaczer says that his new study shows that it is possible to tame grade inflation. He finds that Princeton University has largely done so -- by making an issue of grades and encouraging professors to give a broader distribution of grades. Further, he finds that there is one sector that has held the line against inflated grades: community colleges.

Rojstaczer's findings will likely resonate with professors, many of whom regularly bemoan grade inflation and say that students are conditioned to expect good grades just for showing up, and that professors who refuse to go along get punished with harsh course evaluations. Many professors who are off the tenure track or who are pre-tenure report great fear of being punished by students (and then not rehired) if they gain a reputation for tough grading, and studies have found correlations between being an easy grader and earning good ratings at But other researchers question this study and conventional wisdom and say that reports of grade inflation are themselves inflated.

Various professors start campaigns against grade inflation, but Rojstaczer has stuck with the issue. He gained national attention in 2003 with an op-ed in The Washington Post called "Where All Grades Are Above Average," an article in which he confessed to having let two years pass without awarding a C. The Web site followed, but the new data represent more colleges than ever before and come after several years in which he didn't update the statistics.

In an interview, he said that he releases this information because he believes that not much more is really needed to tackle grade inflation. "People say this issue is complicated and difficult. It really isn't. It's incredibly simple," he said. "You get so fat that it effects your health. You lose weight. I really don't see all the problems in reducing GPAs that everyone else seems to see."

He noted that once Princeton deans said that the issue mattered and encouraged tougher grading, there was a significant change. "How difficult is this?" Rojstaczer asked. Other colleges and universities have seen the opposite trend. At Brown University last year was the first time, for example, a majority of undergraduate grades were A's, up from 42.5 percent a decade earlier.

The issue matters, Rojstaczer said, because "the alternative is a student body that frequently misses class, never prepares in advance, studies about 11 hours a week if they are 'full time' students, and drinks itself into a constant stupor out of boredom. That's not an acceptable alternative anywhere."

Clifford Adelman, a senior analyst at the Institute for Higher Education Policy and a leading education researcher, has conducted extensive studies of grades and degrees, using national data sets, and he believes that grade inflation is marginal -- and that the issue receives far too much attention. (Adelman has criticized the quality of Rojstaczer's past work, and Rojstaczer has in turn been critical of the critique.)

"If grade inflation is so rampant, how come at least a third of kids who start in four-year colleges don't graduate?" Adelman asked.

"My point is not that there is no grade inflation, rather that inflation in the judgment of human performance is something that cannot be proved," he said. In many cases, he said, there is a far more significant shift going on that gets missed in the discussion of grade inflation. "A significant proportion of grades that are not really grades" are being given, Adelman said, as students and professor embrace "alternative signs of student academic behavior" in a way that "devalues grading."

Added Adelman: "I see grade devaluation as a more serious problem for a variety of reasons that Stuart would never consider, but that academic administrators and enrollment managers everywhere instantly understand when the trend is pointed out." Adelman said that he stands by his earlier work, based on national data, that there is not a national surge in grades.

Community College Standards

Rojstaczer's work focuses on four-year institutions, and most of his criticisms relate to traditional college age students. But he notes in his new report that data from community colleges suggest that professors in that sector have been getting tougher in recent years, and have never abandoned the C. Rojstaczer had data from the entire California Community College system (the largest in the United States) and selected other community colleges -- and he found none of the patterns that bothered him in the four-year sector.

Michael R. Chipps, president of Mid-Plains Community College in Nebraska, said his institution and other community colleges take grades seriously for a number of reasons. One is that community colleges use grades to track how their students do when they transfer to four-year institutions (and he noted that many community college graduates perform better than students who started at four-year institutions). In addition, he noted that because community colleges admit students with a range of academic backgrounds, accurate assessment is seen as important to help students enter the best possible programs and to track their progress.

"Community colleges want the rigor to be sufficient, so that our students can not only prosper in the world of work, but seriously compete with students at the senior level institutions," Chipps said.

At a reception for college composition instructors Wednesday night in San Francisco, professors from community colleges were not surprised that grade inflation seemed less present at their institutions than at four-year institutions -- and they were proud of their standards too.

Sandie McGill Barnhouse, chair of the Two-Year College English Association, who teaches at Rowan Cabarrus Community College, said that community college professors see it as part of their missions to teach students of a "diversity of entering skills," so there is no assumption that everyone in the class will do well. She said that many community college students haven't had great high school experiences and so aren't those demanding an A on everything.

Sharon Mitchler, associate professor of English and humanities at Centralia College, a community college in Washington State, said that she thinks grading at community colleges may be more honest because that's the way students want it. Her students, she said, are focused on how improving their writing will help them professionally, and they want to see that the course will give them new skills they can use, not a letter grade.

"If I gave out all A's, my classes would think I'd lost my mind," she said.

Bob Jensen's threads on grade inflation are at

What do airline fares and Congressional budgets have in common?

There are a lot of surprises that are revealed only after you're struck with the deceptions (especially about baggage fees in both instances).
What you end up with is not necessarily what you'd planned on getting.

In 2009 the airline seat demand is expected to drop off a cliff for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the economy.
Beware of increasingly deceptive ticket deals.

Travel companies say that by the end of this year, consumers will be able to comparison shop for airfares that for the first time will include the fees airlines have been tacking on to advertised fares only after you hit the "buy" button. Already and offer elementary tools for calculating fees, and advanced technology that can fold fees into fare quotes at travel agencies, online vendors and airline Web sites is likely to hit the market later this year.
"Airfare Quotes That Lay Bare Hidden Fees:  Sites Build Tools to Compare the Actual Costs of Flights; When Baggage Tips the Scale," by Scott Macartney, The Wall Street Journal, March 10, 2009 ---

Shop for airline tickets online or through a travel agent and the price quotes you get don't tell the whole story these days. But that's about to change.

Travel companies say that by the end of this year, consumers will be able to comparison shop for airfares that for the first time will include the fees airlines have been tacking on to advertised fares only after you hit the "buy" button. Already and offer elementary tools for calculating fees, and advanced technology that can fold fees into fare quotes at travel agencies, online vendors and airline Web sites is likely to hit the market later this year.

"This has tremendous potential to turn air-travel shopping on its end," said Kyle Moore, vice president of product marketing for Sabre Travel Network.

A $200 ticket on one airline may look like a good deal, but could ultimately be more expensive than a $250 ticket on another carrier if that first airline charges fees for checking baggage, transporting pets or unaccompanied minors. Even perks like seats with extra legroom, priority security-line privileges or one-day passes to an airport lounge can significantly boost the price of a ticket.

Airlines have found customers willing to pay more at the airport when fees are separate from fares. Folding fees into fares could limit airlines' ability to dig deeper into traveler wallets.
Sabre Holdings Corp. and Amadeus IT Group SA, two leading airline booking companies, say they'll have tools out to travel agents, Web sites and airlines beginning later this year that will add fees consumers plan to use into ticket prices, showing bottom-line prices much as car-rental companies were pressured into showing the total price of a rental with all fees, taxes and surcharges included.
Rough early attempts to fold fees into prices give travelers a better idea of the fees they may incur, but still leave a lot of the math to travelers. TripAdvisor, a company owned by Expedia Inc. that built a following collecting travelers' hotel and destination reviews, added airline ticket search capabilities to its site on Feb. 27 and unveiled a "fee estimator" that can re-rank prices based on how many bags you plan to check. The fee estimator, developed in-house by TripAdvisor, can also calculate expected fees for each flight for meals, drinks, snacks and 

"Customers are looking for clarity in pricing," says Bryan Saltzburg, general manager of new initiatives for TripAdvisor.

Without fees, a $193 round-trip fare between New York and Fort Lauderdale for travel later this month on US Airways Group Inc. looks cheaper than a $197 fare at JetBlue Airways Corp., for example. But if you're checking two bags, you'll pay $80 in fees on US Airways and only $40 on JetBlue.

The fee estimator takes into account whether you have elite status at an airline that may exempt you from some fees. But there are lots of limitations. TripAdvisor's estimator only works for domestic flights and does not price out the costs of overweight or oversized luggage, priority seating, pets, unaccompanied minors or other charges. TripAdvisor says it concentrated on the most frequently incurred fees; more fees may be coming.

Continued in article

Bob Jensen's threads on consumer fraud and reporting are at

Jensen Comment
Add-on fee collecting greatly complicates product costing since most of these fees are in essence for separate products and services. But the products are in no way independent since the all depend on the purchase of the main ticket. Also these products share many common fixed costs such as the cost of baggage handling. The airline needs a baggage system to serve both the "free baggage" that is part of the ticket price and the "fee baggage" that is charged baggage not covered in the price of a ticket. Cost accounting and pricing decisions are very complicated and offer an opportunity for new case studies in cost and managerial courses. Add this to the problem of frequent flier liabilities and you may write up a case that nobody can solve. Those incomprehensible telephone bills demonstrated that consumers really hate complicated billings with lots of hidden surprises in the fine print.

A Small But Important Step in Breaking the Accountics Stranglehold on Accountancy Doctoral Programs

"A Profession's Response to a Looming Storage: Closing the Gap in the Supply of Accounting Faculty," by Michael Ruff, Jay C. Thibodeau, and Jean C. Bedard, Journal of Accountancy, March 2009 --- 

A looming shortage exists in the academic world of accounting as many accounting professors retire and new instructors are needed. The AICPA, along with other groups and professional services firms, offers assistance to accountants interested in future careers in academia.

The Accounting Doctoral Scholars Program (ADS), administered by the AICPA Foundation, was recently established by 67 of the largest accounting firms, along with the support of state societies. Designed to encourage audit and tax professionals to pursue a career as a professor, the ADS Program intends to award 30 four-year scholarships during each of the next four years.

Other financial assistance is available to Ph.D. students in accounting to supplement stipends provided by universities. While these stipends are low relative to accounting salaries, universities generally waive tuition for doctoral study, since most students serve as graduate assistants. Accounting faculty earn competitive salaries, providing a reasonable payback period of the investment for the CPA. More opportunities are also expected to open up for professionally qualified instructors. Professionally qualified instructors are not Ph.D.s but have extensive professional accounting experience. An AICPA/ American Accounting Association program offers assistance in making such a career change.

