The above picture was taken in early autumn. Now there's over a foot of new snow on the fairways. My close friends Lon and Nancy Hendersen own the Sunset Hill House down the road from our cottage. The above shot was taken of their golf course that runs alongside our outer fields to the south and west.  The golf "shack" is a shack badly in need of repair. It's still a beautiful site, and I often bring wonderful clubhouse pork burgers cooked by Lon to Erika at lunchtime. The hills behind are toward the west in the direction of Vermont. The picture taken in early autumn appears in their slide show at http://www.sunsethillhouse.com/

Many of you will be interested in the phone tax at Urban Legends Reference Pages: 2006 Federal Excise Tax Credit tax time. The IRS will allow a credit for taxes paid no matter which tax return you fill out. Urban Legends explains how you can file for it.

I've been out of town all week, so most of the Tidbits below were written prior to December 2.

Tidbits on December 10, 2006
Bob Jensen

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

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


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



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


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




Online Video, Slide Shows, and Audio
In the past I've provided links to various types of music and video available free on the Web. 
I created a page that summarizes those various links --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/music.htm

Immigration by the Numbers (Video) --- http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=4094926727128068265&pr=goog-sl

Tribute to Our Military in Iraq --- http://www.clermontyellow.accountsupport.com/flash/UntilThen.swf

Considering the tight coordination required, their accomplishment is nothing short of amazing, even if they were not all DEAF. Yes, you read correctly. All 21 of the dancers are complete deaf-mutes. Relying only on signals from trainers at the four corners of the stage, these extraordinary dancers deliver a visual spectacle that is at once intricate and stirring. Its first major international debut was in Athens at the closing ceremonies for the 2004 Paralympics --- http://www.glmark.net/media/thousandhandguanyin.wmv

Is Italy Really in Europe? ---  http://www.infonegocio.com/xeron/bruno/italy.html

U.S. Navy Precision Drill Team --- http://www.whc.net/rjones/USN/USN_team.html

Jerome Murat (Beautiful Music) --- http://www.dailymotion.com/visited/search/jerome murat/video/xf9oo_jerome

Ernst & Young Accounting Firm Happy Days (Music) --- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lmEp0PHHA80
This may secretly be a celebration of Happy Days brought about by Sarbanes.

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire Game --- http://abc.go.com/games/millionairetv/game/

Parodies of Chancellor Angela Merkel's stiff, monotone podcast performances make a splash on YouTube, but can they help sway policy? --- Click Here

Seinfeld:  The Lost Episode --- http://www.ebaumsworld.com/2006/11/seinfeld-recut.html

Friday Funnies: Dennis Miller Attacks Iraq War Defeatism --- http://newsbusters.org/node/9565

Lists of Bests --- http://www.listsofbests.com/


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

Holiday Music (Free Downloads) --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/music.htm#Holiday

The Best Holiday Jazz CDs Ever, from WDUQ --- http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6594501

Great Big Band Holiday Music --- http://www.lulliloodesign.com/figaro_tunes.htm

From Jessie
If the sound does not commence after 30 seconds, scroll to the bottom of the page.
Picture (not a good way to start the morning) --- http://www.jessiesweb.com/picture.htm
One of These Mornings
--- http://www.jessiesweb.com/mornings.htm
Heaven in Your Eyes --- http://www.jessiesweb.com/youreyes.htm
Can't Cry Hard Enough --- http://www.jessiesweb.com/cry.htm 
Angels Weep ---
http://www.jessiesweb.com/weep.htm
The Vanishing Breed
--- http://www.jessiesweb.com/vanishing.htm
The Thrill is Gone --- http://www.jessiesweb.com/thrill.htm
If You Wanna be Happy --- http://www.jessiesweb.com/ugly.htm
Bless the Broken Road --- http://www.jessiesweb.com/broken.htm
Beautiful Boy --- http://www.jessiesweb.com/beautifulboy.htm
Mad World --- http://www.jessiesweb.com/madworld.htm

Tony Bennett Polishes 'San Francisco' Gem --- http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6565752

New from Janie (more Elvis) --- http://mjbreck.com/JanieandElvisFromTheresa.html

Folk Alley's Top 10 CDs of 2006 --- http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6561964

Ravi Shankar, Master of the Sitar --- http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4578267

Sanjay Mishra: A Cross-Cultural Exploration in Music --- http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6502991

The Psychedelic Debut of Jimi Hendrix --- http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6491823

From Janie
Elvis singing Memories --- http://mjbreck.com/elvismagicofmemoriesbyjbw.html

Where Have All the Flowers Gone --- http://www.wankei.net/reflections.htm

Giving Thanks with Gospel Music's Take 6 --- http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6521848

Dear Penis (country song) --- http://www.19.5degs.com/element/608.php

Ballad of Thunder Road --- http://mywebpages.comcast.net/singingman777/ThunderRoad.htm


Photographs and Art

The politically correct Iwo Jima --- http://www.goodolddogs3.com/If-IwoJima-Happened2day.html

Anselm Kiefer: Heaven and Earth --- http://www.sfmoma.org/kiefer/index.html

Snowflakes and Snow Crystals http://www.its.caltech.edu/%7Eatomic/snowcrystals/

Streets of New York --- http://www.newyorker.com/online/slideshows/slideshows/061127onslpo_shore_03?false

Tobacco Barns --- http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6536351

From NPR on December 2, 2006
In 1979, the U.S.-backed Shah of Iran was overthrown by Islamic radicals, led by Ayatollah Khomeini. Later that year, a group of 11 Kurdish men were lined up and shot to death, accused of various crimes. Their executions at a municipal airport in Sanandaj, the capital of Kurdistan, followed a brief trial during which no evidence was presented.
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6567103

 


Online Books, Poems, References, and Other Literature
In the past I've provided links to various types electronic literature available free on the Web. 
I created a page that summarizes those various links --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/ElectronicLiterature.htm

The Cornell Daily Sun Digitization Project --- http://cdsun.library.cornell.edu/

Ocean Flowers: Anna Atkins’s 19th Century Cyanotypes of British Algae --- Click Here

Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens (1812-1870) --- Click Here

Master Humphrey'S Clock by Charles Dickens (1812-1870) --- Click Here

The Balloon Hoax by Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) --- Click Here

The Plays of William Ernest Henley and Robert Louis Stevenson by Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) --- Click Here





  • The first act Hugo Chavez takes after buying reelection is to tax toilet paper because, he insists, it is a luxury item. Venezuela, Latin America's largest consumer of Scotch whiskey, raised custom taxes on the spirit and another 200 imported goods the government considers non- essential.
    "Hugo Chavez Taxes Toilet Paper," Bloomberg Venezuela, December 10, 2006 --- Click Here
    Jensen Comment
    But there's no Chavez tax on imported corn cobs from Iowa and Bush/Cheney campaign memorabilia that are recommended as substitutes for toilet paper in Venezuela.

    Russia has shipped the first two Su-30MK2 multi-role fighters to Venezuela under a contract signed in July 2006, an aircraft manufacturing industry official said Thursday. Russia signed $1-billion contracts on supplies of 24 Su-30MK2 Flanker fighters and 30 helicopters to Venezuela prior to this year's visit to Russia by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, triggering criticism from Washington, which regards the Venezuelan regime as a potential security threat in the region.
    "Russia starts supplies of Su-30 fighters to Venezuela," Russian News Information Agency, November 30, 2006 --- http://en.rian.ru/russia/20061130/56213509.html

    Buy a house, get a free gun Real estate agent's cure for slow market – Glock
    WorldNetDaily, December 10, 2006 --- http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=53308
    Jensen Comment
    This is tailor-made for a new movie by Michael Moore who featured getting free gun while opening a bank account. The trick is to use the glock in order to avoid having to take out a mortgage.

    Wal-Mart boasts that its new $4 generic drug program is disrupting the market, attracting new customers to its stores and starting the nation on a road that will ultimately squeeze billions of dollars from prescription drug spending . . . But two months into the program, it is unclear whether in all cases Wal-Mart is meeting its stated goal of making a profit on the $4 drugs. Earlier this week the company disclosed that it had begun charging $9 for some prescriptions in states that have unfair-competition laws against selling products below cost. And as Wal-Mart finds itself off to a disappointing start of the holiday sales season, it is still not clear whether $4 drugs are indeed disrupting drug retailing and helping generate significant new consumer traffic — or instead mainly giving a break to people who are already Wal-Mart customers and can spend their pharmacy savings in the stores’ many other aisles.
    Milt Freudenheim, "Side Effects at the Pharmacy," The New York Times, December 2, 2006 --- http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/30/business/30pharmacy.html?_r=2&ref=business&oref=slogin&oref=slogin

    We have lost in Iraq. By prescribing placebos, the Iraq Study Group isn’t plotting a way forward but delaying the recognition of our defeat.
    Frank Rich, "The Sunshine Boys Can’t Save Iraq," The New York Times, December 10, 2006 --- Click Here

    The Time Is Now (to Surrender)
    Bob Herbert, "The Time is Now," The New York Times, December 10, 2006 --- Click Here

    2006 Update on Wafa Sultan
    Then again, she did have strong opinions about Islamic extremism, and she was utterly unafraid to express them. So if Al Jazeera wanted to talk to a wife and mother in Los Angeles about this important subject, sure, why not? Wafa accepted. What no one could have guessed was that she was about to become a controversial new voice in the Islamic world -- and for many moderate Muslims, a model of courage . . . It was Wafa Sultan's second appearance on Al Jazeera, last February, that brought her worldwide notoriety. This time, she debated Dr. Ibrahim Al-Khouli, an Egyptian cleric, and once again gave no quarter. "The clash we are witnessing around the world is not a clash of religions or a clash of civilizations," she declared. "It is a clash between two opposites, between two eras. It is a clash between a mentality that belongs to the Middle Ages and another that belongs to the 21st century." To Al-Khouli, she added, "You can believe in stones, brother, as long as you don't throw them at me." . . . Wafa has also paid a price within the Muslim community in Los Angeles. Before she became a known activist, she had a busy social life with other Middle Eastern women. Today, few of her old friends remain. "They begged me to stop," she explains of the women in her circle. Some feared for her life; others reviled her message. Wafa summarizes their reaction this way: "You can't make any change, so why are you risking your life?"
    Kerry Howley, "Breaking the Silence One woman is risking her life to speak the truth about radical Islam," Readers Digest, December 2006 --- Click Here

    A  MEMRI subtitled video initially aired in the Arab media by Al Jazeera  
    Video --- http://switch3.castup.net/cunet/gm.asp?ai=214&ar=1050wmv&ak=null  
    Bob Jensen's March 6, 2006 Tidbit about Wafa Sultan --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/book06q1.htm#Wafa

    Taliban Rule No. 24 forbids anyone to work as a teacher "under the current puppet regime, because this strengthens the system of the infidels." One rule later, No. 25, says teachers who ignore Taliban warnings will be killed. Taliban militants early Saturday broke into a house in the eastern province of Kunar, killing a family of five, including two sisters who were teachers.
    Jason Straziuso, "New Taliban rules target Afghan teachers," Yahoo News, December 9, 2006 --- http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20061209/ap_on_re_as/afghan_taliban_rules
    Jensen Comment
    The Taliban also prohibits teaching females to read and write.

    Jihadi attempts to procure lethal and destructive weapons are endless. It is especially disturbing when they attempt to experiment with and acquire chemical and biological weapons. One recent post on a jihadi website outlined a user's attempts at mixing chemical components to create deadly substances for terrorist purposes. The post, titled "The War of Poisons," was authored by a user with the pseudonym "Wajeh al-Qamar," who explained how to use different poisons against Americans in order to push them out of the Arabian Peninsula ( http://alsayf.com  , July 30). Al-Qamar instructs fellow jihadis to mix cyanide with any type of body lotion...
    Abdul Hameed Bakier, "Jihadi Forum Outlines Use of Poisons for Terrorist Attacks," The Jamestown Foundation, December 7, 2006 --- http://www.jamestown.org/terrorism/news/article.php?articleid=2370227

    For the past few years, the dictators and terrorists have been gaining ground, and with good reason. The deepening catastrophe in Iraq has distracted the world's sole superpower from its true goals, and weakened the U.S. politically as well as militarily. With new congressional leadership threatening to make the same mistake -- failing to see Iraq as only one piece of a greater puzzle -- it is time to return to the basics of strategic planning. Thirty years as a chess player ingrained in me the importance of never losing sight of the big picture. Paying too much attention to one area of the chessboard can quickly lead to the collapse of your entire position. America and its allies are so focused on Iraq they are ceding territory all over the map. Even the vague goals of President Bush's ambiguous war on terror have been pushed aside by the crisis in Baghdad.
    Garry Kasparov, "Chessboard Endgame," The Wall Street Journal, December 2, 2006 --- http://online.wsj.com/article/SB116502013769838604.html?mod=opinion&ojcontent=otep

    Mullahs on Monday will open an international conference to examine the veracity of the Nazi Holocaust against the Jews, which Iran's arab-parast President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has labeled a "myth."
    "Mullahs host Jew-haters in Iran," Persian Journal, December 10, 2006 --- http://www.iranian.ws/iran_news/publish/article_19430.shtml

    We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion...Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.
    John Adams --- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Adams

    Too bad if 90 percent of it is stupid. That's how creativity works.
    Linus Torvalds --- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linus_Torvald

    I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.
    J. R. R. Tolkien (1892-1973) --- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tolkien

    The key to being a good manager is keeping the people who hate you away from those who are still undecided.
    Casey Stengel --- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casey_Stengel

    Sorry, haters, God is not finished with me yet.
    Representative Alcee Hastings as quoted by Kate Phillips after being informed that Nancy Pelosi did not choose him to chair the National Intelligence Chair, "Pelosi to Hastings: No on Intelligence Chair," The New York Times, November 28, 2006 --- http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/?p=746

    I think we could turn a passive resistance into an active resistance. It seems counter-intuitive. Rather than registering people to vote, why not organize a boycott of the vote? Jesse Jackson has been registering voters for almost 20 years now and it hasn't done anything.
    Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz --- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roxanne_Dunbar-Ortiz
    As quoted at http://www.reddirtsite.com/bk-outlaw-6-clamor.htm
    Jensen Comment
    It amazes me how activists make such statements as matter of fact that actually run counter to facts if you study the rise of African Americans to positions of power at the local level (such as black mayors and sheriffs in Mississippi to the powerful Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee). It's absurd to say that voting "hasn't done anything." Such "progressive activism" is all about theatrics and not scholarship.  What, other than voting power, raised Nancy Pelosi to be Speaker of the House of Representatives and an African American senator to being a leading contender for the presidency of the United States?

