Tidbits on September 10, 2012
Bob Jensen at Trinity University

Bob and Marshall Jensen's Mt. Washington Cog Railroad Photographic Special: 
Part 1 (History)

More of Bob Jensen's Pictures and Stories


Tidbits on January 24, 2012
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/

The Cult of Statistical Significance: How Standard Error Costs Us Jobs, Justice, and Lives ---

How Accountics Scientists Should Change: 
"Frankly, Scarlett, after I get a hit for my resume in The Accounting Review I just don't give a damn"
One more mission in what's left of my life will be to try to change this


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

Video on How to Get a Rover to Mars (this is a wonderful video) ---
 Watch until the narration begins and then watch to the end.

Face to Face with Bertrand Russell: ‘Love is Wise, Hatred is Foolish’ ---

Mobile Tour of Harvard University --- http://www.harvard.edu/visitors/mobile-tour

60-Second Adventures in Economics: An Animated Intro to The Invisible Hand and Other Economic Ideas --- Click Here
Fails to explain externalities very well

The Paradox of Thrift:--- Click Here

The Phillips Curve:--- Click Here

The Principle of Comparative Advantage --- Click Here

The Impossible Trinity: --- Click Here

Rational Choice Theory --- Click Here


Dolphins (I think they were dolphins) Run Aground on Brazil Beach --- http://elcomercio.pe/player/1384898
When the same thing happened in the U.S. with pilot whales only few could be saved by taking them to a shelter.

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

"I'm Singing in the rain", Gene Kelly --- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rmCpOKtN8ME

Le Ballet Mécanique: The Historic Cinematic Collaboration Between Fernand Legér and George Antheil --- Click Here

The BBC Symphony Orchestra Performs 4′33,″ the Experimental Composition by John Cage, Born 100 Years Ago Today

Link to Open Culture


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

Mobile Tour of Harvard University --- http://www.harvard.edu/visitors/mobile-tour

Earth Science World Image Bank ---  http://www.earthscienceworld.org/imagebank/index.html

Mary Binney Wheeler Image Collection (India and Sri Lanka) ---  http://dla.library.upenn.edu/dla/wheeler/index.html

The Second Known Photo of Emily Dickinson Emerges 

Treasures in Full: Renaissance Festival Books --- http://www.bl.uk/treasures/festivalbooks/homepage.html

One Life: Amelia Earthart --- http://www.npg.si.edu/exhibit/earhart/

Creative Time --- http://www.creativetime.org/

Picturing Science: Museum Scientists and Imaging Technologies

Long Island Collection --- http://guides.library.stonybrook.edu/long_island

Set in Stone: Building America's New Generation of Arts Facilities, 1994-2008 (Chicago) --- http://culturalpolicy.uchicago.edu/setinstone/

Bob Jensen's threads on history, literature and art ---

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

Ayn Rand’s Philosophy and Her Resurgence in 2012: A Quick Primer by Stanford Historian Jennifer Burns ---

The Second Known Photo of Emily Dickinson Emerges 

Free Electronic Literature --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/ElectronicLiterature.htm
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

Now in Another Tidbits Document
Political Quotations on September 10, 2012

U.S. National Debt Clock --- http://www.usdebtclock.org/
Also see http://www.brillig.com/debt_clock/

Peter G. Peterson Website on Deficit/Debt Solutions ---

Bob Jensen's health care messaging updates --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/Health.htm

Classrooms and Students From Around the World

September 1, 2012 from Bob Blystone

To all:

Below is a link to a site that is ultimately geared to having you purchase a book full of pictures.  However, this blog/advertisement is very interesting.

It is a compilation of pictures from around the world of students in their classrooms.  One can look at the unique images for quite a time trying understand the world in which these young students learn.

I trust you will find it as interesting as I did.

Bob Blystone


"Detecting price artificiality and manipulation in futures markets: An application to Amaranth," by Atanu Saha and Hans-Jürgen Petersen, Journal of Derivatives & Hedge Funds (2012) 18, 254–271 ---

In this article we propose a general method to test whether economic data support the claim of futures market manipulation. We examine the question of whether or not Amaranth manipulated the market for natural gas futures using three alternative methods. The first is our contribution to the existing body of literature on the analysis of manipulation claims. The subsequent two have previously been discussed in the literature. All three methods yield the same result: economic data on futures prices and Amaranth's trades do not support the claim that Amaranth manipulated the natural gas futures market in 2006.

Continued in article

Bob Jensen's threads on how to value interest rate swaps ---

Bob Jensen's free tutorials on accounting for derivative financial instruments and hedging activities ---

Especially note the FAS 133 and IAS 39 Glossary at
This is more than a glossary.

Accounting Students Dropping Out of Accountics Science Doctoral Programs

September 5, 2012 message from Professor XXXXX

Hello Bob:

Thought you might find the following interesting.

I had a student as an undergrad that I encouraged to get a PhD.  She went out and worked a few years and came back to get a master’s degree.  During the master’s degree she decided what she really wanted was to be a professor and applied for a PhD degree at Tennessee.  Got accepted and went without finishing her masters.  One year later I found her in my master’s class.  She was so fed up with the total emphasis on what you have been calling accountics that she dropped out and came back to finish her masters.  I have been trying to convince her that it was just Tennessee and she really did want to become a professor but it has been an uphill battle and I would say at this point highly unlikely that she will ever again consider being a professor.


September 5, reply from Bob Jensen

Dear Professor XXXXX,

It's not just Tennessee. Virtually all accounting doctoral programs in AACSB accredited universities have literally been taken over by accountics science researchers --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/Theory01.htm#DoctoralPrograms

This is one of the main reason the 2012 Pathways Commission Report appeals for alternative tracks to be commenced in accountancy doctoral programs.

I had a similar (actually brilliant) student who did complete his masters degree in accounting at Trinity University. He was a joint accounting and mathematics  undergraduate major. He was admitted to the University of Texas doctoral program and dropped out for the same reason you mention above --- too much accountics and too little accounting even though he was doing well in his accountics science courses. He just was more interested in accounting than accountics.

Bob Jensen

September 5, 2012 reply from Professor YYYYY

We had a retired Marine who completed our BS and MS program. He was an extremely good student, so much so that we hired him as a lecturer when he completed his master's degree. After a few years he decided at age 45 to go get his PhD. He looked at several programs (RRRRR SSSSS, and TTTTT because they are all about 3-4 hours away and his family was not going to move with him).

He finally decided on TTTTT. TTTTT is a good school, but definitely not elite or one of the Top 10 accountics science programs. I felt that he could get a decent doctoral program there. He hated it despite doing well in the classes. He was frustrated at reading nothing but mathematics and statistical papers that had nothing to do with what he wanted to pursue; teaching and professional research. He mentioned this in class on several occasions and was basically told that real accounting professors were not interested in teaching. The PhD was a research degree and as such you would not be learning how to teach, it was assumed that you knew enough of that when admitted to the program and that your real goal should be to get placed at a school where teaching would not interfere with research. On several occasions the students took him aside and said to be careful about being out spoken in class regarding teaching and professional research. If he continued to mention those things the faculty would not be amenable to working with him on research projects or help him get through. I can remember back to my doctoral program in the late 90's and we did the same thing. To get along with the faculty you never expressed a desire to teach, it was all about research. Among your fellow students you could be open about desires to teach, but not faculty. I can remember several faculty members during my job search admonishing me for the schools where I was interviewing because they were "teaching schools" and beneath their desires for where grads of our schools should be applying. (this part of the message was deleted by Jensen)

What's more, when the doctoral student in question asked his adviser about application of the research to the profession the adviser was flummoxed by what he meant. It was not his job to apply his research to the profession but rather the profession to find what it needed if they wanted to. He said that personally he didn't feel any need to try to better the profession and that his profession was not accounting but academia. Needless to say he was discouraged and left TTTTT before the end of his first semester. He passed all four parts of his CPA exam (all >90) and is now working at one of the larger local CPA firms doing quite well.

Thought you might like to her another anecdotal report on what's going on in the ivory towers. I really enjoy having Steve Kachelmeyer on the listserv and the debates that go on because of his willingness to interact. I know he brings a very different perspective from the majority of us on the list who are not big name researchers.

Hope all is going well with you and Erika. The weather in Texas is miserably hot, not as abd as last year, but still hot. Forecast is for 105 tomorrow, September 6th!

September 7, 2012 message from David Johnstone

Dear all, it always seemed to me that statistics in medicine had a level of earnestness and expert input that you would expect in a field where results cost so much to produce and often hugely matter, both in human welfare and potential income/litigation. Many professional statisticians work in medicine and biology generally, and the journal Biometrika is extremely high standard. There are many cases of applied medical statisticians publishing major pure theory papers in stats theory journals, and also textbooks that become standard references in statistics departments. In econometrics there are a few such people (e.g. Zellner). Some techniques apply really well to an applied field and get developed there rather than in their "home" field. I think discrete choice models were very largely developed in econometrics (and their software was written there too).

As a strategy for empirical researchers in accounting, it seems to me that enlisting help from pure statisticians is a clever way to do new or better work. If you glance at medical journals you often see joint papers written by a medico and a statistician from different departments and buildings on the campus. R.A. Fisher developed much of modern statistical theory because he was an agricultural scientist who needed to design and interpret experiments. Gosset of "Student's t-test" was a brewery researcher, who wanted valid interpretations of his sample observations.

There are suggestions these days that drug companies have got influence over some medical research programs but the basic laws of nature, and the fact that a really bad drug will tend to be be found out in a "natural experiment" once it's on the market, must be in medical researchers minds constantly. Publication in these circumstances is only the start of the story.

September 7,  2012 reply from Bob Jensen

Hi David,

I agree fully with everything you said, although outsourcing accountics science research to non-accounting quants is not likely to happen since there are virtually no research grants from government or industry for accountics science research.

And we must face up to the fact that statistical research in medicine (e.g., in epidemiology and drug testing) is only part of all of medical research. In addition there is a tremendous proportion of implementation research in medicine intended to improve diagnosis (e.g., artificial intelligence and virus discovery in biology and genetics) and treatment (e.g., new surgical techniques and prostheses)

What is lacking in accountics science are the components of diagnosis and treatment of benefit to practicing accountants. This of course was the main point of Harvard's Bob Kaplan in his fabulous 2010 AAA plenary session presentation when he implied that accountics scientists only focused on narrow research akin to epidemiology research in medicine.

In any case, until accountics scientists have access to serious research grant money (including contributions to university overhead), I don't think there will be much accountics scientist research outsourcing to statistical experts.

It is also interesting how anthropology took much of the statistical research out of the academic side of their discipline.

Anthropology Without Science: A new long-range plan for the American Anthropological Association that omits the word “science” from the organization's vision for its future has exposed fissures in the discipline ---

I'm not proposing that academic accountants go to the extremes of having accounting research without science. What I am proposing is that we have some alternate tracks in accountancy doctoral programs and leading accounting research journals. This is also what the Pathways Commission is seeking.

Bob Jensen


The Sad State of Accounting Doctoral Programs in North America

"Exploring Accounting Doctoral Program Decline:  Variation and the Search for Antecedents," by Timothy J. Fogarty and Anthony D. Holder, Issues in Accounting Education, May 2012 ---
Not yet posted on June 18, 2012

The inadequate supply of new terminally qualified accounting faculty poses a great concern for many accounting faculty and administrators. Although the general downward trajectory has been well observed, more specific information would offer potential insights about causes and continuation. This paper examines change in accounting doctoral student production in the U.S. since 1989 through the use of five-year moving verges. Aggregated on this basis, the downward movement predominates, notwithstanding the schools that began new programs or increased doctoral student production during this time. The results show that larger declines occurred for middle prestige schools, for larger universities, and for public schools. Schools that periodically successfully compete in M.B.A.. program rankings also more likely have diminished in size. of their accounting Ph.D. programs. Despite a recent increase in graduations, data on the population of current doctoral students suggest the continuation of the problems associated with the supply and demand imbalance that exists in this sector of the U.S. academy.

September 5, 2012 reply from Dan Stone

This is very sad and very true.

Tim Fogarthy talks about the "ghettoization" of accounting education in some of his work and talks. The message that faculty get, and give, is that if a project has no chance for publication in a top X journal, then it is a waste of time. Not many schools are able to stand their ground, and value accounting education, in the face of its absence in any of the "top" accounting journals.

The paradox and irony is that accounting faculty devalue and degrade the very thing that most of them spend the most time doing. We seem to follow a variant of Woody Allen's maxim, "I would never join a club that would have me as a member." Here, it is, "I would never accept a paper for publication that concerns what I do with most of my time."

As Pogo said, "we have met the enemy and they is us."

Dan Stone

Jensen Comment
This is a useful update on the doctoral program shortages relative to demand for new tenure-track faculty in North American universities. However, it does not suggest any reasons or remedies for this phenomenon.  The accounting doctoral program in many ways defies laws of supply and demand. Accounting faculty are the among the highest paid faculty in rank (except possibly in unionized colleges and universities that are not wage competitive). For suggested causes and remedies of this problem see --- See Below!

Accountancy Doctoral Program Information from Jim Hasselback ---

Especially note the table of the entire history of accounting doctoral graduates for all AACSB universities in the U.S. ---
In that table you can note the rise or decline (almost all declines) for each university.

Links to 91 AACSB University Doctoral Programs ---

How Accountics Scientists Should Change: 
"Frankly, Scarlett, after I get a hit for my resume in The Accounting Review I just don't give a damn"
One more mission in what's left of my life will be to try to change this

The AAA's Pathways Commission Accounting Education Initiatives Make National News
Accountics Scientists Should Especially Note the First Recommendation

"Accounting for Innovation," by Elise Young, Inside Higher Ed, July 31, 2012 ---

Accounting programs should promote curricular flexibility to capture a new generation of students who are more technologically savvy, less patient with traditional teaching methods, and more wary of the career opportunities in accounting, according to a report released today by the Pathways Commission, which studies the future of higher education for accounting.

In 2008, the U.S. Treasury Department's  Advisory Committee on the Auditing Profession recommended that the American Accounting Association and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants form a commission to study the future structure and content of accounting education, and the Pathways Commission was formed to fulfill this recommendation and establish a national higher education strategy for accounting.

In the report, the commission acknowledges that some sporadic changes have been adopted, but it seeks to put in place a structure for much more regular and ambitious changes.

The report includes seven recommendations:

According to the report, its two sponsoring organizations -- the American Accounting Association and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants -- will support the effort to carry out the report's recommendations, and they are finalizing a strategy for conducting this effort.

Hsihui Chang, a professor and head of Drexel University’s accounting department, said colleges must prepare students for the accounting field by encouraging three qualities: integrity, analytical skills and a global viewpoint.

“You need to look at things in a global scope,” he said. “One thing we’re always thinking about is how can we attract students from diverse groups?” Chang said the department’s faculty comprises members from several different countries, and the university also has four student organizations dedicated to accounting -- including one for Asian students and one for Hispanic students.

He said the university hosts guest speakers and accounting career days to provide information to prospective accounting students about career options: “They find out, ‘Hey, this seems to be quite exciting.’ ”

Jimmy Ye, a professor and chair of the accounting department at Baruch College of the City University of New York, wrote in an email to Inside Higher Ed that his department is already fulfilling some of the report’s recommendations by inviting professionals from accounting firms into classrooms and bringing in research staff from accounting firms to interact with faculty members and Ph.D. students.

Ye also said the AICPA should collect and analyze supply and demand trends in the accounting profession -- but not just in the short term. “Higher education does not just train students for getting their first jobs,” he wrote. “I would like to see some study on the career tracks of college accounting graduates.”

Mohamed Hussein, a professor and head of the accounting department at the University of Connecticut, also offered ways for the commission to expand its recommendations. He said the recommendations can’t be fully put into practice with the current structure of accounting education.

“There are two parts to this: one part is being able to have an innovative curriculum that will include changes in technology, changes in the economics of the firm, including risk, international issues and regulation,” he said. “And the other part is making sure that the students will take advantage of all this innovation.”

The university offers courses on some of these issues as electives, but it can’t fit all of the information in those courses into the major’s required courses, he said.

Continued in article

Jensen Comment
This is one of the most important initiatives to emerge from the AAA in recent years.

I would like to be optimistic, but change will be very slow. President Wilson, who was also an PhD professor, once remarked that it's easier to move a cemetery than to change a university.

It is easier to move a cemetery than to affect a change in curriculum.
Woodrow Wilson

President of Princeton University 1902-1910
President of the United States 1913-1921

And in the 21st Century you can imagine the lawsuits that would clog the courts if a town tried to move a cemetery.

I think most graduates of accounting doctoral programs that are also chosen to serve as referees of submissions to TAR, JAR, and JAE are econometricians, psychometricians, and mathematicians. The problem is not so much the quality of the referees on accountics submissions.

And some, albeit not all, TAR, JAR, and JAE referees have backgrounds in accounting. The problem is that their study of accounting ended before they started accounting doctoral programs. Therein lies the problem with the incredibly shrinking accounting doctoral programs. These programs are shunned by students seeking to become accounting PhDs instead of social science and mathematics PhDs ---

It's not so much that accountics science is second rate. It was second rate in the 1960s and the early 1970s, but that is no longer the case in the 21st Century. The problem is that accountics science became the only track in literally all of the accounting doctoral programs if universities accredited by the AACSB.

And accountings science dominates promotion and tenure tracks of our research universities since the leading academic accounting research journals will not publish submissions that are not in accountics science or even accept commentaries that challenge the findings of submissions that are published --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/TheoryTAR.htm 

The appeal of the 2012 Pathways Commission commission put simply is to open up alternate research tracks in our doctoral programs to students who want to study accounting in those programs. Also there's an appeal for our top tenure track research journals to be more open to alternate research methodology such as case study research, field study research, and accounting history research.

Dan Stone was correct in his quotation from Pogo. The only thing that stands in the way of implementation of the 2012 Pathways Commission initiatives is us. And we're resisting changing doctoral programs in ways that would make doctoral students and possibly their advisers leave campus to collect and analyze data. Horrors! Who wants to mingle with real-world practicing accountants at anything other than cocktail parties? http://www.cs.trinity.edu/~rjensen/temp/AccounticsDamn.htm

Bob Jensen's threads on Higher Education Controversies and Need for Change ---

The sad state of accountancy doctoral programs ---

How Accountics Scientists Should Change: 
"Frankly, Scarlett, after I get a hit for my resume in The Accounting Review I just don't give a damn"
One more mission in what's left of my life will be to try to change this

July 31, 2012 reply from Paul Williams

Bob, A good place to start is to jettison pretenses of accounting being a science. As Anthony Hopwood noted in his presidential address, accounting is a practice. The tools of science are certainly useful, but using those tools to investigate accounting problems is quite a different matter than claiming that accounting is a science. Teleology doesn't enter the picture in the sciences -- nature is governed by laws, not purposes. Accounting is nothing but a purposeful activity and must (as Jagdish has eloquently noted here and in his Critical Perspectives on Accounting article) deal with values, law and ethics. As Einstein said, "In nature there are no rewards or punishments, only consequences." For a social practice like accounting to pretend there are only consequences (as if economics was a science that deals only with "natural kinds) has been a major failing of the academy in fulfilling its responsibilities to a discipline that also claims to be a profession. In spite of a "professional economist's" claims made here that economics is a science, there is quite some controversy over that even within the economic community. Ha-Joon Chang, another professional economist at Cambridge U. had this to say about the economics discipline: "Recognizing that the boundaries of the market are ambiguous and cannot be determined in an objective way lets us realize that economics is not a science like physics or chemistry, but a political exercise. Free-market economists may want you to believe that the correct boundaries of the market can be scientifically determined, but this is incorrect. If the boundaries of what you are studying cannot be scientifically determined what you are doing is not a science (23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism, p. 10)." The silly persistence of professional accountants in asserting that accounting is apolitical and aethical may be a rationalization they require, but for academics to harbor the same beliefs seems to be a decidedly unscientific posture to take. In one of Ed Arrington's articles published some time ago, he argued that accounting's pretenses of being scientific are risible. As he said (as near as I can recall): "Watching the positive accounting show, Einstein's gods must be rolling in the aisles."