March 10, 2009 reply from Roger Debreceny [roger@DEBRECENY.COM]

The website for the ADS program is . The list of participating institutions is at
 Doyle Williams is chairing this effort. He has been strong in holding the line, saying, for example, that if a student starts in auditing and tax and then decides to switch to financial accounting, they must give up their scholarship. Of course, the reality is that capital markets research can be applied to many decision frames and the centrifugal forces are so strong that we will see:

1) Students using capital markets approaches to study auditing (think audit fees) or tax
2) Switching to largely financial accounting, capital markets research after graduation

Having said that, I think this will apply to only a minority (albeit a significant minority) of students. It was a great experience to interact with other faculty and potential students in December last year. I think we can see this effort as an important first step in righting the listing ship of accounting academia.


Bob Jensen's threads on the doctoral program mess are at

Wikipedia in Hardcover?
Yes in terms of selected modules you want in hard copy near your desk

"The Open-Source Encyclopedia, Now in Hardcover," by Brock Read, Chronicle of Higher Education, March 10, 2009 ---

Need a gift for that open-source enthusiast in your life who happens to have some bookshelf space to fill? A German company called PediaPress has come to the rescue: For a not-unreasonable fee, it will create a book that compiles your favorite Wikipedia articles.

PediaPress has been at this since January, when it started printing volumes drawn from Wikipedia’s German-language edition, but late last month it added to its repertoire six new languages: French, Polish, Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish, and Simple English (from a version of the encyclopedia written for children and for adults learning English as a second language). Regular English is on its way soon. It’s taking longer to work out the kinks, though, since that encyclopedia is so massive.

Assembling a book is pretty easy: Wikipedia has set up a Web site that lets you drag-and-drop your way through the process. A 100-page book will set you back $8.90 (additional pages cost more), plus shipping, and it’ll be at least halfway handsome — if the photo below, from Wikipedia user He!ko, is any guide. (photo not shown here)

So the books look perfectly good. But then comes the $64,000 question: Will people really pay for a hardbound copy of something they can view online for free? As like-minded books-on-demand projects such as the Espresso Book Machine have shown, there’s at least some kind of a market for readers of made-to-order books, so it’s not inconceivable that some Wikipedia visitors will order special volumes as gifts or buy texts that they can mark up with marginalia. Wikipedia says the press is doing brisk business: It sold more than 1,000 German-language books in its first month of operations.

Jensen Comment
Whereas finance is one of the best topics covered in Wikipedia, accountancy sadly has terrible coverage. My additions tend to be rejected on the basis of their length.

It sort of puts accountants in their places when aardvarks get better coverage than accountancy.

Free Credit Courses for Parents, Guardians, and Grandparents
Barton College, in North Carolina, has announced that it will give the parents, guardians and grandparents of students the right to take two courses in the college's weekend program for adult students -- without paying tuition. College officials said that the program was inspired by President Obama's call for all Americans to gain at least one year of higher education. About one third of Barton's students are first generation college students, so any participation by their parents would advance Obama's goal. The three-credit courses open to these potential new students normally have a tuition charge of $339 per credit hour. Kelly Thompson, vice president for external relations, said that because the program is new, the college has no idea how widespread participation will be. But she said that the college is willing to hire extra instructors if needed to meet the demand.
"Barton's Response to Obama's Call for More Higher Ed," Inside Higher Ed, March 11, 2009 ---

The Barton College Homepage is at
The College is named for Barton Warren Stone, a founder of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). In addition to Stone's early ministry in eastern North Carolina, he also had roots in private higher education in this state.

Jensen Comment
Although this is a well-intended program, it may have some financial returns. Qualifying adults who take six credits for free might be motivated to take more courses by paying for more weekend courses. Barton does have an an undergraduate accountancy program in its School of Business.

The Slow Sex Movement:  No need for "love, romance and even flirtation"
A commune dedicated to female orgasms

"The Pleasure Principle," Patricia Leigh Brown and Carol Pogash, The New York Times, March 13, 2009 ---

EVEN in a culture in which sex toys are a booming business and Oprah Winfrey discusses living your best life in the bedroom, a coed live-in commune dedicated to the female orgasm hovers at the extremes.

The founder of the One Taste Urban Retreat Center, Nicole Daedone, sees herself as leading “the slow-sex movement,” one that places a near-exclusive emphasis on women’s pleasure — in which love, romance and even flirtation are not required.

“In our culture, admitting our bodies matter is almost an admission of failure,” said Ms. Daedone, 41, who can quote the poet Mary Oliver and speak wryly on the intricacies of women’s anatomy with equal aplomb. “I don’t think women will really experience freedom until they own their sexuality.”

A core of 38 men and women — their average age the late 20s — live full time in the retreat center, a shabby-chic loft building in the South of Market district. They prepare meals together, practice yoga and mindfulness meditation and lead workshops in communication for outside groups as large as 60.

But the heart of the group’s activity, listed cryptically on its Web site’s calendar as “morning practice,” is closed to all but the residents.

At 7 a.m. each day, as the rest of America is eating Cheerios or trying to face gridlock without hyperventilating, about a dozen women, naked from the waist down, lie with eyes closed in a velvet-curtained room, while clothed men huddle over them, stroking them in a ritual known as orgasmic meditation — “OMing,” for short. The couples, who may or may not be romantically involved, call one another “research partners.”

A commune dedicated to men and women publicly creating “the orgasm that exists between them,” in the words of one resident, may sound like the ultimate California satire. But the Bay Area has a lively and venerable history of seekers constructing lives around sexual adventure.

Continued in article

"Tax-Prep Software Doesn't Add Up," by Rob Pegoraro, The Washington Post, March 12. 2005 --- Click Here

I knew I was doomed about five minutes into this year's tax-prep ordeal. Two different programs -- having been fed nothing more than basic personal info and the contents of a pair of W-2s -- did not agree on the total tax bill for my wife and me.

H&R Block's TaxCut Online and Intuit's TurboTax Online should have coughed up identical responses to such a simple input, but instead they were $857 apart.

Sadly, I wasn't surprised to see the two dominant home tax-preparation programs disagree, merely disappointed to see them part company so quickly. I have long since abandoned all hope of understanding how these applications compute my tax bill; I just want to know which one can end the agony first.

When judged on those limited criteria, tax-preparation software has improved a little -- especially the Web-based versions that most people use, which need no software installation, securely encrypt work online and are free for simple returns. Others can try them for free, then pay to print or file (or, at no cost, copy data from them into the IRS's new, free Web-filing system).

This year, I tried roughly comparable Web applications: Block's $19.95 TaxCut Online Basic and Intuit's $29.95 TurboTax Online Deluxe. Each worked in Internet Explorer 7 and Firefox 3 in Windows; Safari 3 on a Mac. Intuit supports Windows 2000 or newer and Mac OS X 10.2 or newer, while Block only allows Win XP or Vista and OS X 10.3 or newer.

After some long nights of plugging in numbers for two salaries, a little freelance income, multiple bank accounts and investments, a mortgage and too many other details, TurboTax left me with a slightly higher tax bill than TaxCut. And yet I felt more comfortable with TurboTax's estimate and less annoyed by its performance.

That's partially because TurboTax required less work. While both Web applications could import tax-prep files saved by 2008-vintage desktop programs, TaxCut kept asking me to type in information it should have pulled from that file, such as names of mutual funds.

TurboTax can download tax-return data from many employers and brokerages. It also linked to Intuit's ItsDeductible site for quick estimates of in-kind charitable donations (if you don't need that feature, get the $14.95 TurboTax Basic edition that Intuit doesn't list on its home page). Block doesn't offer its comparable DeductionPro service to any of its TaxCut Online users.

That oversight wasn't TaxCut's only unforced error. It demanded too much scrolling up and down and clicking through consecutive screens to enter data on one form. And when I left a field blank instead of typing a zero -- a common occasion with investments, thanks to all the flavors of capital gains the tax code serves up -- the site scolded me to finish the form.

Other TaxCut issues went beyond mere aesthetics. Its Web version lacks important features available in the disc-based edition, like the ability to inspect the 1040 form the program is creating, then save an offline copy of your data. It also omits such lesser-known options as the tax credit for first-time homebuyers in the District.

And if you decide you'd rather not use TaxCut, there's no one-click way to wipe your data from the site.

TaxCut does include the extra-cost option of a consultation with one of Block's own tax advisors. But you have to put up with a lot of aggravation first.

Intuit's pricier program offered its own annoyances. It kept asking questions only an accountant could answer, such as the chunk of a mutual fund's dividends subject to foreign tax -- a detail absent from the fund's 1099 form.

At other times, TurboTax's overall edge in efficiency vanished, like its plodding tour of deductions and credits repeatedly held up by a prompt to "Find More Deductions," or its clumsy method of recording cash donations to charity.

TurboTax, however, allowed more confidence in its numbers by showing more of its work. I could click the running total in the top-right corner to see a summary of the factors behind that number, with my 1040-in-progress another click away. At the end of the process, a semi-plain-English explanation added context.

But both of these programs, along with every other tax-prep application I've tried, too often fail to explain why we must subject ourselves to these contortions.

The tax code represents the single worst interface -- bloated, inefficient, unreadable, unreliable, downright grotesque -- I have ever seen. And to what end? We try to reward good behavior and punish bad conduct with all these cryptic little rules, but how can people

Along the way, we've corrupted a basic obligation of citizenship -- paying the cost of civilization -- into a Kafkaesque game that only lawyers, lobbyists and accountants seem capable of winning.

I would like to see tax-prep applications deal with this misery more effectively. But I would rather see them made obsolete by a tax code that people can understand and follow without any extra software.

Bob Jensen's taxation helpers are at

The Whole World is Tweetable:  Updates on Twitter and Stocktwits
Twitter ---

March 10, 2009 message from Roger Debreceny [roger@DEBRECENY.COM]

Gerry Trites asked about Investor Relations on Twitter. I follow his countryman, Dominic Jones ( and closely. He points to much going onTwitter. See, for example, on “eBay’s lawyers are wrong to delete earnings call information” and on “SEC disclaimers in the age of Twitter”.

BTW, if you want to see your portfolio bump around rock bottom in real time, you can get stocktwits at ..

Of course, you can also follow me on Twitter at and see very important, indeed earth shattering, information such as “OMG I fractured my big toe and can’t ride my bike for a month” and “Yeah, my toe is OK and I can ride again!” <Bg>


"How Twitter Could Bring Search Up to Speed:  Some say that Twitter may be as important to real-time search as YouTube is to video," by Kate Greene, MIT's Technology Review, March 11, 2009 --- 

When Twitter was introduced in late 2006, asking users to post a 140-word answer to the question "What are you doing?," many criticized the results as nothing more than a collection of trivial thoughts and inane ramblings. Fast-forward three years, and the number of Twitter users has grown to millions, while the content of the many posts--better known as "tweets"--has shifted from banal to informative.