    Journalists don't believe the lies of politicians, but they do repeat them - which is even worse!
    Michel Colucci, better known as Coluche (1944-1986) --- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coluche
    He became known for his irreverent attitude towards politics and the “Establishment,” and he incorporated this into much of his material.

    The Associated Press is standing by its report that six Sunni men were burned to death in Baghdad Friday by Shiites, even though U.S. military officials have accused the wire service of relying on a source who "is not who he claimed he was," an Iraqi police captain. Military officials also say they cannot confirm that the incident took place and have asked AP to retract or correct the story, which was repeated by media around the world and cited as a grim example of Shiites taking revenge for a deadly bombing that killed more than 200 people a day before . . . Unless you have a credible source to corroborate the story of the people being burned alive, we respectfully request that AP issue a retraction, or a correction at a minimum, acknowledging that the source named in the story is not who he claimed he was.
    "AP, U.S. military spar over atrocities report," USA Today, December 1, 2006 ---
    http://blogs.usatoday.com/ondeadline/2006/11/us_military_and.html

    Worried by Iran's deepening involvement in the Arab world, Saudi Arabia has been working quietly to curtail the Shiite nation's influence and prevent the marginalization of Sunni Muslims in the region's hotspots. Analysts say the tug-of-war between the two Mideast powers signals a new chapter in an uneasy relationship, one that has swung over the years between wariness and - at times - outright confrontation.
    Donna Abu-Nasr, "Saudis Work to Curb Iran's Influence," Las Vegas Sun, December 2, 2006 --- http://www.lasvegassun.com/sunbin/stories/w-me/2006/dec/02/120204338.html

    Debunking The 9/11 Myths -Popular Mechanics examines the evidence and consults the experts to refute the most persistent conspiracy theories of September 11 --- http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/military_law/1227842.html

    Seriously, the Los Angeles Times Has Been Strategically Trying to Discourage the U.S. Military in Iraq
    Al Qaeda is winning the media war and this is why!

    . . .  there were no airstrikes in Ramadi that day, while the L.A. Times stringer claimed there had been an airstrike. When I checked into it, the weight of the evidence indicated that the soldier was right and the L.A. Times was wrong. The military flatly denies that there was an airstrike — a denial that the L.A. Times has failed to report to this day. Several other media reports state that civilians died from small-arms fire and tank fire, and not an airstrike.  . . . The [L.A. Times article] is an example of why you simply cannot believe most media reports coming out of Iraq. The LA Time[s] reporter, Solomon Moore, is not in Ramadi. He relies on an Iraqi stringer here who has ties to insurgents. In this article, Moore repeats almost verbatim, insurgent propaganda we have intercepted. The fighting in question occurred in my battle space within Ramadi and I was personally and intimately involved . . . Every target engaged was well within what our restrictive rules of engagement authorize. I am disgusted by the editorial slant of this article, by what passes from journalistic integrity at the LA Times, and by their complicity with our mortal enemies. My Soldiers fight with great precision and skill on a very difficult urban battlefield. The LA Times dishonors them and give aid and comfort to my enemies.
    A soldier in Iraq uncovered a propaganda fabrication by Al Qaeda reported as fact by the Los Angeles Times --- Click Here

    A record 7 million people - or one in every 32 American adults - were behind bars, on probation or on parole by the end of last year, according to the Justice Department. Of those, 2.2 million were in prison or jail, an increase of 2.7 per cent over the previous year, according to a report. More than 4.1 million people were on probation and 784,208 were on parole at the end of 2005. Prison releases are increasing, but admissions are increasing more. Men still far outnumber women in prisons and jails, but the female population is growing faster.
    "1 in every 32 U.S. adults behind bars, on probation or on parole in 2005," Daily Mail, November 30, 2006 --- Click Here

    Asked by a reporter about how “President Bush today blamed the surge of violence in Iraq on al Qaeda,” incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi responded with a disjointed answer about how “the 9/11 Commission dismissed that notion a long time ago and I feel sad that the President is resorting to it again." Though al-Qaeda is clearly in Iraq and responsible for deadly bombings, and the 9/11 Commission conclusion was about links before September 11th, on Tuesday's NBC Nightly News reporter David Gregory treated Pelosi's off-base retort as credible and relevant. Without suggesting any miscue by her, Gregory segued to Pelosi's soundbite with a bewildering set up of his own about how “incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi disagreed, warning that such rhetoric about al Qaeda will make it harder for Democrats to work with the White House."
    Brent Baker, "Gregory Ignores Pelosi's Flub, Treats Retort to Bush on al-Qaeda in Iraq as Credible," NewsBuster,s November 28, 2006 --- http://newsbusters.org/node/9314

    We will need grace to get through this time: through the discussion of the Baker-Hamilton report, through debate on the war, through a harmonious transfer of legislative power in January, through the beginning of the post-Bush era. People often speak of an absence of civility in Washington, but that's not quite the problem. Faking civility is a primary operating style: "My esteemed colleague." What is needed is grace--sensitivity, mercy, generosity of spirit, a courtesy so deep it amounts to beauty. We will have to summon it. And the dreadful thing is you can't really fake it.
    Peggy Noonan, "Grace Under Pressure:  Difficult times call for less-contentious politics," The Wall Street Journal, December 1, 2006 --- http://www.opinionjournal.com/columnists/pnoonan/?id=110009321

    Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter vetoed plans to commission the Makin Island, the Navy's newest and most powerful warship, in San Francisco in 2008 because of a perception that the city is anti-military . . . One of the factors that turned the Pentagon against San Francisco, he said, was widely quoted anti-military remarks made by various city politicians. Some of the remarks got considerable attention, especially ones made by Gerardo Sandoval, a member of the Board of Supervisors, who was quoted on national television as saying national defense should be left to "the cops and the Coast Guard.''
    Carl Nolte, "Navy scuttles plan to commission warship here, citing local politics," San Francisco Chronicle, December 2, 2006 --- Click Here

    The military considers them (AWOL) criminals, and many Americans call them traitors. But during an anti-war event Saturday in San Francisco, Anderson and others like him got a standing ovation.
    Cecilia M. Vega, "SAN FRANCISCO:  Troops opposed to Iraq war get show of support:  Rallies in S.F., nationwide hear those who went AWOL speak on refusal to return to combat," San Francisco Chronicle, December 10, 2006 --- http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/12/10/BAGJGMSTAS1.DTL
    Jensen Comment
    Anti-military San Francisco Supervisors are frustrated by the plunge in U.S. military desertion rates since 9/11. In 1971 during the Viet Nam war, the desertion rate hit a high of 3.4% of an Army that included many unhappy draftees. In 2005 the desertion rate plunged to 0.24% of the all-volunteer Army of 1.4 million men and women ---
    http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2006-03-07-deserters_x.htm 

    Opposition to the war prompts a small fraction of desertions, says Army spokeswoman Maj. Elizabeth Robbins. "[A few] people always desert, and most do it because they don't adapt well to the military," she says. The vast majority of desertions happen inside the USA, Robbins says. There is only one known case of desertion in Iraq.

    Most deserters return within months, without coercion. Commander Randy Lescault, spokesman for the Naval Personnel Command, says that between 2001 and 2005, 58% of Navy deserters walked back in. Of the rest, the most are apprehended during traffic stops. Penalties range from other-than-honorable discharges to death for desertion during wartime. Few are court-martialed.

    To live peacefully with Muslims and Jews, Christians must put aside the notion that their faith requires the creation of a Christian kingdom on Earth, a Lipscomb University theologian told an interfaith gathering at the university. "We are not going to get very far in our relationship with Jews or Muslims if we do not let go of this idea," Lipscomb professor Lee Camp said at Tuesday's conference. The unusual gathering of several dozen clergy and lay people was devoted to resolving religious conflict in Nashville and around the world. "We need to forsake the Christendom model," Camp said.
    Anita Wadhwani, "Christians must 'let go' some beliefs for sake of peace, theologian says," Tennessean, November 29, 2006 --- http://www.thetennessean.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20061129/NEWS06/611290429

    Thank you for contacting the ACLU and sharing your thoughtful comments about the ACLU, Christmas and religion. Ours is one of the most devout nations in the world, and it is at the same time the most religiously diverse. The U. S. has more than 1,500 different religious bodies and sects - including 75 divisions of Baptists alone. This country also has 360,000 churches, mosques and synagogues, all coexisting in relative harmony. The ACLU is committed to defending the religious freedom of all Americans and keeping our national tradition of religious diversity alive and well. To protect religious liberty for everyone in America, however, the ACLU is often in the position of defending the minority from the will of the majority. In some instances, this involves challenging nativity displays or the posting of the Ten Commandments on public property. We are a nation founded on religious freedom. As such, the ACLU believes our society should be particularly sensitive to the legitimate complaints that government-sponsored displays and other actions that promote religion are offensive and inappropriate to those who belong to minority faiths and to non-believers. The ACLU believes that no person should be made to feel like an outsider by his or her own government.
    ACLU, November 29, 2006 --- Click Here
    Jensen Comment
    On this issue the ACLU makes some good points.

    On behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union and its nearly 600,000 members, we write to express our grave concern with the removal and subsequent detention of six Muslim imams from a United Airlines flight in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on November 20, 2006. The imams were attempting to return home from a meeting of the North American Federation of Imams, where one of the scheduled themes of discussion was how to “dispel misconceptions” about Islam. These religious leaders were deemed a threat to security merely because they had, in accordance with their faith, conducted their evening prayers in Arabic shortly before boarding the flight.
    ACLU, "ACLU Letter to Senator Joseph Lieberman," November 28, 2006 --- http://www.aclu.org/racialjustice/racialprofiling/27550leg20061128.html
    Jensen Comment
    On this issue the ACLU is aiding a fraud conspiracy. How much do ACLU lawyers hired by the imams stand to gain in the settlement?

    A group of Muslim imams is seeking an out-of-court settlement with US Airways, saying they should not have been removed from a Minnesota-to-Phoenix flight last month and were not behaving suspiciously. Five of the six Islamic religious leaders have retained the Council on American-Islamic Relations for legal representation and are seeking a "mutually agreeable" resolution, said Nihad Awad, CAIR executive director. US Airways scheduled a meeting with the imams on Dec. 4 to discuss the incident, but the men canceled it and hired the activist group to act as legal counsel.
    Audrey Hudson, "Imams seek to settle with airline," The Washington Times, December 11, 2006 --- http://washingtontimes.com/national/20061211-124608-1061r.htm
    Jensen Comment
    The imams made their point in the media. Why do they want to get rich as well? If there ever was a set up in a get rich conspiracy this was it! We can only hope that the imams successfully boycott the airline industry as well. Do you suppose the 600,000 members of the ACLU will honor the imam boycott and cease flying because of this? Or do you suppose ACLU members will intentionally frighten passengers while allegedly praying in tongues so that they too can get rich in court?

    So the more promising raw material for the "War on Christmas" lament is stores like Best Buy, Sears and Crate & Barrel (and, until recently, poor old Wal-Mart, which, constantly attacked from both left and right, has caved to the right on this particular issue) which avoid the use of the word "Christmas" in advertisements, or encourage employees to wish customers "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas." From Bill O'Reilly to William Donohue to John Gibson to the American Family Association, the nutters are forcefully mobilized against these outrages.
    "Merry Christmas, Bill O'Reilly!" The Nation, November 29, 2006 --- http://news.yahoo.com/s/thenation/20061129/cm_thenation/15144009

    The limits of my language are the limits of my world.
    Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) --- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ludwig_Wittgenstein

    In praise of markets, freedom, and Milton Friedman
    As for Milton Friedman's supposed espousal of big business, the truth was exactly the opposite. For him, the separation between government and business was as important as the separation between church and state. He understood that businesses prefer for governments to bend the rules in their favor rather than compete, and he wanted the little guy -- that is, the consumer, and not the legislator and his cronies in big business -- to determine success and failure in the marketplace. The expression "free to choose" said it all. In those countries where Friedman's ideas triumphed, workers became shareowners, tenants in housing projects became proprietors, kids without college degrees became entrepreneurs and many a corporate giant came tumbling down, unable to withstand the daily choices of the common folk empowered by the separation between state and business.

    Alvaro Vargas LLosa, "A Man of Ideas," The Washington Post via The Wall Street Journal, November 22, 2006 --- Click Here
    Jensen Comment
    Please do not associate Milton Friedman with George W. Bush economics. George Bush has been the most reckless government spender in the history of the United States ---  an economic disaster really!

    Damnation of markets, freedom, and Milton Friedman
    Friedman's free-market faith produced a bastardized system of interest-group politics that favors sectors of citizens at the expense of many others.
    William Greider, "Friedman's Cruel Legacy," The Nation, December 11, 2006 ---
    http://www.thenation.com/docprem.mhtml?i=20061211&s=greider

    Jensen Comment
    No mention is made of how China and Chile are finding a market based economy that lifts millions out of poverty. Naive analysts always associate Friedman with huge multinational oligopoly economies. Friedman was in fact against Exxon and AT&T oligopolies and greatly favored small business entrepreneurial and competitive economies (see the Llosa quotation above). Surely a liberal intellectual magazine can find a better thinker than Greider. Greider's a naive throwback to Lenin who advocates a complete break down of a market based economy in favor of the "liberal-progressive" free Big Brother handouts communism.