"The global debt clock Our interactive overview of government debt across the planet," The Economist, Date Warning (see below) ---

Jensen Comment
To appreciate the interactive power of this picture go to
Pass the mouse over a nation of interest or choose three nations to compare using the buttons on the right side of the picture.

The Good News --- Interactive Ease of Comparison

The Bad News --- Out of Date Debt Amounts
The top moving "Current Global Public Debt" leads readers to assume that the debt for each nation is very up to date. Such is not the case in the data for each country. For example, the debt for the United States is in the database is $11 trillion of public debt. The current debt for the United States is now over $16 trillion, thereby, leading us to suspect that the debt amounts for other nations are also badly out of date. Still the interactive graph is somewhat useful, especially when comparing debt to population. For example, comparing $11 trillion public debt for the U.S. having 314 million people with $1 trillion public debt for China having 1,326 million people puts things in perspective.

Another piece of bad news is that the above interactive picture does not show the unfunded entitlements. Whereas many nations like China have miniscule unfunded entitlements, the U.S. has $100-$200 trillion in unfunded entitlements.

"It isn't a debt crisis," The Economist, Apr 12th 2012 ---
But it is a debt crisis in reality.

"The cupboard is bare," The Economist, July 19, 2012 ---

GLENN HUBBARD is by many accounts a sensible economist. But he is currently advising Mitt Romney, and political entanglements often nudge sensible people toward curious arguments. In a recent Financial Times piece outlining "a conservative growth agenda for the US economy", Mr Hubbard writes:

High and rising debt burdens are a structural impediment to growth. They raise expected future tax burdens, discouraging investment and limiting productivity growth. Some recent estimates of this adverse effect suggest our debt-to-GDP levels would reduce expected growth by half a percentage point per year over the next decade. How debt reduction occurs is also important. Recent research by Alberto Alesina of Harvard, and others, has emphasised that reducing transfer spending is more likely to lead to long-lasting decrease in debt and support for growth than raising taxes.

Gradual fiscal consolidation may also be stimulative in the short run. Research by Hoover Institution economists concludes that reducing federal spending relative to GDP to pre-financial-crisis levels over a decade would increase GDP in the short and long term. This outcome reflects lower future tax rates and the boost from lower interest rates to investment and net exports.

The economics of the growth impacts of austerity is a subject to which this newspaper has paid considerable attention over the past few years. See this, this, and this, for instance. It seems clear that very high debt loads can have a negative impact on growth, and the taxes needed to bring down borrowing can also have incentive effects that undermine growth. These are important things to consider.

But the evidence on the precise level of debt at which growth impacts become severe is fairly uncertain, and there is good reason to suspect that America can sustain higher debt loads at little cost than most other economies. Episodes of austerity with higher ratios of spending cuts to tax increases are associated with better growth performance, but—crucially—much of that effect can be chalked up to difference in central-bank willingness to accommodate the two strategies: central banks do more to offset spending cuts than tax rises.

Most importantly, episodes of expansionary austerity are clearly associated with two dynamics: large declines in interest rates and big currency depreciations. America would derive zero benefit from the first effect; thereal yield  on the 20-year Treasury is now...0.0%. It couldn't expect to get much of a boost from the second effect either. Trade is a relatively small share of total American output. And there is at least some risk that an aggressive campaign to devalue the dollar could encourage foreign investors to move out of Treasuries, raising interest rates. Though they might also simply fight back. At any rate, the only thing conservative politicians seem to hate more than tax increases is the idea of a falling dollar. And as recent events demonstrate, Republican legislators miss few opportunities to demand tighter policy from the man who could do most to cushion against the impact of austerity.

Now, I think you could get a lot of Democrats, including Barack Obama, to sign on to a broad tax reform with an eye toward improving the medium-run deficit, so long as the reform wasn't regressive and raised revenues on net. And that should have a positive impact on growth over the longer run. But there is very little reason to think that a conservative plan to come in and begin slashing deficits would be good for short-run growth.

Bob Jensen on the U.S. National Debt + Unfunded Entitlements ---

Metacognition in Learning

To my knowledge, Bob Jensen is the first author to discuss the importance of metacognition in learning.
That paper focuses on the metacognitive advantages of self-learning (with blood, sweat, and tears) over memorizing answers given out by teachers.
"Metacognitive Concerns in Designs and Evaluations of Computer Aided Education and Training: Are We Misleading Ourselves About Measures of Success?"


Now we have a second paper on he importance of metacognition in learning
The paper below focuses on the metacognitive mindset
"Accounting Students' Metacognition: The Association of Performance, Calibration Error, and Mindset," by Susan P. Ravenscroft, Tammy R. Waymire, and Timothy D. West, Issues in Accounting Education, Vol. 27, No. 3, August 2012, pp. 707-732 (not free) ---

In recognition of the evolving body of knowledge in the accounting profession, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA 2010) highlights the importance of viewing learning as a lifelong process that requires self-awareness and extends beyond the academic setting. Metacognition, the assessment and regulation of one's own learning, is a crucial element in lifelong learning. We draw upon judgment of learning research and introduce mindset theory to explore the relationship among (1) exam performance, (2) calibration error, measured as expected minus actual exam scores, and (3) mindset, a person's basic beliefs about learning and ability (Dweck 2000, 2006) in the accounting classroom. We find strong evidence that exam performance is inversely related to calibration error (Kruger and Dunning 1999). We also find modest evidence that a growth mindset is associated with improved performance and decreased calibration error. While the mindset results were not entirely consistent with prior research in educational psychology, we explore possible reasons and future directions for accounting education research.

. . .

DISCUSSION Limitations

Our sample consisted of students taught by a single instructor at a single institution who took an elective governmental and nonprofit accounting course during one of three semesters. This course is typically viewed as difficult and as needed for the CPA examination. While this could restrict the generalizability of the results, we do not believe that it does so seriously. We are aware of no research findings indicating that judgments of learning or mindsets differ across social demographics. Instead, the findings on which we relied are found across broad categories of groups. However, to establish generalizability, we hope to use multiple institutions, instructors, and courses in future research.

Another limitation is the restriction of range that we found in the independent variable of mindset. Dweck and Molden (2005) note that when they assess children or adults, they find that about 40 percent endorse the fixed view of mindset, another 40 percent endorse the growth view, and about 20 percent are undecided. Given that a majority of the subjects were categorized as having a growth mindset, the likelihood of seeing a significant relationship was decreased. Because we did not manipulate this variable, we could not create a full range of mindsets for our analysis. Moreover, we have a restricted range of performance. Students taking the governmental and nonprofit accounting course have all succeeded in a competitive accounting program, with average GPAs above that required for remaining the program. Both of these restrictions bias against finding statistically significant relationships, and we believe that the results can, therefore, still be of benefit to a broad range of accounting educators. Discussion of Results

The initial goal of this study was to better understand why accounting students sometimes lack self-awareness about their own abilities and skills, and to explore factors that may assist accounting educators. The study's results point to three implications for accounting educators. First, consistent with Kruger and Dunning (1999), we found that students who overestimate their abilities likely do so because they lack the technical knowledge to evaluate their own performance, as evidenced by lower performance. We also found, in the first two exams, evidence of a magnitude effect that suggests that high-performing students calibrate more accurately than low-performing students do, expressed in absolute terms. This may affirm observations by accounting faculty and help them in assisting students with their self-regulated learning and self-insight.

Second, in exploring the average calibration errors of high- and low-performing students, we found that low-performing students tend to improve their calibration accuracy, while high-performing students tend to become increasingly underconfident relative to their performance. These results demonstrate the concerns that accounting educators may have for both low performers and high performers. Low performers' lack the self-awareness of their technical skills to accurately calibrate their own performance, and this may cause them to continue to underperform. High performers fail to recognize their strong technical skills and may become overly critical of their own performance.

Third, in exploring the role of mindset regarding an individual's approach to learning and response to failure, we predicted that students with a growth mindset (i.e., those who were motivated by learning, resilient, and focused on learning from feedback) would demonstrate higher exam performance, improvement in performance, lower calibration error, and improvement in their calibration. We find modest evidence supporting these predictions. Mindset was significantly associated with performance on only one of three exams, and improvement from Exam 1 to Exam 2. Mindset was not associated with level of calibration error, but was associated with improvement in calibration from Exam 1 to Exam 2 and from Exam 1 to Exam 3. We expected growth mindset to be more consistently associated with the level of, and improvements in, calibration error; however, we believe that the short, one-semester timeline may make it more difficult to capture the impact of mindset. Furthermore, we present evidence that the final exam (Exam 3) may reflect unique resource allocation decisions on the part of students that may affect both the performance and calibration error results. Although inconsistent, the results provide some modest evidence that encouraging a growth mindset may offer benefits to students in improving their performance and calibration accuracy.

Mindset theory originated as a way to explain why students have differing goals and reactions to failure (Dweck and Leggett 1988), but as the research in this area has continued, the significance and implications of mindset have grown. For instance, more recent work implies that mindsets—although malleable experimentally—represent a fundamental view of the world, quoting Piaget to the effect that worldviews of children “can be as important to their functioning as the logical reasoning he studied for much of his career,” (Molden and Dweck 2006, 200). Molden and Dweck (2006) survey research showing that mindset plays a role in many behaviors, including goal setting, attributions, strategies, grades, perceptions of others, responses to stereotypes, self-esteem, and self-regulatory strategies.

In our setting, senior-level and graduate accounting students who have met stringent admissions criteria and who are very grade-conscious may hold strong achievement goals. The connection between mindset and performance may be altered in the presence of strongly held achievement goals (grade-based as opposed to learning-based). Dweck and other researchers (e.g., Dweck and Leggett 1988; Shunk 1995) observe that the positive effect of mindset on achievement can be overridden by the effect of goals. Shunk (1995, 317) discusses the interaction of goals and mindset, and notes that sometimes “success-oriented persons who perform poorly on one occasion will work harder and improve their performance on another.” The integration of the goals literature may, therefore, be helpful in future exploration of the role of mindset in the accounting education setting and extending the results presented in this study. Furthermore, because research suggests that business students generally approach studying in a more superficial way than non-business students (Arum and Roska 2011), future research studies could be conducted across academic disciplines, preferably including students in and outside the college of business to make comparisons among groups.

In sum, our study presents evidence of an inverse relationship between performance and calibration error in an accounting education setting, and offers an initial step in understanding the role mindset plays in metacognitive self-awareness of accounting students. Although this research represents an early effort to introduce mindset concepts within the accounting education literature, our results and the underlying research suggest that faculty could introduce the concept of mindset to students, which could be particularly useful for those students with fixed mindsets. Introducing the concept of a growth mindset leads naturally into a discussion of the effort that is necessary for deep learning, and could motivate a discussion with student involvement about the students' study approaches and preparation for tests. Finally, recent research (Anseel et al. 2009) suggests that the beneficial effects of faculty feedback to students can be amplified if students are appropriately guided to reflect on their performance. Mindset, in conjunction with feedback, offers promise as a way to encourage learning and self-awareness.

Bob Jensen's threads on asynchronous versus synchronous learning ---

Computers and Composition Online ---  http://www.bgsu.edu/departments/english/cconline/home.ht

In preparing the Spring 2012 issue of Computers and Composition Online with our ever talented Senior Editor Joe Erickson, I am struck by the ways in which many of these pieces so strongly connect to the composition classroom and profile a range of tools that remediate both the composing process and the writing classroom itself, questioning not only what writing is but also the spaces in which it is taught and assessed.

Our Theory into Practice section features five complementary webtexts. First, in “Gender and Games in a First-Year Writing Class,” Rebekah Shultz Colby reports the results of series of case studies with women enrolled in a World of Warcraft themed writing course to determine their gaming literacy practices and the impact of those practices on their attitudes about the course. Clearly, a game-based composition course provides alternative composing content and form, and as Cynthia Davidson addresses in "Cyborg Literacy Acquisition Through Second Life: Contesting 'Old' School Spaces with vPortfolios,” students need to develop awareness of the impact of such virtual environments on their learning process. Davidson argues for SecondLife as one space among several where students can create eportfolios that foster such awareness. Just as Davidson documents the ways in which writerly identity spans a range of virtual contexts, Bryan Lutz’ “Composing to Change Nations: Teaching New Media and the Arab Spring in First-Year Composition” bridges the gap between the academic and the political in his call to harness the power of social movements online in our own writing classrooms through blogs and other Web 2.0 tools. Virginia Tucker’s "How is a Forum Community Like a Classroom? Dramatistic Lessons from an Online Community" also makes a compelling connection between the academy and the community in the analysis of the various types of knowledge-making discourse that define the community and how such strategies can and should be implemented in our own online writing courses. The final piece I discuss in this section, Laura R. Micciche, Hannah J. Rule, and Liv Stratman’s “Multimodality, Performance, and Teacher Training,” explores the impact multimodality had on teacher identity in the context of a graduate-level course Micciche taught, Teaching College Writing. Such reflection on the part of both teachers and students is a vital part of successfully integrating technology into the college-level writing spaces.

This spring’s Virtual Classroom section includes Joe Bisz’ “Composition Games for the Classroom,” which aligns gaming strategies with various aspects of the composing process and provides a range of useful resources. Meanwhile, in “Internationalizing Campus through Rhetoric, Writing, and Multimodal Compositions,” Erin Laverick profiles the role multimodal composing played in a project designed to allow international students at the University of Findlay to have a voice in plans to make the campus more inclusive. Finally, in “Forming Assessment of Machinima Video,” Dirk Remley continues his important work with Second Life and machinima video to help teachers consider “how criteria with which they are familiar may be reconceptualized to permit assessment of multimodal products.”

Our Professional Development section includes Julie Daoud’s “Probiotics for Composition-Health? Building an Ecology of Memoir Writing and Blended Learning,” in which Daoud reflects on the successes and challenges of a semester-long study of memoir writing and the technologically-supported activities related to the course readings. Daoud concludes that teachers must be willing to contemplate the ever-changing factors that provide an optimum ecology for a learning-centered classroom, including a blended approach between online-and-face to face activities. Given Daoud’s point, it is fitting that the section concludes with a video tribute to one of the field’s founders, Gail Hawisher, as contributors from across the country discuss the ways in which her groundbreaking work has paved the ways for the successful integration of technology into the teaching of writing.

Last but not least, our Reviews section features three reviews by our very own: Katherine Fredlund’s review of the interactive slideware tool VoiceThread, Em Hurford’s review of Bradley Dilger and Jeff Rice’s award-winning collection From A to <A>: Keywords of Markup, and Estee Beck’s review of Multiliteracy Centers: Writing Center Work, New Media, and Multimodal Rhetoric, edited by David Sheridan and James Inman. Such efforts by our talented group of current and former Rhetoric and Writing doctoral students is a powerful reminder to me that the success and sustainability of both Computers and Composition Online and now Computers and Composition print is a collective effort and represents one of the significant collaborations of my career for which I am eternally grateful.

Kris Blair

Digital Story Telling at Ohio State University --- http://digitalstory.osu.edu/

Discover digital storytelling at Ohio State!  Join faculty, staff and students from a variety of departments who use digital storytelling in academia, research and outreach. We offer a workshop program, coordinate storytelling events and showcase stories created by the OSU community.

Participate in a digital storytelling workshop! Plan to attend our winter workshop. Join in story circles to craft your script, then learn software to produce your multimedia story. Our next workshop is December 17-19, 2012. Please check back soon for registration information.

Do you belong to a group that would like a custom workshop? Find out about planning a workshop for your group.

Learn in a hands-on workshop or by reviewing our resources and tutorials. Please explore the site for more information.


Bob Jensen's helpers for writers ---


"Tax Court Rejects Geithner/Turbo Tax Defense"
Bartlett v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 2012-254 (Sept. 4, 2012):

From Paul Caron

Prior TaxProf Blog coverage:

"Former Harvard Psychologist Fabricated and Falsified, Report Says," by Tom Bartlett, Chronicle of Higher Education, September 5, 2012 ---

Marc Hauser was once among the big, impressive names in psychology, head of the Cognitive Evolution Laboratory at Harvard University, author of popular books like Moral Minds. That reputation unraveled when a university investigation found him responsible for eight counts of scientific misconduct, which led to his resignation last year.

Now the federal Office of Research Integrity has released its report on Hauser’s actions, determining that he fabricated and falsified results from experiments. Here is a sampling:

Hauser “neither admits nor denies” any research misconduct but, according to the report, accepts the findings. He has agreed to three years of extra scrutiny of any federally supported research he conducts, though the requirement may be moot considering that Hauser is no longer employed by a university. Hauser says in a written statement that he is currently “focusing on at-risk youth”; his LinkedIn profile lists him as a co-founder of Gamience, an e-learning company.

In the statement, Hauser calls the five years of investigation into his research “a long and painful period.” He also acknowledges making mistakes, but seems to blame his actions on being stretched too thin. “I tried to do too much, teaching courses, running a large lab of students, sitting on several editorial boards, directing the Mind, Brain & Behavior Program at Harvard, conducting multiple research collaborations, and writing for the general public,” he writes.

He also implies that some of the blame may actually belong to others in his lab. Writes Hauser: “I let important details get away from my control, and as head of the lab, I take responsibility for all errors made within the lab, whether or not I was directly involved.”

But that take—the idea that the problems were caused mainly by Hauser’s inattention—doesn’t square with the story told by those in his laboratory. A former research assistant, who was among those who blew the whistle on Hauser, writes in an e-mail that while the report “does a pretty good job of summing up what is known,” it nevertheless “leaves off how hard his co-authors, who were his at-will employees and graduate students, had to fight to get him to agree not to publish the tainted data.”

The former research assistant points out that the report takes into account only the research that was flagged by whistle-blowers. “He betrayed the trust of everyone that worked with him, and especially those of us who were under him and who should have been able to trust him,” the research assistant writes.

As detailed in this Chronicle article, several members of his laboratory double-checked Hauser’s coding of an experiment and concluded he was falsifying the results so that those results would support the hypothesis, turning a failed experiment into a success. In 2007 they brought that and other evidence to Harvard officials, who began an investigation, raiding Hauser’s lab and seizing computers.

Gerry Altmann believes the report is significant because it finds that Hauser falsified data—that is, investigators found that Hauser didn’t just make up findings, but actually changed findings to suit his purposes. Altmann is the editor of a journal, Cognition, that published a 2002 paper by Hauser that has since been retracted. When you falsify data, Altmann writes in an e-mail, “you are deliberately reporting as true something that you know is not.

Continued in article

Jensen Comment
To my knowledge cheating by accountics scientists has never once been reported to the public. Perhaps this is partly due to lack of replication and lack of importance of many findings to merit whistle blowing ---

Corrupted/Biased Experimentation
It would be naive to assume blatant cheating has not taken place in accoutics science, especially in areas where cheating often takes place in science. When researchers collect their own experimental data rather than purchase the data, temptations arise to take scientific shortcuts or to change findings to better suit the hypotheses under investigation.. Behavioral accounting experiments just as vulnerable as psychology experiments.

Fabricated Data
Another vulnerable area is survey research where the actual response rate is disappointing. A researcher becomes tempted to fill out some added survey instruments. In other instances for ANOVA designs it's tempting to fabricate data to achieve better balance among the cells.

It would seem that plagiarism risks among accounting researchers is not less than plagiarism risk among other researchers. I do know of one instance that I've mentioned previously. One of my favorite colleagues, Professor S, at Trinity University (before he moved upward and onward) received his PhD in management from one of the Big Ten universities. call it University N.

