New Bookmarks
Year 2005 Quarter 4:  October 1 - December 31 Additions to Bob Jensen's Bookmarks
Bob Jensen at Trinity University

For earlier editions of New Bookmarks go to 
Tidbits Directory --- 

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

Choose a Date Below for Additions to the Bookmarks File

December 15        November 30

October 31            October 14  

Trends in Accountancy Doctoral Programs


December 15, 2005

Bob Jensen's New Bookmarks on December 15, 2005
Bob Jensen at Trinity University 

Fraud Updates ---
Bob Jensen's various threads ---
       (Also scroll down to the table at )

Facts about the earth in real time --- 
Sure wish there'd be a little good news today.  Think it over

Real time meter of the U.S. cost of the war in Iraq --- 

Stay up on the latest and the oldest hoaxes ---

I really like the Digital Duo show that appears weekly once again on PBS.  I found that you can bring up prior shows on your computer by going to,00.asp

Click Here for Tidbits and Quotations Between December 1 and December 15

Click Here for Humor Between December 1 and December 15

My music download page ---

My electronic literature page ---

Life is not worth living if you have not had a real taste for what it has to offer.
Emmanuel Wathelet

DIRECTV to Pay $5.3 Million Penalty For Do Not Call Violations ---

Also see

This sort of makes you not want to have your next proctology probe in Tokyo

"In new setback, Japanese . . . probe stuck in space until 2010 (Update)," PhysOrg, December 14, 2005 ---

Free Multi-featured Sound Recorder (Audacity) ---

Although I prefer Camtasia when I want to narrate a video of my computer screen action (e.g., when preparing a video tutorial on something technical), there are times when audio alone will suffice and take up a whole lot less space on a hard drive or server. 

Those of you who would like to prepare audio podcasting files may also want a good sound recorder on your PC.

I highly recommend the free Audacity software.  It downloads and installs very quickly.  Its many features are listed at ---

Bob Jensen's video tutorials (I recommend the wmv versions) are linked at

Search for the Reputation of an Online Company

December 14, 2005 message from a friend

I'm reticent to bother you at this time of the semester, but I see that you're still posting "Tidbits".

Here's my question. Is there a site that rates online vendors? I found a good price on Bausch & Lomb contact lenses from Express, but don't know how to judge is this site is reliable or not.



December 14, 2005 reply from Bob Jensen

There are different levels for approaching this problem, some of which are linked at 

The above site is a bit hard to navigate so I will help you a bit. It is very difficult to find where good things are said about companies. It is somewhat easier to find sites where products are rated. It is also easier to find sites where bad things are said about some companies.

For product rankings, Consumer Reports is still my favorite, but this is not a free site --- 

For help try Consumer Assistance --- 

For outright Rip-offs, try the following sites.

For a particular company in a particular community, it is best to check with the Better Business Bureau reports on a company --- 
I did not find anything bad about Express

Federal Trade Commission --- 
I did not find a complaint here for Express

Internet Fraud --- 
I did not find a complaint here for Express --- I did find a complaint here for

Rip-off Report ---
I did not find a complaint here for Express 

Of course it is still the wild west out there on the Internet. You might ask the company if it is registered with the Better Business Bureau. That’s a good sign.

Bob Jensen

Clever Idea:  New ShopSmart from Consumer Reports

"Getting Sales Advice From Your Cellphone:  New Service Offers Ratings By 'Consumer Reports'; Categories Are Limited," by Walter S. Mossberg, The Wall Street Journal,  December 14, 2005; Page D14 ---

At one time or another, all of us have been handed a Christmas or birthday gift list that includes seemingly simple items such as "coffee maker," "luggage," or the most dreaded item of all, "TV." But choosing the right one is no easy task. Once you're actually in the store, surrounded by options, it's easy to buy the worst brand of coffee maker, or the luggage that is infamous for wearing out too soon, or the overly expensive television set.

Wouldn't it be easier if you had some independent help, right there in the store, to make the best choice and resist the often bad information provided by salespeople?

Consumer Reports certainly thinks so. This week, it introduced a cellphone application, ShopSmart, that allows you to carry the magazine's famous product comparisons and ratings with you while shopping, right on your mobile phone. Available for Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel customers just in time for the holiday shopping season, this new service costs $3.99 a month. Cingular will start carrying ShopSmart next month.

The idea is that, while you're in a store, dazed by a row of similar-looking products like digital cameras, you can just whip out your cellphone, launch ShopSmart, and see which camera Consumer Reports recommends, or how it rates the particular camera you're holding.

We love and trust Consumer Reports, which runs a very successful and useful paid Web site in addition to its legendary print magazine. But we were dubious. How well would a cellphone handle such an application? Would it be easy for last-minute shoppers to rapidly receive, read and use the data provided by ShopSmart? So, we tested this new application using a Verizon LG VX8100 cellphone -- a newer phone that runs on Verizon's ultrafast EV-DO network, which downloads data at about the speed of a low-end home DSL connection.

(Consumer Reports has a content-sharing relationship with The Wall Street Journal Online.)

Overall, we were impressed by ShopSmart's straightforward and easy-to-use approach. Each screen was simple to read at a glance, and browsing from one screen to the next took just a couple of seconds. We especially liked the program's ability to add certain products to a "Favorites" list, for accessing later, and a feature that lets you email the ShopSmart data to yourself, or anyone else, for later perusal.

There are a couple of downsides. For now, ShopSmart covers only three categories of products -- electronics, appliances, and home and garden. It omits important categories Consumer Reports covers in print and online, including cars, personal finance, food and travel. So it won't help you to buy that luggage, even though the magazine reviewed it. And people who already subscribe to the magazine and/or the Web site don't get it free. Like everyone else, they have to pay the $3.99 monthly fee.

Also, while performance was very good on our test phone running on the fast EV-DO network, the product-information downloads would be much, much slower at the typical network speeds most people use.

The program is updated weekly. It uses Yahoo Shopping to provide up-to-date price ranges for each product, listing prices from online stores as well as retail chains, so you can find where each product is sold for the lowest cost.

After downloading ShopSmart through your phone carrier's built-in online store -- our phone used Verizon's Get It Now -- it can be opened by pressing just a few keys. This might be particularly useful for shoppers who use this program only once in a while, so they don't easily forget how to get started.

To make the best use of the phone's small display, ShopSmart is simply organized into different sections using five tabs labeled Ratings, Search, Favorites, Articles and About. The products themselves are divided into three main categories: Appliances, Electronics, and Home and Garden. Product types are listed alphabetically within each category, 10 per screen. Under the Search tab, we found that the Appliances category included 20 different types, starting with air conditioners and ending with washing machines, including coffee makers and gas ranges along the way.

Continued in article

December 14, 2005 message from Tamar Frankel []

Dear Professor Jensen:

You might be interested in my recent book Trust and Honesty, America's Business Culture at a Crossroad (Oxford University Press 2006). We have a similar approach. Any discussion on the issues concerning the topic that you would like to publish on your enormously interesting website would be welcome.


Tamar Frankel
Professor of Law Phone: (617) 353-3773 - Fax: (617) 353-3077 

In my generation, I spent a lot of time outdoors either doing chores (on the farm) or running all over town.  For Christmas you were grateful for what you got even though it cost less than $5.00 --- 

Today's generation isn't safe unsupervised outdoors, so they do the following:

"PowerPoint Slides: the New Puppy-Dog Eyes Kids Increasingly Use Tech Savvy To Sell Their Holiday Wish Lists," by Ylan Q. Mui, The Washington Post, December 14, 2005 ---

Take 11-year-old Katie Johnsen of the District, who wants a virtual snowboarding game and a chocolate fondue fountain. She turned her list into a PowerPoint presentation with red and green backgrounds, a picture of Santa and links to the Web sites where the items can be bought.

"They are big operators," said Ellen Yui of Takoma Park, who has two sons. "They know how to work the system. They know how to work us big time."

This is the generation that has never known a world without the Internet. They rush home from school to talk to their friends online and flirt over text messages. They have mastered the latest communication technologies and added them to their holiday arsenal.

The Sad State of Cyber Security
A group of leading technology companies today chastised Congress and the Bush administration for what it characterized as a failure to support initiatives to fight online crime, saying a lack of leadership and accountability in this area is endangering U.S. economic and national security. The Cyber Security Industry Alliance said the federal government has largely declined to act on recommendations the group outlined a year ago, goals that mirrored policies originally set forth in early 2003 by the White House in the "National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace."
Brain Krebs, "Tech Group Blasts Federal Leadership on Cyber-Security," The Washington Post, December 13, 2005 ---

The Sad State of Academic Accounting Research

December 11, 2005 message from David Albrecht [albrecht@PROFALBRECHT.COM]

At Bowling Green, much institutional emphasis is being placed on having undergraduates conduct or participate in research. Of course, I'm pretty sure the program is slanted toward the hard sciences. An economics professor here is active in this area. She suggests that I get involved.

I'd love to get involved, there are significant rewards being tossed about.

On what would my undergraduates do research?

Please help me.

David Albrecht

December 12, 2005 reply from Bob Jensen

Hi David,

At the college of business level, you might suggest that your college become involved in the highly popular National Conferences on Undergraduate Research (NCUR). This affords students the opportunity to travel a bit and make presentations with other students at the excellent NCUR conferences. It also is an opportunity to promote your college and its faculty. Your social and physical science colleges may already be involved with NCUR --- 

As far as research goes, I think it would be great to have students write responses to FASB, GASB, and IASB exposure drafts and other invitations to comment. Undergraduate research is not as esoteric as PhD research and leaves some room for normative methodology.

Along these lines I had an opportunity to view two absolutely absurd referee reports sent to a professor, not me, with respect to a submission. His submission suggested, among other things, that some accounting faculty should spend more time responding to standard setters' invitations to comment on matters that need more applied research. For lack of a better term, I will call this applied research in accounting.

The reports of both referees were highly critical of professors trying to publish applied research in any AAA journals (including Accounting Horizons which they assert is read mostly by academics rather than practitioners). Perhaps they might make an allowance for Issues in Accounting Education, but no mention is made for IAE in these referee reports.

I think the following quotation (listed as the Number 1 criticism) from one of the referee reports pretty much sums up the sad state of academic accounting research today.

I quote:

1. The paper provides specific recommendations for things that accounting academics should be doing to make the accounting profession better. However (unless the author believes that academics' time is a free good) this would presumably take academics' time away from what they are currently doing. While following the author's advice might make the accounting profession better, what is being made worse? In other words, suppose I stop reading current academic research and start reading news about current developments in accounting standards. Who is made better off and who is made worse off by this reallocation of my time? Presumably my students are marginally better off, because I can tell them some new stuff in class about current accounting standards, and this might possibly have some limited benefit on their careers. But haven't I made my colleagues in my department worse off if they depend on me for research advice, and haven't I made my university worse off if its academic reputation suffers because I'm no longer considered a leading scholar? Why does making the accounting profession better take precedence over everything else an academic does with their time?

Both referees imply that studying accounting standards will take our researchers away from what's really important in accounting academe, namely publishing empirical and analytical research on problems that lend themselves to esoteric statistics and mathematics. The irony is that most of the esoteric research published research along those lines is more or less focused on trivial hypotheses of little interest in and of themselves. Certainly our academic friends in economics and finance are not subscribing to our accounting research journals. We, of course, subscribe to their esoteric journals.

Once again I make my case that that academic research hypotheses published in top accounting research journals cannot be of much interest since all top accounting research journals in academe have a policy against publication of replication studies. What value can the findings have of the replication studies are of no interest? See 

The bottom line is that real scientists, economists, medical researchers, and legal researchers would laugh the above two arrogant AAA journal referees off the face of the planet. I'm certainly glad that medical researchers focus on professional practice problems and insist on replication. I'm certainly glad that biology researchers focus on microbes that are helping or hindering life on earth. I'm certainly glad that legal research is almost entirely focused on real world case law. No respectable academic discipline, other than accounting, divorces itself from the practice of its own profession. I think this is the main reason academic accounting research is held is such low esteem both by practitioners and by other academic disciplines. We've become a sick joke.

What the two idiots, who are typical arrogant referees for AAA journals, are doing, David, is leaving a whole lot of room for Bowling Green's undergraduates to conduct research on the important problems of the academic profession while they themselves go off and play in the sandbox of research that their own top journals conclude is not worth replicating. I suggest to you David that there is ample room for your undergraduates do applied research that may benefit the profession. Just do not expect the arrogant "philosophers" who guard the gates of our academic accounting research journals to allow any of this research pass into the gates of heaven.

I think the two referee reports mentioned above are exactly what the current AAA President (Judy Rayburn) and the Past President (Jane Mutchler) are trying in vain to overcome by changing the refereeing policy of the AAA's leading journals. I'm certain the prejudices of our arrogant ivory tower academics are so ingrained that these two women are fighting losing battles.

I suggest that you, David, conduct a lab experiment in your undergraduate classes. Bring a scale to each class and have the students weigh the last four issues of The Accounting Review. Then have students weigh the last four issues of Accounting Horizons. You must first tear out only the research articles themselves since both journals do publish some items that are not research submissions to the journals. Please publish this comparative study on the AECM. I think the results will speak for themselves about the sad state of applied research in accounting academe.

Imagine the how academe might be shaken up if an AAA Doctoral Consortium were entirely devoted one year to taking up current issues facing the FASB, GASB, and IASB. The very foundations of academe might crumble if we let outsiders into the tightly controlled esoteric program of the Doctoral Consortium and corrupt the research biases of our new doctoral graduates in accountancy.

Send your undergraduate researchers marching forward David. The accounting world will be a better place. The profession is getting very little help from unreplicated research articles that pass through the gates diligently guarded by arrogant and narcisstic AAA journal referees.

Bob Jensen

December 12, 2005 reply from McCarthy, William [mccarthy@BUS.MSU.EDU]

On Monday 12 December 2005, David Fordham wrote on AECM:


No matter how good it is, no matter what its form, systems research will not be published in accounting journals given the current editorship and review staff


David and other AECM system researchers:

This has been generally true in the past and there are certainly still a host of accounting journals that underestimate the importance of accounting information systems (AIS) research. Additionally, it is still true that almost all accounting academics remain clueless about the different kinds of methodologies that AIS, MIS, and computer science researchers generally use. Thus, accounting systems people (like Dave and I plus many AECM members) are forced to live in an academic world that understands neither “the what” nor “the how” of AIS research and teaching.

However, the American Accounting Association (in general) and The Accounting Review (in particular) are taking steps to narrow this gap in understanding. Dan Dhaliwal, the senior editor of The Accounting Review (TAR) has appointed me – a known maverick in accounting circles and a long-time champion of AIS research and teaching -- as an editor for TAR.

That was the good news; now the bad (sort of) news. Since the announcement in August of a systems champion at the Review, we have seen no changes because systems people are not submitting manuscripts. I know that gearing up takes a while, but in the interim, I think we need to speak less of our underprivileged past status and concentrate more on how we are going to attack the myriad of problems that accounting faces today with systems-informed thinking and systems-informed methods. If you fervently believe that the practice of accounting benefits little from what TAR, JAR, JAE, et al. produce, and you also believe that accounting practice could benefit tremendously from improvements researched and suggested by good AIS people and computer scientists, you need to get busy.

I am going to give a speech on this at the AAA Information Systems Section mid-year meeting on January 7th, 2006, but in the interim, I hope people can use their inter-term break time to get the flow to TAR increased. Let’s get going!!

Bill McCarthy
Michigan State

Dennis Beresford, former Chairman of the Financial Accounting Standards Board and current Ernst & Young Professor of Accounting at the University of Georgia, had much to recommend on how academic accountants could improve.  His luncheon speech on August 10, 2005 at the AAA Annual Meetings in San Francisco is provided at
I snipped the above URL to

My apologies for some formatting that was lost when I converted Denny's DOC file into a HTM file.

December 12, 2005 reply from David Albrecht

What is applied research?

I've never been able to figure this one out.

David Albrecht

December 13, 2005 reply from Bob Jensen

Hi David,

First let me point out that for over three decades, Denny Beresford has been appealing for more applied research among accounting educators.  Two days ago I requested and received his permission to post his luncheon speech at the annual 2005 AAA meetings in San Francisco.  The link to his somewhat emotional appeal is given in context at

You can obtain various definitions of applied research by going to
Type in the following in one of the search boxes:

        Define "Applied Research"

Among the many definitions the one I like is that basic research is "the  systematic, intensive study directed toward the practical application of knowledge and problem solving."

 The key word in this definition is "practical application."  In the context of the accountancy profession I think of this is as discovery of practical applications that can be put into place by practicing accountants and their firms.  Included here are practical applications for standard setters such as the FASB, GASB, and IASB.

By way of example, I would include virtually all of the applied research papers published by Ira Kawaller on the practical applications of derivative financial instruments and accounting for derivative financial instruments ---  

By way of a particular example, I like Ira's applied research on when to use dollar-offset versus regression tests of hedge effectiveness.  Hedge effectiveness testing is required for hedge accounting per Paragraph 62 in FAS 133.  The FASB does not prescribe how such testing should be done in practice.  It only says such testing is required.  Ira makes some practical  suggestions at

I contend that most ABC costing research is of an applied nature since most published papers and the seminal discoveries of ABC by the John Deere Company back in the 1940s are intended for practical application.

Lines between basic research and applied research in accounting are really  confusing because it is common to associate quantitative methods and/or historical methodology with basic research.  Basic research should not be confused with tools and methods of research.  Basic research quite simply is a research discovery, new knowledge, that has no perceived application in practice or at best has some hope for possible discovery of practical applications in future applied research.

I suspect that the discovery of the structure of DNA by Watson and Crick is conceived as basic research.  Applied researchers later on found ways to put this to use in practice such as the practice of using DNA evidence in criminal cases. 

I suspect that portfolio theory in the 1959 doctoral dissertation of Harry Markowitz at Princeton would be considered basic research that later led to the CAPM model and Options Pricing Model applied in practice.  The discovery by Markowitz was totally impractical until simplified index models were later discovered when trying to apply Markowitz theory to actual portfolio choices.

The best examples of basic versus applied research discoveries probably come from the discipline of mathematics.  Theoretical mathematicians like to prove things with no thought as to possible relevance to anything in the real world.

 It is much more difficult to find truly basic research discoveries in accountancy.  We should be grateful that we do not have to select Nobel Prize Winners in accountancy.  The Ball and Brown study got the first Seminal Contribution Award from the AAA.  But this is an application of capital market research discovered previously by researchers in finance and economics.  Capital markets studies have mostly applied models developed in finance, econometrics, and statistics.   

What I am saying is that it is possible to apply theory and test hypotheses without intending to have the discoveries be put directly into practice in a profession.  For example an events study such as the discovery by George Foster that the publication of a Barrons' paper by Abe Briloff was highly correlated with a plunge in share prices of McDonalds Corporation tells us something about an association between Briloff's accounting publication and capital market events.  But correlation is not causation.  Foster's study could not really tell us if the accounting issue (dirty pooling) or the mere fact that Briloff said something negative about McDonalds in Barrons actually caused the plunge in share prices.

The bottom line here is that the basic versus applied research distinction in mathematics and science does not carry over well into accounting.  I prefer to make the distinction more along the lines of research not having versus having a direct impact on practicing accountants.  For example, Ira's paper on hedge effectiveness techniques had immediate and direct impact on having firms use dollar-offset testing for retrospective data and regression for prospective data.  Companies actually follow Ira's recommendations when implementing FAS 133 rules. 

So what makes Ira's study different from those of Ball and Brown, Beaver, and Foster?  I guess the distinction lies in the "take home" for practicing accountants and standard setters.  Most capital markets research discoveries do not provide the CPA on the street with something to immediately place into practice or take out of practice.  The Ira Kawaller studies linked above provide CFOs with strategies for hedging and CAOs/CPAs with strategies for implementing FAS 133.

Now the question is:  What is Denny Beresford asking us to provide to the standard setters?  I think what he's asking for is more along the lines of Ira Kawaller's practical-application contributions.  If Ira's studies had been done before FAS 133 was issued, the standard itself in Paragraph 62 might have suggested or even required specific types of hedge effectiveness testing.  Instead Paragraph 62 of FAS 133 offered no suggestions for how to test for effectiveness.  This has led to thousands of variations, often inconsistent, of hedge effectiveness testing in practice.

 Both while he was Chairman of the FASB and after he became a professor of accounting at Georgia, Denny Beresford has consistently been appealing for the academy to conduct research that will have more direct benefit in the writing of accounting standards.  This of course entails a considerable effort in learning the issues faced by standard setters on particular complicated issues like the thousands of different types of derivative financial instruments actually used in practice.  Most academic accountants shun learning about such contracts and instead turn to tried and true regression models of data found in existing databases like those provided by Compustat and Audit Analytics.  My conclusion is that this so-called basic research is actually easier than making creative contributions to practicing accountants, i.e. providing them with discoveries that they did not make themselves in practice.  This is so tough that it is why the academy tends to avoid Denny's appeal.

I repeat and lament the sad state of the accountancy academy as reflected in the following quotation from a referee that closed the gate on publishing a paper of a very close friend of mine:

I quote:


1. The paper provides specific recommendations for things that accounting academics should be doing to make the accounting profession better. However (unless the author believes that academics' time is a free good) this would presumably take academics' time away from what they are currently doing. While following the author's advice might make the accounting profession better, what is being made worse? In other words, suppose I stop reading current academic research and start reading news about current developments in accounting standards. Who is made better off and who is made worse off by this reallocation of my time? Presumably my students are marginally better off, because I can tell them some new stuff in class about current accounting standards, and this might possibly have some limited benefit on their careers. But haven't I made my colleagues in my department worse off if they depend on me for research advice, and haven't I made my university worse off if its academic reputation suffers because I'm no longer considered a leading scholar? Why does making the accounting profession better take precedence over everything else an academic does with their time?


My bottom line conclusion is that the referee acting superior above is really scared to death that he or she cannot be creative enough to make a practical suggestion to the FASB that the FASB itself has not already discovered. 

          Bob Jensen

Bob Jensen's threads on academic research versus the profession are at  

Should students be restricted from using Wikipedia?

December 12, 2005 message from John Stancil

I am in the process of grading some research papers in my undergraduate Cost Accounting class, and I am noting a significant increase in the use of Wikipedia as a reference. This gives me some concern, as Wikipedia is not the most reliable of reference sources in all cases. Just wondering what the rest of you do regarding this source as a reference. Prohibit? Restrict?

John Stancil
Florida Southern College

December 12, 2005 reply from Bob Jensen

Wikipedia is the world's largest Encyclopedia and is self-correcting since readers can edit the modules and/or write new modules from the convenience of their own browsers (thanks to unique Wiki features).

Because of its open-sharing nature, it is possible for misleading information to be found in some modules.  My own experience is that the majority of entries are terrific.  But as an instructor, you must judge for yourself.  Always insist that students cite (with links) Wikipedia when they obtain ideas and/or links from this or any other encyclopedia.  That way you can be the judge of whether the information used by students seems reasonable.

I am pasting three recent links from InformationWeek:


Man Apologizes After Fake Wikipedia Post
InformationWeek , December 12, 2005
Brian Chase of Tennessee said it was intended as a joke on a co-worker that went 'horribly wrong.'
Why Wikis Won't Go Away
InformationWeek , December 06, 2005
InformationWeek Daily e-mail newsletter for December 6, 2005
Wikipedia Tightens Rules For Posting
InformationWeek , December 05, 2005
After an article incorrectly linked the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy to a former administrative assistant, Wikipedia no longer accepts new submissions from anonymous contributors.


"IFAC guide to strengthening accountancy bodies," IAS Plus, December 13, 2005 ---

The Developing Nations Committee of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) has released a guide entitled Establishing and Developing a Professional Accountancy Body to assist governments and others seeking to build accountancy capacity in various countries, and to help strengthen IFAC's current and future member organisations. The guide is essentially a toolkit with Internet hyperlinks to access additional information. The guide addresses the following areas:
  • Establishing a professional body;
  • Roles and responsibilities of a professional accountancy body;
  • Education and examinations; and
  • Capacity development.
The guide is copyright 2005 by the International Federation of Accountants and is posted here with IFAC's kind permission. Click to Download the IFAC Guidance (ZIP, 2,561k). Inside the ZIP file is an executable (.EXE) file tht runs the guide. Click here for Press Release (PDF 83k).

News from Duke University on December 5, 2005 ---

Duke Sees Growth in Classroom iPod Use
Since last year, students using iPods in the classroom has quadrupled and
the number of courses incorporating the devices has doubled

The number of Duke University students using iPods in the classroom has quadrupled and the number of courses incorporating the devices has doubled in the second year of an effort to mesh digital technology with academics.

Computing and Technology Education and Training Students According to the university’s Center for Instructional Technology (CIT), 1,200 students are expected to use iPods to enhance classroom materials, lectures or assignments in 42 spring 2006 courses. Last spring, 280 students in 19 courses used iPods as part of the Duke iPod First-Year Experience, which has grown into the Duke Digital Initiative (DDI). Duke distributed free iPods to all first-year students in 2004; for the current academic year, it modified to program to provide free iPods only to undergraduates who enrolled in a course that required the device.

Simultaneously, the university has broadened the focus of the program beyond iPods to a much broader effort to promote the effective use of new technology in higher education. The DDI is a university-wide program that is facilitating the experimentation, development and implementation of digital technology -– such as digital audio and video, online collaboration tools and tablet PCs -- for instruction and learning.

“So many students today own personal computing devices like iPods that the increase in use of digital audio in courses, and now images and video, has expanded rapidly,” said Lynne O’Brien, director of CIT.

A list of spring 2006 DDI courses is available online at <>.

“The total number of courses utilizing iPods may in fact be larger; we only know definitively about the courses coordinated through CIT,” O’Brien said, adding that anecdotal evidence suggests instructors are experimenting with using the devices outside of the formal DDI program.

The increase in courses is matched by a growth in the breadth of distinct subject areas, with the use of digital technologies expanding beyond foreign languages and computer science to engineering, dance, medical physics, biomedical engineering and math.

O’Brien said the increased familiarity with iPods and MP3 players on campus has allowed CIT to switch its focus from introducing the tools to faculty and students to developing and delivering content for the devices.

An improved comfort level with personal computing devices like the iPod has allowed students such as Duke senior Gisselle Molinar to take her learning experience outside the classroom. “I definitely think students would be able to adapt to additional digital technology,” she said.

Molinar’s instructor, Mark Williams, used a photo iPod this fall in his “Functional Anatomy of the Human Brain” course to house a visual glossary of 500 human neuro-anatomical structures and terms comprising text descriptions, images and corresponding audio pronunciations. Although Williams said the device interface isn't yet perfectly suited for complex learning applications, “the students adapted pretty quickly.”

“There is always a risk associated with introducing a program nobody had ever tried before,” said Tracy Futhey, Duke’s vice president for Information Technology and CIO. “The increased use we’ve seen has been a direct result of faculty and student innovation. We expected we’d have this kind of interest, and it’s exactly the success we thought, but couldn’t be certain, it would be.”

According to Futhey, the university is committed to continuing to support a broad range of technology uses.

Both fourth-generation photo iPods and fifth-generation video iPods will be distributed to students enrolled in spring 2006 DDI courses, depending upon specific course requirements. Students enrolled in spring 2006 DDI courses using iPods will pick them up from the university Help Desk, and will be responsible for their care throughout their time at Duke. Students who have already been given an iPod by the university will not be given new ones; however, in some cases, students who previously received an iPod may be eligible to trade in their old model for a newer one if the course they are enrolled in requires functionality not available on their original model.

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

Bob Jensen's threads on education technologies are at

Assessing Consumer (Employer, Graduate School, etc.) Attitudes Toward Online Education ---

Across the last decade, the online distance education market has provided colleges and universities with a significant enrollment growth vehicle.  Slowly but steadily, consumers, employers, and regulators have embraced the medium as a credible and, at times, preferred alternative to campus-based study.  While the reporting of national data on colleges' activities in online education is becoming more commonplace as a result of the work of select professional associations and departments within the federal government, the aggregation of data on consumers' attitudes toward online education remains a rarity.

What makes data of this type so valuable is that, ultimately, it is consumers who will define the online education market's growth.  Today, as enrolment in online education programs surpasses 1 million students for the first time, the online education market is becoming more competitive.  Thus, it is more critical than ever for colleges and universities with online programs to understand consumers' motivations, attitudes, preferences, and needs to better position themselves for success in the market.

To help meet this need for data and analysis concerning consumer attitudes toward online education, Eduventures conducted a national survey of prospective postsecondary education students.  In analyzing the nearly 550 responses to the survey, Eduventures seeks to provide answers to questions including, but not limited to:

Colleges and universities can use the analysis and results of this consumer survey to:

Bob Jensen's threads on distance education alternatives and controversies are at

Also see

Corporate Fraud Still Widespread, Difficult to Detect,
The number of companies around the world that reported incidents of fraud increased 22 percent in the last two years, according to a new Big Four survey. While layers of new controls have been implemented to improve corporate governance, fraud is still widespread, difficult to prevent, and detected many times by chance, according to the biennial survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), which interviewed more than 3,000 corporate officers in 34 countries.
"Corporate Fraud Still Widespread, Difficult to Detect," AccountingWeb, December 5, 2005 ---

New Tech Tools to Combat Corporate Fraud
A new tech sector has sprung up to provide that software. Virtually every computer and software maker is eager to tap one of the few high-growth markets in technology -- the best thing to happen in the sector since the Y2K panic caused thousands of big businesses to remake their computer rooms in 1998 and 1999. Storage companies like EMC Corp. stress the need to save audit-related materials for seven years. Security experts like RSA Security Inc. and Computer Associates International Inc. argue that companies can't prevent deficiencies if they can't pinpoint who is using the systems. A host of private companies have shifted their business models to promote their software as a cure for compliance woes.
William M. Bulkeley and Charles Forelle, "How Corporate Scandals Gave Tech Firms a New Business Line: Sarbanes-Oxley, Other Rules Aimed at Fighting Fraud Create Market for Software," The Wall Street Journal, December 9, 2005; Page A1 --- 

Bob Jensen's fraud updates are at

PCAOB posts new inspection reports ---
To access the reports, visit  

The latest issue of Journal of Derivatives Accounting (JDA) is now available online!
Access the journal's table of contents, abstracts and articles at .
The articles themselves are not free.

Browse other selections at WorldSciNet. If you do not have a subscription, individual articles are available for purchase through our Pay-Per-View service.

Best Selling Books
December 2, 2005; Page W4

The Wall Street Journal's list of best-selling books for the week ended November 26.

No. Title
Author / Publisher
This Week Last Week
1 Mary, Mary
James Patterson / Little, Brown
77 122
2 Light From Heaven
Jan Karon / Viking
50 46
3 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
J.K. Rowling / Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic
48 21
4 At First Sight
Nicholas Sparks / Warner Books
47 28
5 Penultimate Peril
Lemony Snicket / HarperCollins
43 40
6 Camel Club
David Baldacci / Warner Books
33 26
7 The Lighthouse
P. D. James / Knopf
29 New
8 Predator
Patricia Cornwell / Putnam
28 34
9 Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader
James Luceno / Del Rey
26 New
10 A Feast for Crows
George R.R. Martin / Spectra
24 36
11 Eldest
Christopher Paolini / Knopf
24 18
12 Christ the Lord
Anne Rice / Knopf
21 23
13 Knife of Dreams
Robert Jordan / Tor
19 18
14 The Da Vinci Code
Dan Brown / Doubleday
18 14
15 Son of a Witch
Gregory Maguire / ReganBooks
15 13


No. Title
This Week Last Week
1 Our Endangered Values
Jimmy Carter / Simon & Schuster
51 39
2 Teacher Man
Frank McCourt / Simon & Schuster
50 54
3 Team of Rivals
Doris Kearns Goodwin / Simon & Schuster
48 40
4 The World Is Flat
Thomas L. Friedman / Farrar, Straus & Giroux
39 33
5 Healthy Aging
Andrew Weil / Knopf
28 19
6 The Year of Magical Thinking
Joan Didion / Knopf
27 26
7 Marley & Me
John Grogan / William Morrow
25 21
8 Freakonomics
Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner / William Morrow
24 22
9 700 Sundays
Billy Crystal / Warner Books
23 16
10 Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook
Martha Stewart / Potter
22 14
11 You: The Owner's Manual
Michael F. Roizen, Mehmet Oz / HarperResource
22 --
12 My Friend Leonard
James Frey / Riverhead
19 19
13 The Truth (With Jokes)
Al Franken / Dutton
19 21
14 The Education of a Coach
David Halberstam / Hyperion
19 7
15 1776
David McCullough / Simon & Schuster
18 7


No. Title
This Week Last Week
1 Freakonomics
Steven D.Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner / William Morrow (H)
24 22
2 Jim Cramer's Real Money
James Cramer / Simon & Schuster (H)
12 10
3 Secrets of the Millionaire Mind
T. Harv Eker / HarperBusiness (H)
8 12
4 The Tipping Point
Malcolm Gladwell / Back Bay (P)
8 12
5 Rich Dad Poor Dad
Robert Kiyosaki, Sharon Lechter / Warner Business (P)
5 9
6 Now, Discover Your Strengths
Marcus Buckingham, Donald O. Clifton / Free Press (H)
4 7
7 Who Moved My Cheese
Spencer Johnson / Putnam (H)
4 7
8 The Five Dysfunctions of a Team
Patrick M. Lencioni / Jossey-Bass (H)
3 5
9 Winning
Jack Welch, Suzy Welch / HarperBusiness (H)
3 5
10 Little Red Book of Selling
Jeffrey Gitomer / Bard Press (H)
2 6
11 Getting Things Done
David Allen / Penguin (P)
2 1
12 The Martha Rules
Martha Stewart / Rodale Press (H)
2 3
13 Rich Dad's Before You Quit Your Job
Robert Kiyosaki, Sharon Lechter / Warner Business (P)
2 2
14 Money Book for the Young, Fabulous and Broke
Suze Orman / Riverhead (H)
2 2
15 How Full Is Your Bucket
Tom Rath, Donald O. Clifton / Gallup Press (H)
2 1

The Wall Street Journal's list reflects nationwide sales of hardcover books during the week ended last Saturday at more than 2,500 Barnes & Noble, B. Dalton, Bookland, Books-a-Million, Books & Co., Bookstar, Bookstop, Borders, Brentano's, Coles, Coopersmith, Doubleday, Scribners and Waldenbooks stores, as well as sales from online retailers and The business list also includes figures from 800-CEO-READ. A sales index of 100 is equivalent to the median number of copies of the No. 1 fiction bestselling titles sold each week during 2005.

Short List of Short Stories
Three collections of stories, from a writing heavyweight, a small-press author and an Irish immigrant, have been named finalists for the second annual Story Prize, a $20,000 award for short fiction that will be presented after a reading by the authors at the New School in Manhattan on Jan. 25. The finalists are Jim Harrison, the acclaimed novelist, poet and essayist, for "The Summer He Didn’t Die," three novellas published by Atlantic Monthly Press; Maureen F. McHugh, best known for her science fiction novels, for "Mothers & Other Monsters," 13 stories published by Small Beer Press of Northampton, Mass.; and Patrick O’Keeffe, a lecturer at the University of Michigan who immigrated to the United States from Ireland in the mid-1980’s, for "The Hill Road," four stories published by Viking.

Edward Wyatt, "Short List of Short Stories," The New York Times, December 7, 2005 ---

Top 10 Books in 2005 According to The New York Times ---

Suggestions for accountancy from the Directors of the SEC and the FASB

From The Wall Street Journal Accounting Weekly Review on December 9, 2005

TITLE: SEC's Cox Wants Simpler Rules, More Competition for Accounting
REPORTER: Judith Burns
DATE: Dec 06, 2005
TOPICS: Accounting, Auditing, Auditing Services, Public Accounting, Sarbanes-Oxley Act, Securities and Exchange Commission

SUMMARY: Questions relate to helping students understand the status various influences on the accounting profession from the AICPA, the SEC, the FASB, and the legislature via the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

1.) Where did SEC Chairman Christopher Cox describe the ways in which he wants to see change in the accounting and auditing professions? What is the purpose of that organization? (Hint: you may find out about the organization's mission via its web site at 

2.) In accordance with law, how is the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) responsible for accounting and reporting requirements in the United States? Hint: you may investigate the SEC's mission via its web site at 

3.) What are the issues associated with complex accounting rules? Who establishes those rules? In what way are those rules influenced by the SEC?

4.) The SEC has named an interim chairman of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB). How is this speech's topic related to the process of change in leadership at the PCAOB?

5.) Commissioner Cox indicated his concern over the fact that only 4 public accounting firms perform audit and accounting work for most of the publicly traded companies in the U.S. and that regulators may have contributed to that concentration. How is that the case? What might regulators do to change that situation?

"SEC's Cox Wants Simpler Rules, More Competition for Accounting," by Judith Burns, The Wall Street Journal, December 6, 2005; Page C3 ---

U.S. securities regulators hope to make accounting rules less complicated while increasing competition in a field now dominated by just four firms, Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Christopher Cox said.

Addressing a meeting of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, Mr. Cox called for clearer, more straightforward accounting rules, saying that would benefit investors, public companies and accountants.

"Plain English is just as important in accountancy," he said.

Mr. Cox also raised concern about concentration in the U.S. accounting profession, with the Big Four firms -- Deloitte & Touche LLP, Ernst & Young LLP, KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers -- handling the vast majority of public-company audits. He said this "intense concentration" isn't desirable, adding that regulators need to consider whether their rules are inhibiting competition in the field.

SEC Commissioner Paul Atkins, who also addressed the meeting, acknowledged that regulators were surprised by the cost of internal-control rules that took effect for the largest U.S. companies last year, and he said he hopes such costs will be lower this year.

The rules stem from the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, passed by Congress in 2002. They mandate that public companies make an annual examination of their internal controls related to financial reporting, subject to review by these companies' outside auditors.

The SEC is "at an early stage" in considering who should head the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board now that William McDonough, its former chairman, has stepped down, Mr. Atkins said.

Last week the SEC named oversight board member Bill Gradison, a member of Congress, as interim oversight board chairman. Mr. Atkins said Mr. Gradison, an Ohio Republican, could be in the running as a permanent chair "if he wants to be."

In repeated speeches, Dennis Beresford, former Chairman of the FASB, has called for simplification of accounting standards and guidelines.  For example see the following reference:
"Can We Go Back to the Good Old Days?" by Dennis R. Beresford, The CPA Journal --- 

December 6, 2005 message from Dennis Beresford []

 National Conference on Current SEC and PCAOB Developments. His (Cox, the new Director of the SEC) talk is available at: 

He had three main messages:

1. Accounting rules need to be simplified. "The accounting scandals that our nation and the world have now mostly weathered were made possible in part by the sheer complexity of the rules." "The sheer accretion of detail has, in time, led to one of the system's weaknesses - its extreme complexity. Convolution is now reducing its usefulness."

2. The concentration of auditing services in the Big 4 "quadropoly" is bad for the securities markets. The SEC will try to do more to encourage the use of medium size and smaller firms that receive good inspection reports from the PCAOB.

3. The SEC will continue to push XBRL. "The interactive data that this initiative will create will lead to vast improvements in the quality, timeliness, and usefulness of information that investors get about the companies they're investing in."

A very interesting talk - one that seems to promise a high level of cooperation with the accounting profession.

The SEC web site has posted several presentations by members of the SEC accounting staff. These were all presentations at the AICPA SEC conference yesterday - the premiere financial reporting and auditing conference of the year. Scott Taub's (acting Chief Accountant) remarks are particularly interesting as they build on what Cox had to say in the areas of reducing complexity and making interactive data more available. Scott also spoke about fair value accounting and using professional judgment. His remarks are at:  . . . there are about ten other presentations on more detailed accounting and auditing matters also available at the SEC web site.

FASB Chairman Bob Herz' speech earlier today at the AICPA SEC conference is available at: 

Bob builds on yesterday's comments by SEC Chairman Cox and argues that "continued progress on reducing complexity and improving the transparency and usefulness of reported financial information is imperative and consistent with our nation's longstanding commitment to the importance of high-quality financial reporting to the health and vitality of our capital markets and our economy." Bob calls for the FASB, SEC, PCAOB and all other interested parties to take "collective action to address these issues."


Jensen Comment --- Here's a related news item

SEC's Cox Wants Simpler Rules, More Competition for Accounting," by Judith Burns, The Wall Street Journal, December 6, 2005; Page C3 ---

US-EU agreement on international cooperation ---

Bob Jensen's threads on accounting standard setting are at

Bob Jensen's threads on XBRL are at

I loved the Marx Brothers Analogy in This One

"Is This Any Way to Run a Railroad? You think you've got problems? Amtrak's got an overpaid workforce. Its trains and tracks are falling apart. Worse, the carrier's balance sheet is a flat-out mess," by John Goff, CFO Magazine, November 2005 ---

As Marx Brothers movies go, Go West isn't much. The aging comedy team was running out of ideas, and it shows: the plot is predictable and the gags are stale. Yet there is one memorable scene in the 1940 film. In it, the boys — desperate to keep a steam-powered locomotive chugging along — feed the entire train to itself, car by car, piece by piece, caboose to tender.

Management at the National Railroad Passenger Corp., better known as Amtrak, performed a similar sacrifice in 2001. Four years into an effort to wean itself from federal operating subsidies, the rail carrier was running on empty. Executives had already started diverting funds earmarked for capital projects to help plug operating holes. But even that wasn't enough, and soon, Amtrak's management began cannibalizing the railroad. Recalls Cliff Black, Amtrak's director of media relations: "We mortgaged everything."

Things got so bad that the railroad took out a loan on New York's Pennsylvania Station to cover three months of expenses. It was a move the U.S. Office of Management and Budget called "a financial absurdity equivalent to a family taking out a second mortgage on its home to pay its grocery bills." Eventually, Amtrak conceded it couldn't break even, and Congress continued pumping funds back into the rail operator.

The damage to the balance sheet had been done, however. During the five-year plan, the carrier's debt load nearly tripled, from $1.7 billion to $4.8 billion. Once dubbed the "Glide Path to Profitability," Amtrak's intended march to self-sufficiency is termed something else by current CFO David Smith. "I call it the slippery slope to hell," he says.

Since taking the reins last November, Smith has personally spent considerable time in purgatory — stuck awaiting vital federal funding for the carrier while politicians dither over the future of passenger rail service. "Amtrak's never had full support from any Administration. And it has no ongoing real capital budget," notes James Coston, chairman of Corridor Capital LLC, which specializes in finance and development for intercity and commuter rail systems. "So each year, they go up to Capitol Hill with a tin cup."

And that cup remains far from full. Last February, for example, the White House announced it intended to cut off Amtrak's billion-dollar-plus annual subsidy — which covers about half the railroad's total budget — unless the carrier agreed to a radical restructuring. Both the House and the Senate defied the Administration, calling for subsidies ranging from $1.17 billion to $1.45 billion for 2006 (the carrier generated $1.9 billion in revenues last year against $2.9 billion in costs). But the details have yet to be ironed out, and it's still unclear just how much money Amtrak will get.

Amid the revenue uncertainty, Smith must somehow pay down Amtrak's borrowings, upgrade its information technology and financial skills, and wring concessions from entrenched unions. He is also charged with mapping out long-term capital investments on the railroad's antiquated infrastructure — a tall order when you don't actually know what funds will be available to finance the repairs. And he must do all this under the scrutiny of an Administration whose purported goal, says Amtrak president and CEO David Gunn, is "to destroy Amtrak."

It is, in sum, a nearly impossible to-do list. But judging from his efforts so far, Smith has what it takes to defy long odds: steadiness, belief, and a certain imperviousness to the Coliseum crowd. Some observers say his first year on the job could be used as a case study for grace under fire. Says Coston: "I can't imagine a tougher job than being CFO at Amtrak."

Continued in article

December 6, 2005 reply from Bob Jensen

From the KPMG Audit Report on September 30, 2004 --- The Company (Amtrak) has a history of substantial operating losses and is highly dependent upon substantial Federal government subsidies to sustain its operations. There are currently no Federal government subsidies authorized or appropriated for any period subsequent to the fiscal year ending September 30, 2005 (“fiscal year 2005”). Without such subsidies, Amtrak will not be able to continue to operate in its current form and significant operating changes, restructuring or bankruptcy may occur. Such changes or restructuring would likely result in asset impairments.


I guess I have to agree Paul that the difference between Amtrak and other businesses, like farmers, dependent upon government subsidies is largely semantic (rhetorical). In a sense, Amtrak is less like Fanny Mae since Amtrak's debt is not guaranteed by the Federal government. It is also less like the U.S. Post Office since Amtrak did sell equity (that has nearly been wiped out by huge deficits). Like the Post Office, Amtrak does negotiate directly with the government for appropriations to a particular business. But unlike the Post Office, I think Amtrak can set prices without an act of Congress.

The lines are indeed fuzzy between government enterprises, private enterprises directly subsidized, private enterprises indirectly subsidized, and the theoretical private firms that have no government subsidies. There may not be any such private firms in modern times since nearly every product or service is indirectly subsidized somewhere along the supply chain.

One possible distinction between public and private enterprises is whether the government is obligated to pay creditors off in full if the enterprise fails. I gather that this is the case for NC state universities, the U.S. Post Office, and Fannie Mae (even though Fanny Mae also sells equity shares). Debt guarantees are not assured in the case of Amtrak such that Amtrak is closer to being private in this context. In this context, classifying public versus private enterprises becomes a sliding scale as to what portion of the debt is guaranteed by the government. Pension guarantees cloud this issue since these are a form of insurance that enterprises must buy into to become partly covered.

I'm not certain where your argument bears much fruit if we don't have some distinction between public and private. If subsidies make every enterprise a government enterprise, wouldn't all businesses become government enterprises? It would not be helpful to have no definition of private enterprise since many equity owners and creditors can still fail and do every day in firms where the government does not guarantee repayment of all debt.

One problem of debt guarantees like we have in Fanny Mae and the Post Office is that managers of those companies can be tempted put their companies in extremely high levels of debt risk because creditors are always willing to loan to the hilt if the government guarantees repayment. Then cowboy managers might be tempted to borrow great amounts to pay for highly inefficient operating costs or make extremely high risk investments (as Fannie Mae did with billions invested in losing manufactured housing mortgages).

When I started this thread I mistakenly thought that Amtrak's debt was guaranteed by the government. What amazes me is how Amtrak is still able to borrow money to finance losing operations. Creditors (who are largely in Canada and France) must have faith that the U.S. government will not allow Amtrak to fail in spite of Amtrak's bleak future for ever earning a profit. Apparently the close association of Amtrak and government make it not like Penn Central in the eyes of lenders.

Bob Jensen

White collar crime still is punished lightly

"Ex-Finance Chief At HealthSouth Gets 5 Years in Jail," by Chad Terhune, The Wall Street Journal, December 10, 2005; Page A3 ---

A federal judge in Birmingham, Ala., sentenced former HealthSouth Corp. finance chief William T. Owens, the star witness against company founder Richard Scrushy at his criminal trial, to five years in prison.

U.S. District Judge Sharon Blackburn expressed reservations at sending Mr. Owens, 47 years old, to prison, saying she believed Mr. Scrushy directed the $2.7 billion accounting fraud at the health-care company. Mr. Scrushy's trial ended in acquittal in June.

Friday, the judge called it a "travesty" that Mr. Scrushy wouldn't spend any time in prison in connection with the scheme. Mr. Scrushy and his lawyers have repeatedly denied participating in the fraud, claiming that Mr. Owens was the mastermind of the plan and hid it from Mr. Scrushy. In a statement, Mr. Scrushy said Judge Blackburn's comments were "totally inappropriate given that there was not one shred of evidence or credible testimony linking me to the fraud."

Frederick Helmsing, the lawyer for Mr. Owens, had sought probation, in light of Mr. Owens's extensive cooperation with the government investigation since 2003. Prosecutors requested an eight-year prison term.

Continued in article

Bob Jensen's threads on light punishment of white collar crime are at

HealthSouth's auditing firm was Ernst & Young ---

"Embedded Audit Modules in Enterprise Resource Planning Systems: Implementation and Functionality," by Roger S. Debreceny, Glen L. Gray, Joeson Jun-Jin Ng, Kevin Siow-Ping Lee, and Woon-Foong Yau, Journal of Information Systems, Fall 2005, pp. 7-28 ---

Embedded Audit Modules (EAMs) are a potentially efficient and effective compliance and substantive audit-testing tool. Early examples of EAMs were implemented in proprietary accounting information systems and production systems. Over the last decade, there has been widespread deployment of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems that provide common business process functionality across the enterprise. These application systems are based upon a common foundation provided by large-scale relational database-management systems. No published research addresses the potential for exploiting the perceived benefits of EAMs in an ERP environment. This exploratory paper seeks to partially close this gap in the research literature by assessing the level and nature of support for EAMs by ERP providers.

We present five model EAM-use scenarios within a fraud-prevention and detection environment. We provided the scenarios to six representative ERP solution providers, whose products support "small," "medium," and "large" scale clients. The providers then assessed how they would implement the scenarios in their ERP solution. Concurrent in-depth interviews with representatives of the ERP providers address the issue of implementing EAMs in ERP solutions.

The research revealed limited support for EAMs within the selected ERP systems. Interviews revealed that the limited support for EAMs was primarily a function of lack of demand from the user community. Vendors were consistent in their view that EAMs were technically feasible. These results have a number of implications for both practice and future research. These include a need to understand the barriers to client adoption of EAMs and to build a framework for integrating EAMs into firm risk-management environment.

Bob Jensen's threads on ERP education are at
Also see

Bob Jensen's threads on audit bots are at


Study the Options When Time To Repay Those Student Loans," by Kelly K. Spors, "The Wall Street Journal, November 30, 2005; Page D3 ---

Many of last spring's college graduates will soon be facing an important decision: how to repay their student loans.

As their six-month loan-grace period nears an end, the biggest choice these graduates face is whether to consolidate all their federal student loans into a single loan at a fixed rate. Most financial advisers say that interest rates are likely headed higher and that locking in a rate is the best option.

Graduates must decide among a variety of repayment choices, including the ability to stretch repayment for up to 30 years. Lenders also are making it easier for student borrowers to adjust their repayment arrangements online. But some experts say that because student-loan rates are comparatively low, it could make more sense to repay other debt first while making the minimum payment on student loans.

Student loans under the government's popular Stafford program, which are the most common type of education loans, let students borrow up to a certain amount each year, based on their year in school. The loans can be made by various lenders and are backed by the federal government. Under government rules, the loans have rates that readjust each year, but can't exceed 8.25%. Repayment is initially scheduled over 10 years. Students also can take out private loans, which aren't subject to the same standardized terms, to cover expenses that exceed the size of their federal loans.

Rates on Stafford loans readjust every July 1. Students and graduates can consolidate their loans anytime before then to lock in the current rate, which is 4.75% for those still in school or in their grace period and 5.375% for those in a repayment period. The rates are among the lowest on record. By contrast, most banks' prime rate, a benchmark banks use for most consumer loans, is currently 7%.

For students holding other kinds of federal loans, such as Perkins loans that carry a fixed 5% rate for the life of the loan, the consolidated rate would be based on the weighted average rate of all the debt being combined. Repayments can be stretched out over various periods. But only students with loans totaling $60,000 or more can stretch repayment out to the maximum 30 years.

On top of lengthening the term, lenders also offer several monthly payment choices: Level repayment means paying a constant monthly sum over the loan's term. A graduated repayment increases monthly payments over time. And an income-sensitive repayment plan provides for borrowers to make monthly payments based on a percentage of earnings.

Many lenders, and the companies that sometimes service their loans, are making it easier for borrowers to change their payment schedules or make extra big payments -- even when monthly payments are automatically withdrawn from a bank account. Student lender Sallie Mae recently enhanced the "Manage Your Loans" feature on its Web site to allow borrowers to increase their payments in a particular month or to request a shorter term. Those scheduled to pay off loans in, say, 30 years, can request that they be moved to a 10-year repayment schedule, which would require higher monthly payments, says spokeswoman Martha Holler. The site also lets borrowers switch the type of repayment plan.

Other lenders also let borrowers make a one-time extra payment through their Web sites, or by mail. If you do that, it is important to tell the servicer to apply your overpayment toward the loan's principal -- not future interest payments, says Cheryl Resh, director of the financial-aid department at the University of California at Berkeley. "You want to make sure you're getting the most bang for your buck" by paying down principal.

If a tough financial situation has you craving relief on your student loans, you can usually get that, too. Just make sure to talk with your loan servicer before your loan goes into default and ruins your credit. You have two main options for postponing payments: Borrowers with certain economic hardships -- or who are back in school -- can qualify for "deferment" under federal rules, while "forbearance" is at the lenders' discretion.

There may be good reasons to hold off retiring student loans, some experts say. Many graduates have locked in rates below 5% in the past few years. With rates so low, it is often wise to pay off debt with higher interest rates first and even start funding a 401(k) or build up some emergency savings before worrying too much about repaying student loans fast. And for many just starting out, saving for a down payment on a first home is a higher priority than paying off college debt. Still, student loans are real debt, and borrowers can reap some nice savings by paying them off sooner rather than later.

Economics is the only field in which two people can get a Nobel Prize for saying exactly the opposite thing.

Two Leading Economists in a Ten Rounder With Gloves Off:  Harvard Versus Princeton

"Novel Way to Assess School Competition Stirs Academic Row:  To Do So, Harvard Economist Counts Streams in Cities; A Princetonian Takes Issue Charges and Countercharges." by Jon E. Hilsenrath, The Wall Street Journal, October 24, 2005; Page A1 ---

Five years ago Harvard's Caroline Hoxby, a rising star in economics, wrote a paper that reached an unusual conclusion: Cities with more streams tended to have schools with higher test scores.

Today her work is a widely cited landmark in the fierce national debate over free-market competition in public schools. And it's at the center of a bitter dispute with another economist that is riveting social scientists across the country.

Her adversary is Jesse Rothstein, a young professor at Princeton, who says her study is full of flaws. In a rebuttal to her critic, Dr. Hoxby wrote of his work: "Every claim is wrong." She has also accused him of ideological bias. Dr. Rothstein, in turn, says she resorts to "name-calling" and "ad hominem attacks" on him.

The unusual spat has put a prominent economist in the awkward position of having to defend one of her most influential studies. Along the way, it has spotlighted the challenges economists face as they study possible solutions to one of the nation's most pressing problems: the poor performance of some public schools. Despite a vast array of statistical tools, economists have had a very hard time coming up with clear answers.

"They're fighting over streams," marvels John Witte, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of political science and veteran of a brawl over school vouchers in Milwaukee in the 1990s. "It's almost to the point where you can't really determine what's going on."

Milton Friedman, the Nobel Prize-winning economist known for his free-market views, proposed 50 years ago that to improve schools, parents could be given vouchers -- tickets they could spend to shop for a better education for their kids. He theorized that the resulting competition among schools would spark improvements in the system. Free-market advocates loved the idea. Teachers' unions hated it, arguing that it could drain resources from some public schools and direct resources to religious institutions.

Research on these programs turns up evidence of benefits from school choice. But it hasn't proved strongly convincing, and testing the hypothesis is anything but simple. In the mid-1990s, researchers battled over how to interpret studies of voucher use in Milwaukee. In 2003, they tried to evaluate voucher experiments in New York and ended up squabbling over the right way to decide if a child was African-American. Last year, in assessing charter schools -- institutions that are publicly funded but not bound by traditional rules -- they argued over how to take into account differing backgrounds of the children who attend.

Analysts have searched as far away as New Zealand for evidence about the effects of competition in education -- and disagreed about what was found there, too. Now there is Hoxby vs. Rothstein.

Dr. Hoxby, 39 years old, is one of only two women tenured in Harvard's economics department, a distinction she achieved just seven years after earning a doctorate from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Other universities, such as Stanford, have tried to lure her away. Harvard, in turn, has given her a prestigious endowed chair.

Although her father, Steven Minter, was an official in the Carter administration Education Department, she has become a favorite in Republican circles for producing statistical evidence that competition improves schools. "This is a person who is smart, who is logical, who is committed and who is dedicated," says Rod Paige, President Bush's first Secretary of Education. Dr. Hoxby also is a distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution, the right-leaning research center affiliated with Stanford.

Dr. Rothstein, 31, is the son of Richard Rothstein, a former textile-union organizer who's now a lecturer at Columbia. Father and son have both worked closely with the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute in Washington. The son got interested in the streams paper while studying for his doctorate at the University of California, Berkeley. He is now an assistant professor at Princeton, not yet eligible for tenure. His Berkeley thesis adviser, David Card, describes Dr. Rothstein, who had majored in math as a Harvard undergraduate, as "tenacious" and having "very good technical skills."

In her 2000 paper, published in the prestigious American Economic Review, Dr. Hoxby explored competition among public schools. She noticed that some metropolitan areas, like Boston, had dozens of school districts, while others, such as Las Vegas, were dominated by just one. She reasoned that if pro-competition economists were right, school systems with many districts should produce better results, because parents in those cities would have more choices about where to live and educate their children, creating a more competitive environment.

To test this notion she might have simply counted the number of school districts in cities. But there were factors that muddied the waters. Sometimes the quality of the school districts influenced their number. That is, in some cases, it appeared cities had numerous districts partly because some were bad -- so bad they couldn't be closed or merged with others. It was the kind of chicken-and-egg problem that often trips up economic research.

Dr. Hoxby tried to find a way around this. She noticed that the number of school districts seemed related to geography. Streams were natural boundaries around which districts were formed many years ago. Cities with lots of streams had more school districts than cities with few streams.

An Opportunity

Testing a hypothesis in economics isn't as straightforward as, say, testing a drug, where researchers can randomly assign some subjects to receive a placebo. Many economists believe they can approach scientific rigor, however, by taking advantage of random events like draft lotteries and judicial assignments. For Dr. Hoxby, streams offered such an opportunity: Cities with lots of streams had been randomly chosen by nature to have more school districts and more school competition, while cities with few streams were naturally home to fewer districts and less competition.

"By using the variation in the number of school districts in a metropolitan area that is driven by streams, we can isolate the effect that interests us: the causal effect of more districts on achievement," she said in an interview via email.

When she found that metro areas with more streams tended to have more districts, and also higher student achievement, many academics thought she had come up with an ingenious way of testing Dr. Friedman's competition thesis. "Caroline had a great idea with that paper," says David Figlio, an education economist at the University of Florida. "It is incontrovertible that it was a brilliant insight."

Dr. Rothstein says it doesn't stand up to scrutiny. He makes several technical challenges, but his main attack is on the way the author counted streams.

A problem she faced at the outset was that some streams can affect more than school-district borders. Large, navigable ones affect commerce and wealth in an area and the kind of population it attracts -- influences that could distort her test. Small streams wouldn't have this problem, Dr. Hoxby said. She divided her streams into larger and smaller ones and entered them into her equations separately to make the distinction clear. Studying detailed maps published by the U.S. Geological Survey, she measured dimensions of water bodies in hundreds of metropolitan areas.

. . .

The rejoinder irked his defenders. "Her nasty, vicious response is really about shutting down debate," said Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute. The group has sparred with her before. A book co-written by Dr. Mishel and Richard Rothstein, Jesse's father, dedicates a section to challenging her work on charter schools.

In an email, Dr. Hoxby responds that "EPI's work is funded by unions, and the teachers' unions are openly opposed to charter schools for reasons of self-interest." EPI says it gets 29% of its funds from unions.

Continued in article

Some Very Confusing Energy Economics

"Exelon Rex Will power deregulation in Illinois benefit consumers or utilities?," by Arthur B. Laffer and Patrick N. Giordano, The Wall Street Journal, December 1, 2005 --- 

Any minute now, an administrative law judge will recommend a method for Illinois electricity deregulation. His recommendation could defend the interests of Illinois consumers, or it could help an Illinois energy company pull a fast one.

In 1997, as part of a move to deregulate Illinois's retail electricity market, Exelon Corp.'s utility subsidiary, Commonwealth Edison Co. (which serves the northern third of Illinois), and other Illinois utilities were barred from increasing retail electricity rates for 10 years. Now, with the end of the rate freeze in sight, ComEd has proposed an auction market for electricity in what has heretofore been a highly regulated industry. But before we describe ComEd's auction proposal, a little background goes a long way to illuminate just why ComEd's proposal is what it is.

ComEd is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Exelon Corp., which also owns Exelon Generation. Exelon Generation is a huge generator of electricity derived primarily from nuclear power plants once owned by ComEd and then transferred to Exelon Generation. It's all quite incestuous and confusing but nonetheless important to understand: ComEd is owned by the same company that owns Exelon Generation. Exelon Generation is the principal supplier of electricity to ComEd, which no longer owns any generating plants. It is obviously in ComEd's interest to have Exelon Generation make as much money as possible. For ComEd's auction proposal or any other proposal to go forward, the Illinois Commerce Commission must approve. An administrative law judge who has heard oral testimony and read briefs will issue a proposed order soon. The ICC is expected to make a final decision in January.

ComEd's proposed auction would start by setting a very high purchase price for electricity and then asking all qualified electricity suppliers how much they would be willing to supply at that very high price. With a high enough price, far more than 100% of ComEd's need would be offered by potential suppliers. The price is then allowed to decline in discrete amounts (a "reverse" auction) until a price is found at which the total amount offered by all suppliers is equal to ComEd's need.

