Tidbits on June 3, 2009
Bob Jensen

Everything is at last turning green after a week of wonderful rain
And the springtime flowers are painting our yard
And the fragrance is so refreshing

Erika tries to plant but this year her back pain is excruciating
In March she also posed for a picture with a "show shovel" in hand
For me the "show shovel" becomes a "snow shovel"

Down the road is the Iris Farm that is a working hobby farm in a mountain setting
There are a few horses, sheep, chickens, and a small herd of Scottish cows

The Sugar Hill Sampler down the road is open for business after a long winter
The owner, Barbara Zarafini, has fields of lupine that are not yet in bloom
I will feature our Sugar Hill Lupine Festival in the next edition of Tidbits

Paula forwarded a picture of this woman with a smile in a supermarket
She's sharing her happiness with the world

Below are a three of pictures from our living room that gives us joy


What makes people happy?
Life satisfaction occurs most often when people are engaged in absorbing activities that cause them to forget themselves, lose track of time and stop worrying. “Flow” is the term Claremont Graduate University psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced cheeks-sent-mee-hi) coined to describe this phenomenon. Gratitude has a lot to do with life satisfaction, psychologists say. Talking and writing about what they’re grateful for amplifies adults’ happiness, new studies show. And forgiveness is the trait most strongly linked to happiness, says University of Michigan psychologist Christopher Peterson. People aren’t very good at predicting what will make them happy, cutting-edge research shows. “If you knew exactly what the future held, you still wouldn’t know how much you would like it when you got there.”
"Psychologists Now Know What Makes People Happy," Simoleon Sense, May 31, 2009 --- http://www.simoleonsense.com/

"True Happiness Comes From Within"
Video:  Lost Generation (maybe not) --- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42E2fAWM6rA

 The Iron Man' is the toughest triathlon in existence; 2.4 mile swim, the ten 112 mile by bike, and finally another marathon 26.2 mile running, in one stroke --- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJMbk9dtpdY



Tidbits on June 3, 2009
Bob Jensen

For earlier editions of Tidbits go to http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/TidbitsDirectory.htm
For earlier editions of New Bookmarks go to http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/bookurl.htm 

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 http://www.searchedu.com/.

Bob Jensen's past presentations and lectures --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/resume.htm#Presentations   

Bob Jensen's Threads --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/threads.htm

Bob Jensen's Home Page is at http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/

CPA Examination --- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cpa_examination

Free Residential and Business Telephone Directory (you must listen to an opening advertisement) --- dial 800-FREE411 or 800-373-3411
 Free Online Telephone Directory --- http://snipurl.com/411directory       [www_public-records-now_com] 
 Free online 800 telephone numbers --- http://www.tollfree.att.net/tf.html
 Google Free Business Phone Directory --- 800-goog411
To find names addresses from listed phone numbers, go to www.google.com and read in the phone number without spaces, dashes, or parens
Bob Jensen's search helpers --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/Searchh.htm


Bob Jensen's essay on the financial crisis bailout's aftermath and an alphabet soup of appendices can be found at

Free Online Textbooks, Videos, and Tutorials --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/ElectronicLiterature.htm#Textbooks
Free Tutorials in Various Disciplines --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/Bookbob2.htm#Tutorials
Edutainment and Learning Games --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/000aaa/thetools.htm#Edutainment
Open Sharing Courses --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/000aaa/updateee.htm#OKI
The Master List of Free Online College Courses ---

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 --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/NHcottage/NHcottage.htm

Bob Jensen's blogs and various threads on many topics --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/threads.htm
       (Also scroll down to the table at http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/ )

Global Incident Map --- http://www.globalincidentmap.com/home.php

If you want to help our badly injured troops, please check out
Valour-IT: Voice-Activated Laptops for Our Injured Troops  --- http://www.valour-it.blogspot.com/

Free Online Textbooks, Videos, and Tutorials --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/ElectronicLiterature.htm#Textbooks
Free Tutorials in Various Disciplines --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/Bookbob2.htm#Tutorials
Edutainment and Learning Games --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/000aaa/thetools.htm#Edutainment
Open Sharing Courses --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/000aaa/updateee.htm#OKI

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 --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/music.htm

The Iron Man' is the toughest triathlon in existence; 2.4 mile swim, the ten 112 m ile by bike, and finally another marathon 26.2 mile running, in one stroke --- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJMbk9dtpdY

"True Happiness Comes From Within"
Video:  Lost Generation (maybe not) --- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42E2fAWM6rA

From the UCLA Asian Studies Center
Children of the Atomic Bomb --- http://www.aasc.ucla.edu/cab/index.html 

Sweden in Grip of Islam --- http://vodpod.com/watch/1428923-sweden-in-grip-of-islam

Nuclear Deterrence in the Age of Nuclear Terrorism Video
Graham Allison, MIT's Technology Review, November/December 2008 --- http://www.technologyreview.com/video/?vid=95

NOVA: Space Shuttle Disaster --- http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/columbia/

Media College (New Zealand: Tutorials on Production of Multi-media) --- http://www.mediacollege.com/

Artists in Dialogue: António Ole and Aimé Mpane --- http://africa.si.edu/exhibits/dialogue09/index.html

Bennington president Liz Coleman delivers a call-to-arms for radical reform in higher education.

Bucking the trend to push students toward increasingly narrow areas of study, she proposes a truly cross-disciplinary education — one that dynamically combines all areas of study to address the great problems of our day.
Video:  On Reinventing the Liberal Arts Education

Simoleon Sense, June 1, 2009 --- http://www.simoleonsense.com/video-on-reinventing-the-liberal-arts-education/
Scroll down to the video screen

Free music downloads --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/music.htm

GERIATRIC DIRTY DANCING.... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eSKCi9ml4ME
You gotta watch it to the end to appreciate it!

The "New" Three Tenors --- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FqUkUjeF4-c

Haydn's Finest, For London --- http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=104010890

Bartok: From The Fields To The Concert Hall (Classical) --- http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=103733863

Simone Dinnerstein Plays Bach Old And New --- http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=101102623

Amy Dunbar says she and her husband loves Brooks and Dunn concerts

Web outfits like Pandora, Foneshow, Stitcher, and Slacker broadcast portable and mobile content that makes Sirius look overpriced and stodgy ---

TheRadio (my favorite commercial-free online music site) --- http://www.theradio.com/
Slacker (my second-favorite commercial-free online music site) --- http://www.slacker.com/

Gerald Trites likes this international radio site --- http://www.e-radio.gr/
Songza:  Search for a song or band and play the selection --- http://songza.com/
Also try Jango --- http://www.jango.com/?r=342376581
Sometimes this old guy prefers the jukebox era (just let it play through) --- http://www.tropicalglen.com/
And I listen quite often to Soldiers Radio Live --- http://www.army.mil/fieldband/pages/listening/bandstand.html
Also note
U.S. Army Band recordings --- http://bands.army.mil/music/default.asp

Bob Jensen listens to music free online (and no commercials) --- http://www.slacker.com/ 

Photographs and Art

Great Bird Photographs --- http://www.howardcheekphotography.com/gallery.php
To see a slide show, click on one of the pictures, then click on the blue arrow at the top of the picture.

On the Edge: The Hidden Art of Fore-Edge Book Painting --- http://foreedge.bpl.org/

Red Sea Crossing --- http://www.arkdiscovery.com/red_sea_crossing.htm

James Milligan Nature Photography Portfolio --- http://jamesmilligan.naturescapes.net/

Frank Lloyd Wright: From Within Outward ---

Elements of Architecture --- http://exhibits.slpl.org/steedman/elements.asp

Multimedia from Stanford University (engineering, architecture)
R. Buckminster Fuller Digital Collection --- http://collections.stanford.edu/bucky/bin/page?forward=home

World Architecture Community --- http://www.worldarchitecture.org/main/

America's Favorite Architecture --- http://www.favoritearchitecture.org/

Artists in Dialogue: António Ole and Aimé Mpane --- http://africa.si.edu/exhibits/dialogue09/index.html

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 --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/ElectronicLiterature.htm

Media College (New Zealand: Tutorials on Production of Multi-media) --- http://www.mediacollege.com/

Bob Jensen's Camtasia Tutorials --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/HelpersVideos.htm 

Computing History Timeline --- http://trillian.randomstuff.org.uk/~stephen/history/timeline.html
Also see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_computing

American University Computer History Museum --- http://www.computinghistorymuseum.org/ 

The Apple (Computer) Museum  --- http://www.theapplemuseum.com/ 

A History of Microsoft Windows (slide show from Wired News) --- http://www.wired.com/gadgets/pcs/multimedia/2007/01/wiredphotos31

Oldcomputers.com  --- http://www.old-computers.com/news/default.asp

May 28, 2009 message from Paul Thompson [paul@shmoop.com]

School Library Journal wrote a glowing review of Shmoop: http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/blog/1340000334/post/1980037798.html

I came across your website where you have listed various “Online Book and Table of Contents Finders” on the page http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/ElectronicLiterature.htm. Our website also provides study guides and valuable information on novels and literature (http://www.shmoop.com/literature/), US History (http://www.shmoop.com/history/) and Poetry (http://www.shmoop.com/poetry/) which can be of great value to your website visitors. We have developed this content with an intention to make learning experience great fun for the readers.

I request you to consider listing http://www.shmoop.com/ on this page. You may use the following HTML code for linking.

Shmoop is an online study guide for English Literature, Poetry and American history ---- http://www.shmoop.com/

We'd appreciate your help spreading the word. 

Paul Thompson
"Best of the Internet" - PC Magazine, Jan. 2009

Free Online Textbooks, Videos, and Tutorials --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/ElectronicLiterature.htm#Textbooks
Free Tutorials in Various Disciplines --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/Bookbob2.htm#Tutorials
Edutainment and Learning Games --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/000aaa/thetools.htm#Edutainment
Open Sharing Courses --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/000aaa/updateee.htm#OKI

Talk About a Competitive Advantage for Chrysler and GM:  Immune from Safety Lawsuits
Paul Sheridan is former head of Chrysler's Minivan Safety Leadership Team and winner of the 2005 Civil Justice Foundation National Champion award for his work in transportation safety. He has reviewed the Obama administration's Chrysler bailout plan and notes that it strips away the rights of some people to receive compensation for safety defects in Chrysler products. The president had declared that Chrysler vehicle owners could rely on the government to back repairs covered under warranty. If your transmission fails, he will stand with you. However, if your spouse burned to death due to a fuel system defect, and you are actively seeking redress through product litigation, Obama does not stand with you....There is no precedent for this blatant abuse of the unsuspecting taxpayer who had no say and no representation. Essentially, Obama is demanding that Chrysler safety-defect victims pay to have their own lawsuits dismissed. Is this vicious fleecing allowed by the Constitution?
Hank, "Obama Bailout Plan Kills Safety Lawsuits," Federal Review, May 31, 2009 ---
Jensen Comment
Of course if your Ford has a safety defect you can sue Ford into the ground. I wonder how these guarantees and lawsuit protections factor into accounting differences between Chrysler and Ford?

The misleading numbers quoted by USA Today are arrived at by using Social Security and other trust funds to lower the deficit. The Social Security surplus of $197 billion this year is spent for everything but Social Security. Section 13-301 of the Budget Act prohibits Congress and the president from engaging in this budget deception, but they continue to violate the law --- and USA Today's reporting helps them.
Ernest E. Hollings, Former U.S. Senator, D-S.C.

Why is the taxpayer-funded ACORN becoming an embarrassment to the Obama Team?
Left-wing groups in Washington, D.C., are panicked. The New York Times and other Team Obama whitewashers are downplaying the connection between the Obama presidential campaign, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) and Obama's old employer Project Vote (ACORN's nonprofit canvassing arm). Alas, the truth keeps seeping out.  . . . .Why does this matter? Transparency, tax dollars and electoral integrity. ACORN's own lawyer Elizabeth Kingsley acknowledged last year that a vast web of tax-exempt ACORN affiliates were shuffling money around -- making it almost impossible to track whether campaign rules and tax regulations were being followed. ACORN receives 40 percent of its revenues from taxpayers. Americans deserve to know whether and how much commingling of public money with political projects has occurred over the last four decades -- and what role the Obama campaign played in this enterprise.
Michelle Malkin, "The Truth About ObamACORN," Townhall, May 29, 2009 --- http://townhall.com/columnists/MichelleMalkin/2009/05/29/the_truth_about_obamacorn 
Jensen Comment
Hell will freeze over before MSNBC finds fault with ACORN fraud. Some minority tax-exempt groups should be allowed to bend the law regarding public funding and overt political activism.

Date on which Barack Obama implemented new ethics guidelines restricting former lobbyists' roles in government: 1/21/09.  Days later that he waived the guidelines for the deputy secretary of defense: 1." -Harper's Index, June 2009.
John McCaslin, "Quick Turnaround," Townhall, May 28, 2009 --- http://townhall.com/columnists/JohnMcCaslin/2009/05/28/quick_turnaround 

Nancy Pelosi raised such a fuss about having to have a small UASF jet like previous Speakers of the House, she now has an enormous Boeing 757 for all personal as well as business trips. The cash operating cost for fuel and crew is around $6 million a year. And people complain about $500 tennis shoes for President Obama's wife. Now the luxury of having pizza flown to the White House from Chicago or a $250,000 taxpayer-funded Air Force One flight to see a Broadway show is a bit more controversial, but not as controversial as Pelosi's 757. Pelosi said it's a CIA lie that she has her own Boeing 757. She claimed to commute on AmTrak between Washington DC and San Francisco.
Bob Jensen

Michael Moore: "GM's Bankruptcy Fills Me With Joy"
Filmmaker and leftist activist Michael Moore said the demise of General Motors filled him with ‘joy’ Monday and then suggested the Obama administration launch into a massive socialization of U.S. industry to build ‘green’ autos and bullet trains. To pay for it all, he suggests a $2 per gallon federal tax. Writing on The Daily Beast Web site, Moore said he was writing from Flint, Michigan, GM’s birthplace, which he described as abandoned and emptied by the company’s incompetence and eagerness for cheap labor (despite paying three times as much as Japanese car and truck factories in the U.S,)
Newsmax, June 2, 2009 --- Click Here
You can read more of Moore's diatribe at http://www.michaelmoore.com/
Watch MSNBC's Keith Olbermann honor Michael Moore --- http://www.michaelmoore.com/

Those unmentionable union protectionist and treaty violation costs
A Mexican trade association representing more than 4,500 trucking companies is seeking $6 billion in damages from the U.S. government because of Washington's refusal to allow Mexican trucks to carry cargo over U.S. roads. The group, Canacar, filed a demand for arbitration under the North American Free Trade Agreement with the U.S. State Department in April, but didn't publicize the move until Monday. "We want reciprocity," said Pedro Ojeda, a lawyer for Canacar. "The U.S. has notoriously not kept its commitments." Mr. Ojeda said the complaint is the largest such demand made under Nafta, as the 1993 pact is known. Deborah Mesloh, a spokeswoman for U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, said Monday that, "We take our trade obligations very seriously and this is an issue we've been working on for a couple months." A State Department spokesman said the claim is "being studied."
"Mexican Truckers File $6 Billion Claim Against U.S. in Nafta Spat," The Wall Street Journal, June 2, 2009 --- http://www.freerepublic.com/tag/news-forum/index

"Is Larry Summers Taking Kickbacks From the Banks He's Bailing Out?" Naked Capitalism, May 29, 2009 --- http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2262109/posts

Larry Summers appears to have a less than operational moral compass.

The former Treasury Secretary, now head of the National Economic Council (and presumed Fed chairman if Obama decides against recommending Bernanke for another term) was in the employ of hedge fund DE Shaw to the tune of $5 million for sixteen months while working with actively on Democratic economic policy, with the clear expectation that he would have a policy role. In other words, Summers is already way too cozy with the financial services industry.

And now we have the latest, from Mark Amos (hat tip reader Marshall). I’ve put up some excerpts, and strongly recommend you read the entire piece.

Ames points out that a number of very big Wall Street firms made an unusual investment in a start-up, one Revolution Money, a “PayPal meets Mastercard” in the Steve Case “Revolution” sphere. Weirdly, the company says Summers was on the board, and Summers certainly was talking up to the media, but filings suggest otherwise. But while the exact nature of Summers’ relationship is unclear, he was certainly promoting the venture.

While Summers did terminate his relationship with the Revolution Money before the big players invested, fundraising and getting to closing documents is generally a lengthy process, so it is reasonable to surmise that Summers’ salesmanship and relationship with the company played a meaningful role in these banks’ decision to invest in a company with lousy performance, dubious prospects, and no obvious synergies. Amos notes the investees got off better in the stress tests than their brethren did. That may be happenstance, but it was reported that the stress tests were tougher on loans than on trading portfolios, and the investors in Revolution Money all had big capital markets operations.


Asked why he was naming some of his rivals to top administration jobs, President Lyndon B. Johnson said it best: "I'd rather have them inside the tent pissing out than outside pissing in." President Obama seems to echo Johnson's management style in his handling of Bill and Hillary Clinton. By bringing them into his inner circle, he has marginalized them both and sharply reduced their freedom of action. It may appear odd to describe a secretary of state as marginalized, but Obama has surrounded Hillary with his people and carved up her jurisdiction geographically. Former Sen. George Mitchell is in charge of Arab-Israeli relations. Dennis Ross has Iran. Former U.N. Ambassador Dick Holbrooke has Pakistan and Afghanistan. And Hillary has to share her foreign policy role on the National Security Council (NSC) with Vice President Biden, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, CIA chief Leon Panetta and NSC staffer Samantha Powers (who once called Hillary a "monster").
Dick Morris and Eileen McGann, "The Incredible Shrinking Clintons," Townhall, May 29, 2009 --- Click Here

"Todos en la Familia:  What Sonia Sotomayor and Archie Bunker have in common," by James Taranto, Newsletter from The Wall Street Journal, May 29, 2009

Sotomayor's statement is, however, an expression of prejudice, an exercise in stereotyping. It reminds us of an exchange on an early episode of "All in the Family," which we caught as part of a retrospective aired earlier this week on the TV Land cable network. Archie Bunker and the Meathead are arguing over a brochure advertising a slate of candidates for local office:

Archie: What's the matter with this? I call this representative government. You've got Salvatori, Feldman, O'Reilly, Nelson--that's an Italian, a Jew, an Irishman and a regular American there. That's what I call a balanced ticket.

Meathead: Why do you always have to label people by nationality?

Archie: 'Cause, how else are you going to get the right man for the right job? For instance, take Feldman there. He's up for treasurer. Well, that's perfect. All them people know how to handle money. Know what I mean?

Meathead: No, I don't.

Archie: Well, then you got Salvatori running for D.A. He can keep an eye on Feldman. You know, I want to tell you something about the Italians. When you do get an honest one, you really got something there.

Meathead: Aw, c'mon, Arch.

Archie: Well, then here you got O'Reilly, the mick. He can see that the graft is equally spread around, you know. You got Nelson, the American guy. He's good for TV appearances, to make the rest of them look respectable.

Like Sotomayor, Archie is not propounding a theory of racial or ethnic supremacy but describing the world in terms of culturally contingent stereotypes. He is engaging in identity politics.