Professor S was notified that he must return immediately to University of N concerning an investigation regarding whether his PhD diploma would be revoked. The allegation was that portions of his doctoral thesis were plagiarized from an article published by accounting professor D at University N. While Professor S was on campus, it became evident that instead Professor D had instead plagiarized from a draft of Professor S's dissertation.

The incident was then immediately hushed up by University N. Professor S retained his diploma. There was never any publicity about the plagiarism of Professor D. I only know about it because I was a close friend and colleague of Professor S.

University N did not take action like Columbia University when it fired an African American female professor of psychology for plagiarizing the some works of her colleagues.
"Columbia U. Professor Denies Plagiarism, Saying Accusers Instead Stole Her Work," by Thomas Bartlett, Chronicle of Higher Education, February 22, 2008 --
 - http://chronicle.com/daily/2008/02/1798n.htm
The investigation leading to the firing of Madonna G. Constantine proved otherwise, and she was fired.
It is strongly suspected that she secretly hung hanging noose outside her own door to symbolize that she was being racially persecuted.

Professor D continued to teach at University N until some years later when he retired at the customary retirement age. I never saw him again at an AAA Annual Meeting. Perhaps there were some lesser punishments such as taking away his travel budgets.

One of the dirtiest forms of plagiarism is when journal referees reject submitted works and later publish those ideas under different wording. I mentioned previously how a well known mathematician refereeing one of my papers rejected my paper and later published my proof in his own book. All I ever got was an apology from the editor of the journal that rejected by paper. For details see

A more subtle, yet related, form of cheating is when a referee borrows a research idea from a paper that he or she rejected. This is not as direct as plagiarism of text or plagiarism of a mathematical proof, but it is cheating even if the referee conducts a better experiment.

Ghost Writers in the Ivory Tower
In the Academy there are instances where professors simply hire a ghost writer or a ghost researcher to secretly do nearly all the work, such as when a well-paid professor hires a starving, albeit brilliant, student. These days it's just as easy for a professor to hire a ghost written paper as it is for a student to hire a ghost written paper. There are many ghost writing outfits on the Internet who will write papers on virtually any topic (prices of course may vary).

A related form of cheating is more common among professors who have difficulty writing in English is to honestly conduct the research and then hire a good writer to secretly write the paper. There are variations of this type of cheating where the researcher and the writer are listed as co-authors of the paper. It is wrong to give the writer credit for the research and wrong for the researcher to get credit for a complete paper he/she never wrote.

I've encountered instances where Colleague A really wants to have Colleague B get a promotion. For instance I know of one situation where Accounting Department Chair B did did not have a good case for being promoted to full professor. Professor A became very endeared to Professor B, his boss, by adding Professor B to three papers as a co-author. After Professor B was promoted to full professor and remained on as head of the department, Professor A always got the highest pay raises in the department.

Of course there are many more games that accountics researchers play in the gray zone of gaming for tenure and promotion ---
Gaming for Tenure as an Accounting Professor ---
 (with a reply about tenure publication point systems from Linda Kidwell)

I think that blowing the whistle of cheating is likely to be more common in the real sciences rather than in accountics science. Accountics scientists work less with research hired employees in laboratories where such employees are more likely to detect laboratory cheating and blow the whistle.

Bob Jensen's threads on professors who cheat ---

Bob Jensen's Fraud Updates ---


Can You Train Business School Students To Be Ethical?
The way we’re doing it now doesn’t work. We need a new way

What is the main temptation of white collar criminals?

Answer from http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/FraudEnronQuiz.htm#01
Jane Bryant Quinn once said something to the effect that, when corporate executives and bankers see billions of loose dollars swirling above there heads, it's just too tempting to hold up both hands and pocket a few millions, especially when colleagues around them have their hands in the air.  I tell my students that it's possible to buy an "A" grade in my courses but none of them can possibly afford it.  The point is that, being human, most of us are vulnerable to some temptations in a weak moment.  Fortunately, none of you reading this have oak barrels of highly-aged whiskey in your cellars, the world's most beautiful women/men lined up outside your bedroom door, and billions of loose dollars swirling about like autumn leaves in a tornado.  Most corporate criminals that regret their actions later confess that the temptations went beyond what they could resist.  What amazes me in this era, however, is how they want to steal more and more after they already have $100 million stashed.  Why do they want more than they could possibly need?

"Can You Train Business School Students To Be Ethical? The way we’re doing it now doesn’t work. We need a new way," by Ray Fisman and Adam Galinsky, Slate, September 4, 2012 ---

A few years ago, Israeli game theorist Ariel Rubinstein got the idea of examining how the tools of economic science affected the judgment and empathy of his undergraduate students at Tel Aviv University. He made each student the CEO of a struggling hypothetical company, and tasked them with deciding how many employees to lay off. Some students were given an algebraic equation that expressed profits as a function of the number of employees on the payroll. Others were given a table listing the number of employees in one column and corresponding profits in the other. Simply presenting the layoff/profits data in a different format had a surprisingly strong effect on students’ choices—fewer than half of the “table” students chose to fire as many workers as was necessary to maximize profits, whereas three quarters of the “equation” students chose the profit-maximizing level of pink slips. Why? The “equation” group simply “solved” the company’s problem of profit maximization, without thinking about the consequences for the employees they were firing.


Rubinstein’s classroom experiment serves as one lesson in the pitfalls of the scientific method: It often seems to distract us from considering the full implications of our calculations. The point isn’t that it’s necessarily immoral to fire an employee—Milton Friedman famously claimed that the sole purpose of a company is indeed to maximize profits—but rather that the students who were encouraged to think of the decision to fire someone as an algebra problem didn’t seem to think about the employees at all.


The experiment is indicative of the challenge faced by business schools, which devote themselves to teaching management as a science, without always acknowledging that every business decision has societal repercussions. A new generation of psychologists is now thinking about how to create ethical leaders in business and in other professions, based on the notion that good people often do bad things unconsciously. It may transform not just education in the professions, but the way we think about encouraging people to do the right thing in general.


At present, the ethics curriculum at business schools can best be described as an unsuccessful work-in-progress. It’s not that business schools are turning Mother Teresas into Jeffrey Skillings (Harvard Business School, class of ’79), despite some claims to that effect. It’s easy to come up with examples of rogue MBA graduates who have lied, cheated, and stolen their ways to fortunes (recently convicted Raj Rajaratnam is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business; his partner in crime, Rajat Gupta, is a Harvard Business School alum). But a huge number of companies are run by business school grads, and for every Gupta and Rajaratnam there are scores of others who run their companies in perfectly legal anonymity. And of course, there are the many ethical missteps by non-MBA business leaders—Bernie Madoff was educated as a lawyer; Enron’s Ken Lay had a Ph.D. in economics.


In actuality, the picture suggested by the data is that business schools have no impact whatsoever on the likelihood that someone will cook the books or otherwise commit fraud. MBA programs are thus damned by faint praise: “We do not turn our students into criminals,” would hardly make for an effective recruiting slogan.


If it’s too much to expect MBA programs to turn out Mother Teresas, is there anything that business schools can do to make tomorrow’s business leaders more likely to do the right thing? If so, it’s probably not by trying to teach them right from wrong—moral epiphanies are a scarce commodity by age 25, when most students start enrolling in MBA programs. Yet this is how business schools have taught ethics for most of their histories. They’ve often quarantined ethics into the beginning or end of the MBA education. When Ray began his MBA classes at Harvard Business School in 1994, the ethics course took place before the instruction in the “science of management” in disciplines like statistics, accounting, and marketing. The idea was to provide an ethical foundation that would allow students to integrate the information and lessons from the practical courses with a broader societal perspective. Students in these classes read philosophical treatises, tackle moral dilemmas, and study moral exemplars such as Johnson & Johnson CEO James Burke, who took responsibility for and provided a quick response to the series of deaths from tampered Tylenol pills in the 1980s.
It’s a mistake to assume that MBA students only seek to maximize profits—there may be eye-rolling at some of the content of ethics curricula, but not at the idea that ethics has a place in business. Yet once the pre-term ethics instruction is out of the way, it is forgotten, replaced by more tangible and easier to grasp matters like balance sheets and factory design.  Students get too distracted by the numbers to think very much about the social reverberations—and in some cases legal consequences—of employing accounting conventions to minimize tax burden or firing workers in the process of reorganizing the factory floor.


Business schools are starting to recognize that ethics can’t be cordoned off from the rest of a business student’s education. The most promising approach, in our view, doesn’t even try to give students a deeper personal sense of mission or social purpose – it’s likely that no amount of indoctrination could have kept Jeff Skilling from blowing up Enron. Instead, it helps students to appreciate the unconscious ethical lapses that we commit every day without even realizing it and to think about how to minimize them.  If finance and marketing can be taught as a science, then perhaps so too can ethics.


These ethical failures don’t occur at random – countless experiments in psychology and economics labs and out in the world have documented the circumstances that make us most likely to ignore moral concerns – what social psychologists Max Bazerman and Ann Tenbrusel call our moral blind spots.  These result from numerous biases that exacerbate the sort of distraction from ethical consequences illustrated by the Rubinstein experiment. A classic sequence of studies illustrate how readily these blind spots can occur in something as seemingly straightforward as flipping a fair coin to determine rewards. Imagine that you are in charge of splitting a pair of tasks between yourself and another person. One job is fun and with a potential payoff of $30; the other tedious and without financial reward. Presumably, you’d agree that flipping a coin is a fair way of deciding—most subjects do. However, when sent off to flip the coin in private, about 90 percent of subjects come back claiming that their coin flip came up assigning them to the fun task, rather than the 50 percent that one would expect with a fair coin. Some people end up ignoring the coin; more interestingly, others respond to an unfavorable first flip by seeing it as “just practice” or deciding to make it two out of three. That is, they find a way of temporarily adjusting their sense of fairness to obtain a favorable outcome.


Jensen Comment
I've always thought that the most important factors affecting ethics were early home life (past) and behavior others in the work place (current). I'm a believer in relative ethics where bad behavior is affected by need (such as being swamped in debt) and opportunity (weak internal controls at work).  I've never been a believer in the effectiveness of teaching ethics in college, although this is no reason not to teach ethics in college. It's just that the ethics mindset was deeply affected before coming to college (e.g. being street smart in high school) and after coming to college (where pressures and temptations to cheat become realities).

An example of the follow-the-herd ethics mentality.
If Coach C of the New Orleans Saints NFL football team offered Player X serious money to intentionally and permanently injure Quarterback Q of an opposing team, Player X might've refused until he witnessed Players W, Y, and Z being paid to do the same thing.  I think this is exactly what happened when several players on the defensive team of the New Orleans Saints intentionally injured quarterbacks for money.

New Orleans Saints bounty scandal --- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Orleans_Saints_bounty_scandal


What is the main temptation of white collar criminals?

Answer from http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/FraudEnronQuiz.htm#01
Jane Bryant Quinn once said something to the effect that, when corporate executives and bankers see billions of loose dollars swirling above there heads, it's just too tempting to hold up both hands and pocket a few millions, especially when colleagues around them have their hands in the air.  I tell my students that it's possible to buy an "A" grade in my courses but none of them can possibly afford it.  The point is that, being human, most of us are vulnerable to some temptations in a weak moment.  Fortunately, none of you reading this have oak barrels of highly-aged whiskey in your cellars, the world's most beautiful women/men lined up outside your bedroom door, and billions of loose dollars swirling about like autumn leaves in a tornado.  Most corporate criminals that regret their actions later confess that the temptations went beyond what they could resist.  What amazes me in this era, however, is how they want to steal more and more after they already have $100 million stashed.  Why do they want more than they could possibly need?

See Bob Jensen's "Rotten to the Core" document at http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/FraudRotten.htm
The exact quotation from Jane Bryant Quinn at http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/FraudRotten.htm#MutualFunds

Why white collar crime pays big time even if you know you will eventually be caught ---

Bob Jensen's threads on professionalism and ethics ---

Bob Jensen's Rotten to the Core threads ---

September 5, 2012 reply from Paul Williams


This is the wrong question because business schools across all disciplines contained therein are trapped in the intellectual box of "methodological individualism." In every business discipline we take as a given that the "business" is not a construction of human law and, thus of human foible, but is a construction of nature that can be reduced to the actions of individual persons. Vivian Walsh (Rationality Allocation, and Reproduction) critiques the neoclassical economic premise that agent = person. Thus far we have failed in our reductionist enterprise to reduce the corporation to the actions of other entities -- persons (in spite of principal/agent theorists claims). Ontologically corporations don't exist -- the world is comprised only of individual human beings. But a classic study of the corporation (Diane Rothbard Margolis, The Managers: Corporate Life in America) shows the conflicted nature of people embedded in a corporate environment where the values they must subscribe to in their jobs are at variance with their values as independent persons. The corporate "being" has values of its own. Business school faculty, particularly accountics "scientists," commit the same error as the neoclassical economists, which Walsh describes thusly:

"...if neo-classical theory is to invest its concept of rational agent with the penumbra of moral seriousness derivable from links to the Scottish moral philosophers and, beyond them, to the concept of rationality which forms part of the conceptual scheme underlying our ordinary language, then it must finally abandon its claim to be a 'value-free` science in the sense of logical empiricism (p. 15)." Business, as an intellectual enterprise conducted within business schools, neglects entirely "ethics" as a serious topic of study and as a problem of institutional design. It is only a problem of unethical persons (which, at sometime or another, includes every human being on earth). If one takes seriously the Kantian proposition that, to be rationally ethical beings, humans must conduct themselves so as to treat always other humans not merely as means, but also always as ends in themselves, then business organization is, by design, unethical. Thus, when the Israeli students had to confront employees "face-to-face" rather than as variables in a profit equation, it was much harder for them to treat those employees as simply disposable means to an end for a being that is merely a legal fiction. One thing we simply do not treat seriously enough as a worthy intellectual activity is the serious scrutiny of the values that lay conveniently hidden beneath the equations we produce. What thoughtful person could possibly subscribe to the notion that the purpose of life is to relentlessly increase shareholder wealth? Increasing shareholder value is a value judgment, pure and simple. And it may not be a particularly good one. Why would we be surprised that some individuals conclude that "stealing" from them (they, like the employees without names in the employment experiment, are ciphers) is not something that one need be wracked with guilt about. If the best we can do is prattle endlessly on about the "tone at the top" (do people who take ethics seriously get to the top?), then the intellectual seriousness which ethics is afforded within business schools is extremely low. Until we start to appreciate that the business narrative is essentially an ethical one, not a technical one, then we will continue to rue the bad apples and ignore how we might built a better barrel.


September 5, 2012 reply from Bob Jensen

Hi Paul,

Do you think the ethics in government is in better shape, especially given the much longer and more widespread history of global government corruption throughout time? I don't think ethics in government is better than ethics in business from a historical perspective or a current perspective where business manipulates government toward its own ends with bribes, campaign contributions, and promises of windfall enormous job benefits for government officials who retire and join industry?

Government corruption is the name of the game in nearly all nations, beginning with Russia, China, Africa, South America, and down the list.

Political corruption in the U.S. is relatively low from a global perspective.
See the attached graph from



Bob Jensen

How does capitalism possibly reduce as well as increase corruption in government?


I think it's because some of the more onerous types of governmental corruption, particularly outright bribery and extortion, are enormous frictions on having capitalism succeed.. If capitalism is to work at all, some of the most onerous types of political corruption have to be greatly reduced. Russian never realized this, and hence Russia remains one of the most violently corrupt and least successful "capitalist" nations on the planet.

"Mohammed Ibrahim: The Philanthropist of Honest Government Africa's cellphone billionaire, Mohammed Ibrahim, is offering a rich payoff for African leaders who don't take payoffs. He says it'll do for development what foreign aid never has," The Wall Street Journal, September 7, 2012 ---

Jensen Comment
What struck me in the above how political corruption tends to be lower in many nations that rely more on capitalism and market distributions. Note in particular the tiny blue strip of Chile in that map. At one time Chile was one of the most corrupt nations of the world. Then some students of the Chicago School are given credit for making Chile literally the most capitalist nation in South America as well as the world in general (of course not without lingering inequality problems).- ---
Chile has the best credit standing in Latin America.

Also note how non-capitalist nations that are wealthy in resources such as Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Veneszuela are the most corrupt in the world.

The real test over the next 50 years will be China. China is a very corrupt nation, especially at the local levels of government. It will be interesting to see if the continued rise in capitalism can work a miracle somewhat like that in Chile ---

"Charles G. Koch: Corporate Cronyism Harms America:  When businesses feed at the federal trough, they threaten public support for business and free markets," by Charles G. Koch, The Wall Street Journal, September 9, 2012 ---

"We didn't build this business—somebody else did."

So reads a sign outside a small roadside craft store in Utah. The message is clearly tongue-in-cheek. But if it hung next to the corporate offices of some of our nation's big financial institutions or auto makers, there would be no irony in the message at all.

It shouldn't surprise us that the role of American business is increasingly vilified or viewed with skepticism. In a Rasmussen poll conducted this year, 68% of voters said they "believe government and big business work together against the rest of us."

Businesses have failed to make the case that government policy—not business greed—has caused many of our current problems. To understand the dreadful condition of our economy, look no further than mandates such as the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac "affordable housing" quotas, directives such as the Community Reinvestment Act, and the Federal Reserve's artificial, below-market interest-rate policy.

Far too many businesses have been all too eager to lobby for maintaining and increasing subsidies and mandates paid by taxpayers and consumers. This growing partnership between business and government is a destructive force, undermining not just our economy and our political system, but the very foundations of our culture.

With partisan rhetoric on the rise this election season, it's important to remind ourselves of what the role of business in a free society really is—and even more important, what it is not.

The role of business is to provide products and services that make people's lives better—while using fewer resources—and to act lawfully and with integrity. Businesses that do this through voluntary exchanges not only benefit through increased profits, they bring better and more competitively priced goods and services to market. This creates a win-win situation for customers and companies alike.

Only societies with a system of economic freedom create widespread prosperity. Studies show that the poorest people in the most-free societies are 10 times better off than the poorest in the least-free. Free societies also bring about greatly improved outcomes in life expectancy, literacy, health, the environment and other important dimensions.

So why isn't economic freedom the "default setting" for our economy? What upsets this productive state of affairs? Trouble begins whenever businesses take their eyes off the needs and wants of consumers—and instead cast longing glances on government and the favors it can bestow. When currying favor with Washington is seen as a much easier way to make money, businesses inevitably begin to compete with rivals in securing government largess, rather than in winning customers.

We have a term for this kind of collusion between business and government. It used to be known as rent-seeking. Now we call it cronyism. Rampant cronyism threatens the economic foundations that have made this the most prosperous country in the world.

We are on dangerous terrain when government picks winners and losers in the economy by subsidizing favored products and industries. There are now businesses and entire industries that exist solely as a result of federal patronage. Profiting from government instead of earning profits in the economy, such businesses can continue to succeed even if they are squandering resources and making products that people wouldn't ordinarily buy.

Because they have the advantage of an uneven playing field, crony businesses can drive their legitimate competitors out of business. But in the longer run, they are unsustainable and unable to compete internationally (unless, of course, the government handouts are big enough). At least the Solyndra boondoggle ended when it went out of business.

By subsidizing and mandating politically favored products in the energy sector (solar, wind and biofuels, some of which benefit Koch Industries), the government is pushing up energy prices for all of us—five times as much in the case of wind-generated electricity. And by putting resources to less-efficient use, cronyism actually kills jobs rather than creating them. Put simply, cronyism is remaking American business to be more like government. It is taking our most productive sectors and making them some of our least.

The effects on government are equally distorting—and corrupting. Instead of protecting our liberty and property, government officials are determining where to send resources based on the political influence of their cronies. In the process, government gains even more power and the ranks of bureaucrats continue to swell.