In ComEd's proposal the auction is halted at the so-called market-clearing price and all sellers receive that same uniform price--even those suppliers, like Exelon Generation, that might have been willing to sell at lower prices because their generation costs are very low.

Significantly, under ComEd's proposal all bidders would be told how much energy other bidders are willing to supply at each price as the auction proceeds. ComEd spokespeople describe this as transparency. But to us, it is simply an inducement for the suppliers to collude.

ComEd's proposal makes sense from its perspective. Higher prices for electricity supply directly benefit Exelon Generation, and thereby the parent company of both ComEd and Exelon Generation. Any proposal by ComEd that didn't benefit Exelon Generation disproportionately would be a breach of Exelon Corp.'s fiduciary duty to its shareholders. ComEd's "uniform price" approach, however, violates a basic tenet of public policy: providing the lowest prices for consumers. Stopping the auction when the amount offered equals the amount needed starts at the wrong end of the supply curve. Meanwhile, showing each bidder all the other bids encourages implicit collusion. You don't have to be an industry expert to predict that ComEd's approach will result in consumer prices well above those reached in a truly free market. ComEd's proposal is particularly objectionable in Illinois because utility consumers long ago paid to build the nuclear plants now owned by Exelon Generation.

It would be much better to let the market operate freely under a "pay as bid" reverse auction, instead of the "uniform price" auction ComEd proposed. A pay-as-bid approach allows suppliers to continue to bid in the auction until no bidder is left willing to supply electricity at lower prices.

Continued in article

This module may seem a little off topic.  But it fits nicely into past AECM threads about Big Brotherism in the age of technology.  David Fordham expressed it well by stating that almost anything about a person is either available for free or for sale.  It is in the spirit of those threads that I forward the following tidbit.  Those of you with liberal arts backgrounds may especially like this tidbit.  My threads on this are at


"Making Ideas Beautiful:  Do art and ideas mix? It depends on who's stirring the pot," by Terry Teachout, The Wall Street Journal, December 10, 2005; Page P15 ---

Sometimes a heartfelt compliment can blow up in the recipient's face, as when T.S. Eliot said of Henry James that he had "a mind so fine that no idea could violate it," thus making him sound like a plot-spinning idiot savant. What Eliot really meant was that James understood how an artist who dabbles in ideas can lose sight of the true purpose of art, which is (as Renoir said) to "make everything more beautiful." You can't paint a picture of E = mc2, or compose a symphony about the law of supply and demand. Nevertheless, art is so effective at swaying men's minds that there have always been cultural commissars prepared to enlist it in the service of ideas by any means necessary -- including brute force.

To see what happens when politicians ram ideas down artists' throats, take a trip to "Russia!" This once-in-a-lifetime blockbuster show of Russian art from the 12th century to the present, on display at the Guggenheim Museum through Jan. 11, is billed as "the most comprehensive and significant exhibition of Russian art outside Russia since the end of the Cold War." It's that, for sure, but it's also an object lesson in the power of ideas to hijack a great culture.

In the '30s and '40s, Russian artists were expected not merely to toe the Marxist line, but to embody it in their work. Unless you wanted to end up in the Gulag -- or worse -- you did what Stalin said. The deliberately anti-modern style that resulted, known as "socialist realism," was a crude burlesque of 19th-century realism in which the Soviet Union was portrayed as a proletarian paradise. Visual artists had an especially tough time of it, for the once-thriving Russian avant-garde was replaced overnight by a school of simple-minded poster artists who specialized in cheery canvases with titles like "Collective Farm Worker on a Bicycle." To stroll through "Russia!" is to be stupefied by the sheer banality of the assembly-line art these brush-wielding apparatchiks cranked out.

That's one kind of idea-driven art in which the artist illustrates ideas, often with the intention of bludgeoning others into embracing them. But there's another kind, in which an idea is so radically transformed by the artist that the resulting work of art floats free from its initial inspiration, taking on the haze of ambiguity that is part and parcel of beauty.

I saw a wonderful example of the latter kind of art last week at Brooklyn's BAM Harvey Theater. "Super Vision" is an evening-long piece of performance art created by the Builders Association, a New York-based touring experimental theater troupe, in collaboration with dbox, the multidisciplinary design studio. On paper it sounds like a "Nineteen Eighty-Four"-style documentary about how governments and corporations misuse the mountains of personal data they collect from private citizens. In the theater, though, "Super Vision" blossoms into something completely different, a computer-enhanced visual poem about the pitfalls and promise of life in the information age.

"Super Vision," which is being performed this weekend at Montclair State University in Montclair, N.J. (for a tour itinerary, go to ), consists of three interwoven stories in which six actors move through a breathtakingly complex series of digitally generated three-dimensional projections. In one story line, a computer-savvy swindler named John steals his young son's identity, uses it to run up $400,000 in debt, then vanishes. John and his wife are played by real-life actors, but John Jr. exists only as a video image, while the suburban house in which they live is entirely animated.

Again, this bald description makes "Super Vision" sound like a technical tour de force -- which it is. Yet it's far more than that. "I think of the stories in 'Super Vision' as the emotional side of data," explains Marianne Weems, the show's director. "The point is to bring visceral sensation and visual impact to these stories -- and as we move more deeply into interpreting the factual material on which they're based, we move away from the literal."

This is what lifts "Super Vision" out of the pedestrian realm of the purely factual. Yes, Ms. Weems and her collaborators are rightly disturbed by what she calls "this new form of surveillance and its constant incursions into the realm of our selves." But instead of preaching a strident sermon about how "dataveillance" threatens the right to privacy, they've transformed their fears into a fast-flowing stream of nonliteral images that stick in your mind like the swirling colors of an abstract painting. Just when John, the identity thief, thinks he's gotten away clean, you see in the distance what looks like a flock of birds. Then, as it draws nearer, you realize that it's actually a cloud of computer-generated data points hurtling through the air to chase him down. That's not politics -- it's poetry. And it's the quintessence of "Super Vision," a work of theatrical alchemy in which ideas are turned into art by making them more beautiful.

December 5, 2005 message from Larry Gordon

Dear Bob:

As you know, Martin Loeb and I have published a stream of research articles over the last five years in the area we broadly define as "economic aspects of cyber/information security." In order to bring this research to a larger audience, we have summarized much of our research to date into a book entitled MANAGING CYBERSECURITY RESOURCES: A Cost-Benefit Analysis. This book was just published by McGraw-Hill and information about it can be found at: ( ).

Although our initial papers in the area were published in the academic computer science journals (e.g., ACM Transactions on Information and System Security and Journal of Computer Security), the issues addressed are inherently related to the design of management accounting and financial control systems. Accordingly, we are pleased to inform you that the third annual Forum on "Financial Information Systems and Cybersecurity: A Public Policy Perspective" will be held on May 24, 2006 at the Smith School of Business (see attached Call for Papers). We hope you will consider submitting a paper for the Forum.



Larry _____________________________________________________________
Lawrence A. Gordon, Ph.D.
Ernst & Young Alumni Professor of Managerial Accounting and Information Assurance
Director, Ph.D. Program
Affiliate Professor in University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies
Robert H. Smith School of Business
3359 Van Munching Hall
University of Maryland College Park, MD 20742-1815
(301) 405-2255 TEL (301) 314-9611 FAX

Update on Mutual Fund Fraud

"Millennium Settles in 'Timing' Case; Funds, Executives to Pay $180 Million," by Ian McDonald and Gregory Zuckerman, The Wall Street Journal, December 2, 2005; Page C1 ---

Hedge funds run by New York money manager Millennium Management LLC and four of the firm's top executives agreed to pay $180 million to settle regulatory charges that they tricked mutual-fund firms into allowing them to make trades that cheated other investors.

The executives, including Millennium founder Israel Englander, used more than 100 "shell companies" to open more than 1,000 brokerage accounts and make more than 76,000 rapid trades in mutual funds from 1999 to 2003, according to civil complaints filed by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and the Securities and Exchange Commission. Rapid trades in and out of funds -- known as market timing -- are barred by most fund firms because they raise expenses and lower returns for long-term shareholders.

The case "shows the lengths people will go in order to deceive mutual funds and profit from market timing," said Helene Glotzer, associate regional director in the SEC's New York office. More settlements with hedge funds that improperly traded in mutual funds are likely in coming months, she said.

"The fraudulent practices increased in intensity and amount as mutual funds became more vigilant in trying to stop market-timing activities," added Charles Caliendo, an assistant attorney general in New York.

Mr. Englander declined to comment through a spokesman and didn't respond to an email. In a letter to investors yesterday, he said, "We have addressed our issues forthrightly and as promptly as circumstances permitted."

Since Mr. Spitzer shook up the sleepy mutual-fund world with allegations of improper trading in September 2003, 15 firms have reached settlements totaling more than $3.5 billion in fines, penalties and fee cuts for investors. Millennium is the second hedge fund to settle. Canary Capital Partners was the first; it paid $40 million.

Millennium's Mr. Englander, who has built a reputation as one of the most successful traders on Wall Street since founding the firm in 1989, will personally pay a $30 million penalty and will be banned from working for an SEC-registered investment fund for three years. The 57-year-old Mr. Englander will still be able to work at Millennium, which is an unregistered investment adviser. Millennium and the individuals settled without admitting or denying wrongdoing.

New York authorities say the mutual-fund trades totaled more than $52 billion. In addition, they say Millennium traded more than $19 billion improperly through fund-like accounts held in insurance products such as variable annuities, which are essentially tax-deferred retirement accounts with an insurance wrapper that typically guarantees a given payout if the contract holder dies. Millennium also received same-day pricing for some trades made after the market closed in an illegal practice known as "late trading," they say.

Investors in Mr. Englander's funds will bear the brunt of the pain. Under the settlement, outside investors in Millennium's $5.4 billion funds will pay $106 million of the $180 million bill, disgorging gains that came from the allegedly improper trading. The balance will be paid by the firm and its executives.

Continued in article

Bob Jensen's threads on mutual fund fraud are at

From The Wall Street Journal Accounting Weekly Review on December 2, 2005

TITLE: Ahold to Settle Shareholder Suit For $1.1 Billion
REPORTER: Nicolas Parasie, Fred Pals, Chad Bray
DATE: Nov 29, 2005
TOPICS: Accounting, Contingent Liabilities, Financial Accounting, Auditing

SUMMARY: "Ahold NV said it settled a U.S. class-action lawsuit related to its accounting scandal two years ago, agreeing to pay 945 million euro, or about $1.1 billion, to shareholders world-wide." The company "...operates Stop & Shop and Giant supermarkets in the US."

1.) For what losses did Ahold NV shareholders file their class-action lawsuit? In your answer, define the term "class-action." How was this lawsuit resolved?

2.) Based on information given in the main article and a related one, what were the means by which the company overstated its profits? What steps were undertaken to avoid the outside auditor's detection of the accounting irregularities? Is it possible for an auditor to undertake procedures to overcome such collusion?

3.) What factors besides the accounting irregularities committed by the company could have impacted Ahold NV's share price during the years 2003 and 2004? How likely do you think it is that the company might have been able to defend against the shareholder lawsuit on the argument that other factors caused the company's stock price decline? Explain your reasoning for your answer to this question.

4.) Access Ahold's SEC filing on Form 20-F for under company name Royal Ahold (Ticker Symbol AHO). How were these outstanding lawsuits disclosed in the company's financial statements for the year ended January 2, 2005 filed with the SEC on June 24, 2005? To answer, describe the specific location of the disclosure and summarize the statements made therein.

5.) In what time period was most of the expense associated with this lawsuit settlement recorded? Based on the information provided in the article, provide a summary journal entry to account for the lawsuit settlement.

6.) What accounting literature in USGAAP requires the disclosure described in answer to question 4 and the accounting treatment described in answer to question 5? Specifically cite the standard and its paragraphs promulgating this accounting and reporting.

Reviewed By: Judy Beckman, University of Rhode Island

TITLE: U.S. Regulator Settles Charges in Ahold Case
REPORTER: Siobhan Hughes
ISSUE: Nov 03, 2005

TITLE: Ahold's Net Loss Widens on Settlement Charge
REPORTER: Fred Pals ISSUE: Nov 29, 2005

"Ahold to Settle Shareholder Suit For $1.1 Billion," by Nicolas Parasie, Fred Pals, and Chad Bray, The Wall Street Journal,  November 29, 2005; Page B2 --- 

Ahold NV said it settled a U.S. class-action lawsuit related to its accounting scandal two years ago, agreeing to pay €945 million, or about $1.1 billion, to shareholders world-wide.

Separately, a Pennsylvania supermarket vendor pleaded guilty in federal court in Manhattan to a conspiracy charge in connection with the alleged accounting fraud at Ahold's U.S. unit.

Amsterdam-based Ahold, which operates Stop & Shop and Giant supermarkets in the U.S. and the Albert Heijn supermarkets in the Netherlands, came close to bankruptcy proceedings after disclosing a €1 billion profit overstatement at its U.S. Foodservice unit in 2003. Revelations of accounting irregularities over a five-year period followed, and Ahold was sued by shareholders for the resulting drop in share price.

The settlement will result in an after-tax charge of €585 million for the third quarter. Shareholders will receive about $1 to $1.30 for each Ahold share before tax, it said. The company also has reached an agreement with the Dutch shareholders' association VEB, to which it will pay €2.5 million.

Ahold reports third-quarter results today.

"We will avoid lengthy, costly and time-consuming litigation," said Ahold board member and chief legal counselor Peter Wakkie.

Ahold said this settlement is the last one "with significant financial exposure" to the litigation resulting from the 2003 overstatement. There is one continuing investigation being carried out by the U.S. Justice Department that is mainly focusing on executives at U.S. Foodservice, Mr. Wakkie said.

Federal prosecutors have also charged 16 U.S. Foodservice vendors with aiding former executives at the Columbia, Md., company in the alleged scheme to artificially inflate U.S. Foodservice's results. So far, 15 of those suppliers or brokers, including one yesterday, have pleaded guilty to criminal charges in the matter.

At a hearing yesterday before U.S. District Court Judge Jed S. Rakoff, Robert Henuset, a sales manager at Crowley Foods LLC in Yardley, Pa., pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy. Mr. Henuset, who was a supplier to U.S. Foodservice, admitted to signing an audit-confirmation letter in January 2003 that overstated the amount of money owed to U.S. Foodservice by Crowley.

Mr. Henuset, 55 years old, faces as much as five years in prison in connection with the conspiracy charge. Sentencing is set for March 20.

The external auditors of Ahold came from Deloitte and Touche.  You can read more about the Ahold accounting scandal at

Free Spreadsheet Software
December 13, 2005 message from Richard J. Campbell [campbell@RIO.EDU]

Ray Ozzie of Microsoft has been talking about providing pieces of Office as a web service.

Here is a link to a free online spreadsheet: 

Richard J. Campbell

Bob Jensen's threads on accounting software are at

Popup Protection Comes Free
December 13, 2005 message from Richard J. Campbell [campbell@RIO.EDU]

Whether you realize it or not, you may be protected from popups via the Google, Yahoo or antispyware software.

Here is a link to test If you are protected. 

On the other hand there are many developers (like myself) that like to use popups to display educational material.

So it is also important that you find out how to allow these popups when the situation warrants it.

Richard J. Campbell

Some Complicated Finance in a Hedge Fund World:  Why some equity holders want to force bankruptcy

"Executives' Ouster Shows Growing Hedge-Fund Clout: As Calpine CEO Stumbled, Investors Turned Up Heat; A Fight Over Bankruptcy," by Rebecca Smith and Henny Sender, The Wall Street Journal, December 1, 2005; Page A1 ---

In recent years, Calpine fell into trouble after its ambitious plan to build the nation's biggest portfolio of power plants grew increasingly hard to sustain following Enron Corp.'s collapse in 2001. Further hurt by soaring natural-gas prices, the company turned to a new breed of lender -- the hedge funds that now hold the vast majority of its debt.

The company's plight illustrates just how much the business of financing troubled companies has changed in recent years. Moreover, the outcome of any battle over Calpine will be a significant early test of new financing methods and products that have gained prominence in the past few years.

Corporations have traditionally borrowed from banks, mutual funds or other investors who lent with the expectation that they would get their money back, with interest. Calpine's lenders, by contrast, are hedge funds with different expectations. In some cases, they carefully structured their investments with an eye toward a possible bankruptcy filing. In fact, some hedge funds stand to be among the prime beneficiaries if the company does file for bankruptcy protection, especially those who had taken "short" positions in the stock, betting its value would fall. But others may well find the value of their debt is worth less than they anticipated, paving the way for fights among creditors as intense as those between Calpine and its lenders.

While it may seem counterintuitive that bondholders would press a company to file for bankruptcy protection -- since court fights are expensive and unpredictable -- there are logical reasons for some to do so. A bankruptcy filing means that the company's management has to take creditors' interests into consideration, rather than running the company for the benefit of shareholders alone. A filing also stops the clock, in a sense, preventing a company from further destroying value and burning through its cash.

Showing their willingness to play hardball, many funds have taken Calpine to court in an effort to put further pressure on it, and thereby increasing the likelihood of a bankruptcy filing. For example, the Harbert Convertible Arbitrage Master Fund and its offshore equivalent, along with Wilmington Trust Co., as trustee, have sued Calpine in New York Supreme Court alleging technical default on $736 million of convertible notes and asking that Calpine redeem them. Court documents say Harbert holds more than $90 million of these notes. The case is still being litigated. A fund manager at Harbert involved with various litigation against Calpine declined to comment.

Wilmington Trust is also the trustee for a group of noteholders that is overwhelmingly made up of hedge funds, who are fighting Calpine in the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware for "openly and brazenly violating the asset sale provisions of the second lien indentures," according to court documents. Last week, a judge ruled in favor of the noteholders, in a decision that "makes it much harder for cash-strapped Calpine to keep on going," analysts at CreditSights Inc. said.

Continued in article

Who is Jay Cooke and what does he have, if anything, to do with the Enron scandal?

From Jim Mahar's blog on November 4, 2005 ---

Looking for an unsung hero of the US Civil War? You could do much worse than picking Jay Cooke.

Jay Cooke was what we would now call an investment banker.. He had made quite the name for himself selling all types of securities but especially state bonds---his Pennsylvania and Texas bond sales are particularly interesting and could be the focus of a future entry just by themselves

Cooke did things differently than most bankers at the time. Whether by necessity or plan, he marketed his securities directly to the people. Additionally he played on not only their desire for a good deal, but their patriotism.

For instance, a typical advertisement that he ran in newspapers:

“…independent of any motives of patriotism, there is considerations of self-interest which may be considers in reference to this Loan. It is a six percent loan free of any taxation”

While his pre-war career had been successful, he should be most remembered for his work during the Civil War. Starting in 1862 (after the Union lost the Battle of Bull Run), he helped sell several large Federal bond offers that literally helped to win the war by allowing the North to outspend the South. This ability to spend seemingly endless amounts of money, was a major determining factor in the North's eventual victory.

The details of his sales are fascinating. His place in history is guaranteed for his paving the way for future generations of “war bonds” and helping to open the world of finance to a much broader audience—a fact that during the later 1800s the railroads would use to their advantage). To help make these bonds available to the general public, he made bonds available in with par values as low as $50 and instructed his network of offices to remain open well into the evening so that the “working man” could invest after work.

It should be noted that these were not just “plain vanilla” bonds. He was selling debt that was callable and had a longer maturity (up to 20 years) than most debt of the day.

But that is not all; he also ran what some consider to be the first “wire house” whereby his firm used telegraphs to sell securities throughout the North from their office in Washington.

And even after the actual fighting ended (a time when the Union needed millions of dollars to help rebuild) he kept at his original ways (which angered the more traditional bankers) and now gets credit for initiating price stabilization (a practice whereby the investment banking syndicate enters the secondary market and helps to stabilize the price of the security they just helped to sell to the public).

There is today a middle school named after Cooke in Philadelphia.

Source: Wall Street: a History From Its Beginnings to the Fall of Enron, by Charles R. Geisst, pp. 49-58.

Additional sources: _Cooke 

Bob Jensen's threads on the Enron/Andersen scandals are at

I added the above module to my Enron Quiz at

"Economists Caution Investors on Hidden Risks of Hedge Funds," Stanford News, November 2005 ---

"This is Only a Test," by Peter Berger, The Irascible Professor, December 5, 2005 ---

Back in 2002 President Bush predicted "great progress" once schools began administering the annual testing regime mandated by No Child Left Behind. Secretary of Education Rod Paige echoed the President's sentiments. According to Mr. Paige, anyone who opposed NCLB testing was guilty of "dismissing certain children" as "unteachable."

Unfortunately for Mr. Paige, that same week The New York Times documented "recent" scoring errors that had "affected millions of students" in "at least twenty states." The Times report offered a pretty good alternate reason for opposing NCLB testing. Actually, it offered several million pretty good alternate reasons.

Here are a few more.

There's nothing wrong with assessing what students have learned. It lets parents, colleges, and employers know how our kids are doing, and it lets teachers know which areas need more teaching. That's why I give quizzes and tests and one of the reasons my students write essays.

Of course, everybody who's been to school knows that some teachers are tougher graders than others. Traditional standardized testing, from the Iowa achievement battery to the SATs, was supposed to help us gauge the value of one teacher's A compared to another's. It provided a tool with which we could compare students from different schools.

This works fine as long as we recognize that all tests have limitations. For example, for years my students took a nationwide standardized social studies test that required them to identify the President who gave us the New Deal. The problem was the seventh graders who took the test hadn't studied U.S. history since the fifth grade, and FDR usually isn't the focus of American history classes for ten-year-olds. He also doesn't get mentioned in my eighth grade U.S. history class until May, about a month after eighth graders took the test.

In other words, wrong answers about the New Deal only meant we hadn't gotten there yet. That's not how it showed up in our testing profile, though. When there aren't a lot of questions, getting one wrong can make a surprisingly big difference in the statistical soup.

Multiply our FDR glitch by the thousands of curricula assessed by nationwide testing. Then try pinpointing which schools are succeeding and failing based on the scores those tests produce. That's what No Child Left Behind pretends to do.

Testing fans will tell you that cutting edge assessments have eliminated inconsistencies like my New Deal hiccup by "aligning" the tests with new state of the art learning objectives and grade level expectations. The trouble is these newly minted goals are often hopelessly vague, arbitrarily narrow, or so unrealistic that they're pretty meaningless. That's when they're not obvious and the same as they always were.

New objectives also don't solve the timing problem. For example, I don't teach poetry to my seventh grade English students. That's because I know that their eighth grade English teacher does an especially good job with it the following year, which means that by the time they leave our school, they've learned about poetry. After all, does it matter whether they learn to interpret metaphors when they're thirteen or they're fourteen as long as they learn it?

Should we change our program, which matches our staff's expertise, just to suit the test's arbitrary timing? If we don't, our seventh graders might not make NCLB "adequate yearly progress." If we do, our students likely won't learn as much.

Which should matter more?

Even if we could perfectly match curricula and test questions, modern assessments would still have problems. That's because most are scored according to guidelines called rubrics. Rubric scoring requires hastily trained scorers, who typically aren't teachers or even college graduates, to determine whether a student's essay "rambles" or "meanders." Believe it or not, that choice represents a twenty-five percent variation in the score. Or how about distinguishing between "appropriate sentence patterns" and "effective sentence structure," or language that's "precise and engaging" versus "fluent and original."

These are the flip-a-coin judgments at the heart of most modern assessments. Remember that the next time you read about which schools passed and which ones failed.

Unreliable scoring is one reason the General Accountability Office condemned data "comparisons between states" as "meaningless." It's why CTB/McGraw-Hill had to recall and rescore 120,000 Connecticut writing tests after the scores were released. It's why New York officials discarded the scores from its 2003 Regents math exam. A 2001 Brookings Institution study found that "fifty to eighty percent of the improvement in a school's average test scores from one year to the next was temporary" and "had nothing to do with long-term changes in learning or productivity." A senior RAND analyst warned that today's tests aren't identifying "good schools" and "bad schools." Instead, "we're picking out lucky and unlucky schools."

Students aren't the only victims of faulty scoring. Last year the Educational Testing Service conceded that more than ten percent of the candidates taking its 2003-2004 nationwide Praxis teacher licensing exam incorrectly received failing scores, which resulted in many of them not getting jobs. ETS attributed the errors to the "variability of human grading."

The New England Common Assessment Program, administered for NCLB purposes to all students in Vermont, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire, offers a representative glimpse of the cutting edge. NECAP is heir to all the standard problems with standardized test design, rubrics, and dubiously qualified scorers.

NECAP security is tight. Tests are locked up, all scrap paper is returned to headquarters for shredding, and testing scripts and procedures are painstakingly uniform. Except on the mathematics exam, each school gets to choose if its students can use calculators.

Whether or not you approve of calculators on math tests, how can you talk with a straight face about a "standardized" math assessment if some students get to use them and others don't? Still more ridiculous, there's no box to check to show whether you used one or not, so the scoring results don't even differentiate between students and schools that did and didn't.

Finally, guess how NECAP officials are figuring out students' scores. They're asking classroom teachers. Five weeks into the year, before we've even handed out a report card to kids we've just met, we're supposed to determine each student's "level of proficiency" on a twelve point scale. Our ratings, which rest on distinguishing with allegedly statistical accuracy between "extensive gaps," "gaps," and "minor gaps," are a "critical piece" and "key part of the NECAP standard setting process."

Let's review. Because classroom teachers' grading standards aren't consistent enough from one school to the next, we need a standardized testing program. To score the standardized testing program, every teacher has to estimate within eight percentage points how much their students know so test officials can figure out what their scores are worth and who passed and who failed.

If that makes sense to you, you've got a promising future in education assessment. Unfortunately, our schools and students don't.

Bob Jensen's threads on assessment are at

"What Fraud Training?" SmartPros, October 31, 2005 ---

According to Professor J. Edward Ketz, a frequent SmartPros contributor through The Accounting Cycle column, today's accounting students are graduating without the necessary tools to fight fraud. He makes seven recommendations to remedy this problem:
  1. The accounting industry must raise salaries.
  2. Educators must stop watering down courses with watered-down accounting textbooks.
  3. Accounting courses need to focus more on the practical content.
  4. Students should study financial statement analysis.
  5. Students need more work in Information Systems.
  6. Accounting firms should utilize more senior, more experienced individuals on an audit.
  7. Accounting firms need to supplement the training of newly minted accounting graduates.

Jensen Comment
In the above article reporting a survey of 300 respondents, 65% reported that they had zero preparation to deal with fraud prevention in there college courses in accounting.  Once again I will repeat that the most "watered down" part of the accounting curriculum and accounting textbooks is in accounting for derivative financial instruments where much of the fraud takes place in financial reporting.  Also it is not possible to do financial statement analysis of most companies, who hedge risk with derivatives, without understanding new hedge accounting rules in FAS 133 and IAS 39.  There are, of course, other watered down topics, particularly AIS where internal controls are often fallible.  In my judgment, the textbooks and curricula are too focused on CPA exam content which is itself "watered down."

I discuss this problem in greater detail at

November 1, 2005 reply from David Albrecht [albrecht@PROFALBRECHT.COM]

Bob, I'm coming around to your point of view. Perhaps we can simply refer to these "watered down" courses "fully diluted".

Is a new FAS needed to reissue the term "fully diluted"?

Dave Albrecht

Pivot Table Downloads from Microsoft's Investor Relations ---
Jensen's archives of these downloads --- 

When I teach students how to make and analyze pivot tables in Excel, I commenced in 2000 downloading the Excel XLS pivot tables that Microsoft Corporation makes available at its Investor Relations site.  The three XLS files that could be downloaded in the past were as follows:

Microsoft no longer provides the revenue by segments pivot table, but the other two current pivot tables (with pivot charts) can be downloaded from

Microsoft does not provide its pivot table downloads from the early years.  If you are interested, I archived the downloads for Years 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2005. I also have an old (read that OLD) wmv video file on how to use these pivot tables and pivot charts.  The link to these archived at

One thing you can do with the above files is to note how the "What if" pivot tables changed over the years.  These are great illustrations for students learning how to create and use pivot tables.

What networked computer "appears" to be immune to both viruses and spyware (so far)?

Apple's excellent Tiger operating system, which hasn't yet attracted any successful viruses and has no reported spyware.

Walter S. Mossberg and Katherine Boehret,"A New Gold Standard for PCs:  Apple's Revamped iMac Is Cheaper and Better, But Lacks Memory-Card Slots, The Wall Street Journal, November 30, 2005; Page D1 ---

When Apple Computer launched its video iPod last month, the hype was so great that another important Apple product announcement was lost in the shuffle. The company also released that day a new, improved, and yet cheaper, version of the already excellent iMac G5, its flagship consumer desktop computer.

At the same time, Apple Computer also introduced a new software program called Front Row -- embedded in the improved iMac -- that, like Microsoft's Windows Media Center, allows users to play music and to view photos, videos and DVDs from across a room, using an included remote control.

We've been testing this new iMac, and our verdict is that it's the gold standard of desktop PCs. To put it simply: No desktop offered by Dell or Hewlett-Packard or Sony or Gateway can match the new iMac G5's combination of power, elegance, simplicity, ease of use, built-in software, stability and security. From setup to performing the most intense tasks, it's a pleasure to use. And, contrary to common misconceptions, this Mac is competitively priced, when compared with comparably equipped midrange Windows PCs; and it handles all common Windows files, as well as the Internet and email, with aplomb.

As for Front Row, we liked it as well. Though it does less than Microsoft's very nicely designed Media Center version of Windows, Front Row is cleaner and simpler, with a much easier remote control. It could use some improvements, but, even in this first version, it enhances an already-terrific computer.

The combination of the new, improved hardware, plus Front Row, makes the iMac G5 the best consumer desktop you can buy this holiday season, period. For mainstream consumers doing typical tasks -- Web surfing, email, office productivity, photos, music, home videos, etc. -- it's the finest desktop PC on the market, at any price. Hard-core game players, stock-market day traders, serious video producers and some other niche users should look for other computers. But, for most people, the new iMac G5 is the best choice.

At first glance, the new iMac G5 looks very similar to the model it replaced. Like its forerunner, it packs an entire computer, including the very fast and powerful G5 processor, into a slender, striking, white flat-panel monitor. The guts of the computer are entirely contained behind this gorgeous, vivid 17- or 20-inch screen. People viewing the machine for the first time often mistake it for merely a monitor.

But the new model has a slightly faster processor and is even thinner and lighter than its predecessor. And it now has a high-quality built-in camera for videoconferencing and taking snapshots, formerly a $150 external option. Plus, it includes the remote control and Front Row.

Yet the top-of-the-line model, with a 20-inch screen, is now $1,699, down $100 from its predecessor. The 17-inch model is still $1,299, despite the added features.

About the only hardware feature we wish the iMac included is a set of slots for the flash memory cards used by digital cameras and other portable devices. Many Windows models now include such slots, but iMac owners will have to buy an external card reader.

The new model is 15% sleeker and 10% lighter than before. While the older iMac's shape was flat across its white rear panel, this one tapers off at the edges to give it a slightly thinner, more elegant, look. The power button, and the USB, FireWire, Ethernet and other ports, are still on the rear, though they've been rearranged.

Unlike most desktops, the iMac G5 comes with built-in Wi-Fi wireless networking, so you can use it far away from a wired Internet connection. It also includes Bluetooth wireless networking; a DVD and CD burner; 512 megabytes of memory; and Apple's new two-button mouse. The 20-inch model has a 250-gigabyte hard disk and a processor that runs at 2.1 gigahertz. The 17-inch model has a 160-gigabyte hard disk and a processor that runs at 1.9 gigahertz.

Like all Macs, the new iMac comes with Apple's excellent Tiger operating system, which hasn't yet attracted any successful viruses and has no reported spyware. Tiger already includes the key features Microsoft is promising for its next version of Windows, due in about a year. These include an integrated desktop search, parental controls and tougher security. And it comes with Apple's iLife suite of first-rate multimedia programs for managing and creating music, photos, videos and DVDs -- better than any similar software for Windows.

Continued in article

November 30, 2005 reply from Glen Gray [glen.gray@CSUN.EDU]

The popularity of Apple computers continue to grow—partly due the increased visibility of the Apple brand due to the popularity of iPods. As such, I have a growing (but still small) population of students each semester who own Apple computers. The problem is we use Microsoft Access in a few courses—and there is no version of Access for Apple computers. As such, these students have to do their Access projects in our busy labs. Then these students ask me the obvious question: Did I make a mistake buying an Apple compute? Most tax and accounting software that accounting students may use on the future jobs do not have Apple versions. So, I don’t really have a clear answer to that question.

Glen L. Gray, PhD, CPA
Dept. of Accounting & Information Systems
College of Business & Economics
California State University, Northridge
Northridge, CA 91330-8372 

November 30, 2005 reply from Bob Jensen

Since PCs are so cheap these days, most of us in the working world (not necessarily students) can afford both. Since I have had two computers wiped out by Trojan horses and keep finding spyware on my Windows machines, I plan to use a Mac on the Web as much as possible. The Windows machine offline will then be clean and healthy for MS Office software like MS Access and Excel.

I agree that students should learn the Windows operating system and MS Office products since the working world is still pretty much a Windows world. But that does not mean that professors must always do Windows. I was a loyal Windows fan all these years until all this bad stuff commenced to happen (Trojan horses, viruses, trap doors, spyware, phishing, spoofing, pharming (really bad), and spam. Mac has what Consumer Reports calls the best spam deflector.

My laments on the above problems with Windows are at 

November 30, 2005 reply from David Fordham, James Madison University [fordhadr@JMU.EDU]

Bob, you've hit the nail right on the head. Windows AND iMacs are the way to go if you want to be fully prepared.

If Glen's students are like mine (and I expect they are, since even my own children are like this!), most of them are unlike us, and won't have the headaches learning, and then moving between, the two different operating systems and their respective suites of application software.

Individuals in my generation (and Bob's, Glen's, and most of the rest of us on this list) grew up with one primary operating system and one set of application software on our personal computers at a time. First it was CP/M accompanied by BASIC and assemblers. Then along came DOS, accompanied by Visicalc, Lotus 1-2-3, and later WordPerfect 5.0. Then came Windows 3.1, and later still Windows98 accompanied by MS Office.

Note this: In each case, we had a lengthy learning curve because of relative unfamiliarity with the new techniques used for interfacing. To make matters worse for us, OUR other electronic gadgets had "operating systems" that were either so simple they were intuitive (microwave ovens, electronic desk telephones, answering machines, faxes, etc.), or were so weird and unique they stood out like sore thumbs (TV remote controls, Xerox copier control panels, etc.) and baffled our rank and file. For us, learning a new control was a chore because nothing new seemed to relate to anything we already knew.

Not so with today's generation. They are used to transitioning easily between dozens of different, albeit "universally menu-driven, object-oriented, icon- illustrated, nested level, preference-preserving" control programs -- for every kind of gadget imaginable.

Today's students can pick up a new multipurpose cellphone/camcorder, a GPS mapping device, a multi-function all-in-one printer/scanner/copier/floor-scrubber/cappucino- maker, (or in the case of my 19-year-old son who's a pilot, a new Cirrus airplane cockpit that is entirely computer- based!) -- and with a couple minutes experimentation, have the gadget singing, dancing, rolling over and doing tricks long before us grey-hairs could even get the manual out of the zip-lock bag!

Today's generation has the mind-set that if you know what the gadget is supposed to do, you should be able to figure out how to work it. They have no trepidation at trying new devices, and know what to expect in the way of figuring out the logic of the interface, given the expected purpose of the gadget.

Indeed, the similarity in purpose between the iMac and the Windows machines makes it that much easier for them to pick up the other one, compared to say, transitioning between a Windows machine and a Canon copier/scanner or video cell phone, for instance -- things that they have no problem with at all.

The transition between Mac and Windows is made even easier if they can have a couple of minutes of time from a skilled educator who can point out differences and similarities, and is experienced in how to properly construct a "compare and contrast" introduction.

Thus, I am a proponent of educators becoming familiar with both systems, painful as it may be for us.

To address Glen's student's situation, it is unquestionable that an accounting student who knows only the Mac is going to be in serious trouble the first couple of weeks on the job. (Even though they can pick up the Mac operation relatively easily compared to MY generation, they will not have had the MS OfficeSuite practice, and therefore they'll be lacking the speed/expertise/comfort-level of their competition for promotions and raises!)

And conversely, a student who knows only Windows may be able to get along on the job quite well and survive admirably career-wise, but may be at a disadvantage on those areas where Mac's excel (no pun intended!), such as video, music, etc. And remember, many elementary schools still are Mac- based, so helping the kids with the homework will one day demand knowledge of the Mac world.

Of course, my stereotyping described above has exceptions. There are those students in today's generation who have trouble figuring out how to open the door to a new car, how to flush a modern toilet, how to turn on a shower in a hotel room, and how to make a call on their new cell phone. But my observation has been that they are more rare than the 85-year- old who can program a ccript in virtual Java. (My dad is one of them!)

"Technology is another name for 'tools'. The more tools you know, and know well, the better you are able to thrive in the modern, technological environment. If your only tool is a hammer, you tend to see all problems as nails. If you have a workshop full of tools and know how to use them, you can turn out miracles."

David Fordham

Richard Campbell reminds us that Mac is not as fully secure as some people like to believe.


Richard J. Campbell 


I think what's important about this is that Deloitte is the only one of the Big Four that did not sell its consulting division (although those firms that did sell have started up new advisory services divisions).  It would seem that Deloitte is still auditing an information system that it once designed.  However, some other firms are probably doing the same thing even though they sold the consulting divisions that once designed the information systems being audited.

"Delphi Investors Seek Deloitte's Ouster as Auditor," by Jonathan Weil, The Wall Street Journal,  December 3, 2005; Page B13 ---

A group of large investors has asked the judge presiding over Delphi Corp.'s bankruptcy proceedings to disqualify Big Four accounting firm Deloitte & Touche LLP from continuing to audit the auto-parts maker's financial statements.

Delphi filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy-court protection in October, just months after disclosing a litany of accounting violations involving hundreds of millions of dollars. The disclosures prompted a series of government investigations that are continuing. Shortly after filing for bankruptcy protection, Delphi asked the court for permission to continue using Deloitte, its longtime outside auditor.

In their request Friday, the Teachers' Retirement System of Oklahoma, the Public Employees' Retirement System of Mississippi and two other large institutional investors asked U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert D. Drain to reject that application, arguing that Deloitte faces unmanageable conflicts of interests.

"The more Deloitte were to discover about Delphi's past accounting problems, the more it would implicate itself for having failed to detect them at the time," the funds wrote in their court filing. "In fact, Deloitte has strong incentive to conceal pre-petition accounting and auditing problems, and to minimize its own liability."

Those same investors are the lead plaintiffs in a lawsuit that seeks class-action status accusing Delphi, Deloitte and several other defendants of misleading investors. They also have filed papers before Judge Drain objecting to potentially lucrative pay packages that Delphi has proposed for certain key employees, including senior Delphi executives, while the company reorganizes.

In a statement, Deloitte spokeswoman Deborah Harrington said the accounting firm "does not believe it would be appropriate to publicly comment on a retention application that is currently pending before the federal bankruptcy court. However, any allegations that Deloitte & Touche LLP acted improperly with respect to its prior audit engagements for Delphi are untrue."

A Delphi spokesman declined to comment.

In addition to auditing Delphi's financial statements, Deloitte also designed and implemented Delphi's financial-information systems following the company's 1999 spinoff from General Motors Corp. In 2000, Delphi paid Deloitte $6.6 million for its annual audit and $50.8 million for nonaudit services, including $41.3 million for the information-systems project; it paid Deloitte an additional $12 million related to the project in 2001.

Since then, Delphi's audit fees have risen, while nonaudit fees have declined. For 2004, Delphi paid Deloitte $14 million in audit fees and $1.7 million for other services.

Continued in article

Bob Jensen's threads on Deloitte are at

"IASC Foundation Publishes User’s Guide to Financial Instruments Standards," International Accountant, November 11, 3005 ---

The International Accounting Standards Committee (IASC) Foundation has published a user’s guide through the official text of the standards on financial instruments issued by the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB).

This volume has been produced under the IASC Foundation’s education initiative and offers the consolidated and up-to-date text, with extensive cross-references, of IAS 32, IAS 39, IFRS 7 and IFRIC Interpretation 2. The cross-references have been designed to help users navigate the pronouncements included in the text and relate the requirements of the standards and the accompanying material that is published with them. In addition, the text is annotated with relevant agenda decisions of the International Financial Reporting Interpretations Committee.

The IASC Foundation has prepared this volume for those who need to have a detailed knowledge of reporting and accounting for financial instruments in accordance with International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRSs). It will therefore be of particular interest to those who are consolidating their knowledge of the IASB’s standards on financial instruments. Equally, to help those who are applying IFRSs for the first time, the volume contains an overview of IFRS 1 - the standard on first-time adoption of IFRSs - which sets out the exemptions available and exceptions to retrospective application of the standards on financial instruments.

Printed copies of Financial Instruments—Reporting and Accounting: A user’s guide through the official text of IAS 32, IAS 39 and IFRS 7 (ISBN 1-904230-94-6) are available from the IASCF Publications Department, at £38 each including postage.

Contact Details
IASCF Publications Department, 30 Cannon Street, London EC4M 6XH, United Kingdom. Tel: +44 (0)20 7332 2730, Fax: +44 (0)20 7332 2749,

E-mail: ,
Web: .

Also see an announcement at

"IBM Software Cruises Web and Blogs to Capture Noise About Businesses," ADT Magazine. November 10, 2005 ---

The proliferation of blogs, news feeds, consumer review sites, newsgroups and articles published daily on the Web has created a phenomenon where public opinion about an organization spreads worldwide, faster than ever before, IBM says. These sources are filled with insight from consumers, experts and competitors that can be analyzed and used by businesses to make better decisions on products, services and business strategies. This creates a tremendous opportunity for organizations to carefully monitor their image and more quickly address business opportunities, threats, quality concerns or changing public perception.

IBM's Public Image Monitoring Solution, designed with Nstein Technologies and Factiva, permits orgs to analyze and understand the scuttlebutt that affects their brands. For example, a consumer goods manufacturer could use this software to track response to new product introductions by examining consumer product reviews and blog discussions about the new product, drill down into information from regions of the world where public sentiment about the product was less than positive, and identify hot topics or trends associated with the product.

Letter to the Editor: I Don't Deserve Tarring With Refco Debts Brush

From The Wall Street Journal Accounting Weekly Review on November 4, 2005

TITLE: Letter to the Editor: I Don't Deserve Tarring With Refco Debts Brush
REPORTER: Victor Niederhoffer
DATE: Nov 02, 2005
TOPICS: Accounting, Bad Debts, Bankruptcy

SUMMARY: This letter was submitted in reaction to an article about Refco that was covered by this Review last week.

1.) What is the tainting that Mr. Niederhoffer associates with the previous WSJ article? To provide your answer, you may refer to the original article, which is presented as a related item.

2.) What loss would Refco have hidden under monitoring �by regulators, clearing houses, and exchange officials� in order to have resulted in the issues leading to Refco�s downfall and bankruptcy?

3.) Does Mr. Niederhoffer say that his firm completely discharged its liabilities to Refco in October 1997? If not, then what would have been the resulting impact on Refco�s financial statements?

Reviewed By: Judy Beckman, University of Rhode Island

TITLE: Refco�s Debts Started with Several Clients
REPORTERS: Deborah Solomon, Peter A. McKay, Jonathan Weil, and Carrick Mollenkamp
ISSUE: Oct 21, 2005

I Don't Deserve Tarring With Refco Debts Brush," by Victor Niederhoffer, The Wall Street Journal, November 2, 2005; Page A15 ---

Your Oct. 21 article "Refco's Debts Started With Several Clients -- Bennett Secretly Intervened to Assume Some Obligations; Return of Victor Niederhoffer" (Money & Investing) reported that some familiar with Refco's accounts stated that the company's troubles with bad debts dated back to the late 1990s and included losses that the firm supposedly incurred as the result of the collapse of my hedge fund in 1997, when Refco was my broker. While I had used Refco for 15 years prior to my firm's collapse, I have had no contact with or obligations to Refco for seven years. However, the use of my name in the headline, and the display of my picture may have given the casual reader the impression that I was a major cause of Refco's collapse.

The events that took place in 1997 were so closely monitored by regulators, clearing houses and exchange officials that it is inconceivable to me that Refco could have hidden a loss. In any case, such a loss would have been microscopic compared with the approximately $2 billion in cash and equity taken out by Refco officials and shareholders last year before the firm's IPO. I turned over what I considered very substantial assets to Refco as part of our mutual releases. Perhaps there were fictitious accounting entries later, but I shouldn't be tarred with this brush.

I have recovered from the devastating blow my firm suffered when stock prices collapsed amid the Asian financial crisis in October 1997, but the "return of Victor Niederhoffer" has nothing to do with Refco. It relates to building up my firm to some 25 outstanding employees, establishing and acting as trading adviser for several highly successful hedge funds, including the Matador Fund, and recovering money at my own expense for clients involved in my 1997 debacle.

Victor Niederhoffer
Chairman Manchester Trading, LLC
Weston, Conn.

Bob Jensen's updates on fraud are at

Can anybody answer perplexing question with interactive Excel spreadsheets in DHTML?

Some years ago, Microsoft added an option in Excel that allows users to save Excel spreadsheets and charts as HTM files as well as XLS files.  The advantage of doing this is that the HTM versions can be read in Web browsers that will run Dynamic HTML --- DHTML.  At first these could only be read in Internet Explorer.  All users had to do was to choose to save as HTM files and then follow the rather simple instructions that pop up.  One thing to note is that to save an interactive chart, first select the chart and than save as an HTM file.  Also note that some things on a spreadsheet (e.g., buttons and arrows) will not appear in the HTM version.  Also macros will not run in the HTM version.

The advantage of the HTM versions was that users could view spreadsheets in browsers without the risk of downloading XLS files contaminated with viruses, particularly those nasty macro viruses.  Also it was possible for users that did not have Excel to run the interactive spreadsheets.  For example if you have a chart created from a table, you can change the data in the table and watch the chart change in the HTM file just like you could do in the XLS file.

For years I have had both some DHTML illustrations on this and a DHTML tutorial video.  My perplexing problem this month was that my old illustrations would no longer run on my computer or any of the Trinity University lab and classroom computers.  However, these illustrations would run on some other computers such as my secretary's computer.  I might note that my secretary and I both have the latest versions of Microsoft Office and Internet Explorer.  Why my older illustrations run on her computer and not on my computer is still a mystery.

Thus my perplexing problem was thus that my DHTML illustrations would run on some computers but not others.  And try as a might, I could not find how choice of options and security shields was causing this problem on computers that would not run these illustrations.

Then one of my students noted that he could not run my illustrations on his computer.  But when he took my original Excel XLS spreadsheets and re-saved them as HTM files they would run.  My illustrations were originally saved on older versions of Excel.  And so I went back to my old Excel file illustrations and re-saved them in my newer version of Excel.  Like magic, the illustrations would now run in my Internet Explorer browser.  Don't ask me why, but it worked.

Try it yourself.

My old illustrations are at
See if these will run in your Web browser.

My re-saved illustrations are at
See if these will run in your Web browser.

I did change a few things in the new version.  In Illustration 1, I added the line chart.  And I deleted Illustration 4 simply because I did not have time to go into Dreamweaver and re-create that rather complicated layering illustration.

I just thought you would like to know in case you have any older DHTML spreadsheets on your Web server.  You may need to go back into your original Excel XLS files and re-save them as HTM files so they will run on all newer versions of Internet Explorer.

If anybody can explain why my old version will run on some computers and not others, I would sure like to know why!

Financial Accounting Self-Help Tutors

November 3, 2005 message from Peter Cunningham

I am looking for self teach materials which can be made available to students entering university but encountering accounting for the first time.

We have a problem of students entering our business program with widely divergent backgrounds in accounting. Some may have had as many as three full courses at the high school or pre university level (in Quebec we have an intermediate step between high school and university known as CEGEP). Other students have had no exposure at all. We would like to make available to the latter group a self teach, preferably modular type, system which would introduce them to the fundamentals including the mechanics of how the accounting model works. This would then allow us to teach the first accounting course (which is mandatory for all business students) with a common body of basic underlying knowledge and make the course more conceptual and, we hope, more interesting.

We have used introductory texts at both ends of the preparer v user spectrum and have not found a satisfactory solution. We hope this preparation will help. It is possible that if suitable it would be offered on a mandatory or optional basis.

All suggestions would be welcome. They can be sent to me directly at  or sent to the list if it is felt that other readers will benefit from the information.

Thank you.

Peter Cunningham

November 3, 2005 reply from Roger Collins [rcollins@TRU.CA]

Your request reminded me of some self-teach CD-ROM systems developed in the 1990's. Here is an extract from Bob Jensen's Excellent Archive....


In the mid-1990s, some professors generated basic accounting CD-ROM courses. The first of these grew out of an Accounting Education Change Commission grant to Arizona State University. Ralph Smith and Rick Birney developed the Interactive Financial Accounting Lab ToolBook CD-ROM accounting education lab tutorial. Staying in tune with the times, the CD-ROM version is now being converted into Internet software. Fran and Ron Milne at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas developed the Milne Interactive Authorware CD-ROM accounting tutorials that featured many hours of audio to accompany the animated tutorials. The product is called "Personal Accounting Tutor - Elementary Financial Accounting." Ron tells me that the tutorials are now being revised for web delivery on using the Authorware Reader plug-in from Macromedia. He also says that a proprietary audio compression utility from Macromedia reduces wave file space requirements by over 90%. Don Smith at Wilfred Laurier University in Canada developed the Charles Debit CD that was designed to bring students up to speed in the first several weeks of a basic accounting course. Publishing firms developed their own basic accounting CD-ROMs. Irwin Publishing developed the GMAC CD basic accounting tutorial for the Graduate Management Admissions Council. An excellent interactive ToolBook basic accounting CD-ROM is the more recent Financial Accounting Tutor developed by Dan and Rachana Gode at New York University.


The link is.... 

Does anyone have information on the current status of these systems, or know what became of them?


November 3, 2005 reply from Bob Jensen

Hi Peter and Roger,

Since I wrote that, some of these tutorial CDs are out of print. Most did not adapt well to the Web, in part because they were written in Authorware or Toolbook's OpenScript, neither of which adapted well to the Web.

Probably the best current source is Financial Accounting Tutor and its offspring by Dan Gode and his wife at NYU ---

Dan now has an e-Learning center at 
Bob Jensen

November 3, 2005 reply from Richard Campbell [campbell@RIO.EDU]

And there is my product - soon to be replaced by Financial Accounting 2006. 

I am dropping the price on the above to $19.98 shortly.

Richard J. Campbell

Teaching and Grade Inflation Once Again

October 19, 2005 message from David Albrecht

Is it possible that changing societal norms had an effect? How about the national slide away from accepting personal responsibility toward always blaming someone else for our own unmet expectations? How about increasing understanding about what teaching is and the role of grading? Simply because A and B happen simultaneously does not mean that A is related to B, B is related to A, or that either A or B causes the other.

David Albrecht

October 20, 2005 reply from Bob Jensen

Hi David,

In my personal opinion, the fault lies with the importance placed upon grades today relative to the 1930s and 1940s. In those days just being a Harvard graduate mattered more than the gpa. Dwight D. Eisenhower could become Commander of Allied Forces in WW II even though he graduated near (at?) the bottom of his West Point class.

Today, top recruiters won’t even talk to students having below a 3.00 gpa (in some cases even higher). Graduate schools and law schools place high emphasis on grades for admission.

In other words mere graduation from college is no longer a way to get your foot in the door of a career. The gpa became all-important, and students have understandably reacted by hounding their professors for the A grades. The C grade to them is the kiss of death and the loss of all they’ve invested in time and money in their educations.

Is it any surprise that the average grade at Harvard went from C- in 1940 to A- at present?

Bob Jensen

Bob Jensen's threads on teaching evaluations and grade inflation are at

Grading Teams of Students

October 23 message from glen.gray@CSUN.EDU

When I have students do group projects, I require each team member complete a peer review form where the team member evaluates the other team members on 8 attributes using a scale from 0 to 4. On this form they also give their team members an overall grade. In a footnote it is explained that an "A" means the team member receives the full team grade; a "B" means a 10% reduction from the team grade; a "C" means 20% discount; a "D" means 30% discount; "E" means 40%, and an "F" means a 100% discount (in other words, the team member should get a zero). 

I assumed that the form added a little peer pressure to the team work process. In the past, students were usually pretty kind to each other. But now I have a situation where the team members on one team have all given either E's of F's to one of their team members. Their written comments about this guy are all pretty consistent. 

Now, I worried if I actually enforce the discount scale, things are going to get messy and the s*** is going to hit the fan. I'm going to have one very upset student. He is going to be mad at his fellow teammates. 

Has anyone had similar experience? What has the outcome been? Is there a confidentially issue here? In other words, are the other teammates also going to be upset that I revealed their evaluations? Is there going to be a lawsuit coming over the horizon? 

Glen L. Gray, PhD, CPA

October 23, 2005 reply from David Fordham, James Madison University [fordhadr@JMU.EDU]

Glen, what you describe is almost identical to what I do, and have done for about six years re: peer group member peer evaluation.

I ask the students to rate each of their peers (and
themselves!) individually on ten criteria, divided into two
parts: contribution, and group process.

Contribution deals with the AMOUNT and QUALITY of the work/effort/production a student puts forth, and group process deals with ability to get along with people, interpersonal skills, leadership, 'followership', willingness to compromise, go the extra mile, pick up slack, etc.

I find that some people who contribute a lot get low marks on group process, and some who are very likable don't contribute much. I also ask specifically for comments, explanations, examples, and other free-form expansion on the rating numbers.

My syllabus specifically states that Working In Groups is part of the course grade. Like you, I deduct points, up to 100%, from the group work grades, based on peer ratings.

My rating sheets are not identified with the rater's name, but they do require each rater to rate ALL the members of
their group *including themselves*. This gives some token
measure of anonymity within the four or five person group.

I get around the confidentiality issue in three ways.
First, as I said, the rating sheets aren't identified by rater. Second, I don't allow any student to see the rating sheets. If a student wants to question the ratings, I will take the sheets to my department chair and let him verify to
the student that the rating sheets say what they do. (If
asked, however, I always provide the student with a written summary/compilation of his/her ratings.)

Third, this is not a criminal proceeding and regardless of what some wise-donkey students think, they do not have the right to "face his/her accuser". Anyway, their "accuser" is me. As professor, I put forth a grading criteria, I collect data from numerous sources, and I use that data to determine a grade according to the method described in the my
syllabus. The other students aren't accusing anyone of
anything, they are merely contributing information for me to use in grade determination.

In my syllabus I define a "due process" for appeals of the group ratings. Additionally, the university has another formal procedure if the student wishes to appeal their course grade. Thus the student has ample "due process" to follow if they don't like what they've earned.

In the six or so years I've done this, I've had to deduct points from one or more students almost every other semester, but usually the amount is small. I use judgment, too, in trying to decide when a student is really at fault, by carefully reading the comments and expansions.
Consistency (not necessarily unanimity) puts me on very firm footing in making a deduction.

Three times, I've deducted 100% of the student's group grade because the other group members all said he/she didn't really participate, and my position is that no one gets credit for something they don't do.

In all deductions, no matter how small, I email the student explaining the situation, and ask for an in-person meeting in my office. Surprisingly, less than half the students bother to meet with me. Those that don't usually email me back admitting they got what they deserved.

For those that meet with me, I explain the situation as gently as possible, and don't make the group members the bad guy, I simply emphasize the importance of successful performance within groups to their business career. I try to paint the experience as a learning opportunity, and explain that the group members' ratings should be considered feedback for future improvement. I offer counsel and advice about how to improve in future group work, and accentuate the benefits to be gained to their career by doing better in this area.

I've never had an appeal, even for the three students who lost all their group grades and thus failed the course.
(knock on wood) In fact, to the contrary, almost all
students thank me for considering their welfare when they leave my office.

If I ever do have an appeal, however, I believe firmly that my process will prevail. I keep the individual rating sheets in a locked cabinet for three years as documentation.

Because my policies are so well outlined in my syllabus, and I follow them closely, I don't have any fear of a lawsuit.

As far as the student's relationship with other students, I believe that this is a valuable learning experience, and "tests the mettle" of a students' reaction to criticism. I point this out in the meeting, and remind them of the importance of realizing that "10,000 sailors can't be wrong", and "perceptions are more important than reality".

While some professors often look upon delivering a penalty as unpleasant, I've found this to be one of the more enjoyable experiences in my teaching career. I've received several letters and emails from penalized students months later thanking me for taking the time to help them.

I consider you to be a master teacher and mentor to me, and not vice versa, so I'm hesitant to make a recommendation.
But if you'd like my opinion: I'd stick to my guns and make the deduction. I believe it will end up helping everyone.

David Fordham

October 23, 2005 reply from Jason Xiao [xiao@CARDIFF.AC.UK]

Dear Glen,
Greetings from Cardiff.
I have benefited a lot from reading a series of e-mail exchanges on group grades that you initiated in 2004(see your e-mail below). One thing seemed to be missing in the discussion is what would be a better way to group students. I would be grateful if you and anyone else who receives this e-mail could allow me and other colleagues who might also be interested to share your experience.
Jason Xiao

Jason Xiao (MEcon, MSc, PhD, ITLM)
Professor of Accounting
Cardiff Business School
Director, Chinese Accounting, Finance and Business Research Unit Research Unit Web Site:
Cardiff University, Colum Drive, Cardiff CF10 3EU, UK
Tel: 00-44-(0)2920875374
Fax: 00-44-(0)2920874419


Initiatives from the U.N. and Iran to Move Israel to Germany:  But Nobody Consulted Germany

"Ahmadinejad’s idea on Israel correct in principal," by Henryk M. Broder, Tehran Times, December 14, 2005 ---

Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad’s suggestion to move Israel to Germany is not as absurd as it sounds. If you consider the idea impartially, you can see a historic land reform concept which can be advantageous to all parties.

Everyone is attacking the Iranian president again because he suggested moving Israel from the Middle East to Germany, or Austria. Even those who were not outraged about Ahmadinejad’s demand "to wipe Israel off the map" are agitated, because now they see the problem as becoming theirs. As much as a "world without Zionism" is imaginable, a Europe with a Jewish State in its midst is a vision of horror that no one wants to follow to its logical conclusion.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called Ahmadinejad’s suggestions "totally unacceptable". Her hasty reaction did not take into account that the Iranian president had, after all, moved away from his original demand to destroy Israel and now wants a "relocation" of the "Zionist entity". From a humanitarian point of view, this is progress: The Israelis should no longer disappear into the ocean, but be sent on an overseas journey instead. One could also say that Europe should take back the problem that it created and exported. But the recipient is refusing delivery of the parcel even before it has been sent.

Sure enough: When Ahmadinejad is right, he’s right. It doesn’t help to call him "inexperienced in foreign affairs", as the director of the Orient Institute, Udo Steinbach, recently did.

The Middle East conflict is not only collateral damage of the Holocaust, it’s a product of European anti-Semitism. Without the pogroms in Poland and Russia, without the Dreyfuss Affair in France (which made Herzl into a Zionist), without the German attempt at the "final solution" to the Jewish problem, the Jews would still be dreaming of their own state instead of having to protect it.

Ahmadinejad’s idea may be vague, but in principal it is correct. The Palestinians are paying for the sins of the Europeans. And if there were such a thing as historical justice in this world, the Jewish state would have been founded in Schleswig-Holstein or in Bavaria, and not in Palestine.

Continued in article

Berlin calls in Iranian diplomat over president's remarks ---

The UN signals goodbye to Israel:  Where will Jews be relocated?
The United Nations held a "Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People" last week. A large map of “Palestine,” with Israel literally wiped off the map, featured prominently in the festivities. The ceremony was held at the UN headquarters in New York and was attended by Secretary General Kofi Annan and the Presidents of the UN Security Council and the General Assembly . . . With the map hanging behind him, Secretary-General Annan addressed the public meeting at UN Headquarters.
Arutz Sheva, "UN Ceremony Includes Map of ´Palestine´ in Place of Israel," December 8, 2005 ---

Jensen Comment
Actually this might not be a bad move if Israel could come up with an agreed upon price, say $100 trillion dollars to be paid out by oil producing states in the Middle East with a stipulation that there be no movement until the cash is put in trust in Switzerland. Germans could sell land for an enormous profit and aid their struggling economy.  Citizens of Israel might at last live in peace.  And World War III might be avoided.  Of course with $100 trillion in cash, Israel might get a better deal somewhere else in the world. 