EVA, a 25-year-old prostitute in Amsterdam's red-light district, gestures angrily in the direction of a rival who has slashed her rates as the economic crisis emboldens sex tourists to haggle. 'People like her make it very difficult for the rest of us,' scowled the tall, blonde Estonian in skimpy black-and-white lingerie as she dragged on a cigarette while posing for men passing the window in which she offers herself. 'Some of the girls are now doing it for 30 euros (S$60). My price is still 50 euros, but the men are playing us off against each other. Some want to pay only 20 euros,' she told AFP. Eva is not the only one complaining. As the credit crunch keeps away sightseers and business travellers, owners of brothels, escort agencies and sex shops grumble that visitors who still do indulge in the pleasures of the flesh are increasingly tight-fisted. 'Things are bad,' said Mr Dave Doeve, who owns Casa Rosso sex shop in Amsterdam's red-light district where neon-lit prostitutes' windows normally draw hoards of tourists.
"Turning tricks for less," The Straits Times (Singapore), May 30, 2009 ---

Insert National Debt Graphs

Stop Imitating Hyper-inflated Zimbabe:  The U.S. Treasury Should Cease Monetizing the Debt
The U.S. should borrow or tax to pay its debts, but stop printing money to pay deficit-driven debt

"Don't Monetize the Debt: The president of the Dallas Fed on inflation risk and central bank independence," by Mary Anastasia O'Grady, The Wall Street Journal, May 23, 2009 ---

From his perch high atop the palatial Dallas Federal Reserve Bank, overlooking what he calls "the most modern, efficient city in America," Richard Fisher says he is always on the lookout for rising prices. But that's not what's worrying the bank's president right now.

His bigger concern these days would seem to be what he calls "the perception of risk" that has been created by the Fed's purchases of Treasury bonds, mortgage-backed securities and Fannie Mae paper.

Mr. Fisher acknowledges that events in the financial markets last year required some unusual Fed action in the commercial lending market. But he says the longer-term debt, particularly the Treasurys, is making investors nervous. The looming challenge, he says, is to reassure markets that the Fed is not going to be "the handmaiden" to fiscal profligacy. "I think the trick here is to assist the functioning of the private markets without signaling in any way, shape or form that the Federal Reserve will be party to monetizing fiscal largess, deficits or the stimulus program."

The very fact that a Fed regional bank president has to raise this issue is not very comforting. It conjures up images of Argentina. And as Mr. Fisher explains, he's not the only one worrying about it. He has just returned from a trip to China, where "senior officials of the Chinese government grill[ed] me about whether or not we are going to monetize the actions of our legislature." He adds, "I must have been asked about that a hundred times in China."

A native of Los Angeles who grew up in Mexico, Mr. Fisher was educated at Harvard, Oxford and Stanford. He spent his earliest days in government at Jimmy Carter's Treasury. He says that taught him a life-long lesson about inflation. It was "inflation that destroyed that presidency," he says. He adds that he learned a lot from then Fed Chairman Paul Volcker, who had to "break [inflation's] back."

Mr. Fisher has led the Dallas Fed since 2005 and has developed a reputation as the Federal Open Market Committee's (FOMC) lead inflation worrywart. In September he told a New York audience that "rates held too low, for too long during the previous Fed regime were an accomplice to [the] reckless behavior" that brought about the economic troubles we are now living through. He also warned that the Treasury's $700 billion plan to buy toxic assets from financial institutions would be "one more straw on the back of the frightfully encumbered camel that is the federal government ledger."

In a speech at the Kennedy School of Government in February, he wrung his hands about "the very deep hole [our political leaders] have dug in incurring unfunded liabilities of retirement and health-care obligations" that "we at the Dallas Fed believe total over $99 trillion." In March, he is believed to have vociferously objected in closed-door FOMC meetings to the proposal to buy U.S. Treasury bonds. So with long-term Treasury yields moving up sharply despite Fed intentions to bring down mortgage rates, I've flown to Dallas to see what he's thinking now.

Regarding what caused the credit bubble, he repeats his assertion about the Fed's role: "It is human instinct when rates are low and the yield curve is flat to reach for greater risk and enhanced yield and returns." (Later, he adds that this is not to cast aspersions on former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan and reminds me that these decisions are made by the FOMC.)

"The second thing is that the regulators didn't do their job, including the Federal Reserve." To this he adds what he calls unusual circumstances, including "the fruits and tailwinds of globalization, billions of people added to the labor supply, new factories and productivity coming from places it had never come from before." And finally, he says, there was the 'mathematization' of risk." Institutions were "building risk models" and relying heavily on "quant jocks" when "in the end there can be no substitute for good judgment."

What about another group of alleged culprits: the government-anointed rating agencies? Mr. Fisher doesn't mince words. "I served on corporate boards. The way rating agencies worked is that they were paid by the people they rated. I saw that from the inside." He says he also saw this "inherent conflict of interest" as a fund manager. "I never paid attention to the rating agencies. If you relied on them you got . . . you know," he says, sparing me the gory details. "You did your own analysis. What is clear is that rating agencies always change something after it is obvious to everyone else. That's why we never relied on them." That's a bit disconcerting since the Fed still uses these same agencies in managing its own portfolio.

I wonder whether the same bubble-producing Fed errors aren't being repeated now as Washington scrambles to avoid a sustained economic downturn.

He surprises me by siding with the deflation hawks. "I don't think that's the risk right now." Why? One factor influencing his view is the Dallas Fed's "trim mean calculation," which looks at price changes of more than 180 items and excludes the extremes. Dallas researchers have found that "the price increases are less and less. Ex-energy, ex-food, ex-tobacco you've got some mild deflation here and no inflation in the [broader] headline index."

Mr. Fisher says he also has a group of about 50 CEOs around the U.S. and the world that he calls on, all off the record, before almost every FOMC meeting. "I don't impart any information, I just listen carefully to what they are seeing through their own eyes. And that gives me a sense of what's happening on the ground, you might say on Main Street as opposed to Wall Street."

It's good to know that a guy so obsessed with price stability doesn't see inflation on the horizon. But inflation and bubble trouble almost always get going before they are recognized. Moreover, the Fed has to pay attention to the 1978 Full Employment and Balanced Growth Act -- a.k.a. Humphrey-Hawkins -- and employment is a lagging indicator of economic activity. This could create a Fed bias in favor of inflating. So I push him again.

"I want to make sure that your readers understand that I don't know a single person on the FOMC who is rooting for inflation or who is tolerant of inflation." The committee knows very well, he assures me, that "you cannot have sustainable employment growth without price stability. And by price stability I mean that we cannot tolerate deflation or the ravages of inflation."

Mr. Fisher defends the Fed's actions that were designed to "stabilize the financial system as it literally fell apart and prevent the economy from imploding." Yet he admits that there is unfinished work. Policy makers have to be "always mindful that whatever you put in, you are going to have to take out at some point. And also be mindful that there are these perceptions [about the possibility of monetizing the debt], which is why I have been sensitive about the issue of purchasing Treasurys."

He returns to events on his recent trip to Asia, which besides China included stops in Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Korea. "I wasn't asked once about mortgage-backed securities. But I was asked at every single meeting about our purchase of Treasurys. That seemed to be the principal preoccupation of those that were invested with their surpluses mostly in the United States. That seems to be the issue people are most worried about."

As I listen I am reminded that it's not just the Asians who have expressed concern. In his Kennedy School speech, Mr. Fisher himself fretted about the U.S. fiscal picture. He acknowledges that he has raised the issue "ad nauseam" and doesn't apologize. "Throughout history," he says, "what the political class has done is they have turned to the central bank to print their way out of an unfunded liability. We can't let that happen. That's when you open the floodgates. So I hope and I pray that our political leaders will just have to take this bull by the horns at some point. You can't run away from it."

Voices like Mr. Fisher's can be a problem for the politicians, which may be why recently there have been rumblings in Washington about revoking the automatic FOMC membership that comes with being a regional bank president. Does Mr. Fisher have any thoughts about that?

This is nothing new, he points out, briefly reviewing the history of the political struggle over monetary policy in the U.S. "The reason why the banks were put in the mix by [President Woodrow] Wilson in 1913, the reason it was structured the way it was structured, was so that you could offset the political power of Washington and the money center in New York with the regional banks. They represented Main Street.

"Now we have this great populist fervor and the banks are arguing for Main Street, largely. I have heard these arguments before and studied the history. I am not losing a lot of sleep over it," he says with a defiant Texas twang that I had not previously detected. "I don't think that it'd be the best signal to send to the market right now that you want to totally politicize the process."

Speaking of which, Texas bankers don't have much good to say about the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), according to Mr. Fisher. "Its been complicated by the politics because you have a special investigator, special prosecutor, and all I can tell you is that in my district here most of the people who wanted in on the TARP no longer want in on the TARP."

At heart, Mr. Fisher says he is an advocate for letting markets clear on their own. "You know that I am a big believer in Schumpeter's creative destruction," he says referring to the term coined by the late Austrian economist. "The destructive part is always painful, politically messy, it hurts like hell but you hopefully will allow the adjustments to be made so that the creative part can take place." Texas went through that process in the 1980s, he says, and came back stronger.

This is doubtless why, with Washington taking on a larger role in the American economy every day, the worries linger. On the wall behind his desk is a 1907 gouache painting by Antonio De Simone of the American steam sailing vessel Varuna plowing through stormy seas. Just like most everything else on the walls, bookshelves and table tops around his office -- and even the dollar-sign cuff links he wears to work -- it represents something.

He says that he has had this painting behind his desk for the past 30 years as a reminder of the importance of purpose and duty in rough seas. "The ship," he explains, "has to maintain its integrity." What is more, "no mathematical model can steer you through the kind of seas in that picture there. In the end someone has the wheel." He adds: "On monetary policy it's the Federal Reserve."

As she trashes her currency, America will continue to lose political capital both domestically and abroad. After all, a -12% three-month swan dive in the US Dollar has hacked over $90 Billion of value from the Chinese position in US Treasuries. Creditors and citizenry hush yourselves! All the while, 17 out of 23 Chinese economists polled are calling holding those Treasuries a “great risk” this morning. I know, I know… an economist or a billion US Dollars ain't what it used to be… At some point, China’s interpretation of the arithmetic is going to really matter.
Seeking Alpha, June 1, 2009 --- http://seekingalpha.com/article/140651-china-s-arithmetic-when-it-comes-to-the-dollar

The Congressional Budget Office believes that the Treasury will have to borrow nearly $2 trillion this year. None of that is new news, but what is beginning to emerge is a picture of a government which has narrowed its options for improving the economy down to one. Either GDP turns sharply up next year or the deficit will become an unmanageable burden. The Treasury will have to default on interest payments if sharply raising taxes in 2010 and 2011 does not bring IRS receipts to historic highs. That would not appear to be likely with unemployment moving toward 10% and American corporate earnings badly crippled.
"A $1 Trillion A Year Deficit Interest Rate Payment," 21/7 Wall Street, June 1, 2009 ---

Tim Geithner Draws a Big Laugh and Lots of Sighs In China
U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on Monday reassured the Chinese government that its huge holdings of dollar assets are safe and reaffirmed his faith in a strong U.S. currency. A major goal of Geithner's maiden visit to China as Treasury chief is to allay concerns that Washington's bulging budget deficit and ultra-loose monetary policy will fan inflation, undermining both the dollar and U.S. bonds. China is the biggest foreign owner of U.S. Treasury bonds. U.S. data shows that it held $768 billion in Treasuries as of March, but some analysts believe China's total U.S. dollar-denominated investments could be twice as high. "Chinese assets are very safe," Geithner said in response to a question after a speech at Peking University, where he studied Chinese as a student in the 1980s. His answer drew loud laughter from his student audience, reflecting skepticism in China about the wisdom of a developing country accumulating a vast stockpile of foreign reserves instead of spending the money to raise living standards at home.
Glenn Somerville, Reuters, June 1, 2009 --- Click Here

Why Obama's Big Spending, Big Taxing Regime Will Cripple the U.S. Economy
Before any article on savings and investment can really make sense, it must first define what savings and investment really mean. Saving is the process of transforming present goods into future goods. Present goods are consumption goods and future goods are capital goods. When we save, we transfer purchasing power from consumption to the production of capital goods, many of which will then be used to produce more capital goods. (This is why growth is sometimes called forgone consumption.) Investment in more capital (the material means of production) makes for increased future consumption, i.e., higher living standards. It needs little imagination to realise that taxing savings amounts to taxing future living standards. What needs to be remembered is that when defined in real terms, investment and savings are (a) always equal and (b) saving is clearly the only means by which resources can be directed from consumption to investment. To put it another way: The function of savings is to redirect resources from the production of consumption goods to the production of capital goods.
"Why Obama's Big Spending, Big Taxing Regime Will Cripple the U.S. Economy," Seeking Alpha, March 23, 2009 ---

Bob Jensen's threads on the National Debt Crisis are at

Bob Jensen's threads on the Entitlements Crisis are at

Wasted Taxpayer Money:  Purchase Accounting Rule Will Enable Banks to Report Billions in TARP Profits
"Banks Stand to Reap Billions From Purchased Bad Loans," by Julie Crawshaw, NewsMax, May 27, 2009 ---

An accounting rule that governs how banks book acquired loans is making it possible for banks that purchased bad loans to reap billions.

Applying this regulation — known as the purchase accounting rule — to mortgages and commercial loans that lost value during the credit crisis gives acquiring banks an incentive to mark down loans they acquire as aggressively as possible, says RBC Capital Markets analyst Gerard Cassidy.

"One of the beauties of purchase accounting is after you mark down your assets, you accrete them back in," Cassidy told Bloomberg. "Those transactions should be favorable over the long run."

Here’s how it works: When JPMorgan bought WaMu out of receivership last September, it used the purchase accounting rule to record impaired loans at fair value, marking down $118.2 billion of assets by 25 percent.

Now, JPMorgan says that first-quarter gains from the WaMu loans resulted in $1.26 billion in interest income and left the bank with an accretable-yield balance that could result in additional income of $29.1 billion.

So JPMorgan, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and PNC Financial Services all stand to make big bucks on bad loans they bought from Washington Mutual, Wachovia, Countrywide and National City.

Their combined deals provide a $56 billion in accretable yields, which is the difference between the value of the loans on the banks’ balance sheets and the cash flow they’re expected to produce.

However, it’s tough to tell how much the yield will increase the acquiring banks’ total revenues because banks don’t disclose all their expenses and book the additional revenues over the lives of the loans.

Why the expensive TARP Bailout Plan won't work ---

Bob Jensen's threads on accounting theory are at

Maryland couldn't balance its budget last year, so the state tried to close the shortfall by fleecing the wealthy. Politicians in Annapolis created a millionaire tax bracket, raising the top marginal income-tax rate to 6.25%. And because cities such as Baltimore and Bethesda also impose income taxes, the state-local tax rate can go as high as 9.45%. Governor Martin O'Malley, a dedicated class warrior, declared that these richest 0.3% of filers were "willing and able to pay their fair share." The (naive and liberal) Baltimore Sun predicted the rich would "grin and bear it." . . . The Maryland state revenue office says it's "way too early" to tell how many millionaires moved out of the state when the tax rates rose. But no one disputes that some rich filers did leave. It's easier than the redistributionists think. Christopher Summers, president of the Maryland Public Policy Institute, notes: "Marylanders with high incomes typically own second homes in tax friendlier states like Florida, Delaware, South Carolina and Virginia. So it's easy for them to change their residency."
"Millionaires Go Missing: Maryland's fleeced taxpayers fight back," The Wall Street Journal, May 26, 2009 ---

U.K  University and College Union Once Again Votes to Boycott All Jewish Teachers, Scholars, and Researchers
Members of the University and College Union again voted Wednesday to boycott Israeli universities, but leaders of the union -- the largest for British academe -- said that the vote would be void due to legal questions about whether the organization can take such a stance, The Guardian reported. British faculty unions have been voting on and off for such boycotts for several years now, creating some conflict with American academic organizations that have opposed boycotts as violating academic freedom.
Inside Higher Ed, May 28, 2009 --- http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2009/05/28/qt#199888

NBC set a low-water mark of historic proportions for TV viewership last week.
While it's not the smallest ever recorded by ABC, CBS, NBC or Fox, it's the smallest to come in a week outside of the summer doldrums of June, July, August or early September. Only once before has NBC been lower, during August 2007, Nielsen said. The company's precise records go back to the advent of "people meters" in 1987, but given how dominant broadcast networks were before then, it's likely NBC hasn't had such a small audience since the early days of television.
Yahoo Finance, May 22, 2009 --- http://finance.yahoo.com/news/NBC-makes-history-in-the-apf-15363388.html
Only once before has NBC been lower, during August 2007, Nielsen said. The company's precise records go back to the advent of "people meters" in 1987, but given how dominant broadcast networks were before then, it's likely NBC hasn't had such a small audience since the early days of television.

"Identifying Domestic Terrorists," by Austin Bay, Townhall, May 27, 2009 ---

Napolitano should have waited for the publication of the Foundation for Defense of Democracy's "Homegrown Terrorists in the US and UK." Written by Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and Laura Grossman, the empirical study examines "homegrown" Islamist terrorists in the United States and United Kingdom, with terrorists defined as "homegrown" when they have "spent a significant portion of their formative years in the West, or else their radicalization bears a significant connection to the West."

The authors analyzed 117 domestic terrorists and identified six "behavioral changes" that characterize the radicalization process. Though focusing on Islamist radicals who engaged in or provided illegal support for terrorist violence, some of the changes the authors described resemble behaviors associated with violent "non-sectarian" (so-called "purely" political) radicals.

The changes are:

1) Accepting "a legalistic interpretation of Islam." Sometimes, individuals are nurtured along in this process by mentors who create "an uncompromising religious atmosphere rooted in a legalistic understanding of the faith" with the objective of making new members "ashamed" of their perceived failure to meet the legalistic requirements. This was, in fact, one of the key factors that pushed the "Lackawanna Six" over the brink.

2) Over time, only trusting "the interpretations of a select and ideologically rigid set of religious authorities" (contrary opinions by well-educated, yet more moderate, imams are dismissed or ignored).

3) The evolving radicals "perceive an inherent schism between Islam and the West -- believing that the two are at odds, and perhaps even incapable of coexistence." The authors point to radicals who argue that "participation in democracy violates Islamic religious principles." Obligations are "to Islam alone," and a jihadist "cannot have ... duty or loyalty to a non-Muslim state." (This particular behavior is a key indicator of "later acts of violence.")

4) After internalizing "rigid interpretations of Islam" and becoming followers of hard-line clerics, the new radicals "view alternate interpretations and practices as not just incorrect theologically, but as personal affronts. In this way, any disagreement about religion may be personalized and met with a great amount of vitriol."

This change is reminiscent of "personal demonization" tactics pursued by hard-left and hard-right political groups. Chicago radical organizer Saul Alinsky in his classic "Rules for Radicals" advised radical political organizers to "pick the target, freeze it, personalize it and polarize it." The Weathermen did it. Al-Qaida would-bes do, as well.

5) Another sign of radicalization occurs "when individuals attempt to impose their religious beliefs on others." Imposition can take many forms, but psychological coercion can quickly become physical intimidation. This isn't a new insight -- violent cults often physically intimidate potential converts. Still, the action serves as an "intelligence indicator" for police monitoring radicalizing groups.

6) A key indicator of "political radicalization" is acceptance of a "jihadist political narrative" that follows this rough outline: "Western powers have conspired against Islam to subjugate it, both physically and morally. At the same time, Muslims worldwide have lost their faith and lack the strength that they possessed during Mohammad's time. The only proper response to the present situation is military action."

If this sounds like Osama bin Laden's cant, well, it is.

In an interview published on Monday, the United States’ top commander in the Middle East said that Iran was continuing its activities against Iraq and the coalition forces stationed there. General David Petraeus also said that “increased concerns” about Iran’s nuclear intentions among Arab states in the Persian Gulf had strengthened relations between the United States and those states.
"Petraeus says Iran still supporting Iraqi militants," Washington TV, June 1, 2009 ---

The Hanoi Hilton --- http://projectworldawareness.com/2009/05/another-medal-of-honor-recepients-view-of-torture/
Also see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanoi_Hilton

From a Brussels' Think Tank
--- http://workforall.net/audio-library-of-economics.html

Audio modules on
Social Security,
Strategy &
Public Policy

From Jim Mahar's Finance Professor Blog on May 31, 2009

Free & Easy Access to worldwide Broadcasts on Economics, Social Security, Policy and Strategy
THE FREEDOM NETWORK AUDIO PORTAL - Free & Easy Access to worldwide Broadcasts on Economics, Social Security, Policy and Strategy: "Podcasts on Economics, Social Security, Strategy, Liberty & Public Policy"

Wow. Amazing stuff. Thanks to Wayne Marr for point it out.