Subsidies and mandates are just two of the privileges that government can bestow on politically connected friends. Others include grants, loans, tax credits, favorable regulations, bailouts, loan guarantees, targeted tax breaks and no-bid contracts. Government can also grant monopoly status, barriers to entry and protection from foreign competition.

Whatever form these privileges take, Americans are rightly suspicious of the cronyism that substitutes political influence for free markets. According to Rasmussen, two-thirds of the electorate are convinced that crony connections explain most government contracts—and that federal money will be wasted "if the government provides funding for a project that private investors refuse to back." Some 71% think "private sector companies and investors are better than government officials at determining the long-term benefits and potential of new technologies." Only 11% believe "government officials have a better eye for future value."

Continued in article

Bob Jensen's Rotten to the Core threads ---



Video:  Ayn Rand’s Philosophy and Her Resurgence in 2012: A Quick Primer by Stanford Historian Jennifer Burns ---

In 2009, Stanford historian Jennifer Burns published Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right, which traced Rand’s intellectual development and her relationship to the conservative and libertarian movements. It was somewhat fortunate timing. Indeed, from the first day President Obama took office, the defenders of pre-2008 capitalism began buying Rand’s well-known book, Atlas Shrugged, by the dozens. Now, with Paul Ryan, a card-carrying Randian, getting the VP nod from the Grand Old Party, Burns and her book are getting another moment back in the spotlight. They’re helping answer some very basic questions people might have: How do you pronounce her first name? What is her philosophy of objectivism all about? Why does the right adore someone who mercilessly mocked their core religious beliefs? And, what would Rand have thought about a political figure like Paul Ryan? Would the love have been reciprocated?

They’re all good questions — ones that Burns recently addressed on The Colbert Report (above), in the Op-Ed pages of The New York Times, and now in the latest edition of Stanford Magazine. We’ve extracted a few of the key Q & A’s:

First things first, I always stumble on her name. What is the correct pronunciation of Ayn?

Here’s a good trick to remember it. In keeping with her philosophy of selfishness, “Ayn” rhymes with the word “mine.”

So what does Rand’s philosophy of objectivism boil down to?

Here is how Rand summed it up in ten words or less: “metaphysics: objective reality; epistemology: reason; ethics: self-interest; politics: capitalism.”

If I was going to break that down a little bit, metaphysics is objective reality, which means we can only rely on our mind and on reason. It’s our only guide to thought and action. Epistemology, reason. The only way we can know anything is through the reasoning mind. Ethics, self-interest. Rand claimed that selfishness was a virtue. It was virtuous to pursue your own interests and defend your own interests. And politics is capitalism because laissez-faire capitalism for her was the only system that allowed the individual to realize his or her full potential and to keep the fruits of his or her labor and not be obligated to others or punished for success.

Was she concerned about the less fortunate?

That was not a big part of her ethics. Her ethics were based on the individual and on the individual’s right to pursue his or her goals. The individual was not obligated to other people. If you chose, because of your own values, to help other people or to engage in charity, that was fine, but that did not make you a moral person. What made you a moral person is relying on yourself, pursuing your own interests, and not being a burden on others.

Some of the characters she depicts the most negatively in her novels are people like social workers. She thought social workers were [about] the most evil people possible because they made their lives on the misery of others. Morality and ethics, for her, had nothing to do with helping other people.

Continued in article

Related Content: 

Ayn Rand Instructs Johnny Carson on the Virtue of Selfishness, 1967

Ayn Rand’s Philosophy and Her Resurgence in 2012: A Quick Primer by Stanford Historian Jennifer Burns is a post from: Open Culture.

Yet another very important study illustrating the problem of correlation versus unexplained cause ---

"How Stanford wants to Ride the Wave of Online Learning," by Kirsten Winkler, Big Think, August 31, 2012 ---

Bigwave How Stanford wants to Ride the Wave of Online Learning Kirsten Winkler on August 31, 2012, 9:53 AM

In January Stanford President John Hennessy said in a Faculty Senate meeting that online education is a tsunami academia has to face. He added that

“We want to get ahead of this wave. I want to be surfing the wave, not drowning in it.”

according to TechCrunch.

Yesterday Stanford announced the appointment of Computer scientist John Mitchell as new vice provost for Online Learning. According to the article this is only part of a larger initiative that aims to prepare the university towards the requirements and potential of the 21st century.

The creation of the Office of the Vice Provost for Online Learning (VPOL) is also a commitment to bring new teaching and learning methods to Stanford students around the globe. It is planned as a laboratory for Stanford and its teachers, providing leadership and information monitoring the evolution of online learning over the next years.

Stanford sees technology also as a mean to widen its reach and attract and teach students no matter where they are.

In order to bring more and more of its courses online, Stanford Online will focus on involving faculty in new teaching and learning methods and supporting course production and online delivery during the coming academic year.

Stanford already found great success in online learning through their partnership with Coursera, an online learning platform founded by two Stanford professors on leave. The courses have attracted hundreds of thousands of online students in the past year.

A redesigned website of Stanford Online will be launched on September 21st, making it easy for students to search and find online courses and information for everyone else interested in the development of the VPOL and its initiatives.

Of course, the main problem to solve will be the accreditation of the online courses besides the recent teething problems of low quality and plagiaris.

Continued in article

Bob Jensen's threads on free online courses, tutorials, videos, and course materials from prestigious universities, especially MITx ---

When does affirmative action taken to extremes lead to high turnover?

"Race, Gender and Careers: Why 'Stuffing the Pipeline' Is Not Enough," Knowledge@Wharton, August 29, 2012 ---

Zoom.us -- An Amazing Cloud-based, Video-Conferencing Posting the AAA Commons by Rick Lillie

Zoom.us -- An Amazing Cloud-based, Video-Conferencing...
blog entry posted September 1, 2012 by Rick Lillie, last edited Yesterday , tagged research, teaching, technology, technology tools
103 Views, 3 Comments
Zoom.us -- An Amazing Cloud-based, Video-Conferencing Service (It's free!)
intro text:
Recently, I read about Zoom.us a new free, cloud-based, video-conferencing service.  Yesterday, three of us used zoom.us to work on a research project.  We are located throughout the U.S.  We logged into the video conference call and worked for more than an hour.  The audio and video were crystal clear.  We shared desktops to work on documents together.  Wow!  The virtual work session was very productive and enjoyable.

I use Skype to work with colleagues and to offer virtual office hours for my students.  Skype offers a free 1:1 video-conference call with desktop sharing.  To include more than two people in a Skype video call, you need to subscribe to Skype's premium service.  Skype's fee is very reasonable; however, it's difficult to beat "free."

Both Zoom.us and Skype have features that meet specific needs.  Therefore, both services are valuable to the teaching-learning experience.  The quality of the zoom.us video-conference call was exceptional.  Zoom.us versus Skype is not an either/or situation.  Using one service or the other is a judgment call regarding features that best fit the need as hand.

Getting started with zoom.us is quick and easy to do.  Their support page explanations are easy to follow.  The service works with Google and Facebook, iPad, iPhone, Windows and Mac.  When I set up zoom.us, I had to download a small file to my computer that includes the zoom.us interface.  The download was quick.  No problem.

Below is a screenshot from the support page indicating key features of the zoom.us interface screen.  Individual members participating in a video call are shown at the top of the screen.  When a member speaks, the border of the member's screen turns "green."  The speaker's screen displays in the "big screen" section of the interface window.  This process works as the conversation switches among participants.  Wow!  This is amazing and allows each speaker to be the center of attention.

Check out zoom.us.  I think you'll like this new video-conference service.

Best wishes,

Rick Lillie (
CSU San Bernardino)


I talked with the developers of zoom.us this afternoon.  They explained the simple way to download the small zoom.us file to your computer's desktop.
See the picture below.
Unless you change the "settings" in zoom.us, you will need to double-click on the zoom.us icon on your desktop to start the program.  Once the icon displays at the bottom of your monitor screen, click the icon to open the zoom.us screen.  Click the Start Video Meeting button.  When the screen displays, click the Invite option.  Enter the email addresses for participants you wish to invite into the video conference call.  Send the email message.  Stay logged into zoom.us.  Watch participants join the video conference call.
I think you will be amazed by the clarity and crispness of the audio and video call.
Rick Lillie
(CSU San Bernardino)


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

Justice Dept. Joins Complaint Against For-Profit Chain (in Texas), Inside Higher Ed, September 4, 2012 ---

Bob Jensen's threads on for-profit universities operating in the gray zone of fraud ---

The Full List of NFL Team Valuations --- http://www.forbes.com/nfl-valuations/

"Dallas Cowboys Lead NFL With $2.1 Billion Valuation," by Mike Ozanian, Forbes. September 5, 2012 ---

The most famous quote attributed to legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi is “winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” But if Lombardi had coached in this era instead of the 1960s he may have substituted the word “marketing” for “winning.”

The Dallas Cowboys have not been to the Super Bowl in 16 years. But the lack of a title game appearance has done nothing to slow down the money that flows into the arms of Jerry Jones, the oilman who bought the National Football League team and lease to its stadium in 1989 for $150 million. The Cowboys are now worth $2.1 billion, more than any sports team on the planet, save Manchester United. And if the English soccer club, which recently sold shares to the public, stumbles, the Cowboys will run right past them because nobody in football can match Jones when it comes to marketing and squeezing cash from a stadium.

Last season the Cowboys generated $500 million in total revenue, a record for an American sports team, and posted operating income (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) of $227 million, $108 million more than any other football team and more than either the entire National Basketball Association or National Hockey League. A prime example of what separates Dallas from the league’s other 31 teams is the more than $80 million in sponsorship revenue Cowboys Stadium rakes in from companies such as Ford Motor, Bank of America, PepsiCo, Dr. Pepper and Miller Brewing, almost $20 million more than any other football team. Sponsorship revenue, unlike the NFL’s national television fees with NBC, Fox, ESPN and CBS, are not shared equally with the other teams.

Continued in article

Jensen Comment
I think it's more than just marketing. Another factor is location, Texas is a state where high schools will spend upwards of $60 million for a high school stadium and books and television shows like Friday Night Lights are written ---

It also helps to be in a location where fans do not have to sit outdoors in below-zero weather and raging blizzards.

Bob Jensen's threads on valuation ---


Guidelines for Textbook Shopping

I investigated the options a student might find when searching for the following textbook, Financial Accounting, 7th edition by Libby, Libby and Short. The first eight providers on the first few pages of Google results ranged from Amazon to Textbooks.com. I found more than five prices for the new, hardcover version of this book, from $84.27 to $207.99 and used hardcover prices from $113.00 to $149.99. Most book rental prices hovered around $50-55, while e-rentals were more varied.
Dayna Catropa, September 2, 2012 (See below)

"The Good and Bad News About Shopping for Textbooks," by Dayna Catropa, Inside Higher Ed, September 2, 2012 ---

It’s the time of year when students must gather their course materials as classes begin. Long gone is the obligatory march through the campus store purchasing textbooks. These days, students can start their search online and their options have multiplied. 

As IHE blogger Joshua Kim mentioned last week, the cost of textbooks continues to climb.  Entrepreneurs have responded to these dynamics by introducing start-ups with new business models. Audrey Watters recently covered some of the industry’s most current announcements. Then there is IHE’s coverage of Boundless Education, an organization trying to replace textbooks with freely available materials.

What does this actually mean for students acquiring course materials each semester?  Students have more options than ever before, but do all of these choices translate into cost savings and/or enhanced learning?

I investigated the options a student might find when searching for the following textbook, Financial Accounting, 7th edition by Libby, Libby and Short.  The first eight providers on the first few pages of Google results ranged from Amazon to Textbooks.com. I found more than five prices for the new, hardcover version of this book, from $84.27 to $207.99 and used hardcover prices from $113.00 to $149.99. Most book rental prices hovered around $50-55, while e-rentals were more varied.

It might actually have become harder to decide which is the best textbook option or to even know if you have found the best deal. Should you go with print or digital? Rented, new or used? Check it out from the local library or use the copy on reserve at the college library? Should you take your chances buying from an unknown Amazon or eBay seller who says a book is ‘gently used’ with ‘barely any’ marks?  Should you buy or rent an older edition than is required and take your chances? How can you tell if the version with the supplemental web materials is worth the extra cost? Is it best to simply go to the campus store? 

Continued in article

"With 'Access Codes,' Textbook Pricing Gets More Complicated Than Ever," by Jeffrey R. Young, Chronicle of Higher Education, September 3, 2012 ---

Jensen Comment
Note that I'm generally opposed to adopting free textbooks (some of which contain advertising). Firstly, there is little incentive for authors to update free textbooks when they receive miniscule or zero royalties. Secondly, if end-of-chapter questions, problems, and cases are not revised frequently, instructors should not rely on those for course assignments since the answers are widely available online.

The exception is free course materials (such as cases) provided by prestigious universities such as MIT ---
The good news is that those materials are often revised frequently. The bad news for lazy instructors is that those materials often do not contain answers for instructors or students. Instructors and students must, therefore, actually work to find answers. Also those materials are generally not as complete as a great textbook that has extensive end-of-chapter materials, test banks, and multimedia supplements.

Bob Jensen's threads on how to find the cheapest textbooks that instructors mandate or recommend for a course ---

"Walmart.com's Semantic Search Promises Edge Against Amazon," by Brian Proffitt, ReadWriteWeb, August 31, 2012 ---

How much of a difference can better search tools make for an e-commerce site? Wal-Mart is betting on a 10% -15% improvement in sales following the launch of its new Polaris search engine on Walmart.com, developed by its @WalmartLabs division.

Location, Location, Location

In the business of retail, it's all about location, That's true for which aisle in the grocery store you display the milk, and its even true for ecommerce sites, which rely on product placement on pages and better search tools to make the difference between a sale and no sale.

The $487.94 question is: will a better search engine bring more sales for Walmart.com?

The new semantic search engine is based on technology from a number of @WalmartLabs acquisitions, including social media startup Kosmix, which was acquired by Wal-Mart in April 2011. Kosmix' Semantic Web platform, called the Social Genome, organized social media data with algorithms that score social media content and help deliver results for shoppers that are more in line with what the customer wants.

This varies from the usual method of determining a customer's potential likes and dislikes: mining transaction data. For example, if you buy a pink flamingo from the home and garden division, then you might be tagged as someone who likes kitschy lawn decorations.

That's all well and good, unless you were buying that lawn ornament as a gag gift for your neighbor down the street. Retailers that are mining your transaction data will send you the coupons for garden gnomes, not your neighbor.

The idea behind semantic search is that by expanding a search engine's knowledge to include social media content, the search engine can better determine the context of what you're looking for. This form of social discovery, coupled with better query parsing and synonym mining, should deliver a more tightly focused set of results to a customer.

Are Semantics Enough?

Looking at Walmart.com in isolation, it's a no-brainer that a more efficient search engine that can deliver a wider range of choices around a simple search term will up the odds of completing a sale.

The key here is how Polaris works with global Internet search. If consumers are running their searches for goods from search engines like Google or Bing, or using comparison sites like BizRate or PriceGrabber to get started, it is not yet clear how well the new Polaris technology will interact with Internet-based queries. If the semantic search advantage is lost, then Wal-Mart's Polaris advantage will be moot, and the company will have to compete not on search results but on price, availability and delivery - just like everyone else.

Availability and delivery are advantages that Wal-Mart has been able to hold against Amazon, even through the odd price wars that occastionally break out over certain hot items. Some shoppers seem to be willing to pay a little more if they know they can go down to the store today and pick up an item they've ordered online.

But Amazon is starting to explore same-day delivery, a move that should challenge Wal-Mart's edge in local availability.

Price as the Ultimate Decider

Wal-Mart's focus on improving its edge in ecommerce could be seen as sandbagging before the coming Amazon flood. Because once Wal-Mart and Amazon share a more level playing field on availability (at least in the U.S.), price becomes a bigger comparison point for shoppers again.

This could be a problem for Wal-Mart, which has 2.2 million employees to keep paid versus Amazon's 69,100, not to mention the upkeep of Wal-Mart's store locations. With less overhead, Amazon could be more nimble than Wal-Mart in selling goods for lower prices over the long-term.

Jensen Comment
If price is the "ultimate decider," then Amazon may have an edge as long as Wal-Mart does not have a used-item service comparable to Amazon's tremendous and vast network of used item vendors where items are shipped by those vendors directly to customers and Amazon guarantees both delivery and product satisfaction. I doubt that Wal-Mart will ever compete in terms of price on things like books and DVDs (including software) where most of us do not care if a book saving 95% if the price is a used copy. For example, I was recently able to obtain a virgin installation disk of FrontPage 2003 from somebody who apparently saves up these new (albeit old) editions that larger software vendors (including Microsoft) no longer sell.

But the above article is interesting from the standpoint of the future of semantic searching.

Semantic Web --- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semantic_Web

DBPedia --- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dbpedia

Freebase --- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freebase_(database)

"Wikipedia to Add Meaning to Its Pages The online encyclopedia is exploring ways to embrace the semantic Web," by Tom Simonite, MIT's Technology Review, July 7, 2010 --- http://www.technologyreview.com/web/25728/?nlid=3210&a=f

As a global resource built from the spare time of millions of volunteers, Wikipedia may be the epitome of Web 2.0. But the Wikimedia Foundation, a nonprofit organization that runs Wikipedia, among other projects, is now thinking about how to make it a linchpin of Web 3.0, or the semantic Web.

That means making some of the data on Wikipedia's 15 million (and counting) articles understandable to computers as well as humans. This would allow software to know, for example, that the numbers shown in one of the columns in this table listing U.S. presidents are dates. That could, in turn, allow applications that draw on Wikipedia to automatically generate historical timelines or answer the kind of general knowledge questions that would usually entail a person finding and reading a relevant entry on the site.

At the 2010 Semantic Technology conference in San Francisco last month, the foundation's deputy director, Erik Möller, and colleague Trevor Parscal, a user-experience developer for Wikimedia, showed some first steps taken by the foundation to explore how more semantic structure might be added to Wikipedia. They also appealed to the semantic Web community to help develop ways to make Wikipedia's knowledge more accessible to computers and software.

"Semantic information already exists in Wikipedia, and people are already building on it," says Möller. "Unfortunately, we're not really helping, and they have to use extensive processing to do so."

One example is DBPedia, a semantic database built using software collect data from the site's pages, and maintained by the Free University of Berlin and the University of Leipzig, both in Germany. Another is Freebase, a for-profit knowledge database, much of which was also sourced by scraping Wikipedia. Freebase is the data source used by question-answering search engine PowerSet, which was acquired by Microsoft to be part of its Bing search engine

"Opening Search to Semantic Upstarts: Yahoo's new open-search platform is giving semantic search a helping hand," by Kate Greene, MIT's Technology Review, September 8, 2008 --- http://www.technologyreview.com/Infotech/21342/?nlid=1322&a=f 


LinkedIn and the Semantic Web ---

Bob Jensen's search helpers ---

TOEFL Test Practice Sets --- http://www.testpreppractice.net/TOEFL/Default.aspx

"For Spain's Jobless, Time Equals Money," by Matt Moffett, The Wall Street Journal, August 27, 2012 ---

Even though she's one of millions of young, unemployed Spaniards, 22-year-old Silvia Martín takes comfort in knowing that her bank is still standing behind her. It's not a lending institution, but rather a time bank whose nearly 400 members barter their services by the hour.

Ms. Martín, who doesn't own a car and can't afford taxis, has relied on other time-bank members to give her lifts around town for her odd jobs and errands, as well as to help with house repairs. In return, she has cared for members' elderly relatives, organized children's parties and even hauled boxes for a member moving to a new house.

The time bank not only saves her cash, she says, but also lifts her spirits by making her feel "part of a community that's taking some positive action during hard times."

As Europe's leaders struggle with a five-year-old economic crunch that has saddled Spain with the industrialized world's highest jobless rate, young Spaniards are increasingly embracing such bottom-up self-help initiatives to cope. The diverse measures—some commonly associated with rural or disaster-zone economies—supplement a public safety net that is fraying under government austerity programs.