Twitter users now cover breaking news, posting links to reports, blog posts, and images. Twitter's search box also reveals what people think of the latest new gadget or movie, letting visitors eavesdrop on often spirited conversations and some insightful opinions.

Earlier this week, on The Charlie Rose Show, Google's CEO, Eric Schmidt, was asked directly whether Google might be interested in acquiring Twitter. He responded, somewhat coyly, that his company was "unlikely to buy anything right now."

Nonetheless, as Twitter grows in size and substance, it's becoming clear that it offers a unique feed of real-time conversation and sentiment. Danny Sullivan, editor of the blog Search Engine Land, compares this to the unique real-time feed of new video content offered by YouTube, which Google acquired in 2006, and says that Twitter could help improve real-time search. Notably, says Sullivan, this is something that Google isn't particularly good at. Even by scouring news sites, Google simply can't match the speed and relevancy of social sites like Digg and Twitter, he says.

Twitter's ability to capture the latest fad is evident from its "trends" feature, which reveals the most talked about topics among Twitterers. At the time this article was written, Twitter users were discussing topics including National Napping Day, DST (daylight savings time), and the new movie Watchmen. A quick search also reveals that five people within the past half hour have posted tweets about last weekend's Saturday Night Live skit called "The Rock Obama." The most recent tweet includes a link to the video and was posted just three minutes ago.

Bruce Croft, a professor of computer science at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, says that Twitter search could perhaps help make news alerts more relevant. "If you could search or track large numbers of conversations, then there would be the possibility of developing alerts when something starts happening," he says. "And, of course, it's yet another opportunity to do massive data mining on people's activities to learn even more about what they are doing and when they are doing it."

Continued in article

March 12, 2009 reply from Steven Hornik

I use Twitter in my Financial Accounting class.  I have an account set up just for that course:  I use it for sending out extra credit questions randomly throughout the week so that they receive about 1 tweet per chapter.  Here is an example of the latest tweet I sent out:

In a period of rising inventory costs, Gross Profit will be __ (higher/lower) under LIFO because COGS are __ (H/L) than under FIFO.

In the tweet I tell the students when they must get the answer to me and I award extra points for the first n responses.  I find the students really enjoy this and it forces them to keep up the material or bring their textbooks with them wherever they go!  The concept behind it is to have students thinking about accounting all the time!

Hope this is helpful,


PS I also have a regular twitter account: if you wish to follow me.  I'm not sure my tweets will be as exciting as Roger's broken and now healed toe but feel free to follow.

Dr. Steven Hornik
University of Central Florida
Dixon School of Accounting
Second Life: Robins Hermano
yahoo ID: shornik

"Firms Take to The Tweetable Business Model," by Kim Hart, The Washington Post, March 9, 2009 --- Click Here

Twitter, that microblogging tool that caught on with teens and twentysomethings using it to tell loyal followers what they're doing at any given time -- in 140 characters or less -- is now becoming part of the business strategy for a wide range of brands, from Skittles to Fairfax County.

As exciting as it may be to hear about what your friends, or total strangers for that matter, ate for breakfast, some companies are realizing that a more effective use of Twitter is to mine it for clients, recruit employees and answer customer service questions.

To that end, some businesses are starting to host Twitter tutorials for employees.

Network Solutions, a Web-hosting and online marketing company based in Herndon, held a brown-bag lunch session last week to teach staffers how to sign up for a Twitter account, how to send messages to individuals and how to search for people who may be talking about the company in messages, or "tweets."

Twitter is an easy way to create buzz for a new product launch or to alert customers to a service outage. Earlier this week, the Skittles Web site directed visitors to a Twitter search for the term "skittle" to see what people were saying about the candy. Attendees at conferences and other business-related gatherings already use the service to relate details on an unusually interesting session or to share news announcements.

For example, at a conference focused on global health last month, philanthropist Bill Gates released a jarful of mosquitoes into a room to make a point about the spread of malaria.

"And people found out about that first on Twitter," said Steven Fisher, community and social media manager at Network Solutions.

Shashi Bellamkonda, Network Solutions' social media swami (yes, that's his real title), organized the tutorial, attended by about 30 people. He's a more prolific Twitterer than most, posting anywhere from five to 15 tweets per day about anything from his daily routine to the news. Big companies such as Dell are active in the Twitterverse addressing customer service issues, he said.

Fairfax County government is also experimenting with Twitter, sending out announcements about snow-induced school closings and county board meetings.

Companies are now accustomed to monitoring blogs and other consumer-generated content for mentions of brands -- in fact, companies such as Arlington-based New Media Strategies have made a profitable business out of it. Similarly, Bellamkonda wants Network Solutions employees to take notice of any questions, complaints or other mentions of the company that pop up on Twitter.

W. Roy Dunbar, the firm's chief executive, said it is even more important to communicate with customers during an economic downturn. He said he gives his social media team free rein to experiment with new tools.

"Next time, we'll conduct the meeting entirely in tweets," Bellamkonda said.

It may be a short meeting.

Rediscovering the Internet

The crusade for government transparency and open data -- two of the biggest buzzwords in Washington since President Obama put them on his agenda -- has gained momentum over the past week.

Vivek Kundra, the District's chief technology officer, was officially named as the federal chief information officer Thursday, ending months of speculation about what the brand-new job entails and what it means for how government agencies use technology.

While the answers to those questions are still unclear, the announcement prompted a collective cheer from some local developers. As an example of what Kundra may do with federal technology projects, many of them point to the contest he held last year called Apps for Democracy, which challenged independent Web developers to come up with interesting ways to use government data.

District-based Development Seed, a Web consulting group, mashed together government data and other online resources to create DC Bikes, a site with information about bike thefts, popular bike trails and other information for local bike enthusiasts.

Continued in article

Parker Bros. monopoly and some variations have been popular learning tools in accounting and disciplines outside accounting ---
March 3, 2009 update messaging from instructors can be found at the above site.Our David Albrecht wrote a book about his use of the game in accounting education ---

Did your grandparents give you a prepaid college 529 savings account?

"Volatility Hits Prepaid 529s," by Jillian Mincer, The Wall Street Journal, March 9, 2009 ---

The market volatility that has squeezed pension plans is having a similar impact on one kind of college 529 savings account -- the prepaid plan.

Like pensions, almost all of the plans have seen their assets significantly drop as their investments have plunged. At the same time, college costs have kept rising.

At least one state -- Alabama -- has notified plan participants that it will be considering options, which could include closing enrollment, later this month.

"It's a potential crisis for at least some of these plans," says Joe Hurley, founder of, an independent Web site that provides information about 529 plans. "They may go to the state and ask for funds."

About a dozen prepaid 529 college savings plans are available. While details of the plans vary, all allow families to buy all or part of a college education at today's prices. Typically, the accounts are guaranteed by states to at least match in-state tuition increases.

Continued in article

Bob Jensen's investment helpers are at

Academic Fraud and Friction at Florida State University
On Friday, the National Collegiate Athletic Association announced that more than 60 athletes at the university had cheated in two online courses over a year and a half long period, one of the most serious cases of academic fraud in the NCAA's recent history. Yet just about all anyone seemed to be able to talk about -- especially Florida State fans in commenting on the case and news publications in reporting on it -- is how the NCAA's penalties (which include requiring Florida State to vacate an undetermined number of victories in which the cheating athletes competed) might undermine the legacy of the university's football coach, Bobby Bowden. Bowden has one fewer career victory than Pennsylvania State University's longtime coach, Joe Paterno, and if Florida State has to wipe out as many as 14 football wins from 2007 and 2008, it could end Bowden's chance of being the all-time winningest coach in big-time college football.
Inside Higher Ed, March 9, 2009 ---

Compounding FSU's problem is an earlier cheating scandal
20 Florida State University Football Players Likely to Be Suspended in Cheated Scandal
Source: Multiple suspensions likely for Music City Bowl, plus 3 games in 2008," by Mark Schlabach,, December 18, 2007 ---

As many as 20 Florida State football players will be suspended from playing against Kentucky in the Dec. 31 Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl, as well as the first three games of the 2008 season, for their roles in an alleged cheating scandal involving an Internet-based course, a source with knowledge of the situation said Tuesday morning.

Florida State officials are expected to announce the results of the investigation this week. The source said university officials determined Monday night the exact number of football players who will be suspended. Federal privacy laws prohibit the school from releasing names.

. . .

The investigation already has led to the resignations of two academic assistance employees who worked with FSU student-athletes. The school revealed in September that as many as 23 student-athletes were given answers before taking tests over the Internet.

Further investigations revealed additional student-athletes were involved in the cheating, according to the source.

"If the players fight the suspensions, they'll risk losing all of their eligibility," a source with knowledge of the situation said Tuesday morning.

The school's investigation found that a tutor gave students answers while they were taking tests and filled in answers on quizzes and typed papers for students.

Florida State president T.K. Wetherell, a former Seminoles football player, reported the initial findings in a letter to the NCAA in September.

Wetherell ordered an investigation by the university's Office of Audit Services in May after receiving information an athletics department tutor had directed one athlete to take an online quiz for another athlete and then provided the answers.

The tutor implicated in the audit told investigators he had been providing students with answers for the test since the fall of 2006, according to a university report.

Wisconsin was the last football program to suspend as many as 20 players. Days before the start of the 2000 regular season, 26 Badgers were given three- or one-game suspensions for getting unadvertised price breaks at a shoe store.

Florida State announced in October that athletics director Dave Hart Jr. will resign Dec. 31. Wetherell appointed State Rep. William "Bill" Proctor interim athletics director. Proctor also is a former FSU football player.

The school announced last week that longtime football coach Bobby Bowden had agreed to a one-year contract extension through the 2008 season that will pay him at least $1.98 million. Bowden, who is in his 32nd season at the school, is major college football's all-time winningest coach with 373 career victories.

Florida State also designated offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher as Bowden's eventual successor. Fisher's new contract calls for him to replace Bowden by the end of the 2010 season. If Fisher isn't named FSU's new coach by then, the school's booster organization would owe him $2.5 million. Under the terms of the new contract, Fisher would owe Seminoles boosters $2.5 million if he leaves the school before the end of the 2010 season.