Bob Jensen's threads on the economic crisis --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/2008Bailout.htm

I flunked the second grade computer test in China --- http://funstufftosee.com/frogleaptest.html

Bennington president Liz Coleman delivers a call-to-arms for radical reform in higher education.

Bucking the trend to push students toward increasingly narrow areas of study, she proposes a truly cross-disciplinary education — one that dynamically combines all areas of study to address the great problems of our day.
Video:  On Reinventing the Liberal Arts Education

Simoleon Sense, June 1, 2009 --- http://www.simoleonsense.com/video-on-reinventing-the-liberal-arts-education/
Scroll down to the video screen

"The Relevance of the Humanities," by Gabriel Paquette, Inside Higher Ed, January 22, 2009 --- http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2009/01/22/paquette

Bob Jensen's threads on Compassless Colleges ---

How Americans Spend Their Money --- http://thinkorthwim.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/02/10chartlarge2.gif

Jim Mahar pointed out the Value Investing site at
http://www.chanticleeradvisors.com/files/107293/Interview with Peter Bevelin - 2009.pdf

Can you name the ten largest U.S. bankruptcies in history? --- Click Here

Rank 01:  Date of bankruptcy filing: 09/15/08 Assets: $691.+ billion --- Lehman Bros.
Rank 02:  Date of bankruptcy filing: 09/26/08 Assets: $327.9 billion --- Washington Mutual (WaMu)
Rank 03:  Date of bankruptcy filing: 07/21/02 Assets: $103.9 billion --- WorldCom
Rank 04:  Date of Bankruptcy June: 06/01/09 Assets:   $91.+ billion --- General Motors
Rank 05:  Date of bankruptcy filing: 12/02/01 Assets:    $65.5 billion --- Enron
Rank 06:  Date of bankruptcy filing: 12/17/02 Assets:    $61.+ billion --- Conseco
Rank 07:  Date of bankruptcy filing: 04/30/09 Assets:    $39.+ billion --- Chrysler
Rank 08:  Date of bankruptcy filing: 05/01/09 Assets:    $36.5 billion --- Thornburg Mortgage
Rank 09:  Date of bankruptcy filing: 04/06/01 Assets:    $36.+ billion --- Pacific Gas & Electric
Rank 10:  Date of bankruptcy filing: 04/12/87 Assets:    $34.9 billion --- Texaco

These two (internal GM) memos, written by men devoted to the company, get to the heart of G.M.’s problems. Bureaucratic restructuring won’t fix the company. Clever financing schemes won’t fix the company. G.M.’s core problem is its corporate and workplace culture — the unquantifiable but essential attitudes, mind-sets and relationship patterns that are passed down, year after year. Over the last five decades, this company has progressively lost touch with car buyers, especially the educated car buyers who flock to European and Japanese brands. Over five decades, this company has tolerated labor practices that seem insane to outsiders. Over these decades, it has tolerated bureaucratic structures that repel top talent. It has evaded the relentless quality focus that has helped companies like Toyota prosper.
David Brooks, "The Quagmire Ahead," The New York Times, June 1, 2009 ---

Bob Jensen's threads on the economic crisis --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/2008Bailout.htm

Overview o the State of Education in the U.S.

From Inside Higher Ed, May 29, 2009 --- http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2009/05/29/qt#199988

Women accounted for 57 percent of the bachelor's degrees and 62 percent of the associate degrees awarded in the 2006-7 academic year. That is one of the figures in "The Condition of Education 2009," the latest edition of an annual compilation of statistics released by the U.S. Education Department. Among the other higher education findings:

Highlights --- http://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/press/highlights2.asp

Bob Jensen's threads on higher education controversies ---

Watch the Video:  Blog Software Could Be a 'Blackboard Killer'
How to alleviate the overpricing and monopoly behavior of Blackboard course management software

"Colleges Consider Using Blogs Instead of Blackboard:  Professors at CUNY debate the pros and cons after enduring technical problems with the course-management system ," by Jeffrey R. Young, Chronicle of Higher Education, June 5, 2009 --- http://chronicle.com/free/v55/i38/38blogcms.htm?utm_source=at&utm_medium=en
Watch the video at http://chronicle.com/media/video/v55/i38/brightcove/?utm_source=at&utm_medium=en

Jim Groom sounded like a preacher at a religious revival when he spoke to professors and administrators at the City University of New York last month. "For the love of God, open up, CUNY," he said, raising his voice and his arms. "It's time!" But his topic was technology, not theology.

Mr. Groom is an instructional technologist at the University of Mary Washington, and he was the keynote speaker at an event here on how to better run CUNY's online classrooms. The meeting's focus was an idea that is catching on at a handful of colleges and universities around the country: Instead of using a course-management system to distribute materials and run class discussions, why not use free blogging software — the same kind that popular gadflies use for entertainment sites?

The approach can save colleges money, for one thing. And true believers like Mr. Groom argue that by using blogs, professors can open their students' work to the public, not just to those in the class who have a login and password to a campus course-management system. Open-source blog software, supporters say, also gives professors more ability to customize their online classrooms than most commercial course-management software does.

Organizers originally expected around 20 people to show up to the daylong meeting, which included technology demonstrations and discussions. But they ended up having to book an overflow room to accommodate the more than 120 attendees.

Blackboard Inc., whose course-management system is used throughout CUNY's campuses, has become particularly unpopular there this semester after a series of technical problems. In March the Blackboard software was offline for three days, making it impossible for students or professors to access material for many courses.

"When Blackboard is down, it's like the door to the college is nailed shut," said Joseph Ugoretz, director of technology and learning at CUNY's Macaulay Honors College, explaining that some professors use the software to administer quizzes and teach online.

Those problems have caused many here to consider alternatives. At one point during the CUNY meeting, Mr. Ugoretz said the blog software the university is experimenting with, called WordPress, could be a "Blackboard killer."

But despite a slew of jokes about Blackboard throughout the day, many attendees admitted that when the course-management system works, it offers easy-to-use features that students and professors have come to rely on. Even those speakers who encouraged professors to use blogs instead of Blackboard said that universities should probably support both.

Doing Something 'For Real'

To demonstrate how a blog might be used in a course, Zoë Sheehan-Saldaña, an assistant professor of art at CUNY's Baruch College, showed off the blog for her course "Designing With Computer Animation." Students posted their assignments on the blog so that other students — and people outside the class — could see them. Students were encouraged to post comments on one another's work as well.

Although new versions of Blackboard include a bloglike feature, Ms. Sheehan-Saldaña said there are benefits in teaching students to create blogs using systems they might encounter in future jobs.

"It looks like a real Web site," she said, noting that the course blog has a look and feel similar to those of other blogs. "For students to have a sense that they're doing something 'for real' is very powerful."

Mr. Groom, in his talk, described a project he runs at Mary Washington in which professors create blogs for dozens of courses using WordPress. Attendees expressed interest in the approach but wondered how widely it would catch on.

Setting up a course blog would be more work for professors, said Stephen Powers, an assistant professor of education at Bronx Community College. "Blackboard has a fairly short learning curve," he said.

Mr. Powers uses Blackboard for his courses and generally likes it. "I'm not against it," he said. "I just want it to work."

Albert Robinson, instructional-technology coordinator at Bronx Community College, said blog software could eventually replace the need for Blackboard there, but he didn't see that happening anytime soon.

William Bernhardt, an associate professor of English who teaches online courses at the College of Staten Island, said the university system needed to offer something easy to use, like Blackboard, to most professors, who don't have time to devote to technology. CUNY should also help professors who do want to try blog tools for their courses, he said: "I think people who are here today are ones who want to go further."

Some professors asked whether it was possible to run a blog that only students could see, noting that they had concerns about making course activities public.

In an interview, Mr. Groom said some people at Mary Washington had worried at first about opening up their online classrooms. Some feared that students might post crude comments on course blogs.

"A lot of people said it is going to maybe detract from the institution's public profile because people are going to say things, and there's going to be some sort of scandal," he said. "But it has done nothing but reinforce what we're doing as important — and get us press from people like The Chronicle."

Looking at Alternatives

Manfred Kuechler, a sociology professor at CUNY's Hunter College who serves on a technology committee for the university system, said he was optimistic that the technical difficulties with Blackboard had been resolved.

The problems arose this academic year, he said, when the university moved to a centralized Blackboard system for all of its campuses rather than continue to let each campus operate its own. Consequently the software had to serve some 200,000 students, with 6.5 million files.

"Blackboard was supposed to run a stress test last summer and last fall to find out how a system could work of that magnitude," said Mr. Kuechler. "They never delivered on that stress test, and that forced us, in a way, to go to that system and keep our fingers crossed."

He said that CUNY had since changed the way it manages the servers, and that Blackboard officials were now doing more to help out.

Blackboard's growing size, however, is prompting campus technology officials to look at alternatives.

The company recently purchased a rival, Angel Learning, and now sells software to the vast majority of colleges who use course-management systems. The U.S. Department of Justice started an antitrust investigation last month into the impact of the deal on competition.

Mr. Groom argues that the need for course-management systems. or CMS's, may soon diminish, once professors switch to using blogs and other tools.

"I think the model for the CMS is outdated given the new Web, and I think that's one of the problems," he said. "It can serve certain functions well, but it's hard for proprietary CMS's, whatever they are, to keep up with the how the Web is changing."

Blackboard is trying to keep up.

Michael L. Chasen, the company's chief executive, has told The Chronicle that the latest version of the software integrates some Web 2.0 tools and still offers plenty of features that blogging packages can't match, like online gradebooks.

Continued in article

"Blackboard Customers Consider Alternatives: Open-source software for course management poses market challenge," by Jeffrey R. Young, Chronicle of Higher Education, September 12, 2008 --- http://chronicle.com/weekly/v55/i03/03a00103.htm?utm_source=wb&utm_medium=en

Many colleges have saved a lot of money by shifting from Blackboard and WebCT to open sharing (free) course management systems, especially Moodle --- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moodle

Bob Jensen's thread on blogging are at http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/ListservRoles.htm

Bob Jensen's threads on Blackboard and WebCT are at http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/Blackboard.htm

Bob Jensen's threads on the history of course management systems are at http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/290wp/290wp.htm

June 3, 2009 reply from Roger Debreceny [roger@DEBRECENY.COM]

The University of Hawai moved recently to Sakai (http://sakaiproject.org/portal) an open source competitor to WebCT and BlackBoard. Having been extensive users of both of those products over the last decade, I found the transition to Sakai (or Laulima, as it is known at UH) extremely easy. Sakai has all the tools of the commercial products and much more.

Moving to Sakai saved UH many, many thousands of dollars.

None of these products, however, will actually force  students to pay attention to class announcements, readings, assignments etc.!



In comparison with Kindle and Apple e-Book readers, Google will sell books over the Internet that can be read on any Internet browser.

"Preparing to Sell E-Books, Google Takes on Amazon," by Motoko Rich, The New York Times, May 31, 2009 ---

Google appears to be throwing down the gauntlet in the e-book market.

In discussions with publishers at the annual BookExpo convention in New York over the weekend, Google signaled its intent to introduce a program by that would enable publishers to sell digital versions of their newest books direct to consumers through Google. The move would pit Google against Amazon.com, which is seeking to control the e-book market with the versions it sells for its Kindle reading device.

. . .

Google’s e-book retail program would be separate from the company’s settlement with authors and publishers over its book-scanning project, under which Google has scanned more than seven million volumes from several university libraries. A majority of those books are out of print.

. . .


Mr. Turvey said Google’s program would allow consumers to read books on any device with Internet access, including mobile phones, rather than being limited to dedicated reading devices like the Amazon Kindle. “We don’t believe that having a silo or a proprietary system is the way that e-books will go,” he said.

He said that Google would allow publishers to set retail prices. Amazon lets publishers set wholesale prices and then sets its own prices for consumers. In selling e-books at $9.99, Amazon takes a loss on each sale because publishers generally charge booksellers about half the list price of a hardcover — typically around $13 or $14.

Jensen Comment
I've always claimed that the best device for e-Book reading is a computer. This allows laptop users to have access to new books without having to lug about another device. It also gives more wide ranging screen sizes, including the largest computer screens available. Eventually, these books will probably be available on HDTV.

The big question now is the extent to which Google begins to sell textbooks and textbook supplements.

Bob Jensen's threads on the history of electronic books are at http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/ebooks.htm

"Organize Your Online Shopping," by Katherine Boehret, The Wall Street Journal, May 13, 2009 ---

Last winter, I spent a good hour shopping online for the perfect black leather boots. I used tabbed browsing to open at least 25 Web pages, comparing each pair's cost, heel height, zipper, leather and toe style. I emailed a friend with links to a few sites so I could get her opinion. And when I finally decided on the right pair, I dug through my email inbox to find a coupon code for 20% off.

This week I tested a solution that might have made my quest for boots a little simpler. Snipi, which became available as a free download from Snipi.com on Monday, helps you organize your online-shopping results by gathering, or "snipping," product information from Web pages and saving the information to lists.

These lists are stored on your personalized Snipi page, where you can access them later. Snipi also can save photos and videos to lists. And it has a coordinating iPhone app that shows up-to-date versions of the lists created on the computer, so you can have them with you on the go.

To do all this, you use the Snipi Toolbar, a horizontal window that pops up within your browser so you never have to navigate away from the site where you're shopping. If you see an item you like, simply drag and drop an image of it into the toolbar, where details about the item -- including its title, price and image -- are automatically filled in. If the item was previously snipped by another Snipi user, a description box will be filled with whatever that person wrote or pasted in from the product page; you can fill in the box yourself, too.

Snipi has a partnership with Shopzilla Inc., so the Snipi Toolbar also has comparison shopping built in: It displays links to Web sites where your snipped product, or products like it, can be found at lower prices.

One of the big drawbacks to Snipi is that it currently works only as a browser plug-in with Mozilla's Firefox, not Microsoft's Internet Explorer or Apple's Safari. Snipi says it plans to introduce versions of its toolbar -- though less functional ones -- for IE and Safari by early to mid-June. Even so, downloading and installing a browser plug-in isn't yet a routine thing for most people. And often, people who use plug-ins forget to keep them up-to-date.

Another downside to Snipi is that its comparison-pricing feature failed with apparel. The feature only really worked when used with "hard goods" like electronics, which are sold at retailers that participate in price-comparison networks. Yet Snipi still makes pricing suggestions for clothing and shoes, however irrelevant. For example, when I snipped a $150 Banana Republic dress, a link to $16 eye shadow sold at Sephora.com appeared in the Price Compare column. To reduce confusion, Snipi shouldn't make such suggestions for apparel.

A handy feature built into the Snipi Toolbar lets you immediately share items via email or post them on Facebook, Twitter or Wordpress blogs. This would have been useful while I was shopping online for boots because I could have more quickly shared my finds with friends, rather than copying and pasting URLs into emails.

While browsing on BestBuy.com, I found a Sony Cybershot DSC-W220 with 12 megapixels and a 4x zoom lens for $199. Selecting a small icon in the Firefox browser's bottom right corner, I opened the Snipi Toolbar and created a "Digicams" list, including the Sony. Snipi suggested alternative prices for this camera, including $159 for the same thing on Amazon.com.

I got an early start on bathing-suit shopping by browsing Web sites for J. Crew, Victoria's Secret and Macy's. As expected, the price-comparison suggestions didn't make sense. For one $58 Victoria's Secret bathing suit, Snipi suggested a list of alternatives, including a $170 Kohler shower door, $203 Giorgio Armani glasses and an $82 corded telephone. I assure you that the bathing suit looked nothing like any of those items.

Confusing alternatives aside, I liked using the Snipi Toolbar as a place to gather my online research. It displayed images of items neatly lined up in a row, and when I selected an item, the description appeared. Someone like my sister, who is planning a wedding, might enjoy using the Snipi Toolbar for saving photos of various locations in a list she could call "Wedding Venues." She could then share the entire list with me in one step. Or she could go visit some of the places and bring an iPhone with the Snipi app to see her list.

I tried the iPhone app, and it was a cinch to tap My Lists to see the online research I'd gathered. Here, as on the browser toolbar, visuals make it easy to glance through many products.

The toolbar can save various lists that you name and categorize into Shop, Photos or Videos, and these can be kept private, shared with friends or made public. Public lists are seen by all other users on Snipi.com, which is also a social-networking site. I wouldn't use it as such, because I already rely on other social-networking outlets, but some people might.

Snipi, which uses a guessing algorithm to fill in details like a product's price, says its toolbar will improve as more people use it. If you do a lot of research or online shopping or you simply want an online tool for saving images and videos from the Web, Snipi will work well for you. Its price-comparison suggestions need some improvement, but I felt more organized after using the Snipi Toolbar for a week's worth of browsing.

Jensen Comment
Sitting here in the mountains, I'm addicted to Amazon shopping. I especially love the way one company handles the billing on my credit card for thousands upon thousands of new and used item vendors. I don't have to let my credit card number be stored in thousands of places. Also Amazon guarantees order satisfaction and monitors vendor performance.


Number of Doctoral Students Graduating This Year:  History Versus Accounting Disciplines
Since the accounting job market is faring relatively well in the current job market, we expect an explosion in the number of students seeking to major in accounting.

"Historians and the Recession," Sterling Fluharty, Inside Higher Ed, May 29, 2009 ---

Job ads in history during this past school year were down 30 to 35 percent over the previous year.  There were 343 U.S. history job ads on H-Net between Aug 15, 2007 to May 15, 2008 and 241 during the 2008-2009 school year.  Similarly, the number of H-Net job ads in European history fell from 226 in 2007-2008 to 150 in 2008-2009.  The current recession has apparently returned our profession to hiring levels of the 1990s.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that many, if not most, history departments are cutting their budgets.  Higher education in California is in particularly dire straits. The booming academic job market in Canada has gone bust. Some of the nation’s top grad schools are reducing admissions to their graduate programsThe AHA’s annual survey of history departments should soon tell us whether universities are following Ralph Luker’s advice about shutting down doctoral programs.

My latest tabulations from the AHA’s dissertation directory indicates that we may have hit a new record.  There are now 4,094 history dissertations in progress.  This represents a 23 percent increase in the last 30 months.  As of two years ago, about only 800 individuals were graduating annually from history doctoral programs.  If history repeats itself, a large proportion of ABD students will try to avoid graduating during the recession and the job market will pick back up about two years after the recession ends.  So if you are planning on graduating next year, don’t expect to easily find work Let’s just hope we don’t have a repeat of the early 1970s.

I don’t want to end this post on a discouraging note.  I think those of us who are willing to retool, rethink our goals, and pick up new skill sets will have an advantage in this new landscape.  Federal appropriations, for history and across the board, are on the rise.  This will boost the number of jobs in public historyThe recommitment to science and research in this country will likely accelerate the transition to digital methods in history and the humanities I have decided to explore some of these non-traditional avenues for historical practice.  I hope some of you will join me.  We just might be able to change our profession in the process.


Jensen Comment
The current estimate is that slightly over 100 accountancy doctoral students in the U.S. per year which compares with about 800 in the discipline of history. Even in the best of job market years, I suspect a higher proportion (relative to accountancy) of history doctoral graduates do not seek tenure track college careers. A significant proportion aspire to be book authors and seek careers other forms of scholarly authorship.