Besides time banks, they include barter markets springing up in barrios, local currencies designed to spur the flagging retail economy, and charity networks that repurpose discarded goods. An environmental group recently launched Huertos Compartidos, or Shared Gardens, that links up owners of vacant land with those willing to plant vegetables in them and share the harvest.

The growth of time banks revives a concept pioneered by 19th-century anarchists and socialists in the U.S. and Europe, who wanted to test their philosophy that prices of goods and services should more closely reflect the labor involved in producing them.

The number of such banks in Spain—some run by neighborhood associations, others by local governments—has nearly doubled to 291 over the past two years, according to a survey by Julio Gisbert, a banker who runs a website called Vivir Sin Empleo, or Living Without Work, that tracks mutual-aid initiatives. Some economists worry that the rise of such informal systems of economic exchange is pushing more of Spain's economy underground—out of the view of regulators and tax collectors, and effectively sending the country back in time developmentally.

"It's a step backward not only for a euro country, but also for a developed country," says José García Montalvo, an economics professor at the University of Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona.

Banks and social currencies, he says, can backfire on the broader economy since the income received from such arrangements often goes undeclared, therefore depriving the government of tax revenue. Social currencies and time banks also preclude taking on debt, adds Mr. García Montalvo, which in moderate levels can help people start businesses and access beneficial goods and services that they can't afford upfront.

Others, though, say the measures represent a significant stabilizing force in society. For "people who can't find work, these kinds of possibilities of exchanges and mutual help can help make bearable a situation that otherwise would be unsustainable," says José Luis Álvarez Arce, director of the economics department at the University of Navarra.

Continued in article

How "employed" people in America evade taxes via the underground cash and barter economy ---

In the Store Point and Click:  Another Example of Technology Replacing Labor
"Walmart Is Testing A Scan-And-Go iPhone App That Could One Day Replace Cashiers," by Alyson Shontell, Business Insider, September 1, 2012 ---

In Rogers Arkansas, Walmart recently asked employees and their friends with iPhones to test out a new self scan-and-go app. It's one of a few mobile initiatives Walmart is working on that could one day replace or aid its many cashiers.


The test was put together by Walmart Labs. The app let employees scan items on their phones but not pay on the devices. Instead the app transferred all scanned items to a self-checkout kiosk.

But Walmart has said it's working on a mobile payment network with other retailers that could rival current solutions like Google Wallet.

Walmart spokesman David Tovar tells Reuters the company is "continually testing new and innovative ways to serve customers and enhance the shopping experience in our stores."

Walmart's US stores spend about $12 millions on cashier wages per second, so an app like this could save the company a lot of money.

Google Plus = Google+ --- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google%2B

"New Google+ Features Target Businesses," by Fruzsina Eördögh, ReadWriteWeb, August 31st, 2012  ---

In an effort to boost adoption of its Google+ social network, Google this week announced a slew of new features aimed at enticing business customers to use the service and "go Google."

Citing the success other Web-based Google Apps like Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs and Google Drive have found amongst employers and their workers, Google Apps Product Management Director Clay Bavor detailed a slew of new Google+ features for businesses in an official Google Enterprise blog post.

"Like Google Apps, we think Google+ can help colleagues collaborate more easily and get things done – and get to know each other along the way," wrote Bavor.

Continued in article

Google Plus --- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Plus

"Google+ Comes Up Short," by Joshua Ganz, Harvard Business Review Blog, July 7, 2011 --- Click Here

What problem does Google+ solve for consumers? The answer appears to be: nothing. And, therefore, it solves nothing for Google either.

As with many of these social launches — an exception being the ill-fated Google Buzz — the launch of Google+ was limited. Like Gmail and Google Wave, Google relied on invites to scale initial users and work out issues before a wider launch. I, somehow, managed to score access to Google+ from Day One of its recent launch, and I'm here to report on it. (I should note that opinions vary.)

What I found upon signing up was a routine to search my Google contacts and allocate people to Circles. The idea is that should any of them sign up to Google+ I could neatly organize my friends according to whatever category I thought best fit them. I could also find anyone currently on Google+ and choose to follow them. Ironically, I chose to follow Mark Zuckerberg the CEO of Facebook, but I also followed Google's founders. The latter seem to participate regularly and lots of people comment on their activities. The former, unsurprisingly, not so much (although Zuckerberg seems to be the most followed person on the network).

I then spent a little time filling in my profile (you can view it here). You can even follow my Google Buzz feed from there, a legacy of automatic reposting of my tweets and shared Google Reader links.

Having done lots of set-up, I waited to see what happened. The answer to that was: not much. For Google+ to work, it has to be populated. Specifically, it has to be populated with people the user is interested in. As it is early days, that crucial feature isn't there.

This (lack of) network effect could do Google+ in if it can't get a virtuous cycle going. So the question is whether Google+ has the potential to attract a large enough network.

The reasoning why Google itself might desperately want this to work out is clear. Facebook and Twitter are grabbing attention and Google is in the business of getting attention and on-selling it to advertisers. Add to that the fact that the type of attention that comes from users providing content and demonstrating their interest by commenting and subscribing to things, and Google+ (were it to work) could yield important information that helps advertisers target consumers better.

Continued in article


"3 Steps Google Plus Must Take to Win Against Facebook," by Zubin Wadia, ReadWriteWeb, June 29, 2011 ---

Congratulations to the Google Plus team for shipping a superb beta under conditions which could be considered equal parts turmoil and FUD.

I absolutely love it. If it had 750 million users on it right now it would be a superior experience to Facebook.

For starters, it looks more cohesive. This isn't surprising because it is a blank slate product that did not have to deal with the technical debt Facebook has accumulated since 2004. Beyond the interface however, Google Plus will be more engaging emotionally for people because it allows them to be more authentic with one another.

Why? Because Google Plus establishes intuitive clarity for my social graph.

"What Google+ (Google Plus) Should Have Been: Bing's Linked Pages," by Jon Mitchell, ReadWriteWeb, February 28, 2012 ---

Here's one we missed. Bing launched Bing+ last week, it just skipped all the unnecessary stuff. (It's not really called Bing+.) There's a new feature called Linked Pages that allows Bing users (U.S. only, for now) to connect their various websites and profiles to their Bing identities, using Facebook for authentication. You can also link your Facebook friends to their pages.

Thanks to its relationship with Facebook, Microsoft has the advantage of not needing to build its own identity provider or social network. Everyone's already on Facebook. To build good results for people, Bing will use the same technique Facebook Groups use: get friends to draw their own graph. Just like with Facebook Groups, if a friend connects you to something you don't want, you can remove it permanently. We all thought that feature would suck for Groups, but it worked just fine. Facebook Groups build themselves, and Bing can build identities the same way.

Social Network Overkill

The interesting thing is, this is exactly what Google+ is for, but the product isn't being pitched that way. Google's social layer is all about establishing the Google-presence for people and brands, so they can appear across Google-land, especially in Search, plus Your World. But Google+ is spun as a place for "sharing." It has all these pieces of a social network, but people aren't using them.

It's a shame, because some of these features are absolutely wonderful. What could be more social than Hangouts? Google+ is full of great ideas, but it is struggling to bring them together. The user experience isn't there. And that's all because Google felt the need to build a full-blown social network itself in order to act as an identity service.

Couldn't Hangouts have just been a Gmail feature?

Social Search Is All We Needed

There's no need for a new social network, but there is a reason to put personal identities in search. Searching for people has always been a terrible experience. It's nearly impossible to find the person you're looking for, unless they're famous. Search engines need an identity layer.

Bing is just being honest about that. If you want to control the way you appear in search, you can connect the sites and pages that matter to you via Facebook. Your friends can do it, too. When you use Bing to search for people, now you'll be able to find the content that's related to them. That's what Search, plus Your World does for Google, but Bing does it without requiring this new, extra place to waste time online.

Google could have done that. The Google+ profile works exactly the way Bing's Linked Pages does, allowing users to link their outside sites and pages to themselves. It could have just made a Facebook app, and boom, there are your social search results. But that's not how the business works. Google and Facebook can't cooperate. They have to compete for eyeballs around social content, and Facebook is winning.

Jensen Comment
I've previously written about why I think Bing Maps is superior to Google Maps. Sometimes (horrors) Microsoft really does do a better job when it comes late onto the scene ---

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

The course involved is "Government 1310: Introduction to Congress." So why is does cheating in this course come as a surprise?

"Cheating Scandal at Harvard," Inside Higher Ed, August 31, 2012 ---

Harvard University is investigating about 125 students -- nearly 2 percent of all undergraduates -- who are suspected of cheating on a take-home final during the spring semester, The Boston Globe reported Thursday. The students who will appear before the college’s disciplinary board over the coming weeks, seem to have copied each other’s work, the dean of undergraduate education said. Those found guilty could face up to a one-year suspension. The dean would not comment on whether students who had already graduated would have their degrees revoked but he did tell the Globe, “this is something we take really, really seriously.” Harvard administrators said they are considering new ways to educate students about cheating and academic ethics. While the university has no honor code, the Globe noted, its official handbook says students should “assume that collaboration in the completion of assignments is prohibited unless explicitly permitted by the instructor.”

Jensen Comment
The main issue is whether students plagiarized work of other students.

Ironically the course involved is "Government 1310: Introduction to Congress." So why is does cheating in this course come as a surprise?

"Harvard Students in Cheating Scandal Say Collaboration Was Accepted," by Richard Perez-Pena, The New York Times, August 31, 2012 ---

. . .

 In years past, the course, Introduction to Congress, had a reputation as one of the easiest at Harvard College. Some of the 279 students who took it in the spring semester said that the teacher, Matthew B. Platt, an assistant professor of government, told them at the outset that he gave high grades and that neither attending his lectures nor the discussion sessions with graduate teaching fellows was mandatory.

¶ “He said, ‘I gave out 120 A’s last year, and I’ll give out 120 more,’ ” one accused student said.

¶ But evaluations posted online by students after finals — before the cheating charges were made — in Harvard’s Q Guide were filled with seething assessments, and made clear that the class was no longer easy. Many students, who posted anonymously, described Dr. Platt as a great lecturer, but the guide included far more comments like “I felt that many of the exam questions were designed to trick you rather than test your understanding of the material,” “the exams are absolutely absurd and don’t match the material covered in the lecture at all,” “went from being easy last year to just being plain old confusing,” and “this was perhaps the worst class I have ever taken.”

¶ Harvard University revealed on Wednesday that nearly half of the undergraduates in the spring class were under investigation for suspected cheating, for working together or for plagiarizing on a take-home final exam. Jay Harris, the dean of undergraduate education, called the episode “unprecedented in its scope and magnitude.”

¶ The university would not name the class, but it was identified by students facing cheating allegations. They were granted anonymity because they said they feared that open criticism could influence the outcome of their disciplinary cases.

¶ “They’re threatening people’s futures,” said a student who graduated in May. “Having my degree revoked now would mean I lose my job.”

¶ The students said they do not doubt that some people in the class did things that were obviously prohibited, like working together in writing test answers. But they said that some of the conduct now being condemned was taken for granted in the course, on previous tests and in previous years.

¶ Dr. Platt and his teaching assistants did not respond to messages requesting comment that were left on Friday. In response to calls to Mr. Harris and Michael D. Smith, the dean and chief academic officer of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the university released a statement saying that the university’s administrative board still must meet with each accused student and that it has not reached any conclusions.

¶ “We expect to learn more about the way the course was organized and how work was approached in class and on the take-home final,” the statement said. “That is the type of information that the process is designed to bring forward, and we will review all of the facts as they arise.”

¶ The class met three times a week, and each student in the class was assigned to one of 10 discussion sections, each of which held weekly sessions with graduate teaching fellows. The course grade was based entirely on four take-home tests, which students had several days to complete and which were graded by the teaching fellows.

¶ Students complained that teaching fellows varied widely in how tough they were in grading, how helpful they were, and which terms and references to sources they expected to see in answers. As a result, they said, students routinely shared notes from Dr. Pratt’s lectures, notes from discussion sessions, and reading materials, which they believed was allowed.

¶ “I was just someone who shared notes, and now I’m implicated in this,” said a senior who faces a cheating allegation. “Everyone in this class had shared notes. You’d expect similar answers.”

¶ Instructions on the final exam said, “students may not discuss the exam with others.” Students said that consulting with the fellows on exams was commonplace, that the fellows generally did not turn students away, and that the fellows did not always understand the questions, either.

¶ One student recalled going to a teaching fellow while working on the final exam and finding a crowd of others there, asking about a test question that hinged on an unfamiliar term. The student said the fellow defined the term for them.

¶ An accused sophomore said that in working on exams, “everybody went to the T.F.’s and begged for help. Some of the T.F.’s really laid it out for you, as explicit as you need, so of course the answers were the same.”

¶ He said that he also discussed test questions with other students, which he acknowledged was prohibited, but he maintained that the practice was widespread and accepted.

Huge Cheating Scandals at the University of Virginia, Ohio, Duke, Cambridge, and Other Universities ---

Bob Jensen's threads on plagiarism and other forms of cheating are at

How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012, 256 pp.)

Reviewed by The Washington Times --- Click Here

Student Assignment on Fraud: Compare the Stockton Versus Orange County Bankruptcies

The Cause of Stockton's Bankruptcy:  Lousy Risk Disclosures on Bond Sales for Stockton's Pension Funds

"How Plan to Help City Pay Pensions Backfired," by Mary Williams Walsh,  The New York Times, September 3, 2012 ---

Jeffrey A. Michael, a finance professor in Stockton, Calif., took a hard look at his city’s bankruptcy this summer and thought he saw a smoking gun: a dubious bond deal that bankers had pushed on Stockton just as the local economy was starting to tank in the spring of 2007, he said.

Stockton sold the bonds, about $125 million worth, to obtain cash to close a shortfall in its pension plans for current and retired city workers. The strategy backfired, which is part of the reason the city is now in Chapter 9 bankruptcy. Stockton is trying to walk away from the so-called pension obligation bonds and to renegotiate other debts.

After reviewing an analysis of the bond deal, underwritten by the ill-fated investment bank, Lehman Brothers, and watching a recording of the Stockton City Council meeting where Lehman bankers pitched the deal, Mr. Michael concluded that “Stockton is entitled to some relief, due to deceptive and misleading sales practices that understated the risk.”

“Lehman Brothers just didn’t disclose all the risks of the transaction,” he said. “Their product didn’t work, in the same way as if they had built a marina for the city and then the marina collapsed.”

Financial analysts and actuaries say essentially the same pitch that swayed Stockton has been made thousands of times to local governments all over the country — and that many of them were drawn into deals that have since cost them dearly.

Since virtually all pension obligation bonds turn on the same basic strategy that Stockton followed, Mr. Michael’s research could be a road map for avoiding more such problems, or perhaps for seeking redress. His analysis was part of his August economic forecast for the region, which he prepares as director of the Business Forecasting Center at the University of the Pacific.

There are about $64 billion in pension obligation bonds outstanding, and even though issuance has slowed, more of the bonds are coming to market, even now.

Officials in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., are scheduled to vote on a $300 million pension obligation bond on Wednesday, for instance. Hamden, Conn., has amended its charter to allow for the bonds to rescue a city pension fund that is wasting away. Oakland, Calif., recently issued about $211 million of the bonds, following the lead of several other California cities and counties.

The basic premise of all pension obligation bonds is that a municipality can borrow at a lower rate of interest than the rate its pension fund assumes its assets will earn on average over the long term. Critics contend that municipalities that try this are in essence borrowing money and betting it on the stock market, through their pension funds. The interest on pension obligation bonds is not tax-exempt for this reason.

Alicia H. Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, looked at outcomes for nearly 3,000 pension obligation bonds issued from 1986 to 2009 and found that most were in the red. “Only those bonds issued a very long time ago and those issued during dramatic stock downturns have produced a positive return,” Ms. Munnell wrote with colleagues Thad Calabrese, Ashby Monk and Jean-Pierre Aubry. “All others are in the red.” Only one in five of the pension obligation bonds issued since 1992 has matured, so the results could change in the future.

Among the places where the strategy has failed miserably is New Orleans, which sold about $170 million of such debt in 2000 to produce cash to finance the pensions of 820 retired firefighters. Until then, New Orleans had never funded their benefits and simply paid them out of pocket, leaving the retirees fearful that in a budget squeeze, the city might renege.

City officials based the deal on the expectation that the bond proceeds would be invested in assets that would pay 10.7 percent a year — an unusually aggressive assumption, but one that made the numbers work. New Orleans’s credit was weak, and its borrowing rate was expected to be 8.2 percent. To get the rate on the bonds down as much as possible, New Orleans also issued variable-rate debt, combined with derivatives in an attempt to hedge against rate increases.

But instead of earning 10.7 percent a year, the bond proceeds the city set aside for the firefighters’ pensions lost value over the years, first in the dot-com crash and then in the financial crisis. And instead of hedging against interest rate increases, the derivatives failed, leaving New Orleans paying 11.2 percent interest. The city also has a $115 million balloon payment coming due on the debt in March.

Continued in article

Jensen Comment
An interesting assignment for students might be to compare the bad investment causes of bankruptcy of Stockton, CA versus Orange County , CA,

Listen to Part of a Sixty Minutes video that I made available to my my students learning how to account for derivative financial instruments ---

Boo to Merrill Lynch
Listen to Part of a Sixty Minutes video that I made available to my my students learning how to account for derivative financial instruments ---

Merrill Lynch was a major player in the infamous Orange County fraud when selling derivative financial instruments.  You can read more about this at http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/FraudCongress.htm#DerivativesFrauds 

It constantly amazes me how often the name Merrill Lynch crops up in news accounts of both outright frauds and concerns over ethics.  The latest account is typical.  A senior vic

They were an admixture of old-fashioned and uncouth, a duo almost as unlikely as Neil Simon's odd couple.  The seventy-year-old had been married to the same woman for forty years, in the same job for more than twenty, and in the same place--Orange County, California--forever.  The fifty-four-year-old had recently divorced and remarried, switched jobs often and moved even more frequently, most recently to a million-dollar home in swanky Moraga, east of Oakland, California.  Despite their obvious differences, they spoke on the phone virtually every day for many years.  They first met in 1975 and had traded billions of dollars of securities with each other.  The elder of the pair was the Orange County treasurer, Robert Citron; the younger was a Merrill Lynch bond salesman, Mike Stamenson.  Together they created what many officials described as the biggest financial fiasco in the United States: Orange County's $1.7 billion loss on derivative
Frank Partnoy, Page 157 of Chapter 8 entitled "The Odd Couple"
F.I.A.S.C.O. : The Inside Story of a Wall Street Trader by Frank Partnoy
- 283 pages (February 1999) Penguin USA (Paper); ISBN: 0140278796 
A longer passage from Chapter 8 appears at http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/fraud.htm#DerivativesFraud 

A second passage beginning on Page 166 reads as follows:

Also on December 5, Orange County filed the largest municipal bankruptcy petition in history.  Orange County's funds covered nearly two hundred schools, cities, and special districts.  The losses amounted to almost $1,000 for every  man, woman, and child in the county.  The county's investments, including structured notes, had dropped 27 percent in value, and the county said it no longer could meet its obligations.

The bankruptcy filing made the ratings agencies look like fools.  Just a few months before, in August 1994, Moody's Investors Service had given Orange County's debt a rating of Aa1, the highest rating of any California county.  A cover memo to the rating letter stated, "Well done, Orange County."  Now, on December 7, an embarrassed Moody's declared Orange County's bonds to be "junk"--and Moody's was regarded as the most sophisticated ratings agency.  The other major agencies, including S&P, also had failed to anticipate the bankruptcy.  Soon these agencies would face lawsuits related to their practice of rating derivatives.