    A coherent alternative agenda that will fulfill these principles does not yet exist. Nor will a liberal-progressive program emerge miraculously if the Democratic Party should somehow regain power in the next few years, since many Democrats in Congress have internalized the market ideology and collaborate with the right. But elements of that alternative agenda are already ripe for discussion.
    William Greider, "The Future Is Now," The Nation, June 26, 2006 --- http://www.thenation.com/doc/20060626/greider

    Was Milton Friedman an "archliberal?"
    Friedman sought to minimize government and maximize individual freedom. As he noted in his 1962 book Capitalism and Freedom, “the right and proper label” for this orientation, for “the doctrines pertaining to the free man,” is liberalism. But in the United States during the 20th century, that term “came to be associated with a readiness to rely primarily on the state rather than on private voluntary arrangements to achieve objectives regarded as desirable.” . . . Like Hayek and the novelist/philosopher Ayn Rand, Friedman resisted the solution of calling himself a conservative. “The nineteenth century liberal was a radical, both in the etymological sense of going to the root of the matter, and in the political sense of favoring major changes in social institutions,” he wrote. “So too must be his modern heir.”
    Jacob Sullum, "Milton Friedman, Archliberal: Why the great free market economist was no conservative," Reason Magazine, November 22, 2006 --- http://www.reasonmag.com/news/show/116855.html
    Also see "Milton Friedman, 1912-2006:  Reason writers remember the iconic libertarian economist," by Brian Doherty, Reason Magazine, November 16, 2006 --- http://www.reasonmag.com/news/show/116778.html

    Market forces can accomplish wonderful things, he realized, but they cannot ensure a distribution of income that enables all citizens to meet basic economic needs. His proposal, which he called the negative income tax, was to replace the multiplicity of existing welfare programs with a single cash transfer — say, $6,000 — to every citizen. A family of four with no market income would thus receive an annual payment from the I.R.S. of $24,000. For each dollar the family then earned, this payment would be reduced by some fraction — perhaps 50 percent. A family of four earning $12,000 a year, for example, would receive a net supplement of $18,000 (the initial $24,000 less the $6,000 tax on its earnings). Mr. Friedman’s proposal was undoubtedly motivated in part by his concern for the welfare of the least fortunate. But he was above all a pragmatist, and he emphasized the superiority of the negative income tax over conventional welfare programs on purely practical grounds. If the main problem of the poor is that they have too little money, he reasoned, the simplest and cheapest solution is to give them some more. He saw no advantage in hiring armies of bureaucrats to dispense food stamps, energy stamps, day care stamps and rent subsidies.
    Robert H. Frank
    , "The Other Milton Friedman: A Conservative With a Social Welfare Program," The New York Times, November 21, 2006 --- Click Here

    Government spending exceeds 50 percent of the GDP in France and Sweden and more than 45 percent in Germany and Italy, compared to U.S. federal, state and local spending of just under 36 percent. Government spending encourages people to rely on handouts rather than individual initiative, and the higher taxes to finance the handouts reduce incentives to work, save and invest. The European results shouldn't surprise anyone. U.S. per capita output in 2003 was $39,700, almost 40 percent higher than the average of $28,700 for European nations,.
    Walter E. Williams, "Should We Copy Europe?" Human Events, November 22, 2006 --- http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=18143
    Jensen Comment
    Yeah Right! What economic group does not rely on government handouts and Congressional favors in the U.S.? Farmers, oil companies, and every other group you can think is on the dole in the U.S. The difference is that the U.S. wastes more on lobbies and influence peddling in Washington DC.

    Brushing past months of unflattering headlines about a federal corruption investigation, Representative William J. Jefferson was elected to a ninth term on Saturday, with a decisive runoff victory that again emphasized this city’s sharp racial divisions.
    Adam Nositter, "Embattled Louisiana Legislator Prevails," The New York Times, December 10, 2006 --- Click Here

    Nancy Pelosi’s much touted “Culture of Corruption” was originally conceived as a lily-white, Republicans only club that Democrats could point to with self-righteous indignation while claiming moral and ethical superiority. Unfortunately for Pelosi, the real poster child for corruption is an African-American Democrat named William J. Jefferson. For those who may have lost track, Jefferson is the U.S. Representative from Louisiana who was apparently caught on video accepting $100,000 in bribes, most of which allegedly ended up in Jefferson’s freezer.
    John Lillpop --- http://mensnewsdaily.com/2006/12/10/dear-nancy-pelosi-guess-who-is-coming-back-to-the-us-house/

    Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson (D-La.) has taken to the airwaves to unequivocally deny the allegations that have plagued him for months. "I have never taken a bribe from anyone," he asserts in a new campaign ad. Jefferson is running for re-election despite being at the center of a federal bribery investigation.
    Avni Patel, "Cold Cash Congressman Says He Has 'Never Taken a Bribe' in New Campaign Ad," ABC News, December 1, 2006 --- http://blogs.abcnews.com/theblotter/2006/12/cold_cash_congr.html
    Jensen Comment
    I think William Jefferson hired the same semantics expert who advised William Clinton to proclaim "I never had sex" with Monica. Clinton's semen on her blue dress does not constitute sex in a very literal sense or the semen would've . . . well you know!. That cash in William Jefferson's freezer was for bowel roughage --- not for otherwise spending. If you launder it real well. cash constitutes one of the food groups in Louisiana. Of course in corrupt Louisiana he won the runoff election and will be returning to embarrass the Democratic Party. I doubt that Pelosi appoints him to Chair the House Ethics Committee, but he's well qualified to chair the House Banking Committee. He will, however, probably be given more power by restoring his position on the House Ways and Means Committee. Now that's a "chilling thought."

    Democrats are calling on House Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi to return him (Jefferson) to his slot on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. Pelosi, a California Democrat, led a successful effort last spring to strip Jefferson, D-New Orleans, from the tax-writing panel after the Justice Department revealed that its agents, as part of an ongoing corruption investigation, had discovered $90,000 in the freezer of his Washington, D.C., home during a raid in August 2005.
    Bruce Alpert, The Times-Picayune, December 11, 2006 --- Click Here

    Thirty years on, we can see the results of Hayek's prediction. Despite government revenues above 50% of GNP in the Nordic countries supporting an extensive social welfare state, those countries are vibrant democracies with open, competitive, and high-income economies and low rates of poverty. That is precisely the point of my Scientific American piece and a longer scholarly paper that Prof. Easterly wrongly attacks. He actually makes my point for me by pointing out that the Heritage Foundation/Wall Street Journal Index of Economic Freedom ranks Finland, Sweden and Denmark as "free economies," with Denmark ranked ahead of the United States, despite the fact of their extremely high rates of taxation and social welfare spending. Similarly, the Global Competitiveness Index of the World Economic Forum puts these three countries at ranks two, three and four in global competitiveness, ahead of the United States at rank six.
    Jeffrey D. Sachs, "Vibrant Economies With High Taxes and High Social Welfare Spending," The Wall Street Journal, November 27, 2006; Page A13 --- http://online.wsj.com/article/SB116459861144333273.html?mod=todays_us_opinion
    Jensen Comment
    If Professor Sachs holds Norway up as a social welfare model, why not hold Kuwait even higher? We can hardly compare small nations with lots of a valuable resource to export with those who do not have the per capita resource wealth. Where would Norway be without oil? My grandparents emigrated an impoverished Norway with little hope before the days of oil. The other Scandinavian nations are so uniquely small and homogeneous that they can hardly be compared to the United States. Scholars should know better. If the social welfare model is so highly successful, why are the Scandinavian countries cutting back on social welfare and privatizing? Why isn't the social welfare soaring to great heights in Germany and France?

    James Comer, the Yale University child psychiatry expert, will today be named winner of the 2007 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Education. Comer was honored for his book Leave No Child Behind: Preparing Today’s Youth for Tomorrow’s World (Yale University Press), which argues that federal mandates of the sort associated with the Bush administration’s “No Child Left Behind” law are poorly designed and in fact leave many behind.
    Inside Higher Ed, November 30, 2006 --- http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2006/11/30/qt

    Some difficult people are merely minor irritants: Others learn to avoid them as much as possible, and the overall working environment is not badly compromised. But a person who targets others, makes threats (direct or indirect), insists on his or her own way all the time, or has such a hair-trigger temper that colleagues walk on eggshells to avoid setting it off, can paralyze a department. In the worst cases, this conduct can create massive dysfunction as the department finds itself unable to hold meetings, make hiring decisions, recruit new members, or retain valued ones. When I first got involved in helping department heads cope with such people, my colleagues and I used concepts and approaches we gleaned from studies of bullies.
    C.K. Gunsalus, "Dealing With Bullies," Inside Higher Ed, November 30, 2006 --- http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2006/11/30/gunsalus

    The nation's largest Roman Catholic archdiocese said today it has agreed to pay $60 million to settle 45 lawsuits alleging sex abuse by priests. The deal is the most significant step to date toward resolving extensive litigation against the archdiocese that has dragged on for years.
    "Church to pay $60M in sex suits," Albuqeruqee Tribune, December 1, 2006 ---
    http://www.abqtrib.com/news/2006/dec/01/church-pay-60m-sex-suits/ 

    During my 18 years I came to bat almost 10,000 times. I struck out about 1,700 times and walked maybe 1,800 times. You figure a ball player will average about 500 at bats a season. That means I played seven years without ever hitting the ball.
    Mickey Mantle --- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mickey_Mantle

    Baseball is the only field of endeavor where a man can succeed three times out of ten and be considered a good performer.
    Ted Williams --- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ted_Williams

    I don't think either team is capable of winning.
    Warren Brown (in the 1945 Tiger-Cubs series) --- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warren_Brown_%28Sportswriter%29

    Baseball is 90% mental and the other half is physical.
    Yogi Berra --- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yogi_Berra

    You have to give 100 percent in the first half of the game. If that isn't enough, in the second half, you have to give what is left.
    Yogi Berra --- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yogi_Berra

    You better make it four. I don't think I could eat eight.
    Yogi Berra (when a waiter asked how many slices to cut in Yogi's pizza)

    How you play the game is for college ball. When you're playing for money, winning is the only thing that matters.
    Leo Durocher --- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leo_Durocher
    Jensen Comment
    Sort of makes me thankful that college professors are not really part of the real world.

    Mankind has had less effect on global warming than previously supposed, a United Nations report on climate change will claim next year. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says there can be little doubt that humans are responsible for warming the planet, but the organisation has reduced its overall estimate of this effect by 25 per cent. In a final draft of its fourth assessment report, to be published in February, the panel reports that the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has accelerated in the past five years. It also predicts that temperatures will rise by up to 4.5 C during the next 100 years, bringing more frequent heat waves and storms.
    Richard Gray, "UN downgrades man's impact on the climate," Sunday Telegraph, December 10, 2006 --- http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/12/10/nclimate10.xml

    GERMANY’S European commissioner, Günter Verheugen, faced calls to resign this weekend after photographs showing him naked on a beach with his chief of staff were obtained by a magazine. The 62-year-old commissioner had already become embroiled in accusations of favouritism and a conflict of interest after he appointed Petra Erler, 48, to her £94,000-a-year job amid reports of a close friendship. He has denied that they are having an affair.
    Nicola Smith and Michael Woodhead, "There's nothing between us, insists the naked EU chief," London Times, December 10, 2006 --- http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0%2C%2C2089-2496216%2C00.html
    Jensen Comment
    Britney Spear's momentary no-panties upskirt flash  was a big deal in the U.S., but it's hardly worth mentioning in Europe.

     




     

    Dangers in Buying Gift Cards from Display Racks
    Well the crooks have found a way to rob you of your gift card balance. If you buy Gift Cards from a display rack that has various store cards you may become a victim of theft. Crooks are now jotting down the card numbers in the store and then wait a few days and call to see how much of a balance THEY have on the card. Once they find the card is "activated", and then they go online and start shopping. You may want to purchase your card from a customer service person, where they do not have the Gift Cards viewable to the public. Please share this with all your family and friends...
    Snopes --- http://www.snopes.com/fraud/sales/giftcard.asp 
     

     


    "Credit Card 101: Advice Before Shopping," AccountingWeb, November 22, 2006 ---
    http://www.accountingweb.com/cgi-bin/item.cgi?id=102824
     

    High gas prices, rising interest rates, adjustable mortgages, easy credit and lack of adequate health insurance for many Americans, can all contribute to the rise in debt and many Americans are turning to their credit cards for temporary relief.

    The American Bankers Association (ABA) 2005-2006 Consumer Payment Preference Study reports that credit cards represent 19 percent of consumer in store payments, 55 percent of internet payments and an increasing number of online bill and automatic payments.

    James Chessen, ABA's chief economist, said of the results, "The Federal Reserve continues to raise interest rates and high energy prices are taking a bite out of disposable income. Not since the Great Depression has the national savings rate remained below zero for so long." He added, "Absent savings to cushion financial stress, some consumers end up missing a payment on their credit card loan." Late payments rose 13 percent in the first three months of 2006.

    These factors, coupled with negative numbers in personal savings in the U.S., which has been negative for five consecutive quarters, according to data from the U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis, means that Americans are using potential savings to meet living costs.

    President Brad Stroh of Bills.com feels that consumers debts are growing without conscious decisions being made. "For those who are over their heads in debt, taking action quickly is critical, before it's too late to prevent any temporary hardships from becoming permanent financial crises," he warns.

    Stroh has six steps that he says, if followed, will minimize the damage of mounting debts.

    1. First and foremost, stop charging. Consumers are falling back on credit cards and using them as "emergency funds", often doing more harm by charging items that they don't need and that are not necessary.

       
    2. Always pay bills on time. Pay on time, even if you can only afford a minimum payment. Penalty rates for late payments can be crippling, as high as 31 percent, which in turn leads to a higher balance and higher minimums and big late fees. Cards may even raise the interest rate if you are late in payment to another creditor.

       
    3. Pay more than the minimum. Promise yourself that you will pay more than necessary when ever you can, even if it is $10 and round the amount out to the next $10 or $100 increment. By doing this, you decrease the debt faster.

       
    4. Pay the highest interest debt first. Pay more on the debt that is charging the highest rate and move down in order of the rate, saving the lowest rate debt for last, such as a student loan.