How many doctoral students are at the dissertation stage in accounting?
I don't know a source for the answer to this question.  Jim Hasselback estimates that 30-35% of accounting doctoral students do not complete the programs --- http://www.jrhasselback.com/AtgDoct/FAQs.pdf

Chart of the History of Doctoral Graduates in Accountancy --- http://www.jrhasselback.com/AtgDoct/XDocChrt.pdf

Other accounting doctoral program data from Jim Hasselback --- http://www.jrhasselback.com/AtgDoctInfo.html

"Texas Limits '10%' Admissions," by Scott Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed,  June 1, 2009 --- http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2009/06/01/texas

The "10 percent" plan in Texas has been one of the most successful experiments ever tried to get more minority students into top public universities with race-neutral criteria. It spawned similar (if less ambitious) programs in California and Florida and prompted numerous debates about equity in higher education admissions. At the behest of the University of Texas at Austin and suburban politicians, and following several years of debate, the Texas Legislature on Saturday agreed to a plan that will limit the use of the system so that Austin is required to fill only 75 percent of its freshman slots for Texans under the program.

Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, has pushed for changes in the admissions system and is expected to sign the legislation.

"10 percent" refers to a law adopted in Texas in 1997 that requires all public colleges and universities to admit any Texas applicant who graduated from the top 10 percent of his or her high school class. The law was adopted in the wake of a federal appeals court ruling -- since superseded by a Supreme Court ruling in another case -- that barred public colleges from considering race and ethnicity in admissions decisions.

Texas has many high schools that are overwhelmingly Latino or black -- so the thinking of those who crafted the law was that 10 percent admissions would ensure that diversity would be maintained at competitive universities like UT-Austin, which would admit the top graduates of such high schools. As time has gone on, the system has worked as predicted, increasing minority enrollments at UT-Austin and also resulting in the admission of rural white students who attended high schools that previously didn't send many students to the flagship.

While the University of Texas at Austin now has the legal right to practice affirmative action in admissions (and does so), many advocates for minority students have viewed percent plans as a key tool for promoting diversity because these plans are race neutral and because they result in admissions decisions being based on class rank, not on the SAT or ACT, standardized tests on which black and Latino students score, on average, at lower levels than do white and Asian students.

The problem with percent admissions, according UT-Austin, is that it's too popular. "We were going to lose control over our class," William Powers Jr., president of the university, said in an interview Sunday. He called the Legislature's action "a very positive development."

In the admissions process for the class that will enter in the fall, 86 percent of Texans admitted were admitted on the basis of being in the top 10 percent of their high school classes. Even at a university where out-of-state admissions are minimal (only 7 percent this year), Powers said that's not enough flexibility for the university.

Even though the university attracts outstanding students through 10 percent admissions, Powers said, there are gaps. There are not enough students enrolling that way who want to major in key areas such as geosciences, computer engineering and education. Earlier this year, Powers also suggested (in an argument that received plenty of attention from non-academics in Texas) that 10 percent was making it difficult to recruit athletes in key sports, since many of the best athletes are not in the top 10 percent of their high school classes.

To those who question why there is any need to tinker with a system that has resulted in considerable diversity (45 percent this year are members of minority groups), Powers said that "there is a capacity problem." Texas has nearly 50,000 students in all. Without a change in the admissions law, "we'd have to become a 55,000 student university, or 60,000 or 65,000 and there are no resources to do that." (The original law applied statewide, but UT-Austin, the focus of the changes in the law, is the only university where admissions under 10 percent have become a major issue.)

While Powers stressed the educational and capacity issues, much of the controversy about changing 10 percent arose from the strong push for change from suburban legislators whose (generally white) constituents were frustrated by the law. Since the law was enacted, there have been steadily growing complaints from suburbs with well financed and academically rigorous high schools that their students below the top 10 percent but in the top 20 percent (or some other figure) were more qualified than some of those being admitted from other high schools, without the same academic resources. Parents and counselors talked about talented students in the top 11 percent who might have been accepted previously, but were now losing out.

Those arguments set up an interesting political dynamic in Austin, where the Legislature at the last minute two years ago failed to change the 10 percent law, but this year did so only after considerable negotiations between the Senate (which would have scaled back the law further) and the House, which resisted. The current version of 10 percent has strong support not only from minority lawmakers, but also from white rural legislators.

Michael Olivas is among those concerned about changes in 10 percent, although he noted that "it could have been worse," given the desire of some legislators to repeal the law entirely or let it apply only to a small percentage of UT students. Olivas is director of the Institute for Higher Education Law and Governance at the University of Houston, and he advised the late Irma Rangel, the state legislator who led the efforts to enact the law in the first place.

Olivas said he was troubled by the "racially coded" comments made by those talking about outstanding suburban students losing slots at the state's flagship. He noted that the well prepared white students who were not in the top 10 percent of their classes had many other options, and that not getting into UT was not as much of a disaster as some implied. "It wasn't as if they were thrown off into the streets," he said. "Some of the arguments that have been used against 10 percent have been ridiculous and demeaning."

The challenge for the University of Texas now, he said, will be to demonstrate that the change it wanted in the admissions law was not an attempt to step back on diversity. Olivas said he and others will be looking to see what happens in the years ahead.

The overlooked reality, Olivas said, was the success of 10 percent in not only getting students in, but in identifying a more diverse group of students who also succeeded at Austin. He said that many high schools in Texas, prior to 10 percent, just assumed that their students wouldn't get in to UT-Austin and didn't bother to try. The law, he said, encouraged them to apply, and when they not only were admitted, but graduated, these local communities started to see the flagship as a real possibility.

"The ironic thing here is that 10 percent has been so successful," Olivas said. "Every internal study that UT Austin has done or that the UT system has conducted and every external study have shown that the 10 percent students, relative to others, have done better by any measure -- lower attrition rates, graduate in shorter time periods -- and the law has widened the base of high schools from which students come." The university and legislators have spent years pushing to change a law that "by any measure of public policy is a success."

Bob Jensen's threads on the Texas 10% Rule ---

Bob Jensen's threads on affirmative action in college admissions and academic standards ---

Social Networking for Education:  The Beautiful and the Ugly
(including Google's Wave and Orcut for Social Networking and some education uses of Twitter)
Updates will be at http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/ListservRoles.htm

Before reading this you might want to read about social networking and social networkign alternatives--- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_network_service

What is social networking? --- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_Networking

Popular methods now combine many of these, with MySpace and Facebook being the most widely used in North America; Nexopia (mostly in Canada); Bebo, Facebook, Hi5, MySpace, Tagged, Xing; and Skyrock in parts of Europe;[Orkut and Hi5 in South America and Central America;[ and Friendster, Orkut, Xiaonei and Cyworld in Asia and the Pacific Islands.

Google's May 28-29, 2009 I/O Conference --- http://code.google.com/events/io/

Google Wave --- http://code.google.com/apis/wave/
Google Wave is a product that helps users communicate and collaborate on the web. A "wave" is equal parts conversation and document, where users can almost instantly communicate and work together with richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more. Google Wave is also a platform with a rich set of open APIs that allow developers to embed waves in other web services and to build extensions that work inside waves.
Developer Preview --- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v_UyVmITiYQ

Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter – Google Wave

 West Walkabout – Brought Back Google Wave

Some Preceding Social Networking References

Social Networking Updates --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/ListservRoles.htm

Top Ten Tweets to Date in Academe
Keep in mind that none of these hold a candle to such globally popular twitterers such as Britney Spears
"10 High Fliers on Twitter:  On the microblogging service, professors and administrators find work tips and new ways to monitor the world ," by Jeff Young, Chronicle of Higher Education, April 10, 2009 --- http://chronicle.com/weekly/v55/i31/31a01001.htm?utm_source=wb&utm_medium=en

1. Sarah Evans, director of public relations at Elgin Community College. Tweet: "Looking for a job in PR? Follow @PRSAjobcenter and turn on your mobile alerts. Good stuff."

Followers: 18,762. Posts: 10,509.

Many college public-relations offices have set up Twitter accounts, and communication leaders have been enthusiastic tweeters. Ms. Evans set up a feed for Elgin Community College where she posts news about the institution, but she also runs a popular personal feed where she shares her thoughts about the use of social media in public relations. She told me that she regularly pitches stories to journalists via Twitter, and she believes that watching the feeds of journalists helps her build personal relationships with them.

Microblogging can be a way to connect with students as well. "At the beginning of the school year, we had a student who tweeted to our Elgin account worried about her uniform coming in for her culinary class, and I was able to help get it to her," she said. Ms. Evans speaks frequently at public-relations conferences about the use of Facebook and Twitter in her job, and she is a guest blogger for the popular technology blog Mashable, which focuses on social media.

2. Jay Rosen, associate professor of journalism at New York University. Tweet: "'I had thought of Twitter as a broadcast tool, but it's become far more valuable to me as a listening device.' http://is.gd/pGV2 Exactly."

Followers: 13,054. Posts: 6,265.

Mr. Rosen posts about 25 times a day, mostly musing on the future of journalism and on how Twitter and other technologies are changing the profession. "It's journalism education for anyone who wants to sign up," he told me in a telephone interview. But the real value of Twitter, he says, is what he learns by watching the other messages coming in — from college students, venture capitalists, journalists, and others he follows. "The fact that they're watching the news for me, scouting the Web for me, and editing the Web in real time — that's the value of it," he said. He started using the service more than a year ago after he was encouraged to do so by his friend, the journalism blogger Jeff Jarvis. Mr. Rosen says it complements his own blog, PressThink, letting him reach new audiences and interact with more people.

3. Howard Rheingold, a lecturer at the University of California at Berkeley teaching virtual communities and social media. Tweet: "http://www.stickam.com/ multiple live video chat windows looks interesting, may try with my classes"

Followers: 8,644. Posts: 6,189.

Mr. Rheingold has been a pioneer in online communities since the 1980s (before most people knew there was such a thing), and he remains on the forefront of social media and networks. He spent most of his career as a writer (his latest book is called Smart Mobs), but he started teaching at colleges a couple of years ago. He was an early user of Twitter, and he says he often turns to it for teaching advice. "As a relatively new teacher, Twitter is really my main connection to other educators who are using Web technologies in their teaching," he told me. "I use it to find suggestions of things to do, and to bounce things off people." He also uses it to have a public conversation about trends in social media. He argues that Twitter isn't for everyone — and that users have to post regularly so that people will be reading you when you want to turn back to seek advice. "I'm not selling it — you have to see whether it works for you," he said. "If you want to share information in small bites with a group of people who share your interest, that's what it's for."

4. Amanda French, an assistant research scholar and digital-curriculum specialist at NYU. Tweet: "I'm planning to Twitter my dissertation, did I tell you? 453,546 characters including spaces & notes=only 3240 tweets."

Followers: 1,336. Posts: 3,937.

Ms. French starts each day by reading her Twitter account at the breakfast table from her cellphone, in search of what's new with the 200 people she follows. "It has really replaced the newspaper for me, I have to say," she said. She says she developed a large following on the service somewhat by accident. She called in a question to a popular technology podcast in 2007 and mentioned her Twitter name, and suddenly hundreds of people started tracking her. "It's a bit like academia — someone who's prestigious or well read cites you in their book, and that's going to increase the attention to what you've done." She mixes clever comments about her daily life with observations about technology and digital archives, and several people I talked to recommended her feed as one that is useful but also fun.

5. David Parry, an assistant professor of emerging media and communications at the University of Texas at Dallas. Tweet: "Someone just told me to look in the Sunday newspaper ... uh what's that? can I get that on my iPhone?"

Followers: 1,701. Posts: 3,891.

Mr. Parry was one of the first to try Twitter as a teaching tool — we wrote about his experiments last year (The Chronicle, February 29, 2008). He has gained many followers of his Twitter feed, where he shares his experiences using technology for teaching and research.

He led a panel about microblogging at the annual conference of the Modern Language Association in December, which he organized via Twitter. "Rather than giving the standard 15or 20-minute papers, we actually limited each speaker's paper to like five to seven minutes and had respondents in the audience ask questions, but we didn't let them ask long-winded questions that sometimes happen at conferences," he said. "The idea of Twitter is there are very strict limits, so you naturally have to converse instead of monologue."

6. Dan Cohen, director of the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. Tweet: "It's good to finally see some interest in digital humanities at Yale: http://is.gd/pooB"

Followers: 849. Posts 1,484.

When I called Mr. Cohen in his office the other day, he was reading through the printed conference proceedings from an event held by the Smithsonian Institution about the impact of the Web on museums. He said he felt like he got a better record of what went on at the event by reading Twitter messages posted by people who attended. "You get conversation among the attendees and questions from people outside the conference," he said. Twitter is becoming more popular at academic conferences, where if you are sitting in a boring session, you can look at Twitter and see if anyone is raving about another session that they are in. "You can get up and leave the boring panel where someone is just reading off their paper, and go to that interesting one," he said. "A killer application of Twitter is conferences and conference reporting."

7. Paul Levinson, a professor of communication and media studies at Fordham University. Tweet: "My avatar's interview in Second Life--about the evolution of social media--full video http://blip.tv/file/475397"

Followers: 822. Posts: 1,477.

Mr. Levinson not only studies social media, he lives the digital lifestyle he studies. "I have four podcasts and three blogs and who knows what else going," he told me, adding that he has about 2,000 friends on Facebook. Oh yeah, and he's writing a book about Twitter and other social media. "I am fascinated by the evolution of media and how media in my view has been evolving for a long time into greater human expression," he said. "What Twitter does is it humanizes our existence by keeping us in touch with people who we're interested in."

8. Scott McLeod, an associate professor at Iowa State University and director of the university's Center for the Advanced Study of Technology Leadership in Education. Tweet: "College students are online more AND reading more? http://snipurl.com/eko4k"

Followers: 1,307. Posts: 1,190.

Mr. McLeod argues that professors have been too slow to adopt Twitter. Academic discussions online often take place on closed e-mail lists, he says, when they should be happening in public forums like Twitter, so that a diverse group of outsiders can join in. "I think academics are actually missing a lot by not being involved in more of these social tools," he told me. "There are a lot of academics who think, 'If it's not coming from some other academic it's not worth a damn,' and that's not right."

He admits that some of the messages on Twitter are banal, such as people describing what they had for lunch that day, but he said such notes are part of what makes Twitter such a powerful way to feel connected to far-flung colleagues. "It's like those daily interactions you have with your neighbor — sometimes they're highbrow and sometimes they're lowbrow, but after a while you really get to know the person."

9. Michael L. Wesch, an assistant professor of cultural anthropology at Kansas State University. Tweet: "CBS Sunday Morning setting up shop in my office for an interview about YouTube"

Followers: 2,958. Posts: 257.

Several people told me I should follow Michael Wesch, who has become something of a rock star in the world of academic technology. He's best known for his creative YouTube videos. One of them, "The Machine Is Us/ing Us," has been viewed on YouTube nearly a million times, stylishly showing the promise of social networking. Mr. Wesch won a Wired magazine Rave Award in 2007, and he was recently named a professor of the year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. On Twitter, he often highlights his favorite multimedia and points to other interesting posts he has seen on the service. "I don't use it for broadcasting my daily life, but for sharing interesting links, knowledge, and ideas," he wrote me via e-mail. "This is great for studying or following events as they unfold, but it is also useful for more traditional research if you can form or tap into a good network."

10. Gordon Gee, president of Ohio State University. Tweet: "Preparing for commencement tomorrow. Our graduates are full of promise and ingenuity, and we are launching them into the world just in time."

Followers: 528. Posts: 25.

The only college president we could find on Twitter was Mr. Gee, one of the nation's best-known (and best-paid) college administrators. He has only been posting for a couple of weeks, but he said he is enjoying it so far. I caught up with him by cellphone this month — he was posting a message to Twitter while on a layover at the airport. He said he joined Twitter hoping that it would help him demystify the job of college president by sharing details from his daily life. "It shows that you're not just living in a big house and begging" for money, he quipped. "You do get out and work."

He has posted about alumni events he has attended, about being eager to hear students' spring-break stories, about the university's recent commencement, and of course, cheers and best wishes for the university's basketball teams as they played in the NCAA tournament. He said he's not worried that posting about his comings and goings and thoughts will invade his privacy. "When you're president of a large university, you have no privacy anyway, so why not?" He has signed up to follow the Twitter feeds of Lance Armstrong, whom he knows personally, and some of his favorite writers, including Malcolm Gladwell and Thomas L. Friedman.

"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 --- http://www.technologyreview.com/web/22272/?nlid=1848&a=f 

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: http://twitter.com/acg2021  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:
http://twitter.com/shornik 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

Bob Jensen's search helpers are at http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/searchh.htm

Bob Jensen's threads on ListServs, Blogs, and Social Networking ---

Bob Jensen's threads on tools and tricks of the trade in education ---

Bob Jensen's threads on education technology (the good and the bad)

"Search Google and Wikipedia at the Same Time With Googlepedia:  Browser Add-on Instantly view Wikipedia articles for your Google searches," by Danny Allen, PC World via The Washington Post, May 29, 2009 --- Click Here  http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/05/27/AR2009052703653.html?wpisrc=newsletter

If you're a serious search hound who often clicks through to Wikipedia pages that Google digs up, then you'll love Googlepedia. This free Firefox add-on splits your Google page in half: On the left are your regular Web results, and on the right (where AdWords would normally appear), you're presented with a Wikipedia article based on Google's top result.

Of course, typing "Wikipedia"--followed by a subject--directly into Firefox's Location Bar is just as easy, but you don't get to scroll through Google links at the same time. And usefully, Googlepedia also lets you expand, shrink or hide the area that an article is viewed in.

By default, the add-on presents internal Wikipedia links as clickable Google searches, though you can toggle this in its preferences. You can also change the default Wikipedia language.

Articles from the open source encyclopedia appear surprisingly soon after Google's own always-speedy results. A good thing, as Firefox seems to take a slight performance hit for the second or so an article takes to load.

The author has recently released an early port of the add-on for Google's Chrome browser, and mentions that Safari and Konqueror versions are planned.

The Mystery of Research Having Higher Priority Than Teaching in Performance Evaluations
But research expectations have grown at many institutions where the missions -- at least until recently -- have been primarily focused on teaching. And as Dahlia K. Remler and Elda Pema note in a provocative new paper, the emphasis extends beyond research that pays for itself . . . Remler, associate professor of public affairs at Baruch College of the City University of New York, and Pema, an assistant professor of economics at the Naval Postgraduate School, decided to review the literature and economic theories that might explain the reasons more colleges and departments are encouraging their faculty members to focus on research, at the expense of teaching time. And they found an abundance of theories, some of which may overlap and some of which may conflict with one another. The authors suggest that higher education would benefit from figuring out just why this phenomenon has taken place, given its expense in money and faculty time.
Scott Jaschik, "The Mystery of Faculty Priorities ," Inside Higher Ed, May 28, 2009 --- http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2009/05/28/nber

The NBER Report is at http://papers.nber.org/papers/w14974

Bob Jensen's threads on higher education controversies are at

Apple is Slow When Patching Security Flaws
Six months may seem like a long time to address a particularly dangerous vulnerability, but it's about par for the course with Apple and its record on patching Java flaws. I have reviewed the last three Java updates that Apple shipped during the past 18 months, and found that Apple patched Java flaws on average about 166 days after Sun had shipped its own patch to fix the same vulnerabilities.
Brian Krebs, "Apple Slow To Fix Java Flaws," The Washington Post, May 22, 2009 --- Click Here

Watch the Video
"Sometimes we can't see the forest for the trees," by Jim Mahar, FinanceProfessor Blog, May 27, 2009 --- http://financeprofessorblog.blogspot.com/2009/05/sometimes-we-cant-see-forest-for-trees.html

Part Behavioral finance, part cycling, and part a study in how the brain works, the following "Test" is eye opening at least.

We all get so caught up in seeing what we want to see that we sometimes miss the obvious. This effects us in many ways: In finance, if bullish (optimistic), we are more apt to see the good news, if bearish (pessimistic) you see only bad news.