On Tuesday, January 17, 1995, Robert Citron and Michael Stamenson delivered prepared statements in an all-day hearing before the California Senate Special Committee on Local Government Investments, which had subpoenaed them to testify.  It was a pitiful display.  Citron left his wild clothes at home, testifying in a dull gray suit and bifocals.  He apologized and pleaded ignorance.  He said, "In retrospect, I wish I had more education and training in complex government securities."  Stuttering and subdued, appearing to be the victim, Citron tried to excuse his whole life: He didn't serve in the military because he had asthma; he didn't graduate from USC because of financial troubles; he was an inexperienced investor who had never even owned a share of stock.  It was pathetic.

Stamenson also said he was sorry and cited the enormous personal pain the calamity had produced.  He pretended naivete.  He said Citron was a highly sophisticated investor and that he had "learned a lot" from him.  Stamenson's story was as absurd as Citron's was sad.  When Stamenson asserted that he had not acted as a financial adviser to the county, one Orange County Republican, Senator William A. Craven, couldn't take it anymore and called him a liar.  Stamenson finally admitted that he had spoken to Citron often--Citron had claimed every day--but he refused to concede that he had been an adviser.  At this point Craven exploded again, asking, "Well, what the hell were you talking about to this man every day?  The weather?"  Citron's lawyer, David W. Wiechert, was just as angry.  He said, "For Merrill Lynch to distance themselves from this crisis would be akin to Exxon distancing themselves from the Valdez."


Bob Jensen's timeline of derivative financial instruments frauds ---

"AIG, Surprise:  Moneymaker Its profits for taxpayers cast doubt on the notion that it behaved recklessly before the panic struck," by Holman W. Jenkins, Jr., The Wall Street Journal, August 31, 2012 ---

AIG's bailout is getting the revisionist treatment. The rescue hasn't been the dismal federal experience that, say, GM's has been. Taxpayers are showing a $5 billion profit on their 53% stake in the insurer, as of yesterday's closing price.

What's more, in the last few days, the New York Fed liquidated the last of the complex mortgage derivatives it acquired from AIG's counterparties as part of the bailout. Such transactions and related fees have netted the government about $18 billion.

This is good news but requires some revising of theories of the crisis itself. The "toxic" and "shaky" housing derivatives that got AIG in trouble turn out, even amid the worst housing slump in 70 years, not to have been the crud many assumed they were.

A lot of renditions skip over this part, dismissing AIG's pre-crash mortgage activities as "reckless," thereby making a mystery of how the refinancing of AIG could be paying off so handsomely for taxpayers. Taxpayers are making out because they bought valuable assets on the cheap.

This is as it should be. But let's remember how AIG got in trouble. It wrote insurance to guarantee the very senior portions of securities derived from underlying mortgages—that is, the portions already designed to withstand a sizeable increase in defaults.

AIG failed not because of the failure of these securities to keep paying as expected, but because of its own promise to fork up cash collateral if the market price of these securities fell or if the rating agencies downgraded what they had previously rated Triple-A.

In the systemic panic that climaxed with the Lehman failure, both things happened in spades, even as AIG itself no longer could raise the cash to make good on its commitments. Some now claim AIG could have waved off the collateral calls, citing exceptional circumstances. But even that wouldn't have changed the fact that, because of the panic, AIG itself was no longer trusted despite being chock-full of good assets.

We'll never know if the company might have finessed its way out of its jam (quite possibly its counterparties, including Goldman Sachs, would have acted to keep AIG afloat if the alternative of a government bailout weren't available). Instead AIG turned to taxpayers to finance the collateral calls it couldn't finance itself, and taxpayers took advantage.

For all the desire to name villains and blame bad incentives for the financial crisis, notice that panic itself was the key player. Panic is a variable about which it's disconcertingly hard for government to do anything useful in advance.

Panic is systemic—an uncertainty or loss of trust in how the system will behave. Here's a simple but relevant example: What happens to the market value of mortgages if investors lose confidence in the legal system to permit them to foreclose on borrowers who stop paying?

We don't need to retread the history. Letting Lehman fail was a disaster because the rescue of Bear Stearns had conditioned the market to believe Washington wouldn't permit major institutional failures. The mixed signals sent about Fannie and Freddie only undermined the effort to recruit fresh capital to other financial institutions distressed by uncertainty over the value of mortgage securities.

AIG is the most dramatic example of the general case. A lot of things become good or bad collateral depending on what the government is expected to do. It's not too strong to say Washington had to bail out AIG because the market was uncertain whether Washington would bail out AIG. (An additional complexity we won't go into is how the Fed's QE exercises subsequently boosted the bailout's profits.)

Let us be careful here: A host of private and public behaviors contributed to the housing bubble and meltdown, whose losses were destined to be felt widely. Our system has no problem accommodating the failure of individual institutions, even very big ones. But systemic panic always comes to the door of government. It can't be otherwise.

Governments can try to duck this burden, as European governments have done, only by renouncing the ability to print money and so soiling their own credit that substituting their own credit for the financial system's is no longer an option. Make no mistake: This would be a real cure for too-big-to-fail if the Europeans were inclined to let the chips fall. They're not. Instead the self-disabling governments want Germany to supply the bailout.

Continued in article

Lesson One: What Really Lies Behind the Financial Crisis?
According to Siegel: Financial firms bought, held and insured large quantities of risky, mortgage-related assets on borrowed money. The irony is that these financial giants had little need to hold these securities; they were already making enormous profits simply from creating, bundling and selling them. 'During dot-com IPOs of the early 1990s, the firms that underwrote the stock offerings did not hold on to those stocks,' Siegel says. 'They flipped them. But in the case of mortgage-backed securities, the financial firms decided these were good assets to hold. That was their fatal flaw.'
"Lesson One: What Really Lies Behind the Financial Crisis?" Knowledge@Wharton, January 21, 2009 ---
Jensen Comment
Lesson Two of what lies behind the financial crisis is that investment banks and others like AIG wrote credit derivatives on the on the CDO collateralized debt obligations that used mortgage backed securities as collateral. The companies that wrote these derivatives did not have the insurance reserves to cover the melt down of those CDOs. To avoid bankruptcy of giants such as AIG, the U.S. treasury gave billions in bailout funds to cover the credit derivatives.
See Appendix E --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/2008Bailout.htm#Bailout
I think there was a hidden agenda with respect to why Hank Paulson's first billions in bailout funds went to cover the credit derivative obligations.
See Appendix Y --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/2008Bailout.htm#HiddenAgendaDetails

Bob Jensen's threads on the bailout ---

"Global curbs loom on offshore corporate tax avoidance," by Chris Vellacott, Reuters, August 30, 2012 ---

Cash-strapped governments keen to replenish their coffers and international bodies such as the OECD are stepping up efforts to claw back revenue lost when companies shift profit overseas to cut their tax bills.

A legal and routine practice known as transfer pricing, whereby subsidiaries of the same company in different countries trade with each other, is sometimes used by companies to move cash to jurisdictions with lower tax rates, such as tax havens.

But the process can be abused by inflating the price of goods and services traded with overseas units in order to shift more money offshore and evade corporate taxes, and authorities now want to toughen up their policies and close loopholes.

"Tax base erosion and profit shifting are real problems, they need to be dealt with," Joe Andrus, head of the transfer pricing unit at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which sets the international guidelines on the practice, told Reuters.

Campaigners say economic damage caused by aggressive use of transfer pricing extends far beyond depriving governments of developed countries of revenue in fiscally straightened times.

The charity Christian Aid estimates the world's poorest countries are deprived of $160 billion in tax revenues every year by multinationals transferring profit beyond borders. The practice also distorts the economies of tax havens into which multinationals shift the profits.

Joao Pedro Martins, a Lisbon-based economist and author of a book about the Portuguese autonomous region of Madeira, says the "exports" of hundreds of multinational subsidiaries registered in the island have distorted its GDP at the locals' expense.

Though unemployment runs at more than 14 percent, the island's per capita GDP is 103 percent of the EU average, compared with 78 percent for the whole of Portugal, making it the second-richest part of the country after the capital Lisbon.

This means Madeira loses out on millions of euros of EU support it might otherwise get under a program of grants for regions with per capita GDP of less than 75 percent of the European average, Martins says.

The OECD champions a set of guidelines known as the "arm's-length" method which permits transfer pricing only when transactions between affiliates at are struck at market rates.

However, organizations can skirt this rule through trade in intangible assets or services where pricing can be arbitrary and much harder to benchmark against a global market rate.

"There is no such thing as an arms length price. The idea of the arms length price is fundamentally flawed from the outset," says John Christensen, director at pressure group Tax Justice Network which campaigns against aggressive tax avoidance.

Continued in article

Bob Jensen's Fraud Updates --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/FraudUpdates.htm

This does not tell college graduates something that they don't already know:  Temporary and Low Wages
"Majority of New Jobs Pay Low Wages, Study Finds," by Catherine Rampell, The New York Times, August 30, 2012 ---

While a majority of jobs lost during the downturn were in the middle range of wages, a majority of those added during the recovery have been low paying, according to a new report from the National Employment Law Project.

The disappearance of midwage, midskill jobs is part of a longer-term trend that some refer to as a hollowing out of the work force, though it has probably been accelerated by government layoffs.

“The overarching message here is we don’t just have a jobs deficit; we have a ‘good jobs’ deficit,” said Annette Bernhardt, the report’s author and a policy co-director at the National Employment Law Project, a liberal research and advocacy group.

The report looked at 366 occupations tracked by the Labor Department and clumped them into three equal groups by wage, with each representing a third of American employment in 2008. The middle third — occupations in fields like construction, manufacturing and information, with median hourly wages of $13.84 to $21.13 — accounted for 60 percent of job losses from the beginning of 2008 to early 2010.

The job market has turned around since then, but those fields have represented only 22 percent of total job growth. Higher-wage occupations — those with a median wage of $21.14 to $54.55 — represented 19 percent of job losses when employment was falling, and 20 percent of job gains when employment began growing again.

Lower-wage occupations, with median hourly wages of $7.69 to $13.83, accounted for 21 percent of job losses during the retraction.

Continued in article

Bob Jensen's threads on the stalled recovery ---

"Amazon Heats Up Gadget Wars," by Greg Bensinger, The Wall Street Journal, August 31, 2012 ---

Amazon.com Inc. AMZN +0.83% is ratcheting up pricing pressure in the gadget wars with an advertising-supported tablet that will be priced lower than similar models, according to people involved in the discussions.

The tablet will be part of a parade of new devices expected to hit the market with hopes of appealing to consumers in a tight economy during the crucial holiday season.

On Wednesday, Nokia Corp. NOK1V.HE +1.07% is set to give a peek at the first line of smartphones powered by Microsoft Corp.'s MSFT +1.65% new Windows 8 operating system in New York. Across town that day, Motorola Mobility is expected to unveil its first major phone since it was acquired by Google Inc. GOOG +0.50%

And Amazon on Thursday is holding a media event in Santa Monica, Calif., where it is expected to introduce a new version of its Kindle Fire tablet.

Those companies are trying to get ahead of rival Apple Inc., AAPL +0.21% which on Sept. 12 is expected to unveil a new iPhone.

Apple has also been working with suppliers on a smaller version of its iPad tablet that will be similar in size to the current Kindle Fire, people familiar with the matter have said, while Microsoft said it would start selling its new Surface tablet in the coming months.

"You've got a flood of competitors in tablets," said Jeff Kagan, an independent analyst. "Marketers have to figure out how to differentiate theirs, whether on price or capabilities. That's probably going to be a few years before we get there."

The cheaper, ad-supported offering from Amazon, along with other upcoming gadgets from electronics makers, could put pressure on Apple, which has become the world's most valuable company in part by pricing its devices at a premium.

An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment.

Amazon initially got into the device market in 2007, when it launched a line of Kindle e-readers.

The Seattle company has since dropped the price of its Kindle e-reader significantly. The device originally was priced at $399, and soon dropped to $359, then fell to $299 for a later version.

Last year, Amazon launched a slate of Kindle e-readers that were priced between $109 and $189, with models offered for $30 to $50 less to readers willing to have advertisements appear on screen savers and at the bottom of certain screens.

In the tablet arena, Amazon dove in last November when it released its $199 Kindle Fire. The seven-inch-screen device is priced aggressively compared with Apple's iPad, which starts at $499.

On Thursday, Amazon said it had sold out of the Kindle Fire, while promising "an exciting road map ahead."

It is unclear how well Amazon's Kindle Fire has sold. The company doesn't disclose sales.

Amazon's new ad-supported tablet would come at a discount to tablets without the advertising subsidy, said the people involved in the product discussions. Exact pricing and which advertisers are involved is unclear.

The new tablet would display an ad after the user "wakes" the gadget, said one person briefed on the matter.

Amazon has discussed how some versions of the new tablet would connect to the Internet only through Wi-Fi networks, said the person briefed on the product.

Additionally, Amazon is testing its own smartphone to take on Apple's iPhone and could release it as soon as the end of this year, officials at Amazon's parts providers who declined to be named said in July.

Continued in article

Bob Jensen's threads on gadgets ---

Grammar Girl Tip on "Nauseous" Versus "Nauseated" on August 30, 2012

Nauseous" Versus "Nauseated"

Giuseppe M. objected to my use of "nauseous" to mean "feel sick" in a recent newsletter.

I had written "You're anxious for school to start if you feel nauseous every time you think about it," and Giuseppe believes "one cannot feel nauseous" and that I should have written "You're anxious for school to start if you feel nauseated every time you think about it."

First, Guiseppe is correct that these are the most conservative and traditional distinctions: "Nauseous" describes something that induces nausea, and "nauseated" means feeling sick. That's how I suggest people use the words when they want to be safe, for example, when they are writing cover letters for jobs (although I have a hard time imagining when you'd use either word on a job application).

Had I noticed that I had written "nauseous," I would have changed it to "nauseated" to avoid upsetting anyone. I simply didn't notice. I'm not perfect, nor have I ever claimed to be.

However, the rules also aren't as black-and-white as Giuseppe believes. It's more of a style choice than a rule. I wrote about it way back in 2007 (in an article that also covers the difference between "octopuses" and "octopi"), and more recently, John E. McIntyre wrote a blog post summarizing the current thinking on the nauseous-nauseated debate.

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Former Comptroller General David Walker has been saying this all along
"Social Security’s Woes Are Worse Than You Think," by Ramesh Ponnuru, Bloomberg, August 27, 2012 ---

While the Romney and Obama camps have made increasingly bitter accusations about each other’s plans for Medicare, a bipartisan consensus on entitlements has emerged in the past few years. Too bad that consensus is wrong.

On both left and right, the politicians and the experts are saying the U.S. needs to fix Medicare -- and have made fixing Social Security an afterthought. President Barack Obama has signed changes to Medicare into law, but has done nothing about Social Security. For two years in a row, Republicans in Congress have supported budgets that rein in the growth of Medicare spending but leave Social Security alone. Expect to hear a lot more about Medicare than Social Security at the Republican convention this week.

The main reason Medicare is getting more attention is that in the long run, it has much higher costs than Social Security. That’s why it’s often described, accurately, as the driver of America’s long-term debt problem.

The Social Security gap looks small, though, only in relation to Medicare. On any other scale, it’s pretty big. The 1983 deal to fix Social Security is often held up as a model of bipartisan achievement, with the implication that it just needs to be replicated to fill the gap: No big deal. Charles Blahous, a Social Security trustee and the author of a recent book on the program, points out that this model is actually pretty discouraging. Twice as Large

In 1983, the financing gap over the next 75 years amounted to 1.8 percent of payroll. Blahous estimates that the gap today, measured using the same standards as in 1983, is 3.5 percent: almost double what it was then. And every year that passes without action, that number gets bigger. Do we think today’s politicians are prepared to solve twice as large a problem as their predecessors did?

Right now, we spend more money on Social Security than on Medicare, and that will remain the case for a while. The programs’ trustees project that by 2035 Social Security will consume 6.4 percent of the economy and Medicare 5.7 percent. The Medicare projection may be optimistic about recent attempts to impose cost controls, but we shouldn’t expect Medicare to become vastly larger than Social Security in the next two decades. After that point, Social Security costs start going down as demographics play out while Medicare becomes a vastly larger problem.

But our finances will be in what’s technically called a world of hurt before Social Security costs peak. Under current projections by the Congressional Budget Office, by 2025 public debt will have reached 106 percent of gross domestic product. By 2035, it will have reached 181 percent. What would happen after that point is an academic question: We can’t allow ourselves to get there.

We need to fix both programs. If anything, it’s Social Security that ought to be saved first because it’s the more urgent near-term problem. Some of the steps we can take to make the program solvent, moreover, would improve Medicare’s finances, too. Raising the retirement age, for example, would encourage people to work longer and thus pay more taxes into both programs. Restraining Growth

Perhaps even more important, we have a better sense of how to restrain the growth of Social Security than of Medicare.

One promising option is to reduce the growth of Social Security benefit levels, especially for high earners. The program could be reformed so that high earners who retire in 2040 receive the same benefit level that high earners who retire in 2020 will -- with an adjustment for inflation, but nothing more. Under the program as it stands now, those future retirees will get a bigger benefit.

Benefit levels for people in the middle of the income spectrum, meanwhile, could be set so that they more than keep up with inflation but don’t rise as much as currently scheduled.

It’s easy to attack this sort of proposal. In the past, opponents have said, for example, that it would be a draconian 40 percent cut in benefits for high earners. That’s true, when the proposal is compared with the benefit levels that the law has scheduled but hasn’t figured out how to pay for. Compared with today’s benefit levels, though, it’s not a cut at all.

Democrats will prefer to raise taxes, especially on high earners, to let benefits grow faster. The drawback to this approach is that higher payroll taxes, the CBO has found, discourage people from working and saving. We would be taking a hit to economic growth for a purpose -- boosting benefit levels for relatively well-off seniors -- that shouldn’t be a high social priority. It seems perverse to raise taxes on high earners to finance higher benefits for them.

Continued in article

Bob Jensen's threads on entitlements are at

Another state should withdraw from the Dollar Zone so it can print its own currency
"A Downgrade for Illinois The worst credit rating aside from California," The Wall Street Journal, August 29, 2012 ---

"Illinois Debt Cut by S&P After No Action on Pension Funding," by Michelle Kaske, Bloomberg News, August 29, 2012 ---

Illinois, the U.S. state with the worst-funded pension system, had the rating on its general- obligation debt cut one level by Standard & Poor’s and may face more downgrades.

The change to an A rating followed state lawmakers’ failure to agree to reduce retirement costs during a special session Aug. 17. The outlook for the state’s debt, which now has S&P’s sixth-highest grade, is negative. California, with an A-ranking, one level below Illinois, remains S&P’s lowest-rated state.

Illinois has an unfunded pension liability of at least $83 billion, according to state figures. It had 45 percent of what it needed to pay future retiree obligations as of 2010, the lowest among U.S. states, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

“The downgrade reflects the state’s weak pension funding levels and lack of action on reform measures intended to improve funding levels and diminish cost pressures associated with annual contributions,” said Robin Prunty, an S&P analyst, in a report today.

Governor Pat Quinn said today he is inviting legislative leaders to meet in early September to work on pension changes. Lawmakers have considered boosting employee contributions, passing some costs to local school districts and forcing workers to choose between the current system and receiving free retirement health care. No Surprise

Quinn, a Democrat, said the rating cut wasn’t a surprise.

Erasing the fifth-most populous state’s unfunded pension liability “is vital to getting our financial house in order,” Quinn said in a statement. “Today’s action by Standard & Poor’ is more evidence that we must act.”

Illinois had about $28 billion of general-obligation debt as of May 8, according to bond documents. The state of about 13 million people plans to sell $50 million of debt next month for technology projects, John Sinsheimer, the state’s director of capital markets, said in an interview.