       
    5. Negotiate your rates. If you pay on time and have a bigger debt than you would normally have, you might be a company's ideal client, so try to capitalize on a good payment history by getting your rate lowered, especially if it is above the 14.67 national average. Call customer service and ask. Try more than once.

       
    6. Get help. There are many sources that can provide help with debt problems and advice on how to get out of debt, especially in cases such as medical problems that have resulted in short-term debt. Borrowing money from family or combining old debt onto a no-interest, lower interest card are some ideas, as are borrowing against life insurance or retirement funds.

    Bills.Com, is a free, online service for consumers who need help on complex and personal financial issues. The California company's co-founders and CEOs, Brad Stroh and Andrew Housser, were recently named finalists for Northern California by Ernst & Young's 2006 Entrepreneur of the Year Award. They handle more than 7,500 clients, nationwide.

    Bob Jensen's threads on the dirty secrets of credit card companies are at http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/FraudReporting.htm#FICO

     

     



    Rethinking Tenure, Dissertations, and Scholarship in Humanities

     

    "Rethinking Tenure — and Much More," by Scott Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed, December 8, 2006 --- http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2006/12/08/mla

    The panel — the MLA Task Force on Evaluating Scholarship for Tenure and Promotion — urged departments to:

    The MLA created the panel in 2004, amid widespread anger and anxiety among younger scholars and others about a career path that seemed blocked and a system for sharing scholarship that seemed dysfunctional. A simplified version of the complaints would go like this: Young scholars need to publish books to get jobs and tenure. University presses can’t afford to publish books any more and are raising the bar for publication. Libraries don’t have money to buy the books the presses do publish, forcing the presses to make more cuts, making it still more difficult for young scholars to win tenure.

    While the MLA task force found plenty of problems in the system, one thing it did not find was the feared “lost generation” of scholars who had been denied tenure. The association conducted a survey of 1,339 departments on their tenure policies and processes. A key finding was that the actual rates of tenure denials in these departments are quite low — around 10 percent. But while junior professors in English and foreign languages were apparently incorrect in thinking that many were being rejected for tenure, they weren’t incorrect that the rules and system had changed.

    Relatively small percentages of new Ph.D.’s were found to be finding tenure-track positions and getting through the process at the institutions that initially hired them. And many were never finding tenure-track positions. So it’s not that careers were being derailed at the point of a tenure vote, but that they were never getting that far.

    The panel also found that there is a clear reason why so many junior faculty members perceive that the bar is higher: At many institutions, the bar is higher.

    Among all departments, 62 percent report that publication has increased in importance in the last 10 years, and the percentage ranking scholarship as being of primary importance (over teaching) doubled, to just over 75 percent. While those figures might not be surprising for doctoral institutions, the report notes a “ripple” in which the standards for research universities end up elsewhere. Nearly half of baccalaureate institutions now consider a monograph “very important” or “important” for tenure. And almost one-third of all institutions are now looking for significant progress on a second book. And Stanton noted that while research universities provide support for writing books (in terms of expectations about courses taught or providing research support), many of the institutions now looking for a more detailed publication record provide little if any such assistance.

    The MLA’s report also contains ample evidence of the mismatch between what panel members call “the tyranny of the monograph” and the realities of scholarly publishing. Recent years have seen top university presses shift away from the kind of publishing that tenure committees want to see — with Stanford University Press cutting in the humanities, Northwestern University Press cutting back in translations, and Cambridge University Press discontinuing French studies. For books that get published, readers may be few. Press runs that used to range from 600-1,000 are now more likely to be 250.

    Many of the recommendations pushed in the report represent attempts to reconnect the tenure and promotion process with the excitement that the committee members see in much of scholarly life today. One undercurrent of the entire report is that for all the flaws in the current system of evaluating faculty members, there is no shortage of appropriate ways to do so.

    Take digital media, for example, which the report notes is “pervasive in the humanities” and says “must be recognized as a legitimate scholarly endeavor.” While faculty members are engaged in digital scholarship, departments appear unable or willing to evaluate it. Of departments, 40.8 percent at doctoral institutions, 29.3 at master’s institutions, and 39.5 percent at baccalaureate institutions report having “no experience” evaluating digital scholarship. More than half of all departments report having no experience evaluating monographs in digital form.

    The report notes that the impact goes beyond the unfairness to those whose important digital work may be ignored when being considered for tenure — to creating disincentives to do such work. “The cause-and-effect relations work in both directions here: Probationary faculty members will be reluctant to risk publishing in electronic formats unless they see clear evidence that such work can count positively in evaluation for tenure and promotion,” the report says.

    Continued in article

    "How a Plan Evolved," by Michael Bérubé, Inside Higher Ed, December 8, 2006 --- http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2006/12/08/berube

     

    Bob Jensen's threads on higher education controversies --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/HigherEdControversies.htm

     

     



    Over 62% of Full-Time Faculty Are Off the Tenure Track
    More than 62 percent of all faculty members are off the tenure track, including nearly 30 percent of those with full-time positions, according to an analysis released today by the American Association of University Professors. The study — based on federal data — comes with institution-specific numbers on 2,600 colleges, revealing the exact breakdowns on full- and part-time professors, on and off the tenure track. AAUP leaders hope that the data will spur discussions on campuses nationwide about the use of part-timers and the need to create more full-time, tenure-track positions.
    Scott Jaschik, "The Job Security Rankings," Inside Higher Ed, December 11, 2006 --- http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2006/12/11/aaup

     

    Bob Jensen's threads on higher education controversies --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/HigherEdControversies.htm

     



    Just Don't Call It Education:  Is there fraud in academic assessment of top college athletes?
    Three newspapers this weekend explored the academic compromises universities make in the name of athletic success. The New York Times reported that an internal audit at Auburn University revealed that an athlete’s grade had been changed without the professor’s knowledge, to bring the athlete just over the minimum average needed for eligibility. Auburn isn’t talking. The Athens Banner-Herald reported that in 1999 and 2000, the University of Georgia’s president, Michael Adams, authorized the admission of 119 athletes who did not meet academic standards, and that 21 of them left because of academic problems. And The San Diego Union Tribune reported on the percentages of scholarship athletes at many Western institutions who are “special admits” (translation: they don’t meet admissions standards). The newspaper found that special admits are rare in the student body as a whole at the institutions studied, but quite high (70 percent at the University of California at Los Angeles, 65 percent at San Diego State University) for scholarship athletes.
    Inside Higher Ed, December 11, 2006 --- http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2006/12/11/qt

     

    It's Still a Shell Game in Terms of Division 1-A Male Athletes
    While the NCAA’s numbers do show that athletes in general graduated at a higher rate than other students at their institutions, Division I male athletes in general fell short of other male students (56 vs. 58 percent), and football players (55 percent) and men’s basketball players (46 percent) were lower still. And the numbers were even lower at the Division I-A level, the NCAA’s top competitive level, where 41 percent of men’s basketball players and 42 percent of baseball players earned their degrees in six years. (Granted, those numbers are all generally on the rise, as NCAA officials are rightly quick to note.)
    Doug Lederman, "Graduation Rate Grumbling," Inside Higher Ed, November 10, 2006 --- http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2006/11/10/gradrates
     

    Bob Jensen's threads on athletics controversies in higher education are at
    http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/HigherEdControversies.htm#Athletics


     


    CollegeHumor.com, the Web’s go-to site for the fraternity crowd

     

    "The Morning After," Wired Magazine, December 2006 --- http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/14.12/start.html?pg=8 

     


    Forwarded by Dick Haar
    The Clock of the Long Now, also called the 10,000-year clock, is a proposed mechanical clock designed to keep time for 10,000 years. The project to build it is part of the Long Now Foundation --- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clock_of_the_Long_Now

     

    I want to build a clock that ticks once a year. The century hand advances once every one hundred years, and the cuckoo comes out on the millennium. I want the cuckoo to come out every millennium for the next 10,000 years. If I hurry I should finish the clock in time to see the cuckoo come out for the first time.
    Danny Hillis --- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W._Daniel_Hillis



    Question
    Why didn't I think of this before I retired from teaching?

     

     

    This sentence in my Sunday sermon was paid for by Disney Corporation
    Church pastors last year had a chance to win a free trip to London and $1,000 cash -- if they mentioned Disney's film "The Chronicles of Narnia" in their sermons. Chrysler, hoping to target affluent African Americans with its new luxury SUV, is sponsoring a Patti LaBelle gospel music tour through African-American megachurches nationwide. Advertising has begun to seep into churches, according to religious, marketing and academic experts, pushing the boundaries by selling products with no intrinsic religious value. Advertising has begun to seep into churches, and the phenomenon shows no signs of slowing down, say academic, religious and marketing experts. Among the wave of early adopters: the Republican Party, which successfully sold its platform to church-goers in the 2000 and 2004 elections; Hollywood, which discovered the economic power of faith when Mel Gibson's church-marketed film "The Passion of the Christ" became a blockbuster; and publishing, with Rick Warren's best-selling The Purpose-Driven Life, heavily marketed by a Christian publishing house.
    "Product Placement in the Pews? Microtargeting Meets Megachurches," knowledge@wharton, November 15, 2006 --- http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article.cfm?articleid=1605&CFID=2801188&CFTOKEN=41201348

     

     

    Categories of Articles Available from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School ---
    http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/

     

     

    Finance and Investment
    Leadership and Change
    Executive Education
    Marketing Insurance and Pensions
    Health Economics
    Strategic Management
    Real Estate Law and Public Policy
    Human Resources
    Business Ethics
    Innovation and Entrepreneurship
    Operations Management
    Managing Technology


     

     



    Lawyers Debate Why Blacks Lag at Major Firms
    Thanks to vigorous recruiting and pressure from corporate clients, black lawyers are well represented now among new associates at the nation’s most prestigious law firms. But they remain far less likely to stay at the firms or to make partner than their white counterparts .
    Adam Liptak, "Lawyers Debate Why Blacks Lag at Major Firms," The New York Times, November 29, 2006 ---
    Click Here

     


     

    A College Education Without Job Prospects
    Most of the 11 million students in India’s 18,000 colleges and universities receive starkly inferior training, heavy on obedience and light on useful job skills. . . . India was once divided chiefly by caste. Today, new criteria are creating a different divide: skills. Those with marketable skills are sought by a new economy of call centers and software houses; those without are ensnared in old, drudgelike jobs.
    Anand Giridharadas, "A College Education Without Job Prospects," The New York Times, November 30, 2006 --- http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/30/business/worldbusiness/30college.html?ref=business

     

     



    "Tuition Tax Break Extended," by Doug Lederman, Inside Higher Ed, December 11, 2006 --- http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2006/12/11/tax

     

    In the wee hours of Saturday morning, the U.S. Senate joined the House of Representatives in passing legislation that will extend a slew of popular tax breaks, including two with coveted by colleges. The measure, passed by a 79 to 9 margin in the Senate, is on its way to President Bush, who is expected to sign it.

     

    One provision would extend through 2007 a tax deduction for “qualified higher education expenses,” which is available even to taxpayers who do not itemize deductions on their federal returns. The provision, which expired at the end of 2005, applies retroactively to the current 2006 calendar year.

    Under the provision, individuals who earn less than $65,000, and couples who earn less than $130,000, can deduct up to $4,000 in tuition and some other college costs for themselves or their children. Individual taxpayers who earn between $65,000 and $80,000, and couples who earn between $130,000 and $160,000, can deduct up to $2,000 in such expenses.

    “America is in a race with the rest of the world to grow the strongest, most educated workforce available to attract and keep good-paying jobs here at home,” said Sen. Max Baucus, the Montana Democrat who will head the Senate Finance Committee, which makes tax policy, in the next Congress. “So the tuition deduction is about more than taxes. It’s really about making higher education, whether college or vocational school, affordable and accessible for more of our citizens.”

    The tuition tax deduction was estimated to cost about $3.5 billion over 10 years, with the bulk of that money coming in the early years.

    The other provision of interest to higher education that was extended by the bill is a corporate tax credit for investments in university research and development. It, too, will continue through 2007, although advocates had pushed for a permanent extension.

    Also before it closed up shop for the year, Congress approved legislation that will continue the federal government’s ability to operate until February 15, which will put substantive decisions about funding for the 2007-8 fiscal year — which is nearly one quarter over at this point — in the hands of the Democrat-controlled 110th Congress.

    The current Congress passed only two of the appropriations bills that finance the federal government, and lawmakers in the newly configured Congress are likely to choose among three options: (1) passing all of the remaining bills separately (which is highly unlikely); (2) passing a continuing resolution for the entire year, which would finance most federal agencies at the same funding levels in 2007-8 that they received in 2006-7; or (3) enacting an “omnibus” measure lumping together all or most of the unpassed bills, and choosing to increase funds for some programs and perhaps cut them for others.

    That decision is likely to revolve around whether Democratic leaders want to spend on much time on a 2007-8 budget when they will also be forced to start worrying about 2008-9 spending in early February, when President Bush presents his budget plan for that year.

     

     


    Are Elite Universities Losing Their Competitive Edge?
    E. HAN KIM University of Michigan - Stephen M. Ross School of Business
    ADAIR MORSE University of Michigan
    Stephen M. Ross School of Business LUIGI ZINGALES
    SSRN April 2006 --- http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=900920
    (as reported by Jim Mahar on November 30, 2006) --- http://financeprofessorblog.blogspot.com/

     

    We study the location-specific component in research productivity of economics and finance faculty who have ever been affiliated with the top 25 universities in the last three decades. We find that there was a positive effect of being affiliated with an elite university in the 1970s; this effect weakened in the 1980s and disappeared in the 1990s. We decompose this university fixed effect and find that its decline is due to the reduced importance of physical access to productive research colleagues. We also find that salaries increased the most where the estimated externality dropped the most, consistent with the hypothesis that the de-localization of this externality makes it more difficult for universities to appropriate any rent. Our results shed some light on the potential effects of the internet revolution on knowledge-based industries.