"26 Things to Know Before Working for a National Accounting Firm," by David Satava, New Accountant, Originally published in 1999 ---

“E-Commerce and CPA WebTrust,” New Accountant, October 21, 2005 ---

"Expected Technological Competencies For Accounting Students," by Marshall Romney; John W. Hardy; Nancy S. Hardy; and Bradley J. Farmer, New Accountant, October 21, 2005 ---

Some other career advice from New Accountant ---

How Every Publicly Traded REIT Performed by NAREIT (.xls)
PassMatrix to offer Chartered Financial Analyst Exam Preparation Course
Job Market: Top Accounting Students Optimistic
IU's Kelley School Recognized by Two National Publications
Why Aren't Accountants Talking to their Computers?by Ray Landry, Dwight M. Owsen, and Kent N. Schneider
Controllership: The Other Accounting Career by Brian Patrick Green & John Kaplan
The Utilization of Retired Faculty in the Assurance of Quality Control in the ClassroomBy William N. Bockanic and Joseph M. McKeon Jr.
Life According to FASB by Jean Price
Speech by Barry Melancon, President and CEO, AICPA 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy National Press Club, Washington, DC
European Commission to Fund Development and Adoption of XBRL
26 Things You Should Know Before Working for a National Accounting Firm By: David Satava
Reporting on Corporate Citizenship By: Vinita Ramaswamy & Annette Hebble
Speaking to Groups is Part of Life and Your Career By: Jeff Davidson
A Privilege and a Responsibility: Participating in the FASB's Standard-Setting Process By: Paulette R. Tandy & Nancy L. Wilburn
Why does the CPA exam have a much lower passing rate than the Bar exam? By: Dr. Curtis C. Howell and Dr. Ruth Belk
So Much Data - So Little Time By: David C. Hayes and James E. Hunton
Risk: Minimizing Exposure While Maximizing Rewards. A Lifelong Pursuit By: Bruce A. Costa
A Survey on Working Capital Management in Some Selective Iranian Companies By: Davood Jadid Bonab
Know Your Rights: What is an "Educational Record under FERPA?" By: Patricia S. Wall
The Art of Letting Go By: Joe John Duran
Crack the Glass Ceiling With the Help of a Mentor By: Rebekah Sheely and Lynn Stallworth
A Survey on Working Capital Management in Some Selective Iranian Companies By: Davood Jadid Bonab
Crack the Glass Ceiling With the Help of a Mentor By: Rebekah Sheely and Lynn Stallworth
A Few Bad Apples in the Bunch By: William H. Belski, Kelly A. Richmond, John A. Brozovsky
The New Computer-Based CPA Exam
What to Know About State CPA Reciprocity Rules By: Paul Swanson, John Gillett and Kevin Berry
Societal Responsibilities of an Educated Person By: Teresa Beed
Applying the Lessons to Practice By: Jayaraman Vijayakumar and Benson Wier
Accounting Careers & Income Differentials By: William B. Joyce
The Accounting Internship: Reasons & Advice By: Robert D. Fesler
Bribery & the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practice Act: Do They Hinder Global competition? By: Teresa K. Beed, Maureen J. Fleming and Nader H. Shooshtari
Undecided About Your Career Choice? Think About making A Commitment To Accounting By: Michael Trebesh
The Greatest Frauds of the (Last) Century By: Paul M. Clickeman
Looking for a Fast-Paced, Well-Paying Position? By: Rebekah Sheely
Career Management in a Post-Enron World By: Timothy J. Fogarty
Disclosures of Foreign companies Registered In The U.S. By: Huong Ngo Higgins
Earning A CGFM Certification Is An Investment In Your Future
State & Local Governments: An Attractive Career Option By: Stephen C. Del Vecchio
Double Taxation of Dividends: Is the Question Resolved? By: Novella Clevenger
Increased Demand, Heightened Awareness of Accounting Issues Create new opportunities in Finance and Accounting By: Mike Trewhella
Service Learning in Accounting Education: A Student's & a Professor's Perspective By: Aaron Bryant
A Post-Enron Examination of Student Perceptions to Potential Accounting Reforms By: William H. Belski
Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002: What You Need To Know By: James M. Kohlmeyer
The New CPA Exam: A Challenge for Academicians By: Howard F. Turetsky
Gender Considerations for Your Career Plans By: Edwin A. Doty Jr.
Hiring Of Accounting Professionals: Employee & Employer Perspectives By: Don Miller and Dr. Nitham M. Hindi
Networking: It's Not Only Who You Know, But What You Do To Get Known By: Daniel R. Brickner
The "New Market" - Accounting Opportunities Are Limitless By: Michael Trebesh
Defining Your Operating Style: Key to Success By: James Schaefer
Stepping Out With Self-Esteem By: Andrea Nierenberg
WorldCom: A Simply Recipe for Cooking the Books By: Rebekah A. Sheely
Skills Necessary For A Successful Career In Accounting By: Nas Ahadiat
Get a Grip: Exam Anxiety & Beyond By: Kathy J. Brockway
Tomorrow's Accountants By: Diana H. Clary
Using Electronic Resumes in the Job Search By: Dr. Lillian H. Chaney
Is the Accountant the Future Of Wealth Management?

The 21st Century CPA By: David Burros
Accounting Careers and Income Differentials
How to Deduct Moving Expenses for the First Job By: Joseph R. Oliver
Career Opportunities For New CPAs As Personal Financial Planners By: Kevin J. Sigler
Modern Recruiting Techniques - Early Hire Opportunities for Students: The Changing Face of the Recruiting Process By: Darwin L. King
What Does The Public Think About Accountants? By: Glade Tew
Taking An Active Interest In The Profession Can Have Its Rewards By: Tom Vogel
Try An Accounting Internship While In College By: Mary Jo Billiot
Starting a Career in Public Accounting Before or After Completing the 150-Hour Requirement By: Larry Rankin
Professional Certifications In Accounting By: Rick Turpin
Public Accounting: Should You Work For A National Or Local Firm? By: David Satava
What's In A Degree? The Value Of An MBA By: Steven Langer
What's Ahead For Management Accountants? By: Debra Kerby & Jeff Romine
Be A Star In Business---Be A CPA! By: Anita Dennis
Environmental Accounting and Reporting 101 By: Charles J. Coate
The Sky Is The Limit---Accounting Certifications By: Leisa Marshall
The Growing Field Of Forensic Accounting By: Larry Crumbley
Accountants Get Their Due By: Dennis Elam
What Is An International Accountant? By: Paul E. Holt
Internal Auditing By: Scott Fargason
International Accounting Opportunities By: Rita Jones
Roadmap For Your Career: Your Personal Marketing Plan By: Ed Scribner
Job-Search Tips for Recent Graduates By: John D. McKay & Darwin King
Managing Your Time is Managing Your Life By: Dr. Norman F. Foy
IRS Reform---Rossotti's in the Right Direction By: Norrisa Tworkowski
New Tax Provisions Help College Students And Their Families By: Steven C. Colburn
The "Virtual Classroom": A New Frontier By: Donna Phillips Jackson
Tips On How To Pass The CPA Exam By: Tom Vucinic
Accounting For Shakespeare By: J. Wilson Mixon, Jr.; Gary S. Robson; & W. D. Sockwell
Three Suggestions For Professionalizing The Accounting Curriculum By: Dr. James W. Deitrick
Written Communication Frequently Composed by Entry-Level Accountants By: Susan M. Moncada, Sandra J. Nelson, and Douglas C. Smith
VITA: Enhancing Your Core Competencies Through Tax Service
Maximizing Your Early Employment Experiences By: Dr. James Deitrick & Doug Bogart
The CMA Examination: Focus on Quality By: Roland L. Madison
Funds And Taxes For The College Student By: Jerald R. Gober
Bullets For Accounting Majors: A Modus Operandi For Achievement By: Robert S. Matitia
An Introduction To Mutual Funds: A Good Choice For Retirement Investing By: Dave Mason
Cooperative Learning Teams: Perceptions Of Accounting Students By: Robert E. Holtfreter & Kristy L. Holtfreter
Keep Learning By: Frederick Niswander
The AICPA Vision Project and the 150 Hour Education Requirement:Consistency or Clash?
Choosing A Public Accounting Firm: A Guide For Accountancy Graduates By: Mark E. Steadman
Don't Rule Out a Big Accounting Firm In Your Job Search: CPAs Can Be Mothers Too! By: Rebekah Sheely
Beta Alpha Psi: An Important Addition To Your Accounting Vocabulary By: Crystal Andersen; Elizabeth Forsythe; Angela Knudson; & Scott A. Yetmar
As You Prepare To Graduate... By: Karen B. McCarron
Accounting In Small Town U.S.A. By: Elizabeth J. Nolan
How can you best handle stress on the job? By: Robert Half
Technology doesn't stand still By: Robert Half
Conversant in a second language By: Robert Half
Accepting temporary assignments By: Robert Half
Don't Burn Your Bridges By: Robert Half
"Be prepared" is the best motto By: Robert Half
It's up to you to make it work. By: Robert Half
First impressions By: Robert Half
You may have graduated, but your graduation is just beginning By: Robert Half
Resolutions By: Robert Half
Detective work By: Robert Half
Negotiations By: Robert Half
Expected Technological Competencies For Accounting Students By: Marshall Romney; John W. Hardy; Nancy S. Hardy; & Bradley J. Farmer
E-Commerce And CPA WebTrust By: Christopher J. Leach
Increasing Your Net Profits: Net Expert Offers Tips On Creating A Low Cost, Easy-to-Use Web Site By: Michael Vargas
Killer Multimedia Presentations Made Easy By: Susan Coomer Galbreath
Using Electronic Resumes in the Job Search By: Dr. Lillian H. Chaney & Dr. Catherine G. Green

Bob Jensen's career helpers are at

Seeking Indian Chartered Accountants
Chartered accountants from India are topping most-desired lists of American accounting firms. The firms are seeking to hire those Indian accountants with good English communication skills reports the Times of India. Referring to an exclusionary request from U.S. accounting firms, Sunil Talati, central council member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in India (ICAI) speaking in the Times of India said, “A lack of proficiency in English and poor presentation skills of graduates from all universities in Gujarat are primary reasons.” “Communication skills were found to be poor in CAs across India, with Gajarat faring worse than others,” said Jayesh M. Shah, chairman of the Ahmedabad branch of ICAI, also speaking in the Times of India.
"Seeking Indian Chartered Accountants," AccountingWeb, November 11, 2005 ---

A student had the following question regarding having audio play in a MS Access database file

Hi Dr. Jensen,

I was wondering if it possible to play music in a database. As a startup, could music be played? I tried to look it up in the help but I could not find anything.

October 17, 2005 reply from Bob Jensen

Hi Laury,

I will ask some of my AECM friends if there is a way to provide audio startup in a database file without having to go to the Web. I think it can be coded to play an audio or video file, but I don’t know the Visual Basic code to do so at this point in time. Maybe some of my techie friends can provide us with the code.

I never thought about that one. It makes sense to have audio in a relational database file, especially introductory comments when somebody first enters a database. Such comments could be merely welcome remarks, instructions about using the database, or current news feeds.

One way to provide audio or video is to provide a Web link to a page that plays audio/video and perhaps has other things on the Web page about the database such as links to Web sites around the world related to the database content.

The trick would be to get the audio link to a Website to play automatically when the database is entered (assuming the user also has a Web browser open). I’m not enough of a technician to know how to get the audio to work automatically when a user opens the database. The best I can do is to provide one or more links on the Startup form. You can get the music to start automatically on a Web page. (See the IMAGINE link in the database below.)

I wrote a simple example of such a Startup audio form at
I also attached the file. You much have speakers on before listening to the audio.

Keep in mind that it would be very risky to put a database file on a Web server if it had any private data in tables and queries. However, one can have the database on a single computer or a LAN and simply link to the Web for the audio files. For example, I could add Web links to any of my many databases on Drive J. Anybody in the world can reach my Web server, but only users on the Trinity campus can access my Drive J LAN.

Bob Jensen

Here's a former tidbit that's worth repeating:

A free way to send up to a 1 Gb huge file by email
This is a good way to send video and audio files! ---

I love the YouSendIt service that does not require zip or any form of file compression.  You can learn how to use YouSendIt in less than a minute.

I experimented with this by sending a 200 Mb video file to myself.  It is a fantastic free service that can be used when the file you want to send is too large to attach to an email message.  It supposedly will take a file up to 1 Gb without even having to zip or otherwise compress the file.  My Internet Explorer browser wanted to block the download, but when I clicked to accept the file it downloaded beautifully.

My students will find this useful for sending large database files to each other in course projects.

You do not have to send the file by email to YouSendIt.  All you have to do is provide the recipient's email address and the file on your computer that you want to send.  You do not even have to supply your own name or your own email address.  The recipient then receives a message that he/she has seven days in to download the file.  YouSendIt will not store the file beyond seven days.

I cannot vouch for the security of data stored by YouSendIt.  If you are sending sensitive data such as credit card numbers or a book draft that you've not yet secured a copyright number, then I suggest that you encrypt the file before sending it.  There are various options for encryption.  For example, most database programs like MS Access have encryption utilities in the software itself.  Another encryption alternative (free) is described below.

August 25 reply from a Computer Science Professor

And how does YouSendIt access the file on your system?

This is the problem to which I refer by the phrase "today's digital environment". The idea of giving someone else your data and a destination and "trusting" them to do the right thing with the data is a scary thought.

Why not deposit your data in your web space yourself and notify the recipient of its availability. If it needs to be secure, encrypt it with Open encryption software (public key), such as gpg, before putting in in your web space. And certify your public key.

August 26, 2005 reply from Bob Jensen


Perhaps there is a security problem that I do not know about. If this is a gimmick to crack a firewall, then I would like to know more about it.   It does not seem more dangerous than the many times I download files from Web sites, e.g., PDF files, PPT files, etc.

This is incredibly easy to use. I can imagine people who do not have enormous amounts of Web server space available using the YouSendIt alternative for sending home videos, audio files, and large picture files. In many cases, people are sending files that they would willingly place on a server if they had enormous server space available at zero cost.

Thanks to you and Gerald, I make some very large files available now on a Computer Science Department Web server ---  Of course these can be easily downloaded by anybody in the world.

However, there are some database files that I cannot place on a Web server. Most are hypothetical databases acquired free from various vendors, databases that I'm allowed to modify for my teaching purposes and students can modify for assignments. These would not be of much use for anybody to steal, and I do not have the legal right to make them available to anybody other than my students.

Even if I did put some of my larger databases on your Web server, I would hog a tremendous amount of your capacity for very limited use by a few of my students for a very short period of time.

YouSendIt simply asks the email address of where you want to send a huge file and then gives you a browse button to find that file on your system. Large files do take some time to send out.

It would probably be best to send that recipient an advanced warning to expect such a file.

The recipient is then notified when the file is available for downloading and that it will be held for seven days.

When the recipient downloads the file, he/she receives an option to either run the file or to save it.

Neither the sender nor the recipient need install any software and the service, for whatever reason, is free.

My students are especially going to like this for exchanging databases in my courses. Obviously the files would have to be encrypted or sent by some other means if the files were truly sensitive.

Bob Jensen

A Tidbit is repeated below from

Dr. Ijiri was one of my major professors in the doctoral program at Stanford.  I'm naturally drawn to things he writes.  He is one of the long-time advocates of historical cost based accounting.  He is in fact much more dedicated to it than Bill Paton (but not Ananias Littleton) where Paton and Littleton are best known advocates of historical cost accounting.  The following is the lead article in the Journal of Accounting and Public Policy, July/August 2005, pp. 255-279.

US accounting standards and their environment:
A dualistic study of their 75-years of transition

Yuji Ijiri
Tepper School of Business, Carnegie Mellon University

This article examines the 75-year transition of the US accounting standards and their environment.  It consists of three parts, each having two themes: Part (1) Past changes: 1. The first market crash and the second market crash; 2. Facts-based accounting and forecasts-based accounting,  Part (II) Present issues: 3. The reform legislation (Sarbanes-Oxley Act) and the reform administration; 4. Procedural fairness and pure fairness, and Part (III) Future trends: 5. Forecast protection and forecast separation; 6. Principles-based systems and rules-based systems.  These themes are each examined from dualistic perspectives by contrasting two fundamental concepts or principles.  The article concludes with the strong need to focus on "procedural fairness" in establishing accounting standards as well as in implementing the reform legislation and administration, in contrast to "pure fairness" that is almost impossible to achieve by anyone.

October 28, 2005 reply from Paul Williams [williamsp@COMFS1.COM.NCSU.EDU]

David, Thank you for the paper mill example. It illustrates so beautifully how lucky you are not to have to teach financial accounting; I do and it is becoming increasingly more difficult to do with a straight face. Recall Ijiri's recent article in JAPP? His distinction between "facts" and "forecasts" is instructive. (The Tim Bush Viewpoint, Divided by common language, is also very instructive; belated thank you to the heads up on that piece). Ijiri's Theory of Accounting Measurement incisively (in my opinion) articulated the essential role accounting plays in consumating accountability relationships (why else record every transaction if all you want to know is how much of something you have -- sampling works just as well and is considerably less costly).

The essence of accountability, to be rational, is that someone must not be held accountable for a consequence that has yet to occur. I may get into an automobile with a blood alcohol level in excess of the legal limit and be arrested, but I would not be accountable for anything other than DWI. It would seem to be a miscarriage of justice to punish me for manslaughter because there is a high probability that is what might have happened because of what I did.

Holding people accountable for what might be the consequences of their behavior is pernicious because of the danger of overconfidence in the ability to predict what those consequences might be. In the paper example, management made a decision to hold the damaged paper in inventory in anticipation of using it as recycled paper. It took a risk and at the time of the financial statements it had an asset (recyclable paper).

Certainly, it was a "contingent" asset, but every asset is contingent depending on what happens in the future. If management chooses to "hold" rather than "sell" (in this case take to the landfill), then the consequence of that decision won't be known until the resolution when management makes a different decision and takes another action. This was the essence of Edwards and Bells' argument that accounting should reflect only what actually happened -- accounting's value is as feedback. It reveals the consequences of actions actually taken ("facts"). E & B (probably wrongly) believed that management was improvable; accounting helped managers learn from their mistakes by revealing "facts" about the actual consequences of their behavior.

When the damaged paper was later thrown out the loss was the resolution of what turned out to be a "bad" decision. But at the end of the previous period we didn't know that it was a bad decision, so to claim the consequences of that decision belonged to that period expressed through a restatement does significant damage to accounting as a coherent system of linking action to consequences of those actions.

Can managers be made accountable for actions whose outcomes are unpredictable? Ijiri approached, but didn't explicitly state in his JAPP paper, what could be looming in terms of the potential problems of imposing a system of hypothetical present value accounting on firms and their managers. CEOs now have to sign off on financial statements, taking responsibility for what they claim. They are criminally liable. However, with the increasing number of forecasts in those statements, managers are being held accountable for things that haven't happened yet and the representations of those events may be wildly wrong (stock options or deriviatives, e.g.). Fair value accounting could be a Pandora's Box whereby criminal behavior could result for managers if they fail to do the impossible, i.e., forecast and control, to a "T", the economic future.

Accounting cannot provide the ultimate insurance for stock traders; anticipating the future and assuming the risk for the hap of the commercial world is the only justification for their existence. If accountants believe we can somehow absolve them of that risk by reporting to them now the unknown (and unknowable) consequences of the configuration of decisions in place at some purely arbitrary point in time, then we have become the ultimate proof of post-modern thought.

Paul Williams

October 28, 2005 message from Kay Zekany

I'm having trouble getting financial statements online. I used to be able to use EdgarScan with great success. Now, that service appears to be disabled.

Even SEC's EDGAR service, that takes me to the annual reports, may not lead me directly to the actual financial statements.

What am I missing? Do any of you have any suggestions?

Thanks for your help.

October 28, 2005 reply from Jagdish S. Gangolly [gangolly@INFOTOC.COM]


You may like to visit: 

If you are like me, a luddite used to command line mode, you may like to visit 


November 3, 2005 message from Rose DeBenedictis

I would be able to help you with our product offerings. Attached please find my contact information and some information on Edgar Online's new product called I-Metrix which has XBRL technology . I have also attached information on the Edgar Online Pro product. 

Please feel free to contact me/email me with any questions.

Kind Regards,


Rose DeBenedictis
EDGAR Online, Inc. (Nasdaq:EDGR)
122 East 42nd Street, Ste. 2700
New York, NY 10168
Tel: 212-457-8227
Cell: 914-645-7316
Fax: 212-457-8222


Bob Jensen's threads on lease accounting are at

December 2, 2005 message from Jagdish S. Gangolly [gangolly@INFOTOC.COM]

I do not use Visio in my classes, but sometimes I get requests from students if they can use it for projects and homework. I have usually tried to dissuade them from using it. However, I do not discourage them from using the various shapes for drawing within MS Word.

The reason for my above action is the poverty (more appropriately the absence) of semantics of symbols and lack of integration with the methodologies for the analysis & design of systems. The former makes analytics of the design impossible (at least for systems other than the trivial)and the latter makes its value dubious (the effort expended in documentation doesn't add much in the design or implementation).

I do use Rational Rose, and now doing planning to introduce the open source software Bonita. In the past, I have used ERWin, Oracle Designer, Excelerator, Together Plus, GD Pro, ... There are also exotic tools such as Exspect, Income,...

Regards to all,


Earlier threads on these issues are at

CFOs tell us what they think of SOX

From Jim Mahar's blog on November 4, 2005 ---

I will start this one with my standard discalaimer whenever I review a paper that is based on a survey data: be forewarned, survey data is often notoroiously inaccurate and biased. Thus, view the folloiwng with a good deal of skepticism.

The warning given, the paper itself is intersting. Peng, Dukes, and Bremer survey 1,312 CFOs who were in the Financial Executives International (FEI) database as of May 24th, 2005. Of course, the vast majority did not reply, but they did get 83 responses (6%).

So remembering the above disclaimer, How did the CFOs respond? Prett much as expected, they hate it! (which is exactly what I hear every time I speak with any of the CFOs I know.)

From the paper:

"...the approximate annual average cost of compliance to a company in our sample is estimated to be $1.77 million....More than 50% of the CFOs in our sample report that the cost estimate of compliance with the Act is between $500,000 and $3 million."

About 60% say that the costs of compliance outweigh the benefits.

Other interesting findings:

* "unlike Linck, Netter, and Yang (2005), we find that there is not any significant change in the following aspects of corporate governance practices due to the enactment of the Act since July 2002:"

There were some before/after differences however.

The paper reports that more firms are using independent audit committees and have more financial experts on the committee since teh adoption of the law. Moreover, more firms have adopted a code of ethics (80 of 83 repsonders said they do now, where only 57 did prior to SOX).

The act has created jobs for accounting professionals: "The average number of staff that companies in our sample have to hire to deal with Section 404 compliance is 3.61 with the median value of five. The extreme cases are that two firms have to hire an additional 25 employees for Section 404 compliance."

What may be the most interesting however are the comments the authors received from CFOs. I will quote one to whet your appetite:

"“This Act was horribly overreaching. It is costly, and there is very little/absolutely no cost benefit relationship. The Act and, specifically, the Section 404 requirements, will do little, if anything, to deter the "crimes"/"irregularities" it was intended to deter/preclude. Management override is the biggest issue, and the Section 404 requirements hardly address that issue. It is a complete waste of time and money. PCAOB is ineffective, at best. Their "investigations" of the Big 4 firms is a joke, and the Big 4 firms don't know what to do or how to do it in complying with the Section 404 audits. They (the Big 4 firms) gouged "corporate America" in the purported "audits" of the control environments, using no/very little professional judgment in the conduct of their examinations. And I spent over 30 years with a Big 4 firm, including over 20 as a Partner.”"

uh, could you tell us what you really think?

Interesting article. It is still being revised and the authors have asked for comments, so if you have a few minutes, whay not send them your thoughts. And tell them you first saw the article here ;)


Teaching AIS and MIS with Microsoft Visio?

November 30, 2005 message from David Fordham, James Madison University [fordhadr@JMU.EDU]

I used to use Visio extensively in my teaching, both as a presentation aid and as a tool for teaching students the rudiments of flowcharting and data flow diagramming in my systems courses. I even had the students download and use the freeware version for their own charting assignments.

However, for the last several years (especially now that flowcharting is making a noticeable comeback in the accounting firms), I've been using the "draw" toolbar in all the Microsoft Office applications: Excel, Word, PowerPoint, etc.

This toolbar comes with Office, and applies to all Office components. The default installation of office loads it. To get to it, you right click on a blank area in any existing toolbar, and check the "draw" box.

The draw toolbar has flowchart shapes, the DFD shapes, connectors, arrows, curves, text provisions, and allows formatting of the objects (colors, patterns, textures, borders, shadows, transparency, etc.) enabling it to meet all my needs.

Diagrams made by using the draw toolbar are portable (via the clipboard) to almost any other application, too, just like Visio drawings used to be.

As a result, I haven't used Visio in several years now.

There used to be numerous sites on the web that offered additional template shapes -- things like HO railroad layout shapes, chemical process shapes, etc. -- for downloading and plugging into Visio. I've never needed to use those additional shapes. But since the draw tool has the capability of using clip-art designs as shapes, I would assume that it could incorporate those additional shapes, too, further negating the need for Visio as a separate product. Just my speculation, however.

David Fordham
James Madison University Semester in Antwerp program

Bob Jensen's threads on resources are at

Media Impressions from David Fordham on December 2, 2005

I have just spent an evening watching a National Geographic Special on TV, covering the disaster in New Orleans re: Hurricane Katrina.

Unquestionably one of the United States' worst disasters. The documentary was well done. But...

The documentary reports, as one of its many facets, on the blatant and patently false reporting done by the news media during, and after, the event. The documentary uncovers dozens of reports by outlets such as NPR, NBC, Fox, CNN, and the New York Times, which investigation has proven to be outright lies.

These falsehoods are made worse by the fact that the news media generating these reports were some of the very few communications options officials had. Because so many of the official communication systems were knocked out, many officials relied on the reports as the "best information they had". Because the reports were falsehoods, sensationalized to garner audience share, many officials thus made some terrible mistakes.

Worse still, the media did not qualify any of their reports as "rumors say...", or "one source has indicated..." or "we have received a report of...", but rather stated their falsehoods as indisputable fact. The documentary plays recordings, and shows news clippings of the false reports and none of them give any indication that the reporter had not checked out the facts before reporting them, or qualifying them as hearsay, or otherwise giving any indication of uncertainty.

For example, the dozens of murders, assaults, rapes, and rioting at the Superdome... never took place. Only six people died at the Superdome during the entire 12-day event... four from natural causes, one from a drug overdose, and one from an apparent suicide by taking sleeping pills. There was never any rioting at the Superdome, either. Chaos, yes, and deplorable living conditions, and lots of mad people. But never any "rioting" or violence as reported by all the major television networks and newspapers.

The reports of murders and violence at the convention center caused the police chief to divert critically needed manpower. There was no such problem at the convention center, either. When the police who had been taken off their search and rescue missions reported to the convention center, the police doing security there were surprised to see them. Yet, hours later, the media was still reporting the violence, and were asking why the police weren't handling the problem!

The reports of looting were also terribly exaggerated. Yes, there was lots of looting, but final investigation shows it was commensurate with that taking place in most major cities after historical disasters like Camille and Beulah, and even less than the amount in the aftermath of the California earthquate of 1991. Yet the media kept reporting that it was "unprecedented", making the world believe that New Orleans was worse than normal.

The reports of widespread shootings at rescue personnel and attempted murders and robbery of rescue workers were totally unfounded, too! Yet these reports caused many would-be volunteers who were on their way to help to rethink and reconsider their offers to help. It is unknown how many volunteers were deterred by these false reports, but dozens came forward later to admit they turned around for their own safety.

Reporters were criticizing police for their "refusal" and "inability" to stop the violence, when in fact most of the reported violence was not taking place at all. There were 17 actual reports of violence, all handled quickly by police, not the "thousands of incidents" quoted by not one, but several, national news journalists!

There were a total of 249 police officers who left their posts during the hurricane, including some who quit the force. But the media made it sound like a "mass desertion", whereas most of them merely left to seek safety because their posts became too dangerous to continue manning. Yes, some did quit (some out of frustration at being pulled off rescue missions to handle non-existent reports of criminal activity) but not to the extent the media portrayed. The media interviewed a police commander quoting the number 249, but cut before he could explain that many of their posts were flooded out! The media then hyped the mass desertions of police officers.

The false report by the NPR reporter in the French Quarter the day after the disaster, saying "the levees have held, and the center city is in fine shape" added to the disaster because the boating crews in Texas that were standing by in case the levee's broke relied on that report. They had been planning to deploy to New Orleans assuming the levee's were going to break, knowing that any break would cut communication lines, so if they didn't receive word, the default response was to deploy to help. But since the NPR reporter said the levee's had held, surely the communications lines were up and they would receive a call if needed. (Trained disaster officials know better than to call INTO a disaster area to get information, since it clogs communications channels... they rely on insiders to call out, which in this case turned out to be impossible due to the scope of the disaster and lack of coordination and management and command. And because of the outage, any effort to call in would have been futile anyway. Hence the default decision to deploy in the absence of information. But the NPR report was made as fact, and taken as fact by the response team, who considered it "information".)

Dozens more false reports were demonstrated. Most were far worse than the false New York Times headline two days after the disaster, still claiming the levee's had held, and proclaiming New Orleans had "Dodged the Bullet and Is One Lucky" city.

So what has this to do with accounting and AECM? Being the gadfly this list has come to expect of me, I'll ask the following questions to stir commentary:

Why is it that when accountants report false information, and someone relies on that information and bad decisions are made, costing millions of dollars, there is a hue and cry, and screaming and hollering, and everyone petitions Congress for more laws. But when the news media report false information, and someone relies on that information and bad decisions are made, costing BILLIONS of dollars, no one in the public bats an eye?

Why do accountants have to have standards which dictate the necessity for great care in our reporting, and substantial assurance activities to verify the accuracy of our reports, but there is no such animal for the media?

Why are accountants subject to outside audits by third parties to determine the accuracy, or at least the adherence to the standards, of the preparation of the reports, but there is no such corresponding requirement for the media?

Why are accountants required to plan, design, implement, and monitor internal controls on their reporting, but not the media? Why are accountants required to evaluate the effectiveness of their internal controls, and make that evaluation public, but the media is not?

Why is accounting expected to have checks and balances to ensure that false information is caught? Why are auditors "faulted" for not finding false information? Why is it when false information is reported in accounting statements the word "Failure" is bandied about, but no such criticism is made of false reporting by the media? (Dan Rather's retirement and a couple of low-level NYT reporters' sackings notwithstanding.)

Why are accountants, when caught in a lie, required to restate the report, calling great attention to the falsehoods, but not the media? (media corrections, in the extremely rare case they are ever made, are usually found in fine print on page 3 below the ad for the three-day sale at Crazy Eddie's...)

Why are there indictments and trials and convictions and lawsuits when accountants are caught making false statements, but not the media?

The longer I live, the more I see parallels between accounting reporting and news reporting. Sure, we use numbers, whereas they use prose, to promulgate our respective falsehoods. We are required to be accurate, but they aren't. People hold us accountable, but not them. Congress is interested in us, but not them. Lawyers like to go after our big bucks, but not theirs, when caught in falsehoods. We have professional ethics. They don't.

But other than that, we really are a lot alike...

Of course, the documentary I watched ... was on ...TV. (!) It was a media production. It was meant to garner an audience. Should it be believed? Is it just a falsehood itself? Since there is no control mechanism in place to ensure accuracy, perhaps it should not be believed either, should it?


David Fordham Pot stirring again... -- even watching PAL instead of NTSC -- (sigh)

December 3, 2005 reply from Roger Collins [rcollins@TRU.CA]

David, thanks for an excellent posting. Ain't the First Amendment wonderful?

In a sense, accounting regulations are a restriction on the First Amendment , which reads...

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

No indication there that individuals/firms shouldn't be free to say exactly what they like - Caveat Emptor with a vengeance!

Of course, it could be argued that the F.A. was enacted against the background of a quite different cultural structure, where it was assumed that people would know what the "right" information was; it might also be argued that the reason accounting regulations exist is because the "free market" of information generated by courtesy of the F.A. turned out to be unworkable. (I wonder what Milton Friedman thinks of that? To be fair, he did say that firms had to work within a framework of regulation - although - as far as I can remember - he set no clear limits on that framework. (Typical of an economist!))

I guess that a good argument could be made that the media are in need of a regulator such as the U.K's Press Council - but such organisations have their own limitations,tend to be "establishment oriented" rather than truly independent, frequently make mistakes themselves and often act only months or years after the damage has been done.

Should there be tougher libel laws? It might restrict the dissemination of falsehoods - but typically libel laws are used by the powerful against their critics.

As you note at the end of your post, its very hard to establish a fixed "truth point". Doubtless many people believed McCarthy while his investigations seemed credible (and some probably still believe he was right even now). Its the "background" problem; I suspect that with Katrina, a background of general but unspecified dissatisfaction with "the state of the nation" was focussed by the hurricane into a critical firestorm where objective commentary was set aside as reporters "went with the flow" (just as it would have been a very brave journalist who stood up to McCarthy in his heyday).

One point which I found of (eye-brow raising) interest; you say, without comment, that

"Because so many of the official communication systems were knocked out, many officials relied on the reports as the "best information they had"

I'm not saying that any other juristiction could have done better - but isn't this an ABSOLUTELY DREADFUL comment on national preparedness? 9-11 plus four years, communication systems as soft as fried butter and massive cross-system incompatibility - what on earth has Homeland Defense been doing? Or - more mundanely and more sadly - is it simply that the resources needed to create "hard" systems and interoperability are denied - or mis-allocated - for political reasons? And who elects those politicians? Didn't someone once say that "We have met the enemy - and he is us?"

Remembering that, north of the 49th, we have just as many issues...


Roger Collins TRU School of Business
PS One or two observations do not a pattern make - but in the case of both 9-11 and Katrina the official mortality estimates began high and were subsequently reduced - in some cases by as much as 90%. In the case of the tsunami and the Pakistan earthquake, the reverse was the case. Is there a systemic disconnect between disaster reporting in the developed and underdeveloped worlds?

December 5, reply from David Fordham

As I tell my students, good teachers recognize that "human progress comes from thought, not mere communication". I communicate on AECM mainly to stimulate thought. I find the posts on the AECM indescribably useful in helping me to develop my thoughts, and aiding in my teaching effectiveness. I try to reciprocate.

In looking at the recent discussion on the transparency of accounting reports: One trouble I have with "transparency" and so-called "full disclosure" in accounting, is its inconsistency with "objectivity".

I have a hard time reconciling in my mind how "full disclosure" as prescribed by accounting goals, can limit itself to pure "objectivity" as prescribed by accounting priniciples.

The media offers a good illustration of what I mean. Accept for a moment a postulate that there are four "colors" of reporting, making up a rainbow-like continuum:

Color 1: Objective reporting of a physical fact.
Color 2: Slanted reporting of a fact.
Color 3: A "false" fact.
Color 4: A outright falsehood, or lie, represented as a fact. And we'll for the moment postpone consideration of "opinions represented as fact" but come back to it later.

Like the rainbow, these colors do not have clear, concise borders between them, but they display sufficient differentiation for identification and labelling, like the colors of the spectrum.

Color 1, objective reporting, could be illustrated by a media report: "The prime minister did not vote on the proposal."

Contrast with Color 2, slanted reporting, which adds judgemental language or a slant to the concept: "the prime minister failed to vote on the proposal." While technically still mostly correct, this wording contains a judgmental idea or concept, adding supplemental interpretation ("failure") to the fact being reported.

Color 3, a "false" fact, might be: "the prime minister refused to vote on the proposal". The change in verb to "refused" completely alters the meaning of the report. This new meaning communicates an idea which might be entirely false. Rather than reporting a fact, the sentence now communicates a prejudicial idea -- one that the reporter desires the audience to believe -- an idea which in my personal experience has usually turned out to be false or nonexistent, but which "sells" much better than the mere reporting of an otherwise mundane fact.

(My primary criticism of the media is its tendency -- almost ubiquitous in a few certain major national outlets -- to completely fill their vehicles with color 2 and color 3 sentences, to the almost total exclusion of Color 1 sentences. Worse, they then pretend as though they stick to Color 1 reporting! And worse still, the public attitudes stimulated by their Color 3 statements are generally harmful to cooperation and smooth social functioning! Think about it...)

Color 4, an outright falsehood or lie, would be illustrated by the media's statement, quoted by the National Geographic program on Katrina, that "officials now estimate the death toll could exceeed 200,000". This was a blatant falsehood because it communicated the idea that someone in government or leadership or their representatives had obtained information, evaluated that information, and concluded that the death toll might be more than 200,000. Further, the phrase "officials now estimate" implies that there is some agreement on that number within official circles.

(No official had made such an estimate at the time the CNN reporter made the quote on the air. "Officials", those in charge, did not believe such a number. Tracing the statement back, it originated with an uninformed and clueless victim -- a man on the street who had not evacuated when ordered and subsequently had to be rescued -- being interviewed by a small-town TV-station reporter. The victim said on camera "there's 200,000 people what live in this city and no tellin' how many of 'em are dead". The erroneous population estimate should give some indication of the lack of reliability of the individual's statements, should it not? This was later repeated by the same local television station's news team as "we've heard estimates that the death toll might reach 200,000." An hour later, a different news reporter, who admitted seeing the earlier one and relying on it, said, "it now seems that the death toll in New Orleans might reach 200,000 or more", which in turn was changed by three major national news organizations to, "officials now estimate...". No one stopped to think that small-town TV news teams are not normally considered "officials" by the general public. The number was later inflated further to 500,000 by other outlets. Outright Falsehoods, promulgated as fact. And relied on by the relief worker who decided to make provisions for body bags!)

Okay, next let's consider something completely different: Opinions. Opinions are usually judgemental or interpretive, often accusatory, and frequently prescriptive. But they are opinions, beliefs, or conclusions, not physical fact.

I have no problem with the media promulgating opinions. I enjoy opinions, and I believe opinions are an excellent vehicle for stimulating thought -- thought which often results in development and progress.

I don't even have a problem with some people using opinions in their decisionmaking, as long as they recognize them as opinions and the uncertainty inherent in them.

The problem I do have is that the media no longer (did they ever?) put their opinions on readily-identifiable editorial pages, but rather put them on the front pages, where they are mistaken as facts by the readership. TV news shows, newspapers, etc. shamelesslyl mix opinions with Color 2, 3, and 4 statements, and the public mistakes them all for fact.

So what has this got to do with accounting? Everything.

Bobbi Lee referred to a challenge I issued to an informal group around a breakfast table, to find a single story on a front page of a the Wall Street Journal during the AAA meeting week (the Journal was readily available, and the "briefs" column counts as one article) that did not contain any sentences of what I describe above as Color 2, 3, 4, or opinions. The one person at the table who did, was dismayed when I pointed out in his article's second sentence, the word "embattled", and later in the article, the words "reckless" and "vengeful". (I honestly can't remember the exact words, but even my colleague admitted the words not only displayed coloration or emotion rather than objectivity, but stood a good chance of being erroneous or false (or at the very least, unlikely) interpretations of the situation.

The point I was making at the meeting was that some outlets rarely report objective facts, even though the public believes it. By using words like "refusal", "failure", "insistence", "demanded", "fled", " afraid", and other emotional wording, the media alters the communication to put forth an idea which is frequently untrue, without the public's recognition of the change.

Okay, so now my nemeses this list are thinking, "yes, but what if the reporter was actually reporting on a situation which really *IS* reckless, vengeful, or embattled? What if the huge majority of the public would, if they looked at the situation being reported first hand, would also conclude that the words are appropriate? Doesn't the public have a right to know the full story? Shouldn't the reporter be allowed to add those words if they truly are descriptive of the situation? WOuld he not be denying the public of part of the story if he fails to include those words when they are appropriate and true?"

And this brings me to my point about full disclosure and accounting.

Often, full disclosure and transparency requires more than just objectivity. To be fully reportive. to be completely transparent and disclose the situation fully, sometimes we need more than mere objectivity, don't we?

Since we primarily deal in numbers (which are discrete), the public is under the impression that we report ONLY objective, verifiable fact. The electric bill was either 300 dollars or 301 dollars. There are either 21 dollars in the cash drawer, or there are 22 dollars in the cash drawer. Anyone can ascertain the number objectively by counting.

But trained accountants recognize that many of our numbers are opinions. Worse, many of them are colorized and slanted by the rules we must use to derive those numbers!

Some of them are even "false" numbers (my example of inventory in an earlier post) because of the methods we are required to use.

The public thinks we are reporting objective facts because we post numbers, but a lot of those numbers do not (and can not) report the full story, and often are not even what the public believes they are.

Derivative accounting especially (what tiny miniscule amount I know about it) is full of interpretations, judgments, slants, opinions, and potentially false facts.

And the situation gets worse when you consider all the footnotes and explanatory prose we are required to add to "supplement" the numbers. As Mac Wright so eloquently points out, compared to numbers, prose and narrative is greatly prone to interpretation and subjectivity making it difficult to discern 'Truth', so the more we add prose, the more we deviate from objectivity.

And falsehoods abound, mainly due to problems like the death estimates by the AP: a lot of the numbers we report deal with the future. There is a lack of knowledge of the future, and it is difficult to gather, collect, and analyze all the evidence which would be necessary to arrive at a good conclusion. Thus shortcuts are taken in the interest of expediency, audience, ratings, cost-savings, etc., etc..

And then there are those who deliberately falsify for selfish reasons (including some whistle-blowers of my acquaintance). Who knows, maybe even *I* am falsifying the information in this post! Perhaps I'm not even David Fordham?!

As Roger and Darrell point out, in accounting we have some rules and regulations, some oversight and review procedures, some internal controls, which promote reliability (meaning that people can rely on our information to make decisions). But once we begin to deviate from the reporting of objective, pure, facts, we move away from objectivity. Full disclosure often requires interpretations, estimates, and possibly some (later-discovered-to-be) false information.

Since transparency and full disclosure requires more than just facts, I propose that they are inconsistent with the accountant's goal of pure objectivity in reporting. We are like the media: we mix color 2, 3, and 4 reporting with opinions, and the poor public believes it is getting color 1 facts because we claim the principles of "objectivity" in chapter 1 of our principles texts.

And getting back to the media, if we regulate accounting reporting for the benefit of the public, why can't we regulate other reporting (news reporting, for instance) for the benefit of the public?

We trust government with something as important as our economic system. We trust government with life and death decisions. We trust government with nuclear weapons, warships, eminent domain confiscations, foreign policy, and some of us (!) trust government with judicial responsibility in disputes. So why are we paranoid about trusting government with encouraging the media to report more fact and less fiction? After all, the media has proven amply that they aren't doing a perfect job of it, just like David Duncan, Xerox, and others have proven that accountants aren't doing a perfect job, either. If we call on government to fix one, why don't we call on it to fix the other, since they are so similar?

I agree that the First Amendment is needed to protect "Opinions". People should be free to criticize their government. People should be free to object, to raise protest, to promulgate ideas and concepts. But it is erroneous to use the first amendment to protect the reporting of falsehoods and false facts as objective facts.

And to Bruce's apt quote by Clemens, I'll add another one from Winston Churchill: "The best argument against democracy can be obtained by a five-minute conversation with an average voter."

And if anyone has had the patience to read this far: Regarding Roger's statement about emergency preparedness, one fact (color 2) that has been ignored by the media -- HIPPA has effectively ended the decades-old tradition of ham radio operators backing up the communications systems in emergencies.

In past emergencies, ham operators in a city turned out in droves to shadow emergency personnel. They accompany fire chiefs, police officials, red cross, FEMA, and other relief workers, providing a backup and overflow communications network, both within the area and between the affected area and outside agencies. Ten years ago, I myself was manning the emergency operations center of Rockingham County, with 120 hams in the field, including two who were put aboard Navy helicopters sent to help rescue flood victims during a winter melt flood (Navy helicopters aren't equipped with radios that work on public safety frequencies, so we coordinated the rescues between helo and ground personnel by putting a ham on each helo, and relaying communication on the ham channels.).

But HIPPA has ended all that. HIPPA forbids the transfer of most of the medical, injury, condition, identity, and other information on transmission channels which are not encrypted. (Ham radio has been prohibited by law from using encryption since the 1950's.)

Additionally, because of the encryption requirement, public safety agencies are converting to sophisticated digital systems (wideband) which are incompatible with the narrowband analog systems used by hams because of their narrow frequency allocations.

Additionally, because HIPPA requires training in the law, and the sophisticated complex digital systems also require training, hams must undergo hours and hours of training (Virginia R.A.C.E.S. officials require an 8-hour training session followed by an all-day simulation exercise before hams can be certified to help officials in an emergency). By definition, amateurs are hobbyists, and because the training is only conducted in any locality once every couple of years, many hams have not been able to become certified. The result is: 10 years ago, we had over 120 hams volunteer to help with an emergency in the Valley; last year, even though the number of hams in the valley has increased 30%, we only had 9 hams activate. Just one more example of how HIPPA has cost the American public dearly without their knowing it.

Sometimes, efforts made in good faith to help, end up hurting because decisionmakers don't take into account the effect their action is going to have.

(Yes, go ahead and feel free to comment... )

David Fordham

December 2, 2005 message from Mindy Brent [

Here is something that has been bugging me for years. I hope someone can shed some light on this.

When listening to NPR, and even on broadcast television news reports, there are often quotes from people who work for “such-and-such Think Tank”.

Think Tank. Think Tank? What the heck is a Think Tank? Seriously, I want to know. Are these people who get paid to go to an office every day, and think, and then publish opinions about what they think about? Is this a full time job? Who pays for this? I know there are “think tanks” for all kinds of special interest groups, but I have also heard quotes from people who work for such-and-such organization, a government Think Tank. Does the government have think tanks? So we the taxpayer are paying for this? Is this a full time job, or are these people who do this on the side, and they have regular jobs?

Now, this raises all kinds of auxiliary questions, like aren’t we supposed to be paying the government to think anyway? In fact, aren’t we all supposed to be thinking? Of course, we are not all publishing, although many people, like faculty, do a lot of publishing. However, it seems like these think tank people are always getting quoted, much more often than all of the intelligent other people who think and publish stuff very often but rarely seem to get quoted on NBC or CBS or even NPR (although I have heard Char Miller on NPR) (Maybe Char is a member of one of these exclusive Think Tanks and I just don’t know about it)

How do people get invited to be part of think tanks? For example, I have heard quotes from people at a “Republican Think Tank”. Are these people who only vote Republican? That’s a lot of folks; who gets selected to be a member of the Republican Think Tank? And all of the other special interest think tanks?

This entire idea puzzles me. Both the philosophical idea of a Think Tank (whatever that really is) and the literal, physical idea, where people take the ell to a big building downtown, sit down in their comfy office chair, and…think.

Maybe I want in on this gig.



December 2, reply from Bob Jensen

Hi Mindy,

Definitions of think tank on the Web:

An organization or group of experts researching and advising on issues of society, science, technology, industry, or business. trade barrier: a condition imposed by a government to limit free exchange of goods internationally.

An informal term referring to an organization or organizational segment entrusted with the sole function of research. 

A company that does research for hire and issues reports on the implications tank  

A think tank is a group of individuals dedicated to high-level synergistic research on a variety of subjects, usually in military laboratories, corporations, or other institutions. Usually this term refers specifically to organizations which support theorists and intellectuals who endeavor to produce analysis or policy recommendations.

Think Tank is an album by the British rock band Blur, released in 2003. It represented a major musical change for the group. 

The term may apply to such great centers as Rand Corporation and the old Bell Labs when AT&T was a monopoly had had the money to burn for basic research for such things ranging from transistors to multi-dimensional scaling. I was in a think tank for two years at Stanford where I was just allowed to think about anything I wanted to think about (really no constraints whatsoever). There were no requirements to publish or even make presentations or even tell anybody what I was thinking about (which in my case was a relief). I did write a couple of monographs, but I found that I work better under pressure. Other “fellows” at the think tank with me (two with Nobel Prizes) had wide ranging specialties from physics to psychology to anthropology such that we didn’t communicate much except on social occasions. One of the fellows (an economist from Penn) never showed up at the think tank per se even though he was paid for one year by the think tank. His wife told my wife that he thought and wrote better just staying in bed every day even though he was in good physical health. He was the author of a very successful textbook in microeconomics.

The main purpose of such our “think tank” was to relieve us from other duties (such as teaching, advising, and possibly even writing) in order to think deep thoughts and try to be creative. But it also was intended to bring “fellows” closer in physical proximity for a period of time such as a year, two years, or more. In reality, I found most of the “fellows” (men or women) really ended up trying to put closure on research projects and books that were already in progress before they reached the Stanford campus. This, in my judgment, was not in the true spirit of “my” think tank. See  Some years the CASBS has themes such as how to improve medical delivery in the U.S., but in most years there are no such central themes.

The first definition above applies to various facilities where “scholars” are invited to think about problems ranging from how to win elections to how to save the world. Many of these are very biased politically and are often funded by billionaires hoping to change the course of the world in ways they think are best. Most of these centers do not have evil intentions, but some do have definite biases ranging from liberal to conservative (free enterprise) extremes. But some have no biases irrespective of funding.

When it is stated that somebody or something comes from a think tank it doesn’t imply anything good or evil or biased until more is disclosed about the purpose of the think tank, who the “fellows” (men or women) are in the think tank, and how it is funded in terms of constraints on the tank. Some are funded by government agencies or government research grants. Others are funded by wealthy individuals, corporations, or their charitable foundations. Most have multiple sources of funds.

The line between free thinking and program research is often blurred. Think tanks that require funding grants are generally more programmed and are often better thought of as research centers rather than think tanks per se. Some like Rand Corporation and Bell Labs were both.

I guess my main point is that the term “think tank” is a neutral term until is more is known about its particular context. People in such think tanks are not necessarily smarter or more creative than their peers. Most, but not all, have written a lot (or created prolific works of art), but that by itself doesn’t tell you much, because some of their peers have produced more and/or better things. Sometimes the “fellows” are burned out prodigies long past their prime. John Nash (A Beautiful Mind) was like this.

Outputs from think tanks are like writings produced in colleges and universities. A few are exceptionally creative and have a great impact in a discipline. Some are just little building blocks in the tower of knowledge. Some are garbage whether published or not.

It’s impossible to fund perfect “creative” environments. Creativity cannot be programmed. Nor is it necessarily random even though chance sometimes enters into the equation. Think tanks are formed on the premise that creativity is not entirely random.

Bob Jensen

Policy Research from Leading Think Tanks Worldwide ---

Where do the Katrina looters sell their loot?

December 14, 2005 message from a current student

Dr. Jensen,

Since you write so much about the effects of Katrina in your tidbits, I thought this would be useful. One of my 2 jobs is working at a local law firm, which is located just north of the 410 and San Pedro intersection. I decided to go to the new Chic-fil-a for lunch, which is located on the corner of 410 and McCullough. Rather than take the frontage road and the turnaround, which takes at least 20 minutes, I drove across the parking lots of Circuit City, Best Buy and all the rest. While waiting in traffic at a stop sign, a Ford Expedition with Florida license plates pulled up next to me asking if I wanted some home stereo equipment.

My interest in home stereo equipment kept me from thinking about why this guy had this equipment in the first place. I decided to pull over and check it out. This equipment was top of the line, each speaker costing $2,500, and there were at least 12 of them in this expedition. The guy's story was very grey, which led me to think initially that this guy had stolen equipment. As I listened to his story, I started to put 2 and 2 together. These guys were from Florida, with an expedition packed to the roof with expensive stereo equipment (which he was willing to sell for $50 a speaker!), and they just didn't look right. The guy that did all the talking had several tattoos, which was very conservative compared to the other two, who had lip, chin, eyebrow piercings, and who knows what else.

After I respectfully declined the guy's offer (I used the "I am a poor college student, and I have no money" line, which I am), I called my father to let him know. Before I could even finish my story, he was confident that they were looters that traveled thru New Orleans and were trying to sell their goods in other cities. After the whole incident, it started to settle in and I felt dumb for even pulling over to talk to the guy. Anyway, I thought this would be some first hand information that you could talk about in your tidbits.

Have a good holiday.

Jensen Comment
Actually, the speakers may have been fake (really cheap) speakers that are being pawned off like Las Vegas parking lot wrist watches sold by guys claiming they gambled their last dollar away. Years ago I bought one of those outside a casino.  It kept time for nearly three days. Sigh!

Claiming they are Katrina loot may add a certain degree of legitimacy to the $2,500 price tag.  But then again, these may truly have been the real McCoy stolen in the wake of Katrina.

 In any case, nobody should deal with jerks like these dudes selling the merchandise.

Turn up your speakers (This opens as a PowerPoint file with great music)
KatrinaUSA ---
For me this show also runs automatically passing from picture to picture.

December 14, 2005 message from Gerald Trites [gtrites@GMAIL.COM]

The CICA's Information Technology Advisory Committee has released a new updated version of its publication "Audit and Control Implications of XBRL. It's available at the following link. Just scroll down to the white papers. The new version takes into account advnaces in XBRL since the original paper and also assurance related events such as the release of the XBRL Assurance Q&A by the PCAOB. The link is  . It's also listed on the XBRL Blog noted below.

Jerry Trites

Gerald D Trites, CA*CISA/IT, FCA
PH 416-602-3931

Web Site: 
E-Business Blog: 
XBRL Blog:

Tidbits and Quotations Between December 1 and December 15, 2005

Tidbits on December 1, 2005
Bob Jensen
at Trinity University 

My links on Medicare drug plan options are at
Under no circumstance should anybody sign up for a plan with a stranger over the telephone even if that person claims to be a Medicare representative or a licensed insurance agent who phoned out of the blue.

Fraud Updates ---
For earlier editions of New Bookmarks go to 
Archives of Tidbits: Tidbits Directory ---

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

I really like the Digital Duo show that appears weekly once again on PBS.  I found that you can bring up prior shows (video) on your computer by going to,00.asp

Bob Jensen's home page is at

Security threats and hoaxes ---

25 Hottest Urban Legends (hoaxes) --- 

Stay up on the latest and the oldest hoaxes ---

Free video download
Protect your kids online and offline ---,segid,143,00.asp

PhysOrg's Science News Videos ---

Arnold's Neighborhood ---

Female eMail (online dating country song) ---

Prickle-Eye Bush (animated folk music from the U.K) ---

Non-free films (mostly comedy and animation) suggested by Aaron Konstam ---

Video Poetry ---
Includes a video of Hillary Clinton reading The Makers ---
Click down hard on the picture to commence the video reading!

Video Tips of the Week for Windows XP

Enabling the Internet Firewall ---
Customizing the Window Taskbar ---
Disabling Windows Messenger Service (to reduce spyware) ---
Sending E-mail from a Different Address ---
Managing Windows Updates ---
Selecting a Different Image Viewer ---
Logging Security Events ---
Using Remote Desktop ---
Exploring With Process Explorer ---
Defragging With Task Scheduler ---
Killing Spyware With Spybot ---
   Also see (you can change the video number at the end to go to video1, video2, etc.)
Managing .Net Passports With Windows XP ---
Managing E-mail With Outlook Rules (guard against spam) ---
Exploring Windows XP Security Center ---              
Windows XP Firewall Helper Video ---
Internet Explorer's Add-On Manager ---
Internet Explorer's Popup Blocker ---

Free music downloads

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 ---

The Mozart Project (has some nice downloads) ---

Erocia Project:  Beethoven Symphony Number 3 (in short clips) ---

ELENA KUSCHNEROVA Historical Piano Downloads in MP4 ---

King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band (nice downloads) ---

Mabuhay ---

Paolo Fresu (on trumpet) ---
(You have to work a bit to find the downloads and be sure to turn off the opening page sounds before doing so)

History of The Beatles (no music downloads) ---
A not-so-pretty history of The Beatles ---

Train of Life (Willie Nelson and Patsy Cline) ---


Bound for Glory: America in Color, 1939-1943 ---
Bound for Glory: America in Color is the first major exhibition of the little known color images taken by photographers of the Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information. These vivid scenes and portraits capture the effects of the Depression on America's rural and small town populations, the nation's subsequent economic recovery and industrial growth, and the country's great mobilization for World War II.

Daguerreotype Society (Photography History) ---
Dedicated to the history, science, and art of the daguerreotype.  Daguerreotype was the first commercially successful photography process using a copper plate coated with silver.  Note the Galleries at the above link.
Also see

Alcatraz Island (multimedia)

Forwarded by Nancy Mills

This is an illusion sent to me by my sister. It is pretty neat.



Electronic Literature

Bob Jensen's new document with electronic literature (books, poems, short stories, journals, etc.) ---

Prints With/Out Pressure: American Relief Prints from the 1940s through the 1960s

Logos Database for Anagrams ---

One More Story is an interactive online library for children --- 

An electronic library that teaches children how to read better
Chelsea Waugaman, "Read the story again? Sure. Computers don't get tired," The Christian Science Monitor, July 11, 2005 --- 

Awesome Library (Elementary) ---


Alice in Wonderland (Infomotions) ---

Through the Looking Glass (Infomotions) ---

A Wonderland Miscellany - Lewis Carroll (1832 - 1898) ---

The Master of Ballantrae - Robert Louis Stevenson (1850 - 1894) ---

Logos Free Children's Library ---

Logos Free Children's Dictionary ---

Children's Storybooks Online ---

Whatever I don't know, I learnt at school.
Ennio Flaiano

We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.
Sir Winston Churchill ---

To love our enemies (as the Gospel asks) is not a job for men, but for angels.
Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) ---

One puzzle these days is why Americans are so confident at the shopping mall and so glum in opinion polls. By many measures, the country's prosperity is broad-based. Families are buying and renovating homes at a ferocious pace. Since mid-2003, the number of payroll jobs has increased by 4.2 million. The unemployment rate of 5 percent is low by historic standards. But in polls, Americans are downbeat.... We have a real economy and a rhetorical economy: what's actually happening and what we say is happening. The first is often more stable than the second.
Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson.

The hope of becoming rich is one of the most widespread causes of poverty.
Tacitus (ca. 56 ca. 117) ---

The beauty of war is that each leader of a band of assassins has his flag blessed and invokes God before setting off to exterminate his neighbors.
Voltaire, François-Marie Arouet (1694 - 1778) ---

Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are more pliable.
Mark Twain as quoted by Mark Shapiro at

The McCain Straight Talk Express: Teddy Roosevelt in the engine cabin, Robin Hood in the caboose.
Stephen Moore, The Wall Street Journal, November 26, 2005; Page A10 ---

There are honest journalists like there are honest politicians. When bought they stay bought.
William Moyers (1934) ---

Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.
H.L. Mencken (1880 - 1956) ---

Fake IRS E-Mail Scam Goes Phishing ---

With the loss of competition in space (U.S. versus Russia), the public lost it's will for manned space flight.
Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon ---
I paraphrased this from Neil's November 6, 2005 interview on Sixty Minutes (CBS)
It reveals how competition is a powerful motivator for creativity and exploration.  Sometimes competitive races (such as quests to reach the South Pole or to discover DNA structure) drive men and women to win for the sake of beating out the competition as much as the prize itself.

But new space competition is igniting
"China eyes 2017 moon landing," CNN, November 4, 2005 ---

A fire in the belly doesn't light itself. Does the spark of ambition lie in genes, family, culture--or even in your own hands? Science has answers
Of all the impulses in humanity's behavioral portfolio, ambition--that need to grab an ever bigger piece of the resource pie before someone else gets it--ought to be one of the most democratically distributed. Nature is a zero-sum game, after all. Every buffalo you kill for your family is one less for somebody else's; every acre of land you occupy elbows out somebody else. Given that, the need to get ahead ought to be hard-wired into all of us equally. And yet it's not. For every person consumed with the need to achieve, there's someone content to accept whatever life brings. For everyone who chooses the 80-hour workweek, there's someone punching out at 5. Men and women--so it's said--express ambition differently; so do Americans and Europeans, baby boomers and Gen Xers, the middle class and the well-to-do. Even among the manifestly motivated, there are degrees of ambition. Steve Wozniak co-founded Apple Computer and then left the company in 1985 as a 34-year-old multimillionaire. His partner, Steve Jobs, is still innovating at Apple and moonlighting at his second blockbuster company, Pixar Animation Studios.
Jeffry Kluger, "Ambition: Why Some People Are Most Likely To Succeed," Time Magazine Cover Story, November 6, 2005 ---

Great news from Rita Kosnik (Professor of Management at Trinity University)

Dear Professor Kosnik:

Congratulations are in order for students in your class who earned a Global Top 20 ranking for their company's BSG-Online performance during Week 10 of the 2005 Season II polling period.

Industry 4

The co-managers of Aladdin (Company A) earned a Global Top 20 ranking on the following performance criteria:

Overall Game-To-Date Score - Their Overall Score of 109.0 was the 14th best Overall Score performance of the week, worldwide! Earnings Per Share - Their EPS of $23.23 was the 6th best EPS performance of the week, worldwide! Stock Price - Their Stock Price of $511.86 was the 5th best Stock Price performance of the week, worldwide! You should be quite proud of your students for such an excellent performance — a performance that reflects quite well on you and the caliber of instruction that students are receiving in your course. View the Global Top 20 lists for Week 10 of the 2005 Season II polling period ---

Each Monday we compile lists of the prior week's 20 best-performing companies worldwide based on each of four measures: Overall Score (current year), Earnings Per Share, Return On Average Equity, and Stock Price.

All companies that appear on a Global Top 20 list during a polling week are automatically eligible to compete in the 2005 Season II Best-Strategy Invitational. Participation is completely free of charge. The 2005 Season II BSI begins 5-Dec-05 and runs for two weeks through 18-Dec-05, with one decision due daily Monday through Friday for two weeks to determine a BSI Grand Champion in as many industries as needed to accommodate all the entrants. Find out more about the 2005 Season II Best-Strategy Invitational ---

All company co-managers who enter the Best Strategy Invitational will receive a Distinguished Participant Certificate (which will provide the necessary documentation for students being able to list their participation on their resumé), and the BSI Grand Champions will be given a place of honor in the BSG-Online Hall of Fame ---

We hope you will encourage your qualifying teams to compete in the 2005 Season II Best-Strategy Invitational.