That is one reason why big break throughs happen from those outside the field. It is one reason why sabbaticals and vacations are important. But it can also have important implications in many other ways.

Go ahead, take the test. It takes about a minute --- Click Here

Where does a line (queue) begin?
Patients forced to wait hours in ambulances parked outside A&E departments Ambulance chiefs have warned that lives are being put at risk "on a daily basis" by long delays allowing patients into Accident and Emergency units. An investigation by The Sunday Telegraph has found that thousands of 999 patients are being left to wait in ambulances in car parks and holding bays, or in hospital corridors – in some cases for more than five hours – before they can even join the queue for urgent treatment. Experts warn that hospitals are deliberately delaying when they accept patients – or are diverting them to different sites – in order to meet Government targets to treat people within fours hours of admitting them. The extent of the problems have been revealed in correspondence between senior health officials, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, which also show their serious concerns about the dangers the delays pose to patients. 
Laura Donnelly, The London Telegraph, May 30, 2009 --- Click Here 

George Shultz reflects on a meaningful life
After a career that included service to three universities, two presidential Cabinets and one of the largest companies in the country, it seems natural that George Shultz would take the time to reflect on the influences and decisions that guided him during his 88 years.
Adam Gorlick, "George Shultz reflects on a meaningful life, whether he wants to or not," Stanford Report, May 13, 2009 --- http://news.stanford.edu/news/2009/may13/rath-051309.html

Classroom Projectors After 20 Years of Application

I was an early adopter of computer-connected overhead projection long before my university even considered using such devices in the classroom. On my own I purchased one of the first overlay projectors that laid above an overhead projector. The room had to be black as a cave and the images on my first projector were only black, white, and shades of gray. Soon afterwards I purchased a color overlay projector that still required the room be in midnight black. Students could not even see to take notes.

Then came the three-gun CRT projectors as big as a large suit case that had to be tweaked to each computer for about an hour by a skilled technician. I did not have one of these for my classes but I did encounter them on my dog and pony shows to college campuses --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/Resume.htm#Presentations
These projection systems needed dim rooms but not blackened rooms. These projectors cost over $10,000.

Next came one-gun digital color projectors that were only slightly smaller than the PC computer (not a laptop) that I hauled across Europe and Canada making college campus presentations while on sabbatical leave in 1988.

God bless my touring lecture host Anthony Steele who provided European Accounting Association funds for taxi transport between campuses out of sympathy for how hard it would be to lug a full PC, large projector, luggage, and my wife between campuses in Europe. The advantages of the one-gun digital projectors included not having to have an expert tweak the projector before each presentation. They were considerably smaller and less expensive than three-gun projectors, but they still had a price tag of over $5,000 in those days.

Then came years of not much shrinkage in size but considerable shrinkage in price down to around $2,000 while reliability and brightness improved to where room lighting could be normal as long as bright lights were not aimed directly at the screen. Computer laptops improved greatly and road show people like me lugged a laptop and a projector that were both about the same size.

Two major emerging technologies for screen projection evolved over the years --- LCD versus LED. LCD is slightly better quality with a slightly higher price. There are other technical differences --- http://computer.howstuffworks.com/monitor.htm

In the past decade the size and price of digital projectors has declined considerably. For a number of years projectors about the size of a regular book have become quite good. And lately, "micro-projectors" that can fit into coat and shirt pockets are on the market.

"Micro-Projectors Set to Make It Big:  These pocket-sized projectors get a big picture out of a small device--and future technology will shrink them further," by Duncan Graham-Rowe, MIT's Technology Review, May 28, 2009 --- http://www.technologyreview.com/computing/22711/?nlid=2059 

Aimed at solving the problem of how to get a big picture out of a small device, micro-projectors cast a large image (typically about 125 centimeters wide) onto a nearby wall or surface to show photos, documents, maps, or video. Several micro-projectors are now available (see reviews of three on the next page), and forthcoming technology will allow the devices to be squeezed into the latest cell phones.

The first projector-equipped cell phone may be shown off by Samsung later this year at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. But like existing micro-projectors, it is expected to employ a traditional optics-based approach. This involves using a white light source, image reflectors known as liquid crystal on silicon (LCoS), and a lens system that focuses the image.

While this approach works well enough, it carries with it the limitations of traditional projectors: it requires darkened lighting conditions, and the image needs focusing.

Later this year, Microvision, based in Redmond, WA, plans to launch a laser-based micro-projector. Using solid-state lasers and MEMS-based mirrors allows the technology to be miniaturized further. Laser projectors also promise to deliver more-vibrant and -colorful images. Microvision's micro-projector can also refocus automatically.

A slightly different approach, developed by Light Blue Optics, based in Cambridge, U.K., uses a technique called holographic projection. This should produce even brighter images because instead of using a process of selective reflection or filtering to generate an image, it employs holographic principles to steer light, so more light actually reaches the surface.

Light Blue Optics says that it will be possible to place the device flat and cast an image on the surface in front. The company is also developing technology to let the device sense when a user touches different parts of the projected image, turning the surface into a touch screen.

Bob Jensen's threads on education technology are at http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/000aaa/0000start.htm

Classroom Clickers After 20 Years of Application
Barry Rice’s students clicked away in 1989
Bill Ellis has his students clicking away in 2009

May 26, 2009 message from Bill Ellis [bill.ellis@furman.edu]

I thought I’d pass along this email on clickers and recommend a new book by Derck Bruff.

I’ve been using Clickers for almost two years now in Principles, Advanced and Governmental accounting courses at GTC and Furman. The comments by Derck Bruff, a Furman graduate, below are right on target.

Accountability and engagement are the primary two features clickers have brought into my classrooms. There is no place for shy students to hide. A response is demanded and every student’s score is recorded. Every student is engaged not only by having to answer questions throughout the lecture, but in discussions using “think-pair-share” techniques that reinforce learning in a very active way.

I don’t use clickers for grades but do let students know their “scores” and class averages. I’ve seen a high positive correlation between responses on the question “how many hours did you study this week?” to a student’s clicker score for the lecture. If students miss a question that gives me an early warning that I should go over that learning objective again.

I’m convinced that clickers when used creatively help confidence, teaching and learning to improve.

Bill Ellis, CPA, MPAcc
Furman University
Accounting UES

May 26, 2009 message from Rick Reis <reis@stanford.edu>

Date: Tue, 26 May 2009 08:30:20 -0700
From: Rick Reis <reis@stanford.edu>
Subject: TP Msg. #950 Clickers
To: tomorrows-professor@lists.stanford.edu 

"Instead of creating chaos, faculty find that when everyone gets a remote control (and you ask good questions), everyone ends up on the same channel."


The posting below looks at the impact of an important new technology on faculty lecturing and student learning. It is by James Rhem, executive director of the National Teaching & Learning Forum and is #45 in a series of selected excerpts from the NT&LF newsletter reproduced here as part of our "Shared Mission Partnership." NT&LF has a wealth of information on all aspects of teaching and learning. If you are not already a subscriber, you can check it out at [http://www.ntlf.com/] The on-line edition of the Forum--like the printed version - offers subscribers insight from colleagues eager to share new ways of helping students reach the highest levels of learning. National Teaching and Learning Forum Newsletter, Volume 18, Number 3, March 2009.? Copyright 1996-2009. Published by James Rhem & Associates, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide. Reprinted with permission.


Rick Reis reis@stanford.edu 

Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning


Clickers have been quietly marching over the horizon of attention for several years. Only early adopters, however, and schools with enough money and vision to try them have come to understand that, far from being simply the latest new gadget, they offer students a pedagogically powerful blend of intimacy and anonymity that can move them from passive to active learning with the click of a button (and a battery of well-crafted questions).

Rapid improvements in the technology and especially the publication of Derek Bruff's Teaching with Classroom Response Systems: Creative Active Learning Environments (Jossey-Bass, 2009) seem poised to place clickers in faculty consciousness across the board. The attention the book has already received offers some index of the growing interest in clickers. Bruff has already been profiled by the on- line newsletter Inside Higher Education and the Chronicle of Higher Education.

How They Work

For those who don't know, clickers are hand-held devices similar to the remote controls for televisions and other media devices. They can send a specific electronic signal to a central receiving station connected to a computer equipped with software that tabulates the responses and can then display the distribution of answers on a bar graph.

In operation-especially in quantitative fields with concrete correct and incorrect answers-a professor presents a multiple choice or true/false question. Students respond by pushing buttons for answers (a), (b), (c), and so on. Then, normally, the professor shows the bar graph of how the class answered. Quickly, students can see where they stand in terms of how well they understand the material, and (just as importantly) where their classmates stand, and where they stand in relation to these peers. And students get all of this very specific feedback on their learning without risking a moment of embarrassment. The anonymity of the system allows students to confront little important truths about their progress (or lack of it) without risking a thing.

Faculty schooled a few generations back when shame and guilt were felt to have at least some pedagogical value-that is to say, in a time when students felt ashamed to make a poor grade or come to class unprepared-the ascendance of this new teaching environment may seem strange. However, as the emphasis in education has shifted over the centuries from building character to simply learning, it all makes sense. (And, of course, whether shame and guilt actually built character remains an open question.)

Anonymity's Advantages

The anonymity is "pretty important," says Derek Bruff, who teaches mathematics and serves as assistant director of the Vanderbilt Center for Teaching. "Students are often hesitant to speak up in front of their peers," he says. "A key element in that is the desire not to be wrong or foolish in front of their peers, especially in a class where there are right/ wrong answers. In other classes, they don't want to stand out or be the one with the strange opinion."

Peer pressure, says Bruff, "dampens conversation." The anonymity that clickers provide is one way of dealing with that. "It's not the only way," Bruff concedes. "There are professors that are able to create a safe environment where that's not a problem."

If escaping peer pressure and taking refuge in anonymity prove such positive elements in teaching and learning, a question that comes immediately to mind is, where do cooperative learning and other small group activities fit in? The answer? On the next click, so to speak.

Offering an answer via the clicker establishes a "buy-in," says Bruff, a commitment not simply to an answer but to the learning process. With this threshold crossed, passivity has begun to be left behind. The anonymity allows cumbersome emotional baggage to be left behind as well, lending both a purity and a more animated sense of mission to the next step, the familiar "think-pair-share."

The "Think Moment"

"We use the think-pair-share method a lot here," says Bruff, "think, talk with one, talk in the larger group. There's more risk at each stage, but giving students a warm-up experience is important because many need that moment. If a hand in the first row goes up to answer a question, their thinking is stopped. The class is then moving on. Maybe they needed 30 more seconds. Giving the 'think moment' is helpful. Then, in the pair, they get to practice saying what they think, and they get to hear other thinking which then sharpens theirs."

The silent, private "think moment" operates like moving from warm water to hotter and hotter baths in a hot spring, for example, and finally into strong currents where one may have to swim against the tide intellectually.

Just as this technologically enhanced learning environment intensifies the focus on learning and recognizing where everyone stands in the process moment to moment, it also intensifies the burden on faculty to become "agile teachers." For example, when clickers first began to be used, showing the bar chart of student responses immediately was expected. As their use has grown and influenced faculty understanding of group behavior and learning patterns, whether to show or not to show the graph has become an important "thinking-on-your-feet" decision. Even if most students agree on a correct answer, how deeply do they understand the reasoning behind it? Sometimes, to make sure their learning goes more deeply, faculty withhold the results and ask students to turn to their neighbor and talk out the reasons for their answer, especially if their neighbor gave a different answer.

"When I have that happen," says Bruff, "I tell my groups, 'Even if you agree, talk it out because you could both be wrong.' I want them to test themselves a little bit."

It's the "thinking-on-your-feet" challenge that burdens faculty. "That's a roadblock for some faculty," says Bruff. "They want 'ballistic teaching,'" he says with a laugh. "Launch lecture, and once it's off, it's off on its way." Clickers offer lots of chances for mid-course corrections, but their use also demands something of a chess player's mentality of knowing not only how the pieces move, but which move to make next for maximum advantage. Sometimes, the best move does turn out to be "creating times for telling," says Bruff (using a phrase coined by Schwartz and Bransford), time for a little lecture students need and which skillful use of clicker questions can lead them to want. For example, anticipating a common misconception, faculty may ask a question experience has shown them most students will answer incorrectly.

"The instructor then reveals the correct answer," says Bruff, "often through a demonstration. The students are surprised most of them got the answer wrong and it makes them want to hear why the right answer is right and the answer they gave is wrong."

Making Good Questions

Successful use of clickers turns on the skillful use of good questions. "Writing good questions I would have to say is the hardest part" of teaching with clickers, says Bruff. But it's also the most exciting part because it causes faculty to become intensely intentional about their teaching moment to moment, not just lecture to lecture. "That's why I like to talk about clickers with faculty," says Bruff, "because it generates this kind of conversation: 'What are my learning goals for my students?'"

There are content questions asking for recall of information, conceptual questions seeking evidence of understanding, application questions, critical thinking questions, and free-response questions. When and how to ask the right kind of question in response to where the students actually sitting before the faculty member are becomes the proof of good teaching in that moment.

One of the most interesting aspects to emerge from the use of clickers has to do with the flexibility of the multiple choice question to stimulate thinking and learning. "Many people think of the multiple choice question as being only about factual recall," says Bruff, but the one-best-answer variation probes much deeper. "A really good teacher can write really good wrong answers to a question," says Bruff, ones that key into common student difficulties with material. "When I really like 40-60% of my students to get it wrong. And I'd like them to be split between a right choice and several wrong choices, because then that means I have tapped into some misconceptions that are fairly common and need to be addressed and the question is hard enough to be worth talking about."

Metacognition and Confidence

Some of the problems that have emerged in using clickers have also turned out to reveal opportunities for increasing student learning or rather student learning about their own learning. Bruff, a mathematician, began to ponder how much confidence he could have in student learning reported via true/ false questions or even some multiple choice questions. In a true/ false situation, for example, students might guess and have a 50% chance of lodging a correct answer. Multiple choice questions might be constructed to include an "I don't know" option, but then the matter of discouraging student engagement becomes an issue. Students might retreat to the safety of an "I don't know" answer rather than commit to a response they felt uncertain about. Pondering this problem has led a number of pioneers in clicker use, like Dennis Jacobs at Notre Dame, to marry self-assessments of confidence levels with decisions about right or wrong answers. So, for example, in Jacobs' system (where clicker responses are graded) a correct answer in which a student indicated high confidence would receive five points. An incorrect answer that a student had expressed high confidence in would receive no points. On the other hand, an incorrect answer in which a student indicated low confidence would receive two points.

"If a student gives a right answer," says Bruff, "but realizes they aren't confident in it, they have a little metacognitive moment thrust upon them: they have to ask themselves 'Why wasn't I more confident in my answer? What are the standards of evidence in this field that would allow me to be confident in my answer?'" By the same token, a student aware enough of his own learning to express low confidence in an incorrect answer receives partial credit for sensing that he didn't know, thus encouraging him as a learner rather than thumping him for getting something wrong. With this system, he gets both the positive and negative points to be made through the question.

Creative Options Everywhere

One of the strengths of Bruff's book on clicker use lies in the wide range of faculty examples he includes. That range evinces impressive imagination and commitment among faculty to improving student learning, itself a pleasure in reading the book. And, while the dominant use of clickers falls in scientific fields, the book includes rich examples of skillful use of clickers in humanities courses as well. Moreover, while clickers offer the most efficient means of collecting student responses, the overall emphasis falls on collecting those responses and on the dimensions of psychology, motivation, and cognition involved in their use. Hence, Bruff includes discussion of some low-tech means of collecting student responses as well.

With clickers, as with so many other new technologies, the greatest benefit seems to lie in the way they uncover new means of improving one of the most ancient of transactions-teaching and learning. Socrates would be proud.

Contact Derek Bruff at: Derek.bruff@vanderbilt.edu

May 27, 2009 reply from Bob Jensen

Hi Bill and Rick,

One of the enthusiastic early adopters of response pads (clickers) in the hands of students during lectures was our AECM founder Barry Rice. Barry used the early technology called HyperGraphics for screen presentations and student responses on screen --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/000aaa/thetools.htm#ResponsePads 

HyperGraphics was DOS-based before the Windows operating system came on the scene. HyperGraphics had a unique niche in the DOS world but never competed well in the Windows/Mac worlds when ToolBook and Authorware came on the scene --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/290wp/290wp.htm  This illustrates how technology can make and destroy software. ToolBook and Authorware, in turn, never competed well in academe after course technology became more Web-based. Now we have HTML, XML, Wikis, chat rooms, instant messaging, etc.

But response pads (clickers) are still popular with many faculty in various academic disciplines. In a lecture, clickers offer limited response capabilities that online students get with full network capabilities from their PC stations.

I’m certain Barry Rice will be pleased with your 2009 testimonial about successful clicker use that he used successfully as far back as 1989. Barry would probably still use clickers in lectures had he not switched to full-time administration many years ago.

I had the luxury of teaching in an electronic classroom over the past two decades. Each student sat in front of a PC capable of easily interacting on screen and via ear phones with the instructor and each other. With a flick of a button I could flash any student’s screen in front of the class just as a clicker response can be flashed in front of the entire class.

What I did not develop software for was response aggregation. One advantage of clicker software is the power to instantly aggregate joint responses of all students in the class such as the number of responses for each of the choices in a multiple choice question. I think the Trinity University electronic classrooms now have such aggregation software that can slice and dice multiple student responses.

While many faculty users of clickers minimize clicker cheating by not providing student performance grades based on clicker usage, there are some that give credit in some form, including quiz points based upon clicker responses. This can create problems. One study on clicker cheating can be found at http://www.lychock.com/portfolio/Documents/final report.pdf

Another problem in very large lectures might arise when clickers are used for taking attendance. These are not very reliable for taking role unless accompanied by some verification controls.

Bob Jensen

Bob Jensen's threads on Tools and Tricks of the Trade ---

Bob Jensen's threads on the history of classroom and networking course management systems --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/290wp/290wp.htm

"Chasing Tax Revenue Across State Lines:  Cash-starved states like Massachusetts are going after businesses that profit from their residents but are headquartered outside their borders," by Jessica Silver-Greenberg, Business Week, May 21, 2009 --- http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/09_22/b4133028564343.htm?link_position=link9

Companies have long flocked to low-tax locales like Delaware and South Dakota. But those tax advantages may soon be in jeopardy. States, which collectively could face a $50 billion budget shortfall over the next two years, are scrambling for cash and may start hitting up companies for more money—even companies outside their borders. "The states are turning over every rock for money," says Richard D. Pomp, a professor at the University of Connecticut School of Law. "If they haven't been looking at the issue, they will."

Massachusetts officials just got the green light from the state's highest court to collect taxes from a multitude of companies headquartered elsewhere. Last year the state moved to collect more than $2 million in taxes from credit-card giant Capital One Financial (COF). The state claimed that Cap One made a sizable chunk of money from cardholders who reside there, and so the company had to fork over taxes on the income.

Cap One balked, taking the matter to the state's Appellate Tax Board. The company's argument: It didn't have a branch or an office in the state, the traditional standard for collecting corporate income tax. Cap One lost the case and a subsequent appeal to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in March. "The uncertainty and burden of trying to comply with state-by-state standards creates a significant hardship for businesses trying to navigate the economic consequences of their decisions," says Ryan Schneider, president of card services for Cap One.

Cap One is petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case. If the nation's top court takes up the matter—and rules in the company's favor—it could halt the momentum nationwide to tax out-of-state companies. But the U.S. Supreme Court may not be sympathetic to Cap One. The justices refused to review a similar case in 2007 involving MBNA (BAC), now owned by Bank of America (BAC). Indiana courts decided the credit-card issuer owed taxes on fees and interest paid by local cardholders. Like Cap One, MBNA didn't have an office in the state. The differences between the two cases aren't meaningful, explains Washington (D.C.) attorney Donald M. Griswold, who represented MBNA in the matter. That's why, he says, "there's a snowball's chance in hell" the Supreme Court will hear Cap One's case.