    Was that Elite MBA Worth What it Cost ---
    http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/HigherEdControversies.htm#MBA

     

    Bob Jensen's threads on higher education controversies are at http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/HigherEdControversies.htm

     


    Non-Asians Show a Growing Interest in Chinese Courses
    With its booming economy and aspirations to expand its global influence, China may have achieved a victory in American classrooms . . . School officials attribute the changes largely to a growing awareness of China as a global economic force, and to a strong sense among parents that learning Chinese could help their children professionally. As Mr. Corcoran said, studying Chinese “is looked at as a long-term benefit.”
    Natasha Degen, "Non-Asians Show a Growing Interest in Chinese Courses," The New York Times, November 29, 2006 --- http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/29/education/29mandarin.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

     


     

     

    "ERNST & YOUNG JOINS WITH PBS TO IMPROVE MATH LITERACY," AccountingEducation.com, November 29, 2006 --- http://accountingeducation.com/index.cfm?page=newsdetails&id=143972

    Ernst & Young LLP has joined forces with Thirteen/WNET and leading community organizations to improve math literacy for children nationwide. The firm announced on October 16, 2006 its sponsorship of the award-winning children’s television series, CYBERCHASE, which teaches kids aged 8-12 math concepts in a fun and understandable way.

    As part of the sponsorship, Ernst & Young employees will work locally with community organizations to bring the CYBERCHASE lessons to children through fun, educational workshops. This new relationship with PBS demonstrates the firm’s ongoing commitment to community engagement around education and mentoring for current and future generations.

    Continued in article

    The Thirteen/WNET home page is at http://www.thirteen.org/index.php

     

    The CyberChase link is at http://pbskids.org/cyberchase/

     

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

     

    Ernst & Young Accounting Firm Happy Days (Video) --- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lmEp0PHHA80
    This may secretly be a celebration of Happy Days brought about by Sarbanes.

     


     

    Ask Philosophers --- http://www.amherst.edu/askphilosophers/

     

  • This site puts the talents and knowledge of philosophers at the service of the general public. Send in a question that you think might be related to philosophy and we will do our best to respond to it. To date, there have been 1375 questions posted and 1834 responses.


  • Bob Jensen's bookmarks on philosophy and the social sciences are at http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/Bookbob2.htm#Social

     

    Bob Jensen's bookmarks on free tutorials in various disciplines are at http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/Bookbob2.htm
     


     

    Virtual Labs --- http://www.hhmi.org/biointeractive/vlabs/index.html

     

    Bob Jensen's bookmarks on free science and medicine tutorials --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/Bookbob2.htm#Science 

     

     


    Free Online Tutorials on Communications and Networking
    Learning Center: Tutorials --- http://www.pt.com/learning.html

     

    Video Nation (from the United Kingdom) --- http://www.bbc.co.uk/videonation/

     


     

    From Boston College
    Center for Christian-Jewish Learning
    --- http://www.bc.edu/research/cjl/

     

    Rutgers Journal of Law and Religion --- http://www.lawandreligion.com/
     


     

    "A Better Liquid-Explosives Detector:  The same technology used in TNT detectors in Iraq is being adapted for airport security to sniff out liquid-bomb-making materials," by Kevin Bullis, MIT's Technology Review, December 1, 2006 --- http://www.technologyreview.com/NanoTech/17846/

     


     

    Humpback whales possess a vastly more elaborate vocabulary than was known

    Charles Q. Choi, "Humpback Whale Vocabulary More Elaborate Than Thought," Fox News, November 27, 2006 --- http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,232157,00.html

     


    Question
    In the United States, what officers are most like the Iraqi police (working for evil people they're supposed to be protecting us from)?

     

     

    Agents fighting crime on the border are dealing with increasing corruption in their ranks. Among those facing charges are immigration, customs and border patrol agents. All were caught working for smugglers in El Paso who are supposed to protect our border are increasingly taking bribes instead. They're the agents who guard our borders and decide who and what gets past nearby checkpoints leading to highways that double as lucrative smuggling routes. It was at a checkpoint in far West Texas that four agents who were supposed to protect the border switched sides. "We're disappointed when any agent violates the trust...

    Angela Kocherga, "More corruption seen among border agents, San Antonio Express News, November  28, 2006 ---
    Click Here
     


    Managerial Accounting Instructors  May Find This a Useful Example of CVP Analysis With Varying Sales Mix

     

    For the second straight year, San Diego police officers are writing fewer traffic tickets. The reason: fewer cops. Not the reason: better drivers. “We are down about 200 officers,” San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne said. The force is spread thin because so many officers have retired or quit over pay and benefit issues. To make up the shortfall, officers have been diverted for training, court appearances, special details and police calls, which take priority. It all adds up to less time spent on traffic enforcement. Less ticket writing also means less revenue for the city. Ticket fines range from $100 to $1,000, and most of the money goes into San Diego's general fund.
    Joe Hughes, "Exodus of officers hits general fund," , SanDiego.com, November 25, 2006 --- Click Here

     


     

    Dinosaur Media DeathWatch
    Merck plans to cut back on television advertising of new drugs in favour of more targeted media such as online internet communities, as part of the US drugmaker's revamp of sales and marketing. The leader of Merck's ambitious overhaul of its sales and marketing effort is testing "numerous pilot programmes" with new drugs such as Januvia, for diabetes, and Gardasil, a cervical cancer vaccine, to explore different ways of spending drug marketing budgets.
    Christopher Bowe, "Merck plans to cut back on TV ads," MSNBC, November 27, 2006 --- http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15910607/

     


     

    Famous Curves Index --- http://www-groups.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/Curves/Curves.html

     


    A Clever Way to Punish and Prevent Plagiarism

    "Traffic School for Essay Thieves," by Paul D. Thacker, Inside Higher Ed, November 29, 2006 --- http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2006/11/29/plagiarism

    Having grown weary of punishing students for plagiarizing and advising other professors to fail them, too, Meg Files said that she had an epiphany during a random chat with a colleague at Pima Community College’s West Campus. The professor explained that he had recently gone to traffic school after receiving a ticket and that the course had actually improved his driving.

    “So I thought, ‘Why can’t we have a parallel program for plagiarism?’ ” said Files, who chairs Pima’s English/journalism department.

    Seizing on the idea, Files created a “traffic school for plagiarism,” aimed at altering the campus’s focus on catching and punishing students for turning in essays they didn’t write. Now students can seek academic rehabilitation instead of punishment by participating in a plagiarism program that contains five steps:

    Files, who will be overseeing the program, said that it is too early to tell whether it will be successful. Only a few students have elected to sign up, and none have yet finished.

    “My reaction is, good for them,” said Donald L. McCabe, founding president of the Center for Academic Integrity. McCabe, a professor of management and global business at Rutgers University, called Pima’s approach a good policy that cuts down the middle between two extremes: excessively punishing students for literary piracy, or ignoring them. McCabe said that his own research finds that plagiarism is slightly more common today than in previous decades and that honor codes help curb the problem.

    However, current policies at most educational institution revolve around detection and punishment. A number of universities now use online products such as Turnitin.com to scan essays for stolen text.

    While catching students and then failing them for copying does help to reduce plagiarism, McCabe said that it probably doesn’t provide the best results and may just teach students to be more careful when they cheat. “Now we are just teaching students how to avoid detection,” he said.

    Instructing students how to correctly reference other work and instilling a sense of academic integrity in them is difficult, McCabe said, but is the best way to dissuade students from plagiarizing.

    “I like the focus — the remedial aspect instead of just playing gotcha,” said John P. Lesko, editor of the new scholarly journal, Plagiary. Lesko pointed out that some students may not even know that plagiarism is a bad thing, and that copying is considered normal in some countries.

    He noted that Carolyn Matalene, now professor emeritus of English language and literature at the University of South Carolina, noticed in the 1980s that students in China regularly pilfered lines from published pieces. “She found that copying was actually encouraged so that you would learn like the masters,” he said.

    Files said that cultural differences in defining plagiarism also drove her develop the new program. “In some cultures, plagiarism isn’t bad,” she said. But she also found that the current policies at her institution were not going far enough. In the past, Pima tried to curb plagiarism by assigning original topics, which makes it more difficult for students to purchase an essay, and by emphasizing the writing process—outlining, drafting, revising—over delivering a finished product. Finally, faculty have been encouraging students to be confident and proud of their own writing. She calls these steps “prevention” and the new program a “cure” once plagiarism is found.

    “I think it’s a worthwhile effort, but the motivation to plagiarize is huge,” said Colin Purrington, associate professor of evolutionary biology at Swarthmore College. Purrington became so concerned about the growing problem with plagiarism that he put up a complete Web site to address the issue a couple of years ago.

    One of the resources he cites as a deterrent against plagiarism is an essay that a Swarthmore student wrote as a disciplinary measure after getting caught. The essay reads: “Plagiarism is undisputedly, a most egregious academic offense. Unfortunately, I found that out the hard way. I cannot even begin to describe how unpleasant the experience was for me.”

    On his Web page, Purrington notes that the essay is nicely written and urges instructors to hand it out to students to generate discussion. But he also notes with some chagrin: “That person got caught again some years later.”

    Question
    Who were at least two famous world leaders who plagiarized doctoral theses?

     

    Answer
    Two that I know of off the top of my head are Martin Luther King and Vladimir Putin. Doubts are raised that Putin ever read his thesis that plagiarized from a U.S. textbook. Iran's President Ahmadinejad allegedly plagiarizes, although I don't know if he plagiarized in his doctoral thesis --- http://atlasshrugs2000.typepad.com/atlas_shrugs/2006/10/ahmadinejad_i_h.html

     

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

     

     



    From The Washington Post on November 29, 2006

     

    What type of online ads are the most lucrative?

    A. Keyword ads
    B. Pop-up ads
    C. Static page ads
    D. E-mail ads


     

    RiverGuide provides in-depth profiles, comparisons, and reviews of accounting software products, and would be a valuable resource for users of your site --- http://www.riverguideinc.com/construction/


    November 30, 2006 message from Austin Merritt [austin@riverguideinc.com]

     

  • Bob,

    I am writing to suggest RiverGuide for the accounting software locator and lists section of your page Threads on Webledger Systems
    ( http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/Webledger.htm#software ). RiverGuide provides in-depth profiles, comparisons, and reviews of accounting software products, and would be a valuable resource for users of your site.

    Thanks,

    Austin

    ________________________________

    Austin Merritt
    Director, Operations
    RiverGuide, Inc.

    www.riverguideinc.com

    Phone:     (415) 516-1769
    Fax:         (360) 838-7866
    Email:      
    austin@riverguideinc.com
    Blog:        
    www.latemajority.com

  •  


    The author of the following message at one time worked for the Kentucky State Auditor

     

  • Bob,

     

    Given your website, you may have an interest in this case.   The Kentucky Retirement Systems (KRS) is a $15billion public pension system.

     

    The current 2006 accounting scandal which involved the Chief Investment Officer and Chief Operating Officer resigning, has not been resolved with no formal reports, charges or indictments.  (see attached financials)  KRS says they stole ½ a million in a real estate deal,

    The CIO implicated is John Krimmel, CPA who is a member of PCAOB.

     

    http://www.kentucky.com/mld/kentucky/15697591.htm   latest Herald Leader story

     

    A 2004 accounting scandal in which Chief Operations officer Lauren Stewart, and Director of Accounting Glenn Valley were forced out by KRS for questionable cash management practices has not been even addressed in the 2004 audit. This was covered up and received no coverage 

    http://www.kyret.com/annrpts/audit2005.pdf    (no mention on page 27).

     

    Many of us think all 4 of these financial people are innocent and were framed by the Executive Director.   I would appreciate any insight you might have on this.

     

  • Bob Jensen's fraud updates are at http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/FraudUpdates.htm

     


    Searching for Manufacturers and Suppliers?

     

    November 27, 2006 message from David Jansen [davidj@zycon.com]

    We would appreciate it if you would consider adding Zycon (www.zycon.com) to the "Search Tools" section on the "Helpers for Searching the Web" page (located at: http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/searchh.htm).

    Zycon is a highly regarded specialized resource designed to assist the engineering and manufacturing community find and evaluate manufacturers and suppliers worldwide. Zycon receives over a million direct visits per year, and according to our tracking, Zycon has been used by over 400 universities, colleges and schools in just the last 90 days. You may also find the following facts useful:

    1. Since January 2006, over 800 different universities, colleges, and schools have visited Zycon to conduct research

    2. In the last 365 days, Zycon was found by over 263,000 search terms

    3. Over 3,800 sites have added Zycon to their list of useful websites

    4. About 70% of Zycon's traffic is from people that come directly from a bookmark or by typing www.zycon.com in their web browser

    5. Since January 2006, there have been over 1 million "direct" visits to Zycon.

    In addition, you can view our list of last week's top 1000 visitors and some additional statistics for Zycon by going to http://www.zycon.com/stats/.

    Furthermore, we are working on providing definitions of engineering terms and we have recently added a message forum for engineers to discuss important issues and a blog which primarily focuses on energy and environmental issues.

    We believe Zycon will be highly beneficial to the students, faculty, and staff alike. If you choose to add the link, the following provides you will brief instructions and guidelines for posting the link:

    DESTINATION URL: http://www.zycon.com (be sure to include the www)

    TITLE: Zycon

    If you have any questions, please contact our IT Department at the number below.

    Thank you for your consideration,

    David Jansen
    Zycon Directory

    www.zycon.com
    Ph: 586-755-2500
    Toll-Free: 888-885-2520

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

     

     


     

    From the Scout Report on December 1, 2006

     

    Wufoo --- http://www.wufoo.com/ 

    Creating online forms for everyday use can be difficult, and some may just throw up their hands and hire a programmer or consultant. But before making that call, users may want to try Wufoo. Wufoo lets users create all types of online forms quickly, including mailing lists, surveys, invitations, and event calendars. This version is compatible with all computers running Windows 98 and newer.


    CallingID for the Internet 1.5.0.150 --- http://www.callingid.com/Default.aspx 

    Caller ID was a novel feature that entered the world of telecommunications over a decade ago, and the more one thinks about it, it would make sense to have something similar for websurfing as well. This application automatically shows whether sites visited are real or not, and it also displays the site owner’s name and physical address. This version is compatible with computers running Windows 98, Me, 2000, XP, and 2003.