Taxpayers will pay more to issue debt because of the lower rating, state Treasurer Dan Rutherford said in a statement.

“I urge the legislature to act decisively towards comprehensive, constitutional and fair pension reforms that will reverse this situation,” he said.

Jensen Comment
Unlike California, Illinois significantly increased corporate tax rates to deal with its deficit. But this turned into a sham when Gov. Quinn commenced to grant tax waivers to business firms (like Caterpillar) that threatened to relocate in other states.

In my opinion, however, Illinois stands a much better chance than California --- which by most accounts is a basket case.

"Pension Accounting for Dummies New government reporting rules are no better than the old ones," The Wall Street Journal, July 9, 2012 ---

The Government Accounting Standards Board has issued new rules that aim to crystallize government pension liabilities. It failed on that count, but it did succeed, albeit inadvertently, in making the case for defined-contribution plans.

GASB, as it's known in the trade, sets accounting guidelines for local governments. Since the board is run mainly by former public officials, its standards are often low. The board also usually takes several years to finalize rules, so it's often behind the times. Their new rules concerning how governments discount their pension liabilities are a case in point.

Financial economists have recommended for decades that governments calculate pension liabilities using so-called "risk-free" rates pegged to high-grade municipal bonds or long-term Treasurys. The argument goes that since pensioners are de facto secured creditors—even bankruptcy judges have been reluctant to slash retirement benefits—pensions are riskless and therefore the liabilities should be discounted at risk-free rates.

GASB's private cousin, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB), began requiring corporations to discount their pension liabilities with high-quality fixed income assets in the 1980s. However, GASB let governments stick with their desired, er, expected rate of return, which is typically about 8%. Public pension funds have returned 5.7% on average since 2000. Achieving much higher returns over the long run would require markets to perform as well as they did in the 1980s and '90s. Would that be true.

Governments have resisted climbing down from Fantasyland because using lower discount rates would explode their liabilities. When the Financial Accounting Standards Board introduced its risk-free rate guidelines, many companies shifted workers to 401(k)s because they didn't want to report larger liabilities. Such defined-contribution plans are by definition 100% pre-funded.

Prodded by economists and investors, GASB began considering modifying its discount rate rules a few years ago. Public pension funds, lawmakers and unions, however, pushed back hard against suggestions that governments use risk-free rates, which could more than double their liabilities. No surprise, the government troika won.

GASB's new rules allow governments to continue discounting their liabilities at their anticipated rate of return so long as they project enough future assets to cover their obligations. At the time they forecast they'll run out of assets, they must begin discounting their liabilities with a high-grade municipal bond rate. The idea is that governments would have to issue bonds to pay retirees when their pension funds go broke.

But few pension funds project that they'll run dry since they're hooked up to a taxpayer IV. Those in really bad shape like Chicago's will likely rig their investment and actuarial assumptions to circumvent the new rules. FASB rejected similar guidelines in the 1980s because they were too easy to dodge. The point here is that it's impossible to get governments to come clean about their pension debt, and not just because the union allies controlling pension funds have a vested interest in obfuscating the liabilities.

In reality, nobody knows how much taxpayers will owe because so much depends on inscrutable actuarial and economic factors like interest rates 30 years from now (not even the Federal Reserve purports to be that omniscient). Slight discrepancies in assumptions can yield huge variations in estimated liabilities. One advantage of defined-contribution plans is that they don't require governments to calculate their liabilities. There are none.


GASB Statement No. 68
Accounting and Financial Reporting for Pensions—an amendment of GASB Statement No. 27
--- Click Here
http://www.gasb.org/cs/ContentServer?site=GASB&c=Page&pagename=GASB%2FPage%2FGASBSectionPage&cid=1176160042391 Bob Jensen's threads on the sad state of governmental accounting ---

Bob Jensen's threads on pension accounting ---

"Countdown to a Tax Hike," The Wall Street Journal, August 31, 2012 ---

The best advice, experts say: make a few important moves now, and be ready to react quickly in the months ahead.

To recap: At year's end, rates on ordinary income, interest, capital gains, dividends, gifts and estates are set to jump—in some cases sharply. Other tax benefits will lapse as well, affecting all levels of taxpayers. (Please see the tables below and on Page B10.)

Few observers expect any major tax legislation before the Nov. 6 election. After that, there won't be much time. The House of Representatives has scheduled only 16 working days before its adjournment on Dec. 14. While the Senate has more days in session, "they don't have much incentive to act if the House isn't there," notes Clint Stretch, a lawyer and former executive at Deloitte Tax LLP in Washington.

Experts foresee two possible outcomes. One is that after the election both houses of Congress agree to extend the current rules for up to a year, buying time to make fundamental changes to the tax code while avoiding the economic consequences of huge tax increases.

The other possibility is that the election changes the political equation so much that one party blocks a tax-rate extension, allowing the current rules to expire and pushing tough decisions into 2013.

Lawmakers return in early January, but Mr. Stretch and others believe it could take them several months to reach an agreement and make changes retroactive to the beginning of the year.

In that scenario, most Americans would be affected. Employees could see their take-home pay fall as higher tax rates kick in, for example, while the heirs of people who die will face a much harsher estate-tax regime.

Lawrence Carlton, an accountant in Bedford, Mass., says he is getting more than a dozen calls a week asking what tax rates will be next year: "My clients don't believe me when I say, 'I'm sorry, I just can't tell you.'"

So how should you prepare for the uncertain months ahead? Tax experts surveyed by the Wall Street Journal offered several dos and don'ts:

Continued in article

Jensen Comment
Summary of Dos and Don'ts

AMT --- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alternative_Minimum_Tax

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"Political Ads: Issue Advocacy or Campaign Activity Under the Tax Code?" by Erika K. Lunder, BNA, August 29, 2012 --- Click Here

How to lie with statistics
"Four Reasons Why: Official Chinese GDP Data Don’t Reflect the Country’s Slowdown," by Scott Barber and Tim Gaumer, Alpha Now, August 29, 2012 ---

"Electrical and cloud outages: Is it time to bring both on premise?"
IS Assurance Blog by Jerry Trites
July 8, 2012

Amazon experienced an outage that affected a number of companies that rely on their cloud service. The company informed its users that its service went down due to the power outage stating: 

"On June 29, 2012 at about 8:33 PM PDT, one of the Availability Zones (AZ) in our US-EAST-1 Region experienced a power issue.  While we were able to restore access to a vast majority of  RDS DB Instances that were impacted by this event, some Single-AZ DB Instances in the affected AZ experienced storage inconsistency issues and access could not be restored despite our recovery efforts.  These affected DB Instances have been moved into the “failed ” state." 

This notice was actually taken from CodeGuard (a start-up that takes snapshots of websites enabling owners to undo unwanted changes) who was one of the companies affected by the outage. 

Continued in article

Bob Jensen's threads on computing and networking security ---

"Money from Friends: Finding the Right Revenue Model for Social Media," Knowledge@Wharton , August 29, 2012 ---

Mark Zuckerberg's honeymoon with Wall Street did not last long. Since Facebook's initial public offering in mid-May, shares have fallen by 58% to $40.8 billion. Last week, its stock dipped below $20 a share with the expiration of a lockout barring the company's initial investors from selling their holdings. Mobile games developer Zynga also has fallen off a cliff since its IPO; the company's market cap has plunged by 81% from its peak as flaws in its business model emerged. Groupon, whose shares have struggled amid questions about its viability, fell even further -- down 85% to $3.1 billion. CEO Andrew Mason might be kicking himself for turning down Google's $6 billion buyout offer.

Investors, it would seem, are giving a collective thumbs' down to social networks. Yet investors across the board also tend to move in tandem, often throwing away the proverbial baby with the bath water. For example, a single piece of bad news about a company can tank shares of competitors in the same industry -- a malady that has afflicted social networks as well. While investors might lump Facebook, Zynga, Groupon and their ilk together, these companies are not replicas of each other. All offer an element of social networking, but only Facebook is a pure social network and, with its nearly one billion users, is a unique entity unto itself. As such, experts suggest caution when making generalizations regarding the plight of social networks based on Facebook alone.

What is a social network? At its most basic, it is a group of individuals wishing to connect to each other digitally in order to socialize. Facebook users want to know what their friends, relatives and acquaintances are doing. The company's main purpose, as Zuckerberg himself has often noted, is to "make the world more open and connected." Zynga is a developer of games that use social networks to connect players. Its main purpose is gaming, not socializing, although that can occur through games. Groupon uses the power of the collective to get bargains. But the purpose of joining Groupon is to purchase products and services, not to socialize. Twitter is more similar to Facebook, although its follower approach makes it a quasi-social network. LinkedIn members use the platform to socialize and network professionally.

Investors might be punishing most of these companies too harshly for not getting their financial ducks in a row as they test different ways to monetize their businesses. Wall Street does hate uncertainty, experts point out. But the decline could be merely a short-term effect, given that the concept of social networks is fairly new, and business models are still being fleshed out. "It's clear Facebook and other social networks haven't figured it out yet," says Wharton management professor Ethan Mollick. "Things are stacked against them in the short term."

The Facebook Model

Typically, the early focus of social networks is to build up a base of users quickly by offering their services for free. But once these networks gain traction, costs to serve the users escalate. The companies then face the dilemma of figuring out how to make money from their many followers without alienating them with too many ads or suddenly charging for basic services. It can be a tricky balancing act. "It's a double-edged sword for these social networks," notes Wharton management professor David Hsu. "Once consumers are used to a revenue model, it's very difficult to change it."

Social networks, Hsu says, should have a monetization path in mind at the beginning for a smoother transition. "It's important to think through how to make money from the start," he adds, pointing to the digital revenue models of The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal as examples of how tough it is to switch business strategies once readers are used to a certain model. The Times faced a consumer outcry when it decided to charge for online content that used to be free, he says. The Journal, however, has never faced such a backlashbecause readers have always had to pay to access its content on the web.

Facebook is attempting to modify its business model as well. Currently, nearly all its revenue comes from advertising. Can it stay that way? "It can work, but it is always a good idea to supplement that with subscriptions," says Wharton marketing professor Pinar Yildirim. Whether or not the social network will implement some sort of paid subscription plan, it certainly has been busy diversifying its sources of revenue. In 2009, around 98% of total revenue came from ads. But the proportion fell to 95% in 2010 and got whittled even more in 2011, to 85%. Last year, users buying digital or virtual goods on Facebook, along with fees from other services, generated the remaining 15% of revenue, according to Facebook's registration statement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Continued in article

Bob Jensen's threads on social networking are at

Why U.S. Medical Costs Are so High:  Wastes Caused by Losing Causes

As usual, I preface this by saying that I favor a national health care insurance system, possibly like the one in Canada where people of all levels of income pay their fair share for medical services. Having said this, I point out that in providing basic medical services to all citizens the quality of the medical services decline in terms of waits for such services, difficulties for many to get replacement knees, hips, and organs, and the need to come to the U.S. for some of the great specialty physicians and medical centers.

Two reasons medical costs are higher in the U.S. is that the U.S. spends more on average per capita on futile extensions of life for a few weeks or months, which is the most single costly component of Medicare costs according to CBS Sixty Minutes. The other reason is the hundreds of billions spent in the U.S. on medical research where other nations become free riders on the the most successful discoveries.

The High Cost of Dying
On November 22, 2009 CBS Sixty Minutes aired a video featuring experts (including physicians) explaining how the single largest drain on the Medicare insurance fund is keeping dying people hopelessly alive who could otherwise be allowed to die quicker and painlessly without artificially prolonging life on ICU machines.
"The Cost of Dying," CBS Sixty Minutes Video, November 22, 2009 ---

What is really sad is the way Republicans are standing in the way of making rational cost-benefit decisions about dying by exploiting the "Kill Granny" political strategy aimed at killing a government option in health care reform.
See the "Kill Granny" strategy at --- www.defendyourhealthcare.us
Other nations simply do not spend as much on saving extremely premature babies and the terminally ill.

The High Cost of Research
"How Much Would You Pay for Three More Months of Life?," by Laura Beil, Newsweek Magazine, September 3, 2012, pp. 40-44  ---

In his more than 35 years of practice, Dr. Lowell Schnipper has seen a lot of women die from breast cancer. A patient’s options start to dwindle by the time tumor cells set up outposts in the bones, lungs, and other organs, defying all attempts to keep them under control. But in June, when the government approved Perjeta, Schnipper had something new to offer. The drug is one of an innovative class of drugs known as “targeted therapies.”

As the chief of oncology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Schnipper knew Perjeta was not a cure: added to a standard treatment with Herceptin—another targeted therapy that was hailed as a breakthrough in 1998—Perjeta gives the average woman only about six months more of calm before her disease starts to stir again. Given the limited benefit, the price was startling. For most women, a full course of the drug combination will cost $188,000—enough, he says, “to give anybody a cold sweat.”

Americans spent more than $23 billion last year for cancer drugs, more than we paid for prescriptions to treat anything else. But many oncologists are starting to question what we are getting in return for that bill, whether the war on cancer has become too much of a race to produce the next blockbuster. “In general, progress for cancer has been halting and slow,” says David Howard of the Department of Health Policy and Management at Emory University. So far, most new drugs offer only marginal extensions of life and few cures. Howard says new so-called breakthroughs “overpromise and underdeliver.” Consider the popularity of Avastin, a targeted drug approved for metastatic colon cancer in 2004. A recent study found that almost 70 percent of patients on chemotherapy were receiving Avastin within a year of its release. In clinical trials, the drug increased survival by about five months. The cost? About $10,000 a month.

Treating cancer has never been cheap, but today, the price of each new treatment seems to outpace the one before, with little bearing on its efficacy. According to figures from insurer United Healthcare, a standard cocktail of drugs for treating lung cancer used to run about $1,000 a month. Today’s regimens cost from more than $6,000 to almost $10,000—for about two more months of life. “There is no such thing as a cancer drug coming on the market that is some sort of regular drug price,” says Dr. Peter Bach of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, who studies the impact of cancer costs on U.S. health care. “They’re all priced at spectacularly high levels.” Which leads to an unsettling question: how much is a little more time worth? Would you spend $50,000 for four more months? How about $15,000 for two weeks?

Of three frontiers in cancer treatment, targeted therapies like Perjeta are widely seen as the best hope for a cure. Traditional chemotherapy is notorious for side effects because it wields destruction indiscriminately throughout the body. Targeted therapies are designed to hit cancer cells only. Perjeta, for example, targets a protein produced in excess amounts in some breast cancers; Avastin hinders the ability of a tumor to form new blood vessels to feed itself.

. . .

The Cancer “Breakthroughs” that Cost Too Much and Do Too Little

Doctors envision the day when every patient will have therapy precisely matched to the genetic bull’s-eyes of their own cancers. The holdup has been that cancer has proven to be more genetically crafty than researchers once imagined. Scientists may build a drug to hit one target, but a tumor may also employ lots of yet-undiscovered genetic tricks to keep itself alive. Instead of a magic bullet, scientists now know that any particular tumor may need lots of magic bullets. With so many targets unknown, a lot of patients end up getting drugs that barely touch their cancers, which is why the effectiveness of many new drugs remains underwhelming.

Not that this keeps a drug from becoming a blockbuster. Patients with advanced cancer, and their physicians, are hungry for progress. As a result, almost all of the 10 bestselling cancer drugs are targeted therapies, many less than a decade old. All came on the market at thousands of dollars a month, a trend that continues today with gusto. The drug Afinitor, a daily pill, was approved in July for patients with breast cancer. It costs more than $200 a tablet. But price rarely matters to patients or even doctors, says Dr. Oliver Sartor, medical director of the Tulane Cancer Center in New Orleans. “People have already been told there is no cure for their disease,” he says. “Every increment, every improvement, gives hope, and when options are extremely limited, we all focus on the positive possibilities.”

In addition to targeted therapies, drugs have come on the market that can spur the body’s own immune cells to lead the charge. Significant hurdles have hindered this kind of treatment for years. But they are finally being overcome. The prostate cancer drug Provenge, which came on the market in 2010, was the first immune-therapy drug to gain governmental approval. It was followed the next year by Yervoy, when approved the only drug ever shown to extend survival in advanced melanoma. Men with a common kind of advanced prostate cancer who used Provenge lived an average of four months longer than the comparison group; patients on Yervoy got an average of 3.6 months. The gains are modest, but not the cost. When Sartor learned Provenge would run $93,000 per patient, “I was stunned,” he says. And even that was cheaper than Yervoy, which appeared the following year at $120,000 for four injections. He predicts the pricing of immune therapies may be seen as “a watershed moment” in the debate over health-care costs.

The third area of touted breakthroughs has been in radiation, most recently by using protons instead of traditional X-rays to kill cancer cells. It’s a controversial undertaking: many doctors believe that protons offer better precision, able to get rid of tumors without collateral damage to nearby healthy tissues. But whether protons can treat with fewer side effects than traditional radiation is, to date, a matter of debate for almost all but pediatric and certain neurological tumors.

As with new drugs, proton-beam radiation is expensive—it can run roughly twice as much as the current state-of-the-art form of radiation that uses X-rays. In the case of proton beams, much of the cost has to do with building a cyclotron to harvest the protons—a construction project that can cost upwards of $150 million. In 2001 just three centers in the country offered proton treatment, but that number is now up to 10, with a half dozen more planned. About three quarters of the proton patient population covered by Medicare are men with prostate cancer, which, because of the length of their therapy, are the most lucrative to treat.

Why do new drugs cost so much? Pharmaceutical companies say it’s payment for scientific creativity, that high prices are necessary to recover the expense of developing and manufacturing their products and to encourage more research. A spokeswoman for Bristol-Myers Squibb, which makes Yervoy, says the cost of drugs is “based on a number of factors, including the value they deliver to patients, the scientific innovation they represent, and the cost to develop them.” Part of the price is also an investment in drug discovery. “We look at not only the past research and development, but development in the future,” says Krysta Pellegrino, a spokeswoman for Genentech, which developed Perjeta.

That said, many cancer experts remain skeptical of the notion that drug companies are simply passing along the cost of doing business and funding the incubation of new drugs. In 2004 researchers tried to test the relationship between a drug’s development and its final asking price. In the Journal of Clinical Oncology, the scientists concluded “that the drug companies are not pricing their drugs to recuperate losses associated with research and development, marketing, and operating prices, but rather [the average wholesale price] depends on what the market itself can bear.”

“It’s a marketplace where the seller has all of the control,” says Bach, from Memorial Sloan-Kettering, because private insurance companies and Medicare—the largest purchasers of drugs—are powerless to bargain for a less expensive deal. “Prices are high because they can be,” Bach says. As one doctor observed, “we are always paying for a Ferrari but often getting a Ford.” The occasional Ferrari does exist. The targeted drug Gleevec, which treats certain forms of leukemia and intestinal tumors, has allowed patients to live for years with their cancer in check.

Continued in article

Jensen Comment
At a cost of $150 million each, how many other nations have built 10 cyclotrons for harvesting proton beams for cancer treatments and research?

Only the most successful findings in the U.S. will motivate other free-rider nations to invest in such expensive hardware.

If we adopt a national health care plan the medical services will be spread more evenly across all residents of the U.S. However, we will then have to come to grips with costs of dying and costs of research that we perhaps can no longer afford on the same scale.

We will also have to come to grips with controlling punitive damage hundreds of billions in lawsuits like other nations control such frictions on medical services. Other nations like Canada provide for damages and lost income, but they do not turn medical litigation into a legal lottery.

"Canadian Malpractice Insurance Takes Profit Out Of Coverage," by Jane Akre, Injury Board, July 28, 2009 ---
Click Here

The St. Petersburg Times takes a look at the cost of insurance in Canada for health care providers.

A neurosurgeon in Miami pays about $237,000 for medical malpractice insurance. The same professional in Toronto pays about $29,200, reports Susan Taylor Martin.