The credit-card industry isn't the only one facing a bigger tax bill if more states follow Massachusetts' lead. Tax experts and lawyers figure states also may go after insurers, online retailers, software makers, and other companies that mainly operate in a single state but have customers across the U.S. Earlier this year the New York Supreme Court backed a state law that requires Amazon.com (AMZN) and other online retailers to charge sales tax on residents' purchases. "The big question here is whether you have to pay taxes where you don't have a physical presence," says Walter Hellerstein, a professor at the University of Georgia School of Law. "That's a huge dollar issue for companies.

How huge? Massachusetts tax officials estimate they will be able to collect an extra $20 million from companies following the Cap One ruling and another against Toys 'R' Us. That's a significant sum in the state, which collected $1 billion last year in corporate income taxes, according to a recent study by Ernst & Young. "This is an issue states should be paying attention to," says Kevin Brown, general counsel at the Massachusetts Revenue Dept. "There's a lot of money at stake."

To add insult to injury, the Governor of Massachusetts (Deval Patrick) is also trying to collect Mass. sales taxes of purchases made by Mass. residents when they travel outside the State of Massachusetts. For example suppose a resident of Boston travels to bordering New Hampshire where there is no sales tax and buys a set of tires, Gov. Patrick wants the N.H. retailer to collect and transmit the Mass. sales tax. It would help retailers outside of Mass. if Mass. residents would wear a scarlet letter M around their necks when traveling out of state. That would help retailers distinguish Mass. shoppers from other shoppers. Otherwise there is no legal way to identify a Massachusetts resident traveling out of state.

From the Scout Report on May 22, 2009

Smart Defrag 1.11 --- http://www.iobit.com/iobitsmartdefrag.html 

Disk fragmentation can cause computers to run at greatly reduced speeds, so it's nice to learn about the existence about Smart Defrag 1.11. This application will defrag users' hard drive and also help optimize disk performance. Visitors can also schedule defrag operations for certain times as well. This version is designed for Windows Vista, XP, 2000, and Windows 7.  

aTunes 1.13.1 http://www.atunes.org/  

If you're looking for an alternative to some of the major music audio players and managers, you might do well to take a gander at aTunes 1.13.1. The program uses a tabbed interface to keep things simple, and visitors can also customize its appearance by taking on one of its 27 different skins. Additionally, the application comes with built-in Internet radio station support and the ability to create metatags. This version can be installed on different platforms including Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Survey reveals best places to work in the federal government Strong Managers Ranked More Important Than Money in Federal Workplace Survey http://www.washingtonpost.com/wpdyn/content/article/2009/05/19/AR2009051903621.html 

OMB to use workplace rankings in 2011 budget process http://www.govexec.com/dailyfed/0509/052009ar1.htm 

Survey says NRC is still the best place to work in government http://federaltimes.com/index.php?S=4097105 

The Best Places to Work in the Federal Government 2009 http://data.bestplacestowork.org/index.php/bptw/index

FORTUNE: Best Companies 2009 http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/bestcompanies/2009/ 

Bright Ideas: Pink Slip Parties http://www.boston.com/business/globe/globe100/globe_100_2009/bright_ideas_pinkslip/

Free online textbooks, cases, and tutorials in accounting, finance, economics, and statistics --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/ElectronicLiterature.htm#Textbooks

"Monopoly Game Expansion #5: Income Tax Edition,"  by Penelope Pince, Pecuniarities, May 2009 ---

Bob Jensen's threads on variations of Parker Bros. Monopoly for education in economics, accounting, etc. ---

Education Tutorials

Bob Jensen's threads on general education tutorials are at http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/Bookbob2.htm#EducationResearch

Media College (New Zealand: Tutorials on Production of Multi-media) --- http://www.mediacollege.com/

Social Networking for Education:  The Beautiful and the Ugly
(including Google's Wave and Orcut for Social Networking and some education uses of Twitter)
Updates will be at http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/ListservRoles.htm

Bennington president Liz Coleman delivers a call-to-arms for radical reform in higher education.

Bucking the trend to push students toward increasingly narrow areas of study, she proposes a truly cross-disciplinary education — one that dynamically combines all areas of study to address the great problems of our day.
Video:  On Reinventing the Liberal Arts Education

Simoleon Sense, June 1, 2009 --- http://www.simoleonsense.com/video-on-reinventing-the-liberal-arts-education/
Scroll down to the video screen

"The Relevance of the Humanities," by Gabriel Paquette, Inside Higher Ed, January 22, 2009 --- http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2009/01/22/paquette

Bob Jensen's threads on Compassless Colleges ---

"True Happiness Comes From Within"
Video:  Lost Generation (maybe not) --- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42E2fAWM6rA

Engineering, Science, and Medicine Tutorials

Introduction to Chemistry --- http://dl.clackamas.cc.or.us/ch104-00/index.htm

Intute: Interactive Chemistry Tutorials --- http://www.intute.ac.uk/sciences/reference/chemlecs/ 

A Video Version of the Periodic Table (a video for each element) --- http://www.periodicvideos.com/ 

Interactives: The Periodic Table --- http://www.learner.org/interactives/periodic/index.html

Virtual Courseware for Science Learning --- http://www.sciencecourseware.org/eecindex.php

Canadian Space Agency Kid Science --- http://www.space.gc.ca/asc/eng/kidspace/kidspace.asp

The Missing Link (history and science) --- http://missinglinkpodcast.wordpress.com/ 

McGill Life Sciences Library: Resources for Teaching and Learning --- http://www.health.library.mcgill.ca/research/infoskills/learning.cfm 

Science and Engineering Encyclopedia http://www.diracdelta.co.uk/science/source/h/o/home/source.html

Scientific Commons --- http://www.scientificcommons.org/

National Academy of Sciences: Webcast Archive --- http://www.nap.edu/webcast/webcast_list.php

Assessing-to-Learn Physics: Project Website --- http://a2l.physics.umass.edu/

Physics for Humanists --- http://ocw.tufts.edu/Course/30

Physics History Videos:  Physclips --- http://www.physclips.unsw.edu.au/

Physics Education Technology --- http://phet-web.colorado.edu/new/index.php

The Big Bang --- http://openlearn.open.ac.uk/course/view.php?id=3639

Nuffield Council on Bioethics --- http://www.nuffieldbioethics.org

NOVA: Space Shuttle Disaster http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/columbia/

AgroKnowledge: The National Center for Agriscience and Technology Education --- http://www.agrowknow.org/

The Organic Center --- http://www.organic-center.org/

World Food:  International Year of Natural Fibres --- http://www.naturalfibres2009.org/en/index.html

Transforming Agricultural Education --- http://dels.nas.edu/ag_education/

History of Maine Fisheries Database --- http://www.library.umaine.edu/speccoll/fisheries/

Frank Lloyd Wright: From Within Outward ---

Bob Jensen's threads on free online science, engineering, and medicine tutorials are at --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/Bookbob2.htm#Science

Social Science and Economics Tutorials

Dissent During Crisis in America --- http://www.lib.uci.edu/libraries/exhibits/warwithin/

From the UCLA Asian Studies Center
Children of the Atomic Bomb --- http://www.aasc.ucla.edu/cab/index.html 

Nuclear Deterrence in the Age of Nuclear Terrorism Video
Graham Allison, MIT's Technology Review, November/December 2008 --- http://www.technologyreview.com/video/?vid=95

From a Brussels' Think Tank
--- http://workforall.net/audio-library-of-economics.html

Audio modules on
Social Security,
Strategy &
Public Policy

From Jim Mahar's Finance Professor Blog on May 31, 2009

Free & Easy Access to worldwide Broadcasts on Economics, Social Security, Policy and Strategy
THE FREEDOM NETWORK AUDIO PORTAL - Free & Easy Access to worldwide Broadcasts on Economics, Social Security, Policy and Strategy: "Podcasts on Economics, Social Security, Strategy, Liberty & Public Policy"

Wow. Amazing stuff. Thanks to Wayne Marr for point it out.

Bob Jensen's threads on the economic crisis --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/2008Bailout.htm

Bob Jensen's threads on Economics, Anthropology, Social Sciences, and Philosophy tutorials are at http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/Bookbob2.htm#Social

Law and Legal Studies

U.S. Supreme Court Scotus Blog --- http://www.scotusblog.com/wp/

Creative Heritage Project: Strategic Management of Intellectual Property Rights and Interests ---  http://www.wipo.int/tk/en/folklore/culturalheritage/

American Library Association's Slide Rule Helper for Copyright Law--- http://librarycopyright.net/digitalslider/ 

Bob Jensen's threads on copyright law --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/000aaa/theworry.htm#Copyright

Bob Jensen's threads on law and legal studies are at http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/Bookbob2.htm#Law

Math Tutorials

College Mathematics --- http://wps.prenhall.com/esm_armstrong_coll_math_1/

Mathematics Illuminated --- http://www.learner.org/courses/mathilluminated/

Amser --- http://amser.org/

Tutorials and Web Resources for College Mathematics Courses ---

Journal of Online Mathematics and its Applications --- http://mathdl.maa.org/mathDL/4/

Math Teaching and Learning Center --- http://www.uwstout.edu/cas/mathtlc/

Centre for Innovation in Mathematics Teaching

Mathematics for Economics: Enhancing Teaching and Learning (includes video tutorials) ---  http://www.metalproject.co.uk/

Gizmo: Developmental Math --- Click Here

Math DL: Loci (video) --- http://mathdl.maa.org/mathDL/23/

MAA NumberADay (mathematics) --- http://maanumberaday.blogspot.com/

MAA Minute Math --- http://maaminutemath.blogspot.com/


Bob Jensen's threads on free online mathematics tutorials are at http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/Bookbob2.htm#050421Mathematics

History Tutorials

From the UCLA Asian Studies Center
Children of the Atomic Bomb --- http://www.aasc.ucla.edu/cab/index.html 

Nuclear Deterrence in the Age of Nuclear Terrorism Video
Graham Allison, MIT's Technology Review, November/December 2008 --- http://www.technologyreview.com/video/?vid=95

Dissent During Crisis in America --- http://www.lib.uci.edu/libraries/exhibits/warwithin/

Media College (New Zealand: Tutorials on Production of Multi-media) --- http://www.mediacollege.com/

Bob Jensen's Camtasia Tutorials --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/HelpersVideos.htm 

NOVA: Space Shuttle Disaster --- http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/columbia/

Computing History Timeline --- http://trillian.randomstuff.org.uk/~stephen/history/timeline.html
Also see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_computing

NOVA: Space Shuttle Disaster --- http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/columbia/

American University Computer History Museum --- http://www.computinghistorymuseum.org/ 

The Apple (Computer) Museum  --- http://www.theapplemuseum.com/ 

A History of Microsoft Windows (slide show from Wired News) --- http://www.wired.com/gadgets/pcs/multimedia/2007/01/wiredphotos31

Oldcomputers.com  --- http://www.old-computers.com/news/default.asp

History of Maine Fisheries Database --- http://www.library.umaine.edu/speccoll/fisheries/

Frank Lloyd Wright: From Within Outward ---

Elements of Architecture --- http://exhibits.slpl.org/steedman/elements.asp

Multimedia from Stanford University (engineering, architecture)
R. Buckminster Fuller Digital Collection --- http://collections.stanford.edu/bucky/bin/page?forward=home

World Architecture Community --- http://www.worldarchitecture.org/main/

America's Favorite Architecture --- http://www.favoritearchitecture.org/

May 28, 2009 message from Paul Thompson [paul@shmoop.com]

School Library Journal wrote a glowing review of Shmoop: http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/blog/1340000334/post/1980037798.html

I came across your website where you have listed various “Online Book and Table of Contents Finders” on the page http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/ElectronicLiterature.htm. Our website also provides study guides and valuable information on novels and literature (http://www.shmoop.com/literature/), US History (http://www.shmoop.com/history/) and Poetry (http://www.shmoop.com/poetry/) which can be of great value to your website visitors. We have developed this content with an intention to make learning experience great fun for the readers.

I request you to consider listing http://www.shmoop.com/ on this page. You may use the following HTML code for linking.

Shmoop is an online study guide for English Literature, Poetry and American history ---- http://www.shmoop.com/

We'd appreciate your help spreading the word. 

Paul Thompson
"Best of the Internet" - PC Magazine, Jan. 2009


Bob Jensen's threads on history tutorials are at http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/Bookbob2.htm#History
Also see http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/ElectronicLiterature.htm  

Language Tutorials

Bob Jensen's links to language tutorials are at http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/Bookbob2.htm#Languages

Music Tutorials


Bob Jensen's threads on free music tutorials are at http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/Bookbob2.htm#050421Music


Writing Tutorials

Bob Jensen's helpers for writers are at http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/Bookbob3.htm#Dictionaries

Updates from WebMD --- http://www.webmd.com/

How music helps alleviate the symptoms of Parkinson's disease
"How the Brain Responds to Music:  Neurosurgeons measure neural activity during surgery as patients listen to music," by Emily Singer, MIT's Technology Review, June 01, 2009 ---

Lately, when neurosurgeon Ali Rezai implants a deep brain electrode into a Parkinson's patient, he plays a special classical composition from the Cleveland Orchestra. The music isn't designed to keep him focused during surgery, but rather to explore the effect it has on the brain. His patients, who are receiving an implant that helps alleviate the symptoms of Parkinson's disease, are awake during the surgery and can tell Rezai how the music makes them feel as he observes what it does to the brain.

"We know music can calm, influence creativity, can energize. That's great. But music's role in recovering from disease is being ever more appreciated," Rezai, director of the Center for Neurological Restoration at Ohio's Cleveland Clinic, told msnbc.com.

Continued in article

"The Cost Conundrum:  What a Texas town can teach us about health care," by Atul Gawande, The New Yorker, June 1, 2009 --- http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/06/01/090601fa_fact_gawande?printable=true 

It is spring in McAllen, Texas. The morning sun is warm. The streets are lined with palm trees and pickup trucks. McAllen is in Hidalgo County, which has the lowest household income in the country, but it’s a border town, and a thriving foreign-trade zone has kept the unemployment rate below ten per cent. McAllen calls itself the Square Dance Capital of the World. “Lonesome Dove” was set around here.

McAllen has another distinction, too: it is one of the most expensive health-care markets in the country. Only Miami—which has much higher labor and living costs—spends more per person on health care. In 2006, Medicare spent fifteen thousand dollars per enrollee here, almost twice the national average. The income per capita is twelve thousand dollars. In other words, Medicare spends three thousand dollars more per person here than the average person earns.

The explosive trend in American medical costs seems to have occurred here in an especially intense form. Our country’s health care is by far the most expensive in the world. In Washington, the aim of health-care reform is not just to extend medical coverage to everybody but also to bring costs under control. Spending on doctors, hospitals, drugs, and the like now consumes more than one of every six dollars we earn. The financial burden has damaged the global competitiveness of American businesses and bankrupted millions of families, even those with insurance. It’s also devouring our government. “The greatest threat to America’s fiscal health is not Social Security,” President Barack Obama said in a March speech at the White House. “It’s not the investments that we’ve made to rescue our economy during this crisis. By a wide margin, the biggest threat to our nation’s balance sheet is the skyrocketing cost of health care. It’s not even close.”

The question we’re now frantically grappling with is how this came to be, and what can be done about it. McAllen, Texas, the most expensive town in the most expensive country for health care in the world, seemed a good place to look for some answers.

From the moment I arrived, I asked almost everyone I encountered about McAllen’s health costs—a businessman I met at the five-gate McAllen-Miller International Airport, the desk clerks at the Embassy Suites Hotel, a police-academy cadet at McDonald’s. Most weren’t surprised to hear that McAllen was an outlier. “Just look around,” the cadet said. “People are not healthy here.” McAllen, with its high poverty rate, has an incidence of heavy drinking sixty per cent higher than the national average. And the Tex-Mex diet has contributed to a thirty-eight-per-cent obesity rate.

One day, I went on rounds with Lester Dyke, a weather-beaten, ranch-owning fifty-three-year-old cardiac surgeon who grew up in Austin, did his surgical training with the Army all over the country, and settled into practice in Hidalgo County. He has not lacked for business: in the past twenty years, he has done some eight thousand heart operations, which exhausts me just thinking about it. I walked around with him as he checked in on ten or so of his patients who were recuperating at the three hospitals where he operates. It was easy to see what had landed them under his knife. They were nearly all obese or diabetic or both. Many had a family history of heart disease. Few were taking preventive measures, such as cholesterol-lowering drugs, which, studies indicate, would have obviated surgery for up to half of them.

Yet public-health statistics show that cardiovascular-disease rates in the county are actually lower than average, probably because its smoking rates are quite low. Rates of asthma, H.I.V., infant mortality, cancer, and injury are lower, too. El Paso County, eight hundred miles up the border, has essentially the same demographics. Both counties have a population of roughly seven hundred thousand, similar public-health statistics, and similar percentages of non-English speakers, illegal immigrants, and the unemployed. Yet in 2006 Medicare expenditures (our best approximation of over-all spending patterns) in El Paso were $7,504 per enrollee—half as much as in McAllen. An unhealthy population couldn’t possibly be the reason that McAllen’s health-care costs are so high. (Or the reason that America’s are. We may be more obese than any other industrialized nation, but we have among the lowest rates of smoking and alcoholism, and we are in the middle of the range for cardiovascular disease and diabetes.)

Was the explanation, then, that McAllen was providing unusually good health care? I took a walk through Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, in Edinburg, one of the towns in the McAllen metropolitan area, with Robert Alleyn, a Houston-trained general surgeon who had grown up here and returned home to practice. The hospital campus sprawled across two city blocks, with a series of three- and four-story stucco buildings separated by golfing-green lawns and black asphalt parking lots. He pointed out the sights—the cancer center is over here, the heart center is over there, now we’re coming to the imaging center. We went inside the surgery building. It was sleek and modern, with recessed lighting, classical music piped into the waiting areas, and nurses moving from patient to patient behind rolling black computer pods. We changed into scrubs and Alleyn took me through the sixteen operating rooms to show me the laparoscopy suite, with its flat-screen video monitors, the hybrid operating room with built-in imaging equipment, the surgical robot for minimally invasive robotic surgery.

I was impressed. The place had virtually all the technology that you’d find at Harvard and Stanford and the Mayo Clinic, and, as I walked through that hospital on a dusty road in South Texas, this struck me as a remarkable thing. Rich towns get the new school buildings, fire trucks, and roads, not to mention the better teachers and police officers and civil engineers. Poor towns don’t. But that rule doesn’t hold for health care.

At McAllen Medical Center, I saw an orthopedic surgeon work under an operating microscope to remove a tumor that had wrapped around the spinal cord of a fourteen-year-old. At a home-health agency, I spoke to a nurse who could provide intravenous-drug therapy for patients with congestive heart failure. At McAllen Heart Hospital, I watched Dyke and a team of six do a coronary-artery bypass using technologies that didn’t exist a few years ago. At Renaissance, I talked with a neonatologist who trained at my hospital, in Boston, and brought McAllen new skills and technologies for premature babies. “I’ve had nurses come up to me and say, ‘I never knew these babies could survive,’ ” he said.

And yet there’s no evidence that the treatments and technologies available at McAllen are better than those found elsewhere in the country. The annual reports that hospitals file with Medicare show that those in McAllen and El Paso offer comparable technologies—neonatal intensive-care units, advanced cardiac services, PET scans, and so on. Public statistics show no difference in the supply of doctors. Hidalgo County actually has fewer specialists than the national average.