Congratulations once again to you and your students and thank you for using BSG-Online in your class. As always, please call or e-mail if you have any questions or any suggestions for improving the simulation.

Best regards from the BSG-Online author team,

Art Thompson
Greg Stappenbeck
Mark Reidenbach

What is computer living "reducing" to?
Read (well record anyway) a book with the swipe of your hand with the embedded RFID chip?
Video advertisements for a hotel chain on a wedding gown or diet pill video commercials on a bikini?
Could a quarterback wear bifocal goggles that give him a better view behind taller defenders in his face?
Could professors supplement incomes by advertising bookstore sales while lecturing?  Why waste time during breaks?

"More Strangeness From The Tech Front," by Johanna Ambrosio, InformationWeek Newsletter, November 29, 2005

Wearable, flexible LCD panels in clothes. If I'm at my kid's sports event wearing some famous name on the outside of my clothing, then that manufacturer better be paying me handsomely for the privilege. Then again, this might go over well with the folks who, for instance, paid for their wedding by selling ads on their cake and wedding gown, a la NASCAR drivers. Gentlemen, start your panels.

- Along those same lines, TiVo recently filed a patent for a personal video recorder that recognizes viewer preferences through an RFID chip embedded in clothing, jewelry, or somewhere in "the user's body." Note to self: better not mention this to my teenage stepdaughters; we're already having, um, discussions about body piercing and this might lend a whole new meaning to "having a sleepover to watch a movie" night. Then again, it might be nice to have even more in common with my dog, who already sports an RFID tag embedded in his shoulder, with our contact information just in case he wanders off in search of sheep donning those aforementioned LCD panels.

This sounds like a great idea until you start to think about it for a little while. Chase Bank is testing credit cards with RFID technology called "blink." The technology eliminates the need to swipe and then sign; instead you wave your little card around in front of a scanner. (Are swiping and signing too difficult or time-consuming?) OK, maybe it's just me, but I have enough problems with those "smart" paper-towel dispensers in some public restrooms. You know, the ones where you have to wave to get the paper towels to come out. Not only do I feel like a moron, waving to a paper-towel dispenser, but it usually requires more of a body check than a "queen wave." It could make for some interesting credit-card transactions, though.

Still and all, for most of us in the technology field, I'm guessing this stuff still beats the heck out of a fruitcake.

For even wilder thoughts about adding smells, touch, and taste to visual and hearing senses in computing, go to my older document entitled   "Networking of the Five Senses (Sight, Sound, Smell, Touch, and Taste)" at

Bob Jensen's threads on nanotechnology and ubiquitous computing are at


Burn TV on DVD
Does your aging VCR, with its clunky analog tapes and limited capabilities, feel antiquated? Maybe it's time to switch to a slim DVD recorder. Today's models offer better quality and larger recording capacity than ye olde VCR--plus on-screen programming guides, and built-in hard drives that hold hundreds of hours of video. The newest DVD recorders far outshine last year's relatively primitive models--making this a great time to jump in. They're cheaper, too: A year ago, such recorders were priced for the television elite--up to $1000 for one with a 160GB hard drive--but today various models are within reach of ordinary TV watchers. A basic recorder (like CyberHome's DVR1600) sells for less than $100; a model with an 80GB hard drive (for example, the Lite-On LVW-5045) costs less than $300; and a deluxe 250GB model (such as the Toshiba RD-XS54) runs about $700.
Richard Baguley, "Burn TV on DVD:  The latest DVD recorders have hard drives, program guides, and lower prices. If you love TV, one of these ten models may be right for you," The Washington Post, November 30, 2005 ---

Fruits and Vegetables May Be Making You Sick You Sick
More Americans are eating their vegetables. But the healthy trend comes with a risk: Illnesses traced to fresh produce are on the rise. Fruits and vegetables are now responsible for more large-scale outbreaks of food-borne illnesses than meat, poultry or eggs. Overall, produce accounts for 12% of food-borne illnesses and 6% of the outbreaks, up from 1% of the illnesses and 0.7% of outbreaks in the 1970s, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Meanwhile, meat-related E. coli infections have been on the decline.
Jane Zhang, "When Eating Your Vegetables Makes You Sick: Illnesses Tied to Produce Become Far More Common As Consumption Rises," The Wall Street Journal, November 30, 2005; Page D1 ---

Why true love only lasts one year
When a person falls in love, levels of a protein called Nerve Growth Factor skyrocket, researchers from the University of Pavia found. "We have demonstrated for the first time that circulating levels of NGF are elevated among subjects in love, suggesting an important role for this molecule in the social chemistry of human beings," said Dr. Enzo Emanuele, who led the study. But, after studying a volunteer group of people between the ages of 18 and 31, researchers found the levels of NGF had fallen to original levels after one year, the Daily Mail reported. Not to discourage romantics, the team wrote that they believe the same chemical also stimulates companionship, which is essential in any long-term relationship. The report appears in the current Psychoneuroendocrinology Journal.
"Brain's 'true love' lasts only a year," PhysOrg, November 29, 2005 ---

For women, dressing for success depends upon status in the organization
Psychologist Peter Glick and colleagues found provocative dress, such as the use of tight skirts and low-cut blouses, harmed businesswomen. But the negative effect was limited to women in high status positions, with such dress viewed as inappropriate for both managers and receptionists. However, only managers dressing in a sexy manner evoked hostile emotions and were deemed less intelligent. "A female manager whose appearance emphasized her sexiness elicited less positive emotions, more negative emotions, and perceptions of less competence on a subjective rating scale and less intelligence on an objective scale," the authors reported. The study appears in the December issue of Psychology of Women Quarterly.
"Study: Women execs must avoid sexy dress," PhysOrg, November 29, 2005 ---

"EBay Hears and Sees No Evil, It Just Sells It," by Paul McDougall, InformationWeek Newsletter, November 30, 2005

Is eBay Adam Smith's perfect market, where prices are set by the honest interaction of buyers and sellers and everyone goes home happy, or is it simply the perfect vehicle for price gouging--and much, much worse?

The short supply of Microsoft's Xbox 360 means the game system is fetching up to $1,000 on eBay. Fair enough. If gamesters really can't wait a few more weeks to play the 360 version of "Call of Duty 2" or "NBA Live 06," then it's their money, right? Sure, but eBay's willingness to turn a blind eye to scalping, copyright infringement, and the sale of questionable goods has a darker side that proved very convenient for a creep named Peter Braunstein.

Braunstein, of New York City, is a former fashion writer and playwright who's gone off the deep end in the worst way. On Halloween, he allegedly impersonated a firefighter to gain entry to a former co-worker's apartment. Inside, he's alleged to have used chloroform to render the woman unconscious. What followed was a series of sexual attacks that lasted more than 12 hours.

Braunstein, now a fugitive, got everything he needed to act out this sicko scenario on eBay because, after all, "Whatever it is, you can get it here." Or so the online auctioneer boasts. For Braunstein, "whatever it is" included the firefighting gear, law-enforcement badge, potassium nitrate, and chloroform that he allegedly used during the crime.

Continued in article

"Understanding T Cells:  A nano tool is making it possible to better control the immune system," by Emily Singer, MIT's Technology Review, November 28, 2005 ---,303,p1.html?trk=nl

Scientists have long known that T cells play a major role in orchestrating the body's immune response. But researchers have been unsure exactly how these cells send and receive signals to attack invaders.

One fundamental question has been whether it is the number or the pattern of receptors on the surface of the T cell that controls the response. Understanding this cellular language could, for example, help researchers design better treatments for auto-immune diseases, such as allergies or rheumatoid arthritis, where the immune system has sent a misguided message to attack itself.

In a new experiment, published last week in Science, Jay Groves and colleagues at the University of California at Berkeley designed an artificial membrane that allows them to begin to answer these questions. The membrane has proteins that are constricted in a specific region. When receptors on the T cell bind to the proteins on the artificial membrane, the receptors are constrained to these specific geometric patterns, allowing a closer examination of the effects of the patterns.

Under normal physiological conditions, when a T cell binds to an infected cell, receptors on the surface of the T cell migrate toward the junction between the two cells. Previously, scientists thought that the growing number of receptors triggered a strong T cell activation. But when Grove and his team blocked the migration of T cell receptors by binding them to locked-in proteins on the artificial membrane, which acts like an infected cell, they discovered it was the position of the receptor that actually controlled the response.

"Spatial configuration matters rather than number," says Groves. "It's like realizing when reading a sentence you need to pay attention to the order of the letters to know what the words mean, you can't just count the number of each kind of letter."

To develop the artificial membrane, the Berkeley researchers used electron beam lithography to create nanoscale chrome patterns on a silica substrate, which was then coated with membrane lipids and proteins. Although the proteins normally float freely through the lipid membrane, on the synthetic membrane, they're kept in place by the chrome patterns, which act as barriers.

Other experts say these findings demonstrate the power of nanotechnology for studying cellular processes. "This paper represents a wonderful, rare, and early example of how bringing together micropatterning technology and cell biology can help shed light on interesting questions in biology," says Arup K. Chakraborty, a theoretical immunologist at MIT.

Bob Jensen's threads on ubiquitous computing and nanotechnology are at

Business Technology: Security Threats Galore, But No Worries Here
Taken together, you begin to get the full, unsettling picture of information security today. Automated bot attacks, Windows bulletins by the dozen, a new breed of business worms, risk of heap overflow in Cisco's IOS, the underground's new fascination with unpatched holes in 20 types of applications and devices. And that doesn't even include problems caused by spyware or phishing, or customer-data breaches, or the complications of wireless networks and devices, or CDs with hidden rootkits, or the Sober worm variants spreading again. With all of this going on, how do you explain the fact that so few security and IT professionals feel things have gotten worse? It's possible they have systems in place to ward off ill-intended probes, keep software patched, and protect customer records. Maybe the bullets are bouncing off. That, or maybe security at their companies isn't as good as it seems.
John Foley, "Business-Technology: Security Threats Galore, But No Worries Here," InformationWeek Newsletter, November 29, 2005

Bob Jensen's threads on computing and networking security have been updated (somewhat) at

Security threats and hoaxes ---

From Jim Mahar's blog on November 24, 2005 ---

Writely - The Web Word Processor ---

Eric Briys did it again! The person who turned me onto blogging and the person behind Cyberlibris and the cyberlibris blog sent me a note today mentioning

I checked it out and wow! It is so cool. It is an online word processor that multiple people can use at the same time. It will be perfect for co-authoring papers etc. Indeed, you can pretty much make it a "wiki" world.

I have several uses (in and outside of finance) already ready to go.

Check it out. I bet you will be as excited as I am about it!!!

Jensen Comment:  Among other things this is a way to to send email without having an email system.  But it is also a way of publishing on the Web without having a Web server.  Note that all you need is a Web browser like Internet Explorer.

"Exercising the Brain Innovative training software could turn back the clock on aging brains," by Emily Singer, MIT's Technology Review, November 21, 2005 ---,1,p1.html?trk=nl 

A new cognitive training program designed to rejuvenate the brain's natural plasticity could slow down mental decline by as much as ten years. The program and others like it may be an accessible way for older people to take advantage of recent advances in the neuroscience of aging.

The connections in the brain are plastic, meaning that when we learn something, the properties of our synapses and other neural circuits change, improving their processing speed and the fidelity of the information being encoded.

As we age, though, this natural learning process starts to deteriorate. "Sensory information gets encoded less accurately, and the brain has to look and listen longer before it can make a decision about what it's seeing or hearing," says Michael Merzenich, a neuroscientist at the University of California at San Francisco, who's been studying the neural basis of learning for 30 years.

Continued in article

"'Freakonomics' Abortion Research Is Faulted by a Pair of Economists, by Jon E. Hilsenrath, The Wall Street Journal, November 28, 2005; Page A2 ---

Prepare to be second-guessed.

That would have been useful advice for Steven Levitt, the University of Chicago economist and author of the smash-hit book "Freakonomics," which uses statistics to explore the hidden truths of everything from corruption in sumo wrestling to the dangers of owning a swimming pool.

The book's neon-orange cover title advises readers to "prepare to be dazzled," and its sales have lived up to the hype. A million copies of the book are in print. The book, which was written with New York Times writer Stephen Dubner, has been on the New York Times best-seller list for 31 weeks and is atop The Wall Street Journal's list of bestsellers in the business category.

But now economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston are taking aim at the statistics behind one of Mr. Levitt's most controversial chapters. Mr. Levitt asserts there is a link between the legalization of abortion in the early 1970s and the drop in crime rates in the 1990s. Christopher Foote, a senior economist at the Boston Fed, and Christopher Goetz, a research assistant, say the research behind that conclusion is faulty.

Long before he became a best-selling author, Mr. Levitt, 38 years old, had established a reputation among economists as a careful researcher who produced first-rate statistical studies on surprising subjects. In 2003, the American Economic Association named him the nation's best economist under 40, one of the most prestigious distinctions in the field. His abortion research was published in 2001 in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, an academic journal. (He was the subject of a page-one Wall Street Journal story in the same year.)

The "Freakonomics" chapter on abortion grew out of statistical studies Mr. Levitt and a co-author, Yale Law School Prof. John Donohue, conducted on the subject. The theory: Unwanted children are more likely to become troubled adolescents, prone to crime and drug use, than are wanted children. When abortion was legalized in the 1970s, a whole generation of unwanted births were averted, leading to a drop in crime nearly two decades later when this phantom generation would have come of age.

The Boston Fed's Mr. Foote says he spotted a missing formula in the programming of Mr. Levitt's original research. He argues the programming oversight made it difficult to pick up other factors that might have influenced crime rates during the 1980s and 1990s, like the crack wave that waxed and waned during that period. He also argues that in producing the research, Mr. Levitt should have counted arrests on a per-capita basis. Instead, he counted overall arrests. After he adjusted for both factors, Mr. Foote says, the abortion effect disappeared.

. . .

Still, as economic debates go, this one is relatively civil. Mr. Foote praises Mr. Levitt for making all of his data and his programming easily accessible and hastens to add that "in many ways it is a very careful paper." Mr. Levitt responds, "I think this is exactly the way science should work," with controversial theories being poked and prodded for their robustness.

Edward Glaeser, a Harvard professor who helped referee Mr. Levitt's original abortion submission to the Quarterly Journal of Economics, said the Foote critique isn't damning, though it does suggest the impact of abortion on crime has not been as strong as Mr. Levitt has argued. "These guys have put the [data] through the wringer," Mr. Glaeser says of Mr. Foote and his research assistant. "There is no question that the results get smaller and weaker, but there still seems to be something there."

Jensen Comment:  Abortion is only one of various topics, albeit the most controversial topic, covered in Levitt's book entitled Freakonomics and his various articles on these topics ---

One striking example of the authors' creative use of economic theory involves mathematically proving the existence of cheating among Sumo wrestlers. In a Sumo tournament, all wrestlers compete in fifteen matches. Those who win a majority of the matches receive preferential treatment; those who don't must perform humiliating duties, such as washing hard-to-reach places on the bodies of their betters. The authors studied the odds involved in the fifteenth match and noticed an odd discrepancy. Statistically, the wrestlers who won eight of the previous fourteen matches and lost only six should have out-performed the wrestlers who won seven and lost seven, as they'd already proven themselves slightly better. This was not the case; the 7-7 underdogs beat their 8-6 opponents far too often for it to be a mathematical coincidence. The authors came to the inescapable conclusion that the 8-6 wrestlers, who could afford to throw a single match without fear of jeopardizing their standings, were deliberately losing, presumably for a later favor.

How to combat high home energy prices
With fuel prices at record highs, saving on home heating and other energy costs, now and in the future, is becoming a top concern for owners and renters alike. Jim Gunshinan, 46, is managing editor of Home Energy Magazine (, which aims to provide objective, practical guidance on residential energy efficiency, performance, comfort, and affordability. It's published by Energy Auditor & Retrofitter, a nonprofit organization that educated consumers on the latest building techniques, with an emphasis on sound building fundamentals and curing sick buildings.
"Recommended Reading," The Wall Street Journal, November 28, 2005 ---

Surging Energy Costs on Campus
Around the country, colleges are facing sharply higher energy costs, as prices for oil and natural gas have been driven up by increasing demand and, especially, by the impact of Hurricane Katrina on production and delivery. Campus officials say that cost increases are averaging in the 20 percent range but spiking in some places by 40 percent, which can mean $1 million on a small campus or as much as 10 times that on larger ones.
Doug Lederman, "Surging Energy Costs," Inside Higher Ed, November 28, 2005 ---

Surging Grades of Athletes
The National Collegiate Athletic Association plans to investigate correspondence high schools, The New York Times reported Sunday, in an article examining the way a growing number of college athletes are using those high schools to bring their grades up to meet minimum standards to play intercollegiate athletics.
Inside Higher Ed, November 28, 2005 ---

John Silber's Interview Transcript
Boston Magazine has published a transcript of an interview with John Silber, the outspoken former president of Boston University. In the interview, Silber his discusses his tenure at Boston University, the role he played when his successors were in office, his political views, and more. Fans and critics of Silber are unlikely to change their positions as a result of the interview, but it makes for interesting reading for members of either camp.
Inside Higher Ed, November 28, 2005 ---

Cultural Diversity Pressures Schools to Teach Religious Values
Leaders from the Hindu and Muslim faiths said last night that they backed the teaching of Christian values, because of what they saw as the need to promote all religions. Salah Beltagui, a prominent Scottish Muslim in who works in the Scottish Inter Faith Council, added: "We want people to know about all kinds of faiths because they have lots in common. It all adds to the aim of teaching more morals and values about life." Mohan Sharma, a spokesman for the Hindu community added: "Everyone should try and teach their own religion but also respect all other religions." The Inter Faith Week will be celebrated by leaders of all the major faiths this week, including Cardinal Keith O'Brien, Imam Mustaqeem Shah from the UK Islamic Mission, and Rabbi David Rose. An initiative will be launched to promote calls for faith groups to work together more in order to prevent prejudices developing between communities.
Eddie Barnes, "Non-Christian clerics urge the Kirk to push religious teaching in schools," Scotsman, November 27, 2005 ---

"The Mall Had Its Day; Now It's the Web's Turn Back at Work, People Go Online and Shop," by Margaret Webb, The Washington Post, November 28, 2005 ---

The online retail industry has taken to calling today Cyber Monday or Black Monday, named after Black Friday, when many retailers traditionally have started to make a profit -- or go into the black -- for the year. In a recent survey by and BizRate Research, 77 percent of retailers reported that their sales last year increased substantially on the Monday after Thanksgiving.

. . .

The growing phenomenon is an intensification of the year-round surge of online shopping during the workweek, changing the workplace as much as shopping patterns. At, for example, Mondays are almost always the biggest shopping day of the week, said spokeswoman Bonnie Clark. For Visa, which processes 47 percent of all online purchases, weekdays bring much higher volume than weekends -- the exact opposite of typical traffic patterns in regular retail stores. The workweek after Thanksgiving is Visa's highest-volume week of the year.

Continued in article

Bob Jensen's threads on ecommerce are at

New Gadgets:  Two Cell Phones With Keyboards
I looked at two of the latest handsets in this category: the LG VX9800 from Verizon Wireless and Samsung D307 from Cingular Wireless.  For the LG phone, Verizon offers a choice between $400 with a one-year contract and $300 with a two-year contract. Cingular sells the Samsung for $250 with a two-year service contract. Of the two phones, I like the LG better despite its higher price: The keyboard is much easier to use than Samsung's, and the phone offers a few extras, including a 1.3-megapixel camera and a media card slot.
Grace Aquino, "Two Sleek Cell Phones With Handy Data Entry:  Sending text messages and entering contacts in your phone's address book can be a whole lot easier with a keyboard-equipped handset," PC World via The Washington Post, November 28, 2005 ---

Bob Jensen's threads on gadgets are at

From The Washington Post on November 28, 2005
What percentage of teens, ages 15 to 17, own cell phones?

A. 42 percent
B. 58 percent
C. 67 percent
D. 74 percent

"Lavish Spending, Little Reward D.C. Agencies Gave Contractor Millions for Projects but Scant Oversight," by David S. Fallis and Dan Keating, The Washington Post, November 28, 2005 ---

With the District's approval, he gave himself an $82,000 salary and paid his brother $8,000 as a consultant. He spent $25,000 for signature artwork and a matching stainless steel table. He bought $6,000 chairs, a new blue sport-utility vehicle and a silver van, personalized with vanity tags. He spent $143 to settle debts at a florist and rush a "Happy Birthday" bouquet to the D.C. Council member who approved his grants. He billed taxpayers for it all.

Over seven years, District officials sank nearly $5.4 million into his projects. Three city agencies gave him multiple contracts, and four others had a role in making sure he was paid.

But when Prioleau's foundation collapsed last year, the city's investment evaporated. Most of the furnishings had been sold at public auction after languishing in a warehouse for almost two years. About $195,000 worth of equipment was sold for slightly less than $9,000, just to pay a storage bill. Prioleau closed his training center.

Prioleau defended his work in interviews over the course of a year and reported to the D.C. government that his center had trained thousands of disadvantaged people. But city officials say there are no records to verify that number.

The story of Archie Prioleau and his dealings with the District is one of broader failings -- the propensity across city agencies to violate their policies as they dispense public funds with little attention to how the money is spent.

Continued in article

Bob Jensen's updates on fraud are at

Executive Compensation and Company Violation Database That is Searchable by Zip Code

"Labor Web Site Keeps Tabs on Business Workers Can Check Executive Salaries, Company Violations," by Amy Joyce, The Washington Post, November 18, 2005, Page D03 ---

An AFL-CIO affiliate yesterday launched an online database of more than 60,000 companies, listing information about their executive compensation, overseas job outsourcing, and violations of labor, safety and health standards.

The Web site is operated by Working America, a group that advocates on behalf of nonunion workers. The site started last year in a much smaller form focused on companies that had outsourced jobs overseas. The expanded version is designed to provide workers and the public with a more complete picture about companies, the group says.

"It gives information to workers they don't have otherwise and gives information so people can take action," said Karen Nussbaum, director of Working America, which was founded two years ago and has more than 1 million members.

The group's site is one of several recent efforts by labor organizations to challenge companies publicly on how they treat their employees. The efforts are designed to encourage workers to fight what the organizations view as bad labor practices, or to embarrass companies into changing their ways.

The best-known actions in recent months come from Wal-Mart Watch and Wake Up Wal-Mart. Both groups monitor the retailer's moves and conduct campaigns to raise awareness of -- and ultimately change -- the company's labor, environmental and other practices.

The information listed on the site comes from government records obtained by Working America through the Freedom of Information Act, as well as from media reports and research conducted by nonprofit advocacy groups.

The new site is "an excellent example of giving ordinary people information about what corporations are doing," said Harley Shaiken, a labor professor at the University of California at Berkeley. "With this, they are putting a new dimension of the economy into the hands of the public."

The public database,  , is searchable by Zip code, company name and industry. Visitors can also enter a Zip code or state to find out which companies in that area are exporting jobs or violating labor laws.

Pat Cleary, senior vice president at the National Association of Manufacturers, called the Web site a "desperate tactic."

"They should track companies that are importing jobs as well and should tell the story of the tens of millions of companies who spend billions of dollars to ensure their employees' safety," he said.

Jensen Comment:  The database apparently does not cover colleges, but it does have a Public Administration category.

What desktop search is best for you?

November 18, 2005 message from Scott Bonacker [AECM@BONACKER.US]

Microsoft released a new desktop search tool this week. You can learn more about it and download the 9MB installation file from: 

Several add-ins are available, and are a necessity to be able to search the files most of us work with.

I've tried it on a workstation, and unlike the Google product it will index and search large files - I was able to find a phrase in page 388 of a 37.6 MB PDF file with it. There is even some control over which folders are included in the search indexes.

The only recommendation may be that it is free, however. As you might expect it steers you towards using more Microsoft products, although you can turn some of those features off.

The X1 search tool has it beat in being useful, though. The default view when searching lets you specify several characteristics simultaneously including filename, type, date/time, path and size. At the same time you can search for words or other information within the files that are indexed. You can set limits on what folders are indexed, and the size of the files that are indexed as well.

If your files are organized into folders, no matter what criteria you use, you can narrow the search to folders at any level in the directory tree. When searching for common words that helps immensely in preventing an overwhelming list of results.

Even for the money, I still prefer X1. 

Scott Bonacker, CPA
Springfield, Missouri

Bob Jensen's search helpers are at

November 21, 2005 message from Donald Ramsey [dramsey@UDC.EDU]

For an awesome list of 43 professional certifications in accounting and finance, compiled by Prof. Greg Burbage of Sacramento City College, check

Bob Jensen's threads on careers in accountancy are at

OxyContin Pain Medication Questions and Answers ---

More Bad News on Audit Inspection Reports Under SOX

"The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board found audit deficiencies at three major accounting firms," SmartPros, November 18, 2005 ---

Reports on the PCAOB's inspection of Ernst & Young LLP, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP and BDO Seidman LLP, issued Thursday, said the inspection team identified matters it considered to be audit deficiencies.

In the reports, the PCOAB said those deficiencies included failures by the firm "to identify and appropriately address errors in the issuer's application of GAAP (or generally accepted accounting principles)," and that one or more of those errors was "likely to be material to the firms' financial statement."

In all three reports, the PCAOB said "the deficiencies also included failures by the firm to perform, or to perform sufficiently, certain necessary audit process."

The three reports, which can be viewed on the PCAOB's Web site, , provide details of specific cases, without mentioning the audited entities by name.

For earlier reports on negative inspection outcomes of Deloitte and KPMG, go to "Incompetent and Corrupt Audits are Routine" ---

Pathways to Philosophy (United Kingdom)

November 26, 2005 message from Geoffrey Klempner []

This is the launch page for the Pathways to Philosophy distance learning programs run by the International Society for Philosophers in partnership with the Philosophical Society of England

The new URL for the Pathways to Philosophy Portal is: 

The new URL for Ask a Philosopher is: 

Please adjust your links or bookmarks to these URLs.


Bob Jensen's threads on U.S. accounting standards are at

"Dead Men Do Tell Tales:  Virtual autopsies reveal clues that forensic pathologists might miss," by John Gartner, MIT's Technology Review, November 23, 2005 ---,1,p1.html?trk=nl 

In a trend that's sure to show up soon on CSI, some medical examiners are performing computer scans on cadavers, both to accelerate the autopsy process and to provide better views of fatal injuries. These "virtual" autopsies can help solve crimes -- as well develop strategies for extending lives.

During the past 18 months, radiologists in Sweden have performed more than 100 virtual autopsies on murder victims, according to Anders Ynnerman, a professor in the Department of Science and Technology at Linköpings University, who also works at the Center for Medical Image Science and Visualization (CMIV) in Linköping. Ynnerman says evidence from virtual autopsies has been used to clarify the cause of death in several criminal trials in Sweden.

A virtual autopsy begins with either a computer tomography (CT) or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan -- the same systems used in hospitals. Then a graphics workstation compiles the "slices" of data collected in the scans into a single three-dimensional visualization -- a rendition that's beyond the capabilities of standard software used for visualizing CT and MRI results, according to Ynnerman.

Full-body scans take approximately 20 seconds, while the graphics workstations can compile the data into a navigable 3-D image within one minute, says Dr. Anders Persson, manager of the CMIV. And the scans cost about $350 each.

The process is more effective than standard autopsies in certain respects, Persson says, because the visualizations make it is easier to see bleeding patterns and to correctly classify infections. Also, while the imaging technologies can't detect poisons, they help pathologists identify areas that may yield evidence, and perform targeted biopsies, rather than opening up the entire body, he says.

Continued in article

From the Scout Report on November 23, 2005

Governance Divide: A Report on a Four-State Study on Improving College Readiness and Success --- 

Many policy analysts and commentators have been bemoaning the fact that the United States’ substantial lead in the worlds of technology and scientific discovery seems to be fading rather quickly. A number of policy think-tanks have preoccupied themselves with exploring this question, and The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education has been exploring the very complex link between K-12 and postsecondary education policymaking as of late. One of their latest reports, released in September 2005, examines the efforts made by four states in order to improve the transition from high school to college. The report was jointly written by the Center, the Stanford Institute for Higher Education Research, and the Institute for Educational Leadership. Among its findings were that states should ensure that students in high school understand what the expectations in college will be and that states also provide better information about education for policymakers and the public.

Also see
The Center for Comprehensive School Reform and Improvement  ---

Policy Review 

The Hoover Institution at Stanford University publishes a number of important and widely read publications, and perhaps one of its best known periodicals is Policy Review. Under the guidance of editor Tod Lindberg, Policy Review continues to publish a wide range of pieces on topics ranging from affirmative action to eminent domain. On their site, visitors can learn about the mission of the publication and they can browse their extensive archive, which dates back to 1995. A section titled “Special” features interviews with Dick Cheney from 1993 and Joseph Lieberman from 1990. The most recent issue of Policy Review available on the site features pieces on the current state of Russia and how America might effectively restore its image around the world. Many pieces in Policy Review will be both thought- provoking and potentially controversial, and for those reasons, they are definitely worth a look.

Teen Content Creator and Consumers --- 

With more and more young people using the internet for a wide variety of purposes, there has been an increased effort to study what exactly they arte doing online. This latest research report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project looks at how teenagers create content for the internet (such as weblogs) and how they choose to download content off the internet. Authored by Amanda Lenhart and Mary Madden and released in November 2005, this 29- page report reveals that over half of all the teens surveyed for this report create content for the internet and that thirty-eight percent of all teens surveyed read blogs. The report also contains a number of helpful charts and tables that will be of interest to those with an interest in the changing nature of internet usage patterns.

Happy 100th Birthday E=mc²
Einstein equation marks 100 years

Einstein's E=mc² inspires ballet

Rampart Dance Company: Constant Speed

American Museum of Natural History: Einstein

Albert Einstein Biography

Einstein’s Big Idea

The Center for the History of Physics: Albert Einstein Image and Impact


Kea Coloring Book 3.4 (software for kids) ---

Bob Jensen provides some helpers for finding professional help at

VoIP Providers Heeding the Call?
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is a technology that transmits phone calls much the same way e-mail travels over the Internet or corporate data networks . It's a great way to cut communications costs and add a raft of features to calling plans, so early adopters -- many of them tech-savvy -- put up with the glitches that plagued VoIP calling from the start. These days, quality is improving and VoIP calling is gaining wider adoption, but many kinks have yet to be worked out (For a product review of one service, see BW Online, 11/28/05, "Skype Has People Talking"). And pressure on providers such as Vonage to resolve the issues is higher than ever.
"VoIP Providers Heeding the Call?," Business Week, November 28, 2005 ---

Boys & Girls Clubs of America ---

National Adoption Information Clearinghouse ---

On the Effectiveness of Aluminium Foil Helmets:
Among a fringe community of paranoids, aluminum helmets serve as the protective measure of choice against invasive radio signals. We investigate the efficacy of three aluminum helmet designs on a sample group of four individuals. Using a $250,000 network analyser, we find that although on average all helmets attenuate invasive radio frequencies in either directions (either emanating from an outside source, or emanating from the cranium of the subject), certain frequencies are in fact greatly amplified. These amplified frequencies coincide with radio bands reserved for government use according to the Federal Communication Commission (FCC). Statistical evidence suggests the use of helmets may in fact enhance the government's invasive abilities. We theorize that the government may in fact have started the helmet craze for this reason.
"On the Effectiveness of Aluminium Foil Helmets: An Empirical Study," by Ali Rahimi1, Ben Recht , Jason Taylor, Noah Vawter, Allegedly bored geeks at MIT, February 17m 2005 ---

Also see

"Should You Be in (Adult Webcam) Pictures?," by Regina Lynnk, Wired News, November 11, 2005 ---,1284,69545,00.html?tw=wn_tophead_3

Have you ever participated in an adult chat room? If so, you probably agreed to something like the terms above -- possibly without reading them. And if that's the case, you might want to get a copy of the new book webAffairs (NSFW), published by Eighteen Publications, as soon as possible to see whether you're in it.

. . .

The book is a large hardback, printed on heavy paper, each page a meticulously designed collage of webcam windows, chat excerpts, the author's narrative and snippets of conversation between the author and her husband. It raises questions of privacy in public spaces, of fidelity, of emotional and sexual involvement with lovers onscreen and off.

And it truly captures what it means to belong to an adult online community. In fact, it's the best window to cyber relationships -- and their effect on offline relationships -- I've seen.

"One of the interesting aspects of this project is the idea that virtual space is undefined," Show-n-tell says. "It blurs the line between public and private space as we understand it."

Continued in article

"BlackBerry Blackout," The Wall Street Journal, November 30, 2005; Page A18 ---

There's a chance, albeit a small one, that sometime this week BlackBerries around the country could go quiet. Depending on where you stand on these pervasive email handheld devices, that may or may not seem like a good thing. But it's a sign of how quickly our economy adapts to new technologies that a BlackBerry service break would prove highly inconvenient to many businesses and positively disruptive to some. Whatever happens, however, the U.S. government wants to make sure its "crackberry" addicts still get their fix.

The threat of a service interruption comes at the end of a four-year-long legal battle between Research in Motion, the Canadian company that makes BlackBerries and manages the email service, and NTP, a patent-holder that has sued RIM, claiming its technology violates patents held by NTP.

RIM lost the original case years ago, but it has since been tied up in appeals, U.S. Patent Office rulings and settlement negotiations. A federal judge is expected to rule soon on whether to enforce a March settlement that later fell apart over an undisclosed dispute, while the Patent Office is still reviewing the validity of NTP's patents themselves.

If the settlement is not enforced, an injunction could be placed barring RIM from providing service in the U.S. until RIM licenses NTP's patents. That's a chance the feds don't want to take, so earlier this month the Justice Department filed a statement of interest in the case, requesting that any injunction exclude the government's 300,000 or so users. NTP says the technology exists to do so fairly easily.

Continued in article

RIM is trying to reverse its loss of a patent-infringement suit filed by NTP, which claimed RIM infringed on several patents, including NTP's radio-communications technology. Given the popularity of the Blackberry among businesspeople, stopping the service would leave lots of companies scrambling. Experts say a settlement could cost RIM as much as $1 billion. The company, however, says it has no intention to pay. Instead, if it loses in court, RIM promises to release a "software workaround" that would allow it to maintain its U.S. operations. For RIM customers, particularly large companies, it would be a good idea to start working with RIM now on its "workaround" plans. This case appears to be more of a question of when NTP gets the injunction, not if, so Blackberry users better be prepared.
Antone Gonsalves, InternetWeek Newsletter, December 1, 2005

"Palm stock rises as judge rules against BlackBerry maker," Mercury News, November 30, 2005 ---

Eat, Sleep, Work, Consume, Die
Just because technology makes it possible for us to work 10 times faster than we used to doesn't mean we should do it. The body may be able to withstand the strain -- for a while -- but the spirit isn't meant to flail away uselessly on the commercial gerbil wheel. The boys in corporate don't want you to hear this because the more they can suck out of you, the lower their costs and the higher their profit margin. And profit is god, after all. (Genuflect here, if you must.).
Tony Long, "Eat, Sleep, Work, Consume, Die," Wired News, November 10, 2005 ---,1282,68742,00.html

FDA approves brain stem cell transplant trial
For the first time, the Food and Drug Administration has approved a clinical trial to test whether a purified population of human neural, or brain, stem cells can be safely used in humans. The (Stanford) medical center is one site being considered for the trial, which is designed to investigate the effect of transplanted stem cells in children with Batten disease—a fatal genetic disorder. The FDA-approved protocol, which was designed in part by Stanford physicians and researchers Stephen Huhn, MD, and Greg Enns, MD, will now be submitted to the medical center's Institutional Review Board for the consideration afforded all trials involving human subjects. Huhn and Enns are slated to co-direct the trial if the IRB approves the protocol. Researchers speculate that the cells, which are isolated from fetal brain tissue, may provide enzymes that are missing or defective in patients with the condition. However, the planned phase-I trial is primarily designed to test the safety of the treatment.
Krista Conger, "FDA approves brain stem cell transplant trial," Stanford Today, October 26, 2005 ---

Hormone finding offers new hope for obesity drug
When the appetite-enhancing hormone ghrelin was discovered a few years ago, researchers thought they had found the last of the major genes that regulate weight. They were wrong. Introducing obestatin, a newly discovered hormone that suppresses appetite. The finding, published in the Nov. 11 issue of Science, offers a key to researchers developing treatments for obesity. In a nation that desperately needs to slim down—the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 65 percent of Americans over the age of 20 are either overweight or obese—obestatin is likely to generate interest from scientists and drug-makers alike.
Rosanne Spector, "Hormone finding offers new hope for obesity drug," Stanford Today, October 26, 2005 ---

Senior Citizen Bloggers Defy Stereotypes
Forget shuffleboard, needlepoint and bingo. Web logs, more often the domain of alienated adolescents and home to screeds by middle-aged pundits, are gaining a foothold as a new leisure-time option for senior citizens. There's Dad's Tomato Garden Journal, Dogwalk Musings, and, of course, the Oldest Living Blogger.
Carla K. Johnson, "Senior Citizen Bloggers Defy Stereotypes," The Washington Post, November 10, 2005 ---

They're still fools at Sony:  The Trojan horse fix creates security risks
Consumers who used computers to listen to Sony BMG music CDs containing flawed software were still exposed to potentially crippling security breaches yesterday, experts said, as the company continued to try to fix the problem. Sony BMG Music Entertainment released a software patch earlier in the week, but experts warned that the fix created as many security problems as the original program, and as of yesterday the company had not come up with a new approach.
Brian Krebs, "Sony's Fix for CDs Has Security Problems of Its Own," The Washington Post, November 17, 2005 ---
Jensen Comment:  Actually Microsoft has a better fix to Windows problems created by Sony.  However, the fixes from Microsoft and Sony eliminate the ability to play BMG music on your computer.  What a stupid mess!

Merger Creates New Rival for Big Four Firms
The merger of Global Alliance and Moore Stephens North America, Incorporated has created one of the largest Certified Public Accounting (CPA) organizations in the world based on revenues. Known as Moore Stephens International (MSI), the association will be headquartered in New York City, New York and be represented by more than 500 offices around the world having gross revenues exceeding $1.25 billion.
"Merger Creates New Rival for Big Four Firms," AccountingWeb, November 16, 2005 ---

Palmetto Rebellion South Carolina Republicans will cut taxes--or else.
Even when tax rates remain unchanged, a dramatic uptick in home values can push tax bills through the roof. The result is today many seniors on fixed incomes can't hold onto homes they've lived in for decades. Steep tax bills also force the poor to forgo homeownership and with it the hope of making it into the middle class. Meanwhile, middle-class homeowners struggle to pay the taxman.
Brendan Minter, "Palmetto Rebellion South Carolina Republicans will cut taxes--or else. ," The Wall Street Journal, November 29, 2005 ---

Texas School Lesson:  The Supreme Court Strikes Down Robin Hood
The Texas Supreme Court did the expected last week and struck down the statewide property tax for funding public schools. But what was surprising and welcome was the Court's unanimous ruling that the Texas school system, which spends nearly $10,000 per student, satisfies the funding "adequacy" requirements of the state constitution. Most remarkable of all was the court's declaration that "more money does not guarantee better schools or more educated students."
"Texas School Lesson," The Wall Street Journal, November 29, 2005; Page A18 ---

November 28, 2005 message from Silvia Childs []

Dear Robert,

Thank you so much for deciding to include a link to our site on your personal web page.

This is the linking info:

Suggested Title: Algebra Tutor Suggested Description: Search out instant solutions to nerve-breaking math problems with a downloadable resource designed to help people learn algebra in an easier step-by-step way. URL: 

Search out instant solutions to nerve-breaking math problems with a downloadable resource designed to help people learn algebra in an easier step-by-step way.


Silvia Childs

November 11, 2005 message from David Albrecht [albrecht@PROFALBRECHT.COM]

From the Wall Street Journal:

As the Detroit Pistons were introduced before the Kings' home opener, the people who run the video screens at Arco Arena chose to show scenes of burned-out cars, buildings in disrepair and other shots that didn't exactly make one want to contact a Motor City realtor.

"We're sick about it and we're sorry," said Kings co-owner Joe Maloof. "It was an unfortunate, stupid idea. We are apologizing to the city, Pistons fans, the mayor, the organization. The whole thing was a big mess."

Jensen Comment
This sort of degradation of a city should be left to Michael Moore who launched his film career and fortune by doing the same thing to Flint, Michigan in 1989 ---
For a synopsis see
The script is available at 

The Net is wriggling into the nooks and crannies of businesses across the world. Here, a glimpse at the future
The Web is wriggling into the nooks and crannies of businesses across the globe, from an Italian electricity giant to an onion farm in Oregon. Some companies are culling data they had never encountered before and sharing the information with customers via blogs or wireless hookups. Others are turning customers into their eyes and ears in the marketplace. Sure, the technology is zippy. But this year's WebSmart 50 shows that the bigger story, in many cases, is how it redefines age-old relationships. Suppliers are becoming partners, developers are suddenly knee-deep in customer relations, and employees who used to be the last to find out news are publishing it themselves. Such changes are having a far greater impact on companies than anything Google or Apple has cooked up. Plenty of these projects are about nuts-and-bolts management. But they aren't limited to companies. Schools, public bus systems, even New York City's government are using the Web to reshape operations. Kaiser Permanente's digitization of patient records helped it uncover problems with Vioxx a year before the drug's recall. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals revamped its site on a dime after Hurricane Katrina so it could recruit volunteers for the first time in its 130-year history.
"The Web Smart 50," Business Week, November 21, 2005 ---

"Borderline Stupidity," by Felice Prager, The Irascible Professor, November 15, 2005 ---

Morgan Quitno Press - "Reliable Rankings for 16 Years."

As explanation, Morgan Quitno Press of Lawrence, Kansas (not far, I am told, from where Dorothy and Toto lifted off to find the ruby slippers and flying monkeys) produces annual announcements that designate our country's:

Safest City - Newton, Massachusetts

Most Dangerous City - Camden, New Jersey

Smartest State - Massachusetts in 2004 (before Vermont got the honors this year)

Most Improved State - New Hampshire

Most Livable State - New Hampshire

Healthiest State - Vermont

Safest State - North Dakota

Most Dangerous State – Nevada

Documents from the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention (American History) ---

Helpers for teaching MIS

November 15, 2005 message from David Kroenke

Recently, I attended two seminars with Dr. Marilla Svinicki from the University of Texas. Dr. Svinicki presented several research-based teaching ideas that I think can be profitably used in the introductory MIS class. Several of these ideas along with results of using them in my MIS class are out on  this week.

I also recently learned of the work on Positive Organizational Scholarship (POS) that is supported by the University of Michigan. This week's blog has several links to this important work as well.

Please take a look!

Best regards,
David Kroenke
University of Washington

World Agricultural Information Centre Portal ---

Bob Jensen's bookmarks for economic statistics are at

Helpers for Personal Finance from the Texas Society of CPAs

November 11, 2005 message for The AccountingWeb

Welcome to Money Management U! - Nov-11-2005 - How much time do employees at your firm spend dealing with, or just worrying about, their personal finances? According to a recent Texas Poll, nearly 30 percent of Texas employees spend six or more work hours a week on personal finance. With the holidays coming, personal finance is likely to assume an even more prominent role in everyone’s minds as we contemplate buying gifts, preparing holiday meals, traveling to visit family and other holiday activities.

In order to help staff members keep their minds on their jobs, not their checkbooks, the Texas Society of Certified Public Accountants (TSCPA) is launching Money Management U., a statewide employee enrichment program offering free personal finance resources for the workplace.

Money Management U. materials cover a variety of personal finance topics including identity theft, home buying, credit card debt, and educating children about money. Among the resources available are:

articles for employee newsletters and/or company intranets

  • table tents
  • flyers
  • paycheck inserts

In addition, companies can request CPA speakers for employee seminars on personal finance topics. Money Management U. resources can be downloaded for free from the TSCPA’s consumer web site at

Money Management U.
New Financial Literacy
Resources for the Workplace

Having a job may give you a paycheck, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you know what to do with the money you earn. Thanks to Money Management U., an employee enrichment program, the Texas Society of Certified Public Accountants is offering free financial literacy resources for the workplace.

Financial Recordkeeping Checklist
Drowning in receipts, paycheck stubs, old tax returns, and bank records? Are your expandable file folders expanded past their limit? Is your attic home to dusty boxes filled with old financial records? How long do you have to retain them, anyway?

Shredding: From Nicety to Necessity
If you employ even one person like a nanny, a housekeeper or a gardener, take note. Destroy personal information or face possible fines with a Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act provision going into effect this summer.

Guarding Against Identity Theft
Minimize your risk for becoming a victim of identity theft with these helpful steps. This article covers how thieves obtain your information, preventive steps and what to do if you're victimized.

Bankruptcy Law Changes Go Into Effect
It’s a new chapter for bankruptcy law in the United States and the page is turning in October – creating a rush of last-minute filers..

A Survival Plan for Important Papers
In the wake of the Hurricane Katrina and Rita disasters, many Americans are re-examining their own readiness to react, and quickly, should catastrophe strike their home, whether hurricane, flood, fire, tornado or other calamity.

Disaster Recovery Guide for Hurricane Victims
The Texas Society of CPAs offers its condolences to those who've lost loved ones and their livelihoods to Hurricane Rita and Katrina. For those displaced by both Gulf Coast disasters, a free disaster recovery financial planning guide is available to help navigate insurance, tax deductions, replacing important documents, and much more.

Charitable Giving Checklist(.pdf)
Your guide to smart tax-deductible contributions.

Free Credit Reports Now Available to Texans
In the battle to fight identity theft, Texans can now order free credit reports every 12 months from each of the three national credit bureaus. Credit scores aren't included in the free offer though. You'll have to pay up to get your digits.

Free Financial Planning Disaster Preparedness Guide Available
Be ready before disaster strikes. Get the information you need to know to protect your loved ones and property with insurance, estate planning and more.

Click here for more News You Can Use

Tax tips and small business helpers are also provided at

"KPMG Honored for Programs in Support of Disabled," SmartPros, November 22, 2005 ---

Accounting firm KPMG has been selected by the YAI/National Institute for People with Disabilities (NIPD) Network as its "2005 Corporation of the Year" recipient.

The annual award was accepted by KPMG LLP chairman and CEO Timothy P. Flynn at the agency's "Share the Joy" gala in Manhattan this month. The YAI/NIPD Network is a network of not-for-profit health and human services agencies for people with developmental and learning disabilities.

"This award recognizes KPMG for their long and continued commitment to helping create jobs for people with disabilities, and also their support of YAI's fundraising activities," said Dr. Joel M. Levy, CEO of the YAI/NIPD Network. "We are thankful for their continued support, and we are pleased to recognize KPMG as a firm that is dedicated to making a difference in the lives of these individuals."

KPMG's Flynn commented, "KPMG has supported the YAI/NIPD Network and its programs through volunteerism, board participation and individual and corporate fundraising initiatives for more than a decade. We are honored to be chosen for this distinguished award and pleased to be among an impressive list of past and present honorees."

Past honorees of the award have included Pfizer, Avon Products, RJR Nabisco and Time.

Bob Jensen's threads on the two faces of KPMG are at

Electronic Books, Poems, and Journals

Forwarded by Betty Carper

Audrey Hepburn's Secret to Great Beauty
Actually titled “Time Tested Beauty Tips,” this poem by Sam Levenson is commonly mis-credited to Audrey Hepburn. A favorite of hers, she read it to her children on the very last Christmas Eve she spent with us here on Earth.





For attractive lips, speak words of kindness.


For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.


For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.

For beautiful hair, let a child run his/her fingers through it once a day.

For poise, walk with the knowledge that you never walk alone.


People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone.


Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you will find one at the end of each of your arms.


As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands; one for helping yourself, and the other for helping others.

If you share this with another woman, something good will happen . . will boost another woman's self esteem, and she will know that you care about her.

Hope video (forwarded by Dick Wolff) ---

Forwarded by a good friend.

Subject: Meeting with President @ White House

On Fri, 25 Nov 2005 13:02:09 -0500, "Congressman Dan Lungren" <>  wrote:

November 23, 2005

I thought you might be interested in hearing about an unexpected experience I had two weeks ago. On Wednesday, November 9, my office received a call in the morning asking if I would come to the White House to meet with the President on the war in Iraq and other issues. I had my staff rearrange my schedule so I could attend and along with less than two dozen other members boarded a bus to go to the White House at 3:30 in the afternoon.

When we arrived at the White House, we were surprised to be led up to the second floor - the private quarters of the President and his family - for our meeting. While I have been in and around Washington, DC off and on for 35 years and have had the opportunity to be invited to the White House on a number of occasions, this is the first chance I had to visit the private quarters.

After a short period of social mixing, we sat down on several couches and chairs to engage in a dialogue with President Bush. Contrary to some of the press reports I have seen recently concerning his personal demeanor, the President was very friendly, outgoing, vigorous in his presentation, well versed on the issues, and manifested a command of details. It was obvious that he sees the defense of the nation against the danger of radical Islamic fascism as his major duty. He is passionate in his description of the threat to our nation. In particular, he read us a letter written by Al-Qaida's number two leader, Ayman Zawahiri to his deputy in Iraq - the terrorist Zarqawi. In the letter, Zawahiri writes that Al-Quaida views Iraq as "the place of the greatest battle." In this and other parts of the letter, it is obvious the terrorists regard Iraq as the central front in a war against us and others who are part of the "western world".

The President made it clear that we should take these terrorists at their word and understand clearly the importance they have attached to the outcome of the war in Iraq. In fact in his letter, Zawahiri makes specific reference to the outcome of the Vietnam War and declares that "the aftermath of the collapse of the American power in Vietnam - how they ran and left their agents - is noteworthy." Further in the letter Al-Qaida's number two leader stresses the specific goals of their Jihad: "The First Stage - expel the Americans in Iraq. The Second Stage - reestablish an Islamic Authority or Amirati, then develop it and support it until it achieves the level of a Caliphate. The Third Stage - extend Jihad wave to the secular countries neighboring Iraq. The Fourth Stage - the clash with Israel."

Zawahari makes it clear that the war does not end with the Americans' departure from the region and that they must defeat us before the appeal of democracy to the Iraqis is successful in establishing a stable government. Interestingly enough, he notes that the greatest part of the struggle is taking place "in the battlefield of the media".

The President recognized the necessity for us to "succeed in the battlefield of the media". In other words, he stated that he would be discussing the war on terrorism repeatedly and in greater detail than he had before, that the sacrifice sustained by our men and women in uniform require us to be more vigorous in our defense of our actions. In short order, let me quickly mention several points the President stressed about the current state of affairs in Iraq.

1. We are taking cities and territories back from terrorist control.

2. Iraqi troops are securing more areas. (For example: in August 2004, fiveIraqi Regular Army battalions were in combat. Today, ninety-one Iraqi Regular Army battalions are in combat.)

3. Iraqis are making great strides in making a democracy with greater freedom. (It seems that we do not recognize the importance of several historic actions taken by the Iraqi people so far this year. The January elections were historic, dramatic, and successful. On the 15th of October, nearly 10 million Iraqis turned out to vote on a new constitution. And in less than a month, Iraqis will go to the polls to elect a permanent government.)

We had an opportunity to question the President on his strategies, the opinions of our military leaders, the rate of progress leading to the withdrawal of American troops in Iraq, the need to be more direct with the American people on the challenges that lie ahead as well as issues concerning the cost of the war and the long term prospects in the Middle East.

I had an opportunity to raise some of these questions as well as deliver to the President other concerns expressed by the constituents who have attended my 3rd District Town Hall meetings. These included the serious problems of illegal immigration and continued federal deficit spending. In the arena of the budget deficit, we have different perspectives. I politely, but strongly articulated my concerns that have been echoed by 3rd District constituents in 17 town halls and or telephone town hall phone conversations throughout 2005 and suggested that the President exercise the use of his veto pen on spending bills.

In total, we met with the President for about one hour and fifteen minutes. The consensus of those in attendance was that the President was open to us, took into consideration the points that we raised, and was very much in command of facts, tactics, and strategy concerning our greatest challenge - terrorism in the name of Islamic fascism. I hope this gives you some idea of the dynamics of a meeting with the President of the United States as well as the current state of his thinking. I would welcome any comments you might have on the issues that were raised.


Congressman Dan Lungren



Tidbits on December 5, 2005
Bob Jensen
at Trinity University 

My links on Medicare drug plan options are at
Under no circumstance should anybody sign up for a plan with a stranger over the telephone even if that person claims to be a Medicare representative or a licensed insurance agent who phoned out of the blue.

Fraud Updates ---
For earlier editions of New Bookmarks go to 
Archives of Tidbits: Tidbits Directory ---

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

I really like the Digital Duo show that appears weekly once again on PBS.  I found that you can bring up prior shows (video) on your computer by going to,00.asp

Bob Jensen's home page is at

Security threats and hoaxes ---

25 Hottest Urban Legends (hoaxes) --- 

Stay up on the latest and the oldest hoaxes ---

Handy links to product instruction sheets ---

Free video download
Protect your kids online and offline ---,segid,143,00.asp

PhysOrg Science Video News ---

I Am My Own Grandpa (video) ---

Turkey in the Straw (video) ---

Hope video (forwarded by Dick Wolff) ---


Free music downloads

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 ---

Here's a good way to start Monday morning:

From the U.S. Library of Congress (American Music History)
Song of America ---
Especially note the link
I especially liked the explanation of the shanty
Shenandoah ---

November 30, 2005 message from Joyce Coe []

Any idea where the site has relocated to? I love his site and recently logged on only to discover it was a medical clinic site from Tuscaloosa, AL now. Any pointers would be fabulous! Thanks for your amazing link!

Joyce Coe

Bob Jensen's reply on December 1, 2005



My favorite is

Three funny short stories accompanied by great music from SingingMan Larry D.---
(Click the hand on the bottom to go from one to another)

Walk to School ---


Paris: Capital of the 19th Century (History) ---
(Click on the Thumbnails button for photographs and other pictures)

Chartres: Cathedral of Notre-Dame ---

Prints With/Out Pressure: American Relief Prints from the 1940s through the 1960s

Neon Sight Japan ---

Andreas Steiner Photography ---

Michael Busselle Photography ---

Large format photography ---

Adventure photography tips from National Geographic ---

Antique Maps of Iceland ---

Interesting art photography ---

Electronic Literature

Bob Jensen's new document with electronic literature (books, poems, short stories, journals, etc.) ---

eServer Books ---

Literary Resources on the Net ---

Books in Depth (including downloads of sample chapters) ---

Mystery books and short stories ---

God's Debris ---

The Atlantic Online ---

Midwest Book Review ---

The Grammatical Curmudgeon ---
Other helpers from R.G. Ferrell ---
Goblinopolis | Grammatical Curmudgeon | Short Fiction/Essays/Poetry Chasing the Wind | Government Information Security Forum (GovSec) Restless Wind | Tangent | Percussion Collection | Spacecraft Incident Database Humor Columns | Custom Font Design | Consulting/Internet Research Services Impromptu | Ambience

The Mississippi Review ---

American Verse Project (From the University of Michigan in collaboration with the Michigan Humanities Text In-------Initiative) ---

So, you want to learn Bookkeeping! by Bean Counter's Dave Marshall ---

Poem Hunter ---

British Women Romantic Poets, 1789 - 1832 (from U.C. Davis) ---

Swarm Behive Poetry Anthology ---

Funny (at times) Poetry ---

Classic Crime Fiction ---

Quotes Index ---

Maud Newton's Blog (Occasional literary links, amusements, politics, and rants) ---


In science, 'fact' can only mean 'confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent.' I suppose that apples might start to rise tomorrow, but the possibility does not merit equal time in physics classrooms.
Stephen Jay Gould as quoted by Mark Shapiro at

A recent article by Becky Bartindale and Lisa Krieger in the San Jose Mercury News chronicles the latest assault by the religious right on the teaching of evolution in the public schools.  Bartindale and Krieger's story describes the recent lawsuit by Jeanne Caldwell and her attorney husband Larry Caldwell, against two biologists from the University of California, Berkeley Museum of Paleontology who have developed an extensive web site that provides information about evolution for teachers as part of a web site that attempts to explain evolution to the general public.

Our placement of graduates continues to be a source of pride. The Daniels Class of 2004 had an overall placement rate of 90.1 percent for all graduate business degrees; our School of Accountancy graduates had a 99 percent placement rate.
School of Accountancy Newsletter, Daniels College of Business, University of Denver, November 28, 2005

It is especially gratifying when we can report good news.
  • The Wall Street Journal honored the School of Accountancy's MBA-Accounting program by ranking it as No.6 nationally for academic excellence in Accounting.
  • The School of Accountancy's Tax Team is one of six undergraduate teams moving on to the national competition in the Deloitte Tax Challenge.
  • The Wall Street Journal again honored Daniels as one of the world's best business schools. We ranked No. 4 in the world for producing graduates with high ethical standards and No. 8 nationally among 47 North American business schools.
  • Daniels also earned national recognition for its full- and part-time programs in Forbes.
  • In U.S.News & World Report's 2006 list of "America's Best Graduate Schools," the Daniels College of Business ranked at No. 78, up two places from 2005.

Handy links to product instruction sheets ---

Handy links to product promotions ---

Electronic repair information and help ---

Numeric Conversions ---

What is the largest encyclopedia in the history of the world (in 82 languages no less)?


Wikipedia at
This online encyclopedia is free and allows virtually anybody in the world to make new entries or modifications to old entries merely by typing in a browser like Internet Explorer.  This degree of open share obviously causes problems since bad people are free to abuse the privilege of such open sharing.  Wikipedia is at last taking some serious steps to help reduce misleading information in the Encyclopedia. 

"FALSE WITNESS How true are "facts" online?," by Katharine Q. Seelye, The New York Times, December 4, 2005 --- 

E-Mail This Printer-Friendly Single-Page Reprints Save Article By KATHARINE Q. SEELYE

It has, by most measures, been a spectacular success. Wikipedia is now the biggest encyclopedia in the history of the world. As of Friday, it was receiving 2.5 billion page views a month, and offering at least 1,000 articles in 82 languages. The number of articles, already close to two million, is growing by 7 percent a month. And Mr. Wales said that traffic doubles every four months.

Still, the question of Wikipedia, as of so much of what you find online, is: Can you trust it?

And beyond reliability, there is the question of accountability. Mr. Seigenthaler, after discovering that he had been defamed, found that his "biographer" was anonymous. He learned that the writer was a customer of BellSouth Internet, but that federal privacy laws shield the identity of Internet customers, even if they disseminate defamatory material. And the laws protect online corporations from libel suits.

He could have filed a lawsuit against BellSouth, he wrote, but only a subpoena would compel BellSouth to reveal the name.

In the end, Mr. Seigenthaler decided against going to court, instead alerting the public, through his article, "that Wikipedia is a flawed and irresponsible research tool."

Mr. Wales said in an interview that he was troubled by the Seigenthaler episode, and noted that Wikipedia was essentially in the same boat. "We have constant problems where we have people who are trying to repeatedly abuse our sites," he said.

Still, he said, he was trying to make Wikipedia less vulnerable to tampering. He said he was starting a review mechanism by which readers and experts could rate the value of various articles. The reviews, which he said he expected to start in January, would show the site's strengths and weaknesses and perhaps reveal patterns to help them address the problems.

In addition, he said, Wikipedia may start blocking unregistered users from creating new pages, though they would still be able to edit them.

The real problem, he said, was the volume of new material coming in; it is so overwhelming that screeners cannot keep up with it.

Continued in article

Publisher and Education Fraud
Buy up and close down the competition:  It seems like this is what robber barons used to do in the 1900s and why the U.S. passed antitrust laws that don't seem to be working very well these days.

"Are Lawyers Being Overbilled for Their Test Preparation?" by Jonathan D. Glater, The New York Times, December 4, 2005 --- 

MANY executives dream of dominating their industries the way BAR/BRI does the business of helping law school graduates prepare for bar examinations. Every law student knows BAR/BRI. Hundreds of thousands of them have taken its courses to pass the bar, an essential step in most states before a law school graduate can practice law. Some of the best law professors in the country teach segments of the company's courses, which are offered live in select locations and on videotape at others.

But now BAR/BRI could use a few lawyers itself. Some of the people who paid the fees, took the courses and passed the bar have turned on the company, which is owned by the Thomson Corporation of Stamford, Conn. Represented by an aggressive Los Angeles lawyer named Eliot G. Disner, they have filed a lawsuit charging that the company that helped them to become lawyers has operated an illegal monopoly and has overcharged hundreds of thousands of students by an average of $1,000 each - or, collectively, by hundreds of millions of dollars.

In complaints filed in the spring and summer, different groups of students charged that BAR/BRI has paid competitors to shut down and negotiated illegal agreements with potential competitors to divide the market. In particular, they cite a 2003 agreement with Louisiana State University, which until 2004 operated its own bar review course; under the deal, BAR/BRI promised to pay tens of thousands of dollars each year to the school, and the school promised not to run a competing bar review course.