     

     


    Question
    What is the new European accounting ploy (termed the 2007 Accounting Miracle) to hide debt until the instant it becomes due?

     

     

    "Italy's Accounting Miracle," by Tito Boeri and Guido Tabellini, The Wall Street Journal, November 28, 2006 --- http://online.wsj.com/article/SB116466953696233804.html?mod=opinion&ojcontent=otep

     

    The latest murky accounting ploy has received the European Union's stamp of approval. As of 2007, Italy will be able to reduce its official budget deficit with the cash proceeds of new liabilities. The new debt will remain hidden until it comes due. If this is how the EU's revised Stability and Growth Pact will work, it would be wiser to scrap the budget rules altogether. At least then national capitals would not be so tempted to artificially reduce their budget deficits, and citizens would be better informed about the true state of public finances.

    Here's how the new gimmick works. Under current Italian law, employees must set aside a tax-exempt fraction of their gross wages, nearly 7%, into a severance scheme called TFR. Instead of creating personal accounts for their employees, each company collects the money in one large fund. When an employee leaves the firm, he receives the money he paid into the fund plus interest, currently about 3%. The TFR is thus debt that companies owe to their employees. That's why firms list it as liabilities in their financial statements.

    Under the new Italian budget law, though, part of the contributions to this severance scheme will be collected and held by Italy's social security administration to finance public expenditures. When the employee leaves his job or has health problems, the government, rather than the employer, will disburse his severance payments. The bottom line is that, by receiving the contributions for this new, implicit debt, the Italian government expects to reduce its yearly budget deficit by almost 0.5% of GDP. A debt instrument has miraculously become a surplus.

    This bookkeeping equivalent of turning water into wine is possible because EU accounting rules for government finances are much looser than the rules that the same governments apply to private firms. The bloc's statistics service, Eurostat, does not consider the future obligations implicit in public pensions as part of government liabilities. Hence, the transfer of the TFR to the Italian social security system is treated like the creation of a new pay-as-you go system.

    The Stability Pact's 2005 reform, though, specifically encourages Brussels to pay special attention to fiscal sustainability in the long run, and in particular to the future liabilities implicit in the pension systems. The Commission, however, has paid lip service to the principle of long-run sustainability, while in practice is giving its blessing to the Italian accounting miracle. In so doing, it has shown that the reform of the Stability and Growth Pact will not be enforced.

    This creates a dangerous precedent that other member states might be tempted to follow. Germany, for instance, has a "book reserve" system similar to the Italian TFR that automatically applies to a significant portion of its work force. The contributions to the German system are even more attractive as a potential source of government finance since, unlike the TFR, they can only be claimed by the workers upon retirement. Many other Europeans countries have sizable occupational pension plans. The EU is implicitly saying that the proceeds from nationalizing these plans can be used to meet its budget deficit targets. Firms in financial difficulties with occupational pension plans are always tempted to transfer to the state their pension liabilities, together with the annual contributions to the fund. Now myopic governments will have an additional incentive to meet these requests for "state aid." Public revenues increase immediately, while the debt disappears once it is transferred to the public sector.

    Europe's public finances can ill afford these kinds of miracles.

    Messrs. Boeri and Tabellini are economics professors at Bocconi University in Milan.

    Meanwhile in the United States
    Shocking Impact of GASB 45

    Underfunded Pensions, Post-Retirement Obligations, and Other Debt
    Probably the largest form of OBSF is booked debt that is badly understated. Particularly problematic is variable debt that is badly underestimated. For example, a company or a government unit (e.g., city or county) may be obligated to pay medical bills or insurance premiums for retired employees and their families. Until FAS 106 companies did not report these obligations at all. Governmental agencies (not the Federal government) are just not becoming obligated to report such obligations under GASB 45. Accounting rules have been so lax that many of these obligations were never disclosed or disclosed at absurdly low amounts relative to the explosion in the costs of medical care and medical insurance. Pensions had to be booked, but the rules allowed companies to greatly understate the amount of the unfunded debt.

    "A $2-Trillion Fiscal Hole," by Chris Edwards and Jagadeesh Gokhale, The Wall Street Journal, October 12, 2006; Page A18 --- http://online.wsj.com/article/SB116062308693690263.html?mod=opinion&ojcontent=otep

    State and local governments are amassing huge obligations in the form of unfunded retirement benefits for their workers. Aside from underfunded pension plans, governments have also run up large obligations from their retiree health plans. While a new Governmental Accounting Standards Board rule will kick in next year and reveal exactly how large this problem is, we estimate that retiree health benefits are a $1.4 trillion fiscal time bomb.

    The new GASB regulations will require accrual accounting of state and local retiree health benefits, thus revealing to taxpayers the true costs of the large bureaucracies that they fund. We reviewed unfunded health costs across 16 states and 11 local governments that have made actuarial estimates, and found an average accrued liability per covered worker of $135,000. Multiplying that by the number of covered state and local employees in the country yields a total unfunded obligation of $1.4 trillion -- twice the reported underfunding in state and local pension plans at $700 billion.

    To put these costs in context, consider the explicit net debt of state and local governments. According to the Federal Reserve Board, state and local credit market debt has risen rapidly in recent years, from $313 billion in 2001 to $568 billion in 2005. But unfunded obligations from state and local pension and retiree health plans -- about $2 trillion -- are still more than three times this net debt amount.

    The key problem is that the great majority of state and local governments finance their retiree health benefits on a pay-as-you-go basis. In coming years that will create pressure to raise taxes as Baby Boomers age and government employees retire in droves. New Jersey's accrued unfunded obligations in its retiree health plan now stand at $20 billion, and the overall costs of its employee health plan are expected to grow at 18% annually for the next four years.

    To compound the problem, defined-benefit pension and retirement health plans are much more common and generous in the public sector than the private sector. Out of 15.9 million state and local workers, about 65% are covered under retirement health plans, compared to just 24% of workers in large firms in the private sector.

    The prospect of funding $2 trillion of obligations with higher taxes is frightening, especially when you consider that state politicians would be imposing them on the same income base as federal politicians trying to finance massive shortfalls in Social Security and Medicare. Hopefully, most state policy makers appreciate that hiking taxes in today's highly competitive global economy is a losing proposition.

    The only good options are to cut benefits and move state and local retirement plans to a pre-funded basis with personal savings plans. Two states, Alaska and Michigan, have moved to savings-based (defined-contribution) pension plans for their new employees. Alaska has also implemented a health-care plan for new state employees, which includes high-deductible insurance and a Health Savings Account. Expect to see more states following Alaska's lead.

    State and local governments also need to cut retirement benefits, which were greatly expanded during the 1990s boom. From a fairness perspective, cutting benefits especially of younger workers is reasonable given the generosity of state and local plans. Federal data shows that state and local governments spend an average of $3.91 per hour worked on employee health benefits, compared to $1.72 in the private sector.

    Underfunded -- or more accurately, over-promised -- retirement plans for state and local workers have created a $2 trillion fiscal hole. Every year that policy makers put off the tough decisions, the hole gets bigger. Hopefully, the new GASB rules will prompt them to enact the reforms needed to avert job-destroying tax increases on the next generation.

    Mr. Edwards is tax policy director at the Cato Institute. Mr. Gokhale is a senior fellow at Cato and a former senior economic adviser to the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.

     

    Bob Jensen's threads on other ploys for off-balance-sheet-financing (OBSF) are at http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen//theory/00overview/theory01.htm#OBSF2

     

     

     


    Cheating On Ethics Test at Columbia University
    Cheating is not unheard of on university campuses. But cheating on an open-book, take-home exam in a pass-fail course seems odd, and all the more so in a course about ethics. Yet Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism is looking into whether students may have cheated on the final exam in just such a course, “Critical Issues in Journalism.” According to the school’s Web site, the course “explores the social role of journalism and the journalist from legal, historical, ethical, and economic perspectives,” with a focus on ethics.
    Karen W. Arenson, "Cheating on an Ethics Test? It’s ‘Topic A’ at Columbia," The New York Times, December 1, 2006 --- http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/01/nyregion/01columbia.html

    Bob Jensen's threads on cheating are at http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/plagiarism.htm


    Saddam's Kickback Enterprises

     

    In 2,065 pages, Sir Terence Cole and his team unmask the vast corruption in AWB Ltd., Australia's former wheat board and supplier for a time of 16% of the world's wheat. That alone is a huge public service. AWB was the single largest payer of kickbacks to Saddam. From 1999 to 2003, the company paid $221.7 million to Iraq through "transportation" fees and "after-sales-service" fees designed to evade U.N. sanctions and Australian law. Given such compliant partners, it is little wonder Saddam thought the world would never act against him.
    "Oil for Food Justice, The Wall Street Journal, November 30, 2006; Page A16 --- http://online.wsj.com/article/SB116483932656336151.html?mod=opinion&ojcontent=otep

     

     

    Saudi Arabia's Kickback Enterprises
    Tony Blair is under increasing pressure to halt a three-year-old corruption inquiry and avoid losing a £10 billion extension to an arms deal with Saudi Arabia. The news comes after Saudi Arabia suspended negotiations on the 20-year-old Al-Yamamah deal after Serious Fraud Office (SFO) investigators tried to access some of the Saudi royal family's bank accounts in Switzerland.Thousands of jobs in Britain and Saudi Arabia would be at risk if the Saudis dropped an order for 72 Typhoon jets and, instead, signed a contract with the French for up to 36 rival Rafales.
    Christopher Hope, "Blair under pressure to save Saudi arms deal," The Telegraph, November 30, 2006 --- Click Here

     

    Bob Jensen's fraud updates are at http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/FraudUpdates.htm

     

     


     

    "Bumpy Ride Ahead for Bankers," Elia Powers, Inside Higher Ed, November 30, 2006 --- http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2006/11/30/loans

     

  • After years of operating in a favorable political environment, student loan companies woke up November 8 knowing that changes in Washington would probably mean trouble for their industry, which has enjoyed a close working relationship with Congressional Republicans (thanks, in part, to their sizable campaign contributions to key GOP lawmakers).

    The Democratic takeover in Congress was a hot topic Wednesday at the Consumer Bankers Association Student Lending Conference in Arlington, Va. The leadership change comes at a time when Congress has yet to pass the renewal of the Higher Education Act, the law that governs most federal student aid and other college programs. Lawmakers did make a set of changes to the loan programs last winter as part of the budget reconciliation process.

    While a collection of lending company executives said changes are certainly in store, the panel played down the anxiety factor and said student loan officials need to be prepared to sell the new Washington leadership on the merits of their industry.

    “I don’t think nervousness is the right word,” said Shelley Saunders, vice president of strategic services for American Student Assistance, a lender. “Debate is good, and we shouldn’t be afraid or get sucked into the usual rhetoric.”

    Added Sara Davis, executive director of government and industry relations for Nelnet: “We’ve learned a lot of lessons since 1993 (the year that President Clinton threw his weight behind the government’s direct lending program, which competes with the guaranteed loans the banks offer) and need to show that discussions about what’s best for the student aren’t a problem for us.”

    Companies like Nelnet and American Student Assistance are unlikely to find a friend in Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), who is slated to become chairman of the Senate committee that oversees education programs. Kennedy has been an outspoken critic of what he and other Democrats say are subsidies and perks in the Federal Family Education Loan program — and especially in the so-called alternative or private loan industry — that favor lenders but do not help students.

    The Democrats are promising that one of their first acts come January will be to cut interest rates on federal student loans in half — from 6.8 percent to 3.4 percent for many loans — and to raise the maximum Pell Grant by more than $1,000. Davis said the interest rate cuts are likely to pass through Congress and, if widely supported, would unlikely be met by a presidential veto.

    “There’s a heavy symbolic importance for Democrats, and it’s going to happen in the first 100 days because it has political cachet,” Davis said.

    Kennedy has said he plans to reintroduce legislation that would provide incentives to colleges that switch to the direct lending program. He is also proposing to cap a borrower’s college loan payments to no more than 15 percent of a family’s income.

    The U.S. House of Representatives leadership plans to take up similar legislation, the Student Aid Reward (STAR) Act, introduced last year by Rep. Tom Petri (R-Wisc.) and Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), incoming chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee. The bill aims to increase spending on Pell Grants and reduce the deficit, in part by giving colleges incentives to switch with no added taxpayer cost. Kennedy has said that the STAR Act would promote competition between the FFEL program and the direct loan program and would encourage colleges to pick the less expensive choice.

    Davis said she opposes the act because “the premise is based on fictional accounting rules.”

    Still, Tim Morrison, vice president of federal government relations for Sallie Mae, said the STAR Act is likely to get support in Congress.

    Another Kennedy-backed proposal is the Student Loan Sunshine Act, which would require institutions to report to the Department of Education benefits their officials receive from a lender. Deals reached between colleges and lenders have made headlines this fall, and some Democrats have called for a look into the enticement practices.

    Davis, the Nelnet executive, said there’s no harm in having a discussion about benefits, but added that lenders have to be wary of too much federal government regulation.

    Saunders said there’s already a good amount of self-policing in the industry, but there’s room for more — such as a promise from lenders and colleges to post any deals they negotiate. “If we become more transparent, we won’t need government involvement,” she said.

    Kathleen Smith, president of the Education Finance Council, which represents dozens of state and regional nonprofit loan agencies, said that “once you get down to the ‘You can have coffee but not wine,’ you dilute the discussion,” she said. “That doesn’t give financial aid officers any credit for their professionalism.”

    Panelists agreed that it’s unrealistic to believe that all of the Democratic proposals will come to fruition. Morrison, the Sallie Mae vice president, said “the more ambitious the reform efforts, the less likely they are to get done.” Saunders added that “the reality is going to hit members on both sides of the aisle: You can’t do all of these programs because the money isn’t there.”