Nor does the care given in McAllen stand out for its quality. Medicare ranks hospitals on twenty-five metrics of care. On all but two of these, McAllen’s five largest hospitals performed worse, on average, than El Paso’s. McAllen costs Medicare seven thousand dollars more per person each year than does the average city in America. But not, so far as one can tell, because it’s delivering better health care.

One night, I went to dinner with six McAllen doctors. All were what you would call bread-and-butter physicians: busy, full-time, private-practice doctors who work from seven in the morning to seven at night and sometimes later, their waiting rooms teeming and their desks stacked with medical charts to review.

Some were dubious when I told them that McAllen was the country’s most expensive place for health care. I gave them the spending data from Medicare. In 1992, in the McAllen market, the average cost per Medicare enrollee was $4,891, almost exactly the national average. But since then, year after year, McAllen’s health costs have grown faster than any other market in the country, ultimately soaring by more than ten thousand dollars per person.

“Maybe the service is better here,” the cardiologist suggested. People can be seen faster and get their tests more readily, he said.

Others were skeptical. “I don’t think that explains the costs he’s talking about,” the general surgeon said.

“It’s malpractice,” a family physician who had practiced here for thirty-three years said.

“McAllen is legal hell,” the cardiologist agreed. Doctors order unnecessary tests just to protect themselves, he said. Everyone thought the lawyers here were worse than elsewhere.

That explanation puzzled me. Several years ago, Texas passed a tough malpractice law that capped pain-and-suffering awards at two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. Didn’t lawsuits go down?

“Practically to zero,” the cardiologist admitted.

“Come on,” the general surgeon finally said. “We all know these arguments are bullshit. There is overutilization here, pure and simple.” Doctors, he said, were racking up charges with extra tests, services, and procedures.

The surgeon came to McAllen in the mid-nineties, and since then, he said, “the way to practice medicine has changed completely. Before, it was about how to do a good job. Now it is about ‘How much will you benefit?’ ”

Everyone agreed that something fundamental had changed since the days when health-care costs in McAllen were the same as those in El Paso and elsewhere. Yes, they had more technology. “But young doctors don’t think anymore,” the family physician said.

The surgeon gave me an example. General surgeons are often asked to see patients with pain from gallstones. If there aren’t any complications—and there usually aren’t—the pain goes away on its own or with pain medication. With instruction on eating a lower-fat diet, most patients experience no further difficulties. But some have recurrent episodes, and need surgery to remove their gallbladder.

Seeing a patient who has had uncomplicated, first-time gallstone pain requires some judgment. A surgeon has to provide reassurance (people are often scared and want to go straight to surgery), some education about gallstone disease and diet, perhaps a prescription for pain; in a few weeks, the surgeon might follow up. But increasingly, I was told, McAllen surgeons simply operate. The patient wasn’t going to moderate her diet, they tell themselves. The pain was just going to come back. And by operating they happen to make an extra seven hundred dollars.

I gave the doctors around the table a scenario. A forty-year-old woman comes in with chest pain after a fight with her husband. An EKG is normal. The chest pain goes away. She has no family history of heart disease. What did McAllen doctors do fifteen years ago?

Send her home, they said. Maybe get a stress test to confirm that there’s no issue, but even that might be overkill.

And today? Today, the cardiologist said, she would get a stress test, an echocardiogram, a mobile Holter monitor, and maybe even a cardiac catheterization.

“Oh, she’s definitely getting a cath,” the internist said, laughing grimly.

To determine whether overuse of medical care was really the problem in McAllen, I turned to Jonathan Skinner, an economist at Dartmouth’s Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, which has three decades of expertise in examining regional patterns in Medicare payment data. I also turned to two private firms—D2Hawkeye, an independent company, and Ingenix, UnitedHealthcare’s data-analysis company—to analyze commercial insurance data for McAllen. The answer was yes. Compared with patients in El Paso and nationwide, patients in McAllen got more of pretty much everything—more diagnostic testing, more hospital treatment, more surgery, more home care.

The Medicare payment data provided the most detail. Between 2001 and 2005, critically ill Medicare patients received almost fifty per cent more specialist visits in McAllen than in El Paso, and were two-thirds more likely to see ten or more specialists in a six-month period. In 2005 and 2006, patients in McAllen received twenty per cent more abdominal ultrasounds, thirty per cent more bone-density studies, sixty per cent more stress tests with echocardiography, two hundred per cent more nerve-conduction studies to diagnose carpal-tunnel syndrome, and five hundred and fifty per cent more urine-flow studies to diagnose prostate troubles. They received one-fifth to two-thirds more gallbladder operations, knee replacements, breast biopsies, and bladder scopes. They also received two to three times as many pacemakers, implantable defibrillators, cardiac-bypass operations, carotid endarterectomies, and coronary-artery stents. And Medicare paid for five times as many home-nurse visits. The primary cause of McAllen’s extreme costs was, very simply, the across-the-board overuse of medicine.

This is a disturbing and perhaps surprising diagnosis. Americans like to believe that, with most things, more is better. But research suggests that where medicine is concerned it may actually be worse. For example, Rochester, Minnesota, where the Mayo Clinic dominates the scene, has fantastically high levels of technological capability and quality, but its Medicare spending is in the lowest fifteen per cent of the country—$6,688 per enrollee in 2006, which is eight thousand dollars less than the figure for McAllen. Two economists working at Dartmouth, Katherine Baicker and Amitabh Chandra, found that the more money Medicare spent per person in a given state the lower that state’s quality ranking tended to be. In fact, the four states with the highest levels of spending—Louisiana, Texas, California, and Florida—were near the bottom of the national rankings on the quality of patient care.

In a 2003 study, another Dartmouth team, led by the internist Elliott Fisher, examined the treatment received by a million elderly Americans diagnosed with colon or rectal cancer, a hip fracture, or a heart attack. They found that patients in higher-spending regions received sixty per cent more care than elsewhere. They got more frequent tests and procedures, more visits with specialists, and more frequent admission to hospitals. Yet they did no better than other patients, whether this was measured in terms of survival, their ability to function, or satisfaction with the care they received. If anything, they seemed to do worse.

That’s because nothing in medicine is without risks. Complications can arise from hospital stays, medications, procedures, and tests, and when these things are of marginal value the harm can be greater than the benefits. In recent years, we doctors have markedly increased the number of operations we do, for instance. In 2006, doctors performed at least sixty million surgical procedures, one for every five Americans. No other country does anything like as many operations on its citizens. Are we better off for it? No one knows for sure, but it seems highly unlikely. After all, some hundred thousand people die each year from complications of surgery—far more than die in car crashes.

To make matters worse, Fisher found that patients in high-cost areas were actually less likely to receive low-cost preventive services, such as flu and pneumonia vaccines, faced longer waits at doctor and emergency-room visits, and were less likely to have a primary-care physician. They got more of the stuff that cost more, but not more of what they needed.

In an odd way, this news is reassuring. Universal coverage won’t be feasible unless we can control costs. Policymakers have worried that doing so would require rationing, which the public would never go along with. So the idea that there’s plenty of fat in the system is proving deeply attractive. “Nearly thirty per cent of Medicare’s costs could be saved without negatively affecting health outcomes if spending in high- and medium-cost areas could be reduced to the level in low-cost areas,” Peter Orszag, the President’s budget director, has stated.

Most Americans would be delighted to have the quality of care found in places like Rochester, Minnesota, or Seattle, Washington, or Durham, North Carolina—all of which have world-class hospitals and costs that fall below the national average. If we brought the cost curve in the expensive places down to their level, Medicare’s problems (indeed, almost all the federal government’s budget problems for the next fifty years) would be solved. The difficulty is how to go about it. Physicians in places like McAllen behave differently from others. The $2.4-trillion question is why. Unless we figure it out, health reform will fail.

I had what I considered to be a reasonable plan for finding out what was going on in McAllen. I would call on the heads of its hospitals, in their swanky, decorator-designed, churrigueresco offices, and I’d ask them.

The first hospital I visited, McAllen Heart Hospital, is owned by Universal Health Services, a for-profit hospital chain with headquarters in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, and revenues of five billion dollars last year. I went to see the hospital’s chief operating officer, Gilda Romero. Truth be told, her office seemed less churrigueresco than Office Depot. She had straight brown hair, sympathetic eyes, and looked more like a young school teacher than like a corporate officer with nineteen years of experience. And when I inquired, “What is going on in this place?” she looked surprised.

Is McAllen really that expensive? she asked.

I described the data, including the numbers indicating that heart operations and catheter procedures and pacemakers were being performed in McAllen at double the usual rate.

“That is interesting,” she said, by which she did not mean, “Uh-oh, you’ve caught us” but, rather, “That is actually interesting.” The problem of McAllen’s outlandish costs was new to her. She puzzled over the numbers. She was certain that her doctors performed surgery only when it was necessary. It had to be one of the other hospitals. And she had one in mind—Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, the hospital in Edinburg that I had toured.

She wasn’t the only person to mention Renaissance. It is the newest hospital in the area. It is physician-owned. And it has a reputation (which it disclaims) for aggressively recruiting high-volume physicians to become investors and send patients there. Physicians who do so receive not only their fee for whatever service they provide but also a percentage of the hospital’s profits from the tests, surgery, or other care patients are given. (In 2007, its profits totalled thirty-four million dollars.) Romero and others argued that this gives physicians an unholy temptation to overorder.

Such an arrangement can make physician investors rich. But it can’t be the whole explanation. The hospital gets barely a sixth of the patients in the region; its margins are no bigger than the other hospitals’—whether for profit or not for profit—and it didn’t have much of a presence until 2004 at the earliest, a full decade after the cost explosion in McAllen began.

“Those are good points,” Romero said. She couldn’t explain what was going on.

The following afternoon, I visited the top managers of Doctors Hospital at Renaissance. We sat in their boardroom around one end of a yacht-length table. The chairman of the board offered me a soda. The chief of staff smiled at me. The chief financial officer shook my hand as if I were an old friend. The C.E.O., however, was having a hard time pretending that he was happy to see me. Lawrence Gelman was a fifty-seven-year-old anesthesiologist with a Bill Clinton shock of white hair and a weekly local radio show tag-lined “Opinions from an Unrelenting Conservative Spirit.” He had helped found the hospital. He barely greeted me, and while the others were trying for a how-can-I-help-you-today attitude, his body language was more let’s-get-this-over-with.

So I asked him why McAllen’s health-care costs were so high. What he gave me was a disquisition on the theory and history of American health-care financing going back to Lyndon Johnson and the creation of Medicare, the upshot of which was: (1) Government is the problem in health care. “The people in charge of the purse strings don’t know what they’re doing.” (2) If anything, government insurance programs like Medicare don’t pay enough. “I, as an anesthesiologist, know that they pay me ten per cent of what a private insurer pays.” (3) Government programs are full of waste. “Every person in this room could easily go through the expenditures of Medicare and Medicaid and see all kinds of waste.” (4) But not in McAllen. The clinicians here, at least at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, “are providing necessary, essential health care,” Gelman said. “We don’t invent patients.”

Then why do hospitals in McAllen order so much more surgery and scans and tests than hospitals in El Paso and elsewhere?

In the end, the only explanation he and his colleagues could offer was this: The other doctors and hospitals in McAllen may be overspending, but, to the extent that his hospital provides costlier treatment than other places in the country, it is making people better in ways that data on quality and outcomes do not measure.

“Do we provide better health care than El Paso?” Gelman asked. “I would bet you two to one that we do.”

It was a depressing conversation—not because I thought the executives were being evasive but because they weren’t being evasive. The data on McAllen’s costs were clearly new to them. They were defending McAllen reflexively. But they really didn’t know the big picture of what was happening.

And, I realized, few people in their position do. Local executives for hospitals and clinics and home-health agencies understand their growth rate and their market share; they know whether they are losing money or making money. They know that if their doctors bring in enough business—surgery, imaging, home-nursing referrals—they make money; and if they get the doctors to bring in more, they make more. But they have only the vaguest notion of whether the doctors are making their communities as healthy as they can, or whether they are more or less efficient than their counterparts elsewhere. A doctor sees a patient in clinic, and has her check into a McAllen hospital for a CT scan, an ultrasound, three rounds of blood tests, another ultrasound, and then surgery to have her gallbladder removed. How is Lawrence Gelman or Gilda Romero to know whether all that is essential, let alone the best possible treatment for the patient? It isn’t what they are responsible or accountable for.

Health-care costs ultimately arise from the accumulation of individual decisions doctors make about which services and treatments to write an order for. The most expensive piece of medical equipment, as the saying goes, is a doctor’s pen. And, as a rule, hospital executives don’t own the pen caps. Doctors do.

If doctors wield the pen, why do they do it so differently from one place to another? Brenda Sirovich, another Dartmouth researcher, published a study last year that provided an important clue. She and her team surveyed some eight hundred primary-care physicians from high-cost cities (such as Las Vegas and New York), low-cost cities (such as Sacramento and Boise), and others in between. The researchers asked the physicians specifically how they would handle a variety of patient cases. It turned out that differences in decision-making emerged in only some kinds of cases. In situations in which the right thing to do was well established—for example, whether to recommend a mammogram for a fifty-year-old woman (the answer is yes)—physicians in high- and low-cost cities made the same decisions. But, in cases in which the science was unclear, some physicians pursued the maximum possible amount of testing and procedures; some pursued the minimum. And which kind of doctor they were depended on where they came from.

Sirovich asked doctors how they would treat a seventy-five-year-old woman with typical heartburn symptoms and “adequate health insurance to cover tests and medications.” Physicians in high- and low-cost cities were equally likely to prescribe antacid therapy and to check for H. pylori, an ulcer-causing bacterium—steps strongly recommended by national guidelines. But when it came to measures of less certain value—and higher cost—the differences were considerable. More than seventy per cent of physicians in high-cost cities referred the patient to a gastroenterologist, ordered an upper endoscopy, or both, while half as many in low-cost cities did. Physicians from high-cost cities typically recommended that patients with well-controlled hypertension see them in the office every one to three months, while those from low-cost cities recommended visits twice yearly. In case after uncertain case, more was not necessarily better. But physicians from the most expensive cities did the most expensive things.

Why? Some of it could reflect differences in training. I remember when my wife brought our infant son Walker to visit his grandparents in Virginia, and he took a terrifying fall down a set of stairs. They drove him to the local community hospital in Alexandria. A CT scan showed that he had a tiny subdural hematoma—a small area of bleeding in the brain. During ten hours of observation, though, he was fine—eating, drinking, completely alert. I was a surgery resident then and had seen many cases like his. We observed each child in intensive care for at least twenty-four hours and got a repeat CT scan. That was how I’d been trained. But the doctor in Alexandria was going to send Walker home. That was how he’d been trained. Suppose things change for the worse? I asked him. It’s extremely unlikely, he said, and if anything changed Walker could always be brought back. I bullied the doctor into admitting him anyway. The next day, the scan and the patient were fine. And, looking in the textbooks, I learned that the doctor was right. Walker could have been managed safely either way.

There was no sign, however, that McAllen’s doctors as a group were trained any differently from El Paso’s. One morning, I met with a hospital administrator who had extensive experience managing for-profit hospitals along the border. He offered a different possible explanation: the culture of money.

“In El Paso, if you took a random doctor and looked at his tax returns eighty-five per cent of his income would come from the usual practice of medicine,” he said. But in McAllen, the administrator thought, that percentage would be a lot less.

He knew of doctors who owned strip malls, orange groves, apartment complexes—or imaging centers, surgery centers, or another part of the hospital they directed patients to. They had “entrepreneurial spirit,” he said. They were innovative and aggressive in finding ways to increase revenues from patient care. “There’s no lack of work ethic,” he said. But he had often seen financial considerations drive the decisions doctors made for patients—the tests they ordered, the doctors and hospitals they recommended—and it bothered him. Several doctors who were unhappy about the direction medicine had taken in McAllen told me the same thing. “It’s a machine, my friend,” one surgeon explained.

No one teaches you how to think about money in medical school or residency. Yet, from the moment you start practicing, you must think about it. You must consider what is covered for a patient and what is not. You must pay attention to insurance rejections and government-reimbursement rules. You must think about having enough money for the secretary and the nurse and the rent and the malpractice insurance.

Beyond the basics, however, many physicians are remarkably oblivious to the financial implications of their decisions. They see their patients. They make their recommendations. They send out the bills. And, as long as the numbers come out all right at the end of each month, they put the money out of their minds.

Others think of the money as a means of improving what they do. They think about how to use the insurance money to maybe install electronic health records with colleagues, or provide easier phone and e-mail access, or offer expanded hours. They hire an extra nurse to monitor diabetic patients more closely, and to make sure that patients don’t miss their mammograms and pap smears and colonoscopies.

Then there are the physicians who see their practice primarily as a revenue stream. They instruct their secretary to have patients who call with follow-up questions schedule an appointment, because insurers don’t pay for phone calls, only office visits. They consider providing Botox injections for cash. They take a Doppler ultrasound course, buy a machine, and start doing their patients’ scans themselves, so that the insurance payments go to them rather than to the hospital. They figure out ways to increase their high-margin work and decrease their low-margin work. This is a business, after all.

In every community, you’ll find a mixture of these views among physicians, but one or another tends to predominate. McAllen seems simply to be the community at one extreme.

In a few cases, the hospital executive told me, he’d seen the behavior cross over into what seemed like outright fraud. “I’ve had doctors here come up to me and say, ‘You want me to admit patients to your hospital, you’re going to have to pay me.’ ”

“How much?” I asked.

“The amounts—all of them were over a hundred thousand dollars per year,” he said. The doctors were specific. The most he was asked for was five hundred thousand dollars per year.

He didn’t pay any of them, he said: “I mean, I gotta sleep at night.” And he emphasized that these were just a handful of doctors. But he had never been asked for a kickback before coming to McAllen.

Woody Powell is a Stanford sociologist who studies the economic culture of cities. Recently, he and his research team studied why certain regions—Boston, San Francisco, San Diego—became leaders in biotechnology while others with a similar concentration of scientific and corporate talent—Los Angeles, Philadelphia, New York—did not. The answer they found was what Powell describes as the anchor-tenant theory of economic development. Just as an anchor store will define the character of a mall, anchor tenants in biotechnology, whether it’s a company like Genentech, in South San Francisco, or a university like M.I.T., in Cambridge, define the character of an economic community. They set the norms. The anchor tenants that set norms encouraging the free flow of ideas and collaboration, even with competitors, produced enduringly successful communities, while those that mainly sought to dominate did not.

Powell suspects that anchor tenants play a similarly powerful community role in other areas of economics, too, and health care may be no exception. I spoke to a marketing rep for a McAllen home-health agency who told me of a process uncannily similar to what Powell found in biotech. Her job is to persuade doctors to use her agency rather than others. The competition is fierce. I opened the phone book and found seventeen pages of listings for home-health agencies—two hundred and sixty in all. A patient typically brings in between twelve hundred and fifteen hundred dollars, and double that amount for specialized care. She described how, a decade or so ago, a few early agencies began rewarding doctors who ordered home visits with more than trinkets: they provided tickets to professional sporting events, jewelry, and other gifts. That set the tone. Other agencies jumped in. Some began paying doctors a supplemental salary, as “medical directors,” for steering business in their direction. Doctors came to expect a share of the revenue stream.

Agencies that want to compete on quality struggle to remain in business, the rep said. Doctors have asked her for a medical-director salary of four or five thousand dollars a month in return for sending her business. One asked a colleague of hers for private-school tuition for his child; another wanted sex.

“I explained the rules and regulations and the anti-kickback law, and told them no,” she said of her dealings with such doctors. “Does it hurt my business?” She paused. “I’m O.K. working only with ethical physicians,” she finally said.

About fifteen years ago, it seems, something began to change in McAllen. A few leaders of local institutions took profit growth to be a legitimate ethic in the practice of medicine. Not all the doctors accepted this. But they failed to discourage those who did. So here, along the banks of the Rio Grande, in the Square Dance Capital of the World, a medical community came to treat patients the way subprime-mortgage lenders treated home buyers: as profit centers.