Continued in article

Bob Jensen's threads on publisher frauds are at

A new blog from the University of Illinois

Is your doctor's needle long enough to do the job? (This is not humor even if you do chuckle a little!)
Two-thirds of the 50 patients in the study did not receive the full dosage of the drug, which instead lodged in the fat tissue of their buttocks, researchers from The Adelaide and Meath Hospital in Dublin said in a presentation to the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America.
"Study - Longer needles needed for fatter buttocks," Yahoo News, November 28, 2005 ---

From WebMd on November 30, 2005 ---

Anxiety Disorders Association of America ---

Five Nobel Laureates recently got together to talk about the future of the brain at a symposium to inaugurate MIT's new Picower Institute for Learning and Memory. One of them was Eric Kandel, a neuroscientist at Columbia University in New York, who won the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for seminal experiments on sea snails that illuminated the neurobiology of learning and memory. In a conversation on December 1 with's biotechnology editor, Emily Singer, Kandel explained how researchers are on the verge of understanding serious psychiatric diseases -- and that they may even unlock the biological key to happiness.
Emily Singer, "Don't Worry, Be Happy Nobel Laureate Eric Kandel explains how genetic research could lead to a new generation of anti-anxiety drugs," MIT's Technology Review, December 5, 2005 ---,1,p1.html?trk=nl

New Gadgets to Help You Get to Sleep

"Getting in Bed With Insomnia:  Can 'Audio' Mattresses, Pillows With Aromas Bring Sleep? 'Cheaper to Go to the Doctor'," by June Fletcher, The Wall Street Journal, December 2, 2005; Page W12 ---

With reports of the disorder on the rise, mattress and foundation makers are introducing a range of products that claim to help consumers get more shut-eye. One new $100 pillow has a pocket to hold essential-oil beads that are supposed to lull consumers to sleep. A just-introduced mattress pad that goes for $240 promises to keep sleepers from sweating. Leading the pack: mattress makers, whose sales rose 11% in 2004, according to the International Sleep Products Association. That growth is being driven by both aging, aching boomers and the new foam "memory" mattresses, originally from Sweden, which have taken off in the last few years.

Many of these new products promise to help consumers get bed rest by relying on scent or sound -- a change in strategy from just a few years ago, when "firm" was the buzzword for sleep-friendly mattresses and pillows. Now, makers tout "softness," while "warmth" is being played down. In fact, because so many items, from fluffy comforters to giant body pillows, have been layered on upscale beds in recent years, many makers now tout the ability of their products to keep sleepers from getting too hot or wick away sweat.

The bedding industry is seizing on sleep because there seems to be a decreasing amount of it. A poll of 1,500 Americans by the National Sleep Foundation, an educational and advocacy group, found that 75% of the participants reported sleeping problems this year, up from 69% in 2001. Many sufferers are older, but even younger people are slumber-challenged: The number of adults under 44 who are using prescription sleeping aids doubled over the past five years, according to Medco Health Solutions, a drug-benefit-management firm that surveyed 2.4 million prescription-drug claims.

But how do the new products work? For now, the research seems to be mixed. No large-scale independent studies have proven that sound, scent, temperature or softness cure insomnia. However, several small studies support some of these claims. A 1997 study of 21 adults by a division of New York Hospital/Cornell Medical Center in White Plains, N.Y., showed that cooler body temperatures encourage sleep. And a study of 60 people earlier this year by researchers at Case Western Reserve University and a university in Taiwan showed that lavender oils wafted through a room helped elderly people sleep more soundly. Still, Dr. Lawrence MacDonald, medical director of the Sinai-Grace Sleep Disorder Center in Detroit, Mich., says insomnia is best treated by regulating light and bedtime. "You can simply use an eye mask," he says.

Continued in article

Jensen Comment: 
Download my accounting theory videos.  The can put you to sleep better than anything mentioned above ---

Yes, you can teach an old brain new tricks.

"Even Old Brains Seem Flexible Enough To Enjoy a Workout," by Sharon Begley, The Wall Street Journal, December 2, 2005; Page B1 ---

Yes, you can teach an old brain new tricks.

Take the visual cortex, which turns out to be quite a job hopper. In 1996, scientists using fMRI to peer inside the brains of blind people reading Braille found that the visual cortex processes the sense of touch. This big hunk of neural space (visual regions take up 35% of the brain, and 35% of a brain is a terrible thing to waste) noticed that no signals were arriving from the eyes, and looked around for other employment possibilities. With streams of input arriving from the fingertips, the opportunity was obvious.

People who became blind later in life didn't show this "cross modal" plasticity, suggesting that old brains can't change jobs. But many of those late-blind people lost their sight slowly, to diabetes, for instance. This may be too slow for the visual cortex to notice.

When blindness comes on suddenly, the brain is remarkably nimble even in adulthood. A few years ago Alvaro Pascual-Leone of Harvard Medical School and colleagues blindfolded healthy, sighted adults for a week. Every day, the recruits studied Braille. After mere days, their visual cortex was processing touch.

This job switch happened too quickly to reflect new neuronal connections from, say, the fingers. Instead, those connections must have always been there, Dr. Pascual-Leone suspects, and become "unmasked" only when needed. That suggests that the visual cortex is misnamed. It doesn't see, necessarily, but makes spatial discriminations. "It's easier to do this with vision, but if there is no visual input it can rope in the next-best things, like feeling or hearing," he says.

Indeed, in congenitally blind people the visual cortex also localizes sounds, figuring out where a noise came from.

The visual cortex can also become a linguist. Harvard's Amir Amedi and colleagues recently found that people blind from birth seem to use their visual cortex to, of all things, generate verbs when an experimenter says a noun. "Apple" elicits "eat," and "piano" brings "play." But if researchers temporarily knock out the visual cortex with a magnetic pulse, the blind come up with semantic nonsense, such as "sit" for "apple."

The malleability of the brain well into adulthood can be a cause of both concern and optimism. The down side is that artificial vision, using tiny cameras to capture images and send them to the visual cortex, may be a pipe dream. Unless it's done soon after birth, which may not be practical, those images will be landing in a visual cortex that has moved on to other jobs, and the signals will not produce sight.

Continued in article

" 'My Lobotomy': Howard Dully's Journey," NPR, November 16, 2005 ---

On Jan. 17, 1946, a psychiatrist named Walter Freeman launched a radical new era in the treatment of mental illness in this country. On that day, he performed the first-ever transorbital or "ice-pick" lobotomy in his Washington, D.C., office. Freeman believed that mental illness was related to overactive emotions, and that by cutting the brain he cut away these feelings.

Freeman, equal parts physician and showman, became a barnstorming crusader for the procedure. Before his death in 1972, he performed transorbital lobotomies on some 2,500 patients in 23 states.

One of Freeman's youngest patients is today a 56-year-old bus driver living in California. Over the past two years, Howard Dully has embarked on a quest to discover the story behind the procedure he received as a 12-year-old boy.

In researching his story, Dully visited Freeman's son; relatives of patients who underwent the procedure; the archive where Freeman's papers are stored; and Dully's own father, to whom he had never spoken about the lobotomy.

"If you saw me you'd never know I'd had a lobotomy," Dully says. "The only thing you'd notice is that I'm very tall and weigh about 350 pounds. But I've always felt different -- wondered if something's missing from my soul. I have no memory of the operation, and never had the courage to ask my family about it. So two years ago I set out on a journey to learn everything I could about my lobotomy."

Neurologist Egas Moniz performed the first brain surgery to treat mental illness in Portugal in 1935. The procedure, which Moniz called a "leucotomy," involved drilling holes in the patient's skull to get to the brain. Freeman brought the operation to America and gave it a new name: the lobotomy. Freeman and his surgeon partner James Watts performed the first American lobotomy in 1936. Freeman and his lobotomy became famous. But soon he grew impatient.

. . .

"There were some very unpleasant results, very tragic results and some excellent results and a lot in between," says Dr. Elliot Valenstein, who wrote Great and Desperate Cures, a book about the history of lobotomies.

Continued in article and in audio

"Lawsuits Won't Stop Pandemics," by Paul A. Offit, The Wall Street Journal, December 1, 2005; Page A16 ---

During the past 100 years, pharmaceutical companies have made vaccines against pertussis (whooping cough), polio, measles, rubella (German measles) and Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib), among others. As a consequence, the number of children in the U.S. killed by pertussis decreased from 8,000 each year to less than 20; the number paralyzed by polio from 15,000 to zero; those killed by measles from 3,000 to zero; those with severe birth defects caused by rubella from 20,000 to zero; and those with meningitis and bloodstream infections caused by Hib from 25,000 to less than 50. Vaccine makers have been the single most powerful force in determining how long we live; during the 20th century, the lifespan of Americans increased by 30 years -- mostly because of vaccines.

But the landscape of vaccines is also littered with tragedy. In the late 1800s, starting with Pasteur, scientists made rabies vaccines using cells from nervous tissue (such as animal brains and spinal cords); the vaccine prevented a uniformly fatal infection. But the rabies vaccine also caused seizures, paralysis and coma in as many as one of every 230 people that used it.

In 1942, the military injected hundreds of thousands of servicemen with a yellow fever vaccine. To stabilize the vaccine virus, scientists added human serum. Unfortunately, some of the serum came from people unknowingly infected with a hepatitis virus. As a consequence, 330,000 soldiers were infected, 50,000 developed severe hepatitis and 62 died.

In 1955, five companies stepped forward to make Jonas Salk's new formaldehyde-inactivated polio vaccine. One company -- Cutter Laboratories of Berkeley, Calif. -- made it badly. Because of Cutter's failure to completely inactivate the virus in their vaccine, 120,000 children were inadvertently injected with live, dangerous poliovirus; 40,000 developed mild polio, 200 were permanently paralyzed and 10 were killed. It was one of the worst biological disasters in American history.

Given all of these problems, what role did personal-injury lawyers play in pushing vaccine makers to make better, safer products? The answer: none. That's because the tragedies caused by vaccines weren't the result of foul play, cost-cutting, deceit or misrepresentation. Every problem was caused by the inevitable, painful, intolerable but requisite process of knowledge gained with time that is required for advances in science and medicine. Scientists eventually found a way to grow rabies virus in safer cells. The Cutter tragedy -- later found to be caused by a filtration problem shared by all five companies making polio vaccines -- was quickly identified and corrected. And when researchers later discovered hepatitis B virus -- the virus that had in retrospect contaminated the yellow fever vaccine -- they made a vaccine to prevent it.

Like it or not, we learn as we go. And no amount of suing is ever going to change that.

Continued in article

New Idea for Mystery Writers
Google searching helps commit a murder and then helps in convicting the murderer

"Ex-Computer Consultant Convicted In 'Google Murder' Trial ," Internet Week, November 30, 2005 ---

In a murder trial featuring evidence of Google searches, jurors late Tuesday found former computer consultant Robert Petrick guilty of first-degree murder in the killing of his wife. He will serve a life sentence without possibility of parole. Prosecutors hadn't sought the death penalty. Petrick, who represented himself during the North Carolina trial, is expected to appeal and has requested a court appointed lawyer. Jurors rejected Petrick's attempts to convince them that Google searches for the words "neck," "snap," "break," and "hold," uncovered on his hard drive, were done by another user.

Petrick also failed to persuade jurors that all the evidence against him was circumstantial and that prosecutors hadn't proved beyond a reasonable doubt that he killed Janine Sutphen and dumped her body in a Raleigh-area lake.

Prosecutors had seized several computers from Petrick's home after Sutphen, a concert cellist, disappeared in January 2003. They used evidence collected from the hard drives to make their case. Internet histories showed that showing someone used Google to search the terms neck, snap break and hold and reviewed a document entitled "22 Ways to Kill a Man With Your Bare Hands." They also said that someone had researched body decomposition and the topography of the lake where Sutphen's body was found.

Continued in article

Jensen Comment: 
Here are the "22 Ways to Kill a Man With Your Bare Hands" ---

Why is Sony BMG like a bungling waiter?

Watching Sony BMG stumble from one fiasco to another over its copy-protection technology is like watching a silent-movie comedy about a bungling waiter. He starts to lose control of a heavy tray of soups and desserts, and, in trying to regain his balance, yanks tablecloths to the floor; sends silverware, dishes, and food flying; and veers around the room, knocking over furniture and patrons, and generally spreading disaster all around. Sony's efforts to extricate itself from its digital-rights-management scandal are a similarly spectacular series of pratfalls. But it's likely to have little long-term impact on Sony. Just some public embarrassment that Sony will quickly overcome, and fines that Sony can afford to pay. The effects on business are much bigger. The fiasco is another demonstration of the power of bloggers to shape public opinion. And the events also demonstrate yet again that consumer digital-rights-management technology doesn't work, and can't be made to work.
Mitch Wagner, InformationWeek Newsletter, November 28, 2005

Outpacing Moore's Law
Kevin Teixeira, a spokesperson for Intel, says data storage components, such as hard disks and flash chips, are actually outpacing Moore's Law, the credo that predicts the number of transistors on a chip will double roughly every 18 months. At the same time, the demand for the iPod nano, smart phones, digital cameras, and other devices that use flash memory will keep driving down the price of flash memory components. Unlike the spinning hard drive in today's computers, as well as iPods from months ago, flash memory has no moving parts, making a smaller, more rugged gadget that's also less prone to failure.
Kate Greene, "Storage Grows in a Flash:  The four-gigabyte Flash storage card in Apple's iPod Nano was obsolete before it hit store shelves," MIT's Technology Review, November 30, 2005 ---,1,p1.html?trk=nl

Will your university contribute to your legal defense?
When Merle H. Weiner was hired as a law professor at the University of Oregon, she was told that one of her duties was to write articles and books — and she did just that, publishing extensively on her areas of expertise, one of which is domestic violence. But Weiner found out this year that even if the university expects her to publish, she was on her own when she faced a threatened suit over one of her articles, even though the university never contested the quality of the article and even though she had obtained legal opinions that she would prevail in court — if only someone had agreed to pay the bills necessary to fight.
Scott Jaschik, "Twisting in the Wind," Inside Higher Ed, November 30, 2005 ---

The Joys of Faculty Self-Evaluations ---

Distinction between lies and bullshit
The gist of Frankfurt’s argument, as you may recall, is that pitching BS is a very different form of activity from merely telling a lie. And Marshall’s comments do somewhat echo the philosopher’s point. Frankfurt would agree that “garden variety lying” is saying one thing when you know another to be true. The liar operates within a domain that acknowledges the difference between accuracy and untruth. The bullshitter, in Frankfurt’s analysis, does not. In a sense, then, the other feature of Marshall’s statement would seem to fit. Bullshit involves something like “indifference to factual information in itself.”
Scott McLemee, "Piled Higher and Deeper," Inside Higher Ed, November 29, 2005 ---

What is spoofing?

See (this site has a great illustration of an eBay spoof)

Critical Update: Phishing and Spoof sites are reaching epidemic levels. You MUST learn about this right now and take action. While PayPal is most often the target of "spoofers," there has been a recent rash of spoof sites for almost every site on the net: PayPal, Ebay, US Bank, Citibank, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Yahoo, Hotmail, Washington Mutual, Commerce Bank, and ANY ONLINE SITE. Whatever you do, DO NOT click on the link in the email! If you actually have an account at one of the companies mentioned, go there by opening your browser and typing in the correct URL yourself.

"Spoof sites" are web sites created by criminals to trick you into giving them your information. The sites are designed to copy the exact look and feel of the "real" site, in this case, but in fact, any information you enter will be going to criminals, not PayPal. These sites can be as simple as just copying the PayPal site via a "view, source" or built using advanced scripts so that for all intents and purposes, it looks and acts like the real PayPal site. After a thief builds such a site, they will usually email you (spam) saying things like "Your account is limited," or "We require additional information," or "Due to a security breach, we need to verify your information." This is known as "phishing." (Pronounced "fishing." To project yourself against "phishing" see our Spyware Solutions page.)

In the phishing email, there will be a link. It will look like ..., but in fact the email will hide the real address which will either be a string of numbers, or the URL followed by a bunch of cryptic looking information, or even something that resembles an email address. DO NOT CLICK on these links! It's like handing your car keys over to a chop-shop.

A fast-spreading variation on the long-running Sober worm is using extremely effective tactics to trick users.
"New Sober Worm Spoofs FBI, CIA ," by Gregg Keizer, InformationWeek, November 22, 2005 ---

A new variation of the long-running Sober worm uses extremely effective tactics to trick users into infecting their PCs, security companies said Tuesday, including posing as messages from the FBI and CIA. Sober.w -- called Sober.x by Symantec, and Sober.z by Sophos and F-Secure -- is spreading rapidly, said security experts, fast enough for vendors to have amplified their threat levels Tuesday. Symantec raised its warning to a "3" in its 1 through 5 scale, the first time since the Zotob outbreak in August that the Cupertino, Calif.-based anti-virus vendor has taken a worm to that threat level.

"The rate of its spread is quite high," said Sam Curry, vice president of Computer Associates’ eTrust security group, who also called the raw number of infections "still relatively low, but growing."

U.K.-based MessageLabs disagreed with the second half of Curry's estimate, however. "The size of the attack indicates that this is a major offensive, certainly one of the largest in the last few months," spokesman Chaim Haas said. By mid-Tuesday, MessageLabs had stopped nearly 3 million copies of the worm from reaching its customers' inboxes.

Sophos, another U.K.-based anti-virus vendor, said that its tallies showed this Sober now accounting for 61 percent of all malware.

Sober.w is the most recent example of the two-year-old Sober family, and shares important characteristics with other variants, including bilingualism (messages arrive in either English or German), address hijacking, and mass-mailing.

Computer Associates' Curry believes the fast spread is due to better-than-average technical skills. "It's using slightly more effective techniques," said Curry, "including running three separate [SMTP] processes. That's becoming somewhat common, because the more simultaneous processes a worm runs, the more copies it can blitz out."

Others, however, credit the enticing bait dangled by the worm for its success. "I just don't see any technical reason why this has popped," said Alfred Huger, senior director of engineering for Symantec's security response team. Instead, he points to the worm's social engineering tricks, which include posing as a message from the CIA or FBI (English), or the Bundeskriminalamt, the German national police agency most like the FBI (German).

These messages, with spoofed return addresses such as "" and "," claim that "We have logged your IP-address on more than 30 illegal Websites," and demand that the user open the attached .zip file, which supposedly contains questions to answer.

The FBI, in fact, took the unusual step Tuesday of issuing a statement saying that the messages were bogus. "These e-mails did not come from the FBI," the agency said. "Recipients of this or similar solicitations should know that the FBI does not engage in the practice of sending unsolicited e-mails to the public in this manner."

"This variant of Sober may catch out the unwary as they open their e-mail inbox," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, in a statement Tuesday. "Every law-abiding citizen wants to help the police with their inquiries, and some will panic that they might be being falsely accused of visiting illegal websites and click on the unsolicited email attachment."

Sober's creator or creators are unknown, although suspicions have long placed them in Germany. Recently, the Bavarian state police (Bayerisches Landeskriminalamt) predicted the release of a minor Sober variant the next day, leading to conjecture by security analysts that the police may be on the trail of the hackers. No arrests have been made of anyone accused of writing a Sober worm. The FBI urged users who had received the Sober.w worm to report it to the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

What is pharming and why is it the most dangerous form of phishing and spoofing?

Pharming is a type of spoofing that utilizes Trojans programs, worms, or other virus technologies that attack the Internet browser address bar and is more dangerous than mere phishing. When users type in a valid URL they are redirected to the criminals' websites instead of the intended valid website.


Bob Jensen's threads on computer and network security are at

"Two More Ways to Fight Viruses, for Free," by Rob Pegoraro, The Washington Post, November 28, 2005 ---

But you don't have to. For several years, two Czech software developers have offered free versions of their anti-virus programs to home users. These no-charge downloads don't offer every feature provided by McAfee Inc. and Symantec Corp., the two security developers whose programs come pre-installed on most Windows PCs. But when put to the same tests as software from the Big Two, they did the job almost as well and with less fuss.

Both of these freebies -- Avast 4 Home Edition, from Prague's Alwil Software, and AVG Free Edition, from Brno-based Grisoft Inc. -- can be installed only on home computers that aren't put to any business or commercial use. (Income from sales to businesses and organizations covers the cost of this exercise in Internet charity.)

These two programs share a few welcome traits. Both are relatively small downloads -- almost 10 megabytes for Avast, just under 15 for AVG -- that tout compatibility with systems as old as Windows 95. And both automatically download updates every day and allow quick manual updates.

With Avast ( ), the major selling point is a greater sense of security. After a refreshingly fast install, Avast automatically scans your computer for trouble before allowing Windows to boot up -- a helpful precaution if the computer may already be infected.

Continued in article

Bob Jensen's threads on computer and network security are at

From Jim Mahar's blog on November 29, 2005 ---

Most corporate fraud found by luck: study - Yahoo! News

Most corporate fraud found by luck: study - Yahoo! News: "Despite tough regulations aimed at improving corporate governance, financial fraud is still on the rise around the world, and most is still detected by chance, a study from auditing firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) showed on Tuesday"

"For the roughly one-third which said they could quantify the cost of the fraud, the total losses exceeded $2 billion, or an average of $1.7 million per company.

"Economic crime remains difficult to detect, despite everybody's best efforts to invest in internal controls," said Steven Skalak, Global Investigations Leader at PWC.

The survey showed that the most common methods of finding out about financial fraud were still accidental, like calls to hotlines or tips from whistle-blower employees."

Why am I not surprised? Because if people want to hide their dishonesty, it is often easy to do. In class I occassionally use the Adelphia case where I hand out the footnotes that let to the Rigas' downfall.

Knowing that there was a problem, most people (myself included)could not tell for sure which footnote was the "smoking gun."

Bob Jensen's recent PowerPoint presentation on fraud is at

"Our accomplishments in Iraq make for long list," by Mary Laney, Chicago Sun-Times, November 28, 2005 ---

In Iraq, we cornered the dictator's sadistic sons and sent them to their final judgment. We captured their father, the tyrant and mass-murdering Saddam Hussein, dragged him out of a rat-hole in the desert and are bringing him to justice before a jury of Iraqis. We've seen the populace of Iraq vote on a constitution -- even under threat of being beheaded by Islamofascists -- going to the polls some 70 percent strong. Schools are opening, stores are operating and soon the Iraqi people will vote again on a new government.

But here we get all the static, all the talking heads, and all the theories of what's happening over there. We hear politics instead of facts. We get editorials in place of reports. We have Congress tied up with some politicians making threats and insisting that we set a date to withdraw our troops or withdraw our troops immediately. We hear them making accusations that President Bush lied when he said Saddam had weapons of mass destruction -- even though former President Bill Clinton said the same thing when he was in office, as did others in his party who now seem to be suffering from an acute case of amnesia regarding the recent past.

The supreme ayatollah of Iran is urging a speedy pullout of foreign troops from Iraq. Now, if former President Jimmy Carter were still in the White House, perhaps that would happen. Carter was the president, you'll recall, who wrote a nice letter to the Ayatollah Khomeni in Iran after his country took over the American Embassy and was holding Americans hostage inside. But there's a different president in the White House today. President Bush is not backing down in the war on terror -- despite all the noise and all the chatter and talking heads who are criticizing him.

The noise is so loud about the war, yet we're not hearing what we need to hear. We're not hearing from the soldiers, the generals, the boots on the ground. Why is this?

The soldiers are putting their lives on the line daily, yet we don't hear from them or about them in the myriad reports coming out of Baghdad. The Marines are making certain schools are free of bombs and children can go inside to learn. Yet we don't hear from them. We only hear of the fatalities of the war -- not the victories of the war. We see pictures of the soldiers who have given their lives, but no pictures of the heroes who are, daily, making progress over there.

There are those who would like to set a date by which we will withdraw American troops. That's like playing poker and telling which cards you have and when you intend to play them. It doesn't work in war.

Continued in article

"The Missing Element Of Blame For Ignorance On Iraq," Captain's Quarters, November 28, 2005 ---

The Washington Post carries an interesting argument from Michael O'Hanlon from the Brookings Institute on the divergence of military and civilian opinion on the war in Iraq, a separation that he calls dangerous in the long run for American political discourse. O'Hanlon acknowledges that the support for the war in Iraq among military personnel goes far beyond the normal top-level cheeriness down to at least the mid-level officer corps, and wonders why that doesn't translate to better civilian support:

In recent months a civil-military divide has emerged in the United States over the war in Iraq. Unlike much of the Iraq debate between Democrats and Republicans, it is over the present and the future rather than the past. Increasingly, civilians worry that the war is being lost, or at least not won. But the military appears as confident as ever of ultimate victory. This difference of opinion does not amount to a crisis in national resolve, and it will not radically affect our Iraq policy in the short term. But it is insidious and dangerous nonetheless. To the extent possible, the gap should be closed. ... The military's enthusiasm about the course of the war may be natural among those four-star officers in leadership positions, for it has largely become their war. Their careers have become so intertwined with the campaign in Iraq that truly independent analysis may be difficult. But it is striking that most lower-ranking officers seem to share the irrepressible optimism of their superiors. In talking with at least 50 officers this year, I have met no more than a handful expressing any real doubt about the basic course of the war.

Continued in article

"Meet the Press," by Scott McLemee, Inside Higher Ed, November 17, 2005 ---

All of this (parts not quoted here) is a roundabout way of framing the virtues of Danny Schechter’s The Death of Media, as well as its limitations. It is a new title in the Melville Manifestoes series published by Melville House, an independent press mentioned here on Tuesday. Schechter, one of the first producers for CNN and a winner of two Emmys for his work on the ABC program “20/20,” has been a Neiman Fellow in Journalism at Harvard University. He is also the author of a book called The More You Watch, the Less You Know (1999), which I haven’t read — though reportedly it did upset Bill O’Reilly, which seems like recommendation enough.

Schechter, then, is someone who brings tacit knowledge aplenty to the work of commenting on the state of the media. Last year, in his documentary WMD: Weapons of Mass Deception, he did more than reconstruct how the print and electronic media alike fell into line with the administration’s justifications for war. In that, he drew in part on a piece of scholarly research that certainly does deserve the closest and most shame-faced attention by the entire journalistic profession, the study Media Coverage of Weapons of Mass Destruction, by Susan D. Moeller, an associate professor of journalism at the University of Maryland at College Park.
The full text is available here --- )

But Schechter went a step further — zeroing in on moments when reporters and editors worried aloud that changes in the mass media were eroding the difference between practicing journalism and providing coverage. That distinction is not a very subtle one, but it’s largely missing from the conceptual universe of, say, cultural studies.

“Providing coverage” is rather like what Woody Allen said about life: Most of it is just showing up. The cameras record what is happening, or the reporter takes down what was said — and presto, an event is “covered.” The quantity of tacit knowledge so mobilized is not large.

By contrast, any effort to “practice journalism” involves (among other things) asking questions, following hunches, noticing the anomalous, and persisting until someone accidentally says something meaningful. There is more to it than providing stenography to power. It involves certain cognitive skills — plus a sense of professional responsibility.

In his manifesto, Schechter runs through the familiar and depressing statistics showing a decline of public confidence in the mainstream media, increasing percentages of “infotainment” to hard news, and steady downsizing of reporting staff at news organizations.

One public-opinion poll conducted for the Pew Center found that “as 70 percent of the people asked expressed dissatisfaction with the news media.” And the same figure emerged from a survey of people working in the news media: about 70 percent, as Schechter puts it, “feel the same way as their customers.” He quotes Hunter S. Thompson’s evocative characterization of the television industry as “a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.”

To all of this, Schechter offers the alternative of ... uh, Wikipedia?

Well, “citizen journalism” anyway — through which “the ideas, observations, and energy of ordinary people” will serve as “not only a way of democratizing the media but also enlivening it.” He points to “the meteoric growth of the blogosphere and the emergence of thousands of video activists,” plus the contribution of scholars to “first rate publishing projects,” including “a new online, non-commercial encyclopedia that taps the expertise of researchers and writers worldwide.”

Well, it’s probably not fair to judge the possibilities for citizen journalism by the actual state of public-access cable TV — or any given Wikipedia entry written by a follower of Lyndon LaRouche. (Besides, are either all that much worse than MSNBC?) But something is missing from Schechter’s optimistic scenario, in any case.

It is now much easier to publish and broadcast than ever before. In other words, the power to cover and event or a topic has increased. But the skills necessary to foster meaningful discussion are not programmed into the software. They have to be cultivated.

That’s where people from academe come in. The most substantial interventions in shaping mass media probably won’t come from conference papers and journal articles, but in the classroom — by giving the future citizen journalist access, not just to technology, but to cognitive tools.

Congratulations to William and Mary University
The Mason School of Business at the College of William and Mary made history this month when both undergraduate and graduate teams took first place for their divisions in the Deloitte Tax Case Study Competition held in Orlando, Florida. William and Mary is the first university to place first in both divisions . . . The Deloitte Tax Case Study Competition is an annual competition testing tax problem-solving skills, requiring each team to complete a complex hypothetical case study in a five-hour time period, testing the students’ time management and teamwork skills as well as their tax topic knowledge. Taxes represent the largest expenditure on the income statements of most companies, according to a statement from the Mason School of Business.
"History Made at Deloitte Tax Case Study Competition," AccountingWeb, December 1, 2005 ---

"Job Losses in Cities Mounting But Accounting Firms Prosper," AccountingWeb, November 30, 2005 ---

Federal programs sponsored by both the Clinton and Bush administrations over a period of years have failed to stop the loss of jobs in the nation’s cities, according to a Harvard University study reported by the Associated Press. Nearly half of the country’s 82 largest municipalities lost jobs from 1995 to 2003 in comparison with surrounding metropolitan areas, only one of which lost jobs. Michael Porter, the Harvard business professor who conducted the study said “It’s sobering. . . . It suggests that there are relatively few inner cities that are thriving in the sense of job growth.” Porter’s team found that only 10 cities added more jobs than the surrounding metropolitan areas. Cities that lost jobs lost them faster than the surrounding areas, the AP reports.

In a separate analysis, the AP found that most of the inner cities that received federal tax incentives under empowerment zone and renewal community programs lost jobs. In fact, the AP analysis found that the best-performing cities were not part of these federal programs. Experts agree that tax incentives alone will not revive the cities, the AP report says. Municipalities need to improve services and schools, build affordable housing and enact reasonable business regulations, Porter told the AP.

Continued in article

From Paul Pacter's IAS Plus, December 1, 2005 ---

The US Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) has published a report summarising issues identified in implementing Auditing Standard No. 2 An Audit of Internal Control over Financial Reporting Performed in Conjunction with an Audit of Financial Statements (AS2). The PCAOB's monitoring revealed that some audits "were not as effective or efficient as Auditing Standard No. 2 intends and as the Board expects they can be in the future, given the benefits of experience, adequate time and resources." The report cites specific examples of inefficiency and ineffectiveness. It also explains and clarifies certain aspects of AS2 and amplifies certain guidance it has previously issued.
Click for:

Bob Jensen's threads on accounting and auditing reforms are at

From the Scout Report on November 18, 2005

NOAA Paleoclimatology Program [pdf] 

It is a tall order to try to study even the recent past, so visitors should find the research accomplishments of the staff members at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Paleoclimatology Program quite impressive. Their work revolves around examining different aspects of the natural world, such as ice cores and lake sediments, in order to understand climate variability over a wide range of time periods. Visitors to the homepage will find themselves presented with a clickable interface that presents information on such topical areas as paleoceans, caves, and ice core analysis. Perhaps one of the real highlights here is the “Paleo Perspectives” area, which contains three different well-written documents that offer the paleoclimatological perspective on drought in the North American historical record and abrupt climate change in the historical past.

The Megiddo Expedition 

Located at a site that is of immense historical importance, the excavations at Megiddo in Israel have drawn researchers and archaeologists for over one hundred years. In the ancient world, Megiddo was a nexus of what may be termed “international” trade, as caravans of merchants came through from as far as Asia and Africa. Of course, there are a number of other reasons the site is tremendously important, including the fact that the Egyptians first began their empire-building ways when in the 15th century BCE they moved to conquer Canaan here. This site, developed by Tel Aviv University, allows visitors to explore a virtual recreation of this ancient site and to learn about the work of previous excavation on the site which have provided new insights into the Bronze Age. Interested parties may also want to read the current and back issues of their newsletter, “Revelations”, and learn about how they may join an upcoming excavation on the site.

Digital Past 

The Land of Lincoln is certainly not lacking in organizations who seek to document the rich history of the area, whether it be the many innovations in farm technology that have arisen out of the creative minds of local inventors or the gritty urban landscapes of the Second City’s nooks and crannies. Fortunately for those with a penchant for these subjects, there is the Digital Past website, which began in 1998 with a partnership with the North Suburban Library System in Wheeling, Illinois. Currently, the digital archive contains over 35,000 items (such as postcards, architectural plans, and personal letters) culled from close to 30 institutions in the area. Visitors may want to take a look at some of their thematic collections of digitized objects and related materials, such as those devoted to the architecture of the North Shore community of Glencoe or a history of the city of Park Ridge. Of course, visitors should feel most welcome to search the complete archive of materials here, which they may do by looking through a list of cities, organizations, and proper names.

Weather Watcher 5.6.1 

While one can’t do much to change weather conditions, there are certainly a number of fine ways to stay more than adequately informed about this all-so common topic of casual conversation. This latest offering allows users to retrieve the current conditions, hourly forecast, detailed forecast, and weather maps for over 77,000 cities across the world. The application can also be set to automatically retrieve weather data at set intervals or to have a weather map set as desktop wallpaper. This version of Weather Watcher is compatible with all computers running Windows 98 and newer.

Pompeii: Stories from an Eruption ---

Study: Radical Islam Emerging In The Workplace In France
As France grapples with the rise of Islamic extremism abroad and at home, those are snapshots of what might be an emerging trend: radical Islam in the private sector. The line between legitimate religious expression and extremist subversion can be blurry. But a recent study by a local think tank paints a picture of rising fundamentalism in the workplace, ranging from proselytizing to pressure tactics to criminal activities. In companies such as supermarket chains in immigrant-heavy areas, for instance, militant recruiters cause workplace tensions by imposing fundamentalist ideas on co-workers and pressuring managers to boycott certain products, the study says. On a more sinister level, the study asserts that Islamic networks are trying to establish a presence in companies involved in sectors such as security, cargo, armored cars, courier services and transportation. Once they gain a foothold, operatives raise funds for militants via theft, embezzlement and robbery, the study says. "Parallel to these sect-like risks, the spread of criminal practices has been detected in the heart of companies [with] two goals: crime using Islam as a pretext; and in addition, local financing of terrorism," concludes the study by the Center for Intelligence Research in Paris.
"Study: Radical Islam Emerging In The Workplace In France," The Hartford-Courant, November 28, 2005 ---

From Paula regarding upside-down XMAS trees

In case you hadn't heard about them, see:

O Tannenbaum, You're Upside-Down 

Or listen to the program from NPR: Demand Grows for Upside-Down Christmas Trees 

Here are the two" Most Read Articles" on NY for the month of November:

1) 100 Notable Books of the Year Published online: November 23, 2005 The Book Review has selected this list from books reviewed since the Holiday Books issue of Dec. 5, 2004 ---

2) Saying Goodbye California Sun, Hello Midwest By MOTOKO RICH and DAVID LEONHARDT, Published: November 7, 2005 After a decade of soaring home prices, a growing number of people are leaving California for other parts of the U.S. ---

Forwarded by a good friend who, like my Erika, believes in Angels

This was written by a Hospice of Metro Denver physician

I just had one of the most amazing experiences of my life, and wanted to share it with my family and dearest friends:

I was driving home from a meeting this evening about 5, stuck in traffic on Colorado Blvd., and the car started to choke and splutter and die - I barely managed to coast, crusing into a gas station, glad only that I would not be blocking traffic and would have a somewhat warm spot to wait for the tow truck. It wouldn't even turn over. Before I could make the call, I saw a woman walking out of the "quickie mart" building, and it looked like she slipped on some ice and fell into a Gas pump, so I got out to see if she was okay.

When I got there, it looked more like she had been overcome by sobs than that she had fallen; she was a young woman who looked really haggard with dark circles under her eyes. She dropped something as I helped her up, and I picked it up to give it to her. It was a nickel.

At that moment, everything came into focus for me: the crying woman, the ancient Suburban crammed full of stuff with 3 kids in the back (1 in a car seat), and the gas pump reading $4.95.

I asked her if she was okay and if she needed help, and she just kept saying "I don't want my kids to see me crying," so we stood on the other side of the pump from her car. She said she was driving to California and that things were very hard for her right now. So I asked, "And you were praying?" That made her back away from me a little, but I assured her I was not a crazy person and said, "He heard you, and He sent me."

I took out my card and swiped it through the card reader on the pump so she could fill up her car completely, and while it was fueling, walked to the next door McDonald's and bought 2 big bags of food, some gift certificates for more, and a big cup of coffee. She gave the food to the kids in the car, who attacked it like wolves, and we stood by the pump eating fries and talking a little.

She told me her name, and that she lived in Kansas City. Her boyfriend left 2 months ago and she had not been able to make ends meet. She knew she wouldn't have money to pay rent Jan 1, and finally in desperation had finally called her parents, with whom she had not spoken in about 5 years. They lived in California and said she could come live with them and try to get on her feet there.

So she packed up everything she owned in the car She told the kids they were going to California for Christmas, but not that they were going to live there.

I gave her my gloves, a little hug and said a quick prayer with her for safety on the road. As I was walking over to my car, she said, "So, are you like an angel or something?"

This definitely made me cry. I said, "Sweetie, at this time of year angels are really busy, so sometimes God uses regular people."

It was so incredible to be a part of someone else's miracle. And of course, you guessed it, when I got in my car it started right away and got me home with no problem. I'll put it in the shop tomorrow to check, but I suspect the mechanic won't find anything wrong.

When I was a first-year student over 40 years ago at Iowa State University, one of my Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity brothers was Bob Bartley.  Bob was dedicated to journalism, free people, and free markets from get-go.

"The Wall Street Journal to Honor Robert L. Bartley with Fellowship Program and Lecture Series," Business Wire, November 29, 2005

NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Nov. 29, 2005--The Wall Street Journal today announced plans for an annual lecture and fellowship program to honor the contributions and memory of former Editorial Page Editor, Robert L. Bartley. Mr. Bartley, whose career at the Journal spanned nearly 40 years--including fully three decades as editorial page editor and editor--died in December 2003.

Starting in 2006, the Journal will inaugurate the Robert L. Bartley Lecture, to be delivered annually by someone whose work and ideas comport with Mr. Bartley's philosophy of "free people, free markets."

"Throughout his 30 years as the Journal's editorial page editor and editor, Bob Bartley inspired principled and original thinking that changed and shaped the society in which we all live," Wall Street Journal Publisher Karen Elliott House said.

Also beginning in 2006, the Journal will inaugurate the Robert L. Bartley Fellowship Program under the stewardship of The Wall Street Journal editorial page. The fellowships, consisting of paid internships of up to six months, will be provided to young thinkers and writers whose views are broadly consistent with Mr. Bartley's philosophy and who aspire to careers in journalism. As many as four such fellows will be selected each year through an application process that will be judged by senior members of the Journal's editorial board. Fellows will work as writers and editors on the editorial page in the U.S., Europe or Asia, as well as at the Far Eastern Economic Review. The fellowships will help to perpetuate not only Mr. Bartley's memory, but also the principles and priorities to which he devoted his distinguished career.

"Bob devoted attention to teaching and motivating talented young people, many of whom have gone on to careers in journalism at the Journal and elsewhere. The Bartley Fellowships are consistent with that legacy," Ms. House said.

"The best way to honor Bob Bartley's legacy is to continue to promote the principles he believed in and the journalism he practiced," said Paul A. Gigot, editorial page editor, The Wall Street Journal. "We think that fellowships for aspiring journalists and an annual Bartley Lecture will help to carry Bob's belief in 'free people, free markets' to future generations."

Mr. Bartley achieved several honors during his long tenure at the Journal, including a Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing in 1980 and, shortly before his death, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In awarding that medal, President Bush cited Mr. Bartley as "one of the most influential journalists in American history."



Tidbits on December 8, 2005
Bob Jensen
at Trinity University 

Fraud Updates ---
For earlier editions of New Bookmarks go to 
Archives of Tidbits: Tidbits Directory ---

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

I really like the Digital Duo show that appears weekly once again on PBS.  I found that you can bring up prior shows (video) on your computer by going to,00.asp

Bob Jensen's home page is at

Security threats and hoaxes ---

25 Hottest Urban Legends (hoaxes) --- 

Stay up on the latest and the oldest hoaxes ---

Handy links to product instruction sheets ---

Free video download

Protect your kids online and offline ---,segid,143,00.asp

PhysOrg News Videos ---

The Digital Duo explore public WiFi options, and examine the world of online social networks (free video) ---,segid,169,00.asp# 
There's a short commercial (about 30 seconds, followed by the good stuff)
Also see

Knowing Poe (Edgar Allen) The Bells ---

Please check on your bank account ---

Free music downloads

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 ---

Heavens Gates:  How John remembers the 1950s ---
(Click on the picture:  Includes 29 full-length oldies bringing tears to us old juke box romantics, including Chances Are and Mr. Sandman)

America (Elvis) ---

America, Land of Dreams ---

Welcome to My World (Elvis Live) ---

From NPR
Rick Moranis, Singing 'Cowboy' (includes "Nine More Gallons and I'll Have Me a Hat) ---
Scroll down to hear the samples at

From NPR
Donnie McClurkin Live Hear full-length cuts from the CD 'Psalms, Hymns & Spiritual Songs' ---
Scroll down to hear the samples at

From NPR
Returning Home to a 'New' New Orleans ---

Olivier Messiaen's free classical music downloads ---


Paris in the Night: Forwarded by Paula

This has music,.

Subject: Paris at night Once you have the picture, scroll the side bar down and then move the bottom scroll bar slowly for a wrap-around view of Paris.


Click on the link below & scroll horizontally: 


Vilberg (Jensen/Jenson and Wilberg ancestral ) Farm in Norway photographs forwarded by Barb Hessel ---
Cousin Barb Hessel states "This is the part of the farm that our ancestors lived on. The road on the right is the road we drove on to visit the farm. I think this is a great picture especially since I can verify that it is "our" Vilberg farm."

Cover Art: The Time Collection at the National Portrait Gallery ---

American Photography ---

Historic Pittsburgh ---

Photo-Inside (some nudes) ---

Birds and Animals ---;jsessionid=acMRl_migbBd?id=1521360&forward=

DP Challenge (digital photography variety) ---

Tom 7's ---

The Thought Project (faces) ---

Electronic Literature

Bob Jensen's new document with electronic literature (books, poems, short stories, journals, etc.) ---

From NPR (includes audio)
The Hand of America's First (Published) Black Female Poet ---
Phyllis Wheatley was America's first published black poet. She was born in the West African nation of Senegal and sold into slavery to John Wheatley of Boston in 1761.

The Online Books Page ---

Memoware (Free and fee electronic books) ---

Serendipity Books --- Journal ---

The Wandering Minstrels (Many Poems from Rice University) ---

Old English Poetry ---

The Poem --- 

Vailima Letters - by Robert Louis Stevenson (1850 - 1894) ---
Also see

Electronic texts in various European languages ---

Norwegian literature ---

For history of Norwegian literature see
Also see

For children’s books in Norway, you might take a look at

For Dutch you might try

The rapidly growing Hispanic population in the U.S. has companies hunting executives who are tuned into the language and culture.
"Demand for Hispanic MBAs Is Caliente," Business Week Newsletter, December 7, 2005
Jensen Comment:  Spanish and Chinese are particularly good languages for U.S. business student opportunities.

If at first you don't succeed, find out if the loser gets anything.
Bill Lyon as quoted in InformationWeek Newsletter, December 6, 2005

Never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel.
Mark Twain as quoted in a recent email message from Bruce Lubich

Examinations are formidable even to the best prepared, for the greatest fool may ask more than the wisest man can answer.
Charles Caleb Colton as quoted by Mark Shapiro at

Doubt is one of the names of intelligence.
Jorge Luis Borges (1899 - 1986) ---

SonyBMG's disastrous use of rootkit software has taught us a valuable lesson:
we're too trusting of commercial software.
John Gartner in MIT's Technology Review, December 7, 2005 ---,1,p1.html?trk=nl

Certainly, the accounting profession, our firm included, has taken some shots from regulators and others over the last several years, and I'm here to tell you that we deserved some of those shots. I do feel somewhat fortunate, though, that my profession has faced some very tough times, and not only survived, but emerged better for the experience. The times have taught us the dangers of being arrogant...of not listening. We have been reminded of the importance of engaging with others, not just with companies and boards, but with policymakers, opinion leaders, academicians, and the investor community. While what we have been through has been difficult, it has been to a positive end because it has encouraged us to do some soul-searching--as individuals and as a profession--to rediscover our roots. We have had time to ask ourselves, as accounting professionals, why we do what we do...why it matters. What is our purpose and how does that guide our decisions? These are important questions in defining the culture of any organization.
Jim Turley, CEO of Ernst & Young, December 1, 2005 ---
Bob Jensen's threads on E&Y are at

Accounting-industry regulators [on Wednesday] acknowledged that auditors and public companies had faced "enormous challenges" in complying with strict new governance measures but expressed confidence the process would become easier with time.
SmartPros ---

In any case, the real question is whether 404 (Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) ), despite the expense, has been good for corporate America. To me, the answer is an unambiguous yes.
Joseph Nocera, "For All Its Cost, Sarbanes Law Is Working," The New York Times, December 4, 2005

Research: SOX Costs to Exceed $6 Billion in 2006.
SmartPros ---

Who put Porter Goss in charge of intelligence?
Al Qaida leaders Bin Laden and al-Zarqawi haven't been found 'primarily because they don't want us to find them and they're going to great lengths to make sure we don't find them ...

CIA director Porter Goss said in the interview broadcast November 29, 2005 on ABC's "Good Morning America."

Who put him in charge of Arizona State University's student newspaper?
I'm all dangerous now. Man, I haven't gotten laid so much in my life as I did after 9/11 . . . Girls always confuse sympathy with sex. And guys are always up for it. And I'm not gonna say no.
Yaser Alamoodi ---
Jensen Comment:  The Opinion Journal noted that Yaser Alamoodi, the Saudi president of Arizona State University's student government, is urging a ban on students posing for Playboy and similar magazines on the ground that ASU's image as a party school is harmful to its academic reputation ---

U.S. employers increased their payrolls during November by the largest number of jobs since before Hurricane Katrina. Nonfarm payrolls climbed by 215,000 jobs after a downwardly revised 44,000-job increase in October, the Labor Department said. The unemployment rate held steady at 5.0% last month.
Wall Street Journal Newsletter, December 2, 2005

Economy Sends Out Healthy Signals:  Factory Activity Is Robust ---

One key reason the U.S. economy has outperformed other industrialized nations, and exceeded its long-run average growth rate during the past two years, is the tax cut of 2003. By reducing taxes on investment, the U.S. boosted growth, which in turn created new jobs that replace those that are lost as the old economy dies. Ireland is also a beautiful example of the power of tax cuts to boost growth and lift living standards. Economic growth is the only true shock absorber for an economy in transition. To minimize the pain of technological globalization and address the anxiety that these forces are creating, free-market policies must be followed. While tremendous pressures are building to increase government involvement in the economy, it is important that the U.S. stay the course that brought it out of recession.
Brian S. Wesbury, "Pouting Pundits of Pessimism:  Every bit of good economic news gives them reason for despair," The Wall Street Journal, December 2, 2005 ---
Jensen Comment:
Good News:  Tax cuts and economic growth keep the U.S. economy in the lead for now.
Bad News:  Tax cuts and economic growth only delay the inevitable fall ---

This is the Alfred E. Neuman, "What, me worry?" school of public relations. It doesn't seem quite appropriate for a major war.
Dannel Henninger ---

An atheist group at the University of Texas at San Antonio is offering free (soft) porn in exchange for Bibles.  Now's your chance for a free eyeful, especially if you've collected a room full of Gideon Bibles swiped from hotel rooms over the years just hoping an offer like this would one day come along ---

Food crisis feared as fertile land runs out
New maps show that the Earth is rapidly running out of fertile land and that food production will soon be unable to keep up with the world's burgeoning population. The maps reveal that more than one third of the world's land is being used to grow crops or graze cattle. Scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison combined satellite land cover images with agricultural census data from every country in the world to create detailed maps of global land use. Each grid square was 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) across and showed the most prevalent land use in that square, such as forest, grassland or ice.
Kate Ravilious, "Food crisis feared as fertile land runs out," The Guardian, December 6, 2005 ---,3605,1659467,00.html

Samaritan's Purse for International Relief ---
Some items mentioned in The Opinion Journal Newsletter on November 29, 2005 with respect to what $1,700 will buy:

- Given 170 mosquito nets treated with natural insecticide to protect children in developing countries as they sleep from mosquitos who may infect them with deadly malaria, encephalitis or dengue fever. (Malaria alone kills one African child every 30 seconds.)

- Helped 113 poor children to learn to read and write in places like Afghanistan and in the isolated tribal areas of Thailand and Vietnam.

- Sent life-saving food for two months to 48 refugee families who are near starvation in places like Darfur.

- For a month, cared for 42 orphans who have AIDS in Africa and Asia. (Sixteen million orphans have AIDS and the number is increasing.)

- Helped to build a school for 42 impoverished children in the remote villages of South Asia or war-ravaged towns of East Africa.

- Supplied 22 thirsty families in the Third World with clean water from new freshwater wells, filters and purification projects. (At least two million people, mostly children, die annually from contaminated water or waterborne diseases.)

- Transformed 22 lives with the gift of a wheelchair for poverty-stricken and disabled people living in Latin America, Africa or Asia.

- Rescued eight children from bondage and abuse by human traffickers from Africa to Southeast Asia to Latin America.

- For another $300, saved a child's life by buying an airline ticket to fly a child to North America for life-saving heart surgery through the Children's Heart Project.

Darfur Drawn: The Conflict in Darfur Through Children’s Eyes ---

Many Colleges Ignore New SAT Writing Test
The University of Chicago, Ohio State University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and other institutions say scores on the writing test won't figure into their admissions decisions this year. "We don't know what they mean," says Ted O'Neill, Chicago's dean of admissions. "We don't know what they predict." . . . But some admissions officers say the essay's predictive value hasn't been established, that it tests a narrow skill -- writing quickly -- that isn't core to a college education. They also fear it can easily be coached and thus confer benefits to wealthy applicants. Some schools are giving less consideration to the writing than to other sections of the test, or counting it on a case-by-case basis if it helps tip the scales. "We are using it with a really skeptical eye," says Jess Lord, dean of admission and financial aid at Haverford College in Haverford, Pa. Mr. Lord says his office will consider the writing score but won't give it much weight if it's inconsistent with the rest of a student's application.
Charles Forelle, "Many Colleges Ignore New SAT Writing Test:  Essay May Not Predict Academic Success, Critics Say; When the Results Can Help," The Wall Street Journal, December 7, 2005; Page D1 ---

Convergence of foreign and domestic accounting rules could catch some U.S. companies by surprise
Although many differences remain between U.S. generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) and international financial reporting standards (IFRS), they are being eliminated faster than anyone, even Herz or Tweedie, could have imagined. In April, FASB and the IASB agreed that all major projects going forward would be conducted jointly. That same month, the Securities and Exchange Commission said that, as soon as 2007, it might allow foreign companies to use IFRS to raise capital in the United States, eliminating the current requirement that they reconcile their statements to U.S. GAAP. The change is all the more remarkable given that the IASB was formed only four years ago, and has rushed to complete 25 new or revamped standards in time for all 25 countries in the European Union to adopt IFRS by this year. By next year, some 100 countries will be using IFRS. "We reckon it will be 150 in five years," marvels Tweedie. "That leaves only 50 out."
Tim Reason, "The Narrowing GAAP:  The convergence of foreign and domestic accounting rules could catch some U.S. companies by surprise," CFO Magazine December 01, 2005 ---

"Princeton University Says Campus Event On Terrorism is 'Too Inflammatory'," U.S. Newswire, December 4, 2005 ---

PRINCETON, N.J. Dec. 5 /U.S. Newswire/ -- In clear violation of free speech, Princeton University has cancelled a speaking event by three former Middle East terrorists because it says that the use of the word "terrorist" in the promotion for the event is "too inflammatory" the Walid Shoebat Foundation said today.

The speakers will still hold a press conference near the campus on Thursday, Dec. 8, at 6 p.m. The location will be announced in an updated media release the morning of the press conference.

"We believe Princeton is creating red tape to stop the event," said Keith Davies, the executive director of the Walid Shoebat Foundation.

The event organizers planned to bring Walid Shoebat, Ibrahim Abdallah and Zak Anani to the Ivy League school to lecture on the terrorist mindset and how they were indoctrinated into terrorism.

Walid Shoebat is from a prominent family in Bethlehem. After joining the PLO, he took part in numerous acts of violence against Israel including the bombing of a bank. He was also involved in the attempted lynching of an Israeli soldier. Feature stories on Mr. Shoebat have aired on the BBC, FOX News, MSNBC, CBS and have been published in the Telegraph and Calgary Sun.

Zak Anani was a leader of the most notorious Arab gangs prior to Lebanese civil war. Before he age 16, he killed numerous Arabs in gang warfare and hated the West.

Ibrahim Abadallah was born and raised in Dearborn, Mich. to a Jordanian father. At 17, he immigrated to Israel, where he joined the PLO. He injured many Israelis while rioting and throwing Molotov cocktails at them.

Insurgents kidnapping their allies:  Seems a little like dimwitted accountants that steal the accounts payable
The kidnappers, who call themselves the Swords of Truth, said the four would die on Thursday unless Iraqi prisoners were released. The video was aired on Arab television station al-Jazeera.  Of course, as the Guardian notes, the hostages, who represent an outfit called Christian Peacemaker Teams, were already on the same side as the terrorists: "The group had been campaigning on behalf of a number of detainees held by the US in Iraqi jails." James Robbins  notes on National Review Online that kidnapping their allies seems an awfully foolish approach.
Opinion Journal, December 5, 2005

Safety Tips for Holiday Season Lighting ---

E-Tailers Try New Holiday Tricks
It's not only a merry Christmas on the Web this year, it's also an innovative one. Forrester Research Inc. (FORR ) says online retail sales this holiday will surge 25%, to $18 billion. The increasingly strong profitability of Net commerce is giving retailers the chance to experiment with a stockingful of new sales and marketing tactics. They're tapping into technologies such as blogs, social networking, and wireless phones to draw shoppers to their sites. "There are a host of new ways to reach out that are more innovative," says Forrester analyst Carrie Johnson.
"E-Tailers Try New Holiday Tricks:  They're tapping blogs, social-networking sites, and GPS technology to lure shoppers," Business Week, December 12, 2005 ---

What is happening to the discipline of English in modern academe?
Instead, there’s a strong tendency, as Louis Menand puts it, toward “a predictable and aimless eclecticism.” A young English professor who has a column under the name Thomas Hart Benton in The Chronicle of Higher Education puts it this way: “I can’t even figure out what ‘English’ is anymore, after ten years of graduate school and five years on the tenure track. I can’t understand eighty percent of PMLA, the discipline’s major journal. I can’t talk to most people in my own profession, not that we have anything to say to each other. We don’t even buy one another’s books; apparently they are not worth reading. We complain about how awful everything is, how there’s no point to continuing, but nobody has any idea what to do next.” The English department mainly survives as a utilitarian administrative conceit, while the English profession operates largely as a hiring and credentialing extension of that conceit . . . One of the noblest and most disciplinarily discrete things we can do in the classroom is to take those ontological drives seriously, to suggest ways in which great works of art repeatedly honor and clarify them as they animate them through character, style, and point of view. One of the least noble and most self-defeating things we can do is avert our student’s eye from the peculiar, delicate, and enlightening transaction I’m trying to describe here. When we dismiss this transaction as merely “moral” — or as proto-religious — rather than political, when we rush our students forward to formulated political beliefs, we fail them and we fail literature. Humanistic education is a slow process of assimilation, without any clear real-world point to it. We should trust our students enough to guide them lightly as they work their way toward the complex truths literature discloses.
Margaret Soltan, "No Field, No Future," Inside Higher Ed, December 6, 2005 --- 

Update on Duke's iPod Program
The number of Duke University students using iPods in the classroom has quadrupled and the number of courses employing them has doubled in this, the second year of the university’s program to incorporate the ubiquitous Apple device for educational means, Duke has announced.
Inside Higher Ed, December 7, 2005 --- 

Where does Palm go from here now that it's been beaten down by competition?
Indeed, Palm couldn't keep generating the heat. Its dominance vanished as devices such as the Handspring Visor and Research In Motion's Blackberry entered the market. And it wasn’t just hardware that posed a threat: Compaq, Hewlett-Packard, and other PC makers chose to license Microsoft's competing PocketPC operating system instead of the Palm OS for their handheld devices. In March 2001, Palm announced that it would sell the m500 and color m505 handhelds, featuring expansion slots for adding peripherals, but the devices were delayed by several months. Palm had prematurely announced the products “to steal some thunder” from rising handheld competitor Handspring, according to Todd Kort, a principal analyst with Gartner. (Handspring was founded by former Palm executives Jeff Hawkins and Donna Dubinsky.)
John Gartner, "Palm's Life Line What can Palm's tumultuous history tell us about the future of the mobile device market?" MIT's Technology Review, December 7, 2005 ---,1,p1.html?trk=nl

So why am I not skinny after decades of social drinking?
People who average around a drink a day are 54-percent less likely to be obese than their non-drinking counterparts, says a report out Monday in the journal BMC Public Health. It found half of moderate drinkers were in the normal weight range, compared with only one-quarter of the teetotalers.
Dan Olmsted, "HealthWrap: Alcohol gets mixed reviews," Science Daily, December 7, 2005 ---

Marquette suspends dental student for blog comments
A dental student at Marquette University has been suspended for the rest of the academic year and ordered to repeat a semester after a committee of professors, administrators and students determined that he violated professional conduct codes when he posted negative comments about unnamed students and professors on a blog . . . The focus of the hearing, Taylor said, were half a dozen postings including one describing a professor as "a (expletive) of a teacher" and another that described 20 classmates as having the "intellectual/maturity of a 3-year-old."
Megan Twohey, "Marquette suspends dental student for blog comments," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, December 5, 2005 ---

Also see

Yet another example of how fraud works in high finance
It was a prudent move. While LandAmerica CFO G. William Evans says the review turned up nothing irregular at the Richmond, Virginia-based company, it appears some pension consultants have been recommending money managers based on self-interest, and not on the needs of their clients. Indeed, a study of 24 pension consultants conducted by the Securities and Exchange Commission found that more than half of the advisory firms earned money from both retirement-plan clients and money-management funds. According to the SEC study, issued in May, most of these pension advisers had relationships with unaffiliated broker-dealers or operated their own broker-dealers — thus providing themselves with an easy way to receive indirect payments from money managers.
Randy Myers, "Games They Play:  The other shoe has yet to drop on pension consultants' possible conflicts of interest. But companies can't afford to wait," CFO Magazine, December 1, 2005 ---

Bob Jensen's "Rotten to the Core" threads are at

In particular, the "Pension Fund Consulting Racket" is discussed at

How much can a university do to become one of the Top 20 in the nation?
In 1997, political leaders in Kentucky embraced a campaign to turn the state’s flagship campus, the University of Kentucky, into one of the top 20 public research universities in the country by 2020. Legislators and the governor at the time, Paul Patton, argued that the state could not transform its economy and better educate its citizens without significantly strengthening the research and education enterprise at its leading university. Skeptics scoffed, noting that dozens of universities covet spots in the top 20, when, as the name suggests, it only has room for 20.
Doug Lederman, "Angling for the Top 20," Inside Higher Ed, December 6, 2005 ---

Studies of the aging process among employees
The Quest for Human Longevity: Science, Business, and Public Policy
by Lewis D. Solomon
(Transactions Publishers, 2006) ---

Airline Passenger Complaints Rise Sharply:  What airlines have the most versus fewest complaints?
So far this year, US Airways has the most complaints per passenger, while Southwest Airlines has the fewest. The biggest complaint has been flight problems, which includes cancellations, delays and missed connections. In October, for example, the number of canceled flights increased nearly 52% to 10,475, from 6,895 canceled trips in October 2004. Mishandled baggage reports increased as well, rising nearly 22% to 239,452 for the month, compared with 196,847 mishandled bags a year earlier.
Scott McCartney, "Airline Passenger Complaints Rise Sharply:  Total Number Jumps 29%, With Flight Cancellations And Delays Topping List," The Wall Street Journal, December 6, 2005; Page D1 ---

Animal rights activists probably won't like this one
Police have collared the latest in technology by kitting out their firearms dogs with cameras. New recruits to the Northumbria Police force are German shepherds Sammy, five, and three-year-old Zara. They have been trained to help during armed sieges and wear miniature television cameras with transmitters fitted to their heads or harnesses. It means they can search buildings and relay the information back to officers. The Fido camera system also has infra-red lights, which means pictures can be provided in darkness. Pictures are seen on a receiver unit carried by the dog handler who can watch the progress of the...
BBC News, December 4, 2005 ---


But this one about dogs is a laughing matter
Sounds of Dog's 'Laugh' Calms Other Pooches Researchers: Canine Laugh Is Long Loud Panting Sound Dec. 4, 2005 — - Researchers at the Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service in Washington state say sometimes a bark is just a bark -- but a long, loud panting sound has real meaning. They say the long, loud pant is the sound of a dog laughing, and it has a direct impact on the behavior of other dogs. "What we found is that it had a calming or soothing effect on the dogs," said Patricia Simonet, an animal behaviorist in Spokane who has...
"Sounds of Dog's 'Laugh' Calms Other Pooches Researchers: Canine Laugh Is Long Loud Panting Sound," ABC News, December 4, 2005 ---

Intel Announces Chip Technology Breakthrough Using New Materials
Intel and QinetiQ researchers have jointly demonstrated an enhancement-mode transistor using indium antimonide (chemical symbol: InSb) to conduct electrical current. Transistors control the flow of information/electrical current inside a chip. The prototype transistor is much faster and consumes less power than previously announced transistors. Intel anticipates using this new material to complement silicon, further extending Moore's Law.
"Intel Announces Chip Technology Breakthrough Using New Materials," Yahoo News, December 7, 2005 ---

Heavy NCAA Penalties for Georgia Tech

"NCAA Puts Georgia Tech and the U. of South Carolina on Probation for Violations of Academic Rules," by Rebecca Aronauer and Brad Wolverton, The Chronicle of Higher Education, December 2, 2005, Page A34.