The Seminoles struggled for the fourth consecutive season in 2007, finishing 7-5 overall, 4-4 in ACC play. It is the fourth consecutive season they failed to win 10 games, after winning at least 10 games in 14 consecutive seasons, from 1987 to 2000.

Continued in article

Jensen Comment
It ended up being 25 players who were suspended ---
Florida State lost to Kentucky in the Music Bowl (35-28)

Bob Jensen's threads on college athletics controversies are at

Bernard Madoff's Gangster Family Seems to Have Been Overlooked by Investors

"Pretty v. Ugly at the University," University Diaries Blog, Inside Higher Ed, February 24, 2009 ---

Bernard Madoff is a classic Mafia-style gangster. He comes from gangsters - his mother was a crook. Investigators are looking into his father-in-law. A lot of his friends and investors are crooks. He was born a crook, has always been a crook.

"The FBI believes Madoff may never have properly invested any of the money entrusted to him," writes Stephen Foley in The Independent. That's <em>never</em>. Madoff is in his seventies.

Psychopathically evil, Madoff makes an exception - again, Mafia-style - for his closest family and friends. His last act before turning himself in was writing big checks to the inner circle.

Tomorrow, Harry Markopolos will tell Congress how easy it was, ten years ago, for him to prove that Madoff was a crook, and how difficult it was for him to convince the SEC, or anyone else, of this obvious truth.

An ugly story, isn't it.... Ugh. Let us turn to the verdant paths of Brandeis University, and walk to the door of its art museum, where pretty canvases hang on the walls and rekindle our sense of the beauty of the world and the goodness of mankind.

Yet all of this beauty will soon be shuttered, because that ugly world is all over Brandeis. It's all over a number of other universities, too -- Yeshiva, Bard, NYU, all the schools who loved charitable Bernie Madoff and his charitable friends.

Madoff, after all, was a philanthropist.

Not that he, as the word suggests, loves people. He hates people.

But he (and benefactors like Carl Shapiro, his closest business associate) gave lots of money to pretty places like universities, places that stand for love, not hate, and beauty, not ugliness. Why did he do that?

For the same reason many other crooks do it. To get their names on buildings, and, much more importantly, to launder their images. Madoff's been cleaning himself up for public consumption all his life, and there's nothing like gifts to universities to do oneself up <em>real</em> good.

University Diaries has covered, over the years, many amusing stories of universities using the latest in stone-blasting technology to get the names of crooks off of buildings the crooks endowed. At any given time, some university in this country is using power tools on its walls in a desperate effort to dissociate itself from scum. Here's the latest case. One of the most amusing was Dennis Kozlowski at Seton Hall.

Even if it doesn't call for power tools, the problem of taking crooks' money can be just as troublesome, as with the University of Missouri-Columbia's Kenneth L. Lay Chair in International Economics.

Sometimes things call for quick-action internet prowess. Recall how, deep in the pre-exposure night, Yeshiva University deleted from its webpages the once-sainted names of Bernard Madoff and his partner, Ezra Merkin.

Our wretched economy will continue to reveal the reputation-laundering enterprise some of our universities have been running.

Just as every Madoff associate or victim claims to be a deceived innocent, so these campuses will tell us they never suspected a thing.

The farce would be fun to watch if it weren't so incredibly destructive.

Bob Jensen's Fraud Updates are at

Bob Jensen's threads on security frauds are at

"Facebook Gives College Officials Better Tools to Reach Alumni and Students," by Josh Keller, Chronicle of Higher Education, March 6, 2009 ---

Facebook announced new features on its Web site on Wednesday that will allow colleges and other organizations to create a centralized public profile and publish a live stream of announcements for their followers.

The changes expand the tools available to college administrators to communicate with students, alumni, and others who have Facebook accounts. Previously, the central pages for a college or university on Facebook were essentially walled off from the rest of the site, making it difficult for administrators to know whether any announcements or content that they posted were being seen.

Campuses will soon be able to create their own central public profiles, where they can post announcements and multimedia to a live, public feed. Students and others who choose to subscribe to the feed will see those updates on their home pages and be able to comment on any items posted. Facebook executives said they hoped the changes would make the site less like an address book and more like Twitter, another social networking site that allows users to post minute-by-minute status updates.

Public profiles will be widely available starting next week. Stephanie Balmer, dean of admissions and financial aid at Dickinson College, said the changes would “open up a whole new angle” for colleges to communicate on Facebook. Establishing a central, official place for students to find information about a college will make it easier for students to engage than the current approach, which encourages highly specialized groups.

“You’ve got this composite, rather than a number of appendages, which I think a lot of us have right know when it comes to Facebook,” she said. “I think it’s pretty exciting that there’s this jump-off point.”

At Stanford University, which partnered with Facebook to try out the feature early, campus representatives said they expected that its new Facebook profile would reach more people and encourage more of a conversation with the campus community than the old one.

“What this does for us is it’s more and more a really powerful comunication platform for the university,” said Lisa Lapin, a spokeswoman. In addition to venues like YouTube, Twitter, and iTunes, she said, “this is yet one more tool to bring the communication to where much of our audience already is.”



Each year ELEARN MAGAZINE invites e-learning experts to provide predictions for the coming year. This year thirty people from educational institutions and businesses in several countries weighed in with their forecasts. Not surprisingly, most addressed the challenges resulting from the current global economy crisis.

"Predictions for 2009" by Lisa Neal Gualtier is available at 

In "Reviewing Last Year's E-Learning Predictions," Stephen Downes examines the predictions made for 2008 and gives each expert a grade for his or her prediction. Downes awarded "A" grades for such predictions as "we will see universities begin to provide institutional support for Facebook and other Web 2.0 tools, not as replacements for the LMS but as adjuncts to them" (eLiterate blogger Michael Feldstein) and "2008 will be the year that serious games get serious attention from corporate training departments" (Red Hot Learning vice-president Philip Lambert).

He gave an "F" to MIT's Richard Larson's prediction, "The year 2008 will be the year in which open source educational materials will be co-invented by educators from around the world and will be as easily uploaded onto a searchable website as are the videos on YouTube."

Read all the 2008 predictions and Downes' comments at 

eLearn magazine is published by ACM (Association for Computing Machinery, Inc.), a not-for-profit educational association serving those who work, teach, and learn in the various computing-related fields. For more information, contact: eLearn magazine, eLearn Magazine ACM, 2 Penn Plaza, Suite 701, New York, NY 10121-07016 USA; Web: 



"Several trends in higher education shape the context in which an e-portfolio implementation may be advantageous. First, e-portfolios can help address the call to facilitate and document authentic learning experiences. . . . Second, e-portfolios can help respond to the new era of accountability . . . . Third, e-portfolios can help universities and colleges connect to today's undergraduates . . ."

In "Assessing the Future: E-Portfolio Trends, Uses, and Options in Higher Education" (ECAR Research Bulletin, Issue 4), Michael Reese and Ron Levy analyze the benefits and obstacles to adopting and using e-portfolios. They base their conclusions on interviews with faculty and staff and on six pilot programs at The Johns Hopkins University.

The report is available online to members of ECAR subscribing institutions at To find out if your institution is a subscriber, go to 

ECAR (EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research) "provides timely research and analysis to help higher education leaders make better decisions about information technology. ECAR assembles leading scholars, practitioners, researchers, and analysts to focus on issues of critical importance to higher education, many of which carry increasingly complicated and consequential implications." For more information go to 



The JOURNAL OF APPLIED RESEARCH IN HIGHER EDUCATION, which began publication in January 2009, is an online peer-reviewed journal sponsored by the University of Glamorgan in Cardiff, Wales. Formed to "promote improved practice by encouraging informed debate into pedagogic and related matters in higher education," the journal welcomes papers "from all disciplines and subject areas covering higher education policy and management, learning and teaching (including technology-enhanced learning and work-based learning), assessment, curriculum development and quality enhancement." Papers are available at no cost at 

For more information, contact: Dr Elaine Huntley, Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, University of Glamorgan, Pontypridd, CF37 1DL, Wales, UK; tel: +44 (0)1443 482316; email: ; Web: 



FREE (Federal Resources for Educational Excellence) is a collection of teaching and learning resources from U.S. government agencies. The website provides links to over 1,500 resources in several categories: arts & music, health & physical education, history & social studies, language arts, mathematics, and science. Resource formats include primary documents, photographs, videos, and animations.

While the audiences for much of the material are the K-12 grades, educators at any level can find materials to illustrate their instruction. Works by the U.S. government are not eligible for U.S. copyright protection so using these materials does not require seeking permission from the creating agency.

You can access FREE's materials at 



"Recommended Reading" lists items that have been recommended to me or that Infobits readers have found particularly interesting and/or useful, including books, articles, and websites published by Infobits subscribers. Send your recommendations to for possible inclusion in this column.

"What's Wrong with Copyright: Educator Strategies for Dealing with Analog Copyright Law in a Digital World" By J. Patrick McGrail and Ewa McGrail INNOVATE vol. 5, no. 3, February/March 2009 Registration is required to access the paper; registration is free.

"In this article, we explore how the technological, social, cultural, and legal developments of the digital age challenge educators and students who seek to make use of copyrighted material for educational purposes and offer educators strategies for dealing with today’s copyright challenges. We conclude with a call to revise the copyright law and suggest the direction that a revised copyright law should take to support responsible, creative use of both traditional and new media content, both within and beyond the physical walls of the classroom."


A liberal-arts education is supposed to provide you with a value system, a standard, a set of ideas, not a job.
Caroline Bird

"We Need the Liberal Arts Now More Than Ever," by Sanford Pinsker, The Irascible Professor, March 6, 2009 ---

I hope my last paragraph makes it clear that I don't live on a cloud (or under a rock) and have somehow missed the global economic crisis. I know, I know -- and that's why I want to argue that a liberal arts education is more essential than ever. Students will not only have to learn how to recognize when somebody is speaking rot (the last election should have provided plenty of practice) but also how to have nimble, adaptable minds. At its best, a liberal education prepares a student to be a lifetime learner. An exposure to, say, a Socratic dialogue or a James Joyce short story can, in future decades, become an extended study of The Republic or Ulysses -- read with others or alone. As recent events have dramatically shown, those who put their stock in big apartments, fancy cars, and shiny diamonds have had many moments to ruminate about what is permanent and what can be passing. Unfortunately, most of these people don't have the intellectual scaffolding necessary to prop them up in bad times.