    Continued in article
     

  •  


    Norwegian Police Have the Last YouTube Laugh

    Police took up pursuit in Cyberspace after a young Norwegian posted a video of his wild car driving on the Internet. They caught him and slapped him with real life fine of 8,500 kroner (US$1,300, euro1,025). The Norwegian, identified only as a man in his early 20s, posted the video called ''Driving in Norway'' on the YouTube.com site in mid-November. The recording showed the car's speedometer hitting up to 240 kilometers (150 miles) per hour on a public highway.
    "Norwegian police fine reckless driver in YouTube.com video after Internet chase," MIT's Technology Review, November 29, 2006 --- http://www.technologyreview.com/read_article.aspx?id=17839&ch=infotech

     

     


    From The Washington Post on November 27, 2006

    How many lines of computer code does Microsoft's Vista contain?

    A. 5 million
    B. 50 million
    C. 99 million
    D. 120 million
     


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

     

  • Latest Headlines on November 30, 2006

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    HealthLine Medical Search Engine --- http://www.healthline.com/

     

    Department of Health and Human Services

     

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

     



    Is there a homosexuality gene?
    Although biologists are still far from answering this question, scattered evidence for a possible gene influencing sexual orientation has recently encouraged scientists to map out a guide to future research.
    PhysOrg, December 7, 2006 --- http://physorg.com/news84720662.html

     


     

    Insulin treatment of burns
    Insulin is a hormone known primarily for regulating sugar levels in the blood, yet researchers at the University of California, Riverside, recently found that applying insulin directly to skin wounds significantly enhanced the healing process. Skin wounds in rats treated topically with insulin healed faster"surface cells in the epidermis covered the wound more quickly and cells in the dermis, the deeper part of the skin, were faster in rebuilding blood vessels. In follow-up studies of human skin cells in culture, Manuela Martins-Green and colleagues explored the molecular impact of topical insulin on keratinocytes, the cells that regenerate the epidermis after wounding, and on microvascular endothelial cells, the cells that restore blood flow.
    PhysOrg, December 10, 2006 --- http://physorg.com/news84980314.html

     



    Desk rage: Workers gone wild:
      On-the-job anger is increasingly rearing its nasty head in stress-filled offices and other workplaces across America, industry observers say --- http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15814840/from/ET/

     

     


     

    Harvard Public Health Review --- http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/review/

     


    Question
    Do high trade deficits drain wealth from the United States?

     

     

    "Thinking About the Trade Deficit," by Steven M. Warshawsky, American Thinker, November 30, 2006 --- http://www.americanthinker.com/2006/11/thinking_about_the_trade_defic.html

     

    George Mason University economics professor Russell Roberts, who runs the CafeHayek blog along with his colleague Don Boudreaux, has put together a short but sophisticated presentation about the trade deficit and its effect on domestic employment.  Roberts seeks to rebut the common claim that the trade deficit leads to a loss of American jobs (recall Ross Perot's "gaint sucking sound" comment).  Roberts' analysis is convincing.  I won't repeat his analysis here, but I would like to make a few related comments.

    As any reader of CafeHayek knows, the "trade deficit" does not represent a draining of wealth from the United States economy.  On the contrary, our purchases of goods, services, and raw materials from overseas suppliers adds to our overall level of prosperity.  Indeed, if they didn't, we wouldn't make the purchases.  After all, no one forces millions of Americans to buy Toyotas, for example.  They do so because they prefer the price-quality mix of Toyota automobiles to those offered by other manufacturers.
     
    The evidence shows that, despite the persistence of large trade deficits since 1976 (see Russell's report for the data), American society has become much, much richer in the past thirty years.
     
    According to statistics from the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis (see here), Gross Domestic Product in 1976 was $4.54 trillion (in 2000 dollars), whereas in 2005 it was $11.05 trillion.  Spending on personal consumption saw a similar jump between 1976 and 2005, from $3.04 trillion to $7.84 trillion.  Adjusted by population, per capita GDP in 1976 was $20,825, and in 2005 it was $37,080, nearly twice as much.

     
    As Jack Risko of Dinocrat.com and other astute analysts point out, moreover, these bare income statistics do not begin to show how much richer we have become.  Our homes are larger and full of more and better appliances; our cars are more reliable and have more sophisticated features; computers, the internet, and consumer electronics (e.g., DVDs and iPods) have transformed our everyday lives, both at work and at home; domestic and foreign travel is cheaper and available to more and more Americans; there has been an explosion in the variety of just about everything available to consumers; and on and on and on.  All this while we have been running annual multi-billion dollar "trade deficits."
     
    In fact, our "trade deficits" are one of the sources of our prosperity.  Not only do they reflect the availability of cheaper and/or more desirable foreign products, which increases the quantity and quality of American consumption, but the competition from foreign firms (again, think Japanese auto makers) has spurred developments and improvements in our own firms beneficial to consumers.   
     
    Furthermore, the term "trade deficit" itself is misleading, because it usually refers to the merchandise trade deficit (i.e., trade in such things as autos, steel, and textiles).  As Roberts points out, when capital accounts and services are added to the mix, our imports and our exports are almost perfectly in balance, as economic theory postulates.
     
    So much for the notion that trade deficits undermine domestic prosperity.
     
    But what about the idea that they undermine national security?  This was a common argument in the 1980s when a wave of fear about Japanese imports swept over the country.  The argument goes that American "dependence" on overseas suppliers (whatever this means in practice) could lead to shortages of vital products or raw materials in a time of war or other crisis.  While there is some hypothetical plausibility to this argument, that's about it.  The concern in the 1980s, for example, was that our military technology was too dependent on computer chips and other electronic components supplied by Japanese firms.  Supposedly Japan was going to use this "dependency" as leverage against us.  Needless to say, this concern was much ado about nothing.
     
    Today the concern is mainly about oil.  Granted, there are many compelling reasons why we should reduce our use of oil from the Middle East.  (Query whether buying oil from Norway or England or Mexico is problematic.)  More generally, there may be moral or political reasons why we should limit our trade with certain totalitarian countries like Cuba or China -- although trade also can have a liberalizing effect.  In any event, a careful cost-benefit analysis should be done to evaluate the merits of such policies, which likely will require accepting certain economic costs (to us and to them) for the possibility of obtaining whatever moral or political benefits the policies hope to achieve.
     
    But there is no support for the notion that American national security has suffered as a result of our "trade deficits" per se.  Arguably, the late 1970s, during the Carter Administration, represented the nadir of America's post-World War Two military and diplomatic strength.  Since then, the United States military has become far and away the most advanced and powerful fighting force on earth, and the United States today is the world's sole superpower.  There are many reasons for these developments, of course.  My point is simply that America has grown enormously in strength at the very same time that we have been running supposedly harmful (merchandise) trade deficits. 
     
    In sum, there is no good reason to fear the trade deficit and many reasons to appreciate the considerable benefits of free trade, both at home and abroad.

     


    Question
    France versus the United States:  When are volatile economies and layoffs good things for the nation as a whole?

     

     

    "Change for the Better The case for economic turbulence," by Tyler Cowen, The Wall Street Journal, November 30, 2006 --- http://www.opinionjournal.com/la/?id=110009316

    Is a volatile economy good for American workers? To judge by the news accounts of layoffs and downsizing and families grimly adjusting to straitened circumstances, the answer would seem to be no. Three in five jobs for 22- to 55-year-old workers last three years or less. In a typical quarter of the year, about one in 13 jobs ends. For certain obvious reasons, labor-market turbulence has a reputation as a wrecker of lives, families and pocketbooks.

    But is it really? Economists Clair Brown, John Haltiwanger and Julia Lane have their doubts. On closer inspection, they note, job turnover and firm disappearance have positive effects, in the aggregate. A clerk's job at a retail warehouse is replaced by a computer, but the warehouse firm can use the savings to hire a better and better-paid office manager. As workers lose jobs in one niche or sector, they gain in another, moving on to better jobs and higher pay. In the software sector, new businesses are more productive, over a five-year period, than the firms they replace. This new-business productivity gain, the authors show, is true generally across sectors--generating efficiency, products and, most important, jobs. And new businesses tend to pay more.

    In short, America is not becoming a nation of part-time Wal-Mart cashiers or burger flippers. In four of the five sectors studied by the authors--semiconductors, software, financial services, retail food and trucking--the growth rate for full-time jobs exceeds the growth rate for jobs in general. (Retail food is the exception.) Separate research, conducted by Ann Huff Stevens at the University of California, Davis, shows that the average tenure for employed U.S. male laborers has been broadly stable over the past 35 years.

    Insofar as individuals move to lower-paying jobs, the turnover of firms is not the driving cause. The most original proposition in "Economic Turbulence" is the claim that a big part of measured wage declines derives from job downgrades within firms--sticking with the same employer but moving from, say, mid-level manager to gopher. The authors do not give the reasons for this downward movement: One might speculate about voluntary lifestyle changes or adjustments to match competency. In any case, the trend is measurable and especially marked in the semiconductor industry.

    The data in the book, based on a new U.S. Census program, is impeccable. Yet only in the final chapter do the authors move into the broader territory of public policy. They conclude that America's competition, deregulation and economic turbulence are largely desirable. By contrast, French labor policy, which tries to prevent firings and guarantee lifetime jobs, is counterproductive. Indeed job creation has largely stalled in Western Europe as older jobs are protected at the expense of the young and at the expense of women who wish to move into the work force more than their counterparts in earlier generations once did.

    Of course, none of this will silence the critics of free labor markets. The authors do show that aggregate job turnover--"volatility in the aggregate"--is not an economic villain, but the major complaints about labor markets remain. Many economists suggest that median U.S. real wages are stagnating and that the variance and unpredictability of incomes is increasing. They could easily pick out more exact features of the broader volatile landscape--such as immigration, outsourcing, information technology or weaker unions--and pin the blame there.

    Arguably "volatility in the aggregate" was never the main concern in the first place but rather a shorthand for other worries, like comparative standard of living. In my view, the contemporary critics of labor markets are still more wrong than right. As Virginia Postrel has noted, Best Buy is full of people--few of them rich--buying flat-screen TVs. The obsession with measuring median wages misses a broader story about growing wealth, higher asset values, growing flexibility, growing buffers against risk, and growing opportunities for consumption.

    Available measures of inflation do not reflect changes in the quality of consumer goods or shoppers' increasing likelihood of buying at Wal-Mart and other discount outlets. The Internet is a new and fun use of time, now available to most Americans, but we do not properly measure its contribution to how we live. Even going to the dentist isn't nearly as bad as it used to be. When we have better measures of these phenomena, and many others, we will know just how much--if at all--labor markets are failing to deliver a satisfactory standard of living to most Americans.

    One obstacle to such a calculation is that the measured value of benefits has risen in lieu of real wage increases, because of more expensive health-care premiums. People are paying more for insurance without getting better treatment. Of course this is a problem with health-care markets, not labor markets, and it should be treated as such. "Economic Turbulence" is a good place to begin a much larger project of investigation.

    Mr. Cowen is a professor of economics at George Mason University and director of the Mercatus Center.

     


     

    Five Top Humor Books

    "Laughter That Lasts:   Some humor doesn't age well, but these American classics remain funny beyond compare," by Andrew Ferguson, The Wall Street Journal, December 2, 2006 --- http://www.opinionjournal.com/weekend/fivebest/?id=110009333

    1. "You Know Me Al" by Ring Lardner (Scribner's, 1916).

    Ring Lardner thought of himself as primarily a sports columnist whose stuff wasn't destined to last, and he held to that absurd belief even after his first masterpiece, "You Know Me Al," was published in 1916 and earned the awed appreciation of Virginia Woolf, among other very serious, unfunny people. Ostensibly a collection of letters to a friend back home in Bedford, Ind., it traces the first season of a rookie hurler for the Chicago White Sox. Jack Keefe is at once cocky and guileless, suspicious and gullible, innocent and--you get hints of this along the way--doomed. But really, really funny.

    2. "My Life and Hard Times" by James Thurber (Harper, 1933).

    "The clocks that strike in my dreams are often the clocks of Columbus." This is easily the most beautiful sentence ever written about what is now the largest city in Ohio, and Thurber, alone among the Buckeyes, was the one who was destined to write it. Thurber's tossed-off cartoons ("Well, if I called the wrong number, why did you answer the phone?") seem to be wearing better than his painstaking prose, at least among highbrow critics. But this brief memoir of growing up in an eccentric family in Columbus before and during World War I is nearly perfect--and still the funniest and most accessible Thurber.

    3. "The Devil's Dictionary" by Ambrose Bierce (Albert & Charles Boni, 1911).

    It is commonly thought that a deep vein of melancholy runs beneath most humor writing--the tears of a clown and so on--but it is truer to say that a kind of prettied-up cruelty is the essential element, at least in the funniest stuff. This is why the mean and mocking Ambrose Bierce refuses to die--perhaps literally: No one has seen him since he disappeared into Mexico, in 1914, hoping to join up with Pancho Villa. He (Bierce, not Villa) left behind a handful of brilliant short stories along with this collection of diabolical definitions, a work of exhilarating and unrelieved cynicism. "Bigot, n.: One who is obstinately and zealously attached to an opinion that you do not entertain." "Forgiveness, n.: A stratagem to throw an offender off his guard and catch him red-handed in his next offense." "Self-esteem, n.: An erroneous appraisement." Once you start quoting, it is very hard to stop--as you can see. Reading it has the same effect.

    4. "Westward Ha!" by S.J. Perelman (Simon & Schuster, 1948).

    Seventy years ago "nonsense" was an honored subclass of American humor, heavy on pointless paradox and wordplay for its own sake. The closest thing to nonsense that's worth reading today: the short pieces of S.J. Perelman, onetime scriptwriter for the Marx Brothers. His work can seem bloodless and slight--he created nothing as heartfelt as Jack Keefe or as charming as Thurber's Columbus--but for sheer verbal virtuosity, for his dizzy manipulation of language, Perelman deserves a place at the top of the trade. "Westward Ha!" is an account of a trip to the Far East ("The whole business began with an unfavorable astrological conjunction, Virgo being in the house of Alcohol"). As a travel book it is more closely tethered to reality than most Perelman stuff and thus easier to enjoy. The witty illustrations by his friend Al Hirschfeld are lagniappe.

    5. "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain (1884).