In November the NCAA put Georgia Tech on probation for two years and stripped the institution of several scholarships after discovering that academic officials had inadvertently allowed 17 ineligible athletes to compete over a six-year period.

Eleven of the athletes were football players, including some who had received all-conference or all-American honors.  The other students participated in men's and women's track and field, and women's swimming.  Six of the 17 athletes got a D in a class but were still permitted to compete in athletic events.

The NCAA's Division I Committee on Infractions said the institution had displayed a lack of institutional control by failing to properly train academic officials and by not conducting a thorough investigation into possible rules violations.

The committee also said that Georgia Tech had received a substantial competitive advantage by allowing the ineligible athletes to compete.

Because of the violations, Georgia Tech must forfeit the wins its football team had in games from the 1998-99 to 2004-5 seasons in which any of the 11 ineligible athletes competed.

The university must also expunge all individual track and swimming athletes' results from contests in which they competed.

Georgia Tech is considering an appeal of the ruling.

Recall an earlier tidbit:
Coach Takes the Test
More evidence that many universities are losing (or never had) quality control on athlete admissions and grading

The National Collegiate Athletic Association punished Texas Christian University’s men’s track program on Thursday for a set of rules violations that included some of the most egregious and unusual examples of academic fraud in recent history. They included an instance in which a former assistant coach took a final examination alongside a track athlete — with the consent of the faculty member in the course — and then swapped his version of the test with the athlete’s, allowing him to pass.
Doug Lederman, "NCAA Finds Fraud at TCU," Inside Higher Ed, September 23, 2005 ---

Bob Jensen's threads on athletics controversies in higher education are at

Generic No-Name Lighted Tree at Auburn University
Holiday season brings out campus multiculturalism By Ellen Burke Staff Reporter December 07, 2005 As the sun sets on the Capstone, simple white lights shine from a tree in front of the Rose Administration Building as workers assemble the final branches. But there's a mystery about the tree - it has no name. Across the nation, debates rage about whether trees on public property should be designated as Christmas trees or as "holiday" trees, incorporating other religious holidays into the meaning of the tree. The UA tree hasn't been named and won't be, UA spokeswoman Cathy Andreen said. "If people...
The Crimson White, December 7, 2005 ---

From The Washington Post on December 7, 2005

What is Slashdot?

A. A computer language
B. Anti-Virus software
C. Spyware
D. A technology news Web site

Suggestions for accountancy from the Directors of the SEC and the FASB

From The Wall Street Journal Accounting Weekly Review on December 9, 2005

TITLE: SEC's Cox Wants Simpler Rules, More Competition for Accounting
REPORTER: Judith Burns
DATE: Dec 06, 2005
TOPICS: Accounting, Auditing, Auditing Services, Public Accounting, Sarbanes-Oxley Act, Securities and Exchange Commission

SUMMARY: Questions relate to helping students understand the status various influences on the accounting profession from the AICPA, the SEC, the FASB, and the legislature via the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

1.) Where did SEC Chairman Christopher Cox describe the ways in which he wants to see change in the accounting and auditing professions? What is the purpose of that organization? (Hint: you may find out about the organization's mission via its web site at 

2.) In accordance with law, how is the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) responsible for accounting and reporting requirements in the United States? Hint: you may investigate the SEC's mission via its web site at

3.) What are the issues associated with complex accounting rules? Who establishes those rules? In what way are those rules influenced by the SEC?

4.) The SEC has named an interim chairman of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB). How is this speech's topic related to the process of change in leadership at the PCAOB?

5.) Commissioner Cox indicated his concern over the fact that only 4 public accounting firms perform audit and accounting work for most of the publicly traded companies in the U.S. and that regulators may have contributed to that concentration. How is that the case? What might regulators do to change that situation?

December 6, 2005 message from Dennis Beresford []

 National Conference on Current SEC and PCAOB Developments. His (Cox, the new Director of the SEC) talk is available at: 

He had three main messages:

1. Accounting rules need to be simplified. "The accounting scandals that our nation and the world have now mostly weathered were made possible in part by the sheer complexity of the rules." "The sheer accretion of detail has, in time, led to one of the system's weaknesses - its extreme complexity. Convolution is now reducing its usefulness."

2. The concentration of auditing services in the Big 4 "quadropoly" is bad for the securities markets. The SEC will try to do more to encourage the use of medium size and smaller firms that receive good inspection reports from the PCAOB.

3. The SEC will continue to push XBRL. "The interactive data that this initiative will create will lead to vast improvements in the quality, timeliness, and usefulness of information that investors get about the companies they're investing in."

A very interesting talk - one that seems to promise a high level of cooperation with the accounting profession.

The SEC web site has posted several presentations by members of the SEC accounting staff. These were all presentations at the AICPA SEC conference yesterday - the premiere financial reporting and auditing conference of the year. Scott Taub's (acting Chief Accountant) remarks are particularly interesting as they build on what Cox had to say in the areas of reducing complexity and making interactive data more available. Scott also spoke about fair value accounting and using professional judgment. His remarks are at:  . . . there are about ten other presentations on more detailed accounting and auditing matters also available at the SEC web site.

FASB Chairman Bob Herz' speech earlier today at the AICPA SEC conference is available at: 

Bob builds on yesterday's comments by SEC Chairman Cox and argues that "continued progress on reducing complexity and improving the transparency and usefulness of reported financial information is imperative and consistent with our nation's longstanding commitment to the importance of high-quality financial reporting to the health and vitality of our capital markets and our economy." Bob calls for the FASB, SEC, PCAOB and all other interested parties to take "collective action to address these issues."


Jensen Comment --- Here's a related news item

SEC's Cox Wants Simpler Rules, More Competition for Accounting," by Judith Burns, The Wall Street Journal, December 6, 2005; Page C3 ---

US-EU agreement on international cooperation ---

Bob Jensen's threads on accounting standard setting are at

Bob Jensen's threads on XBRL are at

Photographs:  What you see may be entirely false
In 2003, the Los Angeles Times ran a picture by staff photographer Brian Walski of a British soldier in Basra, Iraq, motioning to a man carrying a child. When an astute journalist at the Hartford Courant, one of many newspapers that reprinted the photo, noticed that it seemed to contain repeated images of the same person in the background, the veracity of the picture came into question. Walski admitted that he had used Adobe's Photoshop software to combine two separate photographs for the final image, and was promptly fired. The Walski episode not only led to a widespread discussion of ethics in photojournalism, but also demonstrated how easily a skilled user can employ programs like Photoshop to fool average viewers -- and sometimes even experts -- into taking a faked image for the truth. Because almost all digital photos, including those used as evidence in court, are vulnerable to this kind of tampering, computer scientists and others are busy advancing the state of the art in digital forensics.
Kate Greene, "Photo Chop Shop Digital forensics can detect misleading cut-and-paste jobs and match a photograph to an individual camera's 'fingerprint.'," MIT's Technology Review, December 6, 2005 ---,1,p1.html?trk=nl

Louis Althusser and a Play Called The Caïman
At Althusser’s funeral in 1990, Jacques Derrida recalled how, “beginning in 1952 ... the caïman received in his office the young student I then was.” One of the biographers of Michel Foucault (another of his pupils) describes Althusser as an aloof and mysterious figure, but also one known for his gentleness and tact. When a student turned in an essay, Althusser wrote his comments on a separate sheet of paper — feeling that there would be something humiliating about defacing the original with his criticisms.
Scott McLemee, "Thinking at the Limits," Inside Higher Ed, December 7, 2005 ---

Explosive Growth in For-Profit College Education

Adapted from Time Magazine, December 5, 2005, Page 29

What are the estimated revenues generated in 2005 by for-profit higher-education companies?
Hint:  Revenues are up 71% from 2001.

What is the percentage of U.S. undergraduate and graduate students attending for-profit schools?
Hint:  Enrollments in for-profits schools are increasing a four times the rate of increase for traditional colleges

$17.6 billion and 9%

Shrinking Competition
Following Blackboard's agreement to buy WebCT, we have Adobe buying Macromedia
"Adobe Completes Acquisition of Macromedia" ---

All the Internet (a classified index) ---

Bob Jensen's search helpers ---

From WebMD
How to get rid of love handles ---

Certification Examinations Serve Two Purposes: 
 One is to screen for quality and the other is to put up a barrier to entry to keep a profession from being flooded

The California test (BAR exam for lawyers), by all accounts, is tough. It lasts three days, as compared with two or 2½-day exams in most states. Only one state -- Delaware -- has a higher minimum passing score. According to the National Conference of Bar Examiners, just 44% of those taking the California bar in 2004 passed the exam, the lowest percentage in the country, versus a national average of 64% . . . Critics say the test is capricious, unreliable and a poor measure of future lawyering skills. Some also complain that California's system serves to protect the state's lawyers by excluding competition from out-of-state attorneys. There has been some loosening of the rules. California adopted rules last year permitting certain classes of lawyers to practice in the state without having to take the bar.
"Raising the Bar: Even Top Lawyers Fail California Exam," by James Bandler and Nathan Koppel, December 5, 2005; Page A1 ---

Jensen Comment:
Unlike the BAR exam, the CPA examination is a national examination with uniform grading standards for all 50 states, even though other licensure requirements vary from state to state.  Also the CPA examination allows students to pass part of the exam while allowing them to retake other parts on future examinations.  Recently the CPA examination became a computerized examination (will both objective and essay/problem components).  This may change performance scores somewhat relative to the data presented below.

You can read the following at

National Average Pass Rates
The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) publishes an Annual Report Entitled "Candidate Performance on the Uniform CPA Examination." Annual data since 1998 typically showed that, for each exam held since that year:

  • Only about 12% of all candidates passed all 4 exam parts
  • 58% of first time candidates did not pass any exam part
  • 46% of repeat candidates did not pass any exam part

Student Pass Rates at Top Colleges, per NASBA, May 2004 Edition:

  • Top 10 colleges, students without advanced degrees      40.78% average
  • Top 10 colleges, students with advanced degrees           65.53% average

The NASBA Web site is at

Bob Jensen's threads on assessment are at

Trends in Accountancy Doctoral Programs

First I would like to congratulate Bentley. Bentley is a very fine college with a unique mission in business studies.

In the Hasselback Directory the latest accountancy doctoral program to start up seems to be SUNY-Binghamton in 1999. The University Texas at San Antonio started one up in accounting around 2003 and will soon be graduating its first students. Are there any other new doctoral programs in accounting since 1999?

I do know that American, Lehigh, Santa Clara, and Rice dropped their doctoral programs and that many of the large mills such as Illinois and Texas have greatly cut back on the numbers of doctoral students graduating in accounting. Minnesota is listed in the Hasselback Directory as not having any doctoral graduates since 1994. Columbia and Penn State list all zeros since 1997 and 1999 respectively. Tulane also seems to have dropped out of this business in 1999. Georgia Tech has all zeros since 1995. Mississippi and Pittsburgh list all zeros since 2001. UCLA’s last graduate is listed for 1997. MIT has only graduated two students since 1998.

Has anybody conducted a more formal and current study of changing trends in accounting doctoral programs and enrollments?

It would seem that one of the factors leading to our present shortage of doctoral graduates is the decline in both programs and enrollments in programs that are, in some cases, barely hanging on.

December 5, 2005 reply from Amy Dunbar [Amy.Dunbar@BUSINESS.UCONN.EDU]

Dave Weber responded to my forward of your email to our dept:

"I don't think the Hasselback is very accurate about recent graduates. I know, for example, that Penn State has had a few graduates over the time they're listed at zero (not to mention that they are expecting 6 on the market this year - not exactly a shortage at PSU!)

Also, I believe Emory has recently started a PhD program in accounting."

January 3, 2006 reply from Jim McKeown []


Here are numbers of Penn State Ph. D. grads I can recall. I don't think I'm missing any, but will check.

2000 4
2001 1
2002 2
2004 2
2005 1

For some of them, these are degree award dates, not when they departed to take positions, possibly ABD. I assume that's the way these things should be counted.

I have no idea why Hasselback is missing all of these. I did a quick check on the 7 grads from 2000 through 2002 in the 2004-2005 edition (the only one here at home) and found one missing (she's no longer in academia) and two listed as Penn State Ph.D. with no degree date (now at Harvard and MIT). The other four show Ph.D. at Penn State with correct degree dates. Clearly they aren't doing a count from their listings.

Dave Weber is correct that we have 6 students coming out this year. (We try to admit 4 per year, but got some bunching.)

I don't know of any more accurate source. I suspect that many of the studies just accept the Hasselback numbers.

Please let me know if you need more info to try tracking this down.


December 5, 2005 reply from Jim McKinney [jim@MCKINNEYCPA.COM]

Morgan State University will be graduating its first graduates this year, I believe.

Farewell, Peter Drucker: A Tribute to an Intellectual Giant, Knowledge@Wharton, University of Pennsylvania ---

Also see

December 2, 2005 message from Carolyn Kotlas []


The U.S. Library of Congress, in partnership with Google, announced a plan to begin building a World Digital Library (WDL) for use by other libraries around the globe. Librarian of Congress James H. Billington said that the WDL "would bring together online 'rare and unique cultural materials held in U.S. and Western repositories with those of other great cultures such as those that lie beyond Europe and involve more than 1 billion people: Chinese East Asia, Indian South Asia and the worlds of Islam stretching from Indonesia through Central and West Asia to Africa.'" For more details about the World Digital Library go to

Also of interest:

"What Is a Digital Library Anymore, Anyway? Beyond Search and Access in the NSDL" by Carl Lagozei, Dean B. Kraffti, Sandy Payettei,

Susan Jesurogaii D-LIB MAGAZINE, vol. 11, no. 11, November 2005 Volume 11 Number 11 

Google Gives $3 Million to Library of Congress for Digital Library --- 


Google Scholar was launched a year ago this month as an aid to searching for scholarly literature located on the Web. Now that scholars have had time to put the service to a test, some are beginning to point out critical deficiencies and pitfalls. Criticisms include:

-- it's a single search tool, and no single search tool searches the entire bibliographic universe

-- it does not offer full disclosure about content (what is and is not included) in the database

-- current research appears late in the database

-- indexing is incomplete

-- it does not provide equal coverage of all subject areas

Peter Jacso provides in-depth evaluation of Google Scholar in "As We May Search -- Comparison of Major Features of the Web of Science, Scopus, and Google Scholar Citation-Based and Citation-Enhanced Databases" (CURRENT SCIENCE, v. 89, no. 10, November 25, 2005, pp. 1537-47). His article is available online at

Librarian Joe Buenker's webpage, "Google Scholar's Impact on Libraries," includes a bibliography of critiques of Google Scholar at

Google Scholar is available at

The article "Recommended Readings on the Top-Ten IT Issues" (EDUCAUSE REVIEW, vol. 40, no. 6, November/December 2005, pp. 114–15) provides a list of recommended readings on information technology issues identified by the 2005 EDUCAUSE Current Issues Survey. The article is available at . The complete survey and a longer version of the reading list are available at .

EDUCAUSE Review [ISSN 1527-6619], a bimonthly print magazine that explores developments in information technology and education, is published by EDUCAUSE ( ). Articles from current and back issues of EDUCAUSE Review are available on the Web at .

"Why People Don't Read Online and What to do About It" by Michelle Cameron UBIQUITY, vol. 6, issue 40, November 2-8, 2005 

In this brief essay, Cameron provides online writers some commonsense tips to improve the likelihood that people will read their Webpages.

The Best Companies to Buy From:  Who offers reliable products and hassle-free service?
As with previous surveys, lots of readers gave us an earful about hard-to-understand tech reps. Dell customer Todd Garlick says that the few times he has phoned Dell for help with his son's Inspiron 1150 laptop, the support reps were "friendly and knowledgeable" but hard to communicate with. "I've had fouled-up orders on replacement parts. I've had to call back two or three times because I couldn't understand what the reps were saying," says Garlick, a dental technician in Boise, Idaho. "I probably won't buy a Dell again" because of such problems, he adds. The accent issue is a sensitive topic for vendors, who invariably offer vague, carefully worded statements about how they're training tech reps to communicate better with callers. Some companies have responded by returning support centers to North America. For instance, Gateway, which bought eMachines in 2004, decided last year to use only U.S.-based support for many of its products, including desktops and notebooks. Toshiba reports that 80 percent of its North American support calls are handled by its Toronto center.
"Reliability and Service: The Best Companies to Buy From Who offers reliable products and hassle-free service? We polled 35,000 PC World readers about their PCs, printers, cameras, and other hardware, and learned that good help can be hard to find," PC World via The Washington Post, December 2, 2005 ---

I wish the ACLU had to take a NY subway:  Why are subways different from airplanes?
The New York branch of the once-venerable civil rights organization filed a lawsuit last summer charging that random police searches of passengers' bags were an unconstitutional invasion of privacy. The transit system instituted the searches shortly after the deadly terrorist bombings of London's underground in July. Passengers have the right to refuse inspection and leave the transit system.
"Derailing the ACLU Train," The Wall Street Journal,  December 5, 2005; Page A20 ---

Online Applications To College Surge
Online college applications are surging, stoked by an array of tactics schools have adopted to nudge applicants away from traditional paper filings. The development started as an effort by colleges to cut costs and make life simpler for admissions officers. Now it has turned into a way for families to save money: In a bid to encourage more applicants to apply online, fees are often waived for electronic applications. But for many applicants, online filing has added more anxiety, and work, to what is already a stressful time.
Robert Tomsho, "Online Applications To College Surge:  Some Schools Waive Fees for Electronic Filers, But the Process Adds Anxiety for Many Students," The Wall Street Journal, November 30, 2005; Page D1---

Sickening:  Congressman's Betrayal of Troops Called Greatest Sin
Rep. Randy Cunningham's dramatic fall from power represents more than just a historic case of personal corruption unprecedented in the long history of the Congress. It is also betrayal on a grand scale. Cunningham betrayed his friends, his constituents, his colleagues and, certainly most important, the U.S. combat troops he so loudly championed. By steering contracts vital to the Iraq war effort to cronies, he may have put those troops at greater risk by judging contracts more for what they would do for him than for the military. That - even more than his manifest dishonesty, personal bullying of opponents and slight legislative record - may turn out to be the most shameful legacy of the now-disgraced Republican. "This is nauseating at so many levels," said Norm Ornstein, a veteran congressional scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. What Cunningham, a highly decorated Vietnam veteran, did, said Ornstein, "is worse than just taking money. It is taking money and undermining everything he presumably stood for." In the end, Cunningham was a portrait of contradictions and inconsistencies. The ever-macho tough guy, he took bribes to buy two 19th-century commodes, or chests of drawers. The family man, he liked to invite women to his yacht. There, two women told Copley News Service, he would change into pajama bottoms and a turtleneck sweater to entertain them with chilled champagne by the light of a lava lamp.
"Congressman's Betrayal Of Troops Called Greatest Sin," by George E. Condon Jr., San Diego Union-Tribune, December 1, 2005 ---

Quarterback ranking controversies are not much different than college ranking controversies
According to the National Football League's Byzantine system for rating quarterbacks, Eli is only the 18th-best passer in the league, but a closer look reveals that he has reached the top rung of pro quarterbacks and is on the verge of superstardom. The proof is in the bottom line: The Giants are first in the National Football Conference in points scored and are third in the entire league, behind only the San Diego Chargers and the Indianapolis Colts, whose quarterback is the more celebrated Manning, Eli's older brother Peyton. The NFL's passer rating formula gives too much weight to pass-completion percentage, which most analysts now realize is a minor statistic. As football stats guru Bud Goode once asked me, "Would you rather complete two of three passes for nine yards or one of three for 10?" Eli's pass completion after 11 games is just 52.5%, the lowest in the NFC, and one of the lowest among starting quarterbacks in the entire league. But Eli has passed for 2,664 yards, second in the NFC only to future Hall of Famer Brett Favre of the Green Bay Packers, and Mr. Manning has more touchdown passes than Mr. Favre (20 to 19) and substantially fewer interceptions (10 to 19). In fact, Eli currently has more touchdown passes than any quarterback in his conference.
Allen Barra, "The Family Business Will quarterback brothers face off in the Super Bowl?" The Wall Street Journal, November 30, 2005 ---

Bob Jensen's threads on controversies in college rankings are at

"Don't Shred on Me:  The U.N. must not be allowed to destroy the Volcker investigation's archives," by Claudia Rosett, The Wall Street Journal, Novembe4r 30, 2005 ---  

Paul Volcker's findings on Oil for Food have been widely received as the final word on the United Nations relief program for Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Far from it--as Mr. Volcker himself has admitted. In reporting that Saddam, along with his smuggling and oil graft, diverted $1.8 billion in kickbacks from U.N.-approved relief contracts under the program, Mr. Volcker underestimates, quite probably by billions, the amount the U.N. allowed Saddam Hussein and many of his favored business partners to graft out of Oil for Food deals for goods such as oil parts, milk, laundry soap and baby food. In low-balling the total, Mr. Volcker understates the negligence of the U.N., and overlooks some of the most potentially virulent links in Oil for Food.

The most urgent implication of Mr. Volcker's incomplete findings is that his huge and expensively assembled archives must be preserved intact well beyond the Dec. 31 deadline by which Mr. Volcker now plans to start disposing of them. Above all, they must not be handed back to the U.N., where too much related to the corrupt Oil for Food program has already vanished--including, to a fascinating extent, Secretary-General Kofi Annan's own powers of recollection. The former head of the program, Benon Sevan, alleged to have taken bribes from Saddam, was allowed to skip town, U.N. pension in hand. Mr. Annan is even now resurrecting, via a new $4 million U.N. program called the Alliance of Civilizations, the career of his former chief of staff, Iqbal Riza, who officially retired earlier this year after it came to light that during Mr. Volcker's investigation Mr. Riza had overseen the shredding of three years' worth of documents that might have better illuminated the oil-for-fraud shenanigans of the U.N.'s executive 38th floor.

As it happens, Rep. Henry Hyde, who has led the main investigation into Oil for Food in the House, introduced a bill on Nov. 17 urging that the U.S. withhold $100 million from its U.N. dues for each of the next four fiscal years, or until the secretary of state certifies to Congress that the Volcker investigation's archives have been transferred, intact and uncensored by the U.N., "to an entity other than the [Volcker] Committee or the United Nations"--and made available for public inspection, at the very least by law-enforcement authorities.

Continued in article

Paris: Capital of the 19th Century (History) ---

Chartres: Cathedral of Notre-Dame ---

"Lawsuit Accuses AOL of Illegal Billing," The New York Times, December 2, 2005 ---

A lawsuit seeking to potentially cover hundreds of thousands of America Online Inc. subscribers accuses the Time Warner Inc. unit of illegally billing customers by creating secondary accounts for them without their consent.

The lawsuit, filed last month in St. Clair County Circuit Court on behalf of 10 AOL customers in six states, claims the company confused and deceived customers about the charges, stalled them from canceling unauthorized accounts and refused to return questioned fees.

''AOL exploits its subscribers' confidential billing information to unlawfully generate additional revenue by charging subscribers for additional membership accounts that they neither order nor request,'' the lawsuit alleges, calling the scheme ''common, uniform and continuing.''

Continued in article

Bob Jensen's updates on fraud are at

Humanities in Business

A huge real-world problem for a moral philosopher (who's strong on the Greeks and weak in modern finance)

"Oil-Rich Norway Hires Philosopher As Moral Compass:  State Seeks Ethics Lesson On Investing Its Bonanza; Mr. Syse Reads Hobbes," by Andrew Higgins, The Wall Street Journal, December 1, 2005; Page A1 ---

Henrik Syse, a professional philosopher, says he gets ribbed by his family that "five of my 10 best friends are dead Greeks." But this fall he put aside writing a book on Plato to ponder a more practical puzzle: what to do with around $190 billion?

Mr. Syse started work in September as the in-house ethicist for the Norwegian government's Petroleum Fund, one of the world's largest pools of investment capital. "It has been a steep learning curve," says the 39-year-old academic. "I'm a philosopher. I'm not a banker."

With a new office in the Norwegian Central Bank, he gets paid to ruminate on how, at a time of surging energy prices, the world's third-biggest oil exporter can best match profit and principle. Investment, he says, "is teeming with ethical issues." He has begun trying to figure out how the Petroleum Fund, the custodian of Norway's oil earnings, can use its investments to get companies to behave more ethically.

Mr. Syse's unorthodox career path reflects Norway's unusual position among major oil-exporting countries, all of which now wrestle with how to wisely deploy their massive windfall. Most are either poor, autocratic, corrupt or cursed by an assortment of these and other ills. Norway, by contrast, is prosperous, democratic and squeaky clean.

The money managers of other petro-states "can run around in the shiniest suits and biggest limos," says Mr. Syse, but this is "not our profile." He takes the tram to work and wears socks stitched with the cartoon dog Snoopy.

Home to the Nobel Peace Prize and a plethora of human rights and peace groups, this nation of just 4.6 million has long used its reputation for moral rectitude to wield influence around the globe out of proportion to its size.

The Petroleum Fund was set up to husband Norway's oil wealth for future generations. This spring, Knut Kjaer, who oversees the fund, and Yngve Slyngstad, its head of equities, approached Mr. Syse about a job. Mr. Syse figured the offer must be a joke or a misunderstanding. "Do you know who you are talking to?" he recalls responding. "If I had a stock and bond before me, I wouldn't know the difference."

Mr. Kjaer assured him the fund had enough financial experts. It needed a moral philosopher, he explained, to help implement a new set of "ethical guidelines" introduced by the Finance Ministry late last year. Offered nearly double his academic salary, Mr. Syse decided to take the job.

With degrees in philosophy from the University of Oslo and Boston College, Mr. Syse knows plenty about ethics. His last book, "Paths to a Good Life -- Philosophical Reflections on Everyday Ethics," applies the theories of great thinkers to ordinary problems, such as whether parents should sometimes lie to their children.

He's on shakier ground with high finance. Sometimes stumped by the jargon bandied about by his new colleagues, he keeps a copy of the Oxford Dictionary of Business near his desk "so I can run back and look something up if I don't understand." His four-person staff helps guide him like "a blind man's dog," he says, and he sometimes consults a treatise by the 17th-century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes, who warned that unrestrained desires such as greed render life "poor, nasty, brutish and short."

Continued in article

Confusing (really bad) accounting in any case

"Windfall Accounting Tax," The Wall Street Journal, November 30, 2005; Page A18 ---

The last time Congress imposed a form of the windfall tax was the final gloomy days of Jimmy Carter, and the result was: a substantial reduction in domestic oil production (about 5%), thus raising the price of gas at the pump; and a 10% increase in U.S. reliance on foreign oil. A windfall profits tax is the ultimate act of economic masochism because it taxes only domestic production, while imports and foreign oil subsidiaries bear almost none of the cost.

But wait, this time it's worse. The current Senate proposal would actually require oil companies with daily production of 500,000 barrels or more to disregard generally accepted accounting principles, by revaluing their oil inventories. GAAP accounting (and current tax law) allows oil firms to value barrels of oil sold at what it costs to replace that barrel.

The Senate bill would require the companies to revalue their inventories by $18.75 a barrel -- an arbitrary number if there ever was one. In effect, this means that Congress is creating the illusion of higher oil profits, and thus raising the tax liability of oil companies by an estimated $5 billion next year. This would be on top of the 35% tax rate they already pay on their actual profits.

When Andy Fastow tried to create phony profits at Enron, he got 10 years in the slammer. Now Senators want to create phony corporate profits, so they can grab them to spend. Where's Eliot Spitzer when you really need him? What's even more reprehensible about this revenue grab is its retroactive nature. In a sense this is less a tax than it is an ex post facto confiscation of private property.

Because this is a one-time inventory adjustment for taxes paid in 2006, supporters claim the tax will be no disincentive to future production or reserves. Try that one again. If oil companies believe that their profits will be sliced any time there is a spike in oil prices, their incentive to hold reserves in anticipation of higher future prices is vastly diminished. It is precisely when supplies are curtailed and prices are high that we want oil companies to have plentiful reserves. It was the profit motive, so maligned on Capitol Hill, that helped ensure that the "oil crisis" that followed Katrina's blow to Gulf refineries was surprisingly mild and short lived.

Both Republicans and Democrats also say that what troubles them is that the oil companies aren't investing enough of their profits in new refineries, or new oil exploration and production in the U.S. Hello? Explore where? Even with $60 oil and $12 natural gas, Congress refuses to open more of Alaska or the Outer Continental Shelf to new drilling. The Senate recently rejected a House-passed measure that would reduce regulatory hurdles to building new refineries. The oil companies aren't investing more in domestic refineries and exploration for one simple reason: Congress won't let them.

Continued in article

No democracy in the corporate world
In the typical corporate election of directors, shareholders have two ineffectual choices -- vote for the company's nominees, or withhold their votes for one or more of those nominees (abstaining or failing to vote does not constitute withholding a vote). In a number of recent corporate elections, one company nominee did not receive a majority of votes cast because so many shareholders withheld their votes. Nevertheless, that nominee was seated as a company director, and was renominated by the company in the next election. This apparent disregard of shareholder sentiment is based on both legal norms and practical realities. Corporate elections are governed by state laws, which generally do not require a majority vote to elect directors (unless mandated by a corporate bylaw). These state laws recognize the reality of most corporate elections -- there are no competing candidates to replace a company director who does not receive a majority of votes cast. Indeed, under majority rule, a company could be left with no directors if enough shareholders withheld their votes for all company nominees.
Robert C. Pozen, "Democracy By Proxy," The Wall Street Journal, November 30, 2005; Page A18 ---

"Editor's Note: Why Wikis Won't Go Away," by Tom Smith, InformationWeek Newsletter, December 6, 2005

Wiki is an Internet technology platform that addresses one of the key objectives of many Web sites: to receive and make use of the valuable contributions that readers have to make to their products. They may also be viewed as a modern-day version of the old CompuServe forums that IT professionals visited in search of solutions to specific technical problems: a place where readers can share and benefit from each others' knowledge. One huge value of wikis: they aggregate the collective knowledge of a group of people and professionals since no one source can provide all the information you need.

But there are clear downsides that anyone analyzing wikis needs to be aware of, and in recent days we've gotten yet another reminder of them: As with many "open" technologies on the Net, wikis can bring out the worst in some people who have malicious intent. In this case, John Seigenthaler--who was assistant to Attorney General Robert Kennedy in the 1960s--was incorrectly identified on Wikipedia as having been viewed as potentially involved in the assassinations of John F. and Robert Kennedy. In his own words, Seigenthaler provided a wrenching account of the pain this caused him. This troubling incident followed a high-profile wiki experiment at the Los Angeles Times that was mostly viewed as a failure. Other complaints about wikis are surfacing. The good news: Wikipedia has just announced tighter rules that prohibit new submissions from anonymous contributors.

Also see "Wikipedia Tightens the Reins ," Wired News, December 5, 2005 ---,1282,69759,00.html?tw=wn_tophead_6

College Newspapers Grow Up:  They have the ads, the readers—and budgets to match ---

In school from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.?
The British government is proposing a new program that would extend every school day with a mix of clubs, courses, and childcare facilities. For some children, an "extended schooling" day could stretch from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The idea is not so much childcare as to give children a chance to try out a wider range of disciplines and activities. Is this an idea that American schools should consider?
techLearning News, December 6, 2005
Jensen Comment:  When I went to school in rural Iowa, the hours were from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. followed by practice for football, basketball, baseball, etc.  Drama rehearsals were at night.

Some Students are Challenging Ward Churchill
A small group of students at the University of Colorado confronted Ward Churchill outside his classroom Wednesday about his essay on the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center. "Who do you think deserved to die?" asked Ian VanBuskirk, 23, chairman of the College Republicans. "Why don't you circle the names?" he said as he tried to hand Churchill a marker while pointing to a large banner carried by other students that listed the names of all the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks. Churchill, who was surrounded by students, as he made his way to his basement...
Tillie Fong, "Challenging Churchill:  College Republicans stage confrontation outside class," Rocky Mountain News, December 1, 2005 ---,1299,DRMN_15_4279691,00.html

Bob Jensen's threads on Ward Churchill are at

Michael Moore denies owning Halliburton!
But author who made charge answers that his tax returns don't lie

In a nationally televised speech, filmmaker Michael Moore told a college audience he absolutely does not own any Halliburton stock – or any other stock for that matter – a charge leveled at him by author Peter Schweizer in the best-seller book "Do As I Say (Not As I Do)."  There's just one problem with that denial, says Schweizer. He's got the tax returns of Moore's non-profit foundation to prove it – a non-profit foundation for which there are only two officers, Moore and his wife.
"Michael Moore denies owning Halliburton! But author who made charge answers tax returns don't lie," World Net Daily, December 1, 2005 ---


In Kansas, a confessed serial killer makes reference to Factor X
Now, just as The Times was running its profile of the last Angry Young Man, the sentencing hearing for Dennis Rader, the confessed BTK killer, was underway in Kansas. News accounts mentioned, usually in passing, his claims that the striking of sadistic murders he committed over the years were the result of something he called “Factor X.” He did not elaborate on the nature of Factor X, though reporters often did often note that the killer saw himself as demonically possessed. (He also referred to having been dropped on his head as a child, which may have been one of Rader’s cold-blooded little jokes. But in a television interview, Rader indicated that Factor X, while mysterious, was also something in his control. “I used it,” he said. A jolting remark — at least to anyone familiar with Colin Wilson’s work. Over the years, Wilson has developed a whole battery of concepts (or at least of neologisms) to spell out his hunch that the Outsider has access to levels of consciousness not available to more conformist souls. Something he dubbed “Faculty X” has long been central to Wilson’s improvised psychological theories, as well as to his fiction. (The Philosopher’s Stone, which Oates liked so much, is all about Faculty X.)
Scott McLemee, "A Killing Concept," Inside Higher Ed, December 1, 2005 ---

Jensen Comment
Also see

"Explaining Different Size Tires:  Why Some Vehicles Have Larger Rear Wheels," The Wall Street Journal, November 29, 2005; Page D8 ---

Q: I recently purchased a Cadillac SRX and was surprised to find different size front and back tires. What is the reasoning behind this and could replacement tires be the same size without compromising safety and handling? -- T. Eggleston Solon, Ohio

A: Since the SRX and other performance-oriented vehicles are, in many ways, designed around their tires, you should stick with the manufacturer's recommended tire sizes. It is increasingly common for cars and even SUVs to have larger, wider wheels on the rear than on the front, especially when above-average handling is among the vehicle's selling points.

Car makers say that using different or "split" tire sizes helps them tune vehicles for better-balanced and more predictable handling. Cadillac says the split tire arrangements on the SRX and some of its other cars are meant "to always maintain the proper vehicle understeer gradient so the vehicle doesn't do more than you ask in a turn."

"In Belushi widow's book, Woodward is no hero," New York Daily News, November 30, 2005 ---

After the "SNL" (NBC's Saturday Night Live) player OD'd, Judy Belushi Pisano encouraged all of his pals to talk to Woodward, who, like John, had grown up in Wheaton, Ill.

She now tells us: "Woodward was the wrong guy [to write that book]. I was foolish."

So she and Tanner Colby have assembled "Belushi: A Biography," a just-published collection of affectionate memories of John — and unaffectionate ones of Woodward.

"It was my first experience of getting tricked by a journalist," says Belushi's "Continental Divide" co-star Blair Brown. "I really felt betrayed, and it made me question all of his other work."

Writer Mitch Glazer recalls that all Woodward wanted to hear about was Belushi's drug use. "Whenever I started telling him the good things about John, he would literally put down his pen and wait for me to finish," says Glazer.

"'Wired' has so many things wrong," says "Blues Brothers" director John Landis, who told Woodward how he and Belushi "sobbed and huggged" after he flushed a mound of Belushi's coke down the toilet. "That book has me giving John some big roundhouse, John Wayne punch in the face, and it's just not true."

Continued in article

Forwarded by Barb Hessel

Read the directions carefully ahead of time as the test is in Japanese. It took some thinking but I did get it. Barb




Ok..... This is a tough one. This is an IQ tester. The object of the game is to get everyone across the river. This is a test some Japanese applicants have to take when applying for a job in Japan. The instructions are listed below. After reading, click on the link. Enjoy! 

Click on link, and then click on the big blue circle. Use the rules below. This is going to do your head in, but it can be done. Apparently this is an IQ test given to job applicants in Japan: "Everybody has to cross the river". The following rules apply: Only 2 persons on the raft at a time The father can not stay with any of the daughters, without their mother's presence The mother can not stay with any of the sons, without their father's presence The thief (striped shirt) can not stay with any family member, if The Policeman is not there Only the Father, the Mother and the Policeman know how to operate the raft

To start click on the big blue circle on the right. To move the people click on them. To move the raft click on the pole on the opposite side of the river.



Tidbits on December 09, 2005
Bob Jensen
at Trinity University 

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Yahoo Video Finder ---
First click on the Video Tab at
Then enter a term or phrase in the search box for the type of video you are seeking

Also see other video search alternatives at

Free music downloads

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 ---

Bob Jensen's links to Christmas and Other Seasonal Music ---

Over The Rhine radio (this site has some neat continuous-play technology) ---
(This is a good site for continuous play music online with no commercials)
Click on the small (right arrow) Play button

From NPR
John Randall's country music ---
(Scroll down for the samples.)

A nice XMAS card to the melody of Silent Night ---

Hope Has Place ---
For enjoyable continuous play Enya snippets, go to

Yahoo's links to Music Entertainment ---
Yahoo Music Finder ---


China the Beautiful ---
Also see

Cassini images reveal spectacular evidence of an active moon ---

Ansel Adams ---

Distant Horizons ---     Also see

Literary Locales (More than 1,000 picture links to places that figure in the lives and writings of famous authors) ---

Loretta Lux pictures of children ---

Limited Exposure in Nature ---

Electronic Literature

Bob Jensen's new document with electronic literature (books, poems, short stories, journals, etc.) ---

The Baldwin Online Children’s Literature Project ---

The Writer's Almanac (Garisson Keillor) ---
This link includes audio

Science Fiction ---

Free eBooks and AudioBooks for Mobile Computers ---

New York Times Online Book Reviews ---

Love Poems ---

Poem of Quotes ---

Lyric Line Personal Poetry Reading ---


The Haiku Hut ---

STEAL THIS BOOK By Abbie Hoffman ---

California Homicides in 2004, 2,394; Iraq 2124 since 2003 ---
Source:  Free Republic, December 3, 2005

By the time a man realizes that maybe his father was right, he usually has a son who thinks he's wrong.
Charles Wadsworth as quoted in a recent email message from Patricia Doherty

Law enforcement officials aren't trained to shoot to kill; they're trained to shoot to prevent the action from taking place. We're not trained to precision-shoot in the knee or in the arm or in the finger to prevent something from taking place. Your accuracy goes down, the potential for a stray bullet or a missed shot hitting a bystander goes up tremendously.
Air Marshall Tony Kuklinski when responding to Katie Couric's question regarding why the Air Marshall killed the suspected bomber on an American Airline flight rather than just shoot the suspected bomb out of the bomber's hands.
NewsBusters, December 8, 2005

Howard Dean sends a message to the U.S. military
Dean told San Antonio, Texas, radio station WOAI that "the idea that we're going to win the war in Iraq is an idea which is just plain wrong." He predicted the Democratic Party would come together on a proposal to withdraw National Guard and Reserve troops immediately, and all U.S. forces within two years.
Reuters, Yahoo News, December 6, 2005 ---

Somebody appears to by lying or maybe its just a matter of timing differences
In fact, no prominent Democratic politician has proposed pulling out of Iraq immediately.
"Hume, backed by Liasson, falsely claimed that Democrats want to "pull out now" from Iraq," MediaMatters, December 4, 2005 and reported by NPR ---

Could the Japanese be left all alone to save Iraq?
Japan's Cabinet on Thursday approved the extension of the country's troop deployment in Iraq for one year.
Carl Freire, "Japan to Extend Military Mission to Iraq," Guardian, December 8, 2005 ---,1280,-5465507,00.html

Is the U.S. military "broken and worn out?"
Speaking to a group in his district in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, Murtha said that troops will leave Iraq in the next year because the Army is "broken, worn out and living hand to mouth." Such a vote of confidence! So not only does Murtha want to admit defeat and leave the battlefield, now he wants to say that the troops will be leaving because they aren't up to the task. If you read between the lines, Congressman Al-Murtha is saying the war is lost because the troops have failed.
Neal Boortz ---

Should the U.S. military cut and run?
A destructionist without a realistic strategy for reconstruction
The United States has lost the war in Iraq, and that's a good thing . . . Most Iraqis are glad Hussein is gone, and most want the United States gone. When we admit defeat and pull out — not if, but when — the fate of Iraqis depends in part on whether the United States (1) makes good on legal and moral obligations to pay reparations, and (2) allows international institutions to aid in creating a truly sovereign Iraq.
Robert W. Jensen, Professor of Journalism, University of Texas ---

Questions Professor W. does not address in his zeal to bring down the U.S. "Empire": 

If a whipped-dog U.S. military becomes out of the picture, what all-powerful "international institution" will prevent the tribes of Iraq from covering the ground with their own blood in a state of anarchy? 

Does he think these tribes are waiting for a U.N. resolution to end their disputes and fears?  Does he think U.N. "peace keepers" aren't refusing to set foot in Iraq, Somalia, or any other really dangerous place where anarchy reins?

Who will prevent the Taliban from retaking Afghanistan with renewed vigor to make women uneducated slaves?

Why should the wildfires of Jihad cease because the U.S. army cut and ran?

Why won't successes of terrorist tactics in Iraq make Iraq a terrorism base intent on fanning the fires until the entire globe is awash in fear and evil? 

Who will prevent reinvigorated Islamic fundamentalists and a waning Israel from waging a WMD war if there is no "empire" to separate the two?

If the U.S. becomes impotent, why should the rest of the world suddenly stop all global wars?  Jihad by its own admission is a global war.

Why won't some other empire emerge from the ashes that is far less humane than the U.S. empire? 

The extreme left does seem to have abandoned any idea of creating 
a socialist utopia; today it is devoted solely to uncreative destruction
Opinion Journal, February 11, 2005 ---

Here were some of the results: 63% of people in the news media thought the enterprise (Iraq War) would fail. So did 71% of people in the foreign affairs establishment and 71% in academic settings or think tanks. Interestingly, opinion leaders from the U.S. military are optimistic about Iraq by a margin of 64% to 32%. And so is the American public, by a margin of 56% to 37%. And the Iraqi people are also optimistic. I've seen this demonstrated repeatedly--in public opinion polls, in the turnout for the elections, and that tips to authorities from ordinary Iraqis have grown from 483 to 4,700 tips in a month.
Donald Rumsfeld, "Why aren't the media telling the whole story about Iraq?" The Wall Street Journal, December 7, 2005 ---

Thirdspace (The Site of Emerging Feminist Scholars) ---
This site has both a peer reviewed journal and an online community of feminist scholars, including links and resources)

Nine Leading University Presidents Issue Statement on Gender Equity
The presidents of nine leading research universities on Tuesday released a joint statement pledging continued work to promote the advancement of women in academic positions. The statement said that “barriers still exist” that prevent progress for female academics, and pledged to change institutional policies, provide resources and to “promote a culture that supports family commitments” as part of the drive to help women.
Scott Jaschik, "9 University Presidents Issue Statement on Gender Equity," Inside Higher Ed, December 7, 2005 ---

Is Your Husband a Worse Problem Than Larry Summers?
In my recent article,
“Homeward Bound” (The American Prospect, December 2005), I propose that the low representation of women at the highest level of the American government and economy is due in substantial measure to a steady stream of educated women deciding to leave full-time work. Recent analysis of the opt-out revolution reveals that the only group of mothers not continuing to raise their work-force participation despite economic ups and downs is mothers with graduate and professional degrees. Their numbers are flat and have been for several years. Their decisions matter because their careers, if realized, would be influential. Their decisions are a mistake because they lead them to lesser lives, by most measures, and because these decisions hurt society. And their decision is not freely chosen, even if they “chose” it, as it is made in the context of an ideology that assigns childrearing and housekeeping to women, an ideology that, interviews reveal, they themselves accept.The solution will not come from employers, who have no motivation to change economically productive behaviors, nor from the government, firmly in the hands of conservatives, who believe in the ideology. Instead, I recommend that women start by refusing to play their gendered role, preparing themselves for lives of independent means, bargaining from this position of power with the men they sleep with, only looking for help to more distant sources as a last resort.
Linda Hirshman, "Is Your Husband a Worse Problem Than Larry Summers?" Inside Higher Ed, December 9, 2005 ---

Beware of E-mail Bearing Tax Refunds
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued a consumer alert last week warning taxpayers of a “phishing” scam that attempts to trick e-mail recipients into disclosing personal and financial data. The scam uses e-mail messages, purportedly from the IRS, informing consumer of tax refunds and directing them to follow a link to a web site that requests personal information, such as Social Security Numbers and credit card information. The information collected is then used to steal the individual’s identity and financial assets.
"Beware of E-mail Bearing Tax Refunds," AccountingWeb, Decembeer 5, 2005 ---

For your next trip via airplane, train, or bus
Google Transit Trip Planner ---

"Google Unveils Public Transit Mapping Service," by Antone Gonsalves, InformationWeek, December 8, 2005 ---

Google Inc. on Thursday launched in beta a trip-planning service for people who prefer to take pubic transit rather than drive. The Google Transit Trip Planner, which is initially available only for the Portland, Ore, metro area, provides directions for public transportation from a starting location to a destination. Besides showing a road map of the route, the service provides transportation schedules and other information to help plot a step-by-step itinerary. In addition, the service compares the cost of the trip with the cost of driving.

Use of the service is similar to Google Local, a mapping and local search service that lets users find businesses and other locations in a city, and get driving directions. Locations and directions are shown over a roadmap or an aerial view of the area. The new transit service offers the same views.

Google Transit, which is currently a Google Labs product, has not been integrated with Google Local, because the company said it needed time to develop the product further. Google, based in Mountain View, Calif., did not have any definite plans for which cities would be added or when.

Engineers in San Francisco, New York, and Zurich who use public transportation often started the project, the company said.

Bob Jensen's threads on mapping and trip planning are at

Never have writers' block:  How to make millions writing by a formula

"Writer's Block:  One cliché follows another. Flat character succeeds flat character. Everything is predictable in No. 19 of Grafton's alphabetic series," by Alexander Theroux, The Wall Street Journal, December 3, 2005; Page P15 ---

S Is for Silence, by Sue Grafton (Putnam, 374 pages)

In "S Is For Silence," Sue Grafton offers version No. 19 in her best-selling alphabetical series. She seems to be attempting to do for fiction what the illustrator Edward Gorey did for art in his memorable "The Gashlycrumb Tinies" (1962): "A is Amy who fell down the stairs, B is for Basil assaulted by bears...." But she does not seem to be managing the task nearly so well. Yes, Grafton fans are legion. But are they wise?

The plot of "S" turns on the disappearance, 34 years before, of tarty Violet Sullivan, who in 1953 (for no reason that I can see, the book is set in 1987) put on her tarty finery, left for the Fourth of July fireworks and was never seen again.

In the small California town of Serena Station, it was said that she had run off with a lover or was murdered by her husband or perhaps even killed herself. Her daughter, Daisy, seven at the time, now 41 and plagued by the mystery, needs the help of Kinsey Millhone, Ms. Grafton's user-friendly private investigator, a 37-year-old divorcée who jogs three miles a day, drives a VW and slings clichés around like hash. We are given the usual group of droolies: Jake, Foley, Tom, Chet, Winston, Calvin and (yes) Hairl. So whodunit?

Since 1982, when Ms. Grafton wrote "A Is for Alibi," the plots have changed but not the mode -- the books follows a recipe of pedestrian sameness. Curiously, she claims for her new book, by way of a published "conversation," to have adopted a technique, new to her, of using narrative time-shifts from chapter to chapter. The narrative method is of course as old as the genre, and the genre without grace can be old indeed.

There is not a magic or an original sentence in the entire novel. Instead Ms. Grafton has created a brand: "mixture as before," in the parlance of Somerset Maugham, a phrase taken from the world of pharmaceuticalia. Ms. Grafton duplicates herself intentionally, like a druggist with a prescription to fill. As with John Grisham, Patricia Cornwell and even Stephen King, you know what you're going to get.

Andy Warhol did this kind of thing, too, with Marilyn, Mao and Campbell Soup cans. But when did readers become compulsivists? It would appear nowadays that if a writer does not repeat himself, finding sanctuary in the tried and (if you insist) true, he will never find a market. Formula becomes friend.

There is not one exceptional word in these pages, not one intriguing turn of phrase -- nothing, in Gerard Manley Hopkins's terms, "counter, original, spare, strange." But this is not a surprise, for Ms. Grafton's prose aims at standard recognition. It is as predictable as, well, the march of any abecedarium. "All you can do is give it your best shot." "The world's a big place." "Now and then someone slips through the cracks." "Sounds like you're in the thick of things." One cliché follows hard upon another. Flat character succeeds flat character. Everything is predictable here. But such is the way with brands. S isn't for silence. It's for sales.  

To make millions from your own writings do you're own publicity

"The Shorts List:  Amazon's selling stories and essays for 49 cents. Is anybody buying?" by Brendan I. Koerner, Slate, December 2, 2005 ---

The wisdom of Harry S. Dent usually doesn't come cheap. The financial pundit's monthly newsletter, which features his ruminations on demographic trends and beat-the-Street strategies, costs $199 per year. That's a bargain compared to the $50,000 Dent charges for a two-hour keynote address.

Those steep price tags make Dent's Bubble After Bubble in the Ongoing Bubble Boom seem like quite the steal. The 38-page booklet, which predicts a stock-market comeback, can be purchased from as an HTML document, PDF file, or plain-text e-mail for a mere 49 cents, as part of the online bookseller's new Amazon Shorts program. Since the first few dozen shorts debuted in early August, Bubble After Bubble has consistently dominated the category's best-seller list, beating out a Danielle Steel essay called Candy for the Soul, an anti-Bush polemic by Mark Crispin Miller, and a nine-page, shoe-gazing meditation from Gloria Vanderbilt. How did Dent rise to the top of Amazon's short-form heap?

Largely by taking responsibility for Bubble After Bubble's publicity. Aside from including the shorts in an author's search results, Amazon hasn't done much promotion. And neither have publishing houses, likely because they don't make any money off the deal; there is no mention of Candy for the Soul, for example, on the Random House Web site, which includes an otherwise exhaustive list of Steel's 52 best sellers.

Walt Mossberg answers reader questions

"Alternatives to Instant Messaging," by Walter Mossberg, The Wall Street Journal, December 8, 2005; Page B8 ---

My company has banned us from using instant-messaging programs on our work computers, claiming they are a security threat. Is there an alternative way for me to keep using instant messaging, which I consider a useful business tool?

Yes. You just have to use a service that replicates the functions of instant-messaging software inside a Web page. That way you aren't downloading an instant-messaging program onto the company's computer, you're simply using the Web browser already on that computer.

I've recently seen a cool new Web service of this type called Meebo, at It's only 11 weeks old, and it's still in testing, but it enables users to sign into four different instant-messaging services -- Time Warner's America Online's AIM (or ICQ); Microsoft's MSN Messenger; Yahoo Messenger; and Google's GTalk (or Jabber). You even can log on to all four simultaneously and see a combined buddy list. Meebo is basic and hasn't yet added fancy features like file transfers, but it works well on Windows PCs and Macs. And, it's very slick. You even can move the message and buddy-list windows around within the Web page.

If the Meebo site won't come up on your company computer, try the secure version, at If your company blocks this, too, I suspect it just hates the idea of instant messaging at work for reasons that go beyond security.

"Should you wait to buy a new Mac?," by Walter Mossberg, The Wall Street Journal, December 8, 2005; Page B8 ---

How can you suggest that people consider buying a Macintosh now when Apple Computer will be coming out with all-new models based on Intel processors starting next year?

With any digital-technology product, the pace of change is so rapid that there is always a newer, supposedly better model on the horizon. But people buy these products when they need them. If you wait and wait, you lose the use of the new computer or other product in the meantime. And the next model may be flawed or otherwise unsuitable.

My recommendation last week of the best desktop computer on the market this holiday season, the Apple iMac G5, was meant for people who plan to buy a computer this holiday or within the next few months. Apple's changeover will be gradual; there is no indication when the iMac G5 will be replaced by a Mac with an Intel processor. It could be as late as 2007, according to Apple's public statements. There is no way to know if a future Intel-based model will be better or less expensive.

In addition, current Macs will remain highly useful for years even after the Intel models arrive. Makers of software and peripherals are highly unlikely to restrict their products to Intel-based Macs, which will be few in number compared with the tens of millions of Macs based on the current design. Apple has devised a system for creating software that runs on both designs.

How to win be more comfortable at parties and make partner in your firm

In general the staff accountants or lawyers who become partners of the firm have skills of conversation and name recalling skills that set them apart from the "nerds" who have great technical skills but just don't have those "people skills" with clients and peers.  I always remember a woman who made partner in one of the large accounting firms back when it was very difficult for women to become partners.  I always thought her genuine interest in athletics, combined with an outgoing personality, added greatly to her ability to make conversation with student recruits and clients at social gatherings.  Since knowing her, I've often advised accounting graduates to study social skills and practice how to make "social conversation."  There are tricks to remembering names (I've never tried to master this like I should have), and there are tricks to making conversation and feeling more comfortable in social settings (I'm a bit better at this, especially after a cocktail or two or three).

Perhaps some of you have some good advice to give to students along these lines.  My main advice is to study how to ask questions and become a sincere listener.  The only thing more dull than somebody who talks too much and listens too little is somebody who says nothing at all or has little to talk about other than the weather.  It also helps to be able to laugh at yourself and avoid taking yourself too seriously.

The next piece of advice is to stay up on certain daily happenings in the news, athletics, and entertainment as a base to ask questions about in potentially dull settings.  Then practice asking questions and making interesting conversation.  It may help your career as well as making you have more fun in life.

The following tidbit that came out recently on NPR may be helpful along these lines.  I don't necessarily agree with the classification of good things versus bad things.  If you know a person's spouse or friend, for example, I think it is courteous to ask about that spouse or a friend.  Asking somebody about their holiday plans is a good ice breaker in spite of what Debra Fine says.  If fact, it may just be an icebreaker to ask whether Debra Fine really understands the "fine art of talk." 

I guess what I'm saying here is that Debra Fine does not necessarily have the best advice, but at least she sets us thinking about the craft of making small talk, especially if you're trying to make students aware of how important small talk can be in life. 

"Small Talk Secrets for the Holiday Season," NPR, December 7, 2005 ---

If the idea of the office holiday party makes you want to hide in your cubicle, brushing up on "small talk" skills can make the events more enjoyable. Debra Fine, author of The Fine Art of Small Talk, offers timely tips that can turn the holiday season into an opportunity for conversational success:

Top 10 Icebreakers

1. "What is your connection to the host/hostess or event?"

2. "What do you enjoy the most about this time/season of the year?"

3. "Describe how this season of the year impacts your work?"

4. "Bring me up to date about your life/work/family since the last time we got together..."

5. "Tell me about your plans for the holidays..."

6. "Describe your favorite holiday tradition..."

7. "What challenges do you encounter at this time of year?"

8. "Tell me about a special gift you have given or received?"

9. "What is your favorite holiday? Why?"

10. "What have you got going on during the coming year?"

Conversation Killers to Avoid

1. "Are you married?" or "Do you have any kids?" Where are you going with either one of these if the response is "No"?

2. "How's your job at Boeing, United Airlines, Martha Stewart Enterprises (fill in the blank)?" Unless you know a person well, assume nothing! Don't put them on the spot like that. Instead ask: "What's been going on with work?"

3. "How's your wife?" (She left, took all the money, the kids and got the house!)

4. "Merry Christmas!" "What are your Christmas plans?" Not all of us celebrate Christmas.

5. At all costs avoid "Is that real?" "Are those real?"

Related NPR Stories


Tom DeLay's Woes Won't End in Texas
Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle has done Rep. Tom DeLay a great favor. By keeping the ethical focus on Mr. DeLay in Austin, he has kept it away from a growing scandal in Washington with far more serious implications for the former House majority leader.
Jonathan Gurwitz, "Tom DeLay's Woes Won't End in Texas," The Wall Street Journal, December 7, 2005; Page A18 ---

Pork Cutting Payback: 
Why the President of the U.S. has trouble with some GOP, as well as Democratic, party senators

"Free England A story of Senate pork--and payback," The Wall Street Journal, December 5, 2005 ---

Here's one way Congress could be useful in fighting the terrorists in Iraq: Confirm Gordon England as Deputy Secretary of Defense.

Conducting a war requires a fully staffed Pentagon, something the U.S. Senate is proving itself unwilling to provide. President Bush was forced to use his recess-appointment power last summer to name Eric Edelman as Undersecretary for Policy, the department's No. 3 position, when Democrat Carl Levin refused to lift his hold on the nomination over a spat pertaining to Mr. Edelman's predecessor, Douglas Feith. Ditto for Peter Flory, Assistant Secretary for International Security Policy.

Now it looks like the President will have to follow suit with Mr. England, who has been in limbo since he was nominated in March. It's a good thing Donald Rumsfeld seems to like his job. If the 73-year-old Defense Secretary were to retire, who knows whether a successor could be confirmed.

Mr. England's stalled confirmation is all the more outrageous since he is being held up by a member of the President's own party. Olympia Snowe is miffed that, as Navy Secretary, Mr. England did not fight some cuts in the ship-building budget dear to the heart of the Senator from Maine. Her office tells us he did not show sufficient "leadership." "I don't know what it would take" to get the Senator to lift her hold, a Snowe spokesman says. Translation: This is payback, so forget about it. Another Republican, Mississippi's Trent Lott, has had similar problems with Mr. England's lack of devotion to naval pork. He finally lifted his own hold last month, after meeting with Mr. England, who has been Acting Deputy Secretary of Defense since May, when Paul Wolfowitz left to head the World Bank. Under the rules governing political appointments, he is permitted to serve as "acting" since he already has a government job--that of Navy Secretary.

Continued in the article

Senator Robert Byrd and watchdog groups spar over ‘pork',
Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., has steered more than half-a-billion federal dollars to West Virginia in 2004 and 2005, prompting a GOP critic to say the effort is part of Byrd's well-established campaign strategy. This year, the senator already has racked up at least $177 million, according to various sources, including Byrd's office. The 2005 tally is bound to go higher, with two appropriations bills still tangled up in Congress and two others on President Bush's desk. Citizens Against Government Waste, which bills itself as "America's No. 1 Taxpayer Watchdog," estimated that Byrd was responsible for $399 million for West Virginia projects in 2004. Gary Abernathy, former executive director of the state Republican Party, said the pattern is familiar. "It's always been well understood that beginning about his fifth year of every term, he starts cranking up the pork for West Virginia," Abernathy said. "It's the worst kept secret in the state."
Justin D. Anderson, "Senator, groups spar over ‘pork'," Charleston Daily Mail, December 5, 2005 ---

The brain's biology of music and creativity

"Why Does Music Move Us? Science gets closer to the intersection of biology and creativity," by Douglas McLennan, The Wall Street Journal, December 3, 2005; Page P13 ---

Researchers are only now beginning to unlock the secrets of the brain. It seems like every month some new study or another comes along to explain why we get addicted to nicotine, or how our neural pathways were changed because we studied piano as children, or how meditation alters our brainwave patterns.

Isolating which part of the brain is responsible for moving your big toe is a neat trick. But what about "softer" functions like figuring out how judgment is formed or music is made? "Why Music Moves Us: The Cognitive Neuroscience of Music," a conference at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle last month, tried to apply some scientific paint stripper, to ask some basic questions about how the brain "hears" and translates sound into music.

We know how the ear catches sound, and that sound waves are translated into neurons that travel to the brain through some 30,000 auditory nerves from each ear. But how is it that the brain translates those neurons into something we recognize as music? Scans show that the brain is much more actively engaged with music than with speech. But there is no actual physical sound in your brain. No notes. No music. Only neurons.

The idea of pitch is a mental phenomenon, says Robert Zatorre, professor of neuroscience at McGill University in Montreal. Only the way sounds are organized makes them interesting. Brain scans show that different parts of the brain register activity depending on the kind of music played. Dissonance, for example, is generally perceived as unpleasant, and it provokes reactions in a different region of the brain than consonant harmonies do.