We badly need people with cutting edge ideas, but I would argue that thinking "outside the box" can only occur when people know what a box is, and what was originally in it. The liberal arts provides both a history and a context for contemporary assessments. Given the world most undergraduates will inherit, they will need liberal arts study more than ever. A trained mind and a willingness to pursue ideas wherever they might lead us is essential to a democracy. I have no doubt that cheaper models of undergraduate education will expand in the next few years (online sites are but the beginning), but I have my doubts about how much real education they can deliver. As with most things of importance, the bottom line is the wrong place to look for the things that truly matter, and this is doubly so when assessing the lifetime worth of a genuine liberal arts education.

March 6, 2009 reply from Bob Jensen

I do wish Sanford provided more evidence for his opinions.

As is typical of Sanford Pinsker he provides a lot of opinion that is not backed up by research. The worst of the worst crooks in these Wall Street scandals were typically liberal arts, social science (often economics), and engineering majors in their undergraduate studies. Almost none of them majored in business or professional schools until, possibly, graduate school. Many were MBA students at places like Harvard and Wharton (Penn) that typically does not even admit undergraduate business majors. As you might guess, others became lawyers.

For example, Andy Fastow had dual majors in economics and Chinese as an undergraduate. Jeff Skilling majored in science philosophy and application. Bernie Madoff was a political science undergraduate student. Ken Lay and Mike Milken majored in economics .  Ken Lay went on to get a PhD in, of all things, economics.

If this is an attempt to beat down professional studies like business, journalism, and engineering in undergraduate school it is a sorry attempt. If it’s an attempt to beef up the liberal arts proportion of studies in professional studies then my hat is off to Pinkster. But there are many problems with liberal arts since the liberal arts faculty main are engaged in turf wars to protect their departmental budgets. They offer easy-A courses to attract students and often have little interest in basic liberal arts courses vis-à-vis their specialized seminars on the history of early Italian printing presses.

Cornell University did an enormous study of why students seek out particular liberal arts and other undergraduate courses. It is not a pretty picture ---

 If median grades for each course are made publically available on the Internet, will students seek out the high grade average or low grade average courses?
Examples of such postings at Cornell University are at

Charles B. Reed, chancellor of the California State University system, explains why he wants the federal government to provide billions of dollars in direct aid to four-year colleges, based on the number of students they enroll who are eligible for Pell Grants or who are from underrepresented minority groups.
"To Reach Obama's Goal, Colleges Should Get Billions From U.S., Cal State Chief (Video)," Chronicle of Higher Education, March 2009 ---
Jensen Comment
The new graduates with their free training and education will be like dead atheists in open coffins. They’ll be all dressed up with no place to go. Congress is creating public works job opportunities while destroying career opportunities. The reason is that the progressives, with all their good intentions, will have placed trillions of stimulus money into part-time laboring jobs like road building that are physically demanding and not at all suited for people with career aspirations. Only so many can work in the health care and education fields, and careers there will become pretty low paying due to the need to minimize the cost of free health and education services and rationing.

"Graduation is what President Obama is all about," says the U.S. Cal State Chief in the above video
Jensen Comment
Prosperous businesses create career opportunity growth. Congress at present is destroying business opportunity. It is only creating government work opportunity. Paul Williams cringes at thinking of his university as a socialist organization owned and operated by government. By whatever name it’s owned and managed by the government and it’s principle service graduates students into the working world. I would like this to be a business world with career opportunities. Yes I know that he will counter this by saying that for the past four decades business has depended upon government in one way or another for its prosperity, often with subsidies in one form or another. But until George W. Bush went to war and could not say no to Congress on progressive spending programs like the Medicare Drug Plan, the National Debt was only $6 trillion and entitlements were perhaps around $30 trillion. Virtually all college graduates had career hopes and most of these were hopes for careers in some type of business or profession.

An education is never worthless in terms of all things in life that we cherish.

What is happening, however, is that we are beginning to offer false hopes that education is a ticket to a career. For most it will not be a lifelong career ticket because new entitlements are destroying business opportunity such that careers will only be available in government such as careers in a national health care system or a greatly expanded education system and a military system that will still be necessary. Over supply of applicants for careers in government will keep incomes relatively low and equalized. Most government work will be jobs on a time clock and not rewarding careers.

Rewarding careers in business are being taken away by big government and egalitarian efforts to equalize income distribution. America has historically been the land of opportunity where risk takers had an opportunity to enjoy the returns of risk taking. Who will want to start new businesses if the net after-tax rewards are the same for risk takers and non-risk takers?


Could students in a college organize to buy and sell used textbooks, solutions manuals, and whatever?

"Buying and Selling Among Friends," by Katherine Boehret, The Wall Street Journal, March 4, 2009 ---

Gone are the days when giving away your old stuff involved getting in the car and hauling bags to the local Salvation Army. Now, with a little Web know-how, you can find a number of ways to turn your trash into someone else's treasure -- from companies that send you prepaid shipping materials to people who will pick up the items from your house.

But even though you can use these services without leaving home, many of them still require you to go to a specific Web site -- one you wouldn't necessarily visit regularly. Sites like and that pay cash for old electronics (or just recycle them) aren't exactly online destinations.

Now one of those ways to unload your stuff involves a Web site you might visit many times a day. A site that has considerable sway in the social-networking world, where over 175 million active users go to share personal stories, photos and videos with hundreds of "friends."

That's right, I'm talking about Facebook. Tuesday, the social-networking giant announced its new Facebook Marketplace,, an integrated application powered by Oodle, known for its work with online classified ads. Marketplace uses colorful icons to represent four actions you can take in its app: Sell It; Sell for a Cause; Give it Away; and Ask for It.

Oodle granted me early access to the Marketplace app before it became available Tuesday. A friend of mine and I were both set up with test accounts so that we could see one another's fake Marketplace items and interact with one another within Marketplace; hundreds of Oodle employees also were testing this. (It was fun to see what people offer for sale when they're just pretending, like one person who offered to sell everything on a colleague's desk when he was out.)

Facebook's original iteration of Marketplace started back in 2007, but was geared toward services like housing and jobs. The Oodle-powered Marketplace is merchandise-centric and includes more detailed organization, deeper integration with Facebook, and ways to buy or sell things to raise money for 1.7 million causes.

It still lacks a built-in electronic payment system, such as PayPal or Discover card, for exchanges between users or donations to causes. Instead, Marketplace encourages its users to exchange money however they choose, like traditional classified ads. And that could cause some obvious problems. For instance, if an item were sold for a cause, the seller could later donate the amount via credit card after closing a listing. But there's no guarantee that the seller will actually do this. Oodle says it will listen to feedback from the Facebook audience and will try to integrate e-payments, if preferred.

Every posted item can include a location, description, category, photo and an explanation of why it's in the Marketplace. Each item is reviewed by Oodle's fraud-detection program, which looks for inappropriate content and suspicious activity, and a post could take up to 30 minutes to appear online after you submit it. My posts displayed almost instantly in the Marketplace newsfeed. Users also can opt to publish their posts to their Facebook profiles.

One example of Marketplace's newly detailed organization comes in its browsing options. The old version of Marketplace had options to browse through jobs and housing, but not specific categories of items for sale. Now, users can browse through 12 categories of specific items including "Home & Garden," "Baby & Kid Stuff," "Tickets" and "Musical Instruments." Items that don't fit into these 12 categories are put into an "Everything Else" category.

Each item in Marketplace integrates with Facebook's familiar format, like having its own online "wall" where questions and comments appear. If you're looking for something in Marketplace by using the "Ask for It" option, you can recruit people to help you find the item by selecting from your list of friends, which works the same way people can suggest Facebook people to friends who might know them. Glancing at an item shows the seller's profile photo, a link to all of the person's listings and a brief history of his or her overall Marketplace activity, such as "3 listings in the last month."

The integration of charitable causes into Marketplace gives supporters new ways to raise money for a favorite group like the World Wildlife Fund or Habitat for Humanity International. On the Marketplace home page, causes are displayed in a right-hand panel with a daily featured cause. This Featured Cause shows who else supports it and how many items you can buy or sell to support it.

Privacy is a natural concern in online marketplaces. By default, your posted listings are visible to any Facebook member in Marketplace. Users can opt to remain anonymous -- they're listed as "Facebook user is selling a bike," for example. In that case, the only way someone can contact that person is by posting a comment and waiting for the seller to respond.

People who aren't members of Facebook can see your listings by browsing and searching Marketplace, but they can't post, comment or contact users. Unlike online marketplaces or services that can be used by anyone, Marketplace requires that users be members of the site to interact with sellers, which can be a downside. Plenty of people who aren't on Facebook might not want to join the social-networking phenomenon just to offload the old couch gathering dust in the garage.

All user notifications -- messages indicated in red at the bottom right of a Facebook page -- will reflect friends' activities in the Marketplace, unless you reset the notifications of the Facebook Marketplace app to not notify you. I suggest doing this, unless you really want to know about all your friends' activities in Marketplace.

Four color-coded icons represent activities in Marketplace and are useful when reading lists of items at a glance: A green dollar sign represents Sell It and a red heart represents Sell for a Cause, for example. And details about each cause are integrated within Marketplace.

The Oodle-powered Facebook Marketplace is straightforward and well organized, and if you're a Facebook user, its format will be familiar. If you're not, and you're looking for a way to sell or give items away for a charity or otherwise, Marketplace might encourage you to join the giant social network. But its payment program could be made a lot easier with electronic options.

Low correlation between top business schools versus accountancy schools?

What sources of data does Business Week use to rank undergraduate business programs?
Answer at 

There are five sources for the undergraduate ranking: a student survey, a recruiter survey, median starting salaries for graduates, the number of graduates admitted to 35 top MBA programs, and an academic quality measure that consists of SAT/ACT test scores for business majors, full-time faculty-student ratios in the business program, average class size in core business classes, the percentage of business majors with internships, and the number of hours students spend preparing for class each week. The test scores, faculty-student ratio, and class size information come from a survey to be completed by participating schools; the internship and hours of preparation data come from the student survey.

The 2009 Business Week rankings (including a slide show) are at

Jensen Comment
The relatively low rankings of top accountancy schools like USC, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, and Wisconsin lead me to suspect that this ranking outcome does not correlate at all well with rankings of undergraduate accountancy programs.