The real puzzle of American health care, I realized on the airplane home, is not why McAllen is different from El Paso. It’s why El Paso isn’t like McAllen. Every incentive in the system is an invitation to go the way McAllen has gone. Yet, across the country, large numbers of communities have managed to control their health costs rather than ratchet them up.

I talked to Denis Cortese, the C.E.O. of the Mayo Clinic, which is among the highest-quality, lowest-cost health-care systems in the country. A couple of years ago, I spent several days there as a visiting surgeon. Among the things that stand out from that visit was how much time the doctors spent with patients. There was no churn—no shuttling patients in and out of rooms while the doctor bounces from one to the other. I accompanied a colleague while he saw patients. Most of the patients, like those in my clinic, required about twenty minutes. But one patient had colon cancer and a number of other complex issues, including heart disease. The physician spent an hour with her, sorting things out. He phoned a cardiologist with a question.

“I’ll be there,” the cardiologist said.

Fifteen minutes later, he was. They mulled over everything together. The cardiologist adjusted a medication, and said that no further testing was needed. He cleared the patient for surgery, and the operating room gave her a slot the next day.

The whole interaction was astonishing to me. Just having the cardiologist pop down to see the patient with the surgeon would be unimaginable at my hospital. The time required wouldn’t pay. The time required just to organize the system wouldn’t pay.

The core tenet of the Mayo Clinic is “The needs of the patient come first”—not the convenience of the doctors, not their revenues. The doctors and nurses, and even the janitors, sat in meetings almost weekly, working on ideas to make the service and the care better, not to get more money out of patients. I asked Cortese how the Mayo Clinic made this possible.

“It’s not easy,” he said. But decades ago Mayo recognized that the first thing it needed to do was eliminate the financial barriers. It pooled all the money the doctors and the hospital system received and began paying everyone a salary, so that the doctors’ goal in patient care couldn’t be increasing their income. Mayo promoted leaders who focussed first on what was best for patients, and then on how to make this financially possible.

No one there actually intends to do fewer expensive scans and procedures than is done elsewhere in the country. The aim is to raise quality and to help doctors and other staff members work as a team. But, almost by happenstance, the result has been lower costs.

“When doctors put their heads together in a room, when they share expertise, you get more thinking and less testing,” Cortese told me.

Skeptics saw the Mayo model as a local phenomenon that wouldn’t carry beyond the hay fields of northern Minnesota. But in 1986 the Mayo Clinic opened a campus in Florida, one of our most expensive states for health care, and, in 1987, another one in Arizona. It was difficult to recruit staff members who would accept a salary and the Mayo’s collaborative way of practicing. Leaders were working against the dominant medical culture and incentives. The expansion sites took at least a decade to get properly established. But eventually they achieved the same high-quality, low-cost results as Rochester. Indeed, Cortese says that the Florida site has become, in some respects, the most efficient one in the system.

The Mayo Clinic is not an aberration. One of the lowest-cost markets in the country is Grand Junction, Colorado, a community of a hundred and twenty thousand that nonetheless has achieved some of Medicare’s highest quality-of-care scores. Michael Pramenko is a family physician and a local medical leader there. Unlike doctors at the Mayo Clinic, he told me, those in Grand Junction get piecework fees from insurers. But years ago the doctors agreed among themselves to a system that paid them a similar fee whether they saw Medicare, Medicaid, or private-insurance patients, so that there would be little incentive to cherry-pick patients. They also agreed, at the behest of the main health plan in town, an H.M.O., to meet regularly on small peer-review committees to go over their patient charts together. They focussed on rooting out problems like poor prevention practices, unnecessary back operations, and unusual hospital-complication rates. Problems went down. Quality went up. Then, in 2004, the doctors’ group and the local H.M.O. jointly created a regional information network—a community-wide electronic-record system that shared office notes, test results, and hospital data for patients across the area. Again, problems went down. Quality went up. And costs ended up lower than just about anywhere else in the United States.

Grand Junction’s medical community was not following anyone else’s recipe. But, like Mayo, it created what Elliott Fisher, of Dartmouth, calls an accountable-care organization. The leading doctors and the hospital system adopted measures to blunt harmful financial incentives, and they took collective responsibility for improving the sum total of patient care.

This approach has been adopted in other places, too: the Geisinger Health System, in Danville, Pennsylvania; the Marshfield Clinic, in Marshfield, Wisconsin; Intermountain Healthcare, in Salt Lake City; Kaiser Permanente, in Northern California. All of them function on similar principles. All are not-for-profit institutions. And all have produced enviably higher quality and lower costs than the average American town enjoys.

When you look across the spectrum from Grand Junction to McAllen—and the almost threefold difference in the costs of care—you come to realize that we are witnessing a battle for the soul of American medicine. Somewhere in the United States at this moment, a patient with chest pain, or a tumor, or a cough is seeing a doctor. And the damning question we have to ask is whether the doctor is set up to meet the needs of the patient, first and foremost, or to maximize revenue.

There is no insurance system that will make the two aims match perfectly. But having a system that does so much to misalign them has proved disastrous. As economists have often pointed out, we pay doctors for quantity, not quality. As they point out less often, we also pay them as individuals, rather than as members of a team working together for their patients. Both practices have made for serious problems.

Providing health care is like building a house. The task requires experts, expensive equipment and materials, and a huge amount of coördination. Imagine that, instead of paying a contractor to pull a team together and keep them on track, you paid an electrician for every outlet he recommends, a plumber for every faucet, and a carpenter for every cabinet. Would you be surprised if you got a house with a thousand outlets, faucets, and cabinets, at three times the cost you expected, and the whole thing fell apart a couple of years later? Getting the country’s best electrician on the job (he trained at Harvard, somebody tells you) isn’t going to solve this problem. Nor will changing the person who writes him the check.

This last point is vital. Activists and policymakers spend an inordinate amount of time arguing about whether the solution to high medical costs is to have government or private insurance companies write the checks. Here’s how this whole debate goes. Advocates of a public option say government financing would save the most money by having leaner administrative costs and forcing doctors and hospitals to take lower payments than they get from private insurance. Opponents say doctors would skimp, quit, or game the system, and make us wait in line for our care; they maintain that private insurers are better at policing doctors. No, the skeptics say: all insurance companies do is reject applicants who need health care and stall on paying their bills. Then we have the economists who say that the people who should pay the doctors are the ones who use them. Have consumers pay with their own dollars, make sure that they have some “skin in the game,” and then they’ll get the care they deserve. These arguments miss the main issue. When it comes to making care better and cheaper, changing who pays the doctor will make no more difference than changing who pays the electrician. The lesson of the high-quality, low-cost communities is that someone has to be accountable for the totality of care. Otherwise, you get a system that has no brakes. You get McAllen.

One afternoon in McAllen, I rode down McColl Road with Lester Dyke, the cardiac surgeon, and we passed a series of office plazas that seemed to be nothing but home-health agencies, imaging centers, and medical-equipment stores.

“Medicine has become a pig trough here,” he muttered.

Dyke is among the few vocal critics of what’s happened in McAllen. “We took a wrong turn when doctors stopped being doctors and became businessmen,” he said.

We began talking about the various proposals being touted in Washington to fix the cost problem. I asked him whether expanding public-insurance programs like Medicare and shrinking the role of insurance companies would do the trick in McAllen.

“I don’t have a problem with it,” he said. “But it won’t make a difference.” In McAllen, government payers already predominate—not many people have jobs with private insurance.

How about doing the opposite and increasing the role of big insurance companies?

“What good would that do?” Dyke asked.

The third class of health-cost proposals, I explained, would push people to use medical savings accounts and hold high-deductible insurance policies: “They’d have more of their own money on the line, and that’d drive them to bargain with you and other surgeons, right?”

He gave me a quizzical look. We tried to imagine the scenario. A cardiologist tells an elderly woman that she needs bypass surgery and has Dr. Dyke see her. They discuss the blockages in her heart, the operation, the risks. And now they’re supposed to haggle over the price as if he were selling a rug in a souk? “I’ll do three vessels for thirty thousand, but if you take four I’ll throw in an extra night in the I.C.U.”—that sort of thing? Dyke shook his head. “Who comes up with this stuff?” he asked. “Any plan that relies on the sheep to negotiate with the wolves is doomed to failure.”

Instead, McAllen and other cities like it have to be weaned away from their untenably fragmented, quantity-driven systems of health care, step by step. And that will mean rewarding doctors and hospitals if they band together to form Grand Junction-like accountable-care organizations, in which doctors collaborate to increase prevention and the quality of care, while discouraging overtreatment, undertreatment, and sheer profiteering. Under one approach, insurers—whether public or private—would allow clinicians who formed such organizations and met quality goals to keep half the savings they generate. Government could also shift regulatory burdens, and even malpractice liability, from the doctors to the organization. Other, sterner, approaches would penalize those who don’t form these organizations.

This will by necessity be an experiment. We will need to do in-depth research on what makes the best systems successful—the peer-review committees? recruiting more primary-care doctors and nurses? putting doctors on salary?—and disseminate what we learn. Congress has provided vital funding for research that compares the effectiveness of different treatments, and this should help reduce uncertainty about which treatments are best. But we also need to fund research that compares the effectiveness of different systems of care—to reduce our uncertainty about which systems work best for communities. These are empirical, not ideological, questions. And we would do well to form a national institute for health-care delivery, bringing together clinicians, hospitals, insurers, employers, and citizens to assess, regularly, the quality and the cost of our care, review the strategies that produce good results, and make clear recommendations for local systems.

Dramatic improvements and savings will take at least a decade. But a choice must be made. Whom do we want in charge of managing the full complexity of medical care? We can turn to insurers (whether public or private), which have proved repeatedly that they can’t do it. Or we can turn to the local medical communities, which have proved that they can. But we have to choose someone—because, in much of the country, no one is in charge. And the result is the most wasteful and the least sustainable health-care system in the world.

Something even more worrisome is going on as well. In the war over the culture of medicine—the war over whether our country’s anchor model will be Mayo or McAllen—the Mayo model is losing. In the sharpest economic downturn that our health system has faced in half a century, many people in medicine don’t see why they should do the hard work of organizing themselves in ways that reduce waste and improve quality if it means sacrificing revenue.

In El Paso, the for-profit health-care executive told me, a few leading physicians recently followed McAllen’s lead and opened their own centers for surgery and imaging. When I was in Tulsa a few months ago, a fellow-surgeon explained how he had made up for lost revenue by shifting his operations for well-insured patients to a specialty hospital that he partially owned while keeping his poor and uninsured patients at a nonprofit hospital in town. Even in Grand Junction, Michael Pramenko told me, “some of the doctors are beginning to complain about ‘leaving money on the table.’ ”

As America struggles to extend health-care coverage while curbing health-care costs, we face a decision that is more important than whether we have a public-insurance option, more important than whether we will have a single-payer system in the long run or a mixture of public and private insurance, as we do now. The decision is whether we are going to reward the leaders who are trying to build a new generation of Mayos and Grand Junctions. If we don’t, McAllen won’t be an outlier. It will be our future.


Forwarded by Maureen

Random Thoughts of Grandchildren

01. She was in the bathroom, putting on her makeup, under the watchful eyes of her young granddaughter, as she'd done many times before. After she applied her lipstick and started to leave, the little one said, "But Gramma, you forgot to kiss the toilet paper good-bye!" I will probably never put lipstick on again without thinking about kissing the toilet paper good-bye...

02. My young grandson called the other day to wish me Happy Birthday. He asked me how old I was, and I told him, 62. My grandson was quiet for a moment, and then he asked, "Did you start at 1?"

03. After putting her grandchildren to bed, a grandmother changed into old slacks and a droopy blouse and proceeded to wash her hair. As she heard the children getting more and more rambunctious, her patience grew thin. Finally, she threw a towel around her head and stormed into their room, putting them back to bed with stern warnings. As she left the room, she heard the three-year-old say with a trembling voice, "Who was THAT?"

04. A grandmother was telling her little granddaughter what her own childhood was like: "We used to skate outside on a pond I had a swing made from a tire; it hung from a tree in our front yard. We rode our pony. We picked wild raspberries in the woods." The little girl was wide-eyed, taking this all in. At last she said, "I sure wish I'd gotten to know you sooner!"

05. My grandson was visiting one day when he asked, "Grandma, do you know how you and God are alike?" I mentally polished my halo and I said, "No, how are we alike?'' "You're both old," he replied.

06. A little girl was diligently pounding away on her grandfather's word processor. She told him she was writing a story. "What's it about?" he asked. "I don't know," she replied. "I can't read."

7. I didn't know if my granddaughter had learned her colors yet, so I decided to test her. I would point out something and ask what color it was. She would tell me and was always correct. It was fun for me, so I continued. At last, she headed for the door, saying, "Grandma, I think you should try to figure out some of these, yourself!"

08. When my grandson Billy and I entered our vacation cabin, we kept the lights off until we were inside to keep from attracting pesky insects. Still, a few fireflies followed us in. Noticing them before I did, Billy whispered, "It's no use Grandpa. Now the mosquitoes are coming after us with flashlights."

09. When my grandson asked me how old I was, I teasingly replied, "I'm not sure." "Look in your underwear, Grandpa," he advised, "mine says I'm 4 to 6."

10. A second grader came home from school and said to her grandmother, "Grandma, guess what? We learned how to make babies today." The grandmother, more than a little surprised, tried to keep her cool " That's interesting," she said, "how do you make babies?" "It's simple," replied the girl. "You just change 'y' to 'i' and add 'es'."

11 Children's Logic: "Give me a sentence about a public servant," said a teacher. The small boy wrote: "The fireman came down the ladder pregnant." The teacher took the lad aside to correct him. "Don't you know what pregnant means?" she asked. "Sure," said the young boy confidently. 'It means carrying a child."

12. A grandfather was delivering his grandchildren to their home one day when a fire truck zoomed past. Sitting in the front seat of the fire truck was a Dalmatian dog. The children started discussing the dog's duties. "They use him to keep crowds back," said one child. "No," said another. "He's just for good luck." A third child brought the argument to a close."They use the dogs," she said firmly, "to find the fire hydrants."

13. A 6-year-old was asked where his grandma lived. "Oh," he said, "she lives at the airport, and when we want her, we just go get her. Then, when we're done having her visit, we take her back to the airport."

14. Grandpa is the smartest man on earth! He teaches me good things, but I don't get to see him enough to get as smart as him!

15. My Grandparents are funny, when they bend over you hear gas leaks, and they blame their dog.

Neither a borrower nor a lender be
Darwin Award Winner --- http://www.darwinawards.com/darwin/darwin2008-25.html

23-year-old Strahinja Raseta was wanted by Croatian police for murder, as well as for a spectacular robbery of a central post office. He fled to Serbia to evade the law.

But even bad guys have friends. Raseta had a friend, and his friend had lent him E15,000. Some loans can never be repaid. This was such a loan. Finding himself unable to earn or steal the funds needed to reimburse his friend, Raseta attempted to end the matter in another way--by murdering the lender!

He crawled under his creditor's Jeep and planted an explosive. However, the muffler was still hot, and the heat set off the explosive while Raseta was beneath the vehicle. He died in hospital the next day in the Serbian capital city of Belgrade, illustrating the truth of the Shakespearean adage, "Neither a borrower nor a lender be."

Tidbits Archives --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/TidbitsDirectory.htm

Click here to search Bob Jensen's web site if you have key words to enter --- Search Site.
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Facts about the earth in real time --- http://www.worldometers.info/

Interesting Online Clock and Calendar --- http://home.tiscali.nl/annejan/swf/timeline.swf
Time by Time Zones --- http://timeticker.com/
Projected Population Growth (it's out of control) --- http://geography.about.com/od/obtainpopulationdata/a/worldpopulation.htm
         Also see http://users.rcn.com/jkimball.ma.ultranet/BiologyPages/P/Populations.html
Facts about population growth (video) --- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pMcfrLYDm2U
Projected U.S. Population Growth --- http://www.carryingcapacity.org/projections75.html
Real time meter of the U.S. cost of the war in Iraq --- http://www.costofwar.com/ 
Enter you zip code to get Census Bureau comparisons --- http://zipskinny.com/
Sure wish there'd be a little good news today.

Three Finance Blogs

Jim Mahar's FinanceProfessor Blog --- http://financeprofessorblog.blogspot.com/
FinancialRounds Blog --- http://financialrounds.blogspot.com/
Karen Alpert's FinancialMusings (Australia) --- http://financemusings.blogspot.com/

Some Accounting Blogs

Paul Pacter's IAS Plus (International Accounting) --- http://www.iasplus.com/index.htm
International Association of Accountants News --- http://www.aia.org.uk/
AccountingEducation.com and Double Entries --- http://www.accountingeducation.com/
Gerald Trites'eBusiness and XBRL Blogs --- http://www.zorba.ca/
AccountingWeb --- http://www.accountingweb.com/   
SmartPros --- http://www.smartpros.com/

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Current and past editions of my newsletter called New Bookmarks --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/bookurl.htm
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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 --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/ElectronicLiterature.htm

The Master List of Free Online College Courses --- http://universitiesandcolleges.org/

Shared Open Courseware (OCW) from Around the World: OKI, MIT, Rice, Berkeley, Yale, and Other Sharing Universities --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/000aaa/updateee.htm#OKI

Free Textbooks and Cases --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/ElectronicLiterature.htm#Textbooks

Free Mathematics and Statistics Tutorials --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/Bookbob2.htm#050421Mathematics

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Free Social Science and Philosophy Tutorials --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/Bookbob2.htm#Social

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Teaching Materials (especially video) from PBS

Teacher Source:  Arts and Literature --- http://www.pbs.org/teachersource/arts_lit.htm

Teacher Source:  Health & Fitness --- http://www.pbs.org/teachersource/health.htm

Teacher Source: Math --- http://www.pbs.org/teachersource/math.htm

Teacher Source:  Science --- http://www.pbs.org/teachersource/sci_tech.htm

Teacher Source:  PreK2 --- http://www.pbs.org/teachersource/prek2.htm

Teacher Source:  Library Media ---  http://www.pbs.org/teachersource/library.htm

Free Education and Research Videos from Harvard University --- http://athome.harvard.edu/archive/archive.asp

VYOM eBooks Directory --- http://www.vyomebooks.com/

From Princeton Online
The Incredible Art Department --- http://www.princetonol.com/groups/iad/

Online Mathematics Textbooks --- http://www.math.gatech.edu/~cain/textbooks/onlinebooks.html 

National Library of Virtual Manipulatives --- http://enlvm.usu.edu/ma/nav/doc/intro.jsp

Moodle  --- http://moodle.org/ 

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 http://www.accountingweb.com/news/college_news.html
Sometimes the news items provide links to teaching resources for accounting educators.
Any college may post a news item.

Accountancy Discussion ListServs:

For an elaboration on the reasons you should join a ListServ (usually for free) go to   http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/ListServRoles.htm
AECM (Educators)  http://pacioli.loyola.edu/aecm/ 
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 --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/ListServRoles.htm

CPAS-L (Practitioners) http://pacioli.loyola.edu/cpas-l/ 
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)  http://groups.yahoo.com/group/xyztalk
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.
AccountantsWorld  http://accountantsworld.com/forums/default.asp?scope=1 
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 BusValGroup-subscribe@topica.com 
This discussion group is headed by Randy Schostag [RSchostag@BUSVALGROUP.COM

Many useful accounting sites (scroll down) --- http://www.iasplus.com/links/links.htm


Professor Robert E. Jensen (Bob) http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen
190 Sunset Hill Road
Sugar Hill, NH 03586
Phone:  603-823-8482 
Email:  rjensen@trinity.edu