The idea of pitch is a mental phenomenon, says Robert Zatorre, professor of neuroscience at McGill University in Montreal. Only the way sounds are organized makes them interesting. Brain scans show that different parts of the brain register activity depending on the kind of music played. Dissonance, for example, is generally perceived as unpleasant, and it provokes reactions in a different region of the brain than consonant harmonies do.

Music is a basic human condition. We're born primed to pick up on beat regularities and able to put sound in some sort of coherent order. All cultures have music, and the ability to recognize music comes before speech. The brain is wired with reward and avoidance circuitry, and music, like sex or cocaine, rates high in the reward region.

There is strong evidence that our attraction to music isn't just for enjoyment. Music helps build community. And patients who have suffered strokes or other brain injuries often show dramatic improvement in their recovery if music or rhythm is played during therapy, reported Michael Thaut, professor of music and neuroscience at Colorado State University.

Our understanding of how the brain perceives music is still rudimentary, and researchers haven't even developed reliable tests to measure what we want to know about some of the most basic brain functions. Trying to measure, for example, if the brain has a different electrical reaction to music it likes than to music it doesn't is quite difficult because "like" and "dislike" are subjective terms that are hard to quantify scientifically.

Still, it's clear that our perceptions of the world have physical roots in the brain, and those perceptions can be altered. Studies have shown, for example, that the recognition of pitch can be altered by as much as 1½ tones with medication.

Continued in article

The Shift Away From Print
For most scholarly journals, the transition away from the print format and to an exclusive reliance on the electronic version seems all but inevitable, driven by user preferences for electronic journals and concerns about collecting the same information in two formats. But this shift away from print, in the absence of strategic planning by a higher proportion of libraries and publishers, may endanger the viability of certain journals and even the journal literature more broadly — while not even reducing costs in the ways that have long been assumed.
Gifford Fenton and Roger C. Schonfeld, "The Shift Away From Print," Inside Higher Ed, December 8, 2005 ---

"How Charlotte Tops Big Cities In School Tests," by Robert Tohsho, The Wall Street Journal,  December 2, 2005; Page B1 ---

The scores on those tests were released yesterday and on the whole, results for big cities were mixed and achievement gaps between white and minority students persisted. The tests, taken by fourth- and eighth-graders in the 2004-2005 school year, are part of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, widely considered the nation's most independent and accurate measurement of achievement in core subjects. Districts volunteered for the big-city testing. Statewide NAEP tests are mandatory under the "No Child Left Behind" law, but they are used only to shed light on performance, not to determine compliance or funding. The tests are administered by the federal government, which samples students based on demographics.

Among the participating urban districts, Charlotte, with 124,000 students, had the highest scores in all categories except eighth-grade math, where it tied with Austin, Texas. Charlotte's fourth-graders beat the average for all schools in math, with a score of 244 (on a 0-to-500 scale), seven points above the average. In reading, the fourth-graders' average score was 221, four points above the national average.

Districts in the urban NAEP -- including Atlanta, Boston, Cleveland, and New York City -- face some of the nation's biggest challenges because a high proportion of their students are from low-income and minority families.

Charlotte was the only participating district that beat the national average for fourth-grade reading. Only Austin and Charlotte beat the national average on eighth-grade reading.

U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings said the report "dispels the myth that city schools can't make the grade," and she added that some of the best results came from states with the longest histories of creating accountability with standardized test scores.

A reform effort launched by Charlotte-Mecklenburg in the late 1990s focused on shifting more district funds to low-performing schools from schools that were doing better -- a move that has lately created some backlash. The district also reduced class sizes in those schools and offered to pay graduate-school tuition for teachers who agreed to work in those schools for at least two years. The district also required all of its elementary schools to adhere to a strict, phonics-based reading program.

And it brought more learning-disabled students back into mainstream classrooms and paired up teachers who had been teaching them separately. Now, "you have a great combination of teachers who are very, very versed in reading and teachers who are very, very versed in additional learning strategies," says Frances Haithcock, the district's interim superintendent.

The district's demographics also helped. Although centered in Charlotte, it is a countywide district that takes in more suburbs than most of its urban counterparts. About 56% of its students are minorities, compared with about 77% in big-city schools overall. Meanwhile, the district has annual tax revenue of about $9,500 per pupil in its budget, compared with $9,300 for Los Angeles and $8,100 for Houston.

Even so, low-income and minority students in the Charlotte district performed well compared with their counterparts elsewhere. Among fourth-graders in low-income families -- identified by their participation in discount lunch programs -- Charlotte students scored higher than the national average in math by five points, while black and Hispanic eighth-graders outpaced their counterparts nationwide in reading.

"Charlotte has a history of taking ... school reform pretty seriously," said Jack Jennings, president of the Center on Education Policy, a public-schools policy group based in Washington, D.C.

Over the last five years, the district used a combination of state grants and federal anti-poverty funding to hire retired teachers to return to the classroom to mentor younger instructors and developed "pacing guides" that tell teachers where they should be in the curriculum in any given week of the year. To make certain that teachers in low-performing schools keep pace, teams from the central office visit classrooms up to four times a year.

Continued in article

"The Missing Black Men," by Scott Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed, December 5, 2005 ---

The numbers are chilling indeed. Last year, 31 percent of CUNY’s 188,000 undergraduates were black. Of those black undergraduates, women outnumbered men 2 to 1 (a ratio that is quite common at colleges nationwide). The gender gap appears to be the greatest at CUNY colleges that have the largest proportion of black enrollments. Medgar Evers College, for example, is 92 percent black. Only 23 percent of those black students are men. At York College, which is 62 percent black, only 29 percent of black students are men.

One theme of CUNY officials working on the Black Male Initiative is the interrelationship between the issues facing the university system and those facing the New York City schools and economy. Here too, the challenge is obvious. At the high school level, for instance, only 31 percent of black males graduate after four years. And of the black male labor market (defined as those 16 to 64), only 55 percent are employed.

What to do?

One model that is generating a lot of talk at CUNY is the creation of special programs to focus on black men, such as the Male Development and Empowerment Center at Medgar Evers. Despite the enormous gender gap at the college, black enrollment and retention have been edging upward the past few years, something many link to the creation of the center.

Peter A. Holomon, director of the center, says that the key to its success has been basing programs on interviews with students — “asking the brothers why they or others are coming or not coming to school or staying in school.”

Continued in article

Are your bathroom floors too cold?

"For Cold Feet," by Sara Schaefer Munoz, The Wall Street Journal, December 3, 2005; Page P10 ---

There are three types of underfloor electric heating for small spaces like bathrooms. The first uses cables on a spool that can be laid out in a tight serpentine pattern to avoid cold spots, but can be tricky to space evenly. Because the cables aren't protected when they're being installed, they can be damaged. To avoid problems, test them with an Ohm meter before covering them up. Enough cables made by Easy Heat to heat a typical 50-square-foot bathroom run about $480 (, including a thermostat that can be set to warm up the floor before your morning shower.

The second type features cables encased in mats, which are simpler to install than the cables on a spool except in irregular corners. Mats from WarmlyYours cost about $400 for a 50-square-foot room, also including a programmable thermostat (

The third relies on heat-conducting film; one self-regulating type, which can hover at about 80 degrees without a thermostat, is made by Electro Plastics. Enough film for a 50-square-foot room also costs about $400 (

Students or Unionized Workers?

"Labors Lost Will anyone take a stand against striking grad students? The WSJ Opinion Journal, December 2, 2005 ---

One of the oddest things about the disruptive 25-day strike by graduate students at New York University is the penalty they face if they don't end their action by Monday. On the surface, it sounds tough. NYU President John Sexton told strikers this week that unless they resume their teaching-assistant duties (which include grading papers, leading discussion groups and teaching low-level courses) by Dec. 5, they won't be paid to do these things next semester.

Yet President Sexton is no Ronald Reagan. Unlike the striking air-traffic controllers whom Reagan fired in 1981, NYU teaching and research assistants face a soft landing. Anyone who ignores Mr. Sexton's ultimatum will continue to get free tuition and full medical benefits. The university also says that if the loss of teaching-assistant stipends--say, $9,500 a semester--causes economic hardship for some, NYU will help arrange a loan. Oh, the life of an exploited graduate student.

That said, the graduate union at NYU (a k a Local 2110 of the United Auto Workers--another oddity) has had a giddy ride over the past five years. In 2000, NYU became the first private university compelled to deal with such a union. That happened after the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that certain students who perform services at their institution qualify as employees and are thus entitled to enter into collective bargaining agreements with their employers.

In 2004, however, the NLRB reversed the earlier decision, saying that graduate teaching assistants are not employees after all, but students whose duties are part of their education and whose stipends are like fellowships. When Local 2110's contract expired this summer without agreement on a new one, NYU announced that it would no longer recognize the union. The strike that began Nov. 8 is a protest against derecognition.

It's unclear how many strikers there are. Yet it's obvious that the educational process has suffered as students deal with the turmoil of demonstrations and missed classes just ahead of a crucial exam period. To avoid crossing picket lines, some professors have held classes off-campus, forcing commutes to venues such as the headquarters of the Communist Party USA. Many students, and particularly their parents, believe that the strike is depriving them of the learning experience they paid for. It is undergraduate tuition, after all, that funds the stipends of those teaching assistants, who pay no tuition. To be sure, even with their subsidies, graduate students aren't rich. Unionization or the threat of it has led administrators at some universities to upgrade benefits for teaching assistants. Ultimately, however, graduate students are scholars-in-progress. In the collegial setting of academe, they belong on the same team as their mentors, the senior scholars.

It's no surprise that the UAW, with its waning blue-collar base, is eager to enroll graduate students. The real issue is whether the union mentality and the blunt weapon of collective bargaining are any way to advance academic excellence. The last four weeks at NYU demonstrate that they are not.

Why did Samsung so readily confess to price fixing?

Anyone following the Justice Dept.'s investigation of price fixing in the memory-chip industry had reason to pay especially close attention to court fillings made public Nov. 28. Samsung Electronics, the South Korean chipmaker, had already pled guilty in the case and agreed to a $300 million fine (see BW Online 10/14/05, "Samsung's Day of Reckoning"). But the document sheds new light on Samsung's agreement to plead guilty and names seven individuals who could face criminal prosecution in the matter.
"Samsung's Fuller Disclosure Newly released documents help to explain why the chipmaker admitted guilt in the Justice Dept.'s mammoth price-fixing probe," Business Week, November 30, 2005 ---

Bob Jensen's updates on fraud are at

"A Louisiana Education," The Wall Street Journal, December 2, 2005; Page A10 ---

New Orleans public schools were in trouble long before Katrina's visit in August. But the hurricane aftermath has given the state an opportunity to turn things around educationally, and Louisiana seems eager to seize it.

Last month, the legislature voted to let the state effectively take over the New Orleans public school system. What's more, the state plans to turn a significant number of the city's underperforming schools over to universities and foundations to reopen as charters. Change was way overdue, to put it mildly. Some 90% of the city's 117 public schools were performing below the state average, and 68 of the state's 170 failing schools are located in Orleans Parish.

Not that this abysmal record stopped the Louisiana Federation of Teachers and its local affiliate, the United Teachers of New Orleans, from vehemently opposing the state action. But their arguments that chartering public schools means voiding collective-bargaining agreements and teacher-tenure rules got little sympathy from Democratic Governor Kathleen Blanco, state lawmakers and parents understandably fed up with a school system graduating illiterates year after year.

In a speech last month endorsing the state takeover, Ms. Blanco noted that Katrina refugees with school-age children who had relocated to better schools across the country would be reluctant to return home if educational improvements weren't made. "If we're going to bring back New Orleans, we must bring back our schools," said Ms. Blanco. "We cannot afford to rebuild schools that do not give students the quality education that they need."

Continued in article

It will be interesting to learn more about how MCI intends to quantify risk
ASHBURN, Va., December 6, 2005—MCI, Inc. (NASDAQ: MCIP) today announced the launch of its NetSec Security Risk Management Service, a new managed solution that helps companies improve their security by quantifying, prioritizing and remediating security risks across an enterprise. MCI’s latest cloud-to-core offering enables companies to enhance their decision-making capabilities to take proactive and immediate action against threats and vulnerabilities, when and where it is needed most.
As quoted in a December 6, 2005 news release from MCI ---

Those wonderful (some say pesky) computer science students:  Music man Cracks DRM schemes
The ongoing saga of Sony BMG's sneaky, lawsuit-inducing copy-protection software opened a new chapter Monday when the music company released an uninstaller program to allow customers to remove the offending code from their PCs. The release was Sony's second attempt at erasing its errors -- its previous push of mea-culpaware last month backfired horribly when 24-year-old Princeton University researcher John "Alex" Halderman found that the uninstaller opened up a security hole even worse than the original digital rights management program. And while the discovery shocked outsiders, and embarrassed Sony, it was a little like déjà vu to Halderman, one of a handful of smart researchers who seem determined to hold the recording industry's feet to the fire.
Quinn Norton, "Music Man Cracks DRM Schemes," Wired News, December 7, 2005 ---,1282,69763,00.html?tw=wn_tophead_4



This will be the final edition of Tidbits for 2005.  I will not be returning to campus until January 8 of next year.  Then I will commence cranking out Tidbits once again.  I hope you have a great holiday break with your family and friends.

Tidbits on December 14, 2005
Bob Jensen
at Trinity University 

Fraud Updates ---
For earlier editions of New Bookmarks go to 
Archives of Tidbits: Tidbits Directory ---

Bob Jensen's various threads ---
       (Also scroll down to the table at )

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

I really like the Digital Duo show that appears weekly once again on PBS.  I found that you can bring up prior shows (video) on your computer by going to,00.asp

Bob Jensen's home page is at

Security threats and hoaxes ---

25 Hottest Urban Legends (hoaxes) --- 

Stay up on the latest and the oldest hoaxes ---

Handy links to product instruction sheets ---

Online Music and Video
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 ---

Current summaries of 60 Minutes modules (CBS Television) ---

Romantic music of Anna Maria Jopek (video) ---

New Video from the Digital Duo (Upgrade Your PC Output) ---,segid,178,00.asp
There's a short commercial (about 30 seconds, followed by the good stuff)

PhysOrg News Videos ---

Free music downloads --- ---

Live Christmas Webcams from All Over the World ---

Bob Jensen's links to Christmas and Other Seasonal Music ---

Lonely trumpet sounds of Tomasz Stanko ---
(Click on the Multimedia link)

From NPR
Texas troubadour Jimmie Dale Gilmore's Come On Back ---
(Scroll down for the great samples.  I like "I Feel Like I've Got to Travel On.That's Me!)

From NPR
Jelly Roll Morton Plays the Library of Congress ---
(Scroll down for the fabulous and historic samples)

From NPR
A Christmas Concert from "World Cafe" ---
(Scroll down for the great banjo and folk singing samples)

If you have a favorite recording artist, search it out on  Chances are high that, if you find a CD of interest at Amazon, you can scroll clear down to the bottom of the page for a music sample.  For example, try this at

Guilty Pleasures (Barbra Streisand) ---
Essential Barbara ---
Barbara's Greatest Hits ---
     (These are continuous play snippets only but I enjoy these when I hit the Play All button)

Best of Eddie Arnold ---
     (These are continuous play snippets only but I enjoy these when I hit the Play All button)

Best of Roy Orbison ---
    (These are continuous play snippets only but I enjoy these when I hit the Play All button)

Best of Jim Reeves ---
      (These are continuous play snippets only but I enjoy these when I hit the Play All button)

Essential Willie Nelson ---
    (These are continuous play snippets only but I enjoy these when I hit the Play All button)

Christmas Card
Silent Night

December 9, 2005 message from Dmitry Garanin []

Hi Bob,

I have discovered your page  looking for Elena Kuschnerova, as I am her webmaster. The link to her free-downloads site is not working and, in addition, it is outdated. The current master page that should be linked to is 

I would be very glad if you could correct the listing.
Thank you in advance,
Dmitry Garanin

New Fee-Based Music Services
New offerings from MP3Tunes and Real Networks unveiled in the last 10 days are intended to change the way people interact with their music libraries -- and build a new business around digital music. MP3Tunes’ Oboe service and Real Networks’ service allow people to purchase and access music through a standard Web browser on any computer -- regardless of whether their music is stored on that computer. It's an innovative step for digital music, where the industry giant, Apple's iTunes, restricts users to a limited number of computers on which they can access the service. These new offerings, using different approaches, attempt to break that model. Of the two, the Oboe service is the most technically intriguing -- and will probably resonate most with consumers.
Eric Hellweg , "Storage for a Song Two new online storage services may bring holiday cheer -- and a lot of songs -- to music lovers," MIT's Technology Review, December 9, 2005 ---,1,p1.html?trk=nl



Time Magazine's Best Photos of 2005 ---
Top 10 Reader Picks ---

Also see Time Magazine's Islam USA ---

Great landscapes and light ---

Cowles Gallery ---

Benn Deceuninck ---

Great astronomy photographs ---

Star Trails ---

Water Textures ---

Peru ---

Chicago (such as fog in the city) ---

A foggy day in London town ---

Paris history ---

Lost America (night photography of the abandoned roadsides of the West) ---

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 ---

All-Time Bestselling Books and Authors ---

University of Southern California Digital Archive ---

The Library of Economics and Liberty ---

Charles Dickens Page ---

The original Sherlock Holmes stories ---

The Thoreau Reader ---

Yahoo's links to Acronyms and Abbreviations ---

Yahoo's links to Almanacs ---

Yahoo's links to Humanities Dectionaries, Libraries, and Literature ---

Yahoo's Reference Links ---
(Includes option to personally "Ask an Expert" )

Yahoo's links to Society and Culture ---

Yahoo's links to Entertainment (including humor) ---

Quote World --- Wilde

Quote Land ---

Quotable Online ---

Vocabulary Words to Build Your Brain ---

The Paris Review ---

Yahoo's links to Poetry ---

Representative Poetry Online from the University of Toronto Library ---

Verse Daily ---

Poem Hunter --- ---

Create Your Own Virtual Poem ---

Economics Website ---
This site is an introduction to basic concepts on economics and contains information, quizzes, activities and links to various online resources to learn more about our global economy.

Introduction to Economic Analysis ---

CyberEconomics ---

Book Swapping ---

Security Fix from The Washington Post
Security Fix blogger Brian Krebs answers your questions about the latest online threats and offers ways to protect yourself and your personal information ---

The more you tighten your grasp, the more systems will slip through your fingers.
Princess Lei in Star Wars as quoted in a recent message from David Coy

In prosperity our friends know us; in adversity we know our friends.
John Churton Collins as quoted in a recent email message from Patricia Doherty

For money you can have everything it is said. - No that is not true. You can buy food, but not appetite; medicine, but not health, soft beds, but not sleep, knowledge but not intelligence; glitter, but not comfort, fun, but not pleasure; acquaintances, but not friendship; servants, but not faithfulness; grey hair, but not honour; quiet days, but not peace. The shell of all things you can get for money. But not the kernel. That cannot be had for money.
Arne Garborg (1851-1924)

People who've got a good job have no time for all that other nonsense.
"People have now learned to leave their political baggage at the door and go to work," says Martin Mellon, a director at ASG Software Solutions, a Florida-based provider of systems-management applications and operator of a development center in Belfast. Or, as one weathered patron at centuries-old White's Tavern told me,
"People who've got a good job have no time for all that other nonsense." Thanks to Northern Ireland's small but rapidly growing presence as a destination for offshore IT work, more and more residents will have access to those good jobs, giving peace a chance to take root. You might think it hard to imagine Northern Ireland's experience could hold any lessons for the chaos that is present-day Iraq, but remember, Belfast was once frequently compared to Beirut.
Paul McDougall, "Northern Ireland's IT Peace Dividend Could Show The Way Forward In Iraq ,"
InformationWeek Newsletter, December 7, 2005

Thanks to the (Paul Volcker) reports, we know that Oil for Food administrator Benon Sevan, French Senator Charles Pasqua, British MP George Galloway, Indian Foreign Minister K. Natwar Singh, Russian politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky and dozens of other notables likely took bribes from Saddam Hussein in the form of lucrative oil "allocations." We know that as many as 2,253 companies, including heavyweights such as Siemens and Volvo, are listed in Iraqi records as having paid kickbacks in order to do business in Iraq. We know that Secretary-General Kofi Annan and his deputy, Louise Frechette, were incompetent administrators (at best) who failed to disclose corrupt U.N. practices of which they were fully aware. We know that Saddam manipulated the program to enrich himself to the tune of $1.8 billion (at least) while steering some $100 billion to his preferred clients, who then did his bidding at the U.N. Security Council. And we know exactly how he did it: by applying surcharges billed as "inland transportation" fees; through the use of multiple middlemen; via loopholes in the handling of the Oil for Food escrow account; with scads of cash carried in the diplomatic pouch.
Bret Stephens, "Let There Be Light . . . . . . in the murkiest recesses of the United Nations," The Wall Street Journal, December 3, 2005 ---

The UN signals goodbye to Israel:  Where will Jews be relocated?
The United Nations held a "Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People" last week. A large map of “Palestine,” with Israel literally wiped off the map, featured prominently in the festivities. The ceremony was held at the UN headquarters in New York and was attended by Secretary General Kofi Annan and the Presidents of the UN Security Council and the General Assembly . . . With the map hanging behind him, Secretary-General Annan addressed the public meeting at UN Headquarters.
Arutz Sheva, "UN Ceremony Includes Map of ´Palestine´ in Place of Israel," December 8, 2005 ---

What is the definition of a terrorist versus a freedom fighter?
Stephen Jukes, global news editor for Reuters, the British wire service, has ordered his scribes not to use the word terror to refer to the Sept. 11 atrocity, the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz reports (second item). "We all know that one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter and that Reuters upholds the principle that we do not use the word terrorist," Jukes writes in an internal memo. "To be frank, it adds little to call the attack on the World Trade Center a terrorist attack."
Opinion Journal ---
Jensen Comment:
To me a terrorist is one who deliberately targets innocent people who are not a threat.  Either this is a criminal for money (such as in the case of most kidnappings) or this is an act of desperation in an effort to demoralize the enemy.  But it's terrorism nevertheless when innocents are deliberately targeted.  A freedom fighter attacks those that are a threat such as military and subversives.  Sadly it is increasingly difficult to avoid collateral damage to innocent people who willingly or unwillingly shield the military and subversives. 

The problem for terrorists is that they will never win in the sense of standing up to claim their victories.  The minute they surface for the world to see their enemies will attack back, possibly with terror tactics that ruin all the spoils of victory.  Donald Rumsfeld recently said something that I agree with in a PBS interview.  He said that "insurgents in Iraq know that they can never win in Iraq.  Their tactics are all designed to demoralize America to the point where they win in Washington DC."

"Going Medieval The nature of jihad and this war we’re in," James S. Robbins, National Review Online, December 13, 2005 --- 

This is a review of The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims, a new anthology edited by Andrew G. Bostom. This exhaustive, 759-page tome contains both primary-source material and interpretive essays.

The Legacy of Jihad deals at some length with the medieval roots of jihad, and the classical Muslim theologians and jurists writing on topics of the necessity of expansion, the legality of war, and the legitimate ways in which people may be enslaved. Some of the arguments may seem antiquated to modern ways of thinking, but one can find references to these same thinkers in the contemporary writings of the terrorists and their spiritual godfathers. Ibn Taymiyah, for example, the 13th-century scholar who justified rebellion against the Mongol occupiers of Baghdad even though they had nominally converted to Islam, is included in this volume. Today he is invoked by Iraqi insurgents for a similar purpose. Sayyid Qutb, the 20th-century Egyptian dissident whose writings are generally recognized as the inspiration for the current radical Islamist movements, was also inspired by Ibn Taymiyah. The book includes an excerpt from his seminal work Milestones in which Qutb discusses in some detail the nature of jihad as he understood it — something that “cannot be achieved only by preaching.”

The nature of jihad is of course one of the central questions of the conflict. Frequently I have had students from Muslim countries explain very passionately that our understanding of jihad is flawed. That what we think of as jihad — violent struggle to extend the domain of Islam — is actually the “lesser jihad.” True jihad is a moral struggle within each person to enjoin the good and resist evil, what is called the “greater jihad.” Some say further that the idea that force can be used to convert is not Islamic; it would make the greater jihad impossible because the convert would not sincerely believe. All this may be true, in their understanding of the faith, and I have no quarrel with it. Would that everyone felt that way.

Nevertheless, not all Muslims are as interested in this spiritual quest, and some of the more radical adherents of the faith are convinced that nonviolence is not an option. Andrew Bostom’s book shows comprehensively the historical roots of this school of thought, and its continuity over the centuries to the present day. It helps one understand jihad operationally; its use, its claims to legitimacy, its perceived inevitability. Whether this is or is not the way most Muslims view the concept of jihad in its totality is not particularly relevant because people sincerely engaged in “greater jihad” are not a national-security threat. Likewise, those terrorists who have made “lesser jihad” their avocation have no use for fellow Muslims who are seeking only to bring themselves closer to God’s ideal as they understand it. As the Ayatollah Khomeini said of those who argued that Islam was a religion of peace that prevents men from waging war, “I spit upon those foolish souls who make such a claim.”

This is a book rich in detail. It contains writings that have not previously been available in English, and is a useful sourcebook for scholars and students interested in the topic. It is a useful companion to contemporary terrorist statements and writings — you might be surprised how much is borrowed from other writers. Clearly given the length, the language, and complexity (and gravity) of the topic it is not a book for light holiday reading. But for those who want to deepen their understanding of the means and motives of the terrorists, there is more in one place than any other book of its kind. And you won’t have to feel guilty about the Crusades any more either.

Earlier parts of this review are not quoted above

Terrorism is not winning the war on keeping tourists away from luxury resorts
"At the global level, the impact of such shocks has been negligible," the group says. "They may have led to temporary shifts in travel flows, but they have not stopped people traveling. At the local level, the impact can be severe in the affected areas, but in most cases this is surprisingly short-lived." At the Ritz-Carlton Bali, the occupancy rate plunged to 23% nine days after the island's first terrorist bombing, three years ago. Nine days after the latest attack, the same hotel was 59% full and receiving reservations. Russians, who flock to Bali in December and January, are among those asking for more rooms. The Intercontinental Resort Bali is planning a first-ever gala celebration for the Russian Orthodox Christmas and expects hundreds of guests. Similarly, hotels in the Egyptian resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh are recovering after terrorists killed 67 people in an attack there in July, says Patty Lee, a consultant in Hong Kong with hotel investment advisers Transact Asia Ltd. Occupancy rates at several luxury hotels there fell by half, to about 45%, after the bombing, but thanks to charter flights of sun-seeking Europeans, these rates have started to rebound, rising 10% in September, Ms. Lee says. While many economies have tried to lessen their dependence on tourism, they often have few alternatives for making money, and diversification can take decades to bear fruit. Not that measuring tourism's benefits is a simple business. Tourism occurs not in isolation but alongside changes in commodity prices, trade flows, migration and other areas, says Tim Forsyth, a senior lecturer on environment and development at the London School of Economics. Mr. Forsyth says, "it is very hard to deny that most tourist economies are better off in a macroeconomic sense."
Bruce Stanley, "In Bali and Elsewhere, Tourism Keeps Economy Humming Despite Blows From Terrorists," The Wall Street Journal, December 12, 2005; Page A2 ---

North Korea running counterfeit racket, says U.S.
THE counterfeiting operation began 25 years ago at a government mint built into a mountain in the North Korean capital. Using equipment from Japan, paper from Hong Kong and ink from France, a team of experts was ordered to make fake $US100 bills, said a former North Korean chemist whose job was to draw the design. "The main motive was to make money, but the secondary motive was inspired by anti-Americanism," said the chemist, now 56 and living in South Korea. By 1989 millions of dollars worth of high-quality fakes, were showing up around the world. The flow of forged bills has continued, despite a US redesign aimed at making the cash harder to replicate. For 15 years US officials suspected that North Korea's political leadership was behind the counterfeiting of $100 bills. Now federal authorities are pursuing at least four criminal cases and one civil enforcement action involving the forged notes. US authorities have unsealed hundreds of pages of documents in support of the cases in recent months, including an indictment that directly accuses North Korea of making the counterfeit bills.
"North Korea running counterfeit racket, says US," Sydney Morning Herald, December 14, 2005 ---

How many illegal immigrants in the U.S. and why are they here?

There are many reasons why a particular illegal immigrant might be in the U.S., reasons ranging from fear of death if deported  to opportunities to become a multimillionaire and live the American Dream.  Some start new businesses or buy hard-work businesses such as run-down motels, restaurants, and convenience stores, often because they are the only buyers in the market.  But the majority are streaming into America to get low skilled jobs that American citizens, especially our hard core unemployed, are unwilling fill even when offered opportunities to do so.

December 11, 2005 on Sixty Minutes (CBS Television) it was stressed how many unskilled jobs are unfilled and how dependent we’ve become on illegal immigrants. An example was given about how meat packing plants would close down without illegal immigrants. This actually happened in Nebraska. Nebraska initially invited the INS to investigate one of its huge packing plants. When over thousands of its workers were deported the plant shut down. Nebraska then refused to invite the INS to conduct any more plant investigations in the State of Nebraska ---


It is unlikely that our hard core U.S.-born unemployed will move to Nebraska to take on packing plant jobs even if offered free transportation and housing.  Illegal immigrants, on the other hand, will walk or even crawl across desert or crowd into oven-hot box cars to take packing plant jobs in Nebraska.  The U.S. is actually dependent upon these willing and dedicated hard workers.

"Illegals' numbers balloon: Half of immigrants are undocumented," by Lisa Friedman, Whittier Daily News, December 13, 2005 ---

The number of immigrants in the United States reached a new high this year after the biggest five-year increase in American history, said a study released Monday by the Center for Immigration Studies.

Nearly 7.9 million immigrants - about half of them believed to be illegal - settled in the United States between January 2000 and 2005, boosting the total number of immigrants in the nation to 35.2 million, the study said.

About 1.8 million immigrants during that period entered California, more than any other state, according to the study by the D.C.-based think tank that favors immigration control and analyzed Census Bureau data.

"The 35.2 million immigrants living in the country in March 2005 is the highest number ever recorded - 2 1/2 times the 13.5 million during the peak of the last great immigration wave in 1910," said Steven Camarota, the center's director of research.

The report comes as the House prepares to pass Republican legislation reinforcing U.S. borders, easing deportations and creating a nationwide system whereby employers must check workers' immigration status.

The study said nearly half of all California households receiving food stamps, subsidized housing or other public assistance are headed by an immigrant. And it said immigrants and their children in California are twice as likely to be uninsured, with more than half of all immigrants in the state receiving Medicaid.

Nationally, the study found, 28.6 percent of immigrant households use a welfare program compared with 18.2 percent of U.S.-born households, while 47 percent of all immigrants are either uninsured or have insurance provided through Medicaid.

Continued in article

Jensen Comment
I don't pretend to understand all of the issues here like sociologists and economists understand the issues.  The fact that immigrants households are more likely to use some welfare programs and medical assistance is hardly surprising since they tend to be so low paid and receive low, if any, benefits.  What news accounts like the above piece fail to do is weigh the costs against the benefits received by having so many good workers with strong families in our midst to offset the costs of others on welfare.  Obviously floodgates cannot be opened widely to the masses of the world or society in the U.S. would break down into overpopulated anarchy.  Nor can we offer $100 per hour and full benefits to U.S.-born, hard-core unemployed to grind out beef patties for Big Macs.  A far better expert than me, Mike Kearl at Trinity University, has about 300 references dealing with these very complex issues ---  Some other Trinity Professors have been, in scholarship and in deed, trying to improve hellish immigrant living conditions work opportunities in maquiladoras.  There are no simple solutions to illegal immigration flows as long as the worst living conditions and opportunities in the U.S. remain better than where these people were born.

New Israeli mobile phone to detect breast cancer
An Israeli psychologist has developed a radical new technology which would enable an ordinary mobile phone to diagnose breast cancer and various type of heart disease, the Haaretz daily reported Friday. By installing new software and adding a basic infrared camera, a mobile phone could be transformed into a highly-effective diagnostic tool, offering far more accurate results than the self-checks many women do themselves. Dr Nitzan Yaniv, who developed the technology, said the results of the scan could be immediately transferred to a medical laboratory for analysis, which could determine whether further checks were necessary.
"New Israeli mobile phone to detect breast cancer," PhysOrg, December 9, 2005 ---


"Agalmics:  The Marginalization of Scarcity,"  by Robert Levin ---

The recent growth of interest in Linux and "open source" or "free" software raises questions about the nature of the "gift culture" of the Internet. Why do people give away information? What do they hope to gain? How can the Internet continue to work, in a world in which politics based on shared ownership has serious, demonstrated problems?

The cooperative spirit of the Internet is not a historical fluke. If human beings allowed their aggressive, suspicious sides to dominate, we'd live in a world in which people took things by force instead of buying them. And how would anyone trust the printed word? How could education occur in the absence of cooperation? All over the world, students listen and educators teach. In a largely unrestricted market of record size, individuals freely trade goods and services for other goods and services of their choice. Ownership of private property remains largely undisputed by men with guns. We live in the cooperative state known as civilization.

Not every human activity is cooperative. Wars still occur. And the existence of laws implies that people do disagree about when cooperation is a good thing. But it's clear that voluntary interaction serves important human needs. The most successful economic systems on the planet are based on voluntary interaction. Variants of the "free enterprise" model have produced wealth and plenty on a vast scale. Political systems based on involuntary interaction, such of those of the Soviet Union and various Third World nations, have not been nearly so successful at meeting the needs and desires of their citizens as have systems which emphasize freedom.

But will technology change the way human beings interact over the coming decades? What trends do we need to understand in order to see where things are going? One clear trend in a technological society is the marginalization of scarcity. As time goes on, the technology of agriculture and manufacture teaches us how to produce goods with more efficiency, at less cost. The trend in technology is an exponential improvement of knowledge and capabilities. Make anything cheap enough, and it will no longer be scarce enough to be considered an economic good.

Contrary trends operate in the marketplace. Intellectual property, a system of law in which access to inventions and creative output is limited in order to reward their creators, has a powerful conservative influence on the market, slowing the adoption of new ideas and inventions. Patent law rewards inventors for coming up with useful technology; but the reward often comes in the form of purchase of the right to control who may use that technology. Large corporations, with large legal and accounting staffs and access to capital, have an extraordinary advantage in accumulating exclusive rights to new technologies. The nature of such organizations is to hold onto these assets tightly and release them slowly, so that the most efficient return on investment can be achieved.

But technological change continues to occur, in part because competing organizations often need the competitive advantage which new technology can provide. So we can be certain that, over time, more and more basic goods will become less and less scarce. With these changes, it becomes increasingly important to understand how human beings allocate non-scarce goods. Indeed, a sort of "economics" of non-scarcity becomes an important study. But economics is the study of the allocation of scarce goods. We need a new paradigm, and a new field of study. What we need is agalmics.

Institute for International Economics ---

Economics Website ---
This site is an introduction to basic concepts on economics and contains information, quizzes, activities and links to various online resources to learn more about our global economy.

Introduction to Economic Analysis ---

CyberEconomics ---

Inflation Data ---

Gold : prices, facts, figures & research ---

Stock Market Data ---

Bob Jensen's threads on economic statistics are at

Museum of American Finance ---

New Difficult Dialogue Grants to Colleges
The Ford Foundation today announced its first “Difficult Dialogue” grants — in which 26 colleges will each receive $100,000 to promote campus discussions on academic freedom and free speech while also promoting discussion of sometimes contentious issues about political and racial and ethnic issues.
Inside Higher Ed, December 12, 2005 ---

"Where Have All the Big Questions Gone?" by W. Robert Connor, Inside Higher Ed, December 12, 2005 --- 

In the humanities and related social sciences the situation was rather different. Some friends reminded me that, not all big questions were in eclipse. Over the past generation faculty members have paid great attention to questions of racial, ethnicity, gender and sexual identity. Curricular structures, professional patterns, etc. continue to be transformed by this set of questions. Professors, as well as students, care about these questions, and as a result, write, teach and learn with passion about them.

But there was wide agreement that other big questions, the ones about meaning, value, moral and civic responsibility, were in eclipse. To be sure, some individual faculty members addressed them, and when they did, students responded powerfully. In fact, in a recent Teagle-sponsored meeting on a related topic, participants kept using words such as “hungry,” “thirsty,” and “parched” to describe students’ eagerness to find ways in the curriculum, or outside it, to address these questions. But the old curricular structures that put these questions front and center have over the years often faded or been dismantled, including core curricula, great books programs, surveys “from Plato to NATO,” and general education requirements of various sorts. Only rarely have new structures emerged to replace them.

I am puzzled why. To be sure, these Big Questions are hot potatoes. Sensitivities are high. And faculty members always have the excuse that they have other more pressing things to do. Over two years ago, in an article entitled “Aim Low,” Stanley Fish attacked some of the gurus of higher education (notably, Ernest Boyer) and their insistence that college education should “go beyond the developing of intellectual and technical skills and … mastery of a scholarly domain. It should include the competence to act in the world and the judgment to do so wisely” (Chronicle of Higher Education, May 16 2003). Fish hasn’t been the only one to point out that calls to “fashion” moral and civic-minded citizens, or to “go beyond” academic competency assume that students now routinely achieve such mastery of intellectual and scholarly skills. We all know that’s far from the case.

Minimalist approaches — ones that limit teaching to what another friend calls “sectoral knowledge — are alluring. But if you are committed to a liberal education, it’s hard just to aim low and leave it at that. The fact that American university students need to develop basic competencies provides an excuse, not a reason, for avoiding the Big Questions. Students also need to be challenged, provoked, and helped to explore the issues they will inevitable face as citizens and as individuals. Why have we been so reluctant to develop the structures, in the curriculum or beyond it, that provide students with the intellectual tools they need to grapple thoughtfully over the course of a lifetime with these questions?

I see four possible reasons:

Continued in article

Were the levees bombed in New Orleans?
Dyan French, also known as "Mama D," is a New Orleans Citizen and Community Leader. She testified before the House Select Committee on Hurricane Katrina on Tuesday. "I was on my front porch. I have witnesses that they bombed the walls of the levee, boom, boom!" Mama D said, holding her head. "Mister, I'll never forget it." "Certainly appears to me to be an act of genocide and of ethnic cleansing," Leah Hodges, another New Orleans citizen, told the committee.
"Were the levees bombed in New Orleans? Ninth Ward residents give voice to a conspiracy theory," MSNBC, December 7, 2005 ---

Katrina Death Stats Contradict Racial Complaints
On Wednesday, Congress heard dramatic testimony from black Katrina survivors, who complained that racism drove the federal rescue efforts and resulted in an unnecessarily high number of African-American deaths . . . But preliminary figures compiled by the morgue in St. Gabriel, Louisiana, which is the primary facility handling the bodies of Katrina deceased, show that a majority of the dead in New Orleans and surrounding parishes were actually not black.
"Katrina Death Stats Contradict Racial Complaints," NewsMax, December 12, 2005 ---

How can one man receive a $1.45 billion award in a lawsuit?
Mr. Perelman, chairman of cosmetics giant Revlon Inc., was awarded $604.3 million in compensation and a further $850 million in punitive damages against Morgan Stanley to punish the bank for its misconduct in defrauding the financier when he sold his camping-gear company to the bank's client, Sunbeam Corp., in 1998. Trial Judge Elizabeth Maass allowed Mr. Perelman's allegation of fraud against the bank to be put to the jury as fact, as a sanction for the bank's continued failure to provide documents in the litigation, a process known as discovery.
"Morgan Stanley Appeals Decision To Award Perelman $1.45 Billion," by Marietta Cauchi, The Wall Street Journal, December 13, 2005; Page C4 ---

Bob Jensen's threads on Morgan Stanley and other investment banking frauds are at

Also see Derivative Financial Instruments frauds at

Free General Ledger Software (Accounting) ---

Ledger - General Ledger & Cashbook
Ledger is a free basic accounting system for small to medium-sized organizations that need a general ledger or cashbook. Because it is very easy to install and use it will also appeal to students of double-entry bookkeeping.

Account balances are calculated dynamically so that balance sheets or income statements can be produced for any arbitrary date or period. There is no such thing as a period close or roll-over however a viewing period can be specified to limit the number of entries visible on-screen. The program also allows for multiple companies and users spread over a wide geographic area.

Jensen Comment
I stumbled on this site and have no experience with it one way of the other.

Bob Jensen's threads on accounting software are at

Indexing and Searching scanned documents

December 13, 2005 message from Scott Bonacker [AECM@BONACKER.US]

Normally to take a scanned document and make it searchable you would run an OCR program on it. Then you would read the output and manually correct spelling and formatting errors before it was even worth lookin at. If you want to make something editable this still applies. But most of the time all I want to do is to search and locate something.

With Adobe Acrobat you can take the scanned images and recognize text using OCR to create a searchable PDF file. The original scanned image remains visible, and the searchable text is embedded in the image. Searching for a word or phrase will generally get you to the right place in the document, although the highlighted search result will be slightly off from the visible scan of the word.

X1 will then index the document just like any other and it can be located with normal searches.

In a paperless office where nearly everything is scanned, this is way better than going the full OCR and editing route.

Scott Bonacker, CPA
Springfield, Missouri

December 13, 2005 reply from Jim McKinney [jim@MCKINNEYCPA.COM]

I would suggest doing the OCR portion of the pdf file in OmniPage. I found that for me personally, the OCR in Acrobat is not very accurate. OmniPage seems to do a better job. You can still save the file so that it works like a text-searchable pdf. OmniPage can also handle grayscale and color scanned pdf's. I also found that once you OCR in Acrobat you cannot OCR in OmniPage.

Boilercast from Purdue University

BoilerCast ---
BoilerCast uses current digital audio delivery technology to deliver classroom audio recordings to the students at their request. These recordings are often used as review of the day’s material for use on homework assignments and review before exams. BoilerCast is a service available to all credit courses held on the West Lafayette campus and is capable of recording lectures from over 70 classrooms on campus with no lead time, and any other campus classroom with sufficient notice. The real benefit of BoilerCast is that the instructor orders the service at the beginning of the semester and everything else is automatically handled. Instructors do not need to worry about recording a class or posting in on their website as this is all handled for them as part of the service. Instructors using Purdue’s central course management system, Vista, can integrate the service into their course materials by simply creating a link to the course audio website set up for them.

Jensen Comment
Note that lectures on BoilerCast can either be password protected or unlocked for the public.  Most are unlocked.  There are many other sources of podcasts, including the following:

Bob Jensen's threads on Podcasting are at

The Future of Traditional Publishing

"HarperCollins Plans to Control Its Digital Books," by Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg and Kevin J. Delaney, The Wall Street Journal, December 12, 2005; Page B1 --- 

In the latest salvo in the fight over the future of books on the Internet, one of the country's biggest publishers said it intends to produce digital copies of its books and then make them available to search services offered by such companies as Google Inc., Yahoo Inc., Microsoft Corp. and, while maintaining physical possession of the digital files.

News Corp.'s HarperCollins Publishers Inc. hopes to head off the prospect of these big Internet companies taking charge of books that it has purchased, edited and published.

Its move to digitize its active backlist of an estimated 20,000 titles and as many as 3,500 new books each year comes at a moment when technology companies and the publishing industry are wrestling over rights and economic models for books online. HarperCollins's effort to make search companies use its digital copies is an aggressive response to anxieties felt by publishers worried that they will lose control over their intellectual property.

Along with a recent initiative by Bertelsmann AG's Random House, the initiative signals a growing desire by publishers to control and participate in some of the new online uses of their books.

"Now is the time to build a digital infrastructure that will allow us to protect our rights and the rights of our authors," said Jane Friedman, chief executive of News Corp.'s HarperCollins Publishers. "We will make all of our books available digitally, but we will store the digital copies and license them out to those who want to use them."

"We didn't like being seen as Luddites," she added. "We see what's going on, and we get it. We want to be the best collaborator, but we also want to take charge of our future."

Continued in article

"What's the Return on Education?," by Anna Bernasek, The New York Times, December 11, 2005 ---

The most important factor (in the U.S.) was the move to universal high school education from 1910 to 1940. It expanded the education of the work force far more rapidly than at any other time in the nation's history, creating economic benefits that extended well into the remainder of the century, according to Professors Katz and Goldin. That moved the United States ahead of other countries in education and laid the foundation for the expansion of higher education.

Today, more Americans attend college than ever before, but the rest of the world is catching up. The once-large educational gap between the United States and other countries is closing - making it increasingly important to understand what education is really worth to a nation.

If economists are right, it is not just part of the cost of maintaining a functioning democracy, but a source of wealth creation for all. That means that investing in the education of every American is in everyone's self-interest.

Still, we're a long way from being able to judge the right level of spending on education - and how to achieve it. With a college degree more important than ever, the cost of higher education is rising steeply, creating growing stress for many American families. With more study, researchers may be able to identify ways of reducing costs while increasing the payoff from education.

The earlier parts of this article are at

Home schooling becoming more popular among all races
The move toward home schooling, advocates say, reflects a wider desire among families of all races to guide their children's religious upbringing, but it also reflects concerns about other issues like substandard schools and the preservation of cultural heritage.
"Home Schools Are Becoming More Popular Among Blacks," The New York Times, December 11, 2005 ---

"Heading Off Heart Attacks: A potential genetic test for cardiovascular risk shows how "pharmacogenomics" is coming into its own," by Emily Singer, MIT's Technology Review, December 13, 2005 ---,304,p1.html?trk=nl 

Of course children don’t worry much about heart attacks. But what if there were a test that could predict how vulnerable a child was to cardiovascular disease later in life? Then doctors might be able to counsel their patients about making lifestyle changes, or give a child preventative medicines before their arteries started clogging up.

That’s the dream of pharmacogenomics -- the practice of tailoring treatments to any individual’s unique genetic make-up. Since the completion in 2003 of the human genome -- an entire readout of the sequence of nucleotides in human DNA -- this emerging field of medicine has been dogged by skepticism and unmet promises. But as pharmacogenomics tests and treatments are starting to materialize and technological advances in the laboratory are speeding development even further, once-doubtful drug companies are beginning to get on board.

Continued in article

Please SNARF Bob Jensen

"E-Mail You Can't Ignore:  A new program from Microsoft learns who's important in your life and puts their messages at the top of your inbox," by Tim Gnatek, MIT's Technology Review, December 12, 2005 ---,308,p1.html?trk=nl 

Many workers will return from their holiday vacations to an avalanche of unread e-mails. And sorting the important ones from the trivial might just exhaust any holiday goodwill -- especially now that three-quarters of all incoming office e-mail is junk, according to research firm Gartner.

There are new solutions to manage one's mailbox, however, that combine software and sociology. Going beyond existing measures, such as spam filters and blacklists, these newer applications prioritize incoming e-mail by studying the patterns of human interaction.

Microsoft Research released one such program on November 30. The free download is called SNARF, for Social Network and Relationship Finder. It runs alongside Microsoft Outlook (2002 and newer versions), poring through e-mail histories and following chains of communications to ferret out the unread messages it deems most important.

SNARF measures a sender's importance based on two key factors: the number and frequency of messages sent and received. The program then sorts unread e-mails into three fields: messages where the user is listed in the To or CC fields, group e-mails, and all messages received in the last week. SNARF lists messages by senders, rather than subject lines, and puts a user's most important correspondents on top.

Continued in article

The latest release of the open-source Firefox browser
On November 29, a new version of the Firefox Web browser was released at And within two days after Firefox 1.5 went live, more than two million people had downloaded it. Although it's only an incremental upgrade -- Firefox 2.0 is expected in mid-2006 -- the changes are obvious to anyone who has used the earlier version. (Its maker, the Mozilla Corporation, touts it as a faster, safer, smoother version of the program.) For instance, the new Firefox allows pages to load noticeably faster, thanks to a special cache that stores the most recently viewed pages -- those accessed through the "forward" and "back" buttons. The browser's viewing tabs, for accessing numerous pages in one window, can now be re-ordered in drag-and-drop fashion. And a "live bookmarks" feature is continually updated with the most recent headlines from news feeds around the Internet.

Kate Greene, "By the People The latest release of the open-source Firefox browser includes many features requested, and even designed, by users," MIT's Technology Review, December 2, 2005 ---,1,p1.html?trk=nl

Also see

One issue that has been getting attention since the Wednesday release of Firefox 1.5 is a bug that causes Mac OS X systems to use 100 percent of available processor resources in some cases, such as when scrolling in some Web-based applications (such as Google Maps) and holding down the mouse button. The bug has been known since before the release of Firefox 1.0, but has never been fixed, critics noted. (The Mozilla project has assigned the issue bug no. 141710.)
Matthew Broersma, "Firefox flaw highlighted," TechWorld, December 1, 2005 ---

Warnings About Firefox Upgrading

"Firefox: Why You Shouldn't Upgrade, And Favorite Extensions," by Mitch Wagner, InformationWeek Newsletter, December 12, 2005

My colleague Scot Finnie has a surprising recommendation about Firefox 1.5: Don't.

Or, rather, not yet.

He's recommending against upgrading to the latest version of Firefox, at least temporarily.

That's surprising because Scot is, like me, a huge Firefox advocate. He loves it, and so do I.

Another reason it's surprising is because, back last month, Scot recommended the opposite.

So what's changed? Stability, compatibility and performance. Somewhere between the release candidate that Scot evaluated last month and the final version of 1.5 released earlier two weeks ago, problems emerged. The new Firefox (he says) is slower and more prone to crashes than 1.0x versions. Moreover, there are more pages on the Web that are incompatible with the current version of Firefox than with 1.0x versions.

When I saw Scot's article, I sent him an E-mail. "I wish I'd seen your review before I upgraded last week. Thanks a lot, fella," I said.

Continued in article

Does a shortage of accountants contribute to client stress?
Some people in the industry say that customer service problems arise because fewer people are entering the field. "There is a shortage of accountants in this country," said Shannon Vincent, chief executive of the ReNew Group, an accounting-practice consulting firm in Oakland, Calif. "As a result, they don't necessarily have to treat their customers well."
Erwyn Brown, "How to Make Your (Accounting) Relationship Work," The New York Times, December 11, 2005 ---

Bob Jensen's threads on how to find an accounting and legal professional are at

"A Little Sleuthing Unmasks Writer of Wikipedia Prank," by Katharine Q. Seelye, The New York Times, December 11, 2005 ---

In a confessional letter to Mr. Seigenthaler, Mr. Chase said he thought Wikipedia was a "gag" Web site and that he had written the assassination tale to shock a co-worker, who knew of the Seigenthaler family and its illustrious history in Nashville.

"It had the intended effect," Mr. Chase said of his prank in an interview. But Mr. Chase said that once he became aware last week through news accounts of the damage he had done to Mr. Seigenthaler, he was remorseful and also a little scared of what might happen to him.

Mr. Chase also found that he was slowly being cornered in cyberspace, thanks to the sleuthing efforts of Daniel Brandt, 57, of San Antonio, who makes his living as a book indexer. Mr. Brandt has been a frequent critic of Wikipedia and started an anti-Wikipedia Web site ( in September after reading what he said was a false entry about himself.

Continued in article

Also see,1282,69810,00.html?tw=wn_tophead_6

Jensen Comment:
Wikipedia is now the world's largest encyclopedia ---

Off the government balance sheets - out of sight and out of mind

"The Next Retirement Time Bomb," by Milt Freudenheim and Mary Williams, The New York Times, December 11, 2005 --- 

SINCE 1983, the city of Duluth, Minn., has been promising free lifetime health care to all of its retired workers, their spouses and their children up to age 26. No one really knew how much it would cost. Three years ago, the city decided to find out.

It took an actuary about three months to identify all the past and current city workers who qualified for the benefits. She tallied their data by age, sex, previous insurance claims and other factors. Then she estimated how much it would cost to provide free lifetime care to such a group.

The total came to about $178 million, or more than double the city's operating budget. And the bill was growing.

"Then we knew we were looking down the barrel of a pretty high-caliber weapon," said Gary Meier, Duluth's human resources manager, who attended the meeting where the actuary presented her findings.

Mayor Herb Bergson was more direct. "We can't pay for it," he said in a recent interview. "The city isn't going to function because it's just going to be in the health care business."

Duluth's doleful discovery is about to be repeated across the country. Thousands of government bodies, including states, cities, towns, school districts and water authorities, are in for the same kind of shock in the next year or so. For years, governments have been promising generous medical benefits to millions of schoolteachers, firefighters and other employees when they retire, yet experts say that virtually none of these governments have kept track of the mounting price tag. The usual practice is to budget for health care a year at a time, and to leave the rest for the future.

Off the government balance sheets - out of sight and out of mind - those obligations have been ballooning as health care costs have spiraled and as the baby-boom generation has approached retirement. And now the accounting rulemaker for the public sector, the Governmental Accounting Standards Board, says it is time for every government to do what Duluth has done: to come to grips with the total value of its promises, and to report it to their taxpayers and bondholders.

Continued in article

Jensen Comment
FAS 106 (effective December 15, 1992) prohibits keeping post-retirement benefits such as medical benefits off private sector  balance sheets of corporations --- .  The equivalent for the public sector is GASB 45, but the new rules do not go into effect until for cities as large as Duluth until December 15, 2006 ---

Effective Date:

    The requirements of this Statement are effective in three phases based on a government's total annual revenues in the first fiscal year ending after June 15, 1999:

    • Governments that were phase 1 governments for the purpose of implementation of Statement 34—those with annual revenues of $100 million or more—are required to implement this Statement in financial statements for periods beginning after December 15, 2006.
    • Governments that were phase 2 governments for the purpose of implementation of Statement 34—those with total annual revenues of $10 million or more but less than $100 million—are required to implement this Statement in financial statements for periods beginning after December 15, 2007.
    • Governments that were phase 3 governments for the purpose of implementation of Statement 34—those with total annual revenues of less than $10 million—are required to implement this Statement in financial statements for periods beginning after December 15, 2008.

The new GASB 25 implementation dates may trigger defaults and "The Next Retirement Time Bomb."

Bob Jensen's threads on accounting theory are at

Ford, UAW Set Tentative Deal On Health-Care Concessions
UAW President Ron Gettelfinger and Vice President Gerald Bantom said Saturday that the accord, which still needs to be approved by UAW Ford workers, "asks every UAW member, active and retired, to make sacrifices so that everyone can continue to receive excellent health-care coverage today and in the future." Among other things, the UAW's deal with GM requires retirees to pay premiums, which they hadn't previously. High health-care and other labor costs are eating into the earnings of auto makers and their suppliers. Several auto-parts makers have filed for bankruptcy protection, most notably Delphi Corp., and GM and Ford are struggling to restore profitability as foreign manufacturers with leaner cost structures grab market share in the U.S.
Stephen Wisnefski, "Ford, UAW Set Tentative Deal On Health-Care Concessions," The Wall Street Journal, December 12, 2005; Page B2 ---

"Interstellar Spaceflight: Is It Possible?" PhysOrg, December 7, 2005 ---

Serious scientific study of UFOs
Authorities in Guiyang, capital of Guizhou Province, announced yesterday that they had received 160 million yuan (US$20 million) from a Taiwan-based company to construct a UFO research base. Some people in the city"s Baiyun District believe they were visited by aliens in 1994, and with this new research base, they hope to reproduce the mysterious moment, through photos and historical documentation.

"Mystery of UFO research puzzles scientists," PhysOrg, December 8, 2005 ---

What percentage of college faculty are non-tenure track adjuncts?
The number of adjuncts is on the rise nearly everywhere, as state universities search for ways to keep tuition and costs down and deal with falling state support. Lower-paid adjuncts like Jette free up their tenured colleagues for upper-level courses and research. The American Federation of Teachers, which represents more than 50,000 adjuncts around the country, says that 43 percent of college faculty members around the country are part-time, non-tenure-track professors, up from 33 percent a decade ago.
"An army of adjuncts:  Part-time professors increasingly common at state universities," CNN, December 9, 2005 ---

New discovery on how cancer spreads within a body
Scientists have discovered how cancer spreads from a primary site to other places in the body in a finding that could open doors for new ways of treating and preventing advanced disease. Instead of a cell just breaking off from a tumor and traveling through the bloodstream to another organ where it forms a secondary tumour, or metastasis, researchers in the United States have shown that the cancer sends out envoys to prepare the new site. Intercepting those envoys, or blocking their action with drugs, might help to prevent the spread of cancer or to treat it in patients in which it has already occurred.
MSNBC, December 8, 2005 --- 

Tim Priest blames Australian race riots on police force neglect
In an article on this page nearly two years ago ("Don't turn a blind eye to terror in our midst," January 12, 2004), I argued that the increasing frequency of racially motivated attacks on young Australian men and women - including murders, gang rapes and serious assaults by young men of Lebanese Muslim descent - would rise dramatically throughout Australia. These problems remain widespread and have been documented in the ensuing two years. Yet the NSW Labor Government and police have failed to address the issues in any way apart from the instigation of something called Strike Force Gain, set up to investigate a spate of shootings involving young men of Middle Eastern descent in southwest Sydney last year. This strike force has been largely wound down due to budgetary restraints.
Tim Priest, "Blame race riots on police force neglect," The Australian, December 13, 2005 ---,5744,17546003^601,00.html

"LASIK - Some Wounds Never Heal," Dr. Lloyd, WebMD, November 29, 2005 ---

This is going right up front so there is no misunderstanding:

1. I do not think LASIK is bad surgery.
2. I do not think every patient is a
good candidate for LASIK.
3. I do not think every patient fully understands what happens during LASIK.

Regarding that third point, many LASIK patients are surprised to learn (months, years following LASIK) that their LASIK flap never heals. That's right! That slender layer of superficial cornea never forms a scar to bind it to the remaining cornea.

The LASIK flap is necessary in order to expose the deeper corneal layers to the laser energy that reverses the refractive power of the eye. But there's a catch - that flap never heals after it is gently repositioned. Because there is no scarring the LASIK surgeon can retreat the eye if more laser is needed. Lots of accidental injuries can also lift that flap: shrubbery, children's fingers, spray from water skiing, eye-pokes from sports competition, etc. LASIK flap trauma can cause the flap to completely come off the eye...bad news!

This information is not intended to frighten anyone away from LASIK - just be sure you know all of the potential risks of complications. After LASIK be sure to always wear quality protective eyewear whenever you are involved in any activity that might jeopardize those precious LASIK flaps. Whether operating a weed whacker or water skiing be sure to take the necessary precautions in order that you can continue to enjoy crisp eyesight.

Saudi Prince Gives Millions to Harvard and Georgetown
Harvard University and Georgetown University each announced yesterday that they had received $20 million donations from Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz Alsaud, a Saudi businessman and member of the Saudi royal family, to finance Islamic studies. Harvard said it would create a universitywide program on Islamic studies, recruit new faculty members in the field, provide more support for graduate students and convert rare Islamic textual sources into digital formats to make them widely available.
Karen W. Arenson, "Saudi Prince Gives Millions to Harvard and Georgetown ," The New York Times, December 13, 2005 ---

Wisconsin school's recommended generic lyrics to the melody of Silent Night

Cold in the night,
no one in sight,
winter winds whirl and bite,
how I wish I were happy and warm,
safe with my family out of the storm.

For a performance in its "winter program," a Wisconsin elementary school has changed the beloved Christmas carol "Silent Night," calling the song "Cold in the Night" and secularizing the lyrics.
"'Silent Night' secularized," World Net Daily, December 7, 2005 ---

See more than rooftops:  Free satellite photos at 45-degree angles (Bird's Eye Images) ---
Use the slider to zoom and the arrows to relocate

In battling Google in local search, Microsoft is falling back on its familiar strategy: copy and then go one better. The software giant has released in beta a new online service that's similar to Google Local, but has some impressive innovations. Windows Live Local combines Microsoft's local search engine and Virtual Earth aerial-imaging service. In providing the new tool, Microsoft is going a step further than Google by providing 45-degree aerial views of locations. This so-called "bird's-eye view" is only available for places in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Seattle and Las Vegas, but more cities are expected to be added over time . . . Besides its bird's-eye views, Microsoft is offering step-by-step driving directions using either the angular views or straight-down satellite views, identification of construction areas along a specific route and several print options, such as the ability to only print directions or to include thumbnail pictures of each turn in the route. User also can print directions that include their personal notes.
Antone Gonsalves, InformationWeek Newsletter, December 8, 2005 ---

Also see,aid,123847,00.asp

Microsoft's preview is at

Microsoft's Live Ideas site is at

Bob Jensen's threads on satellite mapping services are at

Too much:  Daily streams of new features from Google, Yahoo, and MSN

"Who's Listening To Google, Yahoo, MSN?" by Antone Gonsalves, InformationWeek Newsletter, December 9, 2005

Announcements of new Web services from Google, Yahoo or Microsoft's MSN are almost a daily occurrence. This week alone, each has made at least one, with Yahoo making two.

Recent releases include Google launching a trip-planning service for people who prefer public transportation, Yahoo providing new Internet telephony features and search based on queries and answers from its subscribers, and Microsoft unveiling Windows Live Local search.

All of this was released in one week, and adds to the many other mind-numbing announcements made over the last 12 months.

With so much noise coming from these three giants, one has to ask who's listening, besides tech reporters and early adopters? I suspect hardly anyone.

These portals are becoming massive in scope, making it nearly impossible for someone to follow what's new without making a career out of it. Frankly, I think most people are more interested in Christmas shopping these days than in planning a bus trip on Google, or trying out new mapping capabilities on MSN.