School Name
School Type
Annual Cost($)
MBA Feeder
School Rank
Academic Quality Rank
SAT Score
ACT Score
Facilities &
1  2  Virginia (McIntire)
Public 2  9,490 655 1  52  58,000 5  5  100.00  10.40  1355  30  A+  A+  A+ 
2  3  Notre Dame (Mendoza)
South Bend, Ind.
Private 3  36,847 1,669 2  12  55,000 11  16  97.29  18.57  1405  32  A+  A+  A+ 
3  1  Pennsylvania (Wharton)
Private 4  37,526 2,528 13  13  61,001 10  1  95.78  10.89  1440  32  A+  A    A+ 
4  6  Michigan (Ross)
Ann Arbor
Public 3  10,848 1,050 18  8  60,000 7  8  94.47  15.22  1346  30  B    A    A+ 
5  7  Brigham Young (Marriott)
Provo, Utah
Private 2  4,110 1,783 6  1  50,000 17  40  93.12  19.00  1231  27  A    A+  A+ 
6  11  UC-Berkeley (Haas)
Berkeley, Calif.
Public 2  8,932 668 24  2  55,000 3  16  92.85  25.70  1388  31  B    A+  A   
7  9  MIT (Sloan)
Cambridge, Mass.
Private 3  36,390 225 5  43  60,000 4  12  92.41  2.70  1381  33  A+  A+  A+ 
8  4  Cornell
Ithaca, N.Y.
Private 4  20,364 712 3  46  55,000 2  21  92.18  19.24  1390  31  A+  A+  A+ 
9  5  Emory (Goizueta)
Private 2  36,336 622 4  24  55,000 8  12  91.26  9.90  1361  31  A+  A+  A   
10  10  Texas (McCombs)
Public 4  9,354 3,942 12  3  55,000 18  40  84.51  34.00  1301  29  A    A+  A+ 
11  13  Villanova
Villanova, Pa.
Private 4  37,530 1,731 8  26  52,000 39  5  83.00  16.03  1302  30  A+  A    A+ 
12  20  Richmond (Robins)
Richmond, Va.
Private 4  38,850 643 14  64  52,500 9  1  82.92  12.04  1280  29  A+  A+  B   
13  12  North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler)
Chapel Hill
Public 2  5,397 632 11  38  53,500 16  8  82.67  11.00  1343  30  A    A+  A+ 
14  21  Wake Forest (Calloway)
Winston-Salem, N.C.
Private 2  36,975 399 34  19  51,000 15  1  82.55  14.25  1353  30  A+  A+  A   
15  8  NYU (Stern)
New York
Private 4  38,686 2,305 29  23  59,500 21  8  81.04  11.35  1435  32  A    B    A   
16  15  Washington U. (Olin)
St. Louis
Private 4  37,248 730 32  36  56,500 1  21  80.23  10.50  1432  32  A+  A+  C   
17  14  Boston College (Carroll)
Private 4  37,410 1,936 20  15  55,000 14  27  80.00  21.00  1331  30  A+  A    A+ 
18  24  Miami U. (Farmer)
Oxford, Ohio
Public 2  11,443 2,056 26  4  48,000 28  16  79.26  14.90  1225  27  A    B    A   
19  22  Carnegie Mellon (Tepper)
Private 4  39,754 428 45  47  60,000 13  8  78.64  9.50  1393  31  A    A    A   
20  16  Indiana (Kelley)
Public 4  9,311 4,576 15  14  52,000 29  27  77.56  22.74  1266  29  B    A    A+ 
21  17  USC (Marshall)
Los Angeles
Private 4  37,694 3,509 42  5  53,000 24  27  76.31  26.79  1391  31  A    A    A+ 
22  18  Illinois
Public 4  13,394 2,850 28  7  54,000 23  40  76.14  21.10  1340  30  C    A    A+ 
23  28  Babson
Babson Park, Mass.
Private 4  36,096 1,851 21  37  50,000 30  12  74.79  22.00  1254  28  A+  A+  B   
24  19  Georgetown (McDonough)
Washington, D.C.
Private 4  38,122 1,345 72  51  60,000 6  12  72.69  25.00  1365  31  A    C    C   
25  33  U. of Washington (Foster)
Public 2  6,802 1,645 38  10  48,500 38  27  72.11  19.89  1268  28  B    A+  B   
26  25  Lehigh
Bethlehem, Pa.
Private 4  37,550 1,472 44  31  55,000 33  16  71.48  21.50  1293  29  A+  A    A   
27  34  Northeastern
Private 4  33,969 2,914 22  60  55,000 65  16  70.41  20.50  1294  29  A    A    A+ 
28  NA American (Kogod)
Washington, D.C.
Private 4  33,283 841 10  56  50,705 41  27  70.20  13.00  1218  27  A+  B    A   
29  47  San Diego
San Diego, Calif.
Private 4  34,264 850 40  11  50,000 50  40  70.02  15.88  1190  26  A+  B    B   
30  29  William & Mary (Mason)
Williamsburg, Va.
Public 2  10,246 454 35  62  52,500 12  21  69.92  11.35  1317  29  A+  A+  B   
31  23  SMU (Cox)
Private 4  33,170 932 7  70  50,400 26  40  69.57  20.00  1413  32  A    A    A   
32  35  Santa Clara (Leavey)
Santa Clara, Calif.
Private 4  34,950 1,785 37  35  50,500 35  21  68.85  17.30  1218  27  A+  A    A+ 
33  30  Bentley
Waltham, Mass.
Private 4  34,488 3,887 17  40  52,500 71  40  68.79  26.26  1230  26  A    A+  A   
34  32  Texas Christian (Neeley)
Fort Worth
Private 4  28,250 1,640 9  88  50,000 43  27  67.15  17.50  1171  26  A+  A+  A   
35  43  Maryland (Smith)
College Park
Public 4  8,005 2,784 52  32  53,000 34  27  65.09  19.11  1360  31  B    A    B   
36  26  Rensselaer Polytech (Lally)
Troy, N.Y.
Private 4  37,900 407 30  59  50,000 47  21  64.93  16.00  1267  28  A    A+  B   
37  31  Texas A&M (Mays)
College Station
Public 4  7,844 4,302 19  20  47,700 44  61  64.10  25.47  1172  26  B    A    A   
38  38  Penn State (Smeal)
University Park
Public 4  15,250 5,943 36  9  52,000 48  74  63.88  43.00  1221  27  B    A    A   
39  41  Case Western (Weatherhead)
Private 4  34,450 400 78  67  52,500 25  5  63.33  13.00  1270  27  A+  B    C   
40  37  Wisconsin
Public 2  8,568 1,407 27  57  50,000 19  50  62.27  28.05  1293  28  B    B    A+ 
41  27  Fordham
New York
Private 4  35,257 2,004 64  39  55,000 59  27  61.96  20.70  1193  26  A    B    B   
42  59  Ohio State (Fisher)
Public 4  9,810 3,536 23  17  47,000 80  66  61.19  35.00  1203  27  B    A    A+ 
43  42  Boston U.
Private 4  37,050 2,009 55  74  50,000 20  21  60.78  18.80  1294  29  B    B    C   
44  54  James Madison
Harrisonburg, Va.
Public 4  6,964 3,121 16  68  50,000 53  54  60.60  25.00  1102  24  A    B    A+ 
45  36  Baylor (Hankamer)
Waco, Tex.
Private 4  26,084 2,713 33  66  45,000 60  27  60.20  23.45  1193  25  A    A    B   
46  NA Chapman (Argyros)
Orange, Calif.
Private 4  34,700 877 68  21  48,000 55  40  59.51  21.00  1200  26  A+  A    C   
47  NA Ohio
Public 4  8,907 1,843 25  79  49,030 72  48  59.08  29.80  1120  25  B    B    A   
48  40  Binghamton
Binghamton, N.Y.
Public 4  6,692 1,420 49  42  57,000 31  61  58.98  27.50  1304  28  A    B    A+ 
49  52  Syracuse (Whitman)
Syracuse, N.Y.
Private 4  35,398 1,815 70  58  53,000 58  27  57.09  24.20  1200  26  B    B    B   
50  49  U. of Miami
Coral Gables, Fla.
Private 4  36,836 2,161 47  93  50,000 49  27  57.08  14.50  1262  28  A    A+  B   
51  55  Georgia Tech
Public 4  5,518 1,291 31  45  50,500 51  66  56.76  27.00  1270  28  B    A    A   

The Job Market Has Business Students Worried (Business Week slide show) ---

Golleeey, just look at that woman's pair of shoes!
Gomer Pyle

"Bookkeeper accused of embezzling $10 million," by Kristina Davis,, March 7, 2009 ---

The bookkeeper for a North County manufacturing business was arrested on accusations of embezzling nearly $10 million from her employer to fund her lavish shoe collection, remodel her home, vacation in Italy and gamble, authorities said.

Sheriff's investigators say Annette Yeomans, 51, siphoned an average of $100,000 a month from Quality Woodworks, Inc., while she was chief financial officer from 2001 to 2007.

As a result, the San Marcos cabinetry business was forced to lay off employees and restructure their operations, said Sgt. Mark Varnau of the sheriff's Financial Crimes Unit.

Yeomans surrendered to authorities Friday morning and was booked into Vista jail on $10 million bail on suspicion of grand theft and embezzlement. It was unclear Saturday whether Yeomans had hired an attorney.

A nearly yearlong sheriff's investigation revealed that Yeomans would spend $25,000 on her credit card each week and then pay off the balance the following Monday with company funds.

Her purchases include spending nearly $25,000 to remodel her closet to house about 400 pairs of shoes valued at $240,000, as well as 160 designer purses valued at $2,000 each.

The posh dressing room included a crystal chandelier, granite-topped center island and 32-inch plasma television, Varnau said.

Investigators also found that Yeomans gambled heavily at local casinos and lost extensive amounts of money.

Varnau said Yeomans, who is scheduled to be arraigned Monday in Vista Superior Court, was able to hide her alleged crime from the company due to her position of trust.

But that ended when American Express noticed the pattern of payments made with company checks and made a phone call to the business.

Yeomans was fired last year and agreed to turn over her assets to the company, which has recovered about $2 million from the sale of her home, some cars and other property, Varnau said. Her husband was a cabinet installer at Quality Woodworks but was not suspected of any crime, Varnau said.