A Canadian orthopedic surgeon pays just over $10,000 for coverage that costs a Miami physician $140,000. An obstetrician in Canada pays $36,353 for insurance, while a Tampa Bay obstetrician pays $98,000 for medical malpractice insurance.

Why the difference?

In the U.S., private for-profit insurance companies extend medical malpractice coverage to doctors.

In Canada, physicians are covered through membership in a nonprofit. The Canadian Medical Protective Association offers substantially reduced fees for the same coverage, especially considering that their payout is limited by caps in Canada just as in some U.S. states.

In 1978, the Canadian Supreme Court limited pain and suffering awards to just over $300,000, circumventing the opportunity for a jury to decide on an award depending on the case before them.

Canadian Medical Protective Association

Here’s how it works.

Fees for membership vary depending on the region of the country in which the doctor works and their specialty. All neurosurgeons in Ontario will pay the same, for example. The number of claims they have faced for medical malpractice does not figure into their premium

"We don't adjust our fees based on individual experience; it's the experience of the group,'' says Dr. John Gray, the executive director, "That's what the mutual approach is all about, and it helps keep the fees down for everyone,” he tells the St. Petersburg Times.

If a doctor is sued, the group pays the claim and provides legal counsel.

In the U.S., the push has been on for limiting claims, no matter how egregious the medical malpractice. President Obama was booed in June when, before the American Medical Association, he said he would not limit a malpractice jury award.

"We got a crazy situation where Obama is talking about the cost of medicine but he said, 'I don't believe in caps,' " complains Dr. Dennis Agliano, past president of the Florida Medical Association. "If you don't have caps, the sky's the limit and there's no way to curtail those costs.''

But the importance of limiting jury awards may not play into the big picture on health care reform.

Malpractice lawsuits amount to less than one percent of both the Canadian and the U.S. healthcare system, meanwhile between 44,000 and 98,000 Americans die each year due to medical errors in hospitals alone, while 16 times as many suffer injuries without receiving any compensation, reports the group Americans for Insurance Reform.

Major Difference

In Canada, an injured patient is often required to pay for the initial investigation into his case. In the U.S. the contingency fee basis, usually in the range of 30 percent, allows the injured party to proceed without a financial downside.

In both the U.S. and Canada, the definition of medical negligence is that a duty of care was owed to the patient by the physician, there was a breach h of the standard of care and the patient suffered harm by the physician’s failure to meet that standard of care.

A bad outcome in itself is not the basis of a lawsuit.

The Canadian Medical Protective Association insures virtually all of the country’s 76,000 doctors, as opposed to the U.S. where private for-profit insurance companies cover physicians for medical malpractice.

In Canada, the median damaged paid in 2007 was $91,999 and judgments favored patients 25 times, doctors 70 times.

In the U.S., many physician groups are requiring patients to waive their rights to a jury trial, even though malpractice litigation accounts for just 0.6 percent of healthcare costs.

Public Citizen, the consumer group, charges that the facts don’t warrant the “politically charged hysteria surrounding medical malpractice litigation.”

For the third straight year, medical malpractice payments were at record lows finds the group in a study released this month. The decline, however, is likely due to fewer injured patients receiving compensation, not improved health safety.

2008 saw the lowest number of medical malpractice payments since the federal government’s National Practitioner Data Bank began compiling malpractice statistics. In 2008, payments were 30.7 percent lower than averages recorded in all previous years.

In the report titled, The 0.6 Percent Bogeyman, the nonprofit watchdog group states, “between three and seven Americans die from medical errors for every 1 who receives a payment for any type of malpractice claim.”

Public Citizen previously reported that about five percent of doctors are responsible for half of the medical malpractice in the U.S. that can result in permanent injury or death. #

Read more:


November 12. 2010 message from Ramesh Fernando 

Prof. Jensen,
While it's true our spending on health-care is much lower than the US in terms of percentage of GDP and we don't have the level of malpractice suits as in the USA there are severe problems with the healthcare system. The federal government has a guaranteed I think 6% accelerator, much higher than inflation, transfer payment to the provinces for health care. I doubt the federal government can guarantee that kind of spending in the next negotiations between the provinces and the federal government.

Then again federal government transfers amount to only about 15-20% of most provincial health spending and provinces spend about 40-50% of their budget on the health budget and growing larger as the boomers age. Provinces especially Ontario and Quebec but even Alberta with it's oil and natural gas royalties will not be able to keep this up,

Ontario has a bigger deficit at $21 billion Canadian than California I think and Ontario only has 12-13 million people. Quebec which is usually a very socialist province, has actually liberalized the private element of health care services the most, there are many Ontarians who go to Quebec to get treated including private MRI scans etc. British Columbia is also following Quebec and has allowed private clinics to serve patients.

There are two cures for reducing the deficits of the provinces, one is to stop the increase in health spending so per capita spending goes down along with co-payments for superficial emergencies like colds and coughs to the doctor or emergencies. Other is to create a two tier system with a fully private one along with the public system. All three federal parties, even the governing Conservatives who are most similar to your Republicans and the Bloc Quebecois (the Quebec nationalists-separatists) are against a private system but there is a lot of support for it from the more conservative elements in Canada, including Preston Manning, the former leader of the populist Reform and former Conservative premier of Ontario Mike Harris.

They wrote a couple booklets published by the Fraser Insitute
"A Canada Strong and Free"
URL http://www.fraserinstitute.org/research-news/display.aspx?id=1277  and

"Caring for Canadians"
URL http://www.fraserinstitute.org/research-news/display.aspx?id=12928 
which basically noted the problems with the Canada Health Act.

Note I am not saying I agree with them or disagree with either way but they do have some valid points.

Ramesh Fernando
CMA Candidate
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada


From the Scout Report on August 17, 2012

ShowOrHide 1.0 --- http://www.deprez.org/folio_0028_en.html 

Many Mac users have hidden files located on their computers that they might not know about. ShowOrHide is a utility designed to locate invisible files and folders so that users will have more knowledge about such items. This program is compatible with computers running Mac OS X 10.5 or later.

Lucidchart: Diagramming --- https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/apboafhkiegglekeafbckfjldecefkhn 

For all those who have wrestled with creating charts and diagrams in word processors, the Google Chrome application Lucidchart may be a long-awaited answer. Users can start using the intuitive drag-and-drop interface right away, although a free signup is required to save diagrams. By sharing a link with coworkers, project collaborators can work on the same diagram at the same time. This application is compatible with all computers running Google Chrome.

From the Scout Report on August 31, 2012

TweetInsight ---  http://tweetinsight.net/ 

For Twitter users, this helpful application will be most useful. Interested parties can use TweetInsight to spot the main topics their Twitter contacts are talking about and also find the most frequently tweeted hashtags. Also, users can use TweetInsight to find out which URLs their contacts have been sharing with others. It's quite easy to use and it is compatible with all operating systems.

Do Share ---  https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/oglhhmnmdocfhmhlekfdecokagmbchnf 

Google+ users will find Do Share to be a most welcome addition to their palette of tools. Visitors can use Do Share to write and schedule their Google+ posts or share links with others. The site includes a tutorial, along with suggestions for how to most effectively use this application. This version is compatible with all operating systems.



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

Education Tutorials


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

Engineering, Science, and Medicine Tutorials

Video on How to Get a Rover to Mars (this is a wonderful video) ---
 Watch until the narration begins and then watch to the end.

Human Body Maps --- http://www.healthline.com/human-body-maps/

Chemical Reactivity Worksheet --- http://response.restoration.noaa.gov/chemaids/react.html

Earth Science World Image Bank ---  http://www.earthscienceworld.org/imagebank/index.html

Picturing Science: Museum Scientists and Imaging Technologies

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory --- http://www.lbl.gov/

Demystifying the Higgs Boson with Leonard Susskind, the Father of String Theory --- Click Here

Modern Physics: The Theoretical Minimum

MIT Center for Materials Science and Engineering http://mit.edu/cmse/

Richard and Dion Neutra Papers, 1925-1970 (architecture) ---

Stephen F. Austin State University: Forest Resources Institute --- http://www.fri.sfasu.edu/

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

UN News Centre --- http://www.un.org/apps/news/infocus/

Minneapolis Labor Review --- http://www.arcasearch.com/us/lr/initArcaCode.asp?paper=___

Urban Intervention --- http://thenextfifty.org/urbanintervention/

George McGovern Collection --- http://dlsd.sdln.net/cdm4/browse.php?CISOROOT=%2FGMC

American Indians of the Pacific Northwest --- http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/collections/pacific/

American Democracy Project --- http://www.aascu.org/programs/ADP/

One Life: Amelia Earthart --- http://www.npg.si.edu/exhibit/earhart/

60-Second Adventures in Economics: An Animated Intro to The Invisible Hand and Other Economic Ideas --- Click Here
Fails to explain externalities very well

The Paradox of Thrift:--- Click Here

The Phillips Curve:--- Click Here

The Principle of Comparative Advantage --- Click Here

The Impossible Trinity: --- Click Here

Rational Choice Theory --- Click Here


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

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

Math Tutorials

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

History Tutorials

Mobile Tour of Harvard University --- http://www.harvard.edu/visitors/mobile-tour

Video:  Ayn Rand’s Philosophy and Her Resurgence in 2012: A Quick Primer by Stanford Historian Jennifer Burns ---

The Second Known Photo of Emily Dickinson Emerges 

Treasures in Full: Renaissance Festival Books --- http://www.bl.uk/treasures/festivalbooks/homepage.html

Mary Binney Wheeler Image Collection (India and Sri Lanka) ---  http://dla.library.upenn.edu/dla/wheeler/index.html

Long Island Collection --- http://guides.library.stonybrook.edu/long_island

George McGovern Collection --- http://dlsd.sdln.net/cdm4/browse.php?CISOROOT=%2FGMC

Civil War Washington --- http://civilwardc.org/

Old Maps Online --- http://www.oldmapsonline.org

Shelby, North Carolina --- http://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/shelby/

Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission: State Historic Preservation Office ---

Richard and Dion Neutra Papers, 1925-1970 (architecture) ---

Bridging World History ---  http://www.learner.org/resources/series197.html

Indiana Magazine of History --- http://webapp1.dlib.indiana.edu/imh/

Set in Stone: Building America's New Generation of Arts Facilities, 1994-2008 (Chicago) --- http://culturalpolicy.uchicago.edu/setinstone/

American Indians of the Pacific Northwest --- http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/collections/pacific/

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

"I'm Singing in the rain", Gene Kelly --- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rmCpOKtN8ME

Le Ballet Mécanique: The Historic Cinematic Collaboration Between Fernand Legér and George Antheil --- Click Here

Temple Sheet Music Collections --- http://digital.library.temple.edu/cdm4/browse.php?CISOROOT=%2Fp15037coll1

The BBC Symphony Orchestra Performs 4′33,″ the Experimental Composition by John Cage, Born 100 Years Ago Today

Link to Open Culture


Bob Jensen's threads on free music tutorials are at

Bob Jensen's threads on music performances ---

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/

August 31, 2012

September 3, 2012

September 5, 2012

September 6, 2012

September 7, 2012

September 8, 2012

September 10, 2012


September 8, 2012 message from Bob Blystone

To all:

This communication is not intended to be alarmist but I have found the local news information about West Nile Virus to be lacking.

I have three references that can be informative.
First by Sejvar.  This describes WNV as of 2003.  Second is by Murray et al. and brings the information up to date as of 2010.  And finally from Daily Mail for the end of August and events primarily in the Dallas area.


The first documented case of West Nile Virus was in 1937.  In 1999 the virus reached the United States.  And currently in Texas we have the worst case load experienced in the US.

So I forward this to you as a matter of public information.

Forwarded by Auntie Bev

If God wanted us to vote, he would have given us candidates. ~ Jay Leno


The problem with political jokes is they get elected. ~ Henry Cate, VII


We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office. ~ Aesop


If we got one-tenth of what was promised to us in these State of the Union speeches, there wouldn't be any inducement to go to heaven. ~ Will Rogers


One of the penalties of not participating in politics is that you will be governed by your inferiors. ~ Plato


Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build a bridge even where there is no river. ~ Nikita Khrushchev


When I was a boy I was told that anybody could become President; I'm beginning to believe it. ~ Clarence Darrow


Why pay money to have your family tree traced; go into politics and your opponents will do it for you. ~ Author unknown


Politicians are people who, when they see light at the end of the tunnel, go out and buy some more tunnel. ~ John Quinton


Politics is the gentle art of getting votes from the poor and campaign funds from the rich, by promising to protect each from  the other. ~ Oscar Ameringer


The Democrats are the party that try to make you believe more government involvement will make you smarter, taller, richer, and remove the crabgrass on your lawn.  The Republicans are the party that say government doesn't work and then, they get elected and prove it.  ~ P.J. O'Rourke


I offer my opponents a bargain: if they will stop telling lies about us, I will stop telling the truth about them. ~ Adlai Stevenson, campaign speech, 1952


A politician is a fellow who will lay down your life for his country.  ~ Tex Guinan


Any American who is prepared to run for president should automatically, by definition, be disqualified from ever doing so. ~ Gore Vidal


I have come to the conclusion that politics is too serious a matter to be left to the politicians. ~ Charles de Gaulle


Instead of giving a politician the keys to the city, it might be better to change the locks. ~ Doug Larson


Don't vote; it only encourages them. ~ Author unknown


There ought to be one day -- just one -- when there is open season on senators. ~ Will Rogers

Forwarded by Gene and Joan

Annie, 6 years old, gets home from school. She had her first family planning lesson at school. Her mother, very interested, asks;" How did it go?"

"I died of shame!" She answers! “Why?” Her Mother asked.

Annie said, “Kristi from down the road, says that the stork brings babies. Sally next door said you can buy babies at the orphanage. Pete in my class says you can buy babies at the hospital.”

Her mother answers laughingly “But that’s no reason to be ashamed?”

“It is too!!! I can’t tell them that we were so poor that you and daddy had to make me yourselves!”


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.
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/

Online Distance Education Training and Education --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/Crossborder.htm
For-Profit Universities Operating in the Gray Zone of Fraud  (College, Inc.) --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/HigherEdControversies.htm#ForProfitFraud

Shielding Against Validity Challenges in Plato's Cave ---

The Cult of Statistical Significance: How Standard Error Costs Us Jobs, Justice, and Lives ---

How Accountics Scientists Should Change: 
"Frankly, Scarlett, after I get a hit for my resume in The Accounting Review I just don't give a damn"
One more mission in what's left of my life will be to try to change this

What went wrong in accounting/accountics research?  ---

The Sad State of Accountancy Doctoral Programs That Do Not Appeal to Most Accountants ---


Bob Jensen's threads on accounting theory ---

Tom Lehrer on Mathematical Models and Statistics ---

Systemic problems of accountancy (especially the vegetable nutrition paradox) that probably will never be solved ---


World Clock --- http://www.peterussell.com/Odds/WorldClock.php
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.

Free (updated) Basic Accounting Textbook --- search for Hoyle at

CPA Examination --- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cpa_examination
Free CPA Examination Review Course Courtesy of Joe Hoyle --- http://cpareviewforfree.com/

Rick Lillie's education, learning, and technology blog is at http://iaed.wordpress.com/

Accounting News, Blogs, Listservs, and Social Networking ---

Bob Jensen's Threads --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/threads.htm 
Current and past editions of my newsletter called New Bookmarks --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/bookurl.htm
Current and past editions of my newsletter called Tidbits --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/TidbitsDirectory.htm
Current and past editions of my newsletter called Fraud Updates --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/FraudUpdates.htm

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

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.

Accounting  and Taxation News Sites ---


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://listserv.aaahq.org/cgi-bin/wa.exe?HOME
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.

Over the years the AECM has become the worldwide forum for accounting educators on all issues of accountancy and accounting education, including debates on accounting standards, managerial accounting, careers, fraud, forensic accounting, auditing, doctoral programs, and critical debates on academic (accountics) research, publication, replication, and validity testing.


CPAS-L (Practitioners) http://pacioli.loyola.edu/cpas-l/  (Closed Down)
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
FEI's Financial Reporting Blog
Smart Stops on the Web, Journal of Accountancy, March 2008 --- http://www.aicpa.org/pubs/jofa/mar2008/smart_stops.htm

Find news highlights from the SEC, FASB and the International Accounting Standards Board on this financial reporting blog from Financial Executives International. The site, updated daily, compiles regulatory news, rulings and statements, comment letters on standards, and hot topics from the Web’s largest business and accounting publications and organizations. Look for continuing coverage of SOX requirements, fair value reporting and the Alternative Minimum Tax, plus emerging issues such as the subprime mortgage crisis, international convergence, and rules for tax return preparers.
The CAlCPA Tax Listserv

September 4, 2008 message from Scott Bonacker [lister@bonackers.com]
Scott has been a long-time contributor to the AECM listserv (he's a techie as well as a practicing CPA)

I found another listserve that is exceptional -

CalCPA maintains http://groups.yahoo.com/taxtalk/  and they let almost anyone join it.
Jim Counts, CPA is moderator.

There are several highly capable people that make frequent answers to tax questions posted there, and the answers are often in depth.


Scott forwarded the following message from Jim Counts

Yes you may mention info on your listserve about TaxTalk. As part of what you say please say [... any CPA or attorney or a member of the Calif Society of CPAs may join. It is possible to join without having a free Yahoo account but then they will not have access to the files and other items posted.

Once signed in on their Yahoo account go to http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/TaxTalk/ and I believe in top right corner is Join Group. Click on it and answer the few questions and in the comment box say you are a CPA or attorney, whichever you are and I will get the request to join.

Be aware that we run on the average 30 or move emails per day. I encourage people to set up a folder for just the emails from this listserve and then via a rule or filter send them to that folder instead of having them be in your inbox. Thus you can read them when you want and it will not fill up the inbox when you are looking for client emails etc.

We currently have about 830 CPAs and attorneys nationwide but mainly in California.... ]

Please encourage your members to join our listserve.

If any questions let me know.

Hemet, CA
Moderator TaxTalk





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


Bob Jensen's Sort-of Blogs --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/JensenBlogs.htm
Current and past editions of my newsletter called New Bookmarks --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/bookurl.htm
Current and past editions of my newsletter called Tidbits --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/TidbitsDirectory.htm
Current and past editions of my newsletter called Fraud Updates --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/FraudUpdates.htm

Some Accounting History Sites

Bob Jensen's Accounting History in a Nutshell and Links --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/theory01.htm#AccountingHistory

Accounting History Libraries at the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) --- http://www.olemiss.edu/depts/accountancy/libraries.html
The above libraries include international accounting history.
The above libraries include film and video historical collections.

MAAW Knowledge Portal for Management and Accounting --- http://maaw.info/

Academy of Accounting Historians and the Accounting Historians Journal ---

Sage Accounting History --- http://ach.sagepub.com/cgi/pdf_extract/11/3/269

A nice timeline on the development of U.S. standards and the evolution of thinking about the income statement versus the balance sheet is provided at:
"The Evolution of U.S. GAAP: The Political Forces Behind Professional Standards (1930-1973)," by Stephen A. Zeff, CPA Journal, January 2005 --- http://www.nysscpa.org/cpajournal/2005/105/infocus/p18.htm
Part II covering years 1974-2003 published in February 2005 --- http://www.nysscpa.org/cpajournal/2005/205/index.htm 

A nice timeline of accounting history --- http://www.docstoc.com/docs/2187711/A-HISTORY-OF-ACCOUNTING

From Texas A&M University
Accounting History Outline --- http://acct.tamu.edu/giroux/history.html

Bob Jensen's timeline of derivative financial instruments and hedge accounting ---

History of Fraud in America --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/415wp/AmericanHistoryOfFraud.htm
Also see http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/Fraud.htm

Bob Jensen's Threads ---

More of Bob Jensen's Pictures and Stories

All my online pictures --- http://www.cs.trinity.edu/~rjensen/PictureHistory/


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