    Did someone say "lagniappe"? It was one of Mark Twain's favorite words, which he often used to describe humor in writing. "Humor is only a fragrance, a decoration," he wrote. It's a quality that emerges almost unbidden, as a byproduct of the writer's attempt to tell a story, preach a sermon, make an argument or draw a character. Nowhere was the point illustrated more convincingly than in "Huck Finn," a book known not only for its comic invention but also for its moral grandeur. I don't think there's a funnier episode on paper than the story of the Duke and the Dauphin, just for starters. What a pleasing thought that the greatest work of art that Americans have produced is also one of their funniest.

    Mr. Ferguson is a senior editor of the Weekly Standard and a columnist for Bloomberg News. His latest book, "Land of Lincoln: Adventures in Abe's America" (Atlantic Monthly Press), will be published in May.

     

     

     




     

    Fighting the Iraq War on the Cheap

     

    Forwarded by Dick Haar

     

    US Strategy in Iraq
    Honors Convocation
    Newberry College
    9 November 2006
    by General Mitchell Zais, President of Newberry College

    Many of our faculty and staff have asked me my views about the current
    situation in Iraq. A few students have also asked. So I thought I would take
    this opportunity, two days before Veterans¹ Day, to provide you with some
    insights as seen from the perspective of a combat veteran who served as the
    Commanding General of US and allied forces in Iraq. I also served as Chief
    of War Plans in the Pentagon and have spent considerable time studying
    national security affairs, including a fellowship at the National Defense
    University. So while it¹s true that everyone has opinions about Iraq, I
    would argue that not all of those opinions are equally well-informed.
    This talk will address our strategy in Iraq. I won¹t talk about what the
    next steps should be, what the long-term prospects for peace in Iraq are, or
    how we can best get out of the quagmire we are in. Those might be other
    talks. For today I¹m going to focus on strategy

    Let me begin by saying that most of our problems in Iraq stem from a flawed
    strategy that has been in place since the beginning of the war.
    It¹s important that you understand what strategy is. In military terminology
    there is a distinction between strategy, operations, tactics, and
    techniques. 

    Strategy pertains to national decision-making at the highest level. For
    example, our strategy in World War II was to mobilize the nation, then
    defeat the Nazi regime while conducting a holding action in the Pacific,
    then shift our forces to destroy the Japanese Empire. Afterwards, our
    strategy was to rebuild both defeated nations into capitalistic democracies
    in order to make them future allies.

    An example of an operational decision from World War II would be the
    decision to invade North Africa and then Italy and Southern France before
    moving directly for the heart of Germany by coming ashore in Northern France
    or Belgium.

    Tactics characterize a scheme of maneuver that integrates the different
    capabilities of, for example, infantry, armor, and artillery.
    A technique might describe a way of employing machine guns with overlapping
    fields of fire or of setting up a roadblock.

    Our strategy in Iraq has been:
    1. fight the war on the cheap;
    2. ask the ground forces to perform missions that are more suitably
    performed by other branches of the American government;
    3. inconvenience the American people as little as possible, and
    4. continue to fund the Air Force and Navy at the same levels that they have
    been funded at for the last 30 years while shortchanging the Army and
    Marines who are doing all of the fighting.
    No wonder the war is not going well.

    Let me explain how the war is being fought on the cheap.
    From the very beginning, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who thankfully
    announced his departure yesterday, has striven to minimize the number of
    soldiers and Marines in Iraq. Instead of employing the Colin Powell doctrine
    of ³use massive force at the beginning to achieve a quick and decisive
    victory,² his goal has been ³use no more troops than absolutely necessary so
    we can spend defense dollars on new technology.²

    Before hostilities began, the Army Chief of Staff, Eric Shinseki, testified
    before Congress that an occupation of Iraq would require hundreds of
    thousands of soldiers. Shinseki made his estimate based on his extensive
    experience in the former Yugoslavia where he worked to disengage the warring
    factions of Orthodox Serbians, Catholic Croatians, and Muslim Kosovars.
    Shinseki also had available the results of a wargame conducted in 1999 that
    involved 70 military, diplomatic, and intelligence officials. This recently
    declassified study concluded that 400,000 troops on the ground were needed
    to keep order, seal borders, and take care of other security needs. And even
    then stability would not be guaranteed.

    Because of his testimony before Congress, Rumsfeld moved Shinseki aside. In
    a nearly unprecedented move, to replace Shinseki, Rumsfeld recalled from
    active duty a retired general who was more likely to accept his theory that
    we could win a war in Iraq and establish a stable government with a small
    number of troops.

    The Defense Department has fought the war on the cheap because, despite
    overwhelming evidence that the Army and Marine Corps need a significant
    increase in their size in order to accomplished their assigned missions, the
    civilian officials who run the Pentagon have refused to request
    authorization from Congress to do so. Two Democratic representatives, Mark
    Udall from Colorado and Ellen Tauscher of California, have introduced a bill
    into Congress that would add 80,000 troops to the end-strength of the active
    Army. Currently, this bill has no support from the Defense Department.

    When I was commissioned in 1969 the Army was one and a half million. Despite
    the fact that we're engaged in combat in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in the
    Philippines, and committed to peacekeeping missions in Bosnia, Kosovo, and
    the Sinai, and on operational deployments in over 70 countries, our Army is
    now less than one third that size. We had more soldiers in Saudi Arabia in
    the first Gulf war than we have in the entire Army today. In fact, Wal-Mart
    has three times as many employees as the American Army has soldiers.
    As late as 1990, Army end-strength was approximately 770,000. With fewer
    than a half-million today, defense analysts have argued that we need to add
    nearly 200,000 soldiers to the active ranks.

    Today, the Army is so bogged down in Afghanistan and Iraq that fewer than
    10,000 soldiers are ready and able to deal with any new crisis elsewhere in
    the world. And because the Army is so small, after only a year at home units
    are returning to Iraq for a second and even a third 12-month tour of duty.
    Let me add a parenthetical note here explaining a difference between our
    services. Army tours of duty in Iraq are for 12 or 13 months. For Marines
    it's normally six months. For Air Force personnel it's typically four
    months. So when a soldier says he's going back to Iraq for his third tour,
    it means something totally different than when an airman says the same
    thing. 

    Because the active force is too small, the mission of our National Guard and
    reserve forces has been changed. Their original purpose was to save the
    nation in time of peril. Today they serve as fillers for an inadequately
    sized active force. This change in mission has occurred with no national
    debate and no input from Congress.

    We have fought the war on the cheap because we have never adequately funded
    the rebuilding of the Iraqi military or the training and equipping of the
    Iraqi police forces. The e-mails I receive from soldiers and Marines
    assigned to train Iraqi forces all complain of their inadequate resources
    because they are at the very bottom of the supply chain and the lowest
    priority.

    We have fought the war on the cheap because we have failed to purchase
    necessary equipment for our troops or repair that which has been broken or a
    worn out in combat. You¹ve all read the stories about soldiers having to
    purchase their own bulletproof vests and other equipment. And the Army Chief
    of Staff has testified that he needs an extra $17 billion to fix equipment.
    For example, nearly 1500 war-fighting vehicles await repair in Texas with
    500 tanks sitting in Alabama.

    Finally, we are fighting this war on the cheap because our defense budget of
    3.8% of gross domestic product is too small. In the Kennedy administration
    it averaged 9% of GDP. The average defense budget in the post Vietnam era,
    from 1974 to 1994, was about 5.8% of GDP. If we are in a global war against
    radical Islam, and we are, then we need a defense budget that reflects
    wartime requirements.

    A second part of our strategy is to ask the military to perform missions
    that are more appropriate for other branches of government.
    Our Army and Marine Corps are taking the lead in such projects as building
    roads and sewage treatment plants, establishing schools, training a neutral
    judiciary, and developing a modern banking system. The press refers to these
    activities as nation-building. Our soldiers and Marines are neither equipped
    nor trained to do these things. They attempt them, and in general they
    succeed, because they are so committed and so obedient. But it is not what
    they do well and what only they alone can do.

    But I would ask, where are our Department of Energy and Department of
    Transportation in restoring Iraqi infrastructure? What's the role of our
    Department of Education in rebuilding an Iraqi educational system? What does
    our Department of Justice do to help stand up an impartial judicial system?
    Where is the US Information Agency in establishing a modern equivalent of
    Radio Free Europe? And why did it take a year after the end of the active
    fighting for the State Department to assume responsibility from the

    Department of Defense in setting up an Iraqi government? These other US
    government agencies are only peripherally and secondarily involved in Iraq.
    Actually, it would be inaccurate to say that the American government is at
    war. The U.S. Army is at war. The Marine Corps is at war. And other small
    elements of our armed forces are at war. But our government is not.
    A third part of our strategy is to inconvenience the American people as
    little as possible.

    Ask yourself, are you at war? What tangible effect is this war having on
    your daily life? What sacrifices have you been asked to make for the sake of
    this war other than being inconvenienced at airports? No, America is not a
    war. Only a small number of young, brave, patriotic men and women, who bear
    the burden of fighting and dying, are at war.
    A fourth aspect of our strategy is to fund Navy and Air Force budgets at
    prewar levels while shortchanging the Marine Corps and the Army that are
    doing the fighting.

    This strategy, of spending billions on technology for a Navy and Air Force
    that face no threat, contributes mightily to our failures in Iraq.
    Secretary Rumsfeld is a former Navy pilot. His view of the battlefield is
    from 10,000 feet, antiseptic and surgical. Since coming into office he has
    funded the Air Force and the Navy at the expense of the Army and Marines
    because he believes technological leaps we¹ll render ground forces obsolete.
    He assumed that the rapid victory over the Taliban in Afghanistan confirmed
    this belief. 

    For example, the Defense Department is pouring billions into buying the
    newest fighter aircraft, at $360 million each, to take on a non-existent
    enemy Air Force.

    But, for pilots like Rumsfeld, war is all about technology. It¹s computers,
    it¹s radar, and it¹s high tech weapons. Technologists have a hard time
    comprehending the motivations of a suicide bomber or a mother who celebrates
    the death of her son in such a way. It's difficult for them to understand
    that to overcome centuries of ethnic hatred and murder it will take more
    than one generation. It's hard for them to accept that for young men with
    little education, no wives or children, and few job prospects, war against
    the West is the only thing that gives meaning to their lives.

    But war on the ground is not conducted with technology. It is fought by
    25-year-old sergeants leading 19-year-old soldiers carrying rifles, in a
    dangerous and alien environment, where you can't tell combatants from
    noncombatants, Shiites from Sunnis, or suicide bombers from freedom seeking
    Iraqis. This means war on the street is neither antiseptic nor surgical.
    It's dirty, complicated, and fraught with confusion and error.

    In essence, our strategy has been produced my men whose view of war is based
    on their understanding of technology and machinery, not their knowledge of
    men from an alien culture and the forces which motivate them. They fail to
    appreciate that if you want to hold and pacify a hostile land and a hostile
    people you need soldiers and Marines on the ground and in the mud, and lots
    of them.

    In summary, our flawed strategy in Iraq has produced the situation we now
    face. This strategy is a product of the Pentagon, not the White House. And
    remember, the Pentagon is run by civilian appointees in suits, not military
    men and women in uniform. From the very beginning Defense Department
    officials failed to appreciate what it would take to win this war.
    The US military has tried to support this strategy because they are trained
    and instructed to be subordinate to and obedient to civilian leadership. And
    the American people want it that way. The last thing you want is a uniformed
    military accustomed to debating in public the orders of their appointed
    civilian masters. But retired generals and admirals are starting to speak
    out, to criticize the strategy that has produced our current situation in
    Iraq.

    But, if we continue to fight the war on the cheap, if we continue to avoid
    involving the American people by asking them to make any sacrifice at all,
    if we continue to spend our dollars on technology while neglecting the
    soldiers and Marines on the ground, and if we fail to involve the full scope
    of the American government in rebuilding Iraq, then we might as well quit,
    and come home. But, what we have now is not a real strategy ­ it¹s business
    as usual.

     




     

    From the Readers Digest, December 2006, Page 61

     

    Walking past my father's veterinary clinic, a woman noticed a small boy and his dog waiting outside.

     

    "Are you here to see Dr. Meyer?" She asked.

     

    "Yes" the boy said. "I'm having my dog put in neutral."

     


    Forwarded by Bob Blystone

    Twas the Night Before Finals
    Attributed to Andrew Hund, 1993

    'Twas the night before finals, and all through the college,
    The students were praying for last minute knowledge.
    Most were quite sleepy, but none touched their beds,
    While visions of essays danced in their heads.

    Out in the taverns, a few were still drinking,
    And hoping that liquor would loosen up their thinking.
    In my own apartment, I had been pacing,
    And dreading exams I soon would be facing.

    My roommate was speechless, her nose in her books,
    And my comments to her drew unfriendly looks.
    I drained all the coffee, and brewed a new pot,
    No longer caring that my nerves were all shot.

    I stared at my notes, but my thoughts were muddy,
    My eyes went a blur, I just couldn't study.
    "Some pizza might help," I said with a shiver,
    But each place I called refused to deliver.

    I'd nearly concluded that life was too cruel,
    With futures depending on grades had in school.
    When all of a sudden, our door opened wide,
    And Patron Saint Put-It-Off ambled inside.

    His spirit was careless, his manner was mellow,
    All of a sudden he started to bellow:
    "On Cliff notes! On Crib notes! On last year's exams!
    On wing-it and sling-it, and last minute crams!" 

    His message delivered, he vanished from sight.
    But we heard him laughing outside in the night.
    “Your teachers have pegged you, so just do your best.
    HAPPY FINALS TO ALL, and TO ALL A GOOD TEST.”

     



    Bob also forwarded the scientific study of Santa Clause --- http://www.chainreactionbicycles.com/santaclaus.htm

     

     




    More Tidbits from the Chronicle of Higher Education --- http://www.aldaily.com/

    Fraud Updates --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/FraudUpdates.htm
    For earlier editions of New Bookmark s go to http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/bookurl.htm 
    Archives of Tidbits: Tidbits Directory --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/TidbitsDirectory.htm

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

    Three Finance Blogs

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

    Some Accounting Blogs

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

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

    Richard Torian's Managerial Accounting Information Center --- http://www.informationforaccountants.com/ 

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