Bob Jensen's fraud updates are at

Lotteries are taxes for people bad at math

"Fortune's Ticket," by Daniel Akst, The Wall Street Journal, March 12, 2009 ---

'Imagine a standard NFL football field. Somewhere in the field, a student has placed a single, small, common variety of ant that she has marked with a spot of yellow paint. You walk onto the field, blindfolded, and push a pin into the ground. If your pin pierces the marked ant, you win. Otherwise you lose. Want to give it a go?"

Thus did one mathematician describe the odds of winning a Powerball lottery. Is it any wonder that economists deride state-run lotteries as a tax on stupidity? Bad enough that the government is encouraging gambling; all the worse that it is encouraging such a bad bet. What is more, lotteries are played disproportionately by the poor and thus resemble a regressive tax. Some people get seriously hooked, ruining themselves and their families. And yet, since the 1960s, taxpayers and legislators have embraced lotteries as a means of generating public revenue, and eager players have lined up for a remote chance of a payoff.

As Matthew Sweeney makes plain in "The Lottery Wars," objections to lotteries have been around for as long as lotteries themselves -- and that's a long time. Since the colonial period, lotteries have combined entertainment and the promise of gain for the sake of all sorts of causes. For much of this time Americans have oscillated between enthusiasm and revulsion. Today lotteries are operated by all but eight states, and in 2006 we spent roughly $500 per household on lottery tickets, or $57 billion in total. Only a modest fraction of this money made its way into state coffers -- most went to pay for prizes and other expenses -- with the result that most lottery states get no more than 2% of their budget from lottery ticket sales.

Mr. Sweeney does an excellent job of helping us understand how we got here. Lotteries, he notes, were common in early America: "Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and Thomas Jefferson were all, at one time or another, involved with lotteries." The emphasis wasn't on the gamble; rather, chance-buyers understood that they were funding a public benefit. "Lotteries were the province of social leaders," Mr. Sweeney writes. "Tickets were usually expensive. Winning was not the be-all and end-all of the ventures." Lotteries helped fund colonial infrastructure and even the French and Indian War.

Continued in book review

Jensen Comment
But Sweeny cannot tell us how to value a dream. Bob Jensen plays the New Hampshire Lotto for $4 per week (two tickets per draw). That is the value I place on a dream, although at my age most of the winnings would be given for others in need.

Aldura Story, by Philippe Karsenty as quoted in an email message from

I'm writing to inform you of a new documentary by the German public TV station ARD as well as unprecedented support from the Israeli minister of Foreign Affairs. The German public TV, ARD, broadcast, on March 4, 2009, a documentary which confirms that the news report, narrated by Charles Enderlin and broadcast by France 2 on September 30, 2000, is a fraud. Here is the evidence revealed, and confirmed, by this documentary:

Thanks to a biometric analysis of the faces, it has been proven that the boy who was filmed by France 2 is not the boy presented at the Gaza morgue and buried later. The eyebrows and the lips are very different. • The German TV used the lip-reading technique to read the father's lips. They discovered that Jamal al Dura gave instructions to the people who were behind France 2's cameraman during the filming of the scene. • The boy filmed by France 2 moves a red piece of cloth down his body for no specific reason. • In France 2's news report, there is no blood - neither on Mohammed nor on Jamal al Dura's body, whereas the two were supposed to have received 15 bullets all together. • The boy shown at the funeral as Mohammed al Dura arrived at the hospital before 10am, whereas France 2's news report was filmed after 2:30pm.

German media outlets widely covered the ARD documentary. Specifically, the prestigious Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung published two pieces about the film.

From the Scout Report on March 6, 2009

Evernote ---

If you're having a hard time bringing all of your different media files in line, you may want to try out Evernote. Evernote can be used to move photos from mobile phones to the desktop, manage to-do lists, record audio, and synchronize all of these materials across different platforms and devices. Users can search all of these files at their leisure, and the program can even recognize printed or handwritten text in photos and images. This version is compatible with computers running Windows Vista and XP. Other versions are available for computers running Mac OS X 10.5 or later.  

Opera 9.64 --- 

The Opera browser remains a popular browser for many Mac users, and this latest version includes a few notable additions. Users can use the "Quick Find" feature to perform full text searches from the address field and the history panel. Additionally, the browser features mouse-over previews and advanced bookmarking tools. This version is compatible with computers running Mac OX 10.5 and newer.

Free online textbooks, cases, and tutorials in accounting, finance, economics, and statistics ---

Introduction to Security Edition 7, by Robert J. Fischer and Gion Green (Elsevier, 2004)
Note that this link provides a very generous preview --- Click Here
Parts could be used by students for free and other readers gainfully for no charge.

Education Tutorials

Free Federal Resources in Various Disciplines ---  

Bob Jensen's threads on general education tutorials are at

Engineering, Science, and Medicine Tutorials

Free Federal Resources in Various Disciplines ---  

Regeneration of Body Parts (Amazing) ---

Natural Resources Conservation Service: Backyard Conservation ---

Implementing Physical and Virtual Food Reserves to Protect the Poor and Prevent Market Failure ---

e-Agriculture ---

Agriculture, Climate Change, and Carbon Sequestration ---

World Food Situation ---

National Geographic: Blue Whales --- 

Animal Science Image Gallery ---

Botanical and Cultural Images of Eastern Asia, 1907-1927 ---

Bob Jensen's threads on free online science, engineering, and medicine tutorials are at ---

Social Science and Economics Tutorials

Free Federal Resources in Various Disciplines ---  

American Experience: A Class Apart [PBS Television] ---

The Study of the Spanish-Speaking People of Texas ---

Pew Research Center: Interactive ---

Next America ---

Implementing Physical and Virtual Food Reserves to Protect the Poor and Prevent Market Failure ---

e-Agriculture ---

Agriculture, Climate Change, and Carbon Sequestration ---

World Food Situation ---

The Frederick S. Pardee Center for International Futures ---

World Bank: Global Challenges ---

Asian Development Bank ---

Cornell Modern Indonesia Collection ---

U.S. State Department: News Video

Community Video Education Trust ---

Bob Jensen's threads on Economics, Anthropology, Social Sciences, and Philosophy tutorials are at

Law and Legal Studies

Free Federal Resources in Various Disciplines ---  

Bob Jensen's threads on law and legal studies are at

Math Tutorials

Free Federal Resources in Various Disciplines ---  

Bob Jensen's threads on free online mathematics tutorials are at

History Tutorials

Free Federal Resources in Various Disciplines ---  

MIT OpenCourseWare: Major European Novels ---

George Palmer Putnam Collection of Amelia Earhart Papers

America by Air [multimedia airplane history]

Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition Centennial ---

Western New York Legacy ---

Bob Jensen's threads on history tutorials are at
Also see  

Language Tutorials

Free Federal Resources in Various Disciplines ---  

Bob Jensen's links to language tutorials are at

Writing Tutorials

Free Federal Resources in Various Disciplines ---  

Bob Jensen's helpers for writers are at

Updates from WebMD ---


New Web Site Helps Predict Alcohol Problems (great site for teens and college students to study)
Rethinking Drinking ---

At , you can plug in your average consumption and see how you compare with the general population and problem drinkers. Only 2% of regular drinkers become problem drinkers, but this overlooks the sometimes bigger problem of binge drinkers who behave most of the time but sometimes go on binges of heavy and dysfunctional drinking.

"Our Pigs, Our Food, Our Health," by Nicholas D. Krristoff, The New York Times, March 12, 2009 ---

There was no autopsy, but a blood test suggested a heart attack or aneurysm. Dr. Anderson had himself suffered at least three bouts of MRSA, and a Dutch journal has linked swine-carried MRSA to dangerous human heart inflammation.

The larger question is whether we as a nation have moved to a model of agriculture that produces cheap bacon but risks the health of all of us. And the evidence, while far from conclusive, is growing that the answer is yes.

A few caveats: The uncertainties are huge, partly because our surveillance system is wretched (the cases here in Camden were never reported to the health authorities). The vast majority of pork is safe, and there is no proven case of transmission of MRSA from eating pork. I’ll still offer my kids B.L.T.’s — but I’ll scrub my hands carefully after handling raw pork.

Let me also be very clear that I’m not against hog farmers. I grew up on a farm outside Yamhill, Ore., and was a state officer of the Future Farmers of America; we raised pigs for a time, including a sow named Brunhilda with such a strong personality that I remember her better than some of my high school dates.

One of the first clues that pigs could infect people with MRSA came in the Netherlands in 2004, when a young woman tested positive for a new strain of MRSA, called ST398. The family lived on a farm, so public health authorities swept in — and found that three family members, three co-workers and 8 of 10 pigs tested all carried MRSA.

Since then, that strain of MRSA has spread rapidly through the Netherlands — especially in swine-producing areas. A small Dutch study found pig farmers there were 760 times more likely than the general population to carry MRSA (without necessarily showing symptoms), and Scientific American reports that this strain of MRSA has turned up in 12 percent of Dutch retail pork samples.

Now this same strain of MRSA has also been found in the United States. A new study by Tara Smith, a University of Iowa epidemiologist, found that 45 percent of pig farmers she sampled carried MRSA, as did 49 percent of the hogs tested.

The study was small, and much more investigation is necessary. Yet it might shed light on the surge in rashes in the now vacant doctor’s office here in Camden. Linda Barnard, who was Dr. Anderson’s assistant, thinks that perhaps 50 people came in to be treated for MRSA, in a town with a population of a bit more than 500. Indeed, during my visit, Dr. Anderson’s 13-year-old daughter, Lily, showed me a MRSA rash inflaming her knee.

“I’ve had it many times,” she said.

So what’s going on here, and where do these antibiotic-resistant infections come from? Probably from the routine use — make that the insane overuse — of antibiotics in livestock feed. This is a system that may help breed virulent “superbugs” that pose a public health threat to us all. That’ll be the focus of my next column, on Sunday.

"Eating a Bit Less Salt Can Be a Big Health Boon," by Tiffany Sharples, Yahoo News, March 13, 2009 ---

In the past four decades, Americans' salt consumption has risen 50%, mostly as a result of eating more processed foods and more food prepared in restaurants. "Over time, we have adapted our taste buds and adapted our bodies to crave much, much higher levels of salt than we require to function," says Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, an epidemiologist at the University of California, San Francisco. (See the top 10 food trends of 2008.)