I say its time for Google, Microsoft and Yahoo to rethink their strategy in releasing new features. Rather than just making announcements to the media, they should start targeting specific groups of subscribers or Internet users who may actually be interested in a particular service.

Companies Adapt Technology to Improve Seniors' Lives
Meet Chester the Talking Pill, Guido the interactive walker and Pearl, a personal robot designed to carry groceries or dirty dishes to the kitchen with a simple voice command. Researchers dreaming up such high-tech innovations to make the lives of senior citizens easier are convening this week at an unusual technology exhibition at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Woodley Park. The event, timed to coincide with a once-a-decade White House Conference on Aging, is open to the public today.
"It's Gee-Whiz for the Golden Years: Companies Adapt Technology to Improve Seniors' Lives," by Mike Musgrove, The Washington Post, December 13, 2005 ---

Also see

From The Washington Post on December 13, 2005

Japanese citizens are increasingly turning to electronic cash to purchase items at department and grocery stores, as well as to pay restaurant tabs. Besides electronic cards, what other devices can Japanese use to facilitate electronic payments?

A. Cell phones
B. iPods
C. Thumbprints
D. Wrist-watches

One of the reasons Ford is in trouble
Lincoln's success isn't just in the pre-import years, either. Get this: In 1990, sales of the Lincoln Town Car alone hit nearly 150,000 -- more than Mercedes and BMW sold in the U.S. combined. And in 1998, Lincoln rode the success of its Navigator SUV and LS sports sedan to win the U.S. luxury-sales crown. But since then, Lincoln has been in a freefall, and only this year is Ford trying to do anything about it. The new Zephyr sedan and Mark LT luxury pickup are Ford's attempts to transform the Lincoln from also-ran to American luxury. With 102,000 vehicles sold this year, Lincoln trails every serious luxury brand except Saab and some of the pricey niche brands, such as Jaguar. NOTHING UNIQUE.  And guess what? These new cars won't do the trick. Not even close.
"New Lincolns, Same Old Problems," Business Week, December 6, 2005 ---

National Federation of the Blind ---

Bob Jensen's helpers for students with disabilities are at

New Guidelines for Copyright Policies in Universities
Four associations have released a guide for colleges to use in reviewing whether their copyright policies reflect recent legal and technological developments. The guide notes that colleges and their faculty members are major producers of copyrighted material, and that professors and students also are big users of such material — sometimes in ways that create legal difficulties. The groups that prepared the guide are the Association of American Universities, the Association of Research Libraries, the Association of American University Presses, and the Association of American Publishers.
Inside Higher Ed, December 7, 2005 ---

A report released yesterday by a pair of free-expression advocates at New York University Law School's Brennan Center for Justice claims Web site owners and remix artists alike are finding free-expression rights squelched because of ambiguities in copyright law. The study argues that so-called "fair use" rights are under attack. It suggests six major steps for change, including reducing penalties for infringement and making a greater number of pro-bono lawyers available to defend alleged fair users. BNA's Internet Law News (ILN) - 12/6/2005
Coverage at"> 
Report at">a>
From the University of Illinois Scholarly Communication Blog on December 7, 2005 --- 

Bob Jensen's threads on the DMCA are at

Colleges Can File Claims for Asbestos Removal Costs
Colleges can file claims through March 15 to recoup money for the costs of removing asbestos as part of a $50 million settlement, the American Council on Education and National Association of College and University Business Officers said Tuesday. The settlement was reached in an 18-year-old class action known as Central Wesleyan v. W.R. Grace.
Inside Higher Ed
, December 7, 2005 ---

Florida Jury Refuses to Convict Ex-Professor in U.S. Terror Case
But Michael Greenberger, a University of Maryland law professor and former Clinton Justice Department official, said the verdicts show that "no matter the extent of the broad powers the government has been given under the Patriot Act, jurors are still going to apply common sense to the facts that are presented to them." In 2003, federal prosecutors alleged Mr. Arian had concealed a terrorist cell within "the structure, facilities and academic environment" of the University of South Florida in Tampa, where he worked as a computer-science professor and set up an Islamic studies research project. Prosecutors accused Mr. Arian of raising funds and channeling them to Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which the U.S. classifies as a terrorist organization. The indictment alleged that Mr. Arian and his co-defendants had financed terrorist attacks that killed more than 100 people in Israel and its occupied territories, including two Americans.
Jesse Bravin, "Florida Jury Refuses to Convict Ex-Professor in U.S. Terror Case," The Wall Street Journal, December 7, 2005; Page A12 ---

Also see

Now the government will get your unpaid student loan, with interest, if you should live to retirement age
The federal government can withhold money from Social Security payments to a borrower who has been in default on student loans for a decade or more, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Wednesday. The ruling in Lockhart v. United States (04-881) involved James Lockhart, a Washington State man who by 2002 owed more than $80,000 from nine student loans that he had failed to repay. When the Treasury Department began dipping into his monthly Social Security checks to collect, he sued, citing a clause in the 1982 Debt Collection Act that applied a 10-year statute of limitations on the government’s ability to collect on student loan debt in that way.
Inside Higher Ed, December 8, 2005 ---

Also see

"Viral cure could 'immunise' the internet," Kurt Kleiner, NewScientist, December 1, 2005 ---

Some researchers have developed artificial "immune systems" that automatically analyse a virus meaning a fix can be sent out more rapidly. In practise, however, computer viruses still tend to spread too quickly.

Now Eran Shir, and colleagues at Tel-Aviv University in Israeli, have applied network theory to the problem, and believe they have come up with a more effective solution.

Part of the problem, the researchers say, is that countermeasures sent from a central server over the same network as the virus it is pursuing will always be playing catch-up.

They propose developing a network of "honeypot" computers, distributed across the internet and dedicated to the task of combating viruses. To a virus, these machines would seem like ordinary vulnerable computers. But the honeypots would attract a virus, analyse it automatically, and then distribute a countermeasure

Healing hubs But the honeypots would be linked to one another via a dedicated and secure network. This way, once one has captured a virus, all the others will quickly know about the infection immediately. Each honeypot then acts as a hub of healing code which is disseminated to computers connected to it. The countermeasure then spreads out across the broader network.

Simulations show that the larger the network grows, the more efficient this scheme should be. For example, if a network has 50,000 nodes (computers), and just 0.4% of those are honeypots, just 5% of the network will be infected before the immune system halts the virus, assuming the fix works properly. But, a 200-million-node network – with the same proportion of honeypots – should see just 0.001% of machines get infected.

Security measures, such as encryption, would be needed to prevent viruses from exploiting the honeypot network.

"They've shown it is possible to use this epidemically spreading immune agent to good advantage," says Jeff Kephart, a computer scientist at IBM in Hawthorne, New York, US. "The next step would be to look more carefully at the benefits and costs of this approach. I see promise in it."

The paper only discusses the mathematical model, and there is no effective implementation as yet. But Shir plans to release a simple example program soon and hopes that volunteers or a company will eventually implement the real thing across the internet.

Journal reference: Nature Physics (DOI: 10.1038/nphys177).

Google vs. Microsoft:  Classified Adds Moving Onto the Web
Putting aside the well-documented decline in some key aspects of the daily newspaper business -- most notably paid circulation -- it must be daunting for newspaper execs to consider Microsoft and Google encroaching on their classified-ad business. In Microsoft's case, the company is testing an online classifieds service that would let people sell personal items over its instant messaging, social networking, or local search services. The software vendor plans to let users offer goods or services to contacts on MSN Messenger or to groups within its blogging service. At the same time, prospective purchasers would be able to set up RSS feeds and get updates on new items being listed. Microsoft's disclosure follows an apparent -- or widely interpreted -- move by Google that could result in a big classified ad push. Combine that with competition from the likes of classifieds on Yahoo, and the dominance of eBay.
Tom Smith, InformationWeek Daily Newsletter, December 2, 2005

The Library of Economics and Liberty ---

Why is Economics So Boring?
by Donald Cox

Two economists, Stan Sigma and Ollie Omega are overheard talking in the faculty lounge.

Stan: Ollie, you know the worst part about being an economist? You meet someone at a cocktail party, you tell them you teach economics...

Ollie: ...and they say "Oh, yeah, I took that in college. I hated it. It was sooo boring!"

Stan: Then come the observations about the professor's personal hygiene and it goes downhill from there. "Most of what goes on in the marketplace is about gains from trading, not gains from raiding."

Ollie: At which point you say "Sorry, did I say economics? I meant Sunday comics. I teach Sunday comics.

Stan: Never works though.

Ollie: I have an idea. I have a plot for a made-for-TV movie about economics. I'll show ‘em! Ready?

Stan: What's the title?

Ollie: Hmmm. Let's see. I've got it. Equation 14!

Stan: Equation what? I'm not optimistic.

Ollie: Wait, listen, this is gonna be good.

The scene: A small, stuffy seminar room in the economics department at Meadows College.

Professor Ralph Whittemore Heinous, 35, struggling, still not tenured, is teaching a senior honors economics seminar.

Sally Bright, star student, is presenting a draft of her thesis, a penetrating, complex new theory of how to adjust interest rates in order to keep the economy on track. Brilliant, original stuff.


Continued in article

Happiness, Progress and the "Vanity of the Philosopher" Part 2
The Trial of Annie Besant and Charles Bradlaugh
by Sandra J. Peart, David M. Levy

The popular interpretation of Malthusian population theory is one of inexorable tragedy—population will inevitably outstrip the food supply leading to famine and death. This caricature of Thomas Robert Malthus neglects his view that individuals could make choices to avoid tragedy, using their uniquely human gifts of foresight and calculation.

Even though Malthus was aware of the sexual temptation associated with an unmarried state, Malthus advocated delay of marriage to prudentially restrain population. He recognized the "vice" that would follow from this delay of marriage but chose to risk this and advocated what he called the "preventive check" as a way to avoid misery. An additional step was taken by "neo-Malthusians," Francis Place, James Mill, and John Stuart Mill, who advocated contraception so that people could marry at a younger age and still prudentially restrain population. J. S. Mill wrote about this delicately in his Principles of Political Economy:

That it is possible to delay marriage, and to live in abstinence while unmarried, most people are willing to allow; but when persons are once married, the idea, in this country, never seems to enter any one's mind that having or not having a family, or the number of which it shall consist, is amenable to their own control. One would imagine that children were rained down upon married people, direct from heaven, without their being art or part in the matter; that it was really, as the common phrases have it, God's will, and not their own, which decided the numbers of their offspring—(Principles of Political Economy, Bk. II, Ch. 13, par. II.13.3). "The dramatic episode that clarified the difference between classical political economy and Darwin's biology began on June 18, 1877, with the trial of two prominent neo-Malthusians, Charles Bradlaugh and Annie Besant, for the crime of publishing an 'obscene' book, a practical guide to contraception by the American physician, John Knowlton, Fruits of Philosophy."

Charles Darwin's views on population growth stand in contrast with those of Malthus. His theory of natural selection was a theory about creatures without the ability to foresee the consequences of their actions. In such a world, population growth would ultimately be checked not by providential restraint but by the miseries of too many creatures chasing too little food. Darwin believed that natural selection applied to humans, thereby guaranteeing that human beings become "better" over time as the pressures of scarcity winnowed out those who could not compete.

Malthus and the Neo-Malthusians called the natural forces that limited population growth, the "positive check." They instead advocated what they called the "preventive check"—the deliberate use of contraception or other foresightful behavior to avoid misery. According to Darwin's theories, adding the preventive check to the positive check was tampering with natural selection—it would impede human progress.

As might be expected, the contrasting positions on foresight and family formation also coincided with contrasting views on making contraceptive information available. Malthus' population theory was a plea for experts to trust the individual's own understanding of his place in the world and for experts to stop trying to make decisions for poor people. Equipped with the capacity to foresee the consequences of their actions, poor people—like anyone else—were capable of deciding when to marry and have children. The opposing view was that if poor people didn't possess the foresight or ability to make such decisions, birth control should be controlled by experts in the medical profession.

Continued in article


Analyst forecasts:  A "consensus" of one analyst
When you think of a person whose opinion counts most for a company, the CEO, chairman or chief financial officer probably comes to mind. But for nearly 700 public U.S. companies, the one analyst who covers the stock ranks right up there. That might sound farfetched, but consider mutual fund tracker Morningstar, which reported 70% higher earnings in its most recent quarter, but saw its stock whacked 6% anyway the day of the earnings release. Its results fell short of the "consensus" that actually was the estimate of the one analyst who covers the company. "It's kind of scary," says that analyst, Marvin Loh of DE Investment Research. "If they miss me, they miss the estimate."
Matt Krantz, "'Consensus estimate' may be from one analyst," USA Today, December 6, 2005 ---

Bob Jensen's "Rotten to the Core" threads are at

UNESCO Observatory on the Information Society ---  

Of the world's 100 largest economic entities, 51 are now corporations and 49 are countries ---

Almost 300 Million Cameraphones Sold In 2005
This year, almost 40% of all phones sold also will include cameras, Gartner says, as compared with 14% of the total just a year ago.
"Almost 300 Million Cameraphones Sold In 2005: Gartner," InformationWeek, December 1, 2005 ---

National Tribal Justice Resource Center (Law) ---

National Tribal Justice Resource Center (Law)---

The Pledge of Allegiance

December 9, 2005 message from Dick Haar (turn on your computer speakers)

Red Skelton was a movie star and comedian on television back fifty years ago. He created a number of characters and his show was watched by millions. He did this on his show one evening, back when shows were live.

Necessary listening for all Americans.

"Shoplifter Runs From Store Into K-9 Training Area," KOIN News 6, December 11, 2005 ---

From the opening act to the hot-pursuit chase to the grand finale, the Three Stooges couldn't have choreographed a foiled shoplifting attempt in Medford any better. It began when a Fred Meyer's worker spotted a man snatching a $42 bottle of Calvin Klein perfume and stuffing it down the front of his pants. The man left the store, but security caught up with him just as he jumped into the frigid waters of Bear Creek.

When the 33-year-old suspect emerged from the creek, he made for some baseball fields. What he didn't know was that the fields were the training grounds for the Medford police department's K-9 units.

Police dogs Tiko and Rudy, along with their handlers, were honing their crime-fighting skills. The dogs found the suspect almost immediately, and he surrendered.

PhD Comics ---

Forwarded by Paula

Father Murphy walks into a pub in Donegal, and says to the first man he meets, "Do you want to go to heaven?"

The man said, "I do Father."

The priest said, "Then stand over there against the wall." Then the priest asked the second man, "Do you want to got to heaven?"

"Certainly, Father," was the man's reply. "Then stand over there against the wall," said the priest. Then Father Murphy walked up to O'Toole and said, "Do you want to go to heaven?"

O'Toole said, "No, I don't Father."

The priest said, "I don't believe this. You mean to tell me that when you die you don't want to go to heaven?"

O'Toole said, "Oh, when I die, yes. I thought you were getting a group together to go right now."


O'Toole worked in the lumber yard for twenty years and all that time he'd been stealing the wood and selling it.

At last his conscience began to bother him and he went to confession to repent. "Father, it's 15 years since my last confession, and I've been stealing wood from the lumber yard all those years," he told the priest.

"I understand my son," says the priest. "Can you make a Novena?"

O'Toole said, "Father, if you have the plans, I've got the lumber."


Paddy was in New York. He was patiently waiting, and watching the traffic cop on a busy street crossing. The cop stopped the flow of traffic and shouted, "Okay, pedestrians." Then he'd allow the traffic to pass. He'd done this several times, and Paddy still stood on the sidewalk.

After the cop had shouted "Pedestrians" for the tenth time, Paddy went over to him and said, "Is it not about time ye let the Catholics across?"


Gallagher opened the morning newspaper and was dumbfounded to read in the obituary column that he had died.

He quickly phoned his best friend Finney. "Did you see the paper?" asked Gallagher. "They say I died!!"

"Yes, I saw it!" replied Finney. "Where are ye callin' from?"


Mrs. Murphy is looking for the grave of her late husband (a notorious criminal) as it has been a while since she was there. She goes to the cemetery's management office and says, "I am looking for my husband's grave."

"Ok madam", says the director. "What was his name?"

"John Murphy," she answers.

He looks through his large book for quite a time and says "sorry there are no John Murphy's in our cemetery, nothing but one Mary Murphy."

The woman brightens up and says, "Of course that's it; everything was in my name."


An Irish priest is driving down to New York and gets stopped for speeding in Connecticut. The state trooper smells alcohol on the priest's breath and then sees an empty wine bottle on the floor of the car. He says, "Sir, have you been drinking?"

"Just water," says the priest.

The trooper says, "Then why do I smell wine?"

The priest looks at the bottle and says, "Good Lord! He's done it again!"

Forwarded by Dick Haar

Check out this Google quirk

Somebody at Google is very clever or inept.

1st - Go to

2nd - Type in "french military victories", without the quotes.

3rd - Instead of hitting "Search" hit "I'm feeling Lucky" (then, by all means, or just hit search and select the option Google gives you).e

4th - Tell your friends before the people at Google fix it


Have a great holiday break with your family and friends!!!!!

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Professor Robert E. Jensen (Bob)
Jesse H. Jones Distinguished Professor of Business Administration
Trinity University, San Antonio, TX 78212-7200
Voice: 210-999-7347 Fax: 210-999-8134  Email:  

Humor  Between December 1 and December 15, 2005

Seen on the back of a T-Shirt worn by a young woman talking to one of our U.S. ex-presidents.
"Democrats are sexy.  Who ever heard of a nice piece of elephant."

Forwarded by Paula

Woman's Life Cycle

What is the difference between girls/women aged: 8, 18, 28, 38, 48, 58. 68, and 78 ?

At 8 -- You take her to bed and tell her a story.

At 18 -- You tell her a story and take her to bed.

At 28 -- You don't need to tell her a story to take her to bed.

At 38 -- She tells you a story and takes you to bed.

At 48 -- She tells you a story to avoid going to bed.

At 58 -- You stay in bed to avoid her story.

At 68 -- If you take her to bed, that'll be a story!

At 78 -- What story??? What bed??? Who the hell are you???

Forwarded by Paula

Upon hearing that her elderly grandfather had just passed away, Katie went straight to her grandparent's house to visit her 95-year-old grandmother and comfort her. When she asked how her grandfather had died, her grandmother replied, "He had a heart attack while we were making love on Sunday morning."

Horrified, Katie told her grandmother that two people nearly 100 years old having sex would surely be asking for trouble. "Oh no, my dear," replied granny. "Many years ago, realizing our advanced age, we figured out the best time to do it was when the church bells would start to ring. It was just the right rhythm. Nice and slow and even. Nothing too strenuous, simply in on the Ding and out on the Dong."

She paused to wipe away a tear, and continued, "He'd still be alive if the ice cream truck hadn't come along."

Forwarded by Dick Haar

Most of us will recognize all these terms, but to let you know how quickly things change, my grandson asked me what the handle on the door was for (window crank), and my grand daughter once asked what the dial was on the telephone (had never seen anything but touchtone phones)

I came across this phrase in a book yesterday "FENDER SKIRTS". A term I haven't heard in a long time and thinking about "fender skirts" started me thinking about other words that quietly disappear from our language with hardly a notice.

Like "curb feelers" and "steering knobs." Since I'd been thinking of cars, my mind naturally went that direction first. Any kids will probably have to find some elderly person over 50 to explain some of these terms to you

Remember "Continental kits?" They were rear bumper extenders and spare tire covers that were supposed to make any car as cool as a Lincoln Continental. < /B> When did we quit calling them "emergency brakes?" At some point "parking brake" became the proper term. But I miss the hint of drama that went with "emergency brake."

I'm sad, too, that almost all the old folks are gone who would call the accelerator the "foot feed"

Didn't you ever wait at the street for your daddy to come home, so you could ride the "running! board" up to the house?

Here's a phrase I heard all the time in my youth but never anymore - "store-bought." Of course, just about everything is store-bought these days. But once it was bragging material to have a store-bought dress or a store-bought bag of candy.

"Coast to coast" is a phrase that once held all sorts of excitement and now means almost nothing. Now we take the term "world wide" for granted. This floors me.

On a smaller scale, "wall-to-wall" was once a magical term in our homes. In the '50s, everyone covered his or her hardwood floors with, wow, wall-to-wall carpeting! Today, everyone replaces their wall-to-wall carpeting with hardwood floors. Go figure.

When's the last time you heard the quaint phrase "in a family way?" It's hard to imagine that the word "pregnant" was once considered a little too graphic, a little too clinical for use in polite company. So we had all that talk about stork visits and "being in a family way" or simply "expecting."

Apparently "brassiere" is a word no longer in usage. I said it the other day and my daughter cracked up. I guess it's just "bra" now "Unmentionables" probably wouldn't be understood at all.

I always loved going to the "picture show," but I considered "movie" an affectation.

Most of these words go back to the '50s, but here's a pure-'60s word I came across the other day - "rat fink." Ooh, what a nasty put-down!

Here's a word I miss - "percolator." That was just a fun word to say. And what was it replaced with? "Coffee maker." How dull. Mr. Coffee, I blame you for this.

I miss those made-up marketing words that were meant to sound so modern and now sound so retro. Words like "DynaFlow" and "Electrolux." Introducing the 1963 Admiral TV, now with "SpectraVision!"

Food for thought - Was there a telethon that wiped out lumbago? Nobody complains of that anymore. Maybe that's what castor oil cured, because I never hear mothers threatening kids with castor oil anymore.

Some words aren't gone, but are definitely on the endangered list. The one that grieves me most "supper." Now everybody says "dinner." Save a great word. Invite someone to supper. Discuss fender skirts.

It's a stretch: Man, 50, pulls truck with penis (Really!) ---

Forwarded by Aaron Konstam

01. I started out with nothing....I still have most of it.

02. When did my wild oats turn to prunes and All Bran?

03. I finally got my head together, now my body is falling apart.

04. Funny, I don't remember being absent minded.

05. All reports are in. Life is now officially unfair.

06. If all is not lost, where is it?

07. It is easier to get older than it is to get wiser.

08. If at first you do succeed, try not to look too astonished.

09. The first rule of holes: If you are in one, stop digging.

10. I tried to get a life once, but they were out of stock.

11. I went to school to become a wit, only got halfway through..

12. It was all so different before everything changed.

13. Some days you're the dog, some days you're the hydrant.

14. Nostalgia isn't what it used to be.

15. Old programmers never die. They just terminate and stay resident.

16. A day without sunshine is like a day in Seattle.

17. I wish the buck stopped here. I could use a few...

18. Kids in the back seat cause accidents; accidents in the back seat cause kids.

19. It's not the pace of life that concerns me, it's the sudden stop at the end.

20. It's hard to make a comeback when you haven't been anywhere.

21. Living on Earth is expensive, but it does include a free trip around the sun.

22. The only time the world beats a path to your door is if you're in the bathroom.

23. If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would have put them on my knees.

24. Never knock on Death's door: ring the doorbell and run (he hates that).

25. Lead me not into temptation (I can find the way myself).

26. When you're finally holding all the cards, why does everyone else decide to play chess?

27. If you're living on the edge, make sure you're wearing your seat belt.

28. There are two kinds of pedestrians ... the quick and the dead.

29. An unbreakable toy is useful for breaking other toys.

30. A closed mouth gathers no feet.

31. Health is merely the slowest possible rate at which one can die.

32. It's not hard to meet expenses ... they're everywhere.

33. Jury: Twelve people who determine which client has the better attorney.

34. The only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth.

35. Keep your friends close but your enemies closer.

Forwarded by Paula

I thought you would want to know about this e-mail virus. Even the most advanced programs from Norton or McAfee cannot take care of this one. It appears to affect those who were born prior to 1965.


1. Causes you to send the same e-mail twice. done that!

2. Causes you to send a blank e-mail! that too!

3. Causes you to send e-mail to the wrong person. yep!

4. Causes you to send it back to the person who sent it to you. who me?

5. Causes you to forget to attach the attachment. well darn!

6. Causes you to hit "SEND" before you've finished. oh no - not again!

7. Causes you to hit "DELETE" instead of "SEND." and I just hate that!

8. Causes you to hit "SEND" when you should "DELETE." Oh No!


Forwarded by Dr. B.

Maxine on "Driver Safety"
"I can't use the cell phone in the car. I have to keep my hands free for making gestures.".......

Maxine on "Housework"
"I do my housework in the nude. It gives me an incentive to clean the mirrors as quickly as possible."

Maxine on "Lawn Care"
"The key to a nice-looking lawn is a good mower. I recommend one who is muscular and shirtless."

Maxine on "The Perfect Man"
"All I'm looking for is a guy who'll do what I want, when I want, for as long as I want, and then go away. Or wait nearby, like a Dust Buster, charged up and ready when needed."

Maxine on "Technology Revolution"
"My idea of rebooting is kicking somebody in the butt twice."

Maxine on "Aging"
"Take every birthday with a grain of salt. This works much better if the salt accompanies a Margarita."

Maxine on "Flag Burning"
"If you must burn the flag, please wrap yourself in it first."

Puns forwarded by Auntie Bev

01. Two antennas met on a roof, fell in love and got married. The ceremony wasn't much, but the reception was excellent.

02. A jumper cable walks into a bar. The bartender says, "I'll serve you, but don't start anything."

03. Two peanuts walk into a bar, and one was a salted.

04. A dyslexic man walks into a bra.

05. A man walks into a bar with a slab of asphalt under his arm and says: "A beer please, and one for the road."

06. Two cannibals are eating a clown. One says to the other: "Does this taste funny to you?"

07. "Doc, I can't stop singing 'The Green, Green Grass of Home.'" "That sounds like Tom Jones Syndrome." "Is it common?" Well, "It's Not Unusual."

08. Two cows are standing next to each other in a field. Daisy says to Dolly, "I was artificially inseminated this morning." "I don't believe you," says Dolly. "It's true, no bull!" exclaims Daisy.

09. An invisible man marries an invisible woman. The kids were nothing to look at either.

10. Deja Moo: The feeling that you've heard this bull before.

11. I went to buy some camouflage trousers the other day but I couldn't find any.

12. A man woke up in a hospital after a serious accident. He shouted, "Doctor, doctor, I can't feel my legs!" The doctor replied, "I know you can't - I've cut off your arms!"

13. I went to a seafood disco last week...and pulled a mussel.

14. What do you call a fish with no eyes? A fsh.

15. Two fish swim into a concrete wall. One turns to the other and says "Dam!"

16. Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly, so they lit a fire in the craft. Unsurprisingly it sank, proving once again that you can't have your kayak and heat it too.

17. A group of chess enthusiasts checked into a hotel and were standing in the lobby discussing their recent tournament victories. After about an hour, the manager came out of the office and asked them to disperse. "But why?" they asked, as they moved off. "Because" he said, "I can't stand chess-nuts boasting in an open foyer."

18. A woman has twins and gives them up for adoption. One of them goes to a family in Egypt and is named "Ahmal." The other goes to a family in Spain; they name him "Juan." Years later, Juan sends a picture of himself to his birth mother. Upon receiving the picture, she tells her husband that she wishes she also had a picture of Ahmal. Her husband responds, "They're twins! If you've seen Juan, you've seen Ahmal."

19. Mahatma Gandhi, as you know, walked barefoot most of the time, which produced an impressive set of calluses on his feet.

He also ate very little, which made him rather frail and with his odd diet, he suffered from bad breath. This made him a super calloused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis.

20. And finally, there was the person who sent twenty different puns to his friends, with the hope that at least ten of the puns would make them laugh.

No pun in ten did.

Forwarded by Dick Haar

Two brooms were hanging in the closet and after a while they got to know each other so well, they decided to get married.

One broom was, of course, the bride broom, the other the groom broom.

The bride broom looked very beautiful in her white dress. The groom broom was handsome and suave in his tuxedo. The wedding was lovely.

After the wedding, at the wedding dinner, the bride-broom leaned over and said to the groom-broom, "I think I am going to have a little whisk broom!!!"

"IMPOSSIBLE !!" said the groom broom.

Are you ready for this?

Brace yourself.

This is really going to hurt!


Oh for goodness sake... laugh, or at least groan. Life's too short not to enjoy........ even these silly little cute..... and clean-sweep jokes.

Sounds to me like she's been sweeping sound since she brushed her first husband aside.

Senior Alphabet With Background Music ---

A) for arthritis,

B) for bad back,

C) is for chest pains. Perhaps cardiac?

D) is for dental decay and decline,

E) is for eyesight--can't read that top line.

F) is for fissures and fluid retention

G) is for gas (which I'd rather not mention).

H ) high blood pressure [I'd rather have low)

I ) for incisions with scars you can show.

J ) is for joints, that now fail to flex

K) is for my knees that crack when they're bent

(me, again!)

L ) for libido--what happened to sex?

(I'm not going there!)

N ) for neurosis, pinched nerves and stiff neck

O ) is for osteo-and all bones that crack

P ) for prescriptions, I have quite a few Give me another pill; I'll be good as new!

Q ) is for queasiness. Fatal or flu?

R ) is for reflux--one meal turns into two

S ) is for sleepless nights, counting my fears

T) for tinnitus--I hear bells in my ears

U ) is for urinary: difficulties with flow

(Not going there either!)

V) is for vertigo, that's "dizzy", you know.

W) is worry, now what's going 'round?

X ) is for X ray--and what might be found.

Y) for another year I've left behind

Z ) is for zest that I still have my mind.

Have survived all the symptoms my body's deployed, And kept twenty-six doctors gainfully employed!!!

Bring Christmas to the Ashland University Chapel ---

20 Ways To Maintain A Healthy Level Of Insanity.

1. At Lunch Time, Sit In Your Parked Car With Sunglasses on and point a Hair Dryer At Passing Cars. See If They Slow Down.

2. Page Yourself Over The Intercom. Don't Disguise Your Voice.

3. Every Time Someone Asks You To Do Something, Ask If They Want Fries with that.

4. Put Your Garbage Can On Your Desk And Label It "In."

5. Put Decaf In The Coffee Maker For 3 Weeks. Once Everyone has Gotten Over Their Caffeine Addictions, Switch to Espresso.

6. In The Memo Field Of All Your Checks, Write "For Smuggling Diamonds"

7. Finish All Your sentences with "In Accordance With The Prophecy."

8. Don't use any punctuation

9. As Often As Possible, Skip Rather Than Walk.

10. Order a Diet Water whenever you go out to eat, with a serious face.

11. Specify That Your Drive-through Order Is "To Go."

12. Sing Along At The Opera.

13. Go To A Poetry Recital And Ask Why The Poems Don't Rhyme

14. Put Mosquito Netting Around Your Work Area And Play tropical Sounds All Day.

15. Five Days In Advance, Tell Your Friends You Can't Attend Their Party Because You're Not In The Mood.

16. Have Your Co-workers Address You By Your Wrestling Name, Rock Bottom.

17. When The Money Comes Out The ATM, Scream "I Won!, I Won!"

18. When Leaving The Zoo, Start Running Towards The Parking lot, Yelling "Run For Your Lives, They're Loose!!"

19. Tell Your Children Over Dinner. "Due To The Economy, We Are Going To Have To Let One Of You Go."

20. And The Final Way To Keep A Healthy Level Of Insanity Send This E-mail To Someone To Make Them Smile.
       Its Called therapy.

Forwarded by Paula

Retirees: The Whole Truth, Nothing But...

Question: When is a retiree's bedtime?
Answer: Three hours after he falls asleep on the couch.

Question: How many retirees to change a light bulb?
Answer: Only one, but it might take all day.

Question: What's the biggest gripe of retirees?
Answer: There is not enough time to get everything done.

Question: Why don't retirees mind being called Seniors?
Answer: The term comes with a 10% percent discount.

Question: Among retirees what is considered formal attire?
Answer: Tied shoes. !

Question: Why do retirees count pennies?
Answer: They are the only ones who have the time.

Question: What is the common term for someone who enjoys work and refuses to retire?
Answer: NUTS!

Question: Why are retirees so slow to clean out the basement, attic or garage?
Answer: They know that as soon as they do, one of their adult kids will want to store stuff there.

Question: What do retirees call a long lunch?
Answer: Normal.

Question: What is the best way to describe retirement?
Answer: The never ending Coffee Break.

Question: What's the biggest advantage of going back to school as a retiree?
Answer: If you cut classes, no one calls your parents! .

Question: Why does a retiree often say he doesn't miss work, but misses the people he used to work with?
Answer: He is too polite to tell the whole truth.

Forwarded by Paula

How To install a poor-man's security system:

Go to a second-hand store, buy a pair of men's used work boots - a really big pair.

Put them outside your front door on top of a copy of Guns and Ammo magazine. Put a dog dish beside it. A really big dog dish.

Leave a note on your front door that says something like "Bubba, big Mike and I have gone to get more ammunition - back in ½ an hr. Don't disturb the Pitbulls, they've just been wormed."

Your house WILL be safe ...

Jensen Comment:  I prefer a sign that I made up:
"Come on in and meet the Gages, all twelve of us."

Forwarded by Paula


"We all get heavier as we get older because there's a lot more information in our heads."

So I'm not over weight, I'm just really intelligent and my head couldn't hold anymore so it started filling up the rest of me! That's my story and I'm sticking to it.


Forwarded by Paula

Father Murphy walks into a pub in Donegal, and says to the first man he meets, "Do you want to go to heaven?"

The man said, "I do Father."

The priest said, "Then stand over there against the wall." Then the priest asked the second man, "Do you want to got to heaven?"

"Certainly, Father," was the man's reply. "Then stand over there against the wall," said the priest. Then Father Murphy walked up to O'Toole and said, "Do you want to go to heaven?"

O'Toole said, "No, I don't Father."

The priest said, "I don't believe this. You mean to tell me that when you die you don't want to go to heaven?"

O'Toole said, "Oh, when I die, yes. I thought you were getting a group together to go right now."


O'Toole worked in the lumber yard for twenty years and all that time he'd been stealing the wood and selling it.

At last his conscience began to bother him and he went to confession to repent. "Father, it's 15 years since my last confession, and I've been stealing wood from the lumber yard all those years," he told the priest.

"I understand my son," says the priest. "Can you make a Novena?"

O'Toole said, "Father, if you have the plans, I've got the lumber."


Paddy was in New York. He was patiently waiting, and watching the traffic cop on a busy street crossing. The cop stopped the flow of traffic and shouted, "Okay, pedestrians." Then he'd allow the traffic to pass. He'd done this several times, and Paddy still stood on the sidewalk.

After the cop had shouted "Pedestrians" for the tenth time, Paddy went over to him and said, "Is it not about time ye let the Catholics across?"


Gallagher opened the morning newspaper and was dumbfounded to read in the obituary column that he had died.

He quickly phoned his best friend Finney. "Did you see the paper?" asked Gallagher. "They say I died!!"

"Yes, I saw it!" replied Finney. "Where are ye callin' from?"


Mrs. Murphy is looking for the grave of her late husband (a notorious criminal) as it has been a while since she was there. She goes to the cemetery's management office and says, "I am looking for my husband's grave."

"Ok madam", says the director. "What was his name?"

"John Murphy," she answers.

He looks through his large book for quite a time and says "sorry there are no John Murphy's in our cemetery, nothing but one Mary Murphy."

The woman brightens up and says, "Of course that's it; everything was in my name."


An Irish priest is driving down to New York and gets stopped for speeding in Connecticut. The state trooper smells alcohol on the priest's breath and then sees an empty wine bottle on the floor of the car. He says, "Sir, have you been drinking?"

"Just water," says the priest.

The trooper says, "Then why do I smell wine?"

The priest looks at the bottle and says, "Good Lord! He's done it again!"

See  Bill, George, and their friends in the Kooks of Hazard video
The Kooks of Hazard ---

Arnold's Neighborhood Video

Other FlowGo Cartoons ---
(You must watch an add and wait for the cartoons to load.)

PhD Comics ---

Forwarded by Auntie Bev

If you can start the day without caffeine,

If you can get going without pep pills,

If you can always be cheerful, ignoring aches and pains,

If you can resist complaining and boring people with your troubles,

If you can eat the same food every day and be grateful for it,

If you can understand when your loved ones are too busy to give you any time,

If you can take criticism and blame without resentment

If you can ignore a friend's limited education and never correct him,

If you can resist treating a rich friend better than a poor friend,

If you can conquer tension without medical help,

If you can relax without liquor,

If you can sleep without the aid of drugs,

...Then You Are Probably The Family Dog!

Forwarded by Paula

To get you in the Christmas spirit, Jacquie Lawson has designed another great card. There's sound also; however, it starts low and works up, so be aware. Click on the link below and enjoy !

Click here: Santa's Jigsaw - animated Flash ecard by Jacquie Lawson  ---

Forwarded by Cindy Bohmann

I have tried this and they are quite good – Feel free to substitute your favorite liquor – it makes it SO much better!!!!

My favorite Christmas cookie recipe

1 cup of water

1 tsp. baking soda

1 cup of sugar

1 tsp. salt

1 cup of brown sugar

lemon juice

4 large eggs

1 cup nuts

2 cups of dried fruit

1 bottle Jose Cuervo Tequila

Sample the Cuervo to check quality. Take a large bowl, check the Cuervo again, to be sure it is of the highest quality.

Pour one level cup and drink. Turn on the electric mixer. Beat one cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl. Add one teaspoon of sugar. Beat again.

At this point it's best to make sure the Cuervo is still OK. Try another cup...just in case.

Turn off the mixerer thingy. Break 2 leggs and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup of dried fruit. Pick the frigging fruit off floor.

Mix on the turner. If the fried druit gets stuck in the beaterers just pry it loose with a drewscriver. Sample the Cuervo to check for tonsisticity.

Next, sift two cups of salt, or something. Who giveshz a sheet.

Check the Jose Cuervo.

Now shift the lemon juice and strain your nuts. Add one table. Add a spoon of sugar, or somefink. Whatever you can find. Greash the oven.

Turn the cake tin 360 degrees and try not to fall over. Don't forget to beat off the turner. Finally, throw the bowl through the window, finish the Cose Juervo and make sure to put the stove in the dishwasher.


And that's the way it was on December 15, 2005 with a little help from my friends.


Fraud Updates ---


Facts about the earth in real time --- 

Jesse's Wonderful Music for Romantics (You have to scroll down to the titles) ---

International Accounting News (including the U.S.) and Double Entries ---
        Upcoming international accounting conferences ---
        Thousands of journal abstracts ---
Deloitte's International Accounting News ---
Association of International Accountants --- 

Free Harvard Classics ---
Free Education and Research Videos from Harvard University ---


I highly recommend TheFinanceProfessor (an absolutely fabulous and totally free newsletter from a very smart finance professor, Jim Mahar from St. Bonaventure University) --- 


Bob Jensen's bookmarks for accounting newsletters are at 

News Headlines for Accounting from --- 
An unbelievable number of other news headlines categories in are at 


Jack Anderson's Accounting Information Finder ---


Gerald Trite's great set of links --- 


The Finance Professor --- 


Walt Mossberg's many answers to questions in technology ---


How stuff works --- 


Household and Other Heloise-Style Hints --- 


Bob Jensen's video helpers for MS Excel, MS Access, and other helper videos are at 
Accompanying documentation can be found at and 


Click on for a complete list of interviews with established leaders, creative thinkers and education technology experts in higher education from around the country.


Professor Robert E. Jensen (Bob)
Jesse H. Jones Distinguished Professor of Business Administration
Trinity University, San Antonio, TX 78212-7200
Voice: 210-999-7347 Fax: 210-999-8134  Email:  





Hline.jpg (568 bytes)







November 30, 2005

Bob Jensen's New Bookmarks on November 30, 2005
Bob Jensen at Trinity University 

For earlier editions of New Bookmarks go to 

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

Fraud Updates ---
Facts about the earth in real time --- 
Sure wish there'd be a little good news today.  Think it over

Real time meter of the U.S. cost of the war in Iraq --- 

Stay up on the latest and the oldest hoaxes ---

I really like the Digital Duo show that appears weekly once again on PBS.  I found that you can bring up prior shows on your computer by going to,00.asp

Click Here for Tidbits and Quotations Between November 1 and November 30

Click Here for Humor Between November 1 and November 30

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 ---

"Economists Caution Investors on Hidden Risks of Hedge Funds," Stanford News, November 2005 --- The link below was forwarded by David Fordham at James Madison University
I really like the Digital Duo show that appears weekly once again on PBS.  I found that you can bring up prior shows on your computer by going to,00.asp
Keeping Kids Safe, Online and Off
You're still the grown-up: Learn how to set limits for your children's tech travels.  video | summary
Tech Games for the Family
The Duo turn up amusements that combine gadgetry and nostalgia.  video | summary
recent episodes
Loads of electronics promise to teach and entertain children. The Duo separate the stars from the duds.
Toys Teach Fun Lessons (3:19 min) video | summary
Don't Fear the Furby (2:28 min) video | summary
Keeping Kids Safe, Online and Off (1:55 min) video | summary
Gonna Fly Now (2:48 min) video | summary
Just Like Mom and Dad (3:59 min) video | summary
More Kids' Versions of Grown-Up Gadgets (2:38 min) video | summary
Testing, Testing (3:10 min) video | summary
Tech Games for the Family (4:21 min) video | summary
PR Piñata: Parental Computing Skills (1:58 min) video | summary
The Duo show you how to save time, money, and your sanity when hunting down deals online.
The Duo Go Shopping (3:54 min) video | summary
More Duo Shopping Tips (2:13 min) video | summary
All About Auctions (4:34 min) video | summary
In Sites: Comparing Prices (1:59 min) video | summary
Pull Out the Plastic (3:24 min) video | summary
Shopping Shootout, Part 2 (3:25 min) video | summary
Tip Jar: Find Fabulous Coupons (4:25 min) video | summary
PR Piñata: Turn LPs Into CDs (1:55 min) video | summary

Quality Problems in Wikipedia

"Wikipedia founder admits to serious quality problems," by Andrew Orlowski, The Register, October 18, 2005 ---

Traditionally, Wikipedia supporters have responded to criticism in one of several ways. The commonest is: If you don't like an entry, you can fix it yourself. Which is rather like going to a restaurant for a date, being served terrible food, and then being told by the waiter where to find the kitchen. But you didn't come out to cook a meal - you could have done that at home! No matter, roll up your sleeves.

As a second line of defense, Wikipedians point to flaws in the existing dead tree encyclopedias, as if the handful of errors in Britannica cancels out the many errors, hopeless apologies for entries, and tortured prose, of Wikipedia itself.

Thirdly, and here you can see that the defense is beginning to run out of steam, one's attention is drawn to process issues: such as the speed with which errors are fixed, or the fact that looking up a Wikipedia is faster than using an alternative. This line of argument is even weaker than the first: it's like going to a restaurant for a date - and being pelted with rotten food, thrown at you at high velocity by the waiters.

But the issue of readability poses even greater challenges. Even when a Wikipedia entry is 100 per cent factually correct, and those facts have been carefully chosen, it all too often reads as if it has been translated from one language to another then into to a third, passing an illiterate translator at each stage. (Possibly if one of these languages was Klingon, the entry might survive the mauling, but that doesn't appear to be the case very often).

Here the problems begin, because readability is a quality that can't be generated by a machine, or judged by one. It's the kind of subjective valuation that the Wikipedians explicitly hate: subjectivity is scorned for failing the positivist's NPOV test.

As a delicious illustration, Wikipedia appears to have a quality problem with the word "quality" itself. While Merriam Webster online offers us eight major definitions, including "a) degree of excellence : GRADE ... b : superiority in kind", and the Cambridge Dictionary three, of which two are "how good or bad something is and of a high standard" Wikipedia's sister project Wiktionary definition begins this. "1 - (uncountable) general good value"

Now is that General Good Value as in something plucked from a Wal-Mart sale? And "Uncountable"? Yes, indeed.

If this was a Marvel Comic, our superhero Objectivity would by now be ensared in the evil coils of Subjectivity. There appears to be no escape. Or is there?

Not good enough - so what do we wikkin' do?

Re-working Wikipedia so it presents the user with something minimally readable will be a mammoth task. Although the project has no shortage of volunteers, most add nothing: busying themselves with edits that simply add or takeaway a comma. These are housekeeping tasks that build up credits for the participants, so they can rise higher in the organization.

And Wikipedia's "cabal" has become notorious for deterring knowledgable and literate contributors. One who became weary of the in-fighting, Orthogonal, calls it Wikipedia's HUAC - the House of Unamerican Activities prominent in the McCarthy era for hunting down and imprisoning the ideologically-incorrect.

So right now, the project appears ill-equipped to respond to the new challenge. Its philosophical approach deters subjective judgements about quality, and its political mindset deters outside experts from helping.

This isn't promising.

One day Wikipedia may well be the most amazing reference work the world has ever seen, lauded for its quality. But to get from here to there it will need real experts and top quality writing - it won't get there by hoping that its whizzy technical processes remedy such deficiencies. In other words, it will resemble today's traditional encyclopedias far more than it does today.

For now we simply welcome the candour: at least Wikipedia is officially out of QD, or the "Quality Denial" stage.

Bootnote Of the many, many atrocious entries, we'd like to bring one more to the HUAC's attention, and it's our very favorite. As of the time of writing, whoever wrote the entry for soul legend Baby Washington has no idea who she is, but makes a wild guess, then gives up completely with the less-than-helpful advice: "Many have written inacurate information about Washington. She IS NOT "BABY WASHINGTON" from James Brown." (sic).

Indeed. But note that this entry has been edited no less than seven times and can be found replicated at,,, InfoMutt, The Free Dictionary and hundreds of other sites.

The Wikipedia home page is at

You can read about Wiki advantages and limitations at

November 30, 2005 message from Dennis Beresford []


I thought you'd be interested in the following story that you might not have seen yet.


A false Wikipedia 'biography'

John Seigenthaler
USA Today, November 30, 2005
Page A.11

"John Seigenthaler Sr. was the assistant to Attorney General Robert Kennedy in the early 1960's. For a brief time, he was thought to have been directly involved in the Kennedy assassinations of both John, and his brother, Bobby. Nothing was ever proven."

-- Wikipedia

This is a highly personal story about Internet character assassination. It could be your story.

I have no idea whose sick mind conceived the false, malicious "biography" that appeared under my name for 132 days on Wikipedia, the popular, online, free encyclopedia whose authors are unknown and virtually untraceable. There was more:

"John Seigenthaler moved to the Soviet Union in 1971, and returned to the United States in 1984," Wikipedia said. "He started one of the country's largest public relations firms shortly thereafter."

At age 78, I thought I was beyond surprise or hurt at anything negative said about me. I was wrong. One sentence in the biography was true. I was Robert Kennedy's administrative assistant in the early 1960s. I also was his pallbearer. It was mind-boggling when my son, John Seigenthaler, journalist with NBC News, phoned later to say he found the same scurrilous text on and

I had heard for weeks from teachers, journalists and historians about "the wonderful world of Wikipedia," where millions of people worldwide visit daily for quick reference "facts," composed and posted by people with no special expertise or knowledge -- and sometimes by people with malice.

At my request, executives of the three websites now have removed the false content about me. But they don't know, and can't find out, who wrote the toxic sentences.

Anonymous author

I phoned Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia's founder and asked, "Do you ... have any way to know who wrote that?"

"No, we don't," he said. Representatives of the other two websites said their computers are programmed to copy data verbatim from Wikipedia, never checking whether it is false or factual.

Naturally, I want to unmask my "biographer." And, I am interested in letting many people know that Wikipedia is a flawed and irresponsible research tool.

But searching cyberspace for the identity of people who post spurious information can be frustrating. I found on Wikipedia the registered IP (Internet Protocol) number of my "biographer"-- 65-81- 97-208. I traced it to a customer of BellSouth Internet. That company advertises a phone number to report "Abuse Issues." An electronic voice said all complaints must be e-mailed. My two e- mails were answered by identical form letters, advising me that the company would conduct an investigation but might not tell me the results. It was signed "Abuse Team."

Wales, Wikipedia's founder, told me that BellSouth would not be helpful. "We have trouble with people posting abusive things over and over and over," he said. "We block their IP numbers, and they sneak in another way. So we contact the service providers, and they are not very responsive."

After three weeks, hearing nothing further about the Abuse Team investigation, I phoned BellSouth's Atlanta corporate headquarters, which led to conversations between my lawyer and BellSouth's counsel. My only remote chance of getting the name, I learned, was to file a "John or Jane Doe" lawsuit against my "biographer." Major communications Internet companies are bound by federal privacy laws that protect the identity of their customers, even those who defame online. Only if a lawsuit resulted in a court subpoena would BellSouth give up the name.

Little legal recourse

Federal law also protects online corporations -- BellSouth, AOL, MCI Wikipedia, etc. -- from libel lawsuits. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, passed in 1996, specifically states that "no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker." That legalese means that, unlike print and broadcast companies, online service providers cannot be sued for disseminating defamatory attacks on citizens posted by others.

Recent low-profile court decisions document that Congress effectively has barred defamation in cyberspace. Wikipedia's website acknowledges that it is not responsible for inaccurate information, but Wales, in a recent C-Span interview with Brian Lamb, insisted that his website is accountable and that his community of thousands of volunteer editors (he said he has only one paid employee) corrects mistakes within minutes.

My experience refutes that. My "biography" was posted May 26. On May 29, one of Wales' volunteers "edited" it only by correcting the misspelling of the word "early." For four months, Wikipedia depicted me as a suspected assassin before Wales erased it from his website's history Oct. 5. The falsehoods remained on and for three more weeks.

In the C-Span interview, Wales said Wikipedia has "millions" of daily global visitors and is one of the world's busiest websites. His volunteer community runs the Wikipedia operation, he said. He funds his website through a non-profit foundation and estimated a 2006 budget of "about a million dollars."

And so we live in a universe of new media with phenomenal opportunities for worldwide communications and research -- but populated by volunteer vandals with poison-pen intellects. Congress has enabled them and protects them.

When I was a child, my mother lectured me on the evils of "gossip." She held a feather pillow and said, "If I tear this open, the feathers will fly to the four winds, and I could never get them back in the pillow. That's how it is when you spread mean things about people."

For me, that pillow is a metaphor for Wikipedia.

John Seigenthaler, a retired journalist, founded The Freedom Forum First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University. He also is a former editorial page editor at USA TODAY.

Free Web Server Space in Large Amounts
"Free and easy publishing on the Web," by Tom Merritt, C|Net, November 4, 2005 ---

The other day, my friend Roger and I decided to do a podcast. This was not a podcast to make money or even make us famous. We were just playing with the technology.

After we recorded it, I thought the hard part would be setting up the feed, especially the storage of the MP3, which, at a half hour, was somewhat large. I used two rather cool free services and had the podcast up and out in a feed within 20 minutes.

That's just an illustration of how fast and easy self-publishing is becoming on the Internet. Whether you write stories, record songs, make podcasts, shoot photography, or whatever, there are some amazing resources that'll not only get you running quickly but that'll get the word out, too.

The first issue with any venture of creativity can be size. If you don't run or rent a Web site, you need to find a place to store your files. With audio, and especially with video, you might need a lot of space, which can be costly.

The folks at want to take that obstacle away from grassroots content creators. They promise to host your files, of any size and any amount, forever. This is especially good news for folks putting together their own video.

Can they really host my stuff forever? We'll see. It's a bold promise, but they've gone about it the right way, partnering with to get the space.'s mission is to keep a snapshot of the Web as an archive of what was here. Archive is where you can find the original Yahoo home page, even early CNET home pages. Since they want to keep a copy of everything ever put on the Web anyway, it makes sense for them to cut out the middle spider and offer to host your content directly.

So Ourmedia handles the relationship with the content creators, and provides the storage space. ---

Great, but now they own my stuff makes it clear that they won't assert any rights over your content. You can publish under normal copyright, Creative Commons, GNU Public License, and a couple of others. Whatever way you wish to be protected, they give you that option. Granted, the legal status of Ourmedia is not nailed down yet. They hope to become a 501(c)(3) nonprofit soon. Even without all the i's and t's dotted and crossed, though, they are an open-source project staffed by volunteers and backed by very reputable organizations such as Tucows and Creative Commons, among others.

You mentioned publicizing my stuff
Finding a place to store your content files gets you only so far. You also need a way to tell people about it. If you're doing a podcast, a video RSS feed, a blog, or something that can benefit from being delivered in a feed, you should look at
FeedBurner. This isn't a nonprofit company, but it will set up a basic RSS feed for free. It helps you through all the basics of getting your feed going and even provides a few tips on how to easily advertise your endeavor.

If you really want to get serious, you can also sign up for some advanced help with marketing your works. That's how FeedBurner makes its money.

Once again, the end of mainstream media?
Unlike most pundits who get excited about new free ways to allow individuals to publish on the Web, I'm not going to predict the death of any particular media. You still have to produce good content for anyone to want it. However, this is another brick out of the wall set up between content creators and publication. For almost no setup cost, you can get an idea out there and in front of the public. Now you just need an idea that's worth people's valuable time.

Repeated for your convenience
A free way to send up to a 1 Gb huge file that is too large to attach to an email message

This is a good way to send video and audio files! ---

I consider David Pogue to be one of the top technology analysts writing in the media

"10 Ways to Please Us, the Customers," by David Pogue, The New York Times, November 2, 2005 ---

DEAR electronics makers,

You must be getting pretty excited about the holiday season. No wonder. That's when we, your customers, hand you a huge chunk of your annual income - about $17 billion of our cash.

But what will you give us in return? Yes, of course, the finest gadgets technically possible for the amount we're willing to pay. But what else will you give us? Do you really want to earn our love and loyalty? Do you want us to be back next year?

If so, you should worship at the altar of good design and make customer satisfaction your religion. These should be your commandments.

I. Thou shalt not entomb thy product in indestructible plastic. Sure, we understand the temptation: you want your packaging to be sturdy yet see-through, so shoppers can see exactly what they're buying. Trouble is, you're caring only about whether people take your product home; you apparently don't care about what happens after that. You don't seem to mind that getting those hard plastic packages open is a dangerous ritual involving scissors, steak knives, band saws and, eventually, blow torches.

There are ways to have it all. Technology has marched on. You could design the front of your package with the rigid, clear plastic, but seal the back with easy-to-open cardboard. Or you could perforate the seams of your "clamshell" for easy separation without power tools. All it takes is a little imagination and, say, 0.015 cents per unit.

II. Thou shalt hire native English speakers to translate thine instruction manual. "When the camera focus is not so possible, hold the shutter button vaguely until the beeping tone is heard." Is that really how your company wants to address customers?

Talk about New Math. You'll spend millions of dollars developing some breakthrough gizmo, but won't spring for somebody to rewrite your manual in proper English? I know some high schoolers who'd do the job for $50 and 10 free ring tones.

III. Thou shalt not hype irrelevant specs. The digital camera industry wants us to believe that a camera's quality is somehow related to its number of megapixels. A seven-megapixel camera must be better than a four-megapixel one, right?

It's the same with computers, where millions of people still believe that the higher a computer's megahertz, the faster it runs. (To its credit, Intel has recently started playing down that simplified statistic.)

In cameras, the quality of your photos depends far more on things like lens quality, processor speed and image software; in computers, memory, hard drives and internal signal pathways are key determinants of speed. When you try to make us believe that a single statistic is all important, you're being deceptive, and that's not nice.

IV. Thou shalt not charge tech-support fees for thine own mistakes. We're used to getting 90 days of free technical-support calls, and being charged after that. We don't like it, but we're used to it.

But even after that period, you should still be liberal in saying, "We won't charge you." There are situations that merit free calls: when your product isn't working right; when the manual is unclear; or when the product is working right but the design is so poor we can't even tell.

V. Thou shalt not participate in rebate rip-offs. We admit it: we, the people, are cheapskates. You know and we know that we ruthlessly compare prices. We'll buy the cheaper gizmo almost every time.

But what do you do? You exploit our love of saving money by offering your delicious electronics for crazy-low prices - "after rebate."

So we buy your thing, cut out the barcode, fill out the form and staple the original store receipt. We handwrite the rebate center's address on the envelope, mail it away and wait.

And a few weeks later, you know what we get? A stress headache.

We've already sent away our only copy of the documentation and you didn't provide a phone number, so we're just stuck. You've got our money and you know there's nothing we can do about it.

But in this particular religion, there's a special circle of hell reserved for rebate cheats.

VI. Thou shalt not hide from thy customers. If you've designed your product properly and provided a decent manual in English, you ought to have nothing to hide; there should be very little reason to worry that we, the masses, will jam your phone lines asking for help.

Continued in article

Mmmm, so now we understand why people want to be elected.
U.S. lawmakers earn abnormal returns on the stock market

From Jim Mahar's blog at

Abnormal returns and political office

I doubt there is a finance class in the world that does not at least mention the various forms of informational efficiency. You know the drill: "Weak form efficiency implies that technical analysis is worthless. Semi-strong form efficiency implies that you can not beat the market using publicly available information (so fundamental analysis is worthless)." And then, rather abruptly, "the market is not strong form because insiders can beat the market." Well, you can update your notes and now say that politicians also seem to beat the market.

Last year Ziobrowski, Cheng, Boyd and Ziobrowski showed that US Senators outperformed the market. Now Ziobrowski, Boyd, Cheng, and Ziobrowski (the order was changed by them not me) show the members of the House of Representatives do likewise.

In a paper to be presented at next week's Sothern Finance Meetings, the authors

“build a sample of stocks purchased by House members during the period 1985 to 2001. Using a similar methodology to that of Ziobrowski, Cheng, Boyd and Ziobrowski (2004), we test for abnormal returns with a calendar-time portfolio analysis. In addition to whole sample analysis, we perform sub-sample analyses by dividing our sample by the political party of the representatives and their seniority in the House of Representatives.”

The findings? Not surprisingly very similar to those of the Senate:

“A portfolio that imitates the common stock purchases of U.S. Representatives on a trade-weighted basis outperforms the market by 55 basis points per month. Using the Fama-French three-factor model (augmented by a factor for momentum) and the Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM), the positive abnormal returns are both economically large and statistically significant. Also consistent with the Senate, we find that stocks purchased by the junior Representatives with the least seniority, significantly outperform stocks purchased by the most senior Representatives. Finally, again as in the Senate, stocks purchased by Democrats outperform stocks purchased by Republicans.”

Mmm, so now I may understand why people want to be elected.

But seriously, this does suggest not only is the market not string form efficient, but also why we allow politicians to trade on their information whereas we do not let corporate insiders trades. I wonder is the SEC is listening?


Ziobrowski, Boyd, Cheng, and Ziobrowski.
Abnormal Returns from the Common Stock Investments of Members of the United States House of Representatives. 2005 Working paper.

Jensen Comment
Our lawmakers have nothing on Hillary Clinton when she when her husband was Governor of Arkansas.  Her return ($1,000 investment generated $100,000 ) from trading in cattle futures were astronomical ---

Michael Moore is also doing well in the stock market --- --- 

For about $100 anyone can buy your cell phone records

"I still know who you called last month," by Bob Sullivan, The Red Tape Chronicles, MSNBC, November 22, 2005 ---

It's actually obscene what you can find out about people on the Internet.

Take cell phone records -- literally. Your cell phone bills are there for the taking, for about $100 a month. Dozens of Web sites offer this service –- one month, or one year. Every call, every phone number. However scary that sounds, it won’t really hit you until you see it for yourself -- so click here for an example of what's out there. Then hit "back" in your browser, and let me explain.

Who your friends are. How to contact them. Even where you were. All those crumbs are on sale. Right now. Online. To anyone.

It may be outrageous, but it's not new. first wrote about this problem in October 2001, in a story titled "I know who you called last month."

The problem was exposed years earlier by a private investigator named Rob Douglas. Banking records, home phone long-distance calling, even medical information, were all for sale, he told Congress. Once a buyer of that kind of information, Douglas came to believe the practice was unethical, unfair and maybe even illegal –- and he began a crusade against the industry, eventually founding

During hearings in 1998 and 2000, Douglas told Congress that private investigators simply pretend to be their targets, call up the phone companies involved, and ask for the data they want. Someone who wanted John Smith's cell phone records would just call up the cell company claiming to be John Smith and ask for a duplicate copy of last month's bill. It usually worked. In the business, it's known as "pretext" calling -- calling and asking for records under a false pretext. It was that easy.

Since then, reporters around the world have proved Douglas' point by purchasing all kinds of interesting cell phone records. Most recently, Maclean's magazine purchased the records of Canadian federal privacy commissioner Jennifer Stoddart.

Still, all those Web sites selling all those records keep advertising their services.

But finally, someone seems to be noticing. In July, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, asking for an investigation. A month later, EPIC asked the Federal Communications Commission to alter its regulations to make cell phone companies more accountable.

At about the same time, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., introduced legislation designed to crack down on the sale of cell phone records by pretext callers. More recently -- just last week -- Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., sent a letter to both the FTC and the FCC demanding action.

Verizon steps up to the plate But most important, a cell phone company has finally stepped forward and said it can't take it any more. In July, Verizon sued a Web site named for selling its customers' cell phone records. In September, the site settled with Verizon, agreeing to discontinue sales, and to tell Verizon how it managed to obtain the customer records. Verizon spokesman Tom Pica won't say what the company has learned from the trove of information. But it appears Verizon is in it for the long haul; on Nov. 2, the firm went after another alleged pretext Web site, a Florida company named Global Information Group. Pica said Global Information agents made "thousands of attempts" to trick Verizon customer service representatives into divulging phone records.