Some salt is crucial for good health, of course - to regulate blood pressure and assist with muscle and nerve function - but too much (that is, at the levels we currently consume) can lead to hypertension, heart disease and stroke. If Americans halved their salt intake, as many as 150,000 premature deaths could be prevented each year, according to the American Medical Association. And new research presented March 11 by Bibbins-Domingo at the AHA's annual conference shows that even small reductions - as little as 1 g of salt per day - could have dramatic effects, saving 200,000 lives over the course of a decade.

Using a sophisticated computer model to analyze trends in heart disease over time among U.S. adults, Bibbins-Domingo and colleagues discovered that incremental population-wide reductions could drastically improve public health. Cutting out just 1 g of salt (or 40 mg of sodium) per person per day could prevent 30,000 cases of coronary heart disease across the U.S. population by 2019. Reducing consumption by half - a more sizable 6 grams - could prevent 1.4 million cases of heart disease during that same period. (See the top 10 medical breakthroughs of 2008.)

While eating less salt would improve the health of the population across the board, researchers found that the benefits would be greatest for African Americans and women. As a group, African Americans tend to have higher blood pressure than the general population, and "many studies suggest that they may be more sensitive to salt," Bibbins-Domingo says. Her analysis found that a reduction of 3 g of salt per day would reduce heart attacks 8% on average; among African Americans, that rate would drop 10%. A similar result was found in women, whose stroke risk dropped 8% with a 3-g reduction in salt intake; in men, the risk fell 5%.

The numbers certainly offer compelling incentives to cut salt consumption, but that's no easy task. You can put down the salt shaker and cut back on obviously salty snacks, but there's still so much sodium packed into processed foods that trying to extract it from your diet is a tricky business. "It's so pervasive in an average U.S. diet that it's really hard to tell people, 'You have to avoid salt,' " says Bibbins-Domingo.

And there is salt hiding in places you wouldn't think to look. According to a sodium chart from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a single slice of commercially made whole-wheat bread has 148 mg of sodium; white bread has 170 mg. Cheerios contains 213 mg of sodium per cup; Total Raisin Bran, 239 mg. And then there are the big offenders: processed soups and sauces. Chicken noodle soup, for example, even after it has been diluted with water during preparation, has a whopping 1,106 mg of sodium per cup. "I think people don't have a clue," says Bibbins-Domingo. "The recommended daily amount of salt is about a teaspoon," she says. "It's easy to add that much if you're just adding salt," let alone all of the salt that's in food before we break out the shaker. (See pictures of what makes you eat more food.)

If you're dining out, all bets are off. According to the British organization Consensus Action on Salt in Health, a three-course meal in a restaurant can contain more than 15 g of salt, almost three times the recommended daily amount.

Bibbins-Domingo says it's especially tough for families with limited income, who tend to rely more on processed or packaged foods and canned fruits and vegetables rather than fresh foods. Patients tell her they've cut salted nuts, potato chips and pretzels from their diet and started eating more soup instead. "You realize that they're actually consuming more salt in their attempt to make healthy choices," she says.

Any large-scale success in salt-intake reduction would have to involve policymakers and the food industry, say public-health experts. "If you could reduce blood pressure by just a few points, you could reduce hundreds of thousands of deaths," says Dr. Thomas Frieden, commissioner of New York City's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, who recently announced a national campaign to diminish salt intake 20% in the next five years and 40% in the next decade. Frieden, who has in the past targeted trans fats and led the charge to require chain restaurants to list calorie content on menus, has evoked less animosity from the food and restaurant industries with his desalinization efforts than with his previous initiatives.

"[Frieden] is looking for voluntary guidelines. It's a national movement, and he's working closely with the industry on developing these re-education guidelines," says Rob Bookman, an attorney for the New York State Restaurant Association, but he adds wryly, "I don't know if it's one big happy family." (See nine kid foods to avoid.)

Frieden points to a successful salt-reduction campaign in the U.K. as a kind of proof of principle. Several years after the British government launched an aggressive national campaign, which included voluntary reductions in salt content by food manufacturers, British citizens had reduced their annual sodium consumption roughly 10%. "If you look at what happened in the U.K., at first the industry was very concerned," Frieden says. "But after a few years, they saw that they could drop their salt content 20% to 30% [without losing customers]."

Continued in article


Bumper Stickers
Honk if you're paying my mortgage

God will provide unless Obama gets there first

You voted for him, You pay!

America didn't vote for a rush to failure

Don't blame me, I voted for McCain

Forwarded by Paula

St. Patrick's Day is getting close--

*The Errand*
McQuillan walked into a bar and ordered martini after martini,
each time removing the olives and placing them in a jar.
When the jar was filled with olives and all the drinks consumed,
the Irishman started to leave.
"S'cuse me", said a customer,
who was puzzled over what McQuillan had done,
"what was that all about?"
"Nothin', said the Irishman,
"me wife just sent me out for a jar of olives!"


*_The Lost Luggage_*
An Irishman arrived at J.F.K. Airport and wandered
around the terminal with tears streaming down his cheeks.
An airline employee asked him if he was already homesick.
"No," replied the Irishman.
"I've lost all me luggage!"
"How'd that happen?"
"The cork fell out!" said the Irishman.

*_Water to wine_*
An Irish priest is driving down to New York
and gets stopped for speeding.
The state trooper smells alcohol on the priest's breath
and then sees an empty wine bottle on the floor of the car.
He says, "Sir, have you been drinking?"
"Just water," says the priest.
The trooper says, "Then why do I smell wine?"
The priest looks at the bottle and says,
"Good Lord! He's done it again!"
*_The Brothel_*
Two Irishmen were sitting in a pub having beer
and watching the brothel across the street.
They saw a Baptist minister walk into the brothel,
and one of them said,
"Aye, 'tis a shame to see a man of the cloth goin' bad."
Then they saw a Rabbi enter the brothel,
and the other Irishman said,
"Aye, 'tis a shame to see that the Jews
are falling' victim to temptation."
Then they saw a Catholic priest enter the brothel,
and one of the Irishmen said,
"What a terrible pity...
one of the girls must be quite ill."

*_Lost at Sea_*
Two Irishmen, Patrick & Michael,
were adrift in a lifeboat following a dramatic escape
from a burning freighter.
While rummaging through the boat's provisions,
Patrick stumbled across an old lamp.
Secretly hoping that a genie would appear,
he rubbed the lamp vigorously.
To the amazement of Patrick, a genie came forth.
This particular genie, however,
stated that he could only deliver one wish,
not the standard three.
Without giving much thought to the matter,
Patrick blurted out,
"Make the entire ocean into Guinness Beer!"
The genie clapped his hands with a deafening crash,
and immediately the entire sea turned into
the finest brew ever sampled by mortals.
Simultaneously, the genie vanished.
Only the gentle lapping of Guinness on the hull
broke the stillness as the two men considered their circumstances.
Michael looked disgustedly at Patrick
whose wish had been granted.
After a long, tension-filled moment, he spoke:
**"Nice going Patrick!**
**Now we're going to have to pee in the boat!**

*_The Fall_*
Murphy was staggering home with a pint of booze
in his back pocket when he slipped and fell heavily.
Struggling to his feet,
he felt something wet running down his leg.
"Please Lord," he implored,
"let it be blood!!"



Darwin awards are given to dimwits ---
I kick myself for not going to this site on a more frequent basis. On occasion my wife threatens to nominate me for one of these for my resume.

Tidbits Archives ---

Click here to search Bob Jensen's web site if you have key words to enter --- Search Site.
For example if you want to know what Jensen documents have the term "Enron" enter the phrase Jensen AND Enron. Another search engine that covers Trinity and other universities is at

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Interesting Online Clock and Calendar ---
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         Also see
Facts about population growth (video) ---
Projected U.S. Population Growth ---
Real time meter of the U.S. cost of the war in Iraq --- 
Enter you zip code to get Census Bureau comparisons ---
Sure wish there'd be a little good news today.

Three Finance Blogs

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Some Accounting Blogs

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AccountingWeb ---   
SmartPros ---

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In the past I've provided links to various types electronic literature available free on the Web. 
I created a page that summarizes those various links ---

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Free Education and Research Videos from Harvard University ---

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From Princeton Online
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Online Mathematics Textbooks --- 

National Library of Virtual Manipulatives ---

Moodle  --- 

The word moodle is an acronym for "modular object-oriented dynamic learning environment", which is quite a mouthful. The Scout Report stated the following about Moodle 1.7. It is a tremendously helpful opens-source e-learning platform. With Moodle, educators can create a wide range of online courses with features that include forums, quizzes, blogs, wikis, chat rooms, and surveys. On the Moodle website, visitors can also learn about other features and read about recent updates to the program. This application is compatible with computers running Windows 98 and newer or Mac OS X and newer.

Some of Bob Jensen's Tutorials

Accounting program news items for colleges are posted at
Sometimes the news items provide links to teaching resources for accounting educators.
Any college may post a news item.

Accountancy Discussion ListServs:

For an elaborationthe reasons you should join a ListServ (usually for free) go to
AECM (Educators) 
AECM is an email Listserv list which provides a forum for discussions of all hardware and software which can be useful in any way for accounting education at the college/university level. Hardware includes all platforms and peripherals. Software includes spreadsheets, practice sets, multimedia authoring and presentation packages, data base programs, tax packages, World Wide Web applications, etc

Roles of a ListServ ---

CPAS-L (Practitioners) 
CPAS-L provides a forum for discussions of all aspects of the practice of accounting. It provides an unmoderated environment where issues, questions, comments, ideas, etc. related to accounting can be freely discussed. Members are welcome to take an active role by posting to CPAS-L or an inactive role by just monitoring the list. You qualify for a free subscription if you are either a CPA or a professional accountant in public accounting, private industry, government or education. Others will be denied access.
Yahoo (Practitioners)
This forum is for CPAs to discuss the activities of the AICPA. This can be anything  from the CPA2BIZ portal to the XYZ initiative or anything else that relates to the AICPA.
This site hosts various discussion groups on such topics as accounting software, consulting, financial planning, fixed assets, payroll, human resources, profit on the Internet, and taxation.
Business Valuation Group 
This discussion group is headed by Randy Schostag [RSchostag@BUSVALGROUP.COM

Many useful accounting sites (scroll down) ---


Professor Robert E. Jensen (Bob)
190 Sunset Hill Road
Sugar Hill, NH 03586
Phone:  603-